Monday, August 31, 2009

Conscientious objection won't work

Dogs wag tails. Tails don't wag dogs.

President Obama's move to disallow health care workers the option to display their conscientious objections to participating in some medical procedures by refusing specific tasks is the right step to take and the only step to take. At the crux of the issue is, of course, abortion.

Health care workers who don't want to take part in performing abortions have always had the option to refuse. Nothing's changed. They can quit their jobs if they want to. That's the ultimate option and its an option which will always be available not only to a squimish health care worker or to someone who claims moral objections but to every other worker in all sorts of situations as well; moreover, it is entirely unreasonable to search for any middle ground of appeasement.

There has recently been a somewhat similar case of "morally motivated insubordination" involving a Des Moines Iowa bus driver. Does anyone recall that news? Driver suspended. The case speaks clearly and sensibly about a worker's rights to subordinate or not.

Imagine what our world would become if workers (in all sorts of industries) could pick and choose their duties like they pick and choose their lunchtime burgers. Our supply of reliable services and goods would fall apart at the seams. Our societies would become a shambles in no time.

Imagine a baseball player who might decide that he morally objects to catching baseballs hit by lefties... or a truck driver who becomes morally opposed to driving his truck across river bridges. (I know these are preposterous examples; nonetheless, they make the point.) If an employee chooses to work for an employer who must rely on him to do the job he was hired to do, there are no options for the employee but to see that the job gets done, or be fired, or quit. What could be more clear than that?

Enacting any new law meant to accommodate ideas of "conscientious objection" in health care is a stupid idea that won't work.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Are atheist groups churches?

If it looks like a duck, is it?

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck... is it a duck? Hmmm... Is this a trick question?

Are atheist groups churches?

Gosh. I really hate to admit it (the word church is so unappealing to me) but it certainly seems that atheist groups are looking more and more like church groups all the time.

Quack. Quack.

Can you imagine the future even as near as ten years ahead? I've written prior to this about how our atheist groups ought to assume replacing today's god-believing churches with ourselves. Like it or not, it just makes sense.

Society is going to see changes as theism falls apart. And please, let's not even begin to argue the question. There's very little doubt that theism will fall apart - it's happening even at this very moment. So, who's going to fill in the gaps that the current god-believing groups vacate? Who's going to run the shops?

When past president, George W Bush, enacted the much talked against faith-based initiative program, he did so in part to insure that an abundance of needed civil charity brought to our communities by church groups would last un-threatened. It was likely as much an economic consideration as it was a political pandering for right wing votes. Had Bush not called his act "faith-based" but rather picked a name like "community-based" a great deal of the whoop la over his action could have been avoided; the sacrifice of a few votes would have been the only cost.

Feeding and sheltering the poor and homeless, providing assistance for expectant teen-aged moms, giving assistance to older citizens and families in crisis and the variety of other charitable services out there cannot be ignored as being social concerns unworthy of support. The "much talked against" side of the Bush decision was not that these community minded services should be left under-served or completely abandon - not at all - nor was it that pregnant teens were unworthy of receiving help, but rather, all the whoop la was fear (and reasonable expectations) that paying for and trusting religions to mete out charity could be and most likely would result in there being bias in the mix.

So far, President Obama hasn't pulled the plug on faith-based program funding nor has he changed the name, and I'm not surprised. Just as Bush hoped to gain votes by applying the word faith-based to his program, President Obama can and will make hay by allowing the name to remain. Either way, our communities get money for running much needed civic minded services our government isn't otherwise able to provide; and, economically that's a rather astute political decision for a leader to uphold.

So, what to do?

First of all, we atheists ought to be more closely interested in where all that faith-based money has gone and in how its being used. There may be some fights we have to fight, and we need to do some better watch-dog work for prevention. Additionally, and here let me echo the earliest part of this blog, we ought to be exploring new territories and asking ourselves, soul searchingly, and asking our state and federal governments, officially, if by law we atheists and our atheist groups are tantamount to being churches?

Quack. Quack. Quack.

Perhaps we ought to apply for some of that federal money and find out.

"What are we going to do?"

