November 29, 2012

Blog Tips: Stay Modest

arroganceI am interested in blogging, and I read quite a bit from highly successful bloggers who write about it. I try to incorporate what I can here, even though I find that much of it is beyond what I can accomplish with my limited time, expertise, and budget. I also try to share the strategies that seem to work with my readers in these blog tips posts. Again, I do this because I prefer collaboration to competition, and I think that our community becomes stronger when we work together.

This post is a bit different from the usual blog tips because I'm not so sure about this particular recommendation: a blogger should avoid arrogance. While it is one that I have tried to follow here, I cannot help noticing that some of the most popular atheist bloggers seem to do the opposite.

November 28, 2012

Responding to False Claims

FALSE CLAIMSAs a teacher, I spend much of my time providing corrective feedback to students who make mistakes. This may involve something simple like helping them write a sentence so it more clearly expresses their thought, or it may involve something as complex as helping them challenge long-held but incorrect assumptions about the world. Responding to false statements with the goal of changing minds is a core part of what I must do in this role.

Since I started Atheist Revolution in 2005, one conflict that has haunted me more than any other has involved how (or if) to respond to the category of false claims that are made with the goal of manufacturing controversy or getting attention (e.g., the "war on Christmas," everything that comes out of Ann Coulter's mouth). As will be obvious to most readers, I have landed on the side of responding, sometimes with mockery when I believe it is warranted. Again and again, I have called out false claims. It would probably be accurate to say that I have written as many posts doing this here as any other type.

And yet, one thought has always been in the back of my mind as I have done so:
Am I making a mistake by calling attention to this? Am I falling for a form of troll-bait? Am I really just giving publicity to someone who does not deserve it? Instead of responding, should I be ignoring more of this stuff?

November 27, 2012

Ending Hereditary Religion

Religious indoctrination
Richard Collins (End Hereditary Religion) has announced that January 20 will be the second annual day of protest against hereditary religion. "Hereditary religion" refers to the extremely common practice among religious believers of indoctrinating their children with their religious beliefs. Richard notes:
The decision to join a religion is a decision best left until a child is a mature adult. But, institutionalized religion has been unwilling to acknowledge that children have religious freedom rights. The institutions depend upon a steady stream of new adherents to maintain their flocks as older members fall into sickness and death due to aging. Until recently no one has mounted any serious challenges to hereditary religion.
Readers familiar with Richard Dawkins may recall that he was one of the most prominent atheists to suggest that hereditary religion was a form of child abuse. Regardless of whether one accepts Dawkins' characterization of religious indoctrination as abusive, I suspect we can agree that children should have religious freedom.

Collins hopes that what has started as a shared online effort to raise awareness about the problems associated with denying religious freedom to our children will eventually grow into a more visible movement offline. I think this goal is as worthy as it is ambitious. It certainly would be nice if parents would allow their children to explore various religious belief systems and decide for themselves instead of being subjected to indoctrination. Naturally, I expect many religious parents to resist this more than virtually anything else. But that does not make it any less important.

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November 26, 2012

Three Happenings in the Atheist Community

HappeningsI only have time to share a couple of quick tidbits here because I have to return to work today after the nice time off for Thanksgiving. These are just a few notable happenings I wanted to mention.

First, Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) has a new book out: The Young Atheist's Survival Guide: Helping Secular Students Thrive. Congratulations to Hemant! This sounds like exactly the sort of book I could have used as I began to question the religious beliefs in which I had been indoctrinated all those years ago. In his description of the book, Hemant notes that the price will be increasing soon. Considering that it is currently only $2.99, this could be a good gift idea for any young atheists you know.

Applying Reason to Our Spending

ReasonableMy parents certainly made some mistakes when I was growing up. Forcing me to attend church with them for the first 15 years of my life certainly comes to mind here. But they also did some things right too, and one for which I am especially grateful concerns the values toward money and material possessions they instilled in me. They helped me learn to apply reason, skepticism, and critical thinking to shopping, and this has served me well over the years. Sure, I have made some embarrassing mistakes when I set these skills aside and buy on impulse, but they tend to be rare exceptions.

