31 December 2008

We Need to Rethink the Argument

Michael Newdow--our good atheist fighting the good fight in California--is, once again, standing up for our rights. He is known for working through litigation to remove the words 'under God' from our Pledge of Allegiance. This is what he's up to now:
California atheist Michael Newdow -- famed for challenging the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance -- has gone to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking an injunction to prevent Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., as well as the congressional sponsors of the Jan. 20 inaugural and several other defendants, from inserting the words "so help me God" into the oath.
The argument:
...it would be okay if Obama adds the phrase on his own. But if Roberts "prompts" Obama to recite the offending phrase by offering the words himself, that would amount to a "state actor" endorsing religion, Newdow asserts. And that would violate the First Amendment's establishment clause, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to Newdow.
Okay. I think I kind of agree with this. If Obama wants to, personally, add the religious endorsement, you know, as an individual American with the right to worship and believe as he sees fit, then, yeah, fine. If he is prompted to do so, by being asked to repeat the words by a Supreme Court Justice, then, yes, that kind of does seem like an official endorsement.

If some people think this is a silly, superfluous thing--that it's not really an endorsement and doesn't mean anything, let's try a tiny thought-experiement. Imagine, if you will, an atheist President. I'll give you all a moment to laugh that out of your systems. But, let's just say for argument's sake, that an atheist won the election and was being sworn in. Now, what if he or she was prompted to say these words and he or she refused? Admit it...there would be an outcry. It would start in the weeks before the inauguration. Pundits would include little segments in their shows: Joe or Jane Atheist's Inauguration: So Help Him or Her God? And people would call in or email that, darn it, it's a national tradition! And what would a Justice like Roberts do when the time came? Would he respect the President-elect's personal, individual beliefs, or would he insist on pushing this supposed national tradition? And if he chose to push it, would he be doing so out of some zombie-like adherence to 'tradition,' or would it be for a whole other zombie-like adherence to endorse a certain religion?

Some people claim they are just words, but the fact is that we all use words, every day, sometimes to bullshit, and sometimes, just sometimes, we use them to say exactly what we mean. And in this context--as with any context where these words are coming out of the mouths of our government officials for governmental events--this is a problem.

Also, a commentor on this article makes a good point. An anonymous poster says:
I thought it was odd that the controversy was that Obama selected Rick Warren for an official prayer, rather than that there is an "official" prayer at all.
Wuh...huh? Uh, yeah. And, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm surprised this isn't the argument I'm seeing from atheists. It's like the whole 'remove the nativity scene from the public building' thing. It's not the nativity scene we are protesting. It's not the particular religion we are against. It is the representation of any religion on public grounds--public grounds paid for by all citizens and not just adherents to a certain religion. It is the official endorsement of any religion by a government who is supposed to be representing all citizens and not just the ones who believe in one particular sky-fairy.

And so why aren't we protesting the idea of an innvocation in the inaugural ceremonies, as opposed to which deluded representative is picked to serve as MC? I don't know the answer to that, but I can tell you why folks would say that we shouldn't. More accurately, why folks would berate us and attempt to humiliate and marginalize us further. They will say that we're trying to degrade our nation's (Christian) traditions, and worse, when we do this, we are only making ourselves look foolish for expending these energies on such silly things. Of course, they will overlook the point that if they think we should find these things meaningless and silly, they themselves should do so as well, and so removing them shouldn't be a big deal for anyone. The fact that it always is a big deal shows that it is important. It is important to strip these religious endorsements from our government, for the sake of everyone.

I'd like to point out that I almost typed '...not just atheists, but for anyone with an alternative religious view other than Christian.' But I hate that. I hate it when atheists say that they're not just arguing on behalf of 'just' atheists, as if we don't count and can be overlooked as not really being citizens, but on behalf of these folks--the real citizens--who believe, at least, in something.

No, I think Mr. Anon is right. Warren is not the problem, the invocation is. Words like 'under God,' 'In God We Trust,' and '...so help me God,' are not, in themseves, the problem. They are when they are if they are in our Pledge, on our money, and/or coming out of the mouths of government officials for official purposes. Right now, they are acting in all of these capacities. These words are all beings used, right now, as official endorsements of Christianity by our government. Our government. The government that governs us all. This needs to stop.

29 December 2008

Small Town Dumb

Disturbing things afoot in small town America--imagine that! Vjack at Atheist Revolution commented on this apparent fiasco in-waiting last week (links provided later--I am not home and am having technical difficulties at the moment), and I guess it's not going away. In fact, for the poor guy who complained (and rightly so), it's gotten much worse.

It seems a man did what any citizen who gives two shits about what is and is not legal, and the separation of church and state, had the audacity to seek a dialog regarding a nativity scene displayed in a public library.

There's been a dialog, alright--on the library's public forum (again, I'll get links up as soon as I am able). Here's a taste:
that is just so stupid.... what do people think Christmas is???? the celebration of Christ's birth.... HJ, if you want to take God out of the Government, man there are alot of things that are going to have to go...... including your money which states in God we trust...... nancy has a right to her beliefs.... so do the other employee's there.... and people wonder what is wrong with this country.... no tolerance.
Right on! Uh...wait a tick. 'Tolerance.' I'm wondering if my specially patented atheist dictionary has a different meaning of the word than this commentor's specially patented Christian dictionary. I'm leaning toward that assumption, because I've come across so many instances of serious discrepancies. So, Nancy and the library's employees have a right to their beliefs, but not this guy. How dare he? We agree on one thing, though--they are absolutely right, a lot has to go, and I'm perfectly happy starting with 'In God We Trust' on the currency. We can then move on to 'Under God' in the pledge. I'm ready to remove these when you are.

And this:
As I tried to point out in my first post, the nativity isn't an offensive display, except to religious bigots (that may not be a term you hear much, but there are people that believe that any belief in a higher power of any sort is a lie, and therefore they actively fight all mention of religion).
'Relious Bigots.' Read: Atheists. Specifically, atheists who open their mouths and dare to speak reason to the unreasonable. This fellow might also do well to seriously think about the terms 'belief,' and 'unbleif' and what those things mean in this existential argument and specifically to an atheist and what that moniker actually denotes. Somehow, I think these things will be lost on him, but, whatchagonnado?

And this:
This is another sign of the war on christmas and Christianity. This guy is a loser with nothing better to do.
Hey, baby, war is over, if you want it. But then, the guy who said that was a flaming atheist. So, pointing out disparity and the role of government to not involve itself with things religious is what people with nothing better to do with their time do. Well, I surely hope there are a lot of us with nothing better to do with our time. We should be so lucky. No, sweets, the fact is that we all have many other, much better things to do with our time, but you jackasses force us to take time out of our busy schedules to step up and do what's right. So, thank you...no really, thank you for providing us with opportunity after opportunity to waste our precious time, when we could be doing other things, like, I dunno, volunteering at soup kitchens. I suppose you could be doing the same, but you're too busy getting your Hanes in a twist over some decorations. I mean, that's what folks claim, right? They're just decorations, while at the same time screaming bloody murder out of the other side of their mouths about the birth of Baby-Flippin-Jesus. Man, we just want to get through the holiday season without watching our tax dollars (I know, it's shocking to think that atheists both pay taxes and care about where they go) spent on mangers and wise men.

There have been a number of suggestions to include displays from all religions (good luck with that, I hope you have room), including atheism, which is not a religion, but people seem happy enough to throw it in there. They suggest this because, still, they just don't get it. Atheists, as far as I can tell, do not want a display of their own. Atheists only put up displays to draw attention to the fact that no displays should be up in the first place--not on public property, paid for by all tax-payers. This is rightly seen as an endorsement of religion, particularly or not. And, I'm sorry folks, religion just has no place in our government, and people of no-faith should not have to foot the bill to promote any religion, whether it's one, or all of them.

