Saturday, August 18, 2007

Religion - Marcus Brigstocke

Very funny. It's worth a look.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Jesus Video

How it was really like to walk with the Lord.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

First Freedom First

How important are your freedoms to you? There are many in this country who want to deny you, and I, and all of their other fellow citizens the first, and in many ways the most basic right, of a free society.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Tough being an atheist (OK I FIXED IT. YOU CAN VIEW IT NOW.)

Hey I'm on TV! Check it out I'm at the American Atheist Convention. They got me for a couple of seconds at time mark 4:14 looking at a table of books. Check it out. Oh, also a good vid by the way.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bloomfield NM wants to put up Ten Commandments on city property

On April 4th of this year I became aware of a decision by the City Council of Bloomfield NM to place a stone monument of the Ten Commandments in front of the courthouse, on city property. As a long time resident of Farmington NM, which is just down the road from Bloomfield, I was doubly concerned.

The story was reported in the Farmington Daily Times but it was a reporter from another New Mexico newspaper who alerted me to the unconstitutional actions proposed by the Bloomfield City Council.

After reading the article, I emailed all the members of the City Council with my concerns, and received no response.

I decided to write the Farmington Daily Times editorial desk. Here is a copy of my letter to the editor, which they chose not to publish. In fact they only published letters which seemed to be at least partially supportive of the placement of the ten commandments on government property.


A quick note to the Bloomfield City Council.

Though I am no longer a resident of San Juan County, I am still a New Mexico Resident. As such I am deeply troubled by the Bloomfield City Council's decision to place a religious monument on government property. This is in direct violation of the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. I suggest that you consider the fact that, despite assertions to the contrary, our nation's governments, from the national level down to local the level, are required to remain secular. You may not show preference for one religious belief system over another.

Putting the Ten Commandments in front of city Hall is in effect saying "This City Government is Christian".

By their very nature some of those commandments are exclusionary to other belief systems. The first three demand reverence ONLY for the God of the Bible, that's fine if you are a Christian, or Jew. But what about Traditional Native Americans, of Hindus, or Sikhs, or Jains, or Rastafarians or Deists (like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin) or Atheists ( like Thomas Paine) or hundreds of other belief systems?

If you claim that our laws are based on all of the Ten Commandments then you are saying that those who are not Christian, or perhaps Jewish, are breaking at least the spirit of American Law by worshiping other Gods! You have the right to believe that if you wish, even preach it in your churches, but as public servants you cannot foist that belief, en-mass on your fellow citizens by promoting it in any tax funded forum, i.e. city property.

Perhaps worst of all you people will be costing Bloomfield at the very least tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, all to promote your own personal religious beliefs and to get a little attention.

I am reminded of Jesus' words at Matt. 6:1 "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. "

Please reconsider your course.

John K.

I a flurry of activity I attempted to alert as many organizations and groups as I could. American Atheists, American Humanists, The Humanist Society of New Mexico, the ACLU both national and State offices, AU, and quite a few smaller groups and individuals.

I am unsure if many these groups or individuals made an attempt to contact the Bloomfield City Council to lodge a protest or to pursue this situation in other ways, I received minimal feed-back. There was, however, one notable exception, Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Americans United emailed me back, asking questions which I was able to find the answers to for them by conducting a phone interview with the city manager, Keith Johnson .

I have recently received an email form Americans United with the following attachment, a letter sent to the Bloomfield City Council:

I applaud Americans United for their efforts to keep the separation of state and church a sacrosanct element of our freedoms as American citizens.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Gregory Boyd on "The Myth of a Christian Nation"


Gregory Boyd Part 1 of 3

Gregory Boyd Part 2 of 3

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Back from the American Atheists Convention in Seattle

Well, I went to the 33rd annual American Atheists Convention in Seattle, held the first weekend of April, and I've taken these past few weeks to kind of "debrief" myself from the experience. A process which I could term a "short dark tea-time of the soul" (my apologies to Douglas Adams.) It was a good experience all in all, but it definitely gave me some moments pause too.

