Posts Tagged ‘atheism’

Atheist Christmas Specials

December 20, 2014

I am not sure that this story I read in the Washington Times really counts as part of the War on Christmas while the atheists involved are not trying to stop any one from celebrating the Christmas holiday.

Conservatives have been mocked for insisting there’s an ongoing war on Christmas, but now it looks like they may have simply been ahead of their time.

Anyone who doubts that there has been a war against Christmas either hasn’t been paying attention or is being disingenuous. These days, not a holiday season goes by without the Freedom from Religion Foundation or the American Atheists or some other militant secular group suing some town for putting up a nativity scene or somehow acknowledging that Christmas is a Christian holiday.

American Atheists unveiled Wednesday the “War on Christmas” line-up on its television channel, AtheistTV, featuring “original programs proclaiming the truth about Christmas on December 24 and December 25, featuring scholars and celebrities from the atheist community

“Christmas is hard for many atheists, so we will provide programming free from superstition and fairy tales that allows families to watch together and not worry about being preached at,” American Atheists President Dave Silverman said in a statement.

Conservatives like Fox News talk-show hosts Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly have long warned of a “War on Christmas,” citing moves by retailers, public schools and local governments to remove references to Christmas from displays and celebrations.

The network’s annual Coverage of anti-Christmas happenings has drawn taunts from “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, such as last year’s “War on Christmas: S***’s Getting Weird Edition,” while the liberal online magazine Salon weighed in with a sarcastic article titled, “9 reasons Fox News thinks there’s a war on Christmas.”

AtheistTV’s slate of “holiday-inspired specials” probably won’t make anyone forget “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” They include a speech by Council for Secular Humanism Executive Director Tom Flynn and an episode of the atheist viewpoint titled, ‘Is Christmas a Religious Holiday?

There’s also the “Xmas 2009” episode of The Atheist Experience and episodes of The Atheist Voice with The Friend Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta, according to the press release.

The AtheistTV channel was launched worldwide on July 29 and can be accessed via Roku set-top boxes or as a free online stream at www.atheists.tv, the release said.

Somehow I don’t think that these shows will replace classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas or Frosty the Snowman as the sort of thing families will gather around and watch. Indeed, it might be a form of child abuse to force young children to watch lectures by prominent atheists during the Holiday season.

I don’t have any objection to AthiestTV or to any of these shows. Why should I? Unlike the more litigious atheists, I do not care how, or even if, other people want to celebrate any holidays they wish in any way that they wish. I will gladly leave them alone. I just wish they would leave the rest of us alone.

I have to wonder why Christmas is hard for many atheists, as secularized and de-Christianized as the holiday has become. Why can’t they celebrate Christmas without Christ? And why do they have to refer to the beliefs of others as “fairy tales” and “superstitions”? I don’t have to put down other religions if I talk about the birth of the Savior. Here again is an example of the negativity of Atheism. The Atheist does not have a positive message to spread. He can only tear down others.

I don’t think I will have much of an opportunity to see any of these Atheist Christmas Specials. Most likely they will be a waste of time. I imagine that they will showcase the usual bad arguments on how Jesus never existed and Christmas is really a pagan holiday, arguments long since debunked. Hardly worth the trouble.

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Progressive Prayer

December 15, 2014

Normally the events at a City Council meeting in Lake Worth, Florida wouldn’t get much attention outside the city and still less outside the state of Florida, but a recent invocation given at the the beginning of the meeting seems to have gotten nationwide notice. I read about this unusual opening blessing from the Tea Party News Network.

The old adage that “liberals are so open-minded that their brains have fallen out,” has just reached new heights. Leftists have always shown disdain towards God, Christianity, Judaism, and most religions in general (with the exception, perhaps, of Islam. They’re cool with the beheadings and stonings of women, homosexuals, or anyone who won’t convert, apparently). However, now they are striking a new chord as represented by the opening “prayer” given at this City Council meeting in Lake Worth, Florida, earlier this month, where God and Jesus are mocked and Satan is praised.

At the meeting, and as you can see from the video below, “activist” Preston Smith delivered the following heathenistic invocation:

I am not sure that Mr. Smith’s problem is that he is too open minded. Here is a transcript of his remarks.

