Mon, 1 February 2016
We interview Matthew O'Neil about his new book What the Bible Really Does (and Doesn't Say) about Sex. Matthew is an activist, theologian, and teacher. He has his MA in theology from Saint Michael’s College with graduate certification in Mediation and Applied Conflict Studies, and he is a certified Humanist chaplain and celebrant through the American Humanist Association. He is also the author of the books Judas and You Say That I Am: Jesus and the Messianic Problem and writes for the Danthropology blog through the Patheos network.
We get email. Chris in the UK urges us to cover more international news, and spiritual-but-not-religious Larry in the US laments that atheists are running roughshod over the rest of America, and wants to know whom he should sue.
Fri, 15 January 2016
We look at three recent cases in which violent perpetrators of excuse their crimes by pointing to their victims atheism.
Earlier this month, a woman in Louisville, Kentucky was arrested for savagely beating a disabled man with his own cane, reportedly because he denied believing on God. (Luckily the man survived.)
Late last year, Phoenix, Arizona's Anitra Braxton (pictured) was arrested for shooting an acquaintance in the eye and keeping her corpse on the couch as a "shrine from God," all for "not believing in her God."
Meanwhile, Texan Justin Green is serving a 30-year sentence for murdering a fellow veteran, burying him in a shallow grave, and using his credit cards to buy pizza. Family members--who helped Green hide the body--say that Green killed the man because he did not believe in God.
Granted, in all these cases, there are plenty of other plausible reasons--greed, anger, mental illness--why these crimes were committed. But it is disturbing to consider that these people thought that the atheism of their victims was a legitimate excuse.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin "Applesauce" Scalia says that, while the Constitution must be neutral when it comes to religious denominations, it can privilege religion over non-religion. Thankfully, Scalia is a) old and b) just one of nine Justices.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore has issued another memorandum to the state's probate justices, reiterating his position that they are not required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He continues to insist that God's law trumps the US Constitution; this despite the recent US Supreme Court decision (no thanks to Scalia--see above) that marriage equality is consistent with the Constitution.
Thu, 31 December 2015
The Reverend Franklin Graham (prominent Protestant fundamentalist and son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham) says he's quitting the Republican Party. Why? He says it's because Republicans aren't standing on principle. He cites as an example the Republican-dominated US Congress passing a massive spending bill that retains funding for the much-hated Planned Parenthood. In other words, Republicans compromised with the Democrats in order to keep the government running. Graham's exit may be part of a larger movement within the conservative movement: For years, Tea Partiers and their fellow travelers have been calling on their elected officials to toe the line, NOT to compromise in any way with the hated liberal-progressive-secularists when it comes to abortion, gay rights, etc. This rift (and the eternal desire to have "easy" solutions to problems that are always someone else's fault) in the GOP is what has crazy people like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz leading the polls.
Franklin (North Carolina) Mayor Bob Scott has been called "un-American, arrogant and an asshole" because he dared take his oath of office by placing his hand on a copy of the US Constitution instead of a Bible. We salute his courage and hope that many more elected officials follow suit.
Kentucky's new Tea Party affiliated Governor Matt Bevin has issued an executive order (of questionable legality) removing county clerks' names from the state's marriage license form, supposedly to protect the religious rights of Christians who disagree with same-sex marriage. Bevin's action is in response to Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis' infamous refusal to issue same-sex licenses in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's landmark decision.
Gossip columns are reporting that former Miss USA/Miss Universe Olivia Culpo has dumped her latest boyfriend, former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, over his vow of abstinence before marriage. Not that it's anybody else's business: as weird as the rest of us might think it is, what Tebow does (or doesn't do) with his love life should be between him and his would-be lovers. (Tebow, you will recall, was a successful college player who came under criticism for painting Bible verses in his eye-black, and for "Tebowing," in which he dropped to one knee in prayer after a touchdown. Tebow has been unable to parlay his NCAA victories into a successful NFL career: in September 2015, the Philadelphia Eagles became the fourth team to drop him from their roster.)
Tue, 15 December 2015
Gun violence continues to be a problem in America, and conservatives continue to call for more prayer, more guns, and not much else. No one would deny the right of citizens to embrace prayer as a consolation in times of tragedy, but it's no substitute for substantive public discussion and legislative action to finally make mass-murder as rare in the US as it is in the rest of the developed world.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidates, including Marco Rubio, continue to promise that, if elected, they'll roll back LGBT protections and women's rights, and nominate like-minded Supreme Court justices.
And while you can't get elected dogcatcher in America if you're an atheist, that's not stopping a handful of candidates around the country from running for office despite this "disability." Check out Cristin Padgett, who's an "out" atheist running for a seat in the Texas legislature. She's in a very red district, but it's a breath of fresh air to see that the voters are being offered a clear alternative.
