Christians, Not Atheists, are Thin Skinned

thin skinned christianDallas News posts opinion that it is Christians that are hypersensitive to contrary views.

Will, in his article about public prayer and thin skins, seems to make the assumption that it is the atheists who have the thin skins and who need to get over being so “prickly.” His assumption does not totally match with reality. Should Mr. Will care to look at some history, he would find that when prayers other than Christian are given, many times it is the Christians who yelp in protest.

A prominent example of this was when, in 2007, a Hindu gave the opening prayer for the U.S. House, over the sound of hecklers from the gallery and over the protest of a prominent Christian group. Another such example occurred in Arizona when an atheist Arizona representative gave the opening prayer for the 2013 session of Arizona’s Legislature. Two days later, a group of Christian Arizona representatives gathered together to offer up prayers of repentance.

While this does not always happen, time after time, those walking out of prayers by non-Christians or protesting such prayers are Christians, not atheists. I think that Mr. Will has a blind spot generated by his being part of the majority religion.

A commentor reminds of what the bible says about prayer.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” -Matthew 6:5-6

Aside from the futility of musing the bible to convince non biblical people to behave a certain way… This passage is sometimes interpreted as Christians having to pray out of sight because of persecution. But it’s more about sincerity, humility, and a personal relationship with god.

1 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. 4 They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

The transition of christianity from a people’s religion to a state religion meant making  a big, mandatory show and spectacle. Combine that with evangelicalism’s need to convert the world and all humility and fact checking is lost. Religion can’t be private if everyone is to be “saved.” Religion must be magical to make it powerful in a time of magic where mystery is under every rock. All that’s left is perceived offense.

Mathew creates much confusion in the church as he seems both accommodating to Judaism and gentiles, tradition and innovation, legalism and individualism, apocalypse or not. Whatever you seek you will find in Mathew. It’s  a terrible book with which to govern people’s belief, indicative of the kind of cloudy thinking meant to convert but confounds.

What is clear is the common christian desire to be insulated from criticism because they are certain they have the truth, the only truth. Not surprising when you consider it used to be law and democracy is antithetical to theocracy. Democracy only works in christian religion if everyone already agrees.

Richard Carrier (SMOA 013) discusses this in his book “Not the Impossible Faith.”

Jim Newman, bright and well

Atheist Chaplains

atheist in foxholeAs if a religious chaplain could even begin to help an atheist. It is astounding to me that it is even a question. Of course my secular take on it is why chaplains instead of psychologists, psychiatrists, and professional counselors in the first place? My memory is too strong of Mormon Bishops and Catholic Priests who think they can cure people’s mental issues without any training whatsoever–malpractice. Once you do allow religious psychology in the military then you really must have someone for each sect which makes the entire affair a circus.

Of course the religious right’s insistence that you can’t go to war unless god is beside you shows just how peaceful their god is. You’d think even a just god would slap his forehead and groan every time someone is shot, on either side.

While Fox News is always yammering about how Christian First Amendment rights are supposedly being attacked by atheists, they have no concern about the First Amendment rights of those who don’t follow Fox’s one true faith. Fox friend Elisabeth Hasselbeck recently channeled Gretchen Carlson’s belief that there should be no free speech rights during Christian holidays. And yesterday, in keeping with the patented Fox atheists suck big time meme, Hasselbeck provided a platform for “pre-Vatican II” Catholic Judge Andrew Napolitano’s argument that those filthy atheists do not deserve to have their own military chaplain.

According to Fox News, an atheist group is in the process of lobbying the Defense Department for the appointment of a chaplain. The push for atheists to be represented in the military’s chaplain corps has been happening since 2011 and hasn’t gone unnoticed by Fox News. Fox’s morning Christian show, Fox & Friends hosted Fox’s one true priest and Tim Tebow fan boy, Fr. Jonathan Morris, for a discussion of how the presence of an atheist chaplain would “degrade” the military.” Flash forward to 2014 and Fox & Friends is picking up where they left off.

As the chyron defined the issue as a “controversy,” Jesus BFF, Elisabeth Hasselbeck reported that “an atheist group is demanding an atheist chaplain.” (Notice the more inflammatory use of “demand” as opposed to the reality that the group is requesting this position). She set the propaganda message as a question: “Is the DOD being politically correct?” She tossed to Judge Napolitano who said that while it’s not surprising, given the number of atheists in the military, “it’s surprising that the military is considering it” because – wait for it – “they have lot more important things to do than figure out how to provide a chaplain for an atheist.”

