Thursday, June 23, 2005

Burn Our Flag, Not Our Freedoms

    On Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives approved a constitutional amendment that, if approved by the Senate, would make desecration of the American flag illegal.

    Republican representative Randy Cunningham of California used the tragedy of 9/11 (is there really any other way?) to explain his support for the amendment saying,"Ask the men and women who stood on top of the Trade Center. Ask them and they will tell you: pass this amendment." Mr. Cunningham failed to provide any contact information however.

    The Democratic representative Jerrold Nadler replied,"If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents." Nadler is, semi-ironically, a representative from New York. But what do New Yorkers know about 9/11 anyway?

    The fact of the matter is that the passage of the amendment sets a very dangerous precedent in the war against our freedoms of free speech. It sends the message that some forms of peaceful protest against the government are not allowed. It says that because some things are revered regardless of circumstance by part of the population that it is illegal for others to criticize it. It comes as no surprise that this idea would be held by so many in a religious society where criticism of other's irrational beliefs is characterized as being intolerant. If the flag is a symbol of our freedom and democracy and that is why we cannot desecrate it, how much different is it to say that our elected President is a symbol of freedom and democracy and thus should not be criticized?

    Besides sending the message that you are limited in the way that you may criticize the government, what else does the amendment accomplish? Not much. Are we going to stem the widespread phenomenon of flag-burning in America? Have you ever seen an American flag being burned (besides TV footage from foreign countries)? Unless you lived during the Vietnam War, probably not.

    But why burn a flag to protest? There are other legal means of showing your dissatisfaction. Well, just because there are other avenues does not mean that we shouldn't be free to decide. If you think about it, flag burning can attract attention to a cause that other forms of peaceful protest, like posters and fliers, can't. If I'm driving down the road and I see this out of the corner of my eye

        I'll probably think that it's this

    However a burning flag is more likely to get attention and people will understand how troubling you believe a part of U.S. policy to be. As it was during the Vietnam War, when you have friends and family who are dying for a war that you believe we shouldn't be fighting, is it that extreme for you to burn a mass-produced polyester flag? Would people take your problems as seriously if you made some stupid poster? Probably not.

    Is it not strange to say that we are not free to burn the flag because it's a symbol of our freedom?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Crusades Part Deux?

    If there is anything more scary than a soldier "doing the Lord's work," I'd like to know what it is.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Is Religion Responsible for Our Nation's Political Polarization?

    Okay, now before you say "of course it is,", let me explain a little. I'm not talking about the current problems of separation of church and state, abortion, stem cell research, and gay marriage that are brought upon by religious activists. I'm talking about the fact that even passive religious views affect the country in the sense that they make believing whatever the fuck you want okay, regardless of what evidence there is to support it.

    Now generally I believe that if intelligent people are provided with the same information and try to minimize their personal bias, they can come to more or less an agreement after discussing an issue. But if you look at our country, we are more polarized politically than we probably have been since the Civil War. Why can't we discuss things rationally? Why can't Republicans and Democrats come together, have a good debate, and decide what's best for the country? Well, I would argue that religion is the primary obstacle in having a society where compromise and intellectual discourse takes place.

    Religion gives people an excuse for not having reasons for what they believe. The Republican or Democratic pundit can sit on their "debate" show and just ramble off the party position while demonizing his opponent. Rambling on about your dogma while you try to make out the person who disagrees with you as being evil...hmmm.....where have I seen this tactic before? Instead of using reason to find out the best solution for our country's problems, they can simply passionately defend the beliefs that they were raised with. Truth and evidence take a backseat. How can we expect them to use reason to form their beliefs when religion makes it perfectly okay, even honorable, to believe things purely on faith? What kind of an example is that?

    In a society where religion has a big effect it is difficult to have an intelligent debate with someone and come to a reasonable solution. For example, I often have discussions on various topics with my friends. We'll be moving along nicely for about 10-20 minutes. We'll see what each other believes and then we discuss things and try to come to a consensus. Sometimes though, my friend responds with "well, I see your point, but I see it more along this christian argument...". Well shit, I guess I get off the train here. The debate is over. I can't see his position because I refuse to take Jesus as my "savior" by faith, and he doesn't want to give up his afterlife.

