Nine months after I called WranglerStar an asshole for proselytizing in the wrong context another Christian berates me

Nine months ago I commented on a YouTube video and wrote a blog article about a hyper religious individual who can’t resist proselytizing in the wrong context (i.e., an ostensibly secular YouTube video). Yesterday someone named “Tommy Rad” replied to my comment. A full month since the previous reply.

Devout Christians, and highly religious people in general, just cannot let criticism of their beliefs pass without a comment. I stopped responding to those replies to my comment long ago but this most recent reply was too good to ignore. What follows are the statements from Tommy Rad with my replies.

“Well it IS his YT channel”.

Thanks for that information. I thought this channel was owned by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (http://ffrf.org). I completely missed the blindingly obvious fact that Cody created this channel to publish videos he creates under the pseudonym Wranglerstar. </eyeroll>

“did you send letters to CBS, NBC back in the day when they would sign-off with a prayer at midnight?”

I was born in 1961. I’ve seen plenty of broadcast TV sign-offs and never once saw a prayer. But then I grew up in Portland, OR where religion isn’t a big part of life for most people. I don’t doubt that specific stations may have done so (especially in the “bible belt”) but it was clearly not a uniform policy of NBC, CBS, ABC. And, yes, if I saw any channel that is not explicitly religious (e.g., TBS) in nature do what you describe I would complain to that station.

“The world has become a cesspit under the philosophy of secularism at the reins of the ‘progressives’.”

Really? That will come as quite a surprise to most European countries; especially the Scandinavian countries. Even in the USA measures of societal health show that the most religious states have the most problems (teen pregnancy, drug use, crime, poverty, etc.).

“Have you heard the utterly disgusting, life-hating vitriol coming from the lips of your secular 3rd-wave feminists?”

No, I haven’t. Perhaps you can provide some examples.

“Good job my friend, good job.”

Thank you. It is good for our future that people are abandoning religion in favor of secularism and humanist values.

How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions

I can’t take credit for this post. It came to my attention via a comment at the blog Why Evolution Is True. That lead me to the Daily Kos article which was the source of the WEIT comment. That in turn lead me to the original article by Rev. Emily C. Heath. It’s a shame more religious people aren’t as reasonable and rational as Rev. Heath.

It seems like this election season “religious liberty” is a hot topic. Rumors of its demise are all around, as are politicians who want to make sure that you know they will never do anything to intrude upon it.

I’m a religious person with a lifelong passion for civil rights, so this is of great interest to me. So much so, that I believe we all need to determine whether our religious liberties are indeed at risk. So, as a public service, I’ve come up with this little quiz. I call it “How to Determine if Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions.” Just pick “A” or “B” for each question.

1. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own choosing.
B) Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.

2. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even though my religious community blesses my marriage.
B) Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.

3. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am being forced to use birth control.
B) I am unable to force others to not use birth control.

4. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to pray privately.
B) I am not allowed to force others to pray the prayers of my faith publicly.

5. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Being a member of my faith means that I can be bullied without legal recourse.
B) I am no longer allowed to use my faith to bully gay kids with impunity.

6. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to purchase, read or possess religious books or material.
B) Others are allowed to have access books, movies and websites that I do not like.

7. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious group is not allowed equal protection under the establishment clause.
B) My religious group is not allowed to use public funds, buildings and resources as we would like, for whatever purposes we might like.

8. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Another religious group has been declared the official faith of my country.
B) My own religious group is not given status as the official faith of my country.

9. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious community is not allowed to build a house of worship in my community.
B) A religious community I do not like wants to build a house of worship in my community.

10. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to teach my children the creation stories of our faith at home.
B) Public school science classes are teaching science.

Scoring key:

If you answered “A” to any question, then perhaps your religious liberty is indeed at stake. You and your faith group have every right to now advocate for equal protection under the law. But just remember this one little, constitutional, concept: this means you can fight for your equality — not your superiority.

If you answered “B” to any question, then not only is your religious liberty not at stake, but there is a strong chance that you are oppressing the religious liberties of others. This is the point where I would invite you to refer back to the tenets of your faith, especially the ones about your neighbors.

In closing … remember this: Religious liberty is never secured by a campaign of religious superiority. The only way to ensure your own religious liberty remains strong is by advocating for the religious liberty of all, including those with whom you may passionately disagree. Because they deserve the same rights as you. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Michigan representative Todd Courser wants to make it hard for non-hetero Christians to get married

Updated 2015-09-11: Todd Courser, bigoted homophobic Republican state representative, has resigned. His coworker, that he was having an adulteress affair with, has been fired (technically “expelled”) by the rest of the state legislature. Please excuse me while I experience some schadenfreude.
Updated 2015-08-08: I just learned that Todd Courser, the elected representative responsible for the Christian motivated legislative bill I discuss below was having an affair (i.e., committing adultery) with legislator Cindy Gamrat. You can read about it in the Detroit News. Honestly, what the fuck is with these moralizing assholes who insist on imposing their religious morals on everyone else when they themselves are breaking that very code of conduct?

