Thursday, December 26, 2013

I'll take health care, you can keep your Jesus and Duck Dynasty

Chris Mooney has an interesting piece in Mother Jones about how existential security leads "toward less religion and also more tolerance of atheism" in society. Religion, on the other hand, often preys on our insecurities. And our fear of death and suffering provide fertile ground in which to plant a seed of faith that we can somehow survive our bodily death.

A case in point appeared in my Facebook feed yesterday in the form of this video. Speaking to the congregation of Saddleback church in July of this year, Phil Robertson explains in the video (starting at about 16:05) the problem with health care:
"It's not gonna keep you out of the ground...The best you can hope for is a little temporary reprieve...We're not going to live forever. I don't care how much money we spend on healthcare. It's all a farce. It's smoke and mirrors. It's just another way to get your money."
Praise Jesus, mail the duck, eat mor chikin, and opt out of health care! Whites onlyQuack. Quack.

Thanks, but no thanks. I'm with my brother-in-law (an agnostic). He wants more health care and doesn't really care much about Jesus or Duck Dynasty. In 2004 he had a stroke, and thanks to quality heath care (provided for at the time by his employer) he was able to recover and avoid crippling debt (or a premature death at age 44). He switched employers and lost health care after his recovery, and he just purchased a new health care plan under Obamacare to cover him and a dependent. The final costs for him: $86 a month. Prior to Obamacare, he was quoted $3800 a month by the same provider.

I'll take health care, you can keep your Jesus and Duck Dynasty Phil-o-stinians.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck

Guess who is airing Duck Dynasty marathons on Sunday Dec. 22 from 5 p.m. until 4 a.m. the next morning, Monday Dec. 23 from 7 p.m. until 4 a.m. the next morning, Christmas Eve 6 p.m. until 9 p.m, and Christmas Day 3:30 p.m. until 4 a.m. the next morning? And guess who is airing new episodes of Duck Dynasty with Phil Robertson starting January 15?

My vote for best coverage goes to Right Wing Watch (What Persecution Looks Like). On the opinion front, Josh Barro is blunt. And Ta-Nehisi Coates nicely covers the often overlooked issue of race. The Westboro Baptist Church also weighed in: if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

My favorite Tweet goes to God (and numerous references to ZZ Top)...

And this meme pic just says it all...

Happy winter solstice. And remember, axial tilt is the real reason for the seasons.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Local business uses religion to discriminate against Hickory Humanists

As a founding member of the Hickory Humanist Alliance (HHA), I support the group leadership's decision to not pursue legal action or publicly shame (or fame to the religious bullies) the local screen printing shop who recently refused service to our AHA chapter. This type of discrimination is never acceptable, but having to find another sign and t-shirt printer is de minimis (to HHA) when compared to some of the other current threats to religious liberty. As long as it doesn't become a pattern, I agree with HHA's decision to ignore this lone bigot and not feed his persecution complex. I trust that HHA will soon find another local printer happy to get their business (or at least a business who takes advice from an attorney instead of a pastor).

So, what are you waiting for? Go join HHA and buy the t-shirt!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Remembering John

"And so dear friends, you'll just have to carry on..."

John Lennon (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dealing with doubt and uncertainty without religion

As Richard Feynman said, "Once you start gets a little harder to believe." But how do you handle uncertainty without religion? For some, it can lead to anxiety or breed extremism. Others learn to embrace it...

William James used to preach the "will-to-believe." For my part, I should wish to preach the "will-to-doubt" .... What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.
- Bertrand Russell 

Additional online resources

MetrolinaRfR hosted a meeting in Mooresville, NC on December 24, 2013 to discuss dealing with doubt and uncertainty without religion. We hope you find these topical resources useful in understanding and dealing with doubt.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Christian panel promotes humanist values at Lenoir-Rhyne's "community dialogue"

Update: Video of this discussion is now available online.

This weekend I attended a "community dialogue" on "Politics, Religion and LGBT Equality" at Lenoir-Rhyne University. The discussion was hosted by Wolf Blitzer and included a local businessman and longtime advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, and two local Christian pastors. All three panelists made a strong case for LGBT equality based on the Fourteenth Amendment and common human decency. They all also argued against Biblical literalism and inerrancy. And to the concern by some about being seen as a bigot if you are against LGBT rights, all panelists seemed to agree with the businessman: "if the shoe fits, wear it...or get some new shoes."

