February 28, 2005

The Selfish Nature of Prayer

I'll pray for you.
You're in my prayers.
Prayer flag above the monastery (Gomp...
Prayer flag above the monastery (Gompa) of Tanze, in the Kurgiakh valley. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What do statements like this mean to you? What do you suppose they mean to most atheists who are on the receiving end of them, atheists who do not generally believe that prayer accomplishes much at all?

I derive no benefit from your prayers. If you want to pray, admit that you are doing it for yourself. You derive whatever benefit there is to be had from the act of prayer.

Maybe prayer lets you feel superior to others, especially when you insist on doing it publicly. Maybe it helps you relax. Maybe it gives you the reassuring impression that you are not alone in the universe.

If prayer yields these benefits for you, so be it. But don't tell me that it is for me. Better yet, don't tell me about it at all. Pray to yourself in private like the Christian bible instructs.

Maybe your statements about how you are praying for me are intended to bring me comfort. They do not. They highlight your superstitious beliefs and lead me to feel a mixture of pity and disgust.

Praying for someone is a selfish act aimed at soothing yourself without doing anything beneficial for the person for whom you are praying.

February 27, 2005

Who has the Burden of Proof?

Knowledge-Reid-HighsmithIn Who has the Burden of Proof? Atheism vs. Theism, Austin Cline (About.com) provides an outstanding discussion of something every atheist (and every religious person) should understand. Atheism (i.e., a lack of belief in gods) is the default position, the place from which everyone begins. This means that the burden of proof always lies with the religious believer who is claiming that some sort of god or gods exist.

The only claim being made by the atheist is that he or she does not happen to believe in gods. The atheist need not claim certainty that no gods could possibly exist.

The religious believer, on the other hand, is claiming that gods do exist. Such a claim requires considerable evidence if it is to be accepted rationally. Without such evidence, it is not rational to accept it as true. This is why appeals to faith are offered in the religious context.

February 25, 2005

H.R. 27 Federally-Funded Employment Discrimination

from Americans United for Separation of Church and State


Support the Scott Amendment to Restore Critical Civil Rights Protections to H.R. 27.

Don't Allow Federally-Funded Employment Discrimination in the Jobs-Training Bill!

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on H.R. 27, "The Job Training Improvement Act" next week. This is the first vote on the faith-based initiative and a crucial vote for the 109th congress. Since their inception in 1982, these job-training programs have included important civil rights protections against employment discrimination based on religion in programs that receive federal funds. The pending legislation would place existing civil rights law on the chopping block. It would allow faith based organizations to discriminate in hiring based on religion in government-funded jobs.

An amendment to reinstate civil rights protections may be offered on the floor by Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA). This civil rights amendment should be supported and if the protections are not reinstated, this bill should be defeated.

Taxpayer dollars should not be used to discriminate against employees because of their religion or religious beliefs. Tell your representative that you don't want taxpayers to subsidize religious discrimination in publicly-funded job training programs.

Take Action Now!

February 20, 2005

Introducing Atheist Revolution

Atheists are one of the few groups left in the United States that is both socially acceptable and politically required to oppose. Our politicians must proclaim their Christianity to have any hope of being elected. President Bush continues to push "faith-based initiatives" and to oppose reproductive rights and same-sex marriage on religious grounds. There can be no question that the Christian right has an agenda.

In a 1991 fundraising letter, Christian extremist Pat Robertson wrote:
We at the Christian Coalition are raising an army who cares. We are training people to be effective -- to be elected to school boards, to city councils, to state legislatures, and to key positions in political parties.... By the end of this decade, if we work and give and organize and train, THE CHRISTIAN COALITION WILL BE THE MOST POWERFUL POLITICAL ORGANIZATION IN AMERICA.
The results of the 2000 and 2004 elections suggest that Robertson was correct. We are now living in something close to a Christian theocracy. George W. Bush's father, former President George H. W. Bush, does not even acknowledge our citizenship!
"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."
- Bush, to a AA reporter Robert I. Sherman on August 27,1987.
After 9/11, there are many who regard atheists as terrorists simply because we reject Christian dogma. I will use this blog to organize my thoughts on religion and politics in American life. I also hope to spark some discussion and critical thinking in others. Our elected officials seem determined to return us to the Dark Ages where science and rationality were subjugated as enemies of religion. This would be a devastating setback and must not be allowed to happen.

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