No, not a Republican

This is my response to a friend who assumed that because I am a small business owner with some strong views on personal responsibility and liberty that I was a Republican.


Ha! I’m no Republican. I neither believe in trickle-down, voodoo economics (supply-side stimulus), nor that a bronze-age fairy tale is the literal truth of the universe and the proper basis of a system of morality upon which many laws governing people’s private lives should be passed… the only two solid planks in their platform. Oh yeah, and “Drill Baby, Drill” is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, since the proof of global climate change is extensive and incontrovertible, and the urgency with which we must react by moving as rapidly as possible to carbon-neutral renewable energy doesn’t leave room for the foot dragging of those in the pocket of Big Oil, if we hope to not poison ourselves and our entire planet. And, although I bought my first firearm at 9 years old, and have owned several over my life, I don’t believe the second amendment should be used to justify private citizens owning assault weapons. I also believe we should place limits on handgun ownership. Countries with fewer guns have fewer gun-related homicides. Go figure. The NRA, and the Republicans they control, are way past the line on this issue justifiable by the twin arguments of hunting and home defense. I also think that the only way to fix our obviously broken health care system in this country is to adopt a single-payer model for basic health care, emergency room, check-ups, etcetera. Supplemental commercial health insurance, offered in a competitive national market (like car insurance), and subject to the normal anti-trust laws, should be available to individuals (with no employer obligation) to cover additional, extraordinary, or more extensive health care needs and costs. For-profit health care is directly at odds with patient well-being and since it bears a burden of having a profit margin (which are at record levels currently) at multiple levels (insurance company, medical practice, hospital, private ambulance service) the end costs to the consumer are dramatically inflated. That profit margin is a weight which will bring the whole shaky structure down if we continue on the current Republican-designed model, especially with our rapidly-aging, Baby Boomer-heavy, increasingly obese and diabetic, population. Also, unlike the majority of Republicans, I believe in the evolutionary explanation of the origin of species, even us humans. Why? Because the evidence for the Theory of Evolution is more extensive than that for the Theory of Gravity. They are both, in a non-scientific sense, facts, which is what the scientific word “theory” actually means in a lay sense, a subtlety that the uneducated and downright stupid Republicans don’t seem to be capable of grasping. I don’t believe that humans are somehow “special” in the history of the universe, or even this planet, although our accomplishments (global war, climate change, slavery, pollution, causing the extinction of numerous other species) speak for themselves, and that some Sky Daddy god created us in His image, not the other way around. I also believe that all Americans… Nay!… all humans, deserve to be treated equally under the law, be they black, white, male, female, straight, gay, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, or even, gasp, atheist, and that the best way to accomplish this is via a color-blind, strictly-secular government Of, By, and For the People, which is a belief that the Republicans, with their incessant attempts to destroy public education by injecting Creationism into Science classes, marginalize and disenfranchise gays, blacks, women, and other minorities, and otherwise making Of, By, and For ring hollow (e.g. Citizens United), clearly don’t share with me. I think their “Shining City on a Hill” is populated by selfish shallow greedy racist holier-than-thou misogynist assholes, and overlooks a valley filled with the carcasses of the rest of us whose dead bodies they stepped over to make their fortunes. Basically, I think Reagan, with his outrageous levels of Defense spending (Which is the real root cause of our current economic woes because you can’t run a wartime economy forever. It’s guns or butter, not guns and butter), was a terrible president, and Ayn Rand, with her gratuitously laborious plots and complete disregard for the hard work and sacrifice of everyone in her stories but her protagonists, was neither a good author nor an honest philosopher. Frankly, they were both full of shit. I think Grover Norquist, while well intentioned, has an influence over the Republicans completely disproportionate to the complexity, accuracy, and maturity of the philosophy he promotes through his “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”. I think the Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, and that ilk are, in fact, morally bankrupt, and have destroyed our political process and poisoned the national dialog on important issues with straw man arguments, false comparisons, and religion-based manipulation of their weak-minded Republican pawns in Congress. I think that the black-and-white view Republicans form of every issue from health care (“Socialism!”) to foreign policy (“Axis of Evil”, “You’re either with us or against us”) betrays a lack of sophistication of thought necessary to comprehend and deal with the problems facing the world today in a rational and effective way.

