April 30, 2011

Comment Voting Will Stay

I recently posted about some complaints I had received about allowing readers to vote on the comments left by other readers. I polled readers over the last week in order to get the opinion of regular visitors. The results of the poll were much clearer than I thought they would be: 76% favored continuing to allow readers to vote on comments, 16% expressed a preference for letting readers vote up but not down, and 6% did not want any voting at all.

What these results suggest to me is that a clear majority of readers find some merit in being able to vote on comments. I'll keep the system in place, at least for now.

According to Intense Debate, the purpose of allowing readers to vote on comments is that it contributes to the "reputation score" of each commenter. Persons who contribute valuable comments here and on other Intense Debate enabled blogs tend to have a high reputation score. Those who troll here or elsewhere generally have a much lower score. The system is not perfect by any means, but I have found some value in it.

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April 28, 2011

I am Part of the Forces of Hell

demonsYou know the sort of hell about which some Christians fantasize so that they can picture anyone who disagrees with them being tortured there? Of course you do! You've probably been threatened with it by many a Christian just like I have. According to Christian extremist James Dobson, I am part of its forces. And you may be too!

According to Right Wing Watch, Dobson spent Monday's radio show crowing about the win in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals for the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer.
One year ago on the National Day of Prayer, there was apprehension over the National Day of Prayer because this ruling had just been handed down. And then the Pentagon would not allow Franklin Graham to come ... it just looked like the forces of Hell were arrayed against this national prayer movement and yet the Lord has answered prayer and brought us through it.
So those of us who think that it is a big mistake for a secular democracy to promote religion are part of the forces of Dobson's hell. Value separation of church and state? You must be a demon!

April 26, 2011

Highlighting Examples of Clergy Abuse is Important

clergy abuseBeing an atheist is certainly no guarantee that one will be a moral person. Of course, being an atheist is also no guarantee that one will be an immoral person. Try telling that to some Christians though, and you are likely to meet some resistance. Some Christians continue to insist that only those who are "saved" can be moral, that morality comes from their god, and the like. There are many effective rebuttals, but Mojoey (Deep Thoughts) has been working tirelessly to compile one of my favorites.

April 25, 2011

Voting on Comments

Dont forget to voteSome discussion on a recent post reminded me of something I've been meaning to address here but keep forgetting. It seems that some of my readers have become a bit upset about one of the features of the Intense Debate commenting system I use on this blog. The complaints fall into two categories, one of which appears to be a fairly common complaint and the other an extremely rare one. I address these complaints below.

As you'll see, I've also added a poll to the right where you can vote about whether I should keep allowing readers to vote on comments.

April 24, 2011

Parents Are Wrong to Drag Kids to Church

ChristianityThroughout the United States, a familiar scene takes place every Easter in which well-meaning Christian parents dragged their atheist son or daughter to church with them. The stated explanations for this behavior ranged from the believable (e.g., "Because it is important to me") to the nonsensical (e.g., "Because it is Easter"). But the outcome was the same. The kid went to church because he or she had no choice or wanted to appease a parent.

I remember this scenario playing out in my childhood home many times. Granted, it wasn't just Easter that it happened; it was almost every week. But I do remember Easter being particularly important. And I remember not having a choice.

I left church behind long ago. In fact, the moment I had the opportunity to stop going, I took it. But I remember those days of coercion all too well. If you are going through it now, I feel for you. It is like a prison sentence. You know the day will come when you are free, but it still seems like an eternity.

April 23, 2011

Another Idiot of the Week: Bill Donohue

Bill DonohueDonald Trump may be an idiot, but he cannot compare to Idiot of the Week favorite Bill Donohue. Our pal Bill is at it again, and this is too good not to share. And by "good," I mean awful.

The Catholic League's Bill Donohue has made a name for himself by foaming at the mouth whenever he perceives the slightest insult to his Catholic employers. He's condemned anyone who has spoken out against the Church's efforts to conceal clergy abuse. In fact, he's gone as far as to insist that not all child rape is abusive! Like an enraged Muslim, he'll even go after cartoons! He's an obnoxious blowhard who has more than earned his multiple idiot awards.

Donohue once again deserves our attention for a recent appearance on Hannity during which he presented "evidence" that there is a "war on Easter." Yep, that's right. A war on Easter. I guess Mr. Donohue was craving attention. As explained by Think Progress, Donohue's "evidence" is fascinating. A fascinating example of idiocy, that is.

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Idiot of the Week: Donald Trump

Donald TrumpIf the reports I keep hearing are even remotely accurate, it appears that Donald Trump may actually have a chance of winning the Republican nomination ahead of the 2012 presidential race. I want to say that he would have absolutely no chance of actually winning the presidency, but I cannot do so. After all, we elected Reagan and W (at least once). So yeah, President Trump does not seem as far fetched as it should.

