Park51, “Moque at Ground Zero” Video: Sufi’s Choice

BionicDance of YouTUBE paints a picture of discrimination and misunderstanding about the Park 51 "Islamic Cultural Center Near Ground Zero" and why a great deal of criticism of it falls short of actual enlightened discourse.

Today, the "Burn a Qur’an Day" envisioned–and ultimately cancelled–by Terry Jones has caused an equally stupid counter-reaction in Afghanistan where 10,000 people took part in a protest, that sparked violent riots, against what they perceive as America. I bring this up because during this week, as his event fast approached, he suddenly tried to hitch his horse to the Park 51 debate claiming he meant to do it to make the Sufi Muslims who planned the Park 51 community center to move it.

The Park 51 planners should be under no moral obligation to move anything: mosque, synagogue, church, temple, center for brain-slug worship, whatever.

Now all the Terry Jones’s of the world are being given the line that controls the Muslim world by the very people who spawn these counter-protests. When one troglodyte with a Twitter account and a Facebook page can make people go crazy, riot, and burn things, maybe it’s time for those people who are doing that to sit down and think about who exactly they’ve handed their leash over to–why are they wearing that collar anyway? Terry Jones isn’t the problem, churches and communities pull stunts like his all the time. He’s a troll: you’ve let yourself get trolled.

While religion, politics, lapses in critical thinking and morality certainly took part in the 9-11 event, it is not acceptable to paint every Muslim in the world with it. Just as it’s been a poor show by much of the Muslim world to throw up over everyone else in reaction to the stupid actions of Terry Jones’s congregation of 50 in Florida.

From the CNN article about the protest in Afghanistan, though, it makes me wonder if there weren’t other reasons for the protest and riots. Tens-of-thousands of disenfranchised people in a war-wracked country? Religious barbarism and fervor certainly isn’t even needed to get that to go sideways. Ultimately, the responsibility for their actions—riots, looting, burning their own city—falls squarely on their shoulders for not controlling themselves.

Everybody else. Let Terry Jones and his ilk crawl back into whatever hole he emerged from, I hope he didn’t see his shadow, because I really don’t want any further extension to this season of ignorance.

Coereced Attendance of Evangelical Christian Concerts by Military Officers

Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts. They have been going on for years at Fort Eustis and Fort Lee, but these disturbing misuses of government funds and abuses of soldiers’ rights have only recently been brought to our attention.

These concerts, and the stories of soldiers who were punished for choosing not to attend, were reported in a recent article by Chris Rodda, Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Rodda reports that Maj. Gen. James E. Chambers has started these religious conversion oriented concerts at both bases where he has been the commanding officer, and that they have continued at For Lee even after his departure, at an appalling cost to taxpayers.

The costs may be small compared to the enormous military budget, but any money spent on promotion of a religion by government agencies is unacceptable, and “Spiritual Fitness” programs in the military cost uncounted millions of dollars per year. Millions of dollars taken from citizens who for the most part are not Evangelical Christians and who would not willingly pay to promote that religion, or to coerce anyone into sitting through repeated and extended attempts to convert them.

The fact that military officers are wasting up to $100,000 per act at each concert with the clear intent of promoting Evangelical Christianity is disturbing enough, but punishing soldiers who choose not to attend these “Spiritual Fitness” events where their commanders support these blatant attempts to convert them to Evangelical Christianity is an unmitigated abuse of the rights granted to every citizen by the constitution of the United States of America.

Lest there be any confusion as to the purpose of these bands and the officials who hired them, an article in the Fort Eustis Wheel quotes one member of the BarlowGirl trio who headlined this particular concert as stating that their group is “on a mission to bring the armor of God to servicemembers”, and they are doing it with your money and with the support of your military commanders.

Prop 8 fails basic Constitutional test, first round KO by 14th amendment

Remember California Proposition 8? Aka California Marriage Protection Act, aka The Mormon Proposition: a measure that added a new provision to the California Constitution that provides that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.” Well, it was just ruled deeply unconstitutional by a federal judge today, August 4, 2010.

