July 31, 2011

I'm on Google+ But Probably Not For Much Longer

Google plus logoI am now on Google+, but don't get too excited. I think it is unlikely that I will stick with it. Honestly, I have virtually now idea how (or if) it would make sense to try and integrate it into my online atheist empire. What I see many people doing with it is just posting their blog posts, and that is the last thing that makes sense to me for this service. Now it seems that Google has been deleting accounts in which users are not using their real names. That counts me out.

Google+ seems to have potential, and I imagine it will be especially useful for those who want to share information with diverse audiences (e.g., sending atheist content to one group, tech content to another group, etc.) as long as they are okay with their real names being attached to everything. I could imagine it replacing other services for some. Of course, that isn't going to happen until Google opens the doors and allows everyone in.

For those of you who are not yet on Google+, I wouldn't worry too much about it. At this point, I view it as a novelty more than anything else. I think it has potential but that it is going to take some time and additional development to reach it.

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July 30, 2011

Understanding Terrorism

Understanding Terrorism

It seems that there is more than enough Christian hate to go around, so it is no surprise that some Christians act on their hateful and sometimes violent impulses. After reminding us about some of the prior acts of Christian terrorism, William Hamby (Secular News Daily) notes:
In total, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, and 3 kidnappings in America committed by Christian terrorists over the issue of abortion alone.

Fox News Facebook Page Full of Death Threats Against Atheists

Fox NewsIt is no secret that many people do not particularly like atheists, and at least in the United States, this seems to be especially true when it comes to conservative Christians. Opinions differ on the question of why this is the case, but few would disagree that it is the case.

It now appears that many Fox "News" viewers were upset by the recent appearance of American Atheists' Communication Director, Blair Scott, on America Live with Megyn Kelly. Many of the outrage Fox viewers decided to express their anger by calling for the death of atheists on the Fox News Facebook page. If you have ever doubted the hatred and violent impulses many Americans feel toward atheists, view the screen capture of what the Facebook page looked like before it was scrubbed.

July 29, 2011

More Christian Email: Hell is Waiting For You

FlamesSharing Christian hate mail I receive is still rather new for me. It isn't that I haven't been receiving it for some time; I just wasn't sure it would be interesting since I figured everyone else was getting it too. I'm glad I decided to start sharing it. After all, much of it really is too good to waste.

I'm not sure if the author of this particular one thinks that this is a team blog or is trying to address all atheists, but I believe it is probably the latter. That is good news because that means you can consider this directed at you too. Here it is in all its unedited glory:
Subject: Hell is waiting for you!

You fools are as crazy as anything I have ever seen. We have the damn right to include Christianity, as you do not to. You only want it one way - your way. Your rights end when it steps on my rights you stupid demon garbage. Your kind of people is what's wrong in America. Decaying the very fabric of our society. The time is quickly coming for us to take back America from people like you, the ACLU, the queers, lesbians, pedophiles and illegals. You all are grouped together for elimination from our society soon. It's coming....and we will be coming for fools like you....you demon crap.
My favorite part? I think that would have to be that this clown actually seems to believe in demons. The odd bit about "the damn right to include Christianity" might be good if I had any idea what it was referring to. But taken just as gibberish, I've seen better.

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July 27, 2011

Reader Seeking YouTube Atheists for Book

A reader, Doug, has asked me to pass along the following request. I thought some of you who are active on YouTube might be interested.

Well my goal here is to get the word out from the YouTube community involving very well known YouTube atheists. I will be writing a book quoting and sometimes writing word-for-word from YouTubers videos, which I have already gotten permission to do. Many out there not only have awesome videos, they also say so much more. They tell everyone how most if not all atheists feel about God and religion altogether.

I will also have a Q&A session where I will ask Christians questions they feel atheists cannot or will not answer. This will be a book written by a former devout Christian who did his research and found no reason to waste my time or life believing in fairytales again. I have also interviewed larger Christian companies using the same question as I asked YouTube Christians. Any and all atheists are welcome to give an opinion for the book regarding their own experiences be they bad or good. This will be a book for all those who do not have the answers and may be afraid to ask or reveal themselves to friends or family as an atheist.

Those wishing to send their personal stories regarding leaving religion and belief, and using common sense and reason can do so at http://facebook.com/atheisteatsgod.

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Churches Perform Vital Functions in Many Communities

Baptist ChurchMost atheists seem to agree that we would all be better off if religion were to gradually become obsolete. And yet, there are services currently being provided by churches in some communities that would be difficult to accomplish without them. In this post, I'd like to address the subject of religious people doing good works in the context of religious organizations. If we really want to see the demise of religion, we are going to need to figure out creative ways to do some of what they are currently doing.

