June 4th was the saddest day I have had in a long time. It started off like any other day. I got up, went to work and peeked at my FB. It was seeing what my friend Dizzy posted that set off alarms Deep Inside My Heart.
" RIP Bobby Durango. You were an influence and i was honored to call you friend. You are truly a Rock City Angel now. Fuck death."
I had doubt, shock, sadness and tears. I didn't want to believe it. I searched around and found enough reason to think it true. His passing was as much of a surprise to me as a shark attack in the Rocky Mountains.
We come across people in our lives that leave a mark on us. There are bands we cherish more than others because of the connection we have with them. Sometimes the world of friendship and fan cross. This is one of those times.
The story begins...
One day in 1988. I was at Budget Tapes & Records in Longmont, riffling through the tapes. There was one tape that the name hit me as kinda cool, so I pulled off the shelf to take a look.
I flipped it over and thought it had enough songs for a double album, not knowing that was part of the story of the Rock City Angels a.k.a. RCA. I purchased it and put it in my Walkman. It blew my mind. It was the perfect meld of RnR and Blues. This isn't a review, I have done several of those in the past, so I will move on. I liked it so much, any time I would find a used tape, album, (years later) CD; I would buy it. I don't think I wore out more copies of any album more so than I did this one. The last time I was in a music store, I happened across another copy, and that one went to a friend. I will continue to buy them all and make sure friends that are passionate about music, get one. I share the story of RCA which is a powerful one full of ups, downs, villains, heroes, Johnny Depp and of course Bobby Durango.
We jump forward to the several years ago, before Facebook or Twitter, when MySpace was the place to be. I was often on the RCA MySpace fan page. One day Bobby chimes in and talks about how blown away he is that anyone even remembered RCA. He had no clue there was anyone who still know of them. He stated then and several times since, that it was finding US, that brought the passion back to him. I was blown away that he was so down to earth and humble. Something I would learn more about in the days to follow.
Bobby shocked me with one of the best birthday gifts ever. He messaged me and asked if I had gotten RCA's recently released Use Once and Destroy. I explained I had not due to finances. He rectified that immediately. He said in his own words that the album was for me and those like me that really get it. That he really wanted to know my thoughts on it. He didn't just write songs, He bled himself into them and he knew people like me would feel it, live it, love it. All of which I did. I averaged listening to it no less than 3 times a day for easily a month. I took it in and it fast became an old friend, just as YMB's was. I thought it would be hard to top YMB's and I told him as much. He made it clear they were different, which he was right. Where YMB's was a perfect marriage of RnR and Blues, UOaD was equally brilliant in the pairing of Punk and Blues. Something that will make more sense is you learn about his musical history.
Another time Bobby blew me away was a couple years ago. I was sitting on the couch watching tv with Tanya and my phone rings. I looked at it and by the look on my face Tanya could tell something great just happened. I told her it was Bobby and she smiled huge. I answered and a realization that the Bobby I called friend, actually was. We have online friends, but are they really friends, ya know?! I had ordered some shirts and asked him a few questions about girl sizes in an email. As a habit, I gave him all my contact info, phone number included. I didn't realize he would call and I was excited he did. We talked shirts for a couple minutes then went onto music. Mostly RCA and other projects he was part of. We talked like we had been friends for ages, a bond that music is good at creating.
I have met most of my musical idols, but none could I honestly call a real friend, until Bobby. I think of him as a friend, musical family, and inspiration. I have always been passionate about music and friends. That is why yesterday hit so hard. Our story was just beginning. The end was much too soon. I love him and can not imagine not having him in my life. The sorrow his family has right now I am sure exceeds what I am feeling. I have read a comment by one of his sisters, and it tore me up. Her losing her legs, dropping to her knees and sobbing. The fans of his work will say his music was never given the recognition it deserved, that it was underrated. I agree and will add that HE was underrated as was his talent and more so the good person he was. He had all the talent of the best without the ego. He was and always will be my definition of Rock 'n Roll.
I think this is a good place to call it a wrap. I can and will share more later, but I want to leave some for me, for now.