To review… Yahweh, American Exceptionalism, John Galt, Constitutionally-protected individual rights of corporations, “clean” coal, God-given index-beating profit margins, and supply-side stimulus are completely fictional, and a group of people like the Republicans, who display such a complete inability to differentiate fact from fiction, much like small children or the mentally retarded (clinical usage of the term), should not be considered as serious candidates for the post of County Dog Catcher, much less U.S. Congress and President of These United States.

No, not a Republican.

Nor a Democrat, although I think that Democratic policies in general cause far less damage to the Republic, and the people living in it, primarily because while there are legitimate arguments on both sides of most issues, the Democratic Party is today a centrist party, while the Republicans have been dragged further and further to the right by the loudest and most obnoxious among them, such as Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News (ha! “Journalists”, forsooth), and other buffoons with little knowledge, understanding, or intelligence, no compassion for their fellow humans, and an iron-clad belief in the absolute evil of all things socialist, and the absolute good of all things profitable.

Tim Minchin – Pope Song (Mirror)

Here are the lyrics, in case you don’t speak Austraaaalian:
Fuck the motherfucker, fuck the motherfucker,
Fuck the motherfucker hes a fucking motherfucker.
Fuck the motherfucker, fuck the fucking fucker,
Fuck the motherfucker hes a total fucking fucker
Fuck the motherfucker, fuck the motherfucker,
Fuck the mother fucker, fuck him, fuck the motherfucker.
Fuck the motherfucker, fuck the motherfucking pope.

Fuck the motherfucker, and fuck you motherfucker
If you think that motherfucker is sacred.
If you cover for another motherfucker who’s a kiddie-fucker,
Fuck you, you’re no better than the motherfucking rapist.
And if you don’t like the swearing that this motherfucker forced from me
And reckon it shows moral or intellectual paucity
Then fuck you motherfucker, this is language one employs
When one is fucking cross about fuckers fucking boys

I don’t give a fuck if calling the pope a motherfucker
Means you unthinkingly brand me an unthinking apostate.
This has naught to do with other fucking godly motherfuckers
I’m not interested right now in fucking scriptural debate.
There are other fucking songs and there are other fucking ways,
Ill be a religious apologist on other fucking days,
But the fact remains if you protect a SINGLE kiddie fucker
Then Pope or Prince or Plumber, you’re a fucking mother fucker.

See I don’t give a fuck what any other motherfucker
Believes about Jesus and his motherfucking mother.
Ive no problem with the spiritual beliefs of all these fuckers
While those beliefs don’t impact on the happiness of others,
But if you build your church on claims of fucking moral authority
And with threats of hell impose it on others in society,
Then you, you motherfuckers, can expect some fucking wrath
When it turns out you’ve been fucking us in our motherfucking asses.

So fuck the motherfucker, and fuck you motherfucker
If you’re still a motherfucking papist.
If he covered for a single motherfucker who’s a kiddie-fucker,
Fuck the motherfucker, hes as evil as the rapist.
And if you look into your motherfucking heart and tell me true
If this motherfucking stupid fucking song offended you,
With its filthy fucking language and its fucking disrespect,
If it made you feel angry, go ahead and write a letter,
But if you find me more offensive than the fucking possibility
The pope protected priests when they were getting fucking fiddly
Then listen to me motherfucker – this here is a fact,
You are just as morally misguided as that motherfucking,
Power-hungry, self-aggrandized bigot in the stupid fucking hat.


I think this video by Tim Minchin and Fraser Davidson is the most eloquent commentary on the Catholic Church’s ongoing child abuse scandal that I have heard to date. I found it posted on YouTube after it was featured on Pharyngula, PZ Myers blog. If you’re unfamiliar with Tim Minchin prepare to cancel your schedule for tomorrow so that you can watch all of his videos on YouTube. Has has two channels, TimMinchin and TimMinchinLive. There’s enough content out there to keep you occupied for a good while so get some popcorn and a drink before you settle in. Tim is a comedian and musician originally from Perth, Australia who is now living in London. I’m a big fan of how he can wittily point out the irrationality of some of humanity’s strangest beliefs. The combination of humor, music, and percipient social commentary that he consistently turns out is just sublime. Tim, please put Albuquerque on your list for your next U.S. tour.

