Freethought

CBS Sunday Morning Airs Terrific Segment on Atheism in America…

CBS Sunday Morning aired an excellent segment Sunday morning on the Openly Secular campaign and the difficulties of coming out as an atheist whether it’s due to skin color, geography, or just plain fear.

Neil Carter, who blogs at Godless in Dixie, was featured in it (and did an excellent job). So was philanthropist Todd Stiefel and Mandisa Thomas of Black Nonbelievers.

[Mo] Rocca asked, “How did [your students] find out that you’re an atheist?”

“One of them had been stalking me on Facebook and saw that I had ‘liked’ a page about atheism,” Carter said. “And then she came to school the next day and started asking me in front of the students if I was an atheist, and I refused to answer the question, which to them was enough of an answer.”

The principal soon instructed him never to discuss anything to do with religion in class. And shortly after, he was transferred. “First, they moved me out of my classroom to a math class,” he said. “And then after that, they just told me they wouldn’t bring me back the next school year. They didn’t really give me any reasons, but obviously I knew what the reason was.”

We don’t know for certain why Carter was transferred. No reason was documented, and his school declined to talk with CBS News.

Yes, Americans are religious, particularly in the South, which is why it’s called the Bible Belt. Black Americans are especially devout. Nearly 9 in 10 African-Americans believe with certainty that God exists.

Which is why Rocca said to Mandisa Thomas, “Candidly, when I think ‘atheist,’ I don’t picture you.”

“Yeah, you might picture an old white guy,” laughed Thomas, an events services manager in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

In less than 10 minutes, the segment showcased more diversity than last month’s hour-long CNN documentary. Lots of blunt voices, too.

The part about how some people keep two Facebook pages — one that family members can see and another secret one that lets you be honest about your atheism — really got to me.

Kudos to Mo Rocca for featuring atheist voices we’re not used to seeing in the mainstream media and sharing a couple of really compelling stories in the process.

[Text above from Friendly Atheist]
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Comedian Julia Sweeney Urges You to be “Openly Secular”

I’m urging you to just say you’re openly secular… You’d probably be surprised how much of an affect it has on other people. I’ve had so many people come up to me and say once I admitted that I wasn’t religious, it gave them the feeling like they could say that [too].

I love how honest she is about the harsh connotation of the word “Atheist,” and why alternatives might help make the idea more palatable for other people. Sweeney is behind the excellent one-woman show “Letting Go of God.”

This is all for the Openly Secular campaign, which is urging people to come out as non-theistic to at least one person on April 23.
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The science is in, and god is not the answer…

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From Epiphenom

Social_Progress_2015Yesterday the international polling organisation WIN/Gallup released the results of a massive new survey into religion worldwide (here’s their press release). You’ve probably seen the news reports, mostly talking about which countries have the most (or fewest) religious people, and speculating what that might mean.

Some other important data come out just last week – the latest update of the Social Progress Index.This also is a mammoth undertaking, painstakingly assessing the nations of the world against a battery of benchmarks divided into three categories: “Basic Human Needs”, “Foundations of Wellbeing” (health and basic education), and “Opportunity” – personal rights, freedom, tolerance and advanced education.

So here’s the question. Are the two correlated in some way – and if so, how? I downloaded the data to find out.

Atheist ‘terrorists’ face death threats…

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From The Freethinker UK

Pictured above are a happy group of Turkish atheists enjoying a fraternal day out in the sun. It was taken before the authorities decided to equate non-believers with terrorism – and the Facebook page on which the photo first appeared has disappeared.

Furthermore, the Turkish Atheism Association’s webpage can no longer be accessed in Turkey. It was blocked in March. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan warned people to beware of “atheist terrorists”, accusing them of conspiring to overthrow his government.

The Atheism Association, the first of its kind in any Muslim-majority country, was officially founded in Istanbul in April 2014. It was upbeat when it launched, saying:

Now, there are finally civil rights organisations in Turkey for atheists and non-theists. It was to everybody’s surprise that these organisations were founded with virtually no legal or bureaucratic problems. 

People speculate that Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s current government may have seen this as an opportunity to demonstrate that they are actually not a totalitarian and anti-democratic government as they are often accused of being, and they even allow official atheist organizations. This may have been an easy way for them to try to polish their image.

Then it turned sour. And dangerous.

Congratulations to Vyckie Garrison, the 2014 “Atheist of the Year!”

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From Neil Carter

This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the American Atheists 2015 National Convention at the famous Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.  The hotel was beautiful, the speakers were top notch, and the company was delightful. I spent a good chunk of my time working a table for Recovering from Religionin my new role as their Director of Group Development as well as plugging their new Hotline Project, which in the space of a month has already received over a thousand calls. I also had the honor of presenting a workshop on “Southern Atheist Living” alongside Mandisa Thomas of Black Nonbelievers and Liz Hoffmaster of the Memphis Atheists. Then to top off the weekend, we were treated to the guys from MST3K riffing their way through a live showing of God’s Not Dead. I cannot imagine a more enjoyable way to watch that cinematic disaster. It was glorious.

