June 30, 2010

You Do Not Have a Personal Relationship With Jesus Christ

Zombie JesusIn evangelical circles, it is common to hear the claim that one has a "personal relationship" with Jesus. And yet, anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of what "personal relationship" means recognizes that this cannot be the case. Of course, that is not to say that some of my Christians do not believe that they have such a relationship or that they are somehow less good Christians for not actually having such a relationship. Nobody has such a relationship, so we're all equal in that regard.

How Can I Make Such a Bold Claim When I Don't Even Know You?

Excellent question. Here is a quick preview of the points I will make:
  1. Even if it could be proven beyond doubt that the Jesus character described in the Christian bible was based on a real historical person, this person would have died over 2,000 years ago.
  2. There is only one way an individual can meaningfully be said to have a personal relationship with a deceased person.
  3. The "personal relationship" you have with a deceased person is fundamentally a relationship you have with yourself.
Let's get started.

June 29, 2010

Upcoming Books on Atheism

While perusing Amazon.com, I ran across a few upcoming titles on atheism that sounded interesting:
Has anybody heard anything about these? I still have a few books I'm working on now, but I think these sound quite good.

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June 28, 2010

How to Find an Atheist Support Group

support group.jpgIn many parts of the U.S., being an atheist can be a lonely experience. Persons living in such areas may face tremendous pressure to conceal their atheism. For many reasons, we need a strong secular community, and the local level is where to start. The good news is that we appear to be in the midst of a growth spurt in atheist-oriented groups. In this post, I want to address how atheists can find like-minded individuals with whom to connect. I'll offer specific tips on where you can go to find other atheists in your area.

June 27, 2010

North Carolina Secular Association Billboard Vandalized

Remember the "One Nation Indivisible" that the North Carolina Secular Association erected on the Billy Graham Parkway in North Carolina? Of course you do. As the Southern Atheist Gentleman reports, it was already vandalized.

vandlized billboard.jpg

We see this sort of thing again and again. Evidently, our message - even our existence - is so troubling to some that they engage in criminal behavior. What this tells me is that we need to increase our efforts in the promotion of atheism.

H/T to Friendly Atheist

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Bullied by Catholics

mother-teresa.jpgSuppose that you own a small business. You have a small store located in one of the millions of strip malls that have become the American landscape. One day, a couple of representatives from a local Catholic church come into your store and request a few minutes of your time. They show you a picture of large sign they want you to place in your store window so it will be visible from the street. The sign displays an image of Mother Teresa and is intended to honor her 100th birthday.

You politely decline the request, keeping your annoyance to yourself because upsetting potential customers is never wise. The Catholics thank you for your time and leave. You consider the matter closed and move on with your life.

June 26, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Gretchen Carlson

1709724154.jpgWouldn't it be great to hand pick three of our nation's top idiots and put them on TV? They could be on the same show, a show where none of them was even mildly qualified to discuss the subject matter. If you've ever seen Fox & Friends, you know that this is no fantasy.

I almost feel sorry for Gretchen Carlson. It cannot be easy to be the smart one on Fox & Friends. Maybe she feels left out sometimes, longing for the liberation that comes from letting one's idiocy hang out. Well, she's earned Idiot of the Week recognition with this gem:
This is what being President of the United States is all about. It’s these tough, huge, monumental decisions. It’s not about how you run a campaign, it’s not about whether or not you’re popular, it’s not about whether you’re a celebrity or good-looking or tall or short. It’s in a time of crisis, making these executive decisions. It’s just like our job…what’s the role of an anchor during huge breaking news? You remember growing up? You’d tune to the television, and that one moment during the year, they would have to carry a story all along, It’s the same thing as being the President of the United States!
President Carlson, you are an idiot!

H/T to the Field Negro

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DRM Makes Me Rethink Kindle

Kindle Wireless Reading Device (6" Display, Global Wireless, Latest Generation)After I posted about Amazon's recent price drop on the Kindle, a reader sent me a link to an interesting article addressing an issue one of you brought up when I first posted about the Kindle: the issue of who actually owns electronic books one would buy to read on the Kindle. This is where digital rights management (DRM) comes into play, and this definitely is something to ponder before buying a Kindle, a Nook, or a similar product.

