Monday, May 31, 2010

Black atheism is beautiful...

I've been waiting a long time for this and its finally beginning to show up.  Members of the black community who, like me, stand for separation of church and state and profess atheism and Humanism are stepping up to speak out at gatherings and conferences.  Wow.  I love it.

I have a few black atheist friends - very few - but that's only because non-religious black people are so far and wide between.  If there is any single identity group in America that's drenched, totally, in religion any more than blacks, serve it up for lunch and I'll eat it along with my hat and yours.  Blacks (and it is so surprising when you consider how derided and repressed by religion their people have been throughout history) represent perhaps the smallest atheist group in all America... That couldn't last for ever, of course, and now it's finally beginning to change.  Whoopie...

Here's a treat.  NPR (National Public Radio) did a terrific interview featuring Jamila Bay (here's her blog).  Read the NPR interview yourself - read the whole thing. Interview

Tell me... are some days better than others, or is it just me.
.Black atheism is beautiful...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

US Catholic schools: Should they go it alone?

Here in the US it's a pretty good bet that a kid entering the Catholic school system has a better than average chance of turning out to be a decent adult.  It isn't a 100% guarantee (there are plenty of good Catholic kids who get side tracked by drugs and other temptations) but, for the most part, a Catholic school education can be counted on.  Moreover, it's such a good system that if the system itself doesn't toss a monkey wrench in the way of a developing child, and I'm speaking here of institutional child abuse and the degree to which Catholic priests have been implicated, the chances for just about every Catholic school child to go from kindergarten all the way through post graduate studies and on to receive an advanced degree and become one of our nation's success stories are, in fact, very good.  And that good news leads us to a dilemma.  What should US Catholics do to guard against losing such a great school system because the church is failing top down?

The Catholic church is currently investing heavily into some rather new and very risky expansion in Africa and other third world nations and all its trying to do this even as it faces costly problems of legal suits and decreased membership from its failing churches in Europe, other developed nations and even in some parts of the US.  If this continues, the Catholic school system in the US will begin to feel the lost dollars and cents pain of sharing in the risk and it may see itself begin to fall financially apart at the seams.  What to do?

Perhaps it's time for US Catholics to make a bold new plan and back away from their support for Rome...  (and from church leaders here the US as well.)  Perhaps it's time to demand a formal separation of US Catholic schools from all involvements with the church.  This may be a good time to go 100% private by forming a secular corporation that stands completely on its own and (for very good reason) at more than arms length from the church.  The schools, after all, have grown up entirely on donations and tuition fees paid directly by Americans.  It hasn't been as though Rome was sending money here to develop schools.  Oh no... Rome's place was skimming from the top - it's been doing that right from the get-go.

I wonder how well (in fact, I wonder how much better yet) a privately run (formerly Catholic) school system might work out if it was tried...  The idea is good food for thought, anyhow.  And I hope a few forward thinking Catholics, like principals and teachers, take up the ball. I'll hate seeing what happens if they don't.

.US Catholic schools: Should they go it alone?  

UPDATE: Good news. I've learned through private conversation that some US Catholic schools are already somewhat insulated from the Vatican.  Some are "owned privately" by orders of nuns such as The Sisters of Mercy, and by such special efforts and planning have been moved to put these US Catholic schools in a much better position to survive any failings of Rome.  

Upon learning this, I was very pleased to hear myself respond "Hurray for the Sisters of Mercy."  Imagine those words falling from my mouth - unbelievable, but it's true. I sincerely hope every US Catholic school will follow suit. 

Thanks to Lana Coelho of Little Rock for this update information.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Its not an easy first step... but take it.

Dr Darrel Ray, author of "The God Virus" and creator of a network of support groups for people leaving their superstitions and beliefs behind, - RR (Recovering from Religion) - is someone to be admired for his compassionate work on behalf of others new to non-religion.  He understands that people who have decided to call it quits with their religion face a difficult challenge.  That challenge isn't embodied as much in adopting new ideology as it is in dealing with new social pressure.

