‘Atheism’ Category Archives
by PinPonPun in Atheism, Church and State
Some folks are in a FOX-fueled frenzy already, focusing on a situation in Santa Monica, California. The City Council there has elected to not allow any religious or holiday displays in a park that has hosted a fourteen-part nativity scene for over fifty years, citing the resources necessary to maintain and secure the site (as well as environmental concerns). A religious non-profit organization has attempted to reverse the City Council’s decision but was recently dealt a blow when a Federal judge refused to block the nativity ban.
Many Christians are, of course, livid about this situation and casting the blame on the evil atheists that wish to destroy America. This very vitriolic post, “10 Reasons Atheists Can Go to Hell Over Holiday Decorations Fight,” published on The Stir by its Managing Editor, Cynthia Dermody epitomizes the typical American-Christian misunderstanding of the situation and of atheism in general.
Here are her ten reasons and my responses:
1. You aren’t going to make Christmas or Hanukkah go away. (Bah your separation of church and state argument — we know that’s what the real intention is here.) But it’s never. gonna. happen. NEVER. So deal with it.
First, a straw-man where Dermody claims that the separation of church and state argument is just a front for the “real intention” of atheists; of course this is a completely fallacious statement — most atheists are not trying to make Christmas or Hanukkah go away, we simply want to ensure that the government is adhering to the First Amendment by either a) allowing ALL religious viewpoints equal voice on government-owned property or (more preferably) b) not allowing ANY religious viewpoint to be espoused from government-owned property. On church land or your own private property? Go crazy, have a thousand nativity scenes and giant crosses and menorahs. Just not on public land.
2. You are coming off looking shallow, mean, and spiteful, like the spoiled neighborhood brat who always got pissy when everyone voted to play kickball when they really wanted to play tag. No one ever liked playing with that kid.
Ah yes, anad hominem attack on atheists. Because titling an article, even a rant, “10 Reasons Atheists Can go to Hell” is not mean, spiteful, or pissy.
3. The displays aren’t going to convince someone who isn’t religious to suddenly convert or defect from your ranks. There’s no priest hiding behind the manger with a portable baptismal font ready to christen you unawares. It doesn’t work that way. But if you did decide to join, we would forgive, forget, and accept you with open arms. We’re good like that.
Clearly Dermody doesn’t understand atheism, but this sort of ties back to the straw-man erected in her first point. This is not about some fear that atheists will lose members to the Church and the issue of the religious displays is not some us-versus-them one. Again, it’s about whether or not the government should be sponsoring religious scenes on public property. Period.
4. Many of the past nativity scenes from area churches represented historical scenes from the Bible, such as Joseph and Mary (on a donkey) riding into Bethlehem, or a scene from Herod’s court. Whether you believe Jesus was the messiah or not, many of these events are recorded history.
The veracity of the bible as a historical document is up for debate, at least from an academic point of view, so this point may be moot. Even still, assuming that some of the nativity story’s scenes are completely and wholly factual and accurate, the point has not changed; they being utilized to espouse a particular religious belief and the state should not be involved in such actions.
5. You’re just jealous we get presents and you don’t. Yeah, it sucks to be you this time of year.
You’re right, no atheist ever gets presents, and especially not a Christmas-time. Nor do we ever give presents. Or celebrate Christmas. Come December 25th we hide in our caves, reading our Dawkins and Hitchens, fearful that festive carolers may come and accidentally convert us to Christianity.
6. Your kids might actually enjoy them. Like it or not, your little atheists will probably attend school with other children who are being raised in a faith, whether it’s Jewish or Hindu or Muslim or whatever, and they are going to have questions. This is a very non-threatening way to teach them about this stuff. They need to get used to it sooner or later.
Following this argument along this lines, would you mind if I tell your kids about some of the other well-documented and “historically accurate” creation myths out there? They may rather enjoy some of the Persian stories of creation, or the Native American myths. Hell, they may even find the Quran to be a wonderful and beautiful tale.
7. You’re winning anyway! Atheism is the only “religious category” that’s actually on the rise in the United States — almost all other religions are in decline or staying the same. You know how the coach taught you not to celebrate the goal when you’re already pummelling the other team 10-1? Yeah, like that.
Ah, the poor persecuted Christian angle; yes, atheists are “winning” in that we are showing growth, on whole. But we are still one of the least-trusted minorities in this country and represent small portion of the population. Let’s spin this a different way: Christians represent the vast majority of the country, so you’re really the ones “pummelling” (sic) the other team. Religious believers have churches and temples and mosques throughout this great land and in great numbers, and religion permeates everything from our government policy to our currency. Why do you need to celebrate with displays on public land? Yellowpages.com shows over 1200 churches listed in Santa Monica — can’t one of them display your nativity scene?
8. You don’t have to walk through or drive past this portion of the park. You have the freedom to travel any which way you want so you don’t have to look at anything you don’t want to. Isn’t this country great?
