Brent Rasmussen's picture

Word To My Mother

My mother is a great believer in forwarding emails of the Republican or Christian variety. I've seen most of them before, and generally I don't respond. Eh. My mom is awesome, but a little far right politically and religiously at this point in her life - and I'm too damned tired to start a war. Heh.

But when she forwarded this essay (quoted in it's entirety below the fold), and claimed it was written by our own curmudgeonly atheist Andy Rooney, I had to reply:

Hi Ma,

This was actually written by a sports writer by the name of Nick Gholson who worked for the "Times New Record" newspaper in Wichita Falls, Texas, back in 1999, NOT Andy Rooney. Andy Rooney is actually an atheist!

"Why am I an atheist? I ask you: Why is anybody not an atheist? Everyone starts out being an atheist. No one is born with belief in anything. Infants are atheists until they are indoctrinated. I resent anyone pushing their religion on me. I don't push my atheism on anybody else. Live and let live. Not many people practice that when it comes to religion." -Andy Rooney, Boston Globe, May 30, 1982.

"I am an atheist... I don't understand religion at all. I'm sure I'll offend a lot of people by saying this, but I think it's all nonsense." -Andy Rooney, from a speech at Tufts University, Nov. 18, 2004.


And as for agreeing with Gholson's essay below, obviously I don't. I think it's a pretty desperate argument to claim that "might makes right" like Gholson does here - especially in America! Adult Americans don't usually agree or use petty, childish, playground arguments like that. We usually stand up for the little guy, don't we? Defend those who need defending? We say, "I disagree with what you say, but I would die defending your right to say it!" Right??

Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are designed to counteract the sort of "tyranny of the majority" that Gholson is promoting, and to protect the rights of the minority from being trampled by all the frothing "Christian Nation" kooks in the majority who want to have MY kids pray to THEIR god in public schools paid for by my taxes. You can say your prayers any time you want - on the street corner, in church, in your home, heck, even at a football game! What you *can't* do is have public school officials lead *my* children in saying *your* prayers to *your* god, to the exclusion of all other religions, or non-religion - and then expect me to pay for the privilege!

Argh! It drives me nuts! :)

I love you Ma, and I'm really not trying to make you upset, but I think you're 180 degrees off-center on this issue. I hope you'll reconsider your position.

Much love,


Ugh. I hate writing to my family about this stuff. It's going to make the holidays interesting, in any case! :)

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Let's Peek At The Lodi City Council In 6 Months...

The Lodi City Council has apparently "found their backbone" and has voted unanimously to allow sectarian prayers before City Council meetings in direct opposition to threats of legal action against the City of Lodi by civil rights groups concerned over the clear violations against the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause.

So, let's look forward in time a few months. Lodi's City Council has been rolling along offering prayers in Jesus' name for a while now. They knew that this meant - in an abstract way of course - that they may at some point have to allow a non-Christian prayer before the start of the meeting. So, a Mormon Bishop is allowed to pray. Then, a Rabbi. Finally, after much deliberation, an Imam offers a prayer to Allah.

People are tense, but things go well, and the sky doesn't split apart, so they try their best to forget it ever happened, while simultaneously patting themselves on the back for their "tolerance".

Then things start to go awry.

A Raëlian Priest, or "Guide" basically forces his way to the front of the meeting, ranting about God knows what. The Master at Arms throws him out, and the City Council members all have a nervous chuckle.

A Wiccan applies to lead the Council in a skyclad ceremony. The Council members look it up and deny the application.

A Pastafarian wants to dress and talk like a pirate while holding a delicious plate of spaghetti. Denied.

A Jedi Knight wants to have everyone close the blast shield and try to "feel the force". Denied.

Suddenly, a rain of lawsuits alleging First Amendment violations descend onto the City. Religious persecution accusations are flying thick. The Council members decide that the very next wacky non-Christian nutball who applies to lead a prayer, they'll approve.

A Church of Satan Magister applies. They swallow, and approve the application.

The day comes, and all nervously await the Magister as he sweeps into the chambers. The lights dim, and with eerily glowing eyes he begins the blasphemous words for a Black Mass:

"Thou, thou who, in my capacity of Priest, I force, weather thou wilt or no, to descend into this host, to incarnate thyself into this bread Jesus, artisan of hoaxes, bandit of homages, robber of affection- hear! O lasting foulness of Bethlehem, we would have thee confess thy impudent cheats, thy inexplicable crimes!. We would drive deeper the nails into thy hands, press down the crown of thorns upon thy brow, and bring blood from the dry wounds.

Cursed Nazarene, abstractor of stupid parities, impotent king, fugitive god! O Infernal Satanic Majesty, condemn him to the pit, evermore to suffer in perpetual anguish. Bring Thy wrath upon him, O Prince of Darkness, King of Filth, Emperor of Putridity, Dark Lord Satan, hear our demands!"

