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What is the Deal With Baby Jesus?

It’s probably a good thing my wife’s family preached to the 8-year-old and not our 5-year-old. Every time my youngest girl sees a nativity scene, she goes off on a tirade worthy of PZ Myers:


Yeah, she’s much louder and more opinionated than her sister. And she has no idea how offensive her speech sounds to most people. She’ll just go off on this same tirade no matter where she is. Mall, restaurant, store, anywhere she sees a nativity scene. She started on it at Christmas at my mom’s house. We can’t get her to shut up once she gets started. One of these days, I’m going to be in serious trouble.

I know how this sounds, but I promise I haven’t been brainwashing her at all. We don’t talk about religion at our house. They’re out of the room when my wife and I rant about it, because they think the subject is boring. She’s just seriously tired of seeing manger scenes everywhere.


(pic taken just outside my city’s courthouse).


Christmas: A Great Opportunity to Proselytize

My 8-year-old daughter was proselytized to again at her grandparent’s house. The relatives knew my wife and I wouldn’t be there to intervene, so she was taken into a room for 20 minutes and given a lecture on “the reason for the season”. They covered Jesus, loaves-and-fishes, the resurrection, the whole nine-yards. She was also told that she would be getting a bible and that she should read it cover-to-cover.

089860f81cbored_girl_jpgOf course, this has already happened once before. They know we are atheists and they don’t care. There wasn’t any crying this time, though. She was just bored and annoyed. She said she just found a hole in the blanket and stared at it the whole time.

When my oldest was in kindergarten, another child told her she was going to burn in hell for not going to church and that they couldn’t be friends anymore. Terrible, huh? Well, it happened again two years later when our youngest child went to kindergarten. That’s just what this place is like. People teach their kids to be bigots.

My kids don’t want to hear about religion. They think it’s boring and stupid. They just want to watch cartoons and play with Webkinz. That’s the main reason I never talk to them about it, despite being obsessed with the topic myself. I respect my children’s wishes. The more people keep trying to push this stuff on them, the less they care to hear it. Kids are funny that way.

I found a website today that’s entirely dedicated to preaching to children. This article on the site is particularly relevant:

Too Much Church! 5 Dangers Facing Over-Churched Kids


4. They Don’t Feel Their Lostness: Many over-churched kids don’t know what life is like without the comforts of faith. Their brain say ‘forgiveness’ before their heart feels ‘I’m sorry.’ Because they know about grace, they have never really struggled much with guilt.

Yes… that’s the problem. Kids don’t feel terrible and guilty enough. We’ve got to make them feel despair so we can get them hooked!

The pastor at the church I visited recently mentioned in his sermon that the meaning of Christmas was to proselytize to unbelievers. I asked him about it afterwards, and I didn’t misunderstand him. That’s the meaning of Christmas to him: to convert unbelievers. Not spending time with family, not loving your fellow man. Proselytizing. Somehow, all this war on Christmas nonsense make sense to me now. It’s a ruse to preach to people.

Tonight, my daughter told me, “I just want to believe what I believe and people to leave me alone about it.” With whole websites, books, and organizations dedicated to getting children entrapped in this stuff, I doubt she’ll be left alone about it anytime soon.


Kids Pointing Out Flaws

I’ve always tried to encourage critical thinking with my kids. I don’t want them to just accept what they’re told without thinking about it first, even if it comes from their parents. Heard this conversation not too long ago between my wife and our 8-year-old daughter:

Wife: “Don’t point, it’s rude.”
Daughter: “Why is it rude? It’s just a finger. A FINGER! I’m not hurting anybody. They’re on my hand, and I’m aiming them around. Who cares?? It makes no sense!”

Mission accomplished.


Challenging Beliefs and Respecting People

My atheist group meets Friday nights at a bar. We’re not exclusively atheist, though, since our goal is mostly socialization. We have some members who are spiritual and even claim a liberal Christian among us. The guy who’s a Christian we’ll call “Steve” for the purposes of this story.

One night, another member who does not know Steve walks up next to him, and the following conversation ensues:

“Man, I fucking hate Christians.”

Steve turns to guy and says, “Then you hate me.”

He responds, “Oh… ahh…sorry.” , then turns and starts talking to someone else.

