Come out!

A while back, I floated the idea of a logo for the godless. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the idea, and a lot of good design ideas came out of it … maybe too many good ideas. And being a mob of atheists, there was absolutely no consensus on what was the best symbol to use. Finally, I didn’t want to impose a logo on anyone, so I just let it drop to see if anyone would simply start using one of the suggested designs, that maybe a consensus might coalesce. I saw a few of the logos on scattered sites, but there wasn’t much of a spontaneous response, and alas, every single site used a different logo. Typical atheists.

Now, though, there is one possible option: the RDF has started the Out Campaign, an effort to get atheists to publicly and proudly declare their status. It has a slightly different meaning — it’s not exactly a symbol of atheism, but more a symbol of the willingness to come out about your disbelief — but it’s nice, it’s simple, it’s clean. It’s a simple red Zapfino “A”, the scarlet letter.

i-eaff83066109de60ef54f315a27253df-scarlet_A.png

Go ahead, use it. I’ve got one on the sidebar to testify to my openness about my ideas of the nature of the universe, we should all spread it far and wide. I’ll even make it easy for you: you can use this code to put one on your website, if you’re one of us loud and proud atheists.

<div style="text-align:center"><a href="http://outcampaign.org/"><img src="http://pharyngula.org/images/scarlet_A.png" border="0" alt="image" width="143" height="122" /></a></div>

One weird thing about this development, though, is that it sure
brings out the whiners and concern trolls. I’m a little bit surprised at the response at the Dawkins site, with far too many rushing to complain. You’ll see two kinds of negative reactions.

  • The nay-sayers who complain that this is too much like Christianity, it’s a uniform, it’s Dawkins trying to enforce conformity. How ridiculous. It’s a freakin’ t-shirt or bumper sticker, not the High Holy Cathedral of the Sacred Letter A. You can wear it or you can skip it. You can use it to wipe the sweat off after a workout. You might wear it to a barbecue at the park. Wear it while you’re doing the dishes. It’s casual wear. It’s a nice shirt that sends a straightforward message about your willingness to be unafraid, nothing more, with no other deep significance. It will not be part of the dress code.

  • The shrinking violets who complain that it’s too bold, it’s too in-your-face, it’ll make us a target. Talk about missing the point: yes, it’s supposed to be bold. You are supposed to be bold. Begging for a tiny little delicate bit of subtle embroidery on a shirt pocket means this movement is not for you. Don’t wear the shirt. Don’t put the bumper sticker on your car. Don’t say a word — it’s easy to pass as a Christian or a Muslim, you know.

    Just don’t try to claim that you’re helping.

The Myers family ordered a few t-shirts, and my car will have the bumper sticker on it. We aren’t afraid. Especially not to make such a trivial commitment.

Defending the rotting equine carcass

Let’s bring up that atheists and civil rights issue once again — it makes everyone so happy. The Science Ethicist is really peeved with DJ Grothe, who in a recent Point of Inquiry podcast repeated his assertion that a) atheism is not a civil rights issue, and b) lots of atheists are making their civil rights a major issue.

The curious twist here is that he’s interviewing Peter Irons, author of God on Trial, who at the very beginning makes the point strongly that religion is the most divisive issue in the country after race, and that there is a deep intolerance towards atheists. Then Grothe springs his traditional assertion that those other atheists are making too big a deal of civil rights. Irons comes back with the argument that the discrimination against atheists does make it an issue of civil rights. I don’t quite get the point of Grothe’s argument. I agree with Irons that it is a civil rights issue, but I also agree willingly that there is no comparison with the oppression faced by women and homosexuals and blacks; most of the atheists I know would probably agree, that it’s a real issue, but it’s probably not the most important struggle we face right now.

I’m not quite ready to give up on the podcast as Aerik is since they get such good guests (and the Irons interview is very good), but I do think Grothe is flogging a dead horse. Can we at least agree that it has been settled somewhere close to the position that it is a civil rights issue, but not one that imposes the kind of discrimination that we need to resolve by new legislation? And that Grothe can stop complaining about all those nonexistent atheist leaders who think they are the next Martin Luther King?

It’s a strange place, Wisconsin

First we had that Wisconsinite caught trying to have sex with roadkill in Minnesota. Then it was decreed that it is illegal to have sex with dead animals, which I’m sure has distressed many a leather fetishist. Now I learn that the three Wisconsin boys who conspired to dig up the body of a dead young woman in order to have sex with it can only be charged with misdemeanor attempted theft, because it is not illegal to commit necrophilia in Wisconsin. I guess necrophilia is a victimless crime, after all, and our disgust at the perpetrators isn’t sufficient cause for serious criminal charges.

Still, I wouldn’t want to be caught dead in Wisconsin.

Go ahead, risk your brain, not mine

This is just a slideshow of album covers for the most annoying songs of all time, and it’s fairly safe to view—it doesn’t actually play any music clips. I was just thinking (like an evil mad scientist—occupational hazard, you know) that if someone did string together the musical hooks for all of those bad songs, you’d either get the most devastating earworm ever, or they’d all just cancel each other out and you might get an earworm cure. Anyone want to try the experiment?

