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.

Interview with vjack of Atheist Revolution

Hey! Our very own ('our,' as in the atheist community...I like the sound of that: atheist community...nice), vjack at Atheist Revolution has been interviewed by The Atheist Spot.

A kind of 'Get To Know Your Atheist Blogger.' The Fightin' Atheists! vjack is one of my very favorite fightin' atheists...go have a read and enjoy.

14 August 2008

Refined Thoughts on A'isha-Gate

Last Sunday, I posted a rather annoyed and probably knee-jerk reaction to this whole Random House business of not publishing The Jewel of Medina for fear of reprisal from Islamic Fundamentalists. I have since refined my position a bit.

I still believe it's big-time trouble to allow religious extremists to threaten publishers/authors with violence whenever something they don't like might be printed. That's not going to change--it's a freedom of speech issue, and it's a freedom of/from religion issue. Beyond that, I'd like to address two points regarding this particular instance.

First off, I have heard the argument that Prof. Spellberg raised the alarm over the publication of the book for the sake of squashing competition with her own book on A'isha. This, I wanted to point out, is a ridiculous assertion. It just is. I'm no expert, but there is a world of differenct between academic publishing and popular publishing. There's no competition; there's no thought to competition. Spellberg's book, Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of `A'isha bint Abi Bakr, was published by Columbia University Press (in 1994, quite some time ago)--one of the more prestigious presses, mind you. This is an academic press--academic presses publish for academia, not for the public at large. Jones has written a novel and was slated to be published by Random House. These two titles couldn't be in more distant realms. I think that theory can be laid to rest.

The reason I feel the need to flog that dead horse, if it is indeed deceased, is that I think the kerfuffle regarding Spellberg's role is pointless. It would seem that in peoples' haste to fulfill their need to blame someone, Spellberg is the target because Random House is too vague--it's more of a concept than a person, and human beings can't be satisfied to watch a concept squirm. They like their squirming to come with specific names and faces. That being said, I will say that Spellberg's biggest sin, it would seem, is that she was unprofessional. She was sent a copy of the book by Random House for review purposes, and when she was done, according to this:
On April 30, Shahed Amanullah, a guest lecturer in Ms. Spellberg's classes and the editor of a popular Muslim Web site, got a frantic call from her. "She was upset," Mr. Amanullah recalls. He says Ms. Spellberg told him the novel "made fun of Muslims and their history," and asked him to warn Muslims.
This is the problem. However she personally felt about the book, this should not have occurred. Whatever threat she might have seen against Muslims, it should have been taken care of when she expressed this clear disdain for the novel to the publisher and not her Muslims pals. She was unprofessional. There's no money in reviewing books in academia, so houses not sending her books over something like this isn't likely to affect her. So, forget her. She was unprofessional and let's leave her at that.

The second and infinitely more important point is as such: we have to find some sort of protocol for something like this. Upon more reflection on Random House's predictament, I imagine they were in a tough position. When you balance the publication of a novel with the fanatical and violent reaction of any religious group, the answer is very clear. You publish. But when you balance publishing a novel against the safety of your employees, that's not such an easy answer. And it's not even a matter of the publisher getting sued if someone gets hurt or killed--it's simply a matter of someone getting hurt or killed. That's serious business. While some more hardcore atheists might be willing to die for the cause (I'm not one of them), it's a little much to expect some editor out there who's used to pouring over romance novels to do it--that's neither fair, nor realistic.

So, it seems to me that instead of getting righteously pissed at Random House--which is understandable, mind you...the anger has to go somewhere--and boycotting them or what-have-you, our time and efforts could be better spent by contacting all the big publishing houses and asking them to make a concerted effort to confront these threats against life, limb, and freedom of speech in a way that's as safe and secure as they can without just throwing up their hands and saying 'we give up.' I'm sure these businesses have had their lawyers and accounts brain-storming about how not to get sued and how to maximize profits. Now, it seems to me that they could avoid even having to deal with that crap if there was some sort of accepted protocol when dealing with culturally sensitive material. Specifically, a protocol that deals with violent reactions from religious fanatics--an issue that comes with its own special problems.

