Inauguration or Church Service?

Much of the gay community and many others are upset by Barack Obama’s choice of evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation (prayer) at Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony, but perhaps this is the wrong issue to complain about?

Not only is there to be a prayer by a controversial pastor, but there will also be a benediction (blessing) by Joseph Lowery, a less divisive choice, but still a Christian reverend who will bring little diversity. If we do include religious activities, why not Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims or others?

Some religious zealots feel that not only is it unquestionably right to have their (supposedly America’s) religion exclusively represented in government events, but that the only question we should be asking is whether or not what we’re doing will be good enough for God.

It is unlikely that anything short of a Christian theocracy would be enough for people like these, and for others nothing but a Muslim theocracy would do. Neither of these views is worthy of consideration for our explicitly secular government, and attempting to appease these people by including their religions in official government events can do nothing but encourage them to push forward with their theocratic ideas and to widen the gulfs in our already divided country.

Given the secular nature of our government, prayers, blessings and oaths to gods are out of place. Religion is extremely important to many people, and if they wish to pray for their president and their country then they are and should be allowed to do so, but an official government ceremony is not the place for it.

Not to trivialize the feelings that many people have about their faith, but to many people something else such as football can be almost a religion too. Would it be appropriate or useful for Lovie Smith, coach of the Chicago Bears, to speak at Obama’s inauguration? It might make Bears fans cheer, it might make the fans of other teams angry, but it would add nothing of relevance to this secular government event.

In the end the most questionable action here is not choosing a controversial pastor to pray at the presidential inauguration, it is choosing to have a prayer at the inauguration at all.

Nexus Zine – Edition Twelve

The Nontheist Nexus has released their twelfth and final issue of the Nexus Zine in its current format. Fortunately, they are not going away, and will be releasing content more frequently rather than saving it up and for a monthly zine.

This month largely focuses on Christmas, with several pieces by 19th century political leader, orator and free thinker Robert Ingersoll, along with an amusing account of a Christmas pageant performance and a somewhat disturbing interview with Santa.

Octavia also brings us a little dose of reality in the form of an article entitled Plant Talk: Seeding the Future.

As much as many of us would like to lose ourselves in our own happy little worlds for the holiday season, we must not forget that the world continues around us, and the problems we had in November are still with us, as urgently in need of attention this month as any other.

Now THAT’S a Museum!

Some of you (okay, probably none of you) have been tempted to go to Kentucky to visit Ken Ham’s Creation “Museum”, but now there’s no need to subject yourself to this monument to willful ignorance.

The Secular Alliance of Indiana University has taken one for the team and brought back some amusing video for us. Their video reveals a museum full of hilarious exhibits of mind boggling nonsense, all carefully designed to show us why we can’t possibly take the whole Bible as literally true.

Wait…this can’t be right. I’m being told that the museum is not trying to make that point? Apparently they actually believe this stuff. Wow. Just…wow.

At least the SAIU got to hear some funny conversations, including probably the funniest creationist quote I’ve heard in a long time:

Little girl: “Pappy, if Noah took all them dinosaurs on the ark, why aren’t there no dinosaurs now?”

Old Man: “That’s ’cause Jesus killed ‘em all.”

God Thrown Under the Bus

In the wake of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s relentless billboard attacks on religion which have erupted across the United States, the British Humanist Association in association with The Abhorrent Atheist Advocate Richard Dawkins are said to be plotting an attack on God himself using the city busses of London.

If you visit London, you would be well advised to avoid riding the busses. God has surely lifted his protection from the treacherous London bus system, as He will from those of Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh if the campaign is in fact extended to those cities.


According to “Professor” Dawkins (who graduated from and teaches at Godless Oxford rather than a respectable Christian University), “Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride – automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children.

“Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side. This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.”

“Thinking is anathema to religion!?” I am going to pray for the good Lord to help me understand what that means, but I don’t think it glorifies God, so it’s wrong.

If our busses and advertising banners can be twisted to such ignoble ends, then perhaps it’s time we did away with all of them. Remember, as Stephen Green of Christian Voice said of this despicable campaign, “Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.”

