May 31, 2010

Mikey Weinstein: A Champion of Religious Freedom in the Military

Mikey-Weinstein.jpgToday is Memorial Day in the U.S., a day to honor the men and women who have given their lives in our military. I want to do something a bit different for Memorial Day this year and honor an Air Force veteran who is still with us: Mikey Weinstein, a true hero.

Weinstein founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) four years ago and has been the most influential defender of church-state separation in the U.S. military since that time. His organization has often worked alongside groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State on cases involving military personnel.

Stephen Glain wrote an excellent piece on Weinstein for Foreign Policy last week, and I cannot recommend it enough for those who may have missed it. Not only does it describe how Weinstein became interested in this form of activism and highlight some of his recent accomplishments, but it serves as a wake-up call to those who are still reluctant to acknowledge the well organized efforts to Christianize the U.S. armed forces.
For the past four years, the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has been doing battle with a Christian subculture that, he believes, is trying to Christianize the U.S. armed forces with the help of a complicit Pentagon brass. He calls it the "fundamentalist Christian parachurch-military-corporate-proselytizing complex," a mouthful by which he means holy warriors in contempt of the constitutional barrier between church and state.
I have praised Weinstein and the MRFF here many times, as he often seems to be the only thing standing in the way of a Christian extremist military. Glain quotes Weinstein as saying that the scariest part of the efforts to remake the U.S. military as a Christian extremist force is that it "is it's going on not with the blind eye of the Pentagon but with its full and totally enthusiastic support." From what I've read in The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, this certainly seems to be the case.

Weinstein and his organization helped in Spc. Dustin Chalker's suit over being forced to participate in public prayer sessions, were key in getting Trijicon to stop engraving bible references on the rifle scopes they were selling to the U.S. military, and persuaded the Pentagon to rescind an invitation to have Christian extremist Franklin Graham speak at a National Day of Prayer Task Force service. He will likely next take up the case of Zachari Klawonn, a Muslim at Fort Hood, TX, who says that he has been harassed and subjected to anti-Islamic bigotry since the on-base shooting.

One of the things I found most interesting about Glain's profile was the revelation that most of Weinstein's clients are Christian soldiers, Catholics and mainline Protestants, who are being harassed by evangelical superiors.
The root of the problem, Weinstein believes, is a cluster of well-funded groups dedicated to Christianizing the military and proselytizing abroad.
From Sharlet's The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, I can see the fingerprints of "The Family" all over this. In fact, the names of the organizations Weinstein provides in the article are the same Family-affiliated groups Sharlet describes. This is more than a little distressing, and it makes me appreciate Weinstein's efforts all the more.

Note: By using the "atheist heroes" label for this post, I am not claiming that Mikey Weinstein is an atheist. He has worked on behalf of atheists as well as others in the military who are not evangelical Christians, and I applaud his efforts.

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May 30, 2010

Drawing Mohammed and Denying the Holocaust

sensationalism.jpgDon't you just love it when the news media runs one of those sensationalistic headlines containing an obviously false statement with a question mark at the end to absolve themselves of responsibility? Here's an example from CNN's new blog on religious belief: "Does Draw Mohammed Day = Holocaust denial?" Um, no. But with the question mark, CNN gets to claim that they were only reporting what someone else thinks and not passing any sort of judgment on it.

May 29, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Cliff Kincaid

cliff_kincaid.pngAnother week, another idiot. It was not easy to select just one this week, but our "winner" stole the show with the combination of blatant lying, religiously-motivated hatred, and fear mongering that always gets my attention.

This week's award goes to Christian extremist, Cliff Kincaid, of America’s Survival. This is the group who has been campaigning intensely against repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT). If they want to oppose DADT, fine. However, they've chosen to oppose it in a monstrously idiotic way, warning that "disease-tainted gay blood threatens our troops." See Think Progress for more, including the group's twisted video, and everything that is wrong with it.

