November 28, 2010

Belief in Demonic Possession Has Led to Great Suffering

exorcistTheories of demonic possession and the belief that exorcism is an effective cure have done unimaginable damage to countless people suffering from mental illness over the centuries. This is an important and very sad lesson about the evils to which religion can lead.

Just when we think that modern science has finally displaced these dangerous myths, we find those who are determined to return us all to the Dark Ages in the name of their religion. Thus, we should not be surprised that even now in 2010 there are Roman Catholic bishops insisting that we need even more of this superstitious bullshit!

November 27, 2010

Idiot of the Week: The TSA

TSATired of hearing about the TSA yet? Tough. Outrage is exactly what is supposed to happen when our Constitutional rights are violated. And if the thought of being seen naked by TSA agents or having your "junk" groped doesn't bother you, just imagine it happening to your mother, a grandparent, or anyone else you don't think deserves the indignity of sexual assault.

The "porno scanners" and aggressive pat downs are not making us safer. Those who ask whether having your genitals fondled by a same-sex stranger is a small price to pay to be kept safe from terrorists are presenting you with a false choice. Your odds of being injured in a terrorist attack are roughly equivalent to the chance that you will be struck by lighting. And the TSA has acknowledged that threats like the "underwear bomber" would probably make it through their screening undetected.

November 25, 2010

I Can Do Without Tradition

There are a great many things I have never understood about my fellow humans (e.g., taking pride in ignorance, praising belief without evidence in one domain while condemning it in most others, etc.). The one I want to address today is that of tradition: continuing to do things simply because one's family used to do them or because one's culture exerts pressure on us all to do them. I don't get it, and I refuse to participate in it.

Yes, I am one of the small number of American atheists who does not celebrate Christmas. It holds no meaning for me, representing Christianity, commercialism, and pointless cultural tradition. I certainly don't condemn anyone for celebrating it. If it means something to you, then have fun. All I've ever asked is that I receive the same courtesy.

November 24, 2010

Religious States the Fattest

Tim Covell from Born Atheist has put together one heck of a press release about an issue those of us living in some of the more religious states of the U.S. have long observed. Using data from the Calorie Lab and Gallup, he points to a relationship between religiosity and obesity at the state level.
The most religious state, Mississippi, is also the most obese. Similarly, the second most religious state, Alabama is the second most obese. In fact, nine out of ten of the most religious states are also the most obese: Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Kentucky all fall within the top ten in the religiousness and obesity ratings (see chart at the end of this media release).

November 22, 2010

Getting Death Threats

You'll be pleased to know that Dennis Markuze (aka, David Mabus) is continuing to email me and post comments here (that go to moderation) regularly. For whatever reason, the content has been growing increasingly violent. The last two featured the following gems:
atheists, we're gonna cut off your heads...
we are going to execute you...
I suppose that these statements might be considered threats by the law enforcement community. If I wasn't already familiar with Markuze's MO of sending the same messages to countless atheist bloggers, I might take them more seriously. But it is difficult to feel personally threatened by his ravings. Still, I suppose he is a decent reminder that there are those out there who would do us harm simply because we do not accept their particular god.

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Yes, Bush is "Technically" a War Criminal

bush-war-criminalI already posted most of my thoughts on Rachel Maddow's interview with Jon Stewart, and I won't repeat them here. However, I watched the entire interview a second time and do have one thing I'd like to add.

During the interview, Stewart suggested that Maddow and everyone else on the left were making a mistake to refer to George W. Bush as a war criminal even though the charge "may be technically true." Since I have made exactly such a reference several times, I want to address his argument.

November 20, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Mike Huckabee

huckabeeI feel like we haven't heard much lately from Christian extremist and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. I expect he will probably run for president in 2012, so he is someone we should continue to follow. Fortunately, he has decided to make an idiot of himself yet again. Moreover, he has done so in precisely the sort of way that reminds us why it is so important to keep him out of office.

In a radio interview with Steve Deace (audio here), the Huckster explained how we should handle those pesky "activist judges" (i.e., any judge with whom we disagree). He had the following to say about how a president should handle court rulings with which he or she disagrees:
A president has certainly got to respect a ruling of a court, but if a ruling of the court is wrong, and you have two branches of government that determine that it’s wrong, then those other two branches superceede the one...The two branches of government, legislative and executive have every right to make it clear to the Supreme Court that their interpretation is wrong. And whether they do it by constitutional amendment or by passage of further amplification of law. There are many means to do that (see Think Progress).

November 19, 2010

Some Changes at Atheist Revolution

Any blog written by one individual is going to reflect the priorities and perspective of that individual. This means that changes in the individual's life are almost certainly going to be reflected in the blog. I am no exception, and so I want to make you aware of some of the recent changes in my life that have already impacted what you see here at Atheist Revolution and will continue to do so.

November 16, 2010

Scolded for Not Attending Church

scoldI was mildly scolded at work recently for not attending church. It does not seem to matter that I work at a state university. The Christian privilege of the "bible belt" is pervasive enough as to outweigh anything as trivial as the law. But believe it or not, this particular scolding did not bother me and is not really even the subject of this post. That may seem strange, but I can clear it up easily.

The person who scolded me was not a boss and has no authority over me. The scolding was done in a joking manner by someone I like. If I had been scolded by a boss for not attending church, this would be a very different post because I would be reporting on my trip to the office that handles complaints along these lines. In this case, the scolding was done in a joking manner and is not something that upset me at all. It was fairly easy to recognize it for what it was, dismiss it, and move on.

