What I Hate About the Holidays in Mississippi

happy-holidays-webcopy.jpgI've made no secret of my dislike for Christmas, but I have found that the worst thing about Christmas, New Year's Eve, and nearly every other holiday since I moved to Mississippi has nothing to do with religion at all. And no, it isn't the commercialism either. It is the damn fireworks!

I think must just be a Southern thing. When I complain to people outside the South about fireworks around Christmas, for example, they think I'm making it up.

The fireworks started more than a week before Christmas on a Thursday night at exactly 10:30 pm. I know because I had just fallen asleep. They woke me up and kept me up for roughly 1 hour. Multiple neighbors have been playing with their damn fireworks nearly every night since then. I can count on at least four full hours of fireworks tonight. Besides keeping me up, my dogs are terrified of the loud noises and none of the various remedies I've tried seems to help.

The holiday season means many things to many people, and that is as it should be. What irks me to no end is that it seems to mean lack of consideration for one's neighbors here in Mississippi. I suppose Jesus must really love fireworks.

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Disclosure Policy

PID03.jpgAs you may have heard, the Federal Trade Commission now wants all bloggers provide a disclosure statement, so this is ours.

Mississippi Atheists is a collaborative blog written by a group of individuals. For questions about this blog, please contact vjack (atheistrevolution at gmail.com).

This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. This compensation is used to pay for our custom domain (i.e., http://msatheists.org). Any leftover funds are donated to atheist-oriented non-profit groups or organizations.

The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All advertising is in the form of advertisements generated by a third party ad network (e.g., Google AdSense).

The owner(s) of this blog is not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owners. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

Should this blog ever contain content which might present a conflict of interest, this content will be identified.

This policy is valid from 30 December 2009.

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Public vs. Private Schools in Mississippi

educations school day care school bus close up view of top of yellow school bus.jpgI was hoping that those of you in Mississippi who have school-age children (or children that were once school-age) might be able to provide some information that would be of use to those with young children now who are beginning to consider the educational options in our state. As we all know, our state's public education system is notoriously bad. As a result, I see many parents who can afford it send their children to private schools. Of course, this usually means religious schools. How did you make this decision?

I know that the idea of an atheist sending his or her children to a private religious school may seem odd at first, but I wonder if it might actually make sense in our state. Given the near universality of evangelical Protestant fundamentalism, I can't help thinking that the public schools might feel even more religious than some of the private Catholic schools. Of course, I am just speculating here and would be very interested to hear from parents with experience in this area.

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Sen. Cochran Does Not Represent Most Mississippians

Gulf South Free Press recently posted the scores assigned to Mississippi's Sen. Thad Cochran from 2003 to 2009 by the Center for Responsive Politics, and they are not encouraging. They note that Cochran's overall rating on middle class issues is as low as 40%, meaning that he has voted against virtually everything that would benefit the middle class in our state.
All in all, Mississippians need to pay attention...it would help if they would stay in school...but that is for another post...they keep re-electing these people that are doing NOTHING to help the middle class...
Yes, this certainly is frustrating. Why is it that we continue to elect representatives who do not represent us at all? I am reminded of Thomas Frank's excellent book, What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. As Gulf South Free Press suggests, I expect that our abysmal education system has something to do with this. Our embarrassingly high religiosity also seems relevant, as we seem prone to elect whoever strikes as as the most thoroughly Christian without serious regard to adequate representation.

In a state like ours, we need to be far more pragmatic and measure progress in terms of economic and educational progress rather than focusing only on social issues. If we want to be competitive in the future, we need to start focusing less on candidates' socially conservative credentials and more on their plans to reshape our state in the image of success. We simply cannot afford to keep supporting candidates who provide no real benefit to our middle class.

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Importance of Religion Declining in U.S.

According to a recent Gallup poll, the number of Americans reporting that religion is "out of date," that they have no religious preference, or that religion is not very important in their lives has recently increased. The number identifying themselves as Christian has dropped to 78%.

According to The Raw Story,
Over the last nine years, the number with no religious preference has grown from a level of around 8% to 13%. The number for whom religion is not very important has climbed from just over 10% to 19%. And the number who believe religion is out of date and has no answers for today's problems has jumped from slightly more than 20% to 29%.
Now that's what I call progress! Sure, we still have a very long way to go, but it is nice to see some movement in a positive direction.

Merry Christmas, Charlie Mitchell!