Bobby... you left much too soon. You will remain with me till my dying day. I love you my brother.
We don't yet know the why, but it was confirmed yesterday that Bobby Durango, best known as the lead singer of Rock City Angels, has died.
I didn't know Bobby, but Steven did. Learning from a Facebook post that you'll never again speak to a man you deeply respect as an artist and dearly love as a friend seems particularly gutting, an indignity even members of Bobby's own family weren't spared. Knowing the connection they shared now exists only as a matter of memory is a bitter pill to swallow.
Our sincere sympathies go out to all of Bobby's family members, friends, and fans. He'll be sorely missed.
In order for me to complete my guaranteed transfer program with satisfactory timing, I will need to carry no less than 18 credit hours per semester for the next two years. I can't pull that off while working full-time; other people might be able to, but I can't. With that in mind, I have just given notice to my employer that August 10th will be my last day. There are a few odd jobs I will continue to do for the company, 5 to 10 hours of work per week, but my last full-time paycheck will arrive in my account on August 9th. No more paid health insurance, no more year-end bonuses, no more 9-5 security. My family and I won't be starving to death, but there are some significant lifestyle changes ahead.
Letting go of safety for the hope of a more fulfilling future is absolutely terrifying... but it's pretty fucking exciting too.
A good friend of mine, YouTuber Richard "The Dick" Coughlan, recently turned the efforts of English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson into an even more spectacular joke than he typically is. On Sunday night, apparently alarmed by a picture of an Arabic looking building on Twitter's home page, Robinson fired off the following tweet:
welcome to twitter homepage has a picture of a mosque. what a joke #creepingsharia
While it may have been enough to simply point out that the raving Islamaphobe had incorrectly identified the Taj Mahal as a mosque, Coughlan went the extra mile by whipping up a YouTube video encouraging users to "fuck with the EDL" by hijacking the creepingsharia hash tag. (Some of the wittier tweets can be found over at Huff Po.) This is how I feel we can best deal with imbeciles, regardless of flavor - point and laugh, my friends. Point and laugh.
*NOTE: Richard Coughlan is not, in fact, a good friend of mine. He's not even a minor acquaintance. In fact, one might say that he doesn't have even the slightest inkling of a notion that I exist. That I may feel the need to prop up my twisted fantasies involving occasionally kinky sleep-over rounds with a stranger from YouTube by claiming friendship shouldn't really be of notable concern.
Just for consistency sake (it certainly couldn't be because I'm habitually late and/or scattered), I managed to miss a couple of presentations this morning as well. Eddie Tabash spoke first thing in the morning on why SCOTUS matters, and Larry Beinhart gave a talk titled, He Was Dead, But Now He Lives. Zombie or Vampire?, which discussed, in part, the evolutionary support for religious thought.
PZ took the podium this morning to discuss the incompatibility between science and religion - "Scientists! If you're not an atheist, you aren't doing science right." He kicked his talk off with a statement that ought to be obvious, science is godless. He then offered, 10 religious arguments as to why science and religion are compatible:
1 - Some of the greatest scientists in history have been believers! And? Newton and Einstein are the two scientists always hoisted upon this pike. As it turns out, being a great scientist doesn't magically validate every belief sharing that brain space. Newton also believed in alchemy, bible prophecy, and the occult... but I've yet to hear a religious believer insist on the validity of those ideas simply because Calculus is super awesome. Beside, n his death bed Newton reportedly stated that the thing he was most proud of was dying a virgin. Clearly, intelligence doesn't inoculate against crazy. Einstein didn't even believe in a personal god, his inclusion here suggests nothing more than an extra layer of obnoxious manipulation.
2 - You are promoting scientism! Apparently, "scientism" is the belief that science is the only means by which to determine truth. Obviously, "scientism" is imaginary rot intended to discredit rational thought, rather than a belief system sincerely held by any reasonable person. Subjective experiences are both real and valuable - human emotion, social experience, poetry, art, etc... these things cannot be analyzed through scientific reasoning (or if they are, such reasoning misses the point), but they're no less "true" than any experience or object that can.
