Yesterday, this blog posted an article about Juan Mendez and his address to the Arizona State Legislature about Secular Humanism. It didn’t mention the other bit of “Atheist” good news that rose from the devastation caused by a tornado in Oklahoma. There is a 32 second video of an interview conducted by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer located HERE. In the interview with tornado debris in the background, Wolf Blitzer asks a young lady holding her 18 month old baby, “I guess you gotta thank the lord, right?” To which Rebecca Vitsmun says, “I’m actually an Atheist.” She went on to also say, “I don’t blame anybody for thanking the lord.” Perfect! Probably too perfect says Glenn Beck. He believes that it was a set up to make Atheists look better than they actually are. Rush Limbaugh says, “He found the only Atheist in Oklahoma, and he didn’t know it,” but Limbaugh might have been laughing at Mr. Blitzer when he went on to say, “That’s just too rich. He thinks everybody he talks to is being ‘all God all the time.’” Thanks to social media, we know that Rebecca Vitsmun isn’t “the only Atheist in Oklahoma.” We also know that she is a member of Oklahoma Atheists, and contrary to some spurious reports, she’s not going anywhere. You can bet that she could use some help, though. One way to help her and also help the community is to buy the “I’m actually an atheist.” Tee Shirt. This is a win-win situation. You can help her out and identify yourself as a caring and giving Atheist at the same time. This will work out great for me because my “Atheist and proud of it” shirt is starting to wear out. The proceeds of the sale will go to a relief fund set up to help Rebecca Vitsmun and her son through these most difficult times.
Archive for the ‘Freethought’ Category
Secular Coalition for Arizona
Invocation for Opening of AZ House of Representatives Session
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you to take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.
This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But this is also a room where, as my Secular Humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love…
Carl Sagan once wrote, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” There is, in the political process, much to bear. In this room, let us cherish and celebrate our shared humanness, our shared capacity for reason and compassion, our shared love for the people of our state, for our Constitution, for our democracy–and let us root our policymaking process in these values that are relevant to all Arizonans regardless of religious belief or nonbelief. In gratitude and in love, in reason and in compassion, let us work together for a better Arizona.
Juan Mendez, serves in the State House of Representatives and represents District 26 which includes north Tempe, northwest Mesa, and a large portion of the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. Yesterday during his inclusive opening “prayer,” he appealed to the legislature to represent ALL the people of Arizona regardless of religious belief and base their decisions on reason and compassion. According to Jonathan Turely, “Arizona had an extraordinary moment.” He’s right of course. The moment was “extraordinary.” It made national news and the dust hasn’t settled yet. The echoes of the last word of this secular invocation hadn’t died out before the story was picked up by USA Today, The Huffington Post, The Raw Story, azcentral.com, and of course Jonathan Turley. There are probably others covering this news item. This should not be news worthy. It should not be an “extraordinary event” when someone comes out and appeals to a legislature to represent ALL of the people it represents. Recent polls show that one in five Americans do not affiliate with a religion. If one looks at only the young people under 30, fully one third of them are unaffiliated—one in 3! Of course, that’s a nationwide survey. NPR did a story back in January about the growth of the nones. In the article they state that religion still rules in America. There is only one openly “none” in the current Congress and that is Kyrsten Sinema who is also from Arizona. Statistics state that the average American is slightly more religious than the average Iranian. Really? Wow!
Evidently, the CAP (Center for Arizona Policy) hasn’t noticed what occurred yesterday. It will and it’ll start lining up candidates to run against Mr. Mendez. However, the CAP could be a little distracted by the fact that a bill it sponsored making abortions illegal after 20 weeks was struck down by Judges in Ninth Circuit Court. CAP may be too busy trying to figure out how to spin the murder conviction of the Pennsylvania abortionist to its advantage or counting the money it made on the $250 per plate CAP Family Dinner with Ben Carson held earlier in the month. Or perhaps CAP is busy playing ghost writer for legislative bills and resolution such as the resolution to maintain the Boy Scout’s “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy.
