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.
Update: See Glorious Revolutionary People's Hero Comrade Ball and his fellow Revolutionary Partisians here.
This guy looks like every conservative Christian's worst stereotype of a subversive, communist atheist troublemaker. It looks as if he has gone out of his way to look like this. Look, Jason old pal, appearances do matter, regardless of what you might think. You have to live within the boundaries of your society or risk being ostracized as an outcast - and how is that going to help your cause? The sooner you learn this, the better you will be able to assist with atheist activism. Give Lori Lipman Brown a call and ask for some tips, for goodness sake. Until you do, don't say anything ever again and associate yourself with atheists like me. I don't doubt that you are an atheist, but your other ideologies are "irrelevant to the business" of atheism. Don't conflate your personal belief system of communism/socialism, with the lack of belief in a god or gods. That's what fundamentalist Christians do!
Jebus. This is all we need. Some imbecilic, pea-brained college student equating communism and atheism in the public mind again.
According to news accounts, student Board member Jason Ball, a self proclaimed atheist, called the flag salute "irrelevant to the business of the student government," and referred to a 2002 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on a possible "church-state conflict." Ball, wearing black boots, a beret and a hammer-and-sickle pin, was quoted as saying, "Nationalism is something that divides people."
College students are morons sometimes. That goes without saying. I was a moron when I was in college. Communist college students who are "self proclaimed" atheists are studying hard and failing to become morons.
Yes, yes, Comrade Ball, the Pledge is not relevant to the business of student government. Yes, you're an atheist. You're a communist who wears black boots and a beret. How very revolutionary for you, tovarische. We get that part all too clear, hammer & sickle boy.
But would you do the rest of us atheists a favor and shut the fuck up from now on? Thanks. You're not helping. Trust me.
David Gleeson, columnist for the American Chronicle and blogger at One Colorado Skeptic, interviews himself. Pretty good column, but no doubt he'll be flayed alive (metaphorically) by angry Christians for having the audacity to identify himself as an evil, dirty atheist then - *gasp!* - defend his point of view as if he were a Real True American™ like them.
Here's a taste:
[link] So what happens to us when we die? We just turn to dust?
It’s telling that this is the next question on your list. Whenever anyone finds out I’m an atheist, this is always one of the first questions I get hit with. It proves that faith in God is tied to anxiety about death. It’s why gods were invented in the first place: to allay fears, or to explain the incomprehensible.
To answer the question, yes, that’s what I believe. When you die, you are gone forever. No heaven, no hell, no everlasting bliss or torment, no punishment or reward, no rectifying of injustice, no reincarnation, etc. It would be nice to believe in second chances or fond reunions, but I try not to see the world as I wish it to be, only as it truly is. And the fact is, there is not one shred of evidence to support the existence of any type of afterlife.
I'll keep an eye out for parts 2 and 3.
Austin Cline from About Atheism has been busily constructing satirical propaganda posters pointing out hypocrisies and absurdities in the current American political system and how it kowtows to the religious right. In the poster below, in my opinion, Austin nails what seems to be the way that Christian Nationalists view non-theistic and secular attempts to actually get the government to follow the First Amendment.
Who knew that his satire was so close to the truth?
[Austine Cline] The above image is taken from a World War II poster exhorting soldiers to take good care of their boots -- it has no direct bearing on the war itself or the causes at issue in the war. In this context, however, it seemed an appropriate image to depict how Christian Nationalists seem to perceive the alleged threats to their treasured religious symbols.
Irony, thy name is William Donohue of the Catholic League.
[William Donohue] Cline may want to pass this off as satire, but any fair-minded person who looks around his site will understand that his brand of atheism is explicitly anti-Christian. The altered poster is, in fact, a true characterization of the anti-Christian animus at work. Moreover, it offers a glimpse into the mindset of radical secularists who seek to neuter Christmas.
Watch out, Austin, or your own irony meter could explode and you could lose an eye or something!
He fought the good fight. His case was solid and his theocratic opponents finally had to use the full power of the current federal government to force the issue out of local San Deigo jurisdiction by using a shady legal loophole. I am proud to have been his fellow foxhole atheist, and my sincerest sympathies go out to his friends and family.
He will be missed and remembered.
[link] Philip Kevin Paulson, who fought a 17-year legal battle to remove the Mount Soledad cross from public property, died Wednesday of liver cancer. He was 59.
Paulson, a 6-foot-5 Vietnam veteran who lived in City Heights, became so passionate about the separation of church and state that he filed a civil lawsuit against the city of San Diego in 1989 without an attorney. He won the case, and as the appeals dragged on he became one of the county's most reviled and respected characters.
