In which the question “Is there a stupider and more embarrassing atheist than Patrick Greene?” is definitively answered

Via Hemant, I am made aware of this brilliant little nugget of joy. See if you can parse the logic in all this. Perhaps I can’t because I spent my valuable college years drawing talking animals for the school paper rather than boning up on things like the Löwenheim–Skolem theorem. But the sense of it all eludes the humble powers of my primitive brain meat.

The director of the state chapter of American Atheists plans to desecrate the Koran when the state House of Representatives reconvenes in September if the House doesn’t drop its “Year of Religious Diversity” resolution under consideration in its State Government Committee.

Ernest Perce V, who recently was under fire for a controversial Harrisburg billboard he designed and paid for protesting the “Year of the Bible” resolution the House adopted this year, said he plans to whip, or flog, the Koran in the Capitiol rotunda at noon on Sept. 24 should the House not agree to nullify the resolution before it reconvenes from summer recess that day.

…Perce said he plans to thrash the Koran witha nine-tail whip 85 times and a single whip six times to protest the resolution’s number.

“I am a nonbeliever and for (the House) to assume we respect these books is [asinine],” Perce, a Harrisburg resident, said. “I will let other atheists come with me (to protest). I want Christians to lash the Koran, too.”

Allow me to express the depth of my bewilderment through the always-useful internet proxy of an adorable animal photo.

How, exactly, this will accomplish anything is beyond me. Well, I don’t mean “anything” anything. Because it has accomplished at least one thing, which is to put Perce’s name smack at the top of the shit list of every dude on Earth with a kufi and an AK. I mean anything positive and favorable toward what I presume is the hoped-for outcome: to wit, getting across the message that church/state separation is really for the best, and by the way, all those stereotypes you have about atheists being raging assholes are just unfair and wrong.

Yep. Yep. Well played, Mr. Perce.

Hemant reports that he has been talking to Dave Silverman, and Silverman is most assuredly not down with this, and is not lending Perce his or AA’s support. No, we don’t respect “holy” books or the often abominable belief systems they inspire. But there’s such a thing as productive ways to express your disapproval of public policy. And choosing one that does nothing but alienate not only Muslims but pretty much anybody not named Geert Wilders or Ann Coulter, which also stands to drown the whole atheist community in the backwash into the bargain, probably isn’t what a rational person would call “productive.”

Let’s leave the public displays of histrionic hate to the Terry Joneses and Shirley Phelpses of the world, shall we? And Dave? Looks like AA needs to do a little house-cleaning.

Kathleen Johnson: “A Place at the Table”

Here’s the video from a recent ACA Lecture Series lecture with Kathleen Johnson, titled “A Place at the Table.”

On February 26th, 2010, Kathleen Johnson, American Atheists Vice President and Military Director and the founder of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, spoke at a historic meeting with the Obama administration at the nation’s capital. The event, organized by the Secular Coalition for America, focused on three issues: faith based medical neglect, proselytizing in the military, and administration support for faith based initiatives. This occasion was a prime example of how a variety of different secular groups can unite for a common cause and accomplish significant political actions. Ms. Johnson will speak about her experiences with “having a seat at the table” and the importance of effectively setting aside political and positional differences to effectively advocate for common causes.

“A Place at the Table”

Mp3 audio is available here.

Obama aides to meet with atheists

Thanks, Guy Harrison, for bringing this Miami Herald article to our attention:

…several administration officials will sit down quietly for a morning meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus with about 60 workhorses from the coalition’s 10 member groups, including the American Atheists and the Council for Secular Humanism. Tina Tchen, the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and representatives from the Justice and Health and Human Services departments will participate.

Coalition leaders are billing their visit as an important meeting between a presidential administration and the “nontheist” community. On the agenda are three policy areas: child medical neglect, military proselytizing and faith-based initiatives.

“We’re raising important issues that affect real people’s lives,” said Sean Faircloth, 49, a former Maine state legislator who’s the coalition’s executive director.

Not a HUGE step, but it’s a start.

On “voting your atheism” and Ellen Johnson’s radicalism

Recently, American Atheists president Ellen Johnson caused a slight tremor on the blogosphere’s Richter scale when she opined in a video commentary that atheists should “stay home during the general election in November” because “we are ignored.” This raised the ire of at least a handful of folks, among them AC Chase, who called for Johnson’s immediate resignation as AA prexy, and VJack over at Atheist Revolution.

I agree with those who have condemned Johnson, though whether or not she resigns from AA (and she won’t) is a matter of complete indifference to me. I’ve never been a member of American Atheists and have no particular interest in joining, though I know a lot of folks who are members and support their freedom to be involved in atheist activism in whatever avenue they feel is best. Johnson doesn’t represent me and never will. However, if there is a perception out there that Johnson, and by turns AA, does represent the views of all American atheists — and it seems to be a perception AA encourages — then certainly some correctives are in order.