I was unfamiliar with the work of Fraser Davidson before this video but he is clearly a very talented “motion graphics” artist and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future. Mr. Davidson has a YouTube channel called fraserdavidson which showcases some of his other work. Be sure to check out their channels and support these artists who I believe are very effective voices for the Rationalist perspective.

As of this writing this video is still available on YouTube, and I believe Vimeo, but I’m a little concerned that those sites will receive enough pressure to remove it because it could be very offensive to people who are fans of Pope Palpatine, er, Benedict XVI. That’s why I have downloaded the video and am hosting it locally here, just in case. My server can’t really handle the volume of traffic that YouTube can though so check there before trying to watch it here please. I’m just hosting it here so that this very important message isn’t lost to censorship. If the embedded version from YouTube at the top of this post isn’t working you can download the video as MP4 from the link after the jump.

Also, you’ll notice that I included this post in the category Angry Voter. That’s because the Catholic Church, which now it seems has institutionalized the practice of protecting naughty priests from the law, is a tax-exempt organization in my country. This is just as ludicrous as the Italian mafia being granted tax-exempt status. I can’t think of any rational, constitutionally-valid reason for churches to be tax-exempt, especially when they so flaunt their apparent immunity to the laws of the countries in which they operate. This must end.

Continue reading

Intelligent Apologetics?

As a proponent of Reason it is sometimes really frustrating, and thoroughly unenlightening, to watch debates with religious apologists because they continue to trot out the same lame grade school arguments. Every time I watch the Atheist Experience I’m amazed at the assertions the xtian callers make, seemingly with a straight face. These are your average run of the mill believers that, while they are interested in the subject, they don’t know anything about the 2000+ year history of the debate. They advance arguments that were shot down convincingly by Socrates or Plato. I find debates with such people to be an utter waste of time. They should be told to go do some independent research and come back when they have at least learned the vocabulary. I understand why the guys at Atheist Experience engage these folks, and I value their efforts; I just feel sorry for them for having to do so. It would drive me crazy.

Sorry Justin, I don’t mean to pick on you specifically, I just needed an example of someone convinced by Mr. Comfort’s lamebrain arguments, but…

On a side note to Justin (and others who agree with him), removing the coke can from the video was done for brevity, not to change the argument, which it does not. You are still arguing that the banana had to have been designed, which it does not. The argument is the same with or without the coke can. The fact that you think this changes the argument demonstrates your inability to think logically, nothing more. This is a very elementary mistake. You are exactly the kind of person I am talking about that is a waste of time debating. If you really are interested in this debate go do some more reading and then come back to it. Right now you’re just embarrassing yourself. Sorry.

There are apologists though that do have a grasp of the subject matter and from whom we can actually learn something. One of these is Dinesh D’Souza. Dinesh is well read on the subject and presents his arguments eloquently. By comparing his perspective to that of atheism we can actually see where the difference lies between the believing mind and the non-believing mind. This is quite a breath of fresh air compared to the usual Ray Comfort variety of apologetics, from which the only thing we can learn is the power of brainwashing.

I do believe that early childhood indoctrination is the primary reason that people believe the ridiculous claims of religion, but that’s pretty obvious and therefore not worthy of further study. I think it’s safe when confronted with such arguments as the famous banana proof, or even Ibn Sina and St. Anselm’s ontological arguments, to dismiss them as obviously flawed and move on. Clearly these arguments convince people, such as Justin of “Christian in College” for example, but only those with too little education or too much indoctrination.

