March 30, 2011

Former Atheist Warns About Dangers of Atheist Pride

atheist prideThis isn't an Idiot of the Week post, but it certainly could be. Jennifer Fulwiler, a self-described atheist turned Catholic, wrote a piece in the National Catholic Register that manages to get so many things wrong that it is difficult to know where to start.

Her article initially appears to be a criticism of "A Week," but rapidly reveals itself to be little more than the sort of anti-atheist hit piece to which we've become accustomed. Fulwiler announces that atheists publicly proclaiming their atheism is "unhealthy." Her rationale, and I use the term loosely, relies primarily on the claim that atheists did not used to do this.
Back in my day, atheists didn’t walk around with signs that said “I am an atheist.” They didn’t put atheist pride stickers on their two-pound cell phones or replace their grainy yearbook photos with a red “A.”

March 28, 2011

Send in the Super Christians!

Super ChristiansAs the situation continues to worsen in Japan, with higher radiation levels and no clear solution in sight, I wonder if it might be time to try something a bit unconventional. A team of 50 American Christians could be assembled, trained, and sent to Japan to fix the reactors. Their god would protect them from radiation, allowing them to work unencumbered by protective gear, and nobody would have to worry about them getting sick.

March 27, 2011

Moving Science to the Political Realm

If we have abdicated our birthright to scientific progress, we have done so by moving the debate into the realm of political and cultural argument, where we all feel more confident, because it is there that the Gut rules. Held to the standards of that context, any scientific theory is turned into mere opinion...This is how there came to be a "debate" over the very existence of global warming, even though the considered view among those who have actually studied the phenomenon renders the debate quite silly.
- Charles Pierce, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

Pierce goes on to explain that we have big tobacco to thank for this particular strategy that every American will surely recognize as a favorite of the corporations that run our country. It was laughable when tobacco used it, and it is laughable when the fossil fuels industries use it. Or at least, it would be laughable if we weren't paying such a price for it.

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March 26, 2011

What is Your Opinion on "A Week?"

Atheist WeekThose of you who are on Facebook probably knew that this past week was "A Week," a week in which you are asked to change your profile picture to the one like you see to the right. This idea is simple: it shows people that there are way more atheists than they ever realized, including some in their circle of acquaintances.

Obviously, the other purpose of "A Week" is that it involves a large number of atheists publicly outing themselves (at least on Facebook). In this way, it seems perfectly consistent with Dawkins' Out Campaign.

March 24, 2011

An Unpleasant Task Ahead for Atheists

Consider the following question for a moment:
If the atheist movement succeeds, what should replace religion?
My gut-level response to this is "Nothing." Why must religion be replaced with anything? Isn't reality sufficient? However, I am starting to wonder if I might be wrong about this. Just because I do not personally have a need for anything to replace religion in my life does not mean that others do not have such a need. I am beginning to think that we atheists may have an unpleasant task ahead of us in wrestling with this very question.

Atheism outlives all gods

March 22, 2011

Because Torturing You Forever in Hell Isn't Enough

hurricaneU.S. citizens have donated less money to Japan so far than they did to either Haiti or Louisiana over the same time frame. While there are many possible explanations, it appears that these three disasters have at least one thing in common: many people seem to believe that they were caused by the Christian god.
It is clear that people are going to come up with whatever supernatural explanations they prefer for natural disasters, ignoring the science and confirming what psychologists call the just world hypothesis. I suppose this is unavoidable. I do, however, still wish that those who seek to exploit crises like this would face stiffer penalties, even if only in the form of being disowned by the public.

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March 20, 2011

Interfaith Groups are Another Way to Exclude Atheists

Interfaith symbolsIt is great that religious people occasionally make efforts to get along instead of killing each other. By coming together in various "interfaith coalitions," they may be able to overcome some of their long-standing differences, reduce conflict, and learn from one another. There is very little not to like about that, except that such efforts often exclude those of us in the reality-based community.

Responding to news that the Obama White House had created an Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge through their Interfaith Office, here's how Ophelia Benson (Butterflies & Wheels) recently put it:
An Interfaith Challenge offered by an Interfaith Office can’t be fully open to and inclusive of atheists. It rejects atheists in the very language it uses. We shouldn’t be pretending it doesn’t. We shouldn’t be pretending there is nothing exclusive or particularist or antisecular about faith-based offices and faith-based challenges in and from a branch of government. I don’t feel included in Obama’s challenge. On the contrary; I feel very pointedly and explicitly not included.
I agree. No branch of government has any business promoting religion - whether it is a particular religion or simply religion in general.

Efforts like this send a clear message to atheists: you are not a part of this. We are used to being outsiders in many aspects of our lives, but it is unacceptable to keep receiving this message from our own government.

March 19, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Jim DeMint

Jim DeMintIdiot watchers may wonder why Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) seems to escape my attention despite being a poster child for both idiocy and Christian extremism. That ends today thanks to @achura.

Sen. DeMint is one of these teabaggers in Congress who seems to make even some of the other Republicans uncomfortable at times. He gives Bachmann competition for all-out crazy but somehow manages to appear a bit more sane while doing so (probably because she's got the crazy eyes).

