The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘atheist’

How Secularism Should Move Forward in the United States

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 26, 2012

I have posted before on the emergence of a more secular demographic within the United States and what appears to be a concurrent decline in religious fundamentalism.  However, I listened to a recent Point of Inquiry podcast which got me to look at the question in a different manner, and there appears to be much more work advancing a secular worldview to be done.  I especially agree with the idea that atheists should be attempting to find common ground with moderate religious believers and building broader political coalitions, as opposed to alienating those believers simply because we have differences on belief(s) in God.  I encourage you to give it a listen…

Jacques Berlinerblau – How to Be Secular

November 12, 2012

Host: Chris Mooney

On this show, we often debate the state of American secularism—covering topics like the rise of the so-called “nones,” or the unending battle to rescue the country from the pernicious influence of Christian right.

Our guest this week, Jacques Berlinerblau, has a provocative thesis about all this. He says that American secularism has clearly and distinctly lost major ground. And to recover from that loss, well… he’s got some suggestions that might not go down well—but it’s important to hear them.

Even if, you know, you’re not quite ready for a political allegiance with religious moderates.

Jacques Berlinerblau is author of the new book How to be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom. He’s an associate professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, where he directs the Program for Jewish Civilization.

Posted in politics, religion, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Demise of the Religious Right?

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 16, 2012

In a recent post, I outlined how secular Americans are starting to make inroads into the political process, partly due to the rise of a non-religious demographic in the United States.  On a related note, I find it worth pointing out the fact that the power and influence of the socially and religiously conservative movement known as the “religious right” seems to be on the decline.  Evidence for this can be found by looking at the results of the 2012 elections.  The following article from The Atlantic magazine goes into more detail; I shall share my thoughts on a few excerpts…

An ‘Evangelical Disaster’: What Happened to the Religious Vote?

… “I think this [election] was an evangelical disaster,” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told NPR. He’s right, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

The late Falwell’s Liberty University gave former Gov. Mitt Romney its keynote spot at its 2012 commencement and backed off previous language calling Mormonism a “cult.” Billy Graham uncharacteristically threw his support behind the Republican candidate, and his evangelistic association bought full-page newspaper ads all but endorsing Romney. Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition spent tens of millions in battleground states to get out the religious vote.

As a result, 79 percent of white evangelicals voted for Romney on Tuesday. That’s the same percentage that Bush received in 2004, and more than Sen. John McCain received in 2008. The evangelical vote was 27 percent of the overall electorate — the highest it’s ever been for an election.

Their support wasn’t enough. Not only did President Obama win soundly, but four states voted to allow same-sex marriage. …

So why is it that the religiously conservative vote didn’t win out?  Here are some reasons:

… First, the size of the evangelicals’ base is a limitation. While white evangelicals comprised a quarter of the electorate, other religious groups that lean Democratic have grown substantially. Hispanic-American Catholics, African-American Protestants, and Jewish-Americans voted Democratic in overwhelming numbers. Additionally, the “nones” — those who claim no religious affiliation — are now the fastest growing “religious” group, comprising one-fifth of the population and a third of adults under 30. Seven out of 10 “nones” voted for Obama.

Second, evangelicals’ influence is waning. Conservative Christian ideas are failing to shape the broader culture. More than 3,500 churches close their doors every year, and while Americans are still overwhelmingly spiritual, the institutional church no longer holds the sway over their lives it once did. The sweeping impact of globalization and the digital age has marginalized the church and its leaders. …

… Third, evangelical leadership is wanting. A quarter-century ago, Christian mobilization efforts were rising, Christian advocacy groups were sprouting, and charismatic Christian leaders were popping up in every corner of the country. This is no longer the case.

Politically influential pastors like Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy have died, James Dobson retired, and Pat Robertson has been relegated to the fringes of his own community. By any reckoning, few charismatic figures are able or willing to fill these voids.

The leadership vacuum became painfully obvious during the Republican primaries, when 150 “high-powered” evangelical leaders, including Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer, met behind closed doors in Texas to determine which candidate should receive their endorsement. They chose Rick Santorum, but in the South Carolina primaries a week later, Newt Gingrich and Romney split two-thirds of the state’s evangelical vote.

Additionally, organizations like the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition are either defunct or defunded, while Focus on the Family has made clear its intention to move in a less political direction. The number and influence of evangelical organizations shaping the public square is greatly diminished. …

Will the religious right end up dying off?  I’m not sure, but whether or not you view this as a good thing (personally, I see it as a positive development that fundamentalist religion is having less influence on our modern society), I think it is safe to say that things are changing in the United States.

Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Kyrsten Sinema: First Open Non-Theist Elected to Congress

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 8, 2012

Wow… this was one hell of an election!  I just want to point out a couple of notable races.  In this post, I want to focus on Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat in Arizona’s 9th Congressional District who looks to be the first openly non-theistic (atheistic?) person elected to Congress!  I say “looks to be” because 1) the race hasn’t officially been concluded (votes are still being counted, but Sinema has a lead which only seems to be growing), and 2) Pete Stark, Congressman from California, is openly non-theistic, but he didn’t originally run as an out-of-the-closet non-theist.  Here’s more on Kyrsten Sinema:

Kyrsten Sinema: ‘We’re Optimistic’ in Arizona

… Election for Sinema would be no small feat in the state that produced U.S. senator and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain and Gov. Jan Brewer, whose exceptionally conservative immigration policies have regularly made national news. In many ways, Sinema, who is also an open nontheist and was raised Mormon and attended Brigham Young University, is an anomaly in Arizona politics. But she’s ahead in some polls in the final stages of her race against Parker, though it’s one of Congress’s tightest races. …

As I’ve stated before, this is the wave of the future, folks.  With the rise of a more openly secular demographic in the United States, coupled with the inevitable decline (read: dying off) of the most religious demographic, the good ol’ U.S. of A. will move towards more diversity in both popular culture and political representation.  And that includes non-theists 🙂

Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A Lesson in How NOT to be Skeptical: The Fake Neil deGrasse Tyson Quote

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 24, 2012

Many times we self-described skeptics and critical thinkers do not live up to our own rhetoric.  Case in point: How many skeptics/atheists/freethinkers/etc do you know who have shared the following quote, or perhaps you have shared it yourself?

Well, here’s the rub… this quote attributed to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is…

FAKE!!!

Ouch.  I have to admit that I probably would have fallen for it, too; maybe I did, I cannot remember seeing this on my Facebook wall, but who knows?  It’s a good lesson for those of us who call ourselves skeptics to make sure that we’re taking care to walk the skeptical/critical thinking walk and not just talk the talk.  Here’s a good YouTube video expanding upon this lesson:

Posted in internet, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Secularism on the Rise: 1 in 5 Americans is Religiously Unaffiliated

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 12, 2012

All I can say is: wow.  I knew the ranks of the non-religious and religiously-unaffiliated in the United States was on the rise, but I didn’t know it would be taking off like this so soon. According to a recent Pew Research Poll, the number of Americans self-identifying as part of the so-called “nones” is now at nearly 20%!

The summary from the Pew Report is quite telling:

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 –are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%). …

This chart, from the Pew Report, says it all I think:

Note the one key feature of this chart: the fact that the core of the religious right in America, white Protestant evangelicals (19%), is now actually outnumbered by the decidedly secular “nones” (19.6%)!

And further, the trends are also looking very positive for the “nones”: as the chart above shows, they are easily the fastest growing religious (or non-religious) demographic in the U.S.A.

I must say, the future is looking brighter 😀

Posted in religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Georgia Rep. Paul Broun, Member of House Science Committee, Says “Evolution, Embryology, Big Bang Theory are ‘Lies Straight from the Pit of Hell’ “

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 8, 2012

But don’t take it from me, take it straight from his mouth…

First, allow me to state the obvious:

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system… we see two things from this idiotic tirade from Rep. Broun:

1. He engages in the typical creationist fear-mongering about evolutionary science that it is inherently evil, etc (hence the “Pit of Hell” reference).  I suppose we needn’t bother Rep. Broun with the annoying fact that many of his Christian brethren think evolution is just fine.

2. He, like far too many of his conservative colleagues in our government (I’m talking about YOU, Rep. Todd Akin), seem to have gone out of their way lately to declare war on any form of science they deem contrary to their ideology.  This includes not only denying evolution and denying climate science, and apparently basic info on human reproduction, but also rejecting certain pesky historical facts along the way.

Folks, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want people like this running my federal government.  This is why I so strongly support efforts like Science Debate, and why I think you should, too.  It is also why those of us who are defenders and advocates of science and skepticism should be involved in our political process.

Posted in creationism, politics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“Creation Evidence Expo” Exposed

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 3, 2012

Recently, one of my skeptical colleagues – Louise Kellar – attended the Creation Evidence Expo in Indianapolis, IN and she wrote up a guest blog on it over at Freethought Blogs.  I wanted to share it with you here for two reasons: 1) it is a really thorough (and funny!) write-up of the whole event, and 2) Louise must have a much stronger stomach than me, because I don’t think I could have managed to attend this thing without rage-facing my brains out.