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples," Walker, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Ronald Reagan, wrote in his opinion.

"Race restrictions on marital partners were once common in most states but are now seen as archaic, shameful or even bizarre," he added. "Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals."

The written opinion and decision happen to be filled with numerous responses and reasoning why the Prop 8 supporters have failed to make their legal burden. It seems unlikely that an appeal will save them, unless they’ve actually been holding their best arguments in reserve for no reason.

Other sources with much more insight into the opinion have already begun to chime in. I will be compiling them as they fill in over the next few days.

And: “With a stroke of his pen, Judge Walker has overruled the votes and values of 7 million Californians who voted for marriage as one man and one woman.” If that offensive argument is the best that we can expect on appeal, then Prop 8 is certainly not long for this world. In the United States of America you don’t get to vote away basic human rights for a minority because you’re the majority.

Link, via CNN.

Blasphemy Day 2009

It’s Blasphemy Day! September 30th, 2009 was chosen for the first observance of this heathen holiday because on this day 4 years ago, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, leading to widespread threats and violence from Muslims who literally want to kill anyone who blasphemes their god or so much as draws a picture of their prophet.

Blasphemy Day can be used to further inflame these psychotic zealots with their “religion of peace”, but there are many other gods to blaspheme as well!

The multitude of Hindu gods don’t get enough blasphemy, so perhaps this would be a good day to bash Brahma, vilify Vishnu, or curse Kali? Or you could go with the more traditional western target and deny the “Holy Spirit” on YouTube as part of The Blasphemy Challenge.

The religious have also taken note of the event. As with so many things they see us infidels doing and saying, this unholiday doesn’t fit with a delusion that is common among Bible believers. This delusion is that everyone knows they’re right, that their god is real, and we’re all just denying it, so they pretend that Blasphemy Day is exactly the opposite of what it is. Albert Mohler, Jr. writes in the Christian Post:

“…see this observance for what it really is – an unintended testimony to the existence of God and the foolishness of those who deny Him. The sheer foolishness of a blasphemy contest with t-shirts and mugs betrays the lunacy of it all. They can do no better than this? One testimony to the power of God is the fact that his self-declared enemies come off as so childish and manic. The heathen rage and God sees the foolish grasshoppers.”

Why is it that people like this guy see everything as a testimony to the existence of their god?

The reality here, Al, is that most of the world does not believe in your religion, and quite a significant amount of us don’t believe in any gods at all. Does not the “sheer foolishness of a blasphemy contest” show clearly that huge numbers of people in fact legitimately do not believe? This is in no way a testimony to the existence of any gods, let alone yours.

You’re right, if we did actually believe that your religion was correct and we persisted in our endless blasphemies, it would be lunacy. The fact that we do persist, despite our sanity, is proof that International Blasphemy day is no kind of testimony to your god, but a clear and undeniable expression of our disbelief.

Are you brave enough for Leprechaun Jesus?

On Tuesday someone stumbled on our Let’s Get Hammered shirt and decided to unleash it on the social media site, Reddit. Their post was titled Even I don’t have the nerve to wear this! and so far, despite nearly 10,000 visitors, few have shown the sense of humor and balls to actually wear it.

Might it provoke a drunken Christian to take a swing at you? Sure, but if he doesn’t black out this is an image he won’t soon forget! Images like this may seem mean or distasteful, but they are meant to be taken as twisted humor, and if there’s anything that needs its more humorous side poked, it’s religion.

Today is the last day of our Saint Patrick’s Day sale (17% off $25 or more with coupon code MARCH19), and probably the last day to get a shirt before the holiday without rushing the shipping, so if you think you’re brave enough for Leprechaun Jesus, now is the time to show it.

For those of you considering purchasing multiple items to qualify for the sale, here are a few recommendations:

If you want something funny and you don’t care if you piss people off, we have the brand new design Yahweh? No way!, Pwned Jesus, and of course Let’s Get Hammered.