     As nuclear weapons become easier to get, it is critical that we can discuss things rationally with the rest of mankind so that we can come to reasonable solutions that save us from going to war. But if so many people believe things with no justification, how could we ever come to agreement?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Funny Anti-Fundie Video

     I just saw this tonight for the first time, I'm not sure how long it's been out, but it's pretty entertaining. It's a video called Keep Your Jesus off My Penis by Eric Schwartz. He's also got a website.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Launching of Atheism Online

        There are many atheist blogs and sites online that, despite being very interesting and well-written, lack exposure to the atheist community and thereby do not get the readership and appreciation that they deserve. On the other side of the token, there are plenty of atheists and freethinkers who are looking for fresh blogs to read and do not want to spend a great deal of time looking for them. Hopefully, both of these problems will be alleviated by the launching of a new site called Atheism Online.

        The concept of Atheism Online was originally conceived by the owner of Atheist Revolution and was added to by both the creator of The Evangelical Atheist and I. At the moment there are three primary features on the website. The first and most important is the list of atheist blogs, resources, and miscellaneous websites online. I think one of the useful things about it is that the blogs are separated between atheist blogs and off-topic blogs by atheists. In my opinion this is nice because sometimes I want to read about something other than religion or atheism, but want to hear it from someone who has a healthy, rational viewpoint on life. Also, all sites in the directory are checked by us to ensure that they are in the correct category so that you will not be wasting your time by clicking on bad links or websites that misrepresent their content. There is also a forum on the website for discussions on atheism-related topics ranging from arguments for/against the existence of gods, politics, science, current events, and morality. As the website gains popularity, the third feature, the chat rooms, will also be an interesting place to discuss things with both theists and nontheists alike.

        I encourage all of you to check it out, participate in the forums, and if you have a site or blog relating to atheism, submit it so that we can better serve as a sort of "main train station" for atheism on the web.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God"

     Julia Sweeney is a former cast member of Saturday Night Live and last week was featured on WBEZ radio on a show called This American Life, in a segment titled Godless America describing her transition from Christianity to atheism. This is an excerpt from her monologue Letting Go of God which has received great reviews from the L.A. Times. The part of the show that she is featured on starts at about the 29 minute mark in case you don't want to listen to the whole thing. She talks about how she lost faith from reading the stories and atrocities that are in the Bible. She also has a fairly interesting website in which she has a regularly updated blog, bio, and plans for her monologue's debut in CD and DVD form. She has a book coming out next Spring which is based on the material from her monologue titled My Beautiful Loss of Faith Story.
    I think this is great because it's just one more instance of positive publicity for atheists who are generally stereotyped as being anything but what they truly are. Also, I think her book could appeal to a different sort of audience than most atheist media can usually reach. For example, I can't imagine the average stay-at-home mom reading Why I'm Not A Christian by the philosopher Bertrand Russell but I could imagine her reading a book like Julia is writing.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Creationists Attack Zoo With Bullshit

        You would think that a zoo would be a place where children could get basic, unbiased information on the cute, little animals that they hold so dear. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, the creationists have gotten out of their cage and have started to fuck up the childrens' minds.

         The Tulsa Zoo will soon have a display which depicts the creationist account of the origin of life, specifically a display of how God created life in 6 days and then rested on the 7th. Religious idiots "argued" that this display would counterbalance the other religious icons which are already present in the zoo. This is a reference to a statue of the Hindu elephant god Ganesh, which is located in front of the elephant exhibit.


         Now maybe it's just me, but I don't think that children even realize that that's a religious symbol. And even if they did, I don't really think they'd feel inclined to worship an elephant god when in the background they can see an elephant shitting on his own food. Zoo employees said that the zoo is not in the business of advocating religion and explained that the displays like the elephant display are to teach children about how other cultures view the animals. Sadly though, the Tulsa Park and Recreation Board makes these decisions, and sided 3-1 with the ridiculous creationist shit. Hey, at least it's a children's story at a children's attraction.

        This story actually hits a little close to home for me. While I don't live in Oklahoma anymore, I was born and raised about 30 minutes from this zoo. The Tulsa zoo was a frequent destination for field trips and the like, and I'm disappointed to see creationists put their crap into something as innocent as a zoo.

        For those who haven't noticed, the religious fundamentalists are on the march. They will not give up and they will not give in. They are in direct opposition to things that have made America great, such as reason, debate, science, separation of church and state, freedom of speech, and equality for all citizens. It is important for us to get off our lazy asses and do something about it. Let your opinions be heard by your communities and convince your family and friends of the danger that these people pose to the American way of life, and due to the America's place in the world, also to freedom abroad.

