Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving DayImage via Wikipedia
Happy Thanksgiving to all Mississippi atheists. I hope you have a good holiday and don't get too annoyed with being told that you shouldn't celebrate because you have "nobody to thank." Grrrrr.

Things have been extra quiet around here lately because I have family in town visiting and have come down with one hell of a cold. Not a good combination, but I'm trying to make the best of it.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Mississippi Baptists Hold "Blessing of the Hunt"

Male and female Mule deer
The Coshocton Tribune is reporting that the Goss Baptist Church (Columbia) is hoping for a record turnout for Thursday's annual "Blessing of the Hunt." I've never heard of this tradition, but it they evidently do this every year in Mississippi right before deer season. They even host vendors who give away door prizes and cook jambalaya, all "as a way to reach people who might otherwise not go to church."

As worrisome as I find the image of heavily armed Christians prowling the woods, I am encouraged to see how much work is required to get people to go to church these days. And hell, at least they aren't hunting atheists.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Atheist Billboards Sparking Controversy Throughout U.S.

Natchez, Mississippi (42)Image by Ken Lund via Flickr
If "controversy" is what is needed to spark thought, then I suppose this bit of news should be good to see. I fail to understand why the existence of atheists is so threatening to some, but I have no doubt that it is. Well, we aren't going anywhere, so they had better get used to us.

I don't know about the rest of you, but every time I encounter such a story, it reminds me how far we still have to go toward equality. And yet, I also derive motivation from such absurd reactions. The fact that reminding people about our existence is controversial tells me that our work is just beginning.

I would imagine that Mississippi will be one of the last places in the U.S. where atheists will feel welcome. Frankly, I would be shocked to live long enough to see that day. But I can't help feeling encouraged by efforts in other parts of the country.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Atheists Serving Our Country

The recent Ft. Hood murders committed by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, arguably motivated by religious and political extremism, has led to some very interesting tangents revealing important information regarding the world views of the men and women in our United States military.

While putting yet another man's failed life and nihilistic ideology under the microscope and reflecting on an assortment of theories regarding past acts, assertions and motivations along with the subsequent analysis of post event comments/behaviors of just about each and every American citizen with a voice to be heard, some reporters have discovered important news.

Of significance is this recent golden nugget:

"Muslims make up less than 0.3 percent of America's active duty military forces. Of the roughly 548,000 soldiers in the U.S. Army, there are 2,500 Muslims, 1,500 of them on active duty. By comparison, 105,000 claim Roman Catholicism as their religion, and 99,000 say they're Baptists. More than 1,800 soldiers say they're Jewish, surpassed by the nearly 2,500 who identified themselves as atheists. More than 101,000 list no religious affiliation."

Now, to me, the actual number of atheists and those with no religious affiliation in the military putting their lives on the line, while very notable, isn't actually the primary newsworthy item.

It is the fact that atheists are now included, they are counted, they are compared and their presence in our military is provided for public consumption in reasoned equanimity with no negative nuance.

I attribute this shift in presentation to the continued civil public outreach and education campaigns by assorted grassroots networking efforts, the resource of the internet and blogs such as msatheists.org, The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, the Freedom From Religion Foundation ad campaigns, the work of the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the American Atheists (among other skeptical, scientific, secular and humanist organizations) in conjunction with all of the other local proactive vocal individuals from all walks of life speaking out (more often than not) to set the record straight.

After many years in the field supporting such positive activism, I have to tell y'all, this is very hopeful news indeed.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Shelters Opening for Ida

I just heard that the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast campus will be closing in advance of Tropical Storm Ida and that shelters are being opened for coast residents. It sounds like a state of emergency has been declared for coastal areas, and MEMA is deploying.

It is unlikely that I will be able to post additional updates for awhile since I am expecting to lose power. I seem to lose power every time it is even mildly windy, so we'll see.

Stay safe. Tonight could be a rough one.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hurricane Ida Coming

Oh No! It's raining again.....
I know that it is technically still hurricane season, but it seems awfully late in the year to have to worry about this sort of thing. As I trust you have heard by now, Hurricane Ida is currently a strong Category 1 hurricane expected to strengthen to a Category 2 later today.

Fortunately, cold water in the Gulf is expected to slow Ida down before landfall, currently expected sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning. Hopefully, we won't experience much more than some wind and rain.

In any case, stay safe. If you have let your hurricane supplies run low like I have this time of year, it might be worth a trip to the store today.

