Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

An Atheist Monument Being Unveiled Next to The Ten Commandments is Nothing to Celebrate

An article in the Washington Post reports on the new monument that has been installed next to one of the Ten Commandments outside a Florida courthouse.

Atheists had sued to remove the Ten Commandments monument because it violates the the Establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.  An agreement was reached that, instead of removing the monument, atheists would be able to erect their own monument on public property next to it.

The monument that the atheists erected contain quotes by various founding fathers that are much more apt for a courthouse than the Ten Commandments, almost half of which apply to how God should be worshiped and have no bearing on U.S. Law.  

While I support displaying monuments to our founding fathers and quotes from them that support actual U.S. legal principles, I have serious reservations about how this particular case played out.

Allowing a secular monument on public land, of course, does not violate the Establishment clause, but doing so in this case inextricably links the secular monument with that of the Ten Commandments.  In essence, it gives validity to the idea that it is OK to allow a religious monument on public property.   By agreeing to erect a secular monument next to a religious one, these atheists have legitimized the display of religious symbols on public property.

We have secular monument aplenty across our land.  The Jefferson and Lincoln monuments come to mind.  This is how it should be.  Our legal system is founded upon the U.S. Constitution, a document that never once mentions God, and even explicitly forbids the government showing preference for any religion.  

We don’t need the condecending permission of religious minded judges or politicians to allow us to erect a monument to those who founded our country.   By accepting this settlement, atheists essentially allowed the religious crowd, who erected their monument in violation of the laws of this land, to give them something that was theirs by default.  

This is not a win for atheists.  By agreeing to allow an obviously illegal monument to stand, they have legitimized those who seek to push their religious agenda into our government at every level, and thereby made it a win for the enemies of secularism.

June 30, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , | 1 Comment

Everything You Wanted to Know About Why Christianity is Bullshit.

I recently discover a very nice site, Jesus Never Existed,  that provides a plethora of information showing that Christianity is a manufactured religion (but aren’t they all?). They provide sources for much of their material, which is a good thing.  Some of what I’ve read I’m familiar with, but a lot of it I haven’t encountered before. 

If you are interested in the history of Christianity, check them out.

June 23, 2013 Posted by | Religion | , , , | Leave a comment

Help For People Recovering From Religion

The organization Recovering From Religion has started a hotline for those who are recovering from religion.  This is in response to all of the “…countless emails and phone calls from people seeking help on their journey away from faith, at all hours of the day and night”.

If you are recovering or have recovered from religion, you know how terribly painful a process this can be.  Not only are you abandoning a life-long set of beliefs, but you face ostracization from friend, family, and co-workers.  You also live with the fear of the negative reactions you may receive when people find out you are an atheist.  

I have applied to answer the Hotline and to help out with their Facebook page.   If you are recovering from religion, or are an life-long atheists, and want to help, go and apply.  It is a great cause that will help the millions who are struggling with losing their religion.

June 23, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, secular humanism, Skepticism | , , , , | Leave a comment

We Are Not Broken

I read a lovely blog post.  It is about people with disabilities.  Please read it.

My comment on this:

I grew up with a learning disability.  I was teased, bullied.  But I’ve succeeded beyond what any of those people who made fun of me, or even most of the teachers and guidance counselors could.  My son has autism spectrum disorder.  Family, friends, strangers in the supermarket, all would try to tell me how to handle him, how to raise him, how to “fix” him.  He is not “broken”.  He never was.  He is his own person.  He is my son.  

April 1, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Catholic (il)Logic

Ok. They have a new Pope. Pope Francis.

Here is what CNN said about him:

“Until last year, Bergoglio was the archbishop of Buenos Aires before stepping down because of his age. He is 76.”

So if he was too old to be an archbishop last year, how do you figure that he’s not too old to be Pope now? I guess that is religious logic for you.

What an auspicious beginning of his new reign.  Ugh.

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Something From Nothing – Why It Doesn’t Matter If God Exist Or Not

Where did the universe come from?  This is a question that has taunted humans probably since we first became sentient.  

Most of the attempts to answer this question over the millennium have come from religion, but in the past 20 years or so, real progress has been made in physics to answer this question.  Science seems to say that the universe could have been created from nothing.  

The renowned physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawkin has postulated that the universe could have arisen from fluctuations in the quantum foam.  Others, such as physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, in his new book, “A Universe From Nothing”, suggest something along the same lines.

