Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Why Atheists go to church" by Cole Morgan

This is interesting.  One of our own good friends, an atheist, attends church almost every weekend and he publishes articles in the "Faith" section of the Kansas City Star... (Oh my goodness.) Here's a sample.

Why an atheist goes to church
Special to the Star
“Why do you go?” Friends ask me this whenever I mention that I enjoy going to Bible studies. I suppose that’s because they know I am an atheist. 
About a year ago, some buddies and I started going together to different churches. The initial surprise on our fellow churchgoers’ faces when they learned we were nonbelievers was priceless.
To answer the question, there are a few reasons why I go. First of all, it’s fun. I like to learn, and attending a new church is always a rewarding experience for me. I like to hear how each denomination interprets the Bible, and why people think the way they do. So often we’ll hear someone explain why members of other denominations are not real Christians. 
For the past four weeks, a group of us have been attending a 10-week “Alpha Course” at a church.The purpose of this class, the facilitator told us, is to provide a place where people can feel relaxed about coming and talking about their beliefs. We start off with dinner, then a DVD discussing Jesus, and finally we go to our small groups. The people are friendly and we don’t keep getting asked why exactly we’re there.
When I tell people there how I feel about religion, they don’t take offense. I like that. That hasn’t always happened at Bible studies I’ve attended. Still, I feel a disconnect with my new friends in the Alpha Course. They tell me to “open the door” (the door being my heart) and if I do, “Jesus will come in.” What does this mean? I can’t even begin to understand this idea of “letting Jesus into my heart.”
As a natural born skeptic, I know that the natural world is all we need and all we have. I find the natural world exciting -- there’s so much to learn. I stay active promoting science whenever possible. I feel we only have this life, so I encourage people to be active and to support research that will help us live longer and healthier.
I am a member and help organize several nonreligious meet up groups in the Kansas City area. We have movie nights, science nights, topic nights, breakfasts and picnics to keep us busy. We also keep each other informed with voting issues and other topics we feel are unfair in our society like women’s rights and gay rights. We invite Christians many times to our groups, but few ever accept and fewer show.
I would like it if we could learn to be more rational and laugh at our differences more often. That’s another reason why I go to church. It’s nice to be able to show Christians that we don’t have horns and tails. Atheists live normal lives just like Christians do. We just believe in one fewer god.
Cole Morgan is one of 13 contributors to the Faith Walk column. Reach him at faith@kcstar.com.

Good for you, Cole Morgan, and more power to you.  (But personally, I think I'll still be skipping church.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009



Now that the 25th of December has come and gone we'll have the opportunity to enjoy a lasting peace.  Bill Donahou's War on Christmas has ended once more. And good riddance.  Perhaps Bill will have the clarity of mind to neglect declaring the next offensive in 2010.  Let's hope.

I have a though to share in the mean time.  That the "War on Christmas" is a misnomer and a divisive one at that.  What we've all just survived has not been a war "on" Christmas but rather it was the seasonal war "of" Christmas.  Year after year it is nothing less than the same old  persistently self-serving Christian attitude that the Christian Christmas Holiday is so exceptionally special it must be observed reverently by everyone ... Bah Humbug!

When next November and December come knocking, I hope this simple message will be remembered: The winter season belongs equally to everyone; Christmas does not.

Friday, December 18, 2009

United CoR, update:

United CoR, update:

I promised to give a report on some of the "ins and outs" of getting involved with United Coalition of Reason... Well, the answer is an easy one.  There are no "outs" to it.

United CoR does everything it claims, nothing more and nothing less.  They give support to local area groups who are willing to work in a coordinated way and they lend their assistance to helping establish public recognition of those groups through their billboard and media assistance advertising program.  It's a snap getting started as a United CoR affiliate group - no secret agenda, no strings attached, no fees involved.

Check it out and get your group together with your closest neighboring groups to form a Local CoR today. Its a reasonable thing to do.  Here's the link: United Coalition of Reason.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's your opinion? Cast your vote..!

