Afterlife Video by The Thinking Atheist

Apologies for the lack of new content as of late. For the past couple of months I’ve put most of my website and blogging energies into the sites for Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers and the Kentucky Secular Society.

In the meantime, until I get a new blog post cooked up, here is a touching video from the Thinking Atheist about the idea of an afterlife and about what gives meaning and purpose to life. Enjoy :)

 

No Solemnity Without Religion; or, Why Can’t Atheists Perform Weddings?

 

Polski: Ślub

By limiting authority to state actors and clergy, the state forces an irreligious couple to make a choice: conform to the hegemonic idea of marriage as a sacred institution; or implicitly acknowledge that their union is a matter of bureaucratic paperwork.  Either way, the experience of the irreligious is trivialized.

I’ve been thinking this about the Indiana Court decision since the news broke. Why do leaders of religious groups get the privilege of “solemnizing” marriages  while trained secular celebrants who do not associate with a religious organization do not?  The more I think about it, the less sense it makes.

No Solemnity Without Religion; or, Why Can’t Atheists Perform Weddings?.

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We Are Not Monsters

This is a must watch for anyone who is interested in improving the public image of atheists! This trailer was produced on a $0 budget by students, and they are looking for sponsors who would like to help fund the full length documentary. For a $0 budget I must say they have done an amazing job.

Anyone who is interested in showing the general public that atheists are the normal, decent people that we are should consider donating to make the full-length film happen. Even if you can only give $5, it makes a difference. So think about it. :)

I’ve tried imbedding the video (I know I’ve done it before) but something is up with WordPress and the embed code is not working. So please go here and watch the trailer: We Are Not Monsters

Reasonable Living and Intentional Community

Why do people go to church?

Of course, since my background is Christian I will write in “church” terms, but the same applies to the people who meet together in any type of religion, whether Nazarene, Catholic, Mormon or Hindu or Muslim or anything else. The same principles apply regardless of the specific beliefs.

We’ve all heard many times over that humans are social beings. We need each other and we need some sort of rule set and cultural framework to structure our lives. We like to “hang out” with people who think the way we do, for better or worse. It has been my observation that churches and other such organizations exist not out of the commands or needs of any God or gods but rather to fit the needs for human beings for belonging and social structure. After all, what do a large part of church activities have to do with theology? What do basketball courts, walking tracks and youth trips to amusement parks have to do with religion? They are attractions, side benefits to membership (or potential membership) that are used to draw people in with the hopes that they will join and stay and buy into the theology.

Unfortunately, the community benefits of churches and religious organizations come at a serious cost to those who do not buy into the theological baggage that comes with it. Constant messages saying that you are a sinner, that you should believe. The idea that you are incomplete and sick and doomed to failure unless you can believe something no matter how absurd and impossible. Being around people who tell you these things, implicitly or explicitly, can wear one down incredibly even if you are certain you are right. And the believers in a church environment usually don’t get it. Even if they sincerely love and accept you as an atheist, their insistence that “God loves you anyway” and “you are still welcome here” amounts to nothing more than a massive (and massively absurd) guilt trip. It’s not that we think we are too dirty and “sinful” to be accepted by your God. It’s that we really don’t think your God is real at all.

So what is a community-craving atheist to do? Some people are thick-skinned and nonconformist enough to put up with the negative messages about non-belief from the religious with no problem. But the rest us need the sort of community that churches and religious organizations have monopolized for so long.

In order to meet this need, one of the more recent offerings of the Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers group is a weekly Sunday morning small group meeting called Reasonable Living. It was founded and is lead by a former Baptist minister, and we (half-jokingly) refer to the meetings as our “secular Sunday School.” We have been meeting for the past few months, and on some weeks we have almost outgrown our meeting area. In the meetings, the topics of discussion are ideas like how do we balance societal responsibility with personal responsibility, what is the role of an individual in society, how we deal with life and death issues. Studies have usually been modeled around a book, and for the past several weeks we have been studying “Living without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and the Undecided.” It’s a great opportunity to discuss some interesting topics and sharpen your own thinking. If you are in the Louisville area and are interested in discussing the secular life, come and join us!

(Cross-posted at LouisvilleAtheists.com)

Update to the Atheist Christmas Display Post

In order to set the record straight, I have edited the post I wrote last December about atheist Christmas displays. As it turns out, the most outrageous of the displays was not put up by atheists at all (as I had even thought at the time) but by a local Christian. For more details see the revised post here:
What’s the point of atheist Christmas displays?

Controversial Billboards in Lexington, Ky

Apparently atheists are not allowed to cause “controversy” in Lexington, KY, but the Christians are. A new billboard was put up a couple of days ago on a well-travelled route in Lexington that states the following.

HOMOSEXUALITY IS AN ABOMINATION
ROMANS 1:26-28 LEVITICUS 18:22
ABORTION IS MURDER
EXODUS 20:13
BLUEGRASS CHURCH OF CHRIST 502-316-5674

Understandably, this hateful message has caused some upset in the community, with one Joe Groves trying to have it removed with help from the Human Rights Commission.

Now, compare the message of the Bluegrass Church of Christ with a very different message that was not allowed to be shown in the same city a couple of years ago.

This is the billboard that the Coalition of Reason posted in Louisville, Ky in August 2010. The one what would have gone up in Lexington is of the same or similar design. A simple statement that if you are an atheist, even though you may feel surrounded by religion everywhere you look, there is a community here that accepts you as you are.

