Atheist Community of Austin board election this Sunday

Hey Austin locals, our annual elections will be taking place this Sunday at 1:00 PM CT at the ACA Freethought Library, 1507 West Koenig Lane in Austin. Any member in good standing may attend the election meeting and vote on board members. If your membership has lapsed, you may renew at the meeting and vote.

Here is a statement our current president Jen Peeples made on our official Facebook group earlier this week:

After much consideration, I have decided not to run for the board this year. This was a difficult decision, because I’ve had the pleasure of serving with an amazing group of people on the current ACA Board of Directors. We’ve been able to get a lot done, and although we’ve had some disagreements, they’ve been constructive, and the organization is better for it. The ACA Board is not an echo chamber, and that’s a good thing.

My reasons for not continuing on the board are entirely related to competing demands on my time. Without getting into more detail than anyone needs or wants, I have a number of things going on right now, both personally and professionally, and I just don’t feel like I can give the ACA the time and attention it deserves. Being the ACA President really is just like running a small corporation. I’ve fallen far short of what I’d hoped to do as President, and when I consider what I have ahead of me in the coming year, well….I need to step back and not be the roadblock.

So, I’m passing the reins to Russell, who will run for President in the election on Sunday. Tracie Harris has graciously agreed to run for Vice President. They’ll both be phenomenal in their new roles.

I’ll still be around as an admin in this group and in the other ACA groups and pages, engaging in spirited debate and swatting the occasional troll. You’ll still see me on the TV show, and who knows, maybe I’ll even (finally) make an appearance on the Non-Prophets.

I’m currently running unopposed, although if you would like to show up and vie for that position, or any other board seat, please feel free. See you Sunday!

Open thread for #20.14: Matt hosts Sarah Morehead and Neil Carter

Sarah and Neil discuss their project “Removing the Fig Leaf” with Matt.

At the “About” section of their blog:

Those of us who will be contributing to this blog have plenty to say about the deleterious impact of religion on our sexuality. Each of us has shouldered the burden of guilt and shame placed on us by our religious upbringings. Each of us has had to “remove the fig leaf” in our own way, and perhaps we will never be completely done with that process.  When you are taught to be ashamed of your humanity during your formative years, the baggage stays with you for the rest of your life.

But it does get better. Each of us has worked through these issues to some level of personal satisfaction (heh), and this digital space has been created to talk about how we’ve progressed. We will use this blog platform to unpack our own religious hangups around our sexuality, picking apart those ideas which shackled our own enjoyment of ourselves and of others. Just about anything related to sexuality is fair game, since it’s all connected, although the focus of this blog will be on the intersection of faith, skepticism, humanism, and sexuality.

Atheists Want Religious Freedom, Too!

There are a number of bills in various states of enactment across the country with the claimed purpose of advancing religious freedom. One of the latest is a Mississippi law that allows anyone to deny services to members of the LGBT community, including some government services. As I write this, the controversial law has yet to be signed by the Mississippi governor. And just this week, the Austin American Statesman reports that Texas also may be entering the fray with a bill of its own.

It must be said that these laws are nothing more than government permission to discriminate. But it’s more than that. Believers want to have the freedom to discriminate without any consequences. They don’t even want the taint of the word “discrimination,” so the legislators enacting these laws will swear that they’re not discriminatory, though they seem to single out gays and lesbians based on “lifestyle” or some religious right code word. Supporters of these bills want to go to their churches as part of their communities and hold their heads up high and be seen as the upright and moral people that they mistakenly believe they are. They want the joy of watching the auto-da-fé of those they hate without being seen in public getting off to it.

One hypothetical way these people could claim their religious freedom would be to post signs on their businesses openly stating the religious restrictions adhered to by the business. (Do businesses have religious beliefs?) Such a sign might say, “No wedding cakes for gays”, “No car washes for Catholics,” “No interracial couples served,” or even “Jews not allowed.” While this would be an efficient way for the market to honor these random religious “freedoms,” it has the obvious negative side effect of the business owners having their wacky and malicious beliefs being subject to public opinion. What if the entire community figured out that Fred’s Bakery, say, is a bastion of hatred and they took their business elsewhere? No, no, no. That won’t do. Supporters of these laws don’t want any responsibility for those religious beliefs. They want their “freedoms” without those pesky consequences. That’s the nature of these laws; rights without responsibility.

But why gays in particular? The simple answer is that the modern business model of Christianity is to sell hatred of gays. As US laws are changed to treat gays and lesbians as normal citizens, their business model (and power) is increasingly under threat. Hatred of people who have done you no harm is bigotry, pure and simple. These laws carve out a niche for the bigotry peddlers.

Sure. There are some verses in the Bible that call homosexual behavior and effeminacy abominations. But the same Bible calls lying an abomination and shrimp and crabs seem to also be abominations. While these quaint and silly laws appear in the Pentateuch, Jews aren’t banging down the door of government so that they can have the “religious freedom” to persecute gays and lesbians—or seafood restaurants. According to the good book, the punishment for finding two men together in bed is to kill them both. But Christians don’t seem to want that. Too messy. They just want government permission to discriminate—as if they know instinctively that the US government is far more powerful than their god. If they really believed their god was more powerful and they wanted to obey the god’s laws, they would just do so, consequences be damned.

Isn’t it ironic that these religious freedom laws never seem to mention any concrete religious tenet? I think there are three reasons for this.

  • First, I think that most Christians don’t know that their holy book is loaded with atrocities and highly embarrassing stories that would not be taken seriously outside the walls of a church. Take, for example the silly golden hemorrhoid story or the immoral Abraham and Isaac story.
  • Next, by staying away from concrete Biblical tenets, they avoid being put in the position of arguing for one right while NOT arguing for one of those embarrassing rights just a few pages away, like killing witches, holding slaves, or women and children being property. By keeping the argument abstract, they can pick and choose.
  • Finally, as SCOTUS indicated in the Hobby Lobby decision, the government can’t take a stance what is a valid religious belief. Apparently, even a falsehood like Plan-B being an abortifacient is a perfectly valid religious belief from the government’s perspective. So anything goes, whether it’s justified by some actual religion or not. So yes, I suppose people can have deeply held religious beliefs about trans-gender bathroom use or that blacks are inferior people.

If there’s a shining light here, its that these laws are written in such a way they also apply to non-Christians. Even atheists have religious beliefs. We believe (based on fact) that religions are malicious frauds. I see no reason why we shouldn’t take advantage of these ill-conceived laws and turn the tables on them. Ditto for RFRA and its state versions.