February 29, 2012

Sexism in the Atheist Community: Defensive Responding

DefensivenessThere is a tendency for men to become defensive when the subject of sexism is raised, and one of the most common expressions of this defensive reaction involves launching accusations of "man-bashing" at the woman who brought up the subject. This reaction is not surprising; it is precisely what one expects when privilege is challenged. Take a look at how Christians in the U.S. respond to threats against Christian privilege. They get defensive and cry persecution. What you see looks awfully similar to how many men respond when male privilege is challenged, doesn't it?

I read a recent post written by a high-profile atheist blogger for whom I have great respect. In it, he claimed that he has never once felt that others thought he was awful simply for being a man. Really? Never? My initial reaction was disbelief. Warranted or not, hasn't every man felt that way at some time or another? I have certainly felt like some women thought I was worthless simply because of my gender. Does this make me a monster? What the hell is wrong with me to have felt this way?

February 27, 2012

Two Suggestions for Ending Religious Oppression

religious oppression

I support the rights of women to have control over their own healthcare, free from governmental restriction. This means that I want women to have easy access to affordable contraception and family planning services, including abortion. I also support full equality for LGBT persons. We should have already learned that "separate but equal" is not equal. Thus, I support same-sex marriage and believe that LGBT individuals are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. And as I have made clear repeatedly, I support atheist civil rights. Together, those of us who stand up against religiously-motivated bigotry will be on the right side of history.

February 26, 2012

Jessica Ahlquist on CNN



I don't care that she's still in high school; Jessica Ahlquist is an inspiration. It is great to see her finally getting some attention from the mainstream media. First, it helps bring her story into the public consciousness where she can serve as an example to all. Second, she handles herself so well that she's quickly becoming a wonderful spokesperson for church-state separation. When I watch this CNN interview, I find myself marveling at how she comes across better than many who have been doing this for longer than she's been alive.

H/T to The Good Atheist

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February 25, 2012

Two Different Responses to Quran Burning

QuranIt isn't exactly surprising that there will be riots in some predominately Muslim countries when a Westerner burns a Quran. They consider this book "holy" for some reason, and get extremely upset when someone burns it. In fact, they get so upset that people are often killed during the subsequent rioting. We have seen this happen time and time again, so it really can't be a surprise at this point. As far as what to do about it, there are two fairly different responses, each of which has some merit.

February 24, 2012

An Alternative to Atheist Restraint

Leather restraintStaks (Dangerous Talk) has an interesting post in which he claims that atheists, at least those of us in the United States, show too much restraint when it comes to our dealings with the religious. He describes some recent instances where he went out of his way to avoid saying anything that could possibly be construed as offensive by religious believers.

I imagine many of us can relate to this experience. I know I can. For those of us who live in oppressively religious areas, this experience of holding our tongues is likely to be quite common.
Time and time again, atheists are compelled to show restraint out of fear of offending the religious. We shouldn’t have to. We have actual evidence on our side. We don’t just make up a bunch of stories and demand people believe them on insufficient evidence.
He's right. We shouldn't have to. And really, we don't have to. It is our choice. But is it a reasoned choice to which we give some real thought, or is it something we do primarily out of fear or habit? Do we have an alternative, and if so, what might it look like?

February 22, 2012

Why Do Atheists Waste Their Time Thinking About Religion?

If you write an atheist blog, I can almost guarantee that you have been asked some version of the following question:
If you atheists are so against religion, why do you waste your time thinking about it or even blogging about it?
Like me, I suspect that you find this question a bit tiring after awhile. I find that my list of responses has grown so large over the years that I sometimes lose track of them. Here's just a few:
  1. One does not need to agree with something to be interested in it. I'm interested in all sorts of things I don't agree with (e.g., serial murder, domestic violence, schizophrenia, etc.).
  2. My lack of religious belief in no way prevents me from being affected by religion. I live in a thoroughly religious culture where many people would like nothing better than to impose their religious beliefs on me. Not agreeing with them does not shield me from their behavior.
  3. Religion has many negative effects on the society in which I live and touches my day-to-day life in many ways.
  4. Being an atheist in the United States makes me a member of a tiny minority living in the midst of a massive religious majority. I would have to be suicidal to ignore the majority.
  5. Many atheists hope to reduce the impact of religion on the society in which we live. How could we possibly hope to do so if we did not devote some time and effort to the subject?
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February 21, 2012

Pressure in the Workplace to Donate to Religious Charities

pressure to donateAustin Cline (About.com) has a great post up about how atheists are often pressured to donate to religious charities at work. This is something of a pet peeve of mine, so I wanted to chime in on the subject.