I'm not an expert, and I can't imagine what that protocol could possibly be, but it seems to me that if there was one, a lot of this mess could be avoided and freedom of speech could be better preserved. So, that's what I'm suggesting. I am suggesting that publishers--large and small, really--do some in-house analysis on how to best deal with these situations, and then, come their next big conference, make one of the top priorities a coming together of all the houses and hashing out a plan of action. If there's a consensus among publisher's, the next time something comes up, we hopefully won't have to look at this kind of censorship, as I would hope that whatever they come up with would be a far cry from 'roll over.' You have to keep safety in mind, but at the same time, if you're a publishing house operating in the secular, western world...act like it.

For some listening, see Another Goddamned Podcast.

13 August 2008

Just Plain Painful

"Growing pains" is a word-phrase that is used to describe the sometimes 'painful' phases we go through as we get a little older and a littler wiser. Babies have literal growing pains as their teeth come in. Teens have growing pains when they realize they aren't popular and they never will be. The key word here is 'growing,' really. That baby will eventually have teeth with which to gnaw on all sorts of yummy items, and he or she will be thankful for it. That teenager will hopefully manage to get through high school without smuggling an Uzi into Home Ec. and he or she will turn into an adult with excellent coping skills. They will grow.

So, how ironic is it that former 'Growing Pains' star Kirk Cameron has a memoir out called "Still Growing?" Sure, it seems ironic because, as most of us know, Cameron has gone the path of the faithful, which, to many of us, is a sign of downright stunted growth. That's not the only ironic part. In an interview with beliefnet, there was the following exchange:
Your parents wanted you to choose your own religious path once you were older. As a parent yourself now, do you embrace that attitude with your own children? Should parents who are Christians lay the foundation for their children or let them choose their own path later?

As a father of six kids and as a man who's been transformed by the power of the gospel, I would never just let my kids flounder and just sort of try to figure out their own way through life when I know that I've got the best guide on the planet—God and His word. So of course I'm going to bring my kids up to know and understand who God is, and then pray that God will regenerate their heart and bring them to a living, real, and lasting faith in Him through repentance and faith in Christ.
Hmm. So much for the whole concept of 'growing pains,' even if he did think he was being clever with his evolving title. So much for giving his kids the same freedom to actually learn and grow and make their own decisions, as painful as they might be at times. See, his kids will grow up and they'll do all the other painful teenage transforming, just like everyone else. But this God question? Are they allowed to 'grow' into that, like their father clearly had the fortune (or misfortune, depends on how you look at it) to do. It seems that the idea of his kids going through the 'painful' process of trying to answer the same questions he was trying to answer and coming to possibly the same conclusion that he has is too much for him. More likely, though, he's afraid they'll be smarter than he is and they'll choose a different path. Can't have that.

So much for those 'growing pains,' pathetic from a man who says he's 'still growing.' He's still growing, alright...straight up to God, like an inbred family tree. But then again, this is Ray Comfort's Banana Sidekick*. I guess we can't expect too much.

*Here, Kirk, hold this. I can think of other things just the 'right shape for the human mouth.' Go nuts, you lunatics.

12 August 2008

Atheist Nexus Folks on The Infidel Guy Show

Public Service Announcement:

Thursday, August 14th, 2008, 8PM EST

From the show's promo: "Brother" Richard and Kym Membe are the founders of AtheistNexus.org. It's one the latest and hottest atheist communities on the web. They are appearing tonight to discuss whether or not we even need atheist community sites as well as providing us an awesome treat in hearing their own personal paths to freethought. You don't want to miss this one. We will be streaming the show live right here on Atheist Nexus. Or you can go to InfidelGuy.com where the show is broadcast every Thursday night.
We hope some of you can call into the show and let your voices be heard on the value of community and what Atheist Nexus has meant to you:

Call in at 888-502-0802

By the way, Atheist Revolution has a post up today re: atheism in the media. Check it out.