Mother Earth, we gather today in your redeeming and glorious presence, to invoke your eternal guidance in the universe, the original Creator of all things.

May the efforts of this council blend the righteousness of Allah with the all-knowing wisdom of Satan. May Zeus, the great God of justice, grant us strength tonight. Jesus might forgive our shortcomings while Buddha enlightens us through His divine affection. We praise you, Krishna, for the sanguine sacrifice that freed us all. After all, if Almighty Thor is with us, who can ever be against us?

And finally, for the bounty of logic, reason, and science, we simply thank the atheists, agnostics, Humanists, who now account for 1 in 5 Americans, and [are] growing rapidly. In closing, let us, above all, love one another, not to obtain mythical rewards for ourselves now, hereafter, or based on superstitious threats of eternal damnation, but rather, embrace secular-based principles of morality — and do good for goodness’ sake.

And so we pray.

So what?

When I first read this, before watching the video, I thought perhaps Preston Smith was theologically confused. He seemed to be trying to be multicultural and open-minded by throwing out as many divine names as he could in an effort to appeal to any and all religious tradition. A closer look at the transcript as well as an actual viewing of the video caused me to realize that I was very wrong about his motivation. Here is the video from YouTube.

The disrespectful, mocking tone of his “invocation” is quite unmistakable. Preston Smith does not believe in any of the deities he has named and clearly wished to mock those who do. By equating names given to what believers regard as the One God, Allah, Jesus, Krishna, with the names of deities regarded as mythological, he was clearly promoting Richard Dawkins’s idiotic “I just disbelieve in one fewer god” meme. He was simply going out of his way to be obnoxious.

Why? Is Preston Smith a member of their City Council? There is no indication that he is. He is only described as an “activist”. Why was he asked to deliver the invocation? If he objects to an invocation before City Council meetings, surely there are more appropriate and respectful ways to raise an objection. If the majority of the people want to continue to have an invocation, why can’t he respect that? If he wants to promote Atheism, how does making Atheists look like obnoxious bullies promote that objective? I suppose the answer to these questions is that Preston Smith is an “activist”, which these days is simply a synonym for a bully, a busybody or a control freak, a person who cannot bear to leave others alone to live their lives as they see fit.

I take particular exception, by the way, to his crediting Atheists with the “bounty of logic, reason and science”. Leaving aside the simple fact that we derive our ability to use reason from the Source and Creator of reason, without which any science would be impossible, I would like to point out that the scientific revolution that began in the sixteenth century owed a lot to the development of the use of logic and reason by the Christian Scholastic philosophers of the High Middle Ages and that the founders of nearly every branch of modern science were not Atheists, but Christians. But, perhaps being an activist leaves little time to study history

Hey, Christian, Have You Read the Bible

October 17, 2014

Not too long ago, I finished reading the Bible. This is an undertaking I have completed numerous times, to the point where I honestly don’t know how many times I have read the Bible all the way through. I became curious about how many people have actually read the Bible all the way through, I doubt there are many even among devout Christians and Jews, so I asked that fount of all knowledge and wisdom, Google.

The first thing I noticed from the results is that there seems to be a prevailing idea that few Christians have read much  of the Bible. Only Atheists have actually read and studied the Bible in any sort of rigorous fashion and they are uniformly appalled by the ignorance and atrocities found in the “Good Book”. This line of thought goes on with the corollary that anyone who does actually read the Bible will, if he is honest and  intelligent immediately convert to Atheism.  This, Isaac Asimov said, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”, and we get these sort of graphics.

atheists and the bible piechart

 

 

and

reading-bible

 

I don’t find that to be the case myself. In fact, I do not think I could be an honest atheist. The best I could manage might be a sort of Deism, but that is a subject for another post. I also find that the Bible “grows” on me, even the less interesting books. I find, in a curious sort of way, that I get more out of the Bible every time I read it and this appreciation grows even greater when I study the historical and cultural background in which the Bible was written. It is a grave mistake to read your Bible as though you were reading a newspaper or a contemporary novel. While the truths of the Bible may be eternal, they are expressed from the viewpoint of  cultures very different than our own, ones closer to the edge than our comfortable modern, Western world. For this reason, I suspect that a reader from the Third World must have a much easier time understanding the motives and actions of the people in the Bible than a middle class American ever could. I can also see why an ignorant and superficial reading of scripture may lead to many very wrong ideas, including Atheism.