Some of the lessons that have stuck with me over the years include:
  • Learning to distinguish between needs and wants and making sure that genuine needs take priority over mere wants.
  • No matter what the price is, it is not a bargain if you don't really need or want it.
  • People who have lots of material possessions are not necessarily any happier than those who do not.
  • Take the time to research products in advance to buy more reliable items at reasonable prices (i.e., good values).

November 25, 2012

Claims Can Be Questioned


I don't have nearly as much time for reading as I would like to these days, but I was reading Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths last night and it made me realize something about my own journey to atheism that I'd like to share here.

For those who are not familiar with Shermer, he's a very interesting guy. Despite being raised in a non-religious family, he became a born-again Christian and did the evangelical thing for several years. It sounds like he took it quite seriously and sought to share his Jesus with as many people as possible. Fortunately for us, he discovered skepticism along the way to becoming an experimental psychologist. He became an atheist and has been an influential figure in the skeptical movement ever since.

November 24, 2012

My 10,000th Tweet

I have been using Twitter since 2008 under the handle @vjack. I recognize that it is not for everyone, but I have really grown to like it. Not only has it been great for blog promotion, but it has been a great source of inspiration and interaction with other atheists.

I hit a cool milestone last night as I tweeted my 10,000th tweet:

tweet
Here's to the next 10,000 and a big thanks to those of you on Twitter who have made the experience so worthwhile.

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For All Americans and Not Just Those in the U.S.

AmericasWhen one is brought up in a culture in which one's family, peers, the media, and virtually everyone one meets believes something, it is easy to understand why it is so hard to break away from the belief. If you are an atheist living in a predominately religious country, you know exactly what I mean. When I stop and think about this, I must marvel that there are as many of us as there appear to be.

As difficult as it may be to break away from religious belief in such an environment, religion is by no means the only example of this. We could say the same about a number of popular cultural traditions and practices. In this post, I'd like to address one such practice that I am currently trying to abandon and having an unexpectedly difficult time doing so.

I have been told a number of times that using "America" to refer to the United States or "Americans" to refer to persons residing within the United States is offensive to those who reside in the rest of North and South America. I understand perfectly well why this would be the case, and yet, I have discovered that this is an extremely difficult habit for me to break.

November 23, 2012

Have You Been Possessed By Sexual Demons?

South parkI may be what you'd consider an adult, but I rarely miss a new episode of South Park. My friends and I continue to talk about it and quote it to each other (and yes, we do realize how annoying that is). Well, perhaps I should note that it is only my male friends who do this. Sadly, I still have not found a woman who will admit loving South Park like I do. But that is another post.

One of my favorite things about the show is how thoroughly they mock nearly every belief system. I have to remind myself periodically while watching that there are actually people who believe the things they are mocking, even the really absurd ones.

Credibility in the Atheist Community

credibility

Given sufficient time, I think we can expect every community of any size to exhibit signs of some sort of hierarchy. Some gain reputation and status in the community, even if they are merely symbolic in nature. Leaders and followers emerge, with most of us falling leading some and following others. Few of us put much thought into this process as it happens, but that does not seem to stop it from happening.

The components of reputation and status vary from community-to-community. One's seniority might be highly advantageous in one community and perceived as a liability in another. In the atheist community, I think one important aspect of reputation and status might involve credibility. Whether you are thinking about a blogger, a speaker, or an activist, credibility is probably one of the attributes you value.

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving South Park

For those of you who are celebrating Thanksgiving today, I hope you have a good one. And for everyone else, enjoy your day too.

I got up early, made way more coffee than anyone really needs and decided to listen to the Bob Marley & the Wailers' Songs of Freedom box set I haven't heard in awhile. It is going to be a good day.