He spoke of how chaplains are provided for other groups “who believe in God.” (Buddhism’s theology is very different from those who, in Napolitano’s world, “believe in God”). He asserted that atheism isn’t a religion and doesn’t fit government statutes which require the provision of a chaplain to the military. In invoking the patented Fox & Friends evil “political correctness” meme, he proclaimed “this is political correctness gone crazy.” As the chyron read “(Non) Religious Freedom, MAAF: Atheists In Military Need Own Chaplain,” Napolitano claimed that the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply here and that “when you join the military, you give up certain rights.”

Unless you’re Christian.

Jim Newman, bright and well


Join Me in Secular Celebrant Training

wedding-ringsCFI as an addition to Women in Secularism 3 is offering celebrant training. I signed up. I must have had a beer or two as I am not really a jazzy celebration person. Everyday I’m alive is a celebration day. Everyday there is something to be happy, sad, mad, or indifferent about. But I get that people like to mark events in their lives. I hope to help those looking for something to their taste.

Though less social now that has more to do with living on a farm and living in a rural area than a lack of sociability. When I lived in Santa Cruz I gave talks to 400-500 people at Big Basin State Park, volunteered moonlight hikes to the sea, and went to concerts 2-3 times a week.

I used to be  wedding photographer as well though that got old quickly–way too much stress everywhere. (The near-constant ringing in my ears is from too many concerts and loud tools without ear plugs.) One time the couple split up before the photo’s were back. Aaah, but another time it was friends in a garden and the photo’s looked amazing.

I had two celebrations for one marriage. One in the Midwest officiated by a high-ranking Episcopalian for my new family (lots of photo’s). One on a California beach, near Ano Nuevo, in a circle with our friends with no officiant but all of us (no photo’s).

Since I live in the Eastern part of West Virginia it is  both the bible belt and a bedroom community for DC and the Technology Corridor. So who knows? I might be useful.

Here is the CFI blurb.

Persons who are not affiliated with any religion constitute 16% of the US population. Unfortunately, the choice of persons to conduct ceremonies for marriages, same sex commitments, memorials, and other rites of passage is usually between religious clergy and civil officials.

For a nonreligious person this can be a traumatic experience. They may be required to go through religious counseling and/or have religious references in their ceremony. They may be prevented from having their choice of music or readings as part of the ceremony. The local minister called on to conduct a funeral/memorial may preach a “come to Jesus” sermon or otherwise use religious references that are not in keeping with the worldview of the person being memorialized. Many of us have seen this done.

Additionally, civil officials are usually not available to do marriage ceremonies at the place and time of the couple’s choosing, but only in a government setting such as an office or the courthouse. Furthermore, these officials are typically personally unknown to the couple. Wedding ceremonies, memorials, and other life passages are extremely important events – they are life’s milestones – and people should be able to have these ceremonies conducted in a manner and by a person of their choosing.

While some people of the secular worldview do not see a need for rituals and ceremonies of any kind, many feel that having a way of marking life passages is important. CFI feels that this is a personal choice and that secular ceremonies – and persons to conduct these ceremonies – should be available to those who want them.

By utilizing the services of a CFI-certified secular celebrant, members of the non-religious community may mark life’s milestones in ways that are most personally meaningful to them. In addition, utilizing certified secular celebrants’ services to perform weddings will assist CFI in bringing legal challenges to laws that allow religious officials to solemnize marriages, but unconstitutionally bar representatives of secular organizations from doing so.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Sam Harris Interviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan-Hirsi-AliIn “Lifting the Veil of “Islamophobia“” Ayaan Hirsi Ali clarifies misconceptions of her past and politics.

Brevik the lunatic murderer quoted her.

He is one of the worst mass murderers in history, and there’s no question about that. Like most people, I had never heard of him before he went on his killing spree. However, he did write a thousand-page manifesto in which he quoted John Stuart Mill and other thinkers, and even me. Trying to use other people to justify your own actions is not unusual in mass murderers. Osama bin Laden quoted Noam Chomsky with approval. Does that make Chomsky in any way culpable for the behavior of bin Laden? Of course not. Just as no one quoted by Breivik is responsible for him.

In any case, I gave a speech at an award ceremony in Berlin, in the spring of 2012, on the shortcomings of policies based on the theory of “multiculturalism,” and I said that Breivik was one deeply unfortunate product of these policies, as are the rising number of European jihadis.

