September 30, 2007

Morons Turn Out For Miracle Tree

No, that isn't a typo. I didn't mean Mormons, although I suppose the two aren't mutually exclusive. Instead, I'm referring to the hundreds of morons gathering around a tree in South Texas because they think they are seeing a miracle.

According to The Dallas Morning News, "hundreds of people" are coming to visit an acacia tree to witness what they believe are formations of "supernatural ice" on the branches. Never mind the hot Texas sun - surely this is a miracle!

Both insect and tree experts say that the white substance is most likely "a spittlebug nest," but the believers will not be deterred from their miracle. They think the tree is crying supernatural tears because the substance was first observed the day after they buried a family member. Yep, that proves it. The experts must be wrong.
"We feel like that tree is now missing her," her daughter, Mary Lou Sanders, said. "Where it's coming from, I do not know. It is something I cannot explain."
Really? You can't explain it? It doesn't seem like those knowledgeable about trees and insects had much difficulty. Perhaps you should consider listening to them. When your television breaks, do you take it to someone who knows how to repair it or just assume that it must have been a demon? Actually, don't answer that. Your answer might lead me to be even more depressed at the state of our educational system than your tree has!

I'm not going to argue that religion causes idiocy or that idiocy causes religion (although I doubt I'd argue with either claim). Instead, I'm content to say that religious belief and idiocy enjoy a reciprocal relationship, helping to maintain each other against the terrible threat of reality.

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Carnival of the Godless #76 at A Load Of Bright

If you're looking for some godless reading on this fine Sunday, head over to A Load of Bright to enjoy the 76th Carnival of the Godless. My post, Atheism Does Not Require Faith, is among the selections. I'm always happy when I remember to submit something before the deadline. See you there.

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September 29, 2007

Religion Under Attack in America?

In a bizarre story out of Indiana, an evangelical Christian pastor is making waves over what he perceives as inappropriate government support of Islam. You might be surprised to find that I agree with him. But the real story may be the transparently poor journalism on display.

Pastor Jerry Hillenburg is upset over plans to install foot washing basins for Muslim cab drivers in the Indianapolis airport. He feels that this is a bothersome step toward state sponsorship of religion. He's right.

It isn't every day I get to agree with Baptist pastors, but Hillenburg is correct that it would be a mistake to use taxpayer money to support Islam. Where I expect we might disagree is that I realize it would be equally inappropriate to spend tax dollars in support of Christianity.

But the real story here is much more subtle. Note how the author uses a quote from Hillenburg to make the point that he's opposed to "...a secular government 'that is condemning Christianity, lifting its support on the government's dime to the religion of Islam.'" Is Hillenburg more upset because Islam is being supported, because his religion is not, or because it is all just an evil atheist conspiracy? And is this really what has Hillenburg upset, or is the author simply using Hillenburg to make a point?

We may find a clue in the last paragraph:
Both sides agree about one thing: religion in America, they say, is under attack.
The "sides" being referred to are Christianity and Islam. The author has crafted the article so that it appears to be a conflict between Christians and Muslims. And yet, the overly simplistic point of agreement is supposed to be that religion is under attack in America. One wonders if the author of this story might be auditioning for Fox "News."

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September 28, 2007

No Suspects Yet In Christian Vandalism

Police still have no suspects in the case involving Christian vandalism of a Chicago atheist's home. This whole thing makes me nervous. If Chicago-area Christians will do such things, it is hard to imagine that Christians in my area (Mississippi) would be any kinder.

If you learn anything else about the story, please send it my way.

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Tagged With Evolution Meme

Tangled Up in Blue Guy just smacked me upside the head with an Evolution Meme blog-tag. This one is a bit different from most I've encountered, providing an excuse for some self-reflection. I am supposed to list five previous posts which reflect the evolution of Atheist Revolution and tag five other blogs so they'll do the same.

Much like the evolution of species, the evolution of a blog does not occur in a nice linear path. It zigs and zags in unpredictable ways as good ideas move one in important directions and bad ideas are discarded or lead to blind alleys.

I can identify a few different patterns through which it would be possible to highlight the evolution of my thought as reflected here. And yet, I'm not fully satisfied that any single pattern is sufficient to represent this evolution.

1. I suppose it is probably a good idea to start at the beginning by going back to February of 2005 for the first post.

Bush's re-election was still weighing heavily on my mind, and I was becoming increasingly worried about the theocratic Right. I announced, "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." I think it is fair to say that I started this blog mostly as an online diary without any real intent to build readership. Frankly, I had no idea what it even meant to build readership back then. This was my first foray into blogging, and I was fairly clueless.

When I reread this post now, it strikes me that I had intended Atheist Revolution to be a blog about religion and politics from the start. This is something I've struggled with to the present day, periodically losing sight of how best to balance these topics, and still not convinced that I've achieved what I initially sought.

2. The arrival of Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005 shook me to the core and would mark an important shift in my thoughts about the role of politics in this blog.

By this point, Atheist Revolution had already become increasingly political. I had discovered that addressing atheism in America simply could not be done without a fairly heavy dose of politics, and it seems that I was posting on political issues as much as atheism, religion, or any other topic. Katrina led me to question my priorities, create Consequences of Republicanism as a spin-off blog that would focus much more on political issues, and nearly resulted in the abandonment of Atheist Revolution.

3. By the Spring of 2006, I was refocusing my interest on atheism.

I'm not quite sure how I ended up at this point. I think I went from worrying that atheism might not be worth my attention in the face of so much social injustice to realizing that the plight of atheists in America was (and continues to be) a form of social injustice. It was around this time when I think I finally realized that I might be able to make a contribution to the understanding of atheism and give something back to the online atheist community which had been so important to me. I was reading every book on atheism I could find and was thinking more about readership as a way to spread the atheist meme. Politics was still important, but I had all but abandoned my other blog, spending more time here.

4. Exploring atheism more fully would lead me to realize that it simply could not qualify as an entire belief system but only as one part of a much larger worldview.

I was reading more about secular humanism and realizing that I was much more than someone who did not accept certain beliefs. There were many others which I not only accepted but upon which my worldview rests. I recognize that I have barely scratched the surface and have to go well beyond where I started. And yet, there is plenty to explore along that path.

5. The Fall of 2007 finds me thinking more about the importance of building a secular community.

This is so close to the present that it wouldn't mean much to try to reflect on it now, but it appears that my growing interest in promoting atheism has connected with a desire to see atheists become valued members of a culture that continues to reject us. I've noticed that Atheist Revolution has become much more focused on atheism and the politics of atheism and much less focused on broader political topics without clear links to religion. This has even led to a revival of Consequences of Republicanism, albeit with more limited goals than those with which it initially launched.