Everyone in our groups laughs every time this story is told, mostly because we all embarrassmentrespect Steve and he knows it. This was an isolated event. I think we all feel a bit humiliated that we were represented this way, though. Along with the laughter, there is always a facepalm or two when this story is told. We, as a group, would like for no conversation between an atheist and a theist to ever transpire this way.

I think belief in God and the supernatural are dangerous ideas. As a former believer myself, though, I understand where people are coming from. They have fallen victim to biases inherent in the brain. Lacking knowledge is not their fault, and I don’t judge them for it.

Many people think if you attack their beliefs, then you are attacking them as a person. They will accuse you of calling them stupid when all you said is that they were wrong. Obviously, this is a defense mechanism to keep deeply-held beliefs from being challenged.

If you actually did call them stupid, though, it undermines your entire argument. Not logically, but emotionally. People respond well to being treated with respect. If we want to make people comfortable with having their beliefs challenged, we need to be very careful to avoid ad-hominem attacks. Mutual respect is the only way to convince people that it’s okay to have their beliefs challenged.


Criticizing Bad Ideas is a Moral Obligation

I can’t believe I’m about to respond to a article. Somebody said it made sense, though, and I can’t have that. The article is titled “4 Things Both Atheists and Believers Need to Stop Saying”. Obviously, I’m only going to respond to the criticism against atheists.

#3. Atheist:God Is Not Great

I take issue with how deliberately and needlessly provocative the phrase is. Also, how illogical. “Hey man, this God you believe in that I totally don’t believe in? Yeah, well, he sucks!” Kind of tries too hard, y’know? I mean, after all, if chicks think you’re a badass for saying your old man or your High School principal sucks, then, wow, imagine what a rebel you are for saying God sucks.

You think I actually want everyone to think I’m an asshole? Who would want that? I’d much rather be the guy who’s nice to everyone, the guy that everyone loves because he never calls his friends on their bullshit.

you-are-not-coolThat’s not me, though. I’m not a doormat. When I see an idea is hurting people, I feel morally obligated to tell them about it. In my opinion, religion is dangerous and harmful. It makes people justify what they already want to believe. Without the filter of rationality, they have no ability to discern good ideas from bad ideas.

I don’t do this because people will like me. I do it because it’s my moral obligation as a human being.

Just because I don’t believe in a fictional character doesn’t mean I can’t judge it to be evil. I think Lex Luthor and Green Goblin are bad guys, too. Have I just gone off the deep end for criticizing fictional characters? See how what you’re saying makes no sense?

It’s worse than that, though. People don’t actually believe in comic book villains. They don’t go around constantly talking about how great the villains are, while at the same time using the villains to justify actions that make our world a worse place to live.

But my main complaint is that most purveyors of this sentiment don’t really have a beef with God. Even Hitchens’ book mostly tears apart the abuses of organized religion, particularly Judaism, Islam and Christianity. I’m surprised how often atheists conflate the two things. Of course organized religion sucks. It’s run by people. Religion, like government or anything structured and administered by humanity, will always be flawed and ruined by all of our weaknesses and failings.

No. Faith itself is inherently harmful. If you don’t question ideas and apply reason to them, that’s always bad. A person’s beliefs are important. They use them to help decide what actions to take in the world. If their beliefs are wrong, that makes their actions potentially harmful.

It’s not “people” that’s the problem. It’s the act of believing things for no good reason.

And given how much we suck, why shut the door completely on the possibility of something in this universe being better, stronger and wiser? Something we could strive to be more like? It’s always seemed to me that the most virulent atheists — not mere nonbelievers, but those who claim to be positive about God’s nonexistence and openly hostile to anyone who could think otherwise — are incapable of believing there could ever be something greater than they. Not a lack of faith so much as humility. Certainly, that’s not true for all atheists, but it doesn’t help the atheist cause that the three most hostile atheists I can think of are also on the short-list for most overbearingly arrogant.

