September 30, 2011

Legalizing Marijuana

Legalize itI'd like to see marijuana legalized in the United States. Had I said this five years ago, most of you probably would have assumed that I was a pothead. Until fairly recently, most people assumed that anyone pro-legalization must be a regular drug user. Today, it seems easier to imagine someone saying that for other reasons. For the record, I have not used marijuana for at least 15 years.

I do believe that legalization would be good for the economy, both for the taxes it would generate and for the savings in criminal justice expenditures, but that is not the main reason I support it. The main reason I support marijuana legalization comes down to freedom. I believe that persons of legal age should be free to buy, possess, and use marijuana in precisely the same way we can now do with alcohol. I'll even go one step beyond that and say that we should be able to grow small amounts of marijuana for our personal use as well.

Why would the author of an atheist blog bother to sound off about marijuana? What irks me most about how the U.S. government has handled marijuana is the focus on myths and outright lies to stoke fear and ignorance in the public about the nature of the drug. The government made a serious mistake by classifying marijuana as a schedule 1 narcotic. Alcohol and nicotine are the appropriate points of comparison; not heroin. From a reality-based perspective, this sort of thing really drives me crazy.

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September 29, 2011

Have You Ever Wondered What is Wrong With America?

A reader sent this great video, featuring a song recorded by his band, Burrowing Owls. I think it answers the question of what's wrong with America quite well. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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September 28, 2011

Check out the Secular Video Network

I received the following announcement and thought it was worth sharing:
I wanted to let you know about an exciting secular project I’ve been lucky enough to help launch with my two friends who are student atheists, like myself. It’s called the Secular Video Network, and is a collection of video resources for the secular community. Topics include atheism, skeptical inquiry, science, politics and other topics you’re used to hearing about from atheist youtubers. The site features a user-wide synced video playback (just as TV would have) but also a chat for the sake of discussion. So far content includes videos from Richard Dawkins, Mr. Deity, the Secular Student Alliance, Aronra, the Thinking Atheist, and is expanding and diversifying quickly.
I look forward to seeing what this new site will bring to the atheist community.

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September 26, 2011

Getting 'Under God' Out of the Pledge is Worthy Cause

One nation under godThere was a time in the United States, where it was not at all uncommon to see "Whites only" signs in the windows of local businesses. When someone who was not White saw such a sign, the message was unambiguous: you are not wanted here. Today, there is a different sort of sign hanging not in a shop window but over the United States as a whole. It says that we are one nation "under god," and it has a similar effect in that it communicates to we atheists that we are not wanted here. It is a sign that needs to come down and be buried along with other relics from a sometimes embarrassing history.

If you follow this link, you will find a petition asking the White House to remove "under god" from the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. Those of us who are promoting it are under no illusions. We recognize that it is probably not going to happen, at least not right away. And we recognize that the White House might not have the power to make it happen, even if they wanted to (which they don't). That isn't really the point. No, the point is to begin the long and sustained process of speaking out until "under god" is out of the pledge, off our money, and no longer in our courthouses.

The United States is for all of us, religious believers and atheists alike. It is time to remove the vestiges of institutionalized discrimination and bigotry. This is not going to happen overnight, but it is going to happen as long as we possess the will and persistence to see it through.

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September 25, 2011

Mandatory School Prayer in Alberta

AlbertaLike many secular progressives in the U.S., I look upon Canada with some measure of envy. They provide health care to all their citizens, while we still have families joining the ranks of the poor due to excessive health care costs. The Canadian cities I've visited were so much cleaner and felt so much safer than U.S. cities of comparable size. And of course, the Christian extremist menace which afflicts much of the U.S. seems far more scarce there. And yet, Canadian atheists will tell you that while many things may be better, some challenges remain.

September 24, 2011

Idiot of the Week: State of Georgia

We've got ourselves a real idiotfest this week. What else would you expect in a week where there was another Republican debate? Still, I'm going to do something different today and feature some groups rather than individuals. Here are the highlights:
  • Bay Minette, Alabama is giving non-violent offenders the chance to get out of jail if only they attend church. while I certainly agree that church is punishment, states are not supposed to be in the business of promoting religion.
  • The state of Georgia murdered Troy Davis even though there were far more questions than answers about his guilt.
  • The San Diego City Council gave taxpayer money to support a local evangelical event, violating California's constitution.
  • CNN dignifies the absurd idea that people are visited by ghosts of deceased loved ones with uncritical coverage.
  • The American Family Association is upset with Ben & Jerry's newest flavor of ice cream.

September 23, 2011

Dennis Markuze Has Psychiatric Diagnosis and is Receiving Treatment

Remember Dennis Markuze (aka, David Mabus)? Of course you do! A portion of the results from his court-ordered psychological evaluation are in, and I am seeing reports that he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as well as alcohol and substance abuse. Evidently, he is now in some sort of treatment center and will have another court date on December 2.