Universal Declaration of Human Rights Video

For the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), graphic artist, animator and video editor Seth Brau has created a four and a half minute video laying out the basic rights listed in the declaration.

The UDHR was created in response to the atrocities committed around the world in World War II, and it was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. In 1976 it was, as part of the International Bill of Human Rights, given the dubious force of international law after being ratified by a sufficient number of member nations.

The United States sadly did not ratify it until 1992, and our government was even then unwilling to actually put those laws into effect leaving the “ratification” as a very hollow show of support for the bill. For example, despite the fact that executions are outlawed by the bill, the US continues to execute prisoners making it the only western country to continue this barbaric practice.

Last year the US was 5th in the world in the number of executions carried out, officially trailing only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and leading Iraq. Is this the group we should throw our lot in with, or should we follow the majority of the world and end this and other shameful abuses that continue to mar our reputation around the world?

For more information on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or to see a high quality version of the video, please visit the Human Rights Action Center.

Religulous: Bill Maher’s Religulous Movie Opens 10/3

Religulous, a documentary film featuring political commentator Bill Maher, will open on Friday October 3. This new film from Lionsgate, directed by Larry Charles (Borat), explores the nature of religious absurdity the world over – hence the play on words in the title.

In the nature of Borat, this movie features real people in real situations. Bill Maher, host of Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO, leads the journey to find representatives from various religious groups and interview them about their beliefs. Based on Maher’s views on religion, the film is not likely to be kind towards the subject matter. Expect to be outraged or amused, depending on your stance.

Official Site:
Religulous @ Lionsgate.com

YouTube Trailer:
Religulous Trailer – High Quality

Pray for Bill

Excuse me, may I borrow your corpse?

If you happen to run a mortuary in the Phoenix area, and you see a group of people who look a little too happy to be there, you might want to find out what they want before you let them in.

Earlier this year, people from “Extreme Prophetic Ministries” had the brilliant idea of starting a “mortuary outreach program”. This is not to go offer comfort to grieving families or anything else half sane, their intention is to actually raise the dead.

Basically what this consists of is going to random mortuaries and asking to come in and pray over the dead bodies in an attempt to resurrect them. Unsurprisingly, even when they have been let in to pray, they have had no success.

As crazy as this sounds, and as much as non-Christians and even most other Christians laugh at them, are they crazy or are they just following what they believe to be Christianity?

While the verses they use to support their ideas are sometimes based on questionable interpretations (such as using Matthew 10:8 to say they are commanded to raise the dead), the same is true of many other common Christian doctrines. Since the Bible requires so much interpretation by anyone who reads it, who are we to say that their interpretation is wrong?

Here are a couple of other verses they didn’t use to support their idea, but that more clearly seems to support it:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

- John 14:12 (NIV)

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

- Mark 16:17-18 (NIV)

So, if the Bible is accurate, Christians actually should be able to perform miracles such as raising the dead, walking on water, etc. Although I don’t think that even the Bible’s authors believed in werewolf spirits…

That said, I don’t believe that these people are actually receiving prophecies or performing miracles. Both my personal experiences with them and the unbelievable claims I’ve heard them make have convinced me that they are nothing but second rate charlatans.

They even claim now to have even raised the dead (although it does not appear to be part of their “mortuary outreach program”), and they say they have verifiable evidence of this. So far, we have been unable to find any of it, even on their own web site. If anyone has real evidence of any of these “miracles”, please send it to us and we’ll be happy to post it, but I’m not holding my breath.

As long as they stick to fleecing their own flock, the rest of us should probably not be more concerned about them than any other strange religious sect, but they do have an element much more in keeping with what most religious people view as cults than with more mainstream religion. This element is the idea that they and their followers have some kind of special, and as yet unrevealed, mission from God. That is a disturbing thought.

Attempting to raise the dead, walk on water or cast out werewolf spirits (all of which they claim to have done now) is relatively harmless, but the fact that they are not laughed out of their own churches shows the stunning credulity of their followers. Given that mindset and the idea that at least some of them receive prophecies from God, there is no limit to the damage that could be done to themselves and others if these “prophets” give the word.

Nexus Zine – Edition Nine

Our friends over at the Nontheist Nexus have put out their ninth Nexus Zine, which is the first to contain contributions from our members.

