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Monthly Archives: March 2010

Carnival of the Godless

I’ve been remiss, in recent months, about announcing the times and locations of the Carnival of the Godless. I’ll correct that now by announcing that the Steak and a Blowjob Day edition of the carnival is now up at Melliferax’s blog. Head on over there for some good reading.

– the chaplain

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2010 in announcements/news, atheism

 

Sunday Stupid

I loved living in the American Midwest. People were friendly. The pace of life suited me. Unfortunately, it seems that some  folks out there need the services of some secular babysitters, because they’re getting themselves into trouble and creating troubles for others, too.

Here’s the first item that caught my eye this morning:

INDIANAPOLIS – The top-ranked senior at a suburban Indianapolis high school is asking a federal judge to stop a graduation prayer that the class voted to approve.

The lawsuit by 18-year-old Eric Workman claims the prayer and the vote at Greenwood High School unconstitutionally subject religious practice to majority rule.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit on Workman’s behalf. It says, “He does not believe that anyone should involuntarily be subjected to prayer and religious beliefs.”

But Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, says, “Part of being an adult is learning to tolerate speech you don’t like.”

Eric Workman and the ACLU are right. The fact that the students voted on the issue does not render the results fair, right or Constitutional. Subjecting items to votes is sometimes a sneaky way to take on the appearance of behaving democratically while imposing the whims of the many upon the few. It’s also a way for leaders to abdicate their responsibility to make tough decisions, some of which undoubtedly will be unpopular. The United States is a republic in which minority rights are protected from the tyranny of majority rule. Moreover, the graduation ceremony of a secular public high school is not a religious event. The decision in this situation is a no-brainer: compulsory sectarian prayers are no more appropriate there than at the league championship game at the local bowling alley.

Micah Clark’s statement, while true, is priceless, coming as it does from the lips of an executive of the American Family Association. He should keep his advice in mind the next time atheists, or gays, or Wiccans, or women, say things he doesn’t like. Perhaps things like, gays have the same right to marry (and take their dates to the public, not sectarian, school prom) as straights. Or this: atheists are not ipso facto immoral just because we don’t accept any texts as sacred, or pay heed to gods, spirits, stars, crystals and other ethereal influences. Or even this: public high school graduations are not appropriate venues for prayers.

Then there’s this gem:

A move to add a personhood amendment to the state constitution is under way in Iowa.

The proposal calls for the state to recognize human eggs as persons deserving legal protection, and the drive in the House is spearheaded by Representative Dwayne Alons.

“We’ve found out so many things about life and development in the womb, about a person,” he comments. “And I believe it’s time that we really start recognizing that a person does begin at conception, and that right to life should be put intact and stay there for a person from the very beginning of the biological process.”

The problem in both houses of the Iowa legislature, according to Alons, is that they are controlled by liberals.

“They have resisted most of the bills for the most part — I’d say just about all the bills that relate to changing anything related to life and right to life,” the state lawmaker notes. “So it’s an uphill battle, but hopefully this will gain momentum.”

The bill would put an end to abortion in Iowa, but it would also bar research using human embryos. The measure must pass both houses before being placed on a state ballot.

Alons apparently holds that eggs are persons, and women are not. Neither are all of those already-born humans who could benefit from the results of research done with human embryos. I have some hope that this amendment will die in Alons’ lap, since the Iowa legislature is, according to Alons, “controlled by liberals” who have “resisted most of the bills” of this type. Of course, one need not even be particularly liberal to understand how nonsensical this bill is. Moreover, any state legislation that would render abortion illegal would be un-Constitutional. And – color me shocked! – we have another Christofascist trying to circumvent the Constitution by putting an initiative like this to a public vote. Repeat after me: the fact that something wins a majority of votes does not render it Constitutional, fair or right.

