July 31, 2012

No Gods at the London 2012 Olympics

London olympicsI have not watched as much of the London 2012 Olympics as I was hoping for, due to my schedule and my disgust with how it has been presented to U.S. audiences by NBC. But I want to briefly mention one thing I have been pleased not to see: U.S. athletes publicly praying, talking about their "god," pointing at the sky, and the like. I know it may have happened and I just missed it, but I'm really hoping this isn't the case. The fact that I haven't seen this behavior so far has been a nice contrast from pro sports, as well as some college sports.

July 30, 2012

My Calling

Some Christianspeak becomes so popular over time that it crosses over, and the meaning becomes recognized by everyone. Non-Christians may even adopt the terms, although they usually mean something slightly different by it. References to one's "calling" are a perfect example. When a Christian refers to his or her calling, we all know what is meant. Non-Christians sometimes use the term to mean what they feel they were meant to do (instead of what some god called them to do).

I've been thinking recently that references to one's calling by Christians provide a great opportunity to make a point that needs to be made as often as possible about religious belief. One's god is really nothing more than a proxy for one's own desires.

July 29, 2012

Chick-fil-A: The Taste of Bigotry

Chick fil a bigots 2012
Back in 2009, I wrote that I thought atheists should avoid Chick-fil-A because they were in bed with Christian extremist groups like Focus on the Family. It made little sense, I reasoned, for an atheist to spend money at a Christian establishment that made it a point to push Christianity and promote Christian extremism.

In 2011, I revisited the subject of Chick-fil-A. I noted their support for the Pennsylvania Family Institute, an anti-gay organization, and again suggested that those interested in equality should probably find an alternative source for their processed chicken habit.

July 28, 2012

Africa: Playground for Christian Extremists

BumdrillerGodlessMonster brought up a great point in response to a recent post about religious affiliation declining in the U.S. Religion may be in decline here, but the reverse seems to be happening in Africa. Part of what is so unfortunate about this is that Christian extremists in the U.S. have been quite successful in exporting their noxious brand of religiously-motivated hatred to Africa. I have addressed this trend with the Catholic Church before, but it is clear that it is happening on a larger scale than just with Catholics.

July 27, 2012

Crosses in Aurora

AuroraShootingCrossesHemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) makes a great point about the 12 crosses placed across the movie theater in Aurora, CO, where the recent mass murder occurred. Were all the victims Christian? What about the 6 year-old? How about their immediate families, the ones the crosses are supposed to be comforted by the crosses? Can we just assume that everybody is Christian all the time?

July 26, 2012

What is Online Bullying? Part III

be excellent to each otherWe learned about bullying in Part I, discovering that most experts on the subject believe the term should only be used to describe behavior occurring in persons under 18. In Part II, we learned about cyber-harassment, a criminal offense describing a fairly small portion of online communication. What about communication that is upsetting in some way but falls short of cyber-harassment? How do we label it, and do we even need to do so?

I have certainly seen examples of communication that would qualify as cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking under the law (e.g., repeated threatening or harassing messages intended to cause distress). Anybody remember the case of Dennis Markuze (aka, David Mabus)? This shifted from cyber-harassment to the more serious cyber-stalking when he was caught on camera in the location of an atheist conference at which some of those he had threatened were present.

July 25, 2012

Religious Groups Spend Vast Sums to Promote Their Faith

Mormon missionariesWhen you see a church on every corner, find religious literature on your windshield or in your mailbox at least once a week, and see vans filled with well-dressed people cruising your neighborhood regularly, it is natural to find yourself wondering about how much this all costs and why anyone would bother. Isn't there something far more useful that could be done with all that money, time, and energy? Come to think of it, wouldn't almost anything be more useful?

July 24, 2012

Atheism Increasing While Religions Stagnant

Good newsAccording to the Religion News Service, a 2011 Pew survey shows that roughly 19% of U.S. residents polled described their religious affiliation as "none." This is the highest percentage ever recorded by the organization.

What strikes me as even more noteworthy than the gradual increase in this number is that it appears to be trending upward while many Christian denominations are either flat or in decline. These trends are certainly encouraging, even if they are slower than most of us would like.

The report brings up a good point about how the number of "nones" is unlikely to rise too much given differences in birth rate. As we know, some religious groups are encouraged to have as many children as possible (e.g., Catholics and Mormons). It is clear that these groups are going to have more children than most atheist couples.