Solicitations From Co-Workers

In the United States, it is simply a fact of life that one will be hit up by one's co-workers to donate to all manner of charities. Other than the annoyance factor of each co-worker thinking that his or her preferred charity is the one you should support, the problem is that many of them are for religious organizations or those with religiously-based policies of discrimination. I've been asked my co-workers to buy Girl Scout cookies, to buy raffle tickets from the Catholic school their children attend, and to contribute to the Salvation Army. I am regularly asked to buy tickets to attend various church-sponsored events in the community, mostly Southern Baptist or Catholic.

February 19, 2012

Culture War 2.0 or Same Old War?

culture war"Contraceptives, religious freedom: Are we in a new culture war?" was the title of a recent article on CNN.com by Brianna Kellar and Eric Marrapodi. The argument appears to be that abortion and gay marriage have been set aside by the right and replaced with contraceptives and talk of a "war on religion." They go so far as to refer to "culture wars 2.0." But this is all part of the same culture war, one that has been waged by the Christian right for some time now. It is a religiously-motivated war on modernity, and it has many fronts.

February 18, 2012

The Christian Right's War on Education

Many Christians value a strong system of secular public education. They are not interested in having their children taught religion in schools; they would prefer to do that at home or in their churches. They would like for their children to grow up being able to compete in the modern world, and they recognize that reality-based education is a vital part of the preparation their children require. These Christians have much in common with atheists, and we should welcome their involvement in defending secular public education from the Christian extremists who seek to destroy it.



With attitudes like those depicted in this video, is it any wonder that the Christian right opposes public education in the United States?

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February 17, 2012

Rejection, Existential Anxiety, and Christian Reactions to Atheists

I ExistHave you ever felt thoroughly rejected by someone else? Maybe you were shot down when you asked out that person with whom you were infatuated. Maybe someone you thought of as a friend turned on you. I suspect we can all relate to the sting of rejection.

Individuals differ in how sensitive they are to real or imagined rejection. For some, the sting is brief and can be shaken off rather quickly. For others, rejection may trigger a crisis of identity. But while individuals differ on their sensitivity to rejection, I suspect that the context matters a great deal as well. Imagine revealing your atheism to the person you consider your closest friend and having them never speak to you again. I submit that this would shake most of us to the core.

February 16, 2012

Design is Not the Only Alternative to Chance

Creationist "logic" is always the same. Some natural phenomenon is too statistically improbable, too complex, too beautiful, too awe-inspiring to have come into existence by chance. Design is the only alternative to chance that the authors can imagine. Therefore a designer must have done it. And science's answer to this faulty logic is also always the same. Design is not the only alternative to chance. Natural selection is a better alternative.
- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

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February 14, 2012

Show Me a Wealthy Christian, and I'll Show You a Hypocrite

Eye of the needleAnyone familiar with the Christian bible will know that there are many inconsistencies. We atheists are especially fond of pointing them out. But there are also parts that seem quite clear and where certain messages appear consistently in multiple places.

When I was a Christian, I always considered these examples to be among the most important parts of the bible. I figured that if they showed up repeatedly, someone thought they were worth repeating. This was especially true when more than one of the gospel authors had Jesus saying virtually the same thing. Perhaps this was naive of me, but I considered these particular sayings to be worth additional attention on my part.

Here's a well known example of what I'm talking about:
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24, NIV).
and
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25, NIV).

February 12, 2012

Honoring Darwin

DarwinToday is Darwin Day, a celebration of the birth of Charles Darwin on Feb. 12, 1809. Whether we are talking about science or religion, Darwin's significance cannot be overstated. Darwin Day is a perfect excuse to reflect on Darwin's contributions and where we'd be without them.

To say that Darwin gave us the foundation of modern biology is accurate, but it only begins to convey his significance through the ages. In fact, such a statement seems to imply that Darwin's contribution was primarily historic. And yet, his work continues to have great relevance today.

February 11, 2012

The Catholic War on Women

contraceptionAs we near the 2012 presidential election, continued economic progress means that we are almost certain to see Republicans push wedge issues (e.g., gay marriage, abortion, and President Obama's so-called war on religion). They had been planning to run on the economy, but if the economy appears to be moving in the right direction, they have nothing else but their wedge issues. So let's take a look at this war on religion Obama is allegedly waging.

As part of reforming health care, the Obama administration is seeking to provide all women with access to affordable contraception. By removing the cost barrier, women would be more free than ever before to choose for themselves whether they will use contraception.

February 10, 2012

Why Being an Atheist is Very Different From Not Believing in the Tooth Fairy

tooth fairyI occasionally hear from atheists who do not like the "atheist" label because it does not specify what is believed, only what is not believed. "I don't believe in unicorns or the tooth fairy," they say, "and I don't call myself an 'aunicornist' or identify myself as someone who doubts the tooth fairy." Right. Because these are equivalent.

