Behind the Design - You're an Atheist Too (Mostly) January 21, 2015 17:51 1 Comment
We’ve had this conversation quite a bit, have we not? Just what do we mean when we say “I am an atheist?” There are numerous connotations that jump into people’s minds: we are humanists, skeptics, maybe cynics, some of us liberal, some of us libertarian. The one thing we all have in common, the unifying facet, the main tenet of being an atheist: an atheist says, “I don’t believe in god.”
We don’t have a campus lawn’s worth of space, but we’ve got a torso’s worth. With this new design, let believers know that “You’re an atheist too (mostly).” Ask them to understand why they are so ready to dismiss out of hand the pantheon of gods and goddesses that do not align with the circumstances of their birth, and hopefully they’ll understand why we just add one more to the list.
Happy Holidays from Your Judgmental Family December 28, 2012 22:52 3 Comments
Hi, faithful faithless readers! I apologize for the lack of updates during the holidays, but simultaneously celebrating an amalgamation of pagan/Germanic/Norse mythos AND changing our e-commerce service has left me drained. Articles, talkery, and other writings are in the pipeline, but that pipeline is blocked up and needs copious amounts of Tennessee Honey Jack to unclog it (the perfect belated Christmas gift!).
If you're stuck with the question, "How do I quickly get diabetes and liver failure simultaneously," you have your answer.
In the interim, I thought I'd share a joyous little holiday anecdote from a few days back and see if anyone can top it. This is my first Christmas as an out-and-about atheist. For this holiday season, my stepmother insisted that our entire immediate family spend 3 days in Disneyland and its surrounding environs, to celebrate the season, each other, her 50th birthday. Oh, and the fact that the world didn't experience a Mayan Ragnarok on the 21st (if you press her about that last bit, she'll say she was joking on that front, but she was not. She was genuinely worried that a different culture was right about the apocalypse. She's been canning preserves for months). This was your typical family trip - awful identical shirts we all had to wear, cramped lodgings, and the predictable emotional meltdown on day 3. But, and this was an actual worry throughout, my particular brand of heathenism did not come up. We got along, we exchanged gifts, we avoided ToonTown like a plague.
Part of you never leaves ToonTown. Part of you is trapped, forever screaming for death.
I was, however, accosted by EXTENDED family. Our first day in southern California (or The So-C, as I call it), wasn't theme parks, it was a meet-up with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, hangers-on, etc., all of whom make the area surrounding Mt. Disney their home. After a dinner scheduled for 2PM - because you eat that early on holidays - we gathered at Oma and Opa's house to exchange gifts, hang out, watch toddlers be toddlers, and make general merriment. That is, until I had the following surprise conversation with my uncle:
Kyle: ::watching nieces play and have fun::
Uncle: "So, Kyle, are you a full-blown atheist or do you still go to church?"
Kyle: ::eyes pop, momentary stunned silemce:: "Uh, no, I guess the former. I don't go to church."
Uncle: "So you're fully embracing the wrath of evil, then?"
Kyle: "Well, no, I don't see it like that at all. I don't think I'm 'evil'."
Uncle: "But how do you KNOW!?"
Kyle: "I don't! That's the point...."
At this point we were interrupted by family shenanigans of some kind, and were unable to finish what was started. I have no idea how many people overheard this exchange. I don't know if my sweet octogenarian grandmother heard the word "atheist" in her home. I have zero intention of sharing my point of view with my Dutch Catholic grandparents. It's not important; to me it is trivial information, to them it could be potentially heartbreaking.And as much as I would have liked to fully explain my position to my uncle (who was always the cool uncle growing up, the one with the beat-up stationwagon who gave us surfing lessons), that was NOT the venue for such a debate. I'm glad it never came up again, but I'd have preferred it not come up at all.
What about you, gang? Please, top my holiday heathen anecdote! Was this anyone else's first Christmas out and about? Any blowups concerning the divinity of the little ceramic baby in the manger? Tell us about it!
If you're looking for the perfect belated Mithras gift for that especial non-believer in your life, look no further!
Just What, Exactly, Is Atheism? November 21, 2012 08:58 33 Comments
Ever since I brought the question of Atheism Plus to this blog, my being, my very core, has been shattered, and every granule remaining from the devastating destruction is poised, waiting on the brink to turn on its fellow granules and wage all-out total war in an effort to prove what is and what is not. In other, less grandiose, and, let's face it, false words, the response to the blog, and in turn the responses I was spurned to write, lit a spark of inquiry in my sunken chest - what exactly "comes with" atheism? What's bundled in with the purchase of every Deity Denial? When I order a Godless #7, do I get fries or slaw?
As many of the anti-Atheism+ folks were adamant to point out, "atheism" itself isn't really a movement. It's not really anything. I'm sure I'm paraphrasing dozens of more witty and urbane folk, but atheism is a system of belief the same way not-boxing is a sport of kings, being quiet is a genre of music, and "off" is a television channel.
Or like this sparkly thing is a vampire. (Source: allthingsd.com)
In its simplest, purest form, the kind of crystal clear Walter White would cook up, atheism means the disbelief in a "god," a supernatural force that is creator and governor over human souls. I don't even like using the word "disbelief" there; to me its more of an acknowledgement of a fact of the world. Facts don't require belief or disbelief. I know I'm preaching to the choir, but I could believe all I want that I don't have a wart on my hand, but that's not going to change the fact that I either need to see a dermatologist or buy some gloves.