11 August 2008

RIP: Isaac Hayes

Getting away from the general atheistic ranting that characterizes this blog, I feel the need to post a small memorial. Despite his Scientology background and the stupidity of leaving South Park for its satirizing of religious beliefs, I am quite sad at the passing of Isaac Hayes. If you can't get past his Scientology, then nothing can make you happy. If you can, though, I invite you to forget about Chef, forget about Shaft, and forget about this outfit right here:

Yes, that's Jesse Jackson on the left. Okay, maybe not forget about the gold chain vest and salmon pink tights (how could you?). But I'll tell you why I'm sad to see Hayes go. Because I love Truck Turner*. I do, it's true.

Seriously, how can you not love Truck Turner? If you don't miss Isaac Hayes already, I dare you to watch the trailer below and not somehow feel a void has opened up in your soul now that he's gone.

Perhaps I will upload the soundtrack ('Double Feature' with 'Three Tough Guys!') onto the ol' ipod and get my funk on at work. 'A House Full of Girls' is a must have on silly mixes for friends and loved ones.

*1974. All good things came from 1974--the first Kiss album, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, Nixon's resignation, Truck Turner, and me.

Plug: The Feeble Lance

I'm not huge on podcasts, mainly because I don't have a lot of time to listen to them. I get in an hour at the gym five days a week and another hour power-walking the battlefield on Sundays...that is the extent of my headphone time and I usually prefer to just listen to the music I also don't have time to listen to (typing that has made me painfully aware of something lacking in my life that needs a-fixin'). That being said, I downloaded The Feeble Lance's first podcast the other day and was able to give it a listen as I made my rounds of Oak Ridge.

This might be what some might call a 'rave review.' Were there bells and whistles? No. Confetti? No. Funny sound effects? No. And yay for that. Just a little festive music welcoming you in and kicking you out at the end, and in between, awfully swell comentary. If you're a deeply sarcastic freethinker and you like to hear someone who probably feels the same way you do about things spout off about them in soothing tones, like rational indignation filtered through steel wool--then this is the podcast for you. No kidding; I'm huffing it over hill and dale, heart a-poundin' and bod a-sweatin' and I could have fallen asleep, his voice was so soothing. And I've decided that this is exactly how I need to have infuriating current events delivered to me, otherwise I would blow a fuse. Good job, Clint.

Interesting content presented in a simple and comfortable format with commentary from a guy you could have coffee with and find yourself nodding most of the time, laughing, and when the coffee's gone, instead of going home you convince him to have another and refill your own. That's what I want out of a podcast.

The first episode: "Teacher burns kid (and people still love him), what’s a human?, little black masks, and Toby Keith is as jackass."

The second episode went live last night: "Brief rant about the media, the universe didn’t explode!, go waterboarding at Coney Island, Utah (of all places) has their head on straight when it comes to religion in classrooms, Doomsday, why so serious?! and Ray “Atheist Central” Comfort."

Links to topics can be found with each blog posting at The Feeble Lance. Stream it, download it like me and listen while getting in some good cardiovascular. Check it out. Also, if you've found your way here through Athiest Nexus, go give the Feeble Lance's friendly host, Hess, HR, Hessen, Clint, Clinton, Betty (call him what you like), a holla': Hessenroots.

10 August 2008

Self Censoring in the Face of Religion

The topic of censorship has been popping up in my life recently, mainly in the form of one or two Atheist Nexus users' paranoia and cynicism regarding a few missing posts. Holy cow! Missing posts...Big Brother has come! Pardon my sarcasm, but really...it's awfully silly. Especially when you look at this.

Plans to release a novel about Prophet Muhammad's child bride A'isha have been scrapped by US publishers Random House over fears it could spark violence.