And now it is time to tag five other blogs with the evolution meme:
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Boost Traffic With BlogRush

After seeing the BlogRush widget on several blogs and thinking that it looked like a potentially useful tool for increasing traffic, I've decided to give it a try. It is free and is supposed to help bloggers stimulate interest in their blogs by showing their posts on other blogs that use the widget. You can see it in action by looking at my left sidebar just below "Political Thoughts" and above "Interact With Freethinkers."

You can get the widget here. It seems like a good way for atheist bloggers to spread the atheist meme and attract potential readers.

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September 26, 2007

Another Falwell

Just when you thought that the death of Christian extremist Jerry Falwell might bring some temporary relief, we have news out of Virginia that there is another Falwell at the ready to take up Jerry's legacy. According to this editorial by Elizabeth Strother in The Roanoke Times, Falwell's son, Jonathan, has taken over his father's Thomas Road Baptist Church and is now hoping to mobilize voters around "family values."

Jonathan Falwell does not seem ready for nationwide efforts just yet, but there appears to be little question about his aspirations to do so eventually.
So far, son Jonathan's sights are set more modestly, on Virginia, where every seat in the General Assembly is up for election in November. But, like his father, he'd like to make his family values your family values -- by law. And, like religious leaders on both the political left and right, he has to try to do it without risking the tax-exempt status of his church.
Strother has an excellent suggestion for those of us who oppose efforts to impose the values of Christian extremism on the rest of us.
Voters uncomfortable with the Family Foundation's view of a better society need to galvanize "values voters" of their own.

The political value I hold most dear, and feel is most at risk from the demonstrated power of the religious right, is secular governance. It's the cornerstone of the religious freedom that I enjoy and that Jonathan Falwell and his followers enjoy every day.
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Atheism Does Not Require Faith

I fire up my trusty RSS reader at least once a week to catch up with the atheist blogosphere. Every time I do, I can count on finding at least a few stories in either the mainstream news media or various theist-generated sources claiming that atheism is a religion or that atheism requires as much faith as any religion. While easily dismissed, the frequency of such claims is starting to irritate me.

Magic in the Garden

I am about to tell you something I have never told anyone. My next door neighbor has a small garden gnome of the sort you've probably seen before. The thing is, my neighbor's gnome comes to life for one evening a month, always on the twelfth day of the month, between 8:00 and 11:00 pm. The gnome explores the yard and has even climbed the fence to come into my yard. I know this not because my neighbor told me but because I have personally experienced it. I asked my neighbor about it once, and he looked at me like I was crazy. But I've seen the gnome spring to life many times, and I'm confident I was awake, not intoxicated, and of sound mind. Thus, I have no question that the gnome is real.

September 25, 2007

Canada Infected With Theism Too

Thanks to the neocons currently running the American government and the constant stream of idiocy from their Christian extremist base, it is easy to understand how the international community views America. And yet, we are far from alone in the degree to which ancient religions exert an unwanted influence on modern politics. I'm looking at you, Canada.

In a recent column in HumanistNetworkNews, Doug Thomas suggests that Elections Canada, the governmental agency which oversees elections in Canada, is "'infected' with Theism." Thomas' column discusses how religious groups influence elections in Canada, drawing on the recent example of a decision not to require Muslim women to remove their veils when voting for the purpose of voter identification.

Was the exemption made in response to protests from the Muslim community? Apparently not.
Some Muslim leaders have pointed out that women who chose to keep their faces covered would have no objection to showing their face to a female election official. Indeed, one spokeswoman has pointed out that these women regularly remove their veils at banks and airports where visual identification is required.
Rather, it seems to be the result of Canada's obsessive need to "recognize minorities and accommodate needs that even the minorities do not deem necessary." In America, we are used to religious groups protesting anything and everything they dislike. In Canada, it seems that government officials attempt to correct problems before they even exist in the minds of the faithful.

Not surprisingly, Thomas notes that one minority group is largely ignored in spite of efforts to cater to most others. Can you guess which one?
Non-believers struggle to get the attention of our government in order to establish our right of freedom from religion. Does the government refrain from singing the theist national anthem? Has it even considered removing the theist statement on our coins?
Yes, it appears that the Christian privilege so widespread in America exists in Canada in a somewhat broader form, a sort of theistic privilege. It is nice to hear that Canadian atheists and humanists are beginning to speak out and are becoming increasingly active in the political arena.

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September 24, 2007

Army Violates Religious Freedom

United States Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Even though they may know little else about history, science, or law, most Americans can tell you that religious freedom had something to do with the founding of America. The critical truth that they often fail to realize is that freedom of religion requires freedom from religion. How sad it is then to see the American military violating the religious freedom of our young men and women in uniform.

According to John Milburn (AP), Spec. Jeremy Hall, an American soldier stationed in Iraq, has filed suit against the Defense Department alleging that his commanding officer infringed on his religious freedom by preventing him from meeting with other non-Christian soldiers. The suit "alleges a pattern of practices that discriminate against non-Christians in the military."

After receiving permission to distribute fliers promoting a meeting of atheist and non-Christian soldiers, Spec. Hall was prevented from actually convening any such meeting. His superior threatened him with military charges and the possibility of blocking his planned reenlistment.

As reported by Truthout (update: link no longer active), this isn't the half of it. Hall's complaint also alleges that his First Amendment rights were violated repeatedly, beginning last Thanksgiving after he refused to join a Christian prayer ceremony.
"Immediately after plaintiff made it known he would decline to join hands and pray, he was confronted, in the presence of other military personnel, by the senior ranking ... staff sergeant who asked plaintiff why he did not want to pray, whereupon plaintiff explained because he is an atheist," says the lawsuit, a copy of which was provided to Truthout. "The staff sergeant asked plaintiff what an atheist is and plaintiff responded it meant that he (plaintiff) did not believe in God. This response caused the staff sergeant to tell plaintiff that he would have to sit elsewhere for the Thanksgiving dinner. Nonetheless, plaintiff sat at the table in silence and finished his meal."
According to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Hall's lawsuit will be "the first of many." This is not at all surprising given numerous reports of Christian extremists infiltrating the American military. Can we really expect our soldiers to willingly die to defend freedoms they do not have themselves?

