January 31, 2011

Hawaii Senate Sets Example for Other States

Hawaii State SenateThe Hawaii Senate has voted unanimously to end the tradition of daily prayers in the chamber. As the Associated Press points out, this makes them the first state legislative body to do so.

While it is unfortunate that it took complaints and the threat of lawsuits to prompt such a reasonable move, the outcome should be applauded. State senators realized that it was silly to spend taxpayer money to defend the indefensible.

I agree completely with Godless Girl's analysis:
I consider this a great victory for the Constitution and an example for the other 49 states who have failed to do the same.
I hope other state legislatures will follow Hawaii's lead. Perhaps we can help get the ball rolling by starting the complaint process in our states and using the Hawaii example.

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January 30, 2011

A Reminder About the Comment Policy

I think it is fair to say that anyone who writes an atheist blog is going to experience some incivility in the comments section on various posts. During the life of this blog, some has some from the assortment of Christian trolls who become upset when we are less than receptive to their "good news." Incivility has also come from atheists who become understandably frustrated at having to hear this "good news" even on an atheist blog. None of this surprises me. What I have been less prepared for, however, is the incivility popping up in interactions among atheists.

After reviewing the comment policy, I'd like to remind readers that comments are expected to be courteous and avoid personal insults. Disagreement, debate, and argument are welcome. Unprovoked personal insults are not, especially when they include subtle (or not so subtle) threats of violence. Comments of this nature will be deleted, and repeat offenders will go into moderation.

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January 29, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Michele Bachmann (Again)

Michele BachmannRep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is no stranger to idiocy. She caught my attention during last year's health care debate and has held it ever since. In fact, there have been many weeks where I've had to go out of my way to ignore her lest she become the perpetual honoree. But I can't ignore her this week.

As I'm sure you know, Bachmann gave a rebuttal to the official Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union address. If you missed it, you can see the video at Blogging Blue. It was an epic disaster that should (but won't) signal the end of her political career.

What you might not know is that Bachmann released a budget plan of her own before her speech in which she proposed deep cuts to veterans' benefits. Not surprisingly, veterans have come out strongly against Bachmann's proposal. I'm not in favor of either of Obama's wars, but I think most of us can agree that we owe something to those putting their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I really hope she runs for President in 2012.

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January 28, 2011

"An Atheist in Love" by David Peretiatko

Something a bit different today. Here is a poem about atheism submitted by David Peretiatko:

"An Atheist in Love"

This life to hold you
This time to share
cold mountain naps
rushing ocean and
salt scented
sun lazied conversations
dark celestial gazings
lying on barren winter
(hard and dead)
These years to adore you
These days to love you
cause your laughter
fill your days with smiles
bright and warm
for I cannot
love you past the grave
nor retain any memory
of the sweetness of your eyes
we will
all consciousness erased
and that will be the end
of it
There will be no
how I pray
there was a heaven
big and empty
waiting for vapourous ships
full of the ghosts of lovers
to dock at its marble harbour
and fills its golden streets

I even wish there was a
with its weeping
and gnashing of teeth
with its consuming

so at least
I'd exist enough
to think
of you

written by David William Peretiatko

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January 26, 2011

Christians Who Claim Their Belief in God is the Only Thing Keeping Them Moral

evil insideYou know how some Christians insist that their god belief is the only thing keeping them from running wild and committing all sorts of atrocious crimes? We tend to dismiss this claim, almost as if we have more confidence in the basic goodness of these Christians than they themselves do. What if at least some of them are being honest in their negative self-assessment?

January 24, 2011

Atheism Shouldn't Offend...But It Often Does

For better or worse, Ricky Gervais is receiving quite a bit of attention recently for being an atheist. In this interview, the interviewer actually suggests that simply disclosing his atheism somehow involves mocking the religious.

As strange as this seems, I suspect that many religious people feel exactly the same way. They take offense when reminded that there are many of us who do not believe in their gods. Somehow, our very existence poses a problem for them.

I've never quite understood this. I can certainly understand how a religious person might find it offensive for an atheist to mock his or her religion, but there is nothing offense in simply saying, "I do not believe that" when discussing matters of religion.

Michael Shermer is Fed Up With Dennis Markuze

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January 23, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Gov. Robert Bentley

Robert BentleyI did not realize that yesterday was Saturday until the day was half over and I'd already posted something. Yeah, it was that kind of week. I am not going to be able to do an Idiot of the Week post each week, but I do plan to try to continue to highlight the worst examples. And we've got ourselves one hell of an idiot this week.

Alabama's Republican Gov. Robert Bentley easily beat out other contenders to win Idiot of the Week honors this week. While speaking at a Baptist church, Bentley told his audience:
There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit...But if you have been adopted in God's family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.

