Jim Downey's picture


So, when do you just keep your mouth shut, figure that discretion is the better course?

This comment in a thread below started me thinking about this. The critical passage:

Atheists have a great deal of familiarity when it comes to the nuts and bolts of living in a social environment. Part of this knowledge base concerns when to lay off and when to lay it on. We all know that different people have different levels of tolerance, different breaking points. In our families and circles of friends we apply this knowledge and indulge the eccentricities of those we depend upon and care for.

Jim Downey's picture

Someone has to be first.

Pete Stark is our 'point man'.

Someone had to be first, and he's it. In a news release this morning which Hank Fox sent me, and which has already been discussed at some length over at PZ's place, it was revealed that Stark is the first admitted non-theist congresscritter in our country's history. I'm sure that there have been others, but he is the first one to acknowledge it publicly.

Now we'll see how long it is before he is demonized by the Religious Right. Chances are, it's already happening, I've just too busy to go take a look. But if you know of any such, please post it here.

Jim Downey

Brent Rasmussen's picture

CU Professor Agrees With Romney - An Atheist Shouldn't Be President

Paul Campos, professor of law at the University of Colorado, agrees with Mitt Romney when Romney said,

"...we need to have a person of faith lead this country."

Prof. Campos writes about talking with his jack-Mormon friend Steve about the issue.

[Prof. Campos] Steve believes - correctly in my view - that in general the differences between religious believers are less important than the differences between believers and nonbelievers, and that this distinction is and ought to be relevant to political life.

In other words, atheists are vile, immoral people who shouldn't be allowed to fully participate in American politics. Second-class citizens that it is only right and just to criticize and discriminate against.

It's the same old bigotry wrapped up in a reasonable-sounding op-ed piece written by a quiet, unassuming law professor from Boulder. I mean, who could disagree with him? He even says that's it's OK to be a bigot towards atheists because, you know, there aren't any real atheists anyway. Or, at least, they are so rare that it might as well be that they don't exist.

Damned uppity atheists.

[Prof. Campos] Now among liberals, the knee-jerk reaction to such poll data is to condemn the intolerance it represents. Yet I think there are good reasons for refusing to vote for an atheist for president - subject to the caveat that I also believe genuine atheism, like genuinely orthodox religious belief, is actually quite rare.

Jim Downey's picture

The voice of Christian love & tolerance.

So, there I was, calmly running through the comments on the Time blog about the new 'documentary' that James Cameron is working on, enjoying the back and forth between the believers and us heathens, when I came across this gem of a comment from one of the Christians:

God has no use for someone who refuses to believe in Him. God created humanity to serve Him. We are not to live a self-serving life. So those who do not commit themselves to Him are evil and will suffer eternal damnation - like it or not. It doesn't matter what you do, it is what you believe that will either save you are damn you.

Ah, the perfect example of Christain love and tolerance.

So, how long until someone posts here saying "That's not a true Christian..."?

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Defining God.

The other night my good lady wife returned from meeting with friends to say that one of our mutual friends wanted to get together with me "to debate religion." She went on to say further that he was going to "brush up" on some things, because he was sure that he "could prove that God exists to me."


This is a friend, so when the time comes and he feels properly girded for battle, I'll have him over. We'll grill some steaks, open some beers, and talk. And the first thing I am going to ask him is to "Define: God."

Because I will want to establish just which of the many battles we are going to have - it's been my experience that getting this one issue out of the way up front simplifies all that follows. Is it the God of little children, the simple Sky Daddy who lives up above us and makes the ponies run? Is it the background 'Prime Mover' of theologians, who is only found in the deep and abiding love we feel but cannot prove? Is it the vengeful God who hates fags and wants women to be subservient to men, and men subservient to their local Shaman?


Jim Downey's picture

Equal opportunity.

Since (as you will quickly discover if you pay any attention to Ravin' Fundies who comment here or elsewhere) we atheists in the US are constantly accused of focusing our attention only on the Christian kooks, I thought I'd be an equal-opportunity heathen and see if I can stir up the Muslims a bit.

From this Reuters news item:

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A Malaysian state plans to recruit "spies" from the public to snoop on unmarried lovers and report them to Islamic religious authorities, a newspaper said Tuesday.

The Terengganu state government plans to enlist the part-time spies to look out for un-Islamic behavior, such as unmarried couples kissing or holding hands, the Star daily said.

"Some of these 'spies' could be waitresses or even janitors at hotels acting as auxiliary undercover agents for our religious department," the head of the state government's Islamic and welfare committee, Rosol Wahid, was quoted as saying.

Jim Downey's picture

Just to confirm...

...what we all know, here's the latest from Gallup:

If Your Party Nominated A Generally Well-Qualified Candidate For WH '08 Who Was ___, Would You Vote For That Person?

