"If you had ever miscarried or lost a child, you wouldn't argue against the promise of holding them in your arms one day."
I have, and I do.
"If your child had special needs, you wouldn't argue against the hope of seeing them made whole in heaven."
He does, and I do.
"If you had ever suffered a violent loss, you wouldn't argue against the concept of divine justice."
I have, and I do.
"If you were disabled, you wouldn't argue against the hope of miraculous healing or an eternity without disability."
I am, and I do.
"If you would only read the bible, you wouldn't argue against it's perfection."
I have, and I do.
The message here? Assumptions are a piss-poor way to start your argument. Just sayin'.
"If you weren't so angry at God, you wouldn't argue against his love."
This post was a tough one for me, partly because my health issues mean that I don't recover from the kind of whirlwind activities I engaged in leading up to and immediately following the rally, and partly because writing a recap means that the subject you're writing about is over... and that makes me sadpants.
There are much more popular blogs that have already done a wonderful job of offering synopsis and collecting videos of the brilliant speakers, so I won't be offering my own. Those same blogs have also covered the coverage of the rally, so there's no compelling reason to add my voice to that grumbling cacophony. I'll likely be offering tidbits in the days that follow; specific moments that I particularly enjoyed, people I met, arguments I encountered, and so on. But for now, all I really want to express is this:
It was wonderful to stand there in the spring rain with thousands of people who view the world in much the same way that I do. Thousands of people who are sick of religious privilege. Thousands of people who want reason based, and only reason based, education for their children. Thousands of people who understand the concept of church and state separation. Thousands of people who reject superstitious thought in favor of rational thought. Thousands of people who understand that foul language isn't more offensive than foul deeds. Thousands of people who see the absurdity in magic undies and cannibalistic crackers. Thousands of people who value this life, this world, this universe... this reality.
It was one heck of a ride, and we're just getting started.
"Religion is patriarchal through and through. I shall follow a religion and I shall acknowledge women’s rights – this stance is akin to saying I shall drink poison along with honey." - Taslima Nasrin
The Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle has condescended to lowering himself into the cesspit of humanity in an attempt to repeal same-sex marriage by way of a modest petition drive. Among the intellectually vapid statements that spilled from beneath his funny little hat was this gem, "The word 'marriage' isn't simply a label that can be attached to different types of relationships. Instead, 'marriage' reflects a deep reality - the reality of the unique, fruitful, lifelong union that is only possible between a man and a woman."
Now I get it! Queers can't spit out more humans to be sprinkled with water and made fit for a lifetime of emotional (and possibly physical) abuse! That's what marriage is REALLY about; all that stupid love and companionship stuff can define any old relationship! MARRIAGE is about turning women into breeding chattel with the blessing of a barbaric, bronze-aged, superstition!
But wait! Sterile people, and people who don't want kids, and really fucking old people, and people that don't intend to be together for life, and non-monogamous people, and people who are drunk, and total fucking strangers, and... THEY can all get married too! It would appear that, beyond the dictates of that barbaric, bronze-aged superstition, marriage is a label that CAN be attached to different types of relationships! No, the silly hat man says, "There is nothing else like [marriage], and it can't be defined or made into something that it isn't".
I wouldn't want to suggest that the silly hat man has a tenuous grasp on reality, or that he would just outright LIE in order to prop up his dusty old belief system's bigotries. That would be rude. Instead, I suggest we give the silly hat man's definition of the "unique, fruitful, lifelong union that is only possible between a man and a woman" its own special term that won't be sullied by the horrible queers.
"Indentured servitude" has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
According to Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby, the impact on the military in regard to the repeal of DADT has been "
In spite of the fevered predictions spouted by folks like Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness (a hysterical religious group seemingly far more concerned with the "homosexual agenda" than things that might actually assist in military readiness), the United States armed forces have steadfastly refused to unravel at the seams since the queers in their ranks have been allowed to out themselves. Retention levels are high, recruitment goals are being met, and the filthy homos have yet to start their expected mass campaign of unrestrained rape and decor improvement.
Because the only thing worse in the eyes of a hard-right Republican than a woman is an immigrant woman, members of the House Republican caucus are now taking a
Stupid immigrants. What do they think they are? Human?
I have roughly a shit-tonne of blog posts I want to write, but I'm still recovering from my hanky-panky/Reason Rally/American Atehists National Convention adventures. While I'm struggling to get my brain and body back in working order, go read
No, really... go read it. When you're done, think about the one thing you can do, and then do it.
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.
(This post was initially typed up on Monday, but I was just too wiped to edit it into anything comprehensible.)
Alas, I will not be able to stay for the entire convention as we'll be leaving for the airport shortly after Greta Christina's talk. Also, some of you may be noticing the glaring omission of last night's entertaining and inspiring events - particularly JT Eberhard's talk, which was one of the most powerful presentations offered at the convention. Never fear, I'll sum up the evening's events as best I can a bit later... perhaps after waking from the coma I'm likely to fall into upon settling into the warm embrace of my own bed later today.
Holy fuck, there is a god! I was so upset that I missed his poetry reading yesterday... and here he is today doing an unscheduled poetry reading! Hallelujah!