Christians have the right to pray in their homes and churches. They even have the right to pray in public. They do not have the right to compel their neighbors to pray with them, nor do they have the right to impose their prayers in secular ceremonies, a category to which public high school graduations belong. Christians also have the right not to have abortions; the fact that abortion is legal does not render it mandatory. They do not have the right to impose their preference on those who do not share their view. They cherish their freedom of religion, and rightly so. I cherish my freedom to reject their religious tenets. They cherish their right to participate in public life, and rightly so. I also cherish my right to participate in public life. Some Christians seem to think that the American form of governance establishes majority rule on all matters, that might (and/or numbers) makes right. Wrong. The American form of governance balances the rights of the majority with the rights of minorities. This means that Christians should confine their prayers to the places where they belong, and they should respect the rights of others to make reproductive choices with which they disagree. Prayers are not appropriate at public school graduations, and eggs are not persons. Tolerate that speech, Mr. Clark.

– the chaplain

 

Sunday School

Atheist Cartoons has given me a way to express my empathy for anyone who ever suffered, or still suffers, the mind-numbing affliction called Sunday School:

– the chaplain

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2010 in humor

 

A New Era of Partnerships

President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships unveiled its report, “A New Era of Partnerships” yesterday. You may recall that the committee’s assignment was to “develop recommendations on how the government can better partner with faith and neighborhood based organizations.”

According to the White House press release (cited above), the final report, which is 176 pages long, made “more than 60 consensus recommendations.” Eboo Patel, who served on the committee, reported that the committee made “60-some” and “60-plus” recommendations. Jesus Howard Christ! Can’t anyone count above 60? Patel was there, for Thor’s sake! How difficult is it for him, or the White House press office, to say that the committee made 64 recommendations (yes, I counted every single one of them), several of which were also accompanied by sub-recommendations?

As I’ve already mentioned, the full report is long: 176 pages – many of which are filled, or nearly filled, with glossy feel-good photos.  Nevertheless, the report does actually have some textual content. Since I can’t copy and paste text from a .pdf document (if anyone knows how to do this, please enlighten me), I’ll share some screen captures with you.

I’ll start with the major areas that the six sub-committees studied:

The thirteen recommendations regarding economic recovery and domestic poverty are:

The nine recommendations regarding fatherhood and families are:

The committee also made nine recommendations regarding the environment and climate change:

The next section of the report addresses inter-religious cooperation:

The committee then looked outside of the USA’s borders and considered global poverty and development:

And, the final task force focused on reform of the faith-based and neighborhood partnerships office:

One of the sub-sections that may interest you dealt with abstinence-based sex education. The committee was supportive of separating religious abstinence sex education programs from government-funded sex education programs. One of the recommendations was:

I haven’t had a chance, yet, to digest the recommendations, let alone the entire report. I will read the report carefully in the next few days and may have more to say about it later. Regardless of whether nonbelievers like it (many of us don’t), faith-based initiatives (which originated in the Charitable Choice Act of 1996) will be with us for quite some time into the future. That being the case, it behooves nonbelievers to keep abreast of developments in this area. History has taught us (or should have taught us) that blurring the boundaries between church and the state does not, ultimately, serve either institution well (not that I particularly care about the interests of religion). To the contrary, history has shown – repeatedly – that such blurring is often detrimental to both church and state. Any partnerships between the two must be monitored and tweaked incessantly to ensure that the interests of both parties are respected until the relationship dissolves, either from lack of interest on the part of one or both partners, or, ideally, lack of need on the part of society.

– the chaplain

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2010 in politics, religion

 

Some Semblance of Sanity in Lone Star State

In recent years I’ve watched with horrified interest – and fear – as right-wing theocrats entrenched in the the Texas Board of Education have fought to insert fundogelical content into the state’s (and, ultimately, the nation’s) public school curriculum. I breathed a quick sigh of relief this evening upon learning that, in a recent election, Don McLeroy, a fundogelical dentist from Bryan, Texas, lost the board seat he had held since 1999.

My sigh was just a little one, though, since the vote was awfully close: 50.4%-49.6%. Also, McLeroy will retain his position until the end of the year (academic rather than calendar year, I pray hope), so he’s still got time to do some damage. Still, I will allow myself to enjoy (for tonight only!) some hope that the futures of both Texas and the USA may not be entirely bleak, and that reason may yet prevail in the world sometime in the current millennium.

– the chaplain

 
8 Comments

Posted by on March 9, 2010 in history, politics, rationalism, religion, science

 
 
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