How to Hunt Men for Jesus

You use the “spiritually transformed firearm of Jesus Christ” of course. No seriously, that’s what some members of the military call it. Here’s what Rachel Maddow had to say about it yesterday:

Onward Christian Assholes! Nothing like compromising the entire mission in the Middle East.

Bryan Steeksma’s Residual Soul

One of the most frequently asked questions we get from AETV viewers is “Who does that kickass opening song?” to which we’ve replied, often, that it’s by Canadian artist and AETV fan Bryan Steeksma. As your FYI post for Monday I direct you to Bryan’s download-only album Residual Soul, available from CDBaby for $24.99, and from the iTunes store for only $11.99. So the choice there seems easy. Now, show fans may be disappointed that the album’s generous track listing (31 songs!) does not include “Listen to Reason,” which Bryan wrote just for us and for which he hasn’t to my knowledge announced any release plans. But there ought to be enough there to satisfy your curiosity about this versatile godless rawker. And the album does include “The Galaxy’s Elegant Cinema,” which we used as the show theme last summer when broadcasting from Matt’s apartment Dillahunty International Studios.

Secular Charities for Haiti Relief

Here’s a short list with a brief description of each of them and links where you can donate. I’ve included text donation information for those charities that provide for that. I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones I had time to vet. You can find them all on Charity Navigator.

MADRE - www.madre.org

MADRE is an international women’s human rights organization that works towards a world in which all people enjoy the fullest range of individual and collective human rights; in which resources are shared equitably and sustainably; in which women participate effectively in all aspects of society; and in which people have a meaningful say in decisions that affect their lives. MADRE uses human rights to advance social justice. We partner with women in communities worldwide to meet urgent, local needs and create long-term solutions to the problems that women face. Our program areas are: peace building; women’s health and combating violence against women; and economic and environmental justice.

ActionAid International - www.actionaid.org

ActionAid International USA’s (AAI USA) works on the ground and in the halls of power to end poverty. We work in 49 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, with over 25 million poor people. Our work seeks to create and sustain better futures by providing relief from disasters and conflicts, empowering women, fighting hunger, holding governments accountable, fighting HIV & AIDS, and making education accessible. ActionAid’s mission is to work with poor and marginalized people to eradicate poverty by overcoming the injustice and inequality that cause it.

International Relief Teamswww.irteams.org

International Relief Teams (IRT) is an international relief organization dedicated to organizing volunteer teams to provide medical and non-medical assistance to the victims of disaster and profound poverty worldwide. Since its inception in 1988, IRT has provided $5.7 million in volunteer services and more than $136 million in medicines and supplies to families in desperate need in 52 countries worldwide. IRT specializes in medical training and education, surgical and clinical outreach, health promotion, disease prevention and disaster relief. During the past year, IRT deployed 36 teams, involving 157 medical and construction specialists. IRT provided nearly $26 million in supplies and services to thousands of families in need worldwide.

AmeriCareswww.americares.org

Founded in 1982, AmeriCares is an international relief organization whose passion to help is matched by an ability to deliver. Whether it’s an epic disaster or a daily struggle, AmeriCares goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure that medicines, medical supplies and aid reaches individuals in need wherever they are, whenever they need it. In a quarter of a century, we have delivered more than $8 billion of aid to 137 countries. For more than two decades, the success of AmeriCares has been characterized by timely response, meaningful impact, high integrity and intense passion for the work. To deliver medicine, relief supplies and health care to the needy, AmeriCares has developed a platform based on strategic partnerships, high-efficiency and tight auditing procedures.


Doctors Without Borders - www.doctorswithoutborders.org

Doctors Without Borders, USA (DWB-USA) was founded in 1990 in New York City to raise funds, create awareness, recruit field staff, and advocate with the United Nations and US government on humanitarian concerns. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization that provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. In 2007, MSF-USA raised $152.1 million and sent 200 aid workers to work overseas.


MSF lost all 3 of its hospitals in Haiti.

Partners in Health - www.pih.org

Founded in 1987, Partners In Health’s (PIH) mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. The work of PIH has three goals: to care for our patients, to alleviate the root causes of disease in their communities, and to share lessons learned around the world. Through long-term partnerships with our sister organizations, we bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need and work to alleviate the crushing economic and social burdens of poverty that exacerbate disease. PIH believes that health is a fundamental right, not a privilege. PIH works in Haiti, Rwanda, Peru, Russia, USA, Malawi and Lesotho, and supports projects in Mexico and Guatemala.