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Helping Each Other in the Atheist Community

Collaboration

When we look at the atheist community, it is easy to emphasize the divisions that separate us. But it is also important to acknowledge what brings us together and to remember that community can be a great thing. In a recent post, Grundy (Deity Shmeity) noted how positive it has been to see his content being promoted by others in the community.
I’ve read a number of other sites promoting my stuff unsolicited. The unsolicited bit is what really warms my heart. All too often in the blogging world favors quid pro quo. The friends I’ve made in the atheist community care about spreading an honest assessment of reality above all personal notoriety.

November 21, 2012

Atheists Can Be Thankful Too

Thanksgiving Background
Thanksgiving Background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is the time of year when those clever Christians bombard social media with one of their favorite memes: atheists have nobody to thank and nothing to be thankful for. I'm starting to think that anyone who is both a Christian and a moron is required to have a Twitter account and use it prolifically to share this message. Of course, atheists have plenty to be thankful for and a great many people to thank for it. Just because we are not interested in thanking gods does not make our thankful sentiment any less relevant.

Although Thanksgiving is a holiday I've never particularly enjoyed and have not celebrated for several years, I thought it might be fun to review my thoughts from previous posts on the subject. My guess is that they will not have changed much, but we'll see.

November 20, 2012

Are You Saved?

Are you savedTime and time again, I have heard from Christians that all I have to do in order to be "saved" is accept their Jesus as my "savior." This appears to be Christianspeak for believing in Jesus. They present some version of Pascal's wager in an effort to convince me that even if I don't believe in heaven and hell, I should believe in Jesus in case I'm wrong. All I need to do to curry favor with their god and protect myself against the possibility of hell is believe in Jesus like they do. That sounds simple enough. But does belief really work like this? Can you or I simply start believing in something in which we do not believe?

When asked whether they could voluntarily accept theism, most of the atheists I have asked say "no." Believing in Jesus may sound easy for someone who already does so, but it does not strike me as something I could do even if I wanted to. I could certainly fake it, but that would be about the best I could do. The Jesus stuff lacks the evidence and the emotional resonance that could lead me to belief.

November 19, 2012

Ophelia Benson: Russell Blackford Wants to Destroy Rebecca Watson

Who needs reality TV when we have the atheist movement? According to Ophelia Benson (Butterflies & Wheels), blogger Russell Blackford wants to destroy Rebecca Watson.
There are a lot of crazy people out there who want to destroy Rebecca. And there’s Russell Blackford, who also wants to destroy Rebecca. I don’t understand that.
That is a clear accusation, isn't it? Blackford wants to destroy Rebecca Watson. What is Benson's evidence to support it? She provides two screen captures of some of Blackford's tweets.

In the first series, Blackford asks a reporter who interviewed Watson whether she interviewed others in the community (e.g., Dawkins, Grothe, Kirby) in writing her story for Slate. He refers to Watson as "a very sketchy individual," adding, "the story she tells is largely untrue."

Blackford

Catholic Church Defends Convicted Child Molesters

Pope ShameCan you imagine the uproar that would result if the public learned that a charitable organization had been paying the legal fees of repeat sex offenders who perpetrate against children? I'm not talking about criminal defendants accused of molesting children but those who had been convicted multiple times.

At a minimum, donors would be outraged, and donations would abruptly halt. Those who had previously supported such an organization would take pains to distance themselves from it, and the public image of the organization would take a beating from which it might never recover. We can be fairly confident that all of this would happen…unless the organization involved was the Catholic Church.

November 18, 2012

Charitable Organizations and the Failure of Government

CharityMy views on this subject are highly conflicted, and I'm writing this because I am worried that I'm missing something that is obvious to everyone else. So please feel free to set me straight.

Here's my thesis: the nature and prevalence of charitable organizations in the U.S. reflects a serious failure in what should be a core part of the mission of government. When I saw the footage of President Obama visiting the New York offices of the Red Cross recently, I found myself wondering why a country as wealthy as the U.S. would need aid from the Red Cross at all. I understand perfectly well why an organization like this is needed in many parts of the world. But isn't our government supposed to take care of the people it claims to represent (or would that make us the "nanny state" Republicans are always complaining about)?