June 25, 2010

One Nation Indivisible

Time for a scary thought. Ready? What if many Americans are too stupid for many forms of atheist activism to affect them? The North Carolina Secular Association erected a great billboard in their state, and yet, it seems that even some in the local media cannot figure out the point.

Doesn't anybody realize that the "under god" crap was not part of the original pledge of allegiance? Are we atheists really going to have to add U.S. history to the growing list of things about which we need to educate the public?

Before I get carried away with a rant, here is how I'm trying to look at the situation: ads like this are still going to reach some people and get them thinking. There will always be morons who miss the point entirely, but they probably aren't who we're speaking to most of the time anyway.

We need ads like this in every community across the U.S.

H/T to Atheist Media Blog

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The "No True Christians" Claim


Proud Atheists was an outstanding atheist blog that I read for years until it closed following the death of its author. A recent post titled Dear Christians, “I Simply Do Not…” was a great atheist manifesto. But what I actually want to talk about here is a comment left on a post rather than the post itself. Here is the full unedited comment:
Please do not lump all Christians in the "born again" group, as they are really not true Christians. If you are open minded yes I can tell you how to find out weather God is real or not ( you will find that God is real ). One of the things you will find is there is a man walking the planet at this time he is the Rebirth of Jesus Christ, you can tell who he is by saying the right prayers in his presence when the time is right he will come forward in the apocalipse, it’s really not what people think. We who are of the oldest Christian sect know better then the wantabees who think they know Christ and God. The other way requires praying also and is less hard on one’s soul. In the end anyone who wants can prove to themselves God is real just takes pray and a open mind and a little guidance (from the right people) to find God.

June 24, 2010

Secular Coalition Opposes Kagan

newsflash_logo.gifThe Secular Coalition for America came out today in opposition to the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. According to their press release, Kagan "does not appear to embrace the fundamental American principle of church-state separation with the vigor and force of Justice John Paul Stevens."

What You Need to Know About Sharron Angle

Sharron AngleI've been posting most of my more politically-focused material at Red State Progressive (update: blog no longer active), but this one is important enough and relevant enough to atheists and others who value church-state separation that I wanted to share it with you. Sharron Angle is the Republican candidate running for Sen. Harry Reid's (D-NV) seat. You know her primarily for her advocacy of armed insurrection by right-wing extremists against the U.S. government if they do not get their way in our next election. As it turns out, there are plenty of other things you should know about Sharron Angle.

June 23, 2010

Kindle Now or Wait Until August?

You have probably heard by now that Amazon.com has announced a big price cut to the latest generation Kindle 2. The new price of $189 makes it more tempting than ever to pick one up, especially since I've already been wanting one. The only thing stopping me are the rumors that Kindle 3 is expected to drop in August, featuring a higher contrast screen, a speedier processor, and who knows what else. Since I still have a pile of real books to read, I'll likely wait until August to see what the new one is like. I hate the idea of buying something like this so close to the end of the model's lifespan.

Success of Atheist Community Depends on Ability to Look Beyond Our Experiences

belonging.jpgOver the last few years, I have written quite a bit about the importance of atheist community. I have argued that we need a secular community, applauded the growth of atheist groups across the world, and suggested that we could learn much from other successful movements. This is important stuff because we have strength in numbers and because those who would do us harm count on our disorganization and apathy. In this post, I'd like to address what has been one of our primary obstacles and suggest a way through it.

June 22, 2010

Which is More Offensive?

jake-knotts.jpgState Senator Jake Knotts (R-SC) wears many hats. He is not only a state senator and strong candidate for Boss Hogg impersonator, but he also appears to be one of those wonderful sorts of morons who takes great pride in his idiocy. My question for you is simple: Which of the following statements from Sen. Knotts do you personally find more offensive and why?

Statement #1

About fellow Republican Nikki Haley, currently running for governor:
We already got one raghead in the White House. We don’t need another in the Governor’s Mansion.
Statement #2

When a reporter asked where the press had failed to hold Haley accountable as he had claimed, Knotts replied,
Have you ever asked her if she believes in Jesus Christ as her lord and savior and that he died on the cross for her sins? Have you ever asked her that?
So which of these statements is more offensive to you and why?