Humanist Charities of the American Humanist Associationwww.humanistcharities.org

Humanist Charities of the American Humanist Association (AHA) expresses its deep sorrow for the people affected by the massive devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti. To ensure rapid and effective response to this tragedy, Humanist Charities has established the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund to support a humanist and secular organization in Haiti with direct aid.

UPDATE 01/15 4:12pm: Thanks to the generosity of over 300 members, Humanist Charities is sending $23,450 from the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund to purchase food and supplies for the people of Haiti. The AHA sent the donation via wire transfer to a secure credit union in the Dominican Republic, where the money will be used by Sebastian Velez to secure food and supplies to deliver to the people in Jacmel, a city near Port-au-Prince devastated by the earthquake. A gift of this size had made it possible to provide the largest truck filled with supplies. The trucks and Dominican NGO teams will travel Saturday evening to begin distributing the food.


Direct Relief International - www.directrelief.org

Direct Relief International provides medical assistance to improve the quality of life for people affected by poverty, disaster, and civil unrest at home and throughout the world. We work to strengthen the in-country health efforts of our partners by providing essential material resources – medicines, supplies and equipment.

Direct Relief was established in 1948 and is nonsectarian, nongovernmental, and apolitical. All the programs are provided in a non-discriminatory manner, without regard to political affiliation, religious belief, or ethnic identity.

To support our earthquake relief efforts in Haiti,donate online or text the message Give10 to the number 20222 to donate $10 via your mobile phone.

American Red Crosswww.redcross.org

Since its founding in 1881 by visionary leader Clara Barton, the American Red Cross has been the nation’s premier emergency response organization. As part of a worldwide movement that offers neutral humanitarian care to the victims of war, the American Red Cross distinguishes itself by also aiding victims of devastating natural disasters. Over the years, the organization has expanded its services, always with the aim of preventing and relieving suffering.

To support earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, text the message Haiti to the number 90999 on your mobile phone.

We Can’t Please Everyone

It’s pretty obvious that Jen and Russell received mixed reviews on the theist guest experiment. I will let the viewers continue to figure out their feelings about it.

But the event also triggered some e-mail responses, and one in particular was from “a fan of the show” who also notes he is “a Christian…currently in school studying Apologetics and Philosophy.”

The gist of the letter was that a pastor really is not a good representative to interview about Christian doctrine and belief. Just to clarify, “if you guys are going to put Christians on the show to represent Theism I would really like to see a trained apologist or philosopher…the Pastor has degrees in councilling and phsycology, which is fine but would not represent Christian Theism nearly as good as those who are actually trained in philosophy and apologetics.” [sic]

I replied to him on the list, and was asked if I would share the response on the blog. So, here it is:

First, thanks for writing, and sorry for the delay in a response to your letter. Since I wasn’t a co-host on this particular program, I didn’t want to jump in too quickly to speak for Jen and Russell. But they have spoken for themselves at our blog if you would like to see those discussions:

http://atheistexperience.blogspot.com/2010/01/post-show-thoughts-for-110.html

Having some history with the program, and the benefit of an insider’s view, I can share a few thoughts on how I perceived your note initially. I was surprised by it.

Our show is available to educate the population about atheism, foremost. We welcome callers to contact us with questions or differing view points so we can talk about what an atheist is, or talk about what they believe and why. This would seem like a fair format—however we take pretty constant criticism for this each week. One criticism we often receive is that it is wrong and cruel to talk to Christian laymen live on the air, because they come across as stupid and uneducated. Believe it or not, we get this criticism from both atheists and theists, pretty equally, and both are just as blunt in calling our callers “uneducated” and “stupid.” We generally respond that our callers are just regular believers who call us, and even we don’t insult our own callers on that level—except on the rarest of occasions. I can’t say “never”; but I can say I, personally, never have referred to any caller as “stupid” or “uneducated.” But this is what people claim to think of Christian laymen—who are generally the theists who contact the program.