If I am feeling patient enough to attempt an explanation, I generally respond with something about how I will gladly spend as much time on unicorns and the tooth fairy when people who believe in them have a comparable influence as that wielded by the religious.

February 9, 2012

Christianity Relies on Indoctrination

Indoctrination

I'd like you to join me in believing in some sort of entity I can't define or explain in a logically coherent manner. I know what you're thinking: If I can't explain it, how can I even know what it is that I'm claiming to believe? I believe because it makes me feel good to do so. You see, I have convinced myself that my belief will lead to eternal life in some sort of otherworldly paradise. And if you join me, you can have that too. But I don't just want you to believe with me; I want you to live your life differently because of our shared beliefs. That's right - I want you to give up things you enjoy and do things you don't particular enjoy in service to our shared beliefs. And most of all, I want you to join me in persuading others to share our belief.

Does this sound sufficiently absurd yet? Is it any wonder that Christianity relies so heavily on a system of indoctrination and sociopolitical influence that has been perfected over the ages? Without that in place, it is difficult to imagine anyone without serious deficits in intellectual functioning going along with it.

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February 8, 2012

Obama: Pandering or Delusional?

Obama prayingIn spite of multiple requests from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that he respect the Constitution he once taught in law school, President Obama participated in another National Prayer Breakfast. And the 2,562-word speech he gave suggests that he was not there as a passive observer but a full participant. One possibility is that we have a president who is blatantly pandering to evangelical fundamentalist Christians because he believes it is necessary for his re-election. Regardless of his personal beliefs, he may be doing what he sees as necessary for the sake of his political viability. Another possibility is that he sincerely believes what he said at this event and that he is afflicted with the same religious delusion that appears to grip much of the United States. Even if we think that one of these possibilities is more desirable than the other, I'd like to suggest that both are problematic.

February 7, 2012

Secularism vs. Theocracy

Freedom vs. Theocracy

Freedom vs. theocracy is appropriate for this image because today's Democratic Party is anything but secular. Instead of standing up for our secular democracy, many have adopted a path of pandering to the religious. For us, regardless of our political leanings, it is about secularism vs. theocracy.

February 6, 2012

Romney's Second Cousin Has Doubts About His Allegiance

Park RomneyThe fact that Willard "Mittens" Romney's second cousin, Park Romney, recently surfaced is not exactly newsworthy. The fact that he's an ex-Mormon who questions whether Mittens could effectively represent the U.S. without his allegiance to church leaders clouding his judgment certainly should be. Even if Park had never stepped forward, this question, once deemed viable by nearly everyone, still has not been satisfactorily answered. It seems to me that it is a viable question.

According to Dana Milbank's recent article in The Washington Post,
Mitt Romney, he claims, would be conflicted in office because “obedience to the leadership of the Mormon Church is part of the covenant of the temple ordinances to which Mitt Romney is absolutely a party.”

February 5, 2012

Asking Why

Why?I had a bit of a rebellious streak in my youth, and I am sure that there were times when I adopted a minority position simply to rebel against authority. This was probably also a contributing factor to how outspoken I was about my atheism during my college years. But while it may have contributed to my assertive behavior at the time, something else was far more important in shaping my worldview: skepticism and my willingness to ask "why?"

February 4, 2012

Delegitimizing Atheists in the Media

Staks over at Dangerous Talk recently brought up a great point about how people - especially those in the media - delegitimize atheism in subtle ways. He notes that atheists who are interviewed on TV or for print media are often referred to as "a self-professed atheist" and that this sort of prefix is never affixed to religious people. I have certainly seen "self-professed" and many similar examples like the following:
…a self-described atheist...

...identifies himself as an atheist

…who says he's an atheist

…who claims to be an atheist

February 3, 2012

Mormonism: Cult, Christianity, or Both?

Mormonism cultIt is often said that the difference between a religion and a cult comes down to the number of adherents. Longevity seems to be a factor too, as it seems like it is usually the people who belong to older, established religions who use the cult label to describe newer religions.

I am curious about why many fundamentalist Christians are so adamant in insisting that Mormonism is a cult and that Mormons are not Christians. Do you think this is based on differences of doctrine, jealousy over the rapid growth of this religion in the United States, or is something else going on here?

Do you think of Mormons as Christians or not?

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February 1, 2012

80s Flashback: The PMRC

parental advisoryAtheists in the United States are often asked why we cannot just ignore the Christian majority that surrounds us. Why can't we simply let them go about their business and not pay any attention to them? In part, my answer is that they never seem content to stop trying to legislate their particular view of morality on the rest of us. It is not enough for them to live their lives as they see fit; they need to push it on the rest of us too.

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