One of the results of the Google search was an article from the website Atheism Resource titled, “Hey, Christian, Have You Read the Bible.”, written by a fifteen year old Atheist named Cassie Huye.

I have read the bible from cover to cover. How many people can actually say that? I will admit that I have forgotten many of the small details and even some of the major events, but at one time my eyes did glaze over the entire thing.

At school, I once had a girl in my class ask why I knew so much about Christianity. When I told her, she was astounded that an Atheist knew anything about her precious little religion, and could not bring herself to find any reason at all that I could be capable of not believing in her god, had I read all of his wondrous miracles in the bible.

What is considered a wondrous miracle anyway? I’ll admit that the ability to turn water into wine is pretty cool, but it seems like that should be a magical spell in some Harry Potter type book with an alcoholic wizard.

I think we have the next great Atheist apologist here. With snarky comments like “her precious little religion”, and generally deriding her classmates, she could be the next Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens.

And then there is Kings 2: 23-24 “And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.”

I guess if you are the bald man, the death of those who made fun of you for something you can’t help is a miracle, but it really isn’t fair to the kids. The reason we cannot even legally drink until we 21 is because children’s brains are not even totally developed until they are 21. God made us right? He is all knowing… so doesn’t he know they were just using their underdeveloped child brains to make the stupid decision of making fun of a chosen one of God? I mean, if anything, it is God’s fault that they made fun of the man. He made them to have underdeveloped brains!

Do I even have to note that the word translated as “children”, נצר na’ar could also mean young man, adolescent or even servant and that “little” קטנ qaton means little, small, insignificant?  Keep in mind, also, that the city of Bethel was a center of worship for the Kingdom of Israel and thus was a rival to the Temple in Jerusalem and to the prophetic tradition of Elijah and Elisha.

25 Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built up Peniel.

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David.27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”

28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.

31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. 32 He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. 33 On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings. (1 Kings 12:25-31)

It is possible, then that the “little children” were actually a mob of young men intent on insulting and even attacking Elisha. You may still find the incident with the bears disturbing, but a closer investigation shows that the incident is not what it seems to be based on a superficial reading based on ignorance of the historical conditions of the time.

Cassie continues.

This is just one example of the many absolutely insane things that are written in the bible. I promise you that the language the bible is written in was made to bore, but if you want a violent story or just a little comedy, you can find it in your bible.

She is right here. You can find action, comedy, romance, even zombies in the Bible if you know where to look.If you find the language boring, try another translation. But as for insane, again a knowledge of the background of the times will lead to a greater understanding. Dismissing things you do not understand as insane is simply pride in remaining ignorant.

But back to the original question of how I can read about the wondrous miracles of God and be an Atheist. It’s easy, all I had to do was actually read the miracles, and after reading them I don’t know how anyone could be Christian knowing what they say they think is true.

So I encourage you to go out, whoever you are, whatever religion you are: read about your own religion, and read about someone else’s too. Maybe you will realize that you have wasted years listening to someone scam for your money, or maybe you become convinced that you have found the true answer. But at the very least, you will know a little more about the world. As the motto goes, knowledge is power.

Actually, she assumed that miracles cannot happen and that any account of miracles must therefore be false. This assumption that miracles cannot occur is a reasonable assumption given that we do not ordinarily witness miracles, but it is only an assumption. The fact that the Bible contains miracles in its narratives does not prove that the narratives are completely false. They could be reliable history with some exaggerations included. The Bible could be literature, like Homer or Virgil, with a grain of true history at the core, or the miracles could have actually happened. Some of the stories in the Bible may seem strange to us. They did not seem strange to the people who wrote the Bible. As I have indicated, a knowledge of the culture and history of ancient times good serve to make the “insane” stories of the Bible less insane.Cassie Huys dismisses the Bible and Christianity at the age of fifteen after reading the Bible without even trying to understand it. She should take her own advice.

