April 30, 2005

Americans United Urges Senate Judiciary Committee To Reject Federal Appeals Court Nomination

In this press release from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, we learn our Christian politicians are attempting to appoint another federal judge who clearly opposes church-and-state separation. This guy has said some scary stuff, especially for a judge.

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April 23, 2005

Public Displays of Christianity Coming to Mississippi

Deciding that their image as a haven for conservatives, Bible-thumpers, racists, and others found to be lacking in intelligence (or at least education) just isn't enough, the state of Mississippi has passed a new law allowing Christian displays in public buildings. The governor already has a Ten Commandments display in his office and has now decided that everyone else should do the same. This action follows a 2001 law requiring public schools to display "In God We Trust" in every classroom.

Not surprisingly, the Christians are coming out in vocal support of the new law. They seem to take the poor image of Mississippi as a matter of pride. I guess it is more fun to be Christian when you can rub everyone else's face in it and wallow in your own ignorance.

Also not surprisingly, an ACLU response is already being anticipated. The ACLU is being demonized in virtually every story printed or broadcast about the new law. Even though they haven't done anything yet, public outrage is being elicited. Every politician knows that coming out against such a measure would be political suicide in this state.

This issue is important to me because I am currently living in Mississippi. This is something that will impact me each time I enter a public building. I will find myself thinking about it every day, whether I want to or not. This is something that will probably compel me to take action in some form, even though I am certain that to do so would jeopardize my safety.

What's the big deal? First, these Christian displays foster religious intolerance by demonstrating a clear preference for Christianity over other religions. While this might not impact me directly as an atheist, it maintains an environment hostile to diversity, and this is something I oppose on principle. Second, these displays are offensive to those of us who base our systems of belief of reasoned inquiry and empirical evidence as opposed to mindless faith and superstition. Each time I see such a display, I am reminded of the ignorance of my neighbors and worry that the stake burnings can't be far behind. Third, such displays contribute to the further dumbing-down of our culture - both locally and nationally. By continuing to publicize this mass embrace of irrational and maladaptive beliefs, we insure that future generations will fail to progress beyond our current limitations.

Expect to hear more from me on this topic in future posts.

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April 22, 2005

New Pope Already in Trouble

Days after being announced as the new Pope, it sounds like Ratzinger is already in trouble. News has surfaced that he was briefly a member of the Hitler Youth during WWII. Of course, he claims to have been opposed to the Nazi party. I'm sure that was why he joined the Hitler Youth.

In case you think that his WWII activities are merely ancient history and should not be relevant today, Ron at God is For Suckers points out that Ratzinger has been in charge of the Holy Office of the Inquisition since the 1980s (read more here). This should tell you something about the values of this Pope.

Still not concerned? Okay, try this on for size - Ratzinger has been accused of intentionally blocking investigations into reports of sexual abuse in the Church. A story in the Boston Herald quotes Stephen Pope, the chairman of theology at Boston College, as saying, "He tends to regard the abuse crisis as a result of the decadence of American society seeping into the seminaries and into the clergy, with the understanding that the American press exaggerates it because it's interested in sensationalism and titillation." Given that reports of molestation by priests do not appear to be going away any time soon, this is a problem.

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Second Thoughts About Influence of Christian Extremists

Salt Lake Tribune - Opinion

Upon reading this article from the Salt Lake Tribune, I am happy to say that I agree 100% with the author. I hope America is starting to wake up to the prospect of a Christian theocracy.

April 18, 2005

The End of Reason

AlterNet: The End of Reason

This is a great op-ed by David Morris at AlterNet. Here is a concise summary of his argument: "Organized religion elevates superstition to an entirely new level, so let's call its institutons by their proper name: superstition-based institutions." He traces the history of religion's influence on American politics and discusses the detrimental effects of superstition (i.e., faith) on society. Highly recommended read.

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April 17, 2005

Are Atheist Websites and Blogs Dangerous?

Evidently, the folks at SonicWALL Content Filtering System think so. Ron at God is for Suckers! (GifS) discovered that his blog is being blocked by this filtering software. GifS is an excellent blog that certainly doesn't seem to warrant filtering. No porn, nobody is advocating violence, etc. It sounds like filtering is due to his site being classified under the "Cult/Occult" category that SonicWALL uses.

I guess anything that questions the veracity of mainstream religion must be evil. If you aren't an evangelical Christian, you are the spawn of Satan (i.e., occult). Young minds must be protected from having to confront difficult questions about their worldview. The continued existence of religion must be protected at all costs, even when one of the obvious costs involves discarding the truth.

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April 16, 2005

Christian Propaganda Seeks to Claim International Converts

Turning America into a theocracy isn't enough for Christian extremists; they aim to convert the world. Never mind that Christians often criticize Muslims for attempting to do the same thing.

Christian propaganda film, The Days of Noah, is making its way to Hong Kong, with the hope of winning new converts. Must we pollute the world with this superstitious nonsense? Is the world really going to be a better place if we manage to eliminate diverse viewpoints and unite under one mass delusion?

