16 December 2008

War on Christmas.

We atheists love the holiday season! It’s the time of year to scowl at anyone wishing us holiday greetings of any kind, be it a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Good Kwanzaa. Even calling the winter celebration Yule or Saturnalia gives us all a smug sense of superiority knowing that we are not yoked to superstition. Whenever we hear the claim "Jesus is the reason for the season," we can counter with the smarmy "Really, I thought it was Mithras," or the coldly scientific "Actually, its the tilt of the Earth." Everyone knows this is the time of year when atheists get out the war paint and roam the streets in gangs knocking down Salvation Army bell ringers and pissing in nativity crèches. Oh, the holiday joy!


Congress voted in 1870 to make Christmas Day a national holiday, thus making in a secular American holiday. Since, as we all know, "congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," (we do all know that, right?) the very act of voting to make it an official holiday stripped Christmas of any religious connotations. Do not be alarmed; there are any number of winter festival traditions in which you can freely participate. As for me, I'm just glad the days are getting longer (up here in the northern hemisphere, anyway,) and I expect to enjoy some family time and some good food and drink.

It makes no difference to me how you choose to celebrate, just please don't insist that your way is the only way or that the season is reserved for those that share your faith.

Merry Christmas!

Think well,


09 November 2008

Read Your Bible! (step 4.)

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of the ancient texts with which we were indoctrinated.

"Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand."
— Mark Twain

In my first 18 years of life, I went to a liberal catholic church almost every week. Although typically glazed over through most of the services, I remember the stories of kindness, like the good Samaritan and feeding the poor (i.e. loaves and fishes.) I also recall the miraculous stories about walking on water and rising from the dead.

Perhaps it was because it was coming from the liberal end of the denomination, but we weren't read the verses about how it is better to offer you virgin daughter and your guest’s concubine to the mob of angry rapists instead of your Levite guest (they took the concubine.) Or, how after “they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning” the noble Levite chopped her up into twelve pieces, bones and all, and “sent her into all the coasts of Israel.” This charming story is from Judges 19:22-29.

I didn’t hear about how, if God has killed both you and your sister’s husbands, and you have no children, you should, in order to continue you genetic line, get your father drunk and have your way with him. Not once, but two nights in a row, once for each sister.

Lucky for me, my parents aren’t bible literalists; otherwise I would probably not have survived my teenage years as I did my fair share of cursing them.

Fortunately for my sister in law, my brother does not actually believe that she should have been stoned to death on her father’s doorstep for not being a virgin on their wedding night. (I only know this for sure because my nephew was at their wedding. [Unless of course there is something extra special about him I don’t know…])

Any version of the bible is rife with brutality, cruelty, murder, and general nastiness. This includes the Book of Mormon, which is simply yet another re-write of the ancient myths, and the texts of the Jehovah’s Witness’, a wildly non-traditional bible interpretation. Jehovah’s Witness are not even allowed to read the bible on their own since they are deemed incapable of proper interpretation without help from their “betters.”

Don’t let another human tell you what god wants. How the hell do they know? As Susan B. Anthony said: "I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."

Every major religion has ancient texts that are regarded holy. Even cursory scrutiny will reveal a deity that is vicious, intolerant, and petty. The oft-repeated mantra of a loving benevolent supreme being is just that, mantra. It is not evident in ‘sacred’ texts. Don’t believe me? Take a look at Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. They deconstruct not only the Bible, but also the Q’uran and the Book Of Mormon.

Think Well,


05 November 2008

Election aftermath.

I confess to elation with Obama's decisive victory. The world has breathed a sigh of relief. This election has increased our nation's standing in the international community. A measure of the worldwide outpouring of goodwill we received in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, arrogantly and recklessly squandered by the outgoing administration, will return. I also think it has increased trust across ethnic lines within the United States.

Of course, I'm extremely disappointed with California's %52-%48 vote in favor of eliminating the right of gays to marry. In favor of eliminating rights? In a constitution? Despicable. This intolerant measure (prop. 8) was funded primarily by the Mormon Church, but received a boost after an endorsement from the notoriously non-secular pastor Rick Warren. I have yet to hear a legitimate argument against same sex marriage.

The only issues people have with gay marriage come from the various ancient (or not-so-ancient in the case of LDS) storybooks that they worship. This will lead nicely into step four of Theists Anon:
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of the ancient texts with which we were indoctrinated.

28 October 2008

Threat to Marriage?

