Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Annie Laurie steps up to bat:

If you haven't done so already, there are a slew of news videos to watch surrounding the recent ffrf win over the National Day of Prayer.  And guess who's been out front under the spotlight... Annie Laurie Gaylor.  Wow. That's good to see.

Women are too infrequently seen and heard from when it comes to speaking out for atheist issues.  Annie Laurie is a welcomed exception to the rule.  Check out ffrf in the news from their website or visit Youtube and search her by name.  Our girl from Madison Wisconsin is on the job.
. Annie Laurie steps up to bat:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Who should answer...? Who will answer...?

I'm a little frustrated by the apparent apathy and disregard for keeping the record straight on one simple question of the day - or rather on an important question of the age.  It isn't at all uncommon to hear words of "Our country was founded as a Christian nation" spilling from the mouths of politicians on the public stage, the media and especially from little guys on the streets.  And that's just humbug!

Mis-information, widespread misinformation, is dangerous.

The United States has achieved great things in a little more than two hundred years and at least a part of that success has to be attributed to a past which held a healthy attitude for living the original national motto "E. Pluribus Unum" - Out of many, one.  Today, things are different.  The original national motto has given way to become "In God We Trust"...  Our currency, except for the one dollar bill, no longer bares the original motto, failing to give an accurate reflection of where we came from and why we've done so well.  What's wrong with this picture?

Isn't it time to set the record straight?  Shouldn't the nations historians be heard from on the simple question of our nation's founding?  Our college professors have remained far to silent. The media fails to attend to seeking out facts.  Where is the open debate?  Who holds the keys to unlock this silence and bring the truth to light - to BRIGHT LIGHT!

The floor of congress has heard only sparse debate on the subject a year ago when engraving "In God We Trust" on a wall in the Capitol Visitors Center was a week-long hot potato.  But since then, nothing.  The experts weren't called upon - not then and not since.  Why not?  And how much longer must we wait for people of integrity on all tiers of society to rise to the top and demand that attention must be directed to ending the ignorance?  This is a simple question of fact and it must be answered in simple terms for all to know.

We are NOT a Christian nation.  And it's time to shout it clearly from the roof tops. 
. Who should answer...?  Who will answer...?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Scorned and pissed-off about it:

The religiously lead battle wages on for official recognition on anything and everything having to do with government.

Our nation was begun as an experiment in government whereby the people were meant to be the highest voice of authority when deciding rule of law.  Religion, and as well royalty, were scorned - marginalized and effectively set aside from participation in the process.

Royalty had no recourse.  It bowed to the will of the people without a fuss when the American colonies defeated it militarily.  Religion, on the other hand, geared itself up to fight on and to undermin the right of the people to govern on their own. It has been doing so ever since.

Throughout the history of the US we have seen landmark insurgencies upon secular authority.  Like stamps and trademarks and like spray painted gang graffiti marking turf, religion has set a pattern to make itself appear as included into our ruling body.  The enacted "Thanksgiving Day" celebration was one of the earliest of this kind of tactic.  "In God We Trust" cast on coinage came along as another assault in the 1860s and later in the 1950s found its way to being printed on currency and to be recognized as a national motto.  The words "under God" were inserted into the pledge of allegiance at around the same time.  And today, the nations Capital Visitors Center is prominently decorated by the same words engraved in its walls.

And a current battle wages... a somewhat smaller struggle yet one that is of the same cloth. It's happened in the state of Oklahoma.  Automobile license plates bearing the motto "In God We Trust" are now available there, but it took an action of a very few people and a giant step by a single religiously lead individual to get there.  Nonetheless, the scorned and pissed-off religious sector of society has once again made another mark of "officially appearing recognition" by government. It has won another small day.... almost.

Fortunately for Oklahoma and for the nation, there is a counter.  The contralateral  message "In Reason We Trust" is also being made available.  Order your own license here: In Reason We Trust.
. Scorned and pissed-off about it:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"The sky is falling. The sky is falling."

One of my earliest invitations into critical thinking was given to me in the important lesson of an Esopus Fable, "Chicken Little" - don't jump to conclusions and don't believe everything you hear.

As I recall the fable, Chicken Little ran off in a panic, certain that the sky was falling when in fact it was merely an acorn that struck his head; the poor little guy had to warn the King to do something.  He raised quite a following of believers as he headed off on his self-appointed mission and soon a bunch of additional story characters, a goose, a turkey, and pig were all in a panic, all off to warn the King together.