September 23, 2007

Christians Vandalize Atheist's Home in Chicago

The Friendly Atheist brings us a troubling story of a Christian hate crime in the Chicago suburbs. Rob Sherman, atheist activist and father of a high school student who successfully campaigned to remove "God Bless America" from the list of songs to be played at her Homecoming Dance (yeah, that's a great one for dancing), is the victim.

Sherman's home was vandalized with a thorough egging of both the house and the family's automobiles. But why in the world would I allege a Christian hate crime when this could have been the work of those always pesky teenagers? Because crosses and religious words were written in chalk on the driveway, and a church bulletin was stuck in the front door.

The police are convinced that angry teens are the culprits rather than some local Christian terrorist organization. Their evidence? The vandalism closely followed the incident at Sherman's daughter's school, and "Jesus" was misspelled. They may have a point about the proximity of the vandalism to the school incident, but the misspelling sounds like they are assuming Christian adults must have some modicum of intelligence. I'm not sure this is a safe assumption.

Had racist slurs and symbols been used to deface the home of an African American student, I wonder if the police would have the same response that this was simply an innocent prank by teens. Well, maybe in Jena they would.

I agree with Hemant (The Friendly Atheist) when he said, would be nice for local churches or Christian leaders to put out an announcement this morning that this type of action is never tolerated — while you might disagree with the Shermans’ beliefs, there are more positive ways to handle the situation.
Of course, I'd be surprised if this were to happen. After all, the Christian bible tells believers that atheists are bound for hell and even recommends that Christians kill us.

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Suck It, Jesus!

Nearly 5,000 people to date have signed an online petition opposing the censoring of Kathy Griffin's remarks for the 2007 Emmy Awards. Obviously, it is too late to change the censorship, but it is still a great way to show support for Griffin. I think I'd get one of these stickers, but I'd hate to have to remove my [email protected]$% the skull of Jesus sign to make room.

H/T to The Happy New Atheist

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Humanist Symposium #8

The 8th Humanist Symposium is now up at Elliptica, and it is a good one. My recent post on the need for a secular community, which I wrote for the Humanist Symposium, is included.

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September 22, 2007

Baptists Descend On My Neighborhood

Indianola First Baptist ChurchA van full of Baptists just appeared in my neighborhood. Evidently, their church must be having a hard time getting people to show up and grovel to their logically incoherent god. My patience with these folks and their delusion is starting to slip. I've heard it all before so many times. It is so easy to think of what I should have said after they leave, but I think I was more than sufficiently rude this time around.

I was typing a post for this very blog when I saw a large red van drive by out of the corner of my eye. I didn't notice the Baptist church logo on the van's side, as I was intent on finishing my sentence. Not two seconds later, the doorbell rang and my dog started going crazy.

I scooped the dog up and answered the door, figuring it was some soliciting idiot and fully prepared to tell him where he could go. The door opened to reveal a well-dressed woman in her 40's with a young girl by her side. Oh crap! I had been prepared to yell something rude and slam the door, but now I was stopped in my tracks. If I yelled at them only to discover that they were my new neighbors coming over to introduce themselves or looking for a lost pet, I'd feel like an ass.

Pete Stark (D-CA): Humanist of the Year

Stark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
California Congressman and atheist, Pete Stark, was honored on Thursday with the annual Humanist of the Year award from Harvard's humanist chaplaincy. Although I found it odd that he downplayed the bigotry atheist face from believers, I applaud his candid admission that expressions of religiosity by politicians tends to be about politics rather than superstition.

According to The Boston Globe, Stark responded to a question about atheists being demonized by saying, "I have no evidence that they [nonbelievers] are 'demonized.' I think there may be a certain arrogance of certainty among some people . . . but I've never run across those who have been nasty about it." It sounds like he has been fortunate. Maybe Congressmen have it better than the rest of us.

Stark expressed optimism that the influence of religion is waning. "I think as we mature . . . you're going to find people taking a less strident or literal position on religion."

When asked about 21 other US representatives who identified themselves as atheists but asked the Secular Coalition for America not to disclose their identities, Stark said, "We're all cowards. We all want to get reelected." What sets him apart is his constituency. An atheist can retain office in his California district far easier than in many other parts of the country.

According to The Globe,
Politicians invoking the Bible and faith, he said, do so because of politics, not religious conviction. He told of the time that a Democratic colleague omitted the reference to God while saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as liberal as they come, "gave him what-for" because, in Stark's opinion, she was worried about losing votes among religious Americans.
WE HAVE 22 ATHEISTS IN CONGRESS! Sorry, but I'm excited. Pete Stark is not the only one - there are 21 others!

Secular Blogs

Looking for secular blogs? Your search is over. Mojoey's Atheist Blogroll is over 400 strong and features the best in secular blogging. For information on how to add your blog, see here. To view the complete blogroll, simply click "read more" below.

Join the best atheist themed blogroll!

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September 21, 2007

Racism: First Jena 6, Now This

Contrary to the absurd claims of Tony Snow, racism is alive and well in the United States. As if the reputation of the Southern states couldn't get any worse, we have another incident involving nooses in Louisiana. Unfortunately, the Jena 6 case did not receive anywhere near the attention it deserved until more than a year later. One wonders if this latest example will be similarly ignored by the media.

According to CNN, two suspects, at least one of whom told police he and his family are Klan members, were arrested in Alexandria, LA, after nooses were observed hanging from the back of their pickup.
Alexandria is less than an hour away from Jena, Louisiana, and was a staging area Thursday for protesters who went to the smaller town to demonstrate against the treatment of six black teens known as the "Jena 6" in racially charged incidents.
Maybe it is time we finally have that discussion about race in America that we were supposed to have after the Don Imus fiasco. I won't hold my breath.

We Need a Secular Community

Most nonbelievers recognize the difficulty of bringing atheists, humanists, and assorted freethinkers together into a meaningful community. Protests along the lines of of "we're not joiners" are so common that they have become a psychological hurdle if not an actual one. And yet, many questions remain unanswered. Is it even desirable to strive for a united secular community? What might such a community look like, and is it even possible to bring people together under the banner of nonbelief? In this multi-part series, I will consider the importance of uniting the secular community, some of the options for bringing nonbelievers together, and offer a recommendations about how to promote a secular community. Part I addresses whether a united secular community is something we should seek.


I suppose some terminology may be in order at the outset. I think of "secular community" as being an umbrella term describing nonbelievers of all sorts, including those who call themselves atheists, secular humanists, agnostics, freethinkers, etc. In this way, "secular community" is synonymous with "reality-based community." Those described by such labels are quite diverse but all stand outside of reality distortion field that is faith.

Is There a Secular Community?