July 26, 2011

Atheists Do Not Choose to Be Atheists

Non conformityMost atheists will eventually be told by a religious believer that we are choosing not to believe in their god and are somehow to blame for doing so. It is almost as if they think we could simply flip a switch and have god-belief like they do.

I have written previously about whether atheism is a choice and why this is an important question to ask ourselves. It is good to see a couple other atheist bloggers I respect asking the same question.

July 25, 2011

Government Paying to Repair Churches

Small historic churchWhen a church requires repair, we usually expect that the necessary funds to cover the costs of repair will come from what the congregation and other supporters have donated to the church over the years. That is, we expect the church to pay for whatever repairs are needed.

We generally do not expect the local government to pay the bills. And yet, in town after town across the United States, this seems to happen with surprising frequency. How can this be legal? It appears that if the church is considered sufficiently historic, local governments often overlook separation of church and state, permitting the use of public funds for church repair.

I received an email from a reader with the following account of this happening and the public reactions that followed:
I live in a city where a council approved the use of taxpayer money to restore a historic church. Despite living in a liberal area, I was still actually shocked that most of the 20+ comments on the local paper's site were very against this (I agree with them, but I'm still shocked). One person noted that because the issue wasn't voted on but decided on by government officials, it was akin to the government endorsing a religion and was, therefore, unconstitutional. Others said a version of, "My land is older than the church and I'm not tax-exempt, so how about sending me some public money to fix my roof?"
Interesting. Have you encountered anything like this where you live?

What do you think about the larger question of whether government should be supporting churches or other religious monuments determined to have historical significance? Are there circumstances where you think it could be acceptable?

July 24, 2011

Before You Dismiss Breivik as Crazy...

Anders Behring BreivikI would like to caution my fellow atheist bloggers against jumping to the conclusion that Anders Behring Breivik, who has now confessed to the mass-murder in Norway, must be mentally ill. I was disappointed to see some prominent atheist bloggers making this mistake. As I will explain here, there are at least four good reasons to avoid making such claims at this point in time.

July 23, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Herman Cain

HermanCainAs much as I try to look beyond the current and likely Republican candidates when selecting Idiot of the Week honorees, doing so is more challenging than one might realize. Not only are they a bumper crop of idiocy, but the news media spends so much time on them that the odds of my not hearing about the latest gaffe are miniscule. This week's idiot, Herman Cain, is a perfect combination of Christian extremism, bigotry, and misinformation. In fact, Craig James (The Religion Virus) already made a strong case for Cain's idiocy, and I'll only repeat a portion of it here.

Christian Terrorism in Norway

NorwayThe BBC is reporting that at least 84 people were killed in a shooting spree at a youth camp in Norway. This tragedy followed closely behind the bombing in Oslo that killed at least seven. As news of the attacks first broke, virtually everyone seemed to assume that Muslim terrorists were responsible. It now appears that the culprit may have been a Christian terrorist.

Norwegian police have identified Anders Behring Breivik, a 32 year-old man who police have described as a right-wing Christian fundamentalist, as a suspect. There are conflicting reports, with some describing Breivik as a suspect being questioned and others claiming that he has been arrested.

My thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims of this senseless attack. We will have plenty of time to learn about the motives of those responsible.

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Atheist Asks Obama About Faith-Based Absurdities

Here is Amanda Knief, Government Relations Manager of the Secular Coalition for America, asking President Obama about his broken promise around faith-based initiatives:

While I'm not even remotely satisfied with his non-answer answer, that is not why I am sharing this. I think it is great that the president came face-to-face with an atheist in a public setting like this. I applaud Ms. Knief for her courage and her question.

H/T to Friendly Atheist

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July 22, 2011

Apathetic Atheism

Bill MaherThe most prominent example of a self-identified "apatheist" (i.e., apathetic atheist) appears to be Bill Maher. He clearly identifies himself as an atheist, and that's certainly nice to see. I'm not completely convinced, however, by his claim of being apathetic on the subject of religion. He spends far more time talking about religion than I would expect for someone who does not care about it at all.

If "apatheist" means an atheist who does not think much about religion, as CNN says, then I'm not sure the term is even worth using. Defined this way, it does not convey much of import.

July 21, 2011

How Many Christians Have Read Their Bible?

