September 30, 2012

Truth and Blasphemy

blasphemyWhen we talk about blasphemy, the focus naturally goes to efforts by religious extremists to pass anti-blasphemy laws, criminalizing the criticism of their religion. It makes sense that this would be the focus since this sort of this is antithetical to free expression and democracy.

It also makes sense that we, as atheists, would be particularly worried about the implications of such laws. We would likely be among the first targets of such laws. But as this image shows, there is a somewhat different way to think about blasphemy - as a term used by religious authorities to describe any teaching that goes against their doctrine.

The fact that our planet revolves around the sun instead of being the center of the universe was once considered blasphemy. One could be punished merely for suggesting the possibility. The fact that species evolve was once considered blasphemy (and still is throughout much of the American bible belt). From this perspective, blasphemy seems to be little more than what organized religion does not want you or I to know.

Suffrage and civil rights were once deemed blasphemous, affronts to what the church considered "sacred" and "holy." Interracial marriage was once deemed blasphemous because it was "unnatural" and "against god's will." We still see such hang-ups with same-sex marriage today by some religious extremists.

Accusations of blasphemy are about social control and the preservation of obsolete dogma. Cries of "blasphemy" and efforts to enact anti-blasphemy laws should be recognized for what they are: efforts to undermine reason and social justice.

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On Blasphemy Day, Mock Away


Happy International Blasphemy Day! This is a day I used to take for granted, or rather, this is a day where I used to take my freedom to commit blasphemy for granted. After recent developments, I will not make that mistake again. Too many nations have bowed to pressure from religious extremists and enacted anti-blasphemy laws. The subject was recently raised at the UN. And even here in the U.S., there has been international pressure to consider something along these lines. While President Obama stood his ground, who knows what future administrations might do? We cannot take our rights for granted.

September 28, 2012

Do Words From a Stranger on Twitter Really Hurt?

Dont feed the trollI'm not one to dish out abuse on Twitter, and I'm not inclined to defend those who do. I think that communication generally benefits from some measure of mutual civility, so I do not have much interest in those who rely on name-calling to express themselves. But some people really do need thicker skin, especially on the Internet. I ran across a tweet, directed at nobody in particular, insisting that words hurt and that people who said hurtful things should be ashamed of themselves.

Assuming that you are an adult of sound mind, do words from a complete stranger during a meaningless online exchange really hurt that much? In the last month alone, I've been called everything from an agent of Satan to a "rape apologist." Did it hurt me? Of course not! I recognized it as utter gibberish.

In my offline existence, I cannot count the number of times I've been accosted by transients on the street or in mental health treatment settings. They've called me every name in the book (and some that weren't in any book). I've been told to kill myself, to burn in hell, to "go die," and yet, here I am. I haven't killed myself, and I don't recall taking any of it personally. Why on Earth would I care what some random stranger thinks of me?

September 27, 2012

Freedom From Religion Foundation Saves Tucson $1.1 Million

TucsonFor a city the size of Tucson, AZ, $1.1 million may not seem like a large sum. But think of the difference that kind of money could make for all sorts of useful purposes. Thanks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), the city of Tucson just saved $1.1 million they were planning to send on repairing a building owned by the Catholic Church.

After attorneys for the FFRF explained to the Mayor of Tucson that the city should not spend taxpayer money to repair a religious building they did not own, the city council agreed and decided not to hand over the $1.1 million.

September 26, 2012

Texas Governor Says Church-State Separation is Work of Satan

Rick PerryYou remember Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right? It was not that long ago that he was running for the U.S. presidency after some sort of god told him to. He was the one who used his position as governor to organize a massive Christian extremist prayer rally and then accused anyone who objected on the grounds of church-state separation of being intolerant. Yes Rick, we were indeed intolerant of you openly mocking our Constitution. Perry was one of the most prominent figures to accuse President Obama of waging a war on Christianity. Perry attracted as much attention from those of us in the reality-based community as any other candidate. Voters eventually rejected him, largely because he revealed himself to be something of a moron during the Republican primary debates.

We should have known that Gov. Perry would not be content to sink back into relative obscurity. He's still a Christian extremist, convinced that his path is righteous. And as Texas governor, he still has the ability to command attention. He's now using his platform to call separation of church and state the work of Satan.