There were only a couple of attempts to shut the discussion down. One guy got up early and starting yelling "IT IS A SIN!," but the police quickly escorted him out. Overall the audience was quite receptive to the progressive message of the panelists, and the arguments against Biblical literalism and inerrancy drew the loudest applause.

If not for the occasional reverences to God and Jesus, the whole dialogue sounded a lot like humanism. I commend Lenoir-Rhyne for hosting the event. I only wish that they would have included a secular humanist panelist. Maybe next time they will contact the Hickory Humanist Alliance or another CharlotteCoR group...

Monday, September 23, 2013


The Charlotte Coalition of Reason is "coming out" for the 2013 Carolinas Secular Conference. So the Metrolina Chapter of Recovering From Religion (RR) created this topical bibliography of online resources on the topic. You can post about the conference on social media, or send suggested changes or additions to this bibliography, using the Twitter (or Facebook) hashtag #CarolinasComingOut (or #CarolinasComingOut on Facebook).


Sunday, September 15, 2013

"You have to believe in something"

The Carolinas Secular Conference is an annual event of the growing secular movement in North Carolina. This year's conference theme is "coming out," and we'll be in Charlotte from October 4th - 6th. I will be available throughout the conference and speaking briefly about MetrolinaRfR (at 11 am on Saturday) as part of the Opening Plenary Session. This is the fourth in a series of posts about my own disbelief and experiences "coming out."

This one comes up from time to time. And it's so boring...
"What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite."
 - Bertrand Russell

Unless I am acting on my intuitions, which are often wrong, I start with doubt and then try to reason or investigate what is actually true. Faith, or belief, in the absence of any evidence or good reasons for believing something actually gets in the way of finding out! Authority, tradition, and revelation are not how we sent men to the moon!

And no: Reason and evidence, or science, isn't based on faith...

"You need to go to church"

The Carolinas Secular Conference is an annual event of the growing secular movement in North Carolina. This year's conference theme is "coming out," and we'll be in Charlotte from October 4th - 6th. I will be available throughout the conference and speaking briefly about MetrolinaRfR (at 11 am on Saturday) as part of the Opening Plenary Session. This is the fourth in a series of posts about my own disbelief and experiences "coming out."

A young fundie relative recently said this after disagreeing with me on gay rights. It's hard to take seriously, but some people still think you are going to hell if you don't go to church and swallow everything you are told. Enough said on that.

Some also believe that religion is required for morality. Personally I think Einstein said it best: our "ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death." But if it makes them feel better, I have recently been to a Unitarian Universalist church (twice!). I have also been to a local mosque (once) within the last year or two. And to several Baptist churches (weddings and funerals). They need to Google "humanism."

It's not really my thing, but I would go to a secular "church" to hear Jerry DeWitt speak or see what's up with those Sunday Assemblies. I also attend a local skeptic Meetup and other secular, atheist, humanists events in the area. I'm even attending (and speaking briefly at) the Carolinas Secular Conference in October! Does that count? :)

"Why are you so angry?"

The Carolinas Secular Conference is an annual event of the growing secular movement in North Carolina. This year's conference theme is "coming out," and we'll be in Charlotte from October 4th - 6th. I will be available throughout the conference and speaking briefly about MetrolinaRfR (at 11 am on Saturday) as part of the Opening Plenary Session. This is the third in a series of posts about my own disbelief and experiences "coming out."

Don't get me wrong, praying for me doesn't make me angry. But I do think it can be condescending. And I do get a little angry with people who insist on praying for me even after they know that I sometimes find it condescending. And I get a little angry when people actually ask but then just can't understand why I find it condescending. However, I typically just smile when someone tells me they are praying for me: I don't get angry at all.

But like Greta Christina, I do get angry about some things. Anger is a completely appropriate response to religiously-motivated child abuse and assassinations. I am surprised that more religious people are not even more angry than I am about these things. It makes me angry to see any bigotry, privilege, or abuse in the secular movement. I try to hold "my own side" to a higher standard.

But in my view, the trick with anger is first to recognize it, and then funnel it in directions that make a positive impact. I do not think it is healthy to suppress it. In my experience, people who ask "Why are you so angry?" are usually just trying to discredit your argument. And ad hominem arguments directed at me can sometimes make me angry. So please stop asking me why I'm so angry, or shut up and listen if you really want to know! :)

Coming out requires a support network

The Carolinas Secular Conference is an annual event of the growing secular movement in North Carolina. This year's conference theme is "coming out," and we'll be in Charlotte from October 4th - 6th. I will be available throughout the conference and speaking briefly about MetrolinaRfR (at 11 am on Saturday) as part of the Opening Plenary Session. This is the second post in a series of posts about my own disbelief and experiences "coming out."