Evidently, it is working. All over the world, superstitious people came together to mourn the loss of the Pope, one of the best known symbols of superstition. Even Cuba got into the act. I guess that contributing to the spread of AIDS through opposing contraception is praiseworthy. At least he managed to rid the priesthood of pedophiles...oh wait...he completely ignored that issue.

Turning to Australia, we find that Christian groups are protesting the country's Religious Tolerance Act. What? Isn't this counterintuitive? Ah, but look at why they are protesting. "...the law, which was promulgated by the Victorian government despite concerns raised by Christian groups that it could stifle evangelism or end the right to question the validity of other faiths." Christians oppose religious tolerance legislation because it might restrict their right to attack other religions! Is that revealing or what? I guess religion just isn't worth much unless it permits members to criticize persons with different belief systems.

Russia now appears to be a shining example what Christian extremists seek to establish in America - their state church openly criticizes other religions and has banned atheism and agnosticism. It should be fairly obvious that there are many in America who would love to be able to make atheism and agnosticism punishable offenses. Let the stake burnings commence!

April 15, 2005

The Crusaders: Christian Evangelicals Are Plotting to Remake America in Their Own Image

RollingStone.com: The Crusaders : Politics

This is a great article by Bob Moser in Rolling Stone about the "Dominionists." If you are not familiar with this term or its meaning, make sure you read this article. Scary stuff.

April 14, 2005

Christian Terrorists

God is For Suckers has a great post about the unwillingness of the media to use the term "Christian terrorist" to describe individuals who clearly deserve such a label. Check it out here.

Readers of my last few posts may have noticed that I have been using the phrase "Christian extremist" in place of "conservative Christian" or "evangelical Christian." I believe that the term "extremist" is a much more descriptive of these individuals. Like "terrorist," it is fascinating how the media readily applies "extremist" to Muslims but not Christians.

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April 12, 2005

Assault on the Courts: Religious Extremism in America

New York Court of Appeals hearing oral argumentsIt looks like the Terri Schiavo case is going to be much more important than most of us realized. As the details of the case emerged, I figured that the primary impact would be focusing national attention on the right-to-die issue or even what Republicans are referring to as "the culture of life." I was wrong. Rather than stimulating a dialogue on relevant end-of-life issues (e.g., an individual’s right to die with dignity, medical decision making, etc.), the real importance of the Schiavo case was that it served as the impetus for an all-out Republican assault on the judiciary.

In the latest example of how the Christian right has taken over the Republican party, Republicans are loudly claiming that “activist judges” are attacking religion (of course, we all know that they only case about one particular religion). Tom Delay, a man who epitomizes the close-minded bigotry that has come to characterize extremist Christians in America, even referred to a “judicial war on faith” as he made thinly veiled threats toward American judges.

April 10, 2005

"Culture of Life" Agenda May Prompt Change on Death Penalty

electric chair
For years, it has seemed that the conservative Christians most interested in outlawing abortion just so happen to be some of the most vocal supporters of capital punishment. Evidently, their "culture of life" is quite selective. This looks like blatant hypocrisy to many of us, and it now sounds like at least some conservative Christians might be having second thoughts.

Is this a political ploy, or could it actually represent a shift in policy? Given that increasing numbers of fundamentalist Christians appear to be rethinking their support for the death penalty, it sounds like it may soon be time for elected Republicans to do the same.

Even if this is another example of Republicans pandering to their Christian base, I'll try not to complain too loudly if it results in the abolition of the death penalty. If we could just do without all the "culture of life" crap and view ourselves as a civilized and rational society, that would be even better. There are plenty of valid secular reasons to abolish the death penalty (e.g., it does not deter crime, it is a cruel and unusual punishment, state-sanctioned murder is morally indefensible). As a result, there is really no need to make it all about Christianity.

April 9, 2005

"Culture of Life" or Culture of Ignorance?

Schiavo graveLed by conservative Christians, many Republicans have adopted a new metaphor for misleading the American people - "the culture of life." They use it to characterize their stance on abortion. It sounds better than acknowledging their desire to prevent women from engaging in a medical procedure which is morally comparable to having a cyst removed. Say what? An abortion is a medical procedure that when performed during the first trimester involves removing a collection of cells from a woman'’s uterus. At this stage in the pregnancy, the group of cells cannot even be called a fetus, much less a human being. To inspire their legions of troops to action, they spin this into a noble crusade to protect “their "culture of life."

The metaphor was repeatedly thrust on the public during the Terri Schiavo case. Republicans sought to violate the wishes of a terminal patient and her husband by keeping her alive in a vegetative state. Similar to the group of cells involved in the abortion debate, they sought to protect a life that really wasn't a life at all. It was clear from the beginning that Ms. Schiavo was irrelevant to them and that this was nothing more than a political opportunity to expand their metaphor and rally the Christian base.

April 8, 2005

Sick of Hearing About the Pope Yet?

Since John Paul II's death, it seems to be all the news media can talk about. There seems to be a backlash of sorts going on in Europe, where critics are saying enough is enough. I certainly agree with them that flying flags at half-mast for a religious leader is not appropriate. Interesting that their media is being criticized for excessive coverage. I guess the U.S. media doesn't have to worry about that.

