July 31, 2010

New Film May Destroy Favored Atheist Symbol

Look at the trailer for the upcoming film, "Easy A" and imagine what this could do to the meaning of a favorite atheist symbol. If this ends up being a hit, people will likely mistake our symbol some sort of odd promotion of the film. Admittedly, almost nobody outside the atheist community seems to recognize this symbol, but now they might assume we are diehard fans of this flick.

Update: Yes, I am fully aware that the red A stood for adulterer long before this film. My concern is that the film will give people yet another way to confuse the meaning of our A. I thought that this went without saying when I posted this; I was wrong.

Idiot of the Week: Iowa Republican Party

Iowa Republican PartyIdiocy on the part of the Tea Party movement is nothing new. We have seen plenty of it, and we are sure to be treated to more as the 2010 midterm elections near. But just when I think I'm starting to habituate to it, something like this comes along.

A new effort by the Iowa Republican Party to revoke President Obama's citizenship is underway. They want to revive an unratified 13th Amendment because they think it would strip Obama of his citizenship for winning a Nobel Prize.

Because we do not already have enough colorful terms to describe these morons, some are now referring to them as "Thirteenthers."

Note. I encourage any of you who insist that the Tea Party has nothing to do with Christian extremism to spend some time at ReligiousRightWatch.

H/T to CaroLINES

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July 30, 2010

Atheists Should Be Wary of Threats to Privacy

privacy.gifOne of the biggest tech stories over the last few years has been the not so gradual erosion of privacy. First it was hackers, illegally accessing databases of customer information and credit card numbers. Then Facebook revealed their determination to share all information provided by users with advertisers and whoever else will pay for it. Now Twitter, Foursquare, and countless others are pushing location based services so users may share information with the world about their precise location throughout every minute of the day.

None of this seems particularly safe, especially the location based stuff. But what do I know? I'm just an atheist in the oppressively religious U.S. who isn't crazy about the idea of others knowing my location at all times.

It looks like Apple may be taking the next step in the form of a new policy requiring iPhone users to share location based data. They are not even offering users the option to opt-out!

We who use these services and buy these products are giving up our privacy, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the average consumer to decipher the fine print and know exactly what he or she is giving up. With atheist teachers being fired for Facebook posts and plenty of Christian extremists who would probably love to be able to track atheists, we need to look before we leap.

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July 29, 2010

Kindle 3 Due August 27

Amazon is set to release the new Kindle 3 on August 27, and it is now available for pre-order. Early reviews are making it sound pretty impressive. There are now two models: one with wi-fi only($139) and one with both wi-fi and free 3G($189). Both are slightly more compact and lighter weight than the second generation device but have double the storage capacity, better contrast screens, longer-lasting batteries, and have been described as a bit faster (see Yahoo! News). Many of the changes seem fairly minor, but reviewers familiar with the previous generation have been quite positive about their implementation. I'm glad I waited.

I Am Fascinated With Idiocy

When I first started doing the Idiot of the Week series here at Atheist Revolution, it was intended to be nothing more than a humorous poke at people who did or said something stupid. I thought it would be fun to break up my usually serious tone with some "Hey everybody, look at the moron" sort of material. Even atheists need a good laugh every now and again! Not surprisingly, most of the "winners" have been Christian extremists, but I have tried to acknowledge others who needed someone pointing at them and laughing.


July 28, 2010

Protecting Our Children From Bible School

vacation_bible_school1.jpgImagine that you're flipping through your local newspaper and come across an advertisement for summer bible school. Many churches hold these kind of programs during the summer, and they tend to be popular with parents looking for some peace and quiet when school is out. I was even forced to attend one for a couple summers.

Most of us would just grimace in disgust upon seeing such an ad and move on. Not Andy (Laughing in Purgatory). He decided to write a letter to the editor of the paper that ran the ad. And what a letter it was! Do yourself a favor and read Andy's letter.

I leave you with this thought: what would happen if we all started to write similar letters? What would happen if we actually managed to get ourselves even somewhat organized? Think of the difference we could make!

