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.

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):


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):


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.

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.

Answers In Genesis, Ark Encounter, whine some more

After Kentucky informed AIG they would not be receiving $18M in tax incentives due to their discriminatory hiring practices AIG responded that they are being discriminated against. You’ve got to love this statement in their whine:

Nobody seems to want to force the group American Atheists to hire Christians (and we do not advocate it).

American Atheists and every other secular organization doesn’t require “statements of faith” (or non-faith) in order to be hired. They only require that you are competent to perform the duties of the job. Regardless of whether or not you believe in a deity.

If AIG/Ark Encounter had their way it would be legal for businesses to refuse to hire (i.e., discriminate) based on the color or your skin. Sorry, but religion does not deserve that secular privilege.

Supporting atheist and skeptic content

A web site named Patreon makes it easy to support the producers of atheist, science, and skeptical content you enjoy. Please consider donating as little as $1 to encourage people to continue making content you enjoy. More importantly those people produce content that makes believers in gods and anti-science views consider whether they should change their views.

These are the content producers I’m currently supporting and encourage you to follow and support if you can:

  • Darkmatter2525 produces fantastic animations available view YouTube that graphically illustrate the absurdities in the Christian Bible.
  • Aron Ra works hard to promote science, rational thinking, and education.

  • Jesus & Mo has been creating comic strips featuring the Christian Jesus and Muslim Mohammed (and a secular bar maid) since 2005 that illustrate the funny things people believe.

Religious people donate to their church and other sectarian organizations. It’s important that we donate to the secular and pro-science organizations that are making the future a better place. There are many deserving recipients. Some, such as the the Skeptics Guide to the Universe have their own mechanism to contribute separate from Patreon. The important thing is to support the individuals and groups that are working to promote a more rational, secular, science friendly world.

Academy Awards best actor award goes to…

Being single and a long way from my mother and brother I went to the movie theatre today and watched “The Theory of Everything“. It is a certainty that Eddie Redmayne will be nominated for the Academy Awards best actor category. He should easily win the award for best actor. I haven’t been so enthralled by a portrayal of a living or historical person since I watched Daniel Day Lewis in last years “Lincoln“.

The film itself is very good but not quite great. It primarily focuses on Stephen Hawking’s relationship with his wife, Jane. Felicity Jones is marvelous in the role of Jane. There is great chemistry between the two lead actors. The film also does an admirable job of portraying the stresses inherent in every intimate relationship. I just wish there had been a little more emphasis on Dr. Hawking’s contribution to our understanding of the universe we live in. Having said that I was overjoyed to find the film portraying Dr. Hawking’s atheism in a straightforward manner with only one very brief (and unfortunate) scene where it was implied he might believe God exists in order to make his wife happy.

Changing the title of this blog

I originally chose “Life Itself” because I started this blog shortly after seeing the movie about Roger Ebert’s life. That movie is a must see for anyone who still watches movies (excluding crap like “Transformers”) in a theatre. And, frankly, I was at something of a loss for a pithy title. But after some reflection I’ve decided to change the name to something that better reflects what I find important:

  • my love of dogs, and
  • my atheism.

Hence the new name “Dog Is My Copilot”.

Public schools should not allow religious proselytizing

Hemant Mehta wrote about a school district that will now be supporting the distribution of Satanic literature to high school students because of their ill-advised decision to allow Christian literature. Why are school boards populated by morons? Why do school boards believe that religious proselytizing is part of their mission to educate students about reality? How can they justify excluding opposing religious viewpoints?

Here is the email I sent this particular school board today:

Subject: stop the distribution of religious material to students
From: Kurtis Rader

Why are you allowing religious groups to proselytize to students? I don’t care what religion is being promoted. Public schools should not be giving their imprimatur to a specific religious viewpoint. Furthermore, doing so is clearly unconstitutional. If you believe otherwise please justify why Islam, Buddhism or any of the thousands of other religions should not be be promoted by your schools.

FRC panties in a bunch over US embassy hoisting LGBT flag

The folks at the Family Research Council can always be counted on to express outrage whenever they perceive the government doesn’t adhere to biblical principals and also play the martyrdom card in the same breath. Today I got yet another email from the FRC Action group expressing shock that the US government did something they disagree with. Of course every single link embedded in the email went to their donate money page. Not a single link went to an independent news sources — not even Fox news.

What had the FRC so upset? The US embassy in Israel hoisted the LGBT flag in solidarity with a large number of parades and other activities promoting LGBT equality this weekend. According to the FRC this single incident means “the Obama administration is now promoting homosexuality through our U.S. Embassies all over the world.” Not only that but President Obama is “forcing foreign governments to adopt the radical homosexual agenda at all costs!”

The FRC also cried about the persecution of Christians around the world. Unsurprisingly they had only one example — that of Meriam Ibrahim being punished for Islam apostasy in Sudan. Of course there are a large number of other examples that could be cited. Meriam’s ordeal is awful and every single atheist I know has expressed outrage over what was done to her. Yet I find the FRC’s outrage self-serving and ironic given that Christians often exhibit fatwa envy. That is, they clearly wish they could get away with exhibiting the same behavior towards non Christian religions (not to mention those of no faith).