The Secular Coalition for Arizona is the only group in the state that can seriously impact the CAP and its legislatively imposed policies but we are seriously out gunned. Currently, we only have one professional lobbyist while the CAP maintains a constant presence at the state legislature. Even so, this year we’ve moved from a strictly defensive posture to one that is actively trying to reverse the damage caused by the CAP and 114 bills that have been signed into law since they formed in 1995.
The Secular Coalition for Arizona (www.secularaz.org) is a 501(c)(4) lobbying organization that represents 17 organizations in the Arizona nontheistic community — a vibrant and growing community of Arizonans who self-identify as Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Freethinkers, and other labels of personal choosing to elected officials in and from Arizona.
Psst…The Secular Coalition for Arizona does accept donations…
The last blog entry was about Jim Wilson leaving the area. I included an illustration of the earth in that post and today I got a note from a friend that has left the area a couple of months ago and headed to another place “down under”–Chile. I’ll call him DG. DG was an interesting member of the group. He enjoyed hanging out and sharing stories some more fantastic than others. He found us through the Meetup.com site and he was an Atheist but often less skeptical of other things. He believed in Tarot and often sent me links to UFO sites. The note asked me to review a link about the “expanding Earth” theory. DG is a nice enough guy and I always took his inquiries seriously so I reviewed the video and took a few minutes to do research and answer him. Here is my reply to DG:
Your BFF told me that would be sending me a link to something involving earth science. Thank you for sending it.
I watched the video from the link you sent and found it interesting. I didn’t find it convincing, however. It is difficult to be convinced by one video by a man that I know nothing about. In the video, Neal Adams is against the current theory of plate tectonics which is a young theory that came about in the 70s.
Plate tectonics is well supported with empirical data (observations) and consistent with what we know about physics and geology. It builds on the observation of continental drift and sea floor spreading. The best theories are ones that explain the observations and contain the fewest assumptions, see Occam’s Razor. At the heart of the video is the claim that the growing Earth theory best explains the shape and position of the current land masses. This could be true but there are other explanations and the expanding Earth hypothesis conflicts with other respected theories. It also adds more questions than it answers.
To explore the idea of an expanding Earth, first do a search to see what the experts are saying and determine if there is a scientific consensus. Then look at what Neal Adams is saying and his qualifications. Also look for other experts that agree with him.
There is a scientific consensus that the earth is undergoing gradual change through plate tectonics. The theory explains the current land masses and explains the formation of the relatively young archipelagos—the Galapagos Islands and the Hawaiian Islands. A key part of the tectonic plate theory includes “subduction.” Subduction explains mountain building, earthquakes, and volcanism, items not addressed by the expanding Earth hypothesis. The forces that allow and cause plate tectonics are understood. They are convection and tidal forces from the sun and the moon. We know the plates are moving and we can measure the movement with precision using satellite technology. The plates are moving apart in some cases and they are colliding in other cases. Plate collisions form the tall mountain ranges such as the Andes and Himalayans.
Is Neal Adams an expert in Geology? He is known for being an artist and does not have a degree in Earth Science. He is famous for comics. Samuel Warren Carey, his favorite expert, died in 2002 and his work on plate tectonics is highly regarded in the scientific community today. However, his “mechanism,” the expanding Earth model, has been discredited by the inclusion of the subduction hypothesis. Ott Christoph Hilgenberg also believed that the expanding earth model explained the shape and position of the current land masses and his work predates the inclusion of subduction into the plate tectonic theory.
It took only a few minutes of research to find this information. Please check out the included links. In particular, check out this link: Plate Tectonics, and as an aside, you might steer clear of folks that frequently appear on Coast-to-Coast radio.
I hope you’re doing well.