Those of you who want something more friendly that shouldn’t land you in hot water in most places might want to try Smile, There is no Hell.

If you’re not sure which way you want to go, Faith: Is there anything it can’t do? or Give up God for Lent may help you decide whether you’ve got the nerve for the more offensive end of the spectrum or not without being quite as blatantly offensive to Christians.

If you’re brave enough to face drunken Christians while wearing the crucified LepreChrist though, there really is no better shirt for Saint Patty’s Day.

Shocking Revelation: Other Animals Think Too

In their attempts to pretend that the species homo sapiens (human) is somehow not part of the animal kingdom, and is instead uniquely created very different from and above all other life on Earth, creationists often go to great lengths to convince themselves that all other animals are essentially automatons working purely on instinct. I’ve even heard some of them claim that animals do not think or make any decisions at all.

Of course this idea is ridiculous on the face of it, as anyone who has ever had extended and thoughtful interactions with animals can see, but due to communication barriers between us and other animals, the level of thought that they are capable of is difficult to discern, and nearly impossible to prove to someone who doesn’t want to understand. Even worse, many scientists have been very skeptical about the cognitive abilities of other animals, and obtaining the unequivocal evidence necessary to persuade them has been difficult.

That is why recent observations of the actions of Santino, a 31 year old male chimpanzee at the Furuvik zoo in Sweden, are so exciting. It is not that he is by any means alone in displaying the ability to think deeply, but his actions are very clear and easily identifiable, and most importantly well observed and documented.

So what did he do that was so special? During the season that the zoo was open, and only during that season, he collected stones while the zoo was closed and made piles of them around the side of the enclosure where tourists would gather to watch him. Later, when the zoo was open and people came to stare at him and annoy him, he would go back to his caches of stones and hurl them at the visitors!

He would even smash the concrete to get more good throwing stones, which became more important once the zoo keepers started confiscating his piles of rocks. Santino’s rock throwing may not seem nice, and we may be tempted to think it’s beneath us, but what would a human prisoner who wanted to look tough and get rid of the gawkers do in his situation? Probably the same thing.

The reason that this particular behavior was so important was that Santino was showing a very clear ability to remember and think about what had happened in the past, and then anticipate and plan for future events. This is an ability which had been widely thought to be exclusively human, but it’s time to either start calling chimpanzees human or admit that other animals may have much greater mental capabilities than we once believed.

Or maybe this is all a mistake and God was just using this poor dumb animal like a robot to stone the horrible sinners at the zoo for him, but more likely Santino just wanted them to leave him alone, and the stones were the best ammunition he had to encourage them with.

Sadly, if it was God using him, and if God had big plans for his future, those plans are probably doomed to failure now because Santino is no longer eligible to enter into the congregation of the lord since he has been castrated (Deuteronomy 23:1). It has curtailed his anger, but what a price to pay!

Faith-Based Stimulus

The version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 recently passed by the House of Representatives contains $100 million in funding for “faith-based” programs. The Senate version of the bill does not currently contain this funding, but if we do not tell our senators that we oppose this irrelevant addition to this “economic stimulus” package, it may well make it into the final bill.

Fortunately the Secular Coalition for America has made it easy to send a message to your senators from their web site. In a time when hundreds of billions of dollars are being thrown around without much care, a hundred million may not seem like much, but it is still a lot of money, and every time these questionable programs are given additional funding they become more entrenched and more difficult to reform or get rid of.

It is our responsibility to take action to oppose these measures. The “Religious Right” should not be the only voices our Senators hear.

Thinking Texas Teachers Threatened

No, Texas’s science teachers are not being physically threatened, but their ability to properly teach science is in serious danger this week. From January 21st to 23rd, the Texas Board of Education is holding public hearings and then voting on whether or not creationism (in the guise of “Intelligent Design”) should be taught in their schools.

