Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The “New Atheist!!” pejorative: An activist’s badge of honor

Chris Stedman is a “Humanist Chaplain” at Harvard University - an oxymoron in my opinion. He purports to provide guidance (non-spiritual I assume) to secular students, akin to the guidance a Catholic, Protestant or Jewish chaplain might provide to their spiritual flock.

Mr. Stedman is a self described “faithist.” He wrote a book by the same name.   That’s a pejorative term he claims some atheists use to describe non-believers who feel a kinship toward believers, seeing them as people whose beliefs are worthy of respect; down playing the differences between non-believers and believers; ignoring for all he’s worth the uglier side of religion that historically has been and currently is a blight on humanity, instead preferring to focus on issues we have in common.  I never heard the term “faithist,” but if my synopsis holds water, then “faithist” equates to “Uncle Tom atheist.”in my parlance. I prefer the latter as a more succinct descriptor.

Mr. Stedman eschews the attitude and activism of  “New Atheists.”  Apparently that term, which I have heard bandied about by religionists as well, is meant to describe any atheist who decries religion inspired injustice or religious intrusion into our lives; or combats believers efforts to breakdown the “wall of separation” or claim it to be a fraudulent concept.  It includes any atheist who doesn't sit still in the face of attempts to impose Creationism into public schools or a religious test to be a science teacher; or who initiates a law suit when the school permits the name Jesus to be invoked in prayer or on school banners, or the ten commandments enshrined on a public building; or who pushes for equal space when a nativity scene is erected on public property.  Any atheist who thinks the world would be a better place with the demise of religion.

To Stedman (is it Reverend Stedman? Father Stedman?) these things make atheists unlikable because it points out our differences with those religionists who feel compelled to promote blatant attempts at history revisionism, the dumbing-down of our schools, and out right proselytizing for a “Christian Nation.”  It makes us look bad to the Christian majority. It irks them.  He doesn't like that.

In short the “New Atheist” is different from the plain old atheist because we won’t step off the curb and cast our eyes down when confronted by religious violations of the constitution and common sense. 

We won’t shuck and jive and shuffle our feet when the Christian Taliban passes laws declaring non-belief in god’s role in ensuring the security of our nation a crime punishable by imprisonment (Google “Kentucky God Security Law). 

We won’t stay quietly in the closet anymore when believers proffer their scripturally supported belief in non-science, reproductive rights, or who can marry who in a secular nation.  You know... like the “New Blacks” (AKA “Those Uppity Nigras”) who wouldn't ride on the back of the bus.  Or the “New Gays,” (AKA “Militant Faggots") who won’t sit still for being the target of  homophobes.  Or the “New Feminists” (AKA “Femin-Nazis" according to Rush Limbaugh) who won’t have their reproductive rights dictated to them by misogynistic old Christian white men.

But there’s nothing new about atheism. What’s new is the dwindling power and influence of the Church over thinking people.  What’s new is we no longer have to fear Inquisition, torture, imprisonment, execution or expulsion from the community.  We no longer have to pretend to be believers to earn a livelihood, or stay alive. What’s new isn't so much the atheist activism, as it is the loss of power, influence, and threat of retribution that religion and religionists have enjoyed for 1700 years or so.

Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899), Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), Madelyn O’Hare (1919-1995) , Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011),  Dawkins, Harris, along with thousands of other open and in your face atheists past and present who refused to roll over - all were, it seems, “New Atheists” to Stedman and those who wield the term at atheists like an exorcist wields a bottle of holy water at his victim  

Never mind that the very people decried by Stedman  are the very people to whom he owes his open non-belief and his very position at Harvard.  Without their activism he’d still be in his closet and wouldn't be pandering his “I’m not like THEM, I’m one of the good heathens” to his believer bedfellows. 

There’s nothing new about me being an atheist...been one since my late teens.  But if you want to tag me with this inventive term coined by religionist’s in fear of their dwindling influence and numbers, and picked up by accommodationist non-believers to ingratiate themselves to those who’d happily enslave him to their belief system, then feel free.

