Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Bingo Ate Your Baby

I was preparing for an upcoming counter protest of the farcical "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" Rallies, which brought be to search for the Atheist Bingo card.

Then it occurred to me that it could be better named.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Don't Know (Spoiler Alert)

If you haven't been watching HBO's show Newsroom, you really should be.  I don't know if I can overstate how brilliant this show is.  Olivia Munn being on it just a bonus.

If you haven't watched it, and do not want spoilers, you may not want to read any further.

It highlights how broken our corporate media is and the false equivalency of the two major American political parties they push on us.  The news hasn't reported the news in years.  Corporate media caved to money a long time ago.  They now care more about ratings than truth.  They care more for the perception of balance than for accountability.  They care more about being first than being right.

Newsroom showed the craven need for ratings on the episode about the Tuscon shooting & the fact that the supposed news networks reported that she was dead.  Since she's alive today, it's safe to say they got wrong.

With the anchor on the air, the staff is attempting to piece together what happened and what is going on.  When NPR reports that Giffords is dead, the other networks all jump on it and repeat the inaccurate report. With the news people at ACN (Newsroom's fictional network) refusing to report that Giffords was dead, the  company president storms into the studio to tell them about how many viewers they're losing by not reporting the death.  He was more worried about ratings than truth.

The real news networks all care more about ratings, so they all got it wrong.  They didn't need the benefit of hindsight that the writers of Newsroom have.  They just needed to actually follow journalistic standards of verification instead of making shit up or assuming.  The fictional company president and the real news networks are all afraid to say "I don't know."  They have this fear because their viewers have this fear.  People are afraid of saying "I don't know."

Comfort with "I don't know" as an answer is the biggest difference I've noticed between theists and atheists.  When I discuss religion with theists, they are almost always not comfortable with stopping at "I don't know."  While some atheists also have this particular issue, for most atheists, "I don't know" is a necessity.  We don't have the luxury of making up an answer or accepting one we do not know to be true.

The world needs more people admitting they don't know.  If people were capable of that, we would have less of the travesty of 24 cable news and less of the abomination that is organized religion.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Invisible Yahweh

Last week, a Hollywood legend spoke to an empty an empty chair in a bizarre, rambling bit for the Republican National Convention.

I've always liked Clint Eastwood.  I liked his acting before he became more famous for directing.  I loved Gran Torino enough that I was surprised and disappointed when it was snubbed by the Oscars.  This  blemish on his legacy certainly doesn't keep me from wanting to see his current film, Trouble with the Curve.  Why wouldn't I want to see it?  It's Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, and baseball.

Perhaps that's why I was hesitant to make fun of him.  It seemed out of character.  It seemed like a joke that seemed like it would work in planning but just fell flat.  Although, I did find the resulting meme amusing enough.

But neither Eastwood nor Eastwooding is my point with this.  This reminds me of something else.  To everyone who saw that speech, it looked like he had lost his mind.  He was talking to an empty chair.  He was talking to no one.

This is how many atheists see the religious.  I don't mean to offend anyone by saying that.  But if a religious person ever wants to know how they are seen by atheists, I cannot think of a better example than Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair, that everyone involved knew was empty.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Step On Some Cracks

Someone recently asked in the atheist group I am a part of if we ever pander to theists we know when they lose loved ones.  I responded with:
Absolutely not. I refuse to do anything that makes it appear as if I think their beliefs are valid or worthy of my respect. Pandering to their beliefs does nothing but reinforce the foolish notion that their beliefs are required in the process of dealing with loss. I would rather be honest and show that it's possible to cope with difficult times as an adult should, without fairy tales.
This reminded me of something, that I often think about, from kindergarten.  
Step on a crack, break your mother's back
I'm sure most people reading this have heard that phrase.  Some of you maybe even avoided stepping on a crack at least once because of it.  I had classmates who said the phrase, actively avoided stepping on cracks because of it, and told others to do the same.  I responded in the only appropriate way I could think of.

I would purposely let them see me stepping on cracks.  I didn't make a big show of it, but I think I did call them stupid a time or two.  I thought this superstition was stupid.  I thought all superstition was stupid.  I was never ostracized for rejecting their superstition, and I think the willingness of people like me to challenge them is part of how they outgrew it.  

I think this part of my childhood is a good example of three things.

1.  It displays just how silly a thing otherwise intelligent people are capable of believing.  Sure, just about everyone outgrows that particular silly belief.  But it's really not much sillier than the beliefs many adults hold.

2.  It's my constant reminder of the damage religion can cause and how it sticks with you.  I think of it nearly every time I walk over cracks.  I didn't even believe the superstition, and it is still in my head nearly 30 years later.  I can only imagine what children from fundamentalist backgrounds go through.  It's part of why Recovering From Religion is the organization I support more than any other.

3.  It is one my favorite anecdotes to show what kind of atheist I am.  I could have played along with them or feigned belief.  Or I could have simply not participated and let go on believing this silly thing unchallenged a while longer.  But I was having none of that.  It was probably a harmless game to most of the kids.  But a few treated it as true and were attempting to dictate the behavior of the rest of us.  So I stepped on the cracks.

The world needs more of that.  Too many people use religion to force stupidity and hate upon society.  They would be far less able to do that if more of us would simply step on the cracks.  With no one stepping on the cracks, the foolish superstition runs the risk of persisting.  The more people not afraid to publicly step on the cracks, the more the believers are forced to keep their silly beliefs to themselves and to quietly avoid the cracks without bothering the rest of us about it.