Next, we get criticized pretty consistently, and in line with the above criticism, for not having good Xian representatives on, even though we’re an atheist program and have no requirement to represent the broad majority religious view (which is represented in pretty much most aspects of media/society without our assistance). Why don’t we put on a preacher or someone who understands these things better than the stupid “regular” Christians who call—is normally along the lines of how this is expressed.

So, for reasons expressed at the blog, Russell decided to bring on a professional, educated man who also works as a leader in the local Christian community. He hosted an actual pastor. And what do we get almost immediately? A letter saying a pastor with an education, an actual Christian leader, doesn’t “count” because he doesn’t have the “right” education to be up there with amateur counter-apologetic hobbyists. Remember, please, that nobody on our show is a “professional” counter-apologist with any sort of counter-apologetics degree. So, the pastor was not in the company of anyone on that set who could even begin to claim his own level of professional credentials to talk about his religion. In fact, of the hosts, Jen and Russell may have the least background with Christianity. Just being a professional leader in the Christian community should have put the pastor at a decided advantage over either Jen or Russell in talking about god or Christianity.

Next, what struck me was that you say you are a student of apologetics, but nothing [in your e-mail] offers us any thoughts on what this Pastor said that was wrong or could have been better stated. You don’t “correct” any errors he made about your beliefs. And you don’t counter Jen and Russell’s questions yourself—even though you say this is your personal area of education. The reason this strikes me as something that stands out, is that whenever any of the co-hosts on our program makes a misstatement about some fact in science, we are immediately barraged with letters from science students and amateur science hobbyists offering not only criticism but, more importantly, correction of the error. If the pastor did a poor job of explaining how your doctrine works—please feel free to represent, and explain what he might have presented differently or better.

Finally, I was surprised by your note, because it begged an important question to me: If regular Christians aren’t able to understand or explain Christian beliefs correctly, and a paid, educated Christian in a position of leadership within the religion isn’t able to understand or explain Christian beliefs correctly, and a student of theology and apologetics in these beliefs can’t offer constructive critique of someone else’s flawed responses about his own doctrine and beliefs as a Christian, who, then, has any justification to believe this doctrine—since it’s obviously outside most people’s capacity to even understand it correctly?

And that’s basically all I had to say about that.

Cal-irony-fication

The California Supreme US District Court is currently hearing a case over whether 2008 Proposition 8 (which bans same-sex marriage in the California State Constitution) is itself constitutional. If the court rules that it is not constitutional (by the state’s US constitution), then same-sex marriage would revert to being allowed in the state. This is a pretty important case as many people feel that California is a cultural leader for the entire US–not to mention its sheer size.

There has been a recent side-show as to whether the hearing would be (video) broadcast to the public. One can make an argument that public interest is served by transparency, especially in such an important case. This little debate went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States that decided today that there should be no such coverage. The 5-4 decision (with the conservative Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and Alito in the majority) was ostensibly decided on a technicality. Not too interesting so far; but let’s look under the hood, shall we?

The very fact that SCOTUS even heard the case and issued a decision was based on an urgent claim of “irreparable harm” to someone. According to one source, “The Court also found that the high-profile nature of the trial might intimidate witnesses and cause irreparable harm if the rule were not stayed.” However, the dissenting justice wrote (page 24-25): “I can find no basis for the Court’s conclusion that, were the transmissions to other courtrooms to take place, the applicants would suffer irreparable harm. Certainly there is no evidence that such harm could arise in this nonjury civil case from the simple fact of transmission itself.” (This article has a good analysis.) Perhaps a broadcast on YouTube would cause irreparable harm to their cause.

So what’s going on? The religious supporters of Proposition 8 are wanting have their free speech rights to make false and emotionally manipulative claims, but they are crying persecution when it comes to taking responsibility for them. Consider defendant Hak-Shing William Tam, who wrote, “On their agenda list is: legalize having sex with children,” and that, “other states would fall into Satan’s hands,” if gays weren’t stopped from marrying in California. A successful advertising campaign during the Proposition 8 election claimed that homosexuality would be taught in public schools. They want to perpetrate thuggery on gays, but they’re playing the persecution card when it comes to taking responsibility for their lies–and the conservatives on the Supreme Court are backing them up. Apparently, taking responsibility is irreparably harmful to the religious.