We don’t shut the door on the possibility. Maybe if you actually sat down with an atheist and talked to them one-on-one, you’d know that. We are not dogmatic. We just have yet to find a convincing argument for why we should believe in the supernatural. If you’ve got a good argument or some kind of evidence, bring it. We’re more than open to hearing it. But we want some kind of evidence before we’re going to believe it.  Atheists don’t believe in ideas just because they sound cool. That’s not arrogant, that’s rational.

bad_ideaAs far as your other point against atheists, that we think “atheism makes us smarter than theists”, I’m calling strawman on this. Show me what atheist has ever said this. We don’t say that. And if an atheist does say that, they are wrong.

Atheists think the idea of religion is stupid, and we reserve the right to ridicule it. We think that ridiculing bad ideas is a good thing. That does not mean we have passed judgement on people themselves. Many theists are smart, decent people. They have bad ideas, though, and I’m going to criticize them. There’s a difference between mocking a person and mocking an idea.

Your ideas are not safe from criticism. And if I do attack your ideas, you shouldn’t take it personally. I’m not judging you, just your ideas. You would do well to do the same.


7.5 Ounces of The Grandmother

“Hi new person. Welcome to our group! We usually hang out here at the coffee shop for a while, and then go around to the bar later. What sort of stuff are you interested in?”

“I’m on a voyage of discovery. I had a dream last night where I came to your group and shared my knowledge with you. So, that’s why I‘m here. If you could see the things I’ve seen, you’d KNOW THE TRUTH!”

“What are you talking about? What truth?”

“Everything is alive, man… the rocks, the trees… the Earth! What you see around you isn’t real. This table… it isn’t real! It’s just atoms. There are things beyond our reality!”

“Okay… how do you know this?

“I know.”

“Okay. How can I know?”

“Well, first, you need to get yourself a shaman. He’ll take you out to a remote location somewhere in nature. Then, you need to take 7.5 ounces of The Grandmother. Then, you transcend reality and become one with the universe. Then you’ll KNOW!”

“… the what? The Grandmother?””

::speaks in hushed tones::

“Yeah. It’s a type of mushroom. I don’t like to say it that way, in case the cops hear!”

5 hours later, after mind-numbing conversations about the meaning of the universe, how belief and knowledge are really the same thing, and reality isn’t really real, only the visions experienced while on The Grandmother are real….

“You guys aren’t being very open-minded. I thought you guys were free thinkers!”



God Glasses

This video is from Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Can you believe what these morons are saying?? Here are 10,000 reasons why they are wrong.

Just kidding, I completely endorse this message. In my experience, when people are rude to others, they often just don’t understand where the other person is coming from. We should all try to relax a little and dig a little deeper before being angry at other people. You’ll often find a whole other perspective you didn’t get before.

I cover some pretty controversial topics here. It’s not because I’m a huge troll (Ok, I am). It’s because I find these topics fascinating. As a result of the strong opinions, though, discussions can get pretty heated. I’m trying hard to make sure I criticize only beliefs, not people. It’s too easy to blur these together in religious and political discussions. I think people will respect my arguments better if I stick to this philosophy.

Ok, ok, I can’t let this go without one little jab.

Disclaimer: “God Glasses” also come with inability to see hypocrisy or logical fallacies.

(via Reddit)


What Atheists Are So Afraid Of

There’s a very venomous article up on Catholic Lane about the FFRF’s failure to stop the “Day of Prayer” declared by Arizona’s governor. Here’s what the article had to say about it:

Let’s get this straight. The atheists are suing because they had to turn off the television to avoid the topic of religion or news announcements about the Day of Prayer. They had to alter their conversation to avoid the topic of religion. This made them feel like “outsiders”.

Oh, boo hoo.

No. The FFRF sued because having a Day of Prayer is an endorsement of religion by the government. When our government endorses one religion over another, or even religion over no religion, that is a violation of the first amendment. It paves the way for laws and rulings that remove the rights of non-Christians. It sets a precedent, and we atheists are concerned about what you’ve got in store for us afterwards.

You may find this hard to believe, but we don’t actually care if you have a day of prayer. Yes, we think prayer is stupid, pointless, and offensive. But it’s true that we don’t have a right to not be offended. What we’re opposing here is oppression of atheists.

