June 30, 2011

Catholics Still Pushing Exorcism

ExorcismA couple of Catholic friends told me recently that the whole demonic possession and exorcism thing is merely an embarrassing chapter in the past and that nobody takes such things seriously these days. If only that was true! As I noted in a post last year, Roman Catholic bishops were insisting that we needed more exorcisms as recently as 2010. And now I learn from a recent article in the San Angelo Standard Times that exorcism is still alive and well. I understand why some Catholics would be embarrassed by this. I'm embarrassed by it as a human!

June 29, 2011

Atheist Revolution: What's in a Name?

atheist revolutionWhen I started Atheist Revolution back in 2005, I hoped to spark discussion and critical thinking on religion and politics in American life. I called the blog Atheist Revolution because I was convinced that the pervasive hold of Christianity on the minds of most Americans necessitated a revolution of the mind. I thought that "revolution" conveyed strength (e.g., atheists standing up for our rights) and upheaval (e.g., replacing belief in superstition with an appreciation for reason and science). I went out of my way to describe this as a revolution of the mind rather than some sort of armed insurrection. Again and again, I have gone out of my way to be clear about this. And yet, I am still considered "militant" by some.

June 28, 2011

Thank You to All Atheist Parents

ParentingI am not a parent, and it is not in my future to be one. And yet, I have so much respect and admiration for the atheist parents out there that I have difficulty putting it into words. By raising your children to think for themselves and choosing education over indoctrination, you are leaving a lasting impact on our world, one which will benefit us all. It isn't that you are creating future generations of atheists; it is that you are doing what you can to equip your children with the tools they will need for functioning in the real world. And knowing the many challenges you face along the way, I am truly in awe of you.

June 27, 2011

Christian Militants Discussed in Congress

Sheila jackson leeThe Republican Party wants us to fear Muslim extremists while ignoring their embrace of Christian extremism. Even as some of their presidential candidates represent undiluted Christian dominionism, they want us to be so terrified of Muslims (not to mention immigrants, gays, and atheists) that we ignore their hypocrisy. And yet, it would be a mistake to think that all of our elected officials are blind to this strategy. Believe it or not, the subject of Christian extremism does come up in congress once in awhile.

June 26, 2011

Priest Advocates Taking Up Intellectual Arms Against Advancing Atheist Horde

AtheismI mentioned CNN's Belief Blog recently when I highlighted a couple of lessons they shared from their first year of blogging, one of which involved the number of atheist commenters. It looks like I was not the only one who found this post interesting. A reader directed me to a post written by Father Robert Barron, head of a "global media ministry" that seeks to "evangelize the culture." On the recommendation of this reader, I decided to check out what Barron had to say about atheists.

June 25, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Rep. Todd Akin

Todd AkinI was not planning to write an Idiot of the Week post this week. Then I heard about Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) recent characterization of NBC's omission of "under god" during the pledge portion of their U.S. Open coverage. When this sort of idiocy drops in one's lap, it cannot be ignored. And in light of my last post, Rep. Akin's comments were too good not to share.

As I'm sure you recall, NBC cut the words "under god" from the pledge of allegiance during their U.S. Open coverage. They then apologized and admitted that their coverage was designed to push patriotism for reasons I still cannot comprehend. This was the context into which Rep. Akin saw fit to insert himself.

American Atheists More Liberal Than General Population

Jesus Was A Jewish LiberalAustin Cline has posted some of the results from a Harris Interactive poll from 2005 showing the percentage of atheists and agnostics who support various policies and programs (e.g., reproductive rights, sex ed in school, universal health care, etc.). The results are interesting, especially when compared with the attitudes of the general population. It appears that atheists in the U.S. do tend to be a bit more politically liberal than the population as a whole.

Of course, this does not mean that there are not plenty of conservative atheists. But findings like this suggest that the common stereotype of atheists as more likely to be liberal is not without some basis in reality.

I selected the picture used in this post to poke at Christian conservatives. It should in no way be taken to imply that I think Jesus actually lived. There is no evidence that the Jesus depicted in the Christian bible ever lived.

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June 24, 2011

Suppressing Science Harms Us All

Undermining Science: Suppression and Distortion in the Bush Administration, Updated with a New PrefaceSome of the most influential scientists - those who truly changed their fields and had a lasting impact on how we think about the world - were persecuted by Christians. When the results of their scientific inquiry led men such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin to expose factual errors in Christian teaching, Christians often reacted negatively. It was not merely that they disagreed; they sought to suppress the relevant findings, retarding progress and promoting ignorance and myth.

June 23, 2011

Some Christian Email

emailIf you write an atheist blog, you are going to get email from Christians. It is inevitable, and it is something I encourage you to embrace. Ideally, it will provide you with some insight into the Christian mind. And if nothing else, it will be entertaining.