American Humanists' Approach to Islam

AmericanHumanistLogoThe American Humanist Association has a post titled "A sensible Humanist approach to Islam" at Secular News Daily that is worth reading. Since this topic has been on my mind quite a bit lately, I wanted to share a few brief reactions to the post.

First, I agree with their reminder that those committing acts of violence do not represent all Muslims. While it is true that we do not hear nearly enough from moderate Muslims, I suspect that is due to their understandable fear of reprisal and the refusal of our corporate media to cover anything moderate these days. I certainly do not blame all Muslims for the violent acts committed by a few.

September 25, 2012

Without Struggle, There is No Progress

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of many of its waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will…men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get.
- Fredrick Douglass

These words by Fredrick Douglass have stuck with me over the years like few others. This has been one of my favorite passages since I first read it back in high school. I find myself remembering Douglass' words whenever I am tempted to whine, feel sorry for myself, or give in to pessimism.

September 24, 2012

Liberal Christian vs. Conservative Atheist

IdentityEach of us has many different aspects to our individual identity, and even those we share may be more or less central to us. Perhaps we both consider ourselves environmentalists, but environmentalism is more central to your identity than it is to mine. Or perhaps we both consider ourselves proponents of reproductive rights, but this particular cause is more central to my identity than it is to yours. You get the idea.

I suspect that this is one of the reasons we might expect to see conflict occurring even within groups that agree on a big issue or two. Conflict can come about, in part, because we do not share the same priorities. I might stress the importance of something you find fairly trivial while devoting insufficient attention to something you consider critical.

I found myself pondering the following question recently:
If I had to vote for one of two hypothetical candidates, would I be more likely to vote for a liberal Christian or a conservative atheist?

September 23, 2012

Post on Islamophobia Elicits Strong Reaction

I wrote a post yesterday on the subject of Islamophobia. In it, I said that I found it to be a nonsensical term because I do not see any connection between phobias and what people mean by this term. I wrote that the term reflects negative attitudes toward Islam and/or Muslims, and I suggested that we be more precise in our terminology. That is, if we are trying to convey anti-Islam sentiment or hatred of Muslims, we say so. I might call myself an anti-theist, but it would not occur to me to call myself a "theistophobe." I noted that I have a similar reaction when I hear homophobia because this too seems to be more about hatred and bigotry than fear. When I encounter someone who is an anti-gay bigot, I prefer to use that terminology as I do not assume they are driven primarily by fear.

Of all the posts I've written here, I would have rated this one as among the least likely to be controversial. And yet, the post prompted one of the strongest negative reactions I've received from another atheist blogger. I seem to have hit a nerve without knowing why. Here's how Austin Cline ( approached the subject on Twitter:


September 22, 2012

Jesus' Wife

US Scholar Jesus WifeThe corporate media in the U.S. is buzzing with the story of a small papyrus fragment which mentions Jesus referring to "my wife." Nothing gets their juices flowing quite like a Jesus story.

My reaction? Meh. Wake me up when they find contemporaneous evidence showing that this alleged Jesus person actually lived and that the Christian bible provides an accurate depiction of his life. Better yet, wake me up when someone can provide evidence of this alleged resurrection, sufficient to render faith wholly unnecessary. Now that would be interesting!

But seriously, the possibility of Jesus existing and being married is at least mildly entertaining because it seems like it would push some Christians to think about their "savior" quite differently. I mean, wouldn't Jesus being married call the whole Catholic priest celibacy thing into question just a bit? Maybe this finding could prove to be great news for all the young boys entrusted to Catholic clergy.

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stop IslamA phobia is an anxiety disorder involving the irrational fear of some object, animal, or situation. Phobias are fairly common anxiety disorders. Some of us have a phobia, and most of us have known others who suffer from a phobia. What does Islamophobia have to do with phobias? Absolutely nothing.

I find this to be one of the most common and thoroughly nonsensical terms one could hope to encounter. It seems to mean different things to different people, but it almost always involves something other than irrational fear. In fact, most people seem to use the term to describe negative attitudes toward Islam or Muslims. This has nothing whatsoever to do with phobias.

