Poland High Court: Atheists Are Human, Too

“It isn’t important,” you’ve argued before,
“Cos God doesn’t really exist”
But look! When the hospital gave you last rites,
Though you weren’t on the Catholic list,
(And when you recovered, which no one expected,
And found your desires were ignored),
You sued, and you claimed “immaterial damages”
Thus making fun of our Lord.
The sacrament shouldn’t have bothered you much;
It’s nothing—or that’s what you’ve said—
We couldn’t have known that you’d think to object
(And of course, we all thought you’d be dead!)
Yes, yes, we intruded, but in our defense
It’s not like you’re Catholic, like us!
Your views are quite foreign; they’re godless; they’re strange
Not really worth making a fuss!
Your second-rate views, why, they’re not worth defending—
They’re merely the atheist sort—
You have no religion, no reason to live,
And no reason to take us to court!

My aggregator threw something strange at me today–a story out of Poland, reported in Germany, of an atheist who, in a coma, had received “extreme unction” by the hospital’s priest, and who, upon recovering, sued the hospital for “immaterial damages” in the amount of 21,00 Euros. Poland’s Supreme Court has (apparently–any readers who can verify, please do!) ruled that freedom of conscience applies to atheists as well as to the godly, and has asked the lower court to determine the amount of the atheist’s award.

Oh, yeah, I did not read this in the Berliner-Zeitung; I read the reaction to it in a site that thought it was a horrible overreach:

Somehow, this case is quintessential for what is going on in our society: we are reaching new levels of idiocy that were unknown to previous generations. What we have here is, on the one hand, the perfect prototype of a militant atheist (or, as they nowadays prefer to call themselves, a “humanist” or “secularist”): a man who squeamishly asserts his status as a “victim” whose rights have been trampled upon, and who at the same time is aggressive and quarrelsome enough to spend his and other people’s time and resources for a lawsuit on such a matter. What a cantankerous, obnoxious, ridiculous, fussy, stingy, petty-minded, lamentable pain in the neck this man must be! I feel sorry for the guy, but I really would not want to be like him.

That horrible atheist, in his manipulative coma, forcing the Catholic hospital to overlook his beliefs and assert their power over him.

How strong is Catholic privilege?

In my humble opinion, this lawsuit is the best proof that so-called “secularists” don’t take their own stated beliefs seriously. If they did, then the rite of the anointing of the sick would simply be of no meaning of them: just a few words, muttered sotto voce, and maybe the sign of the cross – not more. In the case at hand, the plaintiff, being in a coma, was probably not even able to notice that someone was praying at his bedside. So, what damage does he believe to have suffered? Did he feel pain? Was his (unexpected) healing delayed? Or was his self-esteem hurt by the fact that someone charitably prayed for him when he seemed to need it?

Treating you by our beliefs is a compliment; treating us by your beliefs is an insult. It is charitable to pray for an atheist.

Yeah… no. When my brother was dying, the hospital chaplains were worse than useless. If lawsuits like this mean that priests are an opt-in feature, rather than an opt-out, then people can have whatever rites they want performed, at their explicit request. And not before. You want extreme unction, wear a medic-alert chaplain-alert bracelet.

“How To Share The Gospel With An Atheist”

When you’re talking to an atheist
The sort that’s kinda nice,
And you don’t know how to handle it,
Here—follow my advice:

Remember, as you’re listening:
He’s lying through his teeth—
You’ll have to translate carefully
The message underneath

He’ll often try to shock you
With the claim “there is no god”
Just assume that’s insecurity,
A flimsy, false façade.

They really want the gospel
And they really want God’s love
And they really want a heaven
And a message from above

They hate their godless lifestyles
And their shallowness and sin
When they argue with believers
They don’t really want to win

If you simply share the gospel
(Which they likely haven’t heard)
As the story of God’s love for us
They’ll show, they crave God’s Word

In short, deny their thinking,
And dismiss their shallow views…
And I hope these simple pointers
Have been something you can use.