Cue the lightning and fog machines and wolf howl special effects.

People freak the fuck out, cats and dogs start living together, chaos ensues, council members start raping goats right in the chambers, pregnant Christian ladies give birth to deformed monsters.

You know, the usual.

And atheists sit back and laugh. "Look," we'd say with a chuckle, "we fucking warned you morons about this six months ago! Now, grow the fuck up, stop breaking the law, and try following the Constitution. Make the council meetings secular, idiots, and pray in your own fucking church, and this won't happen ever again."

(Maybe not in those exact words... Heh.)

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The Fragile Soap Bubble Of Faith

Duane Blake is a Bishop in the Upland, CA 1st Ward of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). He wrote a letter to the editor of the Bay Area's Contra-Costa Times, bemoaning the awful atheists trying to force all of the peaceful, persecuted Christians in America to "the religion of atheism" - by "removing God" from our government buildings, and from our society.

Notwithstanding the ludicrous notion that the absence of the word "GOD" equal "atheism" (Author's note: it doesn't. -Brent), and granting for the sake of argument the religionists assertions about this invisible god-thing, how the heck are us evil atheists supposed to "remove" a supposedly supreme magical being from anything - let alone an entire society? That doesn't make any sense even if we suspend our disbelief enough to look at it from their point of view! Preposterous!

The good Bishop says:

[link] In the great effort by many to remove God from our society they are, by default, forcing us into their belief system as an atheistic society.

There is just so much wrong here. I'll have to break it down into smaller chunks.

In the great effort by many to remove God from our society...

Where exactly is this "great effort" Bishop? Who are the "many" that you refer to? Yes, there are a few court cases a year where the Freedom From Religion Foundation, or the ACLU will sue a small city government, or a state government to stop what they believe to be gross violations of the United States constitution - specifically in reference to the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

But, "great effort"? "Many"? Please. You outnumber us nearly 9 to 1. Some of us try and address the worst civil rights and Constitutional violations in courts across the country. Yes, those cases get a lot of press because Christians are shocked - shocked I tell you! - that those uppity atheists would have the unmitigated gall to call them out for their bigotry and their dangerously theocratic, unconstitutional actions.

You also mention "removing God". This begs the question; which "God" are you referring to? Yours? Why does your particular flavor of magical man in the sky get such a prominent place on our buildings, our money, our Pledge of Allegiance, and in the speeches given by our politicians - despite the very clear concept of the separation of church and state being outlined in the First Amendment, then bolstered with 230 years of SCOTUS opinion and precedent?

...they are, by default, forcing us into their belief system as an atheistic society.

How does NOT engraving your deity's name on every new piece of masonry on government buildings at the taxpayers expense (many of whom are NOT CHRISTIAN) equal "forcing" citizens into "the religion of atheism"? How does NOT seeing "GOD" plastered all over everything strip you of your beliefs? Are your beliefs so weak that they must be constantly nurtured, and lovingly protected from criticism and - uh, absence on government buildings lest they dissapear in an instant like a soap bubble?

Goodness! What frail, delicate flowers you religious folks are! Your beliefs, so easily swept away by the cruel notion of government neutrality.

You know, the one outlined by our Constitution? The First Amendment? Heard of it before?

And just so you know, I could devote an entire post to that one stupidly willful misconception that religious folks LOVE to make. There is no excuse for an intelligent, grown adult human being to make a mistake of this nature. The phrase "religion of atheism" is something only an idiot, a religious conservative with a political axe to grind with atheists, or a very young child would say. Which are you Bishop? Let me guess.

Jim Downey's picture

*bzzzt* - Wrong answer.

If you had any doubt about Kathryn Jean Lopez, the editor of the National Review Online, then read her current column at the National Catholic Register. It's pure, unadulterated revisionism with a side order of theocracy thrown in for good measure:

We’re a nation not just where you are free to believe or not to believe; we’re a nation founded for Him — so we could praise Him, so we could do His will. Warren began his prayer as a gentle reminder to those privileged with seats and every Joe sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:

“Almighty God — our Father. Everything we see, and everything we can’t see, exists because of you alone. It all comes from you. It all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory.”

After a morning of “Obama!” chants, I would have loved to hear some of the crowd — or the president-to-be — join Warren in praying the Lord’s Prayer.


Paul Fidalgo's picture

"Under God" and Compulsory Unity

Radley Balko at the Agitator and Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty wonder at the wisdom of Michael Newdow and other atheists' attempts to strike "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. Their beef? Per Balko:

Seems to me that the real problem here—whether you’re atheist, agnostic, or devout—is the idea that we’re forcing school kids to take a loyalty oath to a swatch of cloth. If the argument is that they’re pledging allegiance to the country the cloth represents, that’s pretty creepy, too.