September 21, 2012

University of Tennessee to Stop Sectarian Prayers at Football Games

UTennesseeGood news on the church-state front is not generally associated with the state of Tennessee. Even from my vantage point here in Mississippi, I often look at Tennessee's frequent assaults on science education with horror. But there has been a positive development from the state worth noting.

It appears that the University of Tennessee - Knoxville has decided to obey the law (i.e., Chaudhuri v. State of Tennessee) with regard to sectarian prayers before home football games. According to a letter from the chancellor to the Freedom From Religion Foundation in response to their complaint, the university will stop their practice of sectarian prayers over the loudspeaker.
“While we are pleased that UTK is moving in the right direction, the wisest policy is to drop prayer entirely,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Students, alums and fans come to the games to watch players, not to recite prayers! Prayer hosted by a public university is unnecessary, embarrassing and divisive. It’s just plain bad manners to knowingly inflict prayer on those of us who are not religious and believe nothing fails like prayer.”
Before you start celebrating, here's a different take on the matter. While the law does prohibit sectarian prayer, it sounds like the university may continue with non-sectarian prayer and that this is exactly what the plan to do. So, we appear to have a step in the right direction but only a step.

When cases like this hit the news, it is important to remind those objecting that nothing here stops individuals from praying to whichever god they prefer. We're only talking about blatantly sectarian prayers being read over a loudspeaker at a public university.

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Why Did Your Comment Go to Moderation?

Comment moderationIf you comment on blogs, you're generally familiar with comment moderation. Chances are you've left a comment on at least one blog that did not appear immediately. In fact, it may have taken a day or two to appear. This is what comment moderation looks like from your end. Some bloggers have comment moderation turned on all the time; others do not use it at all.

From my time using the Intense Debate comment system on multiple blogs, I can say with some confidence that if you left a comment on Atheist Revolution that went to moderation (i.e., did not appear immediately), one of three things is happening:
  1. You've encountered a random Intense Debate glitch, an unfortunately common occurrence.
  2. Your comment contained more than 3 URLs or certain keywords that cause Intense Debate to think your comment was spam.
  3. You have been manually added to my selective moderation queue based on violations of the comment policy. This is extremely rare. In fact, it has been several months since I used this.
Since #3 is the only one I have control over and it is almost never the problem, all I can do if your comment gets kicked into moderation is ask you to be patient. It probably wasn't anything you did wrong, and it probably isn't anything I am doing. I make it a point to check the moderation queue at least once/day. Leaving a flood of subsequent comments in which you call me names and accuse me of censorship because your comment did not appear immediately just makes you look like a tool.

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September 20, 2012

S. E. Cupp: Conservative Atheist

S. E. CuppS. E. Cupp's name came up in response to a post I wrote asking for suggestions of conservative atheist blogs. I'm not particularly familiar with Cupp. She hosts a show on MSNBC I've never seen. It would be fair to say that all I really know of her is what I've read on other atheist blogs and a few articles she's written. I understand that she is a Republican who identifies as an atheist, and from what I've been able to gather, this has brought her quite a bit of attention.

I have seen the phrase "self-loathing atheist" attached to Cupp so many times that hearing her name immediately conjures up this phrase in my mind. Is this a fair description of her?

September 19, 2012

Am I a Feminist?

FeminismAmong the many questions I am asked, one of those that has been the most difficult to answer has been whether I consider myself a feminist. It is difficult because there are many different definitions of feminism out there, and the person asking the question is rarely willing to specify what he or she means by feminism. I have to pause to ask about the questioner's understanding of feminism so I know how to answer, which tends to be perceived as oppositional or evasive.

According to the narrowest definition I have heard, and one that seems quite popular in the atheist community these days, a feminist is one who supports the equality of women (i.e., equal rights). I've even come across some people who insist that the meaning of feminism is limited to the issue of equal pay for equal work. Using these narrow definitions, I am definitely a feminist. Politically, socially, and economically, I do indeed support equal rights for women. The thing is, these narrow definitions do not adequately capture how I think of feminism.

September 18, 2012

U.S. is Secular Nation Unless You Are a Republican

U.S. is secular nation

Take a look at this graph. It is from an Economist/YouGov poll released on Sept. 12, 2012. It confirms the perception that we in the U.S. are sharply divided over religion and that the nature of our divide typically breaks down along political lines. Republicans are clear outliers when compared with…well…everyone else.