Christian extremists are on the verge of losing two big issues in their bigoted crusade against the LGBT community: gays in the military and gay marriage. Public opinion is not on their side, and they know it. Like a cornered animal, they are going to fight with everything they've got. And let us all remember which side they took and be prepared to oppose the revisionist history they will surely attempt in the future.

H/T to Religious Right Watch

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May 28, 2010

Do Ordinary Religious People Share Responsibility for Religious Extremism?

When PZ Myers (Pharyngula) recently described Islam as "the religion of ignorance and hate," I found myself having mixed feelings. Obviousmohammad cartoons.jpegly, he's making the point that those who claim that Islam is a religion of peace are denying the behavior of so many Muslims. I do not disagree with this at all. You have undoubtedly heard that the creators of South Park have received death threats from Muslims enraged over their depiction of Mohammed. Peaceful people do not make death threats. So why the mixed feelings?

May 27, 2010

Obama Administration Supports Vatican Immunity

I have made no secret of my contempt for President Obama's refusal to hold Bush administration officials accountable for war crimes. Dick Cheney is a war criminal who belongs in prison, and President Obama has made a serious mistake by refusing to seek justice in our names. Though this decision, he has undercut any claim to moral authority he might otherwise have. No matter what good he may accomplish - and I do not deny that he may still accomplish some good - Dick Cheney will remain an albatross around his neck.

It was in this context that I stumbled across some disturbing news from Raw Story. Evidently, the Obama administration wrote a brief to the Supreme Court in support of the Vatican's claim that they are immune to lawsuits brought in cases where Catholic clergy raped children. Not only has our president refused to investigate the illegal torture of suspected terrorists, he now agrees that the Vatican should be spared the trouble of being sued for enabling child rape!

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Atheists Who Believe in Ghosts

ghosts.jpgAs strange as it may initially seem, there are atheists who believe in ghosts. Since atheism refers to one's lack of belief in gods, there is nothing about the definition of atheism that makes this problematic. While most atheists do seem to be materialists in the sense that they do not believe in anything outside of nature (i.e., anything supernatural), atheism does not require this sort of materialism. So yes, someone can be an atheist and still believe in ghosts, spirits, and the like. But for those of us who arrived at atheism via skepticism, critical thinking, and empiricism, the presence of ghost-believing atheists is a bit odd to say the least.

May 26, 2010

Taken to Task for Intolerance

coexist.jpgThis is going to have to be a quick one. Just because I am lucky enough to be able to work from home today does not mean that I get to spend the day blogging. At least that is what I am trying to convince myself of at the moment.

I was taken to task recently by Sherry, a Christian blogger at A Feather Adrift. I'm not sure I deserved it. I don't think that what I wrote was really that bad. See what you think.

May 25, 2010

How to Leave the Catholic Church

pope.jpgDisgusted with the Catholic Church? Yeah, me too. It is difficult to comprehend why anyone would want to remain a member these days.

Did you know that if you have ever been baptized in the church that they still count you as a member even if you've been an atheist for years? They'll keep counting you until you make your "defection" official.

For information on how to leave the Catholic church, visit CountMeOut. As you will see, the process is actually quite simple and involves the following steps:
  1. Complete a "declaration of defection" (link to a .pdf file).
  2. Send it to your local diocese.
  3. Realize that they may request a meeting to discuss your decision. You don't have to comply, but you do need to respond or they may use this as an excuse not to process your request.
Maybe if enough people leave that will get their attention. Then again, maybe they'll just continue to find new victims in Africa and South America.

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The Republican War on Secular America

If you're part of secular America – that is, if you're an atheist, an agnostic, a religious liberal or even a mainstream believer who thinks religion should be kept out of politics and vice-versa – then you should be very afraid of what the Republican party has in store for you in 2012.
So begins Dan Kennedy's alarming article in The Guardian. We in the secular community have been pointing this out since at least the 1980s. However, Kennedy has a warning for us that something else is on the way, something new, and something of which we should be particularly concerned.

Kennedy's article is a must-read and something which I hope will generate considerable discussion on atheist blogs as well as on the political left. His claim, in a nutshell, is that the Republican Party is rapidly moving to the right and becoming increasingly hostile to those of us who prefer to base our lives in reality rather than superstition.