As I mentioned in my first post in this series, I have not suffered any serious negative consequences as a result of my doubt or disbelief. I have certainly never felt that my family would disown me or that I would lose my job. However, there has been an impact to some personal relationships.
"I was surprised that more people (believers) didn’t want to know the details of my deconversion. There were two general responses: “I don’t want to know you any more” & “Let’s agree to disagree and not discuss this."
 - Catherine Dunphy (as quoted by Hemant Mehta)
I have had people in my life that respond to my skepticism in both of these ways. And like Catherine, I find it somewhat surprising. But I do agree with Ronald Lindsay that coming out as an atheist is seen as a threat by some religious people: "The realization that many atheists once were religious and then 'lost' their faith has an unnerving effect on some of the religious. How far will atheism spread? Will I be next? Or my children?"

I've have also had people in my life who offered to (or tell me they are going to) pray for me. I've had a few people ask politely if I would be offended if they did. I am somewhat surprised by people who don't understand why that is condescending, and I have on occasion been offended by an arrogant know-it-all who insists on praying for me even when I point out that it is condescending. My mother is both a believer and a good person, and she has never treated me in any of these ways.

But not everyone has non-judgmental friends and family to support them. That's why I think it is so important to have organizations like Recovering From Religion, the Secular Therapist Project, and the Clergy Project. While I have not personally suffered any serious negative consequences either from religion, or from leaving religion, I do know people who have. And I think it is important to support them regardless of whether they are leaving fundamentalism for a more pluralistic theism or for atheism and humanism. For too many people, the path out can be quite difficult. But more on that later...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Come Out for the Carolinas Secular Conference, y'all

The Carolinas Secular Conference is an annual event of the growing secular movement in North Carolina. This year's conference theme is "coming out," and we'll be in Charlotte from October 4th - 6th. I will be available throughout the conference and speaking briefly about MetrolinaRfR (at 11 am on Saturday) as part of the Opening Plenary Session. This is the first in a series of posts about my own disbelief and experiences "coming out."

As David Niose's recent piece in Psychology Today reminds us, disbelief is not a choice. I was raised in a moderate, somewhat sheltered, but non-dogmatic Protestant household in the Bible belt. But I'm not sure that my ontology ever really included the Tooth Fairy, Santa, Jesus, or the monster in my uncle's basement. If so, they were certainly not important parts of my childhood. My mom did make me go to church fairly regularly when I was very young (to light the candles - yes, I was an altar boy), but religion was never really a topic of discussion at "supper."

After high school, I got a full-time job in a hospital emergency room and started going to community college part-time. I was inspired by a math teacher and eventually got a degree in mathematics, but an interest in philosophy also led me to explore religion more in-depth (Christianity and its skeptics - everything from Why I am Not a Christian to The Myth of Sisyphus - as well as Buddhism and Taoism in particular). I became a "non-theist" (philosophical Taoist) around the age of twenty-one. I loved watching Kung Fu and worked with a physician (and homeopath) who practiced Tai Chi. I eventually studied My Jhong Law Horn and Wu Style Tai Chi with one of Grand Master Johnny Lee's first American students (and a professed Catholic). My wife and I were married by a Lutheran minister (in church), but I wrote the entire ceremony. It was predominately Taoist, and not the least bit Christian (except for the Lord's Prayer, which the minister insisted on saying at the end). Meanwhile, my interest in both science and mathematics was also growing. I developed an interest in skepticism inspired by Sagan, Asimov, and others. A career in software engineering and support exposed me to even more diversity, and engineering.

I have not hidden my doubts or disbelief from anyone, but I seldom wear them on my sleeve either (ok, maybe an occasional t-shirt at social events). And I haven't really suffered any serious negative consequences for it. Aside from the loss of relationships with a couple of "friends" and a few others in my life who "just don't want to discuss it" anymore, I haven't experienced negative consequences at work or in my community as a result of my disbelief either (unlike others). I have had supportive friends and supportive (if not always understanding) family all along the way.