I’m not going to go into the science since it is far beyond my capabilities.  I’m also not going to get much into the religious and theological arguments.  What I do want to look at is a basic, simple premiss:  we, as humans, don’t understand time.

We experience time in a linear fashion.  This means that we have memories of a past, experience the present, and have expectations of the future.  Therefore time, to us, seems have a past, present, and future.  Physicists call this phenomenon The Arrow of Time, and due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, as well as other factors that involve mind-numbing math, it always flows in one direction.

The most important thing about time, and the hardest one to wrap our heads around, is that time is not separate from space.  Time and space are inextricably linked and are collectively referred to as space-time.  Time can not exist without space.  One of the consequences of this is that time has only existed as long as space has.  

Space-time, and the universe it’s self, began, as closely as we can currently work out, 13.7 billion years ago in the Big Bang, from a singularity (a point of infinite mass), similar to the singularity in the center of a black hole (in fact, some scientists postulate that our universe exists inside of a black hole, but that’s a post for another time).  

Scientists have a pretty good idea of what happened as the universe expanded back to about 10^−11 (one hundred billionth) seconds after the beginning of the Big Bang.  What happened before that time is unclear.  Here, at the very beginning, as in the heart of a black hole, the laws of physics as we know them break down.  Nothing inside the singularity can be glimpsed from the outside, but we should be able to, theoretically, go back to the very instance of the beginning.  We are close, and the more we study sub-atomic particles with tools like the Large Hadron Collider, the more we are able to learn about these very earliest moments.

The important thing to understand here, for the purposes of this discussion, is that time did not exist before the Big Bang.  Since time did not exist until the moment the universe began, the question, “What existed before the universe?”, is non-sensical.  This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a “before”, it is just that our minds are incapable of conceiving that particular state of things.  It most likely was not a time, or a place, or an anything that we can define in terms that human language can express.  Only mathematics can express this situation and translating those mathematics into human language is likely impossible, simply due to our innate inability to grasp a concept that literally doesn’t exist in our universe.  We just don’t really, and can’t really, understand time.  We are trapped in the flow of time, just as a leaf is trapped in the flow of a river.  Traveling helplessly onward.

Therefor from my thinking, asking “What existed before the universe?”, is meaningless.  Wether it was created, or if it sprang into existence due to some fundamental laws of physics that we don’t completely understand really doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that once it was in existence, everything in it has been subject to laws of physics that are, as far as we can see, so deeply woven into the fabric of space-time that they can not be broken.  

The upshot of this means that our universe is self-contained and is subject to those laws.  This precludes the existence of a personal God: one who can answer prayers and perform miracles.  If there is a god, then it is entirely outside of the universe, and as such, unable to influence, or even know of, anything within it. Hence, worship or prayer to it is useless, except as a way to give ourselves solace if we so choose.  

Call it god; call it a quantum fluctuation; call it George, it really doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that we are here, if only for the very briefest of moments.  Let’s make the most of it.

 

February 18, 2013 Posted by | Religion, Science, Skepticism | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Be Good For Goodness’ Sake

Telling someone that they shouldn’t steal or murder or rape because if they get caught they will go to prison is not teaching morality.  Similarly, telling someone that they shouldn’t engage in these same types of behaviors because the will got to hell is not teaching morality either.  What it is doing is teaching that these behaviors are bad, not because the are intrinsically immoral, but because there is the risk of negative consequences.

This type of thinking ignores the real effect of immoral actions: that they harm others.  That crime, deceit, and violence robs a person of a part of their humanity.  It attacks one of the greatest truths ever put forth by the human mind:  that we all are created equal, that we “are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (1)

True morals should be based on this principle.  They should also be based on empathy and love for our fellow Homo sapiens who we share out planet with.  By holding up threats of punishment, either in this life or a mythical one beyond it, we dehumanize each other and desensitize ourselves to the humanity within others.  

This mindset can lead to disdain of those who are seen as violating some peoples’ personal or religious morals, many of which are inhumane, insensitive, and inhumane.  

The same holds for being moral and doing good deeds for others because we empathize with their plight.  We should do kind things not expecting anything in return, but because it is intrinsically the right thing to do.  To only do good, be it giving to charity, doing a favor for a friend, or giving a blanket to a cold homeless person just because we expect a reward in heaven or to boost our status within our social circles reeks of  callousness.  These types of people do good not because it is the right thing to do, but because they are greedy for reward.  When they give to charity, help at soup kitchens, they are often thinking not of those who benefit from their deeds, but of the benefit to their social status and/or their eternal reward.