I think he's right and that this is something we better be prepared to take seriously. We're used to having religion pushed on us and being told how to live by religious people, but it is becoming more common for us to be defined as the enemy.

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May 24, 2010

Frenzied Christians With Slayer Soundtrack

Suppose that someone assembled video footage of evangelical Christians making fools of themselves at church and set it to Slayer's thrash metal anthem, "Angel of Death." Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? A friend sent me this clip, and it is too good not to share:



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May 23, 2010

Answering Reader Mail: The Mojave Cross

mojave-desert-cross.jpgA Christian reader recently emailed me to see what I thought about the theft of the Mojave cross. I hadn't posted about this yet and was happy to have an excuse to do so. The cross in question involves the Mojave Desert War Memorial, opposed by the ACLU, then saved by the U.S. Supreme Court, stolen, and then replaced with a replica.

In answer to the primary question this reader asked, I do not support the theft of the cross. While I believe that the Court erred in their decision to allow it to remain on public land, I do not condone theft or vandalism as an appropriate way to deal with such matters. Destroying material with which one disagrees has long been the hallmark of Christian extremists, and I'd like no part in it.

What surprises me most about this case was that Christians weren't outraged by the Court's ruling that the cross is not a religious symbol. That seems like a serious slap in the face. Don't they still display these symbols in their churches? From the lack of reaction by prominent Christians, I would have to conclude that they would rather have their symbol than any of the supposed meaning behind it.

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Blogroll 2.0

I've decided I don't want to use Blogrolling any longer to maintain my blogroll. At least for now, this means a fully manual blogroll. After completing a long overdue pruning to eliminate links to inactive blogs and those that were not linking back to me, I came up with the list below. If you are looking for good blogs to read written by atheists and addressing topics related to atheism, be sure to check these out:

About Agnosticism/Atheism
An Apostate's Chapel
Atheist Oasis
Bay of Fundie
Cubik's Rube
Dangerous Talk
Daylight Atheism
Debunking Christianity
Deep Thoughts
The Dyslectic Atheist
End Hereditary Religion
Exercise in Futility
The Francis Blog
Friendly Atheist
Godless Girl
Jobsanger
Laughing in Purgatory
Letters from a broad...
Library Grape
The Lucky Atheist
Mississippi Atheists
Musings of a Madman
No Forbidden Questions
Reason Being
Red State Progressive
The Religion Virus
Spanish Inquisitor
Stupid Evil Bastard
toomanytribbles
Towards a Rational America and an Enlightened Judaism
Triangulations

May 22, 2010

Texas Harms American Education

Texas Capitol.JPGIt was Cynthia Dunbar (R-Richmond) who would set the tone of yesterday's debate over curriculum standards before the Texas State Board of Education. In her opening payer, Dunbar made it clear that she and her fellow Christian extremists want Texas students to be misinformed about American history. Unfortunately, this tone would cary through the debate and into the vote itself.

The Texas State Board of Education voted yesterday to adopt new social studies standards based on Christian myth and revisionist history. In fact, they've decided to exclude Thomas Jefferson altogether! It was a sad day for Texas, and because curriculum standards adopted in Texas exert a disproportionate influence on textbooks adopted for use in the rest of the U.S., it was also a sad day for America.

The Texas Freedom Network is now aiming for "nothing less than fundamental change at the State Board of Education," and they could use our support.

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Idiot of the Week: Roy Moore

RoyMoore.jpgOh, you remember Roy Moore! He's the former Alabama circuit court judge who also ran for governor of that state. But you know him mainly as the "Ten Commandments judge." He's the one who became notorious for battling the federal government over his display of a homemade plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. This should have been career-killing publicity, but not in Alabama. It propelled Moore to win chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2000. And what did he do with his newfound power? You guessed it - he placed a granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the lobby of a state building. And then he refused to comply with the order of a federal judge that he remove it, costing him his job.

