Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
I just want to point you folks to a new newsweek article. I read it and was a little blown away by the middle ground that the article takes.
*** edited to add. I think this is a good article and positive press for non-theists.
You can see it here.
Wow. Arkansas State Representative Richard Carroll of the Green Party introduced bill HJR1009 in the Arkansas 87th
General Assembly on 2-11-09 which seeks to amend the Arkansas state constitution to remove the language which prohibits an atheist from holding office there, or from testifying as a witness in any court case there. The resolution reads:
[link] AMENDING THE ARKANSAS CONSTITUTION TO REPEAL THE PROHIBITION AGAINST AN ATHEIST HOLDING ANY OFFICE IN THE CIVIL DEPARTMENTS OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS OR TESTIFYING AS A WITNESS IN ANY COURT.
The bill would add the following amendment to the Arkansas constitution, strikes and all:
SECTION 1. Article 19, Section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution is repealed.
§ 1. Atheists disqualified from holding office or testifying as witness.
No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.
The original prohibition is federally unconstitutional due to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1961 decision in the famous Torcaso V. Watkins case, and cannot be enforced, but I applaud Rep. Carroll for introducing this bill. It is an important symbolic step in recognizing atheists as full citizens of the state of Arkansas.
Now we'll have to wait and see if the Arkansas legislature votes to pass this resolution.
However, given the Arkansas legislature's track record on church-state separation issues, I am not holding my breath.
There has been a lot of interesting commentary on atheist activism from very disparate sources over the past couple days, and a theme is emerging: How atheists hurt the feelings of the religious.
First there has been a long series of entries on Andrew Sullivan's blog concerning the merits of faith mockery, mostly in the form of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This has directly seeded other discussions on the same topic at places like the League of Ordinary Gentlemen, where there are posts by various authors, and I have commented on a couple of them. Meanwhile, a book review by Jerry Coyne in the New Republic, which I can't recommend highly enough, has also spurred many a blog conversation at such places as the American Scene (home of Alan Jacobs, writer of one of my favorite--and now defunct--blogs, TextPatterns).
One of the more interesting pieces I've come across comes from the United Church Observer, a small church publication from Canada, which places one of its journalists reluctantly aboard a cruise for the Atheist Alliance International convention. There, Jocelyn Bell comes to some important realizations about hernonbelieving neighbors (sorry, it's Canada: neighbours).
I'm not sure what to make of the completely-unconfirmed-yet-fascinating possibility that arose today that Ted Kaufman, the newly appointed U.S. Senator from Delaware, might be an atheist. (Props to Trina at Examiner.com for beating me to the story...she is quick!) The germ of this idea comes from a New York Times article today in which Kaufman refers to his "way of thinking" as "humanistic."
Characteristically overblowing the word's implication, as is their wont, Gawker sounded the we-might-have-an-atheist-in-our-midst alarm. As has been noted, if Sen. Kaufman is an atheist, and he confirms it, he would be the highest-ranking avowed atheist in American political history. But I wonder if such a confirmation would really do anything to advance atheists in the political realm, rather than simply serve as a brief oddity.
I just read an interesting bit on the Cult of Mac blog:
A city councilor in Dartmouth, England has sparked debate by wearing his iPod earbuds to drown out prayers traditionally said before town council meetings.
When I'm in a "group prayer" situation I usually just look around the room to see who else is not bowing their head.
And here I thought that the religious lunacy rampant in our government would abate some with this new administration. Apparently not.
U.S. Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA), and two ministers, are seen here performing an ancient religious rite in which they "anoint" the doorway that the then President-Elect Obama would walk through on his way to the inauguration. As Reverend Rob Schenck says in the video, the oil is used to bless and to "consecrate - as they did the furnishings and objects in the temple - to God's use, and to His will."
Oh, did I mention that Congressman Broun is on the House Committee on Science and Technology?
And, uh, did you catch the fact that he's performing a fucking magic spell in a fucking government building right before an official government function, and that he's in his public persona as a fucking U.S. fucking Congressman?!?
Oy. We've got a loooong way to go, people.