I think it's probably safe to say that we would be perfectly content to never have to mention our atheism. We don't want displays, or billboards, or anything that expresses what is really, merely, a lack of god-belief. We could be just going through our lives, doing good, loving our loved ones, helping here and there, without ever having to bring it up. But, here's the hassle: if we don't, we are overrun with religion, and it affects us in every way, especially when it is filtered through government expression, be in a nativity scene or legislation that, say, doesn't allow gays and lesbians to adopt or form meaningful, legal relationships with all the perks included therein. Or, when women are forced to turn over their bodies to someone else's moral beliefs. It's bad enough when the folks affected by these things are religious themselves, you can imagine how galling it is to be a gay or lesbian atheist, or an atheist woman. Yeah, you can just imagine. You Christians are good at imagining things, so why don't you try that hat on for size?

We don't have a choice but to express our atheism. You don't give us a choice.

This isn't that hard to figure out, and really, atheists have been pretty clear on the argument. But, again, Christians with their aforementioned (repeatedly mentioned) Persecution Complex just absolutely refuse to hear. They are waaaaay to busy stomping their feet and balling up their fists to squinty, tearful eyes to listen.

They are also too busy calling this poor, unsuspecting guy a 'jerk' and an 'asshole.' Great.

Well I doubt that anyone in Elwood will believe this!!! Some jerk... and believe me I'm being king (sic) in my adjective.... the jerk comes
into the library and DEMANDS that the Library's Christmas nativity display be taken down!!! It violates HIS rights and because it is
in a public building he DEMANDS that it be removed from the display case!!!

What an asshole!!!!
I love Christians. You always have to be alert with them, because no matter how much kindness and tolerance they preach, they are sure to throw you for a loop at every possible opportunity. No one can accuse them for not being...um...complex. Believe me, I am also being king (sic) in my adjective. That's nothing to say of the very serious abuse of the use of the exclamation point here. I would also like to point out that she doubts anyone in Elwood would believe this (!!!) I know, right? This, to me, speaks volumes of the little town of Elwood, Indiana--a place where everyone believes in a sky-fairy, but no one would believe that anyone else might not believe in the sky-fairy (shock!), or worse, that anyone might care about fairness in governmental representation and what that means. Yes. Lots of deep-thinkers there in Elwood.

Point: This guy's life has become difficult, just because he rightly and admirably chose to step up and attempt a dialog with people who have no experience in dialog (if you read the info provided by Vjack, you will see that the man did not just barge in, foaming at his baby-eating mouth, demanding the display be removed). And now he's being harassed for it:
I am the Elwood Public Library patron who complained about the nativity scene. I need help here – these people do not think the law applies to them. Please share this information with your readers. There is now a witch hunt against me, and I am seriously fearful of someone hurting me and my family. Please take a look at this link: http://www.elwoodindiana.org/elwood-library-nativity-display If you notice the signing of the name, this is a library employee that started this. If you read the comments, you will see what I am dealing with here. This is the PG version of what people are saying about me. There are other sites that people are posting to that you must have a membership to view, which are definitely rated R.
Oh, hey, thank Fingaaz for intact links through cut & paste! Please do go to Atheist Revolution, whose link can be easily found at the top, to the right, of this blog. Read the bullshit. Write to the board. This guy is in a small town and we all know that this is exactly the place that this sort of bullying and intolerance...yes, intolerance...breeds and inbreeds. The mutations that result are no less than ugly, destructive monsters.
It's got tentacles, and we know how bad they are. Let's rally folks. Let's save this guy, his immediate surroundings, and the rest of the country from this freakish, genetically mutated monster--the one I will call Real Religious Bigotry.

28 December 2008

Links - Democratic Socialism

Democratic Socialism from The Barefoot Bum. And, for fun, his snarky follow-up. Everyone loves a bit of snark.

Why Atheists Hate Religion

Another Christmas season as come and gone--the 'War on Christmas' is over, for this year. Be sure to look for it again about mid-November next year. I've come across more than one 'article' asking why atheists hate or fear Christians and Christianity so much--apparently, we purposefully get particularly riled up this time of year. I'd like to take a stab at answering this question, but first, I should explain that it isn't even a valid question. As in, you holy folks aren't asking the right question, and I can only assume this is so because you have no idea what the hell you're talking about (I will chalk this up to your immense persecution complex and leave it at that).

I don't know of many atheists who hate Christians, and the ones that actively do, well, I see that more as an individual character flaw that has less to do with their atheism than their general personal stupidity. There are sometimes people who just like to hate and they come in all faiths, or lack thereof. We will set those people aside as a whole other dialog that has nothing to do with atheism or Christianity.

It is likely that a number of atheists hate Christianity. Just as they hate every other organized religion. This is pretty easy to explain--they hate what these religions represent and the actions they support and propagate. I'm talking bigotry, sexism, sadism, hypocrisy...you know, the general inequality and brutishness that keeps them afloat. Atheists hate the divisions these religions create because it's these divisions that make it so hard to find peace and decency on this planet. For those who disagree, I challenge you to find me an example where atheists' and their atheism has been the root cause of systemic hatred, intolerance, violence, and death--I'm talking as a direct result of the foundations of their atheism. Don't give me that old Stalin/Hitler crap, because those loaves don't float.

The fact is that the Big Three religions have long and bloody histories, where they kill each other and every other living thing that happens to have had the great misfortune of being near them. This is why we hate these religions. Case in point. Thanks Israel.

And I don't think hate is too strong a word. Ask me if I hate violence, sexual assault, and murder. I will say that yes, I do. I hate these things. I hate them. And yes, I hate the organizational structures that continue to push these terrible things in order to prop up their sad, delusional philosophies, and more importantly, their powerful grip on the subconscious of the human race. No, hate is not too strong a word.

We also hate that we, who have no bones to pick with anyone that might result in violence and/or death (no, we have no dogma that says it's okay to kill and abuse), are continually demonized. The old argument that atheists have nothing to keep them from acting like maniacs, save our own decency that stems from a love of this life, this world, and the people in it (oh noes!) is a fallacy, and every Christian that actually stops to think about it--but who never do, because they are so ill-equipped for personal, individual considerations that fall outside the box they created for themselves--would see this. They would know this. (For a good piece on what might happen if the roles were reversed, see vjack's Atheist Revolution).

And so, we are deemed the 'bad kids.' And not just during the Christian holidays, but all year 'round. We are discriminated against, we are seen as unfit to hold office, unfit to raise children, unfit for just about anything that requires a conscience. These roles are filled to the brim with the religious, who, as one can easily see in any newspaper and on any news show, every day, sometimes, quite literally, get away with murder. And molestation. And rape. And violence. And adultery. And scams.

Why? Because there is a myth perpetuated within our culture that the religious are pious, no matter what they do, and atheists are evil and destructive, no matter what they do. And Christians wonder why we get so bunched up.

So, why does it seem like the atheists come out of the woodwork around Christmas time? Is it just to make your lives difficult, Christians? No. It's because every year, you seem to feel the need to highlight this monumental social discrepancy, by doing things like, oh, I dunno, using government branches to make a statement--that we are a Christian Nation--to all other faiths, and especially the faithless. You feel the need to scream from the mountain top that we have no place at the table and never will. How very...Christian of you.

