Monthly Archives: January 2013

أمة واحدة تحت الله

Pop quiz: What is the official language of the United States?

If you answered English, you would be wrong. The United States has no official national language, for we live in the great melting pot of the world.

The United States is composed of people of all nationalities, ethnic groups, faiths and ideologies. Growing up, I was taught that America’s diversity was something of which we were to be proud, something that made us different. So when a high-school student organization is formed for the purpose of “destroy[ing] the barriers, embrac[ing] the cultures” of a diverse student body, you might expect that organization to receive full support in its efforts.

Embracing diversity, it turns out, is a scary thing to put into practice when it involves those scary Arabs. At Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins, Colo., a group of students known as the Cultural Arms Club is under fire for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic. What should, in an ideal world, be a non-story lit up the Internet today. While many people have voiced support for the youngsters taking this initiative, some dissenters are downright angry about the audacity of reciting the Pledge in a language other than English – especially the language of the terrorists!

One of the greatest points of contention is derived from the fact that the word “Allah” was used in the recitation in place of the word “God.” Though “Allah” literally translates to “God,” some people are very upset that students would dare utter that word during the sacred oath to our country.

The group has garnered complaints for the practice of reciting the Pledge in another language in the past once before, when they used Spanish.

Fortunately the kids in the group seem to have their heads on straight. In fact, most seem absolutely baffled that there has been an outcry at all. After all, the point of the organization is to promote and embrace diversity, and now they are under fire for doing just that.

In the end, Arabic is just another language. It is not exclusive to Islam, and we should be ecstatic that students are taking the initiative to familiarize their classmates with other cultures. I applaud the students for their boldness, as well as Principal Lopez of RMHS for standing up for the students. U.S. citizens of all languages and backgrounds should feel free to recite the Pledge in their own way, and anyone who wants to deter that needs to rethink values.

I do have to wonder how much of this chaos could be avoided if the line “under God” was simply stricken from the Pledge altogether…

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God and Sports

It looks like God is a betting man. At least, this is the logical conclusion one might come to based on a recent survey that revealed how many Americans actually believe the almighty plays a role in the outcome of sporting events…

Asked if they believe God plays a role in who wins, 27% of Americans said yes.

And here I was worrying about the number who believe in creationism. These are people who literally believe some all-powerful being, master and creator of the universe, gives a very serious shit about which team wins a game on a spec of dust floating through the universe. It’s not just infuriating; it’s really telling about why this country has such a god problem.

I would really love (and by love I mean hate) to have a conversation with these people. I’d ask questions like: How does your lord pick a side? Why does he hate other teams? Why does he keep changing his mind? Is he a bandwagoner? Are you crazy?

Listen, I get it: if your god is omnipotent, obviously he has control over even the minutest of details, including whether the rather shady Ray Lewis gets a trophy in his final season.

And sure, a lot of Christians believe in a very personal god, one who interacts with and/or controls their petty lives. So perhaps this survey isn’t that revealing. But come on! Isn’t it just a bit silly to believe in any of that? Doesn’t it make more sense that the outcomes of games are determined not by some sky monster pulling strings but by some athletes outperforming others?

Finally, if this sports-loving god does exist, shouldn’t there be some outrage on behalf of the folks who have been swindled into worshipping him? If Kurt Warner’s success has somehow trumped the needs of the world’s desolate and despondent, shouldn’t believers be really pissed off at his priorities.

I don’t believe in any sort of entity that is responsible for the joy and despair of humans; but if I did, I’d be mad as hell.

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An Atheist in Church

Last year, I did a funny thing. I spent almost every Sunday waking up early and attending a new religious service. I stuck with this experiment for approximately six months, and I visited a lot of churches (a couple mosques, synagogues and meditation meetings as well). Why did I do it? Well, as an atheist, I think that understanding religion and the faithful is important. I encourage every non-believer to read the Bible, the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon – any religious text they can find. Forming a well-rounded argument is impossible without knowledge of your opponent.

During my weekly exchange, I met with a number of religious leaders and members of their congregations and engaged them in discussion. Some of the dialogue yielded new understanding between those involved, and some led me to wander how certain people navigate their way out the door in the morning. The interaction was to what I looked forward the most though, and for the most part I was happy I took the time.

That same concept is now being put forth as a group effort, spearheaded by Kile Jones, a student at Claremont Lincoln University. Jones has started an effort called “Interview an Atheist at Church Day,” for which he is asking for willing pastors and atheists to agree to talk openly at church services about faith and non-belief.

Image credit: Facebook

According to the group’s Facebook page, the effort is “aimed at bettering the understanding between atheists and religious persons” – certainly is a worthwhile effort. For many believers, “atheist” is just a concept rather than a real human to whom they can put a face. Part of the incredible mistrust of atheists in the United States is probably due to the simple fact that many people don’t know any atheists. So bringing atheists and believers to have these discussions is an important component of increasing atheists’ visibility in mainstream America.

Will Jones’ project be successful? That depends on the willingness of its participants. If you are interested in helping, and you are an atheist or a religious leader, contact Jones at interviewatheists@gmail.com. You should also like the Facebook page and let Jones know that you support what he’s doing.

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Westboro Baptist Church to Join Forces with Pro-Life Group, 40 Days for Life

40 Days for Life…no, wait, Westboro Baptist Church protesting.
Image credit: Allison Long, Kansas City Star

Not known for their outreach efforts, the members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kan., have announced a plan to team up with anti-abortion group 40 Days for Life. 40 Days for Life, which will begin its bi-annual 40-day vigil on February 13, has expressed excitement at having the opportunity to work alongside one of the United States’ most vocal religious leaders.