Mind you, a Day of Prayer isn’t oppressive at all by itself. However, when you’ve God on the money, God in the pledge of allegiance, teachers trying to get creationism taught in schools, monuments to the ten commandments in courthouses, nativity scenes at courthouses, and presidential candidates declaring America a Christian nation, you’re very close to a situation where the United States explicitly endorses Christianity as the official religion of the country. What happens after that? What next?

Let me tell you what the situation is like for atheists right now. I have been part of a local atheist group for several years, so I can vouch that this is the norm, at least in the American south:

  • People are afraid to let anyone know they are atheists because they are afraid they would be fired from their jobs.
  • People are afraid to reveal their atheism for fear that their family members would never speak to them again.
  • Parents are denied custody of children because of their atheism.
  • Atheist groups have to deal with none of their members wanting anyone to know they’re part of the group, for fear of the above consequences. Arguments routinely surface that we should call ourselves something else so it will be easier for the members to hide their atheism.
  • Atheist billboards are routinely vandalized, even when they say things as innocuous as “Atheists can be good people”.

That’s the situation now. After you’ve gotten us officially declared a Christian nation, what then? How will American culture and law progress after that? It’s not about your prayers. Pray all you want! But if the government endorses your religion, that means your beliefs are endorsed by the government and ours aren’t. That sets off a chain reaction that could go anywhere. Anything could happen to my rights after that. If this is a Christian nation, then what rights do the rest of us have?

You whiny, sniveling, little, pusillanimous cowards. You have the audacity to tell us Christians that we are “weak” and that our religion is a “crutch.” You are supposed to be so “courageous”, venturing forth boldly into the existential mystery of being alone, facing with stoicism the nothingness that awaits you at death, priding yourself on your realism and self-reliance. You are a bunch of feeble fakers.

I wouldn’t say about Christians. I have many of them as friends, and they are fine people. I disagree strongly with their religious views, but that’s fine because we are in America, where everyone is free to believe as they wish.

I also wouldn’t say that all atheists are courageous. We are people, just like anyone else. We have a broad spectrum of all different kinds of people in our group. Some are nice, some aren’t so nice. You can’t paint us with a broad brush and say we’re all one kind of people, just like we can’t say the same about you.

Yes, you are outsiders. Go start your own damn country. This one was started by Christians, you puerile dimwits. It is Christians who established and largely Christians who fought and died to maintain the freedoms you enjoy. And Christians are still the majority. Apparently your vaulted belief system doesn’t equip you to handle being in the minority. That’s interesting, isn’t it? After all, this was and is a societal situation valiantly handled by millions and millions of Christians who suffered — and currently suffer — real oppression, violence, torture, economic deprivation, and cruel deaths. But you have to go through turning off the TV once in a while and so your precious puny feelings are hurt. How delicate and frail your mental architecture is!

I don’t mind turning off the TV. But this is my country too, and if I disagree with the morality you are trying to legislate, I will fight against it. What you’re doing with these first amendment violations is trying to provide a justification for all the other things you want to do. Remember abortion? Creationism in schools? The outlaw of gay marriage? We disagree with you on those things, and so we must disagree with your justification for it, too. We’re not stupid. We know and you know that that this is just a stepping stone towards those goals for you.

You are a pitiful joke. Trembling over the mere mention of God. Running like babies to court because of your brittle feelings. “Oh, but judge, but judge, I saw a cross and I just can’t stand it.” “I heard someone say ‘Merry Christmas’ and it hurt my feelings.” “I just can’t sleep knowing there is a manger scene at the courthouse.” “The sight of the Ten Commandments makes me wet my pants.” Now we see how inadequate and feeble you really are. Rage, therapists say, is the flip side of helplessness. And so we see your rage against religion in the public square for what it is: a product of your own insubstantial internal resources. Go look at yourself in the mirror if you can bear the pathetic, contemptible sight of yourself. Our merest martyr shows you to be a wimp – fourteen-year-old Kizito of Uganda singing hymns while being burned alive. But you, you anemic, lily-livered worms – you quail at pushing the off button on the remote! Hah

I don’t care about my feelings being hurt. Why would I? I insult your beliefs on nearly a daily basis. I believe strongly in open criticism, and I gladly take my verbal beatings when they’re given to me. It is you who cannot take it. It is you who rages at the very mention of criticism. That is why you are trying to make this a Christian nation. Because although we are still a minority, nonbelievers are growing in number very quickly, and it pisses you off.


