April 30, 2010

The End of Religious Freedom in America

ENDA.jpgNo, this title does not mean that we evil atheists were finally able to ban someone's ridiculous "holy" book or even that we would want to do so. It refers to a very telling ad the Family Research Council is using to drum up opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). You see, ENDA would extend workplace nondiscrimination protections to GLBT persons. To the degree that anti-gay bigotry and discrimination are synonymous with religion, it could indeed be a blow to religious freedom.

Looks like we have yet another fear campaign by Christian extremists who are fighting for the right to hate. ENDA would make it more difficult for them to discriminate, and so they oppose it.

H/T to Pam's House Blend

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April 29, 2010

Special Idiot Alert: Bill Donohue

pope_donohue_270.pngNever before in the history of the Idiot of the Week awards have I missed something so egregious that a special announcement during the week is required. This, dear readers, is truly a first. I just wish this one was a bit more fun and far less stomach-turning.

It seems that the Catholic League's Bill Donohue has decided to weigh into the growing Catholic child rape scandal yet again. After blaming the Catholic abuse scandal on homosexuality and arguing that we shouldn't call it pedophillia because some of the victims were 12 or 13, you probably didn't think Donohue could possibly top himself. You'd be wrong. He is now insisting that not all child rape is abusive because some victims have a difficult time separating from their abusers.

April 27, 2010

Blog Tips: Trying Entrecard

entrecard.jpgI have been experimenting with Entrecard for the past couple of months and I am ready to report on my experience. Entrecard is a service that claims to increase blog traffic through an innovative system allowing bloggers to advertise their blog on other blogs. As appealing as that sounds, the bottom line is that I cannot recommend Entrecard as a method for increasing blog traffic, at least not if you happen to be an atheist blogger. For blogs that focus on atheism, I think you'll find Entrecard to be a waste of time, with one exception.

April 26, 2010

Atheists Against Child Rape

pope-benedict.jpgMuch has been made in the media of Richard Dawkins' and Christopher Hitchens' support for a campaign to have the Pope arrested when he visits the UK. It irks me that only atheists seem to be asking for accountability. Isn't child rape usually something that everyone finds upsetting? Are we really expected to ignore it simply because it has been perpetrated and systematically concealed by the Catholic Church? Is that really how worried we are about offending the religious?

April 25, 2010

Obama Visits Evangelist Billy Graham

According to the Associated Press, President Obama went out of his way to visit the home of Christian evangelist Billy Graham today. The visit included "a private prayer."

White House spokesperson Bill Burton described Graham as "an important spiritual leader to past presidents" and "a real treasure to our country."

If this news was not sufficiently disturbing, President Obama also met with Franklin Graham, now notorious for being uninvited to speak at a recent Pentagon event.
In 2001, the younger Graham described Islam as evil. More recently, he has said he finds Islam offensive and wants Muslims to know that Jesus Christ died for their sins.
I am very disappointed with President Obama today.

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Childfree Atheists

childfree_-_biology.jpgAs an atheist who has chosen not to have children, I am used to hearing things like, "But you are exactly the sort of person who should be having kids." I understand that this is a compliment, and I do appreciate it. Still, I find that it gets tiresome after awhile. You see, I have never had any interest in having children and I'm about as confident as anyone could be that this is not going to change. I think we can generally agree that someone who does not want kids, does not particularly enjoy spending time with children, and who does not envy the lives of his friends with children probably isn't the sort of person who should have kids of his own.

April 24, 2010

Petition to End National Day of Prayer

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is hosting an online petition to ask President Obama and every state governor to end the unconstitutional National Day of Prayer. I suggest we all spread the word on this one and make this effort a success. Now that we have the momentum of a federal court ruling on our side, I think this is too important to ignore.


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Idiots of the Week (Video Edition): Teabaggers Again

With April 15 being tax day and April 19 being anti-government extremist day, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the teabaggers (oops, I mean the Tea Party movement) has been back in the news quite a bit lately. I know I just honored them for their wisdom on health care reform, but I can't imagine anyone watching the clip below and feeling that they are not deserving once again.

H/T to the Good Atheist

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April 23, 2010

Secular Coalition Calls on Pentagon to Cancel Christian-Themed Event

The following is a press release from the Secular Coalition for America.