From what I've observed over the years, there are a handful of motives that lead Christians to email me. Some clearly want to convert me with the latest "clever" Ray Comfort argument that they always assume I've not already heard. Others want to remind me of their hell, something which seems to delight them to no end. And still others feel the need to threaten me with assault or even death at their own hands.

But there are some Christians who don't fit neatly into any of these categories. Consider the following email as an example:
God bless all of you. May he wrap you in his loving arms and welcome you all into his kingdom.

Whilst you do not believe in Him the almighty father loves and accepts you for who you are. Of Course he is saddened that you have chosen to reject him but he is a forgiving father and e is waiting to welcome all of us into a close personal relationship with him (sic).

May the love of God shine on all of us
At first glance, this could be read as an attempt at conversion. But if that is what it is, it is far less blatant than most I receive. What strikes me most about this one is how truly childlike it is. It is not that I assume a child wrote it - I don't necessarily assume that. But it suggests that the author has not spent much time thinking about the world which he or she inhabits.

My other observation concerns the use of the word "whilst" at the beginning of the second sentence. I have noticed that many Christians who email me seem to feel the need to "biblicize" their writing like this. Fascinating!

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June 22, 2011

President Michele Bachmann

Michele BachmannConventional wisdom says that Michele Bachmann (R-MN) could win the Republican primary but would never prevail in the general election. And yet, as PZ Myers recently reminded us, the elections of Reagan and George W. Bush should give us pause. I certainly remember telling myself in the run-up to the 2000 election that there was no way there American people would elect W. And even though they did not actually elect him then, all doubt was erased in 2004. We could end up with a President Michele Bachmann.

What would a Bachmann administration look like? That is a very uncomfortable question but probably one we should ask ourselves.

June 21, 2011

Following the Money to Learn About Christian Priorities

counterprotesting bigotryHow much money do you suppose has been spent by the Christian right over the last 5 years in opposition to same-sex marriage? No, I don't have any numbers handy. But if you recall California's Proposition 8 fiasco alone, you'll get a sense that we're talking about some serious cash being spent to prevent same-sex couples from marrying.

Now, how much money do you suppose has been spent in the last 5 years to prevent people from cooking with yeast, wearing blended fabrics, or eating shellfish? Again, I don't have numbers, but I'd be willing to bet that the answer is "not much." These things are condemned in the Christian bible in the same book that many Christians point to as providing their rationale for condemning homosexuality (i.e., Leviticus).

So why is it okay to ignore some of what one's god supposedly condemns while spending large sums of money to oppose others?

June 20, 2011

The Ledge: Is Hollywood Ready for an Atheist Hero?

The LedgeWhen was the last time you saw an atheist character depicted positively in a feature film? Yeah, it has been awhile for me too.

Atheist characters have been included in many films, but aside from documentaries, we tend to be depicted either as villains or as overcoming our skepticism and embracing some for of superstition. This latter role has become so overused in horror films that I feel like I can spot it a mile away. Wouldn't it be nice to have a feature film with an atheist main character who got to remain an atheist and didn't have to be a villain?

NBC Admits to Pushing Patriotism

Here is what NBC had to say after Christians objected to their cutting the words "under god" from the pledge of allegiance in their U.S. Open coverage:
We began our coverage of this final round just about three hours ago and when we did it was our intent to begin the coverage of this U.S. Open Championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being held in our nation’s capital for the third time. Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone and we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.
So the whole god thing is being equated with patriotism, is it? Constitution be damned, we just cannot have an America without religious delusion. And nobody, except we atheists, even bothers to point out that the garbage about god wasn't even added until 1954!

Believe it or not, the confluence with god and America isn't even the part of this I find most objectionable. Read the first sentence of that quote again. "...it was out intent to begin the coverage...with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being held i our nation's capital..." Why? Why does a television network find it necessary to push patriotism at every opportunity?

H/T to Happy Puppy Sunshine Blog

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June 19, 2011

Evaluating Empire Avenue for Blog Promotion

Empire AvenueIf you missed my previous post, Introducing EmpireAvenue, start there. It will get you up to speed on the basics about this service and how it works. Now that I've been using EmpireAvenue (EAv) for a bit, I'm ready to come back to the question I know some of you have: Should I be using EAv to promote by blog?

Happy Father's Day

Father's Day

via Atheist Cartoons

To all the atheist dads out there and to the religious dads who have been accepting of your atheist children, you've been far better at this whole father thing that the Judeo-Christian god. I hope you have a wonderful Father's Day!

June 18, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Church Vandals

Praise FSMBy now, you have almost certainly heard about the churches in Bend, OR, that were vandalized. Some moron saw fit to spray paint "Praise the FSM" on two churches. This cowardly act accomplished nothing and has been rightly condemned by the atheist blogosphere. There are many effective ways to send a message to local churches or members of one's community; vandalism is not one of them.

