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.
Over the years I've had a lot of folks argue with me about my atheism, and I've argued right back - fiercely in some cases, but mostly with good humor and and real try at understanding what the other person is trying to say - and where they are coming from. I've been prayed for by an entire "prayer cell" of Salvation Army Church members in the UK, been the subject of a few sermons in my local churches, shocked the heck out of one set of grandparents with my atheism, and was shocked by the casual acceptance of it by the other set. I've had drunken, hours-long discussions with my brothers about God™, The Universe™, and the Nature Of Reality™. I've lived my life with gusto and tried to create meaning for myself and for my family. This is because I know - with a crystal clarity - how very fleeting all of our lives are on the grand stage of our universe, and how extremely fortunate we are to have appeared on that stage at this particular time - when we can recognize and appreciate our lives.
But this is the very first time I've ever been stealth-cursed by a commenter on my own blog.
Here's the comment. It was placed on an old post of Darksyde's from 2005 about the science of lightning. The commenter called themself "lightning", and linked their nickname to this site called "Satan's Kingdom":
[link] I bind you and cast you out into the bottomless pit and/or lake of fire by the Spirit of God and in the Holy Name Jesus Christ.
The bottomless pit and/or lake of fire? I get a choice? Hmnn. I guess I'll choose bottomless pit. Sure, it'll be boring, but not as painful as that whole lake of fire deal.
Thanks lightning, good buddy!
(Check out the HTML source of the page for a little extra dose of deluded Catholic lunacy. Apparently this internet cursing thing has been around since 2004 and lightning is just now getting around to UTI. It's tough being a wackjob, but is obviously made easier with modern communications technology like the web.)
UTI just got a nice blurb on today's cover story in Surge magazine, an alternative weekly from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They used this comment from my post about the atheist who was attacked outside of a gym for having "Fuck the skull of Jesus" written on his car window.
It's actually a pretty positive article about atheism.
[link] Reported by The Sun News on May 4, the entire mention was merely a small blurb, one of the police beat nuggets that so many cub reporters cut their teeth on. However, the story gained a life of its own, soon appearing on more than 100 secular humanist/atheist blogs and websites around the world. And as much as people had a problem with the fact that a person was beaten up and robbed, they moreover had a problem with the language - and, some would say, subtle editorializing - in the article's headline and in the article itself.
A reader posting on Unscrewing the Inscrutable (www.brentrasmussen.com) put it thusly: "The expression 'admitted atheist' is unacceptable. He didn't confess to doing something wrong like an 'admitted pedophile.' No one uses the expression 'admitted Christian.' The article's use of 'admitted' is editorializing in the worst way."
Check it out.
Vastleft from God Is For Suckers details a typical day in the life of an atheist.
[Vastleft] An elderly woman was getting into a taxi I wanted, so I kicked the walker out from under her and stepped on her head as I hopped into the cab. When you’re carrying a satchel-full of kidnapped infants to feed to your pit bull, time is of the essence.
Read the rest. You'll be flabbergasted at the shocking truth he discovers at the end of his post!
Why weren't we told!?!
(Heheh... Many, many kudos for this one Vastleft. Excellent.)
Warning! Warning! This is a class 1 EAC Alert!
Our prison-fellowshipping arch-nemesis Chuck Colson, former Nixon white house advisor, Watergate conspirator, and born-again Christian with a direct psychic line to the Big Guy in heaven, has warned the Southern Baptist Convention about our Evil Atheist Conspiracy to destroy Christianity!
[link] Watergate figure Chuck Colson warned a gathering of Southern Baptist pastors Sunday night against ... a new, militant atheism growing in popularity in the West.
Crap! How the heck did he figure it out? Curse you Chuck Colson! *shakes fist*
[link] The ... threat, Colson said, was evident in the popularity of several best-selling books espousing atheism by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and others.
"This is a virulent strain of atheism which seeks to destroy our belief system," Colson said.
Egads. This is worse than I thought. I told Harris and Dawkins this would happen at our last meeting, the fools! He even knows that atheism is a virus instead of a lack of god-belief, like we've been claiming. Dammit! We tried so hard to conceal that too! Now it's just a matter of time before the hard-working Christian scientists fire up their God-approved science labs and concoct a vaccine to combat the atheism virus.
I am afraid we'll have to use the neuralizer on a huge segment of the world's population again, EAC members. We'll also have to frame Colson again - something big this time, like making him personally responsible for the Bird Flu or something.
