August 30, 2011

Posts Will Be Less Frequent

I expect the frequency of my posts on Atheist Revolution will decline a bit for the next few months. I'm not burned out or anything. I just tend to have more free time during the summer months, and we are now into fall. So it is unlikely that I will have time to match the almost daily posting schedule I was able to do during the summer. I'll post at least twice a week and hopefully more often than that.

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August 28, 2011

What is Your Argument Against God?

Burden of proofHow many times have you been asked by a religious believer about your argument against the existence some god? Yeah, me too. What many religious believers seem unable to grasp is that no arguments are necessary. The atheist position is simply that those who believe in gods have not provided sufficient evidence to support their belief. The theist has not met his or her burden of proof. That's it.

When someone tells you about something that sounds so implausible that it is unlikely to be true, you ask for evidence. If the person provides sufficient evidence, you may begin to suspect that their claim is valid. You may begin to believe what they believe on the basis of this evidence. But if they do not provide sufficient evidence, you remain skeptical.

Since this does not seem to click for many believers, I often find myself saying something like this:
I do not believe in gods for the same reason you do not believe in unicorns. You do not have an argument against unicorns; you need no argument. You simply realize that there is insufficient evidence to support their existence and so you do not believe in them. And you are absolutely right to do so.
Atheism does not need to be any more complicated than this.

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August 27, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Pat Robertson (Yet Again)

Pat RobertsonAfter deciding that this week's idiot could not be another Republican presidential candidate (it is getting too easy), I settled on Pat Robertson. By my count, this is the third time he's been "honored" here. Last time, he suggested that his god was causing the suffering in Haiti because the people their had made a pact with his devil. This time, Robertson said that the cracks in the Washington Monument following this week's earthquake were a sign from his god.
Ladies and gentlemen I don’t want to get weird on this so please take it for what it’s worth. But it seems to me the Washington Monument is a symbol of America’s power, it has been the symbol of our great nation, we look at that monument and say this is one nation under God. Now there’s a crack in it, there’s a crack in it and it’s closed up. Is that a sign from the Lord? Is that something that has significance or is it just result of an earthquake? You judge, but I just want to bring that to your attention. It seems to me symbolic. When Jesus was crucified and when he died the curtain in the Temple was rent from top to bottom and there was a tear and it was extremely symbolic, is this symbolic? You judge.
Okay Pat, I'll judge. You are an idiot.

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August 25, 2011

Religious Stupidity vs. Other Forms of Stupidity

StupidityOne experience that is probably universal, shared by nearly everyone regardless of their thoughts on religion, is that of hearing someone else say something incredibly stupid. Haven't we all had this experience many times? We do not always react the same way when we hear someone say something stupid. Our reaction is influenced by things like the nature of our relationship with the person and the context in which the statement occurs. For example, I will react differently when my best friend says something stupid than when my boss does. Still, I think it would be fair to characterize our reactions as typically involving some mixture of surprise, laughter, and disdain or pity.

August 23, 2011

Understanding Michele Bachmann's Submission Theology

Bachmann crazy eyesI assume you heard about Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) 2006 statement that she is submissive to her corndog-eating husband, Marcus. If not, you can find video of the statement here. Not surprisingly, Bachmann's view that wives should be submissive to their husbands is rooted in her particular form of evangelical fundamentalist Christianity.

August 22, 2011

Christians Mailing Bible Verses to Grieving Strangers

Jesus Loves YouI received an email from a reader with a sad but fascinating tale about the lengths to which some Christians will go to spread their "good news." I am sharing it with his permission because I am very interested in learning whether you have encountered anything like this.

Shortly after the recent death of his father, this reader received a letter in the mail from a complete stranger. The letter contained a newspaper clipping of his father's obituary and several verses from a Christian bible. The sender thought that the bible verses would be comforting.

August 21, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Rick Perry (Again)

Rick PerryIt is finally beginning to dawn on me that there is little point continuing to write Idiot of the Week posts between now and whenever Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are defeated in the Republican primary. These two are locked in a battle for the "honor," and it is hard to imagine anyone else being remotely competitive for the foreseeable future. Bachmann was a strong contender again this week with her insistence that the Soviet Union (which hasn't existed for roughly 20 years) poses a serious threat to the United States. She had Idiot recognition locked up until Perry said the following to a child at a rally in New Hampshire:
How old do I think the earth is? You know what? I don’t have any idea. I know it’s pretty old, so it goes back a long, long way. I’m not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely how long, how old the earth is. I hear your mom was asking about evolution. You know, it’s a theory that’s out there. It’s got some gaps in it, but in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools, because I figured you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.