If you live in Texas or know anyone who does, please contact your representative and if possible attend the remaining meetings in support of sane education policies, because it sounds like the vote is going to be close. If the creationists win here and the decision is not overturned at the BoE’s meeting in March, the policy will be in place for 10 years, or until a court is forced to step in.

Texans can find information on how to get involved at the Teach Them Science site, and through the Texas Freedom Network. Others who just want to learn more about what’s going on, check out the post on Bad Astronomy. There is a pretty good discussion in the comments section, but here’s my contribution to the thread in case you don’t go there:

Randy T Says:
January 19th, 2009 at 5:43 pm

I understand the need for you to raise alarm and to ridicule; you have nothing to back up you position. Here’s a thought, what if God did create the universe…of strongly influenced the creation of it? Is that remotely possible? Your position is based on the initial premise that you are certain this is not true.

How could you know such a thing with absolute certainty? I suppose you also think believers arrogant?

Kazz Says:
January 19th, 2009 at 9:39 pm

We have nothing to back up *our* position? Claiming that it is “remotely possible” that your god created the universe isn’t much backing.

Evolution has 150 years of testing and hard evidence in many different scientific fields. Creationism has…the Bible. There is a reason that movies like Expelled just attack evolution and scientists without presenting any real case for creationism, and that is because the only things that creationists have to back up their claims are easily disproven nonsense from such great minds as Kent Hovind and Ken Ham.

Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research do not do good science. The vast majority of their claims have already been torn to shreds by people who actually know what they’re talking about, but they continue to spew out the same nonsense that they must already know is wrong.

Even worse are people like Ray Comfort with his “atheist’s nightmare” banana. We already know that bananas as we see them today have been very heavily influenced by artificial human selection. Bananas, like many of the plants we use for food, are very different from their wild ancestors, and the aspects of these plants which we find desirable are generally magnified by human intervention. In the unlikely event that there are creator gods out there, they did not make bananas the way they are today.

We could go on all day about these subjects. What exactly do you have to back up creationism? I have yet to see a shred of real evidence for any god, let alone anything to make me believe in a literal interpretation of the creation of the world as laid out in the Bible.

When you have as much evidence for creation as we have for evolution, then I will consider this a real debate. Until then, “creation scientists” had better get to work on coming up with their first piece of evidence.

We don’t need to have “absolute certainty” that something is wrong before teaching it to children. We don’t know with absolute certainty that there are not Martians living under the ground of the red planet just waiting and building an army to conquer the Earth, but we have no evidence to suggest that this is happening, so we do not teach it in science classes.

Please, Texas, don’t use the board of education to beat your children. We are already falling woefully behind the rest of the world in education, particularly in science, and pretending that believing in the Biblical creation story and twisting or ignoring science in an attempt to justify your beliefs is just as good as accepting the facts is only going to hurt us more.

Britain in danger, Australia safe from God’s wrath

A couple of months ago we told you about the upcoming atheistic bus ad campaign set to start in the UK in January. Well, it’s here!

The campaign’s organizers have raised much more money than they had originally hoped (£140,000 when their goal was £5,500), and they have expanded it to more locations in more cities across the UK. It’s time for those who fear God’s coming wrath against the atheist advertising venues to seek alternate transportation. Maybe for the next couple of months they can follow Jesus and walk or ride donkeys to work.

Sadly, other parts of the world do not appear to be ready to hear any kind of atheistic message. The Atheist Foundation of Australia, who wanted to run even more innocuous ads saying “atheism – celebrate reason” and “atheism – sleep in on Sunday mornings”, were rejected by the state-owned bus company in Tasmania, and by the largest outdoor advertiser in Australia.

Even the United States is not immune to this problem though. Despite having a signed contract for a billboard deal already worked out by a professional in the business, the Freedom From Religion Foundation(FFRF)’s billboard campaign in Phoenix ran into trouble at the last minute and had to be moved so that none of the billboards were near a church or school, as if the suggestion to “Imagine No Religion” were a dangerous and offensive message.

If they didn’t have pressure to run the ads from a valued client, the Phoenix atheists could have been in the same boat as the Australian atheists.

