December 31, 2010

The Future of Faith

faithAt the end of a year, many people like to look back over the past 12 months and attempt to analyze what has happened with the benefit of hindsight. I'd like to do something different in this post and look to the future. 2010 has been another good year for atheism in the sense that we are continuing to speak out. We still have a long way to go, but assuming we continue to make progress and do an even better job of what we are doing now, what happens to faith? Let's speculate about the future of faith.

December 30, 2010

Remember to Support Atheism in Your Year-End Donations

I actually did somewhat better this year not waiting until the last minute to renew my memberships in some of the organizations which work toward the goals in which I believe:

But there are others on my list that will receive my support here at the last minute too. Money has been a bit tighter this year than usual, but I plan to do what I can. There are so many worthy organizations.

December 29, 2010

Millions of Americans Are Good Without God

Good Without God

The Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason has placed signs like the one above on city buses in Fort Worth. It will surprise no one that this sign has generated considerable outrage among many Texas Christians. What may surprise you is that some of these Christians have gone so far as to pay for vans displaying a counter message to follow the buses around.

This simple message, that many Americans are "good without God," appears to be a terrifying prospect for these Christians. All the ad suggests is that one can lead a moral life without gods. How can this possibly be so threatening to them? Does their religion really have so little to offer?

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December 28, 2010

Dropbox is a Great Way to Keep Files Synced

This one is going to be off-topic, but you should be expecting the occasional off-topic post by now.

DropboxIf you use more than one computer, you can appreciate the importance of keeping your files in sync. While some people still try to do this manually with flash drives, most of us have moved up to some sort of Internet-based service. There are plenty of options out there, including a few free ones.

Of the free options I have tried, Dropbox is easily my favorite. Signing up for a free Dropbox account gets you 2GB of online storage. Once you have your account, you can download the Dropbox application to each computer you want to sync. Dropbox will create a folder on each computer, and when you put files in the folder, they will be accessible to each computer on which you have installed Dropbox.

I have Dropbox on 2 PCs at work, a Mac at home, and a laptop. Since I started using it, I never have to worry about remembering to save anything to a flash drive or do any manual syncing. There are even versions that will work on iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.

December 27, 2010

Faking It

If there is one central and recurrent theme pervading virtually all material on atheism you are likely to find on the Internet, it would have to be the subject of respecting faith. To what degree should atheists show respect for the religious faith of others? The question comes up again and again, and I suspect that virtually all atheists who contribute to the atheist community address it periodically. Pat Condell absolutely nails it in the video below and manages to raise an important side issue about which we do not hear nearly enough: whether we should be faking expressions of respect we do not feel.

What I mean by "faking it" in this context refers to the part of the video where Pat notes that we are often told to act as if we feel something we do not actually feel (i.e., respect). By pretending to respect faith when we do not, we are not merely being dishonest. If it was a simple matter of dishonesty, we could probably consider this another trivial "white lie" (e.g., "I love that sweater, Grandma. It is just what I wanted."). But this sort of faking it goes well beyond dishonesty and serves to enable the continuance of religious privilege. By holding our tongues when faced with idiocy or pretending to respect something despicable, we are condoning it.

In some circumstances, we have an obligation to challenge false claims. This is particularly important when the nature of the claims is such that they are harmful. In these cases, we must intervene. False expressions of respect are not the answer.

H/T to The Good Atheist

December 26, 2010

Christmas is Still a Religious Holiday for Majority in U.S.

One of the things that has come up repeatedly in discussions of Christmas here at Atheist Revolution and on a number of other atheist blogs I read is that the holiday is now thoroughly secular. Most people, it is claimed, no longer regard Christmas as a religious holiday at all. When one considers how thoroughly commercialized Christmas has become in the U.S., it is easy to see why people would suggest that it is now a secular holiday. However, a recent Gallup poll calls this claim into question.

According to Gallup, 51% of Americans surveyed consider Christmas a "strongly religious" holiday, over 60% attend religious services, and 78% say that they take time to reflect on the alleged birth of a historical Jesus. In fact, the results suggest a slight increase in the proportion of those celebrating Christmas who feel that it is a "strongly religious" holiday since the previous poll was administered.

December 25, 2010

The Reason for the Season

reason for the season

Happy whatever you may be celebrating at year end. And if you prefer not to celebrate any of it, then enjoy any time off work you may get. It could be an ideal time to catch up on your atheist blog reading.