Since that time, Moore has been leading the Alabama-based Foundation for Moral Law. And in 2010, he will run for Alabama governor again. Yes that's right, being kicked off the court does not necessarily disqualify him for office.

May 21, 2010

How Do You Make Someone Believe in God?

liberationcrucifix1.jpgWhile examining some HitTail results recently, I noticed that one of the search terms bringing people to this blog was the question I have used in the title of this post: How do you make someone believe in god?

My answer: You can't. But more importantly, you shouldn't. People can be perfectly happy, well adjusted, and valuable members of society without your god. There are millions of atheists right here in the United States. We are your friends, your neighbors, your children's teachers. We are your police officers and physicians, your babysitters and accountants. We have no need for your god, and frankly, we aren't interested in having it pushed on us.

By trying to force beliefs on us which we recognize as absurd superstitions, you devalue our dignity and worth as human beings. We are smarter than that, and we hope you would be too. Pushing your religion on us communicates your conviction that we are flawed and that you are superior. This is bigotry, and it is going to be perceived as such. Attempting to convert us makes you someone we will seek to avoid, alienates us, and makes yourself the butt of jokes.

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May 20, 2010

Sexy Atheist Women are Good for the Atheist Community

megan-atheist-small.jpgWe all know that Christianity has a long history of subjugating women. Even today, feminism and female reproductive freedom are among the favorite targets of Christian extremists in the U.S. Many would like to strip women of their rights, rolling back the gains women have made in the last century. Simply put, they want women to be seen but not heard.

And yet, the atheist community is not exactly perfect when it comes to the role of women either. Why is it that when a member of the atheist community who happens to be a physically attractive woman uses her appearance to help spread the atheist meme, so many "haters" come out of the woodwork? Is it jealously, an unusual application of feminism, or is there something else behind the negative reactions? We know that sex sells, and if we are interested in exposing more people to atheism, it would seem that we might welcome those who were able to bring some sex appeal to their message. After all, it is the message that matters here, right?

May 19, 2010

Check Out Free Thinking Lebanon

Secular Lebanon Logo.jpgIn the increasingly crowded field of atheist blogs, it is quite challenging to create a new one that will capture the attention of the atheist community. I'd like to tell you about one that may have a chance to do just that: Free Thinking Lebanon.

Armed with a perfect tagline if there ever was one, "A voice of reason from a country crippled by faith," Free Thinking Lebanon is a brand new blog offering a fascinating perspective. As you can guess from the title and tagline, this is a blog that focuses on promoting a reality-based worldview in Lebanon and beyond. I don't know about you, but I certainly look forward to learning more about atheism in this part of the world.

The author, Eli, is an ex-Catholic graduate student in Financial Economics studying in Beirut. Since this is his first blogging venture, he'd be very appreciative of any input about how to improve his new blog. I hope he succeeds and welcome his contribution to the atheist blogosphere.

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Depictions of Mohammed

DanishCartoon07.jpgWith global controversy mounting over the publication of the now infamous Mohammed cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, someone had a great idea: compile images of Mohammed found across history into one massive collection. The Mohammed Image Archive was born. Mirror links were soon set up in a number of countries to make the collection more accessible. To see countless depictions of Mohammed classified into many different categories, check it out. And be forewarned, the "Extreme Mohammed" section is just that.

As you may have heard, May 20, 2010, is to be "draw Mohammed day." If you are like me and have now drawing ability whatsoever, you might have to settle for living vicariously through some of these images.

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May 18, 2010

Atheist Anger and Using it Effectively

Angry Penguin
Angry Penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My last post on this topic, Atheist Anger and Getting Past It, was misinterpreted by some as suggesting that I was telling atheists they should get over their anger. That would be awfully hypocritical of me since that is not remotely close to what I have done or what I have been advocating since I started writing this blog. No, the prior post was designed to open the discussion and encourage readers to check out Godless Girl's post that inspired it in the first place. In this post, I'll pick up where I left off and explain how my experience and my conclusions differ somewhat from that of Godless Girl.