In today's America there are a great number of Chicken Little characters and even more Chicken Little followers all scurrying about and each with his own version of "the sky is falling."  It concerns me and it ought to concern every thinking citizen that the vast amount of misinformation currently circulating society is a great danger to us all.  and while it certainly wouldn't be fair to say that it's all the fault of religion (and I won't) there is religious nonsense enough to divi-out a portion.

The fable of Chicken Little continues on to include a fox, Foxy Loxey, and here's where things get ugly.  The fox being a fox takes advantage of the dim wits and dolts Chicken Little has amassed.  And one by one he eats them.

Now I don't mean to say that religion puts people at risk of being eaten by foxes, but it isn't unfair to say that religions gather dim wits and dolts by the score and that foxy individuals take advantage of them ... and, more often than not, the foxiest individuals are of the church itself.

Read the original story of Chicken Little to your kids.  They deserve a chance to escape the fox-like world they've been born into.
. "The sky is falling. The sky is falling."     

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A goal for the future: Debate hosting

What place should the atheist/secular movement claim for itself on the stage of tomorrow?  Our message is spreading.  We've achieved an audible volume for our voice, but now what?

I don't anticipate that the non-religious community will grow into a united political party at any time soon, although that may become the case decades from now.  But in the meantime, what are we to do?

Our "cat herding" difficulties are slowly becoming a thing of the past as we atheists and other non-religious people come to realize that our individual differences at the the level of party politics is of relative unimportance.  In fact, I think we're beginning to recognize that our political diversity is actually a strength rather than a weakness.  We stand united, at least loosely so, on a good many social issues of the day; gay rights, woman's rights, and too, on certain other first amendment questions.  Some of what we stand for, as on questions surrounding church/state separation, we stand for very strongly in a very united way.  And it's this combination of points that cause me to think that we atheists and secularists seem to be poised to claim the high ground of being America's most natural Patriots.  We're the Thomas Paines, and James Madisons and Thomas Jeffersons of the present day.  If this image of being natural patriots is true, how shall we use it to our advantage and make it work for ourselves and for the betterment of a larger society?

Almost every election season (but more so of the presidential election years) we're treated to a variety of political debates as nationally broadcast media events.  A few hosting organizations have become mainstays over the years; The League of Woman Voters, The Jewish Defense League and even MTV are examples.  Perhaps providing a stage for political debate ought to become a goal for our own movement to achieve.  Rather than attempting to solidifying our political diversity and remold it into a single voting block (an action that would likely divide us rather than unite us) it may be to our advantage to simply become a willing host organization for fair and open debates... debates held before audiences of "We the People" - we the atheist/secular community.

I'd be interested in hearing the calculated words to speeches coming from would-be politicians mouth's knowing they stood before an audience that was largely non-religious.  Under such a circumstance, do you think the words "God bless you and God bless America" would fall quite as easily from any hopeful's lips?

A move of this type might be good for everyone... What do you think?
A goal for the future: Debate hosting 

Friday, April 16, 2010

It ain't over yet...

I couldn't be more pleased with the wisdom of a single person than I am by that shown in Judge Crabb of Wisconsin over her ruling on the National Day of Prayer.  She gave the question a thorough going over right down to its 1952 origin and decided correctly that it amounted to a clear violation of church/state separation, an act of religious establishment by congress which is prohibited under the the first amendment.  It's to bad that for 58 years this question was overlooked.

I applaud Freedom From Religion Foundation for bringing the case before the court and judge Crabb for hearing it favorably.

Now it's up to our president to decide whether to abide by the judges ruling immediately and ignore the usually heralded first Thursday of May or to cower under pressure to political prudence and add-in one last officially sanctioned Presidential proclamation for a day of prayer.  There is a 30 day stay before the ruling is effective and President Obama has every right to act on his own.  It's also up to the White House to decide if it will appeal the case since the President himself was a losing party in the suit.  That, too, has a 30 day window.

This thing isn't over yet... it ought to be, but it isn't.
.It ain't over yet...     

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No More Prayer Day - Hurray!

Freedom From Religion Foundation's Dan Barker et. al., and that includes me and you if you subscribe also, has had a great day in the sunshine.  By court decision, today marked the end of the National Day of Prayer.  The 1952 Congressional decision to direct the President to call upon all Americans to recognize God through prayer is no more.  And good riddance.

I have a scant recollection of small-screen black and white images of the Reverend Billy Graham's week long 1952 televised revival meeting from Washington DC.  It was likely the only program being aired on WGN in Chicago at that time and my family huddled up in front of the Phillco to watch and listen.  I recall that my dad was interested.  I wasn't.

