Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

Don’t You Get It? It’s Not About Your Religion, It’s About Your Hate.

Many people have been posting on FB and in the other social media showing their support for Chick-fil-a.  Good for them.  What they are also doing is insinuating that the reason that people are boycotting Chick-fil-a is because the owner is a Christian.  

Wrong.  It is because the owner is, very publicly and openly, a homophobe.  It has nothing to do with the owner being a Christian and has everything to do with hate and intolerance.  As you know, I’m an atheist.  Despite that, I still shop at Hobby Lobby and other well know Christian owned businesses, and I will continue to do so as long as they conduct their business in a, well, business like manner.  

Alienating your customers is not good business.  Publicly supporting intolerance against a specific segment of the population because their way of life goes against your religious beliefs is not just bad business, it’s stupid business.  Why drive away customers who, up until now, probably didn’t care one way or another what you thought of homosexuals?  But now that you have taken a stand, don’t be surprised that people suddenly don’t want to do business with you.  And sure as hell don’t think that it’s because you are Christian.  

I won’t eat at Chick-fil-a.  Not because they are an openly Christian company, but because they are an openly bigoted one.  It’s not about their religion, it’s about their hate.  Pure and simple.

July 29, 2012 Posted by | Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , , | 2 Comments

Cold, Heartless, Selfish, Greedy Bastards

I stumbled into an unintended and upsetting FB conversation last night.  It started with this:

 

stupid

So I commented that if you can’t afford food, you do.

What follows is the conversation that ensued.  Much of the tone was expected, but some of it was a bit more… well, read on.  

(The identities of the other commenters have been masked out, mainly to protect myself from being banned from FB for calling them cold, heartless, selfish, greedy bastards)

Stupid1

Ok, fair enough.  Maybe she doesn’t understand that some people just find themselves in an unfortunate situations beyond their control.  Although, I do abhor this whole “mooching off the taxpayers” crap.  Doesn’t the U.S. Constitution say that one of the reasons that this government was created was to promote the general welfare?  I’d think feeding those who need it part of the general welfare.

So I decided to pull from my own experience and give an example of why programs like Food Stamps are important.

Stupid2

She doesn’t seem to get the idea that I got laid off.  I didn’t quite my job.  I didn’t get fired for being a fuck up.  I got laid off.   That wasn’t a good enough excuse for her though.

Stupid3

Now the greed and avarice become plainly apparent.  My comparison of paying taxes for food stamps to paying for fire departments didn’t fly.  I guess if it doesn’t immediately benefit her, it isn’t a valid tax.  

So I give a, sadly, too common example of how someone can find themselves and their children in a situation for which they have no responsibility at all.  She never replied to my last point, but posted another pithy, pity-the-poor-tax-payer, image.  Someone else, however, did respond.  His response was as vile and repugnant as anything I’ve ever read.  

Stupid4

Yeah.  Read it again.  If you aren’t angry enough to spit, then you better head off to Oz to ask the Great and Powerful Wizard for a heart.

I’m not going to go into why people feel like they can be such assholes when the have the anonymity of the internet to protect them, a recent article in Scientific America covers that topic pretty well.  What really disgusts and, honestly, frightens me, is that even though this bastard might feel emboldened to write this due to not having to actually look anyone who needs assistance in the eye while saying it, he surely believes it.

People like this talk about entitlement programs like they are a plague out to bring ruin to them.  They don’t like “entitlement” programs, but in reality, they are just trying to protect their own sense of entitlement.  The feel that they are entitled to everything they have, which is fine, we all deserve to enjoy the fruits of our labor, but they also seem to think that they are entitled to tell others what they can and can not have.  

Yes, we all pay taxes and none of us like everything our taxes go to.  I don’t like that my taxes went to bail out a bunch of greedy fucks on Wall Street, but I think that the bail out was needed to keep us out of a depression.  I didn’t like my taxes going to a completely unnecessary war in Iraq.   We can’t just have our taxes go to only the things we like.  Living in a democracy means that sometimes you have to accept things you don’t like.  When one party controls the government by 51%, 49% of the people have to deal with a government that they didn’t vote for.  This is the price of living in a free, democratic society.  

But this example I’ve given here speaks to more than just the reality of living in a democracy, it highlights the uncaring, selfishness and cupidity that seems to permeate our society.  The mood in our society is one of contumely and avarice.  There is no sense of charity or caring for anyone but ourselves and our families.  We have gone from a great society of Americans bound together by a shared vision of liberty and equality to a band of millions of small, insignificant familial tribes who care only for their own interests.  We have become a society of cold, heartless, selfish, greedy bastards. 

July 28, 2012 Posted by | Humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. When To Give It And When To Withhold It

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between respect for the individual and respect for ideas and beliefs. I have run into situations in the past where I’ve lost friends because they felt that I was attacking them personally when I was really attacking their beliefs. I’ve been called hurtful, hateful, and even a degenerate deviant.