May 17, 2010

U.S. Military Continues to Push Christian Extremism

Proselytizing by evangelical fundamentalists in the U.S. military has been a problem for some time now. Christian extremist groups recognize the value of influencing military personnel and have been rather open about their efforts to do so. There is evidence that the Department of Defense has signed off on such efforts in the past, and this should be deeply disturbing to anyone who values separation of church and state. What must it be like to be an atheist in the military these days?

It remains important that we continue to support reality-based organizations such as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Our men and women in uniform deserve better than this.



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Christian Privilege Recognized in Blog Carnival on Privilege

I apologize for the long overdue nature of this one. The first edition of what I hope will be a very successful blog carnival, the Blog Carnival on Privilege, was posted at A Lesbian & A Scholar. Among the posts included in this edition was one I wrote on Christian privilege. I thought it was important for this meme to get some wider attention, and I am happy that they accepted it.

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May 16, 2010

Can Religious Nurse Handle Patient With Atheist Friend?

Nurses and nursing
Nurses and nursing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I received an email recently from a reader named Bob that really stuck a nerve. The situation he described taps into one of my worst personal fears (i.e., being dependent on religious crazies for necessary medical care), and I want to share it in case any of you has some wisdom you could share about it.

I am paraphrasing here, but the situation is that Bob has a good friend who is disabled and lives in a nursing home. He's only been in this particular facility for a few weeks, and it turns out that one of his nurses is a Christian extremist. When Bob was there visiting his friend, he happened to say "Jesus Christ" a couple of times in a non-religious context and was scolded by this nurse.

As he left the facility, she god blessed him. He asked her to please refrain from making that statement to him in the future and explained that it did not mean anything to him because he was an atheist. At this point, the nurse wrote this in his friend's (i.e., her patient's) file.

What does Bob do now? He's understandably concerned that his disclosure is going to affect the care his friend receives from this nurse. He does not think that his atheism belongs in his friend's medical chart, but is not sure what he can do about it.

I will share my thoughts below, but I'm interested in yours as well.

Those Pesky Parables

bible3.gifEver wonder why the Jesus character in the Christian bible story uses those wonderful parables instead of speaking directly about matters so allegedly important as one's eternal soul? Was it just to entertain or to inspire, or did he have another purpose in mind?

Perhaps we can find answers in the pages of the Christian bible. According to the book of Mark (4:11-12), it sounds like the function of these parables was to confuse his listeners to ensure that most would go to hell.
4:11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

4:12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
So it is kind of a test. Fail it, and off to hell with you. Sounds like a great guy, that Jesus. Maybe it is a good thing he probably never lived.

Too easy? Maybe the function of the parables, written quite awhile after the period during which Jesus supposedly lived by authors who had never met him, was merely to be ambiguous enough that they would require interpretation. After all, if this stuff was made too accessible, there wouldn't be as much of a need for clergy, would there?

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May 15, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Brad Goehring

Republican candidate for the 11th Congressional District in California, Brad Goehring, more than deserves this week's "honors." This is what he wrote on his Facebook page:
If I could issue hunting permits, I would officially declare today opening day for liberals. The season would extend through November 2 and have no limits on how many taken as we desperately need to “thin” the herd.
I'm willing to acknowledge that Mr. Goehring may have been exaggerating for effect and that he did not necessarily mean his statement literally. But in the current political climate, I believe that his statement reflects extremely poor judgment, even idiocy.

Political disagreement is a good thing, especially when it leads to productive discussions about complex issues. Both sides may have something of value to contribute, assuming they are willing to do so. This sort of violent rhetoric should have no place in American politics and should be called out whenever it appears. If it would end political careers, as it should, I suspect it would disappear fairly quickly.

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May 14, 2010

Atheist Anger and Getting Past It

Anger Controlls Him
Anger Controlls Him (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I started this post, my plan was to produce a brief reaction to a recent post by Godless Girl about getting past the anger toward religion and religious believers some of us feel. I know I've been references a lot of her posts lately, but it is her fault for writing such good ones! Before I realized what had happened, I had already written way too much for a single post and realized I was still barely scratching the surface of what I wanted to say. I see now that this will have to be a multi-post series.