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July 27, 2010

Hiding One's Faith to Get Ahead

Glenn BeckMany atheists hide their lack of faith for fear of negative consequences (e.g., being fired from their jobs, family conflict, physical assault, social ostracization). I would imagine that Muslims living in rabidly Christian communities might feel similarly. But it rarely occurs to me that some prominent Christians might have to hide their faith for fear of not being perceived as the right kind of Christian. According to Think Progress, Glenn Beck may be just such a case.

The article describes how Beck, who makes Mormon promotional videos in which he discusses his Mormon faith in detail, conceals his Mormon religion from his largely evangelical fundamentalist audience. He is smart enough to realize that the sort of Christians who make up his audience do not generally consider Mormons to be Christian at all. So he pushes a vague sort of faith and omits details about his own.

July 26, 2010

But I Really Want It!

say-no-to-your-child.jpgOne of the most frustrating aspects of growing up has to be the realization that one is not going to get everything one wants no matter how badly one wants it. We're all familiar with the image of the young child with hand outstretched toward the object of his or her desire, shrieking, "But I want it!" Below a certain age, the child does not understand that wanting something badly is no guarantee that he or she will get it. Some of us outgrow this; others do not.

July 25, 2010

Handling Christian Trolls on Atheist Blogs

TrollAlthough many of the blogging tips I provide here are aimed at atheist bloggers, most have a wider applicability to all sorts of blogs. This one is a bit different because it focuses on how to handle Christian trolls on atheist blogs.

Start by accepting that Christian trolls require some sort of response. I realize it may be tempting just to ignore them because they provide entertainment for some readers. There is nothing quite like a Christian troll to generate lots of comment activity on your posts, and you may find the increased activity desirable. The thing is, these arguably positive effects tend to be short-lived and are likely to alienate the atheist readers who make up the bulk of your audience. Over time, you'll discover that Christian trolls are not contributing anything new, and your readers will tire of seeing the same weak arguments trotted out again and again.

July 24, 2010

Huffington Post is No Friend to Reality-Based Community

huffington post logoAs far as progressive blogs go, Huffington Post is tough to avoid. Many of the stories I see being re-tweeted trace back to HuffPo. They have some top-notch people writing for them, and they are also one of the few left-wing blogs that is big enough to do some solid investigative reporting. They even run quite a few stories relevant to atheism. Unfortunately, I have finally reached the conclusion that I can no longer link to them. As good as their political content is, HuffPo is notorious for promoting quackery.

Idiot of the Week: Tzvi Segal

Contrary to popular belief, not all idiots call the United States their home. For this week's honoree, we must travel to Israel. District court judge Tzvi Segal made legal history this week by sentencing Sabbar Kashur to 18 months in prison for "rape by deception." Evidently, Mr. Kashur introduced himself to the victim as Daniel (a traditionally Jewish name). After they had consensual sex, she learned that he was not in fact Jewish.

This would have been the point in the trial that most judges would have thrown the case out, as it was clear that no crime had been committed. Not Judge Segal.
"If she hadn't thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have co-operated."
Right. So everyone at the singles bars has to be completely honest or they are guilty of a crime? Has this judge ever dated?

H/T to @achura

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July 23, 2010

Sherrod Case is About More Than Critical Thinking

Shirley SherrodAmerican Atheists' Blair Scott has suggested that the recent Shirley Sherrod debacle provides a good example of what happens when critical thinking is largely absent. He's right. This case does reveal a notable absence of critical thinking. But that is not the real lesson, at least not for me. I think that what we need to take from the Sherrod case is that what is often dismissed as mere racism is part of a political strategy that we don't like to discuss.

If You Could Deconvert Someone...

This one is inspired by an excellent pair of questions asked of me on my Formspring account. The initial question was as follows:
If you knew someone who you thought you could deconvert (and not fundamental or evangelical about their beliefs - but it gave them comfort of seeing lost friends again), would you do it?
This question makes one assumption that I question - that it is possible for one person to deconvert another. But we can set that aside and answer as if such a thing was possible. My brief answer was that I would choose to deconvert the person if I thought I could, noting that false comfort is still false.

July 22, 2010

Americans United Urges IRS to Investigate Okla. Religious Group

The following is a press release from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Since it involves church state issues likely to be of concern to atheists, I thought it was important to share.