I really love Seattle, and the weather while I was there was great, a little rain, but more sun and even a record high temperature one day. I had quite a bit of fun, met some cool people, ate some great food including Thai, Brazilian, Sushi, and the best steak I've had in at least five years (Kobe beef!). I laughed a lot, no one can tell Christian jokes like ex-Christians, went dancing, rode a dinner train to a winery, listened to a New Orleans Jazz band, took a ferry to an island on the other side of the Puget sound, had some great conversations, made some new friends and, to top it all, I found myself getting pissed off more than once.

I don't mind getting pissed off. I think if it's a controlled kind of pissy-offishness and not the road rage, mad at the 90 year old lady for going 25 MPH in a 40 MPH zone kind, or the ultimately impotent "can this fast food clerk be any dumber? I said grilled chicken!" kind, then it can motivate you in positive directions. I'll even admit to enjoying being pissed off, in moderate doses.

Like most everyone I tend to get pissed with those I'm not inclined to agree with philosophically. So it's fairly easy to find myself pissed at the woman who insists that my chakras are in desperate and immediate need of adjusting, or the moron who thinks intelligent design theology deserves equal time with evolution in a science classroom, or Ann Coulter. Well my chakras and my auras are in a perfect Yin-yang harmonic resonance with Mars in retrograde, so keep that purple crystal, thinly veiled Freudian dangly thing you wear around your neck away from me, thank you very much! Oh and by the way, the "design" found in biology, it's not an example of intelligence, and neither, truth be told, is Ann Coulter! So yeah, I do like getting pissed off.

In Seattle though, I was hanging out with a bunch of my ideological peers. The experience should have been a idyllic repast from the rigors of my daily slog through the fetid intellectual indolence of the ontologically opiated masses. (Yes, I did just say "fetid intellectual indolence of the ontologically opiated masses") But I got pissed anyway. And that, it turns out, was a good thing. It set me to thinking in a lot of different directions and asking myself questions I needed to ask.

I won't go into all the questions I mulled over or the things I got pissed at. What I hope to do is give a distillation of some things I think I've come to terms with and also things I learned from the process.

The Longevity of Religion

Despite all of our wishes and efforts to the contrary, religion is not going away, ever. Our species is stuck with it, probably for countless generations to come. Perhaps religion will exist until evolution or extinction removes homo sapiens from the universe entirely. We can hope that the percentage of nonbelievers will continue to rise in the decades and centuries to come, but it is a percentage that will always fall far short of 99 and 44/100% pure, with religion forever soiling human existence. Of course I've known this fact, but until recently I haven't wanted to fully acknowledge it.

I think that there are at least four key reasons why religion and mystical belief are incurable facets of the human condition. Fear, social and familial ties, S & M, and narcissism.

One of the strongest, most consistent, and most motivating of emotions is fear. As mammals we naturally fear imminent threats to ourselves or family such as flashing lightning, a growling lion, or a raging mother-in-law. As humans though, we are in perhaps the unique position to anticipate scary situations. Ironically most of our fears are about things that never materialize, and this is because we also have great imaginations. We make up really good scary stories, and some are masters at it like Steven King, the Catholic Church, and Al Gore. But there is one very scary thing that we all anticipate and it isn't made up, it's one hundred percent likely to happen, our own deaths. People are deeply frightened by what happens when we die. It has to rank as one of the biggest, most long term fears the average person experiences in life. Many worry that this is all there is, they want more, this life isn't enough. Others worry about all the made up stuff like hell, purgatory, or the possibility of being reincarnated as a bowl of petunias. So humans cling to other fantasies, like heaven and resurrection or nirvana, to partially assuage those fears. The fear, coupled with those fairy-tale stories of paradise, makes it as difficult for a person to give up the opiate of untenable beliefs about an after life, as it is for a heroin addict to give up their drug.