It's gonna be a long week. Not that most of you will remember it. That's it... Look at the little red light... ***flash***
I read this all over the place, and hear it from my friends and my family almost every day. It is usually something along the lines of "those new atheists are just as evangelical as Jerry Falwell ever was," or, "the new atheist books on the bestseller list are the atheist's scriptures. They just want to convert the religious to atheism."
Zia Haider Rahman, commenting in the Guardian Unlimited, says it like this, referring to atheist authors Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens:
[link] The godless brethren presumably have aspirations to convert the religious and not just preach to fellow atheists.
So, I asked myself - do I indeed want to "convert the religious" to atheism? It is obviously a ridiculous notion that atheism is just another religion that someone may "convert" to. So, putting that aside and instead taking the question as it was intended, which should read like this without the idiotic religious connotations; "Is it your intention with your writing to convince god-believers that god-belief is irrational and silly?"
God-belief is irrational and silly. It is also dangerous when it is used as a basis for real-world decision making. I think it is important to speak up about this sort of thing because I am a humanist and I want my species to survive and to thrive. God-belief holds us back. We need to grow up as a species and put away our childhood fears and delusions. So, I suppose in a certain sense I am an evangelistic atheist.
What makes someone an evangelistic atheist? Are you an evangelistic atheist?
I have always been uncomfortable with using religious language to describe secular philosophies or atheism. But maybe it is time to embrace the label and run with it. What do you think?
A single friend sent me a link to a column on "dating while atheist". From the article by Bob Strauss:
“So, do you believe in God?”
I stared across the table at my date. Up to that point, she had been peppering me with the usual assortment of getting-to-know-you questions: Where did I go to school, what kind of work did I do, etc. As I recovered from my shock, I realized there were two ways to answer this last query: Either by feigning nonchalance (“To tell you the truth, I haven’t given the matter much thought”), or, as I proceeded to do, by blurting out the first thing that came to mind (“No! What, are you kidding?”).
Not an issue for me, since I've been happily married for 20 years and hope to stay that way. But for those still on the prowl, it could be. Any thoughts on the article, or other advice you'd like to share?
Oh, and yesterday's Dinosaur Comics is somewhat related...
I stumbled across a fun and friendly blog today called The Litter Box. The writer named Sherry writes about family life, friends, and occasionally religion. It's one of those blogs you start reading, then read it all the way through because they write so well and are engaging and enjoyable.
Here she is commenting on the recent Rational Response Squad vs. Cameron/Comfort "debate" on Nightline last week:
More below the fold...
Alternate Post Title: Who The Heck Is Michael Onfray And Why Is He Being Painted As The Pope Of The Atheists?
Colbert on Onfray:
Best comment from The Last Minority blog:
[link] Being tolerant of religion is like being tolerant of Harvey the giant rabbit.
Indeed it is. Except when the only guy who can see old Harvey starts passing laws friendly to imaginary invisible giant lagomorphs and makes all of us pay for it.
And the depression deepens. Is the backlash starting?
[link] An investigator has found reasonable grounds for a claim that a DeCoster Egg Farm worker was fired because he's an atheist.
Cacy Cantwell said Austin "Jack" DeCoster told him before he was fired that they would have to "part ways" because the manager didn't believe in God. With the backing of an investigator, his case is expected to go before the full Maine Human Rights Commission.
The official reason for Cantwell's firing was "poor job performance," but an investigator for the human rights commission said he received no warning prior to that.
DeCoster is the region's largest brown egg producer. Cantwell was working for Maine Contract Farming LLC. He was hired as a manager in 2003 and was fired three years later.
The dirty atheist probably deserved it, you know, being different and all.
I am depressed.
[link] A Myrtle Beach man and admitted atheist was attacked and robbed on Thursday night by a group of men who took offense to an anti-Christian phrase on his windshield.
The victim told police he was getting out of his car in the parking lot of the Crabtree Gym in Myrtle Beach about 8 p.m. when the men pulled up beside him and inquired about a derogatory statement on the back windshield of his car, according to an incident report.
The victim told police he wrote the statement as a "rebellious act against the National Day of Prayer," the report states.
When the victim argued with the suspects about the statement, they attacked him and robbed him of his wallet.
The victim, who was taken to South Strand Ambulatory Center, told police he was atheist, the report states.
Update: Thanks to vjack, we have a copy of the police report (redacted to remove the victim's address and phone number).