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July 23, 2012

Thoughts on the Mass Murder in Aurora

CuffsI wanted to wait a few days to make it a little more likely that whatever I said here wouldn't just be a rant. I'm not sure I waited long enough. As interesting as it may be to ponder the possible motives of the killer, I find such efforts premature. Instead, my thoughts are with the friends and family members of the victims of this tragedy. I sincerely hope they gain full access to whatever support their local religious and secular communities can muster. Returning to normal is not easy, but it will happen.

July 22, 2012

Google+ is a Great Tool for Atheists

Google+As a blogger, it is sometimes difficult to know what to do when you discover that you have changed your mind about something you wrote in an old post. Deleting the old post with which you now disagree is certainly an option, but I'm not sure it is the best one. Writing a new post explaining your change of mind since you wrote the previous post is the option I'm going with here. It turns out that I was wrong about Google+ and its utility for the atheist community.

July 21, 2012

Upset by a Skeptic T-shirt?

OffendedAtheists, can I safely assume that each of you has been insulted at least once in your life? I cannot be the only one who has been repeatedly threatened with hell, called awful names, and threatened with bodily harm simply because I am an atheist. It would be great if it really was just me, but I don't think this is the case. It is not much fun, is it? But as adults, we can cope with it, right? It does not need to bring us to tears or make us flee, does it? That's part of what being an adult is about, right?

Here's my question to you:
Can you imagine seeing a t-shirt so vile that it would lead you to get up and leave an atheist conference or similar event? If so, what would it have to say?

Idiot of the Week: Louis Gohmert (R-TX)

Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.
- Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Part III.

Louis GohmertI haven't written any posts in the long-running idiot of the week series in awhile, and I really hadn't planned on doing so again. Even though I've always intended these posts as tongue-in-cheek ways of highlighting examples of idiocy, there's always been something distasteful about it. There are plenty of atheist blogs where you can find an author happy to condemn everyone who disagrees with them with self-righteous indignation. You don't need another one. And yet, here I am, feeling compelled to write this one.

July 20, 2012

What is Online Bullying? Part II

Cyber BullyingIn the first part of this series, we looked at how bullying has been defined. In this part, we're ready to take a look at online bullying.

Online Bullying

Unfortunately, defining online bullying, or cyberbullying, is even more challenging than defining bullying. The National Crime Prevention Council merely notes, "Cyberbullying is similar to other types of bullying, except it takes place online and through text messages sent to cell phones." They provide examples such as "mean or threatening emails" and creating websites to make fun of someone. Their definition was quite similar to most I could find in that nearly every one I looked at referred back to bullying.

July 19, 2012

Recommend Your Favorite Atheist Podcast

PodcastI read a number of atheist blogs, far too many to be able to track who said what and when. You'd think I'd also enjoy listening to atheist podcasts, but this particular medium has never really connected with me. There was a time when I tried 4-5 different podcasts. I would often load them on my iPod in anticipation of long road trips. While I really enjoyed them on long drives, I rarely listened to them at home. I think a big part of it has to do with my attention span and my tendency to be active when in front of my computer. I'd much rather search for information or write something, and I could never concentrate well on a podcast while doing so.

July 18, 2012

What is Online Bullying? Part I

BullyingMany people have asked about what constitutes bullying in the atheist blogosphere and more generally online. Too many of us have been operating with an "I-know-it-when-I-see-it" approach that is thoroughly unhelpful when trying to establish shared meanings. So I decided to do a bit of research on the matter. How is bullying defined? What are the boundaries of the definition (i.e., how do we decide what counts as bullying and what does not)? What I've come up with so far suggests that this task is not as easy as it might appear.

Due to the length of what I've already written, this is going to be a multi-part series. In Part I, I'll take a look at how real-life bullying is defined (as opposed to online bullying). This is a necessary step because every definition of online bullying I've found refers to the more general form of bullying.

July 17, 2012

Christian Extremists Would Love to Ban Islam

MosqueThe notion that Christians are victims of widespread persecution seems to occupy a central position in the worldview of many Christians. This appears to be especially true for Christian extremists. We are always hearing about how there is a "war on Christianity" and about how the evil secularists are trying to ban their ridiculous bible. Considering the emotional intensity of their claims, combined with the absence of evidence to support them, one cannot help but wonder if this is a case of projection. That is, these Christians are projecting their desire to take away others' religious freedom onto the secular community.

