Tag Archives: Christianity

Irish Atheists Challenge Blasphemy Law

Here in the United States, it’s taken for granted that we are allowed to say/write more or less anything we damn well want, even if it annoys or offends someone else. ESPECIALLY if it annoys or offends someone else. Our inherent right to speak our minds is something we see as sacrosanct.* It is therefore almost unthinkable that in this current age, when speaking out against one’s government is considered almost a given, that something like Ireland’s new blasphemy laws exist, much less are to be enforced.

The laws have been in place but largely unenforced due to  nebulous wording for decades. Now, the laws have been updated and carry a hefty fine of up to €25,000, which comes to more than $35K for those of you following along in dollars.

Enter the group Atheist Ireland. They’re having none of it. On Friday Jan. 1, the day the law went into effect, the group published a list of 25 blasphemous quotes in direct response to the law that they find “silly” and “literally medieval.” I couldn’t agree more. This is something I would expect from Iran or some other overly religious state. But Ireland?  The new law states that someone can be found guilty of blasphemy if:

“he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.”

The best if Irish luck to Atheist Ireland, who are running a campaign to amend the constitution and repeal this archaic, ill thought out law.

*Please note: that right is not as all encompassing as we US citizens think it is. ‘Free speech’ addresses a very particular type of speech. It refers to the ability to petition/criticize one’s government publicly without fear of redress. The first amendment specifically addresses political speech, not your right to bitch out some asshole who takes your parking spot at the local mall. It also doesn’t apply on private property. No, it doesn’t. No really. Private property, including the internet, is not covered under free speech. Check your ToS: you spew hate speech, get yourself tossed and see how much ice ‘Freedom of expression’ cuts with the powers that be.

Ohio Science Teacher Accused of Teaching Creationism In Hearing Today

Despite overwhelming evidence of a First Amendment violation, Mt. Vernon middle school was not allowed to simply terminate John Freshwater in 2008. The school has spent months and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, money that should have rightfully gone to educating students, in order to justify the termination to an independent committee.

Yet despite knowing exactly what he is taking from students and the school district, Mr. Freshwater has dragged out this hearing to a ridiculous length; 14 months and counting. He has lied multiple times during testimony. He has attempted to manipulate and misdirect. It is unconscionable and beyond the comprehension of this atheist how anyone could still call themselves a Christian while behaving in the manner this man has behaved.

Creationism and ID have caused nothing but confusion and detracted heavily from actual science. The insecurity felt by fundamentalists when confronted with scientific research in no way places a burden upon scientists to falsify data to satisfy religious dogmatic teachings.

John Freshwater has not demonstrated a single reason why he should continue to be trusted with the education of Ohio’s children and several as to why he should not. Sadly, instead of taking those children into consideration and simply accepting the termination, he seems intent on causing as much damage as possible.

I’ll Adopt Your Dog After the Rapture

As recently reported in the Telegraph, a group of enterprising atheists here in the states have offered to care for the left behind pets of Christians after the Rapture. Yup, for a small fee ($110.00) this thoughtful group of unbelievers will happily take care of your pet after you’ve gone up to heaven with Jesus.

You’ve committed your life to Jesus. You know you’re saved. But when the Rapture comes what’s to become of your loving pets who are left behind?   Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind.

Kind of a bummer they’re not here in Texas. I mean, talk about a natural market! I’m thinking about contacting them just to see what they say about expanding here. I’d even put fliers on doors. OOo! Maybe leave some business cards at the mega church up the street!

After all. Atheists love pets, too.

Not a Christian Nation Redux

My governor is an idiot. I’ve known this for a while now, but today he was kind enough to cement that opinion with his latest idiocy. According to Gov. Good Hair, the state should stay out of the church, but the church definitely belongs in the state:

The notion that laws should not be informed by religion is an extreme one, Gov. Rick Perry said Sunday in remarks at a San Antonio church, where he challenged the faithful to “speak up to defend those whose rights are being eroded by an increasingly secular culture.”