December 24, 2010

I am Not a Pagan Either

pagan symbol
I would guess that most atheists in the U.S. celebrate Christmas, but that would just be a guess. I am not aware of a good representative survey of atheists to back it up. While I do not celebrate Christmas, my reasons for not doing so have little to do with atheism. Moreover, I see no reason to criticize those who do celebrate Christmas, regardless of whether they are atheists. Their celebrations do not impact me one way or another because I do not participate in them. All the same, there is one increasingly popular defense some atheists are giving for their celebration of Christmas that I do not particularly understand.

December 23, 2010

Church-State Happenings in Mississippi

Mississippi AtheistsWe have been busy over at Mississippi Atheists, and while I do my local posting there, I thought I'd provide a brief update on what has been happening in Mississippi. We have had a nativity scene in our state capitol for most of December. What makes this a particularly egregious church/state violation is that it is there at the request of our Lt. Gov. This means that it was not simply put there by some Christian extremist group but actually sought by an elected official who should certainly know better.

Shortly after learning of the situation, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) requested and received a permit to place one of their "winter solstice" signs in the capitol alongside the nativity scene. They shipped the sign to an atheist in the Jackson area, who recruited some helpers and placed the sign in the capitol on Monday morning.

There has been surprisingly little coverage in the local media; however, their narrative seems to be a misleading tale of Northern interference (the FFRF is based in Wisconsin). Meanwhile, we have been writing to Lt. Gov. Bryant to explain that there are plenty of us here in Mississippi who object to his efforts to undermine church/state separation.

I continue to be impressed with the Freedom From Religion Foundation and encourage those of you who haven't yet joined them to give it serious consideration. I'm also very impressed with my fellow Mississippi atheists for their willingness to take risks to defend the separation of church and state locally.

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December 22, 2010

Santa vs. Jesus

The idea that children - or anyone else for that matter - are supposed to find gods real and Santa false is preposterous. There is every bit as much evidence to support the most incredible version of the Santa myth (flying to every home in one night, etc.) as there is the gods that have been worshiped through the ages. Let's stop pretending.

December 21, 2010

What Do We Tell Young Atheists?

Seattle Pride Weekend 2009.
Seattle Pride Weekend 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was over at Think Atheist the other day and ran across a brief post written by a 12 year-old atheist asking for help. It certainly is wonderful that we have the Internet today where our youth can reach out like this!

She described her family as devoutly religious and noted that the same is true of the town in which her family lives. She said that when she confides in others about her atheism, they dismiss it as a phase and "disown me." I suspect that many here will be able to relate to that all too well.

Anyway, here was her question:
I know choosing to be an Atheist is always going to be hard, but how do I cope with all the hate?
I started writing a response, deleted it, and started over four separate times. I soon realized I had no idea what to say.

December 20, 2010

I Have Great Readers!

thank youIn the past couple of weeks, I've had two brief conversations with people who have just recently discovered Atheist Revolution. They had considerable praise for you, noting how nice it is to discover an atheist blog with such thoughtful and active discussions in the comments. I agree completely. You rock!

Not a day goes by that I don't learn something from those of you who comment here. You keep me going when I most need it, and you make this worthwhile. I realize I don't say this nearly enough, but THANK YOU!

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December 19, 2010

Take Your Hand Off the Steering Wheel...

driving blindIt seems that nearly everyone I went to high school with all those years ago grew up to be evangelical Christians. I never would have guessed it from what I remember of those days. Religion was largely a private matter that nobody discussed. Fast forward to the present day, and I cannot look at Facebook without being bombarded with Christianspeak. Some is clearly good-intentioned and can easily be dismissed as mere silliness. Other instances strike me as truly bizarre and possibly dangerous. Case in point: "Sometimes you just need to take your hand off the steering wheel and let God drive."

December 18, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Rachel Maddow

Man, there are so many good candidates this week! After abandoning yet another campaign promise and further alienating his base by agreeing to give tax cuts to millionaires, President Obama is a strong contender. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also comes to mind as he prepares to make a last stand in defense of anti-gay bigotry. Those who continue to watch Fox "News" after news of the degree to which they are misinformed by what they see can certainly be considered as well. One could even make a compelling case for Oprah Winfrey. And of course, there is the usual wide array of religious folk, ranging from Christian criminals to Muslim defenders of criminals. But I suppose the real tragedy is that this week isn't any different from any other week.

December 17, 2010

Atheists Will Be On Right Side of History

march_on_washington.jpgI've been generally pessimistic as long as I can remember. I suppose I'm probably wired that way. And yet, I do have periodic flashes of optimism that keep me going. One of the most enduring is that we atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and humanists who make up the reality-based community will be on the right side of U.S. history.

