Happy Halloween (Jesus was a Zombie)

Technically, I suppose that Easter is Zombie Jesus Day. Still, Halloween always seems like a good excuse to remember that Christians believe in ghosts, think that angels and demons are battling for their "souls," and insist that they have "a personal relationship" with a 2,000 year-old zombie. It is almost as if every day is Halloween for Christians.

Since moving to Mississippi, I have found local reactions to Halloween to be quite fascinating. It seems that many Southern Baptists are absolutely terrified of the day, dragging their children to a variety of church activities to make sure that they aren't possessed by evil forces. They seek to keep their children away from the "demonic" forces which they assume prowl their neighborhoods each year around this time. And they love to use this time of year to remind everyone else of their hell, especially those with whom they disagree.

I love Halloween, and if you are seeking that elusive scare this time of year, I might be able to help. Sit in a dark room alone and ponder this fact:
You are literally surrounded by people who believe that they are drinking human blood and eating human flesh at their churches, people who regard you as less than human, and who are all too excited about the prospect of your being subjected to everlasting punishment in their hell.
Feeling that tingle up your spine yet? Yeah, me too.

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Secular Life Revisited

After reading the recent post here at Mississippi Atheists, I've been extremely impressed by the recent public outreach efforts of Secular Life in Nashville, TN.

The results have been astounding. I recently received an email from Thaddeus that within 48 hours their membership has added 100 new folks interested in this world view.

In and of itself this should show how such direct outreach really helps correct misconceptions and provides a platform for activism.

It is even more significant when you consider that the actual billboard hasn't even been activated yet. It is set to start this Sunday.

All of this interest is merely the prologue due to press features and interviews regarding Secular Life and the non-religious perspective.

Here is a WKRN video of the most recent interview ~

Secular Life - Not Religious? You're Not Alone

My view is that this was one of the best presentations I've seen in this news format with little to no associated caveats to instill veiled support for theism that usually occurs in these sorts of interviews and monologues.

This is the sort of approach that gains ground and builds a positive community and I hope to see more of it.

Crumb Does Genesis

As an avid comic book reader and collector as a child in the 1970s (I still have my collections obsessively bagged, boarded and boxed in cool, dry storage), I have to admit that I was more of a S. Lee/J. Kirby fan than R. Crumb.

Every now and then one of his weird b&w pages would catch my eye and I would peruse the contents and be somewhat interested in the unique art and coverage of taboo topics, lasciviously drawn in spectacular detail. Ultimately, though, I appreciated his art but was not ever much of a fan that was interested enough to buy into the genre. To be honest, I found the stories bitter, hopeless, frivolous and depicted humans as inherently and completely sick and twisted husks of depravity.

It not only lacked compassion, heart and hope but it did so intentionally.

Having said all of that, I have to admit that I am interested in his recent work depicting the fable of Genesis not only in comic book form, but in Crumb's unique style.

So far, the attention has been mostly favorable, laden with caveats and poseur-style admonitions about R. Crumb and his history of anarchistic cynicism, anti-semitism and misogyny along with the expected expressions of personal affront and IMAPS from some Christians.

Hilariously enough to me, the work is merely an artful rendering of the Genesis fable so any offense would certainly be something most atheists and the non-religious (who have actually spent time and effort in comparative religious study) have been saying all along about the tales found within the foundation of religious dogma.

After the knowing nods of "there you have Genesis in all of its brutal immoral glory, everyone. Read it, weep, and awaken", I come to realize that I may have rejected the genre of this religion early on in my life for the same reason I rejected R. Crumb's work.

They both try to sell the self-hating idea that human beings are born hopelessly flawed and diseased in order to move the product and gain converts.

Figuratively speaking, Genesis and R. Crumb are a perfectly dysfunctional marriage made in Heaven.

For that reason, I will buy a copy of "The Book of Genesis - Illustrated by R. Crumb" and have it end up in my collection of assorted Bibles and Concordances...and not bagged, boarded and boxed in my comic book collection.

Nashville Gets Atheist Billboard

One of the things that Christians living in the American bible belt often fail to appreciate is just how alienated we atheists can feel among them. Here in Mississippi, it seems that there is a church on every corner, and yet, it can be a challenge to find even one other atheist with whom to converse. This is why blogs like this and atheist meetup groups are needed - to help those of us living here to realize that we are not alone.