During interviews with The San Diego Union-Tribune in September and October, a few months after doctors told him he did not have long to live, Paulson said he was unconcerned about death and proud of the stand that defined his life.
“The real message is equal treatment under the law, and religious neutrality. That's the purpose of why I did it,” said Paulson, who turned away from religion early in life. “It has nothing to do with me being an atheist or whether I was a Bible-thumping fundamentalist Baptist preacher.”
Jon Voisey of The Angry Astronomer blog happens to be a member of the Society for Open Minded Atheists and Agnostics (SOMA) in Lawrence, Kansas. Brenda Frei, the atheist featured on the "30 Days" show is also a member and Jon was able to talk with her and get a pretty detailed scoop on what went on behind the scenes at the show. Very interesting reading.
[Jon Voisey] Once on the set, she had the 30 Days film crew constantly in her face. Of them, the field producer was reportedly the hardest to deal with. Towards the end of the filming, the field producer revealed that she was a Christian “because she liked opening presents at Christmas.”
For those that haven’t seen the episode, in the first few days, Michael takes Brenda to his local mega-church. Brenda comments that there’s an awful lot of money tied up in such a thing. Michael immediately gets rather testy.
In response, the field producer told Brenda that she was “ruining the relationship.” Every time Brenda tried to correct things or hold her tongue, she said that the field producer would tell her to do the opposite and was constantly contradicting herself. Brenda says that the field producer was more difficult to deal with than the actual family.
As it notes over on the left there, I am the primary care-giver for someone with Alzheimer's. My mother-in-law (henceforth MMIL) is a sweet woman, 89, with a variety of physical ailments and a fairly advanced case of dementia. She has good days and bad days, but most days lately I'll have to explain to her a couple of times in the course of the day who I am (my wife and I have been married 19 years), and where she is (in the home she's lived in for over 50 years). We keep to a strict routine, and minimize disruptions, and do what we can to avoid reminding her of her failing memory and mental faculties, since that will just cause her distress. Strangers also throw her for a loop, and the repurcussions will echo for the next 24 to 48 hours, making our lives just a little more difficult.
So, today the Hospice nurse came by, along with a colleague from the Hospice team, to check up on us. MMIL's doctor wants her back on Hospice, but the administrative rules would probably bounce her off again in 90 days. MMIL could die at any time, but she could also live for years in her current slow slide, and that is not what Hospice was designed to help with. We told the nurse that we'd rather wait until she was to the point where when she went onto (I say onto rather than into, since we will keep her here at home until the end) the program she would stay on it. This, because earlier this year, following a nasty series of pnumonia-like infections, she was on Hospice. At first it was an amazing relief - but when we nursed her back to a minimal level of health it was cut off, leaving us feeling abandoned. We don't want that emotional whiplash again.
My wife and I were at our friend's house this weekend to play cards and relax after a too-busy Saturday. During a break, sitting outside on the patio having some drinks, I was thinking about the bill, the "Military Commissions Act of 2006", approved by the Senate by a vote of 65-34 that would suspend habeas corpus for anyone labeled as, and I quote from the bill, an "unlawful enemy combatant engaged in hostilities or having supported hostilities against the United States".
I looked around at my friends and asked them all out of the blue, "does anyone here know what "habeas corpus" is?" At best I got blank stares. At worse I got chuckles because old Brent was spooling up to say something again. Heh. Ah, well. It was too important to not say. I needed for my friends to understand what was going on.
So, I attempted to explain it. I said, "The concept of 'habeas corpus' means that when you get arrested, the government has to either charge you with a crime, or release you. It was first conceived of in the year 1215 in the document called the 'Magna Carta'. It was the only civil right deemed important enough to be added to the main body of the Constitution by our Founding Fathers." I then went on to explain that our other civil rights were added to the constitution later, in the Bill of Rights. "It has been the foundation of English Common Law, the system that our own system is based on," I continued, "for more than 800 years."
Ack. More blank stares. One of our friends piped up, "Isn't that one of those court things?"
Dammit. This is why we are losing our civil rights. These are ostensibly educated, adult citizens. My friends are funny, good at their jobs, kind to their children and pets, able to drive a car without killing themselves or others, helpful to strangers, able to buy a home...
...and abysmally, sadly, HUGELY ignorant about our country and the Constitution which makes our country even possible.