But even the bit about what TYPE of god is unnecessary, if we want to simplify further. To the atheist, there are NO gods, not deist types who created the infinite Multiverse, fine-tuned the cosmic dials of physics and chemistry, and then floated away to dick around on Xbox. No theist types who take a serious vested interest in EVERY SINGLE prayer, no matter how contradictory they may be to EVERY OTHER prayer. No multi-teired gods that are all part of the same god, nothing like that.
Nope, not even Thor. (Source: 1upcollectibles.com)
That's it. End of definition. This is what the anti-plus folks were arguing - lumping together a bunch of ideals and goals and shared viewpoints on top of a word that means something very simple is unnecessary. It was the same reaction when the whole hullabaloo about "brights" came up. A person could be an atheist and have VERY different opinions on a multitude of issues. Hell, and atheist could strongly believe in ghosts, cryptozoological creatures, and The Secret - they'd still be an atheist if none of those things fell under the billowy veil of "god."
I also feel it is unnecessary to define what type of god "atheism" rejects, but for the opposite reason. For me, atheism comes with a whole boatload more. Right of the bat, being an atheist also comes with a denial of most, if not all, of the world of the "supernatural." To me, there's just as much evidence for a god as there is for a ghost. These people fall into the realm of the "Spiritual But Not Religious," a group that deserves its own space on this blog for the tarring-and-feathering I feel it oh so justly deserves.
To me, atheism comes with an overwhelming appreciation for science, especially the life sciences of evolutionary biology that better explain our place on this odd little rock better than any tattered old parchment. For most it seems like a thorough understanding of evolution by natural selection LEADS to the denial of the supernatural and of creator gods. I admit - I was handed The God Delusion before The Selfish Gene and The Greatest Show on Earth, but it was actually reading an interview with Douglas Adams, published posthumously in the tragically brilliant collection The Salmon of Doubt that began my lust for knowledge on how we fit in here and why that's a better offering than the teachings of religion. I've yet to meet an atheist that is also a denier of evolution, or a proponent of the young-Earth theory. I'm not saying they don't exist, but to me, they just seem to go hand-in-hand.
Read This! But only after reading everything else the man wrote, and only then if you're prepared to cry like a little girl. (Source: neoseeker.com)
When you deny the existence of a creator god, and, depending on the god or gods, the existence of an afterlife, the crushing, almost paralyzingly so, realization that THIS IS IT comes with. Again, I'm not saying there aren't atheists that may simultaneously believe in zero gods while also believing in the eternal soul or reincarnation or alternate planes of existence or some such bullwonky, but I've yet to encounter him or her. This too seems to be an atheism package deal. No gods = this life is it. The odds stacked against one unique little swimmer uniting with the warm orb and resulting in the exact genetic code for ME is so astronomically huge that one is simply bowled over by how appreciative I, and all of us, should be every single day that we even made it, when the slightest alteration in the plan could have resulted in anyone else. Or no one at all! Of course, it's hard to live constantly in awe and appreciation of existence itself - think about it too long and you have to sit down with a glass of water.
Or, preferably, something stronger. (Source: realfoodtraveler.com)
I find the same thing happens if I try to think about what would existence be like if we had evolved to work in the world of atoms, and we could see that every object is mostly empty space. Or what if we had evolved to perceive time several times slower than we do today. OR what if another species elsewhere on the planet, separate and secluded, had developed consciousness at the same rate as humans!
Do NOT think about this stuff while operating heavy machinery. (Source: i.com)
From this consciousness-raising view of the universe and our tiny place in it, a whole slew of other stuff seems to follow. Atheists seem to be in favor of a woman's right to choose. They seem to be tolerant of the decision to let go of life in situations in which assisted suicide would be preferable to prolonged suffering. I could go on, but it seems so much simpler to connect atheism with humanism, because it looks a whole lot like the two go hand in hand. But there's an aspect of humanism that I personally feel goes right along with the entire atheism caboodle but somehow missed the kit for a whole lot of non-believing folk I've met, and that's personal responsibility - specifically, the kind of personal responsibility that would be labelled as "Libertarianism" in the political sphere. Why? Well, that's a question for next time, isn't it? I've got to go drink whiskey and contemplate our place in the universe. I expect to find all of zero answers.
Climate Change is a Hoax, Evolution is from Hell, Rape is a Gift - Vote for Me! November 06, 2012 08:54 5 Comments
With Your Help, Cute Robots Like This One Might Be Spared the Cruelty of Governing Officials With Little-to-No Intelligence. (Source: T3, NASA)
If You're A Fan of Logic, Science, and Reason, Maybe The Following People Do Not Deserve Your Vote Today
The headlining act today is Barack "Things Could Have Been Worse" Obama VS Mitt "Insert Binders-Full-Of-Women-Joke, 47-Percent-Remark, or Mormon-Reference Here" Romney. But those of us who have voted before might recollect, after waving off the fog of crushing responsibility and old people funk, that there's a lot more going on on Election Day. Each of us has the power to minutely influence not only the Presidential election, but myriad Congressional contests as well.