Every once in a while someone relatively new to the “Atheist movement” will bump up against Sam Harris and his negative feeling toward the word “Atheist”. At the AAI 2007 Convention in Washington D.C., he presented his case against using Atheist and any other label. Sam Harris is well known and important to Atheism. He wrote The End of Faith and his Letters to a Christian Nation is an excellent read—short and to the point. However, he has the idea that we should “go under the radar” and simply think about things rationally as a winning strategy. He starts his talk by saying how strange it is that a meeting of Atheists is even necessary. Then he argues that the use of the word Atheism is a mistake and we shouldn’t be using it. In his talk, he states that the label prevents us from being effective in our criticism of religion. He believes while under the radar, we should be destroying bad ideas where we see them. He says that there are so many bad ideas that we’ll be spending a great deal of time discussing religion. He is wrong.
Not using an identifying label—Atheist, Secular Humanist, Freethinker, Secularist, etc.—might work if winning an intellectual argument is all that is considered but people need more than that. They need community. How do people of a community find each other if not through labels? Look at the Meetup.com site. There you’ll find Tucson Atheists and Skeptics of Tucson. You’ll also find many other groups. A similar search through FaceBook will also result in pages dedicated the Secular Students, Atheists, and Recovering from Religion groups, national and locally.
Dr. Harris spends a great deal of time criticizing religion and he’s good at it. However, we are not all like him. And while we do criticize religion on occasion, any group that spends all of its time criticizing other groups is not mature and supportive of its own membership. Religions often criticize Atheists but it is not all that they do. They provide complete community service. They don’t meet once a week just to compare clothes. They have youth programs, and social events, and often pitch in together to help a member that has fallen on to hard times. Religions also have power through their large numbers and organizations such as the Center for Arizona Policy that act on their behalf and push Christian values on to the society in general. We need to do that and more.
In fact, we are starting to build and Tucson’s Atheist community is doing well. In the Barna Group’s rating of The Most Post-Christian Cities in America we rank #12. Here in Tucson we have multiple groups carrying the labels of “Atheists,” “Skeptics,” and “FreeThought.” We have our own increasingly effective legislature lobbying group The Secular Coalition for Arizona. This would not be possible without the use of identifying labels. In the past several years while the community was expanding, I often heard, “I’m glad I’ve found you. I thought I was the only one!”
The word Atheist has had negative connotations and many would rather not use it but any other term we use to describe ourselves would soon be saddled with the same baggage once it is clear that the term refers to those that don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Have you ever heard someone say “Secular Humanist” in such a way as to be dripping with venom and dismissal? The better strategy is to come out as an Atheist, if you can, and take back the word. Erase the evil, negative connotations through positive example in all that you do.
Last night at Caffeinated Godlessness, we discussed the reasons why someone that came from a church might return. What would it take? Is it even possible? Rarely folks that say that they tried Atheism return to their Christian beliefs. It was pointed out that there is a tendency to paint these “re-converts” as not ever being Atheists. It is tempting and natural to pull out the “No True Scotsman” arguments in these cases. Most Atheists that have had a religious upbringing find that their Atheism won out after a struggle that could have taken years to resolve and most of the Atheists at the Fronimos Greek Café last night agreed that the evidence persuasive enough to force a return to religious belief would be hard to come by and it is improbable that the potentially persuasive evidence would be believed at first. It could only be believed after ALL natural explanations have been researched.
Some of people admitted that they can’t imagine what it would take while others were very inventive and very specific. For example, one individual said God would have to appear as a burning bush at a Karaoke bar and sing “I’m Blue.” By the way, he also said other people would have to witness it too so that he’d know that he wasn’t hallucinating.
There was some discussion of what an Atheist might be missing that the church normally provides the believer. For example, some remember the almost indescribable feeling of ecstasy that sometimes accompanies religious devotion. Others appreciated the religious rituals and consistency of regular experiences. The Catholic Church has seven sacraments that are designed to give a human life a structure and makes them dependent on the Church. They are baptized, receive communion (the first one is a REALLY big deal), confess sins to the priest, get confirmed, get married, some get ordained, and may receive last rights (Extreme Unction) just before their last breath. A religious person can be comfortable in the knowledge that ALL things have been answered. There are no unsolvable mysteries and death, the biggest mystery of them all, is no big deal. It’s just the next phase of their eternal existence. Religious people often have a strong community.