Santa Clause, that fictional character of Christmas cheer, summed up the true basis of morality:  be good for goodness’ sake.

 

(1) The Declaration of Independence

are created equal, that they are endowed

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Newtown School Shootings – When There Are No Reasons

After the horrifying shootings at the Newtown, CT school, Bryan Fisher, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association proposed that God could have stopped the shootings, but didn’t because apparently it was God’s way of saying:

“Hey, I’d be glad to protect your children, but you have to invite me back into your world first. I’m not going to go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentleman.”

A Gentleman?! Fisher’s “gentleman” god sounds more like a child throwing a tantrum because he didn’t get what he wants. A gentleman doesn’t sit by while 20 children are killed in cold blood just because he wasn’t picked for the team on the playground. I will tell you who does act like this: a coward; a sociopath; a sick and twisted, sadist.

Fisher’s god is an iniquitous and malefic thug. A god who can stand by and allow 20 innocent children be massacred is not a god worthy of praise or worth following. If such a god does exist and wishes me to believe, never mind support, that the innocent must die for the sins of the guilty, then I will proudly stand before him and tell him to kiss my ass and to send me to hell. I’d rather spend an eternity in hell than give the slightest support to such a evil creature. I thought that Jesus was the innocent one who was supposed to died for all of our sins, or did he just not get it right and now God feels that he must allow tiny children to die instead in order to pay for the supposed ills of our society? Where does God’s mercy and forgiveness come into all this? Apparently it doesn’t.

The fact is that 20 innocent children and 7 adults are dead. They aren’t dead because God is punishing us. They aren’t gone forever because of homosexuality, secularism, evolution being taught in our schools, or Obambacare. There is only one reason that they are dead: because a man walked into to the school and shot them. Period.

I’m not going to try to make this a sermon about gun control, or better access to mental health care, or any other political or social issue. That is something that we, as a society, must decide to do something about (or, as is often the case, do nothing).

We like to try to place blame when terrible things happen to us. We can’t stand the thought that something so horrific could happen for no reason as all. The reality is that nature doesn’t care and the universe doesn’t care. They just are. We, on the other hand, can and do care. Instead of seeking a reason beyond the the simple one stated above, we need to care for each other, help each other, and most importantly, cherish each other, every moment of every day. We must stop worrying about what comes after this life and focus on living each day as if it were our last, because, as we’ve been seeing far to often lately, life can be taken from us in the blink of an eye.

December 15, 2012 Posted by | Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Tea Party – American Taliban

The Tea Party is the most dangerous threat to the American way of life and to American liberty its self than anything we’ve seen since the era of McCarthyism over 50 years ago.  I’d say that they are an even greater threat.  At least during McCarthyism we still held education, science, and technology in high esteem.  In fact, it was science and technology that was going to save us from the communist threat.  McCarthyism was a political motivated by a real fear of communist expansion (but that still didn’t justify the restriction of rights that occurred).

Fortunately, the majority of Americans do seem to believe in working together for a common goal and the common good.  Unfortunately, most of them believe that we can accommodate the Tea Party and their ilk.  The reason for this, I believe, is that most of these “other” American are Christian and this makes them reluctant to criticize other Christians.  They buy into the anti-islamic, anti-atheist, anti-secular rhetoric of the Tea Party because they either don’t see the real threat or they are afraid to speak out.  This is the same thing we saw in the Islamic world after the 9/11 attacks: the vast majority of Muslims abhorred there radicals who perpetrate acts to terror in the name of Islam, but they were afraid to speak out for fear of being branded an infidel or of breaking islamic unity.

The majority of Christian in this country are accomidationis.  They believe that radical Christians can be reasoned with; can be accommodated; that compromises can be reached.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Radical Christians, along with all religious radicals, can not be reasoned with or accommodated because for them this is a holy war, a fight against good and evil.  As long as they believe that they are doing God’s work, nothing can make them compromise in the slightest thing.

Today, however, science and technology are viewed with great suspicion, even outright hostility by the religious right.  This time, in contract to McCarthyism, the perceived enemy of the Tea Party crowd isn’t a foreign threat, it is other Americans.   And unlike most of those within the secular movements, they have no room for compromise.  You are either with them or against them.  You can’t debate or argue them into changing their positions.  Like most everyone who’s world view relies on blind faith and religious righteousness, they will never yield and never give up.

