Monday, August 29, 2011

The comedy that is a religion criticizing another religion

The ever-frightening Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs has published an alarmist article about a bumper sticker she says celebrates the coming invasion of the USA by Muslims. Never mind that she's not only mistranslated the bumper sticker, but also ignored similar passages in the Bible.

Islamophobia today has more on Geller's latest fear-mongering.

It always amuses me when someone from one religion criticizes people from another, and this article does a great job of showing why.

Friday, August 26, 2011

If I were in charge

Many Christians in the USA love to claim that the goal of atheists is to do away with religion.

I know of very few Atheists that have this as a goal - and none personally. While many (but not all) of the Atheists I know wouldn't mind religion going away, they have no plans to make that happen.

Many Christians say they fear Atheists in elected office more than any other group. Why? Because they think an Atheist will start banning religion. Never mind that that Christians base this belief on... well, nothing, because there are no Atheists talking about this whatsoever.

If I - an Atheist - were in elected office, what would I do with regard to religion in the USA? I'll lay all my cards on the table:

I'd ensure that prayers are not said as an official part of government or public sector events - like a prayer over the PA system before a sports event. People could still pray - in groups, individually, before the game, during the game, after the game, once, several times, whatever - but they couldn't require everyone to have to listen to their prayer at a public event, for everyone to stop what they are doing while that prayer gets read over the PA system, etc. So long as prayers do not in any way interfere with the sporting event or my effort to get a snack from the band booth, it's just dandy.

I wonder how Christians would feel if a Muslim wanted to chant over the PA system before a football game in the USA, how they would hear to hear "Allah Ackbar" chanted loudly throughout the stadium or gym...

I'd ensure no teacher stands in front or his or her class, or in the cafeteria during lunch, and leads a prayer. I'd ensure no school administrator does that either. If students want to do that prayer-at-the-flagpole-thingy before classes, or in-between classes, or after classes, fine. Teachers or school administrators could join them. Students would be free to pray any other times they wanted to, individually - and I'm sure many would be savvy enough to urge their Christian friends to join them at certain times during the school day if they are that bent on the practice. As long as their prayers don't interfere with classroom work, and no student is ever punished or harassed for not participating, I don't care.

I'd get rid of the "under God" part of the Pledge, which was added in the 1950s (the pledge was written in 1892, without the "under God" phrase). It would be so wonderful to have that inclusive pledge back - I might even consider start saying it!

I'd get rid of "in God we Trust" on all new money printed. It can stay wherever it is on a building now, for historical purposes. I'd get rid of the phrase as the official motto of the USA. I would return us to the original, much better, much more inclusive motto: e pluribus unum ("out of many, one").

Christian creationism and intelligent design (or the Muslim versions, for that matter) would have no place in science class. They would, instead, be reviewed in a class about world cultures and religions, and have their place right along side aboriginal beliefs that all people originated from Australia, the belief by early Greeks that the first humans were Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha, the Scientology beliefs that a galactic dictator blew up his people on Earth and that their essences continue to cause us spiritual harm, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster's own intelligent design theory.

Gay marriage would soooo be legal. Polygamy? No. Polygamy is a matter of public policy, not just of personal preference. A marriage license is a government grant, a recognition of a legal agreement between those entering into the marriage. Oh, sure, legally, you could still shack up with whomever you wanted, turn over the money in your bank account and all decision-making about your life to one person or a collective or whatever, say you love that one person as well as all your sister-wives and whatever, refer to yourselves as one big happy family, whatever. That's called polyamory, or group love, and while it's not at all my cup of tea, you can feel free to go for it. But if you want more than one spouse to be on your health insurance, forget it. Polygamy hurts women. No, really, polygamy hurts women.

I'm against polyandry (one wife, many husbands) as well, just so you know...