Yes, the title is definitely an homage to the great work of the talented and wise secular humanist, Charles M. Schultz, and his wonderfully traditional Christmastime show featuring the entire Peanuts crew sharing hope, love and caring with their good friend Charlie Brown.

Of course, the world is still filled with its scrooges, grinches and curmudgeons who promote selfishness and their own myopic cravings wrapped in the facade of piety while hoping to steal a bit of joy from all others.

Northerners ("Yankees" to the cultivated Southerner), have their own surly representative found in the famed Garrison Keillor via his latest beloved sermon to the choir found over at The Chicago Tribune:

But, as sweet as Keillor's hemlock tea is to the faithful masses, the latest Mississippi humbug (apparently receiving the same church bulletin) comes from The Vicksburg Post.

Columnist and Executive Editor, Charlie Mitchell wants everyone to know that celebration, family gatherings, generosity and love is conditional and only his kind can have it ~

Mr. Mitchell even presents his own anecdotal "evidence" by conflating a free speech, church/state case to support the false notion that Christian words, deeds, symbols and rituals are being ejected from "mainstream life".

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but no warrior for any God worth worshiping ever let something like that stand in the way of a good fire and brimstone speech to motivate the soldiers.

Well, I think I can clear up a couple of things for Mitchell who, obviously, is a great fan of hyperbole.

First, this season of love, sharing and celebration has been observed in many societies for thousands of years and pre-date the co-opting of ancient Saturnalia by Christian authority figures who did a bit of "ejecting" of traditions and cultures themselves throughout history.

Further, most theologians know and will publicly state that there is no identified "birthday" of Jesus, that Easter is a pagan fertility rite and that Halloween is a pre-Christian Celtic memorial of the dead.

So, that said, Christmas in its religious form is a Christian holiday, but it is also a secular and pagan holiday as well.

Non-believers in the religious aspect of Christmas (virgin birth, talking serpent, original sin, human sacrifice, resurrection, etc.) are still human beings with heartfelt traditions and can fully celebrate it as a secular tradition complete with fun and imaginative tales, a jolly old gift giving elf, flying reindeer, songs, family gatherings, feasts and an abundant generosity to others.

Besides, we all know that this same Christian community will be out in the streets of Biloxi, New Orleans and other cities in a few more weeks reveling side by side with the pagan gods of old capturing the spirit of wine and wealth in abundance.

No ideology or religion "owns" such natural celebrations/observations and our entire human family can fully share in the joys of living in many different ways without attempts to dominate others through any government representation that favors one over all others.
Second, Mr. Mitchell presents both a weary ad hominem and false dichotomy by opining that his kind of atheists "content to live and let live" have been replaced by "evangelists" waging war on religion.

Of course, this is not correct and paints with the broad brush of xenophobia that is so common from the bully pulpit.

Atheists are not of a single mind on the topic on how to approach world religions and their respective adherents (liberal and/or extremist) because atheism is only the non-belief in the existence of God(s)ess(es) due to a distinct lack of evidence for the many and varied assertions of religious adherents.

Atheism is not an ideology with additional creeds, commandments or dogma that requires fealty to criticizing religion at all.

Some atheists simply choose not to comment on religion until it begins to affect their own lives, some simply find it irrelevant, ignore it as best they can and get on with their lives.

Many others have begun to speak up with more assertiveness and some rather agressively, I admit, but most often only when one dominant religion tries to legislate human liberty with interpretive religious decrees through the power of government by men claiming to be the special conduits to the desires of a divine being, such as in the Middle East and, at times, in western countries like our own.

What our society needs is not isolation and separation within our own diverse society as Mitchell and Keillor (and others) seem dedicated to promote.

We need more free and open discussion from everyone, atheists and theists even if it happens to be a good, hard critical analysis of all claims regarding life, love, the universe and everything in the open marketplace of ideas.

Merry Christmas, one and all, have a wonderful season of celebration and a happy and safe new year!

Steve Schlicht
Biloxi MS

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May Reason Prevail

Southern Baptists and Alcohol

beer4.jpgI know that Mormons are not supposed to consume alcoholic beverages on religious grounds. Do Southern Baptists, the largest Christian denomination here in Mississippi, have a similar prohibition regarding alcohol? I know Methodists do not, but I cannot remember about Southern Baptists. Do any of you who grew up here have any idea, and if not, is there another large Christian denomination around here that has such a prohibition with which I might be confusing Southern Baptists?

Thoughts on Health Care Reform

time for health care reform.jpgThe Senate health care reform bill is edging forward, and many are predicting that we may see a vote before Christmas. Media coverage has been dominated by debate over whether the Senate bill should pass, and this debate has largely been occurring within the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have made it quite clear that they want no part of fixing America's health care system.

