Archive for the 'Society' Category

Sep 08 2008

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The Atheists, The Untouchables

Filed under Politics, Religion, Society, atheism

I have my political favorites but regardless of where I find my votes may go I will stay true to my belief that only through separation of religion and politics can we create an environment conducive to economic and intellectual progress as well as freedom and justice for all.  I also believe societies should be inclusive, not exclusive if we are to achieve the most societal and economic health.

While I will not have the time to make a case here on how most except a few religions predominantly promote exclusionary and segregationist ideas (us vs them, black and white thinking, etc) I would like to point to how in the current political discourse Republicans (not surprisingly) and Democrats (somewhat surprisingly) are getting dangerously close to a church-like religion and politics blend, to the potential exclusion of 10-12% of the population who openly claim agnosticism and/or atheism (and those who don’t claim it because it’s not acceptable in the circle in which they live in).

Sally Quinn of the Washington Post illustrates this:

On Sunday, Tiernan attended the first event at the Democratic National Convention, an Interfaith Gathering attended by some 2,000 people at the Colorado Convention Center. Speaking were distinguished priests, rabbis, imams and religion scholars. “I sat through, I guess I’d have to call it, a service,” says Tiernan. “People were responding in unison. In the middle, Leah Daughtry (a pastor and CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee) spoke and said that despite what the media says, Democrats are people of faith.”

Tiernan says he couldn’t stand it any more. “I stood up and said, ‘I’m a democrat but I’m not a person of faith.’ I said, ‘This looks like a church service to me and I never thought I would see the Democrats doing something like this.” (…)

The Interfaith Gathering was the first of several interfaith events scheduled during the convention. The Secular Coalition of America had written to Daughtry to ask that atheists, agnostics and secular humanists be included in these events. The Associated Press reported that she received the request but never responded.

The Democrats are in a real bind this year. In recent elections, the Republicans have owned religion. The evangelical base has helped Republican presidential candidates win elections while the Democrats have stood by helplessly. This year, the Democrats are bound to show they are just as religious as Republicans, but at what cost? (…)

At various times in years past, women, blacks, Jews and gays were the political outcasts in one or both parties. Now it seems the only group of untouchables are the atheists.

15 responses so far

Sep 07 2008

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The Trib on How Religion Guides Palin

Filed under Politics, Religion, Society, atheism

Palin has called on people to pray for the cooperation necessary to build a natural gas pipeline across Alaska, labeled the U.S. mission in Iraq a “task that is from God” and argued that students should be taught the creation account from Genesis in public schools.

“I can do my job there in developing our natural resources and doing things like getting the roads paved and making sure our troopers have their cop cars and their uniforms and their guns, and making sure our public schools are funded,” she said in June to ministry students at her former church. “But really, all of that stuff doesn’t do any good if the people of Alaska’s heart isn’t right with God.”

How Religion Guides Palin, Chicago Tribune, Sept. 6, 2008

We’re looking at another who puts fantasy before reason, fables before reality and … tries to appeal to the uneducated not by educating them but by using bad grammar (”that stuff doesn’t do any good if the people of Alaska’s heart isn’t right with God”?) .

The claim that Palin is exactly what the McCain ticket needed to secure the conservatives’ votes is just a testament to how determined the republican party is to continue keeping religion at the forefront of public discourse, to the detriment of more relevant topics such as health care, education and the economy. And even a potentially moderate candidate such as McCain can be beaten into submission by the Republican manipulation machine.

10 responses so far

May 13 2008

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How Would You Like This Picture in Your Wedding Album?

