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.

Chick-Fil-A, Last Call

The Chick-Fil-A brouhaha had highlighted a real inequality in our society. That inequality is that religious institutions in general, and Christians in particular, feel that they have some special rights that imbue their beliefs with some kind of untouchability. There is an arrogant sense of entitlement that permeates their thinking and ideology which is inherently unjustified and invidious.

For those of you living in a hole for the past few weeks, gay rights groups called for a boycott of Chick-Fil-A because it’s owner said that his company operates by Christian values and one of those values tradition marriage. While he said that Chick-Fil-A does not discriminate against homosexuals in hiring or service to their customers, it believes that homosexuality is wrong and a sin. He was well within his rights to express this view. What he does not have a right to is to expect that others wouldn’t be outraged by his expression of his beliefs.

Unfortunately, other Christians didn’t see it this way. They were outraged that gay rights supporters called for a boycott of Chick-Fil-A. They claimed that it’s freedom of speech was being infringed upon and they called for those who supported Chick-Fil-A, and “traditional marriage” to go eat at Chick-Fil-A.

They seemed to feel that they were entitled to have their beliefs respected, but ignored or disrespected the beliefs of others.

Of course, they did not mention their calls for boycotts of businesses that support gay rights.

One Million Moms organized a Facebook campaign protest this week in response to JC Penney’s decision to hire DeGeneres, who is openly gay.

One Million Moms’ expressed their wrath agaist DC Comics because of their story line for their character, The Green Lantern, who was revealed to be gay. It wasn’t just One Million Moms, Alan Caruba, of Canada Free Press, called for a boycott as well. The same with Marvel Comics for showing a gay wedding. They also called for a boycott of Toys R Us for carrying the comic book.

Christians also called for a boycott of video game maker Electronic Arts, for adding characters in same-sex relationships to its games.

And how can we forget the rainbow Oreo?

Where was the outrage that these businesses were being targeted for boycotts for their stance on gay rights? Where were the supporters of gay rights claiming that these business’ right to freedom of speech was being threatened by the boycotts? Where was the call for those who support gay rights to line up at Toy’s R Us, or JC Penny to show their support for these businesses?

They were nowhere because these business and their supporters know that anyone has a right to call for a boycott of their products if they don’t agree with their stance on gay rights or any other issue. They where nowhere because there isn’t the sense of entitlement that exists within the Christian community that their beliefs should somehow be above reproach and ridicule.

Christians like to claim that there is a war on religion, that their beliefs are being infringed upon by actions like the call for a boycott of Chick-Fil-A. They have the arrogance to believes that they are somehow a persecuted minority.

The fact is that Christians make up something like 70% of the population of the U.S., hardly a minority. Theiy have their prayers recited at public ceremonies across the country, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution; they have their beliefs ingrained in our culture.

Religious establishments have a sense of entitlement in our society that is unwarranted and they get outraged when others insist that they be treated just like anyone else.

As John Stewart said:

“You have confused a war on religion with not always getting everything you want. It’s called being part of a society – not everything goes your way,”

Religious Freedom: Your Rights Are Special; Your Religion Is Not

No one’s beliefs are beyond question or criticism.  Insisting on special special status for your religious beliefs has nothing to do with your freedom of religion and everything to do with your belief that your religion is somehow better than everyone else’s.  You have the freedom to believe what you choose and to live your life accordingly, unless you try to infringe upon the rights of others.  You do not have the freedom to insist that everyone else live by your beliefs.

I respect your right to believe as you wish but that respect only goes as far as me not trying to stop you from believing as you do, or insist that you believe as I do.  That respect does not include respect for your religion’s ideas, concepts, or particular moral code.

I expect you to question my beliefs and to challenge them.  I have no problems or qualms accepting your challenges to my beliefs.  I believe that if we don’t constantly question, we stagnate, then we stop learning and stop growing.  I question everything, even my own beliefs, constantly.  This brings a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me.

You, on the other hand, recoil in dismay when your beliefs are questioned and claim that you are being persecuted and that your right to freedom of religion is being infringed upon.  You are wrong.  Your beliefs are being questions, challenged, and even ridiculed.  Your right to believe them are not being questioned.  Your right to practice your beliefs and to worship are not being questioned.