Oy. "Fuck the skull of Jesus" is a little harsh to have on the back window of your car. Puts a little different slant on the whole incident.
Not sure how I feel about this one to be honest. On the one hand, he has a right to be a profane as he wants to be. I wouldn't personally have gone about "rebelling" against the National Day Of Prayer this way, but I support his right to do so.
On the other hand, I doubt that "He's an atheist! Get 'im!" ever crossed the minds of the kids who beat the shit out of him and took his wallet.
That's not to say that the kids were justified in beating the shit out of him and taking his wallet. They weren't.
But this probably hurts us more than it helps us.
Thanks to VJack over at Atheist Revolution, and Christopher Hitchens, we learn that Karl Rove is an atheist.
[link] Has anyone in the Bush administration confided in you about being an atheist?
Well, I don’t talk that much to them—maybe people think I do. I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, “I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.”
What must Bush make of that?
I think it’s false to say that the president acts as if he believes he has God’s instructions. Compared to Jimmy Carter, he’s nowhere. He’s a Methodist, having joined his wife’s church in the end. He also claims that Jesus got him off the demon drink. He doesn’t believe it. His wife said, “If you don’t stop, I’m leaving and I’m taking the kids.” You can say that you got help from Jesus if you want, but that’s just a polite way of putting it in Texas.
This just goes to my point about what exactly atheism is. As I've said before, the word "atheist" describes a person in which god-belief is absent.
I think what is happening in the "atheist blogosphere" is that we are loosely tying together a collection of nominally "atheist blogs" (which really makes no sense at all), and giving the rest of the world the false impression that we are all a monolithic political/religious group with a single set of core values and a defined group identity.
We don't. Karl Rove fucking proves it.
We need to STOP identifying ourselves as "atheist bloggers". That's a stupid way to identify a blog. I am an atheist who happens to blog. My reasons are my reasons. I do not agree with all of the other atheists out there who also happen to blog - and it frustrates the heck out of me when I am called to task for something some other wackjob said - just because they also identified themselves as an "atheist blogger".
I'm just sick to death of it.
This doesn't mean that I am not an atheist - I am. What it means is that I am going to stop trying to fit myself into what the rest of the world considers an atheist to be.
What do you folks think? Are we pigeonholing ourselves? Not all atheists are liberal democrat scientist college professors - but the public perception is that we are. Not that there is anything wrong with being a liberal democrat scientist college professor mind you, but we aren't all like that. In fact, that's a minority within our minority.
So why does this incorrect perception exist? Are we helping it along? What should we do to stop it? Should we stop it?
Do we really want "atheism" to become a de-facto religion? Because that's the way it is headed right now - regardless of what atheism actually is.
This began as a reply to Rick's post below about "Freedom From Religion". Please see his post for context.
[RickU] I think that the theists have a serious misconception which drives them to make the errant statement. The misconception is that we want to push our godlessness onto them and remove god from everything.
This goes hand in hand with the other serious misconception religious folks have about atheism; that it is a religion.
The two are very simple to understand.
More below the fold...
I was all set to respond to Dinesh D'Souza latest wingnuttery - in increasingly harsh tones!
But that would have been a mistake. The reason why is twofold. Number one, D'Souza doesn't give a crap about atheist's responses - he's simply attempting to enhance his "Conservative Pundit" cred by piling-on to the only group of people left in the world that it's A-OK to be a bigot towards.
It makes a twisted kind of sense, when you think about it. He can't be an irrational bigot towards "foreigners", obviously. And being a racist, while a great way to gain cred in the Conservative Pundit universe, is also just a great way to get yourself fired, as Imus found out. So, atheists it is. They're intelligent, and get quite riled up when you stay stupid, untrue things about them, but there not very many of them, so they are safe to mis-characterize, ignore, discriminate against, and blame things on. Publish stupid, simple-minded, untrue op-ed pieces about vile, evil atheist strawmen. Couch it in the most inflammatory language you can, then give each one a headline designed to stir up people's emotions.
That's Conservative Pundit gold right there!
Reason Number Two is a a commenter on D'Souza's second "atheists are stinky" op-ed piece. His name is Sean Goff - and he wrote the response that I wish I would have. He has crafted the most reasoned, persuasive atheist response to D'Souza's tasteless, bigoted inanity out of the hundreds of comments and responses left in the last two days. Seriously. It's brilliant.
More below the fold...