California's Proposition 8 is shaping up to be the most expensive contest in next week's election after the presidential race itself. A yes vote on Prop 8. will overturn the CA supreme court decision that allows same-sex couples to marry.

There will always be the cries of "activist judges" going against the will off the people. The people who emit these pathetic wails are clearly unfamiliar with the concept of checks and balances and the tyranny of the majority. Part of a judge's job is to determine when laws are unconstitutional. Discrimination counts.

Another complaint from the narrow-minded is that the term "marriage" should be reserved for heterosexual couples and gay couples should have all the same rights in a "civil union." This separate but equal policy didn't work during the era of the Jim Crow laws and it won't work now. All it does is alienate a segment of the population by treating them as second-class citizens. It violates the constitutional tenant of equal protection under the law.

"But, they'll teach it to my kids in school!" Perhaps, if it comes up. Mostly boys marry girls, but sometimes boys marry boys and girls marry girls. This is a fact. Why shouldn't it be taught in schools? No child will be told in any public school who they should marry. (It might happen to a home-schooled child in a separatist Mormon encampment, though...)

There is also the absurd claim floating around that it violates individual freedom of religion. That is an utter crock. No one will be forcing anyone to marry anyone, dammit! You can even continue to believe that homosexuality is an "abomination" or just "hate the sin, love the sinner." If you are a bible literalist, you know that the punishment for homosexuality is not to deny them marriage, but for them to be put to death. You will even be free to believe in this horrid retribution as long as you don't act on it. You can hate whomever you want for whatever reason you like, but our government can't give you the right to discriminate.

One of the most vapid grumbles is that this will somehow violate the "sanctity of marriage." Read your first amendment. The government doesn't do "sanctity." If you are so concerned about the sanctity of marriage, work to legislate a ban on divorce. See how that goes over.

The arguments that gay marriage is somehow a threat to society simply don't hold water.

No on 8. Another straight white man for equality.

Think Well,


27 October 2008

Balancing Quantity and Quality.

Vjack of Atheist Revolution regularly posts tips for new bloggers. I am not able to follow all of his advice due to time constraints and my own lack of technical know-how. I also confess to squandering a traffic spike vjack sent my way by letting TA lie dormant for over a week. Vjack recommends one post a day! I won't be able to manage that, but I will try for 3-4 posts a week. I understand there is also an argument against the one-a-day rule. I certainly don't want to sacrifice quality for quantity.

I'll try to get to one step a week. I surely should have more than 3 posts monthly.

It may get a bit political here (this week anyway...)

Think well,


19 October 2008

Addiction v. Divorce.

Here I use addiction as a metaphor for overcoming religion. Ex-christian.net has pointed me towards a documentary by Native Shore Productions using divorce as a comparison. They have collected and filmed 25 interviews with people leaving their spouses at the same time as questioning their religion.

The documentary, "Divorcing God" will be out in Jan. 2009.

Think Well,


Act for yourself. (step 3.)

3. Made a decision to return our will and our lives to ourselves instead of an imagined higher power.

Every time I see an athlete praise a deity for one of their own accomplishments, my first thought is "c'mon, give yourself some credit." It is, after all, the athlete themselves who wakes early to train, practice the requisite skills, keep themselves in shape with diet and conditioning, and sometimes even risks bodily harm (and legal action) by using drugs to enhance performance.

Oddly enough, the higher powers are never at fault when the athlete fails. If two coaches pray to the same god that their team win, one team will still lose. Is it the team whose coach prays louder or better the winner? No. It is the team that plays best, or, at a minimum, makes the fewest mistakes.

Similarly, there are those who ask deity du jour for help with getting a new job, securing that (car, home, business) loan, getting pregnant (or not) and any number of things. You might get the job if you have worked to gain the qualifications and there is not a more qualified applicant. You may be just as capable as you closest competitor, but her personality is a better fit for the company. You may have applied for a job for which you are not fully qualified. (There's nothing wrong with challenging yourself.)

If you don't get the job, you can say "Oh well, it wasn't god's will," but this is a dead end on the road to self improvement. It would be more productive to analyze what went wrong and attempt to rectify it. i.e. "I need more skills in xxxxxx," or "maybe I would be better working as a yyyyyyy."

When the imaginary divine plan is removed, you get to take credit for your success, but you must also take responsibility for your shortcomings. It takes courage, but you can do it.

Think Well,


24 September 2008

Just a Little Thought (please?) (step 2.)