I would require all communities of faith - churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, bunkers, storefronts, communes, whatever - to pay property taxes and taxes on all purchases, just like any person. They would also have to be much more transparent regarding their financial transactions: all payments made by the community of faith to staff, consultants and vendors would be a matter of public record - not so much so that I can look at them, but so that the members of the community of faith can see them, and know how their donations are being spent.

I would enforce all court decisions and legal interpretations of the separation of church and state. That might mean no religious displays on the court house lawn, or, it might mean allowing any group to put up a display, including Atheists. There would be lots of tinsel and garlands all around in December, but baby dolls in mangers would be only on private property.

I would still spend money at church barbecues, because, especially in the South, the food ROCKS.

I would still walk around singing religious songs I've learned over the years, just like I walk around singing murder songs ("Delia's gone, one more 'round, Delia's gone...") and infidelity songs ("Love is where you find it, when you find no love at home..."), despite never murdering anyone and having no desire to violate my marriage vows (yeah, some of us Atheists have marriage vows - to each other, not to a magical invisible friend).

And... that's pretty much it. There would still be public prayer, if that's what people wanted to do, pretty much just like they do now. There would still be religious people running around talking about their religion at work and school and what not. That's what a secular nation is - not one that is religion-free, but one that provides balance between freedom of religion and freedom from religions not your own.

I know, I know... dream on...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Secular research reveals - we're good people!

Secularists tend to be more ethical than religious people. On average, they are more commonly opposed to the death penalty, war and discrimination. And they also have fewer objections to foreigners, homosexuals, oral sex and hashish.

The most surprising insight revealed by the new wave of secular research so far is that atheists know more about the God they don't believe in than the believers themselves. This is the conclusion suggested by a 2010 Pew Research Center survey of US citizens. Even when the higher education levels of the unreligious were factored out, they proved to be better informed in matters of faith, followed by Jewish and Mormon believers.

From Does Secularism Make People More Ethical? in Der Spiegel

Monday, August 8, 2011

Is a Navy Seal fighting for Christ or his country?

The killing of USA and Afghan soldiers in the helicopter crash this weekend is heart-breaking. Having lived in Afghanistan for six months and still having many Afghan friends, I know how much Afghans mourn the loss of their own soldiers as well as those from other countries - and they are mourning now. My Afghan friends face the possibility of death every day, not just at the hands of terrorists or by getting caught in the crossfire, and having survived so much over the years, life is incredibly precious to them, so they are incredibly sympathetic to the loss of others. Every death is tragic - that the loss is military people does not somehow make it more so - but that this is the biggest loss of American lives in one day in Afghanistan is quite sobering.

My heart goes out to the families. I know they are in the middle of a tremendous amount of grief. And I know that many of them are people of faith in the supernatural, and they find strength in that faith in the supernatural. I don't want to talk anyone out of that faith.

But pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease don't refer to US military personnel as warriors for Christ.

One of the widows of a Navy Seal killed Saturday said in a TV interview this weekend:

I want to tell the world that he was an amazing man, that he was a wonderful husband, and a fabulous father to two wonderful children. He was a warrior for Christ, and he was a warrior for our country.

Again, I am so sorry for her loss. But by saying that her husband was fighting for Christ in Afghanistan, she has just told Muslims who are fearful that America is at war with Islam that, indeed, that's the case.

Christians, imagine your fear every time you see a member of the Taliban or another Muslim extremist say, "I am fighting for Islam." Imagine how scared you are at that statement. Saying a US soldier is a warrior for Christ causes exactly the same fear among Muslims.

Christians, imagine your outrage when Hitler is referred to as a Christian - he believed in Jesus Christ and affirmed that it was his Christian faith that formed his beliefs (see below), but you wring your hands and say, "He was NOT a Christian!" Same for references to the terrorist in Norway that murdered more than 70 people recently - a man who believes his faith in Jesus was the justification for murder. Now, in thinking about that, can you AT LAST understand why millions of Muslims wring their hands at the Taliban and the Saudi Arabian men and others who flew planes into buildings on September 11, 2001 being called Muslims? Do you get that now?

