October 31, 2010

Halloween is Too Evil to Fall on a Sunday

halloween hangoverToday is Halloween in the U.S., but the trick-or-treaters came last night for some reason. I can't remember if this happens nationwide when Halloween falls on a Sunday or if this is a Mississippi thing. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised either way.

I can't help wondering who exactly agreed to move Halloween a day early and whether they did so because they didn't want to pollute a Christian Sabbath with Halloween evil. So instead, someone decided to shift it to the Jewish Sabbath. I guess it is okay to ruin that one. Unless I'm missing something, this sounds like yet another example of Christian privilege.

I actually feel sorry for the Christian children who will have to spend this morning in church while coming down from their candy high. I feel even sorrier for those who are deprived of the fun altogether because their parents are so superstitious they won't allow it.

Oh well. At least I no longer need to buy Halloween candy today like I had planned. I suppose that's something.

October 30, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Clint McCance

In this special douchebag edition of Idiot of the Week, we "honor" Clint McCance, vice-president of the Midland School District in Pleasant Plains, Arkansas. As the rest of us were wearing purple to call attention to the role that anti-gay bullying played in a spate of recent suicides among LGBT youth, McCance posted the following on his Facebook page:

McCance Facebook

And this was just the tip of the iceberg. As some of McCance's Facebook friends called him out on his hate, they were treated to even more of it.

McCance has apologized for making "ignorant comments" and says that he will resign from the school board.

If there is a lesson here for the rest of us, and I believe there is, it is that far more work needs to be done to create a safe environment for our children regardless of their sexual orientation. The same could be said (and should be said) about those who are bullied because of their refusal to go along with the religious delusion that still afflicts the majority of the population. Bullying is wrong, and the fact that it is often done in the name of Christianity does not change this one bit.

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October 29, 2010

A Test of Adgitize for Blog Advertising

As I mentioned recently, I've been doing some experimenting with blog advertising. I thought some of you with your own blogs might be interested to hear about my experience with some of the services I've tried. I'll start with Adgitize.

Adgitize your web site.

Adgitize is actually fairly similar to Entrecard in that they encourage users to click on other blog ads. The main difference is that while Entrecard rewards you with credits, Adgitize rewards you with money. At least, that is the pitch.

October 27, 2010

Additional Thoughts on Offending Others

christian oppressionWhile watching college football the other day, I noticed at least one kicker who crossed himself Catholic-style just before each kick. It did not seem to matter than he was playing for a public university rather than a religious one. Sure, plenty of athletes are known to have their superstitious rituals, but I found this one particularly annoying.

Why would I possibly find this annoying? I suppose it reminds me of child rape, a conspiracy of silence, and African genocide. I have come to associate these things with Catholicism. But this is my perception, and I'm reasonably confident that this kicker didn't mean to promote any of this by engaging in his silly ritual.

Shortly after watching this game, I read that the Archbishop of Westminster has been encouraging Catholics to make even more of a spectacle of their ridiculous faith than normal.
The Archbishop of Westminster says Catholics should be more ready to make the sign of the cross and say "God bless you" to people.
Great. Because more religion is always the answer to...well...pretty much everything.

October 25, 2010

Meditations on Death: Fear

fear of deathWe do not do a good job of talking about death and dying in Western culture, especially here in the U.S. Perhaps this is part of why we have so many hang-ups on the subject. This series is designed to stimulate thought and discussion on the difficult subject of death.

If atheists view death as an ending of the self, the termination of everything we call "I," does this mean it is something to be feared? For some of us, the idea of returning to nothingness does indeed provoke fear. Others find the idea of nothingness too abstract to elicit strong emotion. And still others, including me, lost our fear of nothingness somewhere along the path of life, even as we developed new and far more terrifying fears.

October 23, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Christine O'Donnell (Again)

christine-o-donnellYes, I am in complete agreement with all the criticism I have seen about how much time the media is wasting on Christine O'Donnell. She is going to lose the Delaware race by a considerable margin, and it does make more sense to cover close races. And yes, all she is really doing at this point is following in Palin's footsteps, ensuring that she will be a well-paid symbol fir years to come. I highlight her again because her latest idiocy gives me the perfect excuse to make a point about the increasingly disturbing position of the Republican Tea Party on separation of church and state.