What's your opinion? Cast your vote..!

A controversy here in the Land of the Free is currently being settled across the country, case by case.  The question: Does the winter holiday season, December, belong to everyone in cases where government and public property are involved?

In my home state of Arkansas, according to the courts, it apparently does.  A two year struggle between Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and the State of Arkansas has culminated in a decision.  This year, for the first time, a holiday display that competes with the traditional "single-view" Christmas display consisting of a manger and a tree has been given space on the Arkansas State Capital grounds to display its holiday message along side "what everyone expect to see," Christmas.

Did the judge decide correctly?  Should space on public property be made available for displays that differ from the traditional "Christmas decorations"?

You can answer if you act quickly.... The local news media wants to know.  Search the left hand column of this link and look for "Your Opinion": VOTE

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oh my, look at who still doesn't get it... Bill O'Reily

Oh my, look at who still doesn't get it...

Bill O'Reilly is far a drift on plenty of things, but on the Humanist winter celebration, he's outdone himself and is hopelessly lost at sea.  Read his full "Bah.. humbug" painting of atheists and Humanists here: Have Yourself a Godless Little Christmas

Mr O'Reily... do your journalistic homework.  Humanists have quite a nice little holiday celebration and we like it.  The symbols and whatnot used as reminders to celebrate are commonplace among us... even Santa gets a nod right along side Happy Human and our Human Light decorations.  You, Mr O'Reily, are apparently seeing only what you'd like to see.  It's time to wake up, sir.  Happiness and celebration are things that happen even in the absence of Jesus.

Happy Holiday to all... You, too, Bill.

Friday, December 11, 2009

On reading anything, first know the author

On reading anything, first know the author

A few days ago, I caught myself thinking while reading, drifting off the subject and taking stock of the things found between the lines.  Having such wandering thoughts while reading is sometimes an annoying occurrence yet it's more frequently a very valuable and sometimes useful habit.  On this particular occasion, I was busy gleaning nuggets out of Susan Jacoby's "The Age of Unreason" and I wondered: How in the world has Susan amassed such an impressive command of scholarly knowledge? How astonishing she is...!  Yet, there really isn't any wonder about it.  She's smart.

Reflecting back on my fleeting thoughts of awe for Jacoby's ability has caused me to consider the importance of it.  For her case, the facts are readily available. She's an accomplished author and scholar known to many.  Her credibility is unquestionable.  And now compare.  Do the authors of such books as the Bible and the Qu'ran have equally known and reputable authors?

Some readers approach some books differently than others.  They may carefully peruse a modern book's jacket for tid-bits of insight into what and who they are about to read before deciding to turn a page and lend an open mind to its writer.  However, that same prospective reader may trade off his thoughtful book selection practices when electing to pick up a Holy book.  But why?

In the case of the Bible, for example, knowing anything at all about the author(s) is nearly impossible - its authors are virtually unknown outside of the Bible itself.  By contrast, in the case of the Qu'ran, Mohammad is well known; yet, does it follow without fault that he is a reputable source for what he claims?  and the same could be said about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.  By additional contrast, now consider the reputations of Confusious, Buddha and Lao-Tse, the founders of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.  Such men were well know in their own times; they were celebrated, revered and even criticized by their peers and each one was challenged to possess a credible reputation, in deed, the likes of which could satisfy any potential reader in much the same way we find satisfaction in knowing the reputation of any modern-day author - a Jacoby for example.

And now, I must ask: How should one pick up a holy book? ... as a blank slate ready to be inscribed - blindly trusting the book's author to speak knowledgeably and truthfully? ... or as one armed by forethought and by some reasonable knowledge of who he is about to read?

I recommend: On reading anything, first know the author.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A friendly atheists advocate: Stephen Prothero

A friendly atheists advocate: Stephen Prothero

In order to follow this blog well, I'll refer you to Hermant Mehta's blog, Friendly Atheist, where Hermant has written a commentary on Stephen Prothero's Time Magazine article urging atheists to soften their approach for advocating atheist popularity.