Here's a YouTube video of one of the poems he presented for us:
Bey made an excellent point about the diversity of the Reason Rally, saying that as she walked through the crowd, she saw "everyone", looking out over the crowd, she saw America. I saw it too, and it was wonderful.
Bay then asked that we not forget the high we all experienced at the rally and throughout the convention. She asked that we hold on to those feelings, and share them with others. She then reminded us that "being reasonable is what will allow us to progress", saying, "If you love this country, as I know we American atheists do... if you love what this ideal of freedom and justice for all means, we've got to stand up and demand it for ourselves." We need to support one another, especially those of us in our community who are endangered for their atheism (like teens that are kicked out of their homes), and remember that "it takes many tools to make a toolbox" - bitching that someone is doing atheism wrong doesn't help us, recognizing that we all have our own unique talents and motivations does. She finished by urging us to talk to children, to encourage their interest in science, to praise their rational thinking, to compliment them on their intelligence - if we're not talking to the kids in our communities, the religious will.
(I've been looking forward to Greta's talk from the moment she announced the title, Coming Out: What Can the Godless Learn From the Queers? The comparisons between the queer and atheist movements is a subject I've brought up on numerous occasions, and I've been dying to hear Greta present her thoughts.)
The number one factor that affects whether or not an individual supports gay rights is whether or not they know a gay person. The clear message behind that fact is that coming out is one of the most powerful actions an atheist can take in reducing prejudice, but we do need to recognize and support the fact that there can be practical consequences to coming out that can be very difficult for some individuals to overcome.
It's important to note that there is no one right way to come out, and we need to let each other do it in their own way and in their own time. We also need to recognize that coming out is an ongoing process; each time we come out to a new person, it's a new event... and there are some people we may need to come out to more than once simply because they won't accept it the first time around. Being an out atheist is a continuum, not everyone will do it to the same degree and that's okay. We also need to be willing to give it time - some people may be "total fucking assholes" when we first come out to them, but it doesn't help to be a total fucking asshole back. Stay calm, stay firm, and be the better person. Be familiar with the common myths and preconceptions about atheists, but coming out isn't about convincing some asshole on the internet that he's wrong - it's about people you know and love. As for the practical concerns in regard to coming out, make sure your financial situation is in order before coming out, you need to be able to cope with possibly losing your parental support, your job, your community support, etc... If you're coming out at work, document everything and be familiar with job discrimination laws. Coming out can be a scary prospect, but if you wait until its entirely safe, you'll never come out. In making your decision to come out, recognize that the longer you wait, the more you risk being outed, which is far more difficult to weather. Also, take into account the stress of living a double life and hiding who you are. Lastly, try to find an atheist community you can lean on before coming out, most people find it much easier when they have a supportive network of people behind them who know what they're going through.
While there are many similarities between coming out as queer and coming out as an atheist, there are important differences too. When you come out as queer, you're not telling people it's wrong to be straight. When you come out as an atheist, you're automatically suggesting that religious individuals are wrong. The atheistic position is inherently combative, there's no way to avoid that. You can, however, side-step that conflict when coming out by focusing on countering myths about atheists rather than debating the existence of god. The coming out conversation is difficult enough without starting that argument.
In supporting one another in coming out, it's imperative that we recognize that the process is easier for some people than for others. Young people who are dependent on religious parents, minorities, and those in highly religious communities have a particularly difficult time and it's important that we encourage individuals to come out, rather than pressuring them to. Encourage people to come out just one step, come out to just one person, and realize that "Come out if you can, come out if it's safe" may very well be a better message than simply, "come out". The most important thing you can do to encourage those individuals who will encounter great difficulties in coming out is to COME OUT YOURSELF! When we come out, we make it safer for other people to come out, who make it safer for even more people to come out... until coming out is almost universally safe. Coming out is also how atheists find one another, and creating supportive atheist communities is a great way to help others come out. Atheist communities that provide the types of support religious communities do will be particularly beneficial - offering rights of passage, networks of friends, activities, programs, etc... will only make us stronger. The wider the group's interests, the more individuals will be supported and attracted to that group, so don't limit the community to "atheist issues". Student groups are amazing, but we have a problem keeping students engaged once they leave school; community groups that work with student groups are better at retaining those members because they provide a bridge to adult involvement.
On the subject of diversity, Cristina made a great point about how a lack of diversity in a community is a self-perpetuation cycle; the more a community is seen as "belonging" to a certain type of individual, the more reluctant individuals from outside that class, gender, race, etc... will be to join. We have to take conscious action to intervene in that cycle' we can't keep treating minorities as the "other" and treating white as the default. People took notice of the diversity at the Reason Rally; what we've been doing is working, and we need to keep it up.
Finally, there are a number of heartbreaking coming out stories that have been, and still need to be, told, but sometimes coming out is not as traumatic as we fear, and those stories need to be told too. Sometimes, when we come out the reaction is "me too!", and that's fucking priceless! Let people know there are positive stories about coming out too. Tell people that coming out can be fun, and being out is fun. Making those positive statements help combat fear - make sure people know that out atheists are happier than closeted atheists, even when their worst fears about coming our are realized. We're happier when the people who love us really love US, not a fake presentation of what we think they want to see. We need to get that message across - we're happier as individuals when we're out and living our lives as who we really are.
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
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.
Dr. Marty Klein:
Dr. Klein, author of
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.