The LA Times totally misses the point of the Freedom from Religion Foundation's attempt to stop Colorado governor Bill Ritter's proclamation of a day of prayer. The editorial asserts that the controversy centers, in part, around whether the specific prayer to be given would amount to an endorsement of a specific religion or of some right-wing policy supported by the "hysterical" (their word) James Dobson's Focus on the Family.
But the verse in question is not the problem. The problem (obviously, or so one would think) is that the very act of a prayer assumes the existence of--and gives acquiescence to--an omnipotent super-being. That may not be an official endorsement of a religion, but it is most certainly a tacit endorsement of religion itself.
As we all know, the verbatim Presidential Oath Of Office, as found in the Constitution, does not contain the words "So help me God". However, every President since the founding of the nation has added that particular magical chant to the end of the official Oath Of Office.
Barrack Obama's transition website Change.gov, has posted an overview of the inauguration, and guess what? Not one word about "So help me God".
[link] Overview of the Inauguration
The presidential inauguration is the official day that the President of the United States is sworn into office. The purpose of this inauguration is to honor the incoming president with formal ceremonies, including: a Presidential Swearing-in Ceremony, an Inaugural Address, and an Inaugural Parade.
The inauguration will take place on January 20, 2009 in Washington D.C. on the steps of the United States Capitol. President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office, which states the following:
"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Vice President-elect Joe Biden will have already taken a similar oath.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee is in charge of planning and executing the inauguration of our 44th president, Barack Obama. To find more information please visit their website. The Presidential Inaugural Committee is a separate committee from the Obama-Biden Transition Project.
With Pastor Rick tapped by Obama to give the invocation (what the heck is he invoking?), I'd be floored if he didn't add "So help me God" to his Oath. Frankly, with the massive majority of Christians in this country, he does not have much choice if he wants to be an effective President.
I guess we'll see.
I continue to be amazed at how hurt many religious people claim to be by the atheist plaque at the Washington State Capitol Building. I have written on my own blog about the false equation often made of criticism of a person’s choice of religion versus denigration of a person for accidents of their birth (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). I posit that criticizing a particular religion (or religion in general) is akin to criticizing someone for being a Democrat or a Keynesian: it is a reaction to someone’s philosophical or ideological choice, the tenets of which are open to debate. It is not the same as hating someone simply because they are black or gay or Romanian or what have you.
Chuck Norris (for whom I think a whole separate post is required to lament the loss of a folk hero to wingnutsville), for example, has “written” an “article” for the “news site” WorldNetDaily in which he laments:
. . . why the only picture of any president in my entire house is of Jefferson:
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much
liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Archibald Stuart, 1791
HT to ML for the QOTD.
Christian Trejbal is a columnist for my local paper, The Roanoke Times, and he recently wrote an editorial on "Where we vote affects how we vote". In short, he thinks voting should not take place in churches. It's not a bad column, and he brings up some good points, but I disagreed with one aspect of it. He wrote that, along with believers in other faiths, Atheists will feel uncomfortable voting in a church because of the crosses, the messages they see, etc.
Some folks are just plain crazy. Case in point: David Caldarola, author of an op-ed piece in the Chicago Daily Herald claims that the election is a religious war, between "the faithful" and the dreaded, nasty, soulless, baby-eating atheists.
And here all along I thought that this Presidential election was between John McCain and Barack Obama. Silly me!
[link] Liberalism is socialism-Communism-Marxism; all of which require atheism.
This is not an election between Obama and McCain. It's between atheists and the faithful.
So, according to David "Batshit Insane" Caldarola, this is how it works: Liberalism = socialism = communism = marxism = atheism. Obama is a liberal, therefore, ipso facto, Q.E.D., Barack Obama is an atheist bent on world domination, who wants to distribute your wealth to puppy grinding facilities all over North America.
It's all so very simple - when you're crazy.
Holey frakkin' Christ crackers. I'm no Einstein, but I will be so glad to have this election over with, and finally have a President whose IQ is higher than mine. That would be a nice change.