3 - God is the sum total of all the laws of the universe, so all scientists worship god! Nice dodge. Apparently, we're to accept that we worship the universe, biology, etc... Bullshit. If everything is religion, then religion as a concept is meaningless. Interesting point - by the standard of the arguments given, shouldn't this concept be termed "religionism"?
4 - God's works are cunningly undetectable to science! If that is the case, a universe with god is entirely indistinguishable from a universe without god. Why spend time and effort fostering belief in a deity which exerts no discernible effect?
5 - Religion is a natural part of the human mind! - So is every other mental illness, I'm not sure that's the most flattering argument one could make. Of course, this argument is also demonstrably false - if religion was a natural part of our minds, religious indoctrination wouldn't be necessary. There are other means, more logical means, to explain the universal nature of religious belief; no invisible sky daddies need apply.
6 - Religion will never go away, so accept it! - First of all, this makes religious belief synonymous with herpes, and that makes me giggle. Secondly, this is obviously not the case - as religious adherence decreases, secularism increases. Should the trend continue, religion will, in fact, go away.
7 - Without religion, we'd still be living in the stone age! - This would probably be slightly more convincing an argument if modern fundamentalists weren't putting a great deal of effort into pushing us right back into it. Human advancement is so easily attributed to human inginuity and rational thought that this argument barely limps toward laughable.
8 - Science does evil things, too! And? How does this in any way validate religion? Both contain humans? Great observation. Wait... science does good things, too! Therefore religion and science are incompatible? I still don't understand how this works.
9 - Other ideologies besides religion also make people do stupid things! And? Again... suggesting that people can be stupid with or without religious infection in no way validates religion.
10 - HIIIIITLERRR!!! Our history education programs are horribly insufficient. If they weren't, people would understand that there were a number of factors that led to the rise of nazi germany, none of which were supportable by scientific thought. In fact, the nazi regieme was supported by the catholic church, and Hitler was openly hostile to many aspects of science, including evolution.
I managed to miss the very first part of her talk... because I suck at estimating time and therefore, in my universe, a 15 minute break lasts somewhere in the neighborhood of half-an-hour. Still, I managed to walk in and get myself planted in time to hear her describe how she discovered that her mother's warnings that blaspheme against Muhammad would cause her tongue to fall off - locking herself safely behind the bathroom door, she faced the mirror and spoke the words "Muhammad is a son of a bitch", then, "Muhammad is the son of a dog"... nervous minutes passed, and yet her tongue remained firmly in her mouth.
I wonder if those who have never lived under the power of religious belief, and especially religious fear, understand just how brave uttering those words was.
Nasrin then spoke about the sexism inherent in Islam and all patriarchal religions, and continued by offering several examples of the personal oppression and violence she has experienced in response to her speaking out against it. Her understanding that oppression is recognized only as tradition by those who have never known freedom from that oppression serves as a powerful motivator for her writings and other efforts. Women cannot stand for their rights until they understand that they are deserving of them, that the lives they have accepted are plagued by oppression, and that this oppression can be brought to an end; and this understanding can only be born of those who ARE aware of that oppression speaking out against it.
She made an exceptional point about how fear of offending religious sensibilities allows religious oppression to continue - silencing the voices speaking out against the human rights violations perpetrated by religion out of "respect" for religious faith is a human rights violation in and of itself. No idea, religious in nature or otherwise, should be held above criticism. Only by criticizing the damaging effects of Islam can we help Islamic nations to undergo a similar enlightenment process that have tempered the damaging effects of other religions. I would also add, that only by criticizing the damaging effects of other religions can be insure that they are not allowed to drag us back into the dark ages.
She closed her talk by stating that she has no regrets for the things she has said and done, in spite of the heavy consequences she has faced, and that she will continue working against the religious oppression of women until the time of her death. We all owe her a debt of gratitude for that dedication.
First of all, I managed to miss Victor Harris' poetry reading... which I may never forgive myself for. Seriously, YouTube him - his work is incredibly passionate and powerful.