In an annoying and condescending example of precisely how not to talk to an atheist, preacher Greg Stier shares a story:

Last week I sat next to James on a flight from St. Louis to Denver. As we talked the subject turned to spirituality and religion. I confessed that I was a preacher and he confessed he was an atheist. What unfolded on the rest of the flight was a deep, thought-provocative, laughter-laced gospel conversation.

Really, I’d love to read James’s version of this. I’ve had a few airline conversations about religion, and frankly it’s a bit of a chore (though with the right person, it can be fun). Far more interesting have been conversations that were sparked by someone’s choice of reading material, whether it was “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” or “How to Teach Physics to your Dog”. Just because atheists are willing to talk about religion, this should not be interpreted as an eagerness.

Stier has five helpful tips for sharing the gospel with atheists:

1. Don’t be shocked and do ask tons of questions.

Some atheists like to shock Christians with the fact that they don’t believe in God. This brand of atheist pulls the pin on the “there is no God” grenade and drops it in the middle of the conversation, expecting Christians to run for cover.

Don’t be phased (sic). As a matter of fact start asking questions about their atheism. Find out what they mean by atheism (some are agnostics but call themselves atheists.) Ask questions about their background. Were they raised in church? Do they have any Christian friends? Where were they educated about atheism?

I don’t expect Christians to run from cover. If I say “there is no god” (typically, I will just say “I’m an atheist”), it’s as a response to the assertion that the other person made–and if I am being that blunt, it’s because they said something deserving of bluntness.

2. Listen deeply for the real “why.”

Often atheists have a reason (other than “reason“) for becoming atheists. Listen for it. Sometimes it’s anger over losing a loved one. Other times it’s that they were hurt by the church in some way. But often there’s a “why” behind the lie they are embracing.

As opposed to the lie you are selling. Again, in my case, the “why” is the replacement of a whole lot of ignorance with a whole lot of learning. Yes, I was once a born-again Christian, and that doesn’t leave easily. Science classes (biology and psychology in particular), comparative religion classes, and the like, poked holes in the simplistic religious answers and replaced them with answers I did not have to have faith to understand.

On the other hand, there is no shortage of evidence of (some) people embracing religion because of fear, because of threat, because of loss. But I guess it doesn’t count when it goes that way.

3. Connect relationally.

Atheists are real people with real feelings. They laugh, cry, talk and connect like anyone else. I think that too many times Christians treat atheists as objects and not people.

That’s right–atheists are real people. You would never want to stereotype them or deny their very real feelings. Speaking of which…

4. Assume that, down deep inside, they do believe in God.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who genuinely rejects the existence of God. Sure, I’ve met many who have claimed God’s existence to be a lie but I’m convinced that, down deep inside, they really do believe there’s a God.

Why do I believe that? Because Scripture makes it clear in Romans 1:18-21 that there are no real atheists,

So, connect relationally, but always remember that the image they are showing you is false.

5. Frame the gospel as a love story (that just happens to be true.)

When I shared the gospel with James I wasn’t trying to prove God’s existence I was simply sharing the story of God’s love. I said something like, “James, at the core of Christianity is a love story. Jesus put it this way, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but has everlasting life.’”

I could tell that James was intrigued by this view. He listened respectfully and asked thoughtful questions.

Because, I’m sure, James had never heard this message before, living as he does in a culture where only a handful of Christians exist, and they tend to keep to themselves, quietly.

My suspicion is that James was, at this point, was just a bit gobsmacked that Stier was treating him so condescendingly, and was gritting his teeth, smiling and nodding, counting the minutes until the flight ended.

Note also that James is described as respectful and polite… despite the stereotype of the grenade-dropping atheist. I can only hope that anyone reading his advice will see it for the steaming pile it is. Sadly, he’s preaching to the choir, and the only comment “love[s] the tips”.

I don’t.