With that in mind, Dana Liebelson of the journalism website Mother Jones has compiled a list of the 9 Most Anti-Science Candidates in America, all of whom are up for election or re-election this today, November 6th. So, if the Curiosity Rover, newly classified species of frog, and confirmation of speculative subatomic particles give you a raging brainer, maybe those nine folks don't deserve to be making policy decisions in this country. Just maybe.
Hank Johnson Wields More Power Than Mortals Can Comprehend
I won't list them all here, but I've got to share my absolute favorite. Sure, there's Mr. Akin's abominable belief that rape never results in pregnancy because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," or Paul Broun's claim that "all that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang Theory—all that is lies straight from the pit of hell." Classic stuff. But the cake and ice cream has to go to incumbent Georgia congressman Hank Johnson, who was concerned that Guam would be overpopulated to the point of TIPPING OVER. Yep... capsizing. Because islands are just like kayaks.
Do your duty. Then wipe your bottom and go vote!
Broken Crucifix Removes Man's Leg, No Word on Misguided Faith November 03, 2012 16:14 2 Comments
Man Gives Statue Credit for Wife's Remission, Blame for His Amputated Leg
In a case of delicious, comforting irony, as if someone baked irony with nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon and then served it with hot cocoa on a night where frost lightly collects on your windowsill but you're inside with a loved one and a good book, a large slab of stone crushed a man's leg. ...Ok, that needs some context.
Reported by CBS News, the man is David Jimenez, 45. The stone is a broken crucifix, which until recently stood outside the Church of St. Patrick in Newburgh. Jimenez was cleaning the statue when it dislodged and fell on top of him, crushing his right leg. So far, so tragic.
Jimenez was or is in no way an employee of the church - rather, he works at a pizza parlor. He was only given permission to clean the crucifix because of his hitherto unyielding devotion to the statue - you see, Jimenez's wife was cured of her ovarian cancer in 2010. Jimenez does not attribute the disease's successful abeyance to medical science, devoted doctors, or even chance remission, but to his frequent stops to pray in front of a dirty old crucifix. How could he not? He prayed in front of a statue, she was cured. No other explanation.
But the statue was clearly not done with Jimenez. Just as it had implanted healthy cells inside Mrs. Jimenez's ovaries, this manipulative and clearly powerful slab of rock brainwashed Jimenez into giving it a good scrubbing, only to topple at the opportune moment to claim its payment in BLOOD.
Or maybe statue maintenance should be left to professionals, and not 45-year-old pizza parlor workers. One can only assume his prayers to cure his wife ended with "and please, let that assistant manager position open up - I can't kill the rats behind the sauce vats forever, I'm not a young man anymore!"
Jimenez is now suing the church due to the latter's insurance company has been, "less than forthcoming," according to Kevin Kitson, the former's attorney. Again, one imagines Jimenez was wheeled around to various other faitheries, praying to random busts, crosses, and sconces before giving in and relying on plain ol' human civil courts to handle this.
...Ok, I've re-read this, and it comes across as really cruel. I sincerely hope Mr. Jimenez will be fine, and am terribly sorry that this accident ended in amputation - I wouldn't wish this on anyone. But... come on. How do I not share a story like this with you guys? I like you all too much to keep this sort of thing from you in the name of "decency."
Victimless Form of Human Love Blamed for Low-Pressure Weather System October 30, 2012 21:22 2 Comments
Pastor Wins Award for Being First to Link Hurricane with Naughty Sinners
In a move shocking everyone today, Defend and Proclaim the Faith Ministries founder John McTernan has fixed the blame for the rampant wettening and gustimization of the East Coast on the homosexual agenda, among other awful sins, according to Gay Star News and The Raw Story. Surprisingly, the leader of the Homo Brigade has NOT come forward and confessed to angering Yahweh so much that He created a vast tropical cyclone. IF ONLY THEY WOULD TAKE THEIR DICKS OUT OF BUTTS AND APOLOGIZE!
Ahem. This... this is no longer news, you know? You can set your watch, you can successfully poach a delicious egg by sitting back and waiting for the evangelicals to pin devastating natural events on the "sins" of the world. I'm only sharing this one because, man oh (on) man, McTernan spins such a tale of conspiracy, his leaps of logic are so graceful and vast that one can't help but be impressed. He first claims that America earned God's wrath when George Bush Primus initiated the Madrid Conference to negotiate peace between Israel and Palestine. So right out of the gate, he's against peace. McTernan goes on to play his CD of "Panicky, Confrontational Evangelist's Greatest Hits," like:
- Obama is 100% behind the Muslim Brotherhood
- The Madrid Conference was 21 years ago! 21 is 3 X 7, and both of those are MAGIC NUMBERS OF CHRIST*
- Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac both hit New Orleans during the "Southern Decadence in New Orleans" festival, a super-gay event**
- Katrina and Isaac were SEVEN (7!) years apart! MAGIC GOD DIGIT
Slightly surprisingly, McTernan says that voting Romney won't help, because both he and Obama are in the pocket (tee hee!) of big gay Al... genda. So, I guess we're just doomed.