Incredibly frightening satire from Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez over at AlterNet:
[link] So what else won’t change with me? I’ll tell ya. Freedom of religion won’t change either. You won’t find me settin’ restrictions on religion. It’s just gonna be a matter of learnin’ t’think about things a little different is all. We all know that there is really only one true religion and that’s why as governor of Alaska I made sure to add a Christian heritage holiday but did you see me do that for any of those other satan cults? No you did not and that’s because I know the difference, as a good a positive American, between religion and plain old superstition and crazy talk.
So you guys, I’m super happy to tell you today that you are finally free to be religious and that’s exactly what the founding fathers wanted when they wrote the USS Constitution out there in Pearl Harbor that time with the pilgrims and the Indians because they were Christians like me even if the liberals keep insisting they were Deists which also, is total crazy talk because there’s no such thing and never was as someone who believes in nature as God because God knows just like I know that nature is nothing more than his gift to us so that we can go huntin’ and drillin’ and drive around on ATVs. So you are free to pick the Christian church you wanna go to! Isn’t that awesome? There’s so many to choose from, it’s like when you go into the Target and you can’t decide which kind of disposable diaper to get. I’m all about choices.
For the first time in a long time we are on the brink of a political situation that could very easily become a death blow to this great American experiment of ours.
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross ." - Sinclair Lewis
Heinlein nailed it more than 50 years ago in the postscript to his "2nd American Revolution" collection called "Revolt In 2100", but apparently we didn't pay attention:
[R.A.H.] "As for the second notion, the idea that we could lose our freedom by succumbing to a wave of religious hysteria, I am sorry to say that I consider it possible. I hope that it is not probable. But there is a latent deep strain of religious fanaticism in this, our culture. It is rooted in our history and has broken out many times in the past. It is with us now; there has been a sharp rise in strongly evangelical sects in the country in recent years, some of which hold beliefs theocratic in the extreme, anti- intellectual, anti-scientific, and anti-libertarian."
"It is a truism that almost any sect, cult or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so. . . . The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue."
". . . Could any one sect obtain a working majority at the polls and take over the country? Perhaps not -- but a combination of the dynamic evangelist, television, enough money, and modern techniques of advertising and propaganda might make Billy Sunday's efforts look like a corner store compared to Sears Roebuck. Throw in a depression for good measure, promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, Anti-Negroism, and a good large dose of anti- furriners' in general and anti-intellectuals here at home and the result might be something quite frightening -- particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington."
". . . Impossible? Remember the Klan in the Twenties and how far it got without even a dynamic leader. . . The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed."
Dang. I just got a little chill down my back there.
A thought experiment for you: Consider, if you will, at what point the absurdity of "security theatre" crosses the line from the merely annoying to the actively dangerous (to our civil liberties). How would you detect such a point?
How about with a simple American flag?
One of my favorite artists, Evan Roth, is working on a project that will be released soon - the pictures say it all, it's a "carry on" communication system. These metal places contain messages which will appear when they are X-Rayed. The project isn't quite done yet, Evan needs access to an X-Ray machine to take some photos and document. If you have access to an X-Ray machine he's willing to give you a set of the plates for helping out.
The MRFF helps another atheist soldier file a suit against the Defense Department:
[link] Spc. Dustin Chalker, who has served in Korea and Iraq, is the second soldier at the northeast Kansas post to file such a lawsuit. The New Mexico-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation joined Chalker as a plaintiff in his lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.
Here's the PDF of the "Complaint For Injunctive Relief".
I wonder how long it will be before he receives his first drunken death threat from his fellow "good Christian" soldiers?
[Hillary Clinton] That is our duty, to build that bright future, to teach our children that, in America, there is no chasm too deep, no barrier too great, no ceiling too high for all who work hard, who keep going, have faith in God, in our country, and each other.
To all the atheist children out there - sorry, but you're screwed. Apparently for them there is indeed a chasm too deep, a barrier too wide, and a ceiling too high. It's called "acceptance into the Democratic party".
I'm sorry, but I just am seriously uncomfortable with both major-party candidates at this point.
