May 31, 2012

Misunderstanding Atheism, the Atheist Movement, and Secularism

ThinkingAtheism is not synonymous with the atheist movement. One can be an atheist and not want to have anything whatsoever to do with the atheist movement. In fact, this appears to be precisely the position held by most atheists. That is, most atheists do not have much of anything to do with the atheist movement.

Those of us who consider ourselves part of the atheist movement know this full well, but it is frequently misunderstood by people outside the movement. For a great example, see this op-ed Kate Blanchard wrote for Reason Dispatches.

May 29, 2012

Christian Terrorism in Texas

Christian terrorism is nothing newIf you were to commit a heinous crime, child rape for instance, it would make sense that you would face public outrage. People would be upset with you, and rightly so. Many people, upon learning of your crime, would have violent urges. They would imagine how badly they'd like to beat you, and some with poor judgment or low impulse control might even threaten your safety. Nobody would be surprised by such reactions.

Now let's look at a very different situation. In this one, you commit no crime at all. Instead, you complain about someone else violating the law. Specifically, you become aware of a violation of separation of church and state, and you file a complaint. That's it. But once again, you face public outrage. People are every bit as upset with you as what we described in the first case. Many experience the same sort of violent urges, and you receive death threats. You are fired, stalked, and repeatedly threatened. And you know what? Once again, nobody is surprised. Nobody.

May 27, 2012

Atheist Headliners Behaving Badly

ConferenceYou've probably heard that an unspecified number of unidentified but assuredly high-profile male speakers at various atheist conferences have been accused of behaving badly. Evidently, these prominent men have not only sexually harassed female conference attendees but have also made remarks suggesting they feel entitled to do so.

This is upsetting but not particularly surprising. I have heard countless reports of this sort of behavior from my female graduate students returning from professional conferences that do not have anything to do with atheism. And I have observed some of the behavior myself at these conferences. So no, this is not limited to atheists in any way. It reflects much more pervasive problems with how some men treat women. Of course, that does not mean we should ignore it when it happens among atheists.

May 26, 2012

Catholic Church Threatens to End Charity Over Contraception (Video)

Addicting Info brings us another disturbing story about the Catholic Church. And no, this one does not involve child rape.

As you know, the Church is opposed to contraception and continues to rail against the Obama administration's mandate that it be made available by insurance companies. Appearing on MSNBC this week, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said that the Church was willing to end all charity work, including aid to the poor, in order to protest this mandate.

What would Jesus do? Would he bargin with the lives of the sick and poor?

I have asked this before, and I will most certainly ask it again: why would anyone want to associate with this organization? It is time to leave the Catholic Church.

Subscribe to Atheist Revolution

May 25, 2012

Atheist Movement: We Are More Than Our Headliners

atheists do it betterTwitter is one of those rare things where I feel rewarded almost every time I use it. One of the things I like best about Twitter is how easy it is to find inspiration from my fellow atheists. Sometimes it is a great quote I haven't thought about in years. Other times, it is a news story I missed. And still other times, it is the sort of thought-provoking question I can never see too often. For example, Emily Dietle (@emilyhasbooks) recently asked a great question about the future of the atheist movement:
I'm a "worrier" & can't help but be concerned that our secular mvmt will fall flat when some of headliners die. Set me straight, folks...
I thought this was an interesting question. I've heard many variations of it before, but I'd never seen it phrased so succinctly (another advantage of Twitter). My response was:
That's a valid concern, but I think our strength is our grassroots and not the professional atheists.
In this post, I'd like to unpack what I meant a bit.

May 24, 2012

Religious Extremists Who Want to Ban the Internet

InternetIf you are a religious extremist and someone is doing something of which you do not approve, what do you do about it? You seek to ban whatever they are doing, of course. Don't approve of people buying alcohol on Sundays? Enact "blue laws" to prohibit anyone from doing so. Convinced that letting two loving adults of the same sex marry would somehow affect your own marriage? Pour money into state after state to support bans on same sex marriage.

May 23, 2012

The Kind of Atheist I Want to Be

GoalsI want to be the kind of atheist who does not pick fights with the religious but does not run from conflict when it is encountered either. I want to be the kind of atheist who defends secularism when necessary and recognizes that strengthening the wall of separation between church and state is of vital importance. I want to be the kind of atheist who models reason, critical thinking, and basing beliefs on evidence. I want to be the kind of atheist who can utilize anger effectively without getting carried away with it.

May 22, 2012

Voters Tiring of Hearing Religion From Politicians

Perry praying

As our politicians desperately try to show how pious they are, it seems that growing numbers of Americans are growing tired of religious pandering.