What it means to be an American

This is an excerpt from the book Religious Intolerance in America.

Despite having won a recent Supreme
Court case, Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940), that protected their evangelistic
endeavors, they were detained by police in West Jefferson, Ohio, for distributing
literature and for preaching their gospel on street corners. According
to the affidavit of Jehovah’s Witness J. E. Lowe, “When reminded that the
Supreme Court had ruled in our favor, [Officer] Wolfe replied ‘We don’t care
for the Supreme Court and the Constitution don’t apply here.’ ” Lowe’s affidavit
describes the ensuing events and the accuracy of Wolfe’s statement
rings eerily true.

The book quotes the affidavit from the victim, which I’ve also included here:

On March 21 three car-loads of Witnesses returned to West Jefferson.
Officer Wolfe was seen going in and out of different places where
men generally hang out in small towns. Then the town siren blew. A
crowd of men gathered in front of the barber shop immediately began
pushing the Witnesses and striking them. The five male members tried
vainly to protect themselves and their wives and children, but were so
greatly outnumbered that it was impossible. In their viciousness they
hit women members and knocked them down, one of them unconscious,
and blacked their eyes. They were reminded that they were
fighting against Christians and taking the law into their own hands.

They replied “That’s exactly what we’re doing — taking the law into
our hands.”

They started on us again. The Witnesses’ faces were already bloody.
Someone hit me with a blunt instrument. Everything went black.
While in this condition, they continued to strike my head and face
cutting another gash in the top of my head. At the same time they had
dragged three of the Witnesses out on the highway and were pounding,
beating and kicking them. Such shouts as “Kill them,” “Tar and
feather them,” “Make them salute the flag,” came from all directions.
And, all this time, Officer Wolfe sat in the barber shop and watched.

Finally this gory indescribably vicious assault ceased. The Witnesses
locked arms and started to walk toward their car at the far
end of town. One tall young, blond fellow procured a huge American
flag, held it high over our heads and marched with us. The same
noble flag-bearer had only a few minutes ago twisted the arms of a
young girl Witness behind her back until she thought they would
break. The mobsters were at our heels singing “My country tis of thee
sweet land of liberty,” and shouting, “make them salute the flag.”1

This happened in 1942, which is not that long ago. Think it can’t happen again?

These comments are from this year.



How Offensive is the Cross?

Aaron from the blog A Disciple’s Guide To Common Sense wrote this recently:

I heard a story the other day about a classroom in another country that had a cross on the wall. During the course of the school year, one parent noticed the cross and became indignant, claiming that it was intolerable for her child to receive education in a classroom that contained offensive symbolism. A suit was filed against the teacher and the school, claiming that if the cross wasn’t removed legal action would be taken.

It’s interesting to me how one can become enraged over such things, even when the quality of education had not been questioned up to that point. The cross had likely been in the classroom since before this particular child was born. To my knowledge no person had ever complained about the cross in the past. The parents of the other children took comfort in the cross being in the classroom. Then, all of a sudden, one parent (not the child) became indignant and threatened retaliation because they were offended. Mind you, this was not in these United States.

Sadly, this is not a new issue in the U.S. People get offended all the time about anything and everything, and in the name of peace and equality, throw fits and enter into lawsuits so that they can get their own way and trample the beliefs of others. They aren’t interested in equality at all, but rather their own desire to be super-imposed above the rights of others.

This is an important topic, and since I have a minority opinion, I feel it’s my duty to voice it. This blogger is by no means the only person to be expressing this sentiment right now. But he’s done a good job of expressing the Christian side of things. Plus, he’s from Arkansas, and I like to try to keep my discussion local.

Aaron, whether you like it or not, some people in America are not Christian. How are non-Christians supposed to feel when they see their government publicly endorsing a religion they don’t believe in? It makes them feel like they don’t have a voice in their own government. The message is that there’s a special “in” group, and they are not in it. Meaning, if you aren’t Christian, you will never be elected to public office and your views will be ignored. We should not be making minorities feel like they are second-class citizens.