The “cure” for people convinced by such garbage is simply better, and more, education in history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, world religions, and science. But what makes someone like Mr. D’Souza, who isn’t convinced by these arguments either, continue to believe in the infinitely improbable? I’m going to go through the following interview with him from FORA, and see if I can find out. Will it be something profound or is he just making the same mistakes the “Joe Six-pack” xtians make, only using bigger words? Anyone taking bets?

Here are the arguments he advances for Christianity, or against Atheism:

Darwin’s ideas were used to justify eugenics

Um, no they weren’t. Eugenics is the just the application of the techniques of artificial selection applied to humans in an effort to improve the species in the same way those techniques had been used for thousands of years to “improve” other species. Artificial selection is just the process of choosing the animals from a group that you most like, having them reproduce, and preventing other animals in the group from doing so. By this process humans have been able to produce dairy cows that produce copious quantities of milk, dog breeds that can perform particular jobs such as herding, draft horses of immense strength, and so on. These techniques were known long before Darwin’s day and it was in part reflecting on the change in species over time via artificial selection that led to his development of the concept of natural selection. As of this writing some Wikipedia contributer has added the bald assertion that one of the early proponents of Eugenics, Sir Francis Galton, was inspired by “the recent works of his half-cousin Charles Darwin”. Ha! Someone else has astutely put a [citation needed] tag on it.

We hear much talk of “Social Darwinism” from people like Dinesh when they are trying to stain Darwin and the rest of the scientific community with the sins of the practitioners of Eugenics, namely Nazi Germany. Darwin never advocated eugenics; he only described the natural processes he observed which would lead to changes in the characteristics of species over time. Using his name in any other way is disingenuous and depends on the audience not being really familiar with “On the Origin of Species”. This is one of the weakest argument we regularly hear from the Christian apologist camp and by making it Dinesh has not elevated himself very far above Ray Comfort.

Human dignity, the sacredness of life, human equality, human liberty are accretions of Christianity and have no place in human society in the absence of Christianity

Wait, what? Has this guy read the bible? This is the same damn assertion that atheists have no morals. The only one I’ll concede is the “sacredness” of life since by definition sacredness is a religious concept. However, I will assert in it’s place that we atheists find all life precious and consider it the responsibility of humanity, because of our position in the global food chain, to protect and preserve all forms of life on this planet. In a real practical sense we tend to treat all life as though it were sacred, while many Christians believe they have “dominion” over all other species and can use them as they see fit.

As for the rest of it it’s just plain garbage. Is he saying that concepts of human dignity, equality, and liberty were unknown before there were Christians, or are unknown today where there are no Christians? In order to believe this he cannot know anything about any ancient cultures or any other non-Christian cultures today. He doesn’t back this statement up with anything; simply calls them “accretions of Christianity” and moves on.

Dumb, not Comfort-level, but close.

The conclusion that the cause of the universe is supernatural is scientifically valid

OK, I’ll give him credit for blowing Ray Comfort’s mind there. It’s way beyond poor Ray to think in these terms but this argument is also puerile tripe. Just before making this assertion at about 18 minutes in he does a very good job of describing why science is methodologically atheistic, meaning that in a scientific exploration of some phenomena it is not acceptable to say “God did it” and leave it at that. Even scientists who are religious, if they’re good scientists, will want to know the natural mechanisms that resulted in an observation, so that they can say that that is how “my god(s) did it”.

“The universe can have a natural cause or it can have a non-natural cause. It seems unlikely that the universe could have a natural cause given that the universe itself is all of nature. We would be in effect saying that nature caused itself. Therefore it seems reasonable that the universe had a non-natural, or we would say, supernatural cause.”

He goes on to say, in so many words, that the “mode of reasoning” demonstrated in the above quote is scientific in nature. This is way too easy! Dinesh, by way of refuting your argument, allow me to refer you to… the words which just came out of your mouth. Methodologically atheistic, remember? Also, allow me to point out that the universe is not “all of nature”, just that region which we are able to observe. The two are not synonymous. Since it is all we can observe it may seem like picking nits to point this out, however mechanically it matters because we cannot say what occurred prior to or spatially relative to the Big Bang. Our universe could exist in parallel with many others, or it could be contained by a larger system of universes. There are astrophysicists today who know far more math than either Dinesh or I who believe both of these things. Dinesh may deride the proponents of the Multiverse hypothesis by claiming that they have very little empirical evidence but I can tell you that they have at least as much as he does for a supernatural cause.