How is this still a thing that happens? Do we still understand so very little about weather patterns, about low-and-high-pressure systems, about what happens on this planet given certain circumstances that grown men point to an angry tyrant punishing his subjects for living in a way that, coincidentally, happens to make said grown men a little uncomfortable? How does this still go on? Or do these adult people, who are allowed to drive cars and rear children, know full well that this is not the case, but chomp at the bit when a natural disaster strikes because it gives them another chance to flap their gums and maybe scare one or two impressionable folk into dropping a fiver in the collection bin? Think about it, won't you? Thank you.
*He's right here, at least about 3. Schoolhouse Rock!
**Since when do homosexuals get dibs on decadence? I can be decadent, dammit!
Glenn Beck Knows What God Can Do With His Finger October 05, 2012 05:55 11 Comments
Romney's Falling Poll Numbers Proof of Upcoming Miracle, says Washed-Up Talking Head
One nigh-worthless human being has interviewed another, resulting in the utterance of some ridiculous things, according to a recent Raw Story article (which means we all win!). Glenn Beck (who has yet to move into the black hole of obscurity that consumes all useless mouthpieces) was interviewed by David Barton, whom you may remember as the author of The Jefferson Lies, which has been called "the least credible history book in print." The interview appears on "Right Wing Watch," which I'm sure is a wholly objective news outlet interested in only the truth**. Within said interview, Beck opened his gaping flap chasm (tm) and uttered what we all know to be true - Mitt Romney was no one's first choice (which is odd, because weren't there like nine Republican candidates just six months ago?).
This means (according to Beck), "God is trying to make this so clear to us that if it happens [A Romney win in November], it’s his finger. Because nothing looks good.” This leads to numerous questions:
- Is god's plan to watch the voting process unfold, dictating the will of the nation's voters, and then ignore it and fudge the numbers? Or
- Is god going to enter the minds of each person within the voting booth and effectively undo free will for three minutes PER voter?
- Why not simply make Romney a likable, effective, winnable politician, instead of leave him as someone that makes someone as Joseph-Smith-believingly thick as Glenn Beck say, "there’s no reason that I should feel good on this."
- What's god's finger got to do with anything?
Finally, Beck was clear to say "if." I've gotta hand it to the man - it's a great way to cover your tushy when you're spouting pure, unfiltered malarky. "Well, if Romney wins in spite of his crippling unpopularity and lack of any likable traits, it will clearly be God's finger doing the fingering. If Obama wins, then God works in mysterious ways. Now excuse me while I return to my subterranean lair, half-submerged in my own tears, covered in chalkboards filled with my inane scribblings."*
If you'd like to suffer through two grown men verbally yank off over Mitt Romney, comparing him to George Washington in the process, you can watch the video here.
Yep, I got to write "God's finger doing the fingering". This is the tops! Let's put that on a shirt!
*this may not in fact be a literal quote
**EDIT: Our intrepid readership has informed me that Right Wing Watch is a project from People for the American Way tasked with monitoring and reporting the extreme right. Thanks for the info!
With Jesus' Great Hair and Sweet Bod, I Imagine He Had His Pick of Wives September 23, 2012 10:16 4 Comments
Rampant Speculation About Moldy Rag Sparks Wild Nonsense
A recently unveiled scrap of papyrus supposedly makes reference to Jesus having a wife, according to Harvard divinity professor Karen King. BBC News reports that Ms. King's researchers have identified the words, "Jesus said to them, 'my wife,'" which said researches say could be a reference to Mary Magdalene, but I say could be the set-up for one of his hilarious zingers - hopefully the rest of the sentence is, "take her, please."
A couple of highlights from this bit of quote-news: Ms. King says this scrap is from a 4th-century text copied from a 2nd-century gospel. No one still has an explanation for why there's nothing written about this earthquake-causing, wife-maybe-having, blind-healing messiah for 2 centuries, but as long as we can argue about the trivial matter of whether or not he had a wife, who cares? Ms. King is also convinced of the scrap's authenticity, despite not yet having further testing of the chemical composition of the ink. Sure, ok, just claim whatever you want.
But the delicious icing on this moist cake? Jim West, a professor and Baptist pastor in Tennessee, is one of many outspoken anti-scrappers, saying: "A statement on a papyrus fragment isn't proof of anything. It's nothing more than a statement 'in thin air', without substantial context."
He unfortunately failed to add, "...until you manage to reprint that same papyrus fragment again and again for several centuries, and limit who can and cannot read it, thereby effectively controlling who 'knows' the 'truth.' You can get a whole set of dark ages out of that, and maybe even some Crusades!"
Working With Moderates? Sorry, I'm Too Much of a Logic Fundie September 19, 2012 18:35 9 Comments
New Book from Biblical Scholar Bemoans "New Atheists" and Calls for Cooperation with Moderates
Associate Professor of Jewish Civilization and nonbeliever Jacques Berlinerblau has published a book entitled "How to be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom," according to a report from The Washington Post. His book, filled with stirring calls to action to preserve the first amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion, is really a call for atheists to essentially back off and unite with religious moderates. Probably. I haven't read it. I'm taking the article's word for it. But let's continue as if that's the case, shall we? Thanks.