You apparently feel like we should happily eat the shit you shovel into our mouths every. Single. Year. And let's not forget, the other 364 days. We can either stand by and take it, which is tantamount to agreeing with you, or we can make some sort of demonstration against it, which we have been doing, more and more so, every year. And we'll continue to do so, so long as you insist on making us not only feel like second class citizens, but insist on painting us in the horrible false light you insist on painting us in.

This is the bed you've made. I hope you sleep well in it, because let me tell you, our stepping up and pushing back allows me to sleep quite well.

27 December 2008

Top Three Assholes of the Holiday Season

This past semester sunk its claws into my pecs and just wouldn't let go. Technically, it still hasn't let go, as I have a thesis to write--one that should have been at least started quite some time ago. I have a lot of work to do--and so, I decide to blog. And what is blogging to someone like me besides very cheap and much needed therapy? After such a lengthy hiatus from any real blogging--I don't know if what I did can really be considered real blogging--I've decided to take it easy and not address anything too existential. Today I will comment of my Top Three Assholes of the Holiday Season.

Coming in third place is this situation. I say 'situation' because, honestly, I have a hard time figuring out who exactly is the biggest asshole in this mess. I will preface this with a disclaimer to state the obvious: It is wrong to shoot anyone for any reason. There, now that that's out of the way...

Tip to the bullet-catcher: How about, next time, not talking through the flippin' movie? I can't begin to tell you how often I've wanted a gun because some jerk-off is yammering on throughout a film. Everyone knows it's rude. Everyone knows not to do it. But, yes, it's wrong to shoot people, so Mr. Shooterman wins today's prize. But Mr. Bullet-Catcher and his Yappy Family should, I hope, take something away from this beside a little lead: Shut your pie-hole when Brad Pitt is on the screen.

In second place, we have this rocket scientist, a study in how not to win back your boyfriend. So, Idiot--we'll call her 'Idiot'--makes up a baby to lure her ex-boyfriend back, and when he does right by showing up to address the new reality that he has a son, she says, oh....er...uh...he's missing. But think not of the child, LOVE ME! See, Idiot is a real forward thinker. She's always one step ahead. The best part is this description:
She claimed her infant son had a mohawk and a tattoo.
I laugh out loud every time I think of this. I am laughing right now. So, Idiot files a missing persons report, yadda, yadda, yadda, and wasted authorities' time on Christmas Eve, when I'm sure lots of horrible, real-life tragic events were occurring, you know, to people who could have used those resources. And it never once occurs to her that this can go nowhere but down. Down, down. Like, really badly down. And how about the boyfriend, whom we will call the Inadvertent Sucker? Inadvertent Sucker took an involuntary roller coaster ride at Mind Fuck Amusements this Christmas, c/o his Idiot ex. Good job, Idiot. Bravo!

The winner this year, as I'm sure you all guessed, is this waste of skin and hair (you should know that in order to find a link to provide here, I simply Goggled 'Santa rampage.' Something is wrong with the world).

So, guy is disgruntled because of a recent job-loss and a divorce (recent lay-offs and new divorcees across the country are scratching their heads and claiming they didn't know this was an option). Waste of Skin and Hair (WoS&H for the sake of brevity) dresses up like Santa Claus, shoots an 8-year-old girl in the face upon entering the domicile of his ex-wife's family, goes on a shooting 'rampage' (as my Google search would suggest), douses the place with racing fuel which prematurely ignites, receives third-degree burns, melts his Santa suit to his very own self, then drives to his brother's house, rigs explosives to his car, and offs himself. He didn't plan that last bit--he meant to go to Canada, and apparently live in the wilderness, or something. I can't imagine how he thought he might ever be able to live among the populace, even in heathen Canada, again.

Some might say that
WoS&H had deep psychological issues that were sparked by recent negative turn of events in his life. I would buy this, if it weren't for the fact that he deliberately dressed up as Santa---what? To finagle his way into the house? He had a gun! The first thing he did was shoot an 8-year-old girl in the face! And after wreaking so much havoc, it wasn't enough. He knew he was going to die but he couldn't stand the thought of not killing at least a few more people, so he rigs his car, you know, just to take out a few first responders.

No. This guy can't rely 'mental illness' to somehow explain his actions. The only reasonable explanation is that this guy was an asshole. Crime of passion? Momentary lapse in judgment? No. This guy wanted to create as much pain and suffering as he possible could. This guy was just an asshole. He was the kind of guy who deliberately drove through puddles while people with umbrellas walked along the side of the road, trying to stay dry. He was the kind of guy who left quarter tips and loosened the screw cap on the salt for the next diners to discover.

And today, I'm a big enough asshole to hope he had fun with that whole Santa suit melted into his very flesh thing. Congratulations to
Waste of Skin and Hair for being this year's number one Asshole of the Holiday Season, and almost guaranteeing a real-life Silent Night Deadly Night in the shape of that little girl in about 10-12 years.

20 December 2008

The Hardcore Atheism Meme

Thanks to vjack over at Atheist Revolution, I have something to blog about that requires no thought. :)

The rules:
Copy and paste the list below on your own site, boldfacing the things you’ve done. (Feel free to add your own elaboration and commentary to each item!)
The list:
1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge.
2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person.
3. Created an atheist blog.
4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone.
5. Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic.
6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron (well, I can't watch it either way).
7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know.
8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc.
9. Have come out as an atheist to your family.
10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering.
11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization.
12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony (I've attended one, does that count?).
13. Donated money to an atheist organization.
14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins.
15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism.
16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize.
17. Had to hide your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away.
18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc).
19. Attended a protest that involved religion.
20. Attended an atheist conference.
21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel.
22. Started an atheist group in your area or school.
23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism.
24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die.
25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction.
26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place.
27. Lost a job because of your atheism.
28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count).
29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills (only when I'm feeling particularly surly).
30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!”(It's amazing how offended people seem when you say nothing at all).
32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying.
33. Have turned on Christian TV because you need something entertaining to watch.
34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist.
35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant (I did, but I now have the Gospel of Fingaaz, my own personal pretend god).
36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service).
37. Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic)
38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism.
39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God.
40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift.
41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public.
42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them.
43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God.
44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants).
45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it.
46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.” (It's on the list of htings to do).
47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all.
48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to…
49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray.
50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you.

27 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

So, today is Thanksgiving. Between the attacks in Mumbai and the watching of the documentary Why We Fight last night and ruminating on our nation's scary, heart-dropping Capitalistic military industrial complex, it's hard to find big things to be thankful for, let alone to have much hope. But I'll give it a shot.

Today, I've decided to be thankful for people. This is a big step for me, especially in light of so much destruction, perpetrated by people for one reason or another, be it their religion or their greed. One has to keep in mind that for every individual destructive force, there is, hopefully, one for good. I'm thankful for all the people who work to make the world better, less violent and more altruistic. Often, it seems like those people are few, or that their voices are rarely heard above the din of explosions or the gibbering nonsense of mobs. They’re there, though. They feed the hungry, they clothe the needy. They speak to authority and make tiny inroads to right wrongs. And they are frequently derided as being day-dreamers, as if defending the rights and needs of other human beings in light of those ever-present and insidiously undulating ‘needs’ of caustic forces, whether in the form of, say, corporations, or worse, nameless, faceless dogmatic concepts like religion or nationalism, is passé. As if this work is not worth doing, and even if it was, it is useless, or powerless.