This is why I constantly speak out against religion being forced on us.  This is why I continue to highlight the dangers and evils of religious thought and religious dogma that are passed off as patriotism.  This is why I always try to highlight the delusion that is theism and supernaturalism, or magical thinking. 

People use religion to foster hate and division.  Those who are ardent believers can rationalize away any evil up to and including murder.  If they are allowed to have their way, which they are getting more and more often, they would have this country become a Christian theocracy.   Anything that goes against their religious laws will be punished, those of other religions will be discriminated against.  Don’t believe it?  Just google “christian theocracy in america”.  

It is sad that the Tea Partiers had to take the Tea Party as their name.  It is an insult to all those who took part in the actual, historical tea party.  Those patriots fought for freedom from tyranny, not for the tyranny of a theocracy.  They should have rightly called themselves the American Taliban, because they are no different in their aims of creating a Christian nation than the Taliban in Afghanistan are in creating an Islamic nation there.

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, Skepticism, Social Justice | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Atheism+: Doing Good Without God.

It’s been said that getting atheists to agree on something is like herding cats.  I’d say it’s more like trying to herd cats into a tub of water.  Atheists tend to be an inquisitive bunch; an intellectually bunch.  We reject dogma and the authority that goes along with it, hence we are loathed to being told what to do and what to think.  You could say we are fiercely independent (at least I say that we are).  

Given all that, you can see why trying to get a consensus about where to go for breakfast might be hard enough, never mind were we should all stand on a particular social issue.  And that’s the real issue in getting us all to band together for a common cause: we don’t like to be told what we should think or feel.

Still, being openminded and skeptical (yes, they do go hand in hand) we are able to listen to each other and really consider what each one of us has to say.  This attitude tends to lead to civilized debates, respect for each other’s rights to express ideas, and compromise, or at least it should.  I believe that it can and that it does.

The atheist/humanist/secular/(add your own label here) movements have much more in common than they do differences.   Most of us in these movements (and most of us identify with more than one) understand this and this has allowed us to begin to come together in the past few years in greater numbers and with great effect in support of issues that we all feel that we have a stake in.

Still, there is an ugly side to us as well.  Anti-feminism has shown its self to be much more prevalent that most of us imagined it was.  This is both bad and good.  It is bad, for the obvious reason that it shows that we all are not as enlightened as we’d like to be.  It is bad because it distracts us from working together to achieve our common goals.

It is good, however, that this is now out in the open.  You can’t tackle a problem until you can first acknowledge it.  Also, it is an opportunity to clean house, as it were.  By exposing the misogynists in our midst ( actually they tend to expose themselves) we can shame them into recognizing  their misplace sense of privilege or shun them from our ranks.  It is vital that we do so because we have the fight of our lives with the religious and social conservitives on our hands.

This is where Atheism+ comes in.  The new movement is not an attempt to establish an atheist dogma, as some try to claim.  Atheism+ is an attempt to bring together atheists who believe that we have a responsibility to go beyond fighting against superstition or fighting for the separation of church and state.  We strongly believe that we have a responsibility as atheists to fight for social justice for everyone, theist and non-theist, the superstitious and the skeptical, the religious and the non-believers.  

Feminism, gay rights, separation of church and state are just a few of the issues that most of us feel are important and that we are doing a good job of brining to the forefront of the social and political forums.  

We have already begun to raise our profile in the general public’s minds.  Just this year we had the Reason Rally, which made the national news.  We also have many good organizations supporting critical thinking and humanist issues such as the Secular Student Alliance, CFI, FFRF, American Atheists, the JREF, and American Humanists.  

Except for American Atheists and the Secular Student Alliance, most of these, while they might have many atheists as members, are not atheistic groups.  What Atheism+ is, or can be, is a way for those of us who self-identify as atheists to get out and fight for social issues in public where we can meet “average” people and have them get to know us.  It will allow us to be seen as people who care for others, who do good things.  This is vitally important if atheists hope to ever become accepted by a society that currently sees us a amoral, selfish, heartless.

I urge those of you want to fight for social justice for everyone, who want to fight against misogyny, racism, bigotry, homophobia, poverty, and ignorance to consider joining the Atheist+ movement.  Talk about it with your friends and family (if they are still talking to you, that is), write about it, blog about it, tweet about it, set your Facebook profile picture to the Atheists+ symbol (see below), join the Atheist+ forum.

Let’s show the world that we are not only good without God, but we do good without God.

 

Apluslogo sm

Use me as your profile picture on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or any other site of your choice.

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Feminism, GLBT, Humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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