Normally, I don’t care when people say these things about me, but in these cases these were friends, often very close friends, who said these things. Yes, I was attacking their beliefs, but I have my beliefs attacked all the time. I’m told that I’m immoral and that I’m going to hell. These kinds of people attack me personally, instead of attacking my beliefs. And therein lies the difference between them and myself.

I have no personal animosity toward people I disagree with, unless they are being purposely hurtful or hateful. I have several good, dear friends who are devout Christians or spiritually minded, and we often disagree and even rub each other the wrong way, but we still love each other. That’s because we agree to disagree. Often, we both learn something interesting and important about each other and our beliefs. We respect each other and we respect the right we each have to believe (or not believe) in a god or spirits or whatever.

We are all deserving of respect and basic human decency. This is a an unalienable right that every human being has. Ideas, and the beliefs that they engender, are not, and should not, be above question and even ridicule.

If we didn’t question and challenge ideas, the American Revolution would never have been possible. Our founding fathers knew that and enshrined this idea in first amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Freedom of speech has the implicit implication that no idea is above reproach. Unfortunately, many people, on both the right and the left, feel that their ideas and beliefs are above reproach: they are wrong.

What needs to be understood is that I can ridicule your beliefs while still respecting you. You, as a person, are deserving of respect; your ideas are not.

July 27, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | | 3 Comments

Why Are You Offended? Why We Don’t Care.

The Omaha Coalition for Reason recently put up a billboard here in Omaha.  The billboard simply says, “Don’t Believe in God?  Join the Club.”  It doesn’t say, or even imply, a dislike or disdain for religion in general or Christianity in particular.  It just says that it is ok to not believe in God.  The message isn’t aimed at the faithful, but at non-theists who might feel alone because everyone around them are believers.

Still, some Christians take offense at the billboard.   KMTV News quoted Emlyn Forsuh as saying, “I was raised to believe in god and now someone says they don’t believe in god so I don’t like it.”  As the writer of this article say in response to Emlyn, “Too Damn Bad!”  

I’ve written about all the billboards around Omaha with quotes from God that I am exposed to.  If you read what I wrote there you’ll see that I am offended at these billboards.  But I also say that we shouldn’t try to have these billboards removed (as some Christians have tried, and succeeded at getting atheist billboards removed or not put up at all).  

Everyone has the right to free speech and if they are willing to pay to have a billboard put up to express their views, more power to them.  What none of us have is the right to not be offended.  Everyone is offended by something at some point.  So what?  There are people who are offended that Jews or blacks exist or have the same rights as they do.  That doesn’t mean we have to put jews back in concentration camps or enslave blacks again just because someone is offended.

If you are offended about something, go ahead and say so, but don’t expect others not to be offended that you are offended.  And definitely don’t expect everyone to give a crap that you are offended.  In fact, rather than saying “too damn bad”, I just say, “so what?”.  

I’m offended at those Christian billboards.  I’m also offended by the junk mail and spam I get trying to sell me stuff.   So what?  My offense isn’t your problem, unless, of course, you try to impose your beliefs or will upon me.  Then it becomes an equal rights issue because you are trying to force something upon me which I don’t want, while insisting that your beliefs be free from reproach.  

So, put up your billboards, write your letters to the editor, blog about whatever you like.  Just don’t expect others not be offended.  Your rights to believe to what you believe does not extend to having those beliefs respected.  I will (and do) gladly respect your right to your beliefs, but I do not have to respect your beliefs.  All beliefs and ideas are open to criticism and ridicule, including my own.  

If you don’t respect my beliefs, fine.  Want to talk about it? Great.  Discussing and debating ideas are how we learn about each other.  But don’t expect me not be offended by what you say, because I sure expect you to be offended by what I have to say.  

July 14, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, Social Justice | , , , , | 4 Comments

Dinos & Darwin

More dinosaur pics, and Charles D!  Go see!

July 11, 2012 Posted by | Science | , , | Leave a comment

Is a Name Change in Order?

I’ve come up with a new username for various sites.  Currently my username is jwalker1960, which is pretty mundane.  I’m going with romanticatheist.  Given that, I’m thinking about changing the name of this blog to, you guessed it, “The Romantic Atheist”.

Why?  First, “Freethinking for Dummies” is trite and no longer really reflects what I blog about.  When I started this blog I discussed different issues relating to skepticism in general, but over time I have been writing more about religion and atheism.  

I also happen to be a poet and hopeless romantic.  I truly believe in true love, kindness, peace & harmony, and all that other pit-in-the-sky stuff.  

Unfortunately, there is already a blog of the same name, but is seems to be just photos mostly unrelated in any way to atheism, no real blogging or discussion of issues, so I think I could be justified in using the same name.  What do you think?