I was recently involved on my campus in bringing Mark Rudd in as a speaker. He was a high-ranking member of the Students for a Democratic Society in the 60s, and went on to become a member of the Weather Underground, spending seven years or so as a fugitive. While he regretted the path and the actions of that group, both for moral and logistical reasons, he did not necessarily abandon the impetus for such actions, which I appreciated. Towards the end of the lecture, a friend of mine spoke up and told Mark that, during that time, he considered him as a sort of hero. Mark is a wonderfully affable and humble person, and for a moment, it seemed he didn’t quite know how to take such a statement. My friend, John, clarified with this: Some people care about shapes, and colors, and we call those people artists. Some people care about people. Those are moral artists.” There was a thoughtful silence in the room for a few moments. A moral artist. Someone who cares about people the way an artist cares about, say, the picture he’s painting, or the sculpture he’s shaping—colors as needs, shapes as rights, and putting it all together so that it becomes a coherent image of what we have and what we require to live on this planet.

I am thankful for all of the moral artists out there.

02 November 2008

The 'Undecideds'

I was over at Atheist Revolution, and had my hackles raised by the subject of this post. (Thanks vjack...heh).

Few things irk me more than the fact that I've been up on politics and this election for two flippin years now (I'm stressed, I am tired), and again, like always, when it comes down to it, these self-important nimrods to are 'undecided' get a tremendous amount of attention for being the 'deciding votes.' As far as I'm concerned, if you are really 'undecided' at this point, considering the length and breadth of this campaign season, you just haven't been paying attention and have no idea what's going on. In fact, I will go so far to say that, considering the saturation of the media with this national event, you'd have to have been really going out of your way to avoid information on the election, and if that's the case, how on earth do these shit-for-brains get the 'deciding vote?' It makes me want to say that anyone who says they're 'undecided' at this point, with a stupid giddy smile because they think they're special, should have their voter registration cards taken away, because they clearly have no idea what's going on.

I like the idea that every American has the right to vote--it sounds nice. The fact is that when the Constitution was being argued, Federalists believed that the people were self-serving, antagonistic idiots who couldn't handle the responsibility of voting, and the Anti-Federalists believed that an informed populace that realized the value of being informed and actively taking part in decision-making that affected their lives was possible. Though the Anti-Federalists lost out to the Federalists in many aspects of our Constitution, on the idea of the informed popular vote, they won. Only to have these 'undecided' shitsticks centuries later walk into voting booths with no idea of what's going on, actively participating with no consideration as to the affect of their uninformed vote on the process. Because it's their 'right.' Because they're Americans. It's amazing the kind of crap one can get away with just because one if an 'American.'

I'm not for disenfranchising anyone, but really, I see the uniformed vote as not just a handful of useless votes, but as actual, real, counted votes that affect elections. It's completely contrary to what those 18th century folks who argued on our behalf to get our voices heard intended, and is only proving the point of the votes who didn't want us to have a direct voice in government.


06 October 2008

Gov. Avon Lady & the Witch Doctor

Watch this clip from Bill Maher's Real Time:
And finally, new rule: You can’t be President if you practice a violent, Middle Eastern religion and worship a genocidal desert god. Which is why Sarah Palin can’t be President. Now all the churches that Sarah Palin has attended, and she’s been to almost as many churches as she has colleges, have one thing in common: a belief that the Bible is literally true. She’s not “Country First”, she’s “Bible First”. And not just the New Testament. That’s the happy half of the book: the baby in the manger, Jesus doing magic tricks, long romantic walks on the water that turn into fishing trips with the guys and a generally positive message. Jesus, after all, preached love and forgiveness, not shooting wolves from an airplane...

29 September 2008

Pastor Thinks his Flock are Idiots Too

Well, it's nice to see I'm not the only one. That seems like a harsh thing to say, but really...

Rev. Johnson and 32 other pastors are openly preaching politics in their churches, ignoring the special rule special religious folks get so they can skip out on their taxes. I'm getting to where I'm fine with this--I'm just looking for any reason to take this privilege away from churches and make the pony up the phat cash the rest of us have to. Yes, yes, there's the separation of church and state, but we all know that's a bit of a joke, so, since we seem to need the extra income anyway, let's reform the tax code. That aside, here's the best part of the article:
Asked why he felt the need to discuss the candidates by name and to be explicit in rejecting Obama and his pro-choice views, Johnson said he must connect the dots because he is not sure that all members of his congregation can do so on their own.
Okay, that's the second best part. Here's the best part:
The congregation greeted Johnson's reasoning and his criticism of Obama with applause.
"He's right! We're rock stupid!" He might be right. Those people need all the help they can get in making, probably, the most menial decisions. He might have to walk them to the polling stations.

26 September 2008

Obama Too Cool?

Now I've heard everything. This...this is just ridiculous.
DUNEDIN, Fla. — Where many politicians would have aspired to show anger, Senator Barack Obama spoke in a soft, even tone as he reached the crescendo of his speech Wednesday about government mismanagement of the economy...

Two hours later, after Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, said he would temporarily stop campaigning because of the economic crisis, Mr. Obama looked downright unflappable at a news conference. Referring to this week of economic peril — and tweaking his Republican rival — Mr. Obama said flatly, “Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time.”

However forceful and passionate Mr. Obama can be, his speeches and public appearances this week have underscored how he is sometimes out of sync with the visceral anger of Americans who are losing their jobs and homes. He often talks about growing up on food stamps and about having paid off his student loans only recently, yet his tone and volume, body language, facial expressions and words convey a certain distance from the ache that many voters feel.

What? That's what Americans want? They want a President who is as panic-stricken as they are in a time of crisis? Have we lost our minds?? This is as stupid as those idiots who will vote McCain because they feel Sarah Palin is 'just like them,' or the morons who voted in Bush, twice, because they thought they could 'have a beer' with him. Seriously people?

If Bush was going to have a beer, he wouldn't be having it with some poor slob from, say, Lawrenceville, outside Pittsburgh. And, really, there are really people out there who would vote McCain because they feel like they could do a good job as VP--some hockey mom PTA-er who 'knows what it's like to balance family and work?' Really? And, seriously, we really want a President who's about to blow a gasket on live TV because we ourselves are feeling somewhat freaked out by the economy?

We've lost our minds. Really, if this is how the majority of Americans are thinking, we with a thimble full of sense need to vacate the premises and let these idiots ride this nation into the ground. I hear Sweden's nice...

07 September 2008

Sarah Palin's Church: A Clear Menace

Watch this. Watch it right now.

Sarah Palin's churches are actively involved in a resurgent movement that was declared heretical by the Assemblies of God in 1949. This is the same 'Spiritual Warfare' movement that was featured in the award winning movie, "Jesus Camp," which showed young children being trained to do battle for the Lord. At least three of four of Palin's churches are involved with major organizations and leaders of this movement, which is referred to as The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit or the New Apostolic Reformation. The movement is training a young "Joel's Army" to take dominion over the United States and the world.
Yes, read, but more importantly watch. Pay special attention to the societal roles of some of these people: administrators, teachers, vice principles...this is very, very upsetting. These people are psychotic.

If you were on the fence before--if you're one of many atheists who, like me, have been concerned about the Democrats turn towards faith and away from secularism--then you really need to watch this. If you can, find a church like this near you and attend. Watching the video is terrifying, but it's nothing compared to being in the same room with this kind of insanity (and make no bones about it, this is nothing short of insanity).

This is the church of McCain's VP pick, Sarah Palin. This is the person who will be, as they say, a heartbeat away from the Presidency. I do strongly suggest that you make it a top priority to be at the polls on November 4th.

Inaction, in the face of this, is irresponsible and reprehensible, and if McCain wins, frankly, unforgivable.

06 September 2008

Who the Hell is this Woman?