I know our position is hard for you to understand. To you, the cross represents a symbol of all that is good in the world. What could possibly be wrong with goodness?

Let me explain why the cross is offensive to me. Here’s what I get from this symbol:

  • Original Sin: All of humanity is inherently evil and tainted. There’s nothing we can do about it because we inherited it from our ancestors. It begins at birth. We will be thrown in a fire and tortured.
  • But good news! One person, Jesus, has been killed. He accepts the punishment for all our evil. We’ll be okay. But we must swear fealty first.

The Christian cross is immoral and repugnant in three ways:

  1. I am not inherently evil by nature. I am a good person. My young children are good people. I resent this assertion and find it extremely offensive. I resent being thought of as a bad person. That’s the message the cross sends to me: That you think I’m a bad person.
  2. How can evil be inherited from parent to child? That makes no sense whatsoever. If my father committed a murder, it would be wrong for me to be sent to jail for his crime. Inherited sin is immoral.
  3. It makes no sense for one person to accept punishment for the “sins” of another. This notion of yours is completely immoral. People should accept the consequences of their own misdeeds.

In summary, your cross says to me that I’m a bad person through no fault of my own, but as long as I swear fealty to your deity, everything will be all right. No, that’s not okay. It’s not good, and you don’t get to hold the moral high-ground. Please judge me based on my own actions and words, not on my adherence to your religion.

I know this was a story from another country. But let’s pretend it happened in America. How will my 5 and 8 year old kids feel when they see this cross in their classroom? They will think, “Oh yeah, that’s from that group of people who think I’m going to burn in hell. I remember when Susie said she couldn’t be my friend anymore because I don’t go to church. Why does everyone think I’m a bad person? And now, the school and teacher think so as well!”

Yes, it’s offensive to us. I know, you don’t see it that way. To you, it means a whole other thing. That’s because we have different views on the matter. I don’t expect that will ever be resolved between us. Remember how we all live in the same country, though? Maybe our government shouldn’t be taking sides on stuff this divisive?

Why should the will of one student (or their parent) prevail over the other 29? Do not the parent’s of the other 29 students have fundamental rights that are at least equal in fervor and conviction to having the cross on the schoolroom wall? Are the interests and beliefs of the other 29 unimportant or lesser in value because they want the cross there?

It’s not equal rights you’re demanding. You want your religious symbols on the walls and no others. That is superior rights. Unless it’s also okay for there to be a sign saying, “God is a myth”, then it’s in no way fair.

The fact that you’re a majority doesn’t matter. These rights exist to protect the minority from the oppression of the majority. That’s why the first amendment was added in the first place.

One parent, or one person, simply can’t make himself/herself superior, nor can they overrule the rights of all others. In this case, the individual parent who feigns they want neutrality is actually being hostile toward the 29 others who are actually enjoying/exercising neutrality/peace already. Why not simply move to another classroom? Yes, every individual has rights, but they don’t supersede the rights of others, do they? Is one person’s opinion, and that’s what this is, more valuable than another’s?


If I had a child in a classroom that had a shrine to Buddha or Mohammed in it, my child simply wouldnt’ be in that class (if those beliefs were being forced upon them – remembering that in the story above there was no indication that Christianity was being forced, much less taught there). I might ask why it was there. I might even inquire of the principal, school administration, or superintendent. But, in the end I would rather have my child in another class, school, or environment than to destroy any semblance of them having real peace, friendships, or help because of my frustration. I wouldn’t want my actions to cause retaliation upon my child. I have the right to remove my child as much as that parent has the right to complain and file a lawsuit and offend the convictions and rights of the entire class. One way seems a lot more peace-loving to me…

Are you actually serious? You think it’s fair for minorities to have to change classrooms or schools? Why do I pay taxes into a school if my kids can’t attend?

I think this really shows that you don’t understand what it’s like to be in a minority. Assuming religious fundamentalists had their way, religious paraphernalia would be in every classroom of every school in America. What school would I be able to put my kids into? Are we to have separate schools like we had for African-Americans back in the day? That is unacceptable.

We may be in the minority, but we have just as much right to be in that classroom as you do. And if you’re putting stuff on the walls, we should be able to as well. Being in the majority doesn’t give you extra rights over other people.