H/T to Jobsanger

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September 17, 2012

Conservative Atheist Blogs

ConservativeI recently asked readers to recommend some good atheist blogs written by authors with a conservative political orientation. Based on the comments received here and via social media, I've pulled together a short list of blogs that seem to fit the bill:
I cannot vouch for their quality, as Bitchspot is the only one I've been reading on a regular basis so far. Still, this should give those of you looking for conservative atheist blogs a place to start. And if you find others that should be added, let me know.

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September 16, 2012

Public Executions for Those Who Criticize Islam

muslim protestI was watching some news show the other night. I am not certain which one it was, but since the PBS Newshour is the one I've been watching most of the time, it is my best guess. They are one of the few shows I've found that consistently reports international news, and I've tired of all the skewed coverage of U.S. politics where everyone has been pretending that we only have two candidates running in our upcoming election. In any case, they were reporting on the latest Muslim violence over an Internet movie trailer and inspired me to expand some of my recent thoughts on the matter.

September 15, 2012

Romney's Plan: God and Pat Robertson

RomneyPatI have been wondering when the Romney campaign was going to reveal their candidate's plan to fix the U.S. economy. I mean, I assumed there had to be more to it that repealing the Affordable Care Act, raising taxes on the middle-class, and cutting the tax rate paid by the wealthiest Americans. It looks like a new part of the plan has finally been rolled out: to fix the problems the U.S. is experiencing, we just need to stop pushing some sort of god out of the public square.

And for anyone who questions the sincerity of Romney's sudden need to talk about gods as much as possible…its Pat Robertson! That's right, Romney has been taking the notorious Christian extremist with him on the campaign trail. I guess it might be handy to have someone around to advise Romney about which disasters are being sent because of gays, abortion, pacts with Satan, and whatever else is stuck in Pat's craw.

Repeatedly asked for details (and his tax returns), Mittens has not been inclined to provide either. And while he's not especially interested in reminding the electorate that he's a Mormon, he's all too eager to involve a generic god and stoke fear of some sort of conspiracy to banish it from the public square. It sounds like Romney is still no friend to church-state separation.

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No Forum For Now

OverwhelmedBased on the interest expressed in having an Atheist Revolution forum, I did what I said I'd do and looked into setting one up. It appeared to involve quite a bit more work than what I was expecting. In fact, it turns out that my expectations were thoroughly unrealistic. In talking with a few people who had been involved in running forums, I quickly learned than my notion that I could just set it up and it would sort of run itself was absurd.

To those of you who nicely wondered aloud what the hell I was thinking, you were right. Like a few of you pointed out, I've already got my hands full and need to concentrate on writing more here. So, no forum for now.

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September 14, 2012

Condemn Violence, Defend Religious Criticism

Islam will dominateThere is something seriously wrong with a religion in which criticism is met with violence. The recent attacks on the American embassies were not an anomaly. Again and again, we've seen images of enraged Muslims taking to the street every time their religion is criticized or someone draws Muhammad. There has been far too much violence for such silly reasons.

Whenever criticism of Islam leads to violence, two things need to happen: clear condemnation of the violent acts and equally clear defenses of the criticism. No matter how petty, insulting, or over-the-top the criticism may seem, it does not excuse violence. Even when we see the first of these (i.e., condemnation of violence), we rarely see the second. In fact, we often see condemnation of the criticism too. This merely helps to ensure that the violence will continue.

Rep. Paul Ryan to Headline Christian Extremist Gathering

2012 Values Voter SummitIn poll after poll, U.S. voters have indicated that they are tired of all the god-talk by those running for office. And who can blame them? George W. Bush claimed that his actions were directed by his god, and both Bachmann and Perry insisted that running for the presidency was part of their god's plan.

The message of these polls seems to be lost on the politicians, however. Republicans and Democrats continue to out-god each other, putting on a show of exaggerated piety that seems certain to alienate the more reasonable of their likely supporters. And this weekend, it is time for the annual gathering of Christian extremists in Washington DC, known as the "Values Voter Summit."

September 13, 2012

Is There a Market for Atheist Products?

