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Oh How Loud Sing the Guilty

Isn’t it funny how so often those most guilty of an offense are the ones that cry foul the loudest when others do the same thing? Case in point, the United Coalition of Reason, a Washington based group that works to raise the visibility of local groups in what it calls “the community of reason.” This community of reason includes a variety of non-theistic organizations including secular humanists, agnostics, atheists, and other non-believers in the realm of the supernatural. Some groups even include Jews and other progressive thinking members of more traditional religious groups.

The United Core of Reason has provided assistance to local Coalition of Reason groups in a variety of American cities to erect billboards and bus signs reaching out to other non-theists to let them know they are not alone and that numerous local groups offer everything from education to social forums for like minded non-believers to get together. The billboard campaign came to Phoenix earlier this year and arrived in San Diego this week. Billboards have also appeared in Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Dallas, Houston and a host of other cities around the nation.

The billboards proclaim . . .

“Are You Good without God?  Millions are.” or “Don’t Believe in God? You are not alone.”

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Let Us Prey

Yea, yea, I know how to spell. I just don’t always understand the difference between pray and prey. My confusion has its roots in the various public meetings that I attend at which the meeting is opened with a prayer. When it takes place at a government meeting such as a City Council or Planning Commission it is a violation of the First Amendment. When it occurs in a non-government meeting such as a Chamber of Commerce or a business organization like the Association of Realtors, it is an arrogant abuse of the fundamental rights of many of those in attendance. When a high school coach forces his team to pray before a game, to some, it is a form of child abuse. It becomes a particularly insidious act when the prayer is tagged with “In Jesus’ name.”

When these things happen, the rights of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, non-believers and a host of other non-Christians are trampled. What are the people that advocate this behavior conceivably thinking? Surely Commissioner Johnson doesn’t believe that without an open, public prayer that God is going to prevent him from casting the correct vote request for a variance on the placement of a dumpster at a shopping center? Or perhaps it’s a show where the performer thinks the display of prayerfulness will endow him with an image of thoughtful humility; how utterly arrogant and thoughtless.

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The Line on Passover

I’m not Jewish, but I’m no stranger to the Jewish culture.  The Jewish “tribe” is a strong and resilient group.  How else could it have survived more than 3,000 years of brutal abuse by nearly every group on the planet?  Between Pharaoh, Hitler, Constantine, crusading Christians and Hamas, Jews have had more than their fair share of challenging times.  Yet the culture has survived and prospered.

Last week, Jews marked the beginning of Pesach otherwise known as Passover, commemorating the Hebrew’s escape from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.  The Seder is the traditional dinner held on the first night of Passover.  This year we had the honor of being guests of some very dear friends (about whom I’ve written before).  One of the customs associated with the Seder is to invite the homeless or needy to show charity and compassion others.  Lisa and I became their homeless guests.  We joked with them that we were the TG’s or “token goyim”, the token non-Jews at the ceremony.

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On the Death of God

Famed 19th century existential philosopher Freidrich Wilhelm Nietzsche proclaimed “God is dead.”  To this day that statement can cause a bit of a stir in some circles.  But if you analyze the data from a recent study performed at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, Nietzsche may have seen it coming.  Belief in what has been the traditional Christian image of a “personal” God is on the wane in this country.

The study was published this month by Professors Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar.  It presents the results and analysis of three exhaustive surveys, one performed in 1990, one in 2000 and the third in 2008.  By studying American beliefs in each of the three years, the study illustrates significant trends in American belief systems over the past two decades.  Here are some observations you may find interesting.

Since 1990, the proportion of the American adult population identifying itself as “Christian” has fallen by roughly 15% nationwide.  Those experiencing the sharpest losses have been the mainstream Protestant churches such as the Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Presbyterians.  Their fraction of the population has fallen by more than 30% since 1990.

Of those still believing in the Christian faiths, 34% identify themselves as “born again” or evangelical.

Atheists, agnostics and other non-believers have more than doubled their fractions in the population.  In some parts of the country like the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast, non-believers amount to about one in four members of the population.

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The God Card

Jokers are wild.  Every kid that’s ever played poker understands the concept of a “wild card”.  Its purpose is to connect things that make absolutely no sense and by the intervention of a mechanism invented and proclaimed by the game player “declare” that the result is logical.  For example, the ace, king, queen, jack and ten of the same suit constitutes the most powerful hand in the game – a royal flush.  It is extremely rare, so rare in fact that very few people have ever actually seen a real one.  However, in a game where deuces are declared wild, someone can lay down the ace, king, jack and ten of hearts and insert the deuce of clubs in the middle and claim it to be a “royal flush”.

The wild card makes no sense.  It doesn’t even look right.  But by the simple act of saying so, it can be anything you want it to be and can fill in the blanks to make your previously useless hand powerful and “logical”.  You win by caveat.

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The Meaning of Life

It was an “Earth Day” celebration.  An atheist group had an information booth.  They also participated in the parade.

I watched as a small, but vocal group of evangelicals protested the atheist’s rights to be there.  They carried hateful signs, shouted vitriolic epithets, and generally carried themselves in a manner that in my mind should have been a source of embarrassment and shame.  Their antics certainly made the atheists appear as the more rational and responsible members of the group.  The evangelicals acted more like barbarians than civilized members of society.

One of the evangelicals carried a sign that said, “Without God you get: No clearly defined morals and standards.  Bad government, Anarchy, Communists, Dictators, etc.  No hope beyond death.  No clear answers,” and my personal favorite, “No real purpose.”

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Obama, Pastor Rick Warren, and Frankenstein

As a kid, I looked forward to Saturday nights when, along with my cousins, I was allowed to stay up late and watch “Shock Theater”.  I can still see the images of the likes of Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, and Peter Lorre in my mind’s eye.  We were transfixed on the old black and white TV, our mouths hanging open as the music built and the monster slowly approached its victim.  “The Mummy”, “Curse of the Werewolf”, “The Wolfman”, “Dracula” and others made us squirm, scream and hide beneath the covers that protected us from the cold night air.  But the classic starred Boris Karloff as “Frankenstein”, the misunderstood, sensitive, caring and persecuted monster.

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