As you have undoubtedly heard, the Donald has decided to embrace the "birther" meme wholeheartedly. Some have suggested that this is not idiocy but genius. After all, this meme will not die and a national candidate who uses it effectively is sure to win considerable support among conservative voters who remain skeptical about where President Obama was born. Perhaps Trump really is a master manipulator and is simply demonstrating that he will say anything to advance his political career. And of course, he may be running for entirely different reasons than the desire to win.

April 22, 2011

Happy Zombie Jesus Weekend

Zombie JesusThis spring has been busy, and I almost ran out of time to make last minute preparations for the weekend. I don't know why I am so disorganized every year around this time when the stakes are so high. You'd think I would know better. But I think I'm all set now, as ready as I'll ever be.

I have a couple days worth of food and water ready for transport. I replaced some bulbs in the perimeter lighting and mapped an escape route this morning in case my defenses are overwhelmed. I've got the chainsaw gassed up and the shotgun oiled and loaded with buckshot. I guess I'm finally ready for Zombie Jesus weekend.

I hope you have a good one and survive with your brains in tact while those around you are celebrating the brutal death of someone they claim to love and revere because they think it "saved" them somehow. Maybe their brains have already been munched.

Wrestling With Free Speech

Freedom of speechI think that most of us can agree that free speech is important. And yet, I suspect that most of us would also agree that this freedom should not be absolute. That is, most of us recognize that an individual should not have the right to say or write absolutely anything. If you are not sure about such limits, read this and ask yourself whether a blogger should have complete freedom to incite violence against politicians. We typically recognize that the right to free speech can not be absolute and than it is a freedom that carries some important responsibilities. But once we have opened the door to placing limits on free speech, we must wrestle with their nature and extent.

April 20, 2011

Understanding Republican Atheists

Republican JesusI received an email from a reader who is struggling to understand how an atheist can also be a Republican. Isn't this something of an oxymoron, he asks? How can an atheist possibly support a political party that has been so hostile to secularism over the decades?

I realize I'm not the best one to answer this question. I know I have some Republican readers, so maybe they'll chime in. But I'll try to offer some suggestions at least to get the discussion going.

April 18, 2011

Words of Wisdom: Einstein

A man`s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

— Albert Einstein

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April 17, 2011

Creationists Win Big in Tennessee


I have been more unplugged than usual over the past week - little news and very little time to blog. I've missed some big stories and want to weigh in on one of the bigger ones: Tennessee's tragic decision to allow the teaching of creationism in public school. That this should outrage atheists is too obvious to require stating; however, it is important to emphasize that it should also outrage anyone who values reality-based education for our children.

April 15, 2011

Catholic Freethinkers?

An acquaintance - not someone I know particularly well - recently described himself as a freethinker. Fantastic! We certainly need more freethought here in Mississippi. But this particular acquaintance also describes himself as a Catholic. He attends church regularly, had his son baptized, and occasionally makes reference to engaging in prayer. Does "freethinker" not mean what I think it means?

Can someone be a religious believer and a freethinker simultaneously, or does one exclude the other? While I would not be surprised in the least to hear a Unitarian or a Deist identify as a freethinker, I'm having a hard time knowing what to make of a Catholic doing so.

I understand freethought as being more about the method through which one forms one's beliefs rather than the beliefs themselves. To be a Catholic freethinker, one would have to claim that one came to accept the "truth" of Catholic doctrine solely through the application of reason and without any appeal to authority or religious revelation. That seems unlikely, but I suppose it is possible that someone could make such a claim.

An obvious lesson here is that it is a mistake to use "freethinker" as an umbrella term for describing atheists, agnostics, and humanists.

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April 13, 2011

Atheism and Cynicism: Personal Reflections

bibleI don't know exactly when I became so cynical. I suppose it was a process and not a discrete event. My early love of science certainly fostered a tendency to question everything. I used to love reading about various mysteries and paranormal phenomena. Depictions of the scientific method as a way to investigate and ultimately debunk these myths was intriguing.

As I grew a bit older, I remember sitting in church and marveling at the hypocrisy I saw everywhere. These people who looked so pious with their hands clasped in prayer were anything but. I knew what they did outside of church. At least, I knew some of it. It gradually dawned on me that they might be here in church going through the motions for reasons other than belief.

April 11, 2011

Atheist Elitism

ElitistPerspicacity's recent post over at Think Atheist, "If you have to be Genius to be Atheist, We are in Real Trouble," is one that every atheist blogger should read. You may not agree with all of it. I didn't. But that is part of what makes it worth reading.

