Well, this sucks. My blog, which was originally hosted by ThinkAtheist, was totally erased with no warning whatsoever. That means that all the photos I uploaded to that page are gone, too. So if you’re browsing through my archives, any posts from before today will have no photos in them at all. Sigh.
My meetup group, Capital Region Atheists & Agnostics, will be at this year’s Capital Pride Festival on June 9 at Washington Park in Albany. If you’re in the area, drop by and say hello! I’ve got a bunch of atheism and LGBT-related goodies to give away to people at the event.
Last year, we had a few delightful religious nutjobs protesting the Pride Parade. One of them was even someone I recognized from the Reason Rally! The kooks sure do get around.
P.S.: I’m still alive! I don’t update this nearly as much as I ought to because I’m getting most of my atheism-related frustration out on Reddit nowadays…
If you’ve got several spare hours, I’d recommend watching Steve Shives’ series “An Atheist Reads The Case for Christ” and “An Atheist Reads I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist”. They’re great deconstructions of a couple of books that I and many other atheists often have thrown in our faces as ‘good’ arguments for Christianity.
Until last Tuesday, atheists had precisely one out-of-the-closet representative in Congress: Representative Pete Stark of California’s 13th district.
In the run-up to the election, there was excitement from atheist blogs and from groups like the Secular Coalition for America about Kyrsten Sinema, who (it was believed) was an openly-bisexual, openly non-theistic candidate. The news hit big blogs like the Huffington Post, and was mentioned in the Washington Post’s “On Faith” section.
There’s just one hitch: She’s not an atheist.
She’s spoken before the Secular Coalition for Arizona, and she won an aware from the Center for Inquiry for “Advancement of Science and Reason in Public Policy,” but she avows that she is not an atheist. According to her communications director Justin Unga:
Kyrsten believes the terms non-theist, atheist or nonbeliever are not befitting of her life’s work or personal character. … She does not identify as any of the above.
In an e-mail to Hemant Mehta, Mr. Unga added:
She does not identify as any of the above, nor does she choose a label to describe what she believes is deeply personal for every individual.
“Not befitting her life’s work or personal character?” Honestly? Clearly, either she or Mr. Unga (or both) think there’s something wrong with being a non-theist, an atheist, or a nonbeliever. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that she’s not comfortable using a label that would portray her as anything other than a god-believer.
She does exhibit an attitude toward governance that I find (mostly) commendable:
Though Sinema was raised in a religious household, she draws her policymaking decisions from her experience as a social worker who worked with diverse communities and as a lawmaker who represented hundreds of thousands. Sinema is a student of all cultures in her community and has learned that responsible stewards must consider all faiths with respect and dignity. She believes that a secular approach is the best way to achieve this in good government.
That last sentence? That’s what separation of church and state is all about.
Regardless, this leaves atheists without an openly nonbelieving representative. That’s troubling, especially when we see people like Paul Broun – a man who said that evolution, embryology, and the big bang theory were “lies straight from the pit of hell,” meant to tell people they don’t need a savior – winding up on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Combined with President Obama’s re-election, the Religious Right is sure to be whipped into a furor over the next four years. It could make for interesting and distressing times.
It’s Patriots’ Day, so I just wanted to say this.
Get all the political slogans out of the way. Get rid of the hot-button issues that push our emotional buttons and keep us from looking at the deeper long-term problems. Get to the core of it all, and I think most Americans agree that we’re in a bad situation and we need to find a way to get out of it. We may disagree about the fundamentals of how to do that, but that doesn’t make the other side evil.
We’re all human beings. We’re all flawed. We’re all often quite wrong, even if we’re too stubborn to admit it. And we all have ideas to bring to the table.
Somehow, compromise has become a dirty word in American politics. Those at either of the extreme ends of the liberal/conservative spectrum have painted the other side as evil, bigoted, hate-filled, know-nothings.
I’m a liberal. My heart is constantly bleeding, and I’m not ashamed of it. But this doesn’t mean that I think everyone who disagrees with me is the scum of the earth. It means that I have a set of values that differs from those of other people. When I discuss important issues with conservatives, I can understand how their positions derive from their values. We may disagree, but I don’t think they’re (necessarily) irrational or small-minded simply for disagreeing with me.
At the risk of sounding self-righteous, I think that this is the sort of attitude that our current political dialogue sorely needs. The polarity of our parties is not only hurting political discourse in our country; it’s pushing people further and further to the ends of the spectrum, and that can only have dire consequences for our future.
If this democratic republic is to long survive, we must return to a place where we can stop trying to prove how liberal or conservative we all are, and instead focus on how each one of us, as Americans, can help us come together to restore our faded greatness to what it once was. For better or for worse, we are the descendants of a nation of rebels who overturned the most powerful empire the world had seen in centuries. Our forefathers foresaw many of the challenges we’ve faced thus far, but they had faith that those who followed them would maintain a healthy body politic with a genuine interest in the affairs of state, and in doing so would keep the principle of freedom alive. We owe it to them, and to all who have fought and died for this ideal, to give our all toward keeping the American political system vital, focused, motivated, and sane.
This is totally unrelated to atheism, but it’s related to one of my hobbies… so shut up, I’m going to talk about it. Give me my nerd space.
A local public school has recently attracted the attention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation for teaching a song that made explicit mentions of ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ to elementary-aged kids. As the article mentions, previous case law has specifically identified the song, “Thank You for The World So Sweet,” as being a prayer. This should really be an open-and-shut case.