October 21, 2010

We Should All Support Atheist Organizations

American AtheistsBlair Scott (American Atheists) recently posted an excellent reminder of why it is so important for atheists to join at least one of the fine atheist organizations that works to protect church state separation and advance atheist civil rights. He described the refusal of a city council in King County, NC to remove a Christian flag from a veteran's memorial. It did not bother the council one bit that displaying this flag was unconstitutional. It was only when they realized that it would cost them $300,000 to fight it in court that they backed down.

As Blair said, it is a shame that we do not have any sort of Constitution police to enforce the provisions of a document about which we all claim to care so deeply. And this is precisely why we should all support at least one atheist organization of our choice - this has become the role they serve.

The real story here is not that evil atheists are changing things for the worse in North Carolina but that American Christians sometimes act as if they are above the law and need to be reined in. It is not practical for each of us to do this on our own. We need well funded atheist organizations who can serve this role.

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October 19, 2010

Thoughts on the Rally to Restore Sanity

restore sanityI just read a thought-provoking post over at Cubik's Rube about Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity." For the record, I am a fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart even if I don't catch every episode. And yet, I have mixed feelings about his rally. To the degree that it is designed to mock Glenn Beck's Christian extremist rally, I'm for it. I also applaud the effort to bring some civility back to political discourse. But to the degree that Stewart's rally is designed to promote the false belief that the far right and far left are equally wrong, equally delusional, etc., not so much. I find this particular both-sides-are-equally-wrong approach dangerously misleading.

October 18, 2010

Red Mass is Another Example of Christian Privilege

silk-red-backgroundImagine that high-ranking members of government, including the Vice President, were caught attending an exclusive invitation-only meeting of some religious group where he or she was warned of the threat Jews pose to the United States. The speaker described a battle between good and evil where Jews were on the side of evil and urged the audience to oppose them. The speaker referred to many contentious political subjects and instructed the Vice President and others in attendance how they should govern on these issues (i.e., with the "good" leaders of this particular religion and against the "evil" Jews). What do you suppose would take place if something like this actually happened and the media learned of it?

October 16, 2010

Idiots of the Week: Those Thanking Gods for Rescued Miners

We atheists are often depicted as being angry misanthropes, and I must confess that this is a fair characterization of at least some of us. But it glosses over the important question of why those of us who are angry feel that way. And in asking this question, religious people and non-religious people alike stand to learn a great deal.

When I look at this cartoon and think about the near constant god-thanking we have seen since the first Chilean miner emerged from the ground, I understand anger quite well. And this is hardly the first time we've seen this with a mining disaster. Remember the Utah mine in 2007? Thanking a non-existent entity for something like this is more than mere idiocy; it is a slap in the face to the science and technology that permitted the rescue, the tireless efforts of the rescuers, and so on. It is morally repugnant, and the anger it produces is entirely understandable.

If you want to thank gods for this sort of thing, why do you bother to seek medical treatment instead of prayer? When your child suffers appendicitis, why do you go to the emergency room instead of church? You don't need health insurance because you have your faith to sustain you.

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October 15, 2010

Don't Forget the New Atheists

young scientistAs I have said repeatedly, there is nothing new about the so-called "new atheism," unless one means only that the mainstream news media has decided to pay a little bit of attention to us. And that is not really new either. Frankly, I think that this mythical "new atheism" is something that atheists should avoid propagating because it detracts from the accomplishments of our predecessors and from the long and distinguished history of freethought.

So what's with the title of this post? I am referring to people who are new to atheism (i.e., those who are just beginning to explore atheism). Those of us writing atheist blogs must remember that many new readers are finding us each day and that some of them are new to atheism.

October 14, 2010

We Don't Need The Huffington Post

When a Christian extremist espouses bigotry and lies, we atheists are quick to call out moderate Christians for not speaking out in opposition. When a rabid Teabagger willfully distorts information and pushes propaganda, we progressives call out mainstream Republicans for not standing up to them. And yet, many of us continue to promote The Huffington Post with our links and tweets even though they are a notorious peddler of the pseudoscience and woo that most of us claim to oppose. The Huffington Post is no friend to the reality-based community, and we should not be promoting it.