July 21, 2010

AU_logo_fullcolor.pngAmericans United for Separation of Church and State today asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ, charging that the organization violated federal law by promoting a candidate’s campaign rally.

Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ operates as a tax-exempt group and solicits tax-deductible donations on its Web site, but last month it distributed an e-mail in support of Rep. Sally Kern, a candidate seeking reelection to the state House of Representatives.

Europe Did Not Become Secular Overnight

chp_w_europe.jpgWhile reading an encouraging post about how Australia is following the lead of many other Western nations in leading faith behind at Rationalists's Blog*, I found myself wondering when the U.S. might join the progress. We continue to trail the pack by a large margin, so much so that we are widely regarded as a bunch of Jesus freaks by the rest of the world. But then I remembered that none of these now largely secular countries became that way overnight.

I've never been known for my patience, but I find it helpful to remember that secularization is a long journey, with many obstacles and setbacks. But it is happening elsewhere, and it is up to us to do our part to help it happen in the U.S. too.


*Shouldn't that be "Rationalists' Blog?"

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July 21, 2010

What is God?

god-dictionary.jpgWhat is God? If you don't have a fairly clear answer to this question, then I have one additional question for you. How can you claim to worship something you can't define and don't particularly understand? What does it look like to worship such a thing? More importantly, if you aren't sure what this god is, how is worshiping it any different from worshiping nothing at all?

July 20, 2010

Do Christians Interfere With Your Ability to Buy Beer?

A look inside a self-service Systembolaget in ...
A look inside a self-service Systembolaget in Södertälje, Sweden Created by me October, 2006 in Södertälje, Sweden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I live in a dry county. That means that I cannot buy beverages containing alcohol within the county because stores are not permitted to sell them. The fact that I can be in a normal county where alcohol sales are permitted in about 15 minutes makes this a minor hassle. And since I work in and do virtually all of my shopping in the nearby normal county, the hassle is barely noticeable. At least, it is until I stop to think about it.

The county in which I reside remains dry because the large numbers of Southern Baptists living here want it that way. Local business owners (especially those who own restaurants) periodically manage to put our dry county status on the ballot. The Southern Baptists mobilize on an "alcohol is evil" platform and defeat the measure again and again. So I cannot buy alcoholic beverages near my home because Southern Baptists don't think I should be allowed to do so.

July 19, 2010

Why it Matters Whether Atheism is a Choice

atheism-earth.pngWhen I asked my Twitter followers whether they thought atheism was a choice, most said that atheism did not seem like anything they had deliberately chosen. Instead, they described it as a reflection of the available data (i.e., they don't believe in gods because they've never encountered any evidence that gods exist and not because they made a conscious choice to be an atheist).

This fits my experience too. Now it is time to take a brief look at why it matters whether atheism is a choice.

July 18, 2010

Humanist Symposium #57 is Up

The 57th edition of the Humanist Symposium has been posted at Unequally Yoked. Be sure to check it out.


The Humanist Symposium is always in need of bloggers interested in hosting future editions. If you'd like to support the carnival and bring some extra traffic to your blog, you can find more information here.

We Need Secular Community Resource Centers

communityAlonzo Fyfe (Atheist Ethicist) has come up with a wonderful idea: secular community resource centers. While marveling at a massive mega-church near his home, he began to imagine what could be accomplished by using the money, time, and energy required by such a project to create something truly useful. How many times have you looked at a church and had exactly the same thought?

Alonzo's description of what a secular community resource center might be like sounds great. This sort of thing could be quite valuable, especially in smaller communities where there are few alternatives. Here are some excerpts from his post, accompanied by some additional thoughts:
It has a large lecture hall, with large televisions and an excellent sound system where people can go to see entertaining speakers talk about current events and how they relate to the lives of the people in the community.
Not only would such a great venue attract secular speakers, but it could be used for movie nights (e.g., Jesus Camp, Religulous, etc.) or live webcasts from atheist conventions.
Another department would be concerned with parenting. A third would be concerned with health issues - with collecting resources and providing assistance to members who have an elderly parent or a disabled child or family member to help care for.
The idea would be disseminating secular expertise to assist attendees with all sorts of life problems. I'd also love to see atheist support groups to help atheists navigate the complex challenges of living as an oppressed minority. Imagine the social and educational activities that could take place at such a center.