Secular Coalition for America Calls Upon Pentagon to Cancel 'Christian-Themed' Event

Nontheist Advocacy Group Also Asks Pentagon to End Relationship with Dobson Group

For Immediate Release: April 22, 2010
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, 202-299-1091 / press(at)secular.org

The Pentagon should respect the constitutional separation of church and state and cancel a planned National Day of Prayer event, particularly in light of its recent labeling as a "Christian-themed event" by an Army spokesman, the Secular Coalition for America said today. The Pentagon should also sever all operational ties to the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a radical right wing organization headed by the wife of Focus on the Family's James Dobson, and housed in Focus on the Family's headquarters.

"It is bad enough that the administration is going ahead with an observance of the National Day of Prayer, correctly ruled unconstitutional by the courts only last week. But for the Pentagon to hold an explicitly 'Christian-themed event' around the day of prayer is brazenly out of all reasonable bounds, and explicitly exclusionary to U.S. service members of all non-Christian faiths and of no faith," said Secular Coalition for America Executive Director Sean Faircloth, referring to a characterization of the event by Army spokesman Col. Tom Collins, as reported by the Associated Press yesterday. "This event should be cancelled, and the Department of Defense should apologize to all non-Christians who are being rendered second-class by this ill-advised program."

Faircloth also called upon the Pentagon's chaplain's office to end its working relationship with the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a right-wing, theocratic group headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family's James Dobson. "It is difficult to imagine a less wise alliance than one between Pentagon officials and anyone working under the Dobson umbrella. The already-dubious military chaplaincy should end once and for all its connections to Mrs. Dobson's radical group."

On Fox News on April 4, Chaplain Terry Brewly asserted that it was "very true" that there is "no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole," a direct affront to the brave men and women of the military who identify as nontheists. The Secular Coalition for America has advocated strongly for an end to religious proselytizing and coercion in the U.S. military. The group pressed its case for equal rights for nontheist military personnel in its historic meeting with administration officials in February, and its founding director, Lori Lipman Brown, appears in a new documentary on the military chaplaincy, Chaplains Under Fire, premiering at the Newseum in D.C. on April 30.

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April 21, 2010

A Brief Taste of Life After Atheism

It turns out that I was right to predict that my posting here might be a bit inconsistent for awhile (it was). Now I'm trying to get back on track at the same time I catch up with some work I had to postpone. This means that noticeable improvement might still be some time away. But there is one thing I wanted to share about my recent experience that I found quite surprising. In fact, I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. You see, I allowed myself to have something of a vacation from atheism...and I liked it.

April 19, 2010

Atheists, You Are Not Alone

you-are-not-alone.jpgThe political right in the U.S. loves to portray college campuses as hotbeds of secularism where Christianity is under constant assault by depraved liberals. The reality is quite different. Being an atheist, even on campus, can be a lonely and sometimes frightening experience. Atheists need to know that they are not alone, and there is a need to humanize atheists which extends even to such supposedly enlightened environments. This was why I was so happy to see Jen McCreight's (Blag Hag) letter in Purdue's student newspaper and to hear that it received many positive responses.

There are a handful of goals around which I can imagine the entire atheist community uniting. Improving the experience of atheists by promoting atheist civil rights, reducing feelings of isolation common to atheists in heavily religious environments, and replacing anti-atheist bigotry with reality-based information are among them. Letters like Jen's are a great way to get the ball rolling.

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April 18, 2010

Life After Atheism

1190644973350.jpgI do not believe in any sort of gods, and this makes me an atheist. By itself, being an atheist does not compel any sort of action on my part. The fact of my atheism tells you something about what I do not believe but virtually nothing about how I live my life.

When my atheism is combined with my beliefs in the importance of civil rights and awareness of public attitudes toward atheists, it makes sense to discover that I am motivated to promote atheism as a civil rights issue. Similarly, when my atheism is combined with my conviction that theistic belief (i.e., that some sort of god or gods exist) is harmful to society, it makes sense that I am motivated to speak out against religion, work to reduce its influence, etc. And yet, I would welcome no longer having to think of such matters. Life after atheism sounds pretty good.