Her misrepresentation of name and birth.

When I arrived in the Netherlands, in 1992, I misrepresented the year of my birth at my intake interview. I said I was born in 1967, but I was born in 1969. I also changed my grandfather’s name. In many tribal societies, instead of a surname you have a string of names—I am Ayaan; my father is Hirsi; and my father’s father, when he was born, was named Ali. But later on, when he grew up and became a warrior, he was called Magan (Somali for “protection” or “refuge”), because he protected some of the peoples whom he conquered. Magan is, basically, a nickname that he acquired later in life. Technically, I did not lie about Ali, because that was also his name. I used it deliberately, because I figured that if I could get this intake interview, then my father or the man he married me off to could come and say that they were looking for Ayaan Hirsi Magan, born November 13, 1969, and they would find me very easily. I wanted to prevent that, so I called myself Ayaan Hirsi Ali and changed my birth year to 1967. I was trying to cover my trail just enough that I wouldn’t have the fear of being immediately found. I had never before lived in a system where there were any protections put in place for me.

Ali is lying about the problems in Islam.

Harris: As though the claims you make about Islam are difficult to confirm. I sometimes think that it would be great, as an act of performance art, for you to come forward and say, “You caught me! I’ve been lying about Islam. Women have full equality with men under its doctrines—and there’s no problem for apostates or blasphemers either!”

Hirsi Ali: Yes—and honor killings, denying girls an education, denying women the right to leave their homes without permission from a male relative, performing marriages on girls as young as age 9, the continued practice of female genital mutilation for “purity,” the stoning of homosexuals, those are all just coincidences.

Her involvement with the conservative think-tank the American Enterprise Institute.

So I reached out to Cynthia Schneider, who had served under President Bill Clinton as ambassador to the Netherlands. I told her that I was going to be in New York, working on a book, and asked if she could introduce me to various think tanks, because I wanted to get back into academia. I also wanted to have a life, because in 2004 and 2005, the level of security that the Dutch government had me under was like living in a prison. It was also accompanied by considerable notoriety. I had paparazzi following me, and I couldn’t walk outside without being recognized. Holland is a very small country. I wanted a quiet life in academia, and I wanted to be safe.

So I approached Cynthia, and she took me to the Brookings Institute, and to Rand, and to Johns Hopkins, and to Georgetown—she took me to all these institutions, and there was no interest. They didn’t say it to my face, but I got the feeling that they were uncomfortable with what I had been saying about Islam.

Then, on the last day, just before I left the country, Cynthia suggested that we try the AEI. And I said something like “I can’t believe you’d take me there. It’s supposed to be a right-wing organization.” And she said, “Oh, come on. You Dutch people are too prejudiced against the U.S. Things here are really very different than you think. I was a Clinton appointee, and one of my best friends—one of Clinton’s best friends—Norm Ornstein, is there. So it’s not what you think it is. And it’s definitely not religious.”

So we went to the AEI, and I met with Norm Ornstein and a woman named Colleen Baughman, and they were so enthusiastic. They immediately introduced me to their president, who suggested that we talk again in a month. And we just kept talking. I spoke about my work; they told me about what they do. And I didn’t hear back from any of the other institutions that I had solicited…

And you should know that during all my interviews with the AEI and my subsequent years there, they’ve always understood that I’m a liberal. No one within the organization has tried to change my mind about anything—not about Islam, or euthanasia, or abortion, or religion, or gay rights, or any of the other things that many of my colleagues have problems with. They’ve never opposed my atheism or confronted me with anything I have said in public. It’s a wonderful institution. – See more at:

On Islamic abuse again.

Consider my views about the treatment of women under Islam. Where is the controversy? Can anyone argue that women are treated well in traditional Muslim societies? Under Islam, every woman is a second-class citizen. She can inherit only half as much as her brother. Her testimony in court—say, in the case of her own rape—is worth half that of her rapist. A Muslim woman has to ask a male guardian for permission to get married or have a child—in some places to even leave the house. And all these various oppressions are justified using the core texts of Islam: the Koran and the hadith. I’m amazed by the accusation that something I’ve said on this topic is controversial. It’s simply horrible to treat women like this. Is that a controversial thing to say? Is it controversial to say that men and women should be equal? I would have thought this was the most boring statement a person could make.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Rebecca Watson vs Amanda Marcotte in Mario Play 3

rebecca-amandaProving that life is not always unpleasant bullshit dealing with assholes like the commentors dissing them in the Youtube video Rebecca and Amanda promise not to talk about serious issues and chill while playing Mario Play 3. Proving once again that strong words don’t mean shit. We’re all just people just trying to make the world a better place, or at least one could hope…