July 15, 2012

Why Its Tough to Discuss Sexism in the Atheist Community

SexismWhat I wrote on the subject of the the freethought bullies meme was promptly characterized as "another repetition of the hissy finger-pointy meme." Not quite what I was going for, but I won't be losing any sleep over it. I wasn't planning to revisit the subject of sexism so soon, but I've been asked by a couple of people to provide a concise explanation of what I meant when I suggested that there was a division in the atheist community. So I want to address that in a somewhat different manner.

An Apology to Tweenky D and Other Readers

Sorry cute dogTo Tweenky D and my other readers, I am truly sorry for my poor judgment in allowing a certain commenter with a long history of abusive comments back on Atheist Revolution. As you know, his behavior has been problematic for well over a year. What started as relevant comments (albeit with some of the strangest grammar I've yet observed) turned to nearly indecipherable rants and personal attacks on other commenters. His comments became increasingly abusive, and I was too slow to act.

After issuing several reminders about the comment policy and deleting some of the most abusive comments, I banned him for awhile last year. That should have been the end of it, but I allowed myself to be persuaded that he had regained control of his faculties and would behave appropriately in the future. I let him back on.

He seemed fine for awhile, and I initially felt I had made the right decision. Unfortunately, it is clear that he has deteriorated again. A few recent comments were abusive and had to be deleted. I have received several complaints about this individual and some necessary reminders about his behavior over time. I am now removing him once again.

Tweenky D, I really appreciate your courage in sharing your experience of being bullied by this individual. To you and the rest of my readers, I am sorry it took me this long to act.

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July 14, 2012

Church Vandalism in South Carolina

church vandalismA couple of churches in South Carolina were recently vandalized with anti-religion and pro-atheist messages. I join others in the atheist community in condemning this act. It reflects extremely poor judgment on the part of the perpetrators, and it accomplishes nothing constructive. I hope they are caught and have to do quite a bit of community service.

Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) has been in contact with one of the pastors and is raising money to support a local secular charity.
It’s a gesture to show that, while we have very serious disagreements about the nature of God, we all want to help our communities and make this world a better place. It’s possible to work together toward that cause. It’s also a slap in the face to the vandals — if they wanted to prove anything, they failed.
Vandalizing churches has to be one of the least effective ways I can imagine to oppose what they do. Those who did it accomplished nothing.

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July 12, 2012

Freethought Bullying

Screaming manI should have written this post a few months ago. I should have written it long before Thunderf00t and Greg Laden were expelled from Freethought Blogs (FtB). I should have written it well before Paula Kirby's now infamous letter and the many heated responses it has generated. I should have written it before there was any serious talk of harassment policies at atheist conferences. I am ashamed that I didn't write about this months ago. It is with more than a little apprehension that I say the following: I think there might be some truth to the seemingly outrageous claim that a few of the bloggers at FtB are acting like bullies.

July 11, 2012

Existence of Atheists Offends Christians

Of all the messages I've seen on atheist billboards, this has always been one of my favorites. It is brief, simple, and tells atheists that there are others like them. Oh, and it also offends Christians in every location where it has gone up.

Since there is absolutely nothing even remotely offensive about this billboard, the inevitable conclusion is that many Christians are offended by the fact that there are atheists. If that isn't bigotry and hatred, I'm not sure what would be.

July 10, 2012

Character in the Atheist Blogosphere

CharacterI was thinking recently about the issue of character because some friends were arguing over whether a politician's character was more or less important than his or her policy positions. I tuned out rather quickly, as I've been experiencing some "politics fatigue" recently and figured I already knew where the conversation was heading. Instead of paying attention, I found myself thinking about the issue of character in the atheist community.

July 9, 2012

Atheism: On the Rise and We Vote


Staks Rosch ended a recent post on the drop in atheist support for President Obama since 2008 with a gem of a sentence:
Atheism is on the rise and we vote!
It seems that President Obama does indeed have an atheist problem, one that could cost him dearly. Polling data show that Obama is losing support among White atheists and non-Christians, a group roughly the same size as the number of African-Americans who voted in 2008.

