October 31, 2011

Happy Scare a Christian Day!

JesusweenWhile some Christians agonize over what to do each year when Halloween rolls around, I have found that many atheists consider it one of their favorite holidays. I am happy to count myself among them. Halloween is one of the few holidays I still enjoy. In fact, it might be the only one. And yes, I suppose that part of the enjoyment might come from seeing how terrified some Christians are of Halloween.

A few years ago, you could walk around my neighborhood this time of year and never realize that Halloween was off limits to many of the neighborhood children. Houses were proudly decorated in such a manner that I questioned whether my neighbors had temporarily set their absurd religious beliefs aside.

October 30, 2011

Christian Hell vs. Muslim Hell

HellI know full well what I'm getting when I turn on the History Channel for anything related to religion: pro-Christian propaganda. I guess I shouldn't be too hard on them. After all, they are in the business of entertaining people, the majority of whom do not particularly like to think. Historical accuracy is not going to be their primary concern. If you doubt this, just remember that much of what they show has nothing whatsoever to do with history (or even reality). They are in the entertainment business and are not some sort of public service concerned with reality-based education.

October 29, 2011

White House Responds to Petition to Restore the Pledge of Allegiance

Us whitehouse logo jpgYou may remember that I had a link in the sidebar a few weeks ago for a petition asking the White House to work on removing "under god" from the Pledge of Allegiance. The petition was part of a new program the Obama administration had announced where they would consider requests with over 5,000 signatures. This particular petition easily exceeded that goal, and we now have our response from the White House.

Idiot of the Week: Noelle Nikpour

I was initially hesitant to select Noelle Nikpour for Idiot of the Week "honors" because I thought she had to be joking in this video. Now that I've watched it again and realized that she is a Republican strategist who has made a number of appearances on Fox "News" I think she may be serious. And if there is even a remote chance that she's serious about any part of this, she certainly deserves to be named Idiot of the Week.

Update: Jerry Coyne (Why Evolution is True) has posted a brief transcript of at least one of the highlights of the video.

October 27, 2011

The Confrontational Nature of Coming Out Atheist

ConfrontationGreta Christina has written one of the most thought-provoking posts about coming out as an atheist that I've read in awhile. Her central point is that coming out as an atheist (i.e., disclosing one's atheism to others) can be regarded as an inherently oppositional act because it communicates to religious believers that they are wrong on the god question.

For all of us who have been wondering why our very existence seems to agitate many religious believers, I think we may have our answer. Few people like to realize they might be wrong, particularly when it comes to beliefs they have not critically examined. Perhaps this is a case of blaming the messenger even when our only message is that we do not believe in their gods.

October 25, 2011

Politics Matter

Rick perry dominionism

I know it often seems like our votes do not matter. On the rare occasions when the person I have voted for wins the election, I typically find that little changes. The candidate, now elected, lacks either the will or the support of the other branches of government to bring about meaningful change. It becomes discouraging after awhile.

I'm not going to tell you who to vote for. At this point, I do not know how I will vote. About all I know is that I will not cast my vote for a Republican. The current crop of Republican presidential candidates seems far more extreme than what I recall from elections past. Mere stupidity is one thing; clear theocratic strivings are quite another.

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October 24, 2011

What Can Atheists Learn From Occupy Wall Street?

Occupy wall street togetherThere is no question that Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is very different from the atheist movement. But apart from those of us who share many of their goals, is there anything we can learn from their success? I've already highlighted one lesson: that appearances matter. In this post, I want to look at what we might learn from their structure.

The corporate media still have not figured out how to cover OWS effectively. They are so used to relying on organizational hierarchies that they are not sure how to deal with a group that has deliberately rejected such a structure. And yet, I think that this embrace of direct democracy has been an essential strength of OWS so far.

October 22, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Newt Gingrich

Newt GingrichAnd you thought it was going to be Harold Camping! Admittedly, it was a tough call. But I'm always going to give the edge to bigotry over mere stupidity, especially when it comes from someone who seeks power over us.

Here's Newt Gingrich during the most recent Republican debate:
Now, I happen to think that none of us should rush in judgment of others in the way in which they approach God. And I think that all of us up here, I believe, would agree. But I think all of us would also agree that there's a very central part of your faith in how you approach public life. And I, frankly, would be really worried if somebody assured me that nothing in their faith would affect their judgments because then I'd wonder, where's your judgment -- how can you have judgment if you have no faith? And how can I trust you with power if you don't pray?

Who you pray to, how you pray, how you come close to God is between you and God. But the notion that you're endowed by your creator sets a certain boundary on what we mean by America.