The irony is so thick here you could build a church with it. Some supporters of Proposition 8 have gotten harassing phone calls and e-mail messages. I can’t say I feel any pity for these people. They are being subject to much milder versions of the same tactics they have done to gays and others over the years. (Religious readers are referred to Exodus 21:22-25 and Matthew 7:12 for a little morality lesson and some tasty just desserts. I long for the day when the majority of gays vote on the Christians’ right to marriage, just as the Christians have done to gays.) Christian death threats are a common intimidation tactic and the religion has plenty of people who are willing to carry them out. Gays have been subject to (real) hate crimes for years, most of which have been religiously motivated. Christians have made a big business out of persecuting gays. Proposition 8 itself is just part of that business. If same-sex marriage becomes normalized, they will have a much harder time vilifying gays and their red-meat lovin’ constituency will turn to other pursuits and take their tithes with them.

Same-sex marriage in the US will happen eventually, but we can count on the religious fighting unfairly every step of the way.

We get email

Hard to keep coming up with creative new titles for these, so may as well just stick with the time-tested one.

Dear AE, please stop being naive & guilble.

You’re blinded & deceived by the devil.

I pray that you, along with every fellow atheist find the light through all the darkness you all

remain In & accept our Lord Jesus Christ as your almighty saviour.

Whats the purpose of preaching atheism, when you don’t go anywhere after life?

Whats the point?

You say us Chrisitans are waisting precious time here on earth, while thats quite hypocritical.

You preach atheism, aren’t you waisting precious time as well?

Us christians actually believe In a beautiful life after death with our king & saviour, so we have

more then a reason to preach, It’s our purpose.

We want to save people from there sin & the devil because we love them & don’t want them to end

up In hell.

Whats your purpose?

Life Is a lesson that we’re here to learn & experience, our reward Is heaven.

All of you are being controlled by the devil, you don’t even know It because you cease to have an

open mind, you cease to even try to understand his existence because Its much to difficult.

You would rather just take the easy way In life & say there Isn’t a God.

You would rather be your own God, have your own control, your own reasone for existence because

thats what YOU want & find easiest.

Quite honestly, I think life as an Atheist would be quite sad & depressing because to think we are

only here once & that all this that we’re living currently Is all for nothing?

That would mean there Is absolutely no purpose for anything.

I’m not going to get Into detail because as long as you all keep that hard head of yours, you won’t

ever see the truth & you will end up pershing in hell for the rest of eternity.

For your sake, please try & see the truth.

Call out to the lord & ask for his help, he won’t let you down.

Seek him diligently & you shall find.

It takes time, but be patient & wait on the Lord because those that remain patient & wait on the

Lord have a special place In the kingdom of God.

There Is all to much Info out there, you just need

to seek diligently & you shall find.

Start of by praying, asking for forgivness, accepting Jesus as your Lord/saviour & then ask him to

come Into your life & he will.

Then pick a bible up & start studying, you will see the truth.

You will finally experience the peace that comes with knowing & following him.

We love you, may God bless & have mercy on you.

[name deleted]

I like this one because it’s the complete opposite of the usual, unreadable “dozens of sentence crammed into a single giant paragraph” format that we often see. Instead of that, every sentence in this message has its own paragraph, and sometimes the paragraph breaks occur within a single sentence.

Also, for some unfathomable reason, it looks to me like every word that begins with the letter “I” is capitalized, (“It”, “Is”, “In”) as if the author was chided too many times for failing to capitalize the first person pronoun, and he went to the opposite extreme. A little knowledge being a dangerous thing, and all that.

I may be accused to responding to this email’s style over its substance, but really, in a case like this, what the hell else can you do?

Stay classy, Pat

We’ve gotten an email at the TV show address alerting us that on today’s 700 Club episode, Pat Robertson has gone into his usual “blame the victims” spiel regarding the Haitian earthquake. Apparently God decided to level Port-au-Prince, kill untold numbers (estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands), and displace at least 3 million people, because in the 19th century the Haitians “made a deal with the devil to free themselves from the French.” Setting aside the native Vodou religion (which is where Pat gets his debbil from), let us remember that the Haitian Revolution is the only successful slave revolt in history, bringing to an end a minority rule by the French that was enforced — in the way slavery is always enforced — with an oppressive caste system and violence. I guess that’s the way Pat prefers things.