July 8, 2012

Taking a Shower Makes You Dry

showerI receive quite a bit of email from Christians. I don't share most of it here because it tends to get a bit monotonous after awhile. But sometimes I find that one tickles my fancy enough that I cannot resist sharing it. Here's a recent one from "yerstin," who was persistent enough to try to leave it in a comment in addition to emailing me. As you'll see, it is an extremely important message for all of us.

As usual, I have not edited the message at all. Based on the nature of the Christian email I receive, I am of the opinion that the spelling errors, lack of appropriate capitalization, and odd punctuation are essential parts of the message:
(for all athiest) jesus says the last is first and the first is last this sign tom me means everything is ironic for balance for example the sun makes you dark so light makes you dark, working out makes you weak afterwards, when you lose one of your senses the others become stronger for balance, in places with high altitudes theres days with more sunlight and theres also days with ,ore darkness for balance young people do alot of drugs wich makes you old, taking a shower makes you dry so geting wet makes you dry so repent now and get baptized now! please share
In my book, that's a keeper.

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July 7, 2012

Zero Tolerance

Zero ToleranceWhen you hear the phrase "zero tolerance policy," what context comes to mind? For me, it would have to be the public schools. I think of a zero tolerance policy on fighting, drugs, or some other behavior deemed inappropriate by overwhelmed administrators. Let's focus on fighting because I think we can all agree that it should have no place in school. With a zero tolerance policy, the administration is saying that they do not care who started the fight or why the students were fighting; they will respond in the same way regardless of the circumstances. Generally, this means that both of the students involved in the fight are suspended.

If you are the parent of a child who has been getting picked on at school and who finally decides to stand up to a bully, it may strike you as absurd that your child was suspended for doing so. It almost certainly seems unfair that your child receives the same penalty as the bully.

July 5, 2012

My Interview at Deity Shmeity

Grundy at Deity Shmeity has been interviewing a number of atheist bloggers. He posted his interview with me today. In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably note that I answered all the questions one morning at 5am after not getting more than a couple hours of sleep. I'm going to be as interested to read what I said as you are because I'm not sure I remember most of it!

What does stand out to me about the interview was how impressed I was with Grundy's questions. He'd actually familiarized himself with some of what I've written, and some questions reflected that. I've done interviews before, but I must say this was a first. Very impressive.

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News Media Provides Platform for Christian Extremists

Cable channel logosThe mainstream television media in the U.S., including both the big network news and cable news, seem to love putting Christian extremists on the air. In a way, this is understandable. The presence of Christian extremists in positions of power or influence is newsworthy. And yet, there is a danger that such figures will gain legitimacy through their appearances. An even greater danger is that the views of these figures are so rarely challenged by either the interviewers or other guests. So it isn't just that the extremists may gain legitimacy but that the extreme positions they express may be normalized. This raises a few questions for me, none of which have easy answers.

July 4, 2012

Reflecting on American Exceptionalism

Some July 4 blog cross-promotion...American exceptionismImagine that an acquaintance were to inform you that he thinks he is "better than you." Assuming that your initial reaction is not one of anger, you might ask an obvious question, "Better than me at what?" Perhaps this acquaintance is more skilled than you are in a particular area, and that is all he means. But how would you react if he were to come back with something like this:
No, you don't get it. I am a better person than you in the sense that I am morally superior to you. Your needs and desires are irrelevant to me, except in so far as they might advance my own. I do not need to follow rules that you must follow. I am right because of who I am and not because of what I do or what you think. And it is not just you - I am better than everyone.
I think we can agree that the view expressed by this acquaintance is pathological and that we would probably not want to maintain a relationship with someone who operated this way. So why do we have such a difficult time not recognizing that we are doing this on a national scale?

Read more at Red State Progressive >>

July 2, 2012

Mitt Romney is a Mormon

Mitt Romney is a Mormon

Mitt Romney is the first presidential nominee (I have little doubt that he will receive the GOP nomination) I can recall from either of the two big parties who has not used nearly every opportunity to talk about his faith. If one did not know that Mitt Romney is a Mormon, one could be forgiven for wondering if he might be an atheist.

The Romney campaign knows that roughly 18% of Americans polled say they would not vote for a Mormon for president, and their solution has been to have their candidate avoid speaking directly about his Mormon faith. Romney still talks about his faith, but he does so in an unusually vague manner, omitting the part about being a Mormon and attempting to steer the discussion away from it.