The Jewel of Medina, the debut novel by journalist Sherry Jones, was due to hit shelves on 12 August. Random House said it had been advised the book "might be offensive" to some Muslims, and "could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."

Way to cave in to the absurd fanaticism of a ridiculous group of superstitious intellectual throw-backs, Random House. This annoys me as both an atheist and a writer. I feel for the author, who was likely happy her novel had been accepted for publication (show me a writer who wouldn't be thrilled), only to have it shelved because of some whack religious group's lunacy. That's right: lunacy. Insanity. Mad as a box of badgers.
The decision was taken "for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel," said the company's deputy publisher Thomas Perry in a statement.
So, Salman Rushdie did indeed have some serious troubles with The Satanic Verses, and we, of course, can't forget the stomach-turning events following the publication of some flippin' cartoons. People were hurt; people were killed. Because of art and free speech. Because some people out there find other peoples' freedom a complete affront to their self-imposed dogmatic psychological cells. Yeah, this really burns my ass.

Secular societies can't afford to be weak here. Clearly, Jones must have known the risks of writing and publishing her book, which, to me, says she was up for the confrontation. I appreciate that. I can understand the publisher's concern--they would hate to be associated with a book that unintentionally sparked a bunch of insane people to go on a murderous rampage (let's be clear here: it's not the book that caused the damage, it's the reaction of a body of unreasonable, irrational lunatics). I suppose I can't blame Random House for feeling that way, but I can and will be disgusted by their lack of spine in the face of such idiocy.

The very thought of kow-towing to such stupidity makes me want to go out and do a little damage myself (fortunately, I am a rational, thinking being with considerations for the freedoms of others and I would never demean myself and the rest of humanity by doing that*). Where does something like this end? I imagine a world where Islamic Fundamentalists stalk the globe, shoulders back, heads held high, while folks who know better--who are smarter, more reasonable, and morally superior--cower, afraid to say 'boo.' This isn't an image of the world that I'm fond of. Let's not give an inch through that doorway, eh? Get some gravitas, Random House. Grow a pair, eh?

*For a wonderful little quote by a person of great esteem, hop on over to Atheist Revolution. Morality: it's not just for the crazy religious folks. In fact, it doesn't seem to be something they really care that much about, except to pay it a whole lot of lip service and use it to cover up their own disgusting behavior.

08 August 2008

Nice nice for the Canucks!

Yay for the Canadians. Hoorah to our neighbors from the North. According to the Angus Reid online poll:
58% of Canucks think humans evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, and 22% believe God created people in their present form within the last 10,000 years.
Hip hip hooray! Nice nice! Yah boo! Phillips is a German and he have my pen! Um...excuse me...

This is my favorite part:
Robert A. Campbell, a former U of T religion prof now with Cape Breton University, said people in 2008 are more likely to form their own opinions on God rather than inherit them.
...more likely to form their own opinions on God rather than inherit them. Now, that's what I like to hear. To be honest, that clearly still leaves open the possibility that stupid people will lean towards stupid answers to their universal questions--little can be done about that, except, of course, mo' betta' education. This does, however, give me hope that current and future generations of smart people are less likely to be yoked with the superstitions of their forebears than their forebears were. I can't even imagine how many perfectly intelligent people out there are religious because they were indoctrinated as children--perfectly good, brainy folks ruined through what I like to call 'intellectual abuse.' Steered in the wrong direction, so to speak. The very wrong direction.

Well, these words from Prof Campbell are indeed uplifting, and this is how I'll set the tone for my day. Optimistic. This will carry me through until I come across the next sad and infuriating article about whatever horrors the religious are perpetuating across this good land of ours, which could be any second now. Better get off the comp before that happens.


I've just added Twitter. I admit that I'm not entirely sure why. Most of my tweets will be useless nuggets of information about myself, such as: 'I want to go back to bed,' and 'I wish the Netflix DVD would come soon.' I know, I just have to jump on every bandwagon that rolls by.