Pat has clearly created his God in his image: they’re both despicable douchenozzles. Decent people, on the other hand, are encouraged to help.


Here it is right from the scumbag’s mouth.

Another konk on the head with the Reality Mallet

Okay, so you know how the homophobic Christian Right clutches its pearls and bleats that if teh gayz are allowed to marry for realz, it will, like, totally destroy the institution of marriage for everybody, forever? So we have to keep gay marriage illegal because the sanctity of traditional straight marriage simply won’t survive otherwise?

Well, it turns out that in the big wide real world that the fundies like to pretend they don’t inhabit, things actually seem to work a little differently.

Now of course, correlation is not causation, and you couldn’t say that if the states with gay marriage bans were to allow gay marriage, then overall divorce rates would start to reverse. I think it’s more of an indicator that many of the states with gay marriage bans have a high fundamentalist demographic, and the rigidly patriarchal marriages that exist in that culture are not exactly the portrait of perfect connubial bliss they want everyone to believe they are.

But it does tend to throw a bit of cold water — like, enough to fill Lake Erie — on the claim that gay marriage is some kind of heterosexuality killer. One has to wonder what folks who say things that stupid are so desperate to suppress.

Propagandists to the Rescue!

The Texas State Board of Education has been a constant source of annoyance and frustration for people like me, who value church-state separation. The current board is packed with creationists and religious ideologues who have lost touch with reality, not to mention their mission as educators. Here’s a sampling: Board member Cynthia Dunbar has called public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion” and unconstitutional. Not surprisingly, she’s a graduate of Pat Robertson’s would-be law school. Another board member, Don McLeroy, has consistently promoted Christianity in his previous role as chair of the board. He is quite convinced his training as a dentist makes him better suited to judge scientific material than the true experts whom he holds in contempt. He has called evolution “hooey” (as it conflicts with his Christian belief). Board member Terri Leo has argued for all language in textbooks to refer to opposite-sex couples exclusively (with no neutral language) when referring to marriage. She advocated that middle school textbooks emphasize that gay teens commit suicides at a higher rate. (It couldn’t have anything to do with Christian persecution, propaganda, and suggestion, could it, Terri?) If this is our best and brightest on the SBOE, Texas is pretty screwed up on the education front. Unfortunately, Texas’ textbook decision impact broad swaths of the United States. Many states simply buy the textbooks that have gone through the Texas review process.

The latest episode in this freak show is the current review of the history textbooks. Various dubiously qualified “experts” have been brought in to spin the textbooks with ideological agendas. Of particular interest is pseudo-historian David Barton and minister Peter Marshall who were both called by board members to lend a hand in reviewing history textbooks. Neither have credentials to be called experts. Barton is a well-known propagandist. He makes his living promoting a pro-Christian version of American history with lies and half-truths. Not surprisingly, he’s up to his usual tricks. The minister’s agenda is far more obvious. The only bright light in this whole sordid mess is the fact that Texas Freedom Network is doing a great job of covering the mess and helping to keep us informed. With luck, we can get more sane people on the board in the upcoming election. For now, we can really only watch the train wreck and hope for the best. (Yes, there’s a public hearing this week, but I don’t think it will have an impact.)

While I have certainly felt a lot of frustration and anger at the Texas SBOE over the years, today I’m feeling kind of sorry for Christianity. I feel pity. If the facts about Christianity were actually taught in schools… the Crusades, Salem Witch Trials, systematic persecution of Jews, the burning of the Library of Alexandria, the Spanish Inquisition, the corruption of the Popes, the sabotage of medical advances, the marketing of rapture snuff porn, and the link between belief and so many social ills… if all of the facts were taught in schools, in an unbiased way, it would inoculate kids in the US against the disease of Christianity. That’s what they’ve done it in Europe and the level of belief has plummeted.

Christian leaders here know of this danger, so they’ve packed the board with ideologues and sent in their crack team of propagandists to make Texas children’s minds safe for a false religion. They know they have to lie to the children because the truth is not on their side. It’s a pitiful attempt to save the falsehoods they hold so dear. Even in its sickly state, however, Christianity is still doing great harm.