Blog Archives

Atheist vs Christian Billboard: Let’s Be Friends

Nearly a month ago, I introduced you to the Columbia Coalition of Reason, which had put up a billboard inviting local non-theists to contact us.  The reaction from Christians was predominantly negative, but we also received a lot of very positive responses from both non-believers and believers.

This week, a local church decided to put up a billboard in the same location in the digital rotation along with our billboard as a direct rebuttal.

This is fantastic.  One, it means we’re in the news again, and two, it means we’ve opened a dialogue with local people of faith.

Dustin Tucker, the guy who has coordinated the billboard effort, was interviewed by local TV station WLTX and spoke to how great it was that the opposing view was speaking up and expressed hope that the atheists would be able to do some sort of joint charity effort with Park Street Baptist Church, something that’s already in the works.

Unlike the responses to the previous news stories, the ones to this seem much more level and reasonable.  Here are my two favorites:

Wow…if the billboards can co-exist..perhaps the believers and non-believers will find a way to co-exist as well.

If one wants to see God look into the eyes of a child and you will see Innocent little angels. Those who choose not to believe live very empty lives.

I love kids, don’t get me wrong, but they are definitely demons.

If you’d like to know more about the billboards you can go over to Friendly Atheist, where the president of the Pastafarians at USC has done a nice write up, go listen to the podcast I did at A Matter of Doubt, or:

TUNE IN TONIGHT!  (Sunday, 12/18) at 8PM EST to Reason Podcast where someone from the group will be chatting about it live!

Releasing the Prop 8 Videos

 

People in an open society do not demand infallibility in their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing – Chief Justice Berger

Former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, who presided over the Prop 8 trial, recently used some of the video that was taken during the case as part of a lecture.  The Proponents, aka supporters of Prop 8/opposers of gay marriage, immediately took great offense and sent what was essentially a cease and desist order that demanded the return of all the copies of the tapes, Walker's and anyone else who had them.

 
In response, Ted Olson and David Boies, the legal tour de force trying to lift the gay marriage ban, filed a request that the tapes be unsealed and released to the public.  After all, the trial is a matter of public record and the transcripts are freely available.
 
Originally, the trial was going to be broadcast live, but the Proponents felt like this might scare some of their witnesses away, and so they demanded that it not be broadcast.  Judge Walker taped it, but didn't release the tapes, to the great disappointment of the men and women across the country who wanted to see the greatest trial of the greatest civil rights battle of our time.

No one can really blame the Proponents for not wanting to have video footage of just how appallingly awful their defense of Prop 8 was.  They want to continue to play the victim here — they want to sell the idea that gay marriage is somehow a violation of religious liberty, rather than being completely the other way round.  The video of their disastrous performance would only reveal that they are driven solely by religion and bigotry — and that they aren't even capable of hiding that fact.

Some things that they don't want you to see on television, things that their own anti-equality witnesses did: a witness saying that DADT and DOMA were "Official Discrimination"; that same witness then saying Prop 8 was also discriminatory; Mr. Blankenhorn, their chief witness saying, "I believe that adoption of same sex marriage would be likely to improve the well-being of gay and lesbian households and their children"; Blankenhorn also saying, "We would be more American on the day we legalized gay marriage than the day before".

Well, I mean, no wonder, right?  But that's exactly why these things need to be released.  People need the opportunity to see how feeble the defense was and to really understand how motivated by religion the campaign against equality was.  Not everyone is as nerdy as me and reads trial transcripts because they find them so compelling — video is the medium of our lives, and well do the religious know that since it is the medium through which they sold their hate.

The vast majority of the money and on-the-ground support for the Prop 8 campaign came from the Mormon church, supplemented by the Catholic church.  This isn't even money from California, and it's certainly money that ought to take away their tax exempt status.  People need to be shown the kind of lies they were telling to get people to vote against marriage equality, the emotional manipulation about children and families, things so blatantly false they might be defended with the disclaimer: "not intended to be a factual statement."

Gay marriage doesn't destroy families, it doesn't destroy children, it really doesn't do much except make some people very happy and give them access to rights that the rest of us take for granted.  The trial provided an overwhelming amount of evidence that refusing marriage rights not only hurt gay people, but also hurt the thousands of children of LGBT parents.  It hurts these children irreparably, immeasurably, forever.  This wasn't in question, gay marriage opponents agreed.

These tapes shouldn't just be released, they should be broadcast on every news channel for weeks to expose just how rotten the argument is against gay marriage.  If you've ever questioned why church-state separation is so important, this is why.  If conservative Christians (and I include the LDS) hadn't funded the gay marriage ban, it wouldn't be in place, and even they couldn't create enough money to make credible witnesses or a real argument against gay marriage.  The monstrous unfairness of the church taking over, infiltrating, and outright buying the political process only to then lie to the public to get their way has got to stop.  Not only is it immoral, it is un-American.