We love what they’re doing and we hope to be regular contributors to the zine in the future. Please check them out, and if you have good material for the next issue, submit it!

In this issue they have everything from a poem by our friend smeggo to an ice cream sandwich recipe!

Here are just a few of the other pieces you might be interested in:

Before you read the last one, you may want to go back and read the first two articles in this ongoing series, How Did We Get Here? (Genesis) and How Did We get Here? The Dawn of Life (Exodus).

If you appreciate the zine and other things that the Nontheist Nexus is doing, please let them know.

Large Hadron Collider Operational

Earlier today the first successful tests of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) were conducted by CERN scientists.

The LHC is a 27 kilometer (16.8 mile) long particle accelerator — the largest in the world — which has been in development for decades. It was built to get as close as we can to studying the particle interactions that we believe took place at the birth of the universe.

Possibly the most important of the particles scientists intend to study is the long-theorized Higgs boson (popularized as the “God particle”). It is the only Standard Model particle which has not yet been observed, and it is believed to be the particle that imparted mass to the other elementary particles in the first instants after the “big bang”.

What does this mean to us non-particle-physicists? Basically, if the upcoming tests show that the Higgs boson is a real particle, we will have the best and most complete evidence we’ve ever had for the “big bang”. If it is not found, we will know that there is a fundamental problem with our current understanding of particle physics.

The first high-energy collisions are planned for late October, so expect to hear more and bigger news then!

“Imagine No Religion” Billboards in Phoenix

Billboard locations:

  • 19th Ave & Fillmore, west of the State Capital area on 19th Ave.
  • Van Buren & 15th Ave, north east of the State Capital area on Van Buren.
  • Indian School & 23rd St.
  • McDowell & 14th St., northwest of the downtown area on McDowell Rd.
  • McDowell & 3rd St.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, in association with The Phoenix Atheists Meetup Group, has brought its nationwide media campaign to Phoenix, placing several billboards around the city for the month of September.

These billboards, a record for a single city with 5 signs going up at once, use an image of a stained glass window bearing the words “Imagine No Religion” in large gothic-style letters.

Before the FFRF could even get their own press release out, local media picked up the story. A week before the billboards were to go up, there was already local coverage on television stations, in news papers, and on the internet starting with an Arizona Republic article posted on azcentral.com, which already has 1135 comments as of this writing.

Some of the comments have been very supportive, such as these:

finally…a bill board that actually makes sense!!

- runaway

It’s about time

- neutrino666

Others have been…less supportive, and practically a caricature of The Intolerant Religious Nut:

The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion. This country was founded on Judeo- Christian values and morals and if you don’t like it then maybe America isn’t the country for you. Perhaps China or Cuba is more appealing to you. I’ll buy your ticket.

- RealAmerican

Unfortunately the majority of the comments seem to be from Christians who are offended by people “shoving their beliefs down people’s throats” in the form of of a 3 word invitation to “imagine no religion”. If that is shoving atheism down someone’s throat, I think the comparable analogy for what religious promoters have done would be too gruesome to write here!

Someone at the billboard company or someone else with influence there also appears to have share some of these anti-atheist sentiments, because after the contract was already signed the company came back and decided to move three of the billboards saying they could not be within 1,000 feet of any church or school, citing “a government rule that tobacco and liquor ads may not be within 1,000 feet of a church or school” which implies that, in their eyes, the thought of no religion is as bad for society as tobacco and liquor.

This makes me wonder, is Phoenix ready for this? I hope it is. Some of the comments on the Arizona Republic article show us how much work we have to do though.

For example, a comment by GetRealAlready, which went on about all the good that religious organizations do and then ended with “The athiests and agnostics certainly don’t give a crap about victims of natural disasters or homeless or drug addicts”, really shows what a dim view of atheists is held by many religious people.

Getting people to talk about the issue and realize how many atheists they already know and like can help to start changing people’s minds, but we have to be brave enough to talk about it. We have to come out and tell people we don’t believe.

The billboards should be up today, so keep an eye out for them, and tell other people about them too! The whole point of these billboards is to grab some attention and get people talking. The billboards alone won’t change many minds, but if you talk to people about it, you just might.