In my opinion, the best argument against this sort of behavior is that we do not like it when Christians do it to us. Atheists have been victimized by Christian vandals again and again. That does not make it right for us to do it; in fact, our experience of being on the receiving end should remind us what it feels like and discourage us from lowering ourselves to their level.

The least persuasive argument against church vandalism I've heard is that it makes us (i.e., atheists) look bad. Um...we already look bad. We're already hated. Study after study shows that we are the least trusted and most despised minority in America. And we're not hated for what we do as much as for the fact that we exist at all. So I don't see this as a compelling argument for much of anything.

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Michele Bachmann is Not a Moron

Michele BachmannI know, I know! I have repeatedly characterized Michele Bachmann (R-MN) as an idiot. Even though I never meant to imply that she was stupid, I see how what I wrote could have been read this way, and I was wrong. Very wrong. Michele Bachmann is not a moron; she's actually rather smart. Yes, I am serious.

Those who know Bachmann, including her political enemies in Minnesota have an important message for the rest of us: do not underestimate her.

June 17, 2011

Lessons From CNN's Belief Blog

cnn belief blogDan Gilgoff, the Religion Editor for CNN.com, compiled an interesting list of 10 things he and his staff learned during their first year of writing CNN's Belief Blog. I suspect you'll find the entire list worth a look, but I can't resist highlighting two of the lessons as being especially relevant to atheists:
2. Atheists are the most fervent commenters on matters religious.
This one doesn't surprise me one bit. I know many of us were disappointed to see CNN devoting so much time and effort to myth and superstition. It makes sense that we'd have something to say about it, particularly when they often choose not to address it objectively.

I suspect the main reason atheists have been vocal on CNN's blog concerns how they have chosen to cover religion. Just because many people believe some sort of religious drivel does not make it valid. One would hope that a news organization would objectively cover what people believe without endorsing false beliefs. While the Belief Blog does indeed post something from a reality-based perspective on occasion, it isn't the norm.
4. Most Americans are religiously illiterate.
Research has already supported this, but it was nice to see that those involved with CNN's blog noticed it too. That so many religious Americans cling to their fables and insist that they are crucial to their morality - without actually knowing what they say - speaks volumes about the plight of our nation.

June 15, 2011

Why Do They Hate Atheists?

Why do atheists hate America?Poll after poll has revealed that atheists are the most distrusted minority in the United States. Why do so many (although certainly not all) American theists seem to despise us so much? Why are they less likely to vote for us than any other group? Why would they prefer for their son or daughter to marry a Muslim than an atheist? Why are atheists, as University of Minnesota sociologist Penny Edgell put it, "a glaring exception to the rule of increasing tolerance over the last 30 years?" That we are hated is quite clear; why we are hated is open for debate.

June 14, 2011

Why I Am An Atheist

I am an atheist

That has to be one of the most effective yet concise explanations for why I am an atheist. How about you?

June 13, 2011

Why Do Atheists Hate My God?

eyehategodYou know how some Christians are extremely fond of claiming that we atheists hate their god? It is one of those nonsensical claims we hear quite a bit. The fact that it is not possible to hate something which one doesn't believe exists never seems to occur to them, and this is usually what we find ourselves explaining when faced with this claim. In my experience, they often try to work around this response by insisting that we really do believe in their god and are just mad at it for some reason. Perhaps there is a different line of inquiry that would be interesting to pursue here.

June 12, 2011

Supporting Atheist Youth Should Be Priority

atheist youth may feel isolatedThere are groups that provide assistance and support to LGBT teens who are struggling social ostracization, coming out, or escaping an abusive home life. There are not nearly enough of them, but at least the need for this sort of support is widely recognized. This is not yet the case for atheist teens. Perhaps the plight of Damon Fowler will lead to some progress in this area, as more of us realize what some atheist youth must endure.

June 11, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Tracy Morgan

Tracy Morgan is a Bigot I haven't felt the need to do an Idiot of the Week post in awhile. Maybe I've just been a bit burned out on the whole thing. Because it has been awhile, I'm going to be a bit liberal with the timeline on this one. The incident that earned Tracy Morgan Idiot of the Week recognition actually occurred last week but did not come to my attention until this week.

June 10, 2011

Keep Your God to Yourself

Writing about the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission's recent call for a boycott of Old Navy, Hrafnkell Haraldsson of PoliticusUSA writes:
Here’s the thing: there are a great many people in this world who are not Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, and we’re tired of hearing about your God and how angry he is, or how much he hates this or hates that. We’ve had it up to here already. Keep your God to yourself, don’t pretend to speak for him – gods above and below!
Hear hear!

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June 9, 2011

California Bigotry

Like many atheist groups across the U.S., the Orange County Coalition for Reason erected a billboard. In doing so, they selected one of the mildest messages of all.