I am thrilled to see secular organizations in America targeting the South because I believe it is the fountainhead of the culture wars, despite its relative economic disadvantanges. This region of the country wields a disproportionate influence over national politics for a number of reasons that I’ve written about before herehere, and here(tl;dr: it’s about the Southern Strategy), and it’s clearly the seedbed for many national denominational trends. In September of this year Apostacon will also be held in the South—in Dallas to be exact—which means even more southern groups will get a chance to meet each other and network, drawing strength from the greater numbers while also having a great time.

The Critics of Islam Were Right: An Apology to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sam Harris, Bill Maher and Other So-Called Islamophobes…

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From CP Opinions

For years I was an apologist for Islam, as regrettably, many still remain. I only read books and believed those who painted Islam in a peaceful, glowing light. I made excuses for radical Muslims and lived in a flood of denial that religious teachings could still, in this modern age of drones and clones, motivate a person to commit evil. I criticized the numerous atheists including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher warning of the dangers inherent in Islamic doctrines, recklessly labeling them Islamophobes.

Today I’m writing to say I’m sorry, I apologize, and I ask for your forgiveness. We who have blindly defended Islam and called you Islamophobes are tragically wrong.

My mind first began to change last May when I read an interview by Sam Harris with Ayaan Hirsi Ali in which she addresses the misapplication of the term Islamophobia. This article, along with the seeds atheists planted over the years urging me to do more research, motivated me to delve into the religion. I read the Quran, many Hadith, the biography of Muhammad, the history of Jihad, and Islamic law. This is what I learned:

Happy Birthday, Christopher Hitchens…

I want to answer [the] implied question… Why don’t you accept this wonderful offer (of eternal life in heaven) ? Why wouldn’t you like to meet Shakespeare, for example? I don’t know if you really think that when you die you can be corporeally reassembled and have conversations with authors from previous epochs. It’s not necessary that you believe that in Christian theology and I have to say that it sounds like a complete fairytale to me.

The only reason I want to meet Shakespeare, or might even want to, is because I can meet him anytime because he is immortal in the works he’s left behind. If you’ve read those then meeting the author would almost certainly be a disappointment. But when Socrates was sentenced to death, for his philosophical investigations and for blasphemy for challenging the gods of the city, and he accepted his death he did say, “Well, if we are lucky perhaps I will be able to hold conversation with other great thinkers and philosophers and doubters, too.”

In other words, that the discussion about what is good, what is beautiful, what is noble, what is pure, and what is true could always go on. Why is that important? Why would I like to do that? Because that’s the only conversation worth having. And whether it goes on or not after I die, I don’t know. But, I do know that it is the conversation I want to have while I am still alive. Which means that to me the offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermeable faith that can’t give way is an offer of something not worth having.

I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet… that I haven’t understood enough… that I can’t know enough… that I am always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I’d urge you to look at those who tell you, those people who tell you at your age, that you are dead until you believe as they do. What a terrible thing to be telling to children. …and that you can only live by accepting an absolute authority. Don’t think of that as a gift. Think of it as a poisoned chalice. Push it aside however tempting it is.

Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way. Thank you.
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Life is so much better now that I am not a christian…

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From Godless Mom

Upon hearing that I left Christianity and have become an atheist, many of my friends and acquaintances show pity for me. They seem to assume that my life is not as happy or full without a god belief. This reaction always amazes me because I view my life as much more than when I was a Christian. Below are five of the ways my life has become better without believe in a god:

1. My life is more my own

At church, we were taught stories about biblical characters, such as Jonah, who were punished for putting their own desires over God’s. Stories such as Jonah and the whale (or great fish or sea monster) were told to remind us that God had a plan for each of us and that we must follow his plan. Our job was to discover God’s plan and to follow the path he had chosen for us. We were told to trust that God knew best.

Now that I am an atheist, I no longer have to try to determine what God wants for me. I feel free to determine what I want out of life. I can set my own goals and make my own decisions. The realization that we create our own purpose in life has been a very freeing experience for me.

2. Intellectual Growth

Hey Christians! We Freethinkers Can Save You From Your Hell! No, Really…


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Freethought: Bill Maher terrifies Bill O’Reilly: An atheist has the Fox News host running scared…

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From Salon

What flabbergasts O’Reilly & Coulter is nonbelievers are no longer keeping mum about Christianity’s rank stupidity 

Refuting the likes of Fox News’ popular talk-show host Bill O’Reilly and the razor-tongued television pundit and spewer-out of bestsellers Ann Coulter may seem pointless.  They say the same things time and again to Fox’s mostly white, badly informed audience which is in danger of dying off; the median age of O’Reilly’s viewers is seventy-two.  However, when it comes to religion, much of what they say reflects tacit anti-rationalist assumptions shared by far too many people from all walks of life – assumptions that must be challenged and refuted.

