June 30, 2012

Bible Stories

Noah's ark
Have you read the Christian bible from beginning to end? If not, I imagine you feel just a bit guilty about it. Atheist or not, you recognize the massive influence this ancient book has had on Western civilization. It might be good to know what's in it.

If you have read it, you know what a chore it can be. Plenty of atheists will suggest reading it without remembering what a long an unpleasant read it was. If only there was a more enjoyable way to read it.

New National Organization for Atheist Women

The following is a press release from Secular Woman.

First National Organization for Atheist Women Mobilizes

Leadership Development Drives Mission

Atlanta, Georgia – June 28, 2012. Secular Woman, Inc. makes its debut today as the first national membership organization dedicated exclusively to advancing the interests of atheist, humanist and other non-religious women. The organization's stated vision is "a future in which women without supernatural beliefs have the opportunities and resources they need to participate openly and confidently as respected voices of leadership in the secular community and every aspect of American society."

Secular identity organizations often struggle to attract and retain female members, lending weight to surveys which typically characterize women as more spiritual than men. Secular Woman will offer its members conference travel grants, profiles of secular women, achievement awards and other programming designed to add gender diversity to secular events and bring more nonbelieving women out of the closet and into roles of leadership.

Through strategic partnerships, Secular Woman will also advocate for equal pay, reproductive choice, and marriage equality, addressing political trends the group sees as ideologically-motivated threats to its members' freedom of conscience. "The 'War on Women' dovetailing with the rise of secular activism showed us the time had come for secular women to form our own distinct organization to support our vision of the future," said Kim Rippere, a Secular Woman founder and the organization's first president. "Secular women have always been at front and center of the feminist quest for equality and autonomy."

Rippere is joined on the group's first Board of Directors by co-founders Brandi Braschler, Vice President of Programs; Bridget Gaudette, Vice President of Outreach; and Mary Ellen Sikes, Vice President of Operations. The four women bring a combined total of more than forty years' activism in secular and women's issues to Secular Woman.

"With this organization we plan to focus on promoting the secular female voice, but anyone who supports our mission can join," said Gaudette. "All are vital to the success of Secular Woman and to the overall secular movement."


Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit: www.SecularWoman.org.

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June 29, 2012

When Change Feels Too Slow

blogI was reminded recently about how slowly change occurs. My parents, who have been retired for awhile now and get most of their news from the corporate news media, are not sure what a blog is. The same goes for Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and many other platforms. When we think about the massive impact the Internet has had on atheism, religion, and our culture more generally, we would do well to remember that there are still plenty of people out there who haven't been reached by the full extent of what the Internet has to offer. We have only just began to tap the potential.

June 27, 2012

How to Understand Atheists: A Guide for Christians

atheismWhat is atheism? Are there really people out there who don't believe in any gods at all? What do they want, and what do they think of Christians?

Hi there. I'm an atheist, and I write the blog Atheist Revolution. I write under a pseudonym because I live in an area dominated by evangelical fundamentalist Christians where my words could cost me my job, my friends, or even my personal safety. I'd like to provide you with a brief guide for understanding atheists.

June 26, 2012

Atheists and the Media

NewspaperThe posts I write at Atheist Revolution are inspired in many different ways (e.g., personal experience, information gained by visiting other atheist blogs, a variety of news sources). One of my favorite sources of inspiration are the comments left on the blog by my readers.

Here is part of what SonicYouthFan had to say in the comment thread for a recent post about how other minority groups do not allow politicians and the media to ignore them:
To the political right, atheists are seen on a level equivalent to Jerry Sandusky…The left, meanwhile, is so attention-starved, they're desperate to get faith-based voters on board…Therefore, the politically polarized portion of the media simply won't engage us…So the question is: how do we get attention form the media if they won't even return our calls?
That is a damn good question.

June 25, 2012

Comparing Opponents to Hitler is Unwarranted…Usually

HitlerAs Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1789, nothing is certain but death and taxes. Were Franklin alive today, I suspect he'd add another certainty. Whenever you get two groups of people with opposing views, it is certain that someone in one of the groups will eventually compare someone in the other group to Hitler.

We see this phenomenon regularly in politics. For some, President Obama is Hitler; for others, Republicans are Nazis. In addition, we know that many Christians are fond of making up stories about Hitler being an atheist in spite of the clear historical record of his Christianity. This sort of over-the-top name-calling resolves nothing and leads instead to increasing polarization and hatred. The politician with whom you disagree is not Hitler. The atheist down the street? Also not Hitler.

June 24, 2012


I have encountered many religious believers, mostly Christians, who insist that their god belief is the key to their happiness. Several have suggested that atheists cannot be truly happy because we lack their god belief. When I disagree, they usually ask me if I am happy in a challenging tone as if anything would be proved by my answer. I usually point this out as an example of erroneous generalization from one experience (i.e., mine) to the entire atheist community. But as the lesson on reasoning continues, we rarely seem to get back to the original question. Am I happy?