God’s Not Dead

August 31, 2014

The other evening we attended a get together with some friends from church. We ate pizza and enjoyed one another’s company. I think I can speak for everyone by saying that a good time was had by all. For entertainment, we watched the movie God’s Not Dead, which had come out on DVD not too long ago. As is my custom, I looked up the movie on Wikipedia, etc when I got home. I was not too surprised to learn that the critics generally hated God’s Not Dead, panning it for having one dimensional caricatures as characters and ham handed messaging. I was also not too surprised to learn that it was a box office success. The fact that a film that appeals to the faith and sentiments of a large section of the American people has been described as a “surprise hit” says a lot about the disconnect between the values of the entertainment industry and the people they expect to buy their products. I doubt if any other industry that was so clueless about their potential customers would long survive.

God's_Not_Dead

There is not much to be said about the plot of God’s Not Dead that isn’t already generally known through the publicity the film has generated. A professor of philosophy, Jeffrey Radisson, played by Kevin Sorbo, demands that the students in his class write out “God is Dead” in order to receive a passing grade in his class. Every student writes the statement and signs their name except for Josh Wheaton who finds that he cannot act against his faith. Professor Radisson then demands that Josh prove the existence of God in three debates that are to take place at the end of the next three classes. The premiss may seem rather outlandish, then again maybe not. The environment on many universities does seem to be increasingly hostile to religion, particularly Christianity. The influence that causes many young Christians to lose their faith on campus may be far more subtle than depicted in God’s Not Dead, but it is there.

On the whole, I think that the criticisms leveled at God’s Not Dead are just ones. The message of  Christians being required to defend their faith is not very subtle. Professor Radisson and the other atheists in the movie are caricatures of the stereotypical angry, obnoxious atheists. However, in defense of God’s Not Dead, I have to say that its failings are not, in fact, worse than much that comes out of Hollywood. If atheists are offended by the shallow depictions of their beliefs found in God’s Not Dead, then now they know how many Christians and conservatives feel  as we sit in a theater. I also have to say that many atheists really do come across as the sort of obnoxious arrogant jerks that Kevin Sorbo plays. For the person whose exposure to atheism consists only of the writings of Richard Dawkins and the antics of internet trolls, not to mention the Freedom from Religion Foundation who seem to be deliberately trying to make atheists pariahs, Sorbo’s depiction rings true. I have also seen movies with some environmentalist or generally left-wing message presented with far less skill than God’s Not Dead.

I don’t think that the arguments presented by either Josh or Professor Radisson were very good ones. There was not enough screen time devoted to the actual debate to really develop the arguments. This is part of the reason why although I generally liked God’s Not Dead, I did feel a certain frustration while watching it. This movie was not as good as it could have been. The premise is interesting. Kevin Sorbo and the other actors were good. The production values were as high as could be expected, yet it was all somehow not quite enough. This could have been a thought-provoking movie, but it didn’t quite reach the mark. I think that most of the extraneous subplots ought to have been cut out to make a leaner, more straightforward narrative. The movie also could have done without the cameos by Willie Robertson and the Newsboys. These subplots and cameos only served as distractions. Professor Radisson ought to have been depicted in more sympathetic fashion, rather than as almost a cartoon villain. Perhaps they ought to have had him challenge Josh after a class discussion. This might have made for a more interesting movie.

God’s Not Dead is a movie worth watching but it could have been so much better.

 

Rational Response

May 10, 2014

The Supreme Court recently ruled, in Town of Greece v Galloway, that the Town of Green, by opening its Town Board meetings with a prayer by a volunteer chaplain is not violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment, even if the prayer happens to mention a specific deity. Naturally, Atheists generally and the Freedom from Religion Foundation particularly are responding in the calm, thoughtful, rational way we have all come to expect. Or, maybe not, judging from this item on their blog. I am  not sure to what extent this is an official position taken by the FfRF but they did allow it to be published on their website, so I must assume they approve of the sentiments.

Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Greece v. Galloway is potentially disastrous for state-church separation. This decision could be the equivalent of Dred Scott or Plessy for our cause. FFRF’s new “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” award/contest is a great incentive and call to action and I hope that hundreds or thousands of citizen activists will take up the challenge. As an activist who has openly protested public prayer on many occasions, I offer the following opinion and suggestions for others to consider going forward.

Justice Kennedy’s argument provided substantial reasoning to strike down Marsh v Chambers and prohibit government-sponsored prayer altogether, but his conclusion was all wrong. With this ruling the high court has opened the door for local majority religions (and religious thugs) to take over city and state government proceedings. “Majority rule” is not democracy and this ill-thought decision should give supporters of Christian prayer pause in light of America’s rapidly shifting demographics. Public prayers will not always be Christian, especially in cities like Dearborn, Mich., which has a growing Muslim majority, or Clearwater, Fla., that has a majority of Scientology followers. These and other influential religions will begin to assert themselves in isolated areas where Christianity is not the majority religion.

Well, actually majority rule is democracy, which is why I am not really a fan of democracy. I prefer a republic in which while public opinion plays some role in making policies, there are checks against a tyranny of the majority and the rights of minorities and individuals are protected. Personally, I have no objection at all to people of other religions praying in public, provided they extend the same courtesy to me. I think I might get along a lot better with a Muslim or Scientologist than I would with a member of the FfRF who does not seem inclined to extend any courtesy at all to me.

Next, there is a four step plan of action. One and two are complain and demand diversity. Number three is:

3. Voice or otherwise express disapproval or objection

When the public is made captive or invited to participate in public prayers, this very act opens a limited opportunity for immediate petition for a redress of grievances. If members of the public are allowed to voice approval in any way (e.g., by answering “Amen” after a prayer or by applauding or cheering after invocations), the public must also be allowed to voice disapproval (e.g., by booing, making thumbs down gestures, blowing a raspberry, or by making other audible sounds signifying disapproval).

The government may not allow positive feedback or approval while at the same time prohibiting negative feedback or disapproval. It’s all or nothing. Total silence or every voice must be heard. Citizens may also express disapproval by remaining seated when urged to stand or by looking up or straight ahead when asked to bow. Citizens may also abruptly walk out of government proceedings and then make an auspicious re-entry as soon as the prayer has ended. Creative activists will find ways to express themselves in these circumstances.

So, if a chaplain begins a prayer, they will make asses of themselves in public by booing, gesturing, and ostentatiously remaining seated or leaving the room. It gets better.

4. Public mockery

If after the above actions have been taken, the government continues to insult atheists and/or religious minorities with sectarian prayers, activists may turn to public mockery and ridicule. One example is the “prayer mockery hat.” Activist can easily make a brightly colored hat with large ear muffs and dark sunglasses. Wording on the cap could say: “I OBJECT TO PRAYER!” Then, as soon as the pastor or chaplain has been introduced, activists can put on their “prayer mockery hat” with exaggeration and then remain seated throughout the prayer, completely ignoring the pastor until finished. Activists can also mount a small GoPro-style camera to their cap to record the response for posting on Facebook or Youtube.com.

In spite of the disastrous ruling, the fight is not over. We must not submit to this subjugation of our constitutional right to be free FROM unwanted religious intrusion by government. Indeed, “Nothing Fails Like Prayer,” so let us use reason and our constitutional rights of free speech, free association, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances to our full advantage.

Have you ever wondered why Atheists tend to be unpopular? Or why a majority of people would not vote for an Atheist for president even if he was otherwise qualified for the job? Perhaps it might have something to do with the sort of antics advocated here. I don’t imagine all, or even most, Atheists would approve of this sort of juvenile behavior, but unfortunately the Atheists most in the public eye tend to come across as ignorant, intolerant jackasses. I think that it is somewhat ironic that the people who continually assert that they are more rational, intelligent, and tolerant than those of us yahoos who believe in God should act in such an irrational and disrespectful manner.

Sign of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, ...