"What are we going to do?"

I'm a strong advocate for having on-the-ground atheist groups - the more the better - and, to do my part, I've personally been involved in getting a couple of local groups started. (It isn't a trick that's all that hard to accomplish. Try it. Need help? Ask.)

Here's the dilemma and the reason I'm composing this blog: I was once asked, point blank, "[Now that we've formed up] ...What are we going to do?" The question set me immediately aback and I've been hearing the echoes of it ever since.

In my own mind, the purpose for having atheist groups is to function in a capacity of society's stabilizing ballast, as virtual reservoirs of godless reason in opposition to what has grown over the decades to become an increasingly out of balance and sinking American system - a system which is easily lead around by the unreasonable wants of religion to rule over everything. Resultingly, I see our local groups as having a single most important purpose, that of being organized bodies to stand at-the-ready and respond in protest to all invasions by religion upon personal civil liberty. I see us, our local atheist groups, as today's standing minutemen.

With this in mind, you might be able to gather why I was originally stunned. To specifically answer the question "...what are we going to do?" with having my kind of group purpose in mind required that some off-level religious threat loomed eminently in need of immediate attention. That isn't usually the case, is it?

For the most part, atheist issues needing local group attention come and go. Examples: A certain area school that habitually skirts the ban on school prayer law, no doubt requires constant local attention (LOL ... moreover, it would probably already be getting plenty of it from our national organizations). Demonstrations and protests organized on local levels would likely be in order. But for lessor issues, like that of a local business which offered special discounts to church members, a different solution might be apropos. In the later case, a simple letter of reminder to the business owner stating that his practices are in violation of the law would likely be an effective response.

So, you a can perhaps now see that answering "What are we going to do?" covers a very wide range of possibilities and an even wider array of possible responses. As for what an atheist group does: what we stand for and what we stand against determines what we're likely to do. Short of that, answering "What are we going to do?" yields responses that are no more shocking than the ordinary set of pass-time choices. Bowling, anyone?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to school - Let's make it a good year

Now that school is back in, we can look forward to a couple of things happening - some good and some bad. Lets' cover the good stuff first because that's always more fun.

Joining the local PTO is a darn good idea for starters, but getting to know the school officials and teachers first hand is even better. Volunteer. There's nothing like being on the job to insure that the job gets done right. You can be certain that the "other guys" will be there (they always are) recognizing that we should be there, too, isn't a difficult stretch to make.

At the level of little guys and gals, our grade schoolers, we can look forward to field trips and picnics and stage plays and holidays. And for our older kids, there'll be sporting events and dress-up dances. For all of these things, regardless of the age, in order to see them happen for the best that our kids can get, we need to encourage ourselves, we atheist parents and grandparents (...that's me) to get involved and be active participants. And at the top end of education, at the collage and university levels, I strongly encourage every young atheist adult to become attached to and active in his local campus atheist group. Moreover, if there is none, make one.

Just as for anything else that happens in our world, school events at all levels ought to be looked upon as proper focuses for atheist attention. If we'd like to keep our schools functioning as nice little secular institutions, just as they ought to be under the law, then we'd better take part in being there to be sure that that's the case.... always. Now, can I have an "A effin' men" to that brothers and sisters?

But now for the bad stuff... I suspect that at some point during the year we'll once again be reading about child abuse cases and about religiously bias intrusions of all types and about attempts by the ultra-conservative right wing religious fanatics to nose their way "somehow" into mucking-up our public schools. We might even have to deal with politically manipulated misdirected-spending. (Oh my... its another new school year.) Let's do our best to prevent these sorts of things this year but when they happen (and they will) let's be ready to pounce upon the perpetrators just as hard as we possibly can and say: (as Dawkins said about religious interferences into science,) "Enough is enough."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On marriage-making (again):

On marriage-making (again):

You can look up my previous blog posts if you're the curious type and you want to see where I've been on this subject so far, but that really isn't necessary to understand what I'm on about today. (Let's get into the marriage-making business Here's the poop on "outside the church" weddings)

Our state laws concerning "who is qualified" to conduct marriage ceremonies needs overhaul.

