Taking Sides

There has been a battle going on in the atheists/skeptical movement over the past year or so.  It is a battle about sexism.  I won’t go into the details because there are too many incidents and opinions to mention here.  For an introduction, if you are not familiar with what’s been happening, see PZ Myers’ blog post.  Make sure you visit the links there, and the links in those links.  

PZ feels that it is time to take sides, and I agree.

Sexism is wrong.  Rape is horrible and wrong.  Anyone who supports these things whether openly, through making excuses for them, or just pretending they don’t matter is wrong; period.  These people try to explain away sexism, to rationalize it, to excuse it in any way they can.  They make threats of violence, rape, and even death agains the women who come forward with their experiences of being victimized.  

These are the same people who claim to be rational.  They deride the religious for being irrational in their beliefs; for supporting and rationalizing their beliefs with senseless excuses and rationalizations while they do exactly the same thing in their defense and denial of sexism in the atheist and skeptical communities. 

These people are wrong and no amount of rationalization can change that.  They are immoral, plain and simple.

I take the side of every woman, all women, who live with sexism every day.  I take the side of inclusion.  I take the side of equality and fairness.  I take the side of humanism.  I take the side of what is right and moral; the idea that every woman has the right to not just be safe, but feel safe, at all atheist and skeptical conferences and events, to never have to live with threats of violence, rape, and death just for speaking out about their experiences with sexism.

These are painful times we are going through, but if we want to advance the causes of atheist and skepticism, we must clean our own house or we can never claim the high moral ground against the religious, who use their gods to claim the same.

We must demand of our conference organizers that they not invite speakers who are known to engage in sexist and predatory behavior.  We must demand that they bar these people from all conferences and events.   If they refuse, then we must refuse to attend their events and to contribute to their organizations.  We must insist that the CFI, the JREF, and all other atheist and skeptical organizations refuse these sexists and predators venues for their speeches and writings.  We must insist that they remove these people from their organizations.  If they don’t, then they don’t get our support or our money.  

As a society of atheists and skeptics, we must shun those sexist predators and all who support them.  This is not a war, but a boycott.  We must boycott their speeches, their appearances, their books, and their podcasts.     We must make them outcasts and pariahs.   

It is time to take sides.  If you truly care about your community and what it should stand for, then take the side of what is right and moral, or be left in the dustbin of history.

An Atheist Monument Being Unveiled Next to The Ten Commandments is Nothing to Celebrate

An article in the Washington Post reports on the new monument that has been installed next to one of the Ten Commandments outside a Florida courthouse.

Atheists had sued to remove the Ten Commandments monument because it violates the the Establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.  An agreement was reached that, instead of removing the monument, atheists would be able to erect their own monument on public property next to it.

The monument that the atheists erected contain quotes by various founding fathers that are much more apt for a courthouse than the Ten Commandments, almost half of which apply to how God should be worshiped and have no bearing on U.S. Law.  

While I support displaying monuments to our founding fathers and quotes from them that support actual U.S. legal principles, I have serious reservations about how this particular case played out.

Allowing a secular monument on public land, of course, does not violate the Establishment clause, but doing so in this case inextricably links the secular monument with that of the Ten Commandments.  In essence, it gives validity to the idea that it is OK to allow a religious monument on public property.   By agreeing to erect a secular monument next to a religious one, these atheists have legitimized the display of religious symbols on public property.

We have secular monument aplenty across our land.  The Jefferson and Lincoln monuments come to mind.  This is how it should be.  Our legal system is founded upon the U.S. Constitution, a document that never once mentions God, and even explicitly forbids the government showing preference for any religion.  

We don’t need the condecending permission of religious minded judges or politicians to allow us to erect a monument to those who founded our country.   By accepting this settlement, atheists essentially allowed the religious crowd, who erected their monument in violation of the laws of this land, to give them something that was theirs by default.  

This is not a win for atheists.  By agreeing to allow an obviously illegal monument to stand, they have legitimized those who seek to push their religious agenda into our government at every level, and thereby made it a win for the enemies of secularism.