On November 1, 2009, Nashville, TN, is scheduled to get a billboard just like this one:


Secular Life is the group sponsoring the billboard. In recent correspondence with Hemant (Friendly Atheist), the group's founder had this to say:
…hopefully it will bring awareness that there are positive communities who are non-religious doing good in the community. Our primary objective is to bring together as many like minded non-religious people as possible, spending less time on divisive labels and rather concentrating on the broadly shared characteristic of being non-religious and thus Secular.
This is exactly the sort of thing needed in every community here in the South. A simple reminder that we are not alone goes a long way indeed.

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Sam Singleton the Atheist Evangelist

As much of our recent attention seems caught up in the heavier side of the ongoing socio-political "culture wars" between freethinking non-believers in religious claims and the assorted bible belt Christians here in the deep south of our wonderful state of Mississippi, I thought it would be a breath of fresh air to pony up with some Atheist Evangelism by way of our own Sam Singleton.

So, without further ado...the sound and concise wisdom of Brother Sam ~

God's Truth: You're either for us or shut up

Yeah, I know, you're welcome.

Vatican Sends Urgent Appeal

In conjunction with a similar blog over at Atheist Revolution regarding the Vatican, here is a related development:

"VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican announced a stunning decision Tuesday to make it easier for Anglicans to convert, reaching out to those who are disaffected by the election of women and gay bishops to join the Catholic Church's conservative ranks."

The Vatican has a strong history of shifting their vast collection of pedophile priests from one city to another and restricting access to their pious bureaucracy via the special treatment given to "faith based" organizations in order to hide these many crimes against innocent Catholic children.

Then, when secular law prevails to expose these numerous crimes, the Roman Catholic diocese prevents civil trials and victim compensation by filing for bankruptcy:

"Sex Case Diocese Files For Bankruptcy"

So now, in an attempt to attract more "conservative" sheep into the flock, the Vatican finds it necessary to appeal to "the base" of bigotry, misogyny and homophobia.

Obviously, I am not a Roman Catholic, but even the moderate religious adherents should concede that humane compassion and any form of liberal interpretation of Jesus' teachings is giving way to fundamentalism.

Never has there been a better example of organizational cognitive dissonance brought about by the pressure of obsessively unquestioned fealty and communal indoctrination.

Perhaps our own Tim Minchin can now lead us in song ~

I Love Jesus (NSFW)

Foundation Beyond Belief

I just wanted to take this opportunity to get the word out regarding Dale McGowan's latest effort:
At the heart of secular humanism is the knowledge that we are responsible for our own world. No amount of prayer will feed the hungry, heal the environment, or alleviate the suffering of millions around the globe. It's up to us.

Atheists and humanists have always given generously to causes we believe in. Now Foundation Beyond Belief has been created to focus, encourage, and demonstrate that generosity as an expression of our worldview. We don't work for a better world despite our worldview -- we do it because of our worldview.
I first heard of Mr. McGowan after the release of his book "Parenting Beyond Belief - On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion" and have always found him to be yet another well reasoned speaker on behalf of those who find religious belief lacking evidence and relevance in this life.

Both Mississippi Senators Voted AGAINST Anti-Rape Amendment

Thad Cochran, member of the United States Sena...Image via Wikipedia

We often hear Christians claiming that they are more moral than atheists could ever be as a result of their god-belief. There are many ways atheists can respond to this. We might explain the morality has nothing to do with religious belief and that this is true even for the Christian who insists otherwise. We might serve as living examples that atheists can (and frequently do) engage in a number of good acts and lead morally virtuous lives. We might point to the near infinite number of counterexamples (i.e., prominent Christians engaging in despicable conduct). I suppose this brief post falls into the latter category.

Frankly, I am utterly sickened to see both Mississippi senators supporting rape. Okay, perhaps they don't actually support rape, but they both voted against an anti-rape amendment that recently came before Congress. Evidently, they do not believe that the government should concern itself with government contractors who rape their employees.