H/T to Unreasonable Faith

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Child Rape Not Limited to Catholic Clergy

Southern Baptist.gifI have written quite a bit about the Catholic church and their long history of clergy abuse and systematic efforts to protect offenders and conceal crimes. I have supported efforts to expose these crimes and their concealment, and I will continue to do so as long as it remains necessary. But we do not have the luxury of ignoring Protestant denominations, some of which have their own problems when it comes to clergy abuse. As I noted here previously, Southern Baptists have been especially guilty of not handling abuse by their clergy well.

June 21, 2010

Understanding Apathetic Atheists

apathy.jpgLaughing in Purgatory had a good post recently about how to get apathetic atheists to take action. This isn't something I've written much about, and it isn't something I've seen many other atheists addressing. We all acknowledge that it is a problem, but we have few solutions.

As I read the post, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to see if we can't generate a list of some of the most common reasons for apathy among atheists. That is, what leads atheists to become apathetic and what makes it easier for them to remain that way? Maybe this would be a good first step in figuring out how to reduce apathy?

June 20, 2010

The U.S. Senate has an Official Chaplain

You probably knew that the U.S. Senate has opened each session with a prayer since its inception. But did you know that the Senate has an official chaplain? A nation whose Constitution does not even mention gods sees fit to employ an official chaplain for the most powerful legislative body in the land. Who pays this guy's salary, and how can this possibly be legal? He's providing guidance to our senators on their votes and leading Christian bible study for them!

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The Lunacy of Rebuilding Touchdown Jesus

butterjesus-1.jpgI might have the distinction of being the only atheist blog not to post the story of the "Touchdown Jesus" monstrosity burning to the ground after being hit by lightning in Ohio. I really didn't have anything to add that wasn't covered exhaustively elsewhere. But now that it appears Christians are planning to rebuild a fireproof version of this eyesore at the cost of $250,000, I feel I must say something.

June 19, 2010

Blog Tips: Find Out Who is Linking to You

earthnetwork1.jpgOne of the effective ways of increasing traffic to your blog and being a good citizen of the blogging community is to promote posts on other blogs that link to you. When you find a post on another blog that has linked to one of your posts, voting it up on StumbleUpon, Reddit, and the like benefits you directly in the form of additional traffic and indirectly in that the blogger who linked to you may be even more likely to do so in the future. This is a good example of the sort of reciprocity I have advocated here. But can you possibly be expected to keep up with who is linked to your content? That is what you will learn in this tip.

Idiots of the Week: Americans

congratulations-idiot.gifI realize this one is long overdue, but it is high time to honor the American people. And yes, this includes me. Sure, we've done plenty of stupid things, and our religiosity alone warrants this award each and every week. But the idiocy I want to highlight here is a bit different. Okay, not really, but I'm going to pretend it is to make the point I want to make.

According to CNN, there was a problem with President Obama's disappointing speech about BP's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And no, they weren't referring to the problems I noted here recently. No, the problem was that most Americans are too stupid to understand what he was saying.

June 18, 2010

Atheist Revolution Adds CommentLuv

commentluv-blogger.gifNeed another incentive to comment on Atheist Revolution? I've enabled the CommentLuv plugin through Intense Debate. This adds a small field right below the comment field where you can add your blog's URL when you comment. CommentLuv will then automatically add a link to your most recent blog post and include it with your comment. This lets other readers see what you've been working on and may bring you some additional traffic. Just another benefit to comments on the blog itself instead of replying to Feedburner-generated emails.

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Christians are Right to Criticize Comedy Central's Double-Standard

comedycentral.jpgIt is not unusual for atheists and Christians to come together on criticizing the oppressive nature of Islam. The violence over cartoons depicting Mohammed is a good example, as many Christians agree with atheists that murdering people for drawing or publishing cartoons is ridiculous. But we would do well to remember that there are plenty of Christians who look on the power of Muslims to restrict criticism of their religion with some degree of envy.

It was not long after Comedy Central announced that there were planning a cartoon featuring Jesus in a modern context that Christian groups begin to object. And you know what? They are making at least one valid point: it does appear that Comedy Central is guilty of a double-standard.

June 17, 2010

Confronting Religiously Motivated Idiocy

Back in 2008, I wrote about the results of a Baylor University poll that found:
  • 55% of Americans believe that they are protected by guardian angels
  • 25% claim to have witnessed miraculous healings
  • 20% claim to have heard some sort of god speak to them
  • 8% speak in tongues
If you are an atheist living in the U.S., you have undoubtedly seen data just like these countless times. Like me, you have probably even struggled to understand how such beliefs could be present in our modern age.


