Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind"
James Russell Lowell

"'Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are' is true enough, but I'd know you better if you told me what you reread"
Francois Mauriac

"A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy."
Edward P. Morgan

Banned Books Week, September 24 - October 1, 2011

Feel free to say Fuck You to all the anti-intellectual zealots by reading. It's fun and educational. The odds are pretty good that no matter what book you pick some yahoo out there has tried to ban it. If you want to take a look at what books have been attacked by the narrow minded check out the American Library Association's pages on Banned Books. This year YouTube is also hosting a Banned Books channel.

I think it's also important to point out that any belief system, whether religious, political, or economic that relies on restricting or distorting information is weak and cowardly.

Think for yourself.

Read what you want.

The Atheist Threat (Cue Evil Laugh)

"I know you are but what am I?!"
And various other playground taunts sprang to mind as I read this recent Chortle piece, "Atheists are as big a threat as climate change deniers." I have to admit I know nothing about the comedian Frank Skinner. He may actually be funny. Fortunately for him you don't always have to be smart or insightful to be funny, though the best comedians are both.

Basically, the whole thing is a rehash of various myth and stereotypes that have been refuted and debunked countless times. The only new aspect is his comparison of atheists to climate deniers. I find this both disturbing and amusing. I'm an atheist in part because I prefer to acknowledge reality rather than deny it. My views are guided by what can be reasonably proven. Climate deniers are, as the phrase implies, deniers of reality. It is also an odd comparison since there is no reason denial or acceptance of climate change needs to have a direct connection to religion or non-religion.

The irony of the claim provides a bit of entertainment. The whole tone of the piece also loans itself to a type of playground theology. The bully is right because if you say otherwise he'll taunt and smack you around some more. In a weird way it is also flattering. Theists are the majority. Theists dominate every aspect of life with the majority of top leaders in politics, economics, society being religious. Yet, atheists are a threat. I find that pretty impressive. Foolish and delusional but it would be nice if it were true.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Myths and Stereotypes

No matter how often the various myths and stereotypes about atheists are shown to be ignorant fallacies they continue to be thrown about. It is essential that we not get discouraged. The only way to deal with them is to steadily pick away at them. Even if it seems redundant and pointless we need to continue talk and write about these myths and stereotypes.

A recent piece on Alternet, "10 Myths Many Religious People Hold About Atheists, Debunked" by Amanda Marcotte, is a good example of this type of persistence. Other excellent pieces on this topic include Sam Harris' "10 Myths - And 10 Truths - About Atheism", Greta Christina's "Eleven Myths and Truths About Atheists", and David Silverman's "The Top Ten Atheist Myths"

There are more than ten or eleven myths but you get the idea.

Sympathetic, But Only Slightly

Unfortunately, even those who are generally sympathetic towards atheists tend to harbor various misconceptions and biases. A recent post on one of the Atlantic blogs is a good example. Ta-Nehisi Coates post, "The Most Effective Argument for Atheism That I've Ever Seen" is not outright hostile, at least in comparison to what others have written, but it is laced with myths and ignorance. He characterizes atheists as fundamentalists and as being angry. He also makes it pretty obvious that he knows very little about atheists/atheism. The argument he refers to is not a bad one but it is by no means the most effective.

It is also interesting that he ends his short post by stating, "If you can't talk without driving into the margins, or insulting someone, try not talking. You don't have to speak on everything." It never seems to occur to Coates that perpetuating myths and misconceptions is insulting. The last sentence seems design to insulate himself from criticism. Personally, I think if you are willing to comment publicly then you should not only be open to criticism you should encourage it. Just try to make sure any critical comments are actually supported by reality.
"Delusion is the child of ignorance"
Bhagavad Gita

Hail to the Theocrat?

In the past few weeks most media outlets have proclaimed Rick Perry to be either the front runner or one of the top three contenders for 2012 GOP Presidential race. This prospect should not only scare atheists but also anyone who cares about separation of church and state.

Perry's prayer-a-palooza event "The Response" got quite a bit of attention but was essentially portrayed as a single event. It was not. It is just one example of Perry's theocratic mentality. Many of the groups and individuals he went out of his way to invite to the prayer rally are either explicitly part of the Dominionist Movement or  sympathetic to it. It is also telling that the Religious Right actively pushed Perry to run for president and that his primary financial backer is James Leininger. They didn't pick him for a one-shot publicity event. There is no reason to doubt that Perry believes what he claims. He is an incredibly ignorant, intolerant, anti-science wacko who would enjoy forcing everyone to abide by his violent destructive notion of right and wrong.