Again, missing the point; it’s not that atheists are some sort of vampiric creatures that cringe at the site religious idolatry. Public land should be hosting religious messaging. You needn’t walk or drive through this portion of the park to see your nativity scene when you can easily put it on private property somewhere, no?
9. People are going to continue to put up displays in their yards. I would if I lived next door to you in Santa Monica. A big old honking one with lights and sounds. And I’d leave it up ’til Easter.
Awesome! Go for it! We fully endorse this plan. On your property, on your land, on your church’s land, put up whatever you like and all the more power to you. We actually have suggested this, on more than one occasion.
10. You are waging this war in Santa Monica, ironically. “Santa” translates to SAINT, by the way. That’s a Christian term in case you didn’t know. I guess that’s next on your list. You better get going, you’ve got a long way to go.
And New York represents a relationship with York in the UK that no longer exists; your point? Besides, we’re not “waging [a] war” we’re simply supporting the United States Constitution instead of a holy text written thousands of years ago. You should try it sometime.
Oh, and for the record, atheists did not ban the nativity scene this year, nor did atheists request that the City Council remove the display. Atheists were not involved in the lawsuit(s) around the ban, and atheists did not vandalize any of the displays in prior years. Just, you know, for the record.
by PinPonPun in Atheism, Ponderings
Fox News takes a look at the State of the Bible 2012, a report by the American Bible Society (an organization dedicated to the spread of the Christian gospel through distribution bibles) and finds that despite still being the number one bestseller of all time The Bible’s popularity has diminished a bit in recent years with fewer Americans identifying the book as “sacred literature” or finding that it provides “everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life.”
According to the article’s author Lauren Green, the ABS believes that despite the overabundance of bibles in US household the problem lies with the lack of people actually reading the book. Lamar Vest, President and CEO of ABS told Green:
“There are probably five Bibles on every shelf in American homes. Americans buy the Bibles, they debate the Bible, they love the Bible… they just don’t read the Bible.”
Of course, as many atheists will attest, actually reading the bible might actually explain why fewer people now recognize it as a text worthy of reverence; after all recent studies show that atheists and agnostics know more about the bible than the religious and many atheists attribute their abandonment of religion to closer scrutiny of religious texts.
Then again, the ABS is an organization that looks at the horrible situation in the Congo, where “45,000 people are dying each month” and declare that “Only God’s Word can bring total healing to this war-ravaged country.”
But hey, they must be pretty hip and modern — they’re on Pinterest!
by PinPonPun in Atheism, Miscellany
If you’ve ever work in web design, web development, or any service-oriented job you owe it to yourself to check out Clients From Hell. Today I stumbled on this gem at their website:
Client: ”Obviously we need the site to be deeply spiritual. The use of a cross is obvious and although perhaps over-used we would like to go with that… Also perhaps some Saints, figurines… You get the idea?”
Designer: ”Do you have any specific Saint’s in mind?”
Client: ”No, just run with it… after all we all worship the same god right?”
Designer: ”Actually no, I am atheist. Is this a problem?”
Client: ”Oh, erm, you´re one of THEM are you? Hmm that is a problem… people who abandon the word of god are in league with the Devil, and if you designed our site… well, it would make it sinful, a place of deception… No… erm, maybe you would like to discuss your hatred of God? Then perhaps I could convince you of the true path.”
Designer: ”I cannot hate something which does not exist.”
Client: ”I see. No, we need a designer who is…you know, not in league with the devil.”
So anything built by non-believers is “sinful, a place of deception”? If I had to guess, I’d think there have been a least a handful of churches and holy-places built with non-theist hands, or at least by the hands of folks that believe in some other variation of god.
Guess they really are places of deception then…
by PinPonPun in Atheism, Church and State, Politics, Ponderings
The automotive industry is in trouble and it appears that a bailout plan may be decided upon by the end of today.
Surely the Rev. Charles Ellis at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple will believe that his actions yesterday were directly responsible for it as the congregation at one of Detroit’s largest choices gathered to ask God to have Congress deliver such a bailout. They actually had SUVs at the alter, as described in the Reuters article “SUVs at altar, Detroit church prays for a bailout” –
Local car dealerships donated three hybrid SUVs to be displayed during the service, one from each of the Big Three. A Ford Escape, Chevy Tahoe from GM and a Chrysler Aspen were parked just in front of the choir and behind the pulpit.
Ellis said he and other Detroit ministers would pray and fast until Congress voted on a bailout for Detroit’s embattled automakers. He urged his congregation to do the same.
How would praying and fasting accomplish help turn a Congressional vote, you might wonder? Well, apparently:
“It’s all about hope. You can’t dictate how people will think, how they will respond, how they will vote,” Ellis said after the service. “But you can look to God. We believe he can change the minds and hearts of men and women in power, and that’s what we tried to do today.”
I’m sure that, were there a God, he’d have better things to do than to monitor the United States’ Congressional decisions on the state of the automotive industry. Just a guess.