In these days after the horrible tragedy at Virginia Tech, most folks, theist and atheist alike, are offering their heartfelt sympathy and support for the family and friends of the innocents who were killed.
But not D'Souza. He decided that it would be a great idea to write an op-ed piece and call atheists a bunch of evil nihilists - for not being more visible during the aftermath.
[link] Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found.
What complete and utter horseshit. Atheists are to be found in about the same numbers as reflected in their percentage of the population. Atheists have suffered exactly the same as everyone else, there are just less of us.
D'Souza's a delusional bigot, but he aptly demonstrates the fundamental misconception that most theists have about atheism. That misconception is that they think that atheism is a religion.
It's not. It is a description. It describes a person in which god-belief - of any kind - is absent.
Atheism does not have a rulebook, a set of instructions, relief organizations, a hierarchy, a meeting hall, or scriptures.
Individual people are atheists individually. The only thing they share is a lack of god-belief.
D'Souza is a tool with an irrational fear of an atheist strawman that does not exist. Of course, he also believes in a magical man in the sky who does not exist, so this is not too surprising.
Zeteo Eurisko of Gnosis has written a powerful article about the VT massacre, mourning, and how the folks out there in Virginia are coping with it.
[Zeteo Eurisko] At least half of the mourning process after an event of this magnitude involves convincing yourself that it is real. I do not think I have comprehended its reality, in spite of having spent every moment I could since Monday on campus, desperately trying to bend my mind around this horror.
For the last 9 years, I have been a Virginia Tech Hokie as an undergraduate and graduate student, and now as a part-time PhD student. On Monday, I was working my day job, which takes me about 40 miles northeast to Roanoke. I first heard of the tragedy from my wife, who is a graduate student. She was driving to school that morning, and decided instead to stop at Starbucks for coffee. She was there when the town went on lockdown, and I raced home to be with her. By the time I left, ambulances were already racing north on Route 81 to the hospitals in Roanoke; I raced south, my small Prius flanked by news vans. All the way south to Blacksburg, family and friends were calling, trying to determine if anyone we knew had been killed.
Usually-progressive Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. has written an opinion piece today called "Answers To The Atheists" in which he commits the tired old tu quoque ("you too!") fallacy by insisting that atheists are "fundamentalists" if they point out that the Emperor has no clothes on.
Also, Dionne apparently didn't think that atheists were marginalized and demonized in our society enough. So he has decided to start referring to those of us who won't sit down and shut up, you know, us "uppity atheists" (like Harris, Myers, Bice, Dawkins, all atheist bloggers, commenters, etc.) as "neo-atheists".
It's clearly pejorative, and clearly horseshit. Designed to marginalize even further the most maligned, distrusted, and hated group of people on the face of the planet.
[E. J. Dionne] The problem with the neo-atheists is that they seem as dogmatic as the dogmatists they condemn.
Dogma - the authoritative insistence that your unfounded belief is true and infallible, without any actual evidence that supports the assertion, cannot be present when there is no belief.
How hard is that to understand?
It floors me that ostensibly intelligent folks like Dionne still can't wrap their heads around this one. They still insist and assume that the only way to be a "true atheist" is to make a positive statement that their (demi)(G)(g)od(s)(ess)(esses)(lings)(lets) - whatever - don't exist. something along the lines of "I believe that your God does not exist."
The problem is that most of us don't do that. What we do is a simple statement of unbelief. "I do not believe that god exists." Belief is not present. It is absent. No belief, no dogma, and no way to be "fundamentalist".
Damned uppity atheists.
In closing I would like to point out to Mr. Dionne that he didn't really provide any answers at all in his "Answers To The Atheists" column today. At best he provided an overview of two different books, and presented a small sample of each author's points as interpreted by him.
At worst, he provided the general religious population with yet another way to look down and condemn the uppity atheists - those brash non-believers who have the audacity and sheer, unmitigated gall to ask for evidence when someone makes a fantastic, unbelievable claim.
You know, like the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Denverite Sara Miles was an atheist all her life. Then, something happened to her that changed her almost instantaneously into a devout Christian.
She, uh, had an, um, "intimate relationship" with, ah, God.
[Sara Miles] "It was pretty good bread, a nice whole-wheat bread. The other was that God was alive and in my mouth. It was bread, and it was God."
Whew! Didn't this movie air on Cinemax last Friday night after midnight? Steamy!