Filed under Politics, Society

Gas Sign with Congratulations for Jenna Bush’s Wedding

I was surprised by 3 things today while reading the news about Jenna Bush’s wedding:

1. The W. Bush protesters outside the wedding

2. The wedding memorabilia

3. The gas station signs congratulating the newlyweds. I’m also surprised there’s no Jesus line in that picture, next to the “Dine-in and Take-out,” “Pay and Pump” and “President George W. Bush”…

15 responses so far

May 12 2008

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The Sacrality of the Toilet Seat

Filed under Religion, Society

I’ve been gone for a while, and I thought I may not write again, until I read about the Wisconsin woman who let a 90 year-old woman die and rot atop the toilet in her home.

 Although she was reportedly still breathing, instead of calling an ambulance Lewis called her spiritual superior in a religious sect called Queen of the Holy Rosary Shrine. Alan Bushey, a self-proclaimed bishop who is also now behind bars, told her to leave the woman on the lavatory, where Lewis had propped the body, and pray for her to wake up. The mother and her children prayed for four days, but when nothing changed, they left her there. (The Telegraph, May 12, 2008)

I have no comment for this except to say it never ceseas to amaze me how much energy such deluded folk can place in acts of madness.

6 responses so far

Dec 21 2007

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Is Jesus the Reason for the Season?

Filed under Religion, Society, atheism

Sound Off’s Roland S. Martin wrote a commentary on CNN.com today in which he claims,

Because of all the politically correct idiots, we are being encouraged to stop saying “Merry Christmas” for the more palatable “Happy Holidays.” What the heck are “Seasons Greetings”? (…)

But this seeming backlash against Christianity is bordering on the absurd, and we should continue to remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.

What is disturbing about paranoid rants such as Martin’s is that he’s making arguments that are unfriendly (when people say Happy Holidays they’re backlashing against Christianity) and unsupported (Jesus is the reason for the season).

When people say Happy Holidays they actually try to be nice and not make assumptions about one’s religion. If I know someone is Christian I have no issues saying Merry Christmas, but when I don’t know, or when I know someone is not Christian I’d rather wish them Happy Holidays than nothing at all. Of course I could come up with something more creative, such as “Happy Winter Time Off!”

To use Martin’s own linguistic choices I must say you have to be an idiot to claim that Jesus is the reason for the season. Jesus is the reason for the celebration of Christmas as in “the mass of Christ,” the birth of jesus, but he is certainly not the reason why people throughout centuries have celebrated this time of year.It is common knowledge that the Christmas traditions are borrowed from a number of pagan celebrations such as the Northern European Yule and the Roman Saturnalia.

Decorated fir-trees, gift giving, mistletoe, holly, carol singing etc. are all traditions predating Christianity.

So if how we celebrate is a collection of pre-Christian traditions, and what we celebrate is highly varied based on religion why would saying Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays be an attack on Christianity?

25 responses so far

Dec 07 2007

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No Christmas Doggy Treasts for Christians

Filed under Religion, Society, atheism

Christmas DogPets of Christian families who choose to go with Dr. Dobson’s list of where not to shop for Christmas will be left out in the cold this winter. Petsmart is listed on Dobson’s “The Bad” list and PetCo committed an even more serious crime on Christmas and was listed on “The Ugly” list of stores Christians shouldn’t shop at.

Why is he boycotting these stores? Because Jesus wouldn’t shop there either, after the stores shifted their focus from Christmas to The Holidays.

“The Bad”(Best Buy and Borders etc.) and “The Ugly” (the GAP family of stores, Barnes and Noble, eBay, Discovery Channel Store, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and other), “depend on the Christmas season to generate a high percentage of their profits for the year, and yet they want to do it by distancing themselves from the traditional Christmas story,” according to Dobson.

How deluded do you have to be to think that the stores who use the term “Christmas” in their ads have a different goal in mind than profit. If retailers had data to show that their neutral holiday language was going to drive Christians away from their stores, they would use Christmas instead. All retailers are focused on revenue and based on their customer profile they know what language would work best with the customer without endangering their revenue.

Best Buy, Borders and Barnes and Noble were quoted for their “no-solicitation policy.” In other words, they don’t allow those dudes in funny outfits to shout Merry Christmas and expect donations for it. That was their big crime on Christmas.

