Thursday, June 18, 2015

A secular humanist / atheist response to the Charleston shootings

I'm sure I'm not the only atheist/humanist crying this morning regarding the murders at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. in Charleston, South Carolina.

This is an assault on our entire human family. That's what terrorism is, at its heart.

I keep thinking about how the shooter was probably welcomed into the building, kindly invited to sit down to that latest meeting of a loving weekly community...

These murders are beyond what human language can describe. And the only response that truly counters terrorism is a call for our full humanity - our benevolence, our hope for all people, no matter their religion, or lack there of, and our support of each other, across social constructs of race, culture and religion.

I do not pray for Charleston, but I vow to stand with those working for peace, working for understanding, working for something far beyond tolerance - working for the embracing of the potential value and goodness of all human beings and all that we have in common.


Friday, May 15, 2015

What I expected from the Bible - & didn't get

It’s often said that the fastest way to turn Christians into atheists is to have them read the Bible cover to cover. The atrocities committed by God and his chosen people, the bizarre rituals, the vague prophecies, the blatant contradictions, the primitive morals, and the religious hysteria all make it seem like the Bible was written by violent, racist, sexist, intolerant, superstitious fanatics. I, myself, had my faith shaken many times while reading the Bible...

If God is all-knowing and all-powerful and infinitely intelligent, his book should be the most amazing piece of literature in history. It should be so brilliant and so glorious that no human author could write anything that compares. Instead, the Bible appears to be nothing more than a bunch of ancient myths, ritual instructions, mediocre poems, strange legends, religious letters, and deluded ramblings that were cobbled together by Jewish and Roman men a long time ago.

So what would we expect to find in a book that was written by God (or “divinely inspired”)? Here are seven suggestions.

The rest of the awesome blog from Southern Skeptic.

Also see I think I like my heart the way it is.

Monday, May 11, 2015

warning for religious folks: demand more of humans representing your god

I’m looking at the web site of a church that many of my friends are joining. It's a new church, just a few years old. Its web site is one of the slickest I’ve ever seen. It’s gorgeous - there's no way this was designed by just a helpful congregation member. This is a professionally-designed web site. 

I’m deeply suspicious of this church, both because of their quick rise in numbers and because of the oh-so-slick web site that lacks of information about who is behind this institution. There are:
  • no names of pastors/leaders or other staff listed
  • no biographies of pastors/leaders or other staff, including where the leaders studied theology, where else they have lived, what other religious communities they have lead, etc. 
  • no info about how money they raise for the church, temple, mosque, community is used (what percentage goes to property rent/mortgage/upkeep? to salaries? to cover costs incurred by volunteers/to support volunteers? to charities, nonprofits or overseas missions? to congregants in need?)

How are you supposed to know if this organization is fiscally responsible? And how are you supposed to know if the people leading this religious community:
  • have the credentials to lead a religious community?
  • have the knowledge to lead a religious community?
  • haven’t been convicted or arrested, or involved in any scandal elsewhere?

I wonder what would happen if someone went to the leadership of this church and asked for this information to be posted publicly… maybe someone has? It would be interesting to see if the church embraced the idea and posted the info, or avoided doing it - and has been avoiding doing it. I find it odd that the site is otherwise SO well-designed.

Even if the pastors were listed, along with their credentials, I'd do some more digging, as I’ve looked at other web sites of churches and mosques, and often, the name of institute where someone says they studied theology cannot be found on a web search, or the institute has no accreditation by a recognized body. 

Surely you would want appropriate credentials of your accountant, teachers at your kids' school, the person that designed your in-ground pool, etc. Why not those that are telling you how to live?

Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Jains, whatever: do you really want to believe that transparency isn’t necessary for churches, mosques, temples and other religious communities? Do you think your magical, invisible friend that won’t protect children from being raped will, however, protect the people going to your church/mosque/temple/whatever and you don’t need to do a little digging into these people that are telling you how to live, what to believe, and to give them money?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

"Would Satan tempt me through the kindness of macaroni and cheese?"

From “I just don’t believe this anymore”: Why I abandoned my faith:

We had neighbors, two men who lived caddy-corner across the alley. We kept our children away from their children because they had a flag that I thought was satanic. Now I know it was just pagan. They would have bonfires in their back yard, and it was terrifying to me.

After I got home from the church, there was a knock at the door and it was one of the guys from across the alley way. He said, “We don’t talk much but I know there’s a lot going on for you guys and here is a casserole.” It was one of the more surreal moments in my life. I remember standing there and in my mind asking God what he was trying to tell me. Would Satan tempt me through the kindness of macaroni and cheese?