June 16, 2010

Obama's Solution to the Gulf Oil Spill: Prayer

I recorded President Obama's historic speech from the Oval Office because I was in a foul mood when it aired after a stressful day. I just finished watching it. I found it quite disappointing. Rather than demonstrating leadership, offering a way forward, asking for sacrifice from the public, pushing the Senate to pass the alternative energy policy we desperately need, convincing us that steps are being taken to prevent this from happening again, or any number of other needed measures, he largely talked in naive generalities. The central message seemed to be that we will triumph over this oil spill but nobody has any idea how. And then, there was the drivel about prayer at the end of the speech.

Forgiveness: Atheists Can Do It Too

forgiveness flowerThere are not very many ideas routinely characterized as Christian (regardless of their actual origin) that I like, but forgiveness is one of them. Granted, I find all the stuff about divine forgiveness, sin, salvation, heaven, and the like to be laughably absurd. These notions are little more than the most primitive forms of wish fulfillment, and we would do well to abandon them. However, the idea that we should strive to forgive others who have wronged us does hold some appeal.

Christians are sometimes criticized for pushing forgiveness to unrealistic extremes (e.g., turning the other cheek). That may be deserved. I think we can all imagine scenarios where forgiving someone might be almost impossible or even contraindicated. And if forgiveness is about the other person, then we can find countless examples of persons or organizations who do not deserve forgiveness in the least.

June 15, 2010

Nazi Germany: A Christian Nation Run Amok?

A meme is a collection of cultural ideas that can be transmitted between minds via various forms of communication and that may respond to selective pressures. We can think of memes as cultural analogues of genes, which are similarly affected by natural selection. Many atheists find memes to be useful constructs for understanding religious beliefs.

One particularly influential meme that has been propagated by many American Christians is the claim that Hitler was an atheist and that atheism played an important role in the atrocities he committed. While this meme is by no means universally accepted among Christians (e.g., many modern White supremacist groups idolize Hitler and are proud of their Christianity), it is common enough that every American atheist will encounter it sooner or later. From what I can tell, the function of this particular meme is less about history and more about distancing oneself from the bad behavior of one's Christian ancestors while impugning the morality of modern atheists.

June 14, 2010

Atheist Revolution Comes to Facebook

Facebook_icon.pngI'm not sure why I waited so long to start a "fan page" for Atheist Revolution on Facebook. Love it or hate it, there is no denying that lots of people use it. It occurred to me that some readers might like enjoy the opportunity to connect with other readers on Facebook, and so the Atheist Revolution page was born.

This is still a bit new to me, so I'm open to suggestions about how I can make the new page more useful. And as always, I appreciate your support.

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June 13, 2010

Is Atheism a Choice?

I have been conducting an informal (i.e., non-scientific) poll of my Twitter followers on the following question:
Is atheism a choice? I mean, could you simply start believing in fairy tales again if you wanted to?
choiceObviously, the manner in which I worded the question was fairly poor by anyone's standards. But I'm not sure it would have made much difference in this case. The unanimous response I've received is that atheism is not a choice and really isn't even so much a decision as a reflection of the available data.

The question of whether atheism is a choice is an important one, with many implications for how to spread the atheist meme, how to interact with believers, and the like. After all, if atheism is not really a choice, then must we not make the same concession for religious belief?

June 12, 2010

Atheism, Agnosticism, and Why We Should Identify Ourselves as Atheists

Here is Michael Nugent, Chairperson of Atheist Ireland, speaking at the South Place Ethical Society in London about atheism, agnosticism, and the value of those of us who do not believe in gods identifying ourselves as atheists.

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Idiot of the Week: Barack Obama (Again)

obama.jpgI could have taken the easy way out this week and simply gone with Pat Robertson for this week's idiot. He was in the news again, sharing the sort of idiocy for which he is known. Maybe I should have done so; it would have been far more pleasant to write that post. But I think I'll go in a different direction this week. I'm again going with President Obama.