(via that Chimpanzee Refuge)

Brain doping can be good for you

Shelley has a good post on the biology of ADHD—the lesson, once again, is that the mind is regulated by physical and chemical processes, and we’re learning more and more about how seemingly nebulous, fuzzy, higher level functions of thought can be traced back to relatively simple material causes.

The basic story is that norepinephrine is the molecule behind ADHD, and that what the stimulants given to people do is increase the effective concentration of NE. I’ve never been a victim of ADHD — as a kid, I’d say I was more often characterized as being the extreme opposite of what we see in ADHD — but there’s an interesting comment that stimulants like caffeine can also release more NE … and that coffee addicts may be self-medicating. I confess: I am a coffee addict. Maybe I’ve been making myself worse over the years. Of course, being on the other end of the attention spectrum isn’t stigmatized like ADHD.

Coffee also doesn’t bear the stigma of Ritalin. It’s too bad; human beings have been willfully modifying their brain chemistry for millennia, and we really shouldn’t treat the more precise pharmaceuticals of today like they’re a cause for shame.

The A-bomb

Oregon looks to have an interesting senate primary race, with two excellent Democratic candidates, Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick, vying for the chance to give the boot to two-faced Republican Bush booster Gordon Smith. I think it’s great that more progressive candidates are being drawn into loftier tiers of the political arena, and that good wholesome sparring in the primary is going to help them both out, no matter who wins the nomination. Why, though, should this Minnesotan care? Aside from having lived in Oregon for 9 years (and loving it!), it was brought to my attention that there’s a sly tactic being carried out here. Someone dropped the A-bomb in the discussion already: they’ve asked “Is Steve Novick an atheist?

That quickly developed into a major topic of discussion at BlueOregon. One of the major points is that while Oregon is one of the least godly states in the country, it still has a large Christian majority, and the assumption is that tagging him with areligiosity will hurt Novick’s chances.

What this kind of tactic actually does, though, is tarnish the reputation of Christians, so I’m saddened but unsurprised that more believers aren’t distressed by it. Imagine if a black candidate were running, and someone tried to argue that he was going to be beat because a large percentage of the voters were white. That’s not a commentary on the candidate, although there always is a tendency to hold the victim accountable: it’s an acknowledgment that the majority of voters are superficial bigots, an appeal to the prejudices of the lowest of the mob.

At least nowadays people wouldn’t try to publicly defend their bigotry against blacks, although I suspect many still practice it in the privacy of the voting booth (it’s also still a useful dirty campaign issue, as was used against McCain). We’ll still see people argue that atheism is a legitimate reason to vote against someone though, because he doesn’t share their “values”. That’s an admission, I think, that they want a Christian candidate who will inject religion into the secular task of running the country.

We’re all gonna die!

I’d reconciled myself to the fact that the sun will die in about 5 billion years — time enough to get all the important stuff done, I thought — but now Chris Mims tells me we’ve only got 12 million years. I mean, that’s like going to the doctor, and he says, “Good news, Mr Myers, you’re going to live to be 90” and then he calls you up a little later and says “whoops, little slip up there, you’ve got a month to live.” It’s not good news.

The story is a bit speculative—we’ve long known that there are these very rough periodic extinctions in the fossil record, and now a few wild-eyed theoreticians suggest that it might be correlated with our system’s rotation around the galaxy, and every 60 some million years we swing around to the side that’s getting zapped a little more heavily.

Just to throw a little restraint into the guesswork, though, the mass extinction data shows considerable variability, and also the idea that we’re going to get irradiated is a little excessive. Passage through the rough side of the galaxy would be an event spanning millions of years: the earth was not sterilized in previous events, but if this were the cause, it would mean that there would be a low level increase in radiation over a very long period of time that would have stressed life to varying degrees. We do have 12 million years to manufacture lead-lined umbrellas and try to develop cosmic-ray resistant wheat. I’m just going to have to trust my great600000th-grandchildren to get their act together in time.

So I hear this Canadian band doesn’t like religion either, eh?

Cleanse your palate of the unpleasant aftertaste of that last video with this loud instrumental from Rush — it’s the “Malignant Narcissism” video at the top of the page. I like how it illustrates the advance of religion as a branching snake. If you don’t like wmv or mov formats, it seems to be popular among the guitar heroes of youtube, so you can at least listen to it, even if you don’t get to see the abrahamic viper.

Looking forward to Armageddon and the cleansing of the earth

Last summer, a lot of people hated this post where I advocated calling the apocalyptic cultists on their evil delusions. Then we had some prominent Christian leaders calling for war with Iran, and John Hagee gave a demented interview with Terry Gross, in which his rapture rubbish was used as an excuse to advocate hate and war and destruction, all because his “prophecies” said that’s what we need to do.

Want some more fun?

Watch this video from a Christians United For Israel conference. There’s Hagee promising unconditional support for Israel until the Messiah comes, and then standing up in a press conference to claim that their support has nothing to do with end times theology. Watch people cheer at the urging to have a preemptive military strike against Iran. Listen to the interviews with creepy “just folks.” See Tom DeLay and Rick Santorum as honored guests … and the hero of the whole show? Joe Lieberman. Our “moderate” religious former Democrat. A perfect example of a religious moderate happily and enthusiastically supporting unabashed evil and ignorance.