Freedom of religion does not give your the right to insist that every public meeting or event be preceded with a prayer to your god.  It does not give you the right to insist that laws be passed to restrict the actions and speech of others not of your faith just because they don’t hold to the same moral beliefs as you.  Freedom of religion, as stated in the U.S. Constitution, also implies the freedom to have different religions, or even freedom from religion.  It implies freedom of conscience.

The Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution was enacted in order to prevent this country becoming a theocracy, as were most countries of Europe at the time, where Kings reigned by the grace of God.  The Founding Fathers,  in whose memories of the vicious religious wars of scant generations past were still a powerful and terrible memory, created the Establishment Clause to forestall just such terrible religious inspired strife in this country.

Today we see our society polarized by religiously motivated groups on the right who would push their vision of a Christian nation under their particular god upon all of us.  Their titular political arm, the Republican party, which once fought against religiously supported slavery, has now become a tool for those who breed hatred against,  homosexuals, the poor, women, and the non-christian or non-religious.  Their justification?  Their religion.  Their Bible.

Their belief that their Bible tells them that homosexuality is a sin worthy of death(1) that the poor will always be with us(2) and will be rewarded in heaven(3) and therefore somehow can be ignored here on earth); that women must be silent(4) and submit to their husbands(5). They claim that their god is a god of love and mercy.  Their Bible, their words, and their actions show otherwise; that their God is an angry, merciless, and vengeful god and that they are a bigoted, racist, misogynistic people who use their holy book to foist their twisted view of morality on the rest of us.

 

We all have the right to our own religion, our own beliefs.  We all have the right to worship as we wish.  We do not have the right, none of us, is to have our beliefs put up on a pedestal that is above question, challenge or even ridicule.  What none of us has is the privilege of having our special religious beliefs, modes of worship, and morals elevated above those of anyone else.  The freedom of religion granted by the U.S. Constitution implies, above all, equality of all beliefs, where no one belief or religion, especially that of majority, is above any other.

 

1 Leviticus 18 and 20

2 Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, John 12:8

3 Matthew 5:3, Luke 6:20

4 1 Corinthians 14:34

5 1 Peter 3:5

It Gets Better

Today was a long, really hectic day so I don’t have much of a blog entry to give you today.

There has been an excellent video making the rounds on the intertubes. Both Jen McCraight and PZ Myers both blogged about it. It is worth watching and then watching again. I showed it to my daughter and her friend and after watching it, their immediate reaction was to say how they wished a friend of theirs who tried to commit suicide because of the teasing he gets because he is gay had seen it before and that they would make sure he watched it. Share it with every kid you know, especially those who are “different”. They need to realize that it does really get better.

When Persecution Really Is Just Sour Grapes Over Loss Of Privilege

According to an article in the daily Telegraph in the U.K., Gary McFarlane,, a relationship counsellor, was fired after refusing to work with same-sex couples because he said that it violated his religious beliefs. The funny things is that he had counseled same-sex couples in the past. He challenged his dismissal in court saying that counseling same-sex couples forced him to go against the Bible’s teachings and that his firing was religious discrimination. He said that his treatment was an example of Christians being persecuted in modern Britain.

I think Mr. McFarlane needs to read up on his British history. About 500 years ago, Catholics were being burned at the stake just for being Catholic. Now that is persecution. Getting fired for refusing to do your job isn’t.

He had counseled same-sex couples in the past, but it was only after he qualified as a psychosexual therapist that he felt that his religious beliefs wouldn’t allow him to counsel same-sex couples about sex. He then told his employer this and his fellow counsellors said that his views were homophobic, and he was sacked.

I will give the man the benefit of the doubt and say that he probably wasn’t homophobic given his work with same-sex couples in the past, but still, if his employer requires that their employees treat all couples, regardless of gender make up, then it is their right to terminate the employment of anyone who can’t carry out those duties.

