Monday, May 30, 2011

Religious people need to read more

Muslims in Malaysia were enraged when Christians in their country - fellow Malaysians - used the Arabic word for the God of Abraham, Allah, as... well, as the word for the God of Abraham, the same one both groups worship. Apparently they wanted them to make up a new word?

And some Christians in Australia have become enraged by a billboard there that says "Jesus is a Prophet of Islam," even though, indeed, Jesus is in the Koran, with lots of other Bible characters: Noah, Moses, and, ofcourse, Abraham, (did I mention that Allah is the Arabic word of the God of Abraham?).

I'm bemused by these outrages. It means these people don't really understand their own religions. Of course, it's not the first time I've encountered this: growing up in Protestant congregations in the Bible belt, I had various Christians tell me that Catholics or Mormons didn't worship the same God as Baptists. Yet I never heard anyone say that English-speaking Jews needed to stop calling the God of Abraham God (though I frequently heard that Jews were going to hell).

In case you don't want to slog through both the Bible and the Koran - as I have - here's a summary of the characters that are in both books, like it or not:

Biblical Names
for the Prophets,
(in English)

















John the Baptist


Koranic Names
for the Prophets
(English versions of Arabic)



















That's the way it is, folks! You don't have to like it, but you can't say it's not true! Same folks are in both books!

I'm not much bothered by most people's belief in an invisible magic friend, particularly when they don't try to force me or anyone else to worship such. But I am bothered by religious people who deny language and history. There is NO getting around that the Arabic word for the God of Abraham is Allah. That's a fact. And there is NO getting around that Jesus is recognized by Muslims as a prophet of the God of Abraham. That's a fact.

My challenge to you believers of the God of Abraham out there, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim: get to know your own religious history. You get to keep thinking that your version of your religion is the right one, you get to keep thinking you and other adherents to your religion are the really special ones, but you have to stop this nonsense of trying to change other people's language or trying to say what's written in their religious book isn't actually in their religious book. You can say other religions are wrong, are sinful, are misguided, that they pray wrong, etc., but you may not say that something that is written isn't actually written.

In a Pew survey regarding religious knowledge of Americans back in September 2010, religious people in the USA displayed little knowledge of world religions - but more provocatively, Americans did not even know much about their own religions. For example, 45 percent of Catholics incorrectly answered a question about Catholicism and Communion. Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

Those who scored highest on this survey were, in fact, Atheists and Agnostics. The next-highest scoring groups were Jews and Mormons.

It's not just American Christians, Australian Christians and Malaysian Muslims that are ignorant of their own dogma (and, apparently, about language): go to a primarily-Islamic country, and you will hear Muslims talk about things they think are in the Koran that are not actually in the Koran.

In reporting the results of the Pew survey, The New York Times' Laurie Goodstein quoted the president of American Atheists:
I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people," Mr. Silverman said. "Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That's how you make atheists.
Yes, I've read the Bible. Twice from cover to cover, Old Testament through New Testament, and oh-so-many-times reading just this or that verse, section or chapter. And I've also read the Koran. The latter was MUCH less violent than the former, but that's another blog...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Bible should be a single page

A short blog on May 25 from the Orlando Sentinel has this headline: Retired pastor knows why people don’t like Christians any more. It's a short interview with retired Methodist pastor Kirk Minor, who says, in part:

We’re finding more and more that there are a lot of people out there doing a lot of talking and protesting and bellyaching, but fewer people actually walking the walk. We have extremists protesting funerals of gay soldiers, pundits decrying the use of abbreviations for the word Christmas and activists campaigning for prayer in public schools. These are all very divisive issues, and have little to do with the good works the Bible wants the faithful to perform... Too many people are using religion as a sword to fight those with whom they disagree, instead of as a plowshare to help their fellow neighbors tend the land and form a community.

I found out about this excellent blog from, and this was one of those times I just had to read what the Fark community had to say about this headline. Here was my favorite comment:

The bible should be a single page:

Don't be a dick.

Quietly help those who are unable to help themselves.

Love life, and be thankful for what you have.

I love this. If that's what Christianity was, I'd be a part of it. But that's not what Christianity is - if it ever was.

It is disputed whether or not Gandhi really said I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. But it came to mind as I read pastor Kirk Minor's words.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oh, Oprah...