However, if you want to do a charity thing this Holiday season, I encourage you to stop by Borders (”The Bad”) and donate to help with children’s literacy, or buy something from the (RED) campaign at one of the GAP stores (”The Ugly”).

5 responses so far

Dec 06 2007

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Romney Redefines Freedom to Include Religion

Filed under Politics, Religion, Society, atheism

Romney discussed his candidacy and religion today,…. sort of. He mostly made numerous vague statements and managed to brush off comparisons of Mormonism to other Christian groups.

The most rhetorically shrewd part of his address was his mention of freedom:

“Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.”

In other words, you cannot be truly free without religion.

Mormonism prescribes many of these “cannot without religion”–you cannot be truly happy, you cannot be truly free, etc.

Here’s how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints views freedom, in the words of LDS General Authority, Elder Enzio Busche:

My dear brothers and sisters, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many new members, specifically when they come from countries other than the United States, learn for the first time the true dimension of the word freedom. Freedom for most people of the world means “freedom from” the absence of malice or pain or suppression. But the freedom that God means when He deals with us goes one step further. He means “freedom to”—the freedom to act in the dignity of our own choice.

Let me summarize this point. Non-Mormons, new Mormons and especially foreigners who are new to the church don’t get the whole truth about freedom.  These folk know what they may be free from but not what they’re “free to.” The probability is that American Mormons who are not new to the church know about freedom best.

It’s this concept of “free to” that appears in Romney’s quote as well when he says, “Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God.” But do not be led to think that by “act in the dignity of our own choice,” they mean that we can do whatever we choose. The word dignity is there for a good purpose, and it’s tied in with Jesus Christ (as you will see below).

Also don’t be fooled into thinking that the mighty genius of Romney come up with this concept. The Mormon church has numerous writings on this topic. Here is how freedom to and freedom of choice are defined by Mormons, in the words of the same LDS General Authority, Elder Enzio Busche:

As we open our hearts to the message of God’s truth, as it was restored in our time, we begin to understand why there was, and still is, so much misery, pain, suffering, and even starvation. In the same dimension as we are learning to accept the revealed truth in our own life, our faith in the living Son of God will grow, and therefore we will receive spiritual gifts of heretofore unknown capacity. We will learn that nothing is impossible for those who believe in Jesus Christ. False bondages will be loosened. Narrow thinking born in tragedies of false traditions will disappear.

In conclusion, Romney’s words are almost perfectly in line with his church’s teachings that one cannot be truly free without Jesus Christ, because only religion can open one’s soul to allow communion with God, and release the bondages false traditions keep us under.

For example, if you have a glass of wine with your meal you are not truly free because you allow a false tradition to bond you. If you choose to express your love for someone of the same sex you are not truly free because you chose to bond yourself in something ungodly.

If Romney replaced Jesus Christ in his speech with a generic term of “religion” he did it for political reasons only.

He said, “I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs.”

So, if he is to be true to his beliefs he would have to say that Jesus Christ brings freedom (to) , however, that would exclude all other non-Jesus religions from being able to bring freedom (to).

My final conclusion is that Romney is throwing empty, yet Mormon-influenced rhetorical language hoping to create some “ethos of Romney” and convince the religious folk of America that he’s a freedom and religion loving guy, and he’s non-threatening and he just only sees the similarities in people, not the differences.

The notion that freedom and religion can’t exist one without the other is a fabrication stemming from his church’s moral teachings. And his church’s teachings are nothing but an attempt to manipulate the concept of freedom of choice, by saying that Jesus gives one the freedom to choose what Jesus says is right, and that’s the only true freedom.