A case in point: on April 2, O’Reilly opened his show with a segment entitled “The War on Christianity Getting Even Worse.”  In it, he provides a distressing video overview of recent terrorist attacks against and executions of Christians in Africa and Pakistan, and declares that “Christians are being slaughtered all over the place.”  He segues to the United States, where “verbal attacks against Christians are the headline,” and “some far-left people . . . are smearing Americans who oppose things like abortion and gay marriage,” from which he concludes that “it is open season on Christians.”

The evidence?  “Well-known religion hater” Bill Maher (shown calling religions “stupid and dangerous”) has a “free pass to bash people of faith,” with his “vicious behavior toward Christianity largely ignored in the press.”

God is Unbelievable! (…and I don’t believe in him)


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Carl Sagan on the Issue of God…

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From Scientific Literacy Matters

The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying… it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity. [Carl Sagan]

My Conservative Christian Nightmare: I Spent 16 Years in an Abusive Religious Cult…

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From Vyckie Garrison
AlterNet

“The victim is given every assurance that God loves her and wants only the best for her and will supernaturally intervene on her behalf.”

If you have not heard of the Quiverfull movement, I’ll sum it up by saying that Quiverfull is an all-encompassing vision of a big, happy, godly family which affects every aspect of a so-called True Believer’s life. Probably the most recognizable Quiverfull family in America is reality TV’s Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting fame.

You’ll find Quiverfull families in nearly all types of churches in every community. Quiverfull is simply the “pro-life” idea that truly godly families will “trust the Lord” with their family planning. Children are viewed as unmitigated blessings (“As arrows in the hand of the mighty man, so are the children of ones youth, happy is the man who hath hisquiver full of them:” Psalm 123), so couples are willing to have as many children as the Lord chooses. All methods of conception control are considered a lack of trust in God to provide for the “children of the righteous.”

Sin, Salvation, and Social Control…

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From Atheist Revolution

Sin and salvation are prominent aspects of Christian doctrine. They have something else in common too. Sin and salvation are made up constructs that do not actually exist. Nothing is inherently sinful, and there are no supernatural entities against which one can sin or that can offer salvation. But these things are made up, that does not mean that they cannot be extremely useful.

The idea of sin was made up a long time ago by people in power who wanted to control the behavior of our ancestors. By convincing them that certain behaviors were sinful, they gained greater control over them than could be accomplished through other means. The idea that supernatural entities were always watching and that they would be faced with eternal damnation for their sins was quite effective for their purposes. And what is salvation if not a reward for behaving the way those in power want you to behave?

Having an Immortal God ‘Die’ for Your Sins…

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Mormon Secrets: What the Missionaries Don’t Tell…


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Happy Birthday, Richard Dawkins…

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From The Freethinker UK
‘The Voice of Atheism since 1881′

On this date in 1941, evolutionary biologist and freethought champion Richard Dawkins was born in Nairobi. His father had moved to Kenya from England during the Second World War to join the Allied Forces and the family returned to England in 1949.

Dawkins graduated from Oxford in 1962, earned his doctorate, became assistant professor of zoology at the University of California at Berkeley 1967-1969 and a fellow of New College in 1970. The Selfish Gene, his first book, published in 1976, became an international bestseller. It and the award-winning Blind Watchmaker were translated into all major languages.

His other books include The Extended Phenotype (1982), River Out of Eden(1995), Climbing Mount Improbable (1996), Unweaving the Rainbow (1998) and A Devil’s Chaplain (2003). His 2006 iconoclastic book, The God Delusion, which he wrote with the public hope of turning believing readers into atheists, became a bestseller in both the UK and the US.

Stop complaining about Dawkins and Maher, you fools…

aFrom Reedit

My news feed has recently been littered with random complaints by some atheists who are upset about other atheists who openly challenge religious claims and shame believers for adhering to immoral philosophies.

The common themes in these arguments are that it’s a waste of time and that individuals like Dawkins and Maher do more harm than good by giving atheism a combative and antagonistic image.

Meanwhile, empirical data released this week clearly shows how more Americans identify as non-religious than ever before, with a distinct and conspicuous spike in the last decade.

How Did Jesus Get to be So Hot? Where Popular Images of Jesus Actually Came From

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To understand the Borgia story requires a bit of context.

It’s All Guesswork

In contrast to what many people believe, we have no authentic physical artifacts confirming the gospel stories, nor descriptions of Jesus from any of his contemporaries. Even the gospels themselves never claim to be eyewitness accounts. Scholars now believe that the stories of Jesus’ life and ministry that have been handed down to us—both within the Bible and outside–were written decades (or more) after Jesus would have lived, by unknown authors. This means that Christians have been free for almost two millennia to depict Jesus in a form that best suits their own culture and purposes, and they have.

Christian Crock: Love Letters to Richard Dawkins…


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