We don’t have to imagine. We’ve seen the results in places like the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Atheist Appreciation Day

April 1, 2013

Today is Atheist Appreciation Day, the day in which we celebrate all the contributions that Atheists have made to science, culture, and the arts throughout the ages. Why should I pick April 1 as a day to celebrate Atheism? Well, it is April Fool’s Day and the Bible states;

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

So there you have it. Today is the day for fools to celebrate.

I hope any atheist reading this will forgive me for my little April Fool’s joke. I have been waiting for most of the last year to spring it and I really couldn’t resist. You could say the Devil made me do it, if you believed in the Devil.

Actually, the Hebrew word that is translated as fool in that verse is nabel. The meaning of that word carries a connotation of someone who acts, not just unwisely or foolishly, but also wickedly. A nabel, in other words, is not just a fool in the English sense of the word, but also someone who is morally corrupt. This becomes clearer when you read the psalm in its entirety.

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

Do all these evildoers know nothing?

They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on the Lord.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is present in the company of the righteous.
You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is their refuge.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad! (Psalm 14:1-7)

Despite my joke, I do not believe that this psalm was directed at the person who holds the intellectual or metaphysical belief that a deity or deities does not exist. Although Atheism as a belief is far older than many modern Atheist apologists like to believe, ancient Greek philosophers made many of the same talking points as the advanced New Atheists have, atheists in the modern sense must have been very rare among the Hebrews at the time this Psalm was written. Rather, this Psalm seems to be directed at those people who profess a belief in God but who live as though there is none.

I think the number of such “practical Atheists” must be very large in any culture no matter how religious or devout that culture professes itself to be. The majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians, at least in a nominal sense, and many would describe the US as a Christian, or a Judeo-Christian nation. Yet, you would be hard pressed to see much evidence of large numbers of Christians, based on these same Americans personal lives, not to mention our popular culture.

The problem is that many people who state that they believe in God, do not in fact believe in God, at least not in the same way that they believe in the world around them that they can see and feel. God, being imperceptible to the senses, becomes an abstraction, and for many people, the desire to fulfill immediate needs and wants overcomes the desire to follow the will of one who seems to be absent. Think of how the world might be different if God would make himself visible for thirty seconds. Then again, maybe it wouldn’t make a difference at all.

Church for Atheists

January 6, 2013

This sounds a bit like the old joke about an atheist at his funeral: all dressed up and no place to go, but it seems to be real enough. I read about the first church for atheists at wnd.com.

It’s believed to be the first “atheist church” and it is scheduled to hold its first “service” on Sunday in London, according to a report from The Christian Institute.

“Stand-up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, who are behind the ‘church,’ say they like many aspects of religion but don’t believe in God,” the Institute reported yesterday.

So no problem. They’ve created plans for now for a once-a-month meeting for those who, well, don’t believe.

“We thought it would be a shame not to enjoy the good stuff about religion, like the sense of community, just because of a theological disagreement,” Jones said in a report by the Institute.

The result? “It’s part atheist church and part foot-stomping show. There will be a speaker on a theme each month but there will also be an awesome house band, which Pippa will lead. We’ll be helping people try and stick to their new year’s resolutions in the first service.

Actually, if they want the “good stuff” about religion without the trouble of believing in a deity, they need not go through all the effort of founding their own church. All they really have to do is join the nearest Unitarian Universalist congregation. There, they will find a church where belief in God is optional. Or, since this is in London England, they should just join the Anglicans. They really don’t believe in much of anything these days except, perhaps, the desirability of Britain adopting Sharia law.

Seriously, though, I am not sure if Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones are going to find what they are looking for. There are many churches of various denominations that have become little more than social clubs and in which God is rarely mentioned, except as a sort of cosmic security blanket. These churches that make no demands on their members, whether of faith or standards seem not to flourish. If this Atheist Church is little more than a place for atheists to get together and talk about how wonderful it is not to believe in God, than I don’t expect much to come of it.

 

There They Go Again

August 17, 2012

The American Atheists have decided to win converts and friends by putting up billboards mocking Romney and Obama’s religions. I read the story in USA Today.

Hey, President Obama and contender Mitt Romney, the American Atheistswant your attention. They’re unveiling a new in-your-face-to-the-faithful billboard campaign, timed to the national presidential nominating conventions.