It amazes me sometimes what people think prayer can accomplish and the role they figure God will play directly in their lives.
UPDATE: The New York Times has an article as well, complete with photographs of the SUVs, adding this quote:
“We have done all that we can do in this union, so I turn it over to the Lord,” General Holiefield, a U.A.W. vice president for Chrysler, told the crowd. A vice president for the parts suppliers, James Settles Jr., asked those present “to continue your prayers, so we can see a miracle next week.”
Obviously we are a Christian nation if our Congress can create miracles! I wonder how Pete Stark feels about that?
by PinPonPun in Atheism, Church and State
When someone commits suicide it is common for that person’s friends and family to seek an explanation for the act; what caused the person to take such a drastic action? Who or what is to blame?
In modern days it’s not uncommon to evaluate those recent changes in a person’s life, specifically those changes that we do or did not approve of, and assign blame to them. Publicly, this has included things like heavy metal music or roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons, both of which were linked by loved ones and the press to suicides.
In these cases, friends and family find an immediate causal relationship between the perceived “negative” activities and the suicide; they do not necessarily recognize that correlation does not imply causation.
Jesse Kilgore committed suicide in October by walking into the woods near his New York home and shooting himself. Keith Kilgore said he was shocked because he believed his son was grounded in Christianity, had blogged against abortion and for family values, and boasted he’d been debating for years.
While I understand that a father would be shocked by his own son’s suicide, I don’t quite know what Jesse’s views on abortion or the fact that he’d been “debating for years” have to do with anything. So what drove Jesse to suicide? His father believes he’s found the answer:
“This professor either assigned him to read or challenged him to read a book, ‘The God Delusion,’ by Richard Dawkins,” he said.
“I’m all for academic freedom,” Keith Kilgore said. “What I do have a problem with is if there’s going to be academic freedom, there has to be academic balance.
“They were undermining every moral and spiritual value for my [son],” he said. “They ought to be held accountable.”
Yes, Keith Kilgore believes The God Delusion killed his son and that, furthermore, that the public school system is at fault. He bases this on the fact that a college professor either suggested or challenged Jesse to read The God Delusion and that several friends and an unnamed relative describe Jesse in the days before his sucide as “pretty much an atheist, with no belief in the existence of God (in any form) or an afterlife or even in the concept of right or wrong.”
The quoted source also states that Jesse “thought that murder wasn’t wrong per se, but he would never do it because of the social consequences – that was all there was – just social consequences” — showcasing the common bias and misunderstanding about atheists and morality.
Jesse’s father, his friends, his relatives — all blame the suicide on the loss of faith created by his reading of the book. They see a direct causation there.
Suicide is rarely a quick and spontaneous decision, and the decision to take one’s own life is usually predicated on a number of reasons. I cannot speak to Jesse’s intentions, and know only what the WND articles tells me of him, but I would guess that there were other circumstances leading to his action.
Perhaps he did find himself disbelieving and, fearful of the response from his religious family, could not cope? Perhaps, as a military veteran, he was suffering from other duress?
As mojoey points out:
How about this instead: Jesse Kilgore killed himself because of, mental illness, depression, drugs, girls or maybe boys, guilt, poor grades, or… maybe because he just woke up one day without faith and realized he could not confront his overbearing father. Perhaps the environment in which he was raised was not welcoming to rational thought…
Instead of considering these options, however, Keith Kilgore has instead assumed that it must be a political enemy, an attack on his faith, and a representation of how our country is straying from the so-called Christian ideals. Again, from the WND article:
Keith Kilgore told WND he feels, by allowing his son to move into the atmosphere of a secular school, like “I put a toddler in the front of my car.”
“My son is the Adam Walsh of the culture war. That’s who my son is,” he said, referring to the child abduction victim whose case was used to create a wide range of amber alert and other programs to protect children.
He said he has a wake-up call over the anti-Christian agenda of public education. And he has some goals.
“I want to hold schools accountable for what they’re teaching our kids. This was malpractice,” he said.
Giving his son the opportunity to have a secular education was akin to putting a toddler in front of a car? Adam Walsh?
Jesse Kilgore’s death is, obviously, a tragedy and the young man was clearly battling a number of metaphorical demons. He was not a martyr. He was not a victim of the secular, “anti-Christian” atheists. He was just a trouble young man.
Keith Kilgore seeks justification, understandably. But as I mentioned before – correlation does not imply causation and rather than angrily accuse his own perceived enemies of taking his son he should grieve for the loss and find the support he needs to continue on with his life.
[Edit to add the following]
Scarily, some Christians, apparently, don’t think Keith Kilgore’s views are quite extreme enough:
A time may come for that but I think there is a better solution: transform the public schools. This will require some ‘get tough’ action by concerned individuals in this country by people who generally aren’t ‘activists.’ They generally try to mind their own business, unlike the other side, which is filled with rabid ideologues who, literally, take to the street if they don’t get their way- or worse. A story like this one helps illustrate the stakes involved.