A person leaving behind his former belief, the set of notions he has come to realize are unfounded by fact, has very little struggle understanding his own reason for deciding as he did.  He knows his own mind and he's checked his perception of reality to satisfaction.  The real struggle he faces is from outsiders, his former church friends.  It comes from his own family and from his old friends who, with the best of intentions of course, try their hardest to prevent his new change of opinion and his decision to leave religion.  Peer pressure falls hard on anyone leaving religion, and that's a fact.

Support groups like the ones Dr Ray has developed, while they may not be a "must do" step for everyone leaving religion, are a valuable asset for some.  RR groups are a place tailor made for people who are new to non-religion.  I recommend joining if you are just now walking away from religion.  It makes good sense to have a friendly hand to hold, new or not, when faced with the kind of pressure that leaving religion can bring.

Taking the first steps to leave can be a tough decision. That's true enough.  But the very first one, accepting yourself honestly as a non-believer is the easiest one... defending that decision, the next steps in leaving religion, is something altogether different unless one has the added strength of what RR offers.  Leaving religion in the company of new friends makes the challenge so much easier.  Join RR, find a friend to share with, and walk away.

.Its not an easy first step... but take it.     

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The bottom line...

There's something, a general lesson, which must be learned by theists.  And it's a simple enough something that they ought to be able to catch on pretty easily.  It's this: What God wants an what God thinks and what God needs doesn't count.

When a preacher, a politician or anyone speaks of what God wants, there is actually no telling by anyone that what he said is true; and, in any case, it really doesn't matter either way.  Here's an example:  If someone claims that God wants everyone to drink more water, that claim can be questioned for its validity.  Is it true or false?  The fact is that nobody can actually know one way or the other.  Whoever made the claim simple drew his conclusion out of thin air.  He didn't actually get a "message" from God, did he?  And here's the kicker: If everyone did or didn't drink more water, what difference would it make to the price of tea? ... None.

What God wants and what God thinks doesn't make a bean's worth of difference upon reality.  God's desires are only what someone says they are. And the price of a cup of tea will always be the price of a cup of tea regardless of what anyone says God wants.

The bottom line is this... theists must learn and accept the fact that what God wants, thinks and needs is just somebody's made up opinion and opinions (especially on what God wants) are a dime a dozen.  They simply don't count for anything.

.The bottom line...   

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Religion: how to be on wrong side of almost everything...

God-belief has lead people to be on the wrong side, on the immoral side, of so many issues that I have to say I'm truly surprised anyone still clings to it.  By simply looking back at US history alone, it's and easy task to list one after another of cases where Bible followers have made their stand in wrong camps.

Slavery, an institution clearly supported by the Bible and defended openly on that alone, was from our beginnings an issue that nearly tore the country apart.  Our founding fathers and every administration through the Lincoln years - that's 88 years worth of struggle - fought long and hard to eliminate slavery by every reasonable means available; and yet, there it stood, supported to the last by religion.  Moreover, the lasting attitudes of the slavery issue, the racial hatred generated, remained an issue long afterword... into the sixties and throughout the years of the Black Civil Rights Movement.  Its foul attitude continues even today and can be easily seen in signs carried by far right wing Tea Party religious fanatics.

As an aside, I'll mention that it especially surprises me that black Americans, a race so directly downtrodden by slavery, are so easily able, as if  they were blind and deaf to what the Bible says their God stands for, to dismiss completely that which is openly touted - that slavery is moral and right - yet blacks by the million remain loyal Bible followers.

But to continue... slavery and racial hatred aren't the only issues which have seen religionists take the wrong side against reasonable morality.  Religion has been on the wrong side of nearly every American socially moral question.  Witch hunting, for example, the fair treatment of Indians, and consider a woman's right to vote, an issue of the early twentieth century that was dearly fought against primarily on religious grounds.  Men were, according to the Bible, meant to be the dominating sex. And that hasn't changed in the scriptures.  It still stands. The notion remains in the Bible, true, and is still practiced by some Christian sects even today. Take another issue, and an old one, that religion stands resistance to teaching evolutionary science. Beginning with the Scopes Monkey trial, this issue represents a clearly religious lead division between intellectualism and dogma - an issue where religion once again takes a very wrong side - the side that says learning and knowledge are NOT good things - as if stupidity were a virtue.  Gay rights is another issue where religion would, if it could, severely restrict the freedom and liberty of some individuals only to selfishly satisfy their own religiously planted, Biblical supported, ideological thinking - and of course to satisfy what God wants.  It, too, is a case where Bible references are called upon relentlessly in support of ideas that are unjust and unfair.  And the same is true for abortion rights where, for entirely religious reasons, a woman's right to decide on what she may do with her own body would be denied.

