October 20, 2019

Blaming Secularism

William Barr
William Barr, U.S. DOJ [Public domain]

We have all seen stories like this one in the news media, claiming that the kids are not alright. Without dismissing their importance or even their validity, I think it is important to consider them in context. They are nothing new. The focus today might be on Millennials, but these stories have been written about every generation. I say that as a member of a generation that was routinely described as a bunch of worthless slackers who would never contribute anything of value to society.

What I find most interesting about the notion that there is something seriously wrong with the youth is how the various solutions always seem to match up with the pre-existing biases of those offering them. It isn't like we detect a problem, thoroughly analyze it like scientists might, and then develop and test solutions tailored to the problem and what we have learned about it. Instead, we simply pull out whatever solution we've already decided we'd like to see and push it even if it doesn't seem to apply. It is always time to grind our ax even if an ax is not called for.

I might encounter one of these stories about Millennials and their various problems and conclude that this is the result of their addiction to smart phones and the manner in which they have tried to replace human contact with social media. I can bolster my case by drawing on the sort of examples I see every day of young people complaining about being lonely on social media and not seeming to understand that this type of communication is never going to be an adequate substitute for face-to-face interaction. Or I might tell you about how I saw a college student wearing what appeared to be fairly expensive shoes step in the middle of a large mud puddle because she was playing with her phone while walking. I'd tell you that this sort of obliviousness to one's surroundings can't be good for one's mental health. Unfortunately, this sort of explanation leaves far too much out to be adequate.

October 16, 2019

If Atheism is the Lack of Belief in Gods, Why Do Some Atheists Care About Separation of Church and State?


Twitter is a great place to see strange things. For example, observing how some ideas take off among Christians using Twitter can provide some fascinating (if not disturbing) insight into how they think. I never would have expected the example I'll share in this post to be one that would take off like it did because...well...it is incredibly stupid, and I continue to think that most Christians have far more sense that it suggests.

The original tweet said something like this (I am paraphrasing here):

If atheism is the lack of belief in God, then why do so many atheists get so bent out of shape when a judge hands a defendant a Bible?

October 13, 2019

A Brief Review of The Mist (2007)

The Mist blu-ray cover

One clear marker of a good film, regardless of the genre involved, is that is has high replay value. This often poses a challenge for horror and suspense thriller films because relatively few hold up on repeat viewing once the big reveal has been...well...revealed. And yet, my favorites in these genres do hold up in this way. Knowing how they end takes little away from my enjoyment. Even if I've seen them several times, I find something new to appreciate with every viewing.

I do not usually think of The Mist (2007) as ranking among my favorite horror films. It isn't scary enough, and there are just so many better options. On the other hand, it is one of those rare flicks that holds up so well on repeat viewing that I seem to enjoy more every time I see it. And not only that, but it features an outstanding cast with top-notch acting and decent special effects. So while I might not consider it one of my favorites, it probably isn't very far off. If you are an atheist who enjoys horror films but hasn't seen this one, I'd recommend checking it out (especially if you don't care for supernatural horror but do enjoy good depictions of the harm fundamentalist Christianity can cause).

October 9, 2019

Christian Fundamentalists vs. Woke Fundamentalists

smoke detector
Even if you do not have a home security system (I don't either), you probably have a basic understanding of how they work. There are various sensors designed to detect unauthorized entry. When they detect such an entry, they sound an alarm. The more expensive systems can also notify a centralized dispatch that can alert law enforcement on your behalf. Even if you have never lived with one, you can imagine how important it is that the sensors work correctly and are not overly sensitive, trigger many false alarms. If you've ever had an overly sensitive smoke detector, you know what a pain this sort of thing can be.

The concept of an overly sensitive alarm system reminds me in some ways of the evangelical fundamentalist Christian who camps outside an adult bookstore, strip club, or similar venue and harasses the clientele. She is undoubtedly concerned about "moral decay," but her sensors for detecting it are way too sensitive. Like the smoke detector that seems to go off every time you cook, she howls about "whores" and "fornicators" at every opportunity. Fortunately, I think that most people would agree that she's every bit as annoying as the broken alarm system that detects problems that aren't there. Even here in Mississippi where evangelical fundamentalist Christianity is the norm, the howling crusader does not usually have as much company as you might expect.

October 6, 2019

Atheists Saving the Planet


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is going to take more than atheists to save our planet from what some are now calling a climate crisis. Let's engage in a bit of naive wish fulfillment for a moment and imagine that every atheist, agnostic, humanist, bright, freethinker, and atheistic Satanist (i.e., every secular person) was capable of setting aside our many differences and working together to address the threat of global climate change. I know, I'm sure I lost most of you at "setting aside our many differences" because it is abundantly clear that such a thing will never happen. But even if it did, there wouldn't be nearly enough of us in the U.S. to make a difference unless we were able to bring many religious believers on board.

As far-fetched as it seems that the great atheist horde would ever be willing to set aside our differences and work together, it is even harder to imagine some of us being willing to work productively with religious believers. This is a real shame. I'm not sure how we solve big problems unless this changes. To be honest, I fear the answer is that we don't.

I'm mentioning this because I recently saw a meme being circulated on social media by one of the well-known secular organizations calling for action around climate change. It made a point of saying that those of us who were concerned about this life (rather than the heaven or hell some imagine) need to come together to solve the problem. I understand the sentiment all too well. The problem is that if we are the only ones showing up, we've already failed. If we aren't willing to work alongside religious believers to solve a problem this big, we've already failed. We are going to have to persuade religious believers to work with us, and we are going to have to allow them to persuade us to work with them. To have any chance of success, climate change has to become a human issue and not merely a humanist issue. Atheists are not going to save the planet by ourselves.