July 7, 2012 Posted by | Atheism | , | 2 Comments

The Omaha Coalition of Reason Billboard

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8027/7525071880_8deb21c121.jpg

The Omaha Coalition of Reason  has put up this billboard on 72 St., one of the busiest in Omaha.  Surprisingly, I hadn’t heard of the organization before.  The have a pretty good list of member groups, only one of which I was anyway involved in (I went to two meetings), Omaha Atheists.  

It’s good to learn that there are other secular groups here in town.  My wife and I will have to go to some of the activities of these groups and support them in anyway we can.  Sure, it is great to blog about secular issues and discuss them on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, but nothing beat good ol’ fashioned face to face interaction.

You should check in your area and see what secular groups are there.  Get involved, even if it’s just to donate a little of your time or money.  

July 7, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, secular humanism, Skepticism | , | 2 Comments

“God is Just a Placeholder for Our Ignorance”

“God is just a placeholder for our ignorance.”

I just thought this up.  It’s not original really, at least not as a thought, but a search of google doesn’t turn up that exact wording with the same context and meaning (although it does turn up this on Butterflies & Wheels, but that isn’t exactly the same).  Yeah for me!  

I want to have buttons and bumper stickers made up with that on it.   Anyone know the best way (read cheapest) to do that?

July 7, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, Science, Skepticism | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Born Again Atheist? It’s More Accurate Than The Christian Kind.

atheism_ftw_by_aatheist-d56ci1o

I saw a picture of this button on DeviantArt.  I liked it, but it got me thinking.

Born again Christians use the term “Born Again” to denote their belief that when they accept Jesus as their personal savior they are “born again” in spirit.  This phrase and concept is taken from  John 3:1-36,

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. …

To say, as the button above does, that an atheist is born again once they reject theism is not quite the same thing.  It is really more of a reversion.  

In Islam, converting to Islam is said to be actually reverting because of the Islamic believe that everyone is born a believer in the one true god, but later is lead astray.  Of course, this makes the erroneous (in my view) assumption that there is one true god.  

An atheist is someone who does not believe in any god/gods,  or any supernatural begins like angels, devils, demons, jinns, etc. So to say that you are a “born again” atheist is about as true statement as you can get since none of us are born with a belief in anything, never mind a god or gods.  These beliefs are usually learned or taught to us.  

That’s not to say that, left to our own devices we wouldn’t create a god or gods on our own to explain the world around us.  This is human psychology and is where religions come from in the first place.  We have evolved to see agency (a specific animated cause) in everything around us, perhaps from the survival need to see a predator instead of just a bunch of leaves or grass in the bushes.  Sure, we could assume that it is just a random pattern, but if it were a lion, we’d be lunchmeat.  Those of our ancestors who assumed that something living was there survived to reproduce and pass on this evolutionary trait.  

This need to see agency in the things around us also gave rise to giving agency to things unseen as well.  When trying to answer what is basically the meaning of life (which we all know is 42, of course), we naturally assigned agency to explain that as well.  A rain god must cause the rain.  A wind god must cause the wind.  Ditto for all of the other things in nature.  

Eventually, logic dictated that the gods must all be ruled by a god of superior power, just as we were ruled by a chieftain or king.  As time went on, logic again told us that our entire universe must have come from somewhere and that there had to be something even greater than the existing gods.  A creator god was born and eventually, this creator god not only ruled over the other gods, but completely did away for the need for them.  Everything could be explained as the actions of this one, all powerful god.

As time went by, our inquiry into the workings nature took on the form of ideas followed by testing.  This lead to the scientific method which then lead to amazingly accurate explanations and predictions of the workings of the universe.  The forces that controlled nature could now be explained without the need for god or gods.  This didn’t preclude the actual existence of them, but eliminated the need for them to explain the things that they had always been needed for.

Once we saw that we could explain nature without having to resort to “god did it”, many of use came to the belief that since there is no need for a god, there probably isn’t a god at all.  

The need to explain the world we live in is universal.  The need to see agency is deeply ingrained in our brains.  This need has driven how we explain our world and has shaped the explanations that all the varied cultures have come up with, leading to all the different gods that have ever been postulated to exist.  But the agency we are wired to see doesn’t actually exist.  It was evolved to protect us, not to explain anything.

While we are born with this need, we are not born with a belief of any kind.  Beliefs are shaped by those around us, by social settings.  Most of us accept those beliefs because they are reinforced by our inclination to see agency in non-animate things.  Even as children, we try to use reason and logic to make sense of the world around us, but reason is often trumped by socially enforced beliefs.  It is extremely difficult to shakes these beliefs, but when we let reason and logic guide us, we can finally let go of these beliefs and are “born again” into the state in which we were first born, a state of not knowing.  Then our minds are clear, pure, and ready to find the real answers to the meaning of life.

July 7, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, Skepticism | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dino-rama!

More awesome dinosaur images.  Go see them!

July 4, 2012 Posted by | Science | , , | 1 Comment

   

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