March 18, 2011

March 17, 2011

Religion + Power = Danger

Behead those who insult islamWhen I see Muslim protestors calling for violence against whoever drew the latest "offensive" cartoon or wrote the latest book they didn't like, I initially marvel at how incredibly violent this "religion of peace" seems to be. Not only is their treatment of women abhorrent, but they seem to leap to violence at the slightest provocation. All it seems to take is someone criticizing their silly religion.

While I understand that not all Muslims advocate violence against people who offend their religious sensibilities, it seems that there are quite a few who are willing to do so. My initial thought about the violent nature of Islam is almost always followed by another, one that helps put Islam into a context with which I am much more familiar:
Given the same state power, Christians would behave every bit as badly. That is, Christians would be doing most of the same things in the name of Christianity as these Muslim protestors are doing in the name of Islam.
I think this is a fair assessment for at least two reasons. First, history shows that when Christianity enjoyed the same sort of state power that Islam has in many Muslim nations, Christians did in fact behave every bit as badly. If the Pope still had an army, there is little question that he would be even more detrimental than he is at present. Second, in listening to what modern Christian extremists say, one can learn a great deal about what they would do if only they had the power to enforce their will. Give Pat Robertson, Bill Donohue, Mike Huckabee, or Fred Phelps the power to make and enforce laws, and see what happens.

Islam is a problem. But a big part of what makes it so problematic is the power attached to it. The more power attached to any particular religion, the more troublesome it becomes. Those who have managed to infuse the American military with evangelical fundamentalist Christianity have known full well what they are doing. They are looking to Muslim nations with envy.

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March 14, 2011

Ambassadors of Atheism

Fools heart dawkins quoteWhether we want to accept the role or not, you and I are ambassadors of atheism. When we disclose our lack of god belief to others, we may be the first person our audience has encountered to do so. Like it or not, we represent atheism. How, you may ask, can someone be an ambassador for a lack of belief in something? I'll consider that question, but most of all, I want you to think seriously about how to be the best ambassador you can be.

Representing Non-Belief

Since atheism is not a philosophy, worldview, religion, or belief system of any kind, it may initially seem pointless to talk of representing it. And yet, this difficulty entails part of how to represent atheism effectively.

March 13, 2011

Will Display Problems Mar iPad 2 Release?

Apple iPad 2Amidst the disaster in Japan and the Republican war on working people in the U.S., Apple's release of the iPad 2 this week did not generate as much buzz as it probably would have otherwise. But iPad 2 is available now, and many of us who passed on the original iPad are taking a look at the sleeker, faster device. The review sites seem to agree that iPad 2 represents "evolutionary but not revolutionary" change over the first version. And yet, reports of display problems are starting to emerge.

Apple is no stranger to this sort of LCD backlight bleed. Some of the earlier iMacs had a similar problem, as did early versions of the iPhone 4. But I don't suppose their sales suffered that much.

Early adopters of technology products often pay a premium to be guinea pigs for the rest of us. I've certainly been in this position an embarrassing number of times. I know better, of course, but still manage to get caught up in the irrational desire for the latest gadget. With age, I find that I have gotten better about this. I even managed to avoid Apple's iPad.

If it wasn't for the hope that we might finally see a higher resolution screen in iPad 3, I might be looking at iPad 2 in the next few months. Of course, reports like this would make me hesitant to take the plunge. I suppose this is the price of striving to be rational.

Surprised to see an occasional off-topic post? You shouldn't be.

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March 12, 2011

Japan Doesn't Need Your Prayers

prayerIf you pray, you probably think some sort of god hears your prayers, right?

Where was this god when Japan was hit with the earthquake and tsunami?

The best case scenario would have to be that this god did not cause the disaster but simply allowed it to happen, knowing how many would suffer.

Does it make any sense that such a god would be interested in your prayers now?

If you are praying for the Japanese people, please recognize that you are doing this only to comfort or distract yourself. It is for you, not for them. It does not do them any good.

If you really want to do some good for the people of Japan, donate to a relief agency.

March 11, 2011

Mockery vs. Personal Attacks

JesusWhen it comes to atheists mocking religious belief - something I have long advocated here - a couple of crucial distinctions must be made. First, mocking someone's religious beliefs is not the same thing as attacking them personally. The distinction is not always easy to spot, but I think it is an important one. Second, not all forms of mockery are equally effective. In fact, forms of mockery that might be perfect for certain believers will fall flat or make the situation worse with others.

The goal of mocking religious belief is simple: provoke thought among all who encounter it. I seriously doubt that one experience of having one's religious beliefs mocked is going to lead any believer to de-convert. The best we can hope for is to provoke thought, and we should probably view effective mockery as having a small, cumulative impact. This is part of why even fairly subtle forms of mockery can be effective.