I’ll wear “New Atheist” with the same pride I do “Godless Hell Bound Heathen” -  as a badge of honor, a symbol of strength of conviction, a testament to my reason.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Thanksgiving Story: There is a limit to my hospitality.

Charlie is the county transsexual. Fact is he is also the county drunk, ex-con, and meth addict.  Disowned by his parents as a teenager, he dropped out of school, lived on the streets of Keene, ran afoul of the law, dabbled in unsavory social behaviors, and was incarcerated for five years.  Somehow he got the state to pay for his sex reassignment surgery.  Charlie is now Charelene. (That's not Charelene above, but the resemblance is close enough for it to be her brother/sister).

Charelene’s new persona hasn't improved her social graces.  Unemployed, unhygienic,   homeless; sporting a perennial five o’clock shadow owing to her lacking the funds to maintain her hormone treatments; under nourished, and devoid of any sense of fashion or make-up artistry, Charelene is the poster girl for destitute.  She is a veritable pariah to the community; the kind of person that would prompt a stray dog to cross the street to avoid contact with her. 

Thanksgiving afternoon, as my wife was doing her thing in the kitchen, and I and my younger son, up for the traditional feast with his fiancĂ©e, watched football on TV there was a knock at the back door.  Shit, unannounced company on Thanksgiving. This can’t be good.  I padded to the back door.

There in all her glory was Charelene looking her Thanksgiving worst. She was accompanied by a tallish, blue eyed, long haired guy with a soft countenance in a pristine white robe. His entire being had a glowing radiance emanating from his body.  I recognized Him immediately from the traditional 19th century white Anglo Saxon image  of the non-Jewish concept of Jesus. 

“We’re here for Thanksgiving, my son.” Jesus spoke with an upbeat lilt to his voice.

I looked the pair up and down for a nanosecond.  “YOU’RE welcome to join us for dinner, but we don’t serve HIS kind here.”  I snarled.

My reply caused a pained expression to come over Jesus’ calm demeanor. I could tell I was in for a sermon.

“My son, I know you to be a non-believer.  I understand that you reject all manner of superstition and gods, me included, as being imaginary; that the cause of faith is rooted in man’s inability to divest himself from ancient myth devised as societal control and to answer that which his unscientific mind could not answer.

 Yes, I know that you know religion and belief have been the cause of great injustice and suffering.  I accept that you can cite centuries of acts of brutality, intolerance, genocide, and irrational obstacles to science, reason, and people’s pursuit of happiness perpetrated by my blind faith zombie like followers. And even as I stand before you, I know that you are rational enough to know you’re dreaming my presence, or that it’s the result of celebratory liquid refreshment hallucination.

But I have always perceived you to be a man of compassion, a person of ethics; someone who has been non-judgmental when it comes to being charitable to those in need. For often you have said morality and goodness towards ones fellow man does not depend on a boogie man’s dictates or threat of eternal punishment.  That the thinking can be good without God because empathy is a byproduct of evolution and that the suffering of others does not serve society but diminishes it.”

At about this point in his soliloquy Jesus was getting himself worked up. He took on the persona of God the Father made popular in Michelangelo’s painting.  His voice rose to a thundering crescendo as he lifted his right hand above his head, index finger pointed skyward.
“Thus, verily I say unto you that by turning away this poor soul, this ‘least among us,’  this  homeless,  downtrodden, rejected and dejected,  impoverished, and put upon denizen of society it gives lie to your oft  touted  goodness without God.” 
 His last three words were accentuated by dark and stormy eyes that glared at me below a knitted brow , exuding condemnation and accusation of hypocrisy.

I glared back:  “I was TALKING to Charlene, asshole!”  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pro-Gay Rights and Virulent Homophobe: The many faces of God

A gay activist and columnist, who is also the Christian son of his minister father,  wrote the following as part of his attempt to reconcile why some Christians seek to suppress and condemn his lifestyle/sexuality as a sin against God, while others accept him. 