Out of necessity, this blog must take on a decidedly political bent. I really wanted to keep it strictly about atheism and religion, but the current political climate forces me to do otherwise.

I missed the DNC convention last week as I was out of the country, and even missed the introduction of Sarah Palin as the GOP VP pick (imagine my surprise when I re-reentered the country and found it on the airport CNN broadcasts). At first, I thought, 'Really? Joke?' I thought McCain had finally proven his senility to the country in one fell swoop. I certainly know better now. This woman is a menace.

From what I understand of her, she is worse than what we've been putting up with for the last 8 years. If the far Religious Right thought they had power before, now it will know no bounds (just when we thought it was on the wane). The thing about Bush is that, despite his yammering on about his God and mission, there was a safe spot in the back of our minds that told us he didn't really mean it. It was all a big show to keep the nutters happy and guarantee their votes when needed. He didn't really believe it. Maybe to an extent, but it was never anything that topped his political ambitions. With Palin, it looks as though we have a real warrior for God. This is disturbing. More than that, it is horrifying.

Now here this:
Palin has called on people to pray for the cooperation necessary to build a natural gas pipeline across Alaska, labeled the U.S. mission in Iraq a "task that is from God" and argued that students should be taught the creation account from Genesis in public schools.
Click the link and read more about her views on the environment and foreign policy as influenced directly by her faith. Her theological background preaches 'man's dominion over the earth,' and in that sense, all the drilling, polluting, and destroying matters not.
"When she talks about using up our non-renewable resources, drilling on the North Slope and building the pipeline, it's almost with glee because in a sense it doesn't matter," said Nancy Hardesty, a professor of religion at Clemson University in South Carolina.
Her own pastor has this to say regarding her foreign policy outlook:
Rev. Tim McGraw, Palin's pastor when she became mayor of Wasilla, said believers look to Israel for signs of the coming end times and where they are in God's plan. That would undoubtedly influence Palin's approach to foreign policy, McGraw said.
Not terrified enough, ladies? How about this? She opposes sex-ed and supports abstinence only education. This is despite her own teenage daughter getting knocked up, unmarried. Guess that promise ring didn't do much to keep her from playing a little 'hide the sausage' with a 'fucking redneck' (yeehaw! Embarrassed guy? You should be). If this woman can't get abstinence only to work in her own family, how does she expect it to work for an entire nation?

Solution? Keep the baby! All of them! Now matter what! That's right, if Palin has her way, we will have no choice, ladies. McCain wants to overtrun Roe v. Wade. Palin wants it too, one state at a time and regardless of the situation. From her 2006 gubernatorial race:

The candidates were pressed on their stances on abortion and were even asked what they would do if their own daughters were raped and became pregnant.

Palin said she would support abortion only if the mother's life was in danger. When it came to her daughter, she said, "I would choose life."

This is hardcore even to the average Anti-Choicer.

Ladies, don't be stupid--a vagina isn't a vagina isn't a vagina. You can't just throw a set of genitals up there and say, ah, she speaks for me because we both have vaginae. Please. A vote for Palin isn't a vote for a woman's rights. I've seen this type of 'powerful woman' before. This is the kind of woman who knows that in order to make it in life--to get ahead in powerful positions--she must go along with the sexist status quo. Her religion has made this easier for her. She is the type of woman who knows that in order to get along with men and become 'one of the boys,' she has to act and think like one of them, which is to say, she must oppose everything that is good and equal for women and do her best to uphold business as usual. Worse, she needs to do what she can to take away what rights we've fought to hard to acquire over the years. This is one way women can get men to like them. The other way is to screw them.

This is not a feminist candidate. This woman is not for us, she is against us. Do not be fooled. If we expect to be considered for more than our genitals, we have to look at the rest of the world and each other in the same way. Look at this woman's credentials and try to control your gag reflex as you want to throw up at the spectacle of the Republican Party snagging a traditionally Democratic cornerstone--feminism--and rape it. Want to puke? Me too.

To recap, and more:
She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports government control of women's wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves "abstinence-only" programs, which increase unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use taxpayers' millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air but didn't spend enough money to fix a state school system with the lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation; she runs with a candidate who opposes the Fair Pay Act but supports $500 million in subsidies for a natural gas pipeline across Alaska; she supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, though even McCain has opted for the lesser evil of offshore drilling. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.
Got it? Good. That was my plea to women not smart enough to figure it out. This is my plea to men not smart enough to figure something else out: Just because she's doable doesn't mean it's okay to vote for her. I understand some men's desire to have a little eye-candy around, but really, this is not the time, nor the place. Put it back in your pants and start thinking with your big head.

04 September 2008

Yay for Christian Alarmist Propaganda

Oh, what one stumbles upon in the early hours whilst slowly extricating oneself from the peaceful void of slumber over a cup of coffee.

Check out Clifford Goldstein's 'Faith Attack' on Liberty Magazine Online. First off, the language used referring to atheists and atheism is clearly chosen very carefully to invoke the popular 'militant' image of atheists among Christians. Usually, when I come across this sort of rhetoric, I can safely dismiss the whole article as alarmist drivel. This is no exception. Enjoy some of these choice excerpts:
Picture this dystopia: in the name of rationality, reason, and science—religion is severely pro-scribed. Some religious beliefs— beliefs —deemed so dangerous that those holding them should be killed. The concept of religious “tolerance” would also be anathema: persons would not be allowed to hold whatever religious beliefs they chose—this cannot be for beliefs deemed irrational. And parents could be charged with “child abuse” for giving their offspring a religious education.

It all sounds like something from the failed social experiments of the Soviet Union, the Eastern bloc countries, and other now defunct Marxist regimes, perhaps?

Perhaps. Yet that kind of society would be the logical outgrowth of views promoted by an elitist clique of atheist writers, philosophers, scientists, and scholars. Dr. Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris are at the forefront of what’s been dubbed “the new atheism,” a take-no-prisoners, shock-and-awe assault on any theism at all.
Ever see those silly little comic tracts depicting poor Christians in tattered clothing running for their very lives through dark woods in such a bleak and violent future-vision such as this? I have and they'd be funny if they weren't such an accurate description of how some Christians seem to think they are truly persecuted. Goldstein, please. Now, he does quote Harris a little later:
Sam Harris, in his screed The End of Faith, writes, “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.” As if that weren’t enough, he argues that “some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.”
I haven't read Harris. I'll assume he did indeed say these things. And if Harris suggests that anyone be killed for holding any idea, then I would say that Harris is a schmuck. I'll go ahead and put myself out there now to speak for what I believe the majority of atheists think--that no one be killed for their beliefs, and even that no laws be enacted to infringe of any believers' right to believe whatever they want and to worship. That said, though, what Harris says about "very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss"--I agree. I do. I do believe that one major factor in humanity's long, slow spiral downwards is this sad and pervasive tendency to believe in irrational things. And the huge problem of not being allowed to directly address the issue without being told we are intolerant, or worse, militant, and being accused of wanting to physically wipe out Christians. Fact is, no one can say 'boo' about anyone's religion, no matter how ridiculous, and actually, how violent, it can be.

This is what I think Goldstein's real problem is. He seems like a relatively intelligent person, so I don't really believe that he really believes that any part of the atheist 'agenda' involves actually hunting down and killing Christians in droves. When he pulls the Harris quote, he effectively, by means of the opening paragraph, paints all atheists--specifically Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, etc.--with the same violent, bloodthirsty brush. It has been these same men who have made it a little easier to criticize religion. These popular thinkers/authors have made gains for atheists to be able to articulate our problems with religion. And since there's nothing actually wrong with that, Goldstein must drum up some real (well, imagined) fear. Hence, we are all just foaming at the mouth to shoot all Christians for nothing more than believing. It's ridiculous, and thoroughly dishonest.