6 responses so far

Dec 04 2007

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John Scalzi’s Creation Museum Report

 Novelist John Scalzi published a fantastic write-up of a tour at the Creation Museum. He promptly summarized the museum as “An epic load of horseshit,” after which he discusses both why it’s horseshit and why the museum is popular with those who can consume such horseshit:

 ”The Museum is casually trying to establish an equivalence between science and creationism by accrediting them both as legitimate “starting points” for any discussion of biology, geology and cosmology. This would cause any scientist worth his or her salt to have a positively cinematic spit take, because it’s horseshit, but if you don’t know any better (say, if you’ve been fed a line of crap your whole life along the lines of “science is just another religion”) it sounds perfectly reasonable. And so if you buy that, then the next room, filled with large posters that offer on equal footing the creationist and scientific takes on the creation of the universe and evolution, seems perfectly reasonable, too: Heck, we can both have our theories! They’re both okay. The problem with this is that creationism isn’t a theory, it’s an assertion, to wit: The entire universe was created in six days, the days are 24-hour days, the layout for the creation and for the early history of the planet and humanity is in the first chapter of Genesis and it is exactly right. Everything has to be made to conform to these assertions, which is why creationist attempts at science are generally so damn comical and refutable. “

Scalzi’s visit followed a “Drag Scalzi’s Ass to the Creation Museum” donation drive with proceeds going to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

One response so far

Dec 03 2007

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EXODUS Guitarist on Organized Religion

Filed under Politics, Religion, Society, atheism

The word in music circles these days is that the new EXODUS album, “The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibition A,” attacks organized religion.

Gary Holt, the EXODUS guitarist said on the “The Classic Metal Show” (hinting to the Mohammed Teddy Bear story):

But I have decided that the next rabbit that my snake eats will be named “Mohammed” before I feed it to my snake. I’m going to capture it on film, and I’m going to post it on the Internet so everybody can watch “Mohammed” going down my snake’s throat. Then I will film the shit that my snake lays and point out that that is the remnants of “Mohammed.”

I hope he puts it on YouTube because I’d like to see that. I fear that Holt may get into trouble with PETA before he gets the Islamic death threat he talks about in the rest of the interview.

If there was a celebrity death match for organizations and PETA and some Islamic terrorist organization went head to head, who do you think would win?

2 responses so far

Nov 26 2007

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Famous Evangelists and Their Oddities

Filed under History, Religion, Society, atheism

Chicago Tribune published a list of “10 Things You Might Not Know About Famous Evangelists.”

Some of the ‘things’ are oddities, some of them are plain crazy and corrupted behavior, and some are well known, such as Tammy Faye’s tattooed-on eyebrows and lips (at least I could tell…).

Here are the three that paint a picture of no-common-sense evangelist power-mongery:

1. Zion, a city north of Chicago founded by Scottish evangelist John Alexander Dowie in 1902, at various times banned circuses, theaters, alcohol, gambling, tobacco, pork, politicians, doctors, drugstores, jazz, oysters, chop suey, tan-colored shoes, flirting, dancing, swearing, spitting and whistling on Sunday.

Ouch, imagine not owning a pair of tan-colored shoes. And what was this dude’s problem with doctors and drugstores?

5.  Georgia’s Rev. Creflo Dollar, whose ownership of a Rolls-Royce harks back to the quintessential “prosperity preacher” of the ’70s, Frederick Eikerenkoetter, better-known as Rev. Ike. The now-retired Ike owned a fleet of mink-appointed Rolls-Royces and said,”The best thing you can do for the poor is not to be one of them.”

Yeah, that’s one way of putting it….

8. Oral Roberts’ most famous fundraising effort came in 1987, when he said God would “take me home” if he didn’t raise $8 million for medical scholarships. Less well-known was another life-threatening experience he revealed the same year. Roberts said Satan had entered his bedroom and tried to strangle him, only to be chased away by Roberts’ wife, Evelyn.

I bet he was a feminist too.