Maybe someone can explain this to me. The people who wrote the Constitution weren’t extremists as far as I can tell, but the Treaty of Tripoli (1797) quite clearly states:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Islamic] nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

In this passage, Adams is quite clearly addressing the Muslim nations as an envoy from a secular nation. There is no interpretation here. The man who wrote the majority of the Constitution of the United States viewed this country as having a secular government, not a Christian one. Others who worked on the document took a similar stance. We may have a majority Christian population, but that does not imply a Christian government.

Don’t let that stop you in your plunge to stupidity, though, Rick. Keep going.

Perry said it was important to understand the biblical roots of the conflicts in the Middle East.

“I fully believe that the situation there illustrates God’s powerful love for the nation of Israel and his desire for it to endure until the end of time. And it’s your passionate support, it’s your passionate support of Israel and your embrace of your Jewish roots — our Jewish roots — that make for an even deeper experience of the fullness of God’s love.”

Holy flaming morons, batman! The Governor of Texas thinks Christians are evolved Jews. The staggering arrogance of the man is unbelievable. Get this, Gov. You do not have Jewish roots. And your insistence that Christianity is evolved Judaism is insulting, both to Christians and to Jews. Jews do not, have not ever, and will not ever believe in a Trinity. They just won’t. Those who are Messianic don’t believe that the Messiah will be the son of Yahweh! Do you not get that? Also, you are totally misinterpreting the phrase “God’s chosen people.” From an email from a rabbi of my acquaintance:

But…”God’s Chosen People” only means that we’re chosen to follow the laws and commandments. It doesn’t mean that we’re first in line for the really nice condos with the views of the Elysian Fields in the afterlife or anything. Do they not get that?

Being “God’s Chosen People” isn’t a privilege*, it’s a duty.

*Ok, it kind of  is

No rabbi, sadly some people just do not get that. Apparently Christians feel it’s their duty to protect the Jews because a friend of the Jews is a friend of God, and if you take care of the Jews you get into heaven. Or something. Sort of like going clubbing. If you go with a hot girl, you get in and maybe get hit on by the wingman. So Christians are now equating themselves with the unattractive chubby hanger on. Just sad.

United States Becoming More Secular

A just-published study by the American Religious Identification Survey found that14.1% of Americans or 29,481,000 people identify as atheist, humanist, agnostic or non-religious (see pages 12-13, SO sorry about the PDF).

Additionally, nearly 40% of those who identified as Christian stated that neither they themselves nor members of their families belonged to or attended a church or religious institution. The difference between “identification as” and “affiliation with” [a religious institution] is very pronounced: people call themselves Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim… but don’t attend Church/Temple/Mosque. The association is more a state of mind than actual state of being.

Can we now, then dispense with the meme that “we are a Christian nation”? That in fact, we are a nation of people, many of whom identify when asked as Christian, but have no actual ties to any Christian church?

I take this as a particularly encouraging sign. What was previously seen as an impenetrable wall now seems no more than smoke and mirrors. Church membership is declining. Atheism and humanism is markedly on the rise. Reason is making headway in public schools and government. It does lead me to wonder, however, just how accurate a certain survey was. You know the one. It shows atheists as being the least trusted group in the U.S. With close to one fifth of the U.S. atheist/agnostic or non-religious….just how accurate is that statement?

Ted Haggard’s Closet Gets a Little Fuller

Ted, Ted, Ted, Ted, Ted. What are we going to do with you?

Yes, it’s true. Ted Haggard, public homophobe and pastor of the Denver New Life Mega-Church, is once again the center of a gay sex scandal. I know. I’m as shocked as you. Who would’ve thought that just two short years after having meth fueled sex with a male hooker (which I understand isn’t nearly as pleasurable or fulfilling as the straight laced hetero man on top get it over with quick with the lights out kind), yet ANOTHER story about Ted Haggard having gay sex with a member of his own church would find its way to the surface? Other than me and, probably, you.

The article states:

Boyd said an “overwhelming pool of evidence” pointed to an “inappropriate, consensual sexual relationship” that “went on for a long period of time … it wasn’t a one-time act.” Boyd said the man was in his early 20s at the time. He said he was certain the man was of legal age when it began.”

Ohhh, good. Because of all the things wrong with the head of a mega church that influences public policy by snuggling up to the President of the United States and getting him to pass harmful legislation against gays and women being found to have gay sex with a young member of his church, the one I’m MOST worried about is whether the young man was underage or not. Mr. Boyd, are we on the same planet? I think something a bit more worrisome was the fact that Mr. Haggard paid the kid off.