Much of the rest of the article is hardly worth touching, except for this little gem, referring to religious indoctrination as child abuse:
Children do need to be taught something about themselves, their origins, and their destiny, right? The new atheists, then, would teach their children—what? That we’re created by chance, with no ultimate purpose or destiny, and that more conscious thought went into someone spray painting graffiti on a wall than went into our existence? Children who lose siblings, friends, or parents must be taught that these people are gone forever, with no hope of ever seeing them again. The children will also learn that they themselves, and all their hopes and dreams and desires, will also one day be forever gone—with no hope of redemption, no hope of having the hard questions answered, no hope of anything but the pain and suffering of this life, followed by the eternal blackness of a cold and dead universe.

Child abuse, Dr. Dawkins, can come in myriad forms.
Where to even begin? Mr Goldstein: We don't teach our children we were 'created' by chance, and for myself, the theories we have as to how exactly life came about are rather amazing and, frankly, uplifting. You're right, I don't believe that I have a particular purpose or destiny, but I have a whole lot of fun going through life deciding what I want it to be (because it is exactly what I want to to be), instead of looking up to a God with whom I have no direct, tangible contact to tell me what it is, and then sighing in resignation when I get to the end of my life, forced to be content with never really knowing how I fit into 'his plan.' And, no, I don't need to know that thought was put into my very existence--the fact that I exist is astounding and, to me, an incredibly happy and positive thought.

And yes, we lose people we love, and yes, we will never see them again, just as someday we will die and that will be the end of that. Frankly, that is infinitely more preferable than going through life believing that one misstep on my part (a misstep, by the way, constantly provoked by God himself, as for some reason he saw fit to fill our world with endless temptation and suffocating rules) and I burn in hell. Yes, indeed, give me nothingness--if nothing else, at least it's poetic.

Now, let me repeat the last bit:
"...with no hope of redemption, no hope of having the hard questions answered, no hope of anything but the pain and suffering of this life, followed by the eternal blackness of a cold and dead universe."
Really...that's what you think atheists teach their kids? Dude, what's wrong with you? First off, we would only worry about redemption if we were teaching ourselves we had done something wrong. Since we don't, we don't really have to worry about redemption. That's your problem and you bring it on yourself. As to answering the hard questions--scientists have been answering many hard questions for quite some time. Will I die before some are answered? Of course. But the amount I'm able to learn through the scientific work of others already fills my lifetime with a tremendous amount of awe and wonder, and for that, I am perfectly content. Actually, it's very exciting. Disappointment at the end of life can only come as the same sense of not being able to finish watching the movie. Oh well. No hope for anything but the pain and suffering of this life? What life are you leading? Thus far, I've had a pretty good life. Has there been pain and suffering? Sure. But really, is your outlook on life so pathetically bleak that you teach your kids that there is nothing but pain and suffering and the only relief is in dying? That isn't the outlook of atheists, that is the outlook of Christians. Clearly.

Well, that was fun. I hope you all have enjoyed this excursion into the mind of a Christian alarmist and his pathetic, bigoted, fear-mongering propaganda. Have a swell day.

02 September 2008

I Have Returned

This post is nothing more than a note to say I've returned. I've been back a couple of days, actually, but classes have officially started as well and that's been keeping me busy.

The King's College expedition was a success--while I was sure I'd have to find what I needed, to be honest, it was a bit of a crap shoot. However, out of 69 letters, I narrowed it down to 2 plus a few notes that were exactly what I was looking for (*relief*). It took me two days to read two letters, his handwriting was so poor. But I triumphed, and then hopped a train down to Bath to get drunk with friends--which I did with a certain amount of celebratory gusto. Oh, to be in a place where the Guinness doesn't taste like ass.

Now that that's out of the way, I give you this for fun:
A Donegal atheist had to be buried in Londonderry because the county has no facilities for non-religious burials.

Journalist Roy Greenslade's mother was buried in Ballyowen cemetery in Derry on Tuesday after a humanist service.

He said he was told atheists could not be buried in Donegal because the graveyards are church-owned.

"Therefore unless one is willing to compromise one's beliefs by agreeing to a religious service, it is impossible to be buried," he said.

"There is a degree of black comedy about this, and my mother, who had a fantastic sense of humour, would certainly have laughed.

"When I rang up and asked Derry City Council's cemeteries department if it was possible to bury an atheist in a municipal cemetery they said it was possible because there were different sections for Catholics, Protestants and Muslims.

"My wife asked if it meant they were going to start an atheist section and the woman said, 'oh no, she can go in with the Protestants'."

A spokesperson from Donegal County Council said it is only responsible for old and unused graveyards.


21 August 2008

'Religulous' and Other Sundry Details

I'm going to preface this with an quick update/newsflash...whatever you want to call it. I'm preparing the head off to Cambridge for a week, starting this Saturday, and when I get back from there next Saturday, I start class two days later. So...I'm busy getting all my ducks in a row, and hence...less blogging. I might have one more post in me before I head out, but then it'll be dry here for a week. I would like to post the Rick Warren questions here so we can all answer them, and I realize that by the time I can, the 'story' will be out-dated, but I might do it anyway. I'd like to thank Hess for the links and such.

Now that that's out of the way, I just want to post this: Bill Maher's Religulous is coming out (wide release...or, at least, wider) on October 3rd.

Maher on Larry King:

Pay attention to what Maher is saying around the 4:15 mark. He says something I've been saying for a while: He says he is trying to rouse the 16% or so of faithless folks to do something. We are larger than most minorities who, through their action, rather than inaction, have made and continue to make their voices heard. There is no reason we can't be one of those vocal minorities that demands respect.

Go see this when it comes out. Break the box office. Go to a theater near you, and if it's not at a theater near you, gather your godless friends and take a road trip. It'll be fun, and worth it. Numbers, folks. All we need to do is remind them that despite our minority status, we do actually have numbers and we can, when we want to, if we want to, act.

19 August 2008

Commies vs Christians

I have a lot of problems with China. Their pollution, they're human rights violations, the fact that they hold our purse strings. Overall, China hasn't been doing a whole lot lately to thrill me, and no amount of Olympic Games is going to change that. I can't suddenly respect the host when I come over for dinner and I can clearly see the pancake make-up his wife is wearing to cover up the abuse.

I am also not thrilled with their censorship. It's bad. It's bad in any decent, functioning free society. I would say that in 99.9% of cases, I will always come down on the side of free speech and our lovely First Amendment. That being said, though, I would be a stinking liar if I said the following didn't give me a jolt of joy:
A group of American Christians who had more than 300 Bibles confiscated by Chinese customs officials left the airport Monday after a 26-hour standoff, saying they realized officials would not change their stance.
Idiots. Can't you just go to China and watch the flippin' games like everyone else? No.
"We're very disappointed, for a country saying they're opening up and things are getting better, it sure doesn't seem like it," a representative of the group, Pat Klein, told the AP by telephone. The Sheridan, Wyoming-based group distributes Bibles and Christian teaching materials around the world.
Yes, it is sad that China isn't really opening up to the world, but, really? I can guess the Christian standpoint as vividly illustrated here, but really? Is there some god-given (sic) right for Christians to ignore a nation's protocol and inundate the world with their friggin' bibles?
"The Chinese Christians have been asking us for Bibles, saying they are desperate for Bibles," he said.
Yes, because this is what the Chinese really need. Bibles. Books. Flaps of faux-leather with reams of toilet tissue in between. Not food, clothing, medical supplies. Not safe working conditions, humane hours, and a decent quality of life. Not clean air. They need...desperately, mind you...bibles.
In China, Bibles are printed at just one plant, run by a government-backed Christian association for use in officially sanctioned churches. Though they can be purchased in some bookstores, they're hard to find.
Oh noes! They're getting the wrong kind of bibles! They're getting bibles that might have been censored, or re-written, or (god forbid) illustrated with funny little Chinese illustrations! Not at all like our fancy-shmancy American bibles, which are true to the last word and inherently right at all times.