January 22, 2011

Science Education Under Siege in Mississippi

creationismOne of my co-authors at Mississippi Atheists, Oliver, posted news of a disturbing development in the Mississippi legislature: the Student Religious Liberties Act of 2011. I would be surprised if similar measures were not already being proposed in other states, so I thought this was important to share with a wider audience.

The Student Religious Liberties Act of 2011 (SB2151) allows public school students to preach to other students during graduation ceremonies and facilitates religious objections to material taught in classes. I'm going to set aside the former to focus on the latter because I see it as being potentially devastating to public education.

January 21, 2011

How Should the Media Cover Atheism?

mediaEveryone loves to attack the mainstream news media in the U.S. They make an easy target, as they have made some colossal blunders with serious consequences. In this post, I'd like to begin to explore a much more difficult subject: how should the media cover atheism?

I am going to dispense with the question of whether the media should cover atheism at all because we are past that; the media is going to cover atheism. The question for us is going to be how best to contribute to this coverage.

January 19, 2011

When Idiocy is Contagious

Fox NewsIt is very easy to say that we have little reason to care what others believe as long as they leave us alone, stay out of politics, and obey the laws pertaining to separation of church and state. The problem is that this list of requirements can get quite long. For example, some might want to add "as long as they don't raise their children to be morons," and others might wish to include "as long as they don't attempt to infect others with their nonsense." When idiocy is contagious, we have cause for concern.

Take everyone's favorite example of contagious idiocy, Fox "News," for a moment. It would be very easy to say that Fox should be a non-issue and that anyone who doesn't like it should simply not watch it. And yet, there is evidence that those who do watch it end up being misinformed relative to those who get their news elsewhere. And this was merely the latest study to show the same results.

Why should we care that others are misinformed? For starters, they vote. And they are not being randomly misinformed but strategically misinformed to serve a particular agenda. The idea of propaganda being used on our fellow Americans to shape opinion and behavior once outraged us.

But the impact of this sort of misinformation goes well beyond politics. The ranks of the misinformed contribute to our culture in countless ways. What do you suppose viewers are learning about atheists from Fox "News" and other outlets pushing their particular worldview? We could not go through our lives avoiding them even if we wanted to, and so we need to pay attention to they messages they receive.

H/T to Failed Empire

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January 17, 2011

Civil Rights: Despite Progress, We Have a Long Way to Go

pity the atheist church signAs we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and reflect on the contributions of the civil rights movement to our lives, it is important both to acknowledge the progress made and to acknowledge how far we still have to go.

There is no denying that considerable progress has been made regarding the civil rights of African Americans and other persons of color; however, real equality remains elusive. Even though racism officially ended in the U.S. sometime before 2003, a great many people did not receive the memo. We continue to see embarrassing examples of racism from members of Congress, state governors, and new political movements. We have even seen it used openly as a political strategy. As a society, we have so many issues with race that it will continue to divide us until we find a way forward.

January 16, 2011

Words of Wisdom: Bill Clinton

As relevant today as it ever was:
As we exercise the right to advocate our views, and as we animate our supporters, we must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.
- Bill Clinton, 2010

January 15, 2011

2010 Was a Great Year for Idiocy

2010I never wrote an Idiot of the Year post for 2010 even though I have tried several times. When I look back over my Idiot of the Week selections for 2010, sporadic as they were, I found it impossible to select just one. As soon as I thought I'd settled on someone, I remembered another equally good candidate. Matters were complicated when I decided early on to exclude last year's winner, even though he has more than earned a repeat victory. So instead of picking an idiot of the year, I decided to do a brief review of what I consider to be the highlights of 2010.

January 14, 2011

Too Much Religion During Memorial Service in Tucson

ObamaI watched the memorial service in Tucson for the victims of the tragic shooting that has dominated U.S. headlines since it occurred. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but after Rachel Maddow insisted that it would be the defining moment of Obama's presidency, I figured I should check it out. But mostly, I was just curious. I wanted to see how Obama would balance the interests of those on the left seeking to politicize the shooting with the demands the situation and the knowledge that it would be highly inappropriate to use such a venue to do that.

January 13, 2011

Nominate Your Favorite Atheist Media for the About.com Readers' Choice Awards

About.com has launched a new awards program to highlight products, features, and services in a variety of categories, the Readers’ Choice Awards. Starting today, our friend Austin Cline of their Agnosticism/Atheism site will begin accepting nominations for the following categories:
  • Best Agnostic or Atheist Book of 2010
  • Best Agnostic or Atheist Blog
  • Best Agnostic or Atheist Podcast
  • Best Agnostic or Atheist Website
  • Best Agnostic or Atheist Social Networking Website
  • Best Agnostic or Atheist Forum
  • Best Agnostic or Atheist to Follow on Twitter
  • Best Agnostic or Atheist Facebook Page
  • Best Agnostic or Atheist Ad

You can find more information about the awards, including a nomination form, at http://atheism.about.com/library/bl-readers-choice-awards-2011.htm

Nominations open today and run until Feb. 4. Then voting will run from Feb. 11 through March 8, with winners announced March 15. There's no prize other than bragging rights, but this is a great way to show some appreciation for our favorites.

