Atheists Talk TV has a nice interview with Erick Jayne (James Zimmerman does the interview) regarding volunteerism and atheism:
One thing often lost in the various calculations about volunteerism has to do with what people do when they lead a thoughtful secular life. Various helping organizations are run by private non profits, often religious, and contributing to those efforts counts as volunteerism (if you do stuff) or charitable giving (if you give stuff). Fine. But in a world more oriented towards secularism, we would do more via the secular civic organizations at the local, state, national, and international level. When we pay taxes and as activists insist that some of that goes to “foreign aid” that, in theory, is like charitable giving but via a different rout that counts less than when a Mormon gives 10% of his or her income to the Mormon Church which then, in turn, uses that money for various things.
One of the problems that then emerges within the secular community is this: A certain percentage of atheists are also Libertarians, who don’t believe that civic institutions, ranging from the city that might make room for a community garden or a food shelf to the UN’s relief units, should be large, or even exist. I suspect that many of those individuals do not spent excessive amounts of time volunteering or giving money to non profits (prove me wrong if you like). They are therefore pulling back from most forms of helping each other that are used by much of the rest of society, including work and donations via church, non-religious non-profits, and civic institutions. That is not good.
I suspect, but can not prove, that all else being equal, the average person leading a thoughtful secular life tips more at the coffee shop than the average Libertarian atheist or the average religious person who pays a tithe. This is underscored (though in a purely self confirming non-data based way, I quickly add) by the occasional high profile event such as the pastor who stiffed the server with the nasty note on the check about how she gives money to god, why should she give it to some slob that brought her dinner. Again, I could be wrong about all this. This may be just me assuming that nice people are nicer than non-nice people, and being thoughtfully secular and humanistic is nicer. Nicest even.
Ryan Andresen was bullied and harassed as a gay teenager, and became an anti-bullying activist, and the Boy Scouts are anti-gay and his being gay may be one of the main reasons he is not being allowed to become an Eagle scout. But, he and his scout leader had already talked about his sexual orientation, and Ryan was told “We’ll get by the gay thing” when it came to his elevation the Eagle status. But, when the final forms were being filled out, Ryan refused to check off the box saying that he agreed to the principle of “Duty to God.”
“This scout proactively notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout counselor that he does not agree to scouting’s principle of ‘Duty to God’ and does not meet scouting’s membership standard on sexual orientation,” Deron Smith, a spokesman for the organization said in a statement. “Agreeing to do one’s ‘Duty to God’ is a part of the scout Oath and Law and a requirement of achieving the Eagle Scout rank.”
Should atheists be miffed about this? Well, yes, miffed about the scouts requiring the Duty to God thing, sure. But I’m talking about something else. Here we have the claim that the Boy Scouts were repressing this young man because he’s gay, and we have a petition that is adding dozens of names a minute, passing the quarter million mark as I write this, but in reality, a key reason, maybe THE key reason, that Ryan is not able to go Eagle is because he is some sort of Atheist or Agnostic or other form of non-believer.
This is a little different from pulling up the ladder. This is pushing someone off the ladder and taking it from them. Amiright?
Hemant Mehta has also discussed the two-headed monster, here.
The American Atheists put up a set of billboards in Charlotte, NC, planned site of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, with messages pertaining to Christianity and Mormonism. There were so many threats against the people at American Atheists and the billboard company that they were forced to take them down early.
Large Volume of Threats by Email, Phone Ends Campaign to Question Faith in Politics
Cranford, NJ – American Atheists announced today that the billboards the organization had placed in Charlotte, NC, ahead of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, criticizing Christianity and Mormonism would be coming down weeks early.
“It is with regret that we tell our members and all of those who treasure free speech and the separation of religion and government that American Atheists and Adams Outdoor Advertising have mutually agreed to remove the billboards immediately,” said Amanda Knief, American Atheists’ Managing Director.
“No subject, no idea should be above scrutiny—and this includes religion in all forms,” Ms. Knief said. “We are saddened that by choosing to express our rights as atheists through questioning the religious beliefs of the men who want to be our president that our fellow citizens have responded with vitriol, threats, and hate speech against our staff, volunteers, and Adams Outdoor Advertising.”
Teresa MacBain, American Atheists’ Public Relations Director said, “It saddens me to think that our country is not a safe place for all people to publicly question religious belief. How can we grow as a nation when such censorship exists from our own citizens?”
The billboards are scheduled to be removed by the end of day Thursday, August 23, 2012.
