Truth-seekers and god-slayers

PZ Myers is annoyed by the fact that, when it comes core, fundamental, human values, many atheists are as bad as believers, if not outright worse. In the eyes of some, “atheism” means only “lack of god-belief,” which means atheism cannot imply anything more than that, which means that atheism implies some kind of amoral anarchy, above and beyond mere unbelief. So which is it? Does atheism imply nothing more than absence of belief, or does it imply that “they’re right and you’re wrong?” You can’t have it both ways.

In truth, atheism absolutely does have implications beyond mere absence of belief in supernatural father figures. A world without gods to take responsibility for everything is a world where we ourselves are responsible. Atheism implies that we have work to do, morally, socially, and scientifically. And maybe that’s the reason why some unbelievers would rather not acknowledge anything more than just the absence of gods. But I suspect it goes deeper than that. I think what we’re seeing today is the emergence of two broadly-defined tribes within atheism, two different types of atheists, whom I designate as truth-seekers and god-slayers.

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The believer’s despair

Our friend AJ has tried a few times to respond to my post, though without much success, and has now begun resorting to just posting links to blog posts (authored by himself) that repeat the things he wants to hear. Since they’re largely tangential if not completely irrelevant, I’ve had to warn him that the comments aren’t for spam, link farms or other types of free publicity for Christian propaganda. But the first link he posted was rather inadvertently poignant, and I thought it might be worth a look just to see how much despair there is in conservative Christian denialism these days.

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The Anti-Golden Rule

Possibly the best, most elegant summary of morality is the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It’s short, easy to understand, and easy to apply. And likewise, we can summarize immorality handily as the opposite of the Golden Rule: immorality is when you do harm to others who have done no harm to you.

Homophobia and discrimination against gays is exactly that. Homosexuality just means you fall in love differently than heterosexuals do. You have done no harm to heteros, but heteros seek to do harm to you. In fact, you’ve done no harm to any god, either. Those who seek to do you harm, when you have done none to them, are doing the exact opposite of the Golden Rule.

This is how we know that prejudice against gays is immoral, and is a discredit to any person, mortal or divine, who promotes it.

Public schools “terrified” of creationism

Writing for the “Communities” section of the Washington Times, one Frank Kacer asks, Why are public schools terrified of examining evolution & creation?

If evolution is true, there’s a simple way for public schools to destroy any student’s belief in creation. Simply test each theory objectively in science classes using the scientific method. Instead, irrational lawsuits, court orders and fears of anything hinting of Christianity have become the weapons of choice to prevent use of objective science.

So, what are public schools really afraid of?

One wonders exactly who Mr Kacer believes the public schools are suing. If he stopped for a moment and remembered that the public schools are the ones being sued for First Amendment violations, he’d know that it’s only the creationists in public schools who are afraid right now. And if they’re not, then the school district is going to get taken to court and ordered to obey the law.

But despite his garbled grasp of the relevant facts, I think he has the germ of a good idea. Creationism has benefited a great deal from its special, protected status as a religious account of origins. I think we should teach the controversy and let public schools teach kids exactly why Genesis is a myth. If Mr Kacer and other creationists really want a head-to-head confrontation over the scientific study of origins, let’s take them up on it. [Read more...]

Opinions

I said it again the other day, but then I had second thoughts. “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” I said, but is that really true? Have you ever thought about the full range of opinions we’re implicitly endorsing by saying everyone is entitled to believe whatever they believe?

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Mayberry Machiavellis

While I’m currently snowed under (literally and figuratively), here’s some interesting reading, from Religion Dispatches, on George W. Bush’s first “faith czar,” and his praise for Obama’s faith-based initiatives.

John J. DiIulio, the first director of George W. Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, has taken to the Washington Post to laud President Obama’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In it, he cutely claims to like Obama’s director of the faith-based office, Joshua DuBois, better than “Bush’s first ‘faith czar.'”

Less than a year into his own tenure, DiIulio resigned in disgust, and complained about Bush staffers who sought to dole out favors to religious conservatives rather than serve “compassionate conservativism.” He notoriously coined the term “Mayberry Machiavellis” to describe Bush insiders, who, in relation to faith-based legislation, “winked at the most far-right House Republicans” in attempting to pass legislation for the faith-based office. That bill, which went nowhere, was drafted because Bush staffers thought it “satisfied certain fundamentalist leaders and Beltway libertarians.”

It’s an interesting read, especially in light of frequent accusations that Obama is somehow anti-religion (whilst simultaneously being Muslim, Nazi, Socialist, and Communist, hmmm).

Religion and gun control

So I was browsing around the Internet (again), and I found this story:

Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, a coalition of over 45 religious leaders and clergy have signed a letter addressed to the members of Congress, urging them to take immediate action to prevent more gun violence.

The group is calling for three things: criminal background checks for gun buyers, a ban on high-capacity weapons and ammo magazines, and a federal law against gun trafficking. Sounds like a good idea, right? I thought so too. Then I read the headline on the article: Religious Leaders’ Godless Letter to Congress on Gun Violence. Here’s the author’s analysis.

When I read through their website and the letter they sent to Congress, I saw nothing that addressed the real reason for the increase in gun violence, which is the removal of God and the Bible from all aspects of life, public and private.  Once they were gone, so were the standards used for all morals and values…

The response of the religious leaders that signed the letter to Congress have all fallen victim to the secularization that has corrupted the rest of American society.  They aren’t turning to God and Bible for their answers, but to manmade devices that are totally devoid of anything to do with God.

Which sounds all pious and shit, but here’s my question: If you’re a Christian, and you believe that society has become all evil and immoral and wicked and stuff, why are you trying to make sure that you’re outnumbered, not just by evildoers, but by evildoers with high-powered, high-capacity weaponry?

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Bible distribution program in FL

The Christian Post reports that a conservative Christian group has begun a probably-illegal Bible distribution program in local high schools in the area.

Volunteers from a Florida-based group have distributed Bibles to the lunchrooms of several high schools in the Sunshine State.

World Changers of Florida, a conservative organization, distributed the Bibles on Wednesday, with a focus on high schools in Orange County.

There are apparently some restrictions on the program, but definitely not enough to comply with the First Amendment.

“Passive distribution means the Bibles may be placed on one unmanned table for distribution in a location where students normally congregate during non-instructional time,” reads the memo. “The representatives may only be allowed to replenish Bibles if they run out and must remove any undistributed literature at the end of the distribution day.”

Has the ACLU heard about this? Anybody got any copies of The God Delusion they’d like to make available for distribution in the same cafeterias?

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“Don’t treat us like we treat gays!”

Usually I leave the World Net Daily beat to Ed, but this came up in my Google alerts, and I couldn’t resist.

The European Court of Human Rights is set to deliver a key verdict early next week in a major case against the United Kingdom surrounding anti-Christian discrimination.

I’m not sure exactly how the UK managed to “surround” this alleged anti-Christian discrimination, but the four cases concern two women who were wearing crosses in violation of company policies prohibiting jewelry, plus a counselor who refused to provide sex therapy to gays, plus a borough clerk who refused to officiate at gay marriages. I’m not sure what the specific legal merits are in each case, though the reason this lawsuit is coming up in the ECHR is because the Christians have failed to win their lawsuits anywhere else. Then again, look who’s representing them.

“These cases are of a primary importance because they raise the matter of the toleration of Christians by the Western postmodern society,” explained director Grégor Puppinck with the European Center for Law and Justice, which filed a brief in the case supporting the plaintiffs.

The European Center for Law Injustice (excuse me, “and Justice”)? That would be the expatriate branch of the American Center for Law Injustice (darn, did it again), would it not?

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