Bloomberg Businessweek asks an interesting question: Can the godless market evolve beyond bumper stickers? In other words, is there really a market out there for atheist-related products? In one sense, the answer would be an obvious yes. Most of us could go online and find atheist-oriented products (e.g., books, t-shirts, bumper stickers and automotive accessories, jewelry, and the like in a matter of minutes. But what the article is really asking involves the potential for growth in this tiny niche market beyond what we are currently seeing. That is an intriguing question and one which I am not sure how to answer.

The quote in the article that got my attention was this one:
That works out to about 15 million Americans who describe themselves as “convinced atheists,” more than many mainline Protestant denominations, Jews, or Muslims.

September 12, 2012

Seeking Conservative Atheist Blogs

Starting a blogI've made no secret of my left-leaning political orientation, and it is true that most atheists lean to the left. But I know some of you are more libertarian or Republican in your orientation. Yes, you read that correctly: there are Republican atheists. I was hoping you might be able to help me build a short list of good atheist blogs written by right-leaning authors.

To clarify, I'm after blogs dealing primarily with atheism that are written by conservative authors and not conservative political blogs written by atheists. I'd like to put together a list of such blogs as a resource for more conservative atheists seeking such information.

The Atheist Conservative and Secular Right would be clear examples of such blogs. I think Bitchspot might also qualify. I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the author (Cephus) takes a somewhat right-of-center perspective on many issues. Who else should be on the list?

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September 11, 2012

On September 11...

imagine no religion

It is not like anybody is going to forget what happened on 9/11, but I believe this image and its caption has something important to say about one of the lessons we would do well to remember.

September 10, 2012

Religious Objections to Vaccination

vaccinationYou are a parent, and you have a child in elementary school. Like most parents, you took your child to the doctor for vaccinations. Doing so was required by your child's school district, but you would have done so anyway because you recognize the value of vaccinations in protecting the health of your child and reducing the spread of communicable diseases. With me so far?

Now suppose that you learn that a child in the same class as your own child was not vaccinated. It would be natural for you to wonder why this other child was not required to be vaccinated like yours was, and you might also wonder what is wrong with this child's parents. If you guessed that the answer to both questions was religion, you'd be correct.

September 9, 2012

How the Democratic Party Could Have Handled the God Issue

No godsI want to follow up on this post a bit by explaining what I think the Democratic Party should have done with regard to the god language in their platform. I am making the choice to set aside the Jerusalem question, which I regard as far less relevant, to focus on the god language. I'm also not going to revisit the manner in which the multiple votes were handled.

As I see it, there are two viable approaches for the Democratic Party when it comes to how they approach religion.
  1. Omit any mention of gods from the party platform, speeches, and party documents; or
  2. Use inclusive language to make it clear that the party welcomes persons of diverse faiths and no faith at all.

September 8, 2012

Democratic Party Inserts God Language Despite Votes

dnc platform god jerusalemI did end up watching a bit of the Democratic convention in Charlotte. I hadn't planned on doing so, but I figured that since I watched a bit of the Republican convention, I might as well see how they compared. I've posted some general thoughts at Red State Progressive, but I want to address something with direct relevance to atheists here.

You have probably heard that American Atheists was not particularly happy with the Democratic Party's decision to insert language about some sort of god and about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel into their national platform. If you watched this vote at the convention, you'll know that the following description of what happened is technically accurate but does not begin to convey the outrage some of us felt while watching it:
The measure, led by Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, brought a vote before the convention delegates, requesting the official platform include the term god, and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The motion was not unanimous and was protested by some delegates, but was adopted after three voice votes by the official delegates.

September 7, 2012

We Can Benefit From Exposing Ourselves to Diverse Views

Covering ears

If you express controversial views on the Internet, many people are going to react by unfollowing, blocking, de-friending, unsubscribing, and the like. Not only are they not interested in your perspective, they want to pretend it isn't there at all. They find your disagreement with their worldview to be threatening in some way, and they'd like to wish it away.

Atheists know this all too well. We regularly have religious believers go out of their way to tell us that they are unfollowing, blocking, or muting us. I've always found it quite amusing that someone would need to tell me that they are doing this. What is less amusing is when persons we regarded as our friends in real life or even our family members do this. I've only had a couple of friends do this to me, but I've heard about it happening on a much larger scale to many atheists.