A commenter at the American Atheist site left a link to a video I think you might be interested in seeing:
No babies were eaten at the Mr. Paul Aints Game last night, despite the fact that the place was thick with Atheists. It was my first Saint Paul Saints game, though I’ve been planning to get to one forever. The Saints, called the Aints for this particular “Evening of Unbelievable Fun” (in association with the Minnesota Atheists) played very well and lost by only one point against a team from Texas which had actually (apparently) considered not coming to the game because of the co-sponsorship by atheists.
I personally would like to thank the Saints for having this co-sponsored game. I hope we can do it again. Eventually, it might become normal seeming for non-Atheists to exist in the same city with Atheists. There are a lot of us, after all. There are more non-believers in Minnesota than there are Jews, Muslims, Gay People and all kinds of other groups. And we are one of the fastest growing groups in the country.
And now we shall pause for a small experiment. The following text is from Joe Soucheray’s commentary on this game, published a few weeks ago, in which he bitterly decried having an Atheists Night at Midway Stadium. However, I’ve changed the text to make a parody of it. Instead of some guy who claims to be religious complaining about Athesits, I’ve shifted the writer to be a Christian (which he is anyway) complaining about the ball team having a night together with The Jews. Read through it and substitute “Jew” with “Black Folk” or “Arabs” or “Democrats” or “Special Needs Children” or whatever you want, and see how it feels for ya. (more…)
A few days ago, Joe Soucheray of Saint Paul’s Pioneer Presswrote an opinion piece that I took exception to. An area minor league and much loved baseball team known as the Saint Paul Saints carries out promotions in association with most (all?) of their games, to support organizations’ fundarising efforts or to promote their own brand. A few months ago, Minnesota Atheists carried out a billboard campaign which was noticed by the Saints, who then approached the Minnesota Atheists about doing a game with them. This was heartily agreed to, as it would be great fun, and could actually help with some fundraising. As part of the game day, the Saint Paul Saints would change their name to the Mr. Paul Aints, perhaps serve Flying Spagetti Monster pasta in addition to hot dogs (I don’t know if that plan developed; you’ll find out if you go to the game!) and so on. Also, Minnesota Atheists, seeing this as an opportunity for a large get-together, promptly organized a regional conference of American Atheists to occur the day after game day, and the President of American Atheists will be on hand at the game to throw out the first pitch.
As one might expect, there was some push back. The push back that normally happens when Atheists get noticed has two components. First, religious people who believe that one must be religious to be good become upset. They are upset simply because there are Atheists. That happens either because people haven’t thought about Atheism or belief in general…they were raised in a religious setting and that is mostly what they know…or because they have literally been trained by their religious upbringing to view Atheism as a form of bad, perhaps even evil. Second, a smaller subset of these folks speak out, and say things that demean those individuals who have decided that they are non-believers. Comments made by these folks tend to range from somewhat offensive to very offensive to the non-believers. The key element here is this: The comments that are made are exclusionary or denigrating, and if the same comments were edited to remove “Atheists” and replace that term with “Jews” or “Muslims” or “Democrats” or “Union members” or any other group, said comments would instantly be recognized as wrong. And then, even if someone has these thoughts, they would know better than to say them out loud. (more…)
Pioneer Press writer Joe Soucheray has reacted to the upcoming Saint Paul Saints/Mr. Paul Aints game, which will honor the Minnesota Atheists, rather negatively, and in a piece he wrote for the Pioneer Press, he came of as a condescending intolerant and uneducated grump. And I’m trying to be nice here.
The other thing I’m trying to do is not react to Soucheray’s commentary, or other pushback, until after the game. This is just in case the Minnesota Atheists, while at the game, eat some babies or something in which case I’ll just slink away quietly. But, if they behave, I’ll write up the game, the history behind the game, and the positive and negative reaction to the game. For now, I simply wanted to make note of the fact that there is a conversation developing. The Pioneer Press piece is here, and this is a small excerpt:
Joe Soucheray: For this promo night, Saints’ inspiration isn’t at all divine
At first I thought it was a joke and I had to go into verification mode, only to discover that it isn’t a joke and that on the night of Aug. 10 the St. Paul Saints are having “A Night of Unbelievable Fun.”
Unbelievable? Get it? …
…I needed to know who in God’s name had such a severe brain meltdown that they came up with this one.
“We were approached by the Minnesota Atheists,” said Derek Sharrer, the team’s general manager. “They are sponsoring a national atheist convention in Minneapolis that weekend and wanted to know if they could have a night at the ballpark.”
Not only did it not occur to anybody in the organization to maybe think twice but Sharrer said, “We were put in a position of realizing that we have worked with so many faith-based groups that it would be hypocritical of us to not work with a non-faith-based group.”