This article at CNN by Lisa Desjardis suggests that some evangelical Christians are beginning to tire of hearing religious talk from politicians. Tim King (Sojourners) is quoted as saying:
You don't get to win the argument because you have more Bible verses. You need to make the case about why your policies are good for everyone.

May 21, 2012

Faculty Leave Georgia Baptist School Over Lifestyle Statement

Shorter UniversityDrawing on my experience in academia, I can safely say that a mass exodus of faculty from an institution is a clear sign of serious trouble. Faculty leave one institution for another regularly, but when they do so en masse, it signals real trouble to anyone paying attention.

The Religion News Service is reporting that over 24 faculty have resigned from Shorter University in Georgia, a Baptist school, after it informed them that they would be required to sign a statement condemning public drinking, premarital sex, and homosexuality.

May 20, 2012

Why Do We Still Have an Office of Faith-Based Initiatives?

faith-based and community initiativesDo you ever have one of those moments of clarity where you look at something almost everyone else seems to accept without thinking about it and ask yourself, "What the hell?" I just had one. Although I am sure the content will not surprise you at all, I'd like to share it anyway.

Here in the United States, a nation founded as a secular democracy (or at least a republic), we have an office of faith-based initiatives right in the White House. What the hell?

May 19, 2012

Florida Baptist Convention Liable for Pastor Abuse

Florida Baptist ConventionBig news out of Florida this week. According to the Orlando Sentinel, a jury in Lake County ruled yesterday that the Florida Baptist Convention was liable for a former pastor who sexually abused a 13 year-old boy. This is big news for those of us opposed to child rape.

In this case, the jury determined that the Baptist leadership failed in their duty to adequately investigate the background of the perpetrator, 63 year-old Douglas W. Myers.

Blog Tips: Optimizing Your Topic List

BlogIf you look at that tag cloud in the far right sidebar labeled "topics," you'll get a quick idea about the sort of thing I write about here at Atheist Revolution. The tags that are fairly small (e.g., foxhole atheists) represent topics I have written fairly little about, while the big ones (e.g., Christian extremism) are those that have been especially frequent topics. But there are a couple problems with this tag cloud that I need to fix, so you may see some changes soon. Since I haven't written a new blogging tip in almost a year, I thought I'd explain what I plan to do and why.

Whether you use a tag cloud or a simple list of tags (see Mississippi Atheists for an example), this is an important way to help readers find posts about topics that may interest them. Accurately tagging your posts and providing this sort of information in your sidebar not only helps readers access more of your content; it makes it easier for them to find relevant content.

May 17, 2012

We Need More Christian Characters on Television

Cast of GleeI have always found it odd how some conservative White men seem so determined to feel oppressed. They accuse immigrants of taking jobs they would never do themselves, rail against feminists for expecting them to refrain from overt sexism, and share suspicions about how their ethnically diverse co-workers must be affirmative action hires. They refuse to acknowledge their privilege, status, and the fact that most of those with real power resemble them.

My reaction to Christians in the U.S. complaining of persecution is similar, although I have to admit finding their complaints of oppression even more bizarre. I wonder if they even know what "persecution" means. To be clear, I would never claim that a Christian could not be persecuted for being Christian; however, I am reasonably certain that it doesn't happen nearly as much as many Christians want us to believe.

May 16, 2012

U.S. Loses Over $71 Billion in Religious Tax Exemptions

Center for InquiryThe following is from a press release distributed by the Center for Inquiry:

AMHERST, NY: In times of crippling cutbacks to badly needed government services, a new article published by Free Inquiry magazine details how the tax exemptions enjoyed by religious institutions cost the U.S. a staggering $71 billion per year, at the least. Meanwhile, this religious privilege helps to subsidize the lavish homes and lifestyles of numerous clergy on the taxpayers’ dime.

May 15, 2012

A Flawed Defense of the Catholic Church

DionneE. J. Dionne, Jr. is a well-respected columnist for the Washington Post and someone with whom fans of the MSNBC political shows may recognize. He's been a guest on Maddow countless times, and he usually sounds rational.

Dionne recently wrote a post for TruthDig about the full-page ad the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) ran in the Washington Post calling on Catholics to leave the church. Dionne sought to explain why he is not leaving the church. Unfortunately, his flippant tone and many misconceptions about the issues suggest that he made little effort to take it seriously.
Putting aside the group’s love for unnecessary quotation marks, it was shocking to learn that I’m an “enabler” doing “bad” to women’s rights. But Catholic liberals get used to these kinds of things.

May 14, 2012

Demanding Respect for Ridiculous Opinions

My OpinionScott over at Atheism - That's for ME! captured my attention with a recent post about one of my pet peeves: the expression "Everyone has a right to their opinion." When I hear someone say this, I nearly always drop what I'm doing and get myself in an argument. I know that is silly of me, but it is like nails on a chalkboard.

