How Do We Get an Atheist Billboard in Mississippi?

Arkansas has one. So does Louisiana. Florida just got one. Where is Mississippi's atheist billboard? I'd sure like to see one in our state. We have plenty of crazy billboards, and it would be nice to see one promoting reality. I wonder what would be involved in getting an atheist billboard in Mississippi. I also wonder if raising the money for one would be the primary obstacle or whether we would even find a company in our state that would rent the necessary ad space.

I suppose we might not yet have the infrastructure in terms of organized atheist groups in our state to pull something like this off. Maybe that is the goal we should be working toward now.

Barbour Considering GOP Presidential Run?

OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 26:  Mississippi Gov. H...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Could our own Haley Barbour be considering a presidential run in 2012? Gulf South Free Press notes that that he's been in Iowa and New Hampshire recently and may be laying the groundwork for just such a run. As appealing as it might be to get him out of Mississippi, I cannot imagine wanting to inflict him on the rest of the U.S.

As I said in a recent comment I left on Gulf South Free Press, I really hope that Barbour leaves politics behind. I want to make sure he is available when those casting for the next Dukes of Hazzard film are looking for their Boss Hogg. He'd be perfect.

Promoting Atheism in Mississippi

Eating is often made into a social occasion.Image via Wikipedia

Friendly Atheist recently addressed an article by Crystal Dervetski of the Minnesota Atheists on the subject of promoting atheism. I found myself wondering how some of the suggestions might or might not apply here in Mississippi. I tend to think that the intensity of public hostility toward atheist might vary somewhat between Minnesota and Mississippi, but I have not spend enough time in Minnesota to do more than speculate.

Crystal's first tip certainly seems to apply:
First, be positive! There’s nothing worse than a negative atheist, mostly because that is exactly the atheist stereotype: doom and gloom, mean-spirited, angry with the world. So don’t be!
I'd argue that atheists should be angry about anti-atheist bigotry, threats to church-state separation, and the like. Of course, the trick is turning that anger into effective activism and not merely sinking into passive bitterness.
Be open-minded and willing. You won’t ever learn new things or meet new people without, at least at times, just going for it.
Absolutely! By remaining open to new experiences, we open ourselves up to all sorts of positive experiences. Of course, I'd suggest doing this because it will make us more effective and not because I am worried about confirming some sort of "lonely atheist" stereotype.

It seems to me that one of the best initial steps one can take to promote atheism in a place like Mississippi is simply to recognize that other atheists are here. I know it often feels like you are alone, but there are others with the same thoughts about gods who may feel just as alone. The bulk of Crystal's article deals with starting local atheist groups, and she has some good suggestions.

Undoubtedly, there are obstacles to forming local atheist groups. There may even be some that pose greater barriers in Mississippi compared with Minnesota. Still, the few atheist groups in our state prove that it is not impossible.

Growing Right-Wing Hate?

Follow The LinesImage by Philipp Klinger (in US & CDN 14/06 till 04/07) via Flickr

What do you think about the media's sudden interest in reporting on right-wing hate? Is it just a passing fancy, or is it really getting worse? Are those of you in Mississippi seeing any sort of shift in local attitudes or the expression of those attitudes? I am still trying to figure out if the fact that we are hearing more about it is merely an effect of the recent high-profile acts of domestic terrorism or if things really are getting worse.

Until recently, I found myself thinking that increased media coverage is primarily a result of the recent domestic terrorism and not any real increase in right-wing extremism. But now it sounds like some of the groups who monitor this sort of thing are reporting increased extremist chatter. You can find the Homeland Security report here.

In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, Paul Krugman noted,
There is, however, one important thing that the D.H.S. report didn’t say: Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.
It strikes me that this is a potentially dangerous time, not only for those of us who live in particularly conservative regions but also for those of us who vale free speech and want to make sure it is preserved. No easy answers here.


Atheists More Peaceful

"The 2009 Global Peace Index has just been released. It's basically a ranking of how turbulent and warlike a country is.

They put it together by assessing 23 criteria, including foreign wars, internal conflicts, respect for human rights, the number of murders, the number of people in jail, the arms trade, and degrees of democracy (
Guardian).

You can see a world map of peace at the Vision of Humanity website, and also take a look at country rankings for 2009, as well as earlier years.

New Zealand came top this year. Hmm, New Zealand is a pretty secular country. In fact, if you eyeball the rankings, the top few countries are all pretty secular."

I checked with a reliable source in NZ who flatly states that the statistics are a bit skewed because Kiwis are actually just more lazy and find all that sitting, kneeling, praying and singing dodgy songs business on a gorgeous Sunday morning quite problematic. I can buy that.

Anyway, take heart all of you atheists and meek and mild misfits that don't believe in any of the God(s)ess(es), turns out we don't have to bomb those waffling agnostics after all!

This calls for a peace anthem!

Americans United Applauds Court Decision on 10 Commandments

"Americans United for Separation of Church and State today praised a federal appeals court for striking down a government display of the Ten Commandments in Haskell County, Okla.

Reversing a lower court, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously declared unconstitutional the eight-foot-tall religious display, which was erected at the local courthouse in 2004 after a campaign by a local minister and his supporters."

This is outstanding news for religious adherents of assorted perspectives along with atheists, secular humanists and those who cherish liberty and freedom of conscience.

I'm aware that there will possibly be some backlash from the evangelicals opining for their Christian Nationalism and promoting the downfall of our great country as it backslides into godless chaos and tyranny.

That said, is there an actual Christian foundation (aka teachings from Jesus) for imposing idols, graven images and religious ideology via governmental authority?

I don't think that there can never be such a thing as a “Christian Nation” because such a place would have to be imposed by legislative decree.

After many years of comparative religious study, my understanding is that being “Christian” is based on an individual spiritual and personal decision which would directly conflict with the concept of a Christian governing body issuing dictates by compelling statute, symbolic inference and force of arms.

Piece be with you always

"As a Christian pastor I believe that without a deep-seeded belief in God and firearms that this country would not be here," Pagano told ABCNews.com. "I'm not ashamed of that fact. I'm proud of it."

With these words and efforts, Kentucky Pastor Ken Pagano, hopes to sow the seeds of patriotism and pride by encouraging Christians to bring their guns to church.

This, in my view, is the latest example of the flaws inherent in stirring religious rhetoric with political goals and the trend of turning the bully pulpit sermon and homily into a stump speech.

Granted, this emotive rhetoric does an efficient job of making the flock fearful and angry enough to go wherever they're pointed to defeat "evil" as soldiers in the red blooded American Army of God party.

That said, I have to ask, is Pastor Pagano actually correct in his scriptural interpretation and call to action?

Is the Christian church the right venue for promoting God and guns?

The Next Governor of Alabama?

Could this be the next governor of Alabama?



H/T to Dispatches from the Culture Wars

MS Gulf Coast Atheist and Freethinking Association June Meeting

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Atheist and Freethinking Association is planning their June meeting for Sunday, June 14, 2009, at 3:00 PM in Gulfport. For details, see their Meetup.com page.