Let's recap what has happened just in the last two years:
- Our First Amendment civil rights have been dealt a body blow by the "Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005". This would bar the recovery of attorneys' fees to those who win lawsuits asserting their fundamental constitutional and civil rights in cases brought under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Basically, this means that only filthy rich people could take the government to court and fight for their First Amendment rights because regular folks like us couldn't afford it, and even if we won the case, couldn't recover our costs.
- Now, the "Military Commissions Act of 2006" tanks the only civil right explicitly spelled out in the main body of the Constitution, habeus corpus, which now can be suspended by our President at any time simply by identifying someone, anyone, as "an enemy combatant".
More below the fold...
Perhaps you've gotten it: an email going around claiming that some Country group called Diamond Rio has had a song of theirs titled "In God We Still Trust" denied radio play for reasons of 'political correctness'. I got mine on Labor Day, and was reminded of it today from a friend who is an observant Jew who got it and was offended, so mentioned it to me.
The story, I now know, is completely false according to Snopes. You can see the gist of the email, and the truth, there. But I didn't know that when I received the email.
The email I got had lots and lots of patriotic images, and was basically written in the tone of "the evil libruls who hate God and America don't want you to hear this song." It came from a relative who isn't too close and is likely unaware of my politics and lack of faith, and was copied in to a whole slew of people.
I was annoyed and offended by the email, and the implication that I am less of an American than the God-fearing sorts behind it. So I did something a little unusual (I'm not usually too sensitive to such nonsense, and let it roll off my back), and challenged the idea of the message with the following, which I sent to everyone on the cc: list.
I wrote the following over a dozen years ago, thought that revisiting it would be a nice introduction. Some comments on it, and how my thoughts have evolved, follow.
Mark Twain, in his early work Innocents Abroad, described how Christian craftsmen were given special dispensation to enter mosques in the Holy Land in order to install or repair the clocks which called the faithful to prayer. Sometimes I feel like those clockmakers, and wonder how they reconciled their non-belief in Islam with the service they provided that faith. Did they feel the grace of Allah's touch in their craftsmanship, or in the heartfelt thanks and blessings they received from the faithful?
I am a book conservator in private practice in the Midwest, and a significant number of the books I work on are religious texts, usually but not exclusively bibles. While I am a deeply spiritual person, largely in the Christian tradition, I do not consider myself to be a person of faith, and I have doubts about the existence of a single divine entity by whatever name. Still, I respect the religions of others, and am comfortable working on the books that deeply religious people bring to me.
Those who know me personally know that I am a friendly, normal man who loves his family, loves his country, and enjoys doing things for my friends and neighbors. The subject of my atheism rarely, if ever, comes up in face to face conversation with me. I'd wager that the majority of my friends don't have a clue that I am an atheist. If they did find out they would undoubtedly be surprised due to their stereotype of what an atheist must be.
However, I have a deep and abiding love for my country and a passion for the civil liberties that we enjoy every day thanks to the incredible foresight of our Founding Fathers and the clarity with which they crafted the most amazing political document ever written - The Constitution of the United States of America.
I am especially fond of the First Amendment which allows atheists like me to live in this country without fear of being silenced, imprisoned, or worse, simply because of my lack of belief in the majority's god.
But our civil liberties take work, and awareness, and vigilant safeguarding or they can be stripped away by even well-meaning folks who haven't thought the matter through very well.
As you can probably imagine, The Inscrutable Wife usually bears the brunt of my yammering-on about this and that. She is non-religious, but destined for sainthood in my book for putting up with me every day. I have been telling her for years about how atheists are usually thought of as bad, immoral people by most folks here in America. That the word "atheist" is seen by many as synonymous with "evil". That atheists are the last minority in America where it is perfectly OK - and sometimes even encouraged - to discriminate against.
Well, she got a pretty good lesson in real-life discrimination against atheists in the Sam's Club store the other day.
More below the fold...
It seems that the Rockies announced that they are a Christian Baseball Team. Ed, an avid baseball fan (and an atheist), wondered how that was working out for them.
We all know the answer, but check out Ed's site and his analysis. It would appear that there is a reverse correlation between baseball success and christian decision making.
Since I am a Red Sox fan, I guess that means I should start praying for the Yankees to win. :-)
Chuck Smalkowski is the atheist who was charged with criminal assault after an fight between him and his daughter's high school principal. Nicole Smalkowski, his daughter, refused to pray the "Lord's Prayer" with her high school basketball team and was dropped from the team. The school officials lied about Nicole to justify kicking her off the team. When her dad Chuck went to the principal's house to confront him about the lies he had told about Nicole, the principal punched him and then filed charges against him.