Currently, in my own state of Arkansas, the officiants of marriage ceremonies fall into one of two categories: ordained clergy or elected/appointed court official. The requirements and steps for becoming either are quite different. And there's no in-between.

Thanks to having a smart friend to call on for answers, I've discovered that ordination as clergy can be surprisingly simple... anyone can become an ordained minister almost instantly. So if you're interested in performing weddings for your friends and family... for amusement or for profit or (heaven help us) for religious reasons, this is a way to go. Contrast this no-brainer-path to becoming a judge or a Justice of the Peace by either the public election process or by political appointment and you'll easily see a world of difference.

For purposes of the state, making marriages legal amounts to little more than hearing an oath of agreement stated by each of the involved parties and then watching each sign the dotted line on of the license. That's it. The rest is merely a matter of recording keeping for the county court filing-clerk to deal with. 'Put it in the books. It's a done deal.' By all that's reasonable, recognizing how simple the legalities are, one can quickly imagine that our marriage-making system could be just as quickly streamlined into a process less complex than issuing fishing licenses; and, if anyone can think up a valid reason for requiring either a clergyman or a judge to get involved in the question of who may or may not take his chances dipping a hooked-worm into a pond, please speak now or forever hold your peace.

So what's up with all the inefficiency of the marriage processing game we currently practice? Why in the world do we do it the way we do?

Can you say, "appeasement"?

Our current system is designed to satisfy a commonly popular notion - a church notion held high on a pedestal - that there is "sanctity" in marriage. "Sanctity"...???? wtf...????

Omitting all considerations of common law marriage (a can of worms of its own) our present system for marriage-making is maintained as a multi-step process for no better reason than to make it possible for religion to put its nose in the pie. If marring were streamlined to the point of efficiency we've established for obtaining a fishing license, the church would be left on the dock - no fishing for you today. They'd have no way to get the preacher's signature on any line of officialdom to be filed by the state. And this brings me back to my opening statement... Our state laws concerning "who is qualified" to conduct marriage ceremonies needs overhaul.

Why not cut to the chase..? If we're going to continue the practice of "officiating" publicly over the saying of marriage vows, shouldn't the list of acceptably qualified officiants be appended to include yet another category of official... a non-clergy / non-judge officiant? Shouldn't we make room for some sort of secular level witness? I think, "Yes," and I recommend that society ought to open its eyes to an already existing and well established set of prospective individuals, perfectly situated, to do the job starting right now: Public Notaries.

And as far as preachers go for officiating marriages... do we really need to appease their need to have their signatures on state issued licenses? Wouldn't it do as well for churches and preachers to do their own "sanctifying thingy" after the fact? It's not like it makes a whole heep of difference to the success of a marriage anyhow, is it?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why we have national organizations

This is why we have national organizations:

If you are an atheist and interested in keeping religion from interfering with your daily life and from mucking up your government, read this months summation of the good work Secular Coalition of America has been doing for you (and me).

August 25, 2009

August Break Report on the 111th Congress

Dear Randall,

Congress has recessed for its August break. Let's reflect on the Secular Coalition for America's efforts in the first eight months of 2009. The Religious Right has been less successful at infusing religion into public policy. The Secular Coalition helped stymie their efforts. We joined with our coalition partners, encouraging lawmakers to refuse to give in to the Religious Right's policy demands. We successfully opposed:

  • funding faith-based organizations in the stimulus package,
  • forcing taxpayers to pay for the religious education of D.C. students,
  • the continuation of the global gag rule that suppresses the provision of critical medical information to patients,
  • funding abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, and
  • the creation of an annual "Spiritual Heritage Week"

In addition to legislative accomplishments, the Secular Coalition for America had our first individual meeting with White House officials. This meeting gave us the opportunity to tell the White House who nontheists are, and articulate our policy interests. This meeting increased the visibility and improved the perception of nontheists in America. Since our first meeting in May, we've been invited back to the White House to attend events and discuss nontheists and our interests on four separate occasions. Our increased visibility has been covered in the New York Times. The Nation magazine acknowledged that you are increasingly "assertive and credible."