Dr. R. Elizabeth Cornwell:
Dr. Cornwell spoke about the Out Campaign. One of the concepts she mentioned, which has been mentioned several times by both speakers and attendees in these last few days, is that coming out is often a more powerful act for other non-theists than it is to theists, simply because it lets each individual know that they're not alone. She was very effective in explaining the importance of community, especially to women and minorities. I very much appreciated her insistence that women are more involved in religion, not because they're more gullible, but because they're often more socially dependent.
If I wouldn't have known it at the start, I would have guessed that DeWitt was a former pastor 60 seconds into his talk. That rolling speech pattern? That emotional pull? The guiding of the audience? The well placed humor? The casual tone? The stalking of the stage? The personal stories with their vivid descriptions? The immediate adaptation to audience reaction? THAT'S why sermons are effective. The message is embedded in your mind and your heart through the power of its presentation, just like the qualities of conjunctions were driven into your brain through the power of School House Rock.
"Identity Suicide" is a term DeWitt used to describe the consequences a religious individual faces in coming out as an atheist, and it may be one of my favorite phrases of all time. How easy do you think it would be to convince a fairly happy, fairly healthy, fairly sane individual to commit suicide? How easy then, should it be to convince someone to kill the person they are, to erase the identity they've built for themselves over the course of their lives?
I'm all for encouraging people to come out, but it pisses me right off when people make it sound like an easy thing to do.
DeWitt talked about Recovering from Religion, the Clergy Project, and Living After Faith. He also mentioned the Therapist Project, which I wasn't previously aware of, which is dedicated to compiling a database of therapists who do not use supernatural methodology - far too many individuals seeking help are told to turn toward religion, and this is an excellent resource to help avoid that pitfall. Listening to DeWitt speak about the difficulties of leaving faith behind, the difficulties of coming out to religious friends and family, the difficulties of forming a new identity and learning to live without faith... part of me just wanted to cry. Loosing my faith was one of the most difficult challenges I've ever faced... I've never felt so lost, so helpless, so alone, so desperate... I can't begin to express how thrilled I am to know that these resources exist for individuals going through that same pain now.
Tamayo spoke on Hispanic American Atheists, and he began by giving a quick overview of the Hispanic American population. For those wondering whether those Americans prefer to be referred to as Hispanic or Latino - 11% prefer to be referred to as Latino, 38% prefer to be referred to as Hispanic, 51% "don't care what you call them, as long as you call them". The Hispanic population is expected to double in numbers in less than 50 years, and currently sits at 50.5 million Americans, or 16.3% of the population. The states with the largest percentage of Hispanic population growth are: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Carolina. White children will be the minority by the end of the decade.
Tamayo described a pattern of Hispanics leaving the Catholic religion when they immigrate to America, but they're simply converting to other religions, not becoming secular. Only 8% of the Hispanic community identifies as non-believers, compared to 14% of non-Hispanics. So much of Hispanic culture centers around religion, even the language (Adios = "to god", Dios le pague = "god to reward" or "may god reward you"), that it's very difficult for non-believers to identify as such. He also spoke about how churches in the United States use "hooks" to capture the Hispanic community; free English classes, citizenship test preparation, etc... this is predatory behavior that uses a sense of indebtedness to convert individuals in need (guess how I feel about that... go on... just guess). Superstitious belief has a strong hold on the Hispanic community - witchcraft, potion peddling, faith healing, spells, fortune telling... all of which prey on the particular vulnerabilities of the community.
Why should we, as Americans, care about this? Because, as shown earlier, the Hispanic population is growing, they generally align their political views with their religion (66.6% of Hispanics say their religion influences their political ideology), and they're converting from Catholicism to Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity. There aren't a lot of secular resources currently for Hispanics, and that needs to change.
As an aside... as I listened to Tamayo, something occurred to me... since the Republican candidates have picked up their crosses, have you heard them bitching all that much about illegal immigrants? I haven't and, somehow, I don't think that's an oversight.
Okay... Ra was only on the stage to introduce Cristina Rad, but I feel like I owe him so much, I had to mention him.