But religions are not derived from reason or from the logic of human philosophy. Many of the pat answers have no basis in science. Religious dogma, while providing a strong often safe foundation, limits the human experience, and it has prevented or at least delayed advancements that are beneficial to all mankind. Also remember that while every religion on earth tends to call itself peaceful, Lilliputian differences have led to incalculable human suffering and death.
Steve Martin says Atheists Don’t Have No Songs but I won’t be going back soon. I enjoy having Sunday’s free, having Rock ‘n’ Roll, and watching football in my underpants. Most of all I like believing things that are demonstratively true in a world where our knowledge freely advances unfettered by religious dogma. In an Atheist world, there is no “chosen people” and human rights are derived from secular societal norms, not poorly translated dictums from Bronze Age writings. Finally, Tucson Atheists have a strong community too. Feel free to join us at The Shanty this Sunday at 7 PM.
As a fan of rock music as well as many other genres, it is fascinating to hear various religious figures arguing that music is evil. In the Muslim world, such anti-rock attitudes are often linked with anti-Westernism in general, but here in the West we are more likely to be told that rock music is addictive, that it is a communist conspiracy, or it comes directly from Satan. Rock music, we are told, has beats authored by Satan in a villainous plot to the control listeners and send them to hell. Such beliefs have given rise to wild stories. There is the tale that all rock bands pray to Satan before recording. There is the claim that screamed vocals on rock records are created when the musicians are enjoying anal sex, and there is a rumor most rock albums have satanic messages backed masked into them. There is the claim that every year Keith Richards has all the blood drained from his body and replaced with fresh blood from young donors.
While exploring this topic I stumbled on this video . It is a video of a Christian religious leader preaching on the evils of popular music. Beginning around 1:54 he states that God does have preferences for everything and that he expresses his preferences through his design. He states, “God has made your ears to be able to take a certain amount of sound, and if you go beyond that level you’re going to hurt your ears.” He continues to point out that damaged human ear cells do not heal themselves the way other body parts do making damage caused to ones ears by listening to loud music permanent.
He argues that God intentionally made our ears this way to express his distaste for rock music which admittedly, is often played loud. That’s right! We are being told to believe that the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of all things demonstrates his preferences through design flaws. Are we also to also assume that because God designed us to use the same opening to intake food and breathe air that he wanted us to be vulnerable to choking death? It would have been much more useful for us to have ears that can heal themselves, and hear a wider range of the sounds of nature or to have eyes that could see more of the electromagnetic spectrum including ionizing radiation and magnetic fields.
We are forced to conclude that a supposedly benevolent creator’s designs are intentionally flawed, but the preacher’s argument has other problems. The design flaw says nothing about specific genres of music. For example, Mozart or Bach music can be played at the same loud volume as Slayer with the same damaging effect. Furthermore, you can listen to Slayer at low volume and receive NO ear damage. Many older people who were lifelong rockers are not worse off than the people with ear damage from the sound of gunfire in wars or by the sounds of heavy machinery. Is God trying to tell us through his poor ear design that he is anti-war or anti-factory?
God doesn’t exist but if he did it is unlikely that he would communicate his musical preferences by making a faulty ear design that doesn’t heal after damage. Rock and roll musicians are not always the best role models, and that is part of the genre’s appeal, but to assert that Rock ‘n’ Roll is from Satan is a load of superstitious nonsense that attempts to close off our experience of a wide range of diverse, innovative, and interesting sounds. Besides, Rock ‘n’ Roll has also done much to bring people together. Check out Farm Aid , One World Concert, The Moscow Music Peace Festival, Live Aid, and the benefit concert that started it all The Concert for Bangladesh.
Recently, I met a female evangelist who worked closely in the field with her husband. The two practiced a very “fire and brimstone,” “angry God” version of Christianity”. They bad mouthed homosexuals, listeners of rock music, liberals, and made heavy use of threats of hell.