November 17, 2012

Atheists, We Are Costing People Eternal Life

Write an atheist blog, and you will receive your share of interesting email from Christians. Here is the latest:
It is my opinion that your useless propaganda is costing people eternal life in heaven with Jesus. It is my belief that NONE OF YOU HAVE ANY CLUE WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. You may not believe in God but when you die there is beyond a shadow of any doubt whatsoever that you will stand before God and be judged. Period. I dare and CHALLENGE YOU TO TAKE THE KING JAMES VERSION OF THE BIBLE AND PROVE. THERE IS NO GOD. I DARE YOU TO DISPROVE THE BIBLE. I DARE YOU. YOU WILL NEVER CONTACT ME BECAUSE YOU KNOW I AM RIGHT. God is real and there is nothing you can do about it. Unless you are afraid of my challenge I DARE you to email me proof that there is no God.....which you could NEVER DO AND IN RETURN I WILL SHOW YOU IRREFUTABLE EVIDENCE THAT God is indeed real and show you just how much God loves you.
As much as I like the capitalization, I'm a bit disappointed that hell wasn't mentioned in this one. Believe that my god loves you or it will judge you does not have quite the same impact as believe my god loves you or it will torture you forever in hell. Oh well.

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November 15, 2012

Christianity and the Paths to Delusion

Jesus

Of the various paths one must be willing to take in order to end up at Christianity, I find one more puzzling than the others. What do I mean by the paths one must take to arrive at Christianity? I am referring to the various "leaps of faith" one must take to reach something approximating what modern Christians claim to believe. I see three central paths, which must be traveled in order (i.e., the first is foundational to the second; the first and second are foundational to the third).
  1. Some sort of god exists.
  2. The sort of god that exists is personally interested and involved in the affairs of humanity at the present time.
  3. Jesus lived, died, and returned from the dead, all for you.

An Obligation to Challenge Stupidity

christopher hitchensThe first time I heard this quote, I really liked it. I'm not a fan of apathy, and this quote seemed like a perfect reminder of the importance of acting to address the wrongs around us. I still like the quote, but I recognize that it could be misused as a license to be an asshole.

I agree completely with what it says about unfairness, and I would add cruelty to the list. When faced with unfairness or cruelty, we should not remain silent. We should act. What I'm not so sure about anymore is the inclusion of "stupidity" in the list. I don't know about you, but if I spoke out or took action every time I was confronted by stupidity, it would be all I'd have time to do. Like most of you, I do not have the luxury of making a living as a social critic and provocateur.

November 14, 2012

Blog Tips: Find Your Voice

VoiceOne of the most difficult but important things a blogger can do is find his or her voice. Yes, we hope that bloggers will be themselves, but which parts of themselves come through are what I mean by voice. Is the voice with which you write informative and serious, witty and humorous, snarky and sarcastic, uniquely your own, etc.? Do you rule over your domain by presenting your opinion with absolute confidence and authority? Do you regularly mock and belittle those who have different opinions? Do you reach out to others in genuine attempts to understand where they are coming from and broaden your knowledge? All of this and more makes up your voice.

Very few of us have a consistent and unwavering voice. We grow and change over time, and so does our voice. We may also write posts in which we explore different voices. The normally serious and academically-oriented blogger may write a great rant from time-to-time, and the normally sarcastic and flippant blogger may write a great serious piece from time-to-time. But on balance, we each have a voice, evident more often than not. In fact, this is a big part of what our audience responds to and why blogs dealing with similar subjects will have different audiences.

November 13, 2012

The Atheist Constituency

WAtheist Votershen Lauren Anderson Youngblood, communications manager of the Secular Coalition for America, met with a senior advisor to the Obama campaign, she was reportedly told that the administration does not view secular Americans as a constituency. According to Youngblood, she was told that the administration does not "do outreach to that community." That seems accurate. There has been little evidence of any political administration in the U.S. doing outreach to those of us who do not identify with any particular religious tradition.