Tue, 24 November 2015
We offer our annual Top Five Suggestions for Gifts for Nonbelievers:
5. The Story of God by Chris Matheson
4. A subscription to Skeptic magazine.
3. A charitable donation in your friend of family member's name to the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
2. A trip to France! Show your support and show you're not afraid.
5. The albums of Baba Brinkman.
4. For shock value: A statuette of Baphomet (look on eBay or etsy).
3. A charitable donation in your friend or family member's name to the Humanist Society.
2. The albums of Eagles of Death Metal (the band that was playing Le Bataclan in Paris during the November 13 terrorist attacks).
1. The 30-meter long fold-out science book "Evo" by Dutch artist Jurian Moller.
In other news:
Presidential candidate Ted Cruz implies that nonbelievers aren't fit to become president.
Presidential candidate John Kasich says he'll create a federal organization to promote "Judeo-Christian" values. (He later tried to walk that back a bit.)
How knowledgeable are you on world religions? Try your hand at the "Are You Smarter Than an Atheist" quiz.
Go see the film Spotlight. Stop arguing. Just go.
Wed, 11 November 2015
It's Thanksgiving time again, and atheists face the usual challenges when dealing with religious family members. Dear Prudence over at Slate.com fields a question from a woman whose husband likes to enrage the in-laws with obnoxious anti-prayers and offensive t-shirts. (Then again, he'd be hard-pressed to top the late William S. Burroughs' deeply cynical poem "Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1986.") Of course, if you'd like to get through the weekend by not being an asshole and having fun with the family instead, you could do worse than heeding the advice in Herb Silverman's "Seven Tips for Atheists at Thanksgiving Dinner."
But we do have some things to be thankful for. Recent studies show kids from nonreligious households are more generous and less vengeful than kids from religious households. And yet another poll shows that America continues to be less religious.
Plus: We get email.
Tue, 20 October 2015
We interview Canadian rapper Baba Brinkman, whose new album The Rap Guide to Religion, is available starting October 23rd. Brinkman has carved out a distinctive niche in the rap world, frequently infusing his lyrics with philosophical, literary, scientific and skeptical themes. For more visit BabaBrinkman.com.
Plus: We look at the recent case from New York, in which members of a reclusive Christian cult beat a 19-year-old man to death and put his 17-year-old brother in the hospital, reportedly because at least one of them wanted to leave the group. There's sure to be more in upcoming weeks and months, and it'll probably be depressing.
Sun, 11 October 2015
We interview Linda K. Wertheimer, author of Faith Ed: Teaching about Religion in an Age of Intolerance. Most people understand that the Constitution prohibits religious indoctrination in the public schools, and that the Supreme Court has repeatedly supported that position. What many may not realize is that there's nothing wrong with teaching students about the world's religions, but it's a cultural and political minefield for teachers and administrators. For more about Linda and her work, visit lindakwertheimer.com.
Plus: Check out Shelley Segal, an Australian singer-songwriter currently touring North America. Her lyrics often reflect atheist, skeptical or scientific themes. For more visit shelleysegal.com.
Sat, 3 October 2015
We interview Chris Matheson, author of the new satirical novel The Story of God: A Biblical Comedy about Love (and Hate). While Chris isn't exactly a household name, you're guaranteed to know his work: he's also a screenwriter and director, most notably the co-writer of the 1989 comedy film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter) and its 1991 sequel Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.
Rowan County (Kentucky) County Clerk Kim Davis has surfaced again, this time to receive the "Cost of Discipleship Award" at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. (And after this episode was recorded, Davis's lawyers revealed she had a brief, secret meeting with Pope Francis while he was in town. The Vatican has not denied the meeting, but all the details are coming from Davis.)
A survey at Harvard University shows that an unprecedented number of incoming freshmen (37.9%!) identify as atheist or agnostic. Since Harvard alumni are disproportionately represented in American halls of power (e.g. CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, inhabitants of the Oval Office), there is some reason to be optimistic for future leadership with a rationalist outlook.
Tennessee Judge Jeffrey M. Atherton wins our inaugural "F*ck That Guy" award for his petty and facetious ruling denying a couple's divorce because: "With the U.S. Supreme Court having defined what must be recognized as a marriage, it would appear that Tennessee’ s judiciary must now await the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court as to what is not a marriage, or better stated, when a marriage is no longer a marriage.” Atherton should be disciplined for abusing the powers of his office.
Wed, 16 September 2015
We interview Professor Julie J. Ingersoll, author of Building God's Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction.We talk about how the "DNA" of an obscure conservative movement can be seen in today's headlines.
Rowan County, Kentucky's "other Kim" has the patience of Job and a sense of humor to boot.