Now, while his ultimate goal of secularism within all forms of government is incredibly admirable - I agree that religion and policy should never ever be any sort of bedfellows - I'm entirely opposed to his method. He claims that there are many faithful in the world who favor church-state separation, and that these are our natural allies. I do not see how they can be. First of all - the existence of moderates within a faith allows for the existence of fundamentalists. It just does. If a massive majority follows 90 percent of the tenets of their faith, they have no choice but to turn the other cheek when the minority follows the other 10 percent to its (quite often literal) bloody end. Second, he seems to be confusing the notions of respecting the existence of a belief and respecting the belief itself, or even the believer. Why fashion ourselves into moderates, gradually becoming more and more accepting of the foolish and dangerous things put forth by even the most moderate of the faithful? How is that making us any stronger? How is that a victory for logic and reason? I have to acknowledge a person's right to believe any ridiculous nonsense they want. What Berlinerblau calls for is one of the most clear examples of the "lesser evils" principle I've heard, and I'd rather stick to my guns than do something I'm already calling "evil."
There's an Epidemic of Seductive Boys!... claims Old Catholic Priest September 01, 2012 21:48 78 Comments
Catholic Priest claims that victims of Child Abuse Are Usually the "Seducers"
What? Did I type that right? That's... that's too good, right? This is something from The Onion or The Daily Show, right? Not the real words of a 79-year-old Catholic Priest and host of Sunday Night Prime with Father Benedict Groeschel (which sounds like his hilarious sketch show), right? Nope, Father Groeschel ACTUALLY said in a recent interview,
"Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer... Well, it’s not so hard to see — a kid looking for a father and didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not having intercourse or anything like that...".
Granted, he DID say this in an interview to the National Catholic Register, so he probably thought he was literally preaching to a literal choir. Now, look - I like to reserve this blog space for the promotion of good Atheist stuff and not bad religious stuff. You know, more Bill Nye and Camp Quest, less mentally-challenged Pakistani Christian girls being tried for ripping up the Qur'an. But when this just falls in my lap, well, it's my birthday and Festivus combined! The best part is where he defends Jerry Sandusky, calling him a "poor guy." You know, what you might call an old dog whose bone is taken away, the poor fella. Of course, the Catholic newspaper has pulled the interview and the deluded old coot has recanted his comments. But it's out there, and thank goodness I caught it in my meaty internet glove.
Like what you read? Buy a shirt and support us. Every sale gives me another seven minutes of searching the internet for gobbledygook like the above!
The Science Guy Says - Creationism is For the Crazies August 28, 2012 21:51 11 Comments
If This Show Returns To Television, Creationists and Climate Change Deniers Better RUN
Bill Nye, following in the footsteps of greats like Penn Jillette and Michio Kaku, has appeared on the popular web series Big Think to discuss big thinly questions, like how to talk to alien life, why we explore, and, most importantly, why creationism is a load of hooey and cannot be taught to children if our country is to stay at the forefront of scientific exploration. This is something I just DO NOT GET. I mean, we all grew up with the same television channels, right? We all saw enough Beakman's World, plenty of Mr. Wizard, and, if we were lucky, the all five series of Bill Nye The Science Guy.
We learned about clouds and dirt and how planes fly and how to make whirlpools in 2-liter soda bottles AND evolution as kids. And not once did these heroes of television do an episode on miracles or angels or the feats of Jesus. How did so many of my friends end up in church youth groups?
Ah well. Bill Nye, thankfully, is still around, trying to set these youngsters straight. His entire interview on Big Think can be seen here and the image above will take you to The Raw Story page for this bit of news.
If you've got an idea of how we can honor the man in a shirt design, let us know - the science angle is something we're hoping to explore. Because SCIENCE RULES. And INERTIA IS A PROPERTY OF MATTER. And so on.
Those Who Are Fed Tripe Often Regurgitate It August 26, 2012 19:29 7 Comments
A long while ago [and I apologize for a) the lengthy delay and 2) the somewhat dated topic of this entry] I talked about how people responded to the tragedy in Colorado, about how so many were ready to politicize the events and use them as reasoning to support their own line of thinking. As much as I no longer want to talk about Aurora, and simply wish to wait for the day when it’s ok to make jokes about it so we can all heal and move on, I’ve got to address one more thing, and it concerns the shooter. I refuse to type his name, as I feel ANY press about this “man,” any mention, negative or, goodness forbid, positive, is simply feeding into what he desired from this attack, even this late in the "game." And, looking at it, it’s not even about him. It’s about people’s response to him, once again.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="544"] Yea.... this again. Still talking about this. (Source: NBC 9 News)[/caption]
Two or three days after the attack, I saw that a friend of mine had commented on something she had seen on her Facebook. A friend, or a friend of a friend, or a page a friend liked, who knows – somebody had posted an image of the shooter’s match.com profile. Whoever shared this, or, more likely, whoever created this image for sharing, was prominently concerned with pointing out that under “Faith,” the attacker had selected “agnostic.” Of course, the facebook post went on to connect the dots in the most slippery of slopes (to mix my metaphors, with your permission), creating the tenuous bridge (ooh, there's a third one!) from agnosticism to mass murderer. If you are reading this, I’m sure you agree – what an awful, ignorant, hurtful, and downright mean thing to do. It shouldn’t have to be said, or typed, or thought – many, many people who proclaim themselves as nonbelievers on their dating website profiles do not harbor desires and plans to commit mass murder. Myself included (lllllllladies).