Chuck was aquitted of all charges in June. It's a pretty amazing story. I've found where Chuck tells the story himself on his website Scooter Journals.
[link] Then out of the blue my wife received a call from Ellen Johnson who said they had a lawyer that can help us, an Edwin Kagin who is their legal director. Well I called him up, and our civil case is up and running.
Edwin Kagin also by my request came to my criminal case for the two cases are obviously interrelated. There were also other reasons.
Simply stated without Edwin Kagin, Ellen Johnson and American Atheist I would be in jail now, or worse. Without them, we would have no federal case on separation of church and state. The only group, the only lawyer that would stand with my family and me to protect the wall and not cringe at me wanting to put atheism as part of my defense.
In Edwin's opening statement American Atheist magazine was shown. The crowd almost rioted. He explained that Atheism was not a dirty word and that it was a conclusion. That my family and I are not devil worshippers. We just have no Gods.
It was the basis of the case. It was the danger. It was the truth. Yet the only lawyer to go there freely was Edwin Kagin.
"So, Brent, your brother tells me that you are a registered, licensed Chaplain, able to perform weddings?"
And so it begins. I look up from my book and calmly reply. "Yep. I was registered as a real Reverend with the Church of All Worlds more than a year ago. I even have robe."
My brother Chris is going to get married sometime this year. Am I happy about it? Yes. I am. Maryanne is a wonderful person and I wish them both the very best.
So she corners me and asks if I can legally perform marriages in the state of Arizona. "Yup." I reply, "It's all completely legal."
"Good!" She exclaims, "that will save us a lot of money!"
Hmnn. I really don't have a problem performing their wedding, but I have to make sure that she understands what is at stake.
"Mary?", I ask.
"Yes?" She replies, switching my beautiful nephew from one hip to the other and managing to look interested.
"You realize that I cannot perform a wedding with a bunch of god references, right?" I look deeply into her eyes. I am going for sincerity here.
She smiles brilliantly. "Of course," she says. I nervously giggle. " I mean, I've seen your website."
Here's the weird part. I have never thought that my family (or potential family) have read UTI.
Stupid, I know. I mean, all they have to do is to Google "Brent Rasmussen" and they get me, in bleeding, full, living snarky color on their web screens.
Woo, hoo! Heh.
The thing that absolutely freaked me out was that she was fine with it.
"That will be a beautiful wedding," she said.
I was touched. I really was.
And you know what? If they decide to go with me as the officiant, I'll make their wedding the best wedding that has ever been.
I'm funny that way with my family. :)
Mom and Dad may not agree with it -- but it'll be fun, legal, and official - and it'll be done by someone who loves each of the participants with all his heart and mind.
Mom and Dad will understand.
Some time ago, I posted here about a Mission trip I would be taking.
(read it here)
Well that time is almost here. We head for Northern Maine on August 20 or so and we will spend the weak helping the less fortunate.
Did you ever get invited to a friends house where most everyone there spoke a different language? Do you remember how weird you felt? I suspect that my trip, at least at first, will feel this strange - it will, of course, depend a great deal on how much "praying" the group does.
The pastor is not taking the trip, instead the women who runs the church youth group will be in charge. She's a nice lady but a bit superstitious :-).
I will keep a journal of the week and if anything interesting happens, I'll report it here. BTW we will not have computer access nor will cell phone coverage be all that great... I can feel the withdrawl symptoms starting already. :-) (looks like we will be just a few miles from the Canadian Province of New Brunswick)
[link] Col. Pat Hash, chief chaplain for the 18th Airborne Corps and a former Special Operations chaplain in Iraq and Afghanistan, said military chaplains are different from those in civilian churches because they are with soldiers "out on the ranges and jumping out of airplanes."
A former infantry officer who went to a Southern Baptist seminary, Hash said there is no conflict between ministry and combat. Soldiers have a job to do and "we're there to walk alongside those soldiers as they face some of the challenges and turmoil of life," he said.
Chaplains don't seek converts but they rarely see a committed atheist during combat, Hash said.
"It's interesting how people, even though they say they're atheists, are drawn to some type of faith when they have to face stressful and difficult situations like war will bring," he said.
And so the bigotry and stereotyping continues. Let's re-write that a bit, shall we?
Chaplains don't seek converts but they rarely see a committed Jew during combat, Hash said.
"It's interesting how people, even though they say they're Jews, are drawn to some type of Christian faith when they have to face stressful and difficult situations like war will bring," he said.
Religious bigotry is going to torpedo this country unless we get a handle on it.