I think that, for the most part, Oprah Winfrey uses her powers for good. I love her emphasis on personal responsibility. I love her emphasis on reading. I love that she's been so supportive of people who have been ostracized by society. She supported people who are gay before it was fashionable. She speaks and walks and works with dignity. She sees courage in people regardless of their economic level, education level, where their from, etc. She went camping. All that is so cool. I hope she keeps doing all that. Yes, including going camping.

But like most Christians and other believers in an invisible magical friend, she just cannot believe Atheists don't really believe the same. And I was reminded of this arrogance of so many believers as I watched her last show.

I don't doubt that Oprah and all those other religious folks really believe that anything good that they feel and anything good that happens to them comes from their invisible magical friend. I don't doubt their genuineness when they say that's their belief. I think they are delusional, but I don't doubt that their belief is sincere. But not only does Oprah and others think Atheists like me are delusional, they think we are not sincere when we say:

I do not believe in a god, or multiple gods, or anything supernatural.

When I am quiet, I don't hear any voice by my own. AND I NEVER EVER HAVE.

Coincidence is real. There is no such thing as destiny. Yes, you can control a lot of things in your life and influence others, but sometimes, things just happen - good or bad - for no reason at all.

I don't believe people are successful or live through a tornado because of a divine intervention any more than I believe people are unsuccessful or people are killed in a tornado because of a god was angry.

I'm not saying those things to be provocative, I'm not saying those things to make you mad, I'm not saying those things to challenge you. I'm saying them because I believe in them. They are my genuine feelings and beliefs. They are every bit as genuine and real as yours.

My affection and love doesn't come from a god. It comes from me. And my negative, even hateful thoughts don't come from Satan, nor a lack of a god. They also come from me. Just me.

If you want to think I'm delusional, that's fine, but please don't doubt my sincerity when I say these things. I mean them. And I'm fine. And my joy, love, sense of wonder and sense of fun is every bit as enjoyable as yours.

I accept your sincerity in your belief, Oprah (and others). It's long overdue that you accept mine.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Religion does not protect children from abuse

The only thing that exceeds the outrage about Roman Catholic priests raping children is the cover-up and apathy consistently shown by Roman Catholic leadership regarding these predator priests.

This came to mind yet again this week when two stories crossed my path. One is that a Dutch priest openly served on the board of "Martijn," a group that campaigns to end the Dutch ban on adult-child sex. The priest also engaged in acts of pedophilia. His superior has said he knew of these acts, and the priest's membership in Martijn, and even of two instances where the priest had been fined by police for exposing himself in public - but he said he didn't think that was sufficient reason to ban that priest from the Catholic order.

And the other is the absolutely laughable, completely abhorrent study of sex abuse in the Catholic Church that found that the turmoil of the free-love 1960s was to blame for the Catholic Church's widespread sexual abuse of recent years. The study - conducted by's John Jay College of Criminal Justice and commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - is shameful and has been widely ridiculed and condemned. The report claims that incidents of abuse spiked in the 60s and 70s - rather than admitting to the reality that from the 80s to the present, people have started finally reporting these acts to the media and demanding, publicly, for the church to respond.

Of course, no religion has a monopoly on their religious leaders sexually-abusing children and other leaders covering up their acts. It happens in a variety of branches of Christianity. It happens in Buddhism. It happens in Islam. It happens in Judaism. It happens in Hinduism. And it happens in religion so easliy because so many parents assume that, because their kids are involved in religious-sponsored activities, they are automatically safe - the Invisible Magical Friend will protect them, and everyone who is within that religion are good people.

A priest, pastor, clergy or other church leader is in a perfect position to take advantage of a child. If you are going to remain under the God delusion, then please at least talk to your kids about strange behavior instead of strangers. Talk to them openly about what inappropriate behavior is: be explicit. A great resource to help you is a book written by Jan Hindman called A Touching Book, which, in a non-threatening way, explores the method that so many pedophiles, including religious teachers, use with children they harm: secret touching. Have you talked to your kids about what they should do if any family member, any teacher, any neighbor, any clergy or religious person -- okay, ANYONE - asks them to keep a secret, or tells your kids that if they tell that secret, the kid will die, YOU will die, their pet will die, etc.?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Billy Graham does not speak for Atheists

Billy Graham does not speak for me or any other Atheist, despite his efforts to do so. In Graham's May 15, 2011, column, the Christian evangelist makes several statements that show how little he understands Atheists or Atheism:

atheism has no satisfying answer to the basic questions of life — questions like “Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? How do I know what’s right and wrong? What happens when I die?” Atheism says we are here by chance, and life has no meaning or destiny. Taken to its conclusion, atheism ends in despair.