I admire AA on the one hand for being an organization that gets things done. The Godless Americans March on Washington held back in 2002, which drew about 2,500 atheists from around the country to a rally that raised public awareness of atheists as involved voters, would have been unheard of only a handful of years before, given the nature of atheists as rugged, stubborn individualists who frantically wish to avoid even the appearance of groupthink. On the other hand — and I am not alone in this criticism — the organization’s presumptuousness in positioning itself as the public voice for atheists nationwide can be irritating at times. The last thing we need is some godless equivalent of the SBC.

What is amazing to me about Johnson’s recent statement is that it seems to be a complete repudiation — indeed, outright betrayal — of everything that GAMOW was meant to establish. Perhaps this is because Johnson took GAMOW’s message — that of encouraging atheists to be active participants in American politics — too much to heart. She seems to have become radicalized. If no candidate is reaching out to the secular community specifically, then Johnson’s solution is for the godless to sit the whole thing out in November. Whereas in 2002 she was whipping us all up to get involved, six years later, she’s given up.

I hate to be Captain Obvious here, but how does demanding that candidates pander to atheists’ wants make atheists any different or better than the fundamentalist Christian “values voters” who gather at such appalling events as Justice Sunday demanding candidates whose platforms prioritize pandering to strictly conservative Christian interests? You know, the kinds of people who don’t give a shit about geopolitics or the war or the economy or the environment, but who will rush to the polls if they hear their pastor tell them So-and-So promises to outlaw gay marriages. If your atheism (or your theism, or your veganism, or your whateverism) is the only thing that matters to you when you go to the polls, then I’m afraid your views are pathetically narrow and selfish. There’s a hell of a lot more to me, if not to Ellen Johnson, than the fact that I’m an atheist. And I fail to see how my preferred candidate’s views on, say, troop withdrawal or lowering gas prices or the subprime lending crisis could possibly be rendered more or less valid if they somehow shoehorned their views on atheism into them. Those are unique issues in their own right, that affect every American, regardless of creed.

Back in 2000, when Nader split the Democratic vote and gave the presidency to Bush (settle down, flamers, it’s what happened), I remember the indignation from Nader voters, who repeatedly insisted that it was incredibly arrogant to assume they would have voted for Gore otherwise, and that by voting for Nader they were “voting their consciences.” I’m afraid that in this instance, they were confusing their “consciences” with their egos.

Similarly, this is what Johnson is doing. She’s confusing her principles with her ego, mistaking self-importance for integrity.

While we are all individuals with freedom of conscience, at the same time, we have to face the fact that life is sometimes all about playing the game. It’s unfortunate that we live under a two-party system of government that often comes down to voting the lesser of two evils, an act more about voting against the guy we hate the most as opposed to voting for someone we can actually stand.

Yeah, it sucks. Welcome to reality, which sucks quite often. Frankly, when faced with the choice of voting between “The Asshole,” “The Guy Who’s Less an Asshole But Has a Snowball’s Chance in Hell of Winning,” “The Guy Who’s Less an Asshole But Has a Good Chance of Upsetting the Asshole,” or “Fuck It, I’m Staying Home and Playing Mass Effect,” I just can’t bring myself to choose the latter. And even if my heart is telling me to vote for Mr. No-Chance-of-Winning Third-Party Spoiler, my rational mind, which has rarely led me astray, I’m pleased to say, will probably be telling me to go for the opponent with a reasonable chance. Because in the end, my vote isn’t about me at all, it’s about what will become of my country in the next 4-8 years. It’s hard, I suppose, for some to see the big picture that lies outside their narrow ideals. But there are times in life when reason must dictate that the big picture is bigger, and matters more, than those ideals. If you’re a person lucky enough to have “big picture” and “ideals” dovetailing all the time, great. But I don’t think many of us are that lucky. And it’s just irrational and unrealistic to think we can be.

This isn’t compromising your integrity, and it isn’t selling out your principles. It’s understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around you. And that if you want to live in reality as an active participant rather than moving out to the woods and being a hermit all your life, then you’ll often be faced with less-than-ideal choices. I believe the word for it is politics. Change always comes in increments, hardly ever with the instant gratification most Americans have gotten used to. And if you want to have any say in that change, given the fact that 100 million people who aren’t exactly like you are taking part in the process as well, then you have to participate.

Damn right I’m voting, Ellen. Follow your advice and stay home, and we all get to watch the fundies continue to run roughshod over the country. Nope, that’s not a choice my principles can countenance.

Rant over, now this: mindful of the fact that this blog is independent of the non-profit organization Atheist Community of Austin and is not bound by the laws pertaining to said organizations, then with the primaries coming up tomorrow in Texas and Ohio, I endorse Barack Obama. He’s actually a candidate I do like, and, faced with a voting year in which I have a good guy to vote for and not the usual “least an asshole” conundrum, I offer my endorsement gladly. (And if you live in Fort Worth or its environs, then for fuck’s sake vote for Pat Hardy for the SBOE!)