Don't believe in god? You are not alone.

Think about that message for a moment. What does it mean? It seeks to normalize the experience of atheists by reminding us that there are others like us. We are not nearly as alone as we often feel. It is difficult to imagine a more positive message.

And yet, that is not how some Christians perceive it. According to the Orange County Register, Orange County Mayor Margie Rice had this to say about the billboard:
That billboard is going to turn my stomach every time I drive by. But there is not much I can do about it. I guess it's fine to make a statement, but if I could help it, I would not allow it.
How could such a positive message possibly be that objectionable to anyone? Bigotry. Mayor Rice is sickened by the very existence of atheists because she is a bigot. And she's not alone.

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June 8, 2011

American Royalty

American RoyaltyOne of the explanations I remember hearing for the puzzling fascination with Princess Diana I observed among many Americans was envy of royalty. I dismissed this explanation as being ridiculous. But now that I've seen how the mainstream media has been groveling before Sarah Palin, I'm not so sure. And we're not blameless either. We've been giving this woman undeserved attention and publicity, turning her into a a very wealthy person in the process.

June 7, 2011

Introducing Empire Avenue

Empire Avenue logoIf you have ever tried to describe the value of Facebook or Twitter to someone who is completely unfamiliar with them, you know it is not easy. And yet, my task for this post - explaining EmpireAvenue - is far more difficult. My goal for this post is to give you a general idea of EmpireAvenue (EAv) and explain what I like about it. I will address the question of whether EAv might be a useful way to promote your atheist blog or website in a later post, as I need a bit more time to evaluate it for that purpose.

June 6, 2011

What Else Do Atheists Have in Common?

Atheist UnityWhenever an atheist begins to talk about the value of organizing atheists, two things inevitably happen: Someone introduces the "cat herding" comparison, and someone claims that atheists cannot be organized because we have nothing to unite us (i.e., we have nothing in common but our lack of belief).

But is it really true that atheists having nothing in common besides our lack of belief in gods? In this post, I'm going to argue that this claim obscures an important reality and prevents us from moving forward. In fact, most atheists do have plenty in common.

June 5, 2011

How to Stop Intel Imac From Booting From DiskWarrior DVD

Alsoft DiskWarrior 4.0: Mac Universal Binary WDD105This one is about as off topic as I get. I post it because I just wasted the last two hours of my life figuring it out, and I hope to save someone the frustration I just had.

I made the mistake of setting my Intel iMac to boot from my DiskWarrior 4 disk. I'm not quite sure why I did this instead of just holding C like I usually do, but I'll sure as hell never do it again! I couldn't eject the disc or boot back to the system. I scoured the Internet from my phone and tried the many suggestions I could find:
  • Holding Option while restarting
  • Holding the left mouse button while restarting
  • Pressing the Eject button while restarting
  • Messing about in the drutil window
None of it worked. I had just decided I would take the damn iMac apart even if I destroyed it in the process, when it occurred to me to try one last thing. Here's what worked:
Unplug everything from the computer except the wired keyboard (connecting directly) and the power cable. Then hold the Option key on restart. Finally! This let me select the hard drive instead of the DVD.

When the Message Starts With "You People," You Know It Will Be Good

I received the following email recently from someone calling himself Alfred:
You people have no purpose. Just because you don't believe in anything doesn't mean you should try to drag everyone down with you. Normally I have no problem with Atheists, but you people are the kind who feel like they have to prove everyone else wrong. You disgust me and I hope that eventually you'll see why the way you present your point makes you bad people.

June 4, 2011

Some Good News for the Reality-Based Community

Good newsI do not highlight positive stories nearly enough, and I'm going to start trying to do a better job of it (at least until the world ends on October 21st). After all, we do get some good news once in awhile. Here are some recent examples:
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June 3, 2011

Ode to a Great Teacher

SocratesI learned that my favorite high school teacher died recently. I regret that I didn't make more of an effort to keep in touch with him over the years. The last time I saw him was probably when I returned home after my first year of graduate school. That was a lifetime ago. I could have at least written to him or something. I remember thinking that he probably had so many students over the years that he couldn't possibly be that interested in me. Of course, I realize now how stupid that was on my part. Now that its too late, I'd rather focus on what made this teacher special.

June 2, 2011

Are Atheists at Risk of Developing a Persecution Complex Like Christians?

Christian persecutionIt is no secret among atheists living in the U.S. that many of our Christian neighbors have a bit of a persecution complex (i.e., a deep conviction that they are being persecuted in spite of no evidence to support such a claim). They not only have an overwhelming majority in terms of numbers, but they exert stifling control over every branch of government in every state. And yet, it seems like many of them are always whining about how they are persecuted for their religion. But what about atheists? Do we run the risk of developing our own persecution complex?