07 August 2008

Warning: Liberal Use of the Word 'Douchebag'

It is wrong to laugh at the misfortune of others. Wrong, I tell you. It seems that members of the Phelps family lost their garage last night to the flames of what could possibly be an arsonist. That is, indeed, unfortunate. I mean, just because the Phelp's are hate-mongering, unconscionable douchebags doesn't mean we should...

Firefighters removed several of the Phelpses' anti-homosexual picketing signs from the garage as family members and neighbors watched.

Shortly afterward, family members began filming footage of the fire, taking photographs and documenting what occurred. Several carried signs as they watched.

I'm sorry. What was I saying? Ah, that's right--I believe I was calling the Phelps's a bunch of douchebags.

Shirley L. Phelps-Roper said she thought the fire was intentionally set.
Well, yeah, probably. You people are douchebags.

"None of what they do is going to stop us from delivering our message," Phelps-Roper said as she watched firefighters spray water on the garage.

We know your douchebaggery knows no bounds.

Phelps-Roper said firefighters responded and "did what they were supposed to do."

As she pointed to the house where her parents' live, she said "there are two elderly people who live here." Phelps-Roper said her mother, Margie Phelps, is 82 and her father, pastor Fred Phelps Sr., is 78.

You mean "there are two elderly douchebags who live here."

Insisting the fire was arson, she also said this was the most aggressive act toward her family to date.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Phelps Sr. requested an investigation regarding "Civil Rights Hate Crime Complaint vs. Unknown Criminal Arsonist(s)."

Do we have laws on the books regarding hate crimes against douchebags? I mean, our hate crime laws just barely cover all the violence and viciousness perpetuated towards women--so I suppose it wouldn't surprise me if we have some special clause in there somewhere that says "Oh, and no harassing the douchebags."

"Our church was set afire as two elderly people were asleep therein," the letter stated. "There is evidence that hatred of our religion was the motivation, in part at least."

It was your garbage, douchebag, and then your garage. Not your church. But, I suppose if someone did indeed set the fire in your garbage cans, I figure he or she could simply have been mistaking them for your church.

Ain't life ironic, folks? Hate crimes against the haters (remember, God does hate fags). A-mazing.

06 August 2008

Funding Atheist Nexus

I've been pretty busy lately. School will be starting up again very soon and, rather suddenly, I got funds from my institution to pop off to King's College for some research into the personal papers of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (this is neither here nor there, but I'm all excited about it). I've been getting everything together for both and haven't had a lot of time to screw around online, like I usually do.

Imagine my half-surprise to find Atheist Nexus in a right kerfuffle, again. vjack over at Atheist Revolution has a handy breakdown of AN's recent problems. Now, the first one I get, the second one irks me a bit.

The last blog I was able to post here was actually urging people to donate some cash to AN. They had posted a budget, which, to me, seemed reasonable. Apparently not so reasonable to others. The objection I find most annoying is the objection that Brother Richard pay himself a salary. Fine. Then don't donate. Don't donate and continue to use this free service, provided for you by someone making it possible with their free time. It's free time because he wouldn't be getting paid for it. ow much free time do you have?

There are a lot of things I would do for free: soup kitchen, helping a friend move, generally volunteer for any good cause. Unfortunately, this is all heavily contingent on how much free time I have. If someone asked me today to take over and run Atheist Nexus the way it should be run--growing, being productive, becoming a massive central hub for atheist organization--I'd say no. Unless you paid me.

Does that make me sound horrible? I would donate my free time to other charities but not to something like Atheist Nexus (I am one of many small members of the AN Volunteer Corps, which I hope to help with my blogging, as seen here*).

First off, I don't consider work for atheist organization charity work. We are not cases for charity, we are a burgeoning social movement that needs to make some serious strides soon. In order for that to happen, it needs the kind of attention that charity cases don't often get, and that comes down to disposable time. When a person is compensated for their time, they are able to give more time to the cause. It's not greed. That's just life--we all need to get by in the world. I wish I had more free time to do good works, but it's just not there. In my case, it's not a job that's keeping me, but school. However, if someone would be glad to attend and do the work for a few of my classes, I'd be happy to get out there and do more for the world. I think you get the analogy.