God is for Suckers presents a concise summary of the dead pope situation. Nothing more needs to be said on the issue.

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Keep Your Religious Beliefs to Yourself

I couldn't have said it better myself. This outstanding op-ed in The State News (update: link no longer active) argues, "Society would benefit from people keeping [religious] beliefs to themselves." I agree 110%. This would be a step in the right direction.

Here is my favorite quote from the article: "Religious fundamentalism represents humanity's most ongoing and intractable problem." Yep. Unfortunately, it is a problem without a clear solution in sight.

April 7, 2005

ACLU accuses Tangi school board of contempt for athletic prayer

I applaud the ACLU's efforts in this case (update: link no longer active). It is nice that someone still cares about upholding the Constitution and protecting the rights of religious minorities. They can certainly count on my continued membership.

There are many activist organizations worth belonging to, but I particularly recommend membership in the ACLU.

April 6, 2005

Coalition of Non-Believers: A Step in the Right Direction

This article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal,  "NEW COALITIONS: Like Minds - Humanist, atheist and nontheist groups join forces to maintain separation of church and state" (update: link no longer active), describes a positive step in the right direction - atheist, humanist, and other groups coming together to take a stand against our theocracy in the U.S.

In my experience, there is often a bit of conflict among these various groups due to relatively minor philosophical differences. However, these kind of alliances are crucial in allowing our voice to be heard. Despite our differences, it makes no sense to refuse to align with those who value the separation of church and state and oppose religion in politics.

April 5, 2005

TheocracyWatch: Monitoring the Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party

Santorum Aspires to Higher Office
In spite of the many obstacles faced by atheists and secularists in the United States, I think it is safe to say that it is much easier to stand up for the separation of church and state today than it used to be. One of the reasons for this is the vast amount of information we now have access to on the Internet. It is far easier to learn about atheism, secularism, and church-state activism than ever before. It is also easier for watchdog groups to disseminate action alerts to their members and to inform the public about what we can do to help.

TheocracyWatch.org is an outstanding website with which every atheist who is worried about the influence the Christian right has on the Republican Party in particular and on U.S. politics more generally should be familiar. They have some great information for those of us who are interested in strengthening the wall of separation between church and state and preventing a Christian theocracy in the U.S.

For anyone interested in learning about Christian dominionism, the rise of the Christian right within the Republican Party, and what we can do to contain these forces, look no further than TheocracyWatch.org. It is a great resource and one I expect to use regularly.

April 3, 2005

Scientific Community Issues "Call to Arms" on Evolution

USATODAY.com - 'Call to arms' on evolution

Another story on the debate over teaching evolution in the schools. Conservative Christians are attempting to argue that evolution is somehow controversial within the scientific community. It isn't.

It doesn't look like this debate is going to go away anytime soon. In the meantime, we continue to dumb-down the American educational system and lose ground to other countries where science is not impeded by superstition. It is refreshing to see more scientists coming forward to speak out against the idea of teaching creation as a plausible alternative to evolution.

April 1, 2005

Keeping Up With Your Favorite Blogs

There are several excellent atheist blogs out there, not to mention the many news portals gathering information of interest to atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers. How does one cope with the volume of information, staying current without getting overwhelmed?

What if there was a program that would automatically inform you every time your favorite blogs were updated or every time a news story was published anywhere in the world dealing with topics relevant to atheism (e.g., Ten Commandments, Christian right, church and state, etc.)? And what if it was possible to do this without adding clutter to your email? If this sounds appealing, then it is time to discover the world of RSS feeds.

For a brief explanation of RSS and what it can do for you, start with this tutorial. Now that you have some idea what RSS is all about, it is time to get an RSS reader. There are many great web-based options (e.g., Feedly) that can be handy when cloud syncing across multiple devices is desired. Personally, I prefer to use dedicated software since I don't read RSS feeds anywhere but a desktop computer. When I first started blogging, I used FeedReader before it was discontinued. I then moved on to FeedDemon until it too was discontinued. I currently use NetNewsWire or Vienna when I'm on a Mac and QuiteRSS when I'm on a PC.

Once you have your RSS reader of choice, it is time to set up some feeds. Most atheist blogs will have them. The Atheist Revolution feed can be accessed here. All you have to do is cut and paste the URL into your reader. Clicking on the orange XML button you will find on many sites will do the same thing. Once set up, your reader will bring you each post or article so that you can decide whether or not they are worth checking out. Most reputable news sites offer RSS feeds too (e.g., CNN, Yahoo, USAToday, etc.), so it is relatively easy to stay on top of the sort of news that interests you.

When you are ready to discover the real power of RSS, head over to Yahoo and scroll down the page until you see "Create your own RSS news feeds" and see the search box. Enter a keyword of your choice in this search box, and Yahoo will create a personalized RSS feed for you. For example, if you enter "atheist," an RSS feed will be created that will pull news stories from around the world in which the word "atheist" appears. This is a great way to track news about topics that are of interest to you.