And from Kuznicki's response:

Maybe the most remarkable aspect of my fellow citizens’ pledge to exclude me is the sheer fact that they mostly wouldn’t do it of their own prompting. But pass a law, and look at the difference! They all line up to ostracize, even the ones who, ordinarily, are better than this. Stanley Milgram would be proud. Or ashamed. Or both, I guess. [ . . . ]

Paul Fidalgo's picture


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.

Jim Downey's picture

Talk about a breath of fresh air...

From landing on the moon, to sequencing the human genome, to inventing the Internet, America has been the first to cross that new frontier because we had leaders who paved the way: leaders like President Kennedy, who inspired us to push the boundaries of the known world and achieve the impossible; leaders who not only invested in our scientists, but who respected the integrity of the scientific process.

Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources – it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States – and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.

That's President-elect Obama, in his weekly radio address this morning, announcing his top science advisors.

Compare that to the mindset we've put up with from the Bush administration, the latest round of which was announced yesterday:

Jim Downey's picture

More "living on medieval time".

Yeah, I guess people do believe this kind of crap:

Police detain 49 for "satanic" clothes

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Police have arrested 49 people this week in a northern Iranian city during a crackdown on "satanic" clothes, IRNA news agency reported Thursday.

The measures are the latest in a country-wide campaign against Western cultural influence in the Islamic Republic, where strict dress codes are enforced.

"Police confronted rascals and thugs who appeared in public wearing satanic fashions and unsuitable clothing," Qaemshahr city police commander Mahmoud Rahmani told IRNA.


Someone stop the planet, please - I'd like to get off.

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Living on medieval time.

Man, I loves me some Ladyhawke. How can you not? It's got Rutger Hauer. He's got a big damn sword. And a Friesian. There's Michelle Pfeiffer. The fighting is way above average for 1980s movies. The armour, clothing, and even music (no, not the Alan Parsons score, though that ain't bad) is fairly authentic for the roughly 13th-century time period. And real medieval armour from that time period make just that exact same creaking sound as does his - a nice and subtle touch that most people wouldn't think of getting right.

And it's got the perfect mystical, religious mindset for the Middle Ages.

Seriously, watch it. All the talk of "God's Will" and curses, all the prayers, all excuses for and to God, all the mystical mumbo-jumbo, is perfect.

And, sadly, all of it sounds entirely too much like the insanity that we constantly hear from the faithful these days.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

It All Makes Perfect Sense Now

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.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Indonesian Schoolchildren Hate You

My daughter-in-law is from Indonesia, so this is interesting to me. To put this into proper context, atheism is a crime in Indonesia. Their national ideological statement is called "Pancasila" ( a sanskrit word meaning "Five Principles"). Its number one principle is, "Ketuhanan yang Maha Esa", or "Belief in the one and only God". This principle is also enshrined in the 1945 Indonesian constitution.

Governor of North Sumatra, Syamsul Arifin, said on 8th October at an occasion marking Pancasila Day that all elements of the nation must continually fight against and eradicate atheist beliefs among the people.

Atheism, which seeks to erase Pancasila and which once threatened the nation in the guise of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), and still does, has to be guarded against, particularly because it still finds support among sections of the poor.

Syamsul said children should be taught from primary school through to university to hate atheism, so that the creed could as far as possible be obliterated.

Yikes! Looks like us humans have a long, long way to go before we grow up and become adults.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Second Atheist Soldier Files Suit

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?

Brent Rasmussen's picture

A Vote For Sarah Is A Vote For God

Jeffery Lord, former White House political director during the Reagan Administration, knows why you're all worried about Sarah Palin possibly getting elected. And it is not for the reasons you might think.

[Jeffery Lord] Make no mistake. The vociferous attacks on Sarah Palin -- on her views of abortion, family, work, the environment, science, the role of women and all the rest -- are about much, much more than they seem. A lot of them aren't even about Sarah Palin at all.

Their real target doesn't even have His name on the ballot.

You get that? Being opposed to electing Sarah Palin to the Vice Presidency of the United States, for any reason...

...really means that you are a dirty atheist who hates God.

Do you see how very logical that is? Gosh! I certainly don't want to be a dirty atheist, so I'd better vote for Sarahbear and old whatshisname - you know, war hero guy. Because I want to be a Real Man™ like the First Dude.

Anyone know where can get a good deal on Sarah Palin glasses and snow machines? Does WalMart sell both?

Jim Downey's picture

Do you own a fire extinguisher? Why?

Hmm. I posted a piece about the Tom Willis nut over on my blog, and noted in comments there that I seem to never have cross-posted this essay from Daily Kos on either my site or here on UTI. So, I thought I would.

Jim Downey


Do you own a fire extinguisher? Why?

Jim Downey's picture

Well, it's progress.