All the way from Romania, Rad is one of the most popular atheist video blogger on YouTube. According to the 2002 Romanian Census, a pitiful .1% identified as non-religious, and a frightening .04% identified as atheist. Rad did a wonderful job of explaining why personal beliefs matter - because beliefs influence actions, and crazy beliefs influence crazy actions. She also pointed out that beliefs without logical standing are not deserving of respect - we're not encouraged to respect racism, why are we encouraged to respect religion? She did mention that some sensitivity is due Muslim Americans who often suffer from sheer bigotry - criticizing Islam is NOT bigotry, criticizing the things Islamic individuals say or do is NOT bigotry, screaming "Go home!" at women and their children as they enter a crisis shelter and describing them as terrorists deserving of a Marine issued ticket to Islamic paradise IS. It doesn't take much of a mind to discern the difference.
My favorite quote "I guess my idea of progress is getting rid of the bad things, not just adding new bad things" - this was in response to the current push for "multiculturalism" that is expressed by merely granting more religious privilege rather than eliminating the privilege that already exists. The analogy Rad gave was brilliant - supporting sharia courts because jewish courts are already operating is a bit like casually accepting a diagnosis of cancer because you already had AIDS; no, it's not any more deadly, but it'd be better if you didn't have either.
Rad then shifted gears pretty radically, pleading that she had something she really wanted to talk about, and she doesn't get to do this kind of thing very often. Her announcement that she wanted to talk about the legalization of drugs received overwhelming support from the audience. She made it perfectly clear before beginning that she wasn't only talking about "soft" drugs like pot, but also "hard" drugs. Her statistics from Portugal showing the profoundly positive effects of legalization, and the failure of oft quoted nightmare scenarios to materialize, were very convincing. The presentation began with the staggering prison statistics many of you are already aware of, and her reasoning was sound as always. I've been in favor of, at least, decriminalizing drug use and possession for years - I'm glad to have the support of someone so eloquent and knowledgeable.
Ray started by having everyone stand up for a stretch, and then offered a prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that was squarely centered on how much we like sex and how very, very wonderful it is. He began the talk by asking for a show of hands from everyone that masturbates, and responded to the nearly universal showing of hands by asking everyone to imagine the same question being asked in a church.
Ray's talk centered on sexual guilt and how religion leverages the power of sexual urges to keep people enslaved in a cycle of guilt and forgiveness, "people can only get forgiveness from the religion where they got the disease in the first place". He also mentioned that even the non-religious are affected by religious sexual guilt because "we are swimming in a religiously polluted pool". He referred to this as "Christian Atheism" - a concept that links the sexual guilt that some atheists feel in regard to masturbation, kink, etc... to the christian culture in which we live.
Ray went on to talk about what he believes to be the root of homophobia, stating that such attitudes, "for many people, [are] rooted in guilt and anxiety about their own masturbatory behavior or in the shame they feel about their own bodies." He further discussed how, because of their shame, religionists cannot rationally evaluate their behavior; have difficulty controlling and channeling sexual urges; experience self-loathing and fear of their own natural urges and depression; lie to their spouses and children about sex; and express their sexual frustration in anger, blaming and judging others (expressed, for example, as homophobia or "slut shaming").
Still speaking of homophobia, Ray shared the following quote by Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Mega Church, which was both humorous and telling: "Masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman. If a man were to masturbate while engaged in other forms of sexual intimacy with his wife then he would not be doing so in a homosexual way. However, any man who does so without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality activity, particularly if he’s watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body."
Ray's suggestion on how to break religions strangle-hold on human sexuality, which I heartily support, is that we are open about our own. Don't let your sexuality be a point of shame and they can't hold it against you! Let your freak flag fly! "If you are a practicing nudist, be proud of it. If you are kinky, be not ashamed. If you are "anything" sexual, be as open as reasonably possible with religious people - it is a direct challenge to their guilt-based lifestyle. If you're polyamorous, if possible, don't hide it.
Klein highlighted a few cases in which consensual individuals have been victimized by laws designed to restrict normal human sexuality. I was very impressed, specifically, about his break down of the Larry Craig case. Why, exactly, is propositioning another man in a public toilet illegal in Minnesota to begin with? While his personal hypocrisy is more than deserving of derision, his actual "crime" was perfectly benign and there's no rational reason for the law to stand.