November 14, 2010

Maddow vs. Stewart: They're Both Right

In the polarized climate of U.S. politics and media, it was nice to see such a calm and mostly reasonable interaction between Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart when she interviewed him this week. I watch both of their shows on a semi-regular basis and think that both have made some important contributions to the discourse. In this particular interview, I did not agree entirely with everything either of them said, but I thought that both made enough valid points to provoke thought.

Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart

November 12, 2010

Christian Calls Islam a Superstition

evolution of superstitionI was watching a recent episode of The Rachel Maddow Show in which she was reading some of the more interesting messages proponents of the Oklahoma legislation banning Sharia law were sending to those opposing the legislation. Talk about true American idiocy! My favorite message was one in which the author, clearly a Christian, concluded with, "Your religion is a superstition." It doesn't get much better than that.

Unfortunately, I suspect that this Christian was not alone in believing that Christianity is somehow more true or less superstitious than any other religion, past or present. This is part of what makes religion dangerous: it fosters an us vs. them mentality, imbues the "us" with divine authorization, and dehumanizes the "them" through associations with evil.

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November 9, 2010

Responding to the Accommodationists: What Are We Trying to Accomplish?

If you like science and are not reading Butterflies & Wheels, you are missing out. In a recent post, Ophelia Benson asks the question we should ask when confronted by those arguing in favor of accommodation: what exactly are we not helping by speaking our minds about religion? Focusing on Chris Mooney's talk at the recent Free Inquiry conference, Benson asks the following:
He kept saying various versions of ”you’re not helping!” That’s not helping; I still wonder how that’s helping; I can’t see how that’s helping.

Here’s my question.

Helping what? What are we supposed to be helping with? What is this giant X that Mooney is so familiar with but I am not, that we are all supposed to join hands and help with?

November 7, 2010

Have You Heard the Good News?

A reader sent me this video a few days ago. I regret that it took me so long to watch it. It is outstanding and deserves to be shared. Take a look.

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November 6, 2010

Idiot of the Week: MSNBC

OlbermannAs you have almost certainly heard by now, MSNBC suspended one of their most popular pundits, Keith Olbermann, this week because he donated to three Democratic candidates for Congress. By itself, this was not enough for Idiot of the Week designation. After all, Olbermann's donation violated NBC's ethics rules. What put MSNBC over the top was their selective enforcement of these rules.

MSNBC has never suspended conservative pundit Joe Scarborough even though he has repeatedly donated to Republican candidates while promoting them on his show. In fact, it seems that Scarborough has never been disciplined for violating the same ethics rules that led to Olbermann's suspension. Worse yet, it looks like MSNBC has long been considered exempt from NBC's ethics rules until someone decided to come after Olbermann.

This selective enforcement smacks of hypocrisy and should serve as a powerful reminder of the limitations of corporate media. Without truly independent media, I'm not optimistic that we can count on reliable information in place of propaganda.

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November 5, 2010

When Superstition is Involved, Be a Dick

sneezeI have been strangely silent on the subject of the now infamous "Don't be a dick" speech. It never struck me as anything new or particularly interesting. Friendly Atheist had been criticizing some of us long before Plait's speech for the same thing, and I feel like my many previous posts on the subject hold up reasonably well. For some reason, I found myself thinking about the subject today, and it occurs to me that the whole thing may be far simpler than we have been making it. How about we put the entire debate in the context of a sneeze and see what happens?

November 3, 2010

Interpreting the Election Results

2010 electionNot surprisingly, I have been getting some emails this morning asking me what I think about the election results. I posted my initial reaction here. The takeover of the House by the Republican Tea Party should not have surprised anyone - it was exactly what everyone has been predicting for some time. But that doesn't mean I am any less disappointed. I was really hoping we could somehow avoid Speaker Boehner, but we did not manage to do so.

November 2, 2010

Why This Atheist Voted

Today was one of those days where it was somewhat tough to get away to vote. The thought of not bothering certainly crossed my mind. No ballot measures or school board races. And besides, the Congressman I knew I had to vote for is adamantly opposed to reproductive freedom for women and does a terrible job of representing my wishes in Congress.

In the end, it came down to simple math. I had to hold my nose and cast my vote for him because it was the only thing I could do to try to prevent John "the Orangeman" Boehner from taking over as Speaker of the House. Did it help that this Congressman's opponent was a teabagger? Absolutely. But it still didn't leave me feeling very good.

I am sick and tired of having to choose between two terrible options, even when one is clearly worse than the other. I'm beyond ready to embrace the idea of running primary candidates against those who fail to keep their promises in office or turn out to be unwilling to fight on important issues. And yes, this includes President Obama. But in this election, there wasn't much I could do. Staying home would have helped elect a teabagger. And that was not an option.

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November 1, 2010

Maybe We Should Hand Out Atheist Tracts on Halloween

halloween (Photo credit: BEE FREE - PGrandicelli [the social bee])
Crazy idea, I know, but maybe we atheists should try handing out atheist tracts along with candy to the trick-or-treaters who visit us on Halloween (or on whatever day they are allowed to celebrate Halloween in our area). I remember some people doing this with Christian tracts when I was a kid, and the JesusWeen folks will be handing out Christian bibles.

Of course, there would be an obvious downside to such a plan. Some of the kids would undoubtedly remember where they got the tracts. Word would spread throughout the neighborhood that an atheist was living among them. The local hardware stores would sell out of pitchforks, trees would be stripped of branches to make torches, and know the rest.

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