Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Well, this explains a lot...

A new study shows that humans are prone to seeing purpose in everything, and "that humans may have a bias for purpose-based reasoning that even scientists can't escape." Down in the article is this quote: "Even though advanced scientific training can reduce acceptance of scientifically inaccurate teleological explanations, it cannot erase a tenacious early-emerging human tendency to find purpose in nature. It seems that our minds may be naturally more geared to religion than science."

If "the God delusion" (or at least a conviction that the universe has purpose) is built into the human psyche, that would certainly help explain our desperation to hold onto religious ideas even when observed facts completely contradict them.

Atheists and "venom"

A post on the CNN Belief Blog talked about the online conversations people had about Sandy, and broke them down into four categories:

"1. God bless: It was a message expressed by well-wishers around the world....

 "2. Thank God: For those caught in Sandy’s path, the conversation was different...Those who could post online expressed gratitude...

"3. God’s wrath: A small minority saw Sandy as God’s judgement.

"4. God does not exist: Some used Sandy to question religion or at least the idea of blaming the storm on God, employing science, humor and venom."

See what they did there? Items #1 and 2 are presented as positive-- support, sympathy and gratitude are used to describe the posts. (Did no one offer support and sympathy without referring to God or prayers? I find this highly unlikely, but the writer seems to want us to believe it.)  Item #3 (which is by far the most horrible one listed) is presented without comment, which suggests a neutral stance on the part of the writer. Only item #4 gets negative editorializing thrown in: atheists may be funny, but they're also venomous. Bad atheists!

Frankly, I don't think the aftermath of a hurricane is really the time to be posting one's religious or anti-religious beliefs. A simple message of support (which does not have to include phrases like "God bless" or "my prayers are with you") seems more appropriate. Even so, I can understand the thought processes that led to this post: "Praying won't do any good. Send some aid or go volunteer if you really want to help. Talking to your imaginary friend won't do anything." Seeing so many people praise God after he supposedly sent devastation on such an epic scale is frustrating. The "God's judgment" quote, on the other hand, comes from Westboro Baptist Church. I can't understand the thought processes of anyone associated with that church at all, and don't wish to try.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A religious president

CNN Belief Blog has an article about President Obama's "deepening faith." In 2004, when asked if he prayed, he answered, "Uh, yeah, I guess I do." But now "a handful of spiritual advisers close to Obama say that his time in office has significantly deepened his faith." Interestingly, he seeks counsel from Kirbyjon Caldwell, a megachurch pastor who counseled George W. Bush. The article says that Obama "has become more evangelical in his habits" and "now begins each morning reading Christian devotionals on his Blackberry." The article hastens to add that he still has a liberal viewpoint and believes in the "social gospel," and resists labels such as "evangelical."

It is, of course, unclear how much of this is slightly exaggerated, given that we're in the last days before an election, and a lot of conservatives still cling to the notion that Obama is a Muslim, which misconception the administration would doubtless like to dispel. But given the fact that he's supposedly praying with a group of Christian ministers before his debates, and beginning each morning reading devotionals, one must assume there is a good deal of truth in the article.

I don't think one should base one's vote on a person's religion-- it's not as if there are a lot of atheists one can vote for anyway-- but religion does have an effect on how one governs. As Obama said at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, "I’d be remiss if my values were limited to personal moments of prayer or private conversations with pastors or friends... I must try - imperfectly, but I must try - to make sure those values motivate me as one leader of this great nation." Our religion, or lack thereof, helps define who we are.

And yet, as I've said before, I think we tend to interpret the Bible in the way that supports our own values, and thus our religion often follows from our values rather than the other way around. I suspect Obama's evolving religiosity presents no problem to liberals as long as his core values remain unchanged. And in any event, Romney is no less religious, and his religion has a more distinctly conservative flavor.

I doubt the president's deepening religion matters to liberals as long as his politics remain more or less consistent, and I very much doubt the more radical conservatives will ever believe Obama is not a Muslim. This issue, therefore, probably will not matter to the outcome of the election. But as an atheist, I admit it makes me a bit uncomfortable to have to decide between two men with such strong religious outlooks. All the effort they invest into their religion seems to me like a waste of time and energy that could better be expended on the real world. I hope to see more secularly-oriented politicians emerge on the national stage in the future.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


If this isn't depressing, I don't know what is: An AP poll has found that the majority of Americans harbor prejudice against blacks. "51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Written in the stars

Check it out: "Astronomers have catalogued 84 million stars at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy using an enormous cosmic photo snapped by a telescope in Chile, a view that is billed as the largest survey ever of the stars in our galaxy's core."