April 17, 2010

Idiots of the Week: Those Defending Pedophile Priests

pedophile-priests.pngIn recent discussions I have had on the question of how anyone could remain a Roman Catholic after mounting evidence that their church has been enabling child rape and lying about it, I have been surprised to learn how few are willing to acknowledge the reality of the evidence itself. I suppose that this sort of denial could be a form of idiocy all by itself, but that is not the focus of this post. Rather, I'm choosing to "honor" the Catholics who have been enabling child rape for decades.

April 16, 2010

National Day of Prayer is Unconstitutional

nationaldayofprayer.jpgYesterday turned out to be a big day for proponents of church-state separation. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled in favor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, determining that the federal law establishing a National Day of Prayer violates the establishment clause of the Constitution.

This case goes back to 2008, when the FFRF sued then President George W. Bush and his press secretary Dana Perino. Of course, the defendants are now President Barack Obama and press secretary Robert Gibbs. The law establishing a National Day of Prayer goes all the way back to 1952 when Rev. Billy Graham helped to establish it.

April 15, 2010

Arresting the Pope

You can file this one under "won't happen but should happen," which is unfortunately where the prosecution of former Vice President Cheney for war crimes appears to be stuck.

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Next Justice Must Advocate Enforcement of Establishment Clause

The following is from an action alert from the Secular Coalition for America. This is a particularly important one.

John Paul Stevens is not just any Justice. John Paul Stevens is a Justice for the ages. Since 1975 he has been a stellar voice for secular values on our Supreme Court, and he has consistently stood for the timeless secular character of our constitutional heritage.

President Obama now has a momentous responsibility that goes far beyond any one news cycle or any transitory political climate. The decision as to who will replace Justice Stevens on the Supreme Court is one of the most important and most lasting this president will ever make.

Click here to e-mail President Obama

April 13, 2010

Rational Christianity

jesus just at your dinosaurI have often thought of atheism as the logical outcome of reason applied to the question of gods. But is there any way in which we could conceive of a rational Christianity? That is, could one arrive at Christianity through rational means without any reliance on faith?

Intuitively, this seems quite unlikely. Christianity is based on faith (i.e., belief in the absence of evidence), and we know that faith is inherently irrational. But could someone arrive at Christianity with no faith whatsoever? Is it at least possible to imagine a Christianity existing without any sort of faith?

No matter how much we strive for rationality, we all have irrational beliefs. We all make mistakes. We all follow false leads at times and end up convinced of things that simply aren't true. What if a religious believer (albeit mistakenly) believed that he or she had sufficient evidence to support the existence of some sort of god? This person would be wrong, but would it at least be possible to imagine a god belief that was entirely void of faith?

April 11, 2010

iPad Envy and the Pursuit of Rationality

iPad.jpgI've read a number of iPad reviews, so I feel like I have a generally accurate idea of what it can do and what it cannot do. I've read several expert opinions converging on the recommendation that people generally avoid buying a first-generation iPad. I've also asked myself what I would do with an iPad given that it does not run OS X, given that I already have a Mac laptop that does everything I need and much more, and given that I generally detest touch screen input. For me, buying an iPad would clearly be an exercise in irrationality. And yet, that doesn't mean I don't still kind of want one.

April 9, 2010

Atheism and U.S. Political Discourse

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington.
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It makes me feel sick to hear about teabaggers spitting on members of Congress, using racist and homophobic slurs, and throwing bricks through windows. Seeing Republican members of Congress egging them on is even harder to stomach. Part of me thinks that this is precisely what happens when we throw accountability out the window, but that doesn't mean I don't want to see it change.

April 7, 2010

Expect Sporadic Posting for Awhile


I have some unplanned house guests. I'm not yet sure how long they'll be staying, but it will almost certainly interfere with my ability to maintain a regular posting schedule. I'll have to post when I can, and my writing time is going to be limited for awhile. I appreciate your patience.

In the meantime, check out the Humanist Symposium #52.