I saw the wife in this pair explain their religious beliefs to a sizable audience they had gathered along with some of the details of their personal history. Looking back, I regret not having asked her how she reconciles her role in the ministry with first Timothy 2:12, which states, “But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have authority over the man, but to be in silence,” Her story led me to pursue a different line of questioning.
She told of a time when she was a young, ambitious college student. At this time, she met her future husband who was ministering to students at her university. For some reason she found this man’s teachings about God, Jesus, and hellfire compelling and chose to follow him and renounce many of her past beliefs and ambitions. She argued that prior to having met her husband she had been mind-raped by the professors at her University with their teachings of secular humanism, atheism, liberalism and socialism. She did point out that she in fact paid the professors to teach her, so it was not a “legitimate rape” (Yes, she referenced Todd Akin’s controversial and stupid remark when telling this story.)
After she was done speaking I got a chance to speak with her privately. I suggested that since she considered her professor’s teachings to be mind-rape, that the same could be said of those of her evangelist husband. After all, rapists use physical violence or threats of physical violence to subdue their victims, while her husband’s teachings similarly use threats of eternal torment to anyone who dares to question them. Her husband literally taught this woman she must believe everything he says or terrible things will happen to her—forever. This element of backing one’s teachings with threats of violence is far more insidious than anything from even the most propagandizing college professors.
As far as I know, professors have no way to force their students to believe anything. Sure, they may be able to command their pupils to memorize or understand their teachings at the risk failing their tests, but I see no way in which they can force anyone to believe anything they teach or retain it after the semester ends. I never had a professor threaten me with torture if I fail to believe what he or she taught. This can only happen in this country at explicitly religious schools.
The evangelist refused to acknowledge my point stating that I was off base, because it was not the fear of hell but the desire to be in the presence of a loving all powerful God. Maybe she was being honest, but I’m skeptical of this claim since threats of hell are such a huge portion of what her ministry does. They spent a lot of time asserting that people who disagree with them will be punished. Their time would be better spent explaining the evidence they have for this belief. It would be a much more constructive conversation.
The concept of mind rape describes religious indoctrination quite well. It is usually performed on children who have not had time to develop critical thinking skills and therefore have no defense. It is frequently backed up with threats of torments as well as the bribe of an eternal reward. Frightening children with threats of hell is a form of child abuse, and one that many people never get over. The degrading message is that we are all so sinful, wretched, and worthless that we should be tortured forever. Anyone who sees a small child as a being worthy of nothing better than eternal torture by virtue of being born human has truly lost any semblance of decency.
Rape is a horrendous crime and the fact it happens or is tolerated at all in our culture is a tragedy. The evangelist’s notion of mind-rape is ironic and a useful, informative way of looking at religious indoctrination especially indoctrination that features the threat of punishment.
A couple of days ago a Massachusetts Senate Candidate allegedly called the Boston bombings a “godless act.” He has since come out and said that he actually said “gutless” not “godless.” Perhaps he did actually say gutless even though he was quoted in at least one news report saying:
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that they are going to identify the person or people responsible for this horrific, cowardly and godless act. I think there is going to be so much evidence available to the investigators that they will be able to put the pieces together.”
He made his clarification statement very quickly, and it doesn’t matter what he said originally. It’s good that he recognized that a big portion of his constituency is in fact “godless” and it wouldn’t pay for him to be insulting them in such an off-hand manner.
A recent survey from the Pew Forum shows that one in five U.S. Citizens has no religious preference and the number of “nones” is steadily growing. In fact, we now have a “none” in Congress from Arizona. Dave Muscato the Communications Director of the American Atheists is asking for assistance in getting the word out that Atheists object to politicians that describe heinous events like the Boston Marathon bombings as “godless.” “Godless” citizens such as Atheists don’t appreciate being excluded and shut out of the community by such slurs.