But it didn’t start there, of course not. One person on Facebook didn’t find the shooter’s match.com profile, notice his particulars, and begin espousing the moral decay of all nonbelievers. It started, as it does, with the media. Astonishingly, my searches have lead to TMZ (of all places!) as the first to reveal the image of his dating profile. TMZ – the stalwart journalists who are first on the scene if Morgan Freeman farts in public or Lindsay Lohan's camel toe returns from vacation are also the first to expose the psyche of killers. If it wasn’t them, it was surely someone else, because I also saw “reporting” of this information on at least one of several 24-hour news networks. And, as strange as it feels to do so, this is where I have to give it to TMZ: their slant on the “news” of this profile wasn’t trying to put together the pieces of an evil mind, but rather, in true sound-bite, ADHD entertainment news magazine style, “The aurora shooter – BOYFRIEND MATERIAL?! We spoke to one girl who was FRE-EAKED OUT when she saw THIS match!” Kudos. Kudos for being predictably stupid and then letting it drop, because, hey, Angelina Jolie just got ketchup on her shirt.
No, of course the head-shaking and “tsk, tsk”-ing must be pointed at the news networks, where rampant speculation and wild generalization are king and queen of a court of supposition and gossip. When did this happen? Did no one have the rationality to stand up and say “this is not news? This - what the killer had for breakfast, what he listed as his faith on his dating website, his major in college – this is not information that helps the public!” No. And why would they? They’ve got a full day of airtime to fill, and there’s no better way to do so than to spill the juicy details of a monster.
And we eat it up! We devour it en masse! Why? Is it the sick pleasure of TMZ and Entertainment Tonight times 1000? Is it the airing of dirty laundry, and the smell is that much more enticing because this particular laundry is so much dirtier than the rest? I’d like to believe that within us all there’s a quest to understand the workings of the mind, and when we encounter one so clearly damaged as that of the Aurora shooter, we are eager to put on our Sherlock Holmes hat and our Sigmund Freud glasses and play combination detective/psycho-analysist, but I don’t think that’s it. Sure, many would tell you that it’s important to understand what sort of man does this, perhaps in an effort to prevent atrocities like this one before they start. That’s all well and good, and a noble effort, but the people watching Fox News AREN’T DOING THAT. The people who truly are analyzing this man and this situation have that information already. Once again, all the media is doing when it shares trivial information like the killer’s announced faith is giving the public, a public with no use for such information, something interesting to one-up each other with at the water-cooler. And when the media makes the word “agnostic” the focus of an hour-long segment of “news?” That will lead to the frantic Facebookery of the scared and dogmatic, calling for all to recognize the evils of nonbelief. It's the same reaction as when the cops find Grand Theft Auto 4 in the killer's apartment, except that dubious link between violent video games and real violent behavior at least SOUDNS rational on paper (it doesn't, and there's no evidence there, but that's for a different time on a different blog entirely. DO NOT get me started.).
And this is what has happened. Now, if one searches for the aurora shooter + agnostic, the results aren’t news. The TMZ article is still up (search for it if you like, but I refuse to link to it), but no one else is “reporting” it. People are simply using this “information” to bolster their claims that not believing in god (their god, of course) leads to the destruction of society.
Actually, that’s not true. You won’t find much of that if you search aurora shooter + agnostic. You’ll only find the bulk of the truly reactionary and bigoted codswallop if you search aurora shooter + atheist. And that leap is disgusting. Not because I feel some sort of revulsion at atheists being grouped with agnostics, of course not (although I do believe that all agnostics are atheists, but that’s, again, a topic for another time.). No, it’s that these demagogues, these hate-mongers, these fanners of the flames felt the need to twist the “facts” even further: we won’t convince nearly as many people that this monster killed those people because he was a heathen if we use the word he used – agnostic! Everyone knows that’s the nice version. Call him an atheist! That gets like-minded people’s blood boiling!
And you can see it. I won’t link to it, because it doesn’t deserve to be viewed by anyone, but there’s one of probably many YouTube videos showing images of the shooter, his dating profile, and white text stating that “The unbelievers are at it again! This is the agnostic _____ ______. Please pray for the families suffering at the hands of agnostic / atheist _____ ______.” Of course, no high-and-mighty YouTube video focusing on an “atheist” would be complete without 4 minutes of demonic sounds over the entire thing. But the worst part? Over half of the video is someone’s cell phone footage from the lobby of the Aurora movie theater. And I’m sure this crass, tasteless video worked – I’m sure at least one trusting soul heard the demon noises, watched the footage, saw the pictures of the killer next to the words “agnostic” and “atheist,” and is now convinced of our sinful, ethically-bankrupt ways.
It simply comes from a misunderstanding of what it means to call oneself agnostic or an atheist. For most of us, this way of living is tied to an extremely humanistic approach to life – YOLO, as the kids are saying (and I do hope they sincerely mean it and we get a new wave of young, rational thinkers). Someone who truly thinks that this is all we get, and this world and this life are worth cherishing every moment, would not, could not pull that trigger. Heck, most of us are against the death penalty for the most evil men on the planet. Richard Dawkins put it succinctly in his Twitter feed during a recent debate with Christian academic John Lennox.
The same goes for the Aurora shooter. The man may be an agnostic or an atheist.