I read this article at The Friendly Atheist blog. It so outraged me I took the time to send the following email to Rep. Courser:

Mr. Courser,

Have you actually thought about the ramifications of your proposed legislation? What about atheists? Mixed faith couples? Religious couples who simply don't want a religious "leader" involved? No one is asking that government officials responsible for issuing marriage licenses agree with the beliefs of people seeking to be married. If a government official is incapable of doing the job they were hired to do they should be encouraged to seek another job.

To my surprise I received a reply:

from:      toddcourser@house.mi.gov
to:        krader@skepticism.us
date:      Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 9:56 AM
subject:   Re: so you believe atheists shouldn't be able to marry?
mailed-by: email.nationbuilder.com

Dear Kurtis,

Please read the bills.  You will see that you will not be required to be married in any faith.  In fact, the marriage does not have to be religious.  There does not have to be a ceremony.  The marriage can be recognized by an affidavit signed by both parties and given to the county clerk.  The bills are taking the government out of the marriage process, not determining who should be married and how.  There will be more freedom, not less.

Respectfully,
Karen Couture
Legislative Aide
Rep. Todd Courser

Hmmm, perhaps Mr. Mehta and other sources I’ve read about this legislation have drawn the wrong conclusion. So I did read each of the three bills: HB 4731, HB 4732, HB 4733. There is also an announcement at gophouse.org regarding the three bills. This is the reply I sent Ms. Couture and Mr. Courser:

Ms. Couture,

I just finished reading all three bills (HB 4731, 4732, 4733). What you say is literally true in as much as the bills do not require the  applicants to affirm a specific faith. However, the bills expressly require the applicant to have their "MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY CLERGY"(from page one of HB 4733 but similar language and provisions are in the other two bills). At the top of page two it says "AS USED IN THIS ACT, "CLERGY" MEANS A MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL, CLERIC, OR RELIGIOUS PRACTITIONER."

The bills also explicitly modify the language to read "minister of the Gospel" rather than simply "minister" which makes it quite clear Mr. Courser favors Christian sects. These bills quite clearly make it more difficult for anyone not a member of a Christian, Muslim, or Jewish faith tradition to get married. The bills effectively make it impossible for an atheist to be married in your state unless they're willing to disregard their beliefs regarding religion and beg a "minister of the gospel" to grant them the boon of a certified marriage certificate.

You should hang your head in shame for lying like that. Lying for Jebus is still lying and not acceptable in civilized society.
Rep. Courser’s office sent me another email pointing out that section 1A (page 3, line 13) of HB 4733 does provide for registering a marriage by filing a notarized affidavit. I’m not a lawyer but it does appear that section allows for atheists, homosexuals, and any other minority group to have their marriage recognized by the state of Michigan.

Nonetheless I find the bill odious. It clearly signals that Christian marriage is preferable to marriages not recognized by Christian sects. There is absolutely no legitimate secular (i.e., government interest) for doing so. Rep. Courser could simply omit section 1 and require everyone follow the requirements in section 1A and his goal of protecting the fragile religious sensibilities of state employees would still be met.

FRC says xtian persecution in Middle East same as in America

Another day, another begging for money email from the Family Research Council. This one asks us to

Please Take a Stand for Persecuted Christians In American… and Everywhere!

By providing “My Gift to Stand!” (which are links to pages where you can give the FRC money). They continue with

Christians overseas are our example. They are being crucified. They are being beheaded. They are being tortured. And yet they refuse to renounce Jesus Christ.

I agree that we should fight against the beheading and crucifixion of people just because they don’t believe a particular religious dogma. But unlike the FRC I don’t care if the victims are believers in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or some other religion. Nobody should be killed because they hold a religious belief different from yours. Including if that person does not believe in any God. The FRC email goes on to say

The “persecuted church” is no longer confined overseas. It’s here.

In America, fellow Christians are being fired, threatened, shamed, financially depleted, labeled as “haters,” forced out of growing categories of career fields and more.

What the FRC conveniently forgets to mention is that those xtians being fired, shamed, etc. in the USA are violating the secular laws of our nation that apply to everyone. Including believers of other faiths and non-believers (i.e., atheists). Too, conflating what happens to xtian bigots in the USA with what happens in the Middle East is so outrageous you have to wonder if Tony Perkins, head of the FRC, feels physically threatened when a non-xtian has the temerity to publicly say his beliefs are bullshit and he should stop trying to impose them on everyone else.