In a letter e-mailed Friday to New Life Church members, Boyd said of the settlement and agreement not to talk: “This decision was made not as an attempt to conceal wrongdoings, but to protect him from those who would seek to exploit him.”

Okay. I think we’re stretching the suspension of disbelief a little far, even for Christians. If part of the agreement was explicitly that neither party discuss the affair? It was hush money.

In an AP interview this month before an appearance in front of TV critics in California, Haggard described his sexuality as complex and something that can’t be put into “stereotypical boxes.”

*sigh*…. Ted? Ted, you’re gay, and you’re closeted. That’s about as boxed in as you can get. Look. I’m going to try to help you. I know you’re scared and  I know you’re worried, but at this point…how much worse can it really get? You lost your church, you lost your reputation, you’re a national joke, and the woman you’re married to doesn’t trust you now and (thanks to this new thing) probably never will again. You’ve shamed your children. Was it worth it? Ted…stop making their and your life miserable. There IS a way. Two simple words, and then … believe it or not… life will get easier. Ready? Repeat after me. “I’m gay.” Now own it. It will be okay. I promise. Your wife will be able to move on with her life. You may even be able to mend fences with her. Your kids will need lots of attention and understanding, but you could really be a model dad, one who shows just what grace and acceptance really mean, not all that fire and brimstone crap you’ve been spewing for years. And YOU, Ted, will be happy. At least, happier than you are now. Believe it.

And later, we’ll work on that whole god fixation thing.

Texas Rejects God in the Science Classroom

I am still being surprised by my adopted state. I have had to reject my preconceived notions about Texas and recognize that, while some stereotypes do apply, when it comes to politics and sociological views, it’s as diverse as my home state of California.

Today Texas stepped firmly into the 21st century and embraced science without religion. Although it isn’t final, the fifteen member board voted to remove the “strengths and weaknesses” clause in the state’s science curriculum as it applies to evolution. The clause has previously been used to open the door to the “alternative theory” of Intelligent Design.

The article states:

The new science curriculum standards will take effect beginning with the 2010-2011 school year and last about 10 years.

[snip]

Instead of allowing teachers to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolutionary theory, the proposed science curriculum standards would encourage students to apply critical thinking, scientific reasoning and problem solving “to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning and experimental and observational testing.”

In other words, YES, question evolutionary theory. YES, look for gaps in reasoning and facts. But use facts to get there. The original wording of the “strengths and weaknesses clause” reads as follows:

(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and

(2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.


Never mind that were science simply taught as science, there would BE no controversy, or that religion and philosophy have no place in a science classroom, or even that the US Senator who originally proposed the clause was a huge proponent of intelligent design and felt religion should be re-instituted into public schools. Just go ahead and teach the kids that not everyone “believes in” evolution because we need them to know God’s there, too. No. If you want your kids to know that God’s there, too, YOU teach them that. Let the science teachers teach science. It isn’t their job to remind them that they need to feel guilty for learning there’s more to the universe than was covered in the Bible/Torah/Qu’ran.

So I think it is an astounding and wonderful and courageous move by the Texas Board of Education that in the face of knee jerk reactionaries and politicians who are too afraid of not getting re-elected and the near omnipresent church (you can’t go three blocks without seeing a church in Texas), they agreed to let the kids learn how to apply logic and reason in their studies. Of course there are those who disagree:

Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, who voted to keep “strengths and weaknesses,” said he wouldn’t rubber stamp recommendations from the experts.

“This is a battle of academic freedom. This is a battle over freedom of speech,” Mercer said. “It’s an issue of freedom of religion.”

No, Mr. Mercer. It is not an issue of freedom of religion, because there IS no religion in our classrooms. It is an issue of teaching science in the classroom without fear of religion being inserted. It is an issue of teaching our children to be competitive in a global market. Because we owe them that. We owe our country that. The US is falling behind in scientific development, and the blame can be laid squarely on the shoulders of those superstitious uber religious fundamentalists who have been allowed to push their agenda in our schools and our government. No more.

Today I can honestly state that I am proud of my adopted state; happy to be a Texan.

