Free Speech! (Just not here.)

I don’t often post about the events that take place as part of the Mill Avenue Resistance, but I think maybe I should write more about them. This week, I was inspired to write by renewed threats from the preachers.

At times they have seemed to respect our constitutionally protected right to free speech, but other times they have been anything but supportive of our right to speak, at least if it interferes with their preaching. Yesterday was an “anything but” day.

Although they have previously accused us of “obstructing their free speech”, and we suspect that they have been looking for ways to get rid of us for a while, last night was the first time they actually directly expressed to us a seemingly real desire to get a “restraining order” (in this case it would actually be a “Harassment Order” or an “Injunction Against Harassment”) against us.

They may just be trying to scare us off since they know that we’ve gone out of our way to stay within legal limits, but their intent in either case is to prevent what is essentially a protest against their activities.

It is not at all unusual for certain preachers to make sarcastic or mean spirited remarks at us (one of them repeatedly shouting “Shut up, Satan!” was one of my favorites), and some of our members have on occasion made their own unkind remarks, but our general policy is not to attack the people, just the messages and tactics. We are not there for any specific person or group, and we will happily argue the merits of any religion with anyone who is loudly preaching at the masses while we are around.

The funny thing is, it only seems to be fundamentalist Christians doing it, and it’s usually the same group. We have, however, run into other groups doing the same thing and we have treated them all in the same way.

We are not against any of the individual preachers, and we have nothing to do with them when they are not preaching. We don’t follow them home, we don’t go to their churches and harass them, we don’t do anything to them but counter the things they preach while they are preaching.

Still, they seem to think that it is a personal vendetta and that our actions constitute harassment rising to the legal level required for an injunction. They said they wished they had a tape recorder going to provide evidence in support of their attempt to get an order against us, but what evidence would that be? We freely admit to what we are doing, and it is not in any way illegal.

For anyone concerned that we or another group may be vulnerable to one of these Injunctions Against Harassment, the following list should show the emptiness of their threats under Arizona law.

For the purpose of an Injunction Against Harassment, the law defines harassment as a series of acts that does all of the following:

  • Can be spread over a long or short period of time;
  • Must be directed at a specific person;
  • Must seriously alarm, annoy, or harass the victim without serving a legitimate purpose;
  • Must be acts that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress; and
  • Must actually cause the victim to suffer substantial emotional stress.

In addition to talking to these poor abused preachers, we also hand out our own tracts, we talk to the crowd on our own, we have much more civil debates with more reasonable Christians, we have one on one conversations with random people who come by, and we even try to bring a bit of fun into the equation. This is not a campaign of harassment, it is a campaign of education.

We know that we are expressing views which are very unpopular in many circles, and even the majority of Americans disagree with us today, but most of the non-religious people we talk to are as sick as we are of having religious preachers yell at them week after week unopposed, and they appreciate what we are doing on their behalf. They want a voice too, and we will continue to give it to them.

One of the preachers is very fond of saying “We’re here to preach, not debate!”, and I think that statement is very telling. They want people to hear their side, unadulterated by the truth.

Sorry preacher-man, the right to speak freely is not the right to be the only voice heard.

Spore Criticised by ‘Militant Atheists’?

As the world of video games collides once again with religion, an article over at Eurogamer has the blogosphere abuzz with scorn for atheists who appear intolerant of a video game. Well, it’s not really the original article that’s getting people fired up, it’s the snippets taken out of context from the interview.

What is Spore? Spore is a video game for multiple platforms that combines elements from real time strategy, life simulation and “god” games. You follow the evolution of your creature from a single-cell organism to a vast civilization of advanced beings. Scheduled for a US release on September 7, 2008, the game has been highly anticipated for years.

In the original article, Will Wright describes himself as an atheist and said that, generally, the majority of atheists had no problem with the way religion was portrayed in the game. He said that even religious people didn’t have a problem with it, either. Oddly it was those he termed ‘militant atheists’ who had the most negative reaction. Unfortunately, Wright doesn’t go into specifics as to why the ‘militant atheists’ had issues with the game. There have been suggestions that it was either the “supernatural” powers that were given to religious civilizations or the fact that religion wasn’t specifically named in the original game design. What were first represented as ‘cultural’ influences later were termed ‘religion’.