August 20, 2011

Markuze Facing 16 Charges After Threatening Atheists

After Montreal Police announced that they had arrested an unnamed suspect in the Mabus case, we all figured it had to be Dennis Markuze. According to Global Montreal, we were right.

Dennis Markuze has been arraigned on 16 charges, including death threats and criminal harassment. Markuze has been sent to the Pineal Institute for a psychological evaluation and is due in court again on September 19.

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We Are Atheism

Here is Greta Christina explaining the importance of coming out as an atheist. She made this video for a new project called We Are Atheism that seeks give atheists the chance to be heard. If you are open enough to make a video, consider sharing your story.



Here is how We Are Atheism describes their mission:
  • Provide an outlet for atheists to feel comfortable to come out of the closet.
  • Always let visitors know there are other people out there that are non-believers.
  • Help people find other atheists like them in their state, city, and even neighborhood.
  • Give access to local, national, and international organization to become involved in the secular community.
  • Empower people to start their own organization in areas that does not already have one.
I think this sounds great for the atheist community. I encourage you to check out their website and see what you think.

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August 19, 2011

Letting Go of Religious Privilege

Privilege

There is nothing quite like reading atheist blogs to provoke thought. While reading a recent post by Mark (No Godz) about some of the things atheists are not required to do, one in particular caught my attention:
Godless people are not required to respect superstition, prophets or religious acts performed or directed at them. If you say “I’ll pray for you” to me, I may laugh in your face... Don’t expect me to bow my head during a prayer, public or private. It’s your fallacy, not mine.
Of course, a big part of the reason that some of us get grief or even feel guilty for failing to show respect for these sort of socially sanctioned superstitions is religious privilege. We have had the need to respect this stuff instilled in us for most of our lives.

August 18, 2011

Mabus Suspect to Undergo Psychiatric Evaluation

If you follow me on Twitter, you are already well aware that the Montreal Police made an arrest in the Mabus case. They have not revealed the identity of the person they have arrested, but I think it is safe to assume that it is Dennis Markuze. According to the Vancouver Sun, police say that the suspect will soon undergo psychiatric evaluation. This is certainly good news.

We do not know how the Markuze story will end, but it sounds like the authorities will investigate the possibility of mental illness. At a minimum, I expect that this psychiatric evaluation will assess Markuze's mental health and competence to stand trial (i.e., is he sufficiently coherent to know what is happening and assist his attorney in his defense?). Depending on what the court thinks, they may also evaluate his sanity at the time of the alleged offenses (i.e., at the time he allegedly sent the electronic communications, did he appreciate the nature of his actions and know that they were wrong?) and his potential for future dangerousness.

For the most comprehensive summary of the Mabus saga, see this post from Skeptical Software Tools.

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August 17, 2011

One of Rick Perry's Christian Extremist Allies on Church-State Separation

Here is Harry Jackson, the co-chair of Gov. Rick Perry's (R-TX) Christian extremist prayerfest, explaining on the Trinity Broadcasting Network that there is no separation of church and state in the mind of his god:



Since Gov. Perry chose to associate with Jackson and his fellow Christian extremists, it seems likely that he holds similar views. Could this idiot from Texas be even worse than the last one?

H/T to Right Wing Watch

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The 11 Commandments of Twitter

TwittericonYou have taken the plunge and joined Twitter. Maybe you realized how useful it can be for promoting your blog, or maybe you are simply interested in connecting with others and receiving news as it breaks. You have built a small collection of followers, suggesting that people are finding something about what you do worthwhile. In this post, I'll give you 11 tips on how to keep your Twitter followers from dumping you.

August 15, 2011

A Commitment to Reason

Faith and reasonAtheists are more rational than religious believers, right? Wrong! Have you seen how irrational some atheists are? Atheism is no guarantee of rationality. Even if we restrict ourselves to claiming that atheists are more rational than religious believers on the question of gods, we have to be careful. While many atheists do indeed arrive at atheism through the application of reason, this is certainly not true for all atheists. And even those of us who place great value on reason behave irrationally far more than we'd care to admit or than we might realize.

August 14, 2011

What Should Happen With Someone Like Markuze?