And that's just the bulge at the center of the galaxy, and just what we've managed to catalog so far! There are billions more stars in the Milky Way-- not to mention the other billions of galaxies out there. All those stars, many (if not most) with planets... who can look up into the unimaginably vast sky and really believe Earth was specially created by God?

The Huron Carol

The Huron Carol ("'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime") has always been one of my favorite Christmas carols. My mom loved it and sang it every Christmas, and so I love it too. It's a bit of an obscurity in the Lutheran church, but I always used to pester my choir director to work it into the hymns once during the Christmas season, and she usually humored me and did so. I also have a lovely children's book with the words and illustrations, which I always used to pull out and sing to my younger kids at Christmas.

Last year, despite the fact that I was firmly in the atheist camp by that point, I got a great version of this hymn by the Canadian Tenors from iTunes. My oldest asked me why I wanted it, given my lack of belief, and I explained that it reminded me of my mother, and besides, a good story was still a good story. After all, we still read the Greek myths even though we don't see them as any sort of truthful reflection of reality. In any event, our family still celebrates Christmas, in a secular sort of way, and the kids ought to know where the holiday comes from (and yes, that includes learning about the pagan holidays the Christians ripped off, too!). And it is still a lovely song, which I enjoy belting out at the top of my lungs when no one's around to hear me.

Yesterday I broke house rules (which state no listening to Christmas songs till after Thanksgiving) and listened to the Huron Carol. It occurs to me that ironically, this hymn constitutes a very good proof that there is no God and no Christ. If you're not familiar with it, it's a song written by a Jesuit missionary in Canada, which supposedly put the Christmas story into a form the natives (the Huron) could understand and relate to. It was originally written in Huron as "Jesous Ahatonhia" ("Jesus, He is Born"), and the English translation begins like this:

'Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled 
That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead
Before their light the stars grew dim 
And wondering hunters heard the hymn:
Jesus your King is born, 
Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria. 

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round 
But as the hunter braves drew nigh 
The angel song rang loud and high:
Jesus your King is born, 
Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

The English version was written in 1926-- entering public domain just last year-- and may not be a terribly faithful translation, for all I know. But the point nevertheless stands that the Huron had never heard of this story till the Jesuit missionaries told them about it. They had their own beliefs and their own gods. This song was of course designed to convert the natives and make them believe that Jesus was born for them as well as the rest of the world. But if that were really the case, and if Jesus' birth had truly been such a world-shaking event, then wouldn't God have already made this declaration to the Huron? Indeed, wouldn't he have told people everywhere?

Of course Christians will argue that he delegated them to spread the good news-- but that seems like a ridiculously ineffective means of spreading what is supposedly crucially important information over the face of the earth. It means that the Huron people weren't informed of this life-changing, soul-saving news until the 1600s. In other words, it took over a millenium and a half for them to learn about it. If Jesus mattered all that much, surely an omnipotent God who loved his creation so could do a better, more efficient job of getting the word out?

Ironically, this hymn meant to convert the Huron is a reminder that there is no God, and that Jesus (if he ever existed at all) didn't mean much in the grand scheme of things.  If any of the mythology it presents so beautifully were true, then the Huron would already have known this story. A loving God would surely have seen to that.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gasp! You mean this isn't a Christian nation??!

I don't listen to the radio much, and I particularly don't listen to the rednecky type of station if I can help it (I'm a classic rock sort of girl, not a talk radio and country gal). I was in a tack shop today, however, and heard an egregiously idiotic ad on the country station they had running. It announced it was paid for by the so-called Faith & Freedom Coalition, so I came home and Googled for it.

The full text can be found here, but it was about "Obama's war on religion," and this is what caught my ear: "Obama claimed in a Muslim country that America is not a Christian nation." Gasp! Seriously? The leader of this country actually dared to state that this is not a Christian nation? The horror! The horror!!!