Some are suggesting that this may change in the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election, but I tend to be extremely skeptical that this will happen anytime soon. Yes, there are quite a few Americans who do not identify with any religion. There's no question about that. Based on our numbers, we should receive more attention from politicians than many other groups.

November 12, 2012

Creepy Atheist Men and Women

socially awkwardYou know what tongue-in-cheek refers to, right? Okay, good. That is the "spirit" in which I am writing this. However, if you are absolutely determined to get offended by what you are about to read, I hope you enjoy yourself.

One of the things I've noticed in each of the few atheist group meetings I've attended is that a disproportionate number of "freaks" are present. I am using "freak" here as shorthand for non-conventional persons who draw attention to themselves in various ways so as to be separate from the crowd (e.g., lots of visible tattoos, piercings, dyed hair, t-shirts with unpopular messages, assorted hipster attire). They think they are being true individuals, but a skilled observer will recognize their uniforms a mile away. They are non-conventional, non-conformist, proud of who they are, and while I do not look anything like them, I love them dearly.

November 11, 2012

Veterans Day

Veterans DayToday is Veterans Day in the U.S. It is an occasion where we extend our gratitude to those who have served our country in the armed forces. It is a day to honor their commitment and sacrifice.

These are worthy activities, and yet, we would be remiss in not doing something beyond paying lip service to these ideals. When we see that the very same political party that pushes "strong national defense" at every opportunity has been calling for cuts to veterans' benefits, we owe it to our veterans to shine a spotlight on it. Supporting our veterans should be one of those rare goals with real bipartisan support.

With this in mind, I'd like to suggest that we take a moment to do three things today:
  1. Fully recognize that the U.S. is still mired in a costly war in which our young men and women are fighting and dying;
  2. Pledge that we will continue to pressure our elected officials to support funding for veterans' services so that our veterans will receive the assistance they have earned; and
  3. Support the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and their efforts to defend the rights of atheist men and women in uniform from those seeking to promote Christian extremism.
On Veterans Day, we all seem to agree that we owe our veterans a debt of gratitude. We owe them more than our thanks, and I hope we can remember that long after today.

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November 9, 2012

Atheists and Interfaith Dialogue

Religion Dispatches has posted an interesting interview with Chris Stedman about his new book, Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious. If you have heard of Stedman, you probably know that his is one of the few atheist voices calling for atheists to be involved in interfaith work alongside religious believers. In explaining what led him to write the book, Stedman writes,
I wrote Faitheist because, as I started doing interfaith work, I noticed that there was a paucity of nonreligious people involved. At the same time, I started to explore the atheist movement. I noticed that my colleagues in the interfaith movement were quite connected to their own communities, and I was studying religious communities as a graduate student, so I wanted to see how atheist communities functioned. Frankly, I was a bit astonished by what I found. I noticed right away that one of the only unifying characteristics among many people in attendance at atheist meetings was that many maintained a very strong disdain for religion—one that often carried over into a strong disdain for religious believers.

November 8, 2012

Ignorance, Laziness, or Something Else?

ignorance

I found this on Facebook, and it got me thinking. for many of us, information on nearly any subject is only a few keystrokes away. This is particularly true when it comes to various "how to" advice. For example, when my 3.5 year-old Android phone stopped working, I described the problem I was experiencing in Google and found an effective step-by-step solution in an Internet forum dedicated to the aging device. Problem solved. I didn't want to buy a new phone, and I didn't have to.

With the amount of information available and the ease with which it can be accessed, there does seem to be a bit of merit in the suggestion that ignorance may be a choice. Except that I'm not sure what we're really talking about is ignorance. I think it might be laziness. I'm always helping my co-workers with various computer-related problems even though doing so is not even close to being part of my job. "How do you know so much about this stuff?" I show them where I find the solution to their problem and how easy it was to find. And yet, they rarely bother to look for themselves. Is this ignorance or laziness?