Like I said, it would be nice if China cleaned up their act in many areas. It seems to me, though, that almost any practice that keeps Christianity from getting so strong a toe-hold you end up with your political parties having special services for them at their conventions, or when you're Presidential candidates meet for the first time under religious auspices...can't be that bad.

18 August 2008

Feeble Plug

I must plug The Feeble Lance again. You should know that episode three of his podcast is up and available. If you haven't listened to episodes one and two, you may do so here and here. As much as its happy host would like me to, I can't plug The Feeble Lance every week (we're still in negotiations regarding logo tattoos of the other's site on the necks of our mothers). I am doing so this week because A) I do like his show, and B) I wanted an excuse to also plug his Cafe Press store featuring:


That's right, Feeble Wear. All I know is that he's got this:


...and I almost bust a gut when I saw it. Admit it fellas, what lovely godless lady wouldn't love one of these? Or this:


Ladies, how satisfying would it be to see the look of fear in that Christian catch's eyes when they behold you towering over them after you've managed to convince them that screwing you wouldn't really count as a sin? I know you're with me on this.

Here's the best part, because Hess is one of those wacky atheists who likes to give and do good (see previous post), he is donating every thing he makes from sales from now until October 30th to the Atheist Nexus social networking site. So, not only can you get some nifty atheist gear for your friends and loved ones, you can also feel good knowing the proceeds are going to support a new atheist driven site with much potential for good. Whaddya say?

There are also t-shirts, boxers, bibs, stickers and other such items. I got me some mini-buttons. I like buttons. Heh...

Sheep vs Wolves

It's Monday evening and I've just finished watching Yul Brynner in Invitation to a Gunfighter (I'm on a Yul western kick as of late)--I'm sort of bored, although I have tons to do, I just don't feel like doing any of it at this time of evening. So, I'm clicking random atheist-type links and I wind up on a Modesto Bee headline: Modesto-area Atheists Speak Up, Seek Tolerance.

Nothing particularly mind-blowing about the article--atheists want to be treated with respect...we know that. Maybe it was mildly interesting to me to think of California atheists being so put-upon, but then, religious folk really are everywhere. There's a matter of the polls quoted, but whatever. I might have also been a little confused over one self-proclaimed atheist/practicing pagan--maybe I just don't know much about paganism. That's worthy of discussion, but that's not what I want to discuss here. I want to discuss the comments attached to this article.

After reading these, I suspect, like me, you will hardly know where to begin.

Tortie says:
I am an atheist. Every day I seek to make life better for other living creatures, humans, animals, or plants. 2 years ago I took a local homeless family of 3 and paid for 6 months apartment rent and cosigned the lease. I also furnished the apartment and bought them a car. This cost me $25,000 in all, and I am not even remotely a millionaire. I don't buy jewelry, I don't go to the movies or travel, I buy clothes on sale. I use what money I have to make life better for others and to make the world a better and happier place.
To which rivvet retorts:
So...are we supposed to think more of you because you just came on here and bragged about how generous you are? What good does your giving do if it only serves in the end to make your world better? You're giving because ultimately you believe it will make YOU more comfortable. That's not selfless. That's selfish. Giving is a good thing. No doubt. But to what end? The only selfless giving is that which only you and your Creator know about. But then again, you don't believe He exists. Good thing He doesn't think that about you. *POOF*
Are you like 'wow?' I was like 'wow.' Here we have an article about how atheists generally feel uncomfortable about coming out about their atheism because of how badly we are perceived--a perception, mind you, based on absolutely nothing but bigoted vitriol. It begins:
Some local atheists who replied to an invitation in The Bee were afraid of adverse reactions at their places of work. Others worried about being flooded "with unwanted attention from zealots," and two were protective of neighbors and spouses. One hesitated to talk on the record, but then said, "If I don't speak up, who will?"
Who will indeed? Then you have an example of extreme Christian intolerance in response. If we are to believe tortie, and I see no real reason not to, he or she just gave $25,000 to some folks who didn't have it. And how much you want to bet tortie didn't once say to those people 'I'll give you all this, but you have to renounce your god or gods and become an atheist.' Somehow I doubt that's how it went down. One would call this a wonderful example of altruistic giving, and, oh no, it came from one of us godless heathens.

Of course, for rivvet, tortie's giving wasn't altruistic at all. Rivvet believes that tortie only gave to serve his or her own needs. "You're giving because ultimately you believe it will make YOU more comfortable" says rivvet. Rivvet calls tortie selfish, saying the only selfless giving is "that which only you and your Creator know about."

I don't even know what that means. What I do know is that, the way I see it, Christians generally don't give or do good works because they simply want to help their fellow man. Unlike atheists (who don't do good based on a rewards system), Christians labor under the impression that the more good they do, the better chance they have of slipping past St. Peter at the pearly gates; the less good they do, well, we know what happens there. Talk about selfish? They don't help people because it's good to help people; they help people because 1) they make more Christians that way (you can have this if you pray to my God) and 2) to save their own asses in the so-called afterlife. Again, atheists don't need some promise of eternal life on fluffy clouds drinking Virgin Marys. Atheists do good because it's good to do good.

And that's all the Modesto-area atheists want people to know. We do good. Rivvet's comment made it very clear that it may very well not matter how much good we do. We could save the world from hunger and suffering, and as long as an atheist was resonsible for the good, they will find a way to demonize us anyway. We can probably never appear to be average, easy-going folks who are as inclined to charity as anyone else--the more good we do, the more suspicious they will be.

To quote a quoting Christian I've come across recently on a fellow atheist's blog: 'Jesus said: I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye, therefore, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.' He didn't actually add the 'wise as serpents' or 'harmless as doves' part. But it was clear that Christains were the sheep and we atheists were the wolves. We are wolves and will always be wolves. Even when we are clearly happy, innocuous sheep bleating cheerily to our neighbors, we will only really be wolves in sheep's clothing. And they will always have to be wise as serpents, which, in the case of rivvet, actually means to be suspicous and insulting, assuming the worst. Rivvet also decided to forgo being as harmless as a dove. They always forget that part.

17 August 2008

Candidates Take Part in Massive Church Fundraiser

So, I'm a-Googlin' and a-searchin' for a complete list of the questions Rick Warren asked the candidates last night, as I'd like to answer them myself, and I came across this little nugget of information that stopped me. And I couldn't get around it to move on, so I have to blog about it. This is the Wikipedia entry for the 'debate:'
On August 16, 2008, Rick Warren arranged a meeting between Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama at Saddleback called the Civil Forum on The Presidency, where the two alternated speaking and were asked questions by Warren. Held inside Saddleback's Worship Center, the event is notable as the first time the two Presidential candidates met during the campaign. It was broadcast live on national news networks. Tickets were distributed to church members through a raffle with seats listing as high as $1,000 and the event was sold out.
I need more information, because this made me choke on my coffee.