He asks that we assist by writing a short paragraph that includes the following three things:
1) Who you are and whom you represent or speak on behalf of (e.g. Matt Dillahunty is President of Atheist Community of Austin)
2) Why you’re hurt by the exclusion from the memorial and/or use of “godless” as a pejorative
3) What you would like to see happen as a solution.
He’s like us to send our replies to BostonResponse@gmail.com.
Here is mine:
My name is Donald Lacey. I’m the Arizona State Director for American Atheists, the Organizer of Tucson Atheists, a Board Member of FreeThought Arizona, the Secretary of the Secular Coalition for Arizona, the Editor of the Tucson Citizen FreeThought Blog, and Podcaster on Desert Air Podcast. I represent the freethinking community in Tucson, Arizona and, more generally, the Atheists of Arizona.
I object to the use of “godless” as a pejorative. Godless Americans are as moral as those with belief in God or gods. There are godless Atheists living good lives without the threat of eternal punishment and doing good things for people daily without the promise of heavenly rewards. Having morals and living an ethical life are not dependent on belief in God or gods. Imagine how marginalized Atheists felt just five years ago when Elizabeth Dole launched her “giant killer” attack on opponent by associating her with an Atheist group only to see the opponent, Kay Hagen, treat the implied godlessness as so offensive that it justified bringing a lawsuit. Both candidates displayed bigotry. Hopefully, we’re in a better place now but we still have a ways to go.
I’d like to see more people respond to the off-hand insults and let the politicians know that they are distancing themselves from a large portion of their constituencies. I’d like to see a growing “freethinking” community that must be considered when someone pursues political office due to the fact that the community is ready and able to respond quickly and publically to such insults with clear reasoned logic. Finally, I’d like to stop politicians from using Atheist and “godless” as insults.
The Tucson Atheists discussed the history of Atheism on April 15th—tax day—this year at our monthly meeting at Denny’s. The meeting was only two hours long and there was no way to completely cover the topic and while it’s important to get to the facts and figures, the group thrives on discussion and personal feelings. Talking about the facts of history is not difficult. Ideally, the facts and events are simply pinned to a timeline. Sometimes however what those facts and events mean and meant at the time they occurred is unknowable with any certainty and depend on the source of the information and the attitude of the receiver of the information. The sources of the information that was presented to kick off the discussion included Jonathan Miller’s A Brief History of Disbelief and other sources.
The history of Atheism begins thousands of years ago with the Greeks and Romans even though the name wasn’t officially created until the 16th century in France. The Greek philosopher Aristophanes who lived between 446 and 386 BCE said, “Surely you don’t believe in the gods. What’s your argument? Where’s your proof?” A Greek contemporary, Democritus who was partially responsible for the theory that all matter was composed of atoms said that the greatest good is happiness and contentment. All matter existed forever; therefore, there is no creation. Aristotle born in 348 BCE believed that Tyrants must have gods on their sides. Cicero born in 106 BCE asked, “Do gods exist or do they not?” Seneca born around 4 BCE famously said that “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.” Finally, Epicurus born in 341 BCE pointed out the illogic of an omnipresent, omniscient, benevolent god when he said:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
Lucretius born in 99 BCE wrote an ode to Epicurus and contributed his own skepticism of the existence of supernatural beings when he said, “Fear is the mother of all gods. Nature does all things spontaneously by herself without their meddling.”
Religion comes very natural to us and Atheism requires a level of reason and rationality that allows us to overcome it. Atheism as an idea has had its ups and downs and it is by shear serendipity that our country was formed in the period of time called “The Age of Enlightenment.” It was during this time that the world discovered Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), John Lock (1632-1704), Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), Isaac Newton (1643-1727), and Voltaire (1984-1778). These men laid the groundwork for the Enlightenment and pushed the ideas of rationalism, social liberalism, religious toleration, science, the scientific method, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and the separation of church and state. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution particularly the Bill of Rights came out of the Age of Enlightenment and remains the backbone of our Democratic Republic. However, the popularity of reason and intellect has since been challenged by the influences of Romanticism where policy is often dictated by human emotions such as apprehension, horror, terror, and awe along with extreme patriotism. The Zeitgeist or “spirit of the time” which appeals to human emotions has allowed a resurgence of religious fervor. Fear of “godless” Communism has been codified into our lives by well-meaning politicians when they added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance, added “In God We Trust” as a national motto to be inscribed on our money.