For the sake of argument I’ll grant the synonym for a moment to point out that a supernatural cause of the universe who is thereafter undetectable is not the Christian concept of “God”. Yahweh has to be interested in our daily lives and have to ability and willingness to intercede or the whole guilt trip to heaven thing doesn’t work. The bottom drops out of the whole religion if you assume the deist version of the “watchmaker god”. Whose god are you defending the existence of, Dinesh? It isn’t yours.

Besides, if he’s going to insist on going down the “each effect must have a cause” road I must point out then that his God must also have had a cause. I’m not sure he’s thought it though but this argument doesn’t actually get him anywhere but further away from the Christian conception of Yahweh. He’d be better off to turn around and head for the safety of Gould’s “Nonoverlapping Magesteria” (NOMA), or some similar argument. When a philosopher ventures out into space he’s bound to be at a disadvantage against astrophysicists. It’d be better for him to hide behind the old “well you can’t prove there’s no god” screen.

In the absence of any evidence the supernatural explanation is equally valid with the skeptical poisition

When describing a previous debate with Michael Shermer he takes the position the since neither of them can either prove or disprove the existence of an afterlife then both conclusions are equally valid. He then has the sheer gall to accuse Shermer of holding his non-view of the afterlife as a matter of faith. This is more extremely juvenile reasoning. Shermer is not the one making the assertion of the existence of something, Dinesh is. If one asserts the existence of something, whether it’s an afterlife or a correlation between education and atheism, and one does not want to be laughed out of the room, one must present evidence to support the assertion. Dinesh needs to read up on Russell’s Teapot before his next debate.

Atheists support evolution because it liberates them from “traditional” morality

This is the conclusion he comes to when pondering why the idea that humans are just another animal doesn’t bother atheists. Speaking for myself, I don’t find that evolution makes me “gleeful”, it simply is. Just as gravity simply is. It is how life on the world I inhabit came to have it’s current set of species. This is no more a cause for glee than the celestial mechanics described by Galileo. Although, I must say that both are incredibly beautiful, once you understand them.

I wonder if by “traditional” morality he means the slaughter of innocents, stoning of adulterers and homosexuals, owning of slaves, etc. prescribed by the Old Testament, or maybe something more up-to-date. This is just the same old canard that “atheists have no morals” in another guise. Flat dumb. If you agree with him I suggest you look up the fields of Sociology and Ethics, for starters, and maybe even take a class.

Conclusion?

I’ve followed along halfway though the video and that’s all I can take. I’ll leave it to you to pick out the rest of his gaffes. He speaks well, understands the philosophical issues better than a Ray Comfort-type, and he even understands the value of the scientific method, but that’s about the end of my compliments. Beyond that his reasoning skills are sketchy, his grasp of his opponents’ positions is tenuous, his knowledge of evolution is flawed, his knowledge of history seems strangely narrow, and his conclusions are laughable. After his eloquence is stripped away there’s really very little difference between him and a “lesser” apologist. The arguments are the same, just clothed in more elegant language. Nothing that he said would pose any trouble for one of the “New Atheist” spokespeople such as Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, or Myers. Dinesh would be like a babe in the woods faced with any of these debate opponents. I don’t see any reason for them to consider him a more worthy adversary than Ray Comfort.

His single biggest problem is that he believes that he can successfully defend his position using reason and empirical facts, indeed he believes this is his mission. This is utterly preposterous. He needs to try to understand why Stephen J. Gould went and hid in NOMA-land. He’s no intellectual, or scientific, equal of Gould and should look more closely at why Gould went where he did. It’s a shame Gould is no longer with us because it would have been interesting to see him play dueling lecterns with Dinesh.