The women's movement, both in the form of suffrage and later in feminism, has made great strides toward equality. That is not to say that American women have fully achieved equality, but it is difficult to deny that they are closer today than ever before. And who has been most consistent in opposing their efforts? Socially conservative Christians.

December 15, 2010

In Life Satisfaction, Social Connections Matter More Than Religion

Image:Asr-cover2010.gif (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to a new study published in American Sociological Review (described at PsychCentral), the positive relationship between religion and life satisfaction centers on the social benefits conferred by religion and not the theological or spiritual components. This is a reputable journal, and the study was conducted by researchers at a solid research university. But my purpose in posting this is not to convince you of the merits of the study. Instead, I'd rather examine the implications for atheists.

December 13, 2010

Indoctrinating Children In a Religious Faith is Abusive

Cover of "The God Delusion"
Cover of The God Delusion
One of the most controversial claims made by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion was that indoctrinating one's children into any particular religious faith is a form of child abuse. I'm sure that such a claim would lead Jon Stewart to object that when he thinks of child abuse, he thinks of some really nasty sort of sexual or physical assault. But I happen to agree with Dawkins. Research shows that emotional abuse has the potential to do as much harm as any other type of abuse, and religious indoctrination certainly can be a form of emotional abuse.

For those of us who accept this argument, the question quickly turns to one of what we ought to do about it. After all, religious parents almost always subject their children to indoctrination. It is difficult to overstate the frequency with which this occurs, and that means that even knowing where to start can seem overwhelming. We're talking about a major cultural shift here.

December 11, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE)

adrian smithIf you have followed my Idiot of the Week series, you know that many of my picks are fairly trivial in the sense that we just sort of point and laugh and the stupidity. Sure, some of the politicians can do some harmful stuff from time to time, but mostly they just provide fodder for comedians and bloggers. But every so often, one will come along who reflects a different sort of idiocy - the sort of idiocy that has the potential to inflict widespread harm or significantly retard progress. This week's pick is a sad example of this more serious sort of idiocy.

Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) wins idiot honors for his appearance in the video below, but House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) deserves his share, as do many other House Republicans who are supporting a dangerous new assault on science in the form of their YouCut Citizen Review.

December 8, 2010

Tempering Atheist Optimism: Remembering the Big Picture

For atheists in the United States, the last five years feels like it could be the beginning of the end of Christian privilege. We have seen countless news reports of declining church attendance, particularly among younger Americans. At the same time, it is difficult not to be encouraged by the rise of atheism in the public consciousness. Fueled by the sales of a handful of books about atheism and the power of the Internet to expose teenagers to the content found on atheist blogs and websites, the sense of progress is unmistakable. And yet, I think that we are setting ourselves up for disappointment if we lose sight of the big picture provided by history.

December 5, 2010

Now THAT is a Christmas Tree!

I've made no secret of my love of Christian artifacts, the tackier the better. And while I don't celebrate Christmas, the sight of this tree is almost more than I can stand. I can picture it in the corner of my main room, covered with tacky plastic Jesus ornaments. Good thing I don't have a spare $400 at the moment.

Christian Nation Tree

H/T to Godless Girl, and if I lose all control and put one of these on the credit card, it is all your fault.

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December 3, 2010

Determined to Have a War on Christmas

Christianity is a myth

Speaking of myths, the mythic "war on Christmas" has been in full swing for some time. I am only now allowing myself to acknowledge how much I have missed it. Not only is it an excellent reminder of the ease with which people can be manipulated (e.g., donating money to Christian extremist groups out of fear of evil atheists), but it shows the lengths which some will go to preserve their image of being persecuted even when they are the persecutors. But most of all, I am reminded that Christian privilege is alive and well here in the U.S.

December 1, 2010

How to Be a Skeptic Without Being an Atheist

The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous DelusionsAtheism and skepticism are not synonymous. One can be an atheist and not a skeptic, and yes, one can be a skeptic without being an atheist. This last part requires some explanation. The key is compartmentalization. One can be a skeptic without being an atheist to the extent that one compartmentalizes one's skepticism, keeping it away from one's religious beliefs.

Compartmentalization is how some excellent scientists permit themselves to be religious believers. They make the decision to restrict their application of the scientific method to matters other than religion. It works the same way with skepticism. One can decide to be skeptical in some matters and not others.