13 responses so far

Nov 23 2007

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When Your Church Owns the Downtown Block of Main Street…

Filed under Politics, Religion, Society, atheism

Recent poll calls in Iowa and New Hampshire that were allegedly  critical of Mitt Romney’s faith have resulted in press discussions on whether or not Romney should publicly discuss his allegiance to the Mormon church. The only recipients to have come forth about the calls though, were all on Romney’s payroll.

Controversy aside, the Romney campaign claimed it is unamerican to question a candidate about his religion.

Atheist Christopher Hitchens made the case on Fox News that Romney should not be surprised by questions about his allegiances, and that the least he could do is to discuss the intersection between his church’s authority and law, as well as questions related to the Mormon church’s racist and polygamist past. All of these can potentially have political consequences and Hitchens believes it would be unpatriotic to not touch upon these topics.

As a former resident of the state of Utah, I can say the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is highly politically aware and involved. Utah policies are heavily influenced by the Mormon church. However, Utah does not stand alone when it comes to high religious influence in politics. Larger states that get a larger number of ballots, such as Texas are also heavily influenced by their majority religion.

Some have claimed that Romney looks like a leader, however, the emphasis on looks signals to Mormon culture as well. The Mormon church raises its men to look like leaders, as a proselytizing attraction tool. All men who serve missions are taught how to dress, groom, talk, act and behave in the most persuasive ways. Mormon return-missionaries make great sales-men and have a strong reputation in the corporate sales-world.

Looks aside, would Romney be a good leader? Can one who avoids reasonable conversations related to his controversial church be a good leader, in a country where difficult international conversations happen every day?

While I think Romney should answer questions related to how his religion may influence his policies, just as Carey had to answer questions about his take on abortion, I think there is a Christian double standard at play in America. The mainstream Christian candidates are not challenged based on their religion, yet they should be equally questioned, regardless of religious affiliation. By the same token, Romney should expect and answer questions about his religion.

No one should be fooled into thinking that religious organization don’t influence politics, or that religion can be completely eliminated from politics. But just saying my church is just as Christian as yours is not a valid reason to skirt religious questions.

When your church owns the downtown block of Main Street in Salt Lake City you should be expected to answer tough questions. And when your church decrees same-sex couples can’t hold hands on this same Main street block, you may really want to answer how many of your decisions your church may influence. And if you can’t give an answer you may not be a good enough leader.

4 responses so far

Nov 19 2007

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Atheist Conversion or Religious De-conversion

Filed under Religion, Society, atheism

“A secular country allows for religion to flourish, if it wants to. A secular country allows atheism to flourish if it wants to,” said Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, during a speech at University of Texas at Austin.

Barker is a former evangelical preacher who says he “de-converted” in 1984.

Recently I’ve noticed the term deconversion used to imply a shift away from religious belief to atheism, as well as the synonym expression, “conversion to atheism.”

Historically I’ve associated the term conversion with Christianity. Also, most dictionaries will list conversion in the religious context as, “an experience associated with the definite and decisive adoption of a religion.” (Merriam Webster, Your Dictionary, Wikipedia).

The concept of “decisive adoption” is very important when discussing religious conversion because most religions  have in place a test of faith, by which they identify true conversion. Usually the test of faith encompasses both conviction as well as obedience and practicing of rites (outward expression of faith). Baptism is an essential rite in Christian conversion, for example.

So can one convert to atheism being that it is not a religion, does not require a test of faith, and does not require absolute allegiance to a set of rites? And can one deconvert from atheism?

As many atheists I attribute the supernatural a probability of existing so small that it’s insignificant. Be it a deity or a magical mist the supernatural belongs to fiction books.  I don’t feel the need or pressure to prove my allegiance to atheism. I don’t have to deconvert or convert either. My atheism didn’t come about as a falling away from something else (though some may disagree with me, because they think I fell away from their “true church”). I don’t even have “strong feelings” about my experience that could be attributed to a conversion. If atheism came with mystical experiences it would indeed be a religion. To me being an atheist is about being practical, rational and skeptical.

