Saturday, May 26, 2007

What Kind of Atheist am I?

You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule. I'm not one of them myself, although I play one online. They know the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and can explain evolution in fifty words or less. More concerned with how things ARE than how they should be, these are the people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist


Militant Atheist




Angry Atheist


Spiritual Atheist


Apathetic Atheist




What kind of atheist are you?
created with

Pretty accurate, I'd say, thought I take issue with the way some of the questions are phrased.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Childish Whining Over Two Measly Words

On cupid, aformershadow posts the following tidbit in his journal, in response to the question, "Is separation of church and state important to you?"

"Not in the sense that we should be anal and whine like little children about "under god", but in the sense that the state has no business siding or being influenced by religion or religious leaders." --aformershadow

The discussion follows.

My comment #1, May 16th, 2007

Why characterize discontent over "under God" in the pledge, etc. as "childish whining?" It may not be as deep a concern as religion influencing government policy, but putting God where it doesn't belong, in national mottoes and pledges is something worth getting upset about, because it has an alienating affect on those who do not believe in God. It allows people like George Bush Sr. to make bigoted comments like "Atheists can't be true citizens or patriots." It's used as ammunition by the religious nut-jobs who ignorantly cite it as evidence that this is a Christian nation, or was founded on one (never mind the fact that "under God" was not originally in the pledge.)

aformershadow's comment, May 16th, 2007

Ok, I'll clarify. Having discontent over the phrase isn't childish whining. It's the fewer, very vocal people who feel the need to incessantly complain and obsess over it, despite all of the other issues that need to be addressed that are whining like children over spilled milk. Seriously, It's two words in a pledge that most people never say or even think of. To be honest, I really don't understand how it's so alienating. Hell, they could change the pledge to "under no god whatsoever" and I really wouldn't care. I'd be a little confused as to why, and I may not care for the change, but again, I really wouldn't care; there are too many important issues to worry about first. Two words in a school child's pledge have nothing to do with Bush Sr. publicly stating personal opinion. Ironically, the same amendment that guarantees your freedom to choose to believe or not to believe in any deity, is the same one that guarantees his freedom to be a giant prick about it. Believe me, I hate the nut-jobs who cite it to support their belief that is a Christian nation, but the fact remains that these crazies will find anything they can to twist for their cause. Hell, they do it to their own bibles. I've got nothing against atheists. I've got a problem with people who obsesively feel the need to let relatively insignificant things get under their skin.

My comment #2, May 17th, 2007
Two words in a school child's pledge have nothing to do with Bush Sr. publicly stating personal opinion.

Sorry, the full, precise quote might shed some light on why it's relevant in this context: "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

Pretty clearly he was citing the Pledge of Allegiance here to support his statement against atheists.

Granted, those two words are not a "big deal" in the grand scheme of things, but as you point out, religious meddling in politics is a problem. Rest assured, the individuals and organizations that rally against having God in national mottoes and pledges, or display of the Ten Commandments outside courthouses, etc. also generally apply equal if not greater pressure to the more serious problems presented by the encroachment of religion in the public sphere.

I think it's important to fight the small fights as well, to not give an inch. One way to challenge the assumptions and the sense of entitlement of theists and Christians who want more influence in government is to constantly remind them that the pledges and mottoes they love to cite so much are offensive and disturbing to some of us, and not representative of the principles that America was truly founded on, and if possible, to change them to better reflect the ideals we as Americans should all hold dear.

Of course, they will always find something, or failing that, make something up to use in the public debate (apocryphal quotes of the founding fathers abound), but I don't think that conciliation and complacency even where these relatively minor matters are concerned is the right way to go about effecting social change. Maybe if you're a politician and you simply have to make compromises to get things done, that approach makes sense, but if you're just an interest group, lobbyist or private citizen, the best way to push your agenda is to be relentless about it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Falwell Not a Hater?

On cupid, sometimes_witty posts a journal entry in response to the celebrating the death of the "hateful" Jerry Falwell, characterizing his backwards social values an artifact of his simply being a conservative Christian -- he supposedly wasn't hateful, he just had some unpopular opinions. My commentary follows.

Comment, May 16th, 2007

"However, a lot of people seem to be cheering his death because he preached "hatred". While I don't personally agree with all of his stances, I'd have a hard time classifying a lot of his most criticized stances as "hatred". Publically stating that homosexuality is sinful or abnormal behavior? Not hatred. Stating that abortion was wrong? Not hatred. Stating that a wife should be subservient to her husband? Not hatred. Those views may be pretty strict and conservative, but as far as I can tell, that's all they are." --sometimes_witty

It's one thing to believe these things (which is bad enough), but you're taking it to another level when you do something like blame people who believe differently from you for a heinous offense such as the 9/11 attacks. Just because he didn't Hulk out in a ballistic rage while spewing his abominable, ridiculous accusations ... and just because his beliefs have their foundation in misogynistic, homophobic, small-minded conservative Christian values, it doesn't mean the message itself wasn't meant to inflame the emotions and hatred of others and encourage out-group intolerance and hostility.