June 23, 2012

Catholic Official Convicted of Endangerment

William LynnI trust you've heard the big news out of Philadelphia by now. Monsignor William Lynn just became the first Catholic official in the U.S. to be convicted of mishandling sex-abuse claims. Essentially, Lynn was made aware of allegations of clergy abuse and enabled it to continue by reassigning the alleged perpetrators to unsuspecting parishes. He is expected to serve 3.5 to 7 years in prison.

The case is widely being considered a landmark because it is the first time that a church official has been convicted of this sort of thing in the U.S. I sincerely hope that this case opens the door to additional prosecutions and forces religious organizations to place potential victims above their institution. I also hope that prosecutors continue to move up the chain of command and go after higher ranking church officials, particularly the bishops.

For more, see High-ranking priest guilty on one count in child sex abuse case.

Update (December 2013): After spending one year in jail, a court has ordered that Lynn be released.

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June 22, 2012

Other Minority Groups Do Not Allow Politicians and the Media to Ignore Them

DemographicsThose of you who follow U.S. politics have undoubtedly heard about the executive order President Obama issued to halt the deportation of immigrants in the country illegally who meet certain criteria. I've written about my frustration with what passes for debate over immigration reform, and I'm not planning to repeat that here. Instead, I want to address how one bit of the analysis I keep hearing about immigration and politics should be of great interest to atheists in the U.S.

June 21, 2012

The Mark of a Freethinker

freethinkerWhen you hear the term freethinker, what image comes to mind? For me, it is an image of someone who bucks conventional wisdom, goes his or her own way, and questions authority. But I don't think any of this completely captures the mark of a true freethinker, at least not how I think of it. The mark of a true freethinker is that the person is every bit as likely to question the position of his or her allies as his or her enemies.

I know full well that many in the atheist community use "freethinker" as a somewhat more socially acceptable alternative to "atheist" or as an umbrella term that can be used to describe all atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, etc. I've done this myself, and I'm not quarreling with either of those uses here. This post isn't about semantics or definitions (for that discussion, see Austin Cline's post). I'm saying that when I think of what makes someone a true freethinker, what comes to mind is someone for whom critical thinking and meaningful inquiry are more important than group allegiance.

June 20, 2012

Deepak Chopra

Deepak ChopraSome years ago, my wife at the time (long since ex-wife) came home from shopping with a new book. I do not recall the title, but the author was Deepak Chopra. I suspect she bought it because she'd either heard about it on Oprah or knew someone who recommended it to her. But it made sense that it would appeal to her. She was feeling somewhat trapped between an atheist husband and a deeply religious mother. On most days, she would say that she really wasn't sure what she believed. She had been raised to value spirituality but had been turned off by organized religion. I think Chopra's book fit perfectly well into her search to find some sort of belief system with which she could align herself.

June 19, 2012

Atheists Arming Themselves for Protection

Glock 17I wanted to follow up my recent post on the safety of atheists in the bible belt by raising the subject of atheists arming themselves because of concerns over safety. I've heard from more than a few atheists that they would carry a gun on their person at all times if they lived in the bible belt. And I've heard from a few living here in the bible belt who have said that this is exactly what they do. I'm not currently among them, but I'd be lying if I said I hadn't considered it. In fact, I'm still not sure that this is not something I might end up doing in the future.

June 18, 2012

Atheists in Congress

CongressAccording to The Hill, Edwina Rogers of the Secular Coalition for America says that 28 of the 525 members of Congress do not believe in any sort of gods. Only one, Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) has been willing to say so publicly, but it is encouraging to know there may be others. It is also good to see the Secular Coalition for America and other secular groups getting some attention by The Hill.

Still, the best quote of the article went to Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation for this gem:
There’s almost like a religious litmus test for public office, where candidates are forced to declare their piety and compete against each other for who invokes God and ‘God bless you’ the most.
Sad but true. One of these days, we'll get ourselves organized into a real voting block, and then this may change.

The entire article is worth a read.

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June 17, 2012

When Disputes Become Toxic

disputeFor the purposes of this post, I'd like you to imagine that you belong to a group with roughly 1,000 members. It can be a large atheist group, a political organization, or any other sort of interest group. The specifics don't matter. What does matter is that you really value the group. It has been an important part of your life for a few years, and you really enjoy your involvement. The group holds 2-3 meetings a year, and you attend whenever possible. You promote the group, encourage others to join, and hope to see it double in size over time.

If you find yourself thinking at this point that I am talking about a mega-church, I can see why. I could very easily be talking about a mega-church, but I'm not - at least not yet.