October 21, 2011

Atheism and Meaning Revisited

MeaningOne of religious believers' favorite questions for atheists concerns our thoughts on the meaning of life. They typically assume that we must have a meaningless existence because we do not believe in their preferred gods. Not only is this the height of arrogance, but it reflects a lack of understanding about the nature of meaning.

When I last wrote about the subject of meaning and purpose in the lives of atheists, I barely scratched the surface. I noted that there are no external sources of meaning and that it is up to each of us to make our own meaning. I said that I found this liberating, but I did not go into nearly enough detail about what I meant. I'll try to elaborate a bit here.

October 20, 2011

Romney May Be Victim of Bigotry, But He's Also a Bigot

Mitt Romney MormonBefore I leave the subject of Willard "Mitt" Romney and his Mormon religion behind, I want to return to something that happened during his 2008 campaign with special relevance to atheists. We're all familiar with the phenomenon where someone who was the victim of bigotry gains a little bit of status and then ends up engaging in bigotry toward others. A commonly cited example involves African Americans who are vehemently anti-immigrant or anti-gay. A less commonly cited examples concerns Romney and we atheists.

October 18, 2011

Evangelical Manages to Disparage Mormons While Trying to Defend Them

MouwRichard Mouw is not just a garden variety evangelical. He is President of Fuller Theological Seminary. So when he wrote an article for CNN in which he defended Mormonism against charges that it is a cult, people took notice. However, it seems to me that Mouw managed to disparage Mormons as not quite being the right kind of Christians even as he claimed to be defending them. See what you think.

After drawing upon his experience, Mouw clearly states that he does not consider Mormonism to be a cult. He then goes on to say:
So are Mormons Christians? For me, that’s a complicated question.

My Mormon friends and I disagree on enough subjects that I am not prepared to say that their theology falls within the scope of historic Christian teaching. But the important thing is that we continue to talk about these things, and with increasing candor and mutual openness to correction.
So while Mormonism is not a cult, Mouw cannot quite bring himself to acknowledge that they might be Christians, as they claim. He credits Mormons with moving in the right direction (i.e., closer to what he believes), but the differences remain too much for him to overcome.

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October 16, 2011

Missouri Grand Jury Indicts Catholic Bishop for Failing to Report Child Abuse

Catholic child abuseHere at Atheist Revolution, reporting on the many crimes perpetrated by clergy has never been a big part of what I do. There are at least two reasons for this. First, there are others who specialize in highlighting the depravity of many religious leaders. They do a more thorough job of it than I could do. And this brings me to the second reason you do not see more of it here: I just don't have the stomach for it.

That said, there are stories about clergy crime I consider important enough to highlight here because of their nature or the larger implications they have for the status of religion in our culture. This is why I want to tell you about a big indictment handed down last week by a grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri.

October 15, 2011

Idiot of the Week: James Bellar

I'm taking liberties with the timeline on this one, as this bit of idiocy actually occurred last week.

You probably haven't heard of James Bellar. He's the mayor of Whiteville, TN, the town that has a large cross on top of a water tower they own (see picture). The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has threatened to sue Whiteville if they do not remove the cross from this publicly owned tower. This should not surprise anyone, as religious symbols do not belong on public property.

October 13, 2011

Tons of Atheists at Fox News

Two fascinating tidbits from this video of David Pakman's interview with American Atheists' David Silverman might come as a surprise:
  1. There are "tons and tons of atheists" behind the scenes at Fox "News."
  2. Bill O'Reilly is a polite and knowledgeable guy off camera who deliberately plays an angry moron on air.

I'm not especially surprised by the second, although I suspect that many conservative Fox "News" viewers would be upset by the realization that what O'Reilly does on air is not very different from what Colbert does. However, I have to admit being somewhat surprised to hear that there are so many atheists working on these shows at Fox. I know I shouldn't be surprised. After all, many in the GLBT community continue to adhere to religions that demonize them.

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October 12, 2011

The Silent Atheist Majority

SilenceSome are atheists who do not see atheism as worth discussing. They may even look down at their outspoken colleagues for what they perceive as proselytizing atheism. They may acknowledge the existence of bigotry and discrimination against atheists in the larger culture, but they have not experienced it themselves. It is unfortunate that others have confronted it, they say, but it really isn't their concern. Others remain silent out of fear. They worry that they might face consequences for disclosing atheism, and they have chosen to play it safe. Collectively, they make up the vast majority of the atheist community, even as many of them deny that there is any sort of atheist community. They are the silent atheist majority.