Sure, something so massive sounds like an impossible task. Alonzo recognized this and provides a follow-up post explaining how to get started with developing a center. I think you'll agree that it is more than manageable. And best of all, areas with functioning atheist groups already have a tremendous head start.

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July 17, 2010

New Vatican Guidelines are Tiny Step

A recent statement by Survivors of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) characterizes the new Vatican abuse guidelines as "...a tiny step closer to action."
The crisis isn’t due to inadequate church policies. It’s due to reckless, secretive and self-serving church officials, who seem to consistently value their own comfort and reputations over the safety of their flocks. Tweaking existing church policies won’t have real impact on bishops’ behavior and won’t make the changes that kids need to be safe.
A discouraging assessment but one with which I agree.

Idiot of the Week: James Hartline

Bee-apisJames Hartline is a Christian extremist based in San Diego, CA. He's managed to convince himself that he is "being used to confront the powers of darkness in San Diego" and has made a name for himself on some of the usual platforms (e.g., the 700 Club, American Family radio, etc.). Like many who do what he does, Mr. Hartline has realized that making absurd claims loudly enough will produce an audience. And like many other Christian extremists, he crosses into idiocy on a regular basis.

It was not surprising that Mr. Hartline would be opposed to the recent efforts by nearby Lemon Grove to reach out to the GLBT community. Their tolerance must have really upset him. You see, Lemon Grove decided to feature the city's GLBT community by hosting an inclusive pride celebration at the Lemon Grove Branch Library.

July 16, 2010

Why Do We Deny Teachers Basic Constitutional Rights?

free_speech_cartoon.jpgWe in the U.S. enjoy many rights, one of the most important of which involves the right to free expression. As long as we do not incite violence or encourage others to engage in serious criminal acts, we are free to write what we wish and to speak our minds. Well, not exactly. You may remember how a middle-school teacher in North Carolina was suspended simply for complaining about some unnamed Christian students on her personal Facebook page. Despite the fact that the school district had no policy on social networking sites, they saw fit to punish this teacher merely for expressing herself.

Sadly, there has been yet another one of these cases, this time involving a private school in Villanova. Teacher Elizabeth Collins has long maintained a personal blog, but she's been fired for something as trivial as sharing her thoughts about an unnamed student's class presentation.

July 15, 2010

Texas Freethought Convention

For those of you within reasonable driving distance from Dallas, TX, the Texas Freethought Convention has been scheduled for October 8-10. You can find more information at the convention website. It is always good to see evidence of a reality-based community here in the South.

July 14, 2010

Taking Back America for Atheists

godless americaMy feelings toward patriotism, or at least what often passes for patriotism often takes, have never been particularly positive. From what I have seen here in the U.S., patriotism tends to take the form of fierce nationalism, American exceptionalism, and mindless redneckery (I know that isn't a word, but how else do you describe the drones chanting "USA USA" at pro-wrestling matches?). There's also the constant god talk that tends to be intertwined with patriotism for many. Can you imagine what would happen if an American president forgot to end a speech with the required "God bless America" phrase? So yeah, for me to suggest that we atheists might benefit from embracing a sort of patriotic atheism is not easy.

Of course, there are other ways of looking at patriotism, reminding us that it does not have to be a negative thing. Perhaps there are would even be benefits for atheists in embracing a healthy sort of patriotism.

July 13, 2010

Deluxe Jesus Action Figure

PZ Myers (Pharyngula) did an insensitive thing in a recent post. He shared the following image from Nick Scipio without telling readers where they could get their hands on one.


Yeah, I know you're wondering why any self-respecting atheist would spend his hard-earned money on something like this. I'm not sure what to say. I have a strange sort of compulsion to get my hands on this sort of thing. I know it doesn't make a lot of sense, but when I see something this incredibly awesome, all self-control goes out the window.

I suppose I can forgive PZ. He didn't know about my illness. And besides, it only took me a few seconds to discover where I can get my own JESUS ACTION FIGURE DELUXE with glow-in-the-dark hands!