The military chaplaincy corps is a travesty and a clear blow to our most deeply-held American values as defined in the Bill of Rights, specifically the First Amendment.
The sooner they go the better off we'll be as a country.
How sweet. He's become a Christian. That'll show us! Wow, I can just hear him stomping his little foot indignantly. What a complete nutball. Good riddance to bad rubbish. The god-botherers deserve you, Larry. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
[link] I no longer categorically deny the existence of God. My views have changed based on experiences or understanding of the world around me. I appreciate the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson who, in the Declaration of Independence, spoke of the laws of nature and of nature’s God. I agree with moral precepts put forth by Jesus of Nazareth and I am Christian in a sense that Jesus of Nazareth would approve.
C. L. Hanson left a comment here talking about the odious can-you-see-your-brain argument. I was reminded of a post I read a few years ago by a highly intelligent regular on the Israeli secularist site Hofesh who goes by the nickname Cyberdin. In recounting his experience in school, he said he once doubted the existence of God, so his teacher decided to show him the error of his ways.
"Why don't you believe in God?" asked the teacher.
"Because I can't see it," answered Cyberdin.
"Can you see your brain?"
"Do you believe your brain exists?"
In his post, Cyberdin explained how he should've continued the exchange:
Commenter "bhl" on Thinking Christian responded to my earlier post about Chris Campbell's take on relativism. I asked for facts. Not wishful thinking, not divine revelation, not anecdotes, but facts.
What did I get from the only person in the entire thread who actually attempted to give me any facts?
What do you think?
More below the flip...
Hank has just posted about why atheism is a good thing, which is the second time in three days I see it implied that cultural liberation is a difficult feat. The first was in Violet's post eviscerating Hugo Schwyzer for treating feminism as a religious transformation akin to joining AA. In both cases, I saw an unquestioned assumption that there's something inherently hard about not supporting a cause of cultural liberation (I see feminism and Hank's humanism as different forms of the same basic anti-authoritarian idea).
Normally I'm not the kind of person who's into questioning assumptions - I'd rather work with what I have till I reach an absurdity - but in both cases I found myself asking, "Why is that even non-trivial?". I know that usually it's hard for a person to change his mind and become an atheist, or a feminist, or a liberal. But what I don't get is why The Lifestyle is so difficult.
I don't feel like all my isms - liberal-, femin-, real-, individual-, etc. - are constraints. Maybe it's just that my brain is wired in such a way that I can't stand authoritarian systems. But for me, individualist liberalism is empowering. I like it that I don't have to answer to a god, or act like a real man, or worry that I'm morally weak. I like not participating in any system of slavery, regardless of whether I'm the slave, the overseer, or the master. Is it that unusual?
My ex-girlfriend has a blog in which she talks about life, atheism, environmentalism, and whatever strikes her fancy. Although Kian's an atheist, she used to counsel at a Christian camp called Kenesserie for several summers in a row, saying she was on a faith journey (which to my understanding she was, at least the first few years). But here is what Kenesserie Camp did when one of its board members found out she was an atheist:
A board member of the camp Brian Cofell had googled the camps name and came across one of my older blogs. One I wouldn't want people to read now because it was more or less a ranting page. However, in the summer of 2004 I had made a post containing the word 'Kenesserie' so it appeared on about page 10 of the googled pages. On the blog is said that I didn't believe in God, and I was told there was other 'explicit' language. Probably the word fuck, because I don't really use the word lightly.
Because of this blog I was declined my position at camp. I understood, and wasn't too upset knowing that going to UVIC was going to take more than the $0.64/hour we were paid out there. But the more I thought about it, the more it irritated me. Instead of reaching out to someone who had been a faithful part of their team for over 11 years, the camp had snubbed me. I talked to my step dad about it, (he is a minister) and he said he was under the impression that the United Church was there to help people in their faith journey, not turn them away.
Honestly, I'm not so sure it's the wrong decision to turn people away based on religion. But what the same camp director did after finding out about Kian's post was inexcusable. He called her on the phone, threatening to sue her for slander unless she took the post down. Although what she said was the complete truth - another counselor told her earlier that she (Kian) wasn't hired because she wasn't Christian - he steadfastly denied it.
I don't know if there's anyone here living in southern Ontario, but if there is, please let as many people as possible know that Kenesserie Camp promotes religious intolerance and then lies about it in a flimsy attempt to intimidate people. If you have a blog, then please link to this post about Kenesserie Camp - right now it's third on Google on Kenesserie and Kenesserie Camp, and I'm trying to make it first.