From an interview in Salon with Sarah Morehead, executive director of Recovering From Religion, who talks about why her work is a personal passion and about the recovery hotline itself. It's a terrific article about the transition for some people who leave their religion, and the growing number of resources to support such people.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Freedom of Speech Protects Even Vile Humans Like Pam Geller

Pamela Geller has the right to have a mouth and brain full of shit, and invite people to come and listen and watch her spill that shit out of her mouth. She has a right to form an organization that celebrates that shit that comes out of her mouth. She has the right to insult any idea, any religion and any group of people, using the most vile language she can think of. She has a right to say things that make her look like a rabid, insane, hate-fueled harpy, so long as they are not threats of violence against people. And she exercises that right regularly.

You do NOT have the right to commit violence against the racist, hate-filled people that support her and attend her events, nor against her.

Pamela Geller is no more a free-speech advocate than a group of Klans members who wear sheets, wave confederate flags, and use the "N" word on a march through Ferguson, Missouri, or a group of people that hate the USA and piss on an American Flag outside an American Legion Hall, or a group of men who stand outside a gathering of women at a civic center and call every woman who enters a slut, a whore, fat, ugly, unfuckable or stupid.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: I couldn't count how many times comments about atheists from Muslims and Christians have insulted me... yet, I'm still not calling for the death or punishment of anyone for offending me.

Freedom of speech - including the freedom to insult - is a human right. And that means no one should die for blasphemy. No one should die for insulting anything or anyone. No one. Not even people with a mouth and brain full of shit like Pamela Geller and her followers.

And for a counter to the narrative of the two killers in Garland, Texas and other extremist, murderous men who claim to follow Islam, follow Quranalyze It on Facebook - it reflects the kind of thinking I've experienced from many of my Muslim friends (oh yes, I do have such).

Also see the blog I get insulted. But I don't murder; it includes how the Qu'ran actually defends freedom of speech, and a story about the Prophet Mohammed that murderous Muslims that kill in the name of defending Islam either forget, don't know or ignore.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Some terrific articles lately!

Some suggested reading, for atheists looking for inspiration:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Educating Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah, the soon-to-be host of The Daily Show, has been called out for his promotion of negative views of atheists. While his comments about overweight women and Jews, among others, are being dismissed/excused as jokes that "didn't land" (um, yeah - hilarious!), his tweets about how he views atheists aren't at all jokes - he wants the world to know he holds atheists in contempt, no kidding.

He's in good company: Oprah and Stephen King feel the same way, unfortunately, and atheists.

If Noah, a South African, is going to be the host of one of the most popular television shows in the USA, a country that is incredibly diverse not just in terms of ethnicities, but also in terms of values, education, economics, etc., where everyone belongs to a different community of faith OR NONE AT ALL, he's got a lot of catching up to do to learn about our not-at-all-unified culture. I hope he starts his education about the USA with learning about atheism in our country, and learning about it from atheists themselves.

He could take an hour and read through the following 20 essays about atheism and, perhaps, understand why his tweets - and his publicly-stated view of atheists - are so off-the-mark, and why such make us reluctant to watch The Daily Show:

Penn Jillette's excellent essay, "There Is No God" NPR's "This I Believe" series

What Religious People Have Dead Wrong About Atheists (from Your Atheist Muse)

Contrary to what the Catholic League says, I believe in so much... (from Your Atheist Muse)

Does Secularism Make People More Ethical? From Der Spiegel

Not a Christian (from Your Atheist Muse)

The joy and truth I feel (from Your Atheist Muse)

Do Atheists have faith? (from Your Atheist Muse) (from Your Atheist Muse)

The Atheist Response to Tragedy (from Your Atheist Muse)

Quit trying to convert me! (from Your Atheist Muse)

Why Are Believers Willfully Ignorant About Atheists?

Rethinking His Religion (from The New York Times)

Remembering Butterfly McQueen (from Your Atheist Muse)

the arrogance of religion (from Your Atheist Muse)

Satanic Suffering (from Your Atheist Muse)

Why I "do good"; Why I try to be kind (from Your Atheist Muse)

The power & the glory of hope, WITHOUT a God (from Your Atheist Muse)

Love is logical. Love makes sense. (from Your Atheist Muse)

Lovely things that feel magical in the natural world (from Your Atheist Muse)

If "God is good all the time", then God is really lousy (from Your Atheist Muse)

Why I love being an atheist (from Your Atheist Muse)

Maybe Trevor Noah could read these and, instead of deriding atheists, he could either apologize or just not talk about us at all - the latter of which will be quite hard to do on the Daily Show... at least as it currently exists.