If a person is going to give up some fantastic religious belief system, they stand every possibility of alienating family and friends. There is often the very real chance of being shunned by the very individuals with whom they wish to remain the closest. Most people have seen what happens to members of close knit religious groups who have become apostates to the strongly held beliefs. Social pressure is a powerful deterrent to free thought, or at least expression of those thoughts.

Dominance and submission are ubiquitous aspects of groups and are played out in countless ways. Whether it's found in a wolf pack, or in sadomasochistic role playing, hierarchical arrangements of social structure are the norm. In humans, once that structure has been formed, codified, and in some cases institutionalized, it becomes extremely difficult to remove oneself from it. Both the dominant and the submissive receive positive inducement to retain the structure. In the religious context the priest or religious leader has his or her ego boosted as the source, or at least the conduit, for all real knowledge. The submissive has the benefit of not having to take full intellectual responsibility for understanding the meaning of the world and their place in it, someone else can explain it all.

Of all the reasons why we are so strung out on religion, it seems to me that the one that should be most easily resolved is our inherent narcissism. Unfortunately this is not the case. We cling tenaciously to our self-love and our feelings of universal centrality. Despite the Copernican revolution that moved the Earth from the center of things, the Darwinian truth of our relatedness to all living things, the understanding of deep geologic time, and the astrophysical discoveries of billions of galaxies each with billions of stars, we still pretend as though the universe was created just for us and that there is some grand purpose for humans, even individual humans. Few see that the only purposes that our little species, residing on this speck of dust in infinite space, will ever have are those we define for ourselves. The universe is ambivalent to our existence.

Atheists need to focus on what's important

Debating creationists, though entertaining, is not very productive. And attempting to convince a believer that the Jesus of the Bible is just an image of Mithras and other deities, manufactured primarily by the apostle Paul, will most likely fail.

I don't think we should stop doing these kinds of things. I just think that there are more important issues on the table. Everyone has something at stake and we all need to address what is happening around us.

Not just atheists but agnostics, "liberal" Christans, and anyone concerned about our constitutional freedoms and the first amendment's guarantee of separation of church and state, need to react to any and all attacks on those freedoms. If people don't know what's happening with the "faith-based" initiatives and the billions of federal dollars going to churches and religious organizations that are effectively unaccounted for, they need to be encouraged to educate themselves.

There are millions of people in this country working to place their personal religious ideology above the secular law and to place religious requirements on all of us. The story The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood may prove more prophetic than any of us would like. There is a very good book on the subject of the current religious takeover of the government written by Michelle Goldberg Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. For a quick read that may literally put the fear of god in you about what's happening to some the nations youth, try the Rolling Stone article by Jeff Sharlet Teenage Holy War.

These are real threats. People want to roll back the political and intellectual legacy of the Enlightenment in the name of a sadistic, vengeful, homophobic, bloodthirsty deity. They want an American theocracy. Even if they are only partially successful, which they have been already, we've lost important freedoms. We need to remember that when religion ruled the world, it was called the dark ages, and for good reason.

Come out of the closet

Just admit you are a non-believer and don't hide behind agnosticism. Most all atheists technically would more accurately be described as agnostics (see the orbiting teapot example of Bertrand Russell). But if you are, to all intents and purposes, a non-believer just say so, don't cop out. If someone says something to me like "Do you believe in the Lord?" , I've started saying things like "no of course not, why, you don't do you?"

There are many more of us out there than most people realize and there really is strength in numbers. So let's stand up and be proud of the fact that unlike much of humanity, we aren't a bunch of gullible sheep.

So the convention was fun, I met some fellow non-believers, and learned some stuff. Plus I love Seattle. The city is beautiful and cosmopolitan, it's a place where even a convention full of atheists might feel at home. You can find some crazy stuff in that city though. For instance, it's the home of The Discovery Institute which is the primary "think tank" for creationism and its alter ego, intelligent design theory. But then I guess no place is perfect.