A) That doesn’t matter, as there are no tenets within either belief system (which they’re not, they’re not belief systems, but I can’ t think of another thing to call them) that would lead to mass murder BECAUSE there are no tenets to dogmatically obey. But more importantly,
B) all the spreading of that information does is ferment distrust and bigotry and hate. It’s the only result. No one is taking the information “_____ ______ called himself an agnostic on his match.com profile” and doing anything helpful or worthwhile with it, and if they are, they certainly didn’t first hear said information from the news.
Thankfully, there are already dozens of healthy responses from rational free-thinkers in response to these outlandish claims. Folks were quick to jump on the internet and fend of these merit-less attacks. However, defense is all we should be striving for in this situation. In the same vein as last week, when I asked that we not use atrocities and tragedies that are wounds so freshly exposed upon the body of the nation as a platform to bolster our particular idea of secularism and logic, so should we not use the faith or mentality of those who commit such crimes as a weapon in our armory of argument. Articles like this, in which the author blames a Christian upbringing for the Aurora shooting, are just as ugly. Yes, you can call out stupidity and hypocrisy when people like Rick Warren say things like "When students are taught they are no different from animals, they act like it,” (his claim that, not only atheism, but EVOLUTION being taught in schools led to Aurora), but then say nothing when, say, the shooter in Oslo is revealed to be an anti-Muslim Christian extremist. By all means, strike back at the ignorant and hurtful statements blurted every day by fear-mongering bigots. But fighting fire with fire will get both sides burned.
So I’m not mad or upset when I see people on Facebook share things like “Aurora Shooter – Agnostic!” followed by dozens of comments about how correlation is causation. These people aren’t psychiatrists, they’re not even truly interested in _____ ______. They’ve been fed garbage by people looking for the quickest sensationalist item they can shove in front of us, and we can’t blame them for eating it. They, like all of us, are scared, looking for an easy answer to the question of why such evil can be committed, and by whom. But there are no easy answers, at least, not early enough. For now, it has to be enough to say, “so-and-so is just another madman, and I’ll speak no more about him.”
Honestly. I hope not to speak about him again. Thanks for getting through all of that. As a reward, here’s a puppy.
Ripping It A New One, Right in the Scriptures August 21, 2012 19:22 18 Comments
SoCal Atheists Tear Into the Bible, Literally*
*sort of literally
The Backyard Skeptics of Orange County performed a lively demonstration on the pier of Huntington Beach Saturday, tearing into scripture that no truly moral person could agree with. Commendations go to this awesome group of individuals who not only chose a primo location (a popular haven for religious nuts taking to the streets) and for not actually destroying any Bibles - apparently they simply tore into photocopies of the "good" book. Thank you for not succumbing to the desire to actively destroy Bibles and make yourselves look even more evil in the eyes of bible-thumpers (and bible-repairers). I hope the message was successfully delivered to the happy people of Huntington Beach - much of the Bible is dogmatic, draconian, and downright immoral, and the good stuff shouldn't require belief in a mythical Big Brother to be followed. Click here to read the story from The Examiner, which contains a video of their antics and links to their website and meetup page. Good work, guys!
Man, can you imagine if they were wearing a couple of our shirts while doing their demonstration? That would've turned even more heads! Turn your own heads at our kickin' store.
See, In That Foxhole? There They Are August 15, 2012 16:48 4 Comments
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="604"] A chart from the MAAF detailing Department of Defense data concerning the ratio of soldiers to chaplains of said soldier's denomination (Source: Well, it says right in the image, doesn't it?)[/caption]
Study of DoD Reports Shows Significant Atheist Military Population
The MAAF (Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers) has compiled the data from official Department of Defense reports that atheists comprise a larger military population than any non-Christian denomination. So, right of the bat, you can knock that whole "no atheists in foxholes" thing into a cocked hat. The MAAF goes on to show that this large population has absolutely zero chaplains supporting it. As I'm not a member of any military organization, I'm not sure what a chaplain does outside of provide spiritual support for a group, so I've got to ask - do we need 'em? Seriously, if you're an atheist and in the military, please comment and let us know if nontheist chaplains are something you guys want. The big thing I took away from this article? There's a Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers! Right on, guys. You can check out their study here, and explore the rest of their site too.
As always, please visit the main site to grab yourself some nifty threads. We hope to have an appropriate design for all of you freethinkers in foxholes very soon!
Speaking Out No Matter The Cost August 14, 2012 19:31 2 Comments
A Catalogue of Discrimination Towards America's Most Hated Peoples
Greta Christina has complied an amazing and staggeringly disheartening list of instances in which decent, god-not-believing-in people like you and me have been discriminated against. It goes on for quite a while - at one point, every other word is a hyperlink! It's important to realize, and its something that's easy to forget when we're surrounded by like-minded friends, as we all oft-want to be, that the way the rest of this country feels about us is bigoted at best and illegal as all hell at worst. Sadly, as Greta is quick to point out, fighting these legal battles can devastate one's life and quick, but, just as sadly, it's a necessary step to acceptance and equality. And it's incredibly bolstering to hear that the toughest fighters are high school students. We, from behind out hate-proof shields and bigot-dispelling bunkers, salute you! Have a click to read the whole article and immerse yourself in a rich history of discrimination. History? Hell, it's incredibly recent. Read on.