I realize that this may be a case of opposing anything that the Democratic Party proposes. I get that, but is this really the issue on which to take such a stand? If the approval ratings reported in many large-scale surveys are any indication of public attitudes, the Republican Party is already in enough trouble. I fail to see how becoming the party of rape is going to help.

Sen. Cochran and Sen. Wicker both made an issue of their Christian identity and family values morality during their campaigns. Even this atheist can see that rape is something to be opposed.

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MS Coastal Clean Up - 2009

Yesterday our atheist and humanist group, The Great Southern Humanist Society, again participated in the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup effort.

Our daughter, Erin, the recently elected president of the 7th grade Builder's Club from Biloxi Jr. High, helped her group along side members of The Great Southern Humanist Society in cleaning up Hiller Park in Biloxi, MS.

This is one of many annual events that we've joined over the past few years to keep our community involved in making the world a better place.

We have posted photographs of this year's effort at our website here:

GSHS

Past year photographs and data on garbage collected are also available on the MS Coast Clean Up website here:

Annual Clean Up

Next year our members have decided to work on cleaning up available locations in Hancock County.

Keep checking our calendar for other events as these next few months are always the busiest!

Renaissance Garden, Feed the Needy – Thanksgiving and toy collection are fast approaching.

Steve and Terresa Schlicht

c/o The Great Southern Humanist Society

An affiliate of the American Humanist Association, The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Atheists.

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Mississippi State University Violates Church-State Separation

Mississippi State UniversityImage via Wikipedia

Mississippi State University is having the investiture of their new president, Mark E. Keenum, today. According to the schedule of events posted on their web site, the ceremony started this morning with a "prayer service." I mention this because Mississippi State University is in fact a state university, meaning that they receive funds from the legislature of our state.

It is not my intention to single MSU out for their church-state violation. I suspect that all state universities in Mississippi engage in similar practices. For example, I know they include sectarian prayers as part of the official commencement ceremonies at the University of Southern Mississippi because I have attended several of them.

To be clear, Mississippi State University is violating the separation of church and state by making prayer services an official part of their events. They are a state-sponsored institution and have no business promoting religion.

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Victor Stenger in Jackson, MS

PUBLIC LECTURE

Millsaps College
October 22, 7:00 pm
Academic Complex 215

The New Atheism
Taking a Stand for Science and Reason


Speaker: Victor J. Stenger

Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado and Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawaii

Respondent: Steven G. Smith

Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Millsaps College

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Victor Stenger in Memphis

The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for REASON and SCIENCE
by Victor Stenger, Ph.D.

hosted by the Memphis Freethought Alliance

Date: Sunday: October 18, 2009

Time: 6:30 pm to 7:30 om with Q&A afterward

Location: Neshoba Unitarian Universalist Church at 7350 Raleigh LaGrange Road, Cordova, TN 38018

Cost: Free & Open to the Public

Victor Stenger is a physicist, astronomer and has also been active in skepticism & philosophy. His book titled God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist hit the New York Times Bestseller list! At this event, he will talk about his latest book titled The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_J._Stenger

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Don't Believe in God? You're Not Alone...Even in Mississippi

Winona, MississippiImage via Wikipedia

Yes, there really are atheists in Mississippi. In fact, we live all over the state. So why does it often seem like you are the only one? As I'm sure you've realized, being open about one's lack of religious belief is not easy in the U.S., and it seems to be even harder here in Mississippi. Many of us in Mississippi have learned that it is not safe to identify ourselves as atheists to a complete stranger. We may hold back a bit until we think a new person is safe. This does not make us ashamed of who we are; it just means that we are taking sensible precautions to protect ourselves. And yet, this is exactly what can give each of us the sense that we're all alone.

But we are not alone, not even here in Mississippi. There are a handful of active atheist meetup groups throughout our state. Scroll down the left sidebar, and you'll find listings for them. There are events occurring around our state that may be of interest to atheists.

Think of this blog as sort of a hub for anyone looking for information about atheism in Mississippi. We strive to provide information and resources to atheists living here because...well, we want you to know that you are not alone. If you'd like to meet some more Mississippi atheists, you can also check out our group on Atheist Nexus. You can also find us on Twitter.