Despite tremendous success, there were disappointments. Our attempt to stop an engraving of the 1950s-era "In God We Trust" motto on the walls of the new Capitol Visitor's Center failed. Eight members of Congress bravely voted against the engraving -- and for our Constitution. It appears the D.C. religious school voucher program will continue in modified form. The administration decided children currently enrolled in the program will be allowed to continue.

This Fall we will advocate that Congress strike language in any and all bills that would allow faith-based organizations to use federal funds to proselytize and discriminate based on religion. We will highlight unjust special rights given to religious groups. For example, religious exemptions from child care and child protective laws can harm the most vulnerable among us. We will continue to oppose the expansion of the D.C. religious school voucher program.

Thank you for taking action based on our Alerts, and for supporting the Secular Coalition for America financially. Your help has brought us from no visibility in Washington four years ago to a legitimate place at the table in 2009. Together we must build on this success. Now is the time to volunteer. Now is the time to help financially. Now is the time to make a difference.

Best wishes,
Sean Faircloth
Executive Director

Now ... go ahead and get out your wallet, grab your purse or otherwise do what you would usually do to send in a few donation bucks. Let's keep this outfit at the head of the game for all our sakes.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The new "Church of the America People"

The new "Church of the America People"

It doesn't take a whole lot of vision to see that traditional religions will eventually fall away in the US just as they've done in Europe. But different than in Europe, that's gunna put a glut of empty small to medium sized church buildings on the block.

Should atheist groups start socking away cash today to be ready to buy tomorrow? You bet we should.

Like it or not, the freethinking groups and skeptic societies we're busy assembling in public library meeting rooms today will be moving into the abandon church buildings tomorrow; moreover, we'll be filling in the gaps and performing many of the same services left adrift by the churches when they finally draw their last breath. Marriage ceremonies, birth celebrations, funerals and rites recognizing the coming of age of our youngsters will all certainly still be a part of our American culture. And who will be the leaders of the band...? Atheists.

The Unitarian Universalist churches are already in full swing. They'll possibly become more popular as the next decade passes - time will tell - and I suspect we'll also be seeing a trend in the currently popular god-based religious sects toward leaving their Gods more and more out of the picture to become more secular just as the UU churches are doing today. And make no mistake about it... a big double-handful of brand new atheist centers and godless community groups will also be out there growing members, popping up more and more and moving into former failed churches, to become the next generation "Church of the American People".

So... should we figure on buying a church building? You bet we should.

Let's fix marriage... for the sake of kids.

Let's fix marriage... for the sake of kids.

Let's say you've just been born... or let's say you've just been potentially born and you're busy catching your breath along with the two young adults, still virtual strangers, who have just conceived the future you. (Oh my goodness.) Does it make any difference to you at all whether your seed-supplying parents are married? Of course not. What you need is money.

An obvious failing of today's marriage law treads on the lives of our children. Which parent is the better parent and which will have the greater say over what will constitute a child's life is part of the ugly mix called marriage right from the outset of ever new life, of every child touched by married parents; this is what's built into the mess we call divorce - the result of marriage. It's intolerable.

The greatest part of the problems we commonly see over child custody, the arguments that virtually attempt to cut children in half to please the whims of their emotionally charged 'I-must-win' adult parents at the time of a household shattering under divorce, can be easily circumvented, indeed avoided altogether, by adding a few simple legal demands of understanding and agreement into our marriage laws. The first and most basic new addition to any improved set of marriage laws ought to include the understanding that children are not a property of their parents or of marriages. Children belong to themselves. If anything, we ought to begin to see that it is the parents who belong to their children, owing them responsibility, rather than the other way around.

So how do we fix it?

If children are not a part of their parents marriages (and, by all that's reasonable, they are not) then they are independent. We need only to provide the means for each independent child to become established as its own provider. Sounds impossible doesn't it? Not...!