If you still have freedom of expression wherever you live, use it.

New Times Article: Performance Atheist

I would like to encourage all of our readers in Phoenix to pick up a New Times this week. It’s got great pictures and an overall good story, but I would also like to give a little bit of a response and clarification on a few issues.

I do understand that they took a particular interest in Omar. He is an interesting, well spoken and good looking guy with a good story to tell, so the fact that the rest of us are a bit buried in the article is alright. What I don’t like is the Secular Free Thought Society (and me in particular) being painted as the villains and unwanted hangers-on who followed Omar down to Mill like lost puppies.

As Omar knows, but apparently Niki forgot, the Mill Avenue Resistance started when I started visiting Mill on a regular basis and arguing with preachers by myself. I believe it was the first night of doing that when I met a former street preacher named Emmanuel who was also having one on one discussions with preachers, and the initial group was formed.

Shortly after that I started making tracts to pass out and Emmanuel and I started talking to passers-by as well as the preachers, but it wasn’t until about two months later when Omar showed up with his megaphone that we were really able to make a difference in what the preachers were doing.

Omar and Jim have played an important part in the development of the Mill Avenue Resistance, intentionally or not, but we are not his groupies. We are out there every week, whether or not Omar is around.

Just to be clear, Emmanuel and I started going out there individually at first, and Omar and Jim showed up independently as well. None of us followed any of the others down there, and in fact with Emmanuel and I not having a speaker yet, Omar and Jim didn’t even notice that we were there the first night they came out. We definitely noticed the megaphone though.

Since then we have developed in parallel. I have always considered Omar and Jim to be somewhat peripheral members of the group, but they have seen themselves as more independent. Either way you look at it though, although I respect them and value their contributions to what I see as the betterment of Mill Avenue, I am not and never have been either following or intentionally interfering with Omar and Jim.

Historically, the Mill Avenue Resistance goes where the preachers go, and it is generally the same for Omar and Jim. For the most part this has not been a problem, particularly since most of us were using similar methods most of the time, but as we have more and more people wanting to speak, and as some of us begin to change our ideas about the most effective ways of accomplishing our goals, there is some friction. We are doing our best to resolve these issues and get everyone back on the same page again though.

It is not a situation where one brilliant man must shake off the chaff and let his singular glory shine through, it is a situation where many people with similar goals are attempting to do similar things in the same place, but not everything is meshing as well as it could at times. As far as I can tell though, there is no animosity between any of us, and I am confident that the issues which we have will be resolved to the satisfaction of nearly everyone involved.

Another problem I saw in the article was that I am not the founder of the Secular Free Thought Society of ASU. I do have a strong connection with the group, and I did help bring together the people who re-formed it (although Brother Jed deserves more credit for that than I do), but betterthanfaith.com and the Mill Avenue Resistance are the only things I can claim credit for starting myself.

Finally I would like to clarify (or un-clarify) what my intention is on Mill. Jim sees it more as an art project, and Omar may see it that way too. To an extent I see it that way, but I don’t have a singular reason for being there or one way of looking at it. If I have to pick something though, I see it mostly as an educational exercise. I want to share what I know about the world and religion in particular, and I want to add to that knowledge by learning from anyone who wants to talk to me.

I do want people to know the whole truth about the Bible and the things the preachers are saying, and I do hope that the things I tell them will make them think and do more research, but after that it is up to them. I am only trying to convert people to atheism inasmuch as I am trying to present the facts and opinions that have led me to my own disbelief.

There are some other minor mistakes related to me, the SFTS and the preachers in the article, but they’re probably not worth mentioning. Basically I see it as a good article about Omar and a somewhat less accurate and fair article about the rest of us.

I understand though that the author can only report it the way she sees it, and conflict helps the story, so we get stuck playing the villains a bit. If it helps with what we’re doing though, then I’m willing to take the hit, and Niki, you’re still welcome to come hang out with us any time.

Congratulations on the overall good article and very amusing pictures Omar!