Yet More Repression of Christians

The Christian News Wire (tag lined “The most used, recognized, respected religion newswire,” which made me smirk a bit) did a top ten list entitled “Top Ten Instances of Christian Bashing in America, 2008.”  Aside from the eye-rolling banality of yet another top-ten list (is there a single place in the blogosphere that DIDN’T put one out?), the list itself comes off as whiny, petulant and paranoid, filled with appeals to emotion, distortions and logical fallacies. Not to mention a distinct lack of citations for the assertions it makes.  A couple examples? I thought you’d never ask.

INSTANCE #5: Chaplains Fired for Praying in Jesus’ Name

Chaplains for the State of Virginia are being denied their right to pray in Jesus’ name. Six chaplains were fired for continuing to pray in Jesus’ name. Earlier this year in Virginia, Rev. Hashmel Turner, a city councilman in Fredericksburg, was told by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that his prayers during city council meetings that ended in Jesus’ name will continue to be banned.

Sounds sinister, doesn’t it? If only it were true. In fact, the chaplains resigned in a snit because they were asked by the state to NOT reference Jesus Christ in prayers at public events and to keep the prayers non-denominational after a ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Yes, I have a citation. The new policy does not apply to private functions like funerals, just public state functions. Naturally, the reaction has been…well…over-reactionary:

In a statement Wednesday, Grayson County Delegate Bill Carrico called on the Superintendent to abandon, “this attack on Christianity.”

Delegate Morgan Griffith says, to “require those troopers to disregard their own faith while serving violates their First Amendment rights and prevents them from serving effectively as chaplains. These men had little choice but to resign.”

Aren’t we being just a little over the top? Nobody’s being asked to “disregard their own faith.” They’re being asked to actually obey the constitution and NOT attempt to force the state to recognize one religion over others. Y’know, if you’re going to invoke the first amendment, you’d better read the whole damn thing.

Next:

INSTANCE #10: Jack Black Musical Video

In a short video posted on FunnyorDie.com entitled, “Prop 8 The Musical,” an all star cast of Hollywood celebrities perform a low budget musical farce that defames Christ, mocks Christians and distorts the teaching of the Bible. Jack Black played the lead role of Jesus.

Um…Okay. First, Jack Black didn’t “defame” Christ, he portrayed Christ. Nor did he “distort” the teachings of the bible at all. Every single thing he said was true and a tenet of scripture. That Christians are not able to defend those tenets does not make it “defamation.” It just points out certain hypocrisy.

It’s difficult to take these people seriously. Really, I laughed when I read this list. Christians get everything they want by stamping their feet; they even manage to get programs removed from broadcast television and politicians discredited just by saying that person isn’t a Christian. But they’re being repressed? Yuh, right. No group in the history of our country has enjoyed such a protected position as Christians. The difference is that now, that position is being challenged because they’re not the only game in town, and they’re losing their power base. They now have to respect “freedom of religion” in practice as well as in theory. Which is something they’re just going to have to get over, because it isn’t going back to the old way any time soon.

Atheists and Christmas

As I think I’ve shown thus far, there have been many “reason[s] for the season.” It bears repeating that Christmas is NOT the day Christ was born. In fact, it’s been debunked to death.  There’s only one point in the year when shepherds “watch over their flocks by night,” and it ain’ t the dead of winter. It’s lambing season, around April. We also know Joseph and Mary were on their way to Bethlehem to be taxed by the Romans, which didn’t happen til late spring. The date December 25th wasn’t even arrived at until the 4th century CE, and was mainly chosen because the church needed something equally important to rival the pagan festival of the Winter Solstice. What could possibly be more important than the birth of the savior? Perfect. The actual facts fudged for the more important “truth” of Ecumenical politics.  December 25th it is.

As a result, I have absolutely no problem celebrating Christmas as a generic, mid winter holiday. There are many reasons to celebrate. My children are happy, healthy and doing well in school. They’ve worked hard all year; they deserve the gifts they’re getting. They have time off, and we get to spend time making cookies, watching old movies and playing games together as a family. Family has come in from California to visit, making this holiday special. We are happy to have each other. Do we really need to impose another reason? Especially one that isn’t true anyway.