But don't take my word for it. See the following:
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October 13, 2010

Accommodationist Claims


Why Evolution is True has a must-read post about the multi-component strategy accommodationists are using to discredit atheists (if you are unfamiliar with the term "accommodationists," see this article on the subject). It provides a useful lens through which to consider much of the anti-atheist work you are seeing these days. I'll paraphrase the main claims of the accommodationists below, but do yourself a favor and read the post.

The primary claims we are seeing from the accommodationists again and again include:
  • Science is one way of discovering the truth; religion is another.
  • Relying solely on empiricism and rationalism is a mistake, and those who do this resemble fundamentalists in their close-mindedness.
  • Science and religion can contribute to each other.
  • The so-called "new atheists" are simply mean and are contributing nothing of value to the dialogue between religion and science.
I don't know about you, but I have seen these claims more times than I can count. It seems that the accommodationists prefer tranquility to reality.

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October 11, 2010

Coexisting is Fine, But Tolerance Has Limits

coexist.jpgI don't see too many of the coexist bumper stickers here in Mississippi. In my experience, the Southern Baptist majority here is far more interested in converting than coexisting. Some people regard these bumper stickers as little more than a naive utopian ideal with little basis in reality. They have a point. After all, religious believers do not have the best track record of living harmoniously with those of other faiths (or no faith at all). Is there anything positive communicated by this symbol?

October 10, 2010

Ignorance of One's Own Beliefs

Few atheists were surprised by the recent Pew survey which found that atheists know more about religion than those who claim to be religious believers. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, summed up the general reaction as follows:
I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people. Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.
I agree. However, I want to add one observation that I haven't seen being made nearly enough in the aftermath of this survey: atheists are not the ones claiming that religious beliefs are sacred, worthy of respect, an important part of one's life, etc. That is, one would expect that those who valued such things as much as they are constantly claiming to know a whole lot more about them. Otherwise, it sounds an awful lot like they really do not know what it is that they claim to believe so deeply.

H/T to Library Grape

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October 9, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Christine O'Donnell

Christine O'DonnellSo here I am perusing the overwhelming number of RSS feeds of many excellent atheist blogs to which I subscribe and not even thinking I'd write an idiot post today. I ran across a recent post by Austin Cline about the media's favorite idiot of the moment, Republican candidate for Senate in Delaware, Christine O'Donnell. Just when I think this Christian extremist can't top herself, she manages to do so. Idiot of the Week honors go to Christine O'Donnell for claiming that school shootings are caused by a lack of school prayer.

New Media Resource on American Atheists

Secular Leaders Praise New Journalists' Resource

ReligionLink Offers New Source Guide on U.S.'s 30 Million Nonreligious
For Immediate Release: October 7, 2010
Contact: Jesse Galef, Secular Student Alliance - 614-441-9588 / [email protected]
Paul Fidalgo, Secular Coalition for America - 202-299-1091 / [email protected]

Leaders from the secular movement are praising a new resource they say will help them be better understood in the media and in society. To help journalists cover secular Americans, the news service ReligionLink has unveiled a comprehensive source guide focused on American nonbelievers titled "Freethinkers: A source guide to atheists, humanists and other nontheists." It is the first comprehensive resource for people interested in learning about nontheists in the country.

October 8, 2010

Congress Has No Authority To Tell Americans When And How They Should Pray


Americans United for Separation of Church and State

October 8, 2010

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked a federal appeals court to find the congressionally mandated National Day of Prayer unconstitutional.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Americans United urged the panel of judges to affirm a lower court decision that held the National Day of Prayer statute unconstitutional.

In April, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that the federal law violates the constitutional separation of church and state. The Obama administration has appealed Crabb's decision to the 7th Circuit.

"Congress needs to get out of the prayer business," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "Prayer is an inherently religious practice, and our Constitution makes it clear that promoting it is not part of the government's job.