Astounding that they get so much crap from those who insist on their freedom to spout vile, hateful, random, brian-dropping bullshit but no one else can say anything. Oh yeah, nothing unpleasant…

Today is Silent Soccer where only the players can talk. The coaches and spectators have to be quiet. I find it a good exercise. Sometimes shutting the fuck up is appropriate.

I gotta buy some guitar strings for Amanda so she can replace her broken string and play all the notes in Boston’s “More than a Feeling.” Not my favorite but hey who cares, play on, I’ll give it another listen.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Time for Atheist Prayers at Town Meetings

atheist prayerI have a relative, of sorts, who thinks their religion is being oppressed because they can’t drag out family gathering dinner prayers to something more than a couple of sentences followed by an hour of intense theological fornication. They forget the family is composed of a number of religious alliances ranging from Episcopalian, Buddhism, atheist, secular, and spiritual but not religious, including their own version which though unnamed seems intensely devout, perhaps an old time Anglican Crack.

Since a family is scalable to a community the Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom has shown us a way through this mess. We’ll just allow leaders to choose whichever invocation they choose without regard to the rest.

Exclusion is the new inclusion.

While I had hoped for something nondenominational that would inspire, motivate, and commingle all of us that seems to be too much to bear for even those of us who actually proclaim love for each other, one another.

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the benefits of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, did ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States of America and do swear to uphold and stand by it.

Too nationalistic, need a jingo?

Be good to each other, don’t overcook the rice & engage in dialog.

Doesn’t really get to the point, no teeth.

Dammit, leave everyone to their own philosophies unless they are hurting others.

Something more female?

Not for ourselves alone.

Abandoning that pipe dream I may need to come up with a secular prayer that is equally exclusive to those who don’t share my world-view. I need to fit in the group and show I am as exclusive and ostracizing as they are. There’s a compassionate, gracious, generous side of me that wants to get along, silence myself, be invisible, and keep drinking near-free liquor.

Nawww, if religion is now a competition of the right sort of religion then how is excluding myself from their game of exclusivity helpful? There is no time to have everyone do their own invocation though I have always liked the circle where everyone says quickly something they think is pertinent, whatever that means. The good part is I have a little time to write and memorize an appropriate competitive invocation.

It’s really hard to do this when they invoke Jesus and god and all those all powerful beings that know everything and will doom me to damnation, not being with god, if I don’t find him, her, it. But I’ll try a few over the next few months and see if something sounds right. It’s hard because it should’t be mocking but a sincere love and concern that others be saved through reason. Humor is never taken seriously. No, let’s get it right out, privacy, personal choice, love, be damned. As Justice Roberts demands, there must be unfettered prayer.

Dear Bill, Neil, Richard, Giovanni, and Charles thank you for being out.

Thank you for seeking the truth so that we may be encouraged with your good results, verified by others.

Thanks to all of the scientists, rationalists, and people of reason who proved religion to be wrong headed and immoral.

May others see your beneficial evidence and banish their bias, bigotry, and prejudice.

May we continue to enjoy the fruits of your research to make better solar panels and technologies to ameliorate global warming.

May we listen to our sisters and partners and heed their reproductive rights.

May we no longer concern ourselves with how people love each other, as long as it is consensual and safe.

Protect us from those who would arm themselves against us. Make arms and weapon use safe from everyone.

Protect us from the rapacious evils of inequality but especially those who earn 1,000 times more than the average. Let no one suffer because there is no work to do, they are ill, or they are disenfranchised.

Teach us to remove the blindness of false spirits, empty ghosts, and nihilistic gods from our eyes that we may see the beauty that is for all.

Let us seek justice here and now so that justice may not be for the dead alone. 

Let us be a community of peace, a safe haven for ourselves not alone.

In the name of the modern apostles Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and Ali let us give thanks for reason, knowledge, and wisdom through evidence available to all.

Right on brothers and sisters!

Thank you very much. There will be an hour of critical thinking study after dinner.

Aaah well, just a first attempt. Is there a Toastmasters for atheists?

Jim Newman, bright and well