First: I will neither agree or disagree with Stephen Prothero and the aims of his article nor will I take any issue with Hermant.  Each has made points well take and I'll leave it at that for now.  My interest is to speak, instead, about Stephen Prothero, writer, religious scholar and historian.

I've recommended Prothero's books on other occasions, merely touching on them by title, and this seems an appropriate time to say a tad more. If there are first things to mention about Prothero, the man, they would have to include words like "intergity" and "fact-minded".  His works could not be better grounded by his dedication to honest analysis and reporting than they appear to be.  Prothero is religious, a Catholic, yet he seems as capable as the best science researcher at compartmentalizing his personal beliefs in order to avoid tarnishing his work - his books.

I was especially impressed by "American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon".  It speaks mountains on the the subject of religious changes of attitude in America over the course of history.  That book is a "must read" for anyone wanting to understand American religious (and, reading between the lines, non-religious) society today.  Atheists ought to find it more than just interesting even though atheism is not its focus.

My bottom line...?  Stephen Prothero may say otherwise, but he writes for the benefit of the atheist movement and advances our interests, knowingly or not - and in a friendly way, of course.

POST SCRIPT: Since writing this, I've heard from Stephen and he thanked me for the post while correcting an error I've made.  He writes "Thanks for your kind words. I am not a Catholic, however. Steve Prothero "

My error... my apology.     


Monday, December 7, 2009

On Atheist Activism:

On Atheist Activism:

Defining the aims of atheist activism has come up as a topic in the past few days.  Gretta Christian's and vjack's blogs have spoken on it and I want to add my two cents since I don't completely agree with either one of them.

Let me begin with Gretta's ideas.  Simply put, she touts that an atheist activists ought to aim to tear down religion and god-belief straight to their foundations and abolish them. Her aim is for a religion-free world.  Vjack takes a softer approach as seem in his definition.

Atheist activism refers to the process of promoting atheism through activities such as promoting a worldview free from gods, reducing the privileged status of religion in society, and promoting atheist civil rights.

While I can't say that I disagree entirely with either Gretta or vjack on all counts, I disagree with each enough to quibble.

I strongly support atheist involvement in all walks of life and I personally encourage non-believers to become involved and active.  Atheist activism as I see it (and as I practice it) is merely taking steps to give venue to atheist opinions... to all atheist opinions.  I try to take care not to narrow which atheist opinions ought to be given top priority but rather to simply encourage the sounding of atheist voices.

My own voice is certainly not one that I wish to muzzle nor would I like being told what to think - I have my own opinions and I reserve the right to state them.  And herein is where I differ with both Gretta and vjack.  My personal style of atheist activism is merely to help organize the stage for atheists to speak their minds. I prefer to promote, preserve and protect the liberty of atheist individuals and organizations without regard for any specific "atheist aims".

Let atheists define the aims of atheism... let atheist activists provide the stage.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A local Holiday dispute: Settled

A local Holiday dispute: Settled

The residents of Little Rock, Arkansas, had better prepare themselves to be rocked this holiday season thanks to the efforts of its Central Arkansas freethinging and skeptic groups.  The dispute over weather or not atheists would be allowed to place a holiday display on the state capitol grounds along side the familiar Christian tree was a two year long struggle that has finally settled.  Upon hearing the decision, Leewood Thomas, an atheist group member and one of the projects chief contributors exclaimed: "Hip Hip Hooray!!! State Capitol here we come!"

The last stages of the battle for equal representation were finally fought between Arkansas's Secretary of State and the local ACLU chapter as the story begin to raise broader interest, reaching media agencies online and on the air.  Fayetteville CATV producer, Donald Morton, of FreeThought NWA said of the decision, "How ironic.  We covered this issue in a taped show at same hour and the same day it was being settled."