The sort of anger that some atheists feel toward religion and even religious believers is a subject I have been meaning to address for a long time. I've had a fairly different experience from that described by Godless Girl and, not surprisingly, it has led me to a somewhat different set of conclusions about this sort of anger and what to do about it. In this post, I'd like to start with an overview of Godless Girl's recommendations. Later posts will address how my experience compares and some of the different conclusions I have reached.

May 13, 2010

Time to Abolish the National Day of Prayer

Here is Dan Barker (Freedom From Religion Foundation) explaining why the U.S. National Day of Prayer should be abolished.



If you have not already done so, please consider signing the petition to end this unconstitutional event.

H/T to The Good Atheist

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May 12, 2010

Thanks, Mom

happy-mothers-day.jpgSunday was Mother's Day. I found myself thinking that I probably owe my atheism, at least in part, to my mother and the mistakes she made when I was a child. While she has been a great mother by most counts, she insisted on dragging me to church into my early teens out of an unfortunate conviction that it would be good for me. I certainly did not enjoy this experience, but it sometimes occurs to me that I might still believe in gods if not for having been through it.

May 10, 2010

Religion: What's the Harm?

candles.jpgReligion provides emotional comfort, hope, and an important social network to countless people, so if they want to believe superstitious nonsense, what's the harm? Why can't we atheists simply leave them to their delusion and shut up about it?

How many times have you heard this or a similar plea? Sometimes it masquerades as a request for "tolerance" (even though there are many beliefs and behaviors of which no moral human should be tolerant), and other times it serves as an effort to silence criticism of beliefs that one holds dear. But criticism is sometimes vital. There are times when we must speak out, even if it means offending the religious.

May 9, 2010

Reshaping the Catholic Church

Catholic Cross Jesus
Catholic Cross Jesus (Photo credit: TheChristianAlert.org)
Philip Jenkins had an interesting article in The New Republic last week addressing the Catholic child rape crises and their likely impact on the church. His conclusion was that while the church will survive these widespread scandals, it will probably end up being reshaped by them. For many of us, the idea of the church surviving is unpleasant. Unfortunately, how it might be reshaped is problematic as well.

Jenkins suggests that the abuse scandals will hasten a shift in the church's power from Europe to Africa and Latin America. The power will endure, but its base will shift. It is a fascinating theory and a well written article that is worth your attention.
Previous abuse scandals, such as those in the United States in the early 2000s, had no obvious effect on Catholic adherence in Europe. Yet the recent allegations, which hit Germany, Ireland, Belgium and other European countries, will resonate deeply on the continent, especially since charges of official negligence seem to reach to the pope himself. The impact will be particularly strong in Western Europe, with its powerful media that are increasingly antagonistic toward the Catholic hierarchy and even the Church itself.

May 8, 2010

Wisdom of the Christian Bible

Bible.jpg


It amazes me that anyone living today could possibly think that this ancient book, full of contradictions and inaccuracies, offers all the answers to life's questions. Did the Christian god really create humans to be that stupid?

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May 7, 2010

MarsEdit Has Won Me Over

MarsEditIcon128.jpgI first tried MarsEdit back in November of 2009, and it is fair to say that my initial impressions were mixed. There were features I wanted that I was surprised it did not have, and I complained that the interface was not as slick as that of Ecto. Still, I ended up buying it after my 30-day trial expired. Flaws aside, it worked reliably. I figured that I would eventually find something I liked better to replace it, but that has not happened yet. I am still using MarsEdit to write the majority of my posts, and I have to admit that it has largely won me over.

May 5, 2010

An Open Letter to American Catholics


Dear Catholics,

Those who pigeonhole you do you a disservice. Surveys show that many of you do not agree with the Pope on many important issues. You probably don't consider him divine and certainly not infallible. That is good; it shows you are willing to think for yourselves and ask difficult questions.

Much like we non-Catholics, I suspect that you are concerned about the epidemic of child sexual abuse happening in the Catholic Church. When the abuse itself is combined with overwhelming evidence that the Church has concealed it, lied about it, and enabled it to continue through practices such as transferring known offenders to other locations, we all have cause for concern.