I had no idea then that I would be so pleased now by the turn of events.  What began in '52 at the recommendation of a single preacher has since its beginning been a growing infection of division in our nation.  Yet, I payed it little mind until soon after the Regan years when it became the established law for the first Thursday of each May to be dubbed "Prayer Day" while my own atheist sensibilities and the first amendment were snubbed and ignored completely.

But, no more.  The National Day of Prayer can finally be swept into the rubble of history, a past problem solved.  Thank goodness.  And thanks ffrf.
. No More Prayer Day - Hurray!

Post script: 
By Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation

First, a personal note. When our litigation attorney Rich Bolton phoned Thursday shortly before lunchtime to give our our office the happy news that FFRF had won our legal challenge of the National Day of Prayer, the office exploded in whoops. I had to put the phone down so we wouldn't deafen Rich. I realized I was jumping up and down as I passed on the news to staff. Katie, one of FFRF's executive assistants, actually did a little dance.
This was a hard-won decision. The case was difficult and time-consuming, and was unusual for involving a lot of staff input, not just attorney's time. There was onerous discovery by the Obama Administration and we worked very hard to prove the Foundation's standing to sue, based on years of efforts to deal with the numerous complaints and repercussions of this unconstitutional act of Congress. The case seemed to hinge as much on (bad) history as on (bad) law. Several staff, our staff attorney, Dan, I, interns and clerical staff spent much of February 2009 doing research on the case, with lots of additional work in the summer (not to mention an all-day videotaped deposition I went through in December!) So this is also a very sweet victory for all involved.
We truly appreciate that a vitally important constitutional question was taken seriously on its merits by the District Court. We knew the Constitution was on our side. We know it is simply wrong for the President to dictate to Americans that they should pray, and set aside an entire day for prayer once a year. But being right doesn't always mean you can get your foot in the door these days. We are celebrating the fact that at least for now, reason really has prevailed. Hooray for FFRF, hooray for the judge's ruling, hooray for our litgation attorney Rich Bolton, hooray for justice!
I certainly agree with Annie Luarie's excitement...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Books for kids - the library

I know how this is going to look to a lot of you - censorship is an ugly thing and I hate it, too - but I'm very concerned that our kids aren't being protected well enough from the oodles and oodles of religious books and videos available to them through public sources.  Nobody, especially libraries and librarians, have though things through far enough and nobody is holding anyone accountable.

A kid who enters a public library is immediately, naturally, drawn to its "Children's Section" and to stacks and stacks of unsorted materials there - all for their perusal.  And isn't that nice?  But what's there, really?

The fact is that libraries, and I'm speaking of Public libraries, generally don't sort out religious books aimed at kids from anything else a kid might enjoy.  The same is true for video materials.  A case in point: "Veggie Tales" are a popular series of old testament Bible story videos.  They're very professionally made and they're a powerful indoctrinating tool aimed at the uncritical minds of kids. Check it out... You'll find "Veggie Tales" mixed in (unsorted for its religious content) with every other variety of video.  and you'll find books on angels and yes, even on the life of Jesus.

From the book stacks, young readers will easily find that "Christmas" and "Easter" stories and "Jesus this and that" are all a part of the mix.  Shouldn't a set-aside section of religious subject matter be provided for kids just as it is for adults?

Libraries sort adult selections with strict attention, but for kids books... its a willie-nillie oleo.  Does anyone care?  I know I care.  Honestly folks, who's minding the store when it comes to what a kid can pick up at the library?  Even the fictional Hogwarts library had a restricted section, and wasn't that wise?
. Books for kids - the library

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Making news makes the difference:

Northwest Arkansas atheist groups are currently experiencing rapid member enrollment and its thanks to making headlines and TV appearances.  Making the news is what its all about when it comes to generating new interest in atheism.  Groups grow, almost automatically, as a result of all the chatter that media and publicity bring.  But making news isn't an easy thing to accomplish and in the case of Northwest Arkansas where I live, there's a price tag attached.  So here's a hint.

United Coalition of Reason, a national organization operating as part of the American Humanist Association, is a ready ally.  Get in touch with them and see what they can do to help your non-religious group hit the spotlight.  Its an easy step to take and, WOW, does it work.
. Making news makes the difference:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Loaded message email:

It's been the case for email ever since email began that a continuous rash of religiously loaded misinformation and propaganda has been created and passed around as knee-jerk reactions by a thoughtless bunch of computer users - parrots, every one of them.  I received another one a short while ago.  It was a collection of attractive photos punctuated by a series of statements and questions that culminated in a "conclusion" that God gave us a beautiful world. 