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Alabama Honors Freethinker and Humanist

Logo of the Secular Coalition for AmericaImage via Wikipedia

The following is a press release from the Secular Coalition for America:

The Secular Coalition for America announced its approval today upon hearing that the State of Alabama and the U.S. Congress will be honoring Helen Keller, a noted freethinker and humanist, with a statue in the U.S. Capitol Complex.

Helen Keller famously rejected a fundamentalist religious worldview, once stating “there is much in the Bible against which every instinct of my being rebels.” She also served on the advisory board of Charles Potter’s First Humanist Society of New York.

“Alabama is making great progress,” said Sean Faircloth, Executive
Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “First they removed the unconstitutional Ten Commandments display installed by former Chief Justice Roy Moore, and now they’re honoring Helen Keller - a freethinker and humanist who helped make our nation a better place.”

The 600-pound bronze statue was commissioned by Governor Bob Riley and funded by private donations. The unveiling ceremony will be on Wednesday, October 7.

###

The Secular Coalition for America is the national lobby for atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and other nontheistic Americans with the unique mission of increasing the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints and protecting and strengthening the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom
for all Americans.

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Recognizing Alabama Atheists

Alabame state welcome signImage via Wikipedia

I was happy to read PZ Myers' (Pharyngula) recent post calling attention to the plight of atheists in Alabama. As hard as it is to be an atheist in the deep South, he's absolutely right to point out that we are here and in greater numbers than many realize. Atheists in Alabama seem quite a bit better organized than those of us in Mississippi. I realize that isn't saying much, but I hope it is a source of pride for Alabama atheists.

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Samoa Tsunami - We Must Help

Many people are suffering due to the recent Tsunami in and around Samoa and we feel it is our obligation to do what we can to help out as soon as possible.

Petra is a Great Southern Humanist Society member who lives in New Zealand and she has been a good friend and an online contributor to our cause before, during and after hurricane Katrina and was there to get the word out to other freethinkers and humanists regarding the plight of our MS gulf coast. Much of the attention and aid that you read about in our narrative "Humanist in a Hurricane" was as a result of her diligence, care and action.

She has sent me me several emails depicting the horrible destruction in Samoa, here is one:
One of my friends in Hamilton - "TC" is a Samoan Kiwi, and has a lot of close relatives in and around Apia. I met some of them at his 50th birthday party awhile back. Sweet, shy, smiling people with gentle hearts. I hope they're all safe and still have housing on higher ground. Anyone in a coastal village fale would be in dire trouble, I'd say.
Please consider an immediate online donation to the NZ Red Cross (or to the charity of your choice) while we start formulating a plan to help further.

New Zealand Red Cross

Here is another recent post regarding our efforts from Petra:
Hi, Steve - and g'day to all the GSHS members.

Thank you for starting this.

I have just spoken to TC (Tony Crichton) about his family and home village. TC is one of my dearest friends. You guys know what a beautiful man Steve is, right? Well, TC is right up there in the beautiful human being brigade also. I love the guy and I'm relieved to know he is safe and well and is in NZ not Samoa.
But his family in Samoa are not so well. Samoans have big, extended families and in his family alone, 30 of his cousins are missing. 3 are dead. Some are okay as they live in the hills outside Apia, but the 30 that are missing all come from the low lying coastal land. Others are left homeless and are squatting on higher ground in mourning.
Tony has another cousin in Auckland who is coordinating help and communications from NZ family for Samoan family, so he will email me her details tonight. I will share those details with you.

When I told Tony about this thread and the kind thoughts and actions of this group, he almost choked up and we both agreed that there are some lovely, lovely people out there in the world and you guys are truly amongst them. :-)

I still have some photos of TC's 50th birthday and in them are 6 of the people who are currently missing. :(
More information is on our GSHS messageboard and at the Peace Corp blogs over at Global Voices:

“Samoa will remember this day in her heart for ever,” said Moleli.

We cannot walk their path this day or in the long days to follow, but we really do share the common bond of our own recent despair with these good folks.

The photographs from the region are eerily similar after all.

What we can do is realize that are people who are alive and need help and those that are no longer here would surely want us to keep taking care of each other.

Thanks,

Steve Schlicht
Biloxi MS

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