In the post, we are challenged to remember that our audience is more diverse than we sometimes realize and that many of the people we need to reach are being alienated by some aspects of how we present ourselves. This might not be a comfortable truth, but I suspect that it is an accurate one.
...my deeper concern is that most of the current population does not have the opportunity for higher education and because of this, most don't have the chance to become critical/skeptical thinkers. Unfortunately, the tenor and attitudes that some in the athiest community have aren't helping this situation. Instead of being open-minded and debating in a civil fashion, many christians are instead ridiculed and berated by athiests—eventually causing many of them to leave these debates feeling “non-bielevers” are rude, hostile, and arrogant. I see this as a missed opportunity.

April 9, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Warren Community Church, Somerville, TN

Sommerville, TNI'm doing something a bit different with this week's award. Instead of going with the latest politician to say something stupid, I'm giving Idiot of the Week "honors" to a church. Warren Community Church in Sommerville, TN, is this week's idiot. I'm also posting this to give a shout out to Stop Baptist Predators, the excellent blog that brought the sad story of Warren Community Church to my attention.

April 8, 2011

Why Do I Say "god(s)?"

ZeusYou have probably noticed that I refer to "god(s)" or "gods" when it is necessary to refer to them at all. This is deliberate on my part, and I am by no means the only atheist blogger who does this. So why do we do it? Why don't we simply use the accepted Western convention of "God" when writing? I'll explain why I do it.

I cannot speak for other atheist bloggers, but the primary reason I use the "god(s)" or "gods" is that I want to communicate to the reader that I reject Christian privilege. In the United States at least, "God" is widely understood as referring to the Christian god. But there is nothing special about this particular god and no reason to pretend that it is the only one people have worshiped over the ages. I see little reason to pretend otherwise.

Humans have believed in thousands of gods. Even today, a great many gods continue to be praised as if they were real. But none has more evidence of its existence than any other. In all likelihood, they are equally fictitious. None deserves the sort of special treatment "God" confers.

Much as feminists helped us realize the problems associated with the exclusive use of male pronouns, atheists can help us realize the manner in which using "God" maintains Christian privilege.

April 6, 2011

Hitler's Christianity is Not Completely Irrelevant

Hitler ChristianThe fact that Adolph Hitler was a Christian is almost irrelevant. After all, Hitler being a Christian really doesn't have much to do with other Christians. His Christianity does not mean that other Christians are anything like him. Virtually nobody is like him. In fact, comparing those we dislike to him only minimizes the horrific acts he committed.

So why am I even bothering to address Hitler's Christianity as all? I'll give you three reasons.

First, many of today's Christians insist that I address Hitler. They do not want to claim him as one of their own, so they pretend that Hitler was an atheist and insist that that somehow makes me immoral. So I address Hitler's Christianity to dispel this absurd claim.

Second, I am not convinced that humanity has retained the many lessons of Hitler. His reign of terror did at one time serve as an example of why we must remain vigilant to prevent fascist tendencies from re-emerging. And it also showed us what can happen when religious and ethnic hatred are paired with military power. But this lesson seems to have faded a bit. And please don't assume that I'm referring only to Republicans here. I wish I had that luxury.

Third, some of the people who truly admire Hitler today possess vast power and wealth. They wear the cloak of Christian extremism while pushing an agenda that seeks to increase the status of those at the top while showing utter disdain for those at the middle at bottom. They do not have to seize power; they already have it. The rest of us must appreciate the risks of ignoring them.

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April 4, 2011

Mike Huckabee is a Dangerous Theocrat

I'm going to give Mike Huckabee the benefit of the doubt and assume that his statement in this video about how he'd like every American to be forced at gunpoint to listen to Christian extremist David Barton was not completely serious. But since Huckabee repeatedly praised Barton, it is important that we ask the question of who this David Barton fellow is if we want to understand Huckabee.

April 3, 2011

Military Atheists in the Media

Military Atheists & Secular HumanistsI really hope this story about the Military Atheists and Secular Humanists gets so much media coverage that the crap about there not being atheists in foxholes finally disappears. Not only are their many atheists serving in the armed forces, but they deserve to be able to come together and meet without worrying about the consequences. In short, they deserve the same community and support that their religious counterparts now enjoy.

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April 1, 2011

Your April Fools Day Reminder

april fool
Today is April Fools' Day in the U.S. It is not usually considered a Christian holiday, but perhaps it should be. In any case, atheists can expect to hear a line from Psalm 14 quoted by their Christian Facebook friends today:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
Please don't get mad when you see this on your Facebook news feed. This Christian has just revealed how little they know about their own bible. Instead of getting mad, consider using their bible against them. Remind them of Matthew 5:22, which says:
Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Is their "clever" little insult really worth burning in the hell in which they believe? For more, see my April Fools Day post from 2009.