Godwinning for the good.

In case you missed it: a few weeks ago revolutionary badass Sunsara Taylor of RefuseFascism.org, with whom PZ and I are acquainted, appeared on the odious Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox. Because Carlson is an ass-cactus of the first order, he constantly interrupted her, spoke over her and eventually cut her feed. Nevertheless, when the smarmy blowhard shut his lie-hole for a moment and she managed to get a few words in, she stated the rather obvious fact that the fascist Trump/Pence regime is more dangerous than Hitler’s. On account of, you know, having nuclear weapons and an apparent enthusiasm for using them (among other things).

According to Taylor: Continue reading

Why Religion, Like Smoking, Lack of Exercise and a High Fat Diet, Inhibits a REAL Wellness Lifestyle

Introduction
 
At a time when Donald Trump and Mike Pence head the Executive Branch of our government with a cabinet of religious fundamentalists, when both houses of Congress are controlled by Republicans and when the Supreme Court will soon have a religious dogma-focused majority, looking on the bright side seems more challenging than ever.


What’s a freethinker who loves reason, exuberant living and liberty to do? Besides, that is, continuing to pursue a healthy and fun lifestyle, support secular causes and maintain activities that enable a positive outlook and a sensible perspective – irrespective of a hostile government?


I suggest making time each day to consider one particular element in Robert Green Ingersoll’s personal creed addressed to becoming a better person.

That would be to cultivate the mind and be familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius has expressed, the noble deeds of all the world.  


To get you started, here are a few mind-cultivating remarks taken from a random selection of freethinkers living and dead.


To Cultivate the Mind
  • Edward Abbey on the difference between the Lone Ranger and God – There really is a Lone Ranger.
  • Charles Darwin, Descent of Man (1871) – For my part I would as soon be descended from [a] baboon . . . as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies . . . treats his wives like slaves … and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.
  • Lydia Maria Child, The Progress of Religious Ideas Through Successive Ages (1855) – It is impossible to exaggerate the evil work theology has done in the world.
  • Florence Kennedy, Color Me Flo – My Hard Life and Good Times (1976) – If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.
  • Jacques Monod, Chance & Necessity (1971) – Mine is an entirely non-providential view of the biological world as the mere product of chance and necessity…the natural sciences reveal a purposeless world which entirely undercuts the tradition claims of religions…Man knows at last that he is alone in the universe’s unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance. His destiny is nowhere spelled out, nor is his duty.
  • Alice Walker, The Only Reason You Want to Go to Heaven Is That You Have Been Driven Out of Your Mind (1995) – What a burden to think one is conceived in sin rather than in pleasure; that one is born into evil rather than into joy. . . It is chilling to think that the same people who persecuted the wise women and men of Europe, its midwives and healers, then crossed the oceans to Africa and the Americas and tortured and enslaved, raped, impoverished and eradicated the peaceful, Christ-like people they found. And that the blueprint from which they worked, and still work, was the Bible.
  • Susan B. Anthony, The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (1908) – I think women have just as much a right to interpret and twist the Bible to their own advantage as men always have interpreted and twisted it to theirs … But while I do not consider it my duty to tear to tatters the lingering skeletons of the old superstitions and bigotries, yet I rejoice to see them crumbling on every side.”
  • Jeremy Bentham, Constitutional Code (1843) – In no instance has a system in regard to religion been ever established, but for the purpose, as well as with the effect, of its being made an instrument of intimidation, corruption, and delusion, for the support of depredation and oppression in the hands of governments.
  • Galileo Galilei, Recantation (1633) – I have been . . . suspected of heresy, that is, of having held and believed that the Sun is the center of the universe and immovable, and that the earth is not the center of the same, and that it does move . . . I abjure with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I curse and detest the said errors and heresies, and generally all and every error and sect contrary to the Holy Catholic church.
  • Niall Shanks, God, the Devil and Darwin (2004) – The intelligent design movement . . . has little to do with science but a lot to do with politics and power-in particular, the imposition of discriminatory, conservative Christian values on our educational, legal, social and political institutions… While we in the West readily point a finger at Islamic fundamentalism, we all too readily downplay the Christian fundamentalism in our own midst. The social and political consequences of religious fundamentalism can be enormous.
  • A.A. Milne, Cited in 2,000 Years of Disbelief by James A. Haught (1996) – The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief-call it what you will-than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counter-attractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course.
  • Andy Rooney, Sincerely, Andy Rooney (1999) – We all ought to understand we’re on our own. Believing in Santa Claus doesn’t do kids any harm for a few years but it isn’t smart for them to continue waiting all their lives for him to come down the chimney with something wonderful. Santa Claus and God are cousins. Christians talk as though goodness was their idea but good behavior doesn’t have any religious origin. Our prisons are filled with the devout. I’d be more willing to accept religion, even if I didn’t believe it, if I thought it made people nicer to each other but I don’t think it does.
Summary
Well, I hope this helps with your quest for the bright side. Throughout history, there have been many men and women who loved reason, exuberant living and liberty, despite a total absence of books, conferences or newsletters about why or how to pursue optimal status given their varied circumstances. All managed as best they could under conditions at least as trying as our own today, and found ample ways to pursue healthy, fun lifestyles, to protect positive outlooks and to maintain sensible perspectives. In short, they found time to cultivate their minds and became familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius expressed, the noble deeds of all the world.
We will do well to follow their lead, current obstacles not withstanding.