March 9, 2011

Atheists Do Not Spend Time on Gods Because They are Popular

La RendiciĆ³n de Granada - Pradilla

 Bernard Schweizer, Associate Professor of English at Long Island University, wrote an odd piece for CNN's Belief Blog about theists who hate "God." He deserves credit for correctly pointing out that atheists do not hate god(s); however, he omits the main reason that atheists spend time on the god construct at all.
For atheists, God is in the same category as these fictional villains. Except that since God is the most popular of all fictional villains, New Atheists – those evangelizing ones such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins - spend a considerable amount of energy enumerating his flaws.

March 8, 2011

Does Justin Bieber Hate Women?

Justin BieberEvidence is emerging that pop star Justin Bieber may be little more than a misogynist Christian extremist. Not only has he made it clear that he is horribly misinformed about homosexuality, but he recently told Rolling Stone that he is opposed to abortion even in cases of rape.

But what is most interesting here is Bieber's view of rape itself:
"I really don't believe in abortion," he told the magazine "I think [an embryo] is a human. It's like killing a baby."

He added that while it is "really sad" for a woman to become pregnant after being raped, he claimed that "everything happens for a reason."

"I don't know how that would be a reason," he added. "I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that."
So rape "happens for a reason," and while he won't speculate about that reason, he's sure there is one. I suspect it has to do with his god. And somehow this makes it okay?

We can only hope that this kid is simply yet another victim of Christian indoctrination and that he will manage to outgrow it. If not, it looks like we have yet another Christian extremist with a microphone and an army of fans.

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March 7, 2011

The Future of Atheist Blogging

Bizarro atheistsI've been helping an acquaintance set up a new blog that has nothing whatsoever to do with atheism or any of the subjects I address here. In the process of advising him on how to get the blog going, attract readers, and the like, I've been reminded of what a pain in the ass the whole thing has become. The biggest hurdle he's going to face is post frequency. He has convinced himself that posting once every 2 weeks is going to be sufficient. I'm skeptical, but I guess we'll see.

I imagine that the sustained effort involved in blogging is the main reason we see so many excellent atheist blogs come and go. So much work is required and with virtually no return that one really has to love doing it to stick with it for more than a few months.

I think sometimes about starting a new blog in a different niche, one with less competition and even more room for growth. But then I realize that I barely have time to maintain the blogs I already have.

What do you think the atheist blogosphere will look like in 5 years? Will the niche be exhausted by then, or will a number of new subcategories have been developed? In our niche, how should one position oneself now so as to be in a good position for whatever the future holds?

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March 6, 2011

British Humanist Association Asks Atheists to Stand Up and Be Counted

BHA Census posterAs some of you may know, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has been campaigning to encourage nonbelievers to mark "no religion" on the 2011 census. This poster and others like it seem like they'd be very effective. I know if I saw one, I'd be more likely to complete a census form.

Unfortunately, these posters were rejected as offensive by those in charge of ads in railway stations. If this happened in the U.S., nobody would be surprised. But this isn't the U.S. we're talking about. Evidently, the phrase "for God's sake" was deemed offensive.

The good news is that the campaign is proceeding with a different slogan. And besides, the controversy has probably helped publicize the real issue (i.e., that atheists need to be counted if we are to have any real clout for our numbers).

I applaud the efforts of the BHA to promote the rights and welfare of nonbelievers in the UK. Their census campaign is important, and I imagine it will be quite successful in calling attention to a growing segment of the population that has been ignored for far too long.

H/T to The Freethinker

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March 5, 2011

Idiot of the Week: John Boehner (Yet Again)

BoehnerSpeaker John "the Orangeman" Boehner (R-OH) is certainly no stranger to idiocy. He's been "honored" here before, and I am reasonably confident that he will require additional attention in the future. Now that he is serving as Speaker of the House (at least when he's not golfing), he has a much larger platform from which to dispense his idiocy. And if there is one thing he's demonstrated so far, it is that he's eager to do just that.

March 4, 2011

A Personal Relationship With Jesus

As I have explained previously, Christians do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Here's a great video (probably not entirely work safe) making many of the same points.

H/T to

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March 3, 2011

When Mockery is Effective

I have grown tired of hearing about how the so-called "new atheists" are too mean, too assertive, or are simply being "dicks." Atheists have been accused of being militant and told to keep quiet for at least as long as there have been atheists. There is nothing new about any of this, and the real question is whether religious beliefs should be treated differently from any other absurd beliefs. Don't mock the religious, they say, you are simply making atheists look bad. I've got news for anyone who still clings to this tired argument: there is little atheists can do to make public perceptions of us more negative than they already are. It is about time we realize that outright mockery, at least in certain circumstances, can be effective.

crucifix against vampires

March 1, 2011

Blog Tips: Setting up FeedBurner

FeedburnerIf you are not using FeedBurner on your blog, you are missing out on one of the most powerful ways to make your content more accessible to your readers. In this tip, I'll show you how to set up FeedBurner to handle your blog's feed and position you to take advantage of the many things this free service can do for you. You have installed a system to track blog traffic, but if you are not using FeedBurner, you are missing lots of great information about how your blog's feed is being used. But FeedBurner can do far more for you than provide statistics. Think of it as a platform on which you will be able to build.