“Equality Should Never Be Mistaken For Hostility”

“Some might view a rule against preferential treatment as exhibiting hostility toward religion, but equality should never be mistaken for hostility”—Judge Barbara B. Crabb, FFRF v. Geithner

When decades of deference
Yield to one’s preference
One can’t help but feel one’s virility!
As such, abrogation
Feels more like castration:
Equality feels like hostility!

When unequal treatment,
Alas, to defeat went,
It hampered one’s amiability
It saddens me greatly,
The things I’ve seen lately—
Equality feels like hostility!

The rules that one follows,
The treatment one swallows,
When seen as mere pawns, not nobility;
Old privilege relaxes—
We have to pay taxes?
Equality feels like hostility!

It feels like it’s malice;
One’s parsonage palace
Possesses no public utility?
Its worth, despite searches
Is merely the church’s?
Equality feels like hostility!

This horrible feeling
Means, clearly, appealing—
And winning, in all probability;
The free exercise clause
Will excuse them, because
Equality feels like hostility!

Churches of all stripes have, for decades, enjoyed various tax exemptions under US tax code, because reasons. Reasons. Reasons, dammit! As the sponsor of the 1954 bill in question, Rep. Peter Mack, argued :

Certainly, in these times when we are being threatened by a godless and anti-religious world movement we should correct this discrimination against certain ministers of the gospel who are carrying on such a courageous fight against this. Certainly this is not too much to do for these people who are caring for our spiritual welfare

Not every legal opinion is fun to read. This one is. This was the case where the best (perhaps only) argument the government had was to claim that the atheist co-presidents of the Freedom from Religion Foundation were… clergy, thus deserving of the tax break and in no position to sue. A simple look at Mack’s quote above is enough to show the silliness there, but the full opinion is a marvelous 43 pages of smackdown.

I’m sure it will be appealed, and I dread the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Oh, yeah… buy my book:
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

An Atheist Wedding? Good God!

In the planning for our wedding
We had made the usual list
Of the people we’d invited
Making certain none were missed
From your little cousin Hanna
To my scary uncle Todd
There was one, though, uninvited:
We had left no room for God.

We would build our world together
We would make our solemn vows
We would share with one another
All that time and life allows
You and I were getting married
So we really found it odd
There were some who thought a marriage
Needed you, and me, and God.

We’d be legally united
By authority of state
What our love had joined together
Lack of God can’t separate
With no need of church approval
With no priest to give his nod
We’d be married—just as married
As the ones who called in God

And there’s really nothing missing
Cos we’re married just the same
Though we didn’t take our wedding vows
And swear “in Jesus’ name”
See, our vows are to each other,
And that doesn’t make them flawed
Only two of us got married
Cos we saw no need for God.

SO, yeah, CNN had a story up on atheist weddings. Seriously, I would have thought this the non-est of the non-stories, but there ya go. Marriage certainly precedes Christianity (but you wouldn’t know it from the comments at CNN), and will likely survive it as well. The last two weddings I went to (my niece and nephew’s weddings) were both secular, and were both beautiful. It was wonderful to attend weddings that were about the couple, and the families, who were gathered there, rather than about some ancient verses in a book. Really, First Corinthians 13 can be retired for a generation or two, and then maybe it will be beautiful again; as is, it is a stale cliche, and may as well be two minutes of static noise.

I vaguely remember attending some religious weddings–I videotaped my sister-in-law’s Catholic wedding (by her request), happy for the excuse to wander around with a camera while everybody else was praying. That wedding was not about the couple, it was about the church. No fun at all.

Why have a wedding that you don’t enjoy? My niece and my nephew did it right. Beautiful, wonderful ceremonies–laughter, and joy, and tears (that might have just been me). The difference? No God.

Want a beautiful wedding? Step one: Don’t Invite God.