So what does this tell you about the state of religious tolerance and attitudes towards atheists in Lexington, Ky? Just think about it.

On a brighter note, however, it is rather nice when the Christians make a point of highlighting the absurdity and injustice in their own book. Less work for us atheists to do. ;)

More on the billboard controversy here: http://www.lex18.com/news/some-upset-by-controversial-billboard-along-new-circle-road-in-lexington/.

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See you at the Reason Rally!

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It is now only two weeks until the Reason Rally, and I am getting excited. At last year’s American Atheist convention, when Dave Silverman first announced the big plans, it seemed like the day would never arrive. One of my favorite things about this rally is that it is a movement rally, not just an event for a single organization. In fact, every major freethought and atheist organization is participating in this event. Given the rocky history among some of the atheist organizations in the past, this really is a big deal. The putting aside of differences and focusing on common goals is vital to show how many of us there really are in favor of the Separation of Church and State and rights for the non-religious. We are no longer scattered to and fro, separated from one another and keeping a low and silent profile to avoid being marked by the prejudices of religious friends, family, and employers. Yes, many people still face that situation, but it is changing. We are coming together and showing our numbers and will no longer tolerate being merely tolerated at the will of a religious majority.

Especially after the record-breaking turnout to the American Atheists convention last year, I am looking forward to seeing how many secular Americans come to the Reason Rally!

For more information on the Reason Rally including speakers, musical acts, and information on ride shares, please visit http://www.ReasonRally.org.

How to Respond to “Merry Christmas” as an atheist

Not sure where this picture came from originally (I think I know the site actually but I can’t remember what it’s called). This was shared by New York Atheists on their Facebook page, and I could not resist passing it on.  It describes my sentiments exactly!

Merry Christmas!

“Are Christians Losing Rights in America?” Part 2

As promised, Warrioress has provided a list of examples of Christian rights being eroded in the United States at Erosion of Religious Rights in America. Starting with a long list of cases that the ACLU has presented in court on behalf a Christian plaintiff. That list can be found here: ACLU Defense of Religious Practice and Expression.

The warrioress surprised me a bit here, because most conservative Christians I talk to totally despise the ACLU, which is a secularist organization and strong upholder of the separation between church and state. Several of the higher profile cases they take on are actually to defend non-Christians against Christians. For this reason they make a huge point on their website to prove they are not anti-religion, by posting such lists as the one I posted above. The ACLU, which I usually agree with and to which I give a monthly donation, has shown a track record of defending the rights of US citizens of every religion.

In light of all this, I can only see this long list of Christian lawsuits upheld by the ACLU as legitimate Christian (and other religious) rights upheld in the secular court of law, not eroded. So the bulk of her own examples belies the point she was trying to make.

The next example is of a Campus Crusade for Christ group that had difficulty getting approval to organize a group on their campus.

They denied Campus Crusade status as a student group, citing concerns about the group’s leadership, their views on homosexuality and the negative connotations of the word “Crusade.” As a result, student government said that Mark and others with Campus Crusade couldn’t advertise, seek membership, have an office or hold meetings on campus.

source: http://www.ccci.org/ministries-and-locations/ministries/campus-ministry/religious-freedom-attacked.htm

For all I know, this may very well be a legitimate case of discrimination, though a couple of red flags pop out at me. Later in the article it reads:

Across the country, there has been increased pressure on college campuses to quiet Christians about their beliefs. The challenges come on many fronts — restrictions on evangelism, “speech codes” (rules about what to say about sensitive topics like religion or sexual orientation), and about the teaching of evolution as the only acceptable view in science classes.

Which makes me wonder…were they really being blocked from creating an organization because they were harassing fellow students (“restrictions on evangelism”?), and discriminating against homosexuals for membership (which is easily against school policies)? Like I said, it’s possible that this could be religious discrimination, but I’d need to see the school official’s side of the story before making any judgement.

The other college example clearly had the group violating the anti-discrimination policy towards homosexuals. Apparently many colleges don’t consider discrimination based on sexual orientation to be a religious right.
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/is-vanderbilt-university-denying-religious-freedom-to-christian-groups-on-campus/

And even if these are examples legitimate discrimination, would it really be a sign of a larger erosion of Christian rights? After all, just about every college campus in the country has Christian and other religious student groups. But there has also been an amazing surge of atheist and freethought student groups in the past few years, both in high school and in college, yet many of them face severe obstacles in getting the official recognition of their schools for no apparent reason other than their being atheists. The Secular Student Alliance does a great work in getting atheist campus groups started, and helping them when they face the typical obstacles. Many of these stories are not posted online in order to protect the privacy of the students involved, but this summary of the purpose of the SSA states exactly why we need secular clubs to assure that non-theistic students have their rights protected just the same as the religious students.

Here is a specific example I found from earlier this year in a very quick Google search. Southern Illinois University Rejects Atheist Student Group… Then Quickly Backtracks. And there are plenty more where that came from.

Christian rights are not being undermined in this country. They have been losing their accustomed privileges, such as the ability to discriminate against others based on sexual orientation without consequence, as shown above. And when their rights really are being stepped on, they will be defended in the court of law even by a secular organization like the ACLU.

(There was also one other example given, of the guy who was denied a post at the University of Kentucky in part because of his creationist views, but not because he is a Christian. There is a lot to that one, and that was a case I followed as it was unfolding, and it will take up a whole post of it’s own. And I need a break after writing this one, so I will address it later if needed. )