Creator Will Wright chimed in on the issue within the same thread:

As you might know I’ve been very interested in using Spore to motivate an interest in science. At the same time we want to make a fun, humorous, playful game. The superpowers in the game were added both to make early decisions you make in the game (cell, creature, tribe) continue to have consequence in the later levels and also to add more humor and playfulness to the overall experience.

If you look at the Civ superpowers they are more realistic for the economic and Military strategies than they are for the religious. We could have labeled the religious powers differently (maybe enhanced memetic transmission or fundamentalist jihad) and given them the same rough effect but they would have felt a bit more gritty and out-of-character with the rest of the game.

Possibly adding weight to the ‘militant atheist’ criticisms, earlier in the year notable atheist PZ Meyers challenged use of the term “evolution” being applied to this game, referring to it instead as Intelligent Design. You, the player, are forcing the eventual destiny of your creature instead of leaving it up to natural selection. One could argue that it’s still evolution by artificial selection, but I digress.

Although this squabble is really a non-issue, I felt the need to point out that some people have been running with the idea that Spore was being trashed by atheists simply by having religion in the game. Although it grieves me that some people would have anything negative to say about this game (one that I’ve been waiting a VERY LONG TIME to play), there are obvious limitations within the game that someone interested in pure science would find annoying. But, after all, it’s a game and it’s meant to be fun.

Waiting millions of years for your creature to evolve into space exploration might not be exciting enough for everyone.

ASU Secular Free Thought Society Version 2.0

September 4, 2008
5:30 pmto7:00 pm

This semester at ASU we will be restarting the Secular Free Thought Society. This is a group for people who are tired of being told how and what to think by the mass media and religious organizations that have infiltrated every level of American life.

If you have an open mind and want to meet others with similar viewpoints then we invite you to join us.

We will be planning various events throughout the year that include:

  • Countering the spread of narrow-minded religious thought
  • Various outings with other Secular/Atheist groups in the valley
  • The Mill Avenue Resistance
  • Fun Halloween and Winter Parties
  • Plus many more various events

To get more information on the group and how to connect with us, e-mail Brian.Key@asu.edu.

We hope to see you there and remember:

NEVER STOP THINKING!!!

Ok, so the first meeting has been tenativly set! W00T. It Will be Thursday, September 4th at 5:30PM. It will be in the MU Somewhere, so far, we will meet at Sparkey’s Den (The Arcade in the basement). I will have a room reserved before then, and that will be posted on this site, as well as the myspace and livejournal. Hope to see all the old faces again and plenty of new ones

Details on what will go on during the first meeting will come shortly!

Atheists: “You have no right to be here!”

On April 2nd, the Illinois House State Government Administration Committee held a hearing regarding the Illinois Governor’s $1 million grant to the Pilgrim Baptist Church.  One might consider this kind of grant to be a strange occurrence, but after hearing the hateful stream of invective spewed by Representative Monique Davis in response to atheist activist Rob Sherman’s testimony, the testimony of an Illinois citizen with the same rights as a Christian citizen, it doesn’t seem quite so extraordinary.

Davis: I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him.  We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy — it’s tragic –  when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight.  They want to fight prayer in school. 

I don’t see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school. You know?

I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln  where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children.… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous–

Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?

Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to  [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court—

Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

Not only does he have no right to be there, but his ideas are so dangerous that people should not even know that they exist.  At least she is proof that our campaigns really are necessary, but it’s sad to think that this kind of thing can go on relatively unnoticed in the United States of America today.  I think I just heard Thomas Jefferson roll over in his grave.

Original article | Audio

Finally some progress!

I know that some of you have been waiting and checking back and a sparse and infrequently updated page, but now that the basic design and implementation are done, updates will come more frequently.

We have a lot of plans for the site, the forum and the community, so I hope you’ll stick around through the growing pains and help us grow into the great resource we can be!

Some features such as the forums and events, and now news, are already active, but we will very shortly have articles, reviews, blogs and downloadable materials as well as links to great sites, books, videos, games and more!  We expect the content to grow rapidly, so if you don’t see what you want, check back soon!