The sexual narrative in our country isn't even remotely positive, it's not about pleasure, it's about teen pregnancy, violence, sexually transmitted infections, etc... While social pathology is dropping (child pornography, rape, etc...), sexual anxiety is increasing, and that's because we've allowed the repressed religious right to dominate and frame the argument. We need to take our sexuality back from the magic underwear crowd, they're doing horrible things to it.
The bulk of Griffith's talk was dedicated to the history of the upcoming Rock Beyond Belief event and the challenges he had to overcome simply to secure the same opportunities readily handed to christian groups. Atheist soldiers are barred from wearing their uniforms to non-theistic events, but religious soldiers are free to wear their uniforms in church - the message of that disparity is clear.
The most important point, in my opinion, Griffith made was that active duty military atheists can't fight these battles alone, in many cases they're not allowed to fight them at all, it's up to us. They need us to spread the word that new recruits are allowed to request "Atheist" on their dog tags, they don't have to settle for "no religious preference". They need us to spread their stories of bigotry and discrimination. They need us to write to our representatives and let them know that we won't stand for religious discrimination against our soldiers.
It's not just atheists that experience difficulties, military chaplains reserve the right to evangelize the "unchurched", meaning that they double-down their efforts to convert any individual who do not identify as christian. Sadly, it's effective - events like Rock the Fort convert hundreds of individual Muslims, Jews, and non-theists to evangelical christianity. Our tax dollars go toward paying for this crap because the events are sponsored by military chaplain.
Rock Beyond Belief is a watershed moment - atheist groups are regularly denied the ability to meet on base without recourse, and this event is gathering the vitriol of individuals that are used to getting their way. There is nothing they can do to stop this event... and they know that soon, there won't be anything they can do to stop those regular meetings. Loving messages like, "God Bless you in spite of what I'm going to do to your family... IT WILL BE PAINFUL.", are being lobbed Griffith's way, and he deserves our support. If you can make it out to Rock Beyond Belief, please do.
Johnson began by explaining why giving money to the atheist movement is NOT equivalent to tithing, a comparison I've only heard on a handful occasions, but it was still worth discussing. Essentially:
Atheist groups are accountable to the IRS, their members, and the American people as a whole; churches, obviously, are not. Donations to atheist groups are devoid of obligation, and are not backed by threats; donations to religious groups are coerced obligations, backed by the threat of abandonment, public judgement, and even eternal torture. Lastly, the benefits of atheist donations are tangible, we can see the effects of the money we give in the form of direct services, gatherings, programs, etc...; while some individuals benefit tangibly from religious donations, the majority do not - the money is largely used to bring in new members (and their money), and pay the unpublished salaries of staff. Johnson then spoke on the need for increased support - across the board, the atheist movement is stretched too thin to be fully effective, and is in need of a well-funded and well-staffed opposition force to combat the religious right.
She then outlined her personal vision for American Atheists future. Many of these plans involve building, expanding, and solidifying community and social networks. Her vision for a "full life cycle" of atheist community involvement and activism, including childcare, student groups, singles groups, parenting groups, and grieving/end of life support groups, was especially interesting to me. These are all areas that are currently very well supported by religious groups, and the lack of these services in the atheist/secular/humanist community is part of what keeps non-theistic individuals trapped in the religious community. In order to achieve these goals, they need our time, our talent, and our "treasure" - please consider helping out.
Before we start this doomed enterprise in earnest, let me mention that these words are mine - I'm not directly quoting the speakers except where clearly stated. Some of these bits are copied directly from slides, when they're available, but my ramblings may be sprinkled around in there too. Basically, assume this is all me... unless it sounds particularly put together and professional.
Rick gave a quick run down of the ridiculousness that is the state of Virginia. Forced ultrasounds, moments of silence, allowing children time to leave school and get a little Jesus with their cookies and milk. Christ as a cracker, this shit needs to stop.
Dave made some excellent points about the progress we've made as a movement. I think we need to start recognizing the "roar" of the religious right as panic - we're growing, we make sense, and that scares the crap out of them. Look at their screaming as death throws and your whole attitude reading the daily news will change.