I'm happy to give to make AN the organization I want it to be. If, in time, I find it's not living up to my expectations, then I will stop donating. Simple as that. What I won't do, though, is continue using a service for free (although I totally have that option) knowing that a lot of time and effort is going into it, on my behalf, without compensation. The level and frequency of my donations will hinge on how the site progresses, a formula I think Brother Richard appreciates and expects.

No one's asking you to give your life savings to AN--with the number of members, just a little here and there right now seems more than enough. It's surprising to me that there are people out there that expect every penny to be spent exactly how they want, and if it's not, then, they're outta there. It's like politics. I'll vote for Obama in November, but do you think I agree with him on everything? Hell no. I could refrain from voting at all, like some people have refrained for donating to AN, or have refrained from even using it anymore. That, to me, is a child stomping off because he didn't get exactly what he wanted--things didn't go his way. He won't play the game any more because he's not winning. Sound familiar (I'm looking at you, Religious Folks).

Like in politics, sometimes we have to weigh the good with the bad, what we like against what we don't like, but in the end, we need to step forward and participate. I can't think of too many moments in life where you get everything you want and you walk away losing absolutely nothing. This way of thinking--that somehow you should win, all the time, and never have to compromise your expectations--is counter-productive and is the kind of thing that will lead sites like AN to fail, movements like our lovely New Atheism (I use this term loosely) to fail, and perfectly good candidates like Obama to lose.

On the surface, big deal. You can live without all these things, right? Well, there are no vacuums. Maybe nothing bad would replace AN, but what seeps in when reason fails? Irrationality. Less atheism, more religion. Can't get a Democrat in office? Well, then I hope you're happy with another disastrous Republican reign. Have fun with your McCain and more, more, more happy god-loving folks getting in your face about everything.

That is, to me, exactly what a donation to AN is meant to prevent. And to me, that's worth not every penny going to exactly what I want. Right now, the money is going to basic operation of something that could turn into a real tool for a successful movement. Yeah, that's worth my $20.

*Do not make the mistake of assuming I would not criticize AN just because I'm a volunteer for promoting. Like vjack, I always reserve that right and will exercise it judiciously if ever I feel I need to.

01 August 2008

Freedom Isn't Free, Kids

Try to ignore the mocking, snide tone of the following:
A month-long project to raise funds for an atheist advert to go on the side of a London bus has been derailed: not by an act of God but through a lack of pledges.

The gambit began in June when Ariane Sherine, writing for the Guardian's Comment is Free website, expressed her consternation at the prevalence of God-bothering ads for JesusSaid.org splurged across double deckers. Inspired by this, blogger Jon Worth set up a pledge, aiming to get 4,678 right-thinking folk to each donate a fiver and hence fund the surprisingly expensive £23,400 bill to run an advert promoting atheism on the side of a bendy for a fortnight. The ad's mild-mannered message? "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life."

The campaign closed yesterday, and it seems the sensitivities of Jesus' flock will remain unflustered as barely 877 people signed up, perhaps suggesting that the millions who've read The God Delusion are yet to be entirely convinced of His Almighty's nonexistence.

God's clammy-handed grip on our public transportation vehicles, which includes not only woolly-headed messages from dubious organizations but pastors posted to keep kids on the straight and narrow, looks set to continue.

I don't know about you, but I remember being thrilled that billboards with atheistic messages were being put up here in the US. It is disappointing to me that atheists--who, let's face it, are often red-faced because of the anti-atheism in their communities--couldn't part with a fiver to make the above happen. Really, folks? A fiver?