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July 12, 2010

Tithing for Atheists: Foundation Beyond Belief

FoundationBeyondBelief.jpgFoundation Beyond Belief is an organization designed to make it easier for people to support charities that do not proselytize. The idea is simple but effective. Members are encouraged to set up automatic monthly deductions to support a rotating selection of charities. Think of it sort of like a secular version of tithing. Cool idea, huh?

The Foundation features ten charities per quarter, and members can select how they would like their contributions distributed among them. This provides a nice degree of flexibility, making it rather easy for a member to allocate his or her contributions as desired.

July 11, 2010

Paranormal Experiences

Brown Lady.jpgAre atheists simply hard-headed sorts who have never had the sort of inexplicable experiences that so many others interpret as evidence of supernatural entities? Maybe we've been surrounded by ghosts, angels, and demons and have just bee too stubborn to see them. Have you ever had an experience that you considered paranormal at the time? If so, how were you able to override that personal experience to reach the conclusion that none of it was real?

July 10, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Chrissy Saterfield

"Who the hell is Chrissy Saterfield?" you may ask. She is a columnist for lunatic fringe website WorldNetDaily (i.e., WorldNutDaily). She is the one who is getting attention for applauding the recent vandalism of the billboard erected in North Carolina by the North Carolina Secular Association.

Ed Brayton (Dispatches From the Culture Wars) quotes Saterfield as follows:
Never would I encourage vandalism, but in this case I think I'll let it slide.

July 9, 2010

Catholic Church Takes Action

Church ScandalInstead of instituting major reforms aimed at reducing the incidence of child rape by their priests and efforts to conceal child rape by their hierarchy, the Roman Catholic Church as settled on an alternative. They've decided that we atheists are the real problem and are establishing a new office to fight secularization in the West. Attacking secularization seems to have become the Church's answer to virtually any problem.

I suggest we keep up the pressure and disseminate information about how people can leave this church.

H/T to The Religion Virus

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July 8, 2010

Afraid to Criticize Islam?

jyllandsposten_crescent.jpgIf there is one thing the various world religions are not known for, it would have to be their tolerance of criticism. Throughout history, we have seen again and again what happens to "heretics" and "apostates," and it generally isn't pretty.

Nick Collins has a thought-provoking article in The Telegraph about political impressionist, Rory Bremner. Bremner, like many comedians I suspect, says that he is afraid to joke about Islam. He describes this sort of self-censorship as an important obstacle for modern comedians. It is not difficult to understand why this would be the case. After all, we've all seen what religious extremists will do out of misguided efforts to defend their religions.

July 7, 2010

Inside a Tennessee Science Classroom

Not having grown up in the South, I recently asked some readers at Mississippi Atheists what it was like to attend high school in Mississippi as atheists. The comments were about what you'd expect: sad and disturbing but not surprising.

This brief video clip is from a 1996 documentary filmed in Dayton, TN. It speaks volumes about what is wrong with American education.

H/T to Panda's Thumb

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July 6, 2010

What Happened to the History Channel?

history channelHuman memory is a fragile thing, subject to all sorts of biases that can make it impossible to distinguish between real and false memories. When I think back to the quality of the programming aired on the History Channel several years ago, it seems like it was far superior to the sort of thing they are airing now. I'm not sure if this is an accurate memory or is just a matter of me viewing the past through rose-colored glasses. But have you seen some of the crap they are now showing?

July 5, 2010

Should You Read The Family?

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American PowerI finished The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power last week, so I thought I should share my overall impressions of a book likely to be of great interests to atheists in the U.S. The Family, written by Jeff Sharlet, describes the secretive Christian extremist organization that brings us the National Prayer Breakfast and became infamous last year during a number of sex scandals involving Republican members of Congress living at their house on C Street. This summed up most of what I knew about the Family before Sharlet hit the talk show circuit to promote his book. I would then learn that Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and other prominent Democrats had been linked to the Family too.

July 4, 2010

A 4th of July Tradition I Can Support

Godless AmericaAs many blogs have posted some sort of content about the Fourth of July (American Independence Day) this week, I have ran across one fascinating tradition some people have adopted as part of their celebration. I don't know who to credit with the idea because I have seen it multiple times. But you know what? I think I finally found a way to celebrate the holiday that makes sense to me and one I can support.