Today’s press conference revealed signs that call God “sadistic” and Jesus “useless” as a savior (his image is show as toast, literally) and conclude that Atheism, by contrast, is “simply reasonable.”

Presumably, Catholics such as Vice President Biden and Romney’s running mate choice Paul Ryan, are covered in this hit on Christians such as Obama, a mainline Protestant.

But evidently the American Atheists don’t consider Mormons to be Christians, since they prepared a separate billboard attack on their faith. It derides their idea of God as a “space alien” and notes that Mormons offer a proxy baptism to dead relatives — a practice the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acknowledges has gotten out of hand with some believers inappropriately baptizing Holocaust victims and others not related to their own families.

 

But Silverman’s idea of “fun” may not align with that of the faithful his group loves to jab. As he said then,

We’re not the softies. We are proud to be the Marines of free thought, proud to be the edge of the sword.

The same group flew a banner over New York City on the Fourth of July proclaiming, “Atheism is patriotic.”

Now, MacBain says, the billboards are aimed at mocking the “silliness” of religion. In an email before today’s press conference, she wrote that questioning the religious views of men who want to lead the free world is essential because,

If a person believes stupid things, then we have every right to question his or her judgment, and that directly impacts how the non-religious voter votes.

More demands — like non-religious people to be appointed to the Cabinet and the Supreme Court — are at their website.

I have to wonder, do they honestly think anyone is likely to be converted by such tactics. Maybe they aren’t looking for converts but want more people to feel empowered to “come out of the closet” as Atheists. I think, that if I were an unbeliever, these sort of antics would make me wary of identifying myself as an Atheist. I might call myself an agnostic or non-religious instead. It seems that I am not alone in thinking that way.

Interestingly, for all the increasing public presence of unbelievers — billboards, rallies, conventions, etc. — the attention has not boosted their percentage of the U.S. population significantly in the last decade.

Most people who say they have no religious identity also call themselves spiritual but not religious, and many give the entire topic a big “so what” shrug.

On the other hand, I think that I prefer the honest Atheist over the wishy-washy spiritual but not religious types. It may be just a prejudice of mine, but I think that the SBNRs are people who seek the comforts of religion without the demands. That is, they want to feel good about themselves, but don’t want to have to follow any rules or do anything that might make themselves or others uncomfortable.

An April Fool

April 1, 2012

Last Saturday, March 24, there was a “Reason Rally” in Washington DC. One of the featured speakers was Richard Dawkins. It might have been more appropriate to have this event today.

1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.” (Psalms 14:1)

I hope any atheist reader will forgive my little joke and I’m sure they have heard some variant before. Yet, Dawkins is a fool. Consider his remarks at the rally.

But even the laughs turned into malaise as the event drew to a close. Famed atheist headliner Richard Dawkins labored through a speech that quickly grew bitter.

“Do you really believe that when a priest blesses a wafer, it turns into the body of Christ?” he said, ridiculing Catholics. “Are you seriously telling me you believe that?  Are you seriously saying that wine turns into blood?”

Hawkins challenged his fellow atheists to expose people who still cling to their faith in spite of their doubts.

“Mock them, ridicule them in public, don’t fall for the convention that we’re far to polite to talk about religion,” a frustrated Dawkins continued, “Religion is not off the table. Religion is not off limits. Religion makes specific claims about the universe, which need to be substantiated.  They should be challenged and ridiculed with contempt.”

Does he really believe that he will get people to come around to his ideas by mocking their deeply held beliefs? Does he really imagine that treating people with contempt will improve their perceptions of atheists? This is, after all, the man who coined the term “bright” to describe non believers and couldn’t understand why believers might find the term offensive. Because it implies that they are “dim” perhaps?

He wasn’t the only obnoxious person at that rally.

But as gloomy rain clouds hung low over the Washington Monument, the rally quickly degenerated into open mockery of religion and people of faith.

“F— the motherf—-, f— the mother—- pope,” sang Musician Tim Minchin as he played profane songs on the piano for a laughing and cheering crowd.