I recently decided to become more active in the growing secular movement (for reasons that I will discuss in a subsequent post). After attending the Reason Rally last year, I co-founded the first (and currently only) local chapter of Recovering From Religion in the Charlotte-Metro area (there are currently six chapters in the Carolinas). I also discovered a thriving community in Charlotte (through Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics) and am now working with some other great people to start a humanist group in Hickory. These, and other local, groups recently formed a Charlotte Coalition of Reason "to foster a sense of community among the like-minded and raise public awareness that people who don't believe in a god or gods can be decent citizens who contribute to the larger society."

But getting back to Niose's point: Early doubts, supportive friends, a non-dogmatic family (if not the larger social) environment, exposure to diverse perspectives through both work and a college education, and minimal negative personal consequences are probably the most significant factors in my disbelief and coming out. And of course, an education - especially in mathematics, and a basic understanding of the real world (science) along with some experience in (software) engineering.
The good Christian should beware of mathematicians, and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of Hell.
 - Saint Augustine, DeGenesi ad Litteram
I'm not sure if Augustine really meant "mathematicians" or "astrologers," "numerologists," or a combination of what we understand these terms to mean today. But if you could go back in time and show him your cell phone in action he'd probably think you were the devil too! When I was starting to learn Tai Chi, I was (perhaps half-jokingly) called a Japanese devil-worshiper by a fundamentalist I knew at the time. I politely pointed out that Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art. She probably has her own cell phone now. I guess that's some progress?

More on my "coming out" later...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Starting Over on the Pledge of Allegiance

"An atheistic a contradiction in terms."
 - George MacPherson Docherty
Docherty (a Presbyterian minister) was the principal initiator of the addition of the words "under God" to the Pledge. He was quoted by Congressman Louis Charles Rabaut (Michigan) when introducing (in 1953) the first of many similar bills to amend the Pledge (formally adopted by Congress in 1942). The Pledge was finally amended by a joint resolution of Congress in 1954, and the words "under God" were inserted to "affirm our belief in the existence of God" and against "the evil weed of communism and its branches of materialism and political dictatorship" which were rooted in atheism (Rabaut).

David Niose argued this week before the Massachusetts Supreme Court that this violates equal protection (under state law). The now famous Newdow case, on the other hand, argued that "under God" in the Pledge violated the establishment clause of our federal constitution. It will be interesting to see how this new approach turns out in the courts, and I am happy to see Niose (current president of the Secular Coalition for America) leading this effort.

And I agree with Noise that "schools could start from scratch" by "designing a daily exercise [which]need not be a Pledge at all -- it could be a song, a quick lesson about a historic hero..." But instilling "patriotism" through government? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the "general notion of civic virtue." But the "group dedication" part can get ugly, and all too often "patriotism" does indeed become "the last refuge of the scoundrel."

That said, Noise's suggestion got me thinking about what an atheist and humanist might feel comfortable making a pledge of allegiance to? Borrowing from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Eleanor Roosevelt helped draft, I came up with the following:

I pledge allegiance to self-governance that respects the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights and responsibilities of freedom, justice, and peace for all members of the human family.

But instead of pledging allegiance to it, we should just focus on doing it! Then our children will have role models to emulate instead of boilerplate text to recite in rote. So that's how I would "start over" on the Pledge. What would you do?

Addendum: As for songs...Woody comes to mind. But I wouldn't make the Fox Five sing it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Old-Time Religion in the Old North State

Tarheel Republicans don't talk about "legitimate rape"
And are too polite to even mention tampon-gate.
It's all about motorcycle and vagina safety here
And making sure we can
live without Sharia to fear.
We pray that everyone has a "blessed day"
And eggheads can't talk about sea-level rise
vote without ID, or at a university. Surprise!
Not exactly establishing religion we say.
But implementing it in every other way.

Update: Pat was there!
Not talking about masturbating fetuses.

Get religion out of government.
Join the
Secular Coalition for North Carolina!
(or find your own state coalition)


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Test your intuitions

"Unless we start testing [our] intuitions, we're not going to do better." - Dan Ariely


"Everything" may never be the same again

The asymmetry in the cosmic microwave background is generating some buzz about the possibility of a multiverse. Here's a recent Minute Physics explanation of the main theories out there, followed by several recent (longer) discussions with scientists and others on the question.

In March, Neil deGrasse Tyson moderated the 2013 Isaac Asimov Debate on "The Existence of Nothing" with physicists Lawrence Krauss (Arizona State University), Eve Silverstein (Stanford), and J. Richard Gott (Princeton) and journalists Charles Seife and Jim Holt in which Gott shows a physical model of a multiverse.