October 10, 2011

Images of a Movement and the First Impressions They Create

Occupy wall street hippiesWe form first impressions very quickly, and images matter a great deal when we are forming impressions of something distant. Many of the negative reactions to the Occupy Wall Street movement I have heard from friends, family members, and acquaintances were based on the appearance of those who appeared in the earliest images from Zuccotti Park. That such images may not have been representative of the whole group is almost irrelevant; the damage is already done. This is unfortunate because it instills a negative bias against the group's message even before the audience hears the message. Might there be a lesson for atheists in here somewhere?

October 9, 2011

Romney is Still Not a Real Christian

Mitt RomneyThe big news from the Values Voters Straw Poll seems that evangelical Christians still haven't gotten over the fact that Willard "Mitt" Romney does not share their religion. Is anybody really surprised by this? One speaker, Pastor Robert Jeffress, called Mormonism a cult and Romney a "non-Christian." I suspect many of these folks are going to have some tough decisions ahead, as Romney probably has the best chance of beating Obama in a general election.

Among evangelical Christians, Mormonism has long been viewed with suspicion. In many ways, this reminds me of how evangelical Protestants used to (and among some here in Mississippi, still do) view Catholics. Of course, the difference is that most of the Protestants I've encountered would not go so far as to suggest that Catholics are not Christian.

From my perspective, Mormonism is no more or less cultish than Catholicism or the various Protestant denominations. If it seems more cult-like to some, that is probably because they are unfamiliar with it. And it is precisely because they are unfamiliar with it that evangelicals are up in arms about Romney. They are not sure they can trust him; they are not sure he is one of them.

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October 8, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Albert Mohler

English: Al Mohler, President of Southern Bapt...
Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nothing goes with idiocy quite as well as Christian extremism, and I have finally found a worthy "winner" from somewhere other than politics. You may be less familiar with him than many others, but his is a name you should know.

Albert Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I know, you're probably thinking that this is sufficient to make him an idiot. That might be true, but I'd raster focus on the contradiction between Mohler's stated beliefs and his recent tribute to Steve Jobs.

Mohler wants to extract lessons for Christians from the death of Jobs.
God has invested massive creative abilities in his human creatures. These are often used for good, and sometimes deployed to evil ends. Steve Jobs devoted his life to a technological dream that he thought would empower humanity. He led creative teams that developed technological wonders, and then he made them seemingly necessary for life in the digital age.

October 6, 2011

The Religious Double Standard

Militant Atheist
What kind of world do we live in where good, god-fearing Christians feel justified in discriminating against and even committing violence against atheists, but atheists are the intolerant ones for simply making public their disdain for Christian doctrine and dogma? What sort of nation is America if blasphemy can be treated as worse than bigotry, discrimination, or violence?
-- Austin Cline, About.com: Agnosticism/Atheism

October 5, 2011

Progressive Atheism

What would you do?There is nothing inherently political about atheism in the sense that knowing someone is an atheist does not necessarily tell you anything about his or her political leanings. At the same time, it is no secret that the majority of atheists, at least in the United States, describe themselves as left-of-center when it comes to politics.

According to data recently released from the Baylor Religion survey, 73.1% of Americans responded "agree" or "strongly agree" to the statement "God has a plan for me." Of those who agreed with this statement, 96% also said that the government should be smaller.

October 4, 2011

Fox News on Separation of Church and State

It used to be illegal for the U.S. government to use propaganda against its own people. That does not mean it never happened, but it used to be illegal. It may still be illegal. But with Fox "News," propaganda and misinformation have become so common that many people no longer recognize them.

Just what is the price of propaganda and misinformation being passed off as legitimate news to the uninformed? I'm not sure how to quantify it, but I fear that it is far greater than many of us realize.

You'll see a particularly relevant example in this video, as Fox "News" deals with separation of church and state by pushing their conservative agenda and ignoring the law. This is a striking example of the damage this sort of media can do.

H/T to The Good Atheist

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October 3, 2011

Empathy For Believers Does Not Exclude Mockery

South Park Eric CartmanIn a recent post, I wrote about how our ability to empathize with Christians could be an important tool in reaching them. Based on some of the reactions I have received to this post, I want to clarify that this was not a "don't be a dick" plea. I do think that it is important for atheists to understand where Christians are coming from and connect emotionally with the confusion and fear that often drives their belief system. However, this does not mean that I'd place the belief system above a good mocking.

October 1, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Obama Heckler

This is going to be the laziest Idiot of the Week post of all time. Watch this brief clip and listen to the words of the heckler.

There's your idiot for the week. He's not an idiot for interrupting the president; he's an idiot because he seems to believe in gods of some sort. Can you imagine? In this day and age, people still believe that garbage?

H/T to Atheist Media Blog

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