BibleI cannot help wondering what percentage of self-identified Christians in the United States have read their bible from cover to cover. I suspect that if more had read it, there would be fewer Christians. Once one realizes what the book contains, it becomes considerably more difficult to insist that it is "holy." No, this isn't a post about religious literacy, although that is certainly relevant. And it is not a post about how most Christians do not appear to believe much of what their bible says. Instead, I am suggesting that most of what many Christians think they know of their bible comes from sources other than reading it for themselves.

July 20, 2011

If You Oppose Rick Perry's Prayerfest, You Are Intolerant

Rick PerryI know I just posted about him, but I simply couldn't resist following up with this gem. Besides, I predict that he will end up running for president, and that makes him someone we should get to know. According to The Dallas Morning News, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) claimed during an interview on the Family Research Council's radio show that those of us who object to his Christian prayerfest are "being intolerant."
Isn't it just the height of intolerance to say you can't gather together in public and pray to our God?
Gov. Perry, I'm not sure how pointing out that you are violating separation of church and state by using your office to promote one particular form of Christianity is intolerant. But I have a question for you. Isn't it just the height of arrogance to intentionally disregard what Jesus allegedly said according to your own bible?
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:5-6, NIV).
Instead of doing what Jesus allegedly instructed, it appears that you prefer to be like the hypocrites when you pray.

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July 18, 2011

Marcus Bachmann and the Science of Reparative Therapy

Marcus BachmannWith so-called "reparative therapy" in the news again thanks to Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) husband evidently using the discredited approach at his clinic, I thought that it was important to address this particularly harmful form of woo.

Bachmann and Associates is a Christian counseling clinic that has been accused of using reparative therapy (i.e., a collection of techniques designed to change a client's sexual orientation) for at least five years. The reason this matters is that this approach has been thoroughly discredited in the scientific community for quite some time. Not only is it known to be ineffective, but such efforts are widely regarded as harmful to the clients involved, mostly because they reinforce widespread social prejudices.

July 17, 2011

Defending the Original Pledge

One nation indivisibleSome evangelical fundamentalist Christians and many conservative politicians are fond of talking about how they want to return us to an overly idealized version of the past, a version that never actually happened. Many seem to focus on the 1950s (prior to the Civil Rights movement). Others want to go back much further (e.g., teabaggers wrapping themselves in revisionist history involving American independence). The fascinating thing for observers in the reality-based community is how much distortion is involved in these efforts. I'm not sure anything illustrates that better than the Pledge of Allegiance.

July 16, 2011

American Atheists Organizes Protest of Rick Perry's Prayerfest in Houston

For readers in the Houston area, American Atheists would like you to consider joining their protest of Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX)'s unconstitutional Christian prayerfest. The protest will be held on August 6, the same day as Perry's debacle. For details, see the Facebook page the group has set up for the event. It looks like they are expecting a good turnout.

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Idiot of the Week: Rick Perry

Texas Governor Rick Perry's (R) plans to hold a blatantly Christian prayerfest in partnership with Christian extremist hate groups is more than enough to earn him Idiot of the Week recognition. Every American should be embarrassed of a state governor who has so little idea of the reasons behind setting our nation up as a secular democracy. There are many valid reasons to keep church and state separate, even more separate than a literal reading of the Constitution suggests. Shame on Rick Perry for this sort of exclusionary pandering.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit to stop the August 6 rally. Once again, it falls on the secular community to point out that government officials have no business sponsoring events to promote religion.

For more on Perry, see this article by Forrest Wilder from The Texas Observer.

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July 15, 2011

Blog Tips: Using Twitter to Promote Your Blog

TwitterI first addressed Twitter in this series back in August of 2008. At the time, I'd only been using it for a month. And yes, I was naive enough to think that was enough time to learn what it could do. It is time to revisit the use of Twitter for blog promotion. I have learned that it can be quite effective when used correctly and that it can even provide some benefits even when used in the most lazy way imaginable. I'll walk you through the lazy way first and then the more beneficial way. You can decide for yourself which method is for you.

July 14, 2011

Dealing With Bigotry

HateI received a thought-provoking email from a reader in the Southern U.S. about her struggle around coming out as an atheist/agnostic and her understandable fears about how others will respond. I do not have any easy answers for her, but I want to share portions of her struggle and offer what little I can. I'll call her Rachel to help conceal her identity.

Rachel identifies herself as Hispanic and says that she was raised in one of those traditional Catholic families where questioning faith is simply not done. She describes herself as agnostic, but like most people who claim to be agnostic, I suspect that she is actually an agnostic atheist (see Understanding Atheism and Agnosticism).