Be afraid, very afraid! Better yet, be proactive. Get the word out that this man is bad for everyone whether they are religious or not.

Note: Point of Inquiry recently had a podcast on Dominionism

Saturday, September 10, 2011

CFI - Living Without Religion

I love this ad from the Center For Inquiry. CFI is building a website for one of its current campaigns, Living Without Religion.
"Tyranny never has much trouble drumming up the smiles of prompt agreement, but a democracy stands in need of as many questions as its citizens can ask of their own stupidity and fear... dissent is what rescues the democracy from a slow death behind closed doors."
Lewis Lapham
"Cause for Dissent" Harper's Magazine, April 2003

Hitler Was Not An Atheist

"Grace of God," "divine grace," God forbid," "God be thanked," and "God knows," are not phrases likely to be used by an atheist certainly not on a regular basis. Yet, Mein Kampf, the book by Hitler that most scholars view as the blue print for Nazi Germany is littered with these phrases. The false notion that Hitler was not only an atheist but epitomizes what it means to be an atheist has been used by Christian critics for decades. I am not sure whether it stems from ignorance, willful or otherwise, or from something worse. This myth is not promoted solely by right wing religious critics of atheism. There are numerous liberals and moderates who have promoted the lie as well. Why? Anyone with a functional brain and an interest in the truth could easily figure out that it is a blatant falsehood. Is it a defensive projection? It can easily be debated whether Hitler was a "good" Christian or not but it is no way debatable that he was Christian. Get transcripts of his speeches or read Mein Kampf. They may not be easy to stomach but they are pretty clear on Hitler's personal views.

Some examples:

"Therefore, I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator: By warding off Jews I am fighting for the Lord's work." (V.1 Ch.2, p.84)

"This perseverance is only and always the result of a certain spiritual conviction alone. All force which does not spring from a from spiritual foundation will be hesitating and uncertain." (V.1 Ch.5, p.222)

"The result of any crossing, in brief, is always the following:
a. Lowering of the standard of the higher race,
b. Physical and mental regression, and, with it, the beginning of a slowly but steadily progressive lingering illness.
To Bring about such a development means nothing less than sinning against the will of the Eternal Creator" (V.1 Ch.11, p.392)

"Should not the same renunciation be possible if it is replaced by the admonition finally to put an end to the permanently continuous original sin of race poisoning and to give the Almighty Creator being as He Himself created them?" (V.2 Ch.2, p.611)

All excerpts from the annotated edition of Mein Kampf

So if you hear anyone state that Hitler was an atheist make a point of correcting them.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

An Inflatable Chapel

Anyone else come across news stories on the inflatable chapel? I think it does a pretty decent job summing up religion as a whole. It is a little unsightly, definitely silly, and is far more likely to cause controversy and conflict than it is to be beneficial.
"Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced."
Lev Tolstoy

The Arts are also rife with Anti-atheist bigotry

A recent example of the blind prejudice and ignorance in the arts can be found in Quentin Letts recent review, "Hallelujah! Miracles Do Happen." In praising the play The Faith Machine he notes that, "the Royal Court's latest play is a breakthrough in the religion v atheism battle." Yet, he never provides any breakthrough. Lett's seem to think the play is unique since, "It does not serve up the sort of pro-Darwin propaganda pumped out by the BBC."  If he means pro-evolution he should say so. Using Darwin just shows from the start how ignorant he is. This, of course, makes me wonder if he'd prefer pro-creationist/fairy tale propaganda.

Letts also seems to intentionally ignore some rather major details of the play in order to push his claim that it is unique. He doesn't seem to notice, for instance, that the major character who is the least likable with the most questionable personal ethics and morals happens to be the atheist. The character who is not only the most likable but the moral center of the play is the religious girlfriend of the atheist. This is Letts "breakthrough." It sounds like standard anti-atheist bullshit to me. The moral/ethical dilemmas that drive the plot all seem to be fairly standard both in their presentation and theatrical usage. A slightly more revealing and accurate review can be found at The Guardian.

It is interesting to note that both the play and reviews are from England which is generally viewed as being more open to atheism