Dennis MarkuzeThe atheist blogosphere has been buzzing about Dennis Markuze (aka, David Mabus) following the apparent success of a petition calling on the Montreal Police to investigate him for sending death threats to countless atheists. Some are focusing on the criminal act of making death threats and calling for Markuze to be arrested and charged. Others are of the opinion that Markuze is suffering from mental illness and calling for some sort of involuntary treatment. Needless to say, there is considerable frustration about why neither of these outcomes happened some time ago. While understandable, it is important to recognize that some of this frustration is based on a lack of understanding about how the criminal justice and mental health systems are designed to work.

August 13, 2011

The Importance of Atheist Community

AtheistsI talk a lot about politics, and I've made no secret of my belief that it is time for atheists to pursue real political power in the U.S. and other countries that are also hostile to reality. Our numbers are far greater than many realize, and we desperately need organization to exercise our voice in important matters like separation of church and state. But political power is not the only reason we need a strong atheist community.

The next time you hear one of our fellow atheists saying that we do not need any sort of atheist community or atheist movement, I encourage you to share these words from Daylight Atheism:
This is the most important function that "out" atheists can serve. Many freethinkers, especially the young ones, face unimaginable hatred and hostility just for having the courage to assert their rights. And we can't stop all of it, but we can stand in solidarity with them and let them know that they aren't alone. We can provide a safety net for those who are weighing whether to declare their identity, and by so doing, make them more likely to take that step and further expand and strengthen our community.
Now just imagine how much more effective we can be at serving this function with a bit more organization.

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August 11, 2011

Montreal Police Investigating Threats Against Atheists

Whoever said an online petitions never accomplished anything? According to the Toronto Sun, Montreal police have opened a criminal investigation of Dennis Markuze (aka, David Mabus) for sending numerous death threats to various atheist bloggers, scientists, etc. As someone who has received quite a few of these threats, I welcome this news. I sincerely hope that Mr. Markuze finally receives the help he so desperately needs.

I'd also like to thank my fellow atheist bloggers and others in the atheist community for standing together on this to promote the online petition. This effort clearly made a difference.

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August 10, 2011

Encourage the Montreal Police to Take Threats Against Atheists Seriously

When religious believers make death threats against atheists, conventional wisdom says that these threats should be reported to the proper authorities. We have all seen the senseless violence of which religious extremists are capable, and we should take them seriously. But what if the threats are reported by multiple people over a span of time and law enforcement does nothing? What then?

This unfortunate scenario has been playing out for some time with Dennis Markuze (aka, David Mabus). Because Markuze is a resident of Montreal, reports to U.S. authorities are routed to the Montreal Police. And so far, it is not clear that the Montreal Police have taken any sort of action to stop the frequent threats.

Why Are Atheists Speaking Out?

speak outI have encountered quite a few Christians who seem to have difficulty understanding why growing numbers of atheists are speaking out. I often explain that we speak out because we are invested in our surroundings. We do not share their belief in an afterlife, so we do not have the luxury of passivity. I point out that we often speak out because we feel that we must. We feel this way largely because they continue to push their beliefs on us through a combination of evangelical and legislative efforts (e.g., opposing reproductive rights for women and same-sex marriage while demonizing us for rejecting superstition). In the face of such efforts, tolerance is not viable.

I can imagine a sort of Christianity so divorced from politics and so uninterested in gaining secular power that most atheists would probably ignore it. It would be so irrelevant to us that criticizing it would be pointless. But this is not the sort of Christianity we have in the U.S. today. Not even close.

Instead, we have a form of religious belief that is not merely irrational but harmful. In such a context, wouldn't we have to be crazy not to speak out? Even if the harm wasn't so frequently directed at us, wouldn't we still have some obligation to address it?

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August 8, 2011

The Pope Gets an iPad

This little gem was submitted by a reader. The Pope gets an iPad, and just look what is on it!

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An Atheist Manifesto

An Atheist ManifestoFor those who claim that there is something even remotely new about "new atheism," the argument is almost always about the level of vitriol. The so-called new atheists are supposed to be much harsher and more direct in their criticism of religion than the authors of prior generations. It does not seem to matter that this claim is utter bullshit; many continue to assert it. I've just finished reading a book that may finally reveal the falsehood of this claim. An Atheist Manifesto was first published by Joseph Lewis in 1954 and blows anything I've read from Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, or Dennett out out the water in terms of the antagonism leveled against god belief.