July 13, 2011

CNN Interview with Writer/Director of "The Ledge"

It is good to see The Ledge getting attention on CNN, even if the interviewer is thoroughly clueless. Writer/director Matthew Chapman makes some great points that are rarely heard on mainstream American entertainment news.

Unfortunately, the interviewer seems completely oblivious as to why films like this are necessary. She actually seems to suggest that there must be something wrong with atheism because such a small number of Americans identify themselves as atheists! It is precisely this sort of widespread ignorance that makes films like this valuable.

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July 12, 2011

Liars for Jesus: Exposing David Barton and Other Revisionists

liars for Jesus Even though we may not agree on how best to improve the quality of public education, I suspect that most atheists would agree that reality-based education is preferable to that based on myth, superstition, or political ideology. One of the biggest challenges we face in this regard is the revisionist history being pushed by Christian extremists and right-wing politicians to support the outlandish claim that America was designed to be a Christian theocracy. I believe that it is vital for us to inform ourselves about the nature of this revisionist history and the truth it hides. Fortunately, there are resources like Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History to assist us.

July 11, 2011

All Religions Are Silly Except Mine

silly Christians

I found this cartoon on Tumblr. I do not know its source, but I have decided that it is too perfect not to share. Wouldn't it be great on a t-shirt? No caption is necessary; it speaks for itself.

I am sure some Christians would decide to be offended by it, but what it depicts is firmly rooted in reality. Early Christians did seek to replace native religions with their own and were largely successful in doing so. Many modern Christians continue to mock other religions are being more primitive, silly, or cult-like than their own. They might not recognize the hypocrisy, but we atheists certainly do.

Update: A reader has suggested that the source of the cartoon is Maurice Sinet.

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July 10, 2011

Christian Extremists Threatening the Lives of Critics

There is a very disturbing post at PoliticusUSA about journalists, musicians, and even average citizens receiving death threats from Christian extremists that I recommend reading. An excerpt:
In California, a reporter awoke to the sound of breaking glass and shouts of, “USA, USA” and “fucking traitor” for writing a column criticizing the city for spending tax dollars on firework displays instead of assistance for homeless veterans. The same young man wrote an opinion piece criticizing local churches for campaigning against same-sex marriage, and within a week of the commentary returned home from work to find signs on his yard ordering him to “obey your god” and “pray or die.” The writer has since moved to a different neighborhood where last month a letter arrived telling him there was nowhere he could hide that “god’s soldiers won’t find you.”
I know it is not fun to think about this stuff, but it is important that we do not neglect our safety. This is especially true for those of us living in the United States where 3 in 10 of our neighbors believe that the Christian bible should be taken literally, the same bible that instructs them to kill us.

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To the Facebook Fans

Facebook like butonOver 2,000 people on Facebook have indicated that they like Atheist Revolution. Thank you! I wasn't sure what would happen when I created an Atheist Revolution fan page on Facebook, but a wonderful community has built up around this blog on Facebook. Not only have you brought more traffic to the blog, but you've inspired many posts and helped me think about many subjects in different ways. Very cool!

July 9, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Rick Santorum

Rick SantorumSen. Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum (R-PA) needs no introduction. The man is not just a Christian extremist with a long history of pushing hate; he is a bona fide celebrity, just ask Google. He also happens to be running for president in a field that includes Rep. Michele Bachmann. Can you imagine how hard the poor guy has to work to look crazy with that sort of competition?

Santorum receives Idiot of the Week recognition this week for his plan to demolish funding for higher education. You see, he has proposed that significant reductions in federal funding for our nation's universities, saying that states should pick up the bill. Most state economies are already struggling, and few states have been able to fund institutions of higher education adequately as it is. And not only that, but most of the current federal support goes directly to students in the form of Pell Grants, allowing many students to attend college who would otherwise be unable to do so.

At a time when the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world and jobs are going overseas, attacking higher education is like throwing gasoline on a fire. And yet, it does seem fitting that Santorum would be the face of the Republican war on education. Maybe if he can do enough damage, future generations won't see him for what he is.

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July 8, 2011

The Price of Hero Worship in the Atheist Movement

rantI haven't had a good rant in a long time. Hell, I can't even remember the last one. Brace yourselves because I may end up insulting almost everyone before I'm done with this one.

I am getting extremely tired of atheist celebrities. I'm not talking about celebrities who happen to be atheists; I am referring to people who seem to have gained an inexplicable sort of celebrity simply for being outspoken atheists. And it isn't even their fault! It is the rest of us who are so damned determined to turn them into celebrities.