The rest of it is stupid too (if Obama actually said Congress had better things to do than reaffirm "In God We Trust" on our money, he was entirely correct), but the idea that these people are trying to claim this as a Christian nation raises my hackles. You utter morons, what country do you think you're living in? Apparently it's not the same country I live in, because this is not a Christian nation. It's a secular one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

And yet more on yoga

There's a somewhat more extensive Yahoo article here. The lawyer involved elaborates on the "religious" aspects of the classes:

"'On the wall there was a poster that showed the Ashtanga, or 8-limbed deity. There are words showing what the limbs are,' he said. 'The ultimate goal is to be absorbed into the universe, which is called Samadhi. They had a poster depicting that. Fundamentally it is a Hindu religion being taught through Ashtanga yoga.'

 "Children are also being taught eastern meditation techniques to calm themselves, where one clears the mind of all thoughts, poses that were imparted by Hindu deities, and in one class were trained in drawing mandalas, according to Broyles."

Not a ringing endorsement for God

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Tuesday that a baby resulting from rape is a gift from God:

 "'I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happened (sic),' Mourdock said."

Good reason not to believe in God, isn't it? Of course, later he clarified:

"Mourdock further explained after the debate he did not believe God intended the rape, but that God is the only one who can create life. 'Are you trying to suggest somehow that God preordained rape, no I don't think that,' Mourdock said. 'Anyone who would suggest that is just sick and twisted. No, that's not even close to what I said.'"

Riiiiggghhhht, because "God intended it to happen" bears no resemblance to "God preordained rape" *scratches head in confusion*.

More on yoga

Friendly Atheist has a post on the California Ashtanga yoga story, too, with quite a few comments. There is a good deal of debate there over whether yoga must be taught with spiritual/superstitious components. However, the real point is that this class is being funded by the Jois Foundation, whose website is here. There is a good deal of pseudoscientific, superstitious info on that page, including some details about how yoga somehow generates "internal heat" which burns up "impurities in the body." Most atheists would, I suspect, be dismayed to see any class being taught by a Christian group that had such blatant pseudoscience on its website.

So, does this mean the classes as taught in California are unquestionably religious in nature, and thus unconstitutional? No. We don't have enough data to know exactly what's being taught there. I do think, however, that we have adequate information to understand the concern of the parents who are complaining and threatening legal action. A simple web search shows that this particular form of yoga does have some superstitious underpinnings, and most atheists wouldn't take the word of the school district that all religious aspects had been removed if it were a Christian group teaching the class. As a result, I honestly don't feel that these particular parents in this particular situation should be mocked.

Fitting the narrow view

There's a good editorial here by Roland Martin, a self-proclaimed evangelical Christian, ripping on Billy Graham and his ilk for "perverting" the Bible:

"What has happened over the last 30 years is the religious right has perverted the Bible to fit its narrow view of what Christians should pay attention to. Abortion and homosexuality. Nothing else matters."

He suggests that those on the political left may be following "Biblical values" just as much:

"The teachings of Jesus Christ are filled with examples of him helping the needy, feeding the hungry, healing the sick and wounded, and taking the haves to task for ignoring the have-nots."

As Heinlein once said, "The Bible is such a gargantuan collection of conflicting values that anyone can prove anything from it." I suspect the values that readers draw from it say more about the readers than the Bible itself. That being the case, I'm annoyed by fundamentalists who think their view of the world is somehow more valid than anyone else's, all because their beliefs are supposedly biblically based. I don't think they've "perverted" the Bible so much as used parts of it to support their views, while Martin uses other parts of it in the same way. It might be easier if we just skipped the Bible and stood proudly on what we believe, simply because we think it's right.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Indoctrination in the schools

From Fox News again (yeah, yeah, I know, but it's a great place to find out how the more rabid theists think): Some parents in a California school district are concerned that their kids are being "indoctrinated" in eastern religions via free Ashtanga yoga classes (funded by the Jois Foundation, "a nonprofit group that promotes Asthanga (sic) yoga"). The attorney called it "unconstitutional," even though the district insists that all religious content has been removed.

Having checked the Ashtanga Yoga site, though, I admit I can see where the parents are coming from. This page discusses spiritual practices associated with this form of yoga, and this discussion about why practitioners should not practice at certain phases of the moon is certainly less than scientific-- in fact I'd call it religious, or at least superstitious, in nature. If all the religious content has been removed, then why is the Jois Foundation still funding it? Is Ashtanga yoga still Ashtanga yoga if it's just poses and breathing?

I confess I'd be wary of this too, just as I'd be wary of a similar program funded by Christians, even if it supposedly had all the religious content removed.