Then in June, John Hockenberry hosted a discussion between cosmologists and physicists Andreas Albrecht, Alan Guth, Andrei Linde, and Neil Turok.

Update (July 2, 2013): And cosmologist Sean Carroll just posted this recent interview that he did with Jim Holt on "Why Does The World Exist?"

And if you made it through all that, you will know what I mean when I say that Richard Feynman had the best response to Jim Holt's complaining. You might also be interested in Victor Stenger's 'The Comprehensible Cosmos' for a physicists take on where the "laws of physics" came from (spoiler alert: It's us!).

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"I often wished I had never written that fucking book"

Update: July 6, 2013 - Salon just posted a response to White's "literarily lazy, inconsistent and mendacious" posthumous attack on Hitchens by Carlo Dellora, an honors student at the University of Melbourne.

Paul Feyerabend was "one of the twentieth century's most famous philosophers of science...[and] an imaginative maverick" who was shocked at the response to his attack on reason and scientific method. It is not completely clear why Feyerabend finally uttered the title of this post (and the subtitle of my blog) in reference to his tour de force, but it might have served Curtis White well to reflect on this episode in the history of the philosophy of science before calling a dead man a liar. White's justification? "I do no more than what Hitchens himself did. Speaking of Jerry Falwell, Hitchens pointedly refuses a 'compassionate word' for this 'departed fraud.'"

But what I am most concerned with here is not White’s "sloppy or altogether missing knowledge" of what constitutes a valid moral justification for his own action. Instead, I want to focus on "how irresponsible his thinking is" with respect to the justification and value of science. And it really is pretty simple...

The arts have also made significant contributions, including contributions to our understanding of the danger of science used for savagery and the power (to move us) of appeals to emotion. And I believe Hitchens would agree with this. I starting following Hitch in 1981, and I disagreed with him (strongly) on some issues (Iraq). But he was nothing if not a huge fan of, and major contributor to, western philosophy and literature. And a passionate advocate of science and reason and eloquent explainer of how science inspires more awe than religion.

The arts, philosophy, and literature are powerful normative forces (for good or evil), and science is also a powerful force that can be used for either good or evil. We should use them wisely. But science is also the best way to find out what is true. And it's anti-dogmatic, and encourages doubt, which is the only thing it's ok to be dogmatic about if what you value is truth.
"For my part, I should wish to preach the 'will-to-doubt'...[because] what is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.
 - Bertrand Russell

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hotline Project on its way to becoming a reality!

It has been a little over a year now since we started a local chapter of Recovering From Religion in Maiden, North Carolina. We had just returned from the Reason Rally and were inspired by Nate Phelps. Since then, I have met a bunch of other amazing people who volunteer to provide support and encouragement to people who are questioning their faith or dealing with the problems associated with leaving religious belief.

Today, I am very excited to hear that they have reached their fundraising goal for the Hotline Project which will "provide trained volunteers to answer a 24-hour, toll-free hotline and provide real time, caller-specific support to each person who calls." According to Sarah Morehead, Executive Director of Recovering from Religion, "Our next challenge is to recruit and train enough volunteers to make 24-hour, 7-days per week support possible." So what are you waiting for? Go submit your application now!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Outing Sheldon Cooper

No, I don't mean he's gay.

I mean he's an atheist! I know you're probably still skeptical. But come much more evidence (of his absence) do you really need? Still, for his own good, Sheldon needs to come out and help us change the descriptive norms on "atheism."

Yes, there may be consequences (his mother's reaction). And he may need a lot of support in the short-term. He may need to call the Recovering From Religion hotline or attend one of their support group meetings facilitated by Nate Phelps. But can you just imagine how it would make Shelly feel to finally hear his mother say "Not that there's anything wrong with that"?

"If a closet atheist wants to come out, that is her decision to make, and nobody else's. What we can do is provide support and encouragement to those who willingly decide to out themselves."

- Richard Dawkins on "
The Out Campaign"

CBS: Are you listening?

#HotlineProject Coverage:

Hugs Shelly...and Raj!

"I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time."
 - Isaac Asimov, Free Inquiry (Spring 1982)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How Not To Be An Agnostic

Omar Baddar makes a weak "case for agnosticism" by redefining God as "the name assigned to the mysterious force...behind this universe" - which he then conveniently declares to be "fundamentally unfathomable." So much for cosmology I guess.