So I’d say the term conversion to atheism or de-conversion from atheism would only apply as as a way of using familiar rhetoric of religious type to either be sarcastic or to create some commonality in terms when faced with a potentially religious audience. However as an atheist I would stay away from such rhetoric for fear of making my audience believe atheism is a religion. Had the term never been used with a religious connotation and truly mean what its Latin origins described, a move away from something, I would not oppose its accompanying the term atheism. As it is, there’s too much religious baggage behind it to allow it to taint discussion of atheism.

Fun fact, when asking google to define “religious conversion,” those at the Church of Google suggest that we look up “religious conversion and terrorism.”

8 responses so far

Nov 14 2007

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Praying for Rain and Wet T-Shirts

Filed under History, Religion, Society, atheism

PaparudaBlackSun commented yesterday on the news that Ga Governor would hold an open call for prayer on the steps of the capitol. The prayer was to be for rain.

“What Sonny Perdue is accomplishing with this (either uber-cynical or mind-bendingly stupid) stunt is the diversion of attention of citizens from their own accountability–for the dunce governor they elected, bad water infrastructure decisions over decades, and for the continued cheating and waste of now-scarce water by Georgians,” writes BlackSun.

In the irreverent anti-religious tradition of Skepticum, let me put a more entertaining spin on this. I’d prefer, instead of boring capitol prayers, that we do an old Eastern European ceremony, that involves skimpily dressed virgins, wet t-shirts and lots of dancing. I’ll admit that religious rituals are more fun than atheism in certain instances, especially when they involve dancing and naked people.

In the Romanian agrarian rite of Paparuda, young women are nude or dressed in rags covered in leaves, and are paraded dancing through the village, while older women throw water on them. This Summer-time rite is meant to function as a fertility ritual to bring about rain and help the crops grow.

What better way than to bring prayer and wet t-shirt contests into one? It would probably provide more entertainment than such a poor excuse for irresponsible entitlement as displayed by Perdue.

5 responses so far

Nov 13 2007

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New Techniques for Religious Proselytizing Online

Filed under Religion, Society, atheism

Quizrocket.com features a religion test that promises to tell you which religion is best suited for you. The test surprised me by asking 3 very interesting questions:

  • Gender
  • Birth date
  • Zip code

Religion QuizI find it very interesting the quiz asked for age but instead of allowing one to enter age it forces a field to fill in birth date. And how would the zip code be relevant outside of the US? I’d say the questions were asked for statistical reasons only, if they weren’t introduced with statements such as, “The search for the right religion can be a long one. How old are you?”

I got even more suspicious when I saw a paid ad on google for this quiz. So I decided to test it out and see if my suspicions were valid.

I didn’t get to see the prescribed religion, but I did get proof for my hypothesis that this quiz is a ploy to collect data for potential proselytizing purposes.

Why else would I be asked to provide name and home address to receive the results of the test?

It’s also very revealing of the subtle, yet aggressive campaigns organized religions employ to increase their tithe paying flock. And the more tithe payers the more money to buy google ads.

Religion Quiz Results

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Nov 12 2007

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New Blow to Bad Science Behind Abstinence-Only Programs

A recent study from University of Virginia found that consensual sex at a young age is not a predictor of juvenile delinquency.

The new study debunks Ohio State research released in Feb. that claimed youngsters who lose their virginity at an early age are more likely to become juvenile delinquents than their peers who didn’t lose their virginity at a young age. This study was used by abstinence-only proponents to strengthen their message.

“Educators wanting a piece of the nation’s $200 million “abstinence only” budget must adhere to a curriculum that links sex to delinquency and explicitly precludes discussion of contraception.”

The new study, which is hailed to be more rigorous than its predecessor because it uses behavioral genetics (studies on twins), makes teaching that there is a link between sexual behavior and juvenile delinquency unethical and scientifically incorrect.

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