Help For People Recovering From Religion

The organization Recovering From Religion has started a hotline for those who are recovering from religion.  This is in response to all of the “…countless emails and phone calls from people seeking help on their journey away from faith, at all hours of the day and night”.

If you are recovering or have recovered from religion, you know how terribly painful a process this can be.  Not only are you abandoning a life-long set of beliefs, but you face ostracization from friend, family, and co-workers.  You also live with the fear of the negative reactions you may receive when people find out you are an atheist.  

I have applied to answer the Hotline and to help out with their Facebook page.   If you are recovering from religion, or are an life-long atheists, and want to help, go and apply.  It is a great cause that will help the millions who are struggling with losing their religion.

Atheism+. Why I Am More Resolved Than Before To Support It

Jen McCreight quit blogging yesterday.  This from Almost Diamonds who wrote a post explaining some of the reason why.

I’m angry that Jen has been pushed to the point where she has to stop blogging.  She’s done so much, especially with the SSA, to help advance atheism.  The detractors say that those who support Atheism+ are trying to take over the atheist movement, that we are being hateful and divisive, that we are not thinking critically and are letting our emotions cloud our judgement.  

Of course it is emotional.  We are enraged and appalled at the misogyny that has become so apparent in the past year.  We aren’t automatons, but human.  Using our anger at the misogynists and others like them in the atheists movement to try to build something better is good, as Greta Christian says in her book.  

Anger can motivate people to right wrongs and gain rights and recognition in society.  We want to be seen as atheists who do more than just attack religion.  We want to take this movement to the masses, as it were, beyond the atheist community, by working openly, and publicly on important social issues that, until now, religion or other organizations have owned.  At least, that’s what I would like to see.  I think many who support Atheism+ feel this way too.

The people who drove Jen away want to attack anyone who doesn’t agree with them.  It can’t, and won’t, stand.  But, I’m not going to attack those people, I’m going to ignore them.  They aren’t worth my time.  Instead, I’m going to do something positive and try to make Atheism+ a thing that will unite all those atheists who want to focus on social issues instead of just bashing religion and slapping ourselves on the backs for how much more clever we are than theists.  

Atheism+: Doing Good Without God.

It’s been said that getting atheists to agree on something is like herding cats.  I’d say it’s more like trying to herd cats into a tub of water.  Atheists tend to be an inquisitive bunch; an intellectually bunch.  We reject dogma and the authority that goes along with it, hence we are loathed to being told what to do and what to think.  You could say we are fiercely independent (at least I say that we are).  

Given all that, you can see why trying to get a consensus about where to go for breakfast might be hard enough, never mind were we should all stand on a particular social issue.  And that’s the real issue in getting us all to band together for a common cause: we don’t like to be told what we should think or feel.

Still, being openminded and skeptical (yes, they do go hand in hand) we are able to listen to each other and really consider what each one of us has to say.  This attitude tends to lead to civilized debates, respect for each other’s rights to express ideas, and compromise, or at least it should.  I believe that it can and that it does.

The atheist/humanist/secular/(add your own label here) movements have much more in common than they do differences.   Most of us in these movements (and most of us identify with more than one) understand this and this has allowed us to begin to come together in the past few years in greater numbers and with great effect in support of issues that we all feel that we have a stake in.

Still, there is an ugly side to us as well.  Anti-feminism has shown its self to be much more prevalent that most of us imagined it was.  This is both bad and good.  It is bad, for the obvious reason that it shows that we all are not as enlightened as we’d like to be.  It is bad because it distracts us from working together to achieve our common goals.

It is good, however, that this is now out in the open.  You can’t tackle a problem until you can first acknowledge it.  Also, it is an opportunity to clean house, as it were.  By exposing the misogynists in our midst ( actually they tend to expose themselves) we can shame them into recognizing  their misplace sense of privilege or shun them from our ranks.  It is vital that we do so because we have the fight of our lives with the religious and social conservitives on our hands.