At birth, each new arriving child can be identified as having two responsible contributing parents. (Exceptional cases of science assisted new life, test tube babies, and bona fide virgin birth are not being considered here.) The fact that children have parents makes it easy to determine exactly who must bear the burden of child welfare. From the first day of every child's life there ought to be established a growing repository account for the purpose of securing its day-to-day living and its future - the independent child's welfare social security fund. If from the start, every child inherited a healthy chunk of its parents property and wealth, hands down and no questions asked, along with a legal right to (and an immediate initiation of deposits made in the child's name) from a percentage from every dollar earned by each of its parents, some of the problems of child welfare and custody might be eliminated. Were the children secured of their livelihoods, of shelter, food and other essentials, questions of parental marriage status would be come moot. Picture the monthly rent and utility bills being paid out of the child's account... who needs mom or dad? Any responsible adult could then easily become an advocate and custodial caretaker for any child, opening the door for aunts, uncles and grandparents to fill the shoes of parents who decide to give up the ship. Who's married to who (or not) would then have nothing to do with the security of children.

I think it's high time for us to recognize that neither marriage nor child welfare dependent upon harmonized marriages are better secured in any way by taking their beginnings under religious sanctity. Reason and common sense laws need to be recognized as better organizers for these aspects of our society. No amount of higher power blessings, regardless of which religion and which god is named, provides any guarantee for the stability of society. It's time to move the ideas derived from churches, synagogues, temples and altars out of the marriage-making business. It's time to move children out of marriages. Lawyers and courts, mandatory prenuptial agreements and mandatory from-birth child welfare laws, will do a much better job of stabilizing our basic needs than sacred rites ever have.

Lets start sweeping the old church pleasing solutions aside. They don't work.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Here's the poop on "outside the church" weddings...

Here's the poop on "outside the church" weddings...

I'm not inclined to be a careful researcher nor am I a dedicated statistician, so take that into consideration as I rant about the unbalanced ledgers of the marriage-making business here in my home state of Arkansas.

I've recently posted a couple of blogs on marriage: "Let's fix up marriage- Part I" and "Let's get into the marriage-making business" where I've attempted to point out how religion has an unfair upper hand over non-religion. Well... I'm still on the same war path for this blog post.

To any couple wanting to have a civil marriage ceremony here in Arkansas, here's the poop. Finding a location to conduct your non-religious wedding and finding an appropriate administrator won't be as easy a task for you as it will be for the couple who wish to wed in a church.

I had to do my own quick tabulations on the number of Arkansas churches vs Arkansas courthouses, but even as inaccurate as my figures may be (and I admit that they're likely off by a rather significant percentage) the deck is so obviously stacked favoring religious marriage that its staggering. There are something on the order of 3443 Arkansas church locations (check my addition for the number of Arkansas churches here: - Religion by Location) and fewer than 300 wedding-appropriate courthouses in 75 counties. WOW.... Can you say 10 fold?

I suspect that looking into the numbers of churches vs courts in most states will yield similar results. Does anyone else think we atheists need to get busy to make a few changes?

Let's get into the marriage-making business

Let's get into the marriage business...
... and let's make civil wedding ceremonies so popular that they diminish the importance of religious wedding ceremonies in the doing.

Here's an interesting synopses of who can conduct weddings under the marriage laws, state by state, in the US: List

You'll note as you scroll down the page that nearly all states specifically recognize religious leaders, the clergy, as individuals qualified to perform wedding ceremonies. (They even get first mention by most states.) Contrast that with the number of states which offer similar accommodation to non-religious group leaders. Hmm.... Not so promising, is it?

I'm wondering just how "impossible" it might be in some states to apply for and be granted the right to conduct legal marriage... as a non-religious leader. And, I'm not talking about becoming a Judge or a Justice of the Peace. Those are roads with all sorts of political pitfalls including strict limitation of positions available and required elections. (Not quite what I'd call a level playing field compared to the accommodations made for church officials.)

Organized freethinking groups, atheist groups, skeptic societies and the like are becoming more and more commonplace in our towns and cities. Why are we not competing with religious groups and performing our own wedding ceremonies? Why are we not in the marriage business just as commonly as church groups are?

The answer seems to be written into the state laws - bias state laws - and we ought to be doing something about that.
August FreeThought Today - LOL

If you haven't read the August issue of FreeThought Today, ffrf's monthly newspaper, get one and prepare to laugh.