In one sense, yes. In the sense that there are large numbers of people who live outside of religious traditions and who identify themselves as secular humanists, atheists, agnostics, nonbelievers, freethinkers, and the like, there is a secular community. However, it is probably more accurate to say that while there are undoubtedly secularists, there is little that resembles any sort of community. In fact, it is not at all clear whether it is possible to achieve any sort of meaningful community simply by attempting to unite nonbelievers around their lack of belief. But I'm jumping the gun. Before asking ourselves if it is possible, we must consider whether it is even worthwhile.

Should There Be a Secular Community?

Of all the worthwhile goals individuals can have, should one be the development of a meaningful secular community (or multiple secular communities)? Yes, I believe that this is a worthy goal. Among the many reasons why I think we need such a community or communities are the following:
  • Political power. Secular Americans have many Christian allies in the struggle to keep church and state separate, but it is unlikely that they can succeed without our help. This and other political goals shared by many nonbelievers require increased political power. This is not only a case of strength in numbers; it is a case where numbers organized into pressure groups and voting blocks are needed to protect our liberties.
  • Psychological sense of community and social support. Psychologists have long recognized the benefits to physical and mental health from perceived social support and psychological sense of community. Humans are social creatures who benefit from affiliation and belonging. I have encountered little reason to believe that nonbelievers are different. We too will benefit from belonging to groups of like-minded individuals from whom we derive support.
  • Creative growth. For many of us, creativity and the growth of important ideas does not occur in a vacuum. We benefit from having people around us with whom we can exchange ideas and engage in meaningful dialogue. On a personal level, I can say with complete certainty that I would not be where I am today without the comments I receive on this blog and the interactions I've had with others on their blogs. We need the stimulation of interaction to fuel our creativity and development.
  • Shared Wisdom. Whatever crisis you are going through at the moment or whatever difficult question you are now wrestling, it is likely that someone else has dealt with similar circumstances and has something to offer. A community, even an informal community operating in cyberspace, offers the prospect of shared wisdom. Those who have more life experience have much to teach us and are often able to offer invaluable perspectives.
  • Safety and Protection. Strength in numbers is not just about politics. The more visible and empowered nonbelievers become, the harder it will be for the believers to threaten and intimidate us. This is why community seems to become even more important in regions dominated by Christian extremists where religious differences are not tolerated.
  • Setting the Record Straight. Nonbelievers, especially atheists, are constantly bombarded with misconceptions about what they believe and who they are from the mainstream media. The ability of any individual to correct these misconceptions and attempt to educate the public is far more limited that what an organized community can do. Even loosely connected activist groups can exert a sort of public pressure that no individual can achieve.
I could probably keep going for some time, but I think this is enough to get across the point that I think there are many benefits to a secular community. Of course, this inevitably raises the question of whether such a community is possible and what it might look like. This will be the subject of Part II.

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September 20, 2007

Christian Extremists To Invade Public Schools

Our nation's children are in danger. A combination of Christian extremism and government officials afraid to enforce the rule of law threatens their education. This in turn jeopardizes America's future ability to compete in a global economy. I realize that this is probably not anything new for my regular readers, but even you may be surprised by the latest assault on our public schools.

Proclaiming "a revival of faith and grace" at America's public schools, Christian extremist groups are organizing three nationwide efforts to force their ridiculous religion into our schools. In a press release issued by the Scriptures in Schools Project and publicized by Christian Newswire, we can learn about the following events planned for September 23-29:
The organizers expect that, "Millions of Christian students, along with teachers/staff, parents, and clergy, will participate at Public Schools across America."

Bob Pawson of the Scriptures in Schools Project and a public school teacher in New Jersey calls on our children to "Bring your Bibles to school: Tote 'em and quote 'em and use 'em in class."

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September 19, 2007

Mormons Apologize for Massacre

Mitt Romney's candidacy has thrust the Mormon religion into the spotlight, and many observers are not particularly impressed with what they have learned about the faith. From seer stones in a hat to magic underpants, Mormonism seems more a source of embarrassment than one of pride. At least the church has finally decided to apologize for a terrible "faith-based massacre" (quoted from NoGodBlog).

From the Deseret Morning News (UT):
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a long-awaited apology today for the massacre of an immigrant wagon train by local church members 150 years ago in southwestern Utah. Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve read the church's statement on assignment from the church's governing First Presidency during a memorial ceremony at the grave site of some of the massacre victims at Mountain Meadows, about 35 miles northwest of St. George. The statement also places blame for the Sept. 11, 1857, massacre on the local church leaders at the time and church members who followed their orders to murder some 120 unarmed men, women and children.
The LDS church even acknowledged that the massacre would not have occurred but for "the direction and stimulus provided by local church leaders and members." A bit late in their apology, but at least they appear to acknowledge that their religion had some role in this atrocity.

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September 18, 2007

Committee For Ex-Muslims To Ease Renunciation of Islam

While President Bush asks Americans to wallow in superstition and conservative pundits attack Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) for refusing to perpetuate the 9/11-Iraq connection, young Muslim apostates are honoring the victims of 9/11 by risking their lives in an act of incredible bravery. They are leaving Islam behind to join the reality-based community and making it easier for others to do the same.

The Times (UK) describes a new campaign launched by the Committee for Ex-Muslims on 9/11 to help Muslims walk away from superstition by renouncing Islam. Of course, these are not actions to be taken lightly. Those who abandon Islam do so at their own peril, as Islamic extremists believe that apostasy should be punished by death.
Mr Jami, 22, who has abandoned his studies as his political career has taken off, denied that the choice of September 11 was deliberately provocative towards the Islamic Establishment. “We chose the date because we want to make a clear statement that we no longer tolerate the intolerence of Islam, the terrorist attacks,” he said.
Where might practitioners of this so-called "religion of peace" get the idea that persons who leave Islam should be killed? From the Koran and the Hadith, of course.
According to Baidhawi’s commentary, Sura 4: 88-89 reads: “Whosoever turns back from his belief, openly or secretly, take him and kill him wheresoever ye find him, like any other infidel. Separate yourself from him altogether. Do not accept intercession in his regard.”
To all ex-Muslims, I say welcome to the reality-based community. We're happy to have you.

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September 17, 2007

More Thoughts on The Scarlet A

A recent post on A Whore in the Temple of Reason has me thinking about the scarlet A selected to symbolize the OUT Campaign again. I support what the campaign stands for but think that the choice of the scarlet A was unfortunate.