Dave also listed a number of objectives, and how they were achieved in the Reason Rally:
Objective: - Raise awareness of the atheist movement to the atheist population. Achievement - The largest atheist gathering in history by a factor of 10.
Objective - Unite the movement to facilitate future cooperation. Achievement - First time ever that the whole movement united, for a long and expensive event (all organizations plan to work together more in the future - this is a huge boon).
Objective - Raise awareness of atheists to the population at large. Achievement - By far the most press garnered by any atheist event, covered by all major news outlets (FOX News was auspiciously absent at the rally).
Objective - Show support from politicians. Achievement - Acknowledgement from both a theistic and nonteheistic national lawmaker (getting support from Harkin, a senior senator, was HUGE).
Objective - Take back values. Accomplishment - Highlighting our values and why you don't need religion to have them.
Objective - Highlight diversity of the movement. Accomplishment - showed multiple sides and dimensions of atheism, including skeptics, humanists, and secular jews; from all backgrounds and ethnicities.
Objective - Have an awesome time. Accomplishment - Done (this accomplishment was readily affirmed by all those in attendance).
Silverman then talked a bit about what the American Atheists are up to now, and plan to be up to in the future. I won't go into that, simply because you can get that information on their site. He finished by encouraging everyone to assist in pushing for progress through confrontation - Hear someone mention that they don't like atheists? Identify yourself as an atheist and then ask them, point blank, why they don't like you.
I couldn't agree more.
Founder of Black Atheists of America, Ayanna talked about the encroachment of religion on our governement. She made an excellent point that the contradictory findings of the Supreme Court show that the establishment clause and the free exercise clause are more difficult to interpret than many believe. Trying cases under one clause, without considering the other, contributes a great deal to this confusion.
There's no way I'm going to be able to go into the depth required to give her discussion the respect it deserves. She does an wonderful job of explaining both the history of the issue, and also its complexity. Just as with many science discussions, these issues are far too complex to combat the single minded nonsense coming from the religious right. They have talking points, we have facts... facts require analysis that many on the religious right simply aren't willing to do. "This country was founded on religious ideals" is superficially satisfying, but it's only factual on a level that is inconsequential to constitutional law.
Really, try explaining the "lemon test" to someone who is under the ridiculous opinion that only the largely imagined intentions of our founding fathers are binding, regardless of the fact that the constitution was intended as a "living document'. Good luck with that. Watson did a great job with a very difficult subject, mad props.
"People talk about a universe made for us... we're just a side show." - Lawrence Krauss
Uh-oh... there are now diagrams of three possible models of curved three-dimensional space and he's talking about geometry. This is not a live-blogging type presentation. You know what... go buy his latest book.
"Nothing is not what we used to think it was." - Did you hear that Ray Comfort, you intellectually vapid waste of oxygen? Every time a creationist says that atheists believe that "something came from nothing", know that they've PROFOUNDLY missed the point. "Nothing" to a physicist means something entirely different than it does to a creationist. "What we mean by something and nothing has completely changed from the time the classical philosophers and theologians first raised the issue."
Brilliant talk, though I expect nothing less from Krauss. Also, there's no way in hell your average fundy is within 10 years of study away from understanding any of this to a degree that they'd begin to understand how monumentally ignorant creationism is.
Sean made a couple of quick, but effective, points about the type of religious language and attitudes that are considered acceptable today in contrast to the rather incendiary statements and actions of former leaders like Thomas Jefferson. Best point - we need to take the word morality back. Morality isn't about legislating what individuals do with their "naughty bits", it's about human compassion.
Dawkins opened by talking about this morning's MSNBC broadcast of Up with Chris Hayes dedicated to the subject of atheism. The undisputed high point of the show was the public self-outing of pastor Mike Aus. Dawkins then asked Aus to stand up and be honored by the crowd for his bravery - the standing ovation he received was well deserved.
