November 30, 2011

Viewers of Fox News are Misinformed

Fox NewsReplication is a fundamental part of scientific research. Supporting a hypothesis once is not enough; the findings must be replicated before scientists will be satisfied. In this arena, having seven studies that support a particular claim may or may not be impressive. It would depend on the context. For example, seven studies supporting the efficacy of prayer would not be worth much if several times that many failed to support it. But what if seven studies yielded the same or highly similar results in the absence of any evidence to the contrary? That would be enough to make us sit up and take note.

November 28, 2011

The Roots of Hatred and Bigotry Against Atheists

End religious bigotry and ignorance

Austin Cline ( Agnosticism/Atheism) recently asked about the origins of the hatred and bigotry directed at atheists in the U.S. He notes,
The extreme hostility towards atheists in America can probably be traced to two related factors: America's view of itself as a religious nation entrusted with a special mission from God and America's fight against communism in the Cold War.

November 27, 2011

Six Die After Evangelical Churches Tell Them to Stop Taking HIV Medication

According to Sky News, evangelical churches in four British cities have been claiming to cure HIV through faith healing. Three undercover reporters entered the Synagogue Church of All Nations, told pastors that they were HIV positive, and all were informed that they could be healed.
The healing process involves the pastor shouting, over the person being healed, for the devil to come out of their body, and spraying water in their face.
Pastors also told the reporters posing as HIV patients that they should throw away their medication after the healing because they had been cured.

If it occurs to you that this might be dangerous, you will be saddened but not surprised to learn that at least six people have died after being told by these churches to stop taking their HIV medication. I applaud the efforts of Sky News to investigate this atrocity. I don't think America's corporate media would dare to do something like this. I sincerely hope British authorities prosecute the hell out of these churches.

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November 26, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Megyn Kelly

Megyn KellyIn a sea of idiots, it can be difficult to select one worth "honoring" here. This week was no exception, as there were more deserving candidates than I could count. After much deliberation, I going with Fox "News" personality, Megyn Kelly. She is now infamous for downplaying Lt. Pike's pepper spraying of several unarmed students sitting on the ground at the University of California - Davis. Of pepper spray, Kelly said, "it's like a derivative of actual pepper. It's a food product, essentially."

I'd like to recommend that Ms. Kelly voluntarily submit to being sprayed multiple times with the same military-grade pepper spray Lt. Pike used on those students. Fox can film it and air it during whichever of their shows is most desperate for ratings. I'd tune in to see that.

H/T to Think Progress

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November 25, 2011

God Liked My Ancestors Better Than Yours

god's chosen people

Religious belief is not the only human difference that divides the world, but it manages to do so in a unique way. Religion elevates one's desires and preferences to the level of commandments and turns disagreement into a conflict between good and evil. Those who agree with the religious person are beyond reproach, while those who disagree are dehumanized. A world free from religion would not be free of conflict, but it might not know this particular sort of conflict.

Poster credit: Austin Cline

Gingrich: Secularism to Blame for U.S. Economy

Newt GingrichYou know how the Christian god sends hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes to destroy cities and towns that displease it in some manner? When this happens, I've noticed that many of the worst offenders (e.g., atheists, homosexuals, etc.) escape unscathed while many devout Christians are harmed. It is almost as if the weather was random, but obviously that can't be true. Anyway, what if it was not just a town or city that displeased the Christian god but the entire country? What do you suppose would happen then?

November 24, 2011

Bigotry Against Atheists is Even Naughtier

Bigotry Against AtheistsAs much as I like the American Humanist Association's new ad campaign (and I do like it), I'd make one small change. I'd replace "bias" with "bigotry." And no, I don't think I'm being too picky here.

I think that bigotry is what we are really trying to call out. I also suspect that "bias" is sufficiently vague that many theists won't get the message. They won't recognize their own bias as such, and they won't be sure what "bias against atheists" would look like.

In contrast, "bigotry" has a much stronger emotional impact. People are much more likely to recognize it, and such a message would do more to prompt some self-reflection.

I still like the ads as they are, but I think they'd be more effective with this small change. After all, we're all biased in some way or another; bigotry is another matter.

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Happy Thanksgiving, Or Not

ThanksgivingPlenty of atheists across the U.S. will celebrate Thanksgiving today, and that's perfectly okay. For them, it is not a religious holiday but an excuse to get together with family and eat some food they enjoy. Some may be annoyed by a few religious relatives, but they'll get through it because they enjoy the holiday on balance.

Other atheists, including yours truly, will treat today as if it was any other day off work. There are many reasons behind such a choice. For some, it is about rejecting the false history on which the holiday is based. For others, it is more of a general distaste for cultural traditions. I suppose this is where I fit. And you know what? This is okay too.

Whatever you are doing today, I hope you enjoy it. And if you cannot manage to do so because of a burning desire to tell others that their decision to celebrate or not to celebrate is wrong, you may need to take some time for self-reflection.