June 11, 2010

Worship as Self-Love

worship.jpgHow exactly does one worship something one cannot define, something for which one has no coherent definition? How could this possibly be distinguished from worshiping nothing? It would seem to me that the best someone could do would be to worship a vague idea of this undefined something. And where would such an idea come from? Undoubtedly, it would be influenced by many sources (e.g., a text, the teachings of one's parents or one's church). But at root, it would come from one's own mind. It would be one's interpretation of various sources, blended to form a conceptualization that would be similar but not identical to that of other devotees.

June 10, 2010

Should Atheists Help Predominately Christian People in Need?

helping-hands.jpgSince the earthquake struck Haiti, it became clear that countless atheists were interested in donating to relief efforts. Some contributed immediately to a variety of organizations without regard for whether such organizations might have a religious agenda; others contributed to explicitly secular efforts designed to help combat the stereotype that atheists are uninterested in charitable giving.

I noted a recent example of the latter in the form of Non-Believers Giving Aid, and there have been several others establishing ways for atheists to support relief efforts without having to support proselytizing. What I had not anticipated in this context was the question raised by one commenter on a post I wrote about Haiti: whether atheists should give at all to help a predominately Christian country such as Haiti.

June 9, 2010

The Family: Worse Than Christian Extremism

sharlet-the_family.jpgThe publication of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet first opened our eyes to an secretive world few had imagined. Right here in the U.S., something resembling a shadow government right out of a political thriller had been operating under our noses for decades. Powerful members of Congress from both parties have been meeting together and with assorted world leaders in prayer sessions led by anti-democratic extremists without our knowledge. We know "the Family" primarily thanks to the high-profile Republican sex scandals at the "C Street House," but I am discovering in the pages of Sharlet's book that what still hasn't received sufficient attention in the mainstream media is far more disturbing.

According to a post by Bruce Wilson (Huffington Post), the Family is essentially a Christian dominionist group. Sharlet's book confirms this to some degree but contains more than a few surprises. There is more than Christian extremism happening here, much more. What I am beginning to realize is that progressive, moderate, and even fairly conservative Christians have as much if not more to fear from the Family than we atheists. It is clear that some of what I wrote previously about this organization requires considerable expansion.

June 7, 2010

Share Your Tips For Those Starting New Atheist Blogs

Setting up a new blog is hard. Many of you know this very well from your own experience. I remember spending at least the first full year of this blog having little idea of what I was doing (I still feel that way sometimes). But what I had going for me back in 2005 when I started Atheist Revolution was that there were not very many active atheist blogs around. I had only a handful of models to use, but I also had the freedom of a niche that was still wide open. Starting a new atheist blog today is a very different story.


Not only do you need a good name for your new atheist blog, but you need a way to set yourself apart in an increasingly crowded niche. Maybe you can do what someone else is doing but better. Maybe you have a novel idea for something that nobody is doing adequately yet. And then there are all the mechanics of attracting readers. In any case, the more deliberate you can be about your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them.

What tips do you have for those who are hoping to launch their new atheist blogs?

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Former "Fixer" Describes His Job of Concealing Catholic Clergy Abuse

The Freethinker recently posted what should be a massive story but one which seems to have been ignored by the U.S. media so far. During a radio interview, former Catholic priest and Benedictine monk, Patrick Wall, provided a detailed description of his work as a "fixer" for the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.. His job was to conceal child abuse perpetrated by clergy.

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June 6, 2010

Humanist Symposium #55 at No Forbidden Questions

No Forbidden Questions is hosting the 55th edition of the Humanist Symposium. Be sure to check it out and support reality-based blog carnivals.


Catholic Priest Makes Money Molesting Children

The story of Oliver O'Grady is disturbing on so many levels. He has admitted to molesting many children, both boys and girls, of various ages, reports sleeping with two mothers in order to gain access to their children, and even spent seven years in prison for a 1993 conviction for the sexual abuse of a child. And yet, he will be paid $788/month for 10 years (totaling $94,560) by an annuity the Catholic church bought for him seven years ago in what has been described as "hush money" to prevent him from testifying against Catholic officials who allegedly knew what he was doing and simply continued to transfer him from one parish to another.

According to church officials, the annuity was necessary to get rid of O'Grady because defrocking a priest is simply too difficult. So when O'Grady, serving time in prison on a child sexual abuse conviction, was up for parole, the church paid him off to leave. The associate director of the office of Child and Youth Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said this practice is "rare, but not unheard of."

H/T to Pharyngula

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