There’s only one thing that could get in the way
There’s only one reason I’d wait
There’s only one reason I’d take one more day
One reason alone to be late
I’m taping The Doctor, and not watching live,
I’m freeing myself from time’s tether—
Just twenty hours later, her plane will arrive,
And then we can watch it together.

Yeah… I’ll be away from all forms of technology while the rest of the world watches the Doctor Who special (Today or tomorrow, depending on where you are when you read this). Cuttledaughter is coming home for a visit (insert happy dance here), and we’ll be watching The Doctor together. Envy me. But NO SPOILERS!

Oh, and, for those who don’t know, there is a charity Christmas book of Cuttleverse (all proceeds to charity) and the second omnibus collection, “Ink” (proceeds go to me), and more (including freebies), all available here.

Ah… Memories…

I remember it so clearly
It’s as if it just occurred
I remember every image,
Every moment, every word;
I remember every instant,
Every story, brief or long,
I remember it forever…
But I just remember wrong.

I can tell you all that happened
On a day ten years ago—
I can tell you, I remember,
All my memories, I know—
I can summarize my knowledge,
All the lovely things I feel
All these things are in my memory
But it isn’t really real

It’s a perfect reproduction
It’s the best you’ll ever find
Every detail, trapped forever,
In the amber of my mind
All the flowing stream of consciousness
Is trapped in memory’s cup…
It’s astonishing to realize
Just how much of it’s made up

If your memory’s often fuzzy
Then you might have thought it best
To believe it, when they told you
Half your recollection’s guessed—
But for those with minds of crystal
Those whose memories are clear—
Why, the thought they might be faulty
Is a foreign thing to hear

But the truth, or so they tell us,
Isn’t difficult to see—
We will manufacture memories
And believe them, you and me
And our confidence is faulty,
Though so strongly we believe…
We build worlds upon our memories,
But our memories… deceive.

So, yeah, TIME (remember when they were a magazine?) has a neat (though incomplete, necessarily, given the scope of the subject and limitations of space) piece on false memories–even among those with “highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM)” (in other words: not me). Seems the evidence shows (color me unsurprised) that even those with incredibly good memories are likely to misremember, and to systematically show biases that distort our memories. (Seriously, worth reading, and with a frankly stunning video which I cannot embed here.)

Even the best are flawed. Sounds very human. And it is. (Not that other species don’t display such flaws, but rather that it seems a characteristic of humanity that we do, despite our opinion of ourselves.) The evidence we send people to execution for… is flawed. As certain as we are, it ain’t necessarily so.

I remember being ready to testify in court as to a person’s guilt… only to find that I was looking at the wrong man. I remember being the person another thought was guilty (they were also wrong, I hasten to inform you). Memory is a nasty and crude tool, but we have been told that there are some among us who claim to have mastered it.

Seems likely they are wrong.

Natural Disasters And Acts Of God

God isn’t in the weather—in the wind and in the rain—
It’s a natural disaster, never God, which caused such pain
Oh, but God can be detected (so they patiently explain)
In the actions of the people on the ground

God would never cause a hurricane; the gospels make it clear
Though the “acts of God” are numerous in any given year
Cos the deeper truth is different from the way it might appear
Only good is where the Christian God is found

The destruction is incredible, but look—when you inspect,
There’s a lack of God’s Own Fingerprints; no clues you might detect
Not premeditated murder, just condemnable neglect
As the storm blew through the city’s frail façade

But the neighbors helping neighbors, that’s where God’s great power is
That’s the evidence of kindness; there’s the answer to the quiz;
All the work that’s done by people, all their credit’s clearly His
Thus, a hurricane is evidence of God

The New York Times presents a debate on “Natural Disasters or Acts of God?”, and once again it is hard to pin down what exactly God is and does. Some of the responses explore the term “acts of God” as if an actual “God” did not exist at all (really!), and note the use of the term in legal or psychological strategies (finding legal responsibility for loss, or asserting control in an uncontrollable world); others note the growing responsibility of human action, and suggest that recognizing our role instead of sloughing our blame off on God might be a more productive course. At least two of the responses do take the notion of a God seriously, and both (predictably) serve up a heap of special pleading. “What Revelation Reveals About Disasters” reminds us that the book that allows people to make specific predictions about what God hates, and what hour He’s going to call a stop to the whole shebang, is actually subject to quite a bit of interpretation:

Even among believers who take an apocalyptic worldview, the connection between God and disasters is complex and controversial.