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November 23, 2011

Catholic Sex Abuse Investigator Convicted of Child Porn

Priest sexual abuseJust when I think the legacy of Catholic child molestation cannot get any worse, it somehow manages to do so. It seems that a child safety coordinator employed by the Catholic Church and tasked with investigating various child abuse allegations was convicted of child pornography.

According to the Daily Mail, Christopher Jarvis was responsible for investigating allegations of child sexual abuse over an area that included 120 churches. Jarvis was sentenced to 12 months for possessing over 4,000 pornographic images of children on the computer supplied to him by his employer, the Catholic Church.

November 22, 2011

The Other Christian Holiday Traditions

ThanksgivingI've noticed that there are a parallel set of holiday traditions practiced by some Christians that accompany the mainstream holiday traditions practiced by many Americans. What is remarkable about these parallel traditions is that they often seem to involve atheists and other non-Christians. Take Thanksgiving as an example. The mainstream tradition involves gluttony and spending time with extended family one might not get to see regularly. Nothing religious about that whatsoever. However, the parallel tradition some Christians seem to love involves incessantly pointing out that those who don't share their god-belief have nothing to be thankful for.

November 21, 2011

Community Service is Not the Answer in Combating Prejudice Against Atheists

In recent post summarizing some of the findings from an article about anti-atheist prejudice published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) wrote that there are two ways atheists should work to counter our negative image:
First, we have to continue doing community service — serving at food banks, donating to charity, giving blood, etc. Show people that we can be good without god.

Second, we have to let people we trust know that we’re atheists. People think poorly of atheists because they don’t think they know any. It’s a shock to their system when they find out someone close to them doesn’t believe in a god… so shock them! Let them know that someone they already trust is an atheist.
The scientist in me wants to point out that this is an empirical question. That is, either or both of these two strategies might work and should be framed as hypotheses until they can be adequately tested. Setting that aside, I'd like to explain why I think Hemant may be right about his second recommendation and wrong about the first.

November 20, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Rick Santorum (Again)

I wasn't going to do an Idiot of the Week post this week, but I saw this video of Republican presidential candidate (and Google celebrity), Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum, suggesting that poor Americans should suffer and that government should not provide for people because those receiving government assistant will end up being entitled. Pretty standard conservative philosophy until you get to this:
Suffering, if you're a Christian, suffering is part of life and its not a bad thing. Its an essential thing in life.
I wonder if it has ever occurred to Santorum that not all poor people in the U.S. are Christian or that much of what the fictional Jesus character is supposed to have said in his bible suggests that he sought to help the less fortunate rather than hoping they would suffer.

H/T to Think Progress

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November 18, 2011

Delighting in Hell

Christian hell

I suspect that some Christians experience a sense of sadness from their conviction that the vast majority of the world's people are destined for the hell they imagine. But there is another group of Christians who does not seem to feel this way at all. This group of Christians, a group which I have repeatedly encountered throughout my life, actually seems to delight in the thought of people suffering in their hell. I am sure you have seen the gleam in their eyes when they talk of their hell. You may have even noticed the joy they seem to experience at the prospect of others who do not agree with them suffering for eternity.

November 16, 2011

An Idea for the Atheist Software Developers Among You

ConfusedI'd like a smartphone application that would accept voice input in the form of Christianspeak and translate it into a language that those of us without a background in evangelical fundamentalist Christianity could understand. I think that having something like this could do wonders in improving communication between religious believers and atheists. Between you and me, I'm getting awfully tired of having to ask my co-workers things like, "Since when did 'fellowship' become a verb?"

Now that I think about it, I'd like a text-based one too that worked like Google Translate. That would let me decipher many of the emails I receive.

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November 14, 2011

The Pull of Misanthropy

Do you ever feel like you are teetering on the edge, tempted to give into frustration and just quit? Maybe it is when you are given the illusory choice between voting for the conservative candidate who is bought and paid for by corporate interests or for the slightly less conservative candidate who is also thoroughly beholden to corporate interests. Or maybe it is when you realize that the majority of your neighbors still believe in angels or that evolution remains "controversial" among many of those with power over how your child is educated.

November 13, 2011

One Nation Indivisible: An Atheist Anthem

Paul from Freethought Folk Rock sent me this gem after reading some recent posts about Congress reaffirming the "in god we trust" motto. I really like it and think that Paul's managed to write a great atheist folk anthem here. Every movement needs a soundtrack, so big thanks to Paul for contributing!

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November 12, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Phil Bryant

This week's idiot is Phil Bryant, the next governor of Mississippi. You see, even though Mississippi managed to reject the "personhood" amendment, we still elected Bryant as our governor after he made the comments featured in this video.

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November 11, 2011

Atheist Revolution on Google+

Google plus pagesAs some of you may recall, I jumped on Google+ back in July. At the time, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. It was still invite only, and nobody I knew was using it. I wrote that I thought it had potential but that I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with it. Now that they've opened it up to everyone, I've been using it much more. I have to admit that I like it quite a bit more than Facebook even though virtually nobody I know in real life is using it yet. So when Google+ finally rolled out pages for businesses, brands, and the like, I had to have one.