"... we have tons of Christian denominations and even more unaffiliated belief sets being forged every day. Maybe it's because God wants them all to be able to reach such a diverse humanity. Maybe it's because God's love is greater than any of us can understand.”

Or maybe it's because there is no God. Of course, this most simple and obvious answer is never on the menu of options among the religiously afflicted.

No, gay pastor’s kid, you didn't chose to be gay...any person whose mind isn't clouded by religious fundamentalism knows this. You also didn't choose to be a religious believer, nor is it a biologically determined trait.  You acquired it through early and often indoctrination by your shaman parent. 

Being gay is no "sin" (whatever that means). But being a grown up and still believing in fairy tales sold to you by your parents, the same fairy tale that justifies your Christian neighbor's discrediting and demeaning you, and denying you full the rights he enjoys - THAT’S your "sin." .  That you don't understand the paradox of your own belief system is your trespass against modernity, your crime against reason.

One man’s god of compassion is another man's god of homophobia. Gods are created in man’s likeness, his character, only more so ... to the ultimate degree.  Gods are ultimately more jealous; ultimately more loving; ultimately more punishing, more forgiving, more murderous, more torturous, more magnanimous, more benevolent, more powerful, more judgmental, more egotistical, more genocidal, more destructive, more accepting, more intolerant than those who created him. Look at man's palate of traits, and God/gods will have them in spades.  A god’s magnified human traits, its excesses, its lack of moderation, give grounds for its creators to do good or do bad.   

So why shouldn't some religious invoke God's angry wrath against gays who are condemned by the Old Testament? And why wouldn't other religious invoke "We're all God's creations and he made us this way and loves us."?  One embraces the god of ones own liking.  

A god will wear whatever faces a cult, a sect, a denomination, a gay rights activist, a gangster, a liberal, a conservative, a hater, a fanatic, or a maniac believer wants it to wear. That is both the beauty and the horror of imaginary friends. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Just a few post election thank you notes (with apologies to Jimmy Fallon)

I hope you don’t mind, but I have to get these thank you notes out.  I’ll just be a moment or two. Cue the soft piano music ...

THANK YOU Billy Graham, for backing Romney as the champion of “Biblical Values” in spite of having previously declared Mormonism a cult on your web site, then subsequently quietly purging said condemnation, thus proving to the world ...again... what a phony and hypocrite you are.

THANK YOU failed GOP candidates Todd Akin (MO)and Richard Mourdock (Indiana), for professing your devout religiosity and brilliant medical knowledge, thus enlightening your state’s electorate - and the rest of a disgusted nation - about rape, it’s relation to god’s will, and the varying degrees of acceptable sexual assault.  Most elucidating.

THANK YOU Catholic Bishops, for indirectly threatening your flock with opposing god’s will if they vote for Obama, thus demonstrating the dwindling credibility and impotency of the Church over American Catholics who voted Obama over Romney  by 50 versus 48 percent.

THANK YOU  Paul Ryan, for your last minute election eve attempt to paint Obama as the anti- “Judeo-Christian Values” candidate.  It proved to all of us that the majority of the country are smart enough not  to share your idiotic obsession with the bible’s demand for valuing the killing of witches, homosexuals, or those who glean the fields on the Sabbath. 

THANK YOU  Mike Huckabee, ex-preacher, failed presidential wanna be, and impotent purveyor of religious imbecility, for telling folks that voting for Obama  will result in their damnation.  Evidently the only people that seemed to effect were your inbred, semi-literate Southern brethren who would have voted for a Republican talking mule; thus further underscoring the declining impact of religion and supernatural threats on a majority of the nation’s voters.

