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.