It has been equally disappointing to see the effort of Atheist Nexus to raise funds to function--for us, mind you--move so slowly. The donation button has been up, maybe a week or so. As of this blogging: 23 contributors, $802 of the goal of $12, 500. It's ends October 31.

As of right now, there are 2,882 members. One fiver from each of us with put them well past their projected goal, with $14,410. Now, really, do you have a better way to spend that five friggin' bucks? We can all scream until we're in need of a lozenge about how mistreated and ignored we are, but then we're more than happy to use a service whose function is to help us and expect not to help them back in any way, least of all monetary. While our pleas for equality are ignored, AN pleas for funds to push for equality are equally ignored.

Heads up, folks! This is how it works. You want a social movement bent on equality? This is part of the deal--fund raising. This is how it goes in this here Capitalist society. So, really...at the risk of sounding Evangelical...I want you to reach deep down into your pockets and give, give, give. At least when an atheist donates money to their organizations, they know it's actually being used for something real.

Do it. I am, and I'm doing more than a fiver. Kick the ass of that projected goal and give them something extra to hold over in their coffers.

'Christian' Does Not Equal 'Patriot'

We lost another. First the Texas Supreme Court rules that it's perfectly legal for believers to physically abuse and otherwise manhandle themselves and others as an expression of their religious beliefs. Now, a federal judge in La Jolla has ruled to keep a 43 foot tall concrete cross adorning a hilltop city park as a war memorial. Here's the reason he gives:

Defenders of the cross argued that although religious services had been held at the site, the cross had evolved to serve a more secular function as a memorial to the nation’s war veterans, with some 2,400 plaques in tribute to them, arranged in six concentric rings at the base.

“The memorial is not designed for worship services, and there is no evidence the cross, which is surrounded by a tall fence and not approachable by visitors, is — or is intended to be — the object of religious devotion,” Judge Burns wrote, adding, “The primary effect of the Mount Soledad memorial is patriotic and nationalistic.”

First off, if it's not designed for religious services and serves a secular purpose (which is ridiculous), then how about not ever holding religious services there (since, clearly, sometimes they do)? Just a suggestion. I guess it's not a religous symbol with a religious purpose all other days, but on the days they hold religous services, it is.

Here's the real problem though: How can anyone be expected to believe that a giant flippin' cross--the most recognized symbol of Christianity worldwide--is merely 'patriotic and nationalistic,' let alone 'secular?' I suppose he thinks that just because all veterans, of all faiths, must use this site as a memorial site, that somehow secularizes this symbol.

Let me explain why the exact opposite is the case. Forcing everyone to accept your religious symbol does not make it all-encompassing and inclusive, in other words, secular. It retains its religious significance while assuming that others faiths and those without faith will just have to suck it up and deal with it, which is what they've been doing. It keeps its religious meaning and alienates those not of that faith or without faith. Here's a hint towards proof of that: this case against the cross has been going on for 20 years. So, if the cross has somehow transformed itself into this inclusive, secular memorial symbol, why have people been fighting so long to get rid of it and make the memorial more inclusive? Hint??

The judge, Larry Alan Burns of Federal District Court in San Diego, said in his ruling that the group that had sued to have the cross taken down, which consisted of an atheist and Jewish war veterans, had failed to prove that the cross’s primary purpose was religious.

The symbol of the cross's primary function is as a specific religious symbol. It's religious purpose is to continue to advertise the false claim that all persons in our military are Christians. How's that for 'religious purpose?'

What Judge Burns says about patriotism and nationalism is also quite revealing. Obviously, this is a person who cannot separate Christianity from patriotism, which is the most insulting thing to anyone without faith or of another faith--especially veterans. So because he believes there are 'no atheists in foxholes'--or any other faith for that matter--the cross can stay and continue alienating all veterans not of the Christian faith (there's your 'religious purpose' again--it's just not a positive strain of it, which is why, I suppose, it is being ignored here). I can think of few things less patriotic, less of what this country is supposed to be about.

Way to go, Burns. I got your nationalism right here, pal.