A Religious Double-Standard for Mormons

Once again, CNN is asking, "Is America ready for a Mormon president?" Sure we are! We've already had a moron president. But seriously, I think we are seeing a fascinating double-standard here that should be called out.

In order for a Republican candidate to get to the general election, he or she must first win the primary. To do so, the candidate must find a way to appeal to sufficient numbers of evangelical fundamentalist Christians. This is often regarded as a challenge for Mormon candidates, who tend to be viewed with suspicion by this voting block.

Mitt Romney

July 7, 2011

Is Online Dating for Atheists a Good Idea?

Online datingDating is a daunting process, especially for those of us who do not have the luxury of being in a setting designed to facilitate it (e.g., high school, college, etc.). The appeal of short cuts is understandable. Wouldn't it be great to have an efficient way of sifting through eligible partners to maximize one's chances of finding a good match? This is why online dating sites are constantly promoting their personality questionnaires, compatibility algorithms, and the like. This is also why some online dating services have decided to specialize by catering only to a particular niche market. In fact, this practice is becoming so common that it no longer seems controversial. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

July 6, 2011

Reality is Not a Democracy

I'm not SatanCan you think of a time when you were right about something and all your friends were wrong? I suspect you can. After all, we tend to remember things like that. It could have been something quite trivial. Perhaps you knew which band recorded a particular song, and all your friends thought it was someone else. The point is, you were right and everyone else was wrong.

Imagine what it must have been like to be the one person (or perhaps one of a very small number) who first realized that the Earth was not flat! Think of how much flack the earliest proponents of heliocentrism faced. And yet, they were right while the overwhelming majority was wrong.

July 5, 2011

Mormons Reminded About Separation of Church and State

Mormon magic underwearI know that several of you know far more about Mormonism than I do. Some of you are ex-Mormons, and you probably have much that you could teach the rest of us about this strange religion. I will defer to you to make sense out of this for those of us with less information about Mormonism, but I found it interesting to read that the Mormon church recently reminded its leaders not to endorse political candidates.

July 4, 2011

American and Atheist

One Nation Indivisible
I wrote a post last July in which I speculated about the possible merits of atheists launching our own "take back America" movement.
What if atheists started our own "take back America" movement, focusing on restoring America to the secular democracy envisioned by our founders and reflected in our Constitution? Obviously, many of us are already working toward such a goal. Look at the efforts of organizations like Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I suppose what I'm talking about here is more of a marketing approach than anything else.
I was not advocating such an approach as much as I was thinking aloud about it. Reader reactions were mixed, as they should have been.

Now here we are one year later, and it appears that American Atheists had a similar idea, one which they decided to put into practice today. In the 26 states that agreed to allow it, the group is hiring planes to display trailing banners with messages like "God-LESS America" and "Atheism is Patriotic."

July 3, 2011

Elevators and Sexism in the Atheist Movement

ElevatorIf you spend any time in the atheist blogosphere, you have undoubtedly heard that a man asked Rebecca Watson (Skepchick) back to his hotel room for coffee at 4:00am at an atheist conference. She felt uncomfortable and expressed these feelings on her blog. And for reasons I still can't quite understand, all hell broke loose in the atheist community. It seems that every atheist who has a blog has already weighed in, and I do so with great reluctance because I think something is missing amidst all the intensely emotional reactions.

How to Tell Whether You are a Real Christian

CrossWhat is a real Christian? Who deserves to be called a real Christian, and who does not? These can be difficult questions, and sometimes I don't envy the plight of Christians at all. It seems like almost no matter what you do, someone is going to come along and claim that you are not a real Christian. And yet, if you are doing what your god tells you to do (like many of the protagonists in your bible did), how can you not be a real Christian?

July 2, 2011

I Support Marriage Equality: Here's Why

Marriage EqualityI support marriage equality. Two consenting adults should have the right to marry if they so choose. Nothing about this has ever struck me as being particularly controversial, even though I have known quite a few people during the course of my life who seemed to have a problem with it. When asked if I support same-sex marriage, my response is usually something like, "Of course! Why wouldn't I?" I thought it might be interesting to see if I can articulate why.

July 1, 2011

Religulous: A Second Look

Religulous I watched Bill Maher's Religulous again recently, and think I enjoyed it even more the second time. I thought it might be fun to go back and re-read the post I wrote after I saw it the first time and see how my initial impressions compared to the second viewing.

One difference was that I found Maher far less annoying this time. Yes, I noticed once again that he does not seem to understand the difference between atheism and agnosticism. But while I continue to find this unfortunate, it did not detract from my enjoyment of his film nearly as much as it did previously.