My reasons for disliking that chosen symbol are as follows:
  1. The large red letter A already has a widely recognized meaning from Nathaniel Hawthorne's literary classic, The Scarlet Letter. In Hawthorne's book, Hester Prynne is forced to wear a scarlet A on her attire to symbolize her sin of adultery. This seems like an absurd symbol for atheists to attempt to reclaim as our own.
  2. Aside from the association with adultery, the scarlet A fails to symbolize the sort of "atheist pride" many want the OUT Campaign to represent. People seeing the symbol will either assume that the A stands for adulterer or be confused about its meaning. Wouldn't an unambiguous expression of atheism be a far more effective way to achieve the stated goals of the OUT campaign? At the very least, the symbol could be paired with its meaning like this. However, I tend to think that existing logos like this would be even more effective.
That's it. Those are my only reasons for thinking that the symbol was a poor choice. And again, this does not prevent me from supporting the campaign itself.

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September 16, 2007

Mocking The Faithful? Suck It, Jesus!

I think I can safely assume that everyone reading this has now heard about Kathy Griffin saying, "Suck it, Jesus" at the Emmy Awards. As expected, the self-appointed defenders of Christianity are up in arms, and many atheist bloggers are still laughing about it. American Atheists issued a statement condemning broadcasters for censoring Griffin's statement when they re-air the show. Something tells me that this will be yet another missed opportunity for some meaningful dialogue about the place of religion in our modern world.

I assume that Griffin's comments were intended to have a comedic effect in that she was making fun of the near universal tendency for celebrities to thank fictional beings during their acceptance speeches. She is hardly the first to call attention to this bizarre behavior or to mock it. The difference seems to be that she mocked it at the awards show and that her comments have been interpreted as mocking Jesus too.

Do I find her comments funny? Absolutely. I am disgusted with the celebrities and athletes who insist on thanking supernatural beings for their success, and I welcome those who would mock them. Their beliefs are both irrational and harmful; mockery is warranted. I am fully aware that believers are offended by such mockery. The thing is, they are practically begging for it when they continue to spew this nonsense. Pam, from Pam's House Blend sums it up perfectly:
I mean, c'mon, you believe that the Creator of all time, space, physics, and energy, who went to the trouble of engineering a Big Bang and shepherded tens of billions of years worth of cosmic thermonuclear reactions in order to create a life sustaining planet upon which He could create bodies to house souls and send His son to death by torture so you could go to Heaven forever even though you're a sinner by virtue of a fraud perpetrated by talking snake who offered a magical apple to a rib-woman, and you want to base our nation upon those principles and overturn 231 years of secular Constitutional rule, and YOU'RE offended by a D-list comedian saying "suck it, Jesus"?
The fact that such beliefs are religiously inspired does not make them exempt from criticism. As long as people are going to continue to restrict the liberties of others because of these beliefs and kill in service to these beliefs, mockery is not just permissible; it is mandatory.

If the decision to censor Griffin bothers you, here is something you can do about it.

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GOP Front Runners Skip Faith-Based Debate

Democratic presidential candidates have been falling all over themselves pandering to Christian voters. Meanwhile, Republican front runners Giuliani, McCain, Romney and Thompson plan to skip the Value Voters Debate in Florida tomorrow, apparently indifferent to the wrath of their base. What is happening to "God's Own Party?" If there was a hell, I think it just might be freezing over right about now!

I'd like to offer two brief comments. First, this is hilarious! Could it be that Republicans are starting to view appearances before Christian extremists as a liability to their campaigns? I love it! Second, do not be fooled by the "values voter" label; it is conservative code for "Christian extremist." But don't take my word for it. See for yourselves what they believe.

H/T to Pam's House Blend

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David Cronenberg Explains How His Atheism Influences His Work

Director DAVID CRONENBERG of the film 'Spider'...
Director DAVID CRONENBERG of the film 'Spider' during the Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are lots of famous atheists. I don't mean people who are famous for being atheists; there are relatively few of those. No, I mean celebrities who happen to be atheists.

I wonder sometimes how (or if) atheism might influence the work these celebrities do. In most cases, I'd guess that it probably doesn't have much of an influence. But there do appear to be cases where it might have more of an influence than we realize.

Celebrated director, David Cronenberg, openly identified himself as an atheist during a recent interview with Reuters. In fact, Cronenberg offered an intriguing example of how his atheism informs his work in cinema.

While discussing a particularly violent scene in his upcoming film about the Russian mafia, Eastern Promises, Cronenberg had this to say:
"Murder is a serious thing. I am taking it very seriously," Cronenberg told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Toronto International Film Festival, where "Eastern Promises" had its premiere on Saturday night.

"I'm an atheist," Cronenberg said. "To me an act of murder is the act of total destruction, it's absolute. There's no comeback, there's no going to heaven, that's it. And it is very easy for that to be veiled or covered up, in a movie especially.

"To me it makes perfect legitimate, artistic and, if you push me, moral sense as well to do that this way."
In other words, murder should be ugly, violent, and shocking. Unlike the theist who deludes him- or herself with fantasies of immortality, the atheist accepts the finality of death. It isn't supposed to be pretty.

Carnival of the Godless

Carnival of the Godless is now up at Ain't Christian. It looks like a couple of bloggers were permitted to have multiple entries. I'm not sure how that happened, but hey, more power to them. Check it out.

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September 15, 2007

Washington Post Covers Atheism

The Washington Post has two stories on atheism today. "In America, Nonbelievers Find Strength in Numbers" by Jacqueline L. Salmon provides a concise overview of the atheist revival. Mary Jordan's "In Europe and U.S., Nonbelievers Are Increasingly Vocal," is a much longer piece dealing with the growth of atheism on both sides of the Atlantic. Both are worth a read, so check them out.

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Least Religious Candidates Lead Pack

Surveys reveal that most voters would not vote for an atheist presidential candidate. However, this does not mean that they are seeking a particularly religious one either. New data reveal that the candidates perceived by voters as the least religious also happen to be those leading the polls.

According to USA Today,
"The candidates viewed by voters as the least religious among the leading contenders are the current frontrunners for the Democratic and Republican nominations," the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reports today.
The leading candidates for both parties, Clinton and Giuliani happen to be those perceived as the least religious.

I would interpret these findings as suggesting that voters want a candidate to meet a particular threshold of religiosity but that once the candidate has done so, increasing religiosity becomes far less important. An atheist is not an acceptable candidate because he or she would fail to meet this threshold. But at the same time, voters do not appear assign increasing value to increasing degrees of religiosity.