May 4, 2010

Is Amazon's Kindle Worthwhile for an Atheist Reader?


I have never had much interest in buying a Kindle or similar ebook reader, at least not until recently. What changed? As absurd as this sounds, I am running out of space to store books. I've already given away more of those that I don't expect to read again, but things are still getting a bit more cluttered than I'd like. The thought of being able to buy books without losing space is quite appealing.

Of course, Apple's iPad can also serve as an ebook reader and even has a Kindle app as well as Apple's own iBook app. And yes, it is not that much more expensive considering that it does so much more. The idea of having color for magazines and newspapers is also appealing, but I could certainly live without that. The problem is that the Kindle's screen sounds far superior when it comes to reading in sunlight and minimizing eye strain.

What makes me a bit wary about either option, frankly, is what I found when I perused the selection of books with Kindle versions available at Amazon.com. There really doesn't seem to be much of a selection on the subject of atheism, one of the topics about which I most enjoy reading (imagine that!). This might be a problem, although there are easily at least 30 books in this section I'd like to read. I suspect that some of you own Kindles. How do you like them, and how adequate have you found the selection of non-fiction focusing on atheism, church-state issues, and the like?

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May 3, 2010

Can Science Education Work?

Scienceeducation3.jpgTaner Edis recently posted a fairly dismal take on science education over at the Secular Outpost. I really want to reject it, but I can't shake the feeling that much of it is correct. After noting that surveys consistently show that public distrust of science remains high in matters of paranormal and supernatural phenomena, Taner wrote:
People like me, who are deeply involved in science education, often think that all we have to do is improve scientific literacy...and a better educated population will come to see that trust in science is well-warranted. Then we'll have fewer people believing in ghosts and psychic powers, creationism, occult conspiracies, anti-vaccination paranoia, climate change denial, Scientology, etc. etc...But such hopes themselves might be more faith-based than empirically well-supported.

May 2, 2010

Prayer Has No Place at Public University Graduation Ceremonies

Graduation ceremonies will soon be held at countless colleges and universities. They mark an important achievement and a transition to the next stage of graduates lives'. At public institutions, they should not be used as an excuse to promote the very sort of superstitious nonsense that secular education is supposed to expose for the deluded fantasy it is. And yet, many state colleges and universities will do just that via organized prayer.

In this post, we look at a particularly disturbing example of what is in store for some graduates. Big thanks to Godless Girl for finding the video below. This was filmed at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. And yes, this is a state (i.e., public) university.



When I watch this, I feel sorry for the young woman even though her behavior was inappropriate, disruptive, and unfair to inflict on the audience. I feel sorry for her because it does not appear that she has benefited from the sort of education universities are supposed to provide. Her money (or her parents money) seems to have been wasted. While she may now have a diploma, it sounds like she has managed to make it through college without expanding her mind. For that, I do pity her.

But you know what, it could have been far worse. The audience could have laughed her off the stage. Those on the stage near her, who I imagine were probably university officials (state employees), should have cut her off the moment she started into prayer. This sort of thing has no place at a public university.

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May 1, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Sarah Palin (Again)

sarah-palin-1.jpgWhy is it that idiocy seems to be so much more prevalent some weeks than others? Some weeks it is a real struggle to find someone worth honoring, and it is nearly impossible to pick only one on other weeks.

I try to avoid Sarah Palin these days. I really do. I suppose I just don't want to be part of why she continues to remain in the news even though she hasn't done anything newsworthy (aside from continuing to make a fool of herself). Unfortunately, her comments about Arizona's "show me your papers" law mean that I must honor her yet again as this week's idiot.You see, I am convinced that her brand of idiocy is not just entertaining but harmful.
"Thankfully, Byron York, he hit the nail on the head," Palin told Sean Hannity of Fox News on Tuesday. "There is no ability or opportunity in there for the racial profiling. And shame on the lamestream media again for turning this into something that it is not."

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