Iris: MIA.

Hello, beloved readers. You may have discerned my absence from this space for a little while now, which is not typical for me. Seems that perhaps some sort of explanation is in order.

I’ve been going through some difficult personal shit. Without getting into specifics, processing trauma and abuse—even many years later—is not exactly easy or fun, but it becomes absolutely critical when the unfortunate manifestations blindside you (again), seemingly out of nowhere. Suffice it to say that I have an amazingly supportive partner, a tight circle of friends (i.e. “chosen family”), and a skilled therapist* to guide me. In the meantime however, I am finding it very difficult to focus, concentrate and opine for your infotainment upon the vital and timely topics of fascist doucheweasels, patriarchal shitheads, racist conservatives, treasonous theocrats, native-born white d00ds in local bars suggesting an upside to the day’s news out of DC, terrorist squirrels and other assorted menaces.

Then again, I only have one rule—and one rule only—for posting: whatever I want, whenever I want.** So here, have some of that. Continue reading

America Could Become Much More of a Theocracy Under Trump Than It Already Is

I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in God. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken, and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right. I am strongly opposed to the efforts that have been made to nullify the decision. They have been motivated, I think, by little more than the wish to embarrass the Supreme Court. When I saw Brother Wallace going up to Washington to testify against the decision at the congressional hearings, it only strengthened my conviction that the decision was right.

 

Martin Luther King, Jr., Playboy interview, 1965. [About the Supreme Court’s decisions striking down prayer in public schools.]

Introduction

On January 20, in his first hours as president, Mr. Trump issued a proclamation asserting that there can be no peace where the people do not pray for it. Really?

Who convinced him to issue such a proclamation? One of the five preachers or the rabbi invited to pray at his inauguration? Don’t Americans pray enough? Was there a shortage of prayers for peace before World Wars I and II—and every war centuries before—and since 1945? What war occurred due to insufficient prayers? I remember the Vietnam era when draft eligible students were praying for peace up the yin yang. Those prayers did not have much effect, either.

This proclamation is a representative example of the crazy talk of politicians who insert their religious beliefs into the discharge of their secular responsibilities, though in Trump’s case it was likely more pandering to the evangelical base. God—hasn’t he done enough of that already with his appointments?

Well, maybe not, in his mind.

That thought brings with it concern for the liberal democracy we have enjoyed in America since the country’s founding. Trump has created a cabinet of theocrats. What’s more, he has pledged to nominate more religious zealots to the high court, as well as additional key posts.

Bad Moon on the Rise

Are we in danger of becoming a theocracy? More so than ever, IMHO.

TheocracyTrump and friends are equating patriotism with piety. How I would like to put before the president a statement from a Supreme Court justice in Wisconsin more than a century ago regarding intermingling government with religion:

There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, war, and all evil in the state as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed . . . Those who made our Constitution saw this, and used the most apt and comprehensive language in it to prevent such a catastrophe.

(Source: FFRF citation of Justice H.S. Orton of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, concurring opinion in Weiss v. the District Board, decided on March 18, 1890.)

Susan Jacoby noted that while the new president is himself indifferent to religion, he used the evangelical segment of the electorate to get to the White House. In appreciation, he seems to have delegated his Cabinet picks to zealot-in-waiting Mike Pence, the featured speaker at the upcoming anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C. whose fanaticism makes the average fundies seem agnostic by comparison. Give Trump credit—he has not (so far) nominated Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin for government jobs. That’s the good news. (I’m trying to look on the bright side here.)