“These guys know how to get the attention of the American people,” explained David Bereit, National Director of 40 Days for Life. “If there’s one thing we care about, it’s getting known – oh, and of course saving the lives of the innocent.”

The two groups apparently first met in October of 2012, when their protesting schedules overlapped in Knoxville, TN. Westboro was in town to protest the funeral of Shan Lively, a medic with the Army 844th Engineering Battalion in Knoxville, when Shirley Phelps-Roper, spokesperson for the Westboro Baptist Church, mistook protesters outside the Cherry Street Planned Parenthood in Knoxville.

“They were all holding up signs with bold letters and shouting mindlessly at people nearby,” said Phelps-Roper. “I thought the protest was supposed to be the next day, and for a second I thought I’d missed the memo!”

Lisa Morris, a leader in the Knoxville chapter of 40 Days for Life, recalls the encounter.

“This woman walked up to me, and I thought I recognized her,” said Morris. “For a second I thought she was going to start arguing with me, then she said, ‘Thank God for killing abortion-enabling, fag-loving soldiers,’ and I knew we were going to be friends.”

The two groups anticipate an exceptionally cohesive campaign, and leaders from both groups think the other will complement their efforts.

“We’re both about tormenting people in the lowest points of their lives,” said Shawn Carney, Campaign Director for 40 Days for Life. “We look forward to the notoriety Westboro will bring to our cause.”

Despite the high spirits at the prospect of the campaign, some Westboro members have expressed apprehension at joining forces with 40 Days for Life.

“I think this is a great idea; I just hope I don’t have to hold up any signs with pictures of dead babies,” said Lee Ann Phelps, member of Westboro Baptist Church. “That’s just in bad taste.”

 

 

*Note: This post is satire, but it almost seems like it could happen, doesn’t it?

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Filed under Atheism/Religion, Politics

Catholics never cease to not surprise me

This case has been thoroughly picked over in the atheist blogosphere, but there seems to be enough Catholic hypocrisy to go around.

In Cañon City, Colo., a Catholic hospital seems to have suddenly switched its position regarding abortion:

Catholic organizations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect “unborn persons,” and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments. Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.

Apparently abandoning your principles when doing so serves your needs is not a deadly sin.

Here’s the case: A pregnant woman in Colorado suffered a heart attack and was taken to St. Thomas More Hospital. The woman died, but experts agree that her twin, seventh-month-old fetuses could have been saved. Therefore, her husband has sued the hospital for the wrongful death of his babies.

Does the Catholic hospital then stand on its principles and pay up for killing those fetuses, which the church has long argued deserve the same rights as full-grown humans? NO! Of course not! The hospital is instead hiding behind lawyers (who have helped the Catholic Church destroy lives in the past), and has instantly decided that the sanctity of life doesn’t apply when a lawsuit is involved.

Stories like this one (which seem to surface quite regularly for an infallible church) should make you sick. For the reasonable person, they probably do. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that many Catholics are stretching their brains in preparation of the epic mental gymnastics they will have to perform to figure this one out.

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A Sad, Strange Little Man

A real American hero
Image credit: Mediaite

As though naming a smoothie shop, “I Love Drilling” didn’t make it unappealing enough, the owner of the small dessert spot in eastern Utah has decided to enforce a partisan tax on left-wingers who dare walk through his doors.

For any 16 oz. smoothie in his shop, Burnett charges conservatives $4.95, and self-identified “liberals” are asked to pay an additional dollar. “I’m very open about it,” he told KSL. “I’m very public about it, that I’m going to charge them a little bit more, and I have liberals come in and pay the extra dollar surcharge.”

Of course, George Burnett lives in one of the most solidly red parts of the country, so his punishment is not likely to have any real effects. In fact, a total of three liberal customers have patronized the smoothie shop since his new taxation.

On a larger stage, I might endorse boycotting a restaurant with such absurd policies, but such a suggestion would also be ineffectual. Sometimes stories like this come along simply for our dumbfounded amusement.

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Sign the Petition

Credit: Facebook

Abdel Aziz Mohamed Albaz is staring down the death penalty in Kuwait. His crime? Not believing in god, and being vocal about it. Albaz was arrested on charges of blasphemy, and he now faces dire consequences for his non-belief. A protest was scheduled for today at the Kuwaiti embassy in NYC (I have as of yet not heard any updates regarding this effort), and his hearing has been scheduled for February 28.

In situations like this, it is easy to feel helpless to someone so far away. But for Albaz, you can do something. A petition to the government of Kuwait has been released online, and you can and should sign it.

The petition reads:

Whether you are an Atheist or a Muslim or a Christian, nobody deserves to be jailed or punished for having atheistic views. He did not hurt anybody. He did not steal, he did not assault anyone, he did not vandalize someone’s property. He is simply a well articulated Egyptian Atheist who speaks his mind. He expressed himself in writing peacefully a rather gentle articles. We need your help to pressure the Kuwaiti government to release him from this unjust imprisonment.
Please join us in DEFENSE of free speech and freedom of thought.

It only takes a minute, and it could save a person’s life.

This issue has been covered on other atheist sites, including the Atheist Experience. I encourage you to read as much as you can. 

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