How Christians and Atheists respond to (perceived) persecution

Apparently the following image is making the rounds on Facebook:

Christian persecution complex

It’s sad that devout followers of a religion (not just Christians but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc.) tend to be so deeply indoctrinated their minds are closed to new evidence. It’s hard to believe that someone cannot even imagine evidence that would change their mind. They have their fingers in their ears and their heads buried in the sand while saying “la-la-la I can’t hear you”.

This image succinctly captures the atheist viewpoint:

atheist persecution

P.S., I use the word “persecution” deliberately. The feeling of being persecuted, even in a country like the USA where Christians wield enormous power, is seemingly unique to Christians.

Atheists helping our neighbors (aka: good people doing good things)

There is a myth in America that only people motivated by religion (specifically Christianity) do good works; i.e., help other people. Which is why I volunteer for as many philanthropic activities scheduled by the Atheist Community of San Jose as I can.

This past Sunday I and three fellow ACSJ members helped improve the home of a 84 year old woman in our community. Most of the other volunteers on this project were there representing the Kiwanis. While it was clear that most of them were not atheists (based on conversations I had) they too were there not because God said so but because they were motivated by humanist values.

This was our first partnership with Rebuilding Together Silicon Valley but I doubt it will be our last. The project involved painting the house exterior and repairing the bathroom floor. In fact the damage was so bad many of the tiles had cracked and you could feel the floor move when you walked on it. In this picture you can see what things looked like after we removed the tile, two layers of underlayment (the second layer tells you the problem existed a long time) and rotted subfloor (the person in the picture is a fellow ACSJ member):

DSC_2572

This is what it looked like after we repaired the subfloor and were just about to install the new vinyl flooring (sadly the budget didn’t allow for tile):

DSC_2604

You can see more pictures showing the work done by the volunteers here.

So the next time you hear someone saying that atheists are selfish and only do things that hurt others while making themselves feel good don’t believe it.

Rep. Louie Gohmert complains that only Christians can be abused

Rep. Louie Gohmert is quite likely the most ignorant, bigoted, just plain stupid representative in the American House of Representatives. Yet I’m still surprised when I hear him say something that lowers my opinion of him. Listen to the following where he claims that Christians are the only group in America that it is politically correct to abuse and misuse:

Mr. Gohmert, I have news for you. Atheists are on the receiving end of far more abuse than any religious group. Christians not only receive less abuse than atheists they’re downright privileged in American society. The fact that American society is starting to acknowledge that Christians should not be free to impose their religious dogma on everyone else in our society is not abuse or persecution of Christians. We, as a society composed of Christians and non-Christians, are simply recognizing that secular rules for living are better than religious rules.

Ted Cruz creates millions of atheists

If Andy Borowitz were correct in this satirical piece at “The Borowitz Report” I would be a very happy camper. Here is the first paragraph:

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s constant references to Jesus Christ in his speeches and campaign ads are sparking a strong interest in atheism among millions of Americans, atheist leaders report.

Yes, the article is satire and full of snark. Still, I can’t help thinking that Mr. Borowitz has identified a core truth captured in the final paragraph:

“Ted Cruz has created more atheists in two weeks than I have in decades,” Dawkins said.

That’s because two of the things we know to be true is that apathetic believers are turned-off by hard-core evangelicals and reading the Bible (not just the verses mentioned in church) tends to convert theists to non-theists. As Isaac Asimov said:

Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.

Mr. Deity on the Chapel Hill murders

In this video Brian Keith Dalton, aka “Mr. Deity”, talks about the Chapel Hill murders of three Muslims by Craig Hicks who self identifies as an atheist. This video is part of Mr. Dalton’s “Way of the Mister” series. Here he points out the hypocrisy of those who blame the violence on New Atheists, none of whom call for violence, while defending (or apologizing for) adherents of religions which do explicitly call for violence against believers of other religions (or no religion at all):

P.S., If you haven’t watched any of the “Mr. Deity” videos you really should. Regardless of whether you’re a believer or non-believer in religious dogma.

Secular Student Alliance sets a new donation record

I can’t say enough good things about the Secular Student Alliance. SSA, much like FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation), makes concrete improvements in reducing the influence of religion every single day. Today I received an email from SSA informing me they set a new milestone last year by having more than $1M USD in revenue. That is fantastic but not nearly enough. Groups like the SSA are critical to the future of secularism. If you care about making our future less enslaved by religion please donate a few dollars to the SSA.