In the final analysis I have to say I’m disappointed. I had hoped to be confronted with arguments that I hadn’t heard and thought through years ago. I had hoped to have to stretch some intellectual muscles that have atrophied through exposure to Ray Comfort, Pat Robertson, Ken Ham, William Lane Craig, et al. But it wasn’t to be. Dinesh D’Souza is just more of the same although he has somehow managed to convince himself that he’s different.

Calamity strengthens faith

One of the strangest phenomena of human behavior that I know of is the way in which experiencing a catastrophe causes people to become more superstitious. CNN is currently running an article regarding how the recent earthquake has caused many Haitians to become more religious that caused me to ponder on it.

“A lot of people who never prayed or believed – now they believe.”
“People don’t blame Jesus for all these things. They have faith. They believe that Jesus saved them and are thankful for that.”
Christina Bailey, a 24 year-old clerk.

“Thank you, God, because he saved my life. If I lose my feet, I always had my life.”
11 year-old Anaika Saint Louis, who later died from injuries to her legs

I find these quotes intriguing because of what it indicates about the way the catastrophe is interpreted as regards to faith. From an unbiased viewpoint an observer could just as easily (if not more easily) conclude that the devastating earthquake was evidence for the absence of an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent supernatural being. But these people who have just experienced this horrible calamity instead interpret their continued existence as evidence that Yahweh saved them. I believe this is purely due to myopia and confirmation bias. I say myopia because certainly the people who were killed by the earthquake could not claim to have been saved by Jesus, and it is the inability of the survivors to see the situation from the perspective of the deceased that allows them to see their own survival as a positive act of a benevolent deity. The confirmation bias part comes in with the identification of the deity responsible for their salvation. Clearly Vishnu or Chtulu wouldn’t be responsible for saving Christian/Voodoo hybrids. On second thought, it’s myopia that enables this confirmation bias anyway because it is the inability to view one’s own religion from the perspective of an adherent of any other religion that allows believers to be certain about their own beliefs at all.

The article does make a good point towards the bottom regarding the correlation between poverty/hopelessness and faith. This is clearly a strong aspect of faith in such an impoverished place as Haiti. There is no easy answer to the hypothetical question posed at the end of the story, “They leave everything in the hands of God. When you have so little, what else can you turn to?” Aside from turning to your fellow humans for support and empathy, you have to do it all yourself. This is just the nature of the human condition. Turning to imaginary super-friends never actually solved anything, but it may make a believer feel a little better about a situation and allow them to carry on when they might otherwise crack. It’s like an elaborate form of denial. Of course, while I’d like to see the diminution of blind religious faith world-wide, right now the Haitians need to use whatever techniques enable them to get through the day with a scrap of sanity intact, even if it includes praying to their imaginary super-friend. My heart weeps for the survivors… and the dead. More so for the survivors when I contemplate what their existence is likely to be for the foreseeable future. And yes, I did donate to relief efforts. Another godless donor.

Et tu, NatGeo?

The National Geographic channel is running a show now titled “The Real Jesus” in which they discuss in great detail the cause of death and other aspects of Jesus’s life. All of this discussion proceeds on the assumption that he really existed. They never once mention that there is very little evidence that he did actually exist.

I don’t know why, but I expected more from NatGeo. I wish they would spend their money on doing a show surveying the primary source evidence for and against the existence of Jesus. It’s research I haven’t found time to do myself but would very much like to see a show on. I don’t know if I can trust their academic integrity now though. How can you have a show entitled, “The Real Jesus,” without including a discussion about whether or not he actually existed?

True, lack of evidence of existence, is not proof of lack of existence, however given the amazing events that were said to attend his live there is a decided dearth of information regarding him in secular and Jewish records. In fact, as far as I can tell there is not a single piece of contemporary primary source evidence for his existence. The one most often brought up by Christian apologists (those that realize that the Gospels aren’t contemporary) was the mention in Testimonium Flavian. Clearly there are significant issues with that one. We don’t accept the existence of any other historical figure without significantly more evidence than there is for Jesus and I think it’s an important point, if not the important point, to raise when discussing a historical Jesus. In any case, that’s a topic worth exploration. The tripe NatGeo is peddling now though is an insult to the intelligence of their viewing audience.