The guy was a hate-monger. I don't "celebrate" his death because his death doesn't really do much to set back the bigoted causes he championed, and there are thousands of people just like him ready to spring up and take his place. What would have been much better is a genuine change of heart (and ideals) and renunciation of the shameful words of his past (a little of which he had admittedly done -- such as when he apologized for his comments regarding 9/11). Besides that, life is precious. Celebrating death isn't something I want to get in the habit of doing, even the death of someone as contemptible as Falwell.

Or for another point of view, here's Christopher Hitchens on Jerry Falwell and his passing.
Everything Is A*-OK
* "A" for America!

On OkCupid, gearheadanonymous reposts a chain letter that advises people to use their copies of the New York Times and Newsweek as bird litter in response to a "recent poll" that reports that most people are unhappy with the President and the direction of the country. It cites numerous facts about which we should be grateful, such as the relatively low unemployment rate, the fact that you can drive from coast-to-coast without having to present papers and the fact that if your house catches on fire, a band of professionals will rush to your aid to extinguish the flames, free of charge!

What follows is my commentary on this person's journal, with some minor edits for grammar and clarity,

Comment #1, May 16th 2007

Give me a break.

The supposed poll asks about the job the President is doing specifically, and the future direction of the country, and most of what is listed there is completely irrelevant in that context, as many of these facts were true before Bush took office, and will continue to be true for a while to come -- at least until we start to pay the price for some of our more ill-advised, short-sighted policies.

"With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, "Are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?" --original post

Now would be a great time to take God out of the pledge. God evidently isn't stopping all of those natural disasters from occurring in what is one of the most Christian nations on the planet.

We don't have God to thank about all of the great things we love about the country, we have people to thank. People, many of whom were secularists or only mildly religious (Thomas Jefferson, John Hamilton, Thomas Paine) founded the United States of America, not to worship God, but to practice freedom, democracy and fair government. People have worked to build up and maintain the nation (as have been responsible for allowing it to regress at times), not God. Attributing the greatness of America to God sells short the accomplishments of those who actually worked and bled to create the reality we now all enjoy (or sometimes, lament).

If we are going to have a chance of treating, or perhaps preventing a bird flu outbreak, it is going to be science, not prayers, that give us the answers -- just as the science of meteorology has saved lives in allowing us some forewarning of hurricanes, just as science and technology has been employed to contain fires such as the ones that have been ravaging my state, etc.

Now is not the time for blind faith or blind loyalty. This President has engaged in a relentless assault on our freedoms (have you ever heard of habeas corpus?) since taking office and has squandered thousands of American lives and many billions of taxpayer dollars on a totally unethical unilateral war of aggression, has proven himself an enemy to science, has no sense of fiscal restraint except when it comes to little things like effective social programs, education funding, and the list could go on.

Yes, there is a lot to be dissatisfied with.

My next comment was made in response to a user by the name of atomicturtle, who expressed the following sentiment: "Good thing for America, we don't really care about 'most places' worthless and meaningless opinion of us. That's right rest of the world. On behalf of America: Blow it out your ass. Don't like us? Kindly fuck off."

Comment #2, May 16th, 2007

Well, it makes sense to care what the rest of the world thinks of us, not because we want to win some sort of popularity contest but because we have to coexist somehow with the rest of the world. What a nation as powerful as the U.S. does has a significant ripple effort on the rest of the world. They should care about what we do, and we should care about what they think of us not just because it is practical for us to do so (because it influences how the rest of the world interacts with us) also because it's simply a small-minded and dangerous mode of thought to pretend as if the rest of the world just doesn't matter, that America is America, that we come first and we can do whatever the fuck we want.

Also, how the rest of the world thinks of you may be a decent barometer for determining how we should think of ourselves -- by trying to obtain some measure of balancing or objective criticism of our actions and policies. Living in the U.S., most people get most of their information about the U.S. policy (and its ramifications) from corporately owned and controlled sources based in the U.S. This list (in the original post) here rants on about the evils of the pessimistic liberal media -- going so far as to recommend that you just throw out all of those newspapers and news magazines, and I suppose by extension, in your opinion, we shouldn't be reading what the BBC, Al Jazeera or otherwise seek to obtain an external, international perspective either, eh? Everything is alright, just sit back and enjoy what freedoms you possess, enjoy your nation's abundant wealth and affluence. It's just this sort of ignorance-encouraging, piggish attitude that I imagine foreigners find so disgusting about the U.S. -- I like to think that it's their perspective of us is just an unfair, exaggerated stereotype, but reading this kind of stuff makes it a little more difficult to believe that is the case.

In a way, it's the fact that we are so comfortable is what upsets me. We've been at war for over five years straight now, and there's been no draft, no tax hikes (instead, we've had tax cuts), no rationing ... unless you're in the military or have a close friend or family member in the military, you haven't really had to suffer any direct consequences of our war making, for example. We have been cowed by our materialistic, creature comforts into not really giving a shit about the ethics or long term consequences of our actions half a world away. We're mortgaging our future and behaving in a manner that is simply vile. You can bet that if we were being asked to make real sacrifices today for our policies and war-mongering today, a lot more people would be asking questions about just what the hell it is we're trying to accomplish, and whether what we're doing is the right thing.