Some on the left point out that the bill, while imperfect, is better than nothing and represents an important step toward reform. Others argue that a bad bill could actually make things worse than the status quo and are now working for the bill's defeat.

Personally, I don't feel like I have enough information to make a sound decision one way or the other. I share the skepticism recently expressed about the quality and completeness of much what we have been hearing.

Assuming the Senate bill passes (which seems likely at this point), lawmakers must still work out the differences between the Senate and House versions. I hope that means that our elected officials will have another opportunity to improve the quality of the final legislation.

As a resident of the state of Mississippi, it bothers me that our Republican senators are merely playing politics on something as important as health care. It bothers me even more than many conservative Democrats appear to be doing the same thing.

Jack Summers - An American Hero

Jack Summers is my new atheist hero and I fully support his stand against the compulsory teaching of only the Christian Bible within the dubious context of a mandatory “English Literature” class at a public High School.

This position is reasonably supported, in my view, because the entire book isn’t even one literary work that can be fully quantified as a particular “kind” of literature to study or compare with other books.

It is a collection of assorted texts, fables and mythology (some purportedly plagiarized from other older cultures) that is without any specific identification of authors to compare.

More to the point, this particular text asserts in unambiguous terms that it is literally “The Word of God” and not mere literature written by anonymous men to be contrasted with the mortal greats of Dave Barry, Voltaire or Mark Twain.

All humor aside, these collections of approved stories via Roman authority aren’t even English literature. They were translated into English from either the original Aramaic or Greek (depending upon theological authority and opinion). With this in mind, I suppose the Bible could be offered in a Middle Eastern literature course and have about as much comparative value on English Lit. as any other sacred religious text from that region.

That none of the other religious "literary works" were covered in Jack's class, however, speaks volumes and is the primary legal nuance that must be addressed in this case.

The common hue and cry that has proceeded from others regarding Jack’s noble stand is that he must learn the Bible in the context of important English literature in order to reject it as an atheist or be publicly branded as “willfully ignorant”.

Of course, it is obvious that such a charge is a rather blatant ad hominem and a red herring of epic proportions.

One doesn’t need to be taught and quizzed on scripture, verse and tenets to understand the contributions the Tanakh, The Bible, The Qur’an or even the Book of Mormon have had on western history for better and for worse.

That said, it should be made completely clear, this wasn’t a History course at all or even a Comparative Religion or Mythology course offered as an elective presented with secular and pedagogical interest alongside all others.

Furthermore, a reasoned, prompt and polite rebuttal letter to the editor from Marjorie Summers after a bigoted twisting of the facts by a journalist who interviewed her son, indicates that he is well-studied in biblical stories and has taken an interest in the comparative studies of other world traditions and cultural themes as well.

Marjorie Summers Responds

"Jack discussed at length with the Newton TAB reporter his respect for learning about other cultures and world religions, and specifically cited the repercussions of 9-11 in support of his belief that one should learn about how religious beliefs effect cultural, military and economic events, regardless of their also having any possible literary significance. He even cited his having read parts of Genesis last year, in conjunction with a unit which included creationist stories of the Greeks, Romans and Chinese. In fact, Jack has also read Mahabharata, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, the Aenid, the Iliad and the Odyssey, among other classical works in history and English classes, but always in connection with a historical period and in conjunction with other historically relevant texts. (Not all of this work was done while he was attending Newton Public schools). Unfortunately this pertinent information was omitted by the newspaper. The reporter instead chose to make the story about Jack’s preference to avoid reading religious texts currently used as dogma for living religions."

My own children, Ryan (15) and Erin (13), have been taught educational segments regarding the assorted and varied comparative religious claims and traditions as a part of "Eastern Hemispheres" and "World History" in their classes at Biloxi Public Schools starting in the 7th grade.

They even brought the respective religious texts from our home library with them to school to share with the teacher and the class. None of these religious worldviews were necessarily singled out as uniquely special or beneficial over any of the others. They were presented as chronological, regional cultural systems and ideologies within the secular interests of teaching the diversity that exists in this world.

The Summers family has our utmost respect for taking a courageous stand and facing the standard callous mockery, misleading bias, character assassination and outright lies that usually proceed from the bully pulpit when atheists merely express their human rights, personal values and freedom of conscience.

Marjorie, you've shared with us the value of responsible, intelligent and participatory parenting and you are sincerely appreciated.