On the removal of crosses

Fox News reports here that LSU sent out a photo of the Painted Posse, "Christian students who paint their bodies with LSU school colors and small crosses for home games," in an email about a football game. LSU Photoshopped out the crosses on their chests in an effort not to offend students of different beliefs. When called on it, they responded:

"'We don't want to imply we are making any religious or political statements, so we air-brushed it out,' the school said in a statement. 'Only one of the students, who didn't appreciate it, actually contacted us about it. So next time, we'll just choose a different photo.'

"Going forward, the school plans to steer clear of photos with religious overtones when it sends out emails promoting athletics."

I'm glad they've learned from their error. The school doesn't want to look as if it's promoting Christianity, and I applaud that. But Photoshopping out the crosses wasn't respectful to the students. Simply avoiding this sort of photo entirely is the smart way to deal with it.

In any event, doing something like Photoshopping out religious symbols only encourages the Christian persecution complex. The Posse is now encouraging students to come to the next game and "wear a purple or black shirt and wear a large cross, a shirt with a cross on it or face paint a cross on your face. The media will be everywhere and my goal is to have a campus of crosses." Because, you know, no one in the media has ever seen a cross before...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

No longer a cult

After a meeting with Mitt Romney, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has changed its website so that it no longer refers to Mormonism as a "cult." They explain the change this way: "We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign."

 In other words, they still think it's a cult, but because they're hoping for Romney to get elected, they're willing to pretend they believe otherwise... for now.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How far we've come (and how far we have yet to go)

This article about the Luvs commercial featuring breastfeeding made me smile. When I had my first baby, seventeen years ago, I was a committed breastfeeder. (None of my babies ever drank from a bottle.) I was fairly shy about breastfeeding publicly, because I'm really not the activist type, but sometimes I had little choice.

One day I went with the family to an amusement park, and the baby needed feeding. I sat down in a quiet corner, facing a wall, and with a blanket over the baby. Even so, an employee bore down on me, told me that it was a family park, and made me go into the handicapped stall in the restroom to feed the baby. It was not one of my happiest mom moments. It was made still more irritating by the fact that back then, the amusement park allowed people to smoke everywhere, so the message I took away from this was that the park thought a glimpse of discreet breastfeeding would somehow harm children, but that second-hand smoke wouldn't.

I'm sorry that we're still debating this topic seventeen years later, but glad that the discussion is becoming more positive.

Well, THAT'S a relief. Or not.

Here's a study showing that the HPV vaccine won't encourage your teenage daughters to race out looking for casual sex. Wow, what a relief!

Well, to be honest it isn't a relief for most sensible people, who realize it's a good idea to inoculate their kids against any common and easily-vaccinated-against disease, especially one that can lead to cancer. (According to the article, six million Americans become infected with HPV every year). But some religious groups have fought this one on the grounds that it would "encourage sexual activity." Which is so dumb that it's honestly sad anyone felt they had to waste time and resources on this sort of study. If you seriously won't inoculate your daughter against a cancer-causing disease for fear that the vaccination might magically turn her into a sex-crazed nympho... well, frankly, you need to get a better grip on reality.

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Religious freedoms"

Yesterday Mitt Romney met and prayed with Billy Graham, who applauded the candidate's "values and strong moral convictions." Billy Graham subsequently asked voters to "join me in praying for our nation and to vote for candidates who will support the biblical definition of marriage, protect the sanctity of life and defend our religious freedoms."

Comparing and contrasting those three items is interesting. "Supporting the biblical definition of marriage" is code for "make sure gays can't marry," which to me seems like limiting freedom, not supporting it. Similarly, "protect the sanctity of life" means "get rid of Roe vs. Wade," which is again about limiting freedom-- in this case, the freedom of women to control their bodies. These are both at bottom religious issues. People of course have the right to believe what they wish, but the problem is that fundamentalists want to force those beliefs onto others, even (or perhaps especially) those of us who don't hold strong religious beliefs. The only "freedom" that really seems to matter to Graham and his ilk is the freedom for fundamentalists to push their way of thinking on the rest of us.

Is that really religious freedom? For them, perhaps. For the rest of us, not so much. It reminds me of something that great philosopher Captain Picard once said. It seems to me that if the theocrats ever get what they really want, control of the United States, this "could significantly redefine the boundaries of personal liberty and freedom, expanding them for some... savagely curtailing them for others."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Embryology? What the heck does he mean, embryology?