Dawkins revisited one of the main points of his talk at the Reason Rally - when aspects of an individual's religious faith are patently ridiculous, it should be a matter of public scrutiny and concern. American culture cloaks an individual's religious beliefs in a veil of privacy - one's faith is seen as a private matter, and therefore beyond challenge; but is that wise? If a political candidate held an equally ridiculous, but non-religious, belief... perhaps that they were Napoleon, wouldn't that very much be our business as constituents subject to their madness tinged reasoning abilities? Some of these religious beliefs are, as Dawkins says, "mad, crazy, bonkers" - why should they be treated as a private matter worthy of respect? Should we be willing to entrust our country to a man capable of holding ridiculous beliefs?
I'm with Dawkins - crazy is crazy, it doesn't much matter to me if the crazy in question is of the religious brand or not. I can't help but think the notion that an individual's religious beliefs shouldn't be taken into account when judging someone's suitability for political office is just as daft as the religious beliefs themselves.
I've tried this once before... and failed miserably, but I'm going to try it again. Expect a volley of posts that are both minimally informative and intellectually scattered. It'll be just like being here... on crack.
Hanky Panky times in DC are over (I'd tell you how much I already miss you, baby... but you don't read my blog *poke poke*), so it's time to update the Reason Rally itinerary.
Noon-ish: Hubby and I will be hitting the Smithsonian Natural History Museum here in just a bit. We'll be more than happy to meet up with anyone that might want to tour it with us, just tweet me @Daisiesandshit - keep in mind, however, that I'm a gimp; it will be a slow tour.
Of the odious effects religion has on human dignity and compassion, none are more sickening than the ritualistic abuse of children. Faithfully complicit parents who stand by, hands clasped in prayer, while their child suffers the tortures of disease or injury. Fathers who brutalize and murder their daughters for perceived indecencies. Patriarchal mobs pushing young girls back against the flames of the burning school they desperately seek to escape lest their uncovered heads be exposed to public view. Families and communities pushing their youth to suicide through abandonment, ridicule, harassment, and hate. Robed pedophiles preying on the innocents in their charge, violating them sexually and psychologically. Leaders heaping the tragedies of their communities on the most helpless among them, branding them witches, marking them for slaughter.
In the Niger Delta, fears rooted in the superstitious belief that children are particularly susceptible to the power of spells and curses have left them vulnerable to unconscionable atrocities. Terrified parishioners, filled with the Pentecostal hatred spewing forth from the pulpit, tear into these branded innocents; they bathe them in acid, force bleach down their throats, rape and torture them, hack them to pieces, burn them alive... Those already suffering bear the brunt of the violence - orphans, the disabled, the impoverished, the chronically ill; but no child is safe. Special talents and keen intelligence are also among the attributes targeted by the parasites that preach in these churches of madness. Blamed for circumstances many are too young to even understand, they serve as defenseless scapegoats for religious leaders who prey on the desperation and ignorance of their congregations.
I look at my own children... my son's autism would make him an easy mark... I try to imagine the horror of his trembling body tied to an alter before a mob of lunacy... to hear his sobbing screams as they beat and burn him... to picture their raptured prayers over his lifeless body...
Tell me again that religious faith is a comfort that I've no right to try and strip away. Tell me that missionary work brings with it only the prospect of salvation. Tell me that these gods are the seat of morality. Tell me that the individuals who commit these horrors somehow have it wrong. Tell me they're misinterpreting the message. Tell me their faith is distorted. Tell me that the good attributed to religion somehow outweighs its evil. Tell me god is love and justice and peace.
I once believed all of those things, but I'm pretty damn sure I was full of shit. Religious faith is nothing less than a loaded weapon, left in plain sight. At best it cripples us, at worst it gives us license to act on our most monstrous desires. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" - Exodus 22:18
We'd be better off without it.
If you would like to help end the religiously motivated violence against the children of Nigeria, please visit Stepping Stones Nigeria. Special thanks to Linda Rosa of the Boulder Atheists for bringing this charity to my attention.
The Look'it-Me-Bein'-All-Responsible-For-My-Big-Mouth Disclaimer:
The attitudes and opinions expressed here at Daisies and Shit do not necessarily reflect those of the Denver Chapter of Recovering from Religion, or of the Recovering from Religion Organization as a whole.