August 7, 2011

Rick Perry: America's Next President?

Rick PerryI do not know who will be elected as America's next president, but I'm comfortable predicting that it will probably not be Obama. Setting aside my own disappointment with him, a sentiment shared by growing numbers of progressives, I do not see how he possibly overcomes this unemployment rate without the sort of drastic action which he has so far refused to take.

I expect that either Mitt Romney or Rick Perry will be our next president. And of those two choices, I sure as hell hope it is Romney. Whatever other flaws he may have, Romney seems far less likely to be a Christian extremist than Perry.

August 6, 2011

Live Video of Rick Perry's Christian Extremist Prayerfest

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Special Prayerfest Edition of Idiot of the Week

The Response

Texas Gov. Rick Perry already received Idiot of the Week "honors" for his Christian extremist prayerfest. You know, the one in which he has proudly used his office as governor to promote evangelical fundamentalist Christianity. But since today is the day said prayerfest is happening, I felt that another mention was in order. Besides, Perry is hardly the only idiot associated with this thing. Even though none of the state governors Perry invited are planning to attend, he has still managed to assemble an all-star cast of idiots like nothing we've ever seen since the last National Prayer Breakfast.

Thanks to Secular News Daily, we have a fairly comprehensive list of who is behind this idiotfest, featuring the likes of the American Family Association, the International House of Prayer (seriously, there is a group with this name), John Hagee, James Dobson, David Barton, and many others. A smorgasbord of idiocy!

American Atheists has organized a protest of the event in Houston. They are expecting over 900 protestors.

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August 4, 2011

We Can Make Being Identified as an Atheist a More Positive Experience

AtheismMany of us, including some fairly open atheists, are less than thrilled with the prospect of being publicly identified as atheists, at least in some contexts. Suppose you are quoted in a newspaper article about the importance of separation of church and state and the reporter writes something like, "John, who is an atheist, thinks that..." You know that this will almost guarantee that those you were hoping might be reached by the article are going to tune you out and dismiss whatever point you might have been making. This needs to change, and I have some thoughts on what we need to do in order to change it.

August 3, 2011

Should I Post the Identities of Those Who Send Hate Mail?

Hate mailA reader left a comment on one of the recent posts in which I shared some Christian hate mail I'd received asking why I don't share the identities of those who send this stuff. Interesting question. I suppose it had never occurred to me that this might be something to consider. When I share Christian hate mail, I suppose I could include the author's handle, email address, and even IP address. The question is whether I should. I'm very interested to hear what you think about this - good idea or bad idea?

When I consider the possible pros and cons of disclosing such information, I struggle to come up with more than the following:

Pros
  • Possibly shaming the sender into thinking before emailing hatred
  • Alerting others in the atheist community that of a potential threat
Cons
  • Further agitating the sender
  • Giving the sender the attention and/or publicity they may crave

Am I leaving anything out that you would consider important?

My temptation would be to consider each email carefully and make the decision on a case-by-case basis, focusing mostly on the level of threat. It seems to me that the most compelling reason to do this would be the idea of alerting the atheist community of a potential threat, and that would mean that it wouldn't be worthwhile unless the threat was judged to warrant it. But I want to hear from you before I make any decisions.

Update: After giving the matter some thought, I decided that sharing the identities of those who send hate mail is not something I'm willing to do. I do not know what is going on in the lives of these people or what drives them to do what they do. For all I know, I could put someone in danger by disclosing their identity. I'm not willing to take that risk. If I believe they pose a real threat, I can alert law enforcement. I will not be outing anyone here.

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August 2, 2011

Atheists as the Ultimate Outsiders

OutsiderWhat is it that enables some people to discard the religious traditions in which they were raised and be comfortable with atheism in a culture that demonizes it? I don't have the answer to that intriguing question, but it seems to me that part of it must involve a certain level of comfort with adopting the role of outsider. I have certainly seen a connection between the two in my own life, and I wonder if this has been important to others.

August 1, 2011

Why Are So Many Idiots of the Week Politicians?

Idiocy

My Idiot of the Week series has certainly contained people who are not politicians. Religious leaders, media personalities, celebrities, government agencies, and even ordinary people who do stupid things have been represented. However, it is clear that politicians have been "honored" far more than any other group of people. Why? Given that this blog focuses primarily on atheism, why would politicians be overrepresented here?

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