Anti-Theist Activism Is Social Justice Activism

I’ve seen many atheist activists, particularly young atheist activists, dismiss the idea of doing anti-theist activism because they’re “interested in social justice”. This is wrong.

It isn’t wrong that they don’t want to do anti-theist activism. Being confrontational, particularly about a topic that raises emotions and tangles with taboo the way religion does, isn’t for everyone. It’s a long haul without much in the way of immediate reward. Besides, there is plenty of social justice work needing good, dedicated, atheist hands. As long as you’re accomplishing something in line with your goals, the good kind of activism is the kind that keeps you motivated to keep pouring your time, energy, and money into it.

However, I have to disagree with the idea that anti-theist activism isn’t social justice activism. [Read more…]

Permission to Shock and Anger

Chris Stedman has done a good job advocating for atheists recently, which made his opinion piece for CNN this Saturday all the more disappointing. What did he do with his opportunity to speak to a national media audience? He told Dave Silverman and American Atheists to stop waging their War on Christmas. Specifically, he objected to this ad, which ran in Times Square in New York City this month:

Stedman gives several reasons for his suggestion, and even aside from the fact that I oppose limiting our types of activism on principle, I disagree with them all. Let’s start with his basic statement of the “problem”. [Read more…]

St. Paul’s Catholic Abuse Scandal Heating Up

They were, and are, pillars of the community. Saint Paul is a Catholic city, you see. Walk through the Catholic cemetery in the northern part of the city, and looking at the monuments is like looking at the street signs. So these men, these archbishops, were welcomed anywhere, feted, their opinions sought.

And they moved their child-raping priests around to new parishes and hushed up their crimes just like those other respected men in other cities. The only difference was that when earlier scandals broke, they assured us that they were following the proper procedures to make sure they didn’t happen here. Minnesota Public Radio just uncovered one of those former priests living “less than a block from a school”. [Read more…]

Honoring Its Promise to Protect

It’s good to see religious people standing up to demand an end to sexual abuse in their churches. First a prominent Protestant evangelical, now a prominent Catholic.

In a publicly released statement, Jennifer Haselberger asked Archbishop John Nienstedt to allow an independent review of clergy files and “make public the list of clergy who have been determined to have engaged in acts of sexual misconduct, as well as those whom could reasonably be assumed to pose a threat to children and young people.”

She added, “Until this occurs, I do not believe that it can be said that the Archdiocese is honoring its promise to protect.” Haselberger has been at the center of two investigative reports by MPR News about the archdiocese’s handling of allegations against two priests.

Haselberger worked at the Roman Catholic archdiocese from Aug. 18, 2008 to April 30, 2013. She said she resigned in April because of concerns about the handling of clergy sexual abuse, allegations of abuse, and other matters.

Haselberger said she resigned because she concluded that it was, “impossible for me to continue in that position given my personal ethics, religious convictions, and sense of integrity.”

No deity is stepping in to stop this. The church hierarchy isn’t fixing the problem. We need more people like Haselberger.

Evangelicals Have Their Own Means of Quashing Abuse Accusations

I’ve mentioned before that part of the reason we pay so much attention to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is that they have good central recordkeeping and central authority. Paper trails are great for pointing fingers. However, that doesn’t mean the Catholic Church has a worse record than, say, Protestant evangelicalism.

In fact, when you’ve got a Liberty University law professor (yes, I know) who also happens to be Billy Graham’s grandson saying that Protestant evangelicalism is worse than the Catholic Church on this score, maybe it’s time to sit up and pay some attention. [Read more…]

But There’s No Theocracy Here

Why did this go as far as a government shutdown? Why is our country once again the laughing stock of the world? As Senator Warren explains, it’s because some members of our House would prefer a theocracy to the democracy we have.

Yes, it’s about the Affordable Care Act, but the specific issue the House Republicans have been using is a religious one.

Get Those Atheists Into Church

This year, I found out about Interview an Atheist at Church Day the day before it happened. This year, the people who initiated the project are working a bit harder to get the word out. You can help.

Interview an Atheist at Church Day is a community project aimed at bettering the understanding between atheists and religious persons. We hope to connect atheists who are willing to be interviewed with congregations in their area that are interested in developing ties with atheists in their area. The “day” represents our desire to grow into something far-reaching and beneficial to atheists and churchgoers alike.

As unbelieving populations around the world [continue] to rise, dialogue and understanding between atheists and people of faith is more important than ever. We live and work in the same world: understanding better what both unites and divides religious and non-religious people can only help us make this world a better place.

We hope that these interviews will benefit both believers and non-believers.  Possible questions include:

  1.  How does your atheism influence your day-to-day actions?

  2.  Why don’t you believe in God?

  3. How do you find meaning in an atheistic universe?

  4. Where do you think morality comes from?

  5. How can we find a way to work together?

They’re looking both for atheists who are willing to be interviewed and churches that want to quiz an atheist. They’re also trying to raise a small budget to promote the idea more widely. Do what you can.

“That’s Their Problem”

Minnesota Atheists had their monthly public meeting a week ago. PZ was the speaker, talking a little bit about his new book and doing a lengthy Q&A. In response to a question of mine, he admitted to wanting to take over the world.* It was an interesting talk, but the part of the meeting I want to address happened earlier, during the business section.

There’s a legislative change that leaders in MNA have had their eye on for a few years. It was put on the back burner for most of my time with the organization, as marriage equality became a big issue for the state and for us. Now, with those marriages safely and happily happening around us, it’s time to pick the pet issue up again.

One of these days, when there’s a bill looking for sponsors or votes, I’ll want to write about the issue itself. Suffice it to say for now, one of our state laws is written in such a way that it is obvious in one section that Christianity was the default assumption when it was originally written. There are sections of the law that make it inclusive of various other faiths, but nothing making it inclusive of atheists and secular humanists. We want to fix that. [Read more…]

Someone Is Confused About Ethics

Clark Bianco at Popehat put up a post Friday claiming that atheists are confused because they rely on the concept of rights. Although I disagree with him, I can see where the confusion comes from. He presents an interesting argument:

No, the reason that modern atheists have incoherent views is that they simultaneously

  1. assert that there is nothing beyond that which is visible (i.e. they are materialists)
  2. they believe in rights, and not merely in a legal or social descriptive way, but in an absolute and prescriptive way.

Let me explain what I mean by point number 2.

The English language muddies many discussions of “rights” because it uses one term to cover three very distinct meanings.

The three meanings are:

  1. the “rights” that society acknowledges a person has
  2. the “rights” that government acknowledges a person has
  3. the “rights” that a person actually has according to non-material abstract principles

I assert that almost everyone in the modern West, including “Brights” / “new atheists” / Ayn Rand followers / etc. acknowledges these three distinct things and acknowledges them as distinct. And it’s that final one, the acknowledgement of non-material abstract principles, that puts the contradiction in modern atheism.

He then goes on to give examples that do a very good job of demonstrating that there are indeed three distinct meanings of “rights”. That part of his argument is sound. So where does the whole thing fall down? [Read more…]