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January 10, 2011

Exporting Fundamentalist Christianity to Ghana

GhanaFrom an early age, those of us in the United States are taught to look down on so-called third world countries. We are told that they are "primitive" and "backwards" and reassured that we have progressed far beyond them in most ways. Some of the embarrassing things from our distant past might still happen there, but we have certainly learned the error of our ways and moved on.

As an example, consider the burning of "witches," a practice that once occurred here in the U.S. and now is mostly relegated to the third world nations. When we here reports of women being suspect of witchcraft in African nations, we marvel at how ignorant they are and express surprise over their backward culture.

January 9, 2011

What Does the Arizona Shooting Say About Us?

Gabrielle GiffordsAs details continue to emerge about the shooting of Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others in Arizona yesterday, I suspect we will learn more about the shooter and his motives. In the meantime, it does appear that the shooting was politically motivated and that Rep. Giffords was indeed targeted. I would not be a bit surprised to learn that this is just the latest example of the price we pay for Fox "News" and their ilk. I have seen many unconfirmed reports that the shooter's Facebook page listed Palin and Beck among his heroes. But even if that does turn out to be the case, it is not at all clear what we should do about it.

January 7, 2011

Kiva Atheists

KivaOne of the obvious problems with donating to charities is that one can only help so much before running out of money. There are so many groups worthy of support that few people are wealthy enough to support them all to the degree they might wish. What if there was a way to help others by loaning money?

If you haven't heard of Kiva, it is a popular microlending service where donors can support entrepreneurs in poor countries via small loans. Even small contributions, when pooled, can be very effective. Interestingly, the largest lending team on Kiva is the the Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious.

January 6, 2011

Another Reason to Avoid Chick-fil-A

A little more than a year ago, I posted about why atheists should avoid Chick-fil-A restaurants. I'm happy to report that I have not spent one cent at a Chick-fil-A since writing that post. Many of the responses to that post were positive, but some protested that they like the food too much to stop eating it. Well, now you have another reason to rethink your reluctance to exercise the power of your wallet.

According to Metro Weekly, the Pennsylvania Family Institute has been sponsored by Chick-fil-A. Why should we care? The Institute is an anti-gay organization.

It is hard to imagine that this news will sway many people who refuse to stop eating at Chick-fil-A. After all, we already know that they support the Christian extremist group, Focus on the Family. So their support for anti-gay bigotry is already fairly clear.

Still, maybe some people will be inspired to pay more attention to what they are supporting with their money. We can always hope, right?

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January 4, 2011

Reaching Out to Atheists is Mean to Christians

mean people suckIn a convoluted article written for The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), Regina Brett reflects the mixed feelings and often inconsistent attitudes many moderate Christians have regarding outspoken atheists. Her article, "Atheists Don't Have to Share Religious Beliefs, But They Also Don't Have to Share Ill Will, Either," suggests that atheists should probably just be quiet, even if we have some good points to make at times. If only we atheists weren't out to ruin Christians' fun, perhaps we could be tolerated.

January 2, 2011

Questions for Those Raising Their Kids Without Religion

school children looking out school busI'm not a parent, and I've honestly never had any interest in being one. If I was, I think I'd want to raise my children in such a way that they would learn about various religions, the arguments for various religions offered by their proponents, and the arguments against religion offered by atheists. I would hope that my children would grow up to be atheists; however, it would be important to me that it was their decision - made freely and in an informed way - rather than mine. This means that I would not attempt to raise my children as atheists.

For those of you who have children, I would imagine that one of the biggest challenges would be the knowledge that children who are not brought up to be religious will likely be tormented at school for not embracing Jesus (or whatever mythical figure was preferred in their location). If you are a parent who is raising your children without religious indoctrination, is this something with which you have struggled? If so, how have you resolved it?

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January 1, 2011

MTV's New Year's Eve Party Shakes Hope for Humanity

jersey shoreNew Year's Eve means different things to different people, but one of the common themes with the way it is celebrated in the U.S. involves reviewing the past year. We are encouraged to recall the big events of the past year, both personal and shared. But New Year's Eve is also about hope. As we look to the year ahead, we hope it will be better for us. We hope that we will learn from our past mistakes so that we do not repeat them, and we hope that our circumstances will improve in various ways. As far as traditional themes go, these seem like largely positive ones. So why is it that watching a mere 10 minutes of MTV's New Year's Eve party was enough to make me feel less hopeful about nearly everything?