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Tags: Hurricane Ida, Misissippi

Friday, November 6, 2009

Allahu Akbar - In God We Trust

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (and every off-shoot, sect, denomination, etc.) are each and all founded upon the same ideological mind trap clothed within a commonly asserted divine authority that is beyond contention by virtue of costume, incense, bell ringing and lots of repetitive chanting.

Plus, "Mom and Dad and Preacher Man told me so" and they would never lie.

It should be readily apparent that these myths and behavioral instructions from “on high” via allegorical prose evolve over time due to the shifting interpretations of cultural standards.

In other words, they are fictional narratives that human beings derive, craft, invent and re-invent to maintain power and authority for better or worse through the concept of ancestral tradition and childhood indoctrination.

Admittedly, these stories are obviously some of the most psychologically powerful bonding agents for a successful communal and cooperative society.

Of course, this can be very "heartfelt, good and comforting” for many holding these same traditions, until there is interaction with the other societies that have conflicting narratives.

We can all be critical and derogatory about these “extremist” interpretations that cause so much suffering and despair, as reflected in the recent human massacre at the Ft. Hood Army Base, and then fully expect to be accused of unjustly painting with a broad brush to include those with more “liberal” and “peace loving” interpretations of exactly the same narratives.

The bottom line is that the moderates and liberals of all religious traditions should be taken to task for not being more pro-actively critical of the darker, more violent and absolutist brands of their own religion (cultural narratives) and not just pipe up to critique the criticism when one of their own goes “Old Testament” on folks.

Some moderates and liberals explain away these violent events by claiming that the “true” interpretations derived from each of these religions is firmly and universally founded upon “love, compassion, caring, empathy and reciprocity”, aka "many flowing rivers leading to one shimmering ocean of understanding", no matter the obvious violence and despair that some adherents promote due to their mythic bonds and purported special relationships with a God who never appears, but is most often just an expression of their own human desires and cravings.

My question for both rigid fundamentalist and liberal mystic continues to be this:

Why do we as a species hold onto these archaic myths, legends and lore to provide us directives on how to love and care for each other in this good life when they are inescapably polluted with the contradictions of brutal deities, prophets and teachers promoting “their way or the highway to Hell”?

Do we not know how to be good without them?

Do we not know how to love without them?

I believe that all humans do, in fact, know the importance of the deep and abiding human values of love, empathy and reciprocity without such primitive religious narratives about burning bushes and assorted winged angels visiting special men walking alone to tell us what a deity beyond space and time thinks about women, other gods, pigs, oysters and foreskins or which tribe is his favorite deserving of a particular patch of desert and a glorious reward in the afterlife magic kingdom.

Given all of the empirical evidence we may currently have to the contrary, however, that claim might just make me the real faithful believer after all.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Before You Give to the United Way

United Way of AmericaImage via Wikipedia

Should a state agency encourage its employees to make charitable donations and disseminate information about doing so through payroll deductions? What if the charitable organization being promoted funds agencies known to engage in religious discrimination and bigotry? Unfortunately, some of Mississippi's state agencies are doing just that by encouraging employees to support chapters of the United Way that fund groups such as the Boy Scouts.

Here in Mississippi, there are many deserving charities. As one of the poorest states in the nation, nobody should be surprised that we have many citizens in need. Our social service programs, whether they are public or private, often struggle to make ends meet. The needs are simply greater than the resources available.

Many employers encourage their employees to make charitable donations, and some of the larger ones facilitate this process by disseminating information and encouraging employees to set up payroll deductions. I tend to see this as a good thing as long as the groups receiving money are not known to engage in religious discrimination and bigotry.

The United Way of Southeast Mississippi supports some worthwhile organizations, such as the American Red Cross, the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, and many others. However, they also fund the Aldersgate Mission (a group whose mission involves enhancing "spiritual development" and "Bible study"), the Salvation Army, and the Boy Scouts (a group widely known to engage in anti-atheist and anti-gay bigotry). You can find a complete list of the agencies they fund here.

I'm not saying that the United Way overall is bad. However, I would encourage you to familiarize yourself with the agencies they fund before deciding to support them. State-sponsored agencies should know better. Encouraging state employees to support groups that engage in proselytizing or bigotry is a bad idea.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Everybody Okay?

It is the day after Halloween, and I hope everyone is okay. It appears that there may have been a problem with not just some but most of the Halloween candy available this year. Evidently, it was prayed over by witches. You'll see what I'm talking about here:



I guess if you ate candy or had sex last night, you are probably possessed by evil spirits this morning. Sadly, I did neither so I'm probably okay. I just wish the mainstream media had done a better job of spreading this important warning before it was too late for many of you.

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