I usually point out that people may have a right to their own opinions but not their own facts and that it is a mistake to expect unsupported opinions to be given equal weight to facts. This nearly always seems to be what motivated the speaker to say this in the first place - they were confronted with facts that contradict their opinion and are trying to get away with maintaining their opinion anyway. It is as if they really think their opinion is every bit as valid as the facts contradicting it.

May 13, 2012

A Bible Without Christ

bibleAccording to Professor David Capes of Houston Baptist University, the Christian bible "is probably the most owned and least read book out there. That's because, for many, it's too difficult to understand."

You know, I think Professor Capes may have a point. I have encountered many Christians who have not read their own bibles. The early Christians who wrote the various books of what would later become their bible weren't writing for an audience in the remote future; they were addressing their contemporaries. And the early church that decided which books made it into the bible and which were considered heretical was not basing such decisions on any appreciation of what would be relevant in the distant future. Is it any wonder that this ancient book offers so little to those of us living in modern times?

May 11, 2012

Colorado Court of Appeals Rules Against State Day of Prayer

Colorado flagThere was some big news out of Colorado yesterday that was somewhat overshadowed by President Obama's announcement. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation's 2008 lawsuit against the state governor's proclamations for a Colorado Day of Prayer.

From Judge Steve Bernard's opinion:
A reasonable observer would conclude that these proclamations send the message that those who pray are favored members of Colorado’s political community, and that those who do not pray do not enjoy that favored status.

Obama Evolves to Support Same-Sex Marriage

ObamaI have made it no secret that I am quite disappointed with many of the policies President Obama's administration has supported. I have written about this quite a bit over at Red State Progressive, including how I'm not at all sure I could vote for him a second time. But setting that aside - or perhaps because of it - I feel that it is important to note that I applaud his recent statement of support for same-sex marriage. His administration's policies have been fairly good with regard to LGBT rights, and it is nice to see that he's finally willing to express support for equal rights.

May 10, 2012

Religious Freedom and the Right to Annoy Others

Religious Freedom

The United States was founded, in part, on the idea that citizens should be free to practice their religions without government interference. We hear a lot about religious freedom these days, but it is difficult to imagine that the founders were talking about anything other than one's freedom to practice one's religion in the privacy of one's own home or place of worship. They probably weren't thinking about religious freedom as involving the right to bully gay children, pass so-called "blue laws," or restrict the ability of women to make their own healthcare decisions.

The question I'd like to explore in this post concerns the limits of religious freedom. In particular, I'm interested in whether religious freedom gives the religious practitioner the right to annoy others.

May 9, 2012

Edwina Rogers: The Secular Coalition's New Republican Lobbyist

Edwina Rogers Secular CoalitionI hadn't planned on writing about Edwina Rogers. Others in the atheist community seem far more concerned with her hiring and far better positioned to put the tough questions to her than I am. But I've been asked about how I, a politically progressive atheist, feel about Rogers' hiring, and so I thought I'd share a few thoughts.

In case you are not familiar with the controversy over Rogers, here is how Adam Lee (Daylight Atheism) summarized the issue in a recent post:
The Secular Coalition for America has hired a new executive director, and their choice is going to raise some eyebrows: Edwina Rogers, a Republican lobbyist and attorney with a long history of supporting conservative causes. Among other things, she's worked as an advisor to George W. Bush's National Economic Council, served as a general counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and donated to Rick Perry's presidential campaign.

May 8, 2012

What Would Have Helped You Leave Faith Earlier?

I have a question for the readers who, like me, were raised in a particular religion: What might have helped you abandon religious belief earlier than you did? You were raised religious, and you are now atheists. So my question is what might have helped you make the transition earlier than you did.

I've been thinking about this for myself recently, and I have decided that the most important thing that would have helped me would have been the availability of at least one atheist role model. Just knowing one person who identified as an atheist would have made a big difference. I spent at least a year or two struggling with doubts about my religious beliefs and not knowing that atheism was even an option.

May 7, 2012

Respect People, Not Beliefs

Richard Dawkins quote on religion

 Far too many religious believers are either unable or unwilling to understand the simple truth that follows:
People deserve respect. It could even be argued that a person's basic right to his or her beliefs deserves some measure of respect. But the beliefs themselves? No. They deserve nothing. We are under no obligation whatsoever to respect anyone's beliefs.
I will continue to respect religious people and their right to their beliefs; I will not respect their beliefs. I will not respect their efforts to prevent criticism of their beliefs, nor will I pretend that their "sacred" or "holy" objects are anything other than what they are. I will not ignore irrational beliefs or shirk my obligation to challenge false claims. I will remain intolerant of intolerance, regardless of whether religion is used to excuse or justify it. I will not participate in religious privilege, even if that means some will take offense at my words.