April 5, 2010

Time for Catholics to Disown the Pope

nxn5l.jpgOkay, I told myself I wasn't going to rant any more over the latest series of Catholic child rape scandals and systematic efforts by the Church to hide them until I had calmed down at least a little bit. I was doing okay until I saw this article from the BBC. From this article, I learned that Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pope's own personal preacher, has compared the criticism the Pope has faced in the aftermath of news of his role in concealing molestation by priests with anti-Semitism and the "collective violence" Jews have suffered. That loud sound you just heard was my head exploding.

You know who should be compared with the Jews and the violence they have suffered? All the innocent children raped by Catholic priests.

April 4, 2010

Happy Zombie Jesus Day 2010!

Zombie JesusToday is the day that many Christians celebrate the supposed resurrection of a man who has been dead for over 2,000 years (if he lived at all). Believe it or not, some of these Christians go so far as to claim that they have a "personal relationship" with this re-animated corpse and that they love him. Best of all, they insist that he loves them back and is active in their lives in various ways. You know, I love horror movies as much as the next guy, but this all seems like a bit much to me.

Still, it is not my intent to rain on anyone's parade. Far be it for me to tell anybody that they shouldn't celebrate Easter if they enjoy doing so. In fact, I think there really is something worth celebrating today even for this atheist. I plan to celebrate the joy I feel in knowing that I managed to escape this particular delusion and move on with my life.

I suppose I get to celebrate that every day, but Easter seems like a great excuse to spend some time reflecting on it. I used to believe many of the absurd things most Christians claim to believe. I no longer do. If that sort of progress isn't worth celebrating, I'm not sure what is.
Happy Zombie Jesus Day!

April 3, 2010

The Truth About Easter Eggs

Are your children playing with Lucifer's testicles?I don't recall where I found this picture. It seems to be all over the Internet this time of year. It has to be a joke, doesn't it? There couldn't really be such a book, could there?

What does it say about Christianity that it is even remotely possible that something like this might exist and that its author could be serious? And even if it is a joke, I imagine we've all seen tracts that were even stranger than this.

When I see this sort of thing, it makes me think about how some of the Southern Baptists here in Mississippi react to Halloween. They actually seem to be scared by the idea of demons walking the Earth! So why is it that much of a stretch that we'd be able to find Christians quaking in terror over the idea of innocent children playing with Satan's balls?

I still think it has to be a joke, but the ambiguity seems to convey something meaningful about Christianity.

Update: It appears that Landover Baptist may be responsible for this gem.

Idiot of the Week: Sarah Palin

If an atheist said the following about Christians, charges of "militant atheism" would be widespread:
To the teams that desire making it this far next year: Gear up! In the battle, set your sights on next season's targets! From the shot across the bow - the first second's tip-off - your leaders will be in the enemy's crosshairs, so you must execute strong defensive tactics. You won't win only playing defense, so get on offense! The crossfire is intense, so penetrate through enemy territory by bombing through the press, and use your strong weapons - your Big Guns - to drive to the hole. Shoot with accuracy; aim high and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win.

Focus on the goal and fight for it. If the gate is closed, go over the fence. If the fence is too high, pole vault in. If that doesn't work, parachute in. If the other side tries to push back, your attitude should be "go for it." Get in their faces and argue with them. (Sound familiar?!) Every possession is a battle; you'll only win the war if you've picked your battles wisely. No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD! [Italics in the original]

April 2, 2010

How to Promote Atheism With Almost No Effort

So you think atheism is worthwhile, do you? You'd like to see more people abandon religious delusion and embrace reality, huh? You'd even like to see atheism become the norm in your country, wouldn't you? Okay, prove it.

What if I told you that you could promote the atheist meme (i.e., there probably aren't any gods) without even having to leave your home? What if you could do it from where you are sitting right now, without having to spend a dime, and with almost no effort whatsoever?

April 1, 2010

U.S. Not Nation Under God

Cross in Flag.jpgWhenever an atheist brings up the many problems associated with the inclusion of "one nation under god" in the pledge of allegiance, one can be sure that other atheists will dismiss the complaint as unimportant. I've been on the receiving end of this dismissal countless times, and I expect at least some of you can relate. Of course, the criticism is not usually that correcting the pledge is unimportant but that it is less important than so many other areas of necessary action. It is a matter of deciding how to pick one's battles.