Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense


Colbert… O’Reilly… Pure awesome!

I just saw this this morning and had to share it. I’ve been wanting to comment on this since O’Reilly made his “tides” comment, but haven’t gotten around to it. Colbert does it just fine!

Foundation Beyond Belief Official Launch

Foundation Beyond Belief Looking for an exceptionally worthwhile charity to support this year? Check out the Foundation Beyond Belief, which is officially launching today. Founder Dale McGowan, the author of Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers, started Foundation Beyond belief with the following goals.

To demonstrate humanism at its best by supporting efforts to improve this world and this life; to challenge humanists to embody the highest principles of humanism, including mutual care and responsibility; and to help and encourage humanist parents to raise confident children with open minds and compassionate hearts.

The Foundation features ten charitable organizations each quarter focusing on a number of different areas such as health, education, poverty, child welfare, human rights, etc. When you join and contribute, you determine where your contribution should go (among the ten charities for that quarter). At the end of the quarter, all the donations are distributed and a new set of charities is selected. More information can be found at the Foundation’s About page.

Here are a few details.

  • Foundation Beyond Belief is a non-profit charitable and educational foundation created (1) to focus, encourage and demonstrate the generosity and compassion of atheists and humanists, and (2) to provide a comprehensive education and support program for nontheistic parents.
  • The Foundation will feature ten charitable organizations per quarter.
  • Members join by signing up for a monthly automatic donation in the amount of their choice, and distribute it however they wish among the categories. Contributions are fully tax-deductible.
  • Members can join a social network and forums centered on the ten categories of giving, advocate for causes, and help us choose new beneficiaries each quarter.
  • Featured beneficiaries may be founded on any worldview so long as they do not proselytize. At the end of each quarter, 100 percent of the donations are forwarded and a new slate of beneficiaries selected.
  • On the educational side, the Foundation will help create and fund local groups for the education and social support of humanist/atheist parents.

Here’s the Foundation’s introductory video as well.

Consider the Foundation Beyond Belief for your charitable donations. You’ll be supporting great causes and, as Dale’s mission statement says, demonstrating humanism at its best.

I’m just sayin’…

I told my friend Mike…

If there was a zombie outbreak at the atheist convention this weekend, I think all the atheists would be sad… because we wouldn’t be able (in good conscience) to use the great line, “I’m sending you back to Hell!!!” as we killed the zombies.

He responded…

Some asshole will quote the movie and say “When Hell is full, the dead will walk the earth” and get berated by 500 screaming atheists and everyone will lose sight of the bigger picture and die horribly.


A Better Approach

At the beginning of last month, I wrote about the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s sign at the Olympia, Washington capitol building, stating that I wasn’t all that pleased with the approach they took with the wording of the sign. Since then, I’ve read a lot (and I mean a lot) of commentary about that situation and have decided two things.

First, I think the point of displaying the sign wasn’t to further atheism, per se, but was more to demonstrate the point that government buildings shouldn’t be hosting religious displays of any kind. Not only was the FFRF’s sign displayed, but because of the “open door” policy required due to the Alliance Defense Fund’s lawsuit, there were displays requested  for other “religions” as well (Pastafarianism, Festivus) including an application by the Westboro Baptist Church to put up a sign declaring that “Santa Claus Will Take You To Hell.” It turned into quite a fiasco which, to anyone who wasn’t too incensed to miss the point, demonstrates in grand fashion just why religious displays have no place in government buildings.

Second, I still don’t think it was the best approach. FFRF’s stated goals are (from their bylaws) “to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.” I think both of those goals are admirable and could have been accomplished in a way that would have brought far less scorn to atheists.

I read this article today by David Gleeson (who has a similar view about the situation) and was impressed with his suggested alternate message.

At this season, may reason triumph over fear and superstition, and may we renew our commitment to life, love, and the bonds of our shared humanity.

That’s good stuff.

David makes a number of other good points in his article as well and I especially agree with him about the absolute statements in the FFRF’s sign. Dan Barker of the FFRF should know better. Lack of evidence does not necessarily mean lack of existence. It might. It might not. We don’t know and we cannot possibly know… for certain. Claiming to know with certainty cripples us in the same faith-based trap as religion. Based on the evidence (or lack thereof in this case), I can believe there is no god, but I cannot know there is no god.

So David’s softer, more positive message is a winner in my book. I think it would have been a much better approach. It  probably still would have stirred up enough controversy to make the “separation of church and state” point, but it would have done it without putting another black mark on atheists.

Not the Best Approach

In Washington state, Olympia’s Legislative Building has a new display up for December along with a traditional Christmas display. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (of which I am a member) has been allowed to place an engraved sign for the month. The sign is in response to a religious group suing to be allowed to display a manger scene, which is now displayed in the building. The FFRF sign reads:

At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail.
There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.
There is only our natural world.
Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

Now, while I usually fully support the endeavors of the FFRF and their actions that promote the separation of church and state, and I support the right to display this message when other religion-related displays are allowed, I just seem to think that the chosen wording was not the best choice.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree with the words and their meaning. I just think that it comes off as too confrontational and hostile to be of any benefit. It’s the type of wording that will elicit responses of equal or greater hostility. It immediately puts believers on the defensive. It immediately offends believers. It’s a negative message.

I think it would have been perfect if it would have glorified reason and the natural world without the second and fourth sentences. It could have touted the wonders of natural selection. It could have promoted freethinking and rationality. It could have lauded the benevolence and charity of the human spirit. Instead, it acts as a red hot poker of divisiveness.

The Foundation’s billboards and other signs do a better job of positive promotion. Their “Imagine No Religion” billboards and “Reason’s Greetings” billboards are perfect examples. Even the American Humanist Association’s ad that says “Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness sake.” doesn’t convey the same confrontational tone.

Getting people to think about religion and why they believe what they believe is key. I truly believe that most religious people don’t think about it… truly think about it. It’s something that has been ingrained in them since they were old enough to understand words and it’s taken for granted. Most religious “study” is study of the Bible or of other holy books… the theology… and doesn’t address whether the basic premise makes sense or not. Having people start thinking about it at that level is what will open minds.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s latest sign stops it from happening altogether.

God as Denial of Responsibility

I just read this editorial today and found it very interesting. It’s in English, translated from Norwegian.

God as Denial of Responsibility

Editorial criticism is the only place where religion and politics should meet.