"What on earth does [quantum superposition] even mean?" he asks. If "science...can't explain why there is something in the first place rather than nothing," and an infinite multiverse is "equally unfathomable," "do we really know enough about the universe to be clinging to any theories at all?"

As I read his piece, I was reminded of my favorite Asimov essay and these words from Feynman...

One can always redefine "God" and keep hiding in the gaps of current knowledge. But that's not agnosticism. That's just semantics and an argument from ignorance. In other words...theology.

Of course we don't know everything, but that's no reason to stop clinging to the best way of finding things out: theories that are supported by evidence, observation, measurement, and reasoning, and confirmed by independent observers. And the principle of parsimony suggests that God is an unnecessary assumption. As is a "mysterious force" that created the universe...or not.

Our intuitions do not determine what's true. Maybe the universe is a simulation that was created a few minutes ago. Or maybe it really is a natural phenomenon that is eternally existing and self-reproducing. Baddar doesn't want us to rule out "God" or a "mysterious force" behind it all. But he provides no reasons or evidence that this possibility is any more likely than the tooth-fairy or Russell's celestial teapot. I remain a tooth-fairy agnostic (atheist for most of you).

I ought to call myself an agnostic; but, for all practical purposes, I am an atheist. I do not think the existence of the Christian God any more probable than the existence of the Gods of Olympus or Valhalla. To take another illustration: nobody can prove that there is not between the Earth and Mars a china teapot revolving in an elliptical orbit, but nobody thinks this sufficiently likely to be taken into account in practice. I think the Christian God just as unlikely.
 - Bertrand Russell 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Our reading list for this long holiday weekend

"The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that "right" and "wrong" are absolute; that everything that isn't perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong." - Isaac Asimov

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Islamophobia: The Greenwald-Harris Cartoon Contest Edition

Glenn Greenwald and Sam Harris made the news this week, but I think the Chomsky-Hitchens debate is still the classic text in this genre on the appropriate secular humanist response to the dangers of, and relationships between, dogmatism and violence.

And yes, Harris actually challenged Greenwald to a carton contest. Maybe Greenwald should take him up on it?

I'd pay to see a Chomsky-Dawkins debate on this, but a Greenwald-Harris debate? Meh.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Who's writing all those crazy bills in NC?

So who's writing all those crazy bills being introduced in the N.C. General Assembly?

Well, in the case of the divorce bill introduced by Catawba County Representative Austin Allran (Republican), a group called the North Carolina Family Policy Council helped. They run something called "The Truth Project" and see "the roots of today’s abortion movement in the eugenics horror of the past" (more). They even have "policy papers" on intelligent design (written by none other than William Dembski) and the "harmful secular atheistic worldview."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Secular Coalition for North Carolina Growing!

On April Fools’ Day, North Carolina State Representatives Harry Warren and Carl Ford (both Republicans) brought the national spotlight to our state with the introduction of House Bill 494. The “Rowan County Defense of Religion Act of 2013” would, if taken literally, allow our local and state government to establish an official religion and nullify federal constitutional protections for state residents. Political and religious leaders across the state and the nation, and even one of its primary sponsors, were quick to distance themselves from this politically misguided and constitutionally uninformed bill.

Within just a few days North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, also a Republican, pronounced the bill dead on arrival. And according to the Raleigh News and Observer, "even the evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham...disagreed, saying that it wouldn’t be a good idea to establish a state religion.” Not only is an established religion bad government, it’s also bad for religion. As C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance noted, "it is the lack of an established religion that has enabled Christianity, among other religions, to flourish with a freedom in our nation unparalleled in any other nation in the world."

These inexperienced legislators claim that they were responding to a challenge by residents of their districts to sectarian prayers at county commission meetings. Meanwhile, the chairman of the commission was quoted in his local paper as supporting a billboard campaign which advocates continuing sectarian prayers (“in Jesus’ name”) at the meetings. These actions are likely to damage their own case in court.* But they also remind us that all North Carolinians should be ever vigilant in defending our secular government and freedom of conscience and religion. That’s why I, and a growing number of North Carolinians, are proud to support the Secular Coalition for North Carolina.

* This can't help either.

You can contact Representatives Harry Warren and Carl Ford, or the other sponsors of the bill, to let them know how you feel about this and sectarian prayers at government meetings:
Contact information for other state representatives can be found here.