May 5, 2012

Atheists to Protest North Carolina Church

Sean Harris Berean Baptist punch your gay kids protestI used to wonder whether atheists would ever organize protests of churches. Not churches in general, mind you, but certain Christian extremist churches that had been preaching a destructive message of hate. I reasoned that something like a well-organized picket of such a church might do much to call attention to our efforts and show that we would remain silent no more. I agreed with readers who suggested that picketing might be especially effective if it was aimed at specific issues (e.g., picketing the Mormon church for funding Proposition 8 in California). The subject turned out to be surprisingly provocative for atheists and required me to write more than I ever thought I'd need to on the subject.

Making Atheist Material More Accessible

Library booksWhen I was a kid, there was no Internet. Getting to a bookstore wasn't always easy, and even when I could do so, I rarely had the money to buy anything. What I did have was a public library, and I relied on it quite heavily for reading material. Unfortunately, they didn't have much of anything on atheism.

This is why Austin Cline's post about the importance of getting atheist books in our local public libraries struck me as a good idea. I realize that kids today have a much easier time finding information on atheism than I did thanks to the Internet. But still, there must be some for whom finding atheist books in the public library would be valuable.

I need to see what my local library has, but I am guessing that they don't have much. If I'm right, I think I'll donate a few of my atheist books. Now that I've been reading primarily on a Kindle, I have far fewer books than I would have otherwise. But since I am trying to reduce clutter, getting rid of some of my collection seems like a good idea. I just wish I knew whether they would put them on the shelves or burn them out back.

Subscribe to Atheist Revolution

May 4, 2012

Petition President Obama to End National Day of Prayer

PetitionThe Freedom From Religion Foundation has set up an online petition on the White House website, urging President Obama to end the National Day of Prayer. In order to get the petition to Obama, 25,000 electronic signatures are needed by May 31. At the time I am posting this, they only have 2,151. Let's get the word out about this and help them meet their goal.

I know some of you are skeptical that this effort will amount to anything, and I share your skepticism. This White House petition site has been used to get a number of sensible proposals before the Obama administration, only to have them reject them outright. It is easy to imagine that happening yet again. But I don't think that should be an excuse for inaction. We need to keep trying until we succeed. We need to let this and each subsequent administration hear from us until this unconstitutional practice is finally stopped.

For more about what you can do to help, see this post at Secular News Daily.

Subscribe to Atheist Revolution

May 3, 2012

Separation of Church and State: an Atheist Value

Church and State

It is often said that atheists have nothing in common besides our lack of god belief. I disagree. I think that the overwhelming majority of us have many things in common.

Besides our lack of god belief, I suspect that the primary one is that we are proponents of church-state separation. In fact, many of us recognize the value of strengthening the Jeffersonian wall of separation between church and state. Happy National Day of Reason!

H/T to jobsanger

Subscribe to Atheist Revolution

May 2, 2012

How to Complain About a Church-State Violation

How to complainAs more people become dissatisfied with efforts by religious extremists to inject their beliefs into our secular government, efforts to protect separation of church and state may become more common. And as more of us embrace reality over faith, we may gradually become more willing to speak out against church-state violations.

Suppose you run into a violation of church-state separation in your local community, are upset by the violation, and decide to make a complaint. Here are some thoughts on how to go about it. Think of these as lessons I've learned from mistakes I have made.

May 1, 2012

Michigan Country Club Does Not Want to Associate With Atheists

The following is a press release from the Center for Inquiry:
Secular Group Charges Michigan Country Club with Religious Discrimination

Country Club Owner Did Not “Wish to Associate” with Atheists

A national secular advocacy group is bringing legal action against a Michigan country club for religious discrimination and breach of contract after it cancelled an event because of the attendees’ lack of religious beliefs.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI), a national organization advocating on behalf of science and secular values, is suing the Wyndgate Country Club in Rochester Hills, Mich., and its owner, for violation of the Civil Rights Act and for breaking its contract with CFI’s Michigan branch. The Wyndgate, denying use of its public accommodations entirely on the basis of religion, cancelled a scheduled CFI-Michigan event to be held October 12, 2011 that would have included an address from British scientist and noted atheist, Prof. Richard Dawkins.

Women and Combative Atheism

God is an imaginary friend

While writing about a radio interview with Anna Quindlen, Ophelia Benson (Butterflies & Wheels) offered us one reason who some male atheists might not think to include women in their activities: the "combative" nature of the atheist movement.
Atheism by its nature is “combative” – at least, active or outspoken or explicit or “movement” atheism is. Movement atheism is naturally combative.