     "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"
                                                            Edmund Burke

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Freethought Movie On Sale Now

      As some of you may well know, there is a documentary called The God Who Wasn't There that has been in the making which critically examines Christianity, including whether or not Jesus ever existed as a historical figure (check out the trailer here ). Well, the wait is over, we can now order the DVD!
      It is a rare occasion that any sort of mass media, specifically a movie or documentary, strays from the basic idea that religion is true, and if not that, at least good for society. I believe it is important for all freethinkers to help support this movie for the following four reasons:

1). The selling of this DVD will help Brian Flemming (the creator) in his next movie which takes a stab at religous fundamentalism.

2). The selling of this DVD will show that there is a market for this kind of thing amongst the freethinking community. This will likely result in other creative, freethinking people to produce more media that examines modern religion in a skeptical nature, not because they know it can be done, but because they know they can make a profit. Oh yes, the almightly dollar.

3). This DVD will be, I suspect, damn entertaining. I've heard a couple of reviews so far and all of them have been great.

4). You could show this DVD to friends and family. Arguments that the average person sees on TV are generally considered by them to be more persuasive than those put forth by someone they know. They assume there is more authority behind it, more research, and less subjectivity. This provides for an excellent starting point to help a friend or family member break free from the clutches of religion and live their lives to their full potential.

      I plan to purchase my copy later today. For those of you who would also like to you may do it here .

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Need for an Honest Discussion between Liberals and Fiscal Conservatives

      Today the biggest source of political tension is, I believe, the clash between liberalism and fiscal conservatism. Living in Texas, I know a very large number of Republicans. Many of them don't want prayer in school, don't want the so-called 10 Commandments displayed on public buildings, wouldn't mind if gays got married, and would actually support stem cell research. They only care about the fiscal matters and they don't want their money going to people that they stereotype as being lazy and unappreciative. Fiscal conservatives often feel so strongly about this that they overlook what the Christian extremists are doing in our country. Because of this, the fundamentalists are getting their agendas fulfilled and so I think an honest discussion about the need for compromise between liberals and fiscal conservatives must be reached so that we can both take back fundamental American ideas such as the separation of church and state, the need for scientific research, and liberty for all people (regardless of sexual orientation) from the drooling mouth of the Christian Right.

      Some liberals might imagine the following when dealing when issues relating money transfer from the rich to the poor. They might imagine that a rich, spoiled-brat who's never worked a day in his life, who got his money from his rich parents being taxes so that his money will go to a poor, hardworking, studious, and (insert more positive characteristics here) child so that he can attend school and have the basic necessities of life such as food and medical care. Fiscal conservatives, on the other hand, view the situation much differently. They see a educated, rags-to-riches kind of businessman, who is taxed unnecessarily so that his money can go to some pathetic, lazy bum who runs off and goes to buy liquor as soon as he cashes his check. This view wasn't always so popular among conservatives, as Robert Reich explains in his book Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America . He discusses how the new stereotype of the recipient changed the feeling among many Americans for these social programs.
   Still, these programs marked a whole new way of thinking about the role of government, and they were enormously popular.
   They were created for Americans as a system of insurance, not welfare. The basic idea was that we are all in the same boat together. Misfortune can happpen to anyone. The result was a giant sytem of retribution-mostly from young to old, but also from healthy to sick, employed to unemployed, people who didn't suffer a natural disaster to people who did. But it didn't feel like redistribution because the money didn't go from "us" to "them". It went from us to us.
   Over time, though, some programs became less popular because their beneficiaries started to look and seem different from the rest of us. One such program was part of the original Social Securities Act, designed to help mothers whose husbands or partners died or abandoned them. Increasingly, the women who collected what came to be known as welfare checks were black or brown. "Why should my hard-earned tax dollars go to them?" became a common refrain among white working- and middle-class households.

      The thing is, if the first stereotype was the true one, then sure, let's rob the rich and give it all to the poor. If the second stereotype is true, then let the lazy bums fend for themselves. But the key thing is that the truth is actually a combination of these two cases. Some recipients of proposed social programs might be lazy, but some might just need a helping hand to get back on their feet. Some of the rich may have worked damn hard for their money, and then some might have just inherited it and have never worked a job in their life.Since it is a combination of these stereotypes which is actually the truth, it is important to have a compromise between liberalism and fiscal conservatism. It's important to realize that some poor people want to make their life and their childrens' lives better, if only they had the money to go to school and put food on the table. However, you can't just blindly throw money at the problem, and it's important to make sure that the recipients are using the help so that they can soon help themselves, not to make them dependent on the aid.
      I believe most liberals have already realized this to be the case. I welcome the libertarians and other fiscal conservatives to join us, so that we can fight the groups who are threatening the core of what makes America great.