Slowly our country is moving back to an “Age of Reason.” Religion is losing its hold on the populace as we see the disappearance of “Blue Laws,” the acceptance of alternate lifestyles, and the growth of the number of people identifying as “non-religious.” Not everyone is on board but the trend is undeniable especially considering the polling data that indicates that people under the age of 30 are twice as likely to profess “no religious belief” as those older.
There was also discussion of the “growing pains” in the current movement towards reason. The internet is a two edged sword in that it allows a free exchange of ideas but also anonymous modern day Vandals, trolls, that tend to make small points of contention overblown and damaging. To keep the movement going, we must ignore those that thrive on getting attention at all costs and remember that we’re in agreement 99% of the time. You can catch a very interesting discussion involving Dave Silverman, Hermant Mehta, and Chris Mooney HERE.
By Philip Spacemuseum MacDuff
As an atheist, I’m often asked “Where do you get your morals from?” The implicit attack here is that morals can only come from religion and that, therefore either I have no morals or the morals I do have were instilled in my religious upbringing. I do not intend to write about where I get my morals, beyond simply and quickly saying that my morals stem from a desire to make the world a better place. Instead, I intend to write about where most modern Christians get their morals – and it is most definitely not the Bible. This topic is something I have been thinking about a lot lately, as it has come up over and over in the debate on gay marriage.
Leviticus Chapter 20 Verse 13 has come up repeatedly. It reads as follows (as obtained from BibleGateway.com, the New International Version)
“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
Two verses later, in Leviticus 20:15, a similar admonition against sexual relations with animals is delivered:
“If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he is to be put to death, and you must kill the animal.”
These verses are similar to those of Leviticus 18:22-23, but the punishments for these sins are given in the above quoted verses. However, as of this writing, gay marriage is legal in 9 states, and bestiality is legal in 20 (according to www.animallaw.info). Why are there no large-scale protests about bestiality? Why are not more Christians sermonizing on bestiality and how wicked it is, how it leads to the downfall of nations? Should not both biblical statutes carry the same weight in our laws and morals?
More common sins are listed in the previous chapter. Leviticus 19:19 says (quotation marks as in original)
“‘Keep my decrees.
“‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.
“‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
“‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.
Leviticus 19:26 commands:
“‘Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.
Leviticus 19:27 and 28 continue:
“‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.
“‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.
These six commands, and more listed throughout the book of Leviticus, are daily violated by good, upstanding Christians without protest. How is it that these commands can be disregarded so easily, but the single command on gay marriage must be not only upheld, but written into our national legislation? Christian morality is full of hypocrisy. The argument is often made that some verses are to be interpreted literally, while others are merely figurative. How then does one determine which are which? The Bible itself cannot be a guide; it gives no direction on how to evaluate its contents beyond such pithy directives as “Keep my decrees”. Some other source must be obtained to make this decision. The lay people of a church rely on the guidance of their pastors, priests, ministers and deacons, but where do these leaders turn for their answers? There must be some source which is not the Bible for making these decisions of morality.
The act of deciding that some commands in the Bible can be safely ignored while others must be upheld literally, and in some cases, violently, can only be rationalized by two possible courses. Either the decision is made to consciously violate God’s sacred commands, thereby intentionally earning a place in the fires of hell, or the Christian has employed a set of morals independent of and superior to the biblical commands. In either case, the Christian can no longer point to the Bible as the ultimate source of their morals. It may provide a starting point, but as we no longer stone women for failing to be virgins on the day they are married to some lecherous old man who bought them, we clearly have evolved our sense of morality since the Bronze Age.