McCain is, well, McCain - a Republican who panders to the religious right. And Obama is a member of the Democratic party which seems to be hellbent-for-leather to exclude atheists, agnostics, and secular folks from their ranks at all costs this year. (And WTF is that all about, anyway?)
Obama sounds good on church-state separation issues, but he's so incredibly inexperienced, that I have reservations about voting for him. In the same way that I would never hire an inexperienced technician for my department, I don't think I'll be able to "hire" Obama for the position of my President.
McCain isn't as far-right as he's been made out to be this year, and he has a pretty good track record of working well across the aisle, and he's a bona-fide war hero which I like. However, he also says some pretty stupid things about how this country is a "Christian Nation", and that just turn me right off. He might just be pandering to the religious folks to counter his moderate image, but it still troubles me greatly.
Bob Barr is my party's candidate, but he's just a Republican who secured the Libertarian nomination by virtue of being the highest-profile politician ever willing to pretend like they are a Libertarian. And the Libertarians fell all over themselves nominating him as quickly as they possibly could. He's farther-right than McCain in my view. Bleh.
All I know is that I've been voting since I was 18 and I have never gotten this close to an Presidential election without a friggin' clue who I'm going to vote for. It's scary.
I think I may end up writing-in Jim Downey. ;)
Via NPR last night, a new Pew Research Poll showing a turn-around on attitudes about involving religion in politics, with a narrow majority saying that it is a bad idea. What might be a little surprising, is that most of the change has come from the conservative side of the spectrum. From the report:
Some Americans are having a change of heart about mixing religion and politics. A new survey finds a narrow majority of the public saying that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters and not express their views on day-to-day social and political matters. For a decade, majorities of Americans had voiced support for religious institutions speaking out on such issues.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Some Oklahoma County voters can expect to receive comic books in the mail soon, but the subject matter will have a serious tone.
The 16-page publication prepared by Commissioner Brent Rinehart's re-election campaign lampoons gays and criticizes Rinehart's political opponents. It also features an angel who supports the embattled commissioner and Satan, who supports his critics.
"It's more or less a story of my experiences of the last four years of being the county commissioner of District 2," Rinehart told The Oklahoman, which obtained the comic on Wednesday.
Toga-wearing gays, political figures, trench coat-clad henchmen, concerned residents and Rinehart make up the rest of the comic's characters.
Despite my misgivings about his economic policies, I've pretty much decided I'm going to vote for Barack Obama in the upcoming election. My business partner makes a strong case for McCain, but franky, I'm tired of old, white guys running the country.
But then I read a story like this, and it makes me wonder if there really is any point in voting for anyone.
On the second day of a weeklong tour intended to highlight his values, Mr. Obama traveled to the battleground state of Ohio on Tuesday to present his proposal to get religious charities more involved in government programs.
(Do NOT click the image if you are at work. NSFW. You have been warned.)
A 16-year old boy in Brisbane, Australia has been arrested and charged with "offensive behavior" under the "Summary Offenses Act 2005" for "public nuisance" for wearing a t-shirt that says "Jesus Is A Cunt" with an image of a nun masturbating on the front.
The arrest has sparked a pretty healthy debate about the need for a Bill Of Rights in Australia. Baptist Reverend Matt Hunt, had this to say about the arrest:
[Rev. Hunt] "When someone comes to the point of saying Jesus is the devil or Jesus is 'expletive', the Bible does say be very careful because you're on thin ice."
Apparently the laws in Australia agree with the good reverend. Others, like civil rights lawyer Bill Potts aren't so sure:
[Lawyer Bill Potts] "One of the great problems with our country is that we talk about rights such as privacy and freedom of speech and the like but they are not enshrined or protected in any way as they are in America," he said.
"While there are always limits on freedom of speech, you can't incite violence or anything like that, it seems to be now more than ever that our rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression should be protected.
"A Bill of Rights which enshrines that protection is long overdue in this country."
What do you think? I would personally be very uncomfortable wearing this shirt. However, I would fight for the freedom of expression rights of anyone who chose to wear it.