Read the full press release at www.au.org.

October 7, 2010

I'm an Atheist, and I Vote Too

Secular Values VoterI have to drive past a billboard for the American Family Association, a prominent Christian extremist group, every day as I go to and from work. It shows a large button that says "I vote" next to the slogan "Remember in November" and prominently features the URL to the group's website: www.afa.net. I bet some of you have seen these too.

As disappointed as I am with Congressional Democrats and particularly with the blue dog Democrat who currently represents the district in which I reside, this billboard strengthens my resolve to vote. I need to do my part to keep even worse politicians from being elected. I often lose sight of this, but I am reminded every time I pass that billboard.

The billboard also reminds me that we atheists are doing ourselves a great disservice by not investing more time and energy in politics. With our numbers, we could be a potent force for the goals on which the vast majority of us could probably agree:
  • Protecting separation of church and state
  • Promoting quality, reality-based public education
  • Advancing atheist civil rights and educating the public about atheism

I know there are obstacles, but I'm tired of hearing about cat herding. Yes, there are a great many things on which atheists will disagree. But I have to believe that we could come up with a list of 5-10 objectives on which 95% of us could agree. Then we'd have a platform and a place to start.

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October 5, 2010

Is the Atheist Movement Really Moving?

English: Stagnant stream As can be seen the st...
English: Stagnant stream As can be seen the stream does not move much and has stagnation in places. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I've been feeling increasingly burned out lately. It is mostly about work, but it cuts across the board. This is nothing new. I go through periods of feeling uninspired, and I suppose that is to be expected. They never last long, but it can be tough to write during them. I mention this because I'm writing this post off-the-top-of-my-head, and so I'm not even sure what it will be about. But I suspect it is coming more from my current mood than anything else. You've been warned.

Activism is hard. I bet that any one of us could easily pick out 10 or more issues on which we would like to see real change. We might even work on a few of them from time-to-time. Progress feels too slow and can be tough to even detect at times. And I'd bet that most of us don't even see ourselves as activists, even when it comes to our shared interest in atheism.

October 4, 2010

Hitler Was a Christian

In light of recent statements made by Catholic League president Bill Donohue, it occurred to me that it would be useful to have a compendium of evidence pointing to the inescapable conclusion that Adolph Hitler was not an atheist but a Christian. I just started a new Squidoo lens called Hitler was a Christian for this purpose. I don't have much up there yet, and I could use your help. If you have written on the subject or found anything good others have written, please let me know and I'll link to it.

Oh, and any royalties earned from traffic to this lens are set to go to the ASPCA automatically.

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October 3, 2010

Writer's Block for the Blogger

Writer's block
Writer's block (Photo credit: Deciare)
One of the things I have always appreciated about blogging in this particular niche (i.e., writing an atheist-oriented blog) is that there is always something to write about. Of course, that doesn't mean that I never experience writer's block. I certainly do. I've decided that the primary cause, at least for me, has to do with information overload. I suspect this is a factor in writer's block regardless of what topic is under consideration. I have found at least one method that almost always helps me get through my writer's block, but I'd be interested to learn about what works for others too.

October 2, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Renee Ellmers

I skipped the Idiot of the Week post last week. Frankly, the series has become far more time consuming than I thought it would be. There are so many idiots that I never know who to select! But just in time for this week, a reader sent a recommendation that was way too good to ignore: Renee Ellmers, a Republican Tea Party candidate for Congress in North Carolina.

I hadn't heard of Ms. Ellmers before this, but her idiocy in this interview is startling. Kudos to Cooper for conducting the sort of interview everyone in the media should be able and willing to do when confronted with such a candidate. Seriously, this should serve as an example of how to conduct interviews.

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October 1, 2010

October is Finally Here

I look forward to October each year for three reasons. First, it is usually the month that we get our first taste of less humidity here in Mississippi. Second, it is often a good month for horror films on cable and sales on horror DVDs. And third, I find the terror with which many Southern Baptists seem to regard Halloween as quite entertaining. Every day may be Halloween for Christians, but there is still plenty to enjoy about October.