All of these issues have had strong religious support in the past, and still do.  Yet, religion has not been and is clearly not as morally correct as it claims itself to be....and  this has caused reason derived morals, burdened by religion all the way, to take the lead in establishing better ways.

So why do people still follow religion when it is clearly so obviously and consistently wrong?  How could they... how do they take pride in calling themselves believers of God, followers of Jesus or believers in scripture-given morals?  I wonder, will they ever catch on?

.Religion: how to be on wrong side of almost everything...       

Monday, May 24, 2010

What's the best way to decide something - anything?

Given a problem to solve, any problem: how should people go about finding the best solution?  Should they, pray, consult their chosen holy book, attend a religious service and then finally decide, or should they do something else, something that's more closely directed to examining the specifics of the problem?

It has frequently seemed to me that god-based decision making and problem solving is to often an end run around the line of reality to be a good first choice problem-solving tool for anything or anyone.  Often, although a particular god-based solution may seem to satisfy and please the church and its community, the result ends up being a shade short of being the best possible solution.  Words from the pulpit that say "God wants this or that" don't fit for most situations and I think this is an important message to spread to church-goers.  The opinions of the church, and even the opinions of God as they may be written out in scripture, may not be the best ones to follow.

When faced with a decision in need of making or a problem in need of a solution, I hope it becomes a common practice for all people to think things through thoroughly first, to get all the facts and measure all the risks, twists and turns of possibility imaginable, and then to finally decide upon an answer or an action.  If it feels right to pray afterwords... well fine.  Pray if you'd like, but keep it in mind that 2+2 will always add up to 4 and the price for a cup of coffee will still be a buck twenty-nine.

If this message became the rule of thumb for everyone, our world would be a better place.

.What's the best way to decide something - anything?       

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hmmm... How to debunk "Christian Heritage" propaganda

There's no doubt in the minds of people who have checked the facts, that our nations "rich Christian Heritage" isn't as rich as some people are saying.  But how in the world can the secular community debunk the claims of congress people and TV personalities who have all the ears of America listening, and who, with complete disregard for the facts, keep spreading their messages of misinformation.

This seems at be a situation calling for a thorough face-to-face debate held under the public eye.  We need to get America's attention focused on this question and we need to do it on a very public stage.

If the right wing darling, Sarah Palin, or Congressman Randy Forbes with his handful of "evidence" had their feet held to the fires of scholarly argument against true historians, my bet is that they would lose hands down.  The same is true for Glenn Beck and for all of the popular Christian radio and TV personalities who do nothing but parrot these unexamined "rich Christian heritage" claims in unopposed sound bytes.

It's time to call on the experts and on our most knowledgeable non-religious atheist/secularist community members to take the lead.  We have got to set the venue to hear-out everything to the last detail.  Somehow, we have to set the stage to spread the facts - all of the facts - out into open air.

Like science, history is well documented.   There are thousands of early writings to draw upon that will no doubt overwhelm the few examples of "Christian evidence" being offered by the wing nuts of the fundamentalist crowd.   Lets get it on....  The current flood of misinformation needs mopping up.

.Hmmm... How to debunk the "Christian Heritage" propaganda

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Check out your local hospital - again.

Because required return visits to my local hospital are on my schedule the situation of my local hospital has been on my mind and I've been ruminating thoughts about what a secular waiting area "ought" to be like.  On my previous hospital visits (read it here and here) I've become aware that things as they currently stand just don't cut the fairness mustard when it comes to giving hospital patients and visitors the kind of needed "spiritual" support they may require.

As a non-theist, my comfort requirements in a hospital setting are easy to fulfill.  Give me a cushy chair and a nice window view, perhaps a few news magazines and such, and I'll be good to go for a ten minute wait or a day-long vigil. On such occasions, I usually bring along my own reading materials anyhow.  For theists, its likely a different case.  They may find it necessary to consult a page or two of their personal favorite flavor of scripture in order to comfortably pass the time with less stress.  No problem there, eh?