I don’t buy into the idea that you can be trained in a field where you are providing a service to customers and then refuse to provide those services to certain customers because you don’t agree with some aspect of the treatment due your beliefs. We’ve seen this here in the U.S. with pharmacists refusing to provide the morning-after pill or birth control pills to patients. This is just unacceptable

What if a fireman refused to rescue people from an abortion clinic because he was anti-abortion? Or a doctor who refuses to operate on a person because they are Jewish or Black? Society doesn’t stand for these things and there is no reason to expect any different from councilors, pharmacists, or other care providers. If you are going to pursue a career where you have to provide services to people, then you need to be prepared to provide those services to everyone. If your conscience won’t let you do it, then it is time to change careers.

Refusing these services to certain groups of people because your don’t agree with their lifestyle or the particular treatment is bad enough, but to then claim discrimination is beyond the pale. It is an example of a usually privileged class of person who suddenly finds that that privilege is no longer extended to them. To say that getting fired for essentially refusing to do your job is persecution is the hight of arrogance.

A Christian nurse lost her job because she refused to stop wearing a crucifix around her neck. She was told that it posed a health and safety hazard. She claimed religious discrimination. There are plenty of jobs where the wearing of jewelry is forbidden for safety and health reasons and hers was one of them. To claim discrimination is simply wrong and presumptuous.

There was the Christian doctor who was removed from an adoption panel because she wanted to abstain from making decisions about same-sex couples adoptions. This is completely unreasonable. If you can’t do the job as it is intended, then you shouldn’t be allowed to do it at all.

One of these people, after a judgement didn’t go their way, said, “This is a very bad day for Christianity.”

How incredibly arrogant to presume that these decisions are motivated by anti-Christian biases. The real issue is that the dogmatic teachings of Christianity (and other religions like Islam) are no longer relevant or acceptable in today’s society. If religious believers insist on hanging onto their outdated notions of who is good and who isn’t, they will continued to be marginalized in society. This is not persecution, this is simply refusing to allow superstitions and ancient texts to dictate what is right and what is wrong. Morals are something that are agreed upon by a society as a whole, not by fiat by some Pope or elders or, worse, some 2000 – 3000 year old text written by goat herders and religious fanatics.

Christians aren’t being persecuted in the U.K. or the U.S. They need to wake up and look around them. There are countries where people are persecuted for their religious beliefs, but they aren’t being fired from jobs, they are being beaten and killed, or herded into ghettos. These people need to face up to the fact, just as whites in the southern U.S. did 50 years ago, that their days of unquestioned privilege are over.

Homosexual Scientists Find Gene For Christianty

I’ve been working lots of overtime and sick to boot so I didn’t manage to get a post done for yesterday and, for today, I’ll have to leave you to check out this gem that turns the tables on the Christian belief that homosexuality is just a life style choice. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPKH_XjY5aI&feature=player_embedded

Bullying

The recent rash of GLBT teens killing themselves due to bullying is tragic.  The reaction to this has been interesting with the right mostly subdued and silent on the issue, except for a few complete douche bags who have supported the idea of gay people doing us all a favor by taking themselves out.  

The reaction from most people have been positive, as it should be and there has been widespread support for efforts to address bullying in general and homophobic bullying in particular.  Efforts like the “It Gets Better” project have worked hard to engage kids and raise awareness of the issues faced by GLBT teens.  Another one is “Declare Yourself an Ally” which is trying to gain support for GLBT issues from straight people.  I highly recommend supporting these and other similar groups who are trying to raise awareness and eliminate gender and sexual orientation bias.

This issue hits pretty close to home because I was bullied a lot as a child, not because I’m gay, but because I was fat.  I was tormented, made fun of, ostracized and beaten up.  I lived in fear of going to school and I was too humiliated and ashamed to talk to anyone about it, even my parents.  So I can only imagine how these kids must feel.  To be tormented for something that you had no control over (and as a child I really didn’t have control over my weight in the sense that an adult would) is agonizing.  To feel that you are nothing, or less than nothing is pain beyond words.  These are only kids, after all.  Being a teenager is hard enough as it is, but to be a gay teenager must be unbelievably difficult.

The groups I mentioned are a really positive sign that our society does care about people, no matter who they are.  To think that someone is somehow worth less than you just because of their sexual orientation is inhuman and disgusting.   To feel nothing, or worse, take pleasure, in the humiliation and suffering of others is both sadistic and a sign of someone who is a sociopath.  We would normally consider these type of people threats to society and wish for them to be locked away.  But, when supposedly respectable people like politicians and pastors and other religious leaders say terrible things about gay people, when they actively support laws that would deny basic human rights to gay people, they are seen as just expressing their “family values”.   Spreading hate and actively denying rights to others is nothing but heinous socio-pathological behavior, yet it is encouraged and approved by millions of Americans in the name of God and “family values”.  What does it say about us as a society that we can condom this evil behavior, all in the name of God?