LibertyThe bad news is that he’s nominated a lineup of god-besotted extremists, including Rick Perry, Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, Sonny Perdue, Jeff Sessions, Scott Pruitt, Tom Price and OMG!—Ben Carson. These nominees are Christian zealots beyond the pale and outspoken opponents of church/state separation. Each could seamlessly fill any Sunday morning as a substitute preacher for the five ministers who offered superstitious babble at the Trump Inauguration.

Along with Mr. Pence, these new leaders of the highest government offices will bring their religious perspectives—and culture war agenda, to the forefront of their secular offices.

Can a theocracy be far behind? Will they advocate for an amendment to our godless Constitution declaring that the United States of America is a Christian nation? It’s not so farfetched—a few years ago, a YouGov Omnibus poll found that 34 percent of Americans would favor establishing Christianity as the official state religion in their state. Another slightly bright side note—only 32 percent would go all the way and do the same with the U.S. itself. Small comfort. (This is an average percentage—imagine what the support level must have been in Alabama and Mississippi!)

Hallmarks of a Theocracy

At the risk of frightening a few readers, consider some of the beliefs and policy agendas of these new leaders of key national offices, including the Attorney General and directors/secretaries of H&HS, HUD, Energy, Education, CIA, EPA and Agriculture. You will find belief in and support for:

  • Varied biblical prophecies, not excluding The Rapture or end-times.
  • The suppression of critical thought, funding for religious charter schools, science-denying initiatives from climate change to evolution and more religious extremists appointed to fill critical positions at all levels of government.
  • Vehement opposition to marriage equality and a woman’s choice to be a mother—or not (i.e., legal abortion and other reproductive rights).
  • Disdain for separation of church and state—The Donald will be building one wall where it’s not needed and tearing down another where it is.
  • Changing the Constitution from a secular Republic to Christian Nation theocracy—in part because they believe this is a condition for the second coming of Christ.
  • Sponsorship and passage of more bills like H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act.” Every House Republican voted for this bill. If it clears the Senate (Trump will sign it), the Act will deny more than 28 million women access to abortion coverage.

Consider the man rumored to be Trump’s first choice for the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, William Pryor. This outspoken opponent of secular principles in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights has compared the ACLU and its plaintiffs to terrorists. He has railed against gay rights, the teaching of evolution, court decisions legalizing abortion and barring school prayer—while promoting displays of the Ten Commandments on government property. He has compared homosexuality to “necrophilia” and “bestiality” and called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination of constitutional law.” He has long supported the infamous Roy Moore, the Alabama supreme Court jurist who placed a Decalogue plaque in his courtroom and forced jurors to pray.

Advice C. S. Lewisfrom an Unlikely Source

The Christian Poet and novelist C.S. Lewis embraced the view that all power corrupts. I wonder if Messrs. Trump and Pence are familiar Robert Green Ingersollwith The World’s Last Night?

I fully embrace the maxim that all power corrupts. I would go further than all power corrupts. The loftier the pretensions of the power, the more meddlesome, inhuman and oppressive it will be. Theocracy is the worst of all possible governments. All political power is at best a necessary evil: but it is least evil when its sanctions are most modest and commonplace, when it claims no more than to be useful or convenient and sets itself strictly limited objectives. Anything transcendental or spiritual … in its pretensions is dangerous and encourages it to meddle with our private lives…Theocracy, I admit and even insist, is the worst corruption of all.

But, to no reader’s surprise, I think Robert Green Ingersoll merits the final words. This is but the beginning of one of his speeches on the horrors of theocracy.

The government of God has been tried. It was tried in Palestine several thousand years ago, and the God of the Jews was a monster of cruelty and ignorance, and the people governed by this God lost their nationality. Theocracy was tried through the Middle Ages. God was the Governor—the pope was his agent, and every priest and bishop and cardinal was armed with credentials from the Most High—and the result was that the noblest and best were in prisons, the greatest and grandest perished at the stake. The result was that vices were crowned with honor, and virtues whipped naked through the streets. The result was that hypocrisy swayed the sceptre of authority, while honesty languished in the dungeons of the Inquisition…

If God is allowed in the Constitution, man must abdicate. There is no room for both. If the people of the great Republic become superstitious enough and ignorant enough to put God in the Constitution of the United States, the experiment of self-government will have failed, and the great and splendid declaration that ‘all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed’ will have been denied, and in its place will be found this: All power comes from God; priests are his agents, the people are their slaves …

Best wishes, stay well and consider two points of view: 1) There are no alternative facts; and 2) There is no better government for America than a secular democracy.