Evidence of speciation

Many creationists like to claim that “we’ve never seen one species come from another species; when a human is born to a chimp I’ll believe evolution,” in what they believe to be a knock-down argument against evolution. Obviously this claim is indicative of a fundamental misunderstanding of the process of speciation, but I’ll let that pass for now. What is really more important to the debate is that this claim is actually flatly false. We have indeed witnessed speciation numerous times.

Here’s an interesting article about an instance of observed speciation in Galapagos finches from Wired Magazine: Birth of New Species Witnessed by Scientists

Olbermann Misses the Point

The atheist bus campaign got some coverage on cable news tonight but not really in a good way. Here’s the clip from tonight’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

What I believe Keith fails to appreciate is the potentially serious ramifications of “coming out” as an atheist. It can be a career killer. No, forget that. It can be a family killer! I’m sure the donor had perfectly justifiable reasons for not wanting to come out. Every atheist’s situation is different. Some can afford to take off the mask, and some, such as myself, cannot. Today, in America, if you are a business owner, or a job seeker, or many other things, you cannot afford to “come out” or you will endanger your family’s livelihood. How about you do a story on that Keith?!

Another thing about this segment that irks me is that he says that the purpose of the campaign is to encourage atheists to “come out”. That’s only one of the purposes. The more obvious purpose is to convince the theistic among us that atheists can be moral people. Indeed that is literally what the ad’s statement says. Atheists are the most marginalized minority in the U.S. precisely because our neighbors believe we are untrustworthy and evil. That is the negative stereotype this campaign is trying to address.

In this segment he uses a narrow focus on the wrong message in order to blow this completely out of proportion and make an issue where none exists. He didn’t understand the issues involved and, frankly he made an ass of himself. Keith, these are the tactics of your enemies. I thought you were better than this. Very O’Reilly-ish of you.

The Label “Atheist”

Throughout this blog I will probably use the term “atheist” quite a lot. This is because everyone knows what it means, generally, and is therefor a useful term for discussion. I have pretty strong objections to it as a label for a group of people though. I don’t self-identify as an “atheist”, for example. For the same reason that I don’t label myself as a non-bigfoot-believer. It is utterly insufficient as a descriptive term for a human being. Since no human believes in all of the gods that have ever been invented by man every human is an atheist to some degree or another. I am myself only fractionally more atheist than Pat Robertson, for example. Also, since one has to be taught religious beliefs and isn’t born with them every human starts their life as an atheist. Continue reading

Stop using the term “militant atheist”!

I can’t believe how often I see the term “militant atheist” in the press coverage of the New Atheist movement! The generous interpretation of the use of this term is that the author is pointing out that atheists are finding their voice and speaking out against our society’s tendency to un-reason. The adjective “militant” has also been used to smear other movements in the past such as feminism, so it doesn’t make us special to be smeared with it as well, but because of certain myths about atheism I think it is far more dangerous to us. Unfortunately there are far too many people who believe the bullshit about how the atrocities of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot can be laid fairly at the feet of atheism. I won’t bother debunking this childish belief here, maybe later. This myth makes it far too easy for our fellow citizens to believe that there are atheists living among them that want to eat their babies and attaching the label “militant” to atheism only adds to the the completely unjustified conflation of atheism and violence. The bottom line is that atheism is not a philosophy, contains no doctrinal elements, and as such cannot advocate anything, let alone violence. There is nothing militant about atheism in any way.

Another one that bugs me is “secular fundamentalism” which is a cheap attempt to conflate secularism with fundamentalism’s connotation for radical dogma. Every time I see it I think, “Yeah, secular fundamentalists, you mean like America’s Founding Fathers?”  Those darned secular fundamentalists who want everyone to have equal access to justice, liberty, and the other fruits of free democratic society, regardless of race, creed, gender, etc.? What jerks! In my mind arguing against secular government is tantamount to treason against the U.S. Constitution, and needs to be pointed out as such by journalists reporting on those advocating theocracy.

Set your brain to alarm when it sees either of these terms because they indicate the spin of the person using them.