The idea is quite simple, and I am surprised I hadn't thought of it before: Devote some time on the 4th to reading some of the classic documents of American history. Not the revisionist garbage being swallowed by Christian extremists like Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), but the original material. There are so many good ones to choose from, but I think I'll start with these:
There is much the Christian right does not want you to know about American history. Fortunately, the information is out there and can be accessed with little effort.

Happy American Jesus Day!

This is Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), an elected member of Congress speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives. Evidently, this is how those sent to Congress to represent us spend their time.

Rep. Gohmert's lesson is simple: what once was, should always be. Because early Americans made some mistakes with regard to mixing religion and government, we should embrace them and continue to make them. America is a Christian nation because people who lived over 200 years ago were afflicted by religious delusion.

Rep. Gohmert, couldn't the same argument be made about slavery? Couldn't some jackass get up on the floor and read a speech from another former member of Congress in praise of slavery? And wouldn't that mean that America is a nation of slaves? The same could be said for all sorts of other mistakes.

Happy American Jesus Day!

Oh, and if you are bored today or just a sucker for punishment, here's even more of Rep. Gohmert performing his official duties by continuing this same speech.

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July 3, 2010

John V. Doe v. Holy See: Potentially Devastating


The Guardian ran an encouraging article last week on the possible implications of the John V. Doe v. Holy See ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.
...the court's decision that the Vatican does not have legal immunity in a claim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest could have far-reaching ramifications for the church.

Idiot of the Week: Sharron Angle

Sharron AngleThe problem with the Tea party, at least if you are a Republican, is that a candidate who can win a primary seems to have little chance of winning a general election against a competent opponent. Sharron Angle did such a thorough job sticking to conservative media prior to winning the Republican primary for senate in Nevada that she was totally unprepared for her first interview with a legitimate news organization. That came this week and has widely been regarded as disastrous.

July 2, 2010

In Defense of Westboro Baptist Church

phelpschildhatingamerica.jpgYou've undoubtedly heard of Pastor Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. The church, largely consisting of Phelps' own family, is infamous for protesting the funerals of American soldiers killed in combat and other high-profile funerals. Evidently, Phelps believes that any untimely death is the result of cultural acceptance of homosexuality.

I detest what Phelps and his Christian extremist church stand for, and I find their tactics to be utterly despicable. But I defend their right to protest, even when such protests include holding anti-gay signs at funerals.

As much as I hate what Phelps is saying, I defend his right to say it. This is what free speech is about. Anybody can defend speech with which he or she agrees. The real test is hate speech. As long as Phelps is not inciting violence or breaking some other law, he should be free to protest as he sees fit.

Defending Christian extremists' right to spread hate is not always easy. But that is the point - it isn't supposed to be easy. That doesn't make it any less essential.

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July 1, 2010

The Character of the Christian God

I love the experience of encountering an exceptionally bright teenage atheist. It always makes me think about what I was like at their age (a real jackass) and how great it is that they're worlds ahead of where I was. Such individuals will probably be the leaders of the atheist movement in the future, and I confess being in awe of them. They really are our future.

From Raithie, the 16 year-old who writes Teenage Atheist (update: blog no longer active):
If the Bible is indeed a true revelation and hence indicative of his character, then God is nothing but an evil, immoral, immature, sadistic, unjust, egocentric, genocidal, racist and misogynistic prick. He supports the oppression of women and orders them to be submissive. His instructions are that nonbelievers, witches, fortune tellers, homosexuals, liars, people who commit adultery, girls who aren't virgins before marriage etc., should all be murdered and will spend an eternity choking, burning and screaming in unmatchable pain and suffering.

Christians try to get away with this by basing certain aspects of his character and history from the Bible, and then irrationally discard anything contrary to their new, loving God because it doesn't fit well with modern society. However, this doesn't work. You can't cherrypick the parts you like and claim them to be "divine" and true, and then cast off anything contrary as "metaphorical" simply because they don't match up with the modern understanding of morality.
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