It is good to see a generation of our future be so reasoned, polite and rational when addressing these issues with adult authority and, for that, Jack is another personal hero of mine.

Religion Reporter Wants to Hear About Your News Year's Prayers

LaReeca Rucker, the religion reporter at the Clarion-Ledger wants to hear about our New Year's prayers. Evidently, some people "pray for a happy new year." Who knew?
We want to know what your prayers are for 2010? What changes would you like to see happen in your own life and in your church, community, city and country? When you pray for the future, what is on your mind?
Ms. Rucker can be reached at [email protected].

Sample Email to Grains of Montana

discrimination.jpgI mentioned in the recent post asking readers to contact the Grains of Montana and express their displeasure with their practice of offering discounts to patrons with church bulletins that we would try to post some sample letters here as we have done for previous action alerts. In my haste to contact their headquarters, I didn't bother to copy and paste the message I sent. Still, I thought it might be helpful to have a template from which to work so I'm recreating one below.

Electronic messages can be submitted to Grains of Montana through their web form. Mine went something like this:
I recently learned that your franchise in Biloxi, MS, has been offering customers who bring in a church bulletin a 10% discount on their bill. Please be aware that this practice violates Title II of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. It involves discrimination on the basis of religion in that those who are not associated with any organized religion or who attend religious services at which bulletins are not provided do not receive the same benefits.

I assume that you will correct this discriminatory practice. I look forward to visiting your Biloxi location, but I have little interest in patronizing an establishment that engages in religious discrimination.

Thank you.
I think that these sort of messages tend to be most effective when they are brief enough that the recipient will actually read them. I also believe that it is important to keep the tone civil. After all, this is likely the first time Grains of Montana has been contacted about this issue. I suspect that they adopted this marketing strategy without fully considering the implications.

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Ask Grains of Montana to Stop Discriminating Against Atheists

disc1.jpgEarlier this month, we heard from Steve about the Grains of Montana, a restaurant in Biloxi that was offering a 10% discount to anyone who brought in a church bulletin. Steve pointed out many problems associated with this practice, noting, "...it really seems like taking a step backwards socially and ethically to me." Many of our readers agreed, and a lively comment thread soon emerged. Now it is time to let Grains of Montana hear from us.

Steve has already contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation after learning that they recently helped to resolve just such an issue in North Carolina.

At this point, we're calling for a letter writing campaign in order to make sure that the owners of this franchise hear from us and learn that this questionable practice is costing them customers. The mailing address for the Biloxi location is:
Grains Of Montana
1777 Popps Ferry Rd
Biloxi, MS 39532
However, because Grains of Montana is a chain with at least two locations, it may also be helpful to contact the headquarters in Montana. Fortunately, they have a contact form on their website.

We hope to get a sample letter or two up here soon. Some of the main points I plan to hit include the following:
  • Offering this discount discriminates against those who do not attend church by charging them more for the same order. This is a violation of the federal Civil Rights Act.
  • This policy does not seem tourist friendly.
  • This policy penalizes poor churches who may be unable to afford bulletins.
I'll probably also quote the following from the Civil Rights Act:
All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation . . . without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, or national origin.
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Why I Refuse to Donate to the Salvation Army

There are many worthwhile charities in Mississippi who do good work locally. Of course, nobody has enough money to support all of them. In selecting which organizations to support, it seems like there are some fairly obvious decision points. For example, I refuse to support organizations that engage in any form of bigotry or religious proselytizing. Sadly, this excludes the Salvation Army and the local chapter of the United Way.

Pam's House Blend recently reminded us that the Salvation Army discriminates against LGBT individuals on religious grounds. They also discriminate against non-Christians in their hiring practices even though they receive federal funds. As far as I am concerned, this is more than enough to exclude them as a charity I am interested in supporting.

I am not denying that the Salvation Army and similar groups can do good in Mississippi and elsewhere. However, I would prefer to support charitable organizations that do not find it necessary to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or religion.

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Cecil Bothwell - An American Hero

Fellow southern heathen and religious satirist Mark Twain once wrote:

"So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is. Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code."

I wholeheartedly agree with my kindred philosopher.

Now, the citizens of North Carolina are fortunate enough to have Cecil Bothwell to put such a religious test "to the test" at the state level.

Article 6, section 8 of the NC state constitution says: “The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”

This same anachronism has been made moot by our United States Constitution, which is rather unambiguous regarding such tests, but it is nice to see these outmoded and rather theocratic codes brought out of the musty closet and into the brilliant light of day so that the implicit and explicit bigotry and discrimination against the non-religious, the secular and the American atheist citizens of our United States can be exposed, examined and buried in the same historical graveyard as so many others.