Any American military person who believes he or she is a a warrior for Christ in Afghanistan, Iraq or wherever while in uniform needs to take off that uniform. Or a warrior for Islam, Jehovah, Vishnu, whatever. To say that you are fighting for your God means you are fighting a religious war - and that goes against everything the United States of America should stand for overseas.

"My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter..."
-- Adolph Hitler. For more, see Baynes, Norman (1942), The Speeches of Adolf Hitler: April 1922-August 1939, New York: Oxford University Press

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The apocalypse industry

The apocalypse industry disgusts me. Playing on the fear and misguided beliefs on Christians, Muslims - even non-Abrahamic religions - these hucksters make big profits selling books, videos, even screen savers about an event they cannot possibly actually believe in, as they are making more money than they could possibly spend before the world ends per their predictions.

The weirdest of these predators are the people marketing to those who fear being left behind - even though, as Christians, those fraidy-cat folks should believe that they'll be floating up in the sky with the human manifestation of their super powerful, usually invisible friend, and it's only people like me, and other Atheists, who are going to be left behind to be tortured by UN troops or whatever. These fraudsters peddle camping stoves, fuel containers, generators, guns, ammo and other survivalist equipment to people who, even though they believe in a super powerful, usually invisible friend, also believe that super friend isn't going to protect them from the marauding Atheist cannibals that will be running around (and, really what kind of super friend is that?!).

Since the beginning of human history, humans have been predicting the end of humankind. Over thousands of years, some humans have seen the wars, natural disasters, famines and social changes of their present time as signs that the end is just around the corner. Never mind that there have always been wars, natural disasters, famines and social changes... And deciphering "Bible codes" or "Torah codes" or some other ancient text, has been done again and again over the centuries, always to fit what the decoders are seeing in their present time. People will tell you that Nostradamus predicted all sorts of big historical events - but only ever in hindsight. And that's oh-so-easy to do, to take a vague quatrain and frame it, interpret it, in such as way as to say, "See, it clearly says that Donnie Osmond is going to win on Dancing with the Stars."

Why do I care? Why does this bother me? Because, like most Atheists, I have compassion for my fellow humans, and, therefore, I do not like seeing humans lied to or exploited. I don't like to see people profiting from the fears and superstitions of others.

In addition, these fraudsters' activities can lead to tragedy: the mass suicide at Jonestown, Guyana. The mass murder committed by the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God in Uganda after the doomsday prophesies of its leaders failed to come true. The mass suicide and murders at Waco by the Branch Davidians. No one should be murdered, or coerced into killing themselves - including by religious folks who believe the end is nigh.

Learn more about how often different cultures and cults have declared it's all about to end. Start with the book The Last Days are Here Again: A History of the End Times by Richard Kyle. It's focused on Christian movements over time that have declared the world is about it end, but it's a good place to start your education about this practice when can also be found in Judaism, Islam, and even non-Abrahamic traditions, like Buddhisms. Educate yourself, and share that knowledge. Expect some push back from others who are stockpiling food and ammo. But in putting that knowledge out there, it's out there - there's no taking it back - and it often plants the seeds of doubt that can help bring people back from the brink of doing something stupid - and maybe, just maybe, lead to enlightenment.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why people that adhere to religious law scare me

Whether the person is saying a country's laws should come from the Bible, the Koran, whatever, it scares me.

This video explains why. And it is, in a much-more-well-stated-way, the thought process I went through when I was a teen:

I know most of you already subscribe to The Friendly Atheist and have already seen this...

UN criticizes anti-blasphemy laws

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has issued a commentary on freedom of expression that says anti-blasphemy laws and restrictions on criticism of governments are incompatible with existing norms and that free expression is essential for the protection of human rights.

The committee’s report, entitled General Comment, said, in part, “Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the covenant,” except in specific circumstances, and States “should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.”

More info here.

This is VERY good news. This kind of thinking is why I support Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. I am very glad to see the UN getting something RIGHT!