September 6, 2012

Mind Reading

My hair is a bird your argument is invalid nicolas cageI don't write nearly enough about reason or the many ways in which it can be derailed. I should probably try to do more of this because my experience suggests that reason is important to many atheists (even if we don't always do it as well as we would like to think). Most of us know that reason can be difficult at times. In part, this may be why so many religious people shy away from it. Reason takes effort, and the alternative is so much easier.

This post is not about people who think they have psychic abilities to actually read minds (i.e., telepathy). What I am referring to here as mind reading is one of the many cognitive distortions psychologists have identified as interfering with sound reasoning and increasing one's vulnerability to a variety of mental health problems (e.g., depression, anxiety). It also happens to be something that one encounters regularly online.

September 5, 2012

Atheism: Making The World We Want

Bertrand Russell

This is a great quote from the first book I read on atheism, Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects. It has always captured one of the most inspiring and intimidating aspects of atheism: it is up to us to make the world in which we want to live.

Superstitious belief has done its share of damage, but we can improve through the pursuit of reason. Organized religion has certainly caused considerably harm, but we can help to hasten its demise and reverse much of the harm it has caused. Nobody would ever suggest this will be easy; it may take generations. The question for each of us to ponder is how we will contribute.

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September 4, 2012

What Search Terms Reveal About Visitors to Atheist Blogs

Search termsAlmost anybody who writes about blogging seems to agree that monitoring traffic is essential. It was no accident that the first blogging tip I offered in my series dealt with the importance of collecting traffic data. Of course, the collection is the easy part. Figuring out how best to use the information provided by Google Analytics is another matter.

I like to use Google Analytics to examine the search terms bringing people to Atheist Revolution. I almost always find some surprises. Here were the top 5 search terms for July:
  1. atheist
  2. atheism
  3. athiest
  4. christian god
  5. noelle nikpour

September 3, 2012

We've Been Too Tolerant of Lying From Our Politicians


Politicians lie. This is not exactly breaking news. But when politicians lie so much and in such blatant ways, they deserve to be discredited and disqualified. Why isn't this happening?

Here's what I'd like to say to Mitt Romney and his campaign (you can imagine me speaking to an empty chair if that helps):
Mr. Romney, you have had different professional experience than President Obama. You may have some skills that he does not. You may have some good ideas about how to get us out of this economic mess. In short, you really might have something valuable to offer your country. So why do you keep lying? You are destroying your own credibility. Instead of lying, how about you show us what you can offer?

September 2, 2012

Music and Atheism

I've enjoyed listening to many different kinds of music for as long as I can remember. My parents had a kick-ass classic rock and folk record collection back in the day. The Stones, Beatles, Doors, Janis Joplin, and all sorts of others from the late 60s and early 70s. When an uncle died in a car accident at a young age, I took his massive collection of 70s hard rock cassettes nobody else in the family wanted. I had never heard of many of the bands, but this was how I first heard Bad Company, Mott the Hoople, Slade, Black Sabbath, and many others.

As I grew up and got more into music, I finally understood what people meant when they spoke about having a soundtrack to their lives. There are songs I can hear today that bring back vivid memories of particular times in my life. I might not recall the exact date, but I remember exactly what I was doing, what was important to me, and why the music mattered. There has definitely been a soundtrack to my life, and it has been a fairly diverse one.

September 1, 2012

Why Atheism Plus is Perceived as Divisive

Dealing with divisive issuesI think I was about 5 or 6 years old at the time, and my family was living in California. The crime rate in the city where we lived was rising but hadn't gotten really bad yet. My friends and I were allowed to play around the neighborhood with what now seems like a surprising lack of adult supervision. The summers were hot, and I rarely wore shoes. My feet were used to the scorching pavement, and it didn't bother me. If the few photos I've seen of myself at the time are any indication, I looked like a happy kid - a kid who needed a haircut and a bath much of the time - but a happy kid. I do not have many clear memories from this time, but those that stand out generally confirm that this was a positive time in my life.

I remember letting a friend borrow a new ball I wasn't using one day. He promptly lost it, did not tell his parents, and refused to replace it. I did what seemed natural to me at the time. I stole one of his beloved toys when he wasn't looking. I'll never forget being dragged to his house by my mom, forced to apologize and return the toy. The lesson of the day was that "two wrongs don't make a right." The fact that he mistreated me did not give me the right to mistreat him. It was a good lesson.