Until additional details are released, we can only guess at the rest of the findings. My best guess, based on the limited information which has emerged so far and my familiarity with how these things work in the U.S., is that the court determined that Markuze was not competent to stand trial and is now having him treated in an effort to restore competence.

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September 22, 2011

Has the Right Finally Adopted 'Kill the Poor' as Their Official Slogan?

Kill The PoorAt the first Republican presidential debate to include Rick Perry, my stomach turned as the crowd cheered the fact that he has executed more people during his tenure as the Governor of Texas than any other governor (see the video here). Those who cheered this gruesome statistic are truly sick. It does not matter to them that some of those executed on Perry's watch may have been innocent. As it turned out, this was nothing. During the Tea Party Republican debate in Florida, the crowd shouted "yes!" and "let him die!" when the moderator asked how they would handle a hypothetical healthy 30-year-old who opted out of health insurance and then became seriously ill (see the video here). So much for the "culture of life," huh?

Celebrating the death of a terrorist was bad enough, but I can at least comprehend the impulse. But cheering government executions and calling for the death of someone who cannot afford to pay exorbitant health care costs is more than I can take. Is this really who we are?

While religion compounds this problem by allowing those who hunger for executions and the death of the poor to cloak themselves in its garb and thus be shielded from criticism, I have a hard time believing that religion itself is the primary cause of what we observed at these debates. I also recognize that what we are seeing is not really new, even if it often seems like it is getting worse. It appears that some have decided to embrace and celebrate the worst aspects of our animal nature.

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September 21, 2011

What Are We to Make of Parents Who Lie to Their Children?

make believeThe creativity and imagination of a child is thrilling to witness. It is great to see how the mind works when unfettered by social convention, something only the most creative among us seem able to carry into adulthood. Nobody has to tell a child to "think outside the box;" that is the only way they know how to think.

And yet, it is difficult to imagine that lying to our children simply because we find it entertaining is ethically sound. And yes, this includes the socially acceptable Santa Claus lies. A child is supposed to be able to trust his or her parent, and we are right to object when a parent violates that trust.

September 19, 2011

Is This Christianity?

Halloween pumpkinCraig James (The Religion Virus) brought us another great post last week that ought to raise some interesting questions. He reprinted a guest post on the dangers of Halloween by Kimberly Daniels that appeared in Charisma, which he described as "a serious Christian news site with a large following." I'm not familiar with Charisma, but if he's right in describing it this way, it might explain the disclaimer they added to Daniels' post. Still, they did post it, and that suggests that the views she expresses cannot be that far out of the mainstream. This leads me to ask: can this possibly be Christianity in 2011?

September 17, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Who is the Idiot Here?

If there is one thing my Idiot of the Week posts have had in common, it would be that he idiocy they highlight is fairly easy to spot. Some may disagree with my choices, but few would argue that there wasn't at least some idiocy there worth highlighting. This one may be a bit different.

Pat RobertsonPat Robertson is undoubtedly an idiot. He has been "honored" in this series many times for saying incredibly stupid things. He is one of the Christian extremists who can be counted on to claim that his god is punishing people or buildings through natural disasters, and he's well known for his bigotry.

In spite of being a real Christian, Robertson seems to have finally gone too far for at least some Christians. However, this is where you'll have to decide whether this latest bit of idiocy rests more with him or with his critics.

September 16, 2011

Empathizing With Christians

EmpathyImagine that you are driving to work one morning and pass a billboard that boasts "leeches cure headaches" or some equally absurd bit of quackery. You might initially be surprised or even point and laugh, but with some reflection, you'd probably be at least a bit irritated by the promotion of a blatant lie. Why? You would realize that many others passing this billboard every day are morons who might actually be persuaded by the message. You know better, but they might not.

September 14, 2011

Atheist or Agnostic? I'm Both

Atheism and agnosticism remain poorly understood, and confusion continues even among some who call themselves atheists or agnostics. This diagram (source unknown) puts all the pieces together perfectly and illustrates that the agnostic-gnostic dimension deals with certainty while the atheist-theist dimension focuses on belief and has nothing to do with certainty.

Agnostic or Atheist

I am an atheist in that I lack belief in god(s). I usually identify myself as an agnostic atheist, but that depends on exactly how "god" or "gods" is defined. If a theist defines these terms in such an absurd way that they describe contradictory or incoherent notions, then I might be an gnostic atheist for that particular god because I'd know that an entity with logically incoherent properties does not exist because such a thing could not exist.

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September 12, 2011

The Joy of Submitting to Authority

Eat your damn oatmealNobody likes to be told what to do, right? Actually, I'm not so sure. If nobody likes to be told what to do, how does one explain the many people who are altogether eager to submit to religious authority? Surely, some people not only do not mind being told what to do; they crave it.

Among religions, Christianity in general (and Catholicism in particular) is a great example of an authoritarian hierarchy. Christians value their bibles in part because they are told what to do. Many Christians regard their clergy as people who have more answers than they do. And what of the jealous god they worship? Can there be any real dispute that this mythical contrivance is little more than a symbolic father dispensing rewards and punishments?