And despite what Bill O’Reilly froths, I really have nothing against Christmas at all. I’ve always been a huge fan. Tell me Merry Christmas; I don’ t mind. I enjoy the lights and the displays on my and the neighbors’ front lawns. I love decorating the tree (incidentally, for those Christians still reading, you should look up what Jesus said about keeping company with ‘pagans’ who keep trees in their houses during the winter festival) and the house. I throw myself into Christmas. It’s the one time of the year I forget all my cares and worries and just enjoy.

So, no. I don’t have a problem with Christmas. If anything, I think it’s a shame that not everyone celebrates it. I think we should remember the original reason for it: We all made it through the year alive, we all have our health, we have our family gathered close, and the days are going to start getting longer any time now. It’s come full circle and time to start again. Merry Christmas.

A Short History of Holiday Traditions, Part 2

Okay. So we got as far as Easter yesterday. I know I skipped over quite a few things that are tied into Easter, like Lent and Good Friday and Ash Wednesday.  Rest assured, I didn’t forget about them. To put it rather bluntly: they’re just not that important. They, much like the Easter Bunny, are sort of societal vermiform appendixes. They once had meaning, but it’s changed and now we keep them around more or less out of habit.

Moving on.

Samhain aka Hallowe’en aka All Hallows Eve. Yes, I know. It’s roundly rejected by horrified Christians as a night of demonic influence, but it’s still a religious holiday. What would a religion be without a demon to point to and use to scare the masses?

Samhain (pronounced Sowen, not Sam Hane) and Halloween are now woven together as one holiday, the traditions of both making the whole. In Ireland, where Samhain originated, it was the festival celebrating the end of the harvest, and originally translated to “end of Summer [season].”  According to Wiki:

Traditionally, Samhain was time to take stock of the herds and grain supplies, and decide which animals would need to be slaughtered in order for the people and livestock to survive the winter. This custom is still observed by many who farm and raise livestock.[3][4][13]

Bonfires played a large part in the festivities celebrated down through the last several centuries, and up through the present day in some rural areas of the Celtic nations and the diaspora. Villagers were said to have cast the bones of the slaughtered cattle upon the flames. In the pre-Christian Gaelic world, cattle were the primary unit of currency and the center of agricultural and pastoral life. Samhain was the traditional time for slaughter, for preparing stores of meat and grain to last through the coming winter. The word ‘bonfire’, or ‘bonefire’ is a direct translation of the Gaelic tine cnámh. With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires. Each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together. Often two bonfires would be built side by side, and the people would walk between the fires as a ritual of purification. Sometimes the cattle and other livestock would be driven between the fires, as well.

I’m having difficulty figuring out exactly how a harvest festival came to be viewed as “evil” and “the work of the devil” from the Irish custom. Let us move on to the “Dia de los Muertos,” Day of the Dead, as it’s celebrated in Mexico. This, I can at least understand if not agree with.

The Day of the Dead is a rather sweet holiday that got misunderstood by knee-jerk reactionaries. It’s all about honoring ancestors. That’s done in every culture at some point and is still valid in many countries. The church saw this and reacted in a predictably horrified and histrionic manner. It was wicked. It was worshiping ghosts. EVIL!! AAAAAARGH! What, oh WHAT to do? I know! All Saints Day! It had worked with those obstreperous Irish. Well. It worked and it didn’t. Dia de los Muertos is still celebrated, it just has a more Catholic flavor.

Thanksgiving. I need to clear this up. There are two schools of thought on Thanksgiving. One is that because it is about giving thanks to god for making it through the really nasty New England winter it is therefore religious. On the other hand, it’s not celebrated anywhere else by any other Christians, and is viewed by the other school as a purely patriotic holiday like 4th of July. Yes, I’m probably biased in my atheism. But since it is celebrated by EVERYONE in my country regardless of religion or creed, I view it as a secular holiday that is more along the lines of St. George’s Day (Britain) than anything else. Except without the dragon.

And we are brought full circle to Christmas. Which, when you get right down to it, is the latest in a long line of holidays celebrating the end of the dark and the return of the light. So. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukhah, Joyous Yule, Happy Solstice…whichever may be appropriate. Enjoy the season, whatever your personal reason. The sun really will come up tomorrow.