But of course, my favorite asks us to “See God in the Response, Not the Disaster” (It is, of course, the muse for today’s verse):

The response of their fellow Filipinos (and the international community) has been heartening. They have helped in any way they can – raising funds for the victims, donating relief goods, offering counseling services to the survivors, transporting supplies to relief centers, etc. It is precisely in these acts of kindness where God is active in the lives of these people. God is made present by and in people who act compassionately toward the victims.

To believe that God is the cause of this catastrophe runs contrary to the God revealed by Jesus in the gospels. Creation continues to evolve, and as Saint Paul put it, the whole of creation is groaning in labor pains for the redemption of God. That there are natural calamities like Haiyan is part of the imperfect world we all live in. There is no need for a supernatural explanation for a naturally occurring event. To attribute these events to the will of God is to hold on to a tyrannical image of God – an image that Jesus challenged when he proclaimed the gospel to the marginalized of his society. It is about time that this image of God be laid to rest, so that we let the spirit of God bring new life to lives destroyed by Haiyan.

Wrath? That was the Old Testament God; he’s evolved since then. You could actually talk to Him back then, and see His power in palpable ways. Nowadays, we have to do all the work ourselves, then give Him credit.

Pretty soon there will be nothing for God to do at all.

Atheist Christmas Verses, Poems, Cards…

… and all proceeds going to charity.

So checking the site stats today, I note that it is the beginning of the season for searching google for “atheist christmas poem”, “atheist christmas cards”, “atheist xmas” and the like.

So I just thought I’d link again, to the only collection you need. Some 17 verses, 32 pages, and all proceeds going to charity (given that I won’t see the money for a couple of months after you buy, I am not naming a charity yet, but I will be transparent.)

And yes, if you didn’t see it, my second collection of verses is out–profits from this one are going to me. It, and all other options (including some free downloadable ones) may be found here.



Checked my mail, and there it was!


It’s the latest in technology, delivered to your door
Like the internet, but portable—why, who could ask for more?
All that Cuttlefishy goodness, but in one convenient book
What a marvelous invention; don’t you want to take a look?

You can take it to the mountains; you can take it to the park;
With a flashlight or a candle, you can read it in the dark!
It’s much lighter than a laptop, so transporting it’s a breeze
There’s no silicon or plastic—nope, it’s all recycled trees!

It’s an omnibus edition! It’s the Cuttlefish, condensed;
If your dog is acting funny, it’s because he must have sensed!
So you’d better buy an extra, when you’re buying one for you,
Cos the animals all know, it’s all the verse that’s fit to chew!

You could buy one for your Mother; you could buy one for your Pop
You could buy one for your Pastor just to hear him holler “stop!”
You could buy a bunch, and swap out all the hymnals in a church
So they never find “Amazing Grace” no matter where they search!

You could pull one on the Gideons, and place them in hotels
You could slip one to a Wiccan while she’s murmuring her spells
It’s the perfect gift for enemies—the perfect gift for friends!
It’s the gift that keeps on giving—oh, the messages it sends!

You can take one on an airplane; you can take one to the beach;
You could buy them by the dozen, so there’s always one in reach
It’s a conversation starter, if you bring it on a date,
And you’ll know if you’re compatible before it gets too late!

Be the first one on your block to place your order—click today,
And the elf and fairy printers will get on it right away!
As the product of a Cuttlefish, of course you’d call it “Ink”
Really, what more could you ask for?… Well, just one more thing… the link.

Oh, and the link to the preview.