Seriously, though, I think it's wonderful that she has decided to live her life caring for and providing charity for the less fortunate in our society. However, attributing the good feelings and the sense of well-being and accomplishment she feels when she gives of herself in that way to an invisible, magical man in the sky is just plain self-deception.
Altruism is ultimately selfish, regardless of the good being done, because of the sense of self-worth you gain from the act among other things. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that.
But turning the responsibility for your good work over to magical sky pixies is just silly, in my mind.
She may have been an atheist at some point in her life, but being an atheist does not make you automatically smart, or logical, or trained in critical thinking. Remember, "atheism" simply describes a person in whom god-belief is absent. Nothing more and nothing less. Some atheists are lacking in god belief due to a process of exploration, inquiry, and discovery. Other atheists, like Sara I suspect, just never thought about it very much until she walked into that church and was overwhelmed by the religious, emotional experience.
No mystery there. Spiritual feelings of being a part of something greater than oneself are extremely powerful. I've felt them myself from time to time throughout my life. It's a wonderful, euphoric feeling.
But it's still not a mystery, and it's definitely not an all-powerful superbeing who lives beyond time and space in a sparkly happy candyland and loves each and every one of us so much that he comes alive in our mouths after bread has a spell cast upon it.
Ew. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
The humanist chaplaincy at Harvard University is 30 years old. That is a pretty great accomplishment in my book. I extend my congratulations to them!
[From the press release] The April 20-22 conference at Harvard will include some of the greatest thinkers of our time, including novelist Salman Rushdie, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning scientist E.O. Wilson, and renowned psychology professor and author Steven Pinker. Humanist Congressional lobbyist Lori Lipman Brown, of the Secular Coalition for America, will speak about how humanists can become more active in politics. Singer-songwriter Dar Williams willperform a private concert.
"Humanism takes science seriously, but is more than just science!" Epstein said. "Humanists love life here on Earth, find inspiration in human creativity, and respect all human beings."
"The time has come to say to the world that inclusiveness is the best approach, for non-religious and religious people alike," Epstein said.
Us American Atheists are used to being a very small, poorly organized minority within our society. We take it as a matter of course that we do not have any political clout, or any real presence on school boards, city, state, and federal governments.
But in Great Britain, the British Humanist Association is huge, well connected, and respected. Recent polls have shown that 62% of English citizens prefer a humanist explanation over a religious one, and 65 per cent of young people, aged between 12 and 19, were atheist or agnostic.
So, when humanist Andrew Edmondson tried to get on the religious education committee in Sussex County, England, it was shocking that he was rejected.
[link] An atheist has spoken of his dismay after being sidelined from discussions on how religion is taught in schools.
Former teacher Andrew Edmondson attempted to win a place on the West Sussex County Council's advisory committee for religious education but was denied by a majority vote.
Mr Edmondson, a humanist, believes people can lead their lives without religion and use reason to explain the world and solve problems.
In England, "Religious Education" in public schools is like an elementary school version of our college-level "Comparative Religions" courses. In other words, they are designed to teach about a number of world religions, not preach any of them as "right" or "the truth".
Should humanists and atheists have a say in how a Comparative Religions course in a public school is taught? I happen to think we should, but I am interested in your thoughts.
Atheist Author Urges Godless to go Mainstream
New Book Encourages Atheist, Secularist, and Rationalist Writers to Contribute Opinions to Local Media.
East Lansing, MI (March 17, 2007) — In his new book, A 21st Century Rationalist in Medieval America: Essays on Religion, Science, Morality, and the Bush Administration, author John Bice demonstrates that it’s possible to present religious criticism from an unapologetically secular perspective to a mainstream readership. The book is a collection of Bice’s newspaper opinion columns — highly critical of religion, faith, and the Bush administration — published between 2002 and 2006.
Books on atheism, god and religious criticism have enjoyed unprecedented commercial success recently. “The God Delusion,” by Richard Dawkins, and “Letter To A Christian Nation,” by Sam Harris are both New York Times best-sellers. However, despite the newfound popularity of atheist writing, average Americans continue to have little exposure to such works and the arguments they contain.
Bice believes, “The best way to broaden the understanding of atheism, and undermine persistent cultural taboos against religious criticism, is for openly godless writers to contribute opinion columns and letters to the editor in newspapers across the country. Such writing often sparks ongoing debate, and motivates other atheists and secularists to speak out.”
A 21st Century Rationalist in Medieval America has received national and international praise for offering strong secular perspectives and candid religious criticism.
More beneath the fold...