November 7, 2012

Bible Belt Votes Mormon: Does Politics Trump Religion?

Bible beltLike much of the deep south, the state of Mississippi is filled with evangelical fundamentalist Christians. From what I have heard from these individuals over the past several years, I assumed they were deeply anti-Mormon. They refer to Mormons as belonging to a cult, as not being Christian, and with a wide range of disparaging comments (often involving polygamy). It is not uncommon to hear them talk about converting Mormons in order to "save" them. So what does it mean that Mississippi voted for Mitt Romney?

I see a few possibilities here. First, I suspect that some voters were not aware that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. There are plenty of "low information voters" around here, and it isn't like Romney was eager to discuss his Mormon faith. By itself, I don't think this can explain the vote, but it may be a contributing factor. Second, some voters believe that President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim. No matter how many times this has been debunked, I've encountered plenty of Mississippians who remain convinced of it. They may have seen Romney as closer to their religious views for this reason. Once again, I doubt whether this factor can explain the vote but would not be surprised that it contributed. Third and most likely, I suspect that politics simply trumped religious belief for many Mississippi voters. They voted for the Mormon candidate who shared their political views (e.g., abortion, same-sex marriage) instead of the Christian candidate who did not.

November 6, 2012

Obstacles to Atheist Activism: Apathy

ApathyIf you missed the introduction to this series, you might want to read it first.

In the context of atheist activism, I think you'll agree that apathy is one of the biggest challenges we face. That is, one important obstacle to successful activism by a few is the lack of interest of the many. This appears to be true of any activist effort, so I see little reason why movement atheism should be any different.

Apathy is absolutely toxic to activism in that it undermines organization, enthusiasm, and other critical components of activist efforts. It saps the energy of those in an activist movement, making them feel less and less connected to the larger community. But most of all, apathy guarantees that we will never reach our potential.

November 5, 2012

Demonic Possession

TDemonic possessionhis time of year, virtually everything one hears about polls concerns politics. Fortunately, this is not the only kind of polls being conducted. Public Policy Polling had an interesting one the day before Halloween in which they asked registered U.S. voters a number of questions about their plans for Halloween and their beliefs regarding various Halloween-related phenomena.

Some of the highlights from the poll included:
  • 37% believe in ghosts, and 26% claim they have seen one
  • 52% believe houses can be haunted
  • 57% think people can be possessed by demons
The full results are available here as a .pdf file.

The finding about demonic possession was the one I found most interesting. And by interesting, I mean absolutely terrifying that people can still believe this garbage in 2012. I say this not merely because we live in an age of science but because the belief in possession has caused so much suffering for so many people.

When the finding was split by respondents' political identity (of which there were apparently only two choices provided), 68% of Republicans and 49% of Democrats indicated that they believe in demonic possession. That difference was not nearly as large as I would have predicted, but it is a potent reminder that irrationality and superstition remain widespread and are not limited to those with certain political leanings.

What is the take-home message? Along with continuing to facilitate the erosion of faith, I cannot help thinking that we desperately need to improve our system of public education. Critical thinking, skepticism, and the scientific method are areas of necessary improvement.

H/T to La Figa

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November 4, 2012

Bless You

God Bless YouDuring a recent trip to the grocery store, the young male cashier who checked me out said something unusual as we completed our transaction. While nearly everyone else with whom I've interacted at this store says something like, "Thank you. Have a good day," this particular employee said, "Bless you." Given that I was at a grocery store and not in church, I found this quite odd. And given that this statement was coming from a cashier and not an identifiable member of any recognized clergy, I found it odd.

It does not seem to matter how long I live in Mississippi; this sort of thing strikes me as strange every time it happens. I have not habituated to this or any of the other religion-infused statements often directed at me. Not only do I still notice them, but they often leave me in stunned silence wondering whether I heard the speaker correctly. My "culture shock" continues.