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.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The New Face Of American Theocracy

It is a truism that religious bigotry and the entitlement mentality of the wanna-be theocrat grow strong in our small community school boards. It's relatively easy to get elected to a school board as a trustee, and in a small town most folks think just like you do.

Imagine the surprise of the Wylie, TX School Board trustees when during a bond meeting, School board member Ralph James tried to begin the meeting with a recitation of with The Lord's Prayer. He had got out "Our Father..." when bond committee member Mikki Lewis stood up and said very loudly, "Excuse me?"

Mikki Lewis is Jewish. Her husband is a Catholic. Her father is an atheist, and his parent were orthodox Jews.

[link] wasn't on the agenda, and it surprised me," said Mrs. Lewis, a mother of two in the Wylie school district.

"I wasn't there to pray or practice my religion," she said.

Afterward the committee decided to have a "moment of silence" instead of a prayer. Mrs. Lewis then emailed the superintendent to discuss her protest. However, instead of a reply from the superintendent, she received a response from school board trustee Sue Nicklas - who does not seem to get the whole "U.S. Constitution, First Amendment" thing.

[link] "I must share with you first and formost [sic] that there are many people who are praying for you," Ms. Nicklas wrote. "In ten years as a trustee of the Wylie school board, you're the first parent to complain about a prayer, and the very first person in my 68 years that has ever had the audasity [sic] to interrupt God and one of His children in prayer."

Ms. Nicklas said Mrs. Lewis "doesn't set the agenda for meetings. We are elected by the people ... in the community."

Wylie is a Christian community, Ms. Nicklas said.

"You go with the culture and customs of the community," she said.

Uh, no.

You see Mrs. Grundy, that's not the way it works. Christianity isn't "more equal" than every other religion out there, and because of the First Amendment, U.S. citizens have a reasonable expectation that we won't be preached at by our elected officials. Quite frankly, no one gives a flying fudge sickle about your self-righteous proclamation about "many people praying for" Mrs. Lewis. Jesus! How arrogant can a person get, anyway?

Tell me the truth, Sue - is that part of your publicly elected secular job description as a Wylie ISD school board trustee? To organize voodoo chants against the unbelievers? I don't think so.

It isn't "audacity" that made Mrs. Lewis speak up after four years of cowed silence, Mrs. GrundyNicklas - it was a sense of outrage! A sense of injustice perpetrated by the bullying 400-lb gorilla of the Christian majority!

Here's a little secret I can let you in on, Sue: You don't get to be "more equal" than everyone else. You don't get to have the privilege of including your own personal wacky religious rituals in public meetings. Period. The end. Yes, yes, even if you have wink-wink, nod-nodded at it for 10 years. Just because you and your fellow Christian theocrats have been breaking the law for ten years does not magically make it legal.

Also, your tut-tutting at Mrs. Lewis was truly despicable. She is the one trying to get you to follow the law - YOU are the one breaking the law.

For the sake of our Constitution, I sincerely hope the citizens of your school district vote you out at the next election.

wantobe's picture

What's a socially liberal, fiscally conservative libertarian to do?

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.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Summary Offenses Vs. Civil Rights

(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.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Cross-Burning Teacher Fired

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The school board of a small central Ohio community voted Friday to fire a teacher accused of preaching his Christian beliefs despite staff complaints and burning the image of a cross on students' arms, according to the Associated Press.

The back-pedaling and loud protestations of injured innocence by this wack-job's attorney and friends are certainly amusing.

[link] John Freshwater discussed his creationism beliefs, disregarded evolution and failed to follow the standard curriculum while teaching eighth-grade science at Mount Vernon Middle School, board officials said.

An investigation revealed he continued teaching his beliefs even after he was ordered to stop, the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch reported Saturday.

The investigation found Freshwater said homosexuals are sinners and branded crosses into some students' arms, the board said.

Freshwater's attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton, said his client's rights to practice religion were infringed and he plans to call for a hearing with the school board to fight the dismissal.

Hamilton said the allegations are "fabrications created by a couple of students … Not a single child has ever been harmed."

"Well, except for the whole 'burning a cross in their forearm' thing, yeah. Except for that." continued Freshwater later. "But that was really just, um, a science experiment. Yeah! That's it! That's the ticket!

"You can ask my wife - ah, um, ah... Morgan Fairchild!"

All I can say is that if my kid had come home with anything at all fucking burned into his arm by his teacher, then I would have gladly gone to jail for assault. However, the teacher would have gone to the hospital with multiple injuries and burns made with the same tool that he used to burn my child.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The Alderman And School Prayer

Paraphrasing Connecticut Alderman Greg Morehead:

[link] I'm going to use the power of my elected office to push my own wacky religious views onto public school students - for the children.

He's responding in the comments now, so head on over and let him know your feelings about his great plan.

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