The truly fascinating thing is that Clinton's campaign apparently still thinks that they need to broadcast their candidate's religiosity.
The Associated Press reports that Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said "there are many things about Senator Clinton that people don't know and one of those things is that she is a person of faith."
As long as she can stay above the threshold required by voters, it is unlikely that she has much to gain by flaunting her belief in things that lack evidence.

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September 14, 2007

Was Jesus Gay? has an interesting discussion on the question of whether Jesus, if he existed at all, might have been gay. Believe it or not, this question is nothing new and one which has been debated by theologians over considerable time. presents both sides, balancing evidence that he may have been gay with evidence that he was not. I don't expect it to change any minds, especially because no clear answer emerges from the evidence. Still, it is an interesting and thought-provoking possibility. It is just too bad that Christians find it so offensive and that non-Christians continue to cater to this oversensitivity.

Of course, we'll never know Jesus' sexual orientation. Much like we cannot be certain that he actually lived or that his life resembled in any way what the Christian bible says, there will never be a definitive verdict on his possible homosexuality. Too bad. Just think of the implications for Republican Congressmen!

The point I want to highlight here actually has little to do with whether Jesus was gay. I'm far more interested in why anyone asking such a question will be condemned by most Christians. Just look at the disclaimer felt was a necessary preface to the discussion:
We recognize that the title to this essay will be seen by many readers as rather inflammatory. Australian educator, Michael Kelly wrote: "The question is, apparently, provocative....even asking the question is sacrilege, blasphemy, a vilification of Christianity, and a mockery of people's deepest beliefs." 1 Judging by the anger among many Christians toward the Da Vinci Code book and movie, some find it difficult to wrap their minds around the concept of Jesus having been sexually active. The thoughts that he might have been gay are even more difficult to handle.
Isn't that something? It is almost as if they feel the need to issue a preemptive apology to all the Christians who will be offended by their asking the question. I fail to see why any sort of apology is necessary. If certain Christians cannot handle open-minded discussion, then they need help in resolving their own neuroses. The last thing they need is for their oversensitivity to be enabled by such apologies.

H/T to Daily Atheist

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September 13, 2007

"End Times" Theology Endangers Us All

end times
Christians are expected to swallow all sorts of nonsense about the existence of supernatural entities, beliefs about the natural world which have repeatedly been falsified, and assorted logical contradictions. The rest of us are expected to keep our criticism to ourselves in the interest of respect or tolerance (yes, to point out someone's religiously-motivated intolerance is regularly considered intolerant). And yet, withholding criticism of certain irrational beliefs imperils us all.

In a recent column for The State News, John Bice, author of A 21st Century Rationalist in Medieval America, points out that belief in a "second coming" and the accompanying end times theology is just such a dangerous belief.

In fairness to the many Christians who have managed to retain some shred of sanity, I will distinguish between those who passively believe that Jesus will someday return and those who think such a return is imminent and that they should do something to speed it up. The former is simply deluded and making it more difficult to challenge the latter without being accused of intolerance. This is a problem to which I will return, but the second group requires our immediate attention.

September 12, 2007

Ex-Christian Highlights Tactics to Maintain Belief

I suppose that the majority of American atheists are bound to be ex-Christians. We were indoctrinated in this ancient superstition during our formative years, but we were able to break free and recover from what had been done to us. Still, it is quite different to hear from to hear from one of the many ex-Christian members of the clergy who left religion behind to join the reality-based community. These brave individuals often have great insight about how believers are "helped" to keep the faith.

Take Barry, the author of A Penitent Atheist, as an example. He embraced Christianity at 17 and went on to become a minister before eventually leaving delusion behind to arrive at atheism. In a recent post, he noted
When I was a minister in the service of Christianity, a significant aspect of my job was explaining away biblical absurdities. If the Bible said something that was illogical or just plain wrong by modern standards, which it frequently does, then I would search the commentaries for the most reasonable-sounding explanation. It could not really be an absurdity, because the Bible is the Word of God, went my thinking.
It sounds like an important part of Barry's job involved explaining away the very reasonable doubts parishioners would experience when confronted with something nonsensical. I have little reason to think that this was a rare experience. All over America, churches are asking their congregants to swallow a set of "truths" that just doesn't want to stay down.

Today Barry reads the Christian bible for what it actually says instead of what some Christian apologist wants it to mean. If there is hope for a former member of the clergy to arrive here, surely there is hope for the rest of us. If the bible sounds absurd, perhaps it does so because it is absurd. No contortions of logic are necessary.

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September 11, 2007

Moderate Christians Finally Speaking Out

At long last, we have a sign that at least some moderate Christians are tiring of the extremist brethren dominating religious discourse. The Clergy Letter Project allows Christian clergy to sign on to a statement about the relationship between religion and science. Hopefully, this will be an important step toward raising awareness of Christian extremism.

H/T to The Daily Atheist

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September 10, 2007

Understanding Prayer: Not Supernatural But Self-Soothing

A Bolivian aymara woman praying
A Bolivian aymara woman praying (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While reading a post at Secular Planet (update: link no longer working), I had an interesting thought about prayer, how it works, and how mistaken I may have been in my previous efforts to understand it. Now my head is swirling with the possible implications.

What if prayer has little to do with religious belief, faith, or even the litany of gods before which believers have grovelled over the millennia? What if prayer is really just a primitive form of self-soothing? And what if religious believers are at least partially aware of this but have employed a variety of psychological defenses to repress full awareness?

The implications of such a possibility are intriguing. For starters, this would suggest that some of us have been wrong in our analysis and critique of prayer. For example, I've previously struggled to understand how Christians can simultaneously believe in an omnipotent and omniscience god and believe that this god is more likely to be swayed by prayers from multiple persons:
Does the believer think that more individuals praying will result in a better outcome than just an individual believer praying? Why? Is it to make sure their god hears them? I thought their omniscient god already knew what was going on without any prayers whatsoever. Of course, that would mean that intercessory prayer is always worthless because one isn't telling one's god anything he/she/it doesn't already know. Is it because their god must be persuaded to help? If their god is benevolent, added persuasion should not be necessary.

September 9, 2007

Time to Pray

My fellow Americans, our beloved President, cloaking himself in the authority of your Constitution, has asked you to pray this weekend to honor the victims of 9/11. Evidently, we no longer life in a secular democracy. Praise Jee-zuhs!

I am reproducing Bush's proclamation in its entirety to provoke your complete and total subservience below. Enjoy.

