Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Some Atheism Plus Links

Atheism Plus is still in its infancy, and confusion about it is rampant.  If you're inclined to do some reading about it, here's a few links that might be informative.  I'm updating it as a I find more.  If you have a suggestion, please share it in the comments.

2012-08-19 13:06 Atheism +Blag Hag (Jennifer McCreight) - The first use of the term "Atheism Plus".
2012-08-20 12:25 The New Atheism +Richard Carrier - This post received a lot of criticism, including from McCreight
2012-08-23 18:40 My take on Atheism +Dear Ania

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Thought Experiment With Double Standards

I've previously written about this billboard and how there was a complete lack of controversy surrounding it being up.  But what if there had been controversy?

What if atheists were so enraged by this billboard being up that they sent threats to Lamar and Ken Ham and his group, Answers in Genesis.  I think we all know how Fox News would report on this.  News networks would report it extensively, painting atheists in general in a bad light.  Prominent atheists and atheist groups would be compelled to publicly denounce the threats.  It would forever be used by Christian apologists as the prime example of how violent they think atheists are.  

In short, we would all be blamed for it and we would never live it down.

Christians can compare us to murderers publicly and barely raise an eyebrow.

Then there's the real situation of American Atheists' billboards in Charlotte.   When they went up, there were plenty of stories about them.  When Tampa refused to even put one up, crickets.  

American Atheists reported on the billboards coming down, of course.   The Thinking Atheist posted about it on Facebook.  A freethought blog in Arizona wrote about it.  Fox News reported it, but downplayed it in their headline by saying it was "complaints" and not threats.  The Charlotte Observer's headline, called the threats "outcry".  American Atheists is not known for backing down to complaints, they expected complaints.
David Silverman, president of American Atheists, said the controversy is exactly what he expected.
This leaves Fox News as the only major coverage of threats so bad, they got the self described "Marines of Freethought" to back down.  I'll just leave it there and give that a chance to sink in.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bricks & Skepticism

I'm still regularly amazed by how often I notice lyrics in songs I've been listening to for years & heard dozens of times, even with one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands.

I've known what Paramore's "Brick By Boring Brick" is about since I first heard it, but I'd never thought about it in context of who wrote it.
Well you built up a world of magic
Because your real life is tragic
Yeah you built up a world of magic

If it's not real
You can't hold it in your hand
You can't feel it with your heart
And I won't believe it
But if it's true

You can see it with your eyes
Oh even in the dark
And that's where I want to be, yeah
The song is about reality being preferable to fantasy.  It's about not believing something without evidence.  It's about putting in the hard work to reality instead of taking the easy route of believing a fantasy.  These lyrics would have made me think Hayley Williams is an atheist if I didn't already known she was Christian.

I've been aware that Hayley Williams was a Christian  for years.  But her religion has never been an issue for me, since I've never seen her use it to justify any hate or to shame anyone, and I've never noticed it in her lyrics.  She doesn't necessarily wear it on her sleeve, but she does wear it on her thigh.  Plus, it's not like it's an out of the ordinary thing for someone to be, especially someone from Mississippi & Tennessee.

She's that devoutly Christian but wrote a song that could double as an atheist anthem.  This is far from the first time I've encountered a theist advocating skepticism that should prevent their belief.  But it's an excellent example of something that is all too common.   They often apply proper skepticism to everything except their religion.  The day we figure out how to get them to apply that skepticism to their god(s) will be the day we really see religion begin to crumble.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Open Letter To People Who Make Prayer Requests

If your standard response to tragedy is to request people pray, this is intended for you.

My intention here is not antagonistic or any attempt to insult, belittle, or mock.  These are genuine questions I have regarding a concept I have never understood.

Prayer has always perplexed me.  George Carlin's famous bit about prayer & "God's plan" described my thoughts on prayer best until I found Tim Minchin's "Thank You God" (the inspiration for this blog's title).

I don't understand why people think praying for someone experiencing a tragedy is actually accomplishing anything tangible.  I'm trying to understand what goes through your mind when you request prayer instead of actual action.

When you make prayer requests, what are you expecting?

Do you think the outcome is dependent on how many people pray?

If God has a plan, how could prayer alter that plan?

How often do you also request direct action other than prayer?  Given the less than stellar success rate of prayer, do you ever wonder if direct action would be more effective?

Do you ever think people who experience tragedy just didn't have enough people praying for them?

What about when people do pray & bad things still happen?  Did God say no?  Were not enough people praying?

Do you think direct action that occurs after a prayer is because of the prayer?  What about when disaster is averted without anyone praying?  Did God help that person anyway?  If so, is prayer even required or useful?  If not, is prayer even required or useful?

As far as I as I can tell, prayer is only useful for making the person praying feel better emotionally & is entirely useless in terms of otherwise helping people.

I'm not trying to tell you to stop praying.  It's not my place to make such a request if praying does make you feel better.  But please never let it be your only effort.

When you see someone in need that you want to help, please think for a minute about what tangible actions you could take to directly help.  That way, the person in trouble receives help and you get to feel better.  Instead of just you feeling better.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

They Won One Battle

Since I last wrote about Chick-fil-A, a media frenzy has erupted.  Yesterday was declared "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" by Mike Huckabee, and it was quite a success.  Bigots came out in force to show their support for the hate group funding restaurant, even here in Omaha.

The only public Chick-fil-A in Omaha was sold out of chicken yesterday so much it affected the menu today.

It was extremely disheartening to see such support for such obvious hate.  But then I thought about it.  How long can they keep it up?  Omaha has enough bigots to sell out one small restaurant on one day.  The country has enough bigots to make madhouses of Chick-fil-As across the country.  For one day.  Hate is a powerful motivator.  But can it last?  How often will they eat at this restaurant?  

I'm not sure there are enough of them to keep it profitable on their own for very long, and that is what it would take.  I'm certainly not going to being eating there.  I haven't eaten there in years, and in that time, I've been telling everyone I could about their support of hate.  The people I tell nearly always join the boycott.

Omaha pulled together over 2,000 people for a vigil in response to a hideous hate crime in Lincoln a few days earlier.  Those people are certainly not going to be eating Chick-fil-A anytime soon.  And the number of people refusing to eat there will only grow.

I'm sure many bigots will attempt to continue their support of hate.  But many will soon grow sick of eating it so often, or they'll simply forget.  Boycotts can last forever.  It's quite easy to avoid a single restaurant.  It's not as easy to keep eating greasy chicken constantly.

They won the day yesterday.  They will ultimately lose.  We will eventually do the right thing, allow marriage equality, and end the 2nd class citizen status we force upon millions of Americans.  The people who hated blacks yesterday and hate gays today will tomorrow have to find another target for their hate.

And just for fun, here's an article on the restaurant's other issues.