THANK YOU  Evangelical Fundamentalist Born Again Far Right Religious Fanatics, Christian Nation zealots,  Talk Radio Fascists, and Tea Baggers, for exposing your loss of influence,  proving that you are 19th century emperors with no clothes in a 21st century America.  Your failing may well encourage the GOP toward a more inclusive and less strident social platform, lest they become forever irrelevant.  Thank ya Cheezus.

Finally, but most importantly ...

THANK YOU  women, moderate/liberal Christians, gays, freethinkers, Latinos, and Americans of intellect, reason, modernity, equality, civility and humanity for once again reminding me that this nation is better than I had given it credit for.  I've never been happier to be proven wrong.    

Yours truly,
D. Hump

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane! Let the Blame Game and Prayer Fest Begin!

“God of the Universe, at the dawn of creation, your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness. You created the oceans and rivers, and all that dwell within them, and at your word the wind and the waves were born. ... Creator God, we ask you to calm the wind and the waves of the approaching hurricane, and spare those in its path from harm.” 

So read a couple of sentences from a rather extensive prayer offered by a Catholic priest columnist on the Huffington Post in advance of hurricane Sandy’s land fall.  It could have as well been offered by a 4th century Finnish pagan priest invoking Thor.

Over the past few days thousands of prayers were posted to online news services and blogs by priests, pastors, televangelists, the pope, as well as devout layman, all in an effort to influence their god’s action and have him intercede, or refrain. “Oh sweet Jesus, as you calmed the waters of Galilee, so too send Sandy back from whence she came...” was a particularly memorable appeal by a woman on the HuffPost at the height of the storm. I guess she hadn't considered what the impact would be if “she”/Sandy were to reverse course. (I suppose finding a way to use the word “whence” was of greater import).

In addition, and as expected, some religious purveyors of ignorance offered their explanation for why god was venting his wrath via Sandy ... those darn homosexuals, of course. God it seems is incapable of expressing itself except by dispensing death and disaster.

o, how'd all that praying pay off now that the storm has come and gone? Eighty plus dead.  An estimated twenty-billion dollars in damage. People suffering and homeless.  We can imagine the faithful will respond that without prayer god wouldn't have finally intervened and the number of dead would have been higher, the financial losses greater.   Do, tell ... how does one measure the net death/loss avoidance attributable to prayer and god’s reconsideration and reversal of course?  I guess we will have to take it on faith that their god’s blood lust was satiated with just a few dozen deaths thanks to the prayers of the faithful.  

This mindlessness that creeps out of the woodwork every time there is a natural disaster is the most grotesque example of religionists' refusal to accept modernity and their need to throw gasoline on the embers of superstition. It invariably follows the same predictable path: Blaming it on god’s dissatisfaction with gay unions;  praying for the storm to subside (as though it wouldn't otherwise); praying for the victims that invariably die anyway; then claiming that prayers were answered and actually accomplished something meaningful and measurable. 

Three hundred years into the scientific age - even though science knows and explains what causes storms and can accurately predict their path and duration- still the mindless sooth saying shaman of, and slaves to religion babble their ignorance and invoke a spirit to deliver them like bronze age / pre-scientific pagans praying to the gods of wind, rain, thunder, lightning and chaos. 

Religionists disgust me with their willingness to exemplify the basest example of self imposed delusion and not even be embarrassed by it. It frightens me that they can vote, hold public office, and actually breed. I’m horrified that they can so readily find a public platform to spew their prejudice and foolishness.

If a million baaing sheep offer their prayers in lieu of a single $10 contribution to the Red Cross, they do less than nothing other than gain some self satisfaction by resting on the laurels of their good but useless intentions. And if only two hateful shamans can grab the media spotlight to profess god’s murderous disgust with homosexuality, it fans the fires of hate and reinforces blame in the mini-minds of the religiously unbalanced.

The most religious who infest this nation are the scary clowns of the modern era, and thus provide some comic relief. But the harm done far outweighs the entertainment value.  The best we can hope for is that their hackneyed prayers and rhetoric help drive some of their borderline brethren toward reason.  We’ll never know, we can only hope.