June 16, 2012

How To Reduce Bigotry Against Atheists

Prejudice is ignoranceSurprisingly little psychological research has been conducted with atheists. I know this because I've looked into it. Only a handful of empirical studies have been published; however, I am optimistic that this will soon begin to change. There are too many of us to ignore for long, and there is much to gain from studying atheists and how we are perceived by others.

Gervais (2011) published a fascinating article in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin in which he addresses one important factor for reducing anti-atheist prejudice. I should mention that this is a reputable peer-reviewed journal in the social psychology area.

June 14, 2012

Safety in the Bible Belt: A Concern for Atheists

dangerOne of the most common questions I receive from atheists outside the United States is, "Is it really that bad?" They look at the U.S. with puzzlement, wondering how a nation intentionally set up with a secular government and constitution could be so hostile to atheists. My answer always begins with, "It depends…" It depends on what part of the country one lives in, on the size of one's community, on the prevalence of evangelical fundamentalist Christianity in one's area, and a host of other factors. It isn't that bad everywhere, but it certainly can be pretty bad.

June 13, 2012

About the Religious Ads

crazy ChristianAtheist Revolution uses Google AdSense to display some of the ads you see on the blog and in the RSS feed. From time to time, you may see ads that are pro-religious or politically conservative. I typically receive an email or two from readers when this happens. For those not familiar with how AdSense works, it is perfectly understandable that this would seem odd and even counterproductive.

June 12, 2012

But My Faith Brings Me Comfort

the false comfort of faithEver since I first realized that I am an atheist, I have received countless questions from Christian family members, friends, and even complete strangers who learn that I do not share their beliefs. Sometimes they seem to be genuine attempts to understand my position; other times they are transparent insults or attempts to convert me. But what nearly all have in common is that they are relatively easy to answer. In this post, I'd like to talk about one of the few exceptions, one that I have never felt like I've answered as effectively as I'd like.

June 11, 2012

Child Abuse: Are Atheists More Likely to be Victims?

Child abuseIt all started when I was reading a few threads over at Reddit/r/atheism. I know, I'm not supposed to enjoy /r/atheism because some of the people who are active there are sexist and have posted inappropriate comments on innocent photos of young women. But I've learned that those who do this sort of thing are a small minority and that there are some really good discussions at /r/atheism. In fact, I've had trouble getting a few of them out of my head for a few days now, and I want to write about one issue they helped bring to my attention.

June 10, 2012

Secular Student Alliance Deserves Our Support

SSAweek logo web

As you are probably aware, June 9 to June 16 is SSA Week, a fundraising campaign for the Secular Student Alliance (SSA). The SSA works to support secular student groups in U.S. high schools, colleges, and universities. According to their website:
Our primary goal is to foster successful grassroots campus groups which provide a welcoming community for secular students to discuss their views and promote their secular values.
Although my schedule does not permit me to participate in Blogathon 2012, part of the fundraising efforts for SSA Week, I did appreciate the invitation to do so. Since I can't do that, I wanted to tell you about my experience with the SSA and why they are such a worthy cause.

June 9, 2012

Now You Can Contribute to Scholarship on Atheism

I am posting the following request for participation from a professor interested in advancing the literature on atheism after I heard from one of his doctoral students:
My name is Jerome Baggett. I’m a sociologist and professor at Santa Clara University (working in the graduate school in Theology and Religious Studies) who is in the early stages of a study of atheists (and other non-religious people) in the United States. Essentially, I’m investigating how atheists think about the world around them and go about the business of living meaningful lives. As you might know, there are a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions about atheists, whereas I want to get beyond those and listen to what atheists themselves say about their lives. That’s why I’m looking for people to interview about this.

These interviews only take about an hour; they can be done by phone or in person (even online in some cases); and people tend to enjoy the experience of being interviewed. I’m planning to write what I hope (and expect) will be a thoughtful, unbiased book on how people live their lives as atheists in the U.S. that will be published by a reputable press. My hope is this will find a broad readership and begin a more nuanced national conversation about the many ways people find meaning within contemporary society.

If you’re interested in being interviewed for this project or simply want to find out more about it, please feel free to contact me by phone (510-549-5060) or e-mail ([email protected]). Thanks for your consideration.
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June 8, 2012

Steep Costs for Abstinence Only Programs

As Texas GoesI don't watch the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC that often. Even though I agree with her politics more often than not, I find her almost constant snark more than a little annoying. And I rarely have the patience to sit through her long-winded introductions. But I have often enjoyed her interviews, and I caught a particularly interesting one this week. It led me to think a bit differently about some of the issues I've addressed here many times (e.g., abstinence only sex education).

Maddow's guest was Gail Collins, a columnist for the New York Times, who was there to talk about her new book, As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda. I hadn't heard of this book before, but I believe it is one I'm going to have to read.