Proponents motion for return of videos http://www.scribd.com/doc/52945974/CA9Doc-338
Vaughn Walker's response: http://www.scribd.com/doc/53041973/CA9Doc-339-Letter-from-Vaughn-R-Walker
Olson and Boies request for unsealing of videos: http://www.scribd.com/doc/52945974/CA9Doc-340
San Francisco's feisty response: http://www.scribd.com/doc/52945974/CA9Doc-341

 

Newt Gingrich is a Big, Fat Idiot (duh)

Alright, admittedly, I made the mistake of clicking on a CNN headline about Newt Gingrich and "atheists".  Atheists is in quotes there because CNN seems to only share that word when it's in quotes.  I know better than going to CNN, and I know better than reading stories about Newt Gingrich, and I really should know better than to read any story about "atheists", but I couldn't help myself.

Ol' Newt is worried that the country is going to become a "secular atheists country"  overrun by "radical Islamists."

Now, I know Newt isn't stupid, he's just a craven ass.  And I'm allowed to say that because we went to the same undergraduate institution.  Newt must know that being an atheist and being an "Islamist" are mutually exclusive positions.  Unless he fears the domination of this country by those fundamentalist atheist Christianists.

HEADDESK

On the other hand, it's refreshing to see how far we've come as a nation to think that being a Catholic is American and not indicative of a political devotion to papistry that will lead this nation into the fiery pits of hell.  Because, as we all once knew, Catholics aren't proper Christians, and Merka is a Kristyen Nayshun.

I'm sorry, it's just the dumb appeal to the lowest common denominator.  It burns.  It burns because I know that it works.  I know that someone is reading that stupid CNN article and thinking, "God, you know, that Newt Gingrich has a point.  This country is under threat of Muslim Atheists.  And hell, the only thing worse than a Muslim, is an Atheist, and the only thing worse than an Atheist, is a Muslim one."

Excuse me while I go weep.

The South and God

I had forgotten how religious this place is.  I can’t tell if people here are genuinely more into religion or if they just like to talk about it more.  I have had religiousish conversations with far too many people today.  I will say this though, none of them have been at all horrible to me when I am outed as an atheist, so I feel like that’s good.

I went to an atheist meetup group here and I have learned that there are several atheists who go to the Unitarian Universalist church in town.  Now, I appreciate the need for community, and being someone just moving to a new place where I don’t really know anyone, I can see the appeal.  I am however completely wary of any place that’s churchy and it seems like the UUs are really open-minded to the point that their brains will fall out.  I’m not good about not being critical of beliefs I find… we’ll go with wacky at best.

I did listen to the most recent sermon of the guy who is the head priest thing at the local UU and it was about Religious Humanism, which is sort of like a slightly less interesting Secular Humanism.  Why can’t someone be both religious and a Secular Humanist?  (Aside from the fact that most religions have tenets that are cruel).  I am intrigued, I plan on going some time with my mom, since she’s also curious, though she’s coming at it from the opposite (ie already religious) perspective.

I realized today that one of my biggest problems with Christianity is the fact that it takes away the morality of your choices.  Your beliefs all come from somewhere else, you never have to think about what is or isn’t moral.  Gay people are awful because the bible says so, and you never ever have to question that belief because if you questioned it, your entire belief structure would come crashing down on you and it’s just so much easier to not confront the idea. Women can’t be pastors because the Bible is pretty clear on the fact that women just aren’t as good as men.  Slavery is OK, but let’s not talk about that.

People talk about how difficult it is to be an atheist, to be an outcast and different and not have the consolation of knowing that you go to heaven when you die, but the part that’s the hardest work is probably having to think through your own morality.  It’s also the best part.  My morality comes from trying to do right by other people, not from fear of hellfire.  I find letting god shoulder all the responsibility of your morality to be lazy and more than a little immoral.  “Because the bible says so” seems to me to be the most morally bankrupt and intellectually lazy thing someone could possibly believe.

Augusta, GA – Home of the Homophobes

Does a public university have the right to prohibit someone from a particular program based on their personal beliefs?  Is that a violation of the first amendment?

Well, if that student is trying to impose those beliefs on others and those beliefs violate the code of ethics of the profession she’s trying to join, then yes, the school has the right to prohibit the student from the program.  Would it make sense to keep someone out of a program if they refused to counsel black people?  Immigrants?  Christians?  I would think so.