History is in the making and these are the days of authentic folks, from the very heart of our country, stepping up for the greater good to bravely and civilly engage the inherent pressures of both family and social demands to conform to and obey assorted religious edicts emanating from those purporting to be special representative conduits to divine cravings, and thoroughly rejecting them in no uncertain terms on sound foundation.

The stark and horribly sad irony is that the religious adherent in this particular case challenging the right of an atheist to hold an office he was legally and freely elected to is a former president of the NAACP and a founder of an organization that promotes the interests of black southerners...arguably one of the most similarly victimized groups regarding human rights and liberty in our history.

The same irrelevant law stands mostly unopposed and unchallenged in our own state of Mississippi to this very moment as well ~


No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.

To be completely clear and specific, I am an atheist police officer who (for nearly twenty years now) has avowed a non-religious oath to protect and serve others and who has given testimony in hundreds of criminal court cases leading to convictions, some of which have even been taken all the way to the MS Supreme Court to be reviewed and fully affirmed.

Never once did I call upon or require the purported deities for any help in telling the truth regarding the evidence and the facts.

Our United States is a secular government not a theocracy and, for the sake of our cherished future generations, we must finally and officially repeal these morally abhorrent assertions that have remained dormant in our state mandates.

Mr. Bothwell, sir, I appreciate your good works and if you ever find yourself anywhere near the Mississippi Gulf Coast, please look me up and I will treat you a well deserved lunch.


Steve Schlicht
Biloxi MS

Recap of Dan Barker's Talk at the University of Memphis

Think of a typical flight on a major airline. You arrive at the airport, check in, pass through security, and then board the plane. The pilot goes through the pre-flight dialog and the flight attendants assist you with your belongings. The plane takes off and sometime later lands safely at a destination.

Notice that we haven't said anything about religion. That's because we don't need to say anything about religion. The religious views of pilot and the crew are irrelevant to the operations and business of the flight. The passengers trust that the plane will take off and land safely due to the expertise of pilot and crew and not based on appeals to supernatural forces.

"If I was getting on an airplane and saw the pilot praying, I'd get off." said Dan Barker at his talk in Memphis last Thursday.

Mr. Barker gave the airline analogy to show that there are situations when the religious views of the participants are irrelevant to the operations and business of the organization. A similar organization where the religious views of the participants are irrelevant is the Memphis City Council, which has been known to begin public meetings with a sectarian prayer. As a staunch supporter of the separation of church and state, Mr. Barker is calling for this practice to end.

Mr. Barker discussed some of the highlights of his work at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, including the sign placed in the foyer of the Washington State Capitol Building, right beside a Christian nativity scene, which read:
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.
For this sign, Dan Barker became famous for attacking religion and was featured on The O'Reilly Factor for promoting a war on Christmas. Most atheists would agree with the first three sentences on the sign, but he admitted that there was plenty of discussion as to the necessity of the last sentence. "Some thought it was too harsh and some thought it wasn't harsh enough." The FFRF wanted the attention, so they went with a message that would provoke discussion.

When he announced that the sign was allowed in the Washington State Capitol, along with the nativity scene, a monument to the Flying Spaghetti Monster and a Festivus pole, the crowd applauded. When he announced that this year no religious displays would be allowed in the capitol building, the crowd cheered. In his view, it is better for our government to pay no respect to the various religious views of the people than to all of them, but paying some respect to all religious views is still better than respect to some religious views.

Mr. Barker gave a brief history of the separation of church and state in America. Our founding fathers were a pretty diverse group with respect to religion. Some went to church, some didn't. Some prayed, some didn't. Some had a strong belief in the Christian notion of god and some didn't. But they all agreed that their views of religion where not infallible, and thus should not be promoted by the new government. There are three clauses which reference religion in the Constitution, and in all three cases limit the role of government. It is clear that the founding fathers wanted to protect religious freedom by keeping government as far away from it as possible. In Mr. Barker's view, the Constitution is anti-biblical because it promotes the view that we the people are capable of governing ourselves through a democratic process as opposed to governance through guidance from a deity.

Mr. Barker provided a contrast between the public sphere and the public square. The public sphere should remain free and everyone is allowed to promote their own views of religion. The public square includes the government and the people, thus should remain neutral on matters of religion. The people who are praying before Memphis City Council meetings have every right to pray, provided that they not promoting prayer in association with their governing. A Memphis City Council meeting is part of the public square.