To view the display, visit its website at: Arkansas Society of Freethinkers or wait a week or two and visit the real deal on the Little Rock Capitol Building grounds.  It will be there.

Its time to get the word out:

Its time to get the word out:

I've been as thrilled as I can be by one of the unexpected results of attending last month's highlighted events - Skepticons II.  That result is the very strong possibility of a similar event following suit in Joplin this coming spring - Four State FreeThought Convention.

A handful of group leaders sat themselves down for breakfast on the second morning of Skepticons and did a little brainstorming.  That brainstorming session is still happening and its fruit has grown into creating the first of what is likely to become an annual convention style meeting of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas freethinking groups.  Whoopie...!

A Facebook page has been created to organize the ground workers for the event and it's been actively doing so right from the start.  Check it out to get involved.

Friday, December 4, 2009

In memory of...

In memory of...

A great deal of religious thought and energy is spent on contemplating "afterlife" or, in other words, on surviving the natural state of being dead as a door nail.  Somehow this kind of thinking makes no sense to most non-religious people, me included.

Being saved to live on after death, ascending into Heaven (or going to Hell) or being raptured to live with Jesus, Allah, God or whomever one dreams holds the keys to his escape from ultimate oblivion has no real substance to give critical thinking minds reason enough to accept faith in an afterlife.  So, what of it?  Why does the devout believer go through so much personal sacrifice and torment on account of this empty hopefulness for surviving death when death is so obviously and empirically inescapable?  What brings them to believe such nonsense?

The answer might be found somewhere hidden within the words "In memory of" since, as the preachers often put it, "Ones rightful place in heaven will be decided by how one lived his life."

It is argued by religionists, by Christians and others, that one cannot "buy" his way into Heaven - that making donations and doing good deeds is not enough; and yet, there are a seemingly endless stampedes of the faithful, each stumbling over the next and competing with his neighbor to be recognized for what good he gives to others and to his lord.  I'm of a mind to say that this behavior, that of being focused on seeking positive recognition, is in deed an attempt to buy a seat in Heaven and to be thought of well enough by ones peers during life to insure being remembered equally well after death.

Eastern religions seem to have a better idea of how to treat the want we may have to be remembered well.  They tout honoring their dead ancestors, but not as living souls having managed to cheat death, rather, as truly bygone lives, as passed lives, as dead people each having contributed a small part to the whole of humanity. and to life By this form of "afterlife remembrance" they gain comfort in spite of death's onset.  Easterners allow themselves to know that each will ultimately die, truly die, and that each will become oblivious to everything  that is such that they're able to realistically recognize the fact that all life is ifinite.  This honest affirmation ultimately yields one very few concerns for imagining his own impending doom.  Short of knowing that one may know pain and suffering during the process of daeth, living such a philosophy as theirs causes no dependence upon false beliefs. For anyone who has conducted his life honestly and morally, deadness is not feared.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's not an attack, it's a counter-offensive.

It's not an attack, it's a counter-offensive.

There are a whole lot of people complaining that atheists are ruining their Christmas.  They claim that Christmas is under "attack".  Bah, humbug.

In deed, our atheist and secular communities are laying claim to an equal share of the holiday season; we're grabbing up small segments of advertising space on buses and along roadsides, securing patches of grass on state capital grounds and erecting placards here and there - and for what? Well, how about for the purpose of celebrating our idea of what the winter holiday season is all about.... Its not only about the birth of Jesus H. Christ.

Atheists, agnostics, Humanists and the host of other non-religious people as well as Jews, Muslims, Hindus and the rest of the non-Christian religious population of America aren't "attacking" Christmas... not at all.  Non-Christian Americans are merely stepping froward to celebrate the holidays according to their own ways of thinking.  Attack?  No.  If it's anything, it is a counter attack.  For every "Merry Christmas" wish heard, there can now be heard a resounding echo of "Happy Holidays" and for non-Christians, that's a nice change to hear.        


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