National Days of Prayer and Remembrance, 2007
A Proclamation By the President of the United States of America

During this year's National Days of Prayer and Remembrance, we honor the thousands of victims who died in the brutal and ruthless attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Our Nation remembers with gratitude the firefighters, police officers, first responders, and ordinary citizens who acted with courage and compassion to save the lives of others, and we pray for the families whose loved ones were taken from them.

Never forgetting that terrible day, we remain determined to bring our enemies to justice, defy the terrorists' ideology of hate, and work to make our world safer. We honor the members of our Armed Forces who died while taking the fight to our adversaries, and we are grateful for those who continue to protect our Nation and our way of life. Their courage, sacrifice, and dedication help preserve our freedom. We pray for their safety, for all those who love them, and for the peace we all seek.

We remain a hopeful America, inspired by the kindness and compassion of our citizens and our commitment to freedom and opportunity. During these days of prayer and remembrance, we reflect on all we have lost and take comfort in each other and in the grace and mercy of our Creator. May God guide us, give us strength and wisdom, and may He continue to bless our great country.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Friday, September 7, through Sunday, September 9, 2007, as National Days of Prayer and Remembrance. I ask that the people of the United States and their places of worship mark these National Days of Prayer and Remembrance with memorial services, the ringing of bells, and evening candlelight remembrance vigils. I also invite the people of the world to share in these Days of Prayer and Remembrance.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-second.



H/T to The Carpetbagger Report

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September 8, 2007

Pat Condell on YouTube

The Lansing State Journal reports that YouTube is hosting an atheist video series featuring Pat Condell. I suspect that most of you already know about Condell. I think he's fantastic. If you haven't seen his clips, visit his website or check out some of his better clips in the Atheist Revolution video collection.

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Know Them By Their Deeds: Another Fundy Pastor Guilty of Incest

The AAP story, printed on is simply titled, "Pastor had sex with daughters to teach how to be wives." It seems that a 54 year-old fundamentalist pastor in South Australia had sex with his two teenage daughters and then attempted to excuse his actions by claiming that he was teaching them how to be good wives. He pled guilty to incest and related charges and was sentenced to 8.5 years. He'll be eligible for parole in 4 years.
The man told the court the sex was not about fulfilling his desires but about teaching his daughters how to behave for their husbands when they eventually married, as dictated in scripture.
I guess I'm not sure what more to say.

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September 7, 2007

Christian Neighbors Vandalize Atheist's Yard

If you haven't read about this yet, head over to Kazim's Korner to learn how his Christian neighbors vandalized his yard because they were upset with his freethought bumper stickers. I think he handled a difficult situation remarkably well.

Homeland Security Spends Your Tax Dollars on Clergy Response Team

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, residents of New Orleans were in desperate need of many things: shelter, food, water, medical care, basic security, etc. What lesson did the American government learn from this tragedy? All criticism of their response aside, it turns out that they learned a fairly important lesson and are now ready to implement it during the next natural disaster or terrorist attack.

Just what is this important lesson our government is ready to implement? The Department of Homeland Security has enlisted the aid of Christian clergy to pacify the public in the event of future scenarios calling for martial law. Yes, you read that correctly.

According to KSLA News 12 out of Shreveport, LA, situations that might require martial law (e.g., natural disasters, terrorist attacks, etc.) create serious problems for the government: irate citizens. To make victims feel better and prevent them from expressing dissent which the rest of us might find troubling, a "Clergy Response Team" was created after Hurricane Katrina.

Naturally, I'm picturing a group of Southern Baptist pastors driving around in the van from The A-Team.

Remember seeing all those pesky New Orleans citizens on the news after the storm? Remember how they had the nerve to complain that aid wasn't coming fast enough or that they were being neglected by their own government?

Dr. Durell Tuberville, chaplain for the Shreveport Fire Department and the Caddo Sheriff's Office, described the clergy team's mission by saying, "the primary thing that we say to anybody is, 'let's cooperate and get this thing over with and then we'll settle the differences once the crisis is over.'" This is exactly what those suffering in New Orleans needed. If they would have just sat down and waited patiently instead of complaining...oh hell, they'd probably still be waiting!

But wait! These clergy would have a powerful tool for helping the situation.
For the clergy team, one of the biggest tools that they will have in helping calm the public down or to obey the law is the bible itself, specifically Romans 13. Dr. Tuberville elaborated, "because the government's established by the Lord, you know. And, that's what we believe in the Christian faith. That's what's stated in the scripture."
I can't decide what pisses me off more - that anyone thinks this is a good idea or that my tax dollars are being spent to pay for it when there are still over 18,000 people living in FEMA trailers.

Digg my article

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September 6, 2007

Spreading Atheism to Nonbelievers

Countless atheist blogs, online forums, and chat rooms provide atheists with relevant news on church-state issues, opportunities for atheist activism, and social networking. Given our status as America's most distrusted minority, these services provide an essential function for the growing community of nonbelievers. And yet, many like-minded individuals have not yet discovered our dynamic online community. This post is not about converting believers to atheism but about helping our fellow nonbelievers find us.

I used to think that atheist blogs would forever be limited by a type of readership cap. The idea was that there were so few atheists that traffic at atheist-oriented blogs would plateau fairly quickly and be unable to grow much beyond that point. This was too simplistic. There are far more nonbelievers than I had realized, and while many do not identify themselves as atheists, they meet the definition of atheism.

Persons getting on Google and search for "atheist" or "atheism" are going to discover a vibrant online community waiting for them. But how many of the nonbelievers who have other priorities and who may not identify as atheists are likely to get to this point? How do we reach them and stimulate thought about atheism?

It strikes me that atheist bloggers can do at least two things that would aid this effort considerably. First, the authors of atheist blogs can make use of links and blogrolls so that anyone finding their particular blog in any way and for any reason will be provided with a hub on the web from which to explore similar content. Fortunately, I think the vast majority of atheist bloggers are already doing this and doing it extremely well. I suspect we could all do a better job with periodically deleting dead links, but this is a minor issue.

The second, and probably more controversial, suggestion is for us to consider occasionally doing off-topic posts on issues likely to be of interest to a wider audience than self-identified atheists. These are the sort of posts that have the potential to attract nonbelievers who are less familiar with atheism than one's regular readers, offering them an opportunity to learn about atheism. In addition, well-written posts about a variety of topics can be submitted to blog carnivals or social networking sites we might not routinely utilize.

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September 5, 2007

Texas Board of Education Unlikely to Include Creationism

Despite the presence of several creationists on the Texas State Board of Education, it appears that ID will not enter the science classroom. This is good news for Texas children and defenders of science education. Teaching crap and calling it science does not change the fact that it is still crap. Fortunately, board members appeared to understand this simply truth.