That's right, Atheist Revolution now has a page on Google+. Have I figured out what I'm going to do with it yet? I have a few ideas. Initially, I think I may use it to highlight some of my more popular posts and to give new life to some old but still relevant posts. But how I end up using it over time will depend on what the response is like and how people want to interact with it. In other words, I fully expect my use to evolve.

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November 10, 2011

I Did Not Choose to Be an Atheist

BeliefsI never chose to be an atheist, and I hardly think I'm unique among atheists in this regard. I suspect that most atheists did not chose to be atheists. So when a Christian asks me some version of their "what if you're wrong" question, I often point out that this question assumes I have a choice in what I believe about their "god." I do not accept this assumption.

I could not simply start believing something I do not believe because I thought there might be something in it for me. Belief does not work this way.

November 9, 2011

Mississippi Rejects 'Personhood' Amendment

mississippiMississippians may have elected an extremely conservative Republican governor and approved a voter ID amendment last night, but at least we rejected the "personhood" amendment. Zygotes will not be considered persons in Mississippi, and the Christian extremist groups will have to spend more money to convince voters to legislate their odd form of morality.

The pro-26 efforts were well funded by the American Family Association and loudly supported by many Southern Baptist pastors. Visible signs of support (e.g., billboards and yard signs) were everywhere. And yet, polls taken right before the vote showed that it was too close to call even though many of us here were convinced that 26 would pass. So what happened?

November 7, 2011

U.S. Motto Inaccurate: American Atheists Do Not Trust in God

In god we trust

"In god we trust" has been the national motto of the United States since 1956. It appears on our currency, in our courthouses, and in several government buildings. Some consider it purely ceremonial, void of any religious meaning. Others believe it reflects our status as a "Christian nation." And among secular Americans, only a small minority seem to think it is worthy of our attention. I happen to disagree with this position.

November 6, 2011

Misogyny in the Blogosphere

Misogyny hard to spellThe Guardian had an interesting article yesterday, "Women bloggers call for a stop to 'hateful' trolling by misogynist men" that deserves a read. As an atheist blogger, I expect a certain amount of hate mail from Christians and Muslims. But as a man, threats of rape and other gender-specific degradation are not among the things I've faced. It is important for me - and for other men reading this - to keep this in mind and help where we can.

November 5, 2011

Idiot of the Week: Republicans in the Michigan Senate

Stop bullyingSchool bullying is not only disruptive to the learning environment; it has lasting psychological consequences for the victims. Since school personnel often seem unable or unwilling to stop it, laws are sometimes needed. This is what Michigan Democrats were attempting to do in SB 137, an anti-bullying bill named after a 14 year-old who killed himself after he was bullied.

Not only did Senate Republicans strip language that would have prohibited bullying based on the victim's race, gender, sexual preference, and other characteristics, but they added something that actually seems to condone certain forms of bullying:
The bill lays out what exactly constitutes bullying, but in one key part it says that the legislation does not prohibit First Amendment rights, and “does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian.”
This statement turns what was an anti-bullying law into one that actually permits religiously-based bullying. I fear that life just became more difficult for many children in Michigan.

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November 4, 2011

Oppose Mississippi's Personhood Amendment to Help Keep Abortion Legal

On November 8, voters here in Mississippi will elect our next governor. We will also decide whether to approve the most extreme abortion ban yet to be attempted. This comes in the form of Initiative 26, a measure to amend the state constitution to confer "personhood" on fertilized eggs. Not only would this ban abortion in Mississippi, it may outlaw many popular forms of birth control. If passed, Initiative 26 is likely to have national implications because proponents have been clear about using it to get Roe v. Wade overturned in the Supreme Court.

November 2, 2011

Atheists Do Not Need to Have All the Answers

Bertrand Russell

I do not remember the moment when I first realized I was an atheist. It was a gradual process that unfolded over at least a couple of years and did not end in some flash of realization. However, I do remember the reactions of my family and friends:
You're not really an atheist; you're just mad at god.

If you're an atheist, then why is the universe here?

Man, something really bad must have happened to you.

So you just worship yourself, huh?
What I remember most about these statements and the hundreds of others like them I have heard since I accepted reality is their tone. They were nearly always delivered with an air of conceited certainty, as if each posed some sort of insurmountable challenge for me. But that was never the case.

It is not that I have all the answers. I didn't then, and I don't now. But I recognize that some questions do not have answers and that others have answers we just haven't found yet. I also recognize how ridiculous it is to assume that god(s) must be the default answer for every unknown.

I used to wonder why so many Christians seemed unable to understand this. I suspect now that these Christians did not want to think because doing so might jeopardize their faith. Perhaps this explains why so many Christians seem so hostile when asking such questions. The atheist has to be wrong for them to be right.

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