Atheism has a variety of satisfying answers to Graham's "basic questions of life" - satisfying to us Atheists, anyway. Speaking for myself: I know who I am, I know where I came from, I have created a variety of reasons to be here and to get up every morning and enjoy the world (thereby answering why myself, rather than believing some magical, invisible friend will answer such for me), I have very definite ideas about what's right and wrong (ethics is not the monopoly of the religious) and I know what happens to my body when I die. I very much believe life has meaning - if each of us takes on the responsibility to give our lives such meaning. And for me, Atheism didn't lead to despair - it's lead to joy, wonder, awe, excitement and constant learning (all the things I was missing when I was trying to believe in a magical, invisible friend)!

Not every Atheist is like me, but I don't know any that don't have some kind of answer to Graham's "basic questions of life"!

Down inside we sense that we aren’t here by chance, nor were we made for this world alone.

I don't sense this. I've never sensed this. Not down inside anywhere. Believe me, I've looked.

Many atheists, I find, reject God for one reason: They want to run their own lives.

I cannot reject God, because there is no God! Or Gods. And I have never met an Atheist who became an Atheist from thinking, "I think I'll reject God and run my own life!" He or she wouldn't be an Atheist in that case - just a really, really sinful religious person. No, instead, Atheists either realize, or have always known, there is no God of Abraham any more than there are all those many Hindu Gods, or whatever other widely-believed-in Gods have been, or are being, worshiped somewhere.

The Friendly Atheist blog brought this recent Graham nonsense to my attention, and I just had to respond on my own as well. I get so tired of Graham and others who believe Atheists are secretly miserable, that we're only pretending not to believe in a magical, invisible friend. Atheists know that joy, love, compassion, peace and all sorts of wonderful human emotions and states of being do NOT have to come from a belief in a magical, invisible friend. And some of us want to make sure other people know this as well, so Graham and other Christians will please please please stop speaking on our behalf!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Religious paper removes Clinton from iconic photo

A religious newspaper removed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from the now-iconic Bin Laden raid Situation Room photo - and the edit was brought to my attention by, which said about the incident:

"The religious paper never publishes pictures of women, as they could be considered 'sexually suggestive.' Apparently the presence of a woman, any woman, being all womanly and sexy all over the United States' counterterrorism efforts was too much for the editors of Der Tzitung to handle... Audrey Thomason, the counterterrorism analyst seen peeking out from behind another onlooker in the back of the original photo, was also airbrushed away, due to all of the sexy man-tempting that her very presence in a photograph would do."

The paper in question is the ultra orthodox Hasidic newspaper Der Tzitung. But it could have been any of a number of religious newspapers - there are sects of Christianity, Islam and who knows what else that believe the same thing about the evils of women (though they usually justify it as respect for women - go figure that one out...).

The comments on the post are interesting as well. While everyone wants to be respectful of different belief systems, what about respect for WOMEN?! And what kind of outrage would there be if this was a newspaper that had removed President Obama, saying that their readers would have been offended to see a black man in a room with white people - including white women? Southern newspapers in the USA and newspapers in South Africa would have never published such a photo once upon a time for that reason, and outrage would have been oh-so-loud. But it's okay for religion to discriminate against women, but not okay to condemn them for that 'cause, you know, then you aren't being respectful to religious beliefs.

Another day I'm Joyful To Be Atheist.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Second Annual Draw Muhammad Day-May 20

The Second Annual Draw Muhammad Day is May 20, 2011! No, it's not an effort to make fun of a religious group or be disrespectful. It is, in fact, a day to condemn blasphemy laws and call on religious people to respect the rights of everyone, not just their own adherents. In the USA, it's a celebration of our First Amendment as well. It could just as easily be Say Jehovah Day - the point is the same.

For more about the day, see this blog entry by the Friendly Atheist.