I don't usually respond in any way to this relentless barrage of tripe.  I usually just click "delete" and go on about my business.  Today I was in a slightly different mood, I guess, because that changed.  This time I responded.

My retort was brief and to the point: (speaking to the sender) "Emailing loaded messages to me will not help you overcome your personal doubts.  I am not a part of your problems.  In the future, you'll have to deal with yourself directly.  Stop forwarding God-loaded propaganda to my inbox."

I hope it works... for the sake of my own peace. (...and screw the sender.)
. Loaded message email:

Monday, April 5, 2010

"God bless America"

I'm thinking ahead to all the political speeches we're about to have amplified in our direction.  This is the beginning of another election season, after all, so we'd better prepare ourselves for what the windbags and wanna-bes will certainly be offering us as they take to the stumps, airways and platforms.  It will be happening all in short order.  Are you ready?
If you're like me, an atheist, you're bottom is already slightly puckered and your blood pressure has likely risen tad up from its normal resting level all in anticipation of hearing the tired out words "God bless America" at the conclusion of every political speech.  Good gosh, will it ever relent?

In hopes of some small change to the norm that has become our typical day of politics, I've got my expectations set on hearing at least a few nods of recognition for our non-religious community from progressive candidates and perhaps from the mouths of a few socially sensitive moderate speakers - recognition a'la Barack Obama's inaugural address where he acknowledged America's "patchwork heritage" and then correctly noted that "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers."

It isn't likely we'll hear anything at all with significant enough value addressed directly to us or anything that will a make any real change in the general anti-atheist attitude of society... don't hold you breath.  But, we ought to all be listening for a dollop or two of hints for the future and have hope that it will be enough to nudge society in the right direction.  Even at 43 million people, more people than there are Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Mormons, Episcopalians, Muslims and Hindus combined, our organizations of non-religious members still remain far to small and way to discordant to realistically matter at the poles.

So... be prepared for this season.  Buy a tube (or two) of Preparation H and squirt some up your Bazooka.  Take a chill pill (or ten) for your hypertension; listen to this seasons speeches and then look ahead to 2012.  Perhaps by then we'll be ready to take center stage and the spotlight to finally hear a concluded political speech punctuated without the words "God bless you and God bless the United States of America."   
. "God bless America"

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A better world.

Occasionally I get philosophical... pragmatically so, and this is one of those moments.  Today I'm stuck on the question "What would make the world a better place for everyone, my own world and everyone else's world, too?"

I tend to think that if we would each focus on the simple things we need, we'd easily come up with a few new ideas (and some old ones, too) that could actually happen to benefit everyone while harming no one.  How about concentrating on things like clean water and food, for example?  Imagine it...  If there was always a ready supply of simple nutrition available - free for the taking - wouldn't the world be a nicer place?  Think Raman noodles... Gosh, how much could that cost?

In the US, people seldom give much thought to needing food, but in fact there exists a marginalized segment of our own American neighbors who live just above the starvation crest most the time.  They have to make hard choices in order to get by.  And as for having something that's soooo necessary to life - how about having available clean water -cost free running water?  Isn't it a crime that there really are a great numbers of American families who face water shut-off month after month after month.

The nation is about to move ahead with health care reform - socialized medical care.  It's something that everyone needs and something that will actually benefit each of us in the long run.  In deed, the nation ought to be thinking about solving a few additional problems by the same method, socialization, right along with health care. 

All the basics as universally necessary to all of us as these are should be as high up on the list of things to do as they can possibly be.  Do that, and the world will be a little better for everyone. 
. A better world.

Friday, April 2, 2010

ffrf Forum:

Here's a link worthy of a bookmark.  It's something every concerned atheist/secular activist ought to get tied into: ffrf Forum.  It's the way to stay on top of the most important atheism related legal issues around the country.  If there's news having to do with anything about church/state separation, you're likely to find its being talked about here.

The Forum format is divided into topic threads and that makes it easy to follow a specific subject as well as exchange opinions directly with other interested activists.  Check it out.  This is one of the very best organized communication tools the non-religious community has to offer and neglecting to link up to it can only cost you the price of remaining uninformed.  I urge you to click the above link and get on board.

Join ffrf, subscribe to its news letters, listen to the weekly radio broadcasts by Dan Barker and link-up to ffrf Forum.  We'll all gain something when you do.
. ffrf Forum:


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