The front page article is all business, as it ought to be, covering the current ongoing ffrf law suit that's set to topple the proposed engraving of the Capital Visiters Center walls with a bunch of ugly government sponsored religious advertising. The words "In God We Trust" and "under God" are once again being pushed under our noses. I suspect the suit may be a difficult fight but I also suspect that we non-believers stand to prevail.

The fun stuff in this month's issue, however, is a few pages farther in on page six... Its called "Sharing the Crank Mail" and share it does. There's a full page of christian created hate mail to peruse and it's a hoot and a half, to say the least. I'll quote just one, my favorite, and encourage all of you to subscribe to ffrf and read the others on your own.





Now if that doesn't help make your day, may I suggest that you take a pill or have a stiff drink and head for bed. In the morning, be sure to head over to ffrf to subscribe. You'll have better days following if you do.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What's wrong with religion anyhow...

What's so wrong with religion anyhow...? (LOL. That's a good one.)

What's so wrong with religion in addition to being based on lies, half-truths, faulty presuppositions and nonsense...? Everything (or just about everything.)

Religion is a political system (That's right. It's a political system...) with all the possible trappings of the worst totalitarian autocracy imaginable. We've seen oodles of historic evidence for the potential of the top-down tyrannical nightmares of religious systems throughout history. There is no doubt about the truth of this. Take any example of society, large or small, modern or ancient, and the ills of religion can be easily identified within it. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the witch hunts of Salem, religion has left its mark as a governing system capable of wielding Hell on Earth.

Wherever there is the potential for an unchecked leadership to prosper, for leadership based on nothing of the people or of reason but rather only upon an imposition over the people, religion is either directly at the helm or it looms nearby to pave the way or fill-in the wake. By all that's reasonable, it, religion, must be stopped cold.

Waco Texas and the Branch Dravidian cult comes quickly to mind right along with the Spanish Inquisition and the Taliban of Afghanistan. The identifiable leadership from any these historic episodes of our human adventure were obviously wrong... but why?

The answer is quite simple: They were wrong because they were allowed to rule from positions of undeserved authority - they were wrong for assuming the right to rule un-questioned for no better reason than saying they'd been chosen by some sort of divine non-reality. and the people they ruled over were even more wrong for allowing it. Only a Royal bloodline sets as ridiculously preposterous an example of undeserved authority. This kind of thinking and this kind of activity must end worldwide.

I call upon people of better judgment to move to the forefront of representative government and place strong legal barriers in the way of religion. While I see no harm in an individuals right to believe as he may (supporting each individual's unwritten birthright to self-determined stupidity if he so chooses) I take a very strong stance against neighbor leading neighbor astray of his reason by touting self-given religious authority. We must strengthen our laws against fraud, deception and con-artistry to include strict restraints upon religious leaders at all levels. No more can we trust in God to do the work of man. God hasn't been minding the store.

Taste of Reality Picnics

Plan "A Taste of reality picnic" for your group.

Can you picture a couple of charcoal grills covered with hotdogs, cooking to perfection? Now add some yellow mustard, some chopped onions and relish, a pickle, a tomato slice and a finely measured sprinkle of celery salt and, there, you have it - the perfect hotdog... Let's make a few billion of them this fall.

But let's add a little taste of reality to each swallow, okay?

Can you picture a public park smack dab in the center of town... or a busy street corner? And can you picture your atheist group gathered there to meet and greet passers-by? Can you also picture a few carefully written well placed "in your face" signs?

And how about some lemonade? It's a tad bitter but it's refreshing.

Doesn't this sound like a terrific way to spend a fall afternoon?

God Graffiti

God Graffiti.

I've just returned from a driving trip through St Louis and Chicago... and guess what's on my mind? "God graffiti". It's everywhere.

Honestly, I'm darn near ready to do some spray painting of my own... better yet, I'm about ready to ask to use the church restroom and then scribble "Jesus Saves" all over the walls.