This is where Atheism+ comes in.  The new movement is not an attempt to establish an atheist dogma, as some try to claim.  Atheism+ is an attempt to bring together atheists who believe that we have a responsibility to go beyond fighting against superstition or fighting for the separation of church and state.  We strongly believe that we have a responsibility as atheists to fight for social justice for everyone, theist and non-theist, the superstitious and the skeptical, the religious and the non-believers.  

Feminism, gay rights, separation of church and state are just a few of the issues that most of us feel are important and that we are doing a good job of brining to the forefront of the social and political forums.  

We have already begun to raise our profile in the general public’s minds.  Just this year we had the Reason Rally, which made the national news.  We also have many good organizations supporting critical thinking and humanist issues such as the Secular Student Alliance, CFI, FFRF, American Atheists, the JREF, and American Humanists.  

Except for American Atheists and the Secular Student Alliance, most of these, while they might have many atheists as members, are not atheistic groups.  What Atheism+ is, or can be, is a way for those of us who self-identify as atheists to get out and fight for social issues in public where we can meet “average” people and have them get to know us.  It will allow us to be seen as people who care for others, who do good things.  This is vitally important if atheists hope to ever become accepted by a society that currently sees us a amoral, selfish, heartless.

I urge those of you want to fight for social justice for everyone, who want to fight against misogyny, racism, bigotry, homophobia, poverty, and ignorance to consider joining the Atheist+ movement.  Talk about it with your friends and family (if they are still talking to you, that is), write about it, blog about it, tweet about it, set your Facebook profile picture to the Atheists+ symbol (see below), join the Atheist+ forum.

Let’s show the world that we are not only good without God, but we do good without God.

 

Apluslogo sm

Use me as your profile picture on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or any other site of your choice.

Another Church Experience

I went to my Son’s church today to hear him sing in the choir.  They were really quite good.  The music was a mix of gospel and soul with some latin rhythms thrown in.  Of course, the lyrics were all “praise the Lord”, and “Jesus” repeated ad nauseum.   

I could see that people were moved by the music; many singing and swaying to the beat.  It was inspiring.  Not inspiring in a spiritual way, but in a “isn’t this great that we can all enjoy this together” kind of way.  I can understand why people would be moved to feel as if some kind of spirt was among them.  

I felt that too, but it wasn’t a spirit of gods or angels or anything like that.  It was a spirit of belonging and sharing.  I’ve also felt the exact same feeling at rock and pop concerts.  When I saw Elton John, the crowd sang and swayed to the soulful lyrics of “Rocket Man” or “Candle in the Wind”.  When I saw Simon and Garfunkel, it was “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovey)”.  When I saw  Paul Simon solo, it was “You Can Call Me Al”; Barry Manilow, “I Write the Songs”; Chicago, “Saturday in the Park”.  

These musical experiences were all moving and inspiring because it allowed us, as an audience, as humans, to share common emotions of love, joy, tenderness, and excitement.  It is the spirit of togetherness and sharing of emotions that is at play here, not the spirit of the lord or any other supernatural entity.   Music unites us and allows us to share our humanness.  

The pastor (this was a Protestant service, in contrast to my last church experience) gave a sermon titles “The Dangerous People”.  According to him, the people who are truly dangerous, “to themselves and others”, are those who “think they know, but don’t know” (his exact words, not mine). He said that we need to be willing to accept council and instruction from others.   He couched this in knowledge of the Bible, using Apollos and Paul from the New Testament as examples.  

He said that Apollos was a great preacher and very knowledgeble in the scriptures, but that he only knew of John the Baptist, and since he didn’t know of Jesus, he was somehow dangerous to himself and to others.  How Apollos was dangerous he didn’t say.  What he did say was that once he was told of the true way of Jesus, he learned from that and started preaching the gospel of Jesus.  That, somehow, was supposed to show us how we must listen to wise council and not assume that we know everything.  