Christian extremists have long sought to replace science education with religious indoctrination. If science contradicts biblical teaching (and it most certainly does), then science must go. When it became clear that this was not going to happen, they tried to insure that creationism would at least be included in the educational curriculum, going so far as to claim that it should be taught as an alternative to evolution.

According to The Dallas Morning News,
A solid majority of the State Board of Education, which will rewrite the science curriculum for public schools next year, is against the idea, even though several members say they are creationists and have serious doubts about Charles Darwin's theory that humans evolved from lower life forms.
Sadly, we can't celebrate the defeat of creationism just yet. Even though it is nice to see Texas board members understanding that creationism (in its various forms) is not science, this is merely one battle in a much larger war.
"Creationism and intelligent design don't belong in our science classes," said Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, who described himself as a creationist. "Anything taught in science has to have consensus in the science community – and intelligent design does not."
Absolutely. It is a national disgrace to see that Texas Governor Rick Perry and President Bush approve of creationism being taught in public schools. Before we praise these school board members for making the right decision, we must realize that they may also be determined to amplify controversy where little exists.
And while the board apparently won't take up intelligent design, several members expect a battle over how evolution is treated in science textbooks, although that won't be up for debate until 2011. Mr. McLeroy and others say they'll push for books to include a more thorough examination of weaknesses in the theory of evolution.
Clearly, more work is needed to make sure our nation's children receive the science education they need.

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September 3, 2007

"Angry Agnostic" Spreads Misinformation About Atheists

If you haven't yet heard about John Humphrys' new book, In God We Doubt, you will soon enough. This book is going to generate considerable discussion throughout the secular community. You see, Humphrys has decided to attack both believers and those mythical "militant atheists." Not surprisingly, he seems to have little idea what atheism means or what atheists believe (and do not believe) about religion.

The following is based on an excerpt of Humphrys' book printed in TimesOnline.

After recounting his unsuccessful quest to find a religion he could accept, Humphrys tries to make a case for agnosticism, or at least for the existence of agnostics:
What surprised me is how many think of themselves as neither believers nor atheists but doubters. They, too, are sincere. Devout sceptics, if you like. And many of them feel beleaguered. I’m with them. SINCE starting to write my book, I have fallen into the habit of asking almost everyone I meet if they believe in God. And here’s the interesting thing: it was only the atheists who seemed absolutely certain.
This reflects the common misconception about the meaning of atheism we encounter time and time again. A theist is one who believes in some sort of god or gods. One who does not share this belief is an atheist. The people Humphrys wants to call agnostics are atheists who are reluctant to accept the label of atheism. Why? Because they do not say "yes" when asked whether they believe in any gods. By saying, "I'm not sure," they disqualify themselves from being theists. If they are unsure, then they do not believe in any gods and are thus atheists. It is not necessary to add the nonsensical step of requiring them to believe that no gods exist any more than it would be to differentiate between persons who (1) believe that unicorns exist, (2) do not believe that unicorns exist, and (3) believe that no unicorns exist.

Humphrys then provides us with seven erroneous stereotypes of what "militant atheists" supposedly believe. Never mind that there is no such thing as a militant atheist or that Humphrys has already demonstrated that he does not understand atheism. Here is his attempt to "sum up the attitude of those militant atheists who seem to hold believers in contempt:"
  1. Believers are mostly naive or stupid. Or, at least, they’re not as clever as atheists.
  2. The few clever ones are pathetic because they need a crutch to get them through life.
  3. They are also pathetic because they can’t accept the finality of death.
  4. They have been brainwashed into believing. There is no such thing as a “Christian child”, for instance – just a child whose parents have had her baptised.
  5. They have been bullied into believing.
  6. If we don’t wipe out religious belief by next Thursday week, civilisation as we know it is doomed.
  7. Trust me: I’m an atheist. I make no apology if I have oversimplified their views with that little list: it’s what they do to believers all the time.
After erroneously claiming that we believe these things, Humphrys shows why we are wrong on each point. The problem is, with the exception of a variation of #4, I've never encountered an atheist who believes any of these things.

1. Atheists recognize that most believers are neither naive nor stupid (at least not any more so than the rest of us). We do point out the irrationality of their beliefs, but Michael Shermer has convincingly demonstrated that this has nothing to do with intelligence. We recognize that there are plenty of brilliant believers and stupid atheists out there. It isn't about being clever; it is about allowing one's worldview to be informed by reality.

2-3. Atheists recognize that religious belief serves many different functions in the lives of individual believers. We do not consider believers "pathetic," and while we agree that religion can be a crutch for some people, we do not generalize this to all believers. Many believers meet other needs through religion (e.g., belonging, coherence, etc.). Pascal Boyer certainly recognizes this. It is natural for humans to experience anxiety around death. We do not view believers as "pathetic" for having the same death anxiety we all have. Many of us do view belief in afterlife as wish fulfillment, but this does not make anyone pathetic - it simply reminds us that religion is a human-made tradition.

4. I would not say "brainwashed," but I would say "indoctrinated." Believers have been very honest about the importance of indoctrinating children in their beliefs as early as possible. They recognize that critical thinking is the enemy of faith, and they want to get to the children before critical thinking skills are in place. And yes, there is no such thing as a "Christian child." However, there are many children who are raised Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc.

5. Bullied? Hardly. Any developmental psychologist will tell you that bullying is far from necessary. The child innately trusts his or her caregivers. This is a necessary survival mechanism. Some form of bullying might become necessary in adolescence, but it is rarely involved in the religion of children.

6. I have never encountered a single atheist who thinks that religion could possibly be eliminated in his or her lifetime, much less within a week. Religion has been with us from the beginning, and it is not going away anytime soon. Besides, most atheists are not interested in doing anything to abolish religion. Rather, we'd like it to retreat to the private sphere where it gradually declines as more and more people discover that their lives are more meaningful without it.

7. If I cannot answer a convincing "yes" to the question of whether god(s) exist, then I am an atheist. That is what atheism means. Does this mean that I must be 100% certain I am right? Of course not! As for atheists having oversimplified views, my experience has been that many atheists are better versed in religion than the average believer. You have to remember, we are the most despised and distrusted minority in America. I think it is safe to say this is not something we do lightly.

Those of us who celebrated the works of Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens, Dennett, Boyer, Shermer, and others knew that it was just a matter of time before we'd have to confront books loaded with misconceptions about atheism and what atheists believe. That time appears to have arrived. Let's be prepared.

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