Sunday School for Atheists: Why can’t pets go to heaven?


My friend John Cole over at the excellent sight Balloon Juice lost his cat unexpectedly last night. Cole’s cat Tunch, named after former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and two-time pro-bowler Tunch Ilkin, was a most unlikely bloggy superstar. But because his antics were posted to a high traffic site on a regular basis, thousands of people from all over the world grew to appreciate him. He even appeared on T-shirts.

There are a lot of things that attracted me in the early years to Balloon Juice. Cole’s journey to political awareness mirrored my own in many ways. He started out as a relatively apathetic center-right Republican and, over time, moved toward the center. As the malfeasance during the Bush admin grew, Cole was able to examine his own beliefs and rather quickly came to cast off the conservative trappings that snare so many for life. Today he may call himself a moderate progressive, or he may not as I really don’t know, but based on most every issue I’ve seen him write about he comes across like a well informed, raging lefty. Another appealing feature is Cole will let fly, with a rare mix of passion, love, and anger, on people, places, and things he cares about. Plus he’s done a great job of recruiting like-minded writers who do the same and with whom he does not always agree with. [Read more…]

Sunday school for atheists: the rockets’ red glare


As a kid who loved fireworks I looked forward to this time of year for months. Neighbors used to come from all around to watch my fireworks shows. This year pyrotechnic displays are not limited to the US, they’re lighting up the skies in Egypt , too. The awe inspiring glare of rockets and star-shells don’t just signify independence, they harken back to antiquity, signifying ancient celebrations and, today, act as a potent reminder of the most ambitious and iconic projects ever undertaken by our young species. I speak here of rockets.

The pillars of flame lofting vehicles to the skies may appear at first glance to be the most complex and advanced technological creations ever dreamed up by human kind. But they are the first machines driven by means other than human and animal muscles ever created. What’s more, those mere curiosities led to directly to the engines that now fuel every facet of our modern civilization. And to think it all started with mystics and apprentices over a millennia ago in the Middle East and Asia, who could never not have imagined they were embarking on the first small step in a journey that would lead to the bloodiest wars on record, and the greatest modern marvels of peace and prosperity the world has ever witnessed. [Read more…]

You Are Winning! First time ever, polls show key non-religious group a plurality in US

Call me a hopeless dreamer, but this almost brought tears to my eyes. For decades there has been a shift away from with organized religion. You would never know watching the dominionist loudmouths and media stenographers who enabled them, but that’s a fact. Now, for the first time ever, a new milestone has been reached: More Americans between the ages of 18-30 now identify with no religion than identify with any other single faith. They are the plurality! Researchers Michael Hunt, Claude Fischer, and Mark Chaves have more below: [Read more…]

Atheist monument unveiled in Florida


Many years ago I delivered flowers for a local for a florist Austin who lived across the street from my family in Austin. One day the delivery was marked Madalyn Murray O’Hair: The flowers were blackish roses and there was a smarmy card attached which, as I recall, included the promise “We will pray for you.” I didn’t know who she was at the time. My born again sister/coworker eagerly gave me the pejorative version.

We haven’t come much further since then when it comes to public perception, which is why this site and you guys are so important. But maybe the tide is beginning to turn. The American Atheists have unveiled a monument to non belief which provides a counter point to those popular among Christians. [Read more…]

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean no one is following you


Seems a secret group with hidden motives has been quietly signing up to monitor dozens of prominent atheists on Twitter — I knew I was being followed! We even have a pic of the perps above! Clearly, they’re dangerous subversives. Well, before this turns into a massive scandal orchestrated from the Oval Office, it turns out the motive was not sinister. That’s University of Illinois psychology professor Jesse Preston and grad student co-conspirator Ryan Ritter. They’ve just wrapped an analysis of Twitter culture, in their case, atheist vs religious tweets. Here’s some highlights: [Read more…]

Joe Klein takes obligatory swipe at atheists

A ‘thank you’ sign left by one of the residents whose property the atheists helped clear (Kai Tancredi)

Joe Klein knows how to sling the link bait. In his world, hits matter and integrity does not. In his latest, the inexplicably successful columnist gets the warm fuzzies for religious relief orgs in Moore, OK, the community hit by devastating tornadoes. Had he stopped there and continued on talking about post traumatic stress syndrome and how well military-trained  personnel do disaster relief, he might have slid under the decency bar.

But Klein had to add “funny how you don’t see organized groups of secular humanists giving out hot meals”. Hermant Mehta blogging at Patheos points out not only is this offensive and just plain mean, it’s flatly untrue and Mr DC Journalism utterly failed to perform basic reporting procedure in his Time Magazine cover story. [Read more…]

The Church of the non-believer

Members of an atheist congregation at Harvard listen to music during a recent gathering. Image courtesy CNN

Members of an atheist congregation at Harvard listen to music during a recent gathering. Image courtesy CNN

What it means to be human can be surprisingly difficult to define. But many aspects of being human are easy to spot. One of those is we like singing familiar songs, hearing traditional stories, maybe some special, secret ritual stuff thrown in, feasting or sacrificing, while celebrating our individual and collective successes and comforting those in pain, and we like to do this as a group, a tribe. It’s part of who we are.

Anthropologists theorize with good reason that this informal dynamic has been at work stretching back at least to the domestication of fire, or even the divvying up of the meal, or more accurately, the social circles we formed around those activities. Some think religion has a lock on it today, but one former pentecostal pastor disagrees in a big way, he now holds services for the godless: [Read more…]

Pastor Dan speaks on food stamps cuts

I have a friend named Pastor Dan who does progressive things, he’s sorta the unofficial pastor of the Netroots. Or he was back when there were a dozen of us. Dan once started off a sermon reading something I wrote as an atheist about the wonder and pageantry of the universe. Which was a little weird for me, made more confusing because I liked it.

The religious right helped turn me off to religion before I got into high school. One of the things that distracted me then and still does is how utterly, blatantly, happily, they use the unambiguous words and adventures of socialist hippy Jesus to justify, at one time or another, virtually every species of greed and corruption. The religious left doesn’t get the kinda big bucks righties do, but they’re there and he’s one of them. A lot of pastors are, it’s part of their job: [Read more…]