Of course, we have been here before.  Many preachers and politicians in the south quoted from their bible to justify their right to enslave millions of African Americans.  Now they use their bible to justify hating and disenfranchising millions of Americans from their natural rights to live their lives as they wish.  They teach their children to hate as well, which leads to bullying, which in extreme cases leads to gay teens to take their own lives.  These people are being no different than those who, in the past, have beat gay men to death.  This time, they use their words to accomplish the same thing and, most appallingly, rejoice about it.   Yes, the school board member who expressed his view that they only way he’d wear purple in support of gay teens was when they had all killed themselves was just one extreme example, but you know that there are many people who secretly and silently agree with him.

It is this culture of callousness and basic incivility that we must fight to change.  For those of you who believe homosexuality is a sin, because your bible tells you so, take a look in the mirror before you make that judgement.  Do you eat pork?  The bible calls that a sin.  Women, do you hide yourself away from everyone for the duration of your period?  If not, the bible counts that as a sin as well.  When was the last time you sacrificed a lamb without blemish as your lord commended?  How about keeping the sabbath?  That’s one of the big ten and I can almost guarantee that none of you out there who believe that the bible says homosexuality is a sin has ever not done work on the sabbath.  

So I say shame on you!  Shame on you for choosing to condone hate in the name of your religion while ignoring the other 95% of what your holy book preaches.  I’ve read your bible, I know the laws that you no longer keep.  Do you? While you sit comfortably in your church pew praising a god who demands you hate your fellow man, do you think of the tremendous suffering that you, through your ignorance, allow to happen in your god’s name?  Could you look a tormented teenager in the eyes and tell them that they deserve the hate and abusive they receive?  If so, then you have no heart or human feelings.  If not, then how can you justify your belief that the child in front of you deserves to die. After all, that is what your bible teaches you.

 

 

We Owe Our Youth More Than Condemnation For Their Sexuality

Over the past few weeks, five young gay people have taken their own lives. Campus Pride, an organization that promotes LGBT rights on college and university campuses across the country issued the following statement”

“…the recent pattern of LGBT youth suicides is cause for grave concern. Campus Pride demands national action be taken to address youth bullying, harassment and the need for safety and inclusion for LGBT youth at colleges and universities across the country. We must not let these tragic deaths go unnoticed. Together we must act decisively to curb anti-LGBT bias incidents, harassment and acts of violence. “

Our young people have a difficult enough time trying to cope with the stress of college and of being out in the world on their own without also being ostracized by many of their peers and, worse, fearing for their very safety

Societies seem to have a habit of needing something to fear. Much of this fear is irrational and is often justified by religious beliefs. Many of these people merely give lip service to the oft repeated phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner”, when the fact is, the “sinner” is ostracized, ridiculed, threatened with violence and in some cases physically harassed or attacked. Before the current wave of homophobia, it was (and often still is) Muslims; before that it was communists; before that, Nazis and the Japanese; further back it was anarchists, blacks, masons, mormons, witches, jews.

The thing that almost all of the bigotry and hatred of these various groups had in common was either a religiously or a nationalistic and patriotically justified fear. And in America, patriotism and religion are virtually inseparable.

As long as we allow ourselves to use religion and patriotic nationalism to justify bigotry and hate, innocent people will die, either by their own hands or by others. Every time someone is ridiculed, ostracized, threatened, attacked or has their rights infringed upon, we, as a society are weakened and lessened. Our supposed moral superiority is undermined and made laughable by our acceptance of bigotry and hatred.

Every person has inalienable rights and none of us has a right to infringe upon those rights just because we don’t agree with their choices or lifestyles. Our thoughts, desires, feelings, hopes and the way we live our lives are ours and ours alone except if we pose a danger to others or attempt to infringe upon the rights of others.

We must demand that the rights of all be respected. To do any less is an affront to our very humanity.