May this essay rouse your will to help the insouciant masses defend their liberties. As RGI stated in words that represent the light, air and love at issue—“liberty is the blossom and fruit of justice, the perfume of mercy. It is the air and light, seed and soil, dew and rain of progress, love and joy.”

Or, if he felt this way about it, which he does not, Trump might say, “liberty is YUGE!”

Defense against Carrier SLAPP Suit.

silencedstatue

Richard Carrier is suing the Freethought Blogs network, of which I am a part, as well as other groups and individuals (see below). Please help us cover costs and legal fees if you can, and share this post or the GoFundMe link on social media. Every dollar helps.

Thank you.

Dr. Richard Carrier is suing us for reporting  on his well-known allegations of misconduct. These allegations were widely reported on throughout the community, including by third-parties critical and sympathetic to him who are not themselves defendants.

This lawsuit has all the hallmarks of a SLAPP suit — a lawsuit filed to stifle legitimate criticism and commentary. The named defendants are Skepticon, The Orbit, and Freethought Blogs – as well as individuals Lauren Lane, the lead organizer of Skepticon; Stephanie Zvan, a blogger for The Orbit; PZ Myers, a blogger for Freethought Blogs; and Amy Frank-Skiba, who publicly posted her first-hand allegations against Carrier.

We need your help to keep our voices alive. All the defendants are represented by the same attorney, First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza. Randazza is providing his services at a significant discount, but we are not asking him to work for free. Plus, there are thousands of dollars in “costs” for the case that don’t include legal bills, and there is no way to discount those. In order to continue fighting this lawsuit, we, the defendants of this case, have put together this campaign to raise money to defray our costs, some of which is outstanding. Donations will be used only for this case. In the event that the funds raised exceed our legal bills, they will be donated to Planned Parenthood .

We are pooling our defense costs with Skepticon, however as a 501(c)3 non-profit Skepticon is also conducting its own fundraiser where donations may be tax-deductible (ask your tax advisor). Skepticon cannot use donations it receives to help pay the shares of other individuals or organizations, though, and any excess funds raised via their campaign will go to the Skepticon conference fund.

We are confident that the court will uphold our First Amendment rights. But, through time, stress, and of course financial expense, every case like this has a chilling effect. Your support enables us to fight, and creates a warmer environment – not just for us but for others in the future.

Thank you for your support of freedom of speech, and may your new year be powerful and effective!

-Amy Frank-Skiba
-Lauren Lane
-PZ Myers
-Stephanie Zvan

Click here to donate.

I approve this message.

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“#NOT MY PRESIDENT!” in hot pink paint
Hudson & Christopher Sts.
__________

You know what? I also approve this tactic. Remember waaaaaay back in the ancient times of the Bush/Cheney regime, when protesters were banished to remote “First Amendment zones”? Apparently fragile conservatives – from the Commander In Chief to your ordinary right-wing doucheweasel – could never, ever be exposed to even the mildest, fact-based, critical messaging. Especially not anywhere near their Hitler Youth rallies/campaign events, or even en route thereto.

GOOD TIMES.

I want to see hot pink #NOTMYPRESIDENT everyfuckingwhere. Billboards. TV and print ads. T-shirts and jackets. Social media profiles. Bumper stickers. Tie pins. Skywriters.

#NOTMYPRESIDENT projected in gorgeous, searing fuchsia light, onto every Trump building in the world, every single night.

#NOTMYPRESIDENT spray painted in giant letters on the front of the goddamn White House. (Paging Banksy…)

I want hot pink #NOTMYPRESIDENT to be so ubiquitous that there is nowhere Trump or his supporters can go, in public, in media or online, without encountering it.

Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Although now that I think about it, no one ever explained to my satisfaction what dire calamity would befall us all if these delicate conservative flowers actually encountered meaningful criticism, much less vehement protest. But based on my own experience with conservative specimens I’ve personally observed, I can predict with near certainty that they will flail and lash out like overindulged toddlers on a sugar high. Frankly this could be problematic if they have, say, the US’s entire surveillance and law enforcement institutions under their direct control. To say nothing of the nuclear launch codes…

Okay nevermind. Forget I said anything.

Have a nice day.

Honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It has become my tradition on this day of remembrance to post the text of a speech delivered by Dr. King on April 4, 1967 at Manhattan’s Riverside Church entitled Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence (audio recording here), along with a short commentary about why I believe these words are so important. The speech is truly magnificent, yet it tends to be given short shrift relative to other works of the slain civil rights leader.

Continue reading