Someone on Friendly Atheist pointed out that Broun mentioned "embryology" in his list of Evol Bad Lies Straight From Satan. The commenter wondered what on earth he meant, and asked sardonically if Broun believed in Stork Theory. Someone else posited that perhaps he meant "embryonic stem cells." I answered over there, but will add some thoughts here as well.

I think he did indeed mean "embryology." This seems to make little sense until you realize that embryology appears to quite clearly support evolution. From Wikipedia: "Embryos in many species often appear similar to one another in early developmental stages. The reason for this similarity is because species have a shared evolutionary history. These similarities among species are called homologous structures, which are structures that have the same or similar function and mechanism, having evolved from a common ancestor." You can see how that would be awkward for creationists. Or would it?

Of course it wouldn't, because clever people like Broun realize that mainstream science is always distorting the truth to serve evil secular purposes (or just because scientists are all spouting lies for Satan). Here's CreationWiki, explaining how embryology when viewed correctly actually supports creation "science":

"While the Darwinists see these similarities as evidence of common descent, the creationist belief system causes us to generally conclude that shared structures, processes, or genes are merely reflections that they were designed by the same creator. Rather than being evidence of shared ancestry, homologies are examples of brilliant and well functioning designs that have been applied to multiple organisms, much in the same way as human designers apply concepts."

There you go. Problem solved. Now if only Broun (as a member of the House science committee) can get this clearly superior scientific information into the public schools, Satan's lies can be corrected, and the nation's healing can begin.


There's an intriguing post on secularism here on the CNN Belief Blog. A quote:

"In recent years some have made secularism into a synonym for godlessness, possibly because a few extreme atheist groups have taken to calling themselves 'secular.' Yet the idea that believers cannot be secular is incorrect and politically disastrous...

"Secularism’s mission is to maximize freedom of and freedom from religion. But unless we start speaking of it in precise terms, and bringing secular believers and nonbelievers into coalition, it won’t be able to render this service to America."

The fact that the author refers to "extreme atheist groups," and his book description refers to "atheist polemicists," makes me wary. Nevertheless, I'm interested enough to buy his book How to be Secular and take a look at it. I'll read it and report my thoughts on it when I finish.

More on Broun

Friendly Atheist on the Broun video: "Anyone who looks to the Bible as the primary guide to voting has no business serving in public office, much less serving on the Science committee." Pardon the phrase, but... amen, brother.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lies! Lies straight from the pit of hell!

US Representative Paul Broun (from Georgia) is quoted here:

 "God's word is true. I've come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I've found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don't believe that the earth's but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That's what the Bible says.

 "And what I've come to learn is that it's the manufacturer's handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that's the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I'll continue to do that."

I don't know about you, but I'm personally terrified that anyone holding such ludicrous views could get elected anywhere in the United States. Not surprised, unfortunately... just terrified.

Update: According to this article, Broun "sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology." I am now one step beyond terrified.

Update on the gay Boy Scout

According to this, his mom is fighting back with a petition (200,000 signatures so far) that "calls on his troop to reject the Boy Scouts of America's discriminatory policy against gays and give the California teenager his Eagle rank." He's also going to appear on "Ellen" next week. Good luck to him!

Freedom of speech (and the freedom to be tax-exempt)

According to CNN, at least 1400 pastors across the United States will be uniting in defiance of the Johnson Amendment. This amendment (an amendment to the tax code, not the Constitution) dates from 1954 and simply says that if an organization is tax-exempt, it may not endorse or oppose political candidates. This weekend those 1400 pastors will be doing so, and sending the tapes to the IRS. What they're trying to do is "(f)orce the IRS to come down on these churches so that the Alliance Defending Freedom, whose network includes 2,200 attorneys, can test the Johnson Amendment’s constitutionality."

Once again, the fundamentalists involved cast this as a struggle against "marginalization": "'Pastors understand how the so called separation of church and state, as it is currently understood. We understand how marginalized we are becoming,' Johnson said. 'We are supposed to be part of the community discussion about issues that matter.'"

That's fine with me, and no one's trying to suppress freedom of speech. Just give up your tax-exempt status first.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I always feel like somebody's watching me...