Few religions remained unscathed while cruel spokesmen of reason roundly ridiculed Mormons, Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims.

As the event continued, it became clear that the leaders of the movement were not clamoring for equality, but rather superiority.

“When it comes to religion, we’re not two sides of the same coin and you don’t get to put your unreason on the same shelf as my reason,”  HBO’s Liberal comedian Bill Maher said to the crowd via a video monitor. “Your stuff has to go over there on the shelf with Zeus and Thor and the Kracken.”

I can tell they are on the side of reason by their calm and rational discussion. Actually, they sound like intolerant bigots. I suppose if their kind ever got into power, they would start building the coliseums to feed the Christians to the lions again.

I don’t believe that the attendants at this “Rally for Reason” really represent the majority of people who happen not to believe in the Deity. Rather, this is a subset of people who relish controversy for its own sake and who enjoy offending as many of their fellows as possible, rather like the Atheist equivalent of the Westboro Baptist Church.

 

Atheist Gets Kicked off Fox News Show

December 16, 2011

I don’t actually watch any television news shows anymore but I found this story here and there and I thought it was interesting. On a segment of a show called “Follow the Money”, hosted by Eric Boller reported on the efforts of the Freedom from Religion Foundation to compel a town in Texas to take down a nativity scene. Eric Boller interviewed Dan Barker, and the exchange became so acrimonious that Boller told him to leave, after only three minutes.

During a dialogue with FFRF spokesperson Dan Barker (who is married to FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor), “Follow the Money” host Eric Bolling was so dumbfounded by the group’s anti-Jesus views that he ended up booting the atheist-spokesperson off of the program. Mediaite’s Colby Hall called the moment a “‘War on Christmas’ miracle!”

At the center of the discussion was a Texas nativity scene that the Madison, Wisconsin-based FFRF has been demanding be torn down immediately. During the dialogue, Barker claimed that America is not a Christian nation and that the nativity should not be present on government property. He went on to say that the nativity represents “an insult to human nature that we are all doomed and damned.”

It was this comment that commenced the uncomfortable exchange between Bolling and Barker. “Sir, I have to take exception to the way you’ve described the nativity scene. It’s not an insult. It’s certainly not an insult to me. I’m a Christian,” Bolling explained. “It is an insult, sir,” Barker countered. At this point, the interview continued, as Bolling sought to move on to another question. But it didn’t take long for Barker to, once again, push Bolling’s buttons.

“Why was Jesus born? To save us from our sins. What an insult that we are degraded, depraved human beings — that Jesus created a hell — a place or torture,” Barker quipped. “And how would you feel if you didn’t believe that… superstition?”

Bolling interrupted the insults and abruptly ended the interview. Here is the video.

 

Conservatives seem to be overjoyed that Dan Barker was asked to leave. I am not so sure it was the right thing for Eric Bolling to do. This is sure to be spun as “ignorant Christian throws Atheist off show because he can’t stand the truth”. Still, notice how quick Barker was to resort to insults, when they weren’t necessary and even when asked to stop. I have to wonder, what is it about these people that they seem to be so angry and bitter? What knid of a person looks at a nativity scene and thinks it is an insult to human nature? This is one of the reasons that I am not an atheist. I always assumed, perhaps wrongly, that people in possession of the truth would be happy. I also have no desire to join the legions of the permanently aggrieved.

One interesting point. That town in Texas said they would take down the nativity scene when Hell freezes over. According to Dante, the bottommost circle of Hell, reserved for traitors, is frozen.

And, regarding Benjamin Franklin’s religious views, they are actually hard to categorize. He wasn’t an Atheist, or even a Deist. He  admitted in his autobiography that he explored Deism in his youth but found it was not “useful”. He was not an orthodox Christian. The best I can tell is that Franklin was a practical worldly man who valued religion for its role in upholding public morality rather than for any spiritual truths.

Still, in the spirit of the holidays, I would like to suggest a compromise. The Atheists should let Christians put up nativity scenes to celebrate Christmas, and in return the Atheists can pick one day out of the year to celebrate Atheism and put up any appropriate displays. I suggest April 1.


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