When it came to his own religious beliefs and government, Mr. Barker was clear that even atheism should not be promoted. There is a difference between non-religion and religious neutrality. He didn't want Memphis City Council meetings to begin with the words "There is no god!", because this is also a religious viewpoint and the government should remain neutral.

When it came to prayer in public schools, Mr. Barker quipped, "As long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in public schools."

Thanks to the University of Memphis' Campus Freethought Association for bringing Dan Barker to the University of Memphis.

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Geaux Saints!

Because Sundays Are For Football.

After yesterday's breathtaking 33-30 finale in overtime I thought this observation, recently attributed to New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, was rather insightful and hopeful if not for the sheer simplicity and publicity of it.

"Much has been talked about in regard to fate, destiny, luck and all that," Payton said Monday. "Obviously we can't control if a kicker makes or misses a field goal, and yet when you're on the short end of some tough games like that, I never hear fate, luck or destiny brought up. I hear how we have to finish better or we didn't do this or that."

AP - "Sean Payton says he doesn't want to talk about destiny, miracles or other mystical forces."

It certainly was the diligence of each player, their driving effort and a dynamic critical strategy that brought the victory.

Nicely stated, Coach Payton, it is refreshing to hear such a rational analysis presented in such a responsible manner that gives credit where it is due and accepts culpability for the results, good or bad.

No mystical forces required.

Hey, that whole world view sounds very familiar to me.

Have A Wonderful Season Of Celebrations

Everyone can help; caring knows no color, no religion, no boundaries

As a loving husband, father of three great children, veteran police officer, atheist and secular Humanist who has volunteered to feed those in need alongside many good folks of diverse ethnicity, culture and world views for nearly 20 years, I encourage all people who are able to participate in these events (and others throughout the year) to help out for the greater good of the human family.

During my childhood after Hurricane Camille, I would explore the streets of Gulfport and play with other kids amongst all the wreckage and steps to nowhere. I was amazed at the resiliency of our human existence and those simple kind gestures that keep a community together regardless of our station in life.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we worked side by side with volunteers from the entire theological, economic and ideological spectrum. Many volunteers with no belief in the world’s assorted religious claims selflessly came and immersed themselves in the heartfelt simplicity of natural human empathy, caring and reciprocity along with those of religious convictions who are lovingly commanded to help others as a matter of faith.

The beauty of it all was clear: We were all human beings who cared for each other in a time when the walls, both physical and psychological, were brought down. We helped those in the midst of despair and loss simply because it was the right thing to do.

In the traditional world view of our family, friends and other secular, non-religious Humanists who have been a vital part of these sorts of community events for many years, this has always been a moral imperative.

We hope that all our friends within the predominant religious denominations will recognize this more inclusive interconnected moral standard is a shared commonality with those who are also secular and non-religious.

Have a wonderful winter solstice of all seasonal celebrations everyone and a safe and happy new year!

Steve Schlicht & Family

Biloxi, MS
[email protected]

Grains of Exclusion

I was driving home for lunch yesterday and passed by a relatively new business that opened up near my house in Biloxi.

The Grains of Montana.

Now, I can fully understand sales and marketing techniques to attract more customers in these difficult economic times, but when it involves special treatment for specific subsets of people of a certain ideology over others, then it really seems like taking a step backwards socially and ethically to me.

Carrying this new deal being offered by this restaurant to its logical conclusion, they are actually charging those families and individuals who don't go to any church more money for their meal over those that those do go to church. Additionally, those tourists who may be visiting the area without a special bulletin will be charged more as well.

My initial question would be "Why is a church goer so much more favored at the restaurant over all others"?

I would also be interested in knowing if a customer can just say "I'm a Christian, but I don't have my bulletin" and still get the discount?

If so, wouldn't that be discriminatory?

How would "10% discount with dreidel" go over I wonder?

It just seems so unnecessary and wrong to me.

What are some of your thoughts on this particular issue?

Dan Barker in Memphis Tonight

Campus Freethought Association hosts DAN BARKER

The Campus Freethought Association (CFA) at the University of Memphis is hosting Dan Barker (co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF)). Their goal for this event is to educate the public on church and state issues and the importance of FFRF's open letter to the Memphis City Council (MCC).

This educational event is FREE and open to the public.

Event: Dan Barker Lectures on Separation of Church & State
Location: Rose Theater at the University of Memphis
Date/time: December 3, 2009 at 7 pm

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