  Yes No
Catholic 95% 4%
Black 94 5
Jewish 92 7
A woman 88 11
Hispanic 87 12
Mormon 72 24
Married for third time 67 30
72 years old 57 42
A homosexual 55 43
An atheist 45 53

Yup. Bottom of the list.

Now, someone tell me again how we're such a threat to the religious.

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Out in the cold.

So, I'm curious: do you do something to substitute for the social connection which traditional churches offer?

I know other atheists who join a UU church, which they find can accommodate their beliefs and still provide a sense of community support (and some 'cover' in areas where being a chuch member of some sort is functionally required).

And others will simply attend one of the mainstream churches for the same reason, keeping their personal beliefs to themselves, but going along with the rituals.

I don't do any of those things. Partly, this is due to my personality - I can get along fine with people (hell, I ran a business for 8 years which required good interaction with the public, including receptions for up to 300 people each month), but my inclination is towards introversion. I seldom feel any desire at all to attend events where large groups of other people will be present. Even when I belong to some organization, I usually prefer not to attend large gatherings if I can help it.

Jim Downey's picture

What is at stake.

Just in case anyone here still suffers *any* illusion about just exactly what is at stake, the case of Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon is illuminating.

A tumbnail sketch of what has transpired, in case you haven't been following: Marcotte runs a blog called Pandagon, on which she holds forth forcefuly on religion, feminism, and politics - all topics which are, for her, closely interconnected. Recently she was hired by the Edwards presidential campaign to coordinate their campaign blog and related netroots activities. Her enemies, particularly one Bill Donohue of The Catholic League, got wind of this and decided to wage a campaign of their own to get her fired. At first it wasn't clear what the Edwards campaign was going to do, but eventually they came out in support of Marcotte. Then a few days later, Marcotte resigned from the campaign, saying that she did not wish to harm Edwards' chances at being elected.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

COTG Featured On

Check it out - The Carnival Of The Godless is being featured at! Cool!

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Come Out On Darwin Day!

Here's an interesting note I received from Will Davidson. Tomorrow, on Darwin Day, wear something yellow to indicate that you're an atheist/naturalist/freethinker etc. I'll be wearing my yellow!

I think it's going to be an interesting day tomorrow, trying to figure out who's really a fellow atheist, and who just likes to wear yellow!

Please pass this along to any Naturalists/ Atheists you might know.

Unlike other discriminated against minority groups, naturalists (those people that do not believe in supernatural causes) are mainly invisible. As long as you keep your mouth shut, nobody need ever know that you are an atheist.

But, imagine if one morning every naturalist in the world woke up with the letter N stenciled permanently on their forehead. People would stare at you as you walked down the street knowing what you are and what you believe. Shopkeepers would follow you around their store because everyone knows that atheists can't be trusted. Your parents might disown you; your spouse might leave you. You might not get that promotion or even be fired from your job. In some countries you might be imprisoned or lynched. It is for these reasons that we remain invisible.

But we pay a price for this invisibility.

First, misconceptions about us abound because of this invisibility. People don't realize that we are their doctor, their teacher, their spouse or the nice guy that just held the door for them. The only face of naturalism a person is likely to see is a militant one. Is there any doubt that the image of naturalists would improve overnight if politicians, stars and athletes would come out?

Second, while we are thus engaged in being invisible to theists, we are also invisible to each other. Because of this, we do not enjoy the camaraderie, mutual support and social networking that other minorities enjoy and benefit from.

Third, most people learn by copying success. But because of the lack of Naturalism role models, many people with naturalistic leanings simply do not view naturalism as a viable lifestyle. By being invisible, we undermine the naturalistic movement and in doing so we may be undermining the future existence of humankind.

I understand the costs of fully coming out and so I am prepared to offer up a half-measure. What I propose is that on Darwin's birthday Feb 12, all naturalists wear something yellow as a sign of solidarity. The amount of yellow you wear would be up to your own discretion. You could wear a yellow shirt, a broach or yellow underwear.

If widely adopted, this initiative would start a slow coming out of the Naturalist community with little risk to the individual.
Will Davidson
Will_G_Davidson at yahoo dot com

Jim Downey's picture

Are you an "anti Christian nazi"?

So, Pat Robertson is at it again - threatening to kill someone. That's the allegation anyway, via this dKos diary.

The courts will sort it out. Or not. That's the way our system works. I don't have any problem believing that ol' Pat could say such a thing, given his history, but whether he did so in this particular case is completely beyond my ken.

But what I find interesting is the comments attached to the news story. It's a snapshot into the mood out there. A surprising number of people posting comments are either critical of the Christian Right movement in general, or Pat Robertson in particular. And the backlash, easily seen in this comment:

Another bogus non-story used to whip up the anti Christian nazis who jump at any chance to denounce Christ or anything remotely related to Christianity. Funny, you don't see these same fanatics ranting against real, actual, provable Islamic atrocities.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Allowed To Be Offended

Oh, I get letters alright...