The legitimate church signs, billboards, giant crosses and such, are eyesores enough for a non-believer like me. They already litter the roadsides and neighborhoods like crazy. Do god-believers really have to add to the mix by spray painting "Trust Jesus" on every overpass and retaining wall? It's disgusting!

Cities and states across the nation are spending millions of dollars to keep up with the removal of this sort of thing. I take it that even Christians are unhappy about paying whatever costs are being tacked on to our taxes. They don't like "Christian Graffiti" any more than I do.

So... all of that brings to mind another kind of graffiti, a government sponsored kind.

When the heck is congress going to act to get rid of the stupid "God Graffiti" that's being printed on all our money? Hmmm... when Hell freezes over, I guess.

Being a part of the Cat Herd - pros and cons

Being a part of the Cat Herd - pros and cons

I'm all for atheism... no doubt. And I'm all for seeing us efficiently organize ourselves as well as we can just as other single-minded groups have done (even more so since we're still relatively few in numbers by comparison to the mass of religions we have to vie with). Yet, there's something to be said about our unherdedness, too. It has its value.

Without a single clearly identifiable "atheist Pope" (Dawkins?) and without having any single atheist repository of godless doctrine, we atheists stand in the fight-ring as opponents who present a rather tough target to hit. There's something to be appreciated about that. In some ways, our natural instincts toward being unherdable as individuals and not openly linked to any single group is working to our advantage.

As a group, it appears, we can have our cake and eat it, too, if, as individuals, we remain by all appearances unattached and anonymous in the crowd.

Now don't get me wrong... I'm all for getting people out of the closet and for growing up our atheist member groups, large and small, national and local. Before everything, it's from supporting our groups and through being a part of them that we have voice. We certainly need that; no doubt about it! Its our groups who do our dirty work. They file our law suits, fight our court battles and make our political statements. They're invaluable! (And to everyone who isn't lending a hand and getting his hands dirty from time to time: Shame on you!) By the way, on the subject of improving our atheist groups, there's some very good reading to be found at Atheist Revolution... Try this article, for example: Read

But here, all I'm am saying is that we're quite lucky as a movement to be individuals who appear unattached to our own groups and who are naturally unidentifiable (as atheists) in the crowd; we need to become very aware, and even protective, about keeping this advantage.

Here's why: In comparing our atheist movement to other social change movements, to race equality, to the women's movement, and to the gay rights movement, it's easy to see how we, by our lack of outward differences in appearances, don't stand out in a crowd. Its a major plus for us - think about it. One of the most unfortunate circumstance that held back blacks (and still does hold them back) from making more rapid advances toward true racial equality is, and always has been, quite simply, the obvious physical difference of skin color. Blacks, like it or not, are "dresses" to be easily targeted for discrimination by whatever low-life numb-skull decides to take aim. Women and sometimes gays face the same uphill challenge for exactly the same reasons. They are, all of them, more easily spotted in the crowd than we are. We atheists don't have that problem. In fact, for all that anyone can guess, its turning out that we are the crowd and it's turning out that we're extremely fortunate for being so.

You may or may not have ever been asked the classic super hero question. It goes like this: "If you could choose to have any super ability imaginable, super strength, super intelligence, the ability to fly, etc., what would you choose?" One of the best possible options is "invisibility". If your adversaries don't know your around, you might get the advantage of seeing and hearing some of the things they'd rather not want you to know about. Interesting, isn't it? Well guess what, there are currently 50 million non-religious Americans mixed anonymously into society - "ghost-like and invisible" - we're out here watching and listening all the time. Our ranks include both sexes, all races and every possible outward appearance imaginable... tall, short, fat, skinny, young and old, able and disabled... and, good gosh, let's keep it that way. Our "invisibility" and our unherdedability have been helping to keep religious America a tad off its guard... and that's good.

While there may come the time when wearing a red "A" pin will help our movement along, I don't see it as giving us any extra advantage in our day-to-day lives. Better, remaining as unherded cats with of a wide variety of differently functioning atheist-friendly organizations to support for doing our dirty work, the ACLU, FFRF, SCOA, etc., seems to be giving us an upper hand.

Am I a herded cat wearing a red "A" pin...? Not on most days... Nope.


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