June 7, 2012

Pastor John Hagee is a Bigot

This is bigotry. It doesn't matter whether Pastor Hagee's motivation for saying what he says here is religious, political, or something else entirely. It is still bigotry. If you are not sure about that, try replacing "atheist" with "Jew" and see how it sounds.

I do not doubt Pastor Hagee's credentials as a Christian extremist, but I'm no longer sure that I can call what he says here extreme. I've heard it too often and from too many Christians. Perhaps the sentiment he's expressing here is far more mainstream than many Americans want to admit.

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June 6, 2012

Atheist Answers Questions From a Christian

A Christian blog, the BitterSweet End, has posted ten questions for atheists. Here they are (unedited except for the italics) along with some quick answers, all of which could be expanded but probably don't need to be:

1. If there is NO God, then their is no Measurement or Standard for morality? Then what will define morality?Ethics

Plenty of standards for morality have been developed over the centuries. In fact, there is an entire branch of philosophy dealing with this (i.e., ethics). Philosophers have produced moral theories (e.g., utilitarianism), which provide standards for determining what is moral. However, one can find an even more basic form of morality in the "golden rule." From what I recall, this predates Christianity by hundreds of years.

Scientific evidence suggests an evolutionary basis for what we call morality. Research shows that non-human animals exhibit some of the precursors to what we think of as the moral emotions, and we have long observed evidence of altruistic behavior among non-human species. Clearly, supernatural entities are not necessary for morality.

June 5, 2012

Creationism Remains Stable in U.S.

CreationismWe know that the United States lags far behind other developed nations when it comes to public acceptance of the reality of evolution, but just how bad is the problem? Do many people still doubt evolution or do we just hear more from a vocal minority?

According to a recent Gallup survey, 46% of Americans are creationists (i.e., they think some sort of god created humans in our present form within the past 10,000 years). I suppose we shouldn't be terribly surprised. Remember how many Republican presidential candidates raised their hands when asked whether any of them doubt evolution?

Worse yet, this percentage of Americans subscribing to creationist view of human origins has been quite stable during the last 30 years. That is, many of the scientific advances we have seen during this period do not appear to have penetrated public consciousness.

June 4, 2012

Sissy Bradford Feels the Love From Christians

Texas A&MMy recent post, Christian Terrorism in Texas, told the story of Sissy Bradford, an adjunct professor at Texas A&M - San Antonio who was fired, threatened, and stalked after her complaint prompted legal action by Americans United for Separation of Church and State to remove crosses from a taxpayer-funded tower at the campus entrance. Ms. Bradford has now contributed a couple of comments on that post, and I want to highlight them here so they are not missed. First, she shared the following email she received from a particularly deranged Christian:
To: Sissy Bradford

Subject: Professor

As a professor, do you have a right to live? Have you ever been married or you're too ugly and stupid that nobody wants you? Do you know the difference between good and evil? Do you know why you exist? The day you die, a cross is going to be inside your coffin and a cross on your tomb to let you know who is KING. Your tongue will confess and your knees will bow down to the Holy name of JESUS. After that you will reign with your father satan. You're a perfect idiot profesor that has no morals. You don't know whether you're coming or going. You live a sorry, depressing life seeking evil instead of good. You and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make a perfect couple; you should consider it and leave now. You are a disgrace to Texas A&M and to the United States of America!
Next, Ms. Bradford provided a link to her Facebook page, where she is making documentation of her story available.

Last, there is now a petition asking for her reinstatement at Texas A&M.

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June 3, 2012

Sexual Harassment in the Atheist Movement

Moth flameYou know the common simile, "like a moth drawn to the flame?" Everyone knows what it means. We've all seen moths flying into lightbulbs or open flames, only to be fried on contact. And we have all felt the pull to do or say things we know will have unpleasant results.

I am beginning to feel this way about addressing sexism in the atheist community and related subjects like sexual harassment in the atheist convention circuit. Based on what I've heard from many others, I'm not the only one. This is unfortunate because sweeping things under the rug is rarely a good strategy for solving problems (just ask the Catholic Church). I believe that conventions should be places where people from diverse backgrounds can gather without having to worry about sexual harassment. And you know what? For the most part, I think they are.

June 2, 2012

Louisiana Newspaper Runs Ad Claiming Democrats Want to Murder Christians

According to Think Progress, a newspaper in central Louisiana, The Daily Advertiser, ran an ad from a Christian extremist group suggesting that President Obama and the Democratic Party are conspiring to murder Christians. Oh, come on! This has to be some of that liberal media bias we're always hearing about, doesn't it? Judge for yourself:


While the ad does not come out and tell readers to murder Democrats, it comes about as close to suggesting this as legally permissible. After all, if you were a Christian and you genuinely believed that Democrats were running around shooting Christians, wouldn't you at least consider the possibility of fighting back?

The paper has stood by its decision to run the ad.

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