And if you want to speak up and announce to the world who YOU are, why not swing by the store and grab yourself a shirt? They're real comfy!
ExMormons On Mitt August 13, 2012 15:09 5 Comments
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="503"] A billboard advertising ex-Mormon support groups; Mormon pioneer leader Brigham Young in front of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Temple in Salt Lake City; Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney; ex-Mormon Sue Emmett. (Source: Getty Images; AP Photo)[/caption]
Brigham Young's descendant on Mormons and Mitt
The Daily Beast has caught up with Sue Emmett, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young and current president of the ExMormon Foundation, to get her take on why she left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and how she feels about current Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Brigham Young, if you don't know, was the founder of Salt Lake City and the Mormon president and prophet for 30 years, and is famous for stating, about increasing his flock, quote, "I don't care how you bring 'em, just bring 'em young."
Emmett's comments fall right in line with what I've heard about Mormonism - it spends most of its money promoting the image that many of its followers expemplify: honest, wholesome family values. That's so you don't know about A) all the crazy stuff, and B) all the intolerant crap, most of which Emmett details in her quest for equal treatment as a Mormon woman. When talking about Romney, she brings up the White Horse Prophecy, which sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel, but is probably at the forefront of Mitt's mind, no matter how much he says it isn't. The thing that astonished me the most? Emmett is of the opinion that Mitt's father, George Romney, who ran for President in 1968, "would have made a much better president. In many ways the church was more benign then than it is now.” Staggering. Apparently, at the height of rampant racism within the Mormon church, it was MORE BENIGN than it is now. Yeesh. Take the time to click here and read the full article over at The Daily Beast.
The Religio-Industrial Revolution Will Be Televised August 12, 2012 11:48 1 Comment
Richard Dawkins Foundation to expose the Lives of The Rich and Religious
From GodDiscussion.com comes the first information on a new documentary intended to reveal just how much of a cash cow this whole tax-free religion thing is. From Sean Faircloth, RDF's Director of Strategy and Policy, ""Today, I am announcing that the Richard Dawkins Foundation U.S. is starting a project to expose the religio-industrial complex through a professional documentary that reveals both the human injustices caused by fundamentalism in law but also the lifestyles of the rich and religious. And you can help. With a little bit of investigating of public records and Google maps, you can in your state document what is happening and show that this is a pervasive problem and not an anomaly. And don’t forget the homes of the children and the siblings who are called by God to get a really sweet tax exemption." GodDiscussion catalogues Faircloth's lengthy speech at the most recent TAM (The Amazing Meeting) in Las Vegas, and the article concludes with the full video. To get the email address so you can help out, click here to be taken to the full article, where you can watch said video. I was at TAM this year, but I was too busy shakin' it at Penn Jillette's Bacon and Doughnuts Party to hear anything other than killer tunes. Let that be a lesson - important smart stuff first, get stupid later.
Pat Robertson to LGBTQ: I Defy You, Make Babies With Your Body Holes August 10, 2012 18:44 19 Comments
Robertson to LGBTQ Community: I Defy You, Make Babies With Your Body Holes
In an effort to prove how old he is and how little he understands of the outside world, 700 Club host and perpetual misery machine Pat Robertson called for the LGBT community protesting Chick-Fil-A to "shut their mouths." Robertson is of the opinion that, unless you can produce a baby with your sexual activities, you may as well keep your thoughts to yourself. You hear that, sterile men and infertile women? Stay out of the affairs of the rest of the world! I'm sure he extends this to anyone using any contraceptives as well - if you're not increasing the human population to incredibly unhealthy levels, you don't get a say. My favorite bit? Apparently Robertson spends his free time just re-reading Leviticus. I expect his next broadcast to be about proper beard maintenance. Click here for The Raw Story's take and to watch Robertson dig himself deeper in his own hate-hole.
Birth Control For Some, Pointed Hats and Opulent Churches for Others August 10, 2012 14:11 1 Comment
Bishops winning support, Obama winning Voters
How they can both be winning is a mystery to me, but apparently that's what's happening in the ongoing contraceptive battle. While Catholic bishops continue to gain support for their battle to not help people because every sperm is sacred, President Obama's plan to provide free contraceptives to women (and I guess men, too, probably) is seeing a surge in support from, drum roll, Catholics! Apparently there are some Catholics out there that understand that giving people rights doesn't limit the rights of others. Click to read the story from the LA Times.
Accept Christ! It's Part of Our Business Plan! August 08, 2012 17:03 1 Comment
Five More Companies Who "Share" Their Faith
Thanks, unknown "news" website, The Blaze, for this list of five more business I can purposefully avoid. Now, don't get me wrong - I have nothing against Chick-fil-A or any other company coming out and letting their (or I suppose their founders' and owner's) beliefs be known. What I don't get is the prosthelytizing. Well, no, I get WHY they're doing it - if you "knew" the key to salvation, you'd be a jerk for not sharing it. But the tiny scripture on the bottom of my bag? The out-of-place commands to accept Him on your website? I'm trying to find out store locations! But, hey, if you can better serve your Lord by selling airplane glue, go to it. I'll just go across the street, thanks. Click the image to see the big five.