Crommunist, a fellow FTB.com blogger, has an interesting idea. He’s putting together a bunch of people’s thoughts on the open statement “Because I am an atheist ….”
This is meant to be an expansion, or reorientation perhaps, from the usual question “Why I am an Atheist.” He explains what he is getting at here.
I am honored and privileged and stuff to have the inaugural post in the series. It is titled “Because I am an atheist” … which is pretty much what one would expect, I suppose … and it is HERE. GO CLICK ON IT AND READ IT!!!
Thank you very much dear readers, and thank you Crommunist.
When I interviewed Neil de Grasse Tyson on Atheist Talk Radio, questions of atheism, agnosticism, or religion did not come up in planning for, conducting, or talking about that interview. Maybe people assumed he was an Atheist. When I interviewed, with Lynn Fellman, Ira Flatow, a couple of members of Minnesota Atheists expressed minor concern: “Is Flatow an atheist? If not, why are you interviewing him on Atheist Talk?” I think that must be because they had heard something about his background. Personally, I have no idea what Ira’s beliefs or lacks of beliefs might be. (more…)
“I’m not sure it is to atheists’ benefit to always present a kinder, gentler face,” says Greta Christina, a prominent atheist blogger and author of a new book called Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off The Godless.
Christina says there’s a tension in the movement. On one side are what she calls “firebrands,” such as Oxford biologist Dawkins, who has called some believers “staggeringly ignorant” and “insane.” On the other are the “diplomats,” such as Mehta, who deliver the same message of a Godless universe — but politely. Christina says every modern social movement — civil rights, feminism, gay rights — had the same tension, and you need both.
A thoughtful, if also very pink, gathering of Secular Humanists.
Sikuvu Hutchinson has written an important piece (“Slaves like Us: American Atheists on the Plantation“) that I want to bring to your attention, but there is some context and background that goes with it. Well, background and context that goes with my understanding of her excellent blog post, that I thought I’d share with you. (more…)
Atheist Voices of Minnesota, to be available in September 2012
Freethought House, a new publishing company, has released its first pre-release of a release regarding the book Atheist Voices of Minnesota.
Atheist Voices of Minnesota: an Anthology of Personal Stories will be a collection of autobiographical writings from 36 atheists living in or from Minnesota, available September 2012.
The book will be a unique outreach tool for atheism in Minnesota, which we hope will also provide a model for similar efforts in other states. Atheists are one of America’s most marginalized and misunderstood groups of people, with many remaining “in the closet” for fear of repercussions with their family, friends, or career. In Atheist Voices of Minnesota, 36 atheists openly share their stories with readers.
This book is the result of a truly collaborative, all atheist, and entirely volunteer effort. All net proceeds will go to support Minnesota Atheists (a 501c3 nonprofit organization) with authors, editors, designers, and other volunteers receiving no financial benefit.
Not wanting to assume that if you read The X Blog that you also read all of the other fine blogs at FTB.com, I want to point out Stephanie Zvan’s coverage of the coverage of the recently erected Minnesota Atheist and American Atheist billboards: Press Coverage on the MN Atheists Billboards
I don’t think we’re going to see defacement or serious protests because this is Minnesota. Our aggression is more passive than that. I happen to agree with Stephanie on the degree of success of the campaign so far.
The Center for Inquiry will host a Women in Secularism Conference this May, in Washington, DC. Melody Hensley, Executive Director of the DC CFI, who by the way is my FFF, will join Stephanie Zvan on Atheist Talk Radio this coming Sunday to talk about the conference and the broader issues of women in secularism. You have the opportunity NOW (well, between now and Saturday Night, I suppose) to suggest questions or topics of discussion for Sunday’s Interview.
“With deep sorrow, we regret to inform of the untimely death of Ajita Kamal. Ajita is the founder of Nirmuka and was a great champion of freethought in India. He died in an incident in his home town in Tamil Nadu, the details of which are unknown at this moment. We are in contact with his family for further details.
A formal note of his demise and a brief bio will be posted on Nirmukta.com in the next few days.”
In a win for secularism as well as pasta, a sign donated by the American Atheists has been put up in the place where they put holiday stuff at Travis Air Force Base.
Of course, the sign has already been vandalized, but only a little. But seriously, you can’t really vandalize pasta … it just turns into a different kind of pasta … so efforts to ruin our day in this manner are futile. FUTILE!!!
This is all described, documented, photographed, and is being discussed over at Justin Griffith’s blog. So go have a look!
Of course, this is all new territory. You could even say it is a kind of test. Like throwing the noodle against the wall to see if it sticks. As it were.