It's a giant cosmic eye! No, actually, it's a planetary nebula (which the article defines as "stars around the size of the sun that have neared the ends of their lives and run out of hydrogen and helium fuel for fusion in their cores"). Just another proof that not only is the universe more beautiful than we imagine; it's more beautiful than we can imagine.

Not spiritual OR religious

Alan Miller wrote an article for CNN called "'I'm Spiritual but Not Religious' Is a Cop-Out." I admit to having a hard time locating the main thrust of his argument, but it seems to be that "'spiritual but not religious' offers no positive exposition or understanding or explanation of a body of belief or set of principles of any kind." Christianity, on the other hand, "has been interwoven and seminal in Western history and culture. As Harold Bloom pointed out in his book on the King James Bible, everything from the visual arts, to Bach and our canon of literature generally would not be possible without this enormously important work." He feels that spirituality is mere "fence-sitting," and the implication seems to be that Christianity is better.

Here he tries to clarify his thoughts based on the comments people have left, and talks more extensively (and disdainfully) about the "new atheism." He repeatedly describes atheists as angry, and possibly a bit whiny:

"The disenchantment with belief and a commitment to some wider authority has also had an impact on the self-described new atheists, who are furious that anyone could have the audacity to believe in something bigger than themselves.

"The group American Atheists describes anguish and toil as the 'first step' of 'coming out,' making the analogy with gays coming out the 'closet,' as though somehow atheists are oppressed today in America.

 "It strikes me that having an opt-out plan should have something more than simply a negative, whether it's a 'spiritual' one or a 'new atheist' negative. We live in an age where many are disillusioned with institutions and humans generally, yet not so evident is a positive alternative."

I admit that despite the clarifications, I'm still not sure what the heck his point is. He claims, "I don't happen to believe in a religious 'one true way' and in fact am not religious myself," and yet he seems to be arguing that atheism and "spiritual-but-not-religious" are somehow lacking an ineffable quality of positivity which can presumably be found in Christianity.

But here's the thing. Why should "an opt-out plan... have something more than simply a negative"? What if there is simply no positive to be found? There's no point in reaching for great spiritual truths if they're in fact all just myths. Fiction is fiction, and wishing for it to be real won't somehow transmute it into fact. Certainly we can admire the creations of historic Christianity, from Bach to Michelangelo, but the fact that many great works of art and literature have been based on the Bible still doesn't mean that the Bible is true.

And yet I don't see atheism as purely negative, either. Yes, all the word means is nonbelief in religion, so in a way it's a negative stance. But I would argue that there is in fact something enormously positive, and even empowering, about acknowledging that the Bible is just another collection of myths, and that the truth is not to be found in religion. Tossing off the shackles of ancient and outdated religious beliefs seems like a very positive thing to me.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Eagles can't be gay

Here's an article about a gay kid in the Boy Scouts who is being denied his Eagle award because he's gay, and who in fact was kicked out of Scouting entirely. He also doesn't agree with the principle of "Duty to God."  As his mother pointed out, he's been in the Scouts since he was six, and he's clearly put large amounts of time and energy into the organization. But now that he's old enough to know he's gay (and apparently agnostic or atheist), out he goes. Nice.

And my inlaws wonder why I don't want my boys in Scouting.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

That evil homosexual agenda

Joe.My.God and Friendly Atheist both have up a news item about Mix It Up at Lunch Day, a national event launched a decade ago by the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Mix It Up at Lunch Day encourages students to identify, question and cross social boundaries... we ask students to move out of their comfort zones and connect with someone new over lunch. It’s a simple act with profound implications. Studies have shown that interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice. When students interact with those who are different from them, biases and misperceptions can fall away.

You might think that tolerance just means... tolerance. But of course you'd be wrong. The American Family Association clarifies the matter, claiming that it's "a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools."

Having Googled, I can assure you there is nothing out there to support this contention (Googling "mix it up" and "homosexual" turns up nothing but the AFA's own statement over and over again). But that's okay. It must be true (and credulous fundamentalists are cutting and pasting it all over the net, thus "proving" its truthfulness even more) because the Southern Poverty Law Center is a "fanatical pro-homosexual group." So yeah, that's the sum total of the AFA's proof-- the SPLC is "pro-homosexual," therefore this event must be about pushing the "homosexual agenda."

Of course. It makes perfect sense. Well, if there's foam at the corners of your mouth, anyway.