This piece from Aug 4 says:
Last week Saddleback Church folks told us we’d know today how people could get tickets for the Aug. 16 forum where John McCain and Barack Obama will be questioned by Pastor Rick Warren.

Sorry. No go. Today the Saddleback Web site says a “limited number of community tickets will be available Wednesday, Aug. 13.”

What I am being told that they’re still working out how many media spots there will be and what Secret Service says it needs. Not to mention what the campaigns will require in terms of seats for their people.

So, they raffled tickets to their members and whatever might be left over three days before the event goes to the campaigns and then whatever's left over after that goes to the 'community?' Does that sound right? Then there's this from Aug 11:

All general admission tickets to the Saddleback Civil Forum this Saturday have been distributed, according to the Saddleback Church Web site.

A previous posting on their site announced that a limited number of community tickets would be available Wednesday, Aug. 13, but a posting late Monday announced that all general tickets had been dispersed. It is unclear if all tickets are gone.

Okay, so before the date for community dispersal, all tickets are gone. And then there's this put-out YouTuber. And this:

Church officials said they'd hoped to have some tickets available for the public but ran out when they couldn't satisfy demand among church members, who got the first crack at tickets that sold for $500 to $2,000.

Church officials said they decided to charge admission for people who wanted a chance to see the Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls because of the expenses to stage the event and provide television feeds to a host of networks.

Now there's mention in the comments of that video that Saddleback had to charge exorbenant amounts of cash for tickets because they needed to pay for High-Def equipment to televise it, and of course the comment above regarding feeds. Hmmm...

First off, they're a massive mega-church and I have a hard time believing they couldn't afford it in the first place. Second, I also find it hard to beieve that networks, who want to televise this, aren't providing their own feeds and what-not. Third, no amount of needing money makes it okay to sell these tickets soley among church members and not to the public--had it not been televised and it was a private function, I could see that, but because they chose to televise it and make it available to the public, it would only have been right to allow the public to participate. And finally, all that expensive equipment...does Saddleback get to keep that, or to they give it to the networks? If they give it all away (not sell it, mind you, give it away) then Saddleback can walk away knowing only that they should have opened tickets up to the public. If Saddleback keeps all of the equipment--if they keep one cent of the money or anything that money bought--it was nothing but a fundraiser. And I have a feeling they won't be giving that stuff away.

So, not only was last night's event hard to watch for its content, it was infinitely more insidious and disgusting than I thought--our Presidential Candidates seemed to have knowingly taken part in a massive church fundraiser at the expense of our Democracy. Good job, guys. The most ironic part: The thrust of this forum was to drill the candidates on their faith and how they interpret it through their lives and leadership. I would suspect that morals and ethics would come into play at some point. Is this ironic, or is it just me?

If anyone knows exactly how much the mega-church raked in off our collective voting backs, please let me know so I can have an aneurysm.

UPDATE: Apparently, cash over production costs goes to the church's PEACE plan. The OC Registry says:

Warren noted that McCain and Obama have endorsed Saddleback's PEACE Plan, a strategy to mobilize churches to fight global problems such as illiteracy, corrupt leadership and disease.

I'm sure this PEACE plan doesn't include an ounce of proselytizing. I'm sure.

h/t to Hess from Feeble Lance.

16 August 2008

The Not-So-Great Debate

Anyone remember this?
A Who's Who of America's top scientists are launching a quixotic last-minute effort this week to force presidential candidates to detail the role science would play in their administrations -- a question they say is key to the future of the country, if not the world.
What? Presidential candidates debating and discussing science? The very science(s) that affect our daily lives in vital ways--medically, environmentally, technologically? That's madness! That was in December, '07.
"Right now we have a confluence of issues facing candidates: embryonic stem cell research, global warming, science and technology education, biotechnology and energy policy -- it's just becoming an avalanche," says Lawrence Krauss, a physics professor at Case Western University, and author of the bestselling The Physics of Star Trek. "I think at some level, you have to get some insight into what the candidates know, or what they're willing to learn."
Made sense, didn't it? Of course, that debate never materialized, not during the primaries and obviously not now. In fact, this is what we're getting instead.

Whose side is God on? Although that probably won’t be determined tonight, we will see Barack Obama and John McCain on stage together for the first time this political season. Brought together by the best-selling author and pastor of the fourth largest church in the U.S., pastor Rick Warren will talk to both candidates tonight for about an hour each.

That's right. The first debate, taking place tonight, between the Presidential nominees will be about faith and it will be moderated by Rick Warren, pastor of the Evangelical mega-church, Saddleback, and author of The Purpose Driven Life.

Apparently, a pretend supernatural being and 'his' ancient dogmatic writings dictating morality is more important than real science regarding embryonic stem cell research, global warming, science and technology education, biotechnology and energy policy. Did you throw up a little? I did. This is the country we're living in, folks.

Here's the best part, though. Ready? Do you know how this debate came about?

How did this event get put together? Warren just called them on his cell phone.

Isn't that rich? Somehow I don't think the Secular Coalition for America's Lori Lipman-Brown has Obama or McCain on speed dial, nor the good folks at Atheist Alliance International, or American Atheists, or the American Humanist Association, or Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, or...well, you get the picture. I suspect calls from the American Association for the Advancement of Science for the science debate went unanswered, or outright rejected. But a pastor of a mega-church can give ring to our Presidential candidates and the next thing you know, we the people get to know even more about the candidates' faith, when, in fact, we should know little to nothing about it. It's not supposed to matter, remember?

I was going to watch this, but I just can't bring myself to do it. If some of you other atheist bloggers have stronger stomachs, good luck to you. I just can't watch. I know I need to vote in November and I don't need one more reason to throw my hands up in disgust and walk away from the whole thing. First the DNC interfaith service debacle and now this. Just...make it...stop.

15 August 2008

No Room in the Big Tent for Us

Ronald Aronson has a good piece up over at Huffington in which he talks about all the secularists of the Democratic party are being ignored at this year's DNC convention.
When first avowing his religious credentials for president, Barack Obama said -- and then repeated many times since -- that "secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square." The party that will soon nominate Obama is to be praised for its acceptance of and respect for its religious members. However, it is the nonbelievers who are now being ignored.
This, we knew. The Secular Coalition for America did get the ball rolling on this one*. What I found interesting, but maybe I already knew, was the following:

Yet one of the most remarkable implications of the data presented in the new Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey is that atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, and believers in an impersonal God or universal spirit -- people who do not believe in God at all or who do not believe in a traditional God -- will be a huge share, perhaps as much as 40 percent of Democratic voters in November.

Another Pew discovery: Two out of every three Americans say that their moral values do not come primarily from religion. In other words, whatever their faith, these are people who live largely or wholly secular lives.

40%. Almost half. They are deliberately ignoring almost half of their party. Here I lamented that we atheists were being ignored and how sad it was for me that my last vestige of hope to be heard politically in this country was being taken from me.

Who represents the atheist? Well, no one does. But it's true that, politically, we have company and together we add up to a sizable portion of the party. I don't know if it's smart of us to stand by and allow ourselves to be stepped over for no other reason than our party's misguided attempt to pander. As far as I'm concerned, Democrats have been doing a perfectly fine job garnering votes from the less insane strains of the religious. I've been perfectly happy to let conservatives have the truly crazy people. But now, apparently we want their vote too.

There's not enough room under the big tent for us. I'm upset about that. At the same time, I'm not so sure I want to be under the same big tent with these people. This very well could be the beginning of my exit from the Democratic party. I think they might have one more vote coming from me and then, I'm outta here.

*Please click here to get up off your godless ass and make your voice heard.