The thing about being told what to do is that it provides a measure of psychological relief by convincing one that one is absolved of responsibility. Hey, I was only following orders! And if the orders are "divine," all the better.

Some people yearn to be told what to do and will seek out virtually anyone - no matter how absurd - who is willing to play this role for them. Throughout history, we have seen the plight of many who have blindly followed a charismatic leader into the abyss.

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September 10, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Special 9/11 Anniversary Edition

9/11I'm up to my eyeballs in political idiocy. The idea that the way to cure our economic woes is to implement even more of the policies that damaged the economy in the first place is almost more than I can stand. I do not have the strength to write about that today. Instead, I'd like to harken back to something I wrote a year ago and revisit a very different and even more troublesome sort of idiocy.

The mainstream media in the United States is absolutely orgasmic about the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. The fact that this was a tragic event, resulting from a combination of religious extremism, blind hatred, and decades of misguided American imperialism has largely escaped their notice. Instead, they've decided to turn this into a human interest story in which they obsess over every detail about how "9/11 changed everything" and hope that someone they interview might still tear up while talking about it. I find the entire spectacle thoroughly nauseating, but this isn't really what I want to talk about either.

September 9, 2011

My Target Audience

TargetA blogger should have a target audience in mind when he or she writes. When I started Atheist Revolution back in 2005, I gave almost no thought to the identity of my audience. I was writing for myself and whoever else wanted to come along for the ride. I made few assumptions about my readers, and I did not have a clear target audience in mind.

I wrote some early posts as if they would be read by religious believers, and I wrote others for a general audience of theists and atheists. However, most of what I have written has been aimed at atheists. This includes those content to identify themselves as atheists and those who have still not been able to accept that they are atheists.

If you ask me today about my audience, I'd tell you that I still write for myself but that my target audience includes atheists and those who are curious about atheism. This is not the blog I would write if my primary goal was to persuade religious believers to face reality. That blog might be fun to write too, but it would be very different from this one.

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September 6, 2011

Vatican Asks Muslims for Help in Opposing Atheism

Christians and MuslimsSecular News Daily had one of those hard-to-believe stories last week that caught my attention. Evidently, the Vatican published a letter from Cardinal Tauran addressed to his "Dear Muslim friends" during Ramadan in which he called on Muslims to unite with the Catholic Church to oppose...well...us. You can read the short letter at TwoCircles.net.

In the letter, Cardinal Tauran describes Christians and Muslims as facing "the challenges of materialism and secularisation" and notes that they are both "too often witnesses to the violation of the sacred." He also makes reference to a shared duty to indoctrinate the young in superstition.

As bizarre at it sounds, Tauran seems to view Christians and Muslims as persecuted by the evil secular hordes to which you and I proudly belong. I didn't realize we had the kind of power. Did you?

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September 4, 2011

We Are Atheists, We Are Everywhere

I trust you've heard about the Florida pastor who called for atheists to be placed on a national registry and compared us to "convicted sex offenders, ex-convicts, terrorist cells, hate groups like the KKK, skinheads, radical Islamists, etc." I don't have anything to say about this Christian extremist bigot that hasn't already been said. Instead, I'd just like to join Friendly Atheist in highlighting this excellent response from the Thinking Atheist:

We are atheists, we are everywhere. And you know what? Our numbers are on the rise. The time when Christian extremists and bigots could count on our silence is over.

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September 3, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Michele Bachmann (Yet Again)

BachmannAs much as I've tried to avoid simply rotating idiot "honors" between Bachmann and Perry, I lack the willpower to keep them off limits. And when Bachmann said that her god sent Hurricane Irene to "get the attention of politicians" and then tried to walk it back by claiming she was joking, I realized I had no choice but to designate her as this week's idiot-in-chief.

Bachmann's original claim about her god sending storms was not particularly surprising. She's known to be a Christian extremist, and other Christians extremists frequently make such claims. Bachmann is no moron, and she was deliberately targeting her base with that comment. She knows full well that what sounds idiocy to the reality-based community is music to the ears of her deluded base.

If her comment about her god sending a hurricane was all there was to it, I think I could have ignored her. But what really got me was the absurd claim that she was only joking. With Bachmann's history, record, and previous statements, we know that her original claim was perfectly consistent with her belief system. She can't really expect anyone to believe that she was joking, can she?

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September 1, 2011

Real Christians Don't Need Guns

It seems to me that, if the Holy Spirit’s protection needs to be supplemented by firearms, then faith in him is not 100%, as claimed.
- The Chaplain, An Apostate's Chapel

It seems to me that statements like this should be repeated regularly because they cast doubt on the idea that some sort of god is personally involved in human affairs. I've made a similar argument about the absurdity of Christians having health insurance and suggested that we could a great deal of money on health care by placing Christians on what I called the Prayer Care Plan.

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