2. Came to realize that rational inquiry could restore us to sanity.

I can hear it now... "Are you saying I'm insane?" No, just that you may hold ideas that I think are insane. There is a large segment of the population that thinks I'm crazy for not believing in a higher power, I'm simply returning the favor.

Almost every major theology promises its followers life after death, yet still loved ones gather to mourn. Why all the sadness if the funeral's guest of honor is "in a better place," "no longer suffering," or "watching over us from above?" Because most people, even if religious, realize in the rational part of their mind that death is the end.

It is frightening. Death is the worst thing that can happen to you. Convincing yourself you can survive it may be comforting, but reality is not here to make us feel good. (I'll go into more detail on how atheism has helped me deal with death in a later post.)

There is a loud segment of religious fundamentalists and phony scientists trying to convince the masses that the entire universe is 6-10,000 years old. They claim that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time and that the Grand Canyon was caused by the biblical flood. Anyone who has graduated 8th grade knows the dinosaurs died out long before humans arrived on the planet and that the Grand Canyon is the product 6 million years of erosion.

Yet more than half of Americans believe this "creationism" nonsense is valid science. Perhaps the dwindling science education in the US is to partially to blame. The massive propaganda machine from the creationist (re-branded "Intelligent Design" or ID) movement and their high profile lawsuits certainly play a part. I'm guessing most haven't given it much thought. A cursory look at the claims and credentials of the ID supporters is enough for a rational person to dismiss them outright. For example, there are more legitimate scientists named Steve that accept (not believe in) evolution than there are total illegitimate scientists in support of ID.

Believing two contradictory things (i.e. "I'll be in a better place when I die" and "death terrifies me" or "the planet is 6,000 years old" and "the earth has been around for 4.5 billion years.") is know as cognitive dissonance and causes mental stress. Discarding one of the contradictions, or altering existing beliefs is the way to reduce this stress.

If you discard the irrational belief, you can reduce mental stress and restore a measure of sanity.

Think well.


13 September 2008

My warm welcome to the atheist blogosphere

We interrupt our regularly scheduled posting to pass out kudos.

Theist’s anonymous has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist Blogroll is a community building service provided by Mojoey at Deep Thoughts free of charge to atheist bloggers from around the world. I'm glad to be a part of this community of over 730 (and growing) atheist blogs.

If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information. Thanks, Mojoey.

While I'm thanking people in the blogosphere, I want to send a nod to vjack of Atheist Revolution. Since I'm a brand new blogger, I've been seeking out advice from those more seasoned and have gotten good advice from vjack. In addition to his quality atheism related information, he has written an entire series on blogging advice. Thanks, vjack.

I may as well thank the entire community at the Richard Dawkins dot net forum for helping me add cohesion to my arguments.

Enough thanks for now. I'll stop lest this begin to sound like an award acceptance speech.

Next week, I'll move on to discussion of step two.


07 September 2008

Objective vs. Subjective Reality (step 1.)

1. We admitted belief without evidence was powerless - that our faith had become untenable.

In addressing the first of the twelve steps, I will be addressing two sensitive words often considered to be off- limits in polite company, “belief” and “faith.” Let’s cram those worms back into their can.

“You have no right to question my beliefs” some may protest. To that I respond: “If your beliefs mandate teaching myths in science class, obstruction of scientific and medical research, denying complete sex education to American schoolchildren and uneducated third world citizens, invasions into the privacy of the bedroom, vilifying those who believe differently, pillage of the planet’s natural resources (since the world is ending soon, anyway,) or any number of other policies that hurt society as a whole, then I have a responsibility to challenge your beliefs. If these beliefs cannot hold their own (which they can’t) in the marketplace of ideas, they must be discarded.”

So, here we go.

I believe that when I throw a ball into the air, it will come back down. Almost everyone on the planet, regardless of which deity they believe in, if any, believes the same thing. (I have not encountered anyone who does not “believe” in gravity, but they probably exist.) I believe this because %99.9 of the time I throw a ball in the air, it comes down. (The other %.01 the ball gets stuck on a high shelf, ceiling fan, or some such.) There is clear observational evidence, and the experiment has been performed millions of times with the same results. This is objective reality.

Many believe that they can feel the existence of their preferred deity “in their heart.” Dismissing the fact that the heart is merely a blood pumping muscle and that any such “feeling” comes from the brain, that is strictly a subjective claim. Some claim to feel “Yahweh” in their heart while others claim “Allah” and others feel nothing of the sort. This is an argument from personal experience that is entirely unverifiable by anyone else, or subjective reality.