The entire post is quite long, but I wanted to emphasize one section which I considered to be very important…

Creation Evidence Expo Report

Louise Kellar – kickin’ it at the Creation Evidence Expo 🙂

… Dye kept putting up slides about education. “The aim of education should be to convert the mind into a living fountain and not a reservoir” and “Education makes a people easy to lead but difficult to drive, easy to govern but impossible to enslave.” After that he went on about how god was taken out of school in 1963 and shared some statistics with us. Now bear in mind these statistics are all the direct result of God being taken out of school. (Also this is the short list)

  • Violent crime up 995%
  • Suicide up 300%
  • Single parent families up 117%
  • STDs up 226%
  • Average SAT score down 80 points
  • Assaults on teachers up 7000%
  • Birth rate of unwed 10-14 year olds up 325% *last year he claimed it was 553%
  • 84% of cities are in financial trouble
  • 4000 churches close annually
  • No new members added to 50% of churches
  • 1400 pastors quit each month.

My mind was reeling from all these phony statistics, and of course he didn’t stop there. I am not even sure how he segued into the next topic. It was all about how evolutionists will try to trick you into not believing and he began explaining all the ways animals try to kill humans. He kept talking about how evolutionists will show up to your events and try to trick you. They will also stalk you and they will try their best to lead you away from god. “They kill, steal, and destroy.” He repeated that phrase about every minute. It appeared very much to be an attack on anyone who didn’t believe in creationism and how evil those people are. At one point he even mentioned that people will write bad things about him on the internet. I wonder if he saw what I said about him last year?

ZOMG – BEST FLOWCHART EVAR!!! Really, you can’t make this stuff up… even though the creationists kind of DID just make it up 🙂

This goofy flowchart (and the meme behind the statistics that Dye quoted above) were what I really wanted to make the focus of my comments in this post.  Those things clearly show what we who call ourselves skeptics and defenders of science are up against when we fight against creationism: namely, we are up against a worldview which is completely devoid of any scientific understanding at all.  Creationists are not only ignorant of scientific facts, they are ignorant of the entire process of science itself; and not only that, in many ways they are outright anti-scientific in their views because they have been convinced (likely through a lifetime of brainwashing in church and at events like the Creation Expo) that to accept evolutionary science will automatically turn one into a raving, immoral, baby-eating, murdering, AIDS-infested atheist intent on destroying all that is good and decent in society.  Hence, stupidity like the flowchart above *facepalm*

And, quite frankly, when you’re up against that kind of crazy, all the science in the world won’t help you win these folks over.

Which is why, in many cases, I don’t try to fight a creationist with whom I’m arguing solely with scientific facts (since they seem to be largely impervious to such facts); instead, while I mention scientific information, I also try to engage them in a bit of a different manner, one which I think is more effective… I use religion.  Specifically, I point out that the “evolution = atheism = evil” argument is completely bogus for one simple reason: there are numerous Christians (and people of other religious faiths) who accept evolution!

That one fact alone destroys their entire argument.  Showing them that people of their own religion (Christianity, usually) disagree with their views on creationism is a killer, and it can lead to – pardon the pun – quite a lot of soul-searching on the part of more thoughtful creationists.  In addition, I also engage them on the entire morality argument by challenging the assertion that atheists are inherently immoral and evil; this can, and often does, lead into deeper philosophical discussions on the nature of good, evil, ethics, etc.  While they may be ignorant of science, they’re all about morals, so why not engage them on those terms using language they can understand?

I’m not saying that it will win them over to the PZ Myers or Richard Dawkins camp of evolution, but one thing it will get them to do is THINK.  And that’s the first step.

Posted in creationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Clergy Letter Project Adds Buddhists to List of Clergy Asking that Evolution be Taught in Public Schools

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 3, 2012

In a welcome bit of science education news, the Clergy Letter Project has announced that it is expanding its effort to include Buddhist clergy.  In case you don’t know, this is an effort to get clergy men and women to speak out publicly in support of teaching science (specifically, evolutionary science) in the public schools.  These clergy do not see any conflict between their religious beliefs and science, and I think it is an excellent way to counter the blatantly anti-scientific arguments espoused by many creationists.  Read on for more info…

American Buddhists join the Clergy Letter Project asking for the teaching of Evolution in public schools

Clergy who want science, including Evolution in schools, created the Clergy Letter Project and the chosen theme for this years “Evolution Weekend” is “Religion and Science” and marks the seventh year for the gathering of clergy to discuss science.

“Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. An ongoing goal has been to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic, and to show that religion and science are not adversaries. Rather, they look at the natural world from quite different perspectives and ask, and answer, different questions.

Religious people from many diverse faith traditions and locations around the world understand that evolution is quite simply sound science; and for them, it does not in any way threaten, demean, or diminish their faith in God. In fact, for many, the wonders of science often enhance and deepen their awe and gratitude towards God.”

They believe that modern science, including Evolution, and religion are in harmony with each other.

To that end, American Buddhist clergy join in the voices of Christian, Jewish, Unitarian Universalist clergy in writing letters supporting the teaching of Evolutions in public schools. …

Click here to read the entire article

Posted in creationism, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Happy Birthday to Robert Green Ingersoll, “The Great Agnostic”

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 11, 2012

I just wanted to pass along this announcement from the fine folks at the Center For Inquiry regarding one of the most valuable orators and activists for freethought, science, and rationality: Robert Green Ingersoll.  This past Saturday (August 11th) was his birthday, and I think it is worth letting you know more about him:

Happy Birthday to “The Great Agnostic!”


Back before blogs, opinion-based news programs, talk radio, and even amplified sound, the American public gathered by the thousands to listen to professional orators calling out their opinions from train platforms, outdoor stages, and the steps of city hall. Oratory was wildly popular in the 1800s, and there was no lecturer more popular than Robert Green Ingersoll, a.k.a., “The Great Agnostic.”

Ingersoll continually championed science, reason, and secular values in the public square. He was an early popularizer of Charles Darwin and a tireless advocate for women’s rights, racial equality, and birth control decades before others would pick up the cause. He often poked fun at religious belief, and he defied the religious conservatives of his day by championing secular humanist values.

Ingersoll’s work and his words are highly relevant to our day, too, so the Center for Inquiry and its sister organization, the Council for Secular Humanism, work to bring his wisdom and insights to a broader audience.


— Learn more about Robert Green Ingersoll —

Happy Birthday, Colonel Bob!

Posted in free inquiry, philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Judge Proposes Cutting Ten Commandments Down to Six

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 10, 2012

For many years now, various fundamentalist Christian groups have been attempting to post the Ten Commandments (which version?  Good question…) in public buildings, using the lame argument that they serve a “secular purpose” as a way of skirting lawsuits for violation of church-state separation.  Well, now those folks have been hoisted by their own pertard 🙂

Image Source

Cut Ten Commandments down to 6?

Judge Michael Urbanski suggested a possible compromise to the issue that has been raging in the Giles County school system.

By Laurence Hammack 981-3239

Could the Ten Commandments be reduced to six, a federal judge asked Monday.

Would that neutralize the religious overtones of a commandments display that has the Giles County School Board in legal hot water?

That unorthodox suggestion was made by Judge Michael Urbanski during oral arguments over whether the display amounts to a governmental endorsement of religion, as alleged in a lawsuit filed by a student at Narrows High School.

After raising many pointed questions about whether the commandments pass legal muster, the judge referred the case to mediation – with a suggestion:

Remove the first four commandments, which are clearly religious in nature, and leave the remaining six, which make more secular commands, such as do not kill or steal.

Ever since the lawsuit was filed in September amid heated community reaction, school officials have said the display is not religious because it also includes historical documents such as the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

“If indeed this issue is not about God, why wouldn’t it make sense for Giles County to say, ‘Let’s go back and just post the bottom six?'” Urbanski asked during a motions hearing in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.

“But if it’s really about God, then they wouldn’t be willing to do that.” … [emphasis added]

I think this judge is a genius.  He’s asking the obvious question which clearly shows the motivations of these fundamentalists: to use public institutions to force their religious beliefs upon the rest of us.  Up until this point, the fundamentalists have tried to have it both ways, using the wiggle room argument of a “secular purpose” as a wedge.  But I think that’s the point of what the judge here is saying: to deny them any wiggle room at all. They must either step up and admit flat out that they had (and still do) a religious intent when displaying the Ten Commandments, and thus risk being on the losing end of a costly lawsuit; or they must accept the compromise, and thus risk encurring the wrath of their constituents. This lame attempt on their part to play coy and try coming up with an ad hoc “secular purpose” after the fact won’t fly with this judge.

They only have themselves to blame for getting into this position in the first place. If they bothered to follow the First Amendment Establishment Clause in the beginning, they wouldn’t have this problem; but nooooo, they had to try pushing their religious beliefs.

Quite frankly, they deserve the smackdown coming their way.

Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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