Reflections on Burnout and Disillusionment

BurnoutThe problem with chronically over-extending oneself, at least for me, is that it inevitably leads to periods of burnout. I've been in one such period for awhile, but I'm finally starting to come out the other side of it. I would really like to reduce periods like this in the future. My problem is a combination of having too many interests, wanting to be helpful to others, and being rather lousy at setting limits. On a good day, this all seems to work for me. I am energized, enjoy helping others, and capable of managing all sorts of things. Those are the days I seem to thrive without any external motivation. But then, I inevitably seem to take on too much and get to the point where my performance suffers as a result. Then the energy drops, and it doesn't seem much fun anymore.

I share this because, while I've been feeling disillusioned with the atheist movement lately, I suspect that the problem is more about me than it is anything about our community or movement. I've heard from some of you that you have felt less interested in being a part of the atheist movement due to atheism plus and freethought bullies controversy. I can relate. I've felt this way too. The thought, "If this is what the atheist movement has become, I'm not sure I want any part of it," has occurred to me a number of times. At the same time, I feel like I'm the one who needs to take the blame for how I've been feeling. After all, I'm the one who keeps making poor decisions about how I spend my time.

November 3, 2012

Christian Bigotry Straight From the Pastors

When Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) posted this video from FaithandEquality, I found myself thinking that it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. Yes, it is difficult to watch because of the disgusting nature of the bigotry it contains, but it is an important testament to the nature of Christian hate. The video is a compilation of clips from Christian pastors discussing homosexuality.

As Hemant suggested, the suicide rate among LGBT youth is far too high. It is difficult to imagine that there is no connection between the hateful attitudes expressed in this video and how LGBT youth feel about themselves. In many parts of the U.S., these kids are surrounded by parents, teachers, and peers who believe this stuff, in large part because it is coming from the pulpit.



It is a good thing that the views expressed in this video are not shared by all Christians. However, I think we can agree that they are shared by far too many. And this needs to change.

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November 2, 2012

Jesus for President

Jesus for PresidentPrior to the 2008 U.S. presidential election, a group of evangelical Christians in Pennsylvania started an unusual campaign: Jesus for president. The idea of electing someone who is either fictional or who has been dead for over 2,000 years did not seem to bother them. It was the ultimate third party.

Fast forward to the present day, and we have another effort to elect Jesus. This one seems to have caught on in a way the previous effort did not. I wonder if that might have something to do with the lack of enthusiasm for both of the two main candidates. So far, 1,656,730 people have signed on online pledge to vote for Jesus as a write in candidate in the 2012 election.

As Jobsanger notes, the people behind this latest effort seem to be motivated primarily by their belief that Mormonism is a cult. I may not agree with them, but it is nice to see that at least some evangelical fundamentalist Christians are willing to stand for something. If they truly believe that Mormonism is a dangerous cult, perhaps they should not vote for Romney.

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November 1, 2012

Are the Boy Scouts Trying to Emulate the Catholic Church?

Andy joke Catholic Boy ScoutsBack in February, I wrote about the pressure many of us receive in our places of employment to donate to religious charities. I noted that my employer, which happens to be the state government, pushes us to donate to our local United Way chapter. The local United Way chapter then distributes the funds to local chapters of the Salvation Army, Boy Scouts, and a mission that promotes Christian bible study. Needless to say, I do not donate to this agency no matter how much pressure I face to do so. I've also managed to inform a few co-workers about how this works so that they too are refusing to donate.

Now I have yet another reason to offer besides my standard line about not being interested in supporting religiously-motivated bigotry. It appears that the Boy Scouts of America have not been much better than the Catholic Church when it comes to handling matters of child sexual abuse.

I understand that no organization is going to be eager to broadcast something that makes them look bad. At the same time, I would think that a group focused on children would want to do everything it could to show that it was taking child abuse seriously and making the protection of children its highest priority. The Boy Scouts already has an awful record when it comes to discrimination. I sincerely hope that they improve the manner in which they handle child abuse.

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