The following is from a big fan of UTI, David Funkhouse. David took it upon himself to send me the following email. I took it upon myself to respond to his email and share it with you. My comments are interspersed throughout.

David Funkhouser wrote:

yeah its pretty cool that christians are the only ones allowed to be offended by everyone else,

Do you need permission to be offended David? Do you believe that there is some sort of "U.S. Department Of Religious Offense" that "allows" certain religious groups to be offended?

That's got to be one of the silliest things I've ever read.

More below the fold...

Brent Rasmussen's picture

That's Just Not How He Rolls

If you haven't watched Mr. Deity yet, you're truly missing out on what I believe to be a sneak preview of the first hit television series from an atheist perspective. Brian Keith Dalton, the writer/director, is brilliant, as are the actors that he is using in his series of shorts.

In reference to Jim's rant below, I present to you a Mr. Deity Superbowl Extra: The Press Conference:

Jim Downey's picture

What Dan said.

Dan Savage wrote an excellent piece the other day about titled "The Passion of Mary Cheney" that you should read. Blunt and somewhat oscene language, so may be NSFW.

I don't have a dog directly in this fight (GLBT rights), but in that the motivation of the Christian Right is to turn our country into their own little Kingdom, I care.

Jim Downey

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Irony, Thy Name Is Newsbusters

Ok, so, let me get this straight. A couple of atheists, Brian Sapient and Kelly from the Blasphemy Challenge and the Rational Response Squad, get on ABC's Nightline and do quite well defending the atheist point of view. one of the key points made, was by Kelly:

[Kelly from the RRS] "It's actually OK to hate atheists," Kelly said. "We are like the last group that people overwhelmingly agree that it's OK to hate us, because there's an absurd caricature of atheism out there."

Scott Whitlock is a writer for the conservative online magazine called "Newsbusters". In his story, which exudes outrage over the fact that Nightline gave a couple of godless atheists 9 minutes of air time, he ends up subtlety demonstrating the very thing that Kelly was talking about.

But it's the reader's comments that really take the cake.

Subsailor599 Says:
February 1, 2007 - 15:06

Kelly better be right, where he spends eternity depends on it.

Mean Gene Dr. Love Says:
February 1, 2007 - 15:54

So true, Subsailor599...It is better to believe in God and be wrong than it is to deny the existense of God and be wrong. I'd rather be wrong during my lifetime, than to be wrong for eternity.

More below the fold...

Brent Rasmussen's picture

When Atheists Attack!

Paula Zahn of CNN did a story on a couple of atheist families who have been discriminated against and harassed for being atheists. The story was good, showing the frustration of the atheist families, and was sympathetic

After the story, Zahn has a segment of the show called the "open panel" where they invite a few panelists to discuss the story that was just shown. Since the story was about atheists being discriminated against, you'd think that Zahn would have invited an actual, you know, atheist to sit in on the panel.

Well, you'd be wrong.

Instead, she got three god-bothering nutjobs to - *blink blink* - discriminate against atheists, live on the air.

It's either very subtle, or very stupid on Zahn's part.

HUNTER: They [atheists] don't have a good - marketing. If they had hallmark cards, maybe they wouldn't feel so left out. We have Christmas cards. We have Kwanza cards now. Maybe they need to get some atheist cards and get that whole ball rolling so more people can get involved with what they're doing. I think they need to shut up and let people do what they do. No, I think they need to shut up about it. [Emphasis mine - Brent]

Nice. Not only does our marketing suck, but we should just shut the hell up about it anyway.

Sigh. This country makes me tired sometimes.

I have included a full transcript of the show below the fold.

Jim Downey's picture

Just how evil are you?

So, just how evil are you feeling? This site: KJV Bible Top 500 is asking for new submissions, since they only have 250 listings so far. Maybe we can get Soren to send his Danish buddy a note and get his site listed. Maybe we can even get UTI listed - hey, we talk about the King James Bible, right?

Via MeFi, where I found this delightful comment: "Religions are the botnets of meatspace."

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Yeah, sure, he *said* it was a mistake...

From this story by the Associated Press:

So much for God and country, at least during some in-flight showings of the Oscar-nominated movie "The Queen." That's because all mentions of God are bleeped out of a version of the film given to some commercial airlines.

Even in these politically correct times, censoring references to God in the film wasn't a statement of some kind. Rather, it was the mistake of an overzealous and inexperienced employee for a California company that edits movies selected for onboard entertainment.

Yeah, sure, the new employee *said* it was a mistake. Just like the time when I was writing ad copy for a small radio station in the middle of Nowhere, Iowa, and inserted a joke about someone buggering sheep in an Easter promotion. I *told* the station manager when he called me into his office that I knew there was an 'archaic' meaning to the term, but I didn't really intend what the little old lady complained about (after the ad ran for like a week!) ...

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