He never said how we can differentiate good council from bad, truth from falsehood, only that we must be willing to admit that we don’t know everything and to listen to those who know more.  He also didn’t tell us who “those” are.  I found the message pretty muddled.  I suppose that you could take from this that we must be humble and open to new ideas, but I didn’t get the feeling that this was what he really meant.  To me, he seemed to emphasize the idea of “dangerous people”, but without ever letting us know how to tell “truth” from falsehood. 

One other thing that he said really struck me, because it was so self-contradicting.  He said that we have the liberty of praising and doing the will of God.  How can you do the will of an all powerful god and still have liberty?  This is subjugation disguised as liberty.   It is the same as saying that Americans value liberty, but then say that we are not real Americans if we don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance, completely missing the fact that by pledging allegiance to anything, be it God or country, we are trading our liberty for servitude to some higher master.

I’ve been learning quite a bit from my forays to church.  I’ve learned that there are some wonderful ideas out there about how we can be better people, but they always get watered down by the trappings of religion.  Instead of using the example of how we should be humble and admit that we don’t have all the answers in order to think for ourselves so that we can learn and grow, it comes down to just having faith.  Well, you can’t have faith and truly think for yourself, because to really think for yourself means to question everything, which faith can not allow.  

I find it almost sad to see such potential for real understanding of the human condition and the world we live in lost in a morass of faith, platitudes, and servitude to a “higher power”.   This makes us compliant and docile, just like the sheep that the shepherd figure of Jesus requires us to be.

Dehumanizing Atheists

This vile piece of hate came to my attention the other day:

Atheists are not technically human beings (they have no soul) therefore they are not protected by our nations laws and bill of rights.

Now, based on his other tweets, TeaPartyTony is nothing but a hate spewing, racist, misogynistic jerk.  I try to avoid these types, but what made this stand out for me was the part about Atheists having no souls.  

Given some of Tony’s other tweets, he expects to see atheists burn in hell, but here he says we have no souls, so I guess we can’t go to hell.  I doubt Tony sees the conflict between his two statements, but then again, I’m guessing that he probably doesn’t care.  In either case, he is putting atheists in a class of people who he considers to be subhuman.   

This tactic of declaring those who you dislike as less than human goes back into antiquity.  We like to think of ourselves as good people, or at least as adhering to some kind of moral code.  To hurt or kill another human goes against most peoples’ moral code, so when they find themselves in conflict with others outside their group they have to find a way to rationalize the hate they feel.  They need to make their opponents less than human, less like them.  This allows them to resolve the cognitive dissidence that they have to grapple with by treating another person badly.

Religion has a very effective way to dehumanize people.  It can claim that the hated group either have no souls, or more commonly, have souls that will be tormented in hell forever.  In this way, they become not so much less human, but less worthy of being treated like humans.  Using religion to dehumanize someone is even more effective than the usual method of just calling someone inhuman.  By claiming that their god has decreed that the hated person(s) are damned, all responsibility for hating, persecuting, hurting, and killing another human begin falls on the god, not his/her/its followers.

It is a very insidious, and very effective, way to justify treating others as less that deserving of the same rights that you have.

Atheists are not technically human beings (they have no soul) therefore they are not protected by our nations laws and bill of rights.

I Got Noticed!

I found a cool pic on FB and shared it there.  I also downloaded it so I could share it here.  I also sent it to PZ Myers because I thought that maybe he could use it for his Anti-Caterday post.  Before I could post it here, PZ actually used it for his Anti-Caterday post!  I know it’s just a little thing, and it isn’t the first time I’ve got a bit of extra traffic my way from a blogger (Skepchick)  who I greatly respect, but it is cool all the same.

 

 

“God is Just a Placeholder for Our Ignorance”

“God is just a placeholder for our ignorance.”

I just thought this up.  It’s not original really, at least not as a thought, but a search of google doesn’t turn up that exact wording with the same context and meaning (although it does turn up this on Butterflies & Wheels, but that isn’t exactly the same).  Yeah for me!  

I want to have buttons and bumper stickers made up with that on it.   Anyone know the best way (read cheapest) to do that?