This kind of personal experience, and circular reasoning,
i.e. “we know this sacred text is true because it says its true,” are common arguments for the validity of faith, however, neither can be counted as evidence.

“But, I simply have faith that this is true,” some will argue. I agree with Mark Twain, who wrote “faith is believing something you know ‘aint true.”

The only honest theistic position is to acknowledge that there is no good evidence, but that one simply believes, via faith, with no good reason. If this is good enough for you, then you probably won’t be convinced otherwise. After all, you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into in the first place.

If you are not OK with believing outlandish things for no good reason, come back next week and we’ll discuss rational inquiry.

Think well,


23 August 2008

The Twelve Steps of Theists Anonymous

Here they are...

1. We admitted belief without evidence was powerless - that our faith had become untenable.

2. Came to realize that rational inquiry could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to return our will and our lives to ourselves instead of an imagined higher power.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of the ancient texts with which we were indoctrinated.

5. Admitted to others and ourselves the exact nature of wrongs we had committed in the name of theism.

6. Were entirely ready to remove the mythical defects from our character.

7. Boldly strive to become aware and repair your own shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons to which we had fed misinformation, and become willing to apologize and admit we were wrong.

9. Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, even if it may hurt their feelings.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through research and discussion to improve our intellect and understanding of the real world, working to improve the society we all share.

12. Having had a rational awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to theists, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Next week I'll elaborate on step one.


17 August 2008

Saddleback Religious Test

There will be a week's delay on the posting of the twelve step program because I feel the need to comment on the Saddleback Church 'Civic' Forum with the presidential candidates.

The US Constitution prohibits a religious test to hold office in article six. This forum asked both candidates live on CNN, C-span, and FOX “What does it mean to you to trust in Christ?” and "When does life begin?" Although not administered by the federal government, in the eyes of the voting public, that amounts to a religious test.

Senator McCain even repeated the common myth that the U.S. was founded on "Judeo-Christian" values when the first words of Amendment One read : "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." I'll give McCain the (very generous) benefit of the doubt since he wasn't actually present for the drafting of our country's founding documents. John Adams was present however, and it was during his presidency that the Treaty of Triploli was passed unanimously by Congress. Article 11 of this congressional document begins; "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."

I bring this up not only because perpetration of this myth pisses me off, but also because it highlights one of the reasons I am writing this blog. Blatent untruths like this (and 'creationism,' but that's another year) spread in the name of religion can be easily disproven by facts, but many will deny reality because their faith makes them feel better. There are some who even take reality as a personal assault on their beliefs.

In asking readers to question their beliefs rationally, objectively and fearlessly, I will likely be accused of intolerance or outright hatred. Let me sort this out now. I don't dislike anyone for the beliefs they hold, only for how they act upon them. For example, I have several friends who are great people, but they have the unfortunate affliction of being Yankees fans. I have respect for these people despite their unfortunate belief. If one of them had taken a swing at me the first time they saw me in my Red Sox hat, they would not be my friend and they would not have my respect. See the difference?

As for tolerance, I tolerate religion every day. Everytime I spend cash, sneeze in public, or listen to a pol end a speech I am reminded that most of the nation disagrees with me. I'm OK with being of a minority opinion, I just want to help my opinion be heard without distortion or discrimination. One of the things I do believe is that two factions don't fight each other if they are engaged in open dialogue.

Whew! Long.

OK. No suggestions for steps yet, but as I'm just starting I didn't expect much. The deadline has been extended, though, so feel free to submit. For extra credit, can you find me a Jewish founding father so we can figure out where McCain's "Judeo-Christian" values came from?


10 August 2008

Here I am, starting a blog on a Sunday morning. Getting out of bed is much more fun when you get to do something you want to do. I don't think they'd let me into church in my bathrobe, anyway.

Maybe blogging is my new Sunday morning ritual.

OK, here's the deal. Next week I'll post my takeoff of AA's twelve step program. We won't be kicking the booze, though, we'll be kicking religion! In the ensuing weeks, I'll go into more detail on each step, one step a week (or so.) After three months there will surely be more to discuss.

In the meantime if anyone has ideas for adapting any or all of AA's twelve steps, make some suggestions. No, I'm not trying to get you to do my 'work' for me (its already done.) I'm just curios about other ideas.


P.S. I know religion is important to many people. If you are religious, this blog may go places that may make your brain uncomfortable. Do not feel attacked. I don't know you, I am merely criticizing an idea you hold. Heroin is important to some people, too. That doesn't mean I have to think it's a good idea.