A Christian, for example, would probably appreciate having a handy Bible.  A Muslim would prefer a Qu'ran. And that makes sense.  But about the difference, I'll say in short that I see nohing wrong one way or the other.... until, that is, an obviously unfair imbalance is struck owing to attitudes and actions of the hospital.

The reality of what I've experienced at my local hospital, which happens to be a sharp bias for Christianity, is an epitome of imbalance.  The spiritual "comforts and courtesies" as they're offered currently favor the Christian religion and specifically favor the Christian religion, Gideon-style.

What ought to be there instead..?  I think the answer is quite simple. Variety.  Choice.  A bookcase.

If a small library of religious reading materials and a few non-religious selections as well, books reflecting the wide variety of world beliefs - Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Mormon, etc., etc. - were housed in a prominent bookcase in every waiting room area and on every hospital flood, who would be left to complain?  Not even me and wouldn't that be nice?

I hope this kind of attitude of fairness catches on.  Honestly... its a change that's long overdue.  The Gideon are currently being given far to much in the way of special privilege.  It's out of control and over the top.  It's time to speak up and see this situation brought back to something more reasonable. 
.Check out your local hospital - again.     

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Check out your local hospital...

Wow, I'm flabbergasted.  The last time I made a visit to the hospital, it was littered with Gideon Bibles.  This time it was even worse.

Just as before, all the tables in the ER waiting room were decorated by brown covered Bibles. (One table also had a blue one beside the brown one.)  And now I've noticed that there is a neat little display advertising the services of Alcoholics Anonymous.  You all recall that group, I'm sure - they're the ones that get you off your booze habit by hooking you on God.

What's up with theses hospitals?  Do they think everyone in the whole frickin' world needs a dose of Christianity.  Gosh.  Why not just give out "Jesus" injections?

.Check out your local hospital...

Do you ever feel like... ?

Have you ever gotten the urge to make a random call to ask this: "Hey, has Jesus called you lately?"

I've often wondered if a simple reality check of that sort might help wake up a few sleepy-heads.  After all, it's a no-brain-er that every honest response to the question would be have to be "No".

Hmmm.... Perhaps I'll give it a shot.
.Do you ever feel like... ? 

Friday, May 14, 2010

What if we're the the gods?

Since there is actually no one (other than ourselves) to say we aren't gods, why not claim the post?  Humans are by far the highest level beings anywhere to be found on Earth and its a good bet we have no equals in our small part of the universe.  So why not?  Why not simply decide once and for all that we are the gods and there are no others.

I know, for example, without any hesitations at all that I'm a morally better god than Allah and the god of Abraham.  I'm not in favor of subjugating or beheading infidels or genital mutilation, and I certainly have no stomach for flooding the world to rid it of whatever.  Since I'm not a fan of slavery as Jesus was, I'd say I'm probably a better god than him.  And as for honesty... you won't hear me making any promises of rags to riches favors just for following my advice and neither will I promise anyone life after death.  Those notions just preposterous.

So what about it?  What do you think?  Are we or are we not the only gods around?  (I think we are.)  And if so, what grand design should we all work on together for our own good?

. What if we're the the gods?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No cows spared...

The time has come (finally) to an era of understanding that ought to be common to everyone.  There are no sacred cows.  No faith or belief, no religion of gods can feel as comfortable today as in the past with the idea that having faith is above all criticism and insulated from accountability.  One by one, the mechanisms of special privilege formerly assumed by religion are faltering; and, one by one, reasonable minds are filling in their place with reasoned orderliness, process, fair play and by the restoration of the individual personal rights to liberty which everyone naturally deserves, with honestly weighed equality. 

Freethinkers, skeptics, atheists, agnostics and Humanists are, as one, setting free the religiously enslaved minds of yesterday.  Notions of mysticism, supernatural beings with magical ability, life beyond death, intercessory prayer, divine moral and ethical absolutes, miracles and personal salvation are loosing their faith-born foundation - and reasonably so.

If ever the word Hallelujah had an appropriate time or place, it would be now, said not for its original Hebrew meaning, "Praise Yahweh," but as an expression of "Hey world... What took ya so damn long to wake up?" 
.No cows spared...     


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