Archive for atheism

"I'm praying that my negative prayers thwart religious right's quest to browbeat nonbelievers"

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I'm an atheist, so I don't really do prayers. I hope a lot, I take action to create change, I vote, and I use what modest powers of persuasion I can muster up to convince others that there is more than one way to approach any given situation or policy. But prayers? Not so much.

I can't accept that the Invisible Man in the Sky (who apparently has a blonde, blue-eyed Middle Eastern son who came into this world via a virgin) exists. I can't fathom how anyone feels that their particular prayers take priority over someone else's rights, positions, or beliefs, someone who is supposed to be a fellow "child of god."

When an athlete offers thanks to his or her god for a victory, does that mean that their god deemed their opponents unworthy? Less special? Aren't we all supposed to be equally loved by their benevolent god? If the almighty one's got so much power, then why doesn't he/she... [fill in the blank]?

And why does the Christian majority feel compelled to convince the rest of us that their religion is The Best One of All? Because there are more of them than there are of us? So what? Why, as they try to get us to have faith in their faith (key word: faith), do they continue to exclude so many of us as they simultaneously try to entice us to "believe" their beliefs (key word: beliefs) ?

Why discriminate against those who are different than you? Or shame? Or aggressively proselytize? What happened to "live and let live" and "do unto others"?

I could go on forever. I say none of this to offend, and I hope my words are not taken that way. I understand why people embrace religion. I just can't relate to or make sense of believing in a magical being. And it stops being okay when others insist I do what's right for them, but not for me.

Which brings me to today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Negative prayer may be just the remedy for those of us who blanch at religious zealots' pious public displays of prayer to their chosen deities. It's worth a try: I'll beseech my deity to use her divine powers to hinder those who feel their notion of "god" is superior to all other deities that humans have ever worshiped. ("They're praying for the worst. Is that wrong?," Op-Ed, June 24)

If my incantation prevails, government-sanctioned prayers at public meetings will cease. That way I no longer will have to betray my religious proclivities by leaving when prayers start, per the disingenuous suggestion floated by the U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority in the recent decision involving the town of Greece, N.Y.

Verily, I'm praying that my negative prayers thwart the religious right's quest to browbeat nonbelievers.

Dennis Alston, Atwater, Calif.

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Tuesday Links

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UCSB killer

#YesAllWomen hashtag campaign gives voice to victims of misogynistic violence in wake of UCSB shooting

Shooting victim’s father rips ‘rudderless idiots’ in Congress: ‘I can’t tell you how angry I am’

LulzSec hacker helps FBI stop over 300 cyber attacks

Ukraine crisis: Battle to control Donetsk airport

Billionaire involved in $2.6 billion bank scam executed in Iran

Nebraska mayor challenges atheists over faith-based event: ‘Take me to f-cking court — I don’t care’

Ukraine’s leader-elect talks of peace, but the fighting goes on in Donetsk

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Atheist wins lawsuit over being sent back to prison for refusing religious-based drug rehab program

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Friendly memo to those of faith: Please stop telling atheists to participate in religious meetings and/or activities, and atheists won't insist that you stop believing in your god.

In today's Los Angeles Times there is an article about an atheist parolee in California who was sent back to prison after Just Saying No to being forced to undergo drug rehab at a religious-based treatment center. The court decision was unanimous:

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said a jury should award Barry A. Hazle Jr., a drug offender, compensatory damages for his loss of freedom and could consider possible punitive and emotional distress damages as well.

The appeals court also ordered a district judge in Sacramento to reconsider whether to issue an injunction to prevent California officials from requiring parolees to attend treatment programs that emphasize God or a “higher power.”

Hazle had served time, but then California ordered him to spend 90 days in a 12-step program. He requested a secular program instead, but he was told such a thing didn't exist, and he resisted the religious version.

The treatment center said that Hazle was disruptive “in a congenial way.” See? He was a nice disrupter. A friendly disrupter. As his reward for being Mr. Congeniality, his parole was revoked and he was sent back to the pokey for 100 more days.

What's an affable disrupter to do? Sue, of course. And a federal court ruled in his favor saying that his constitutional rights were violated. The judge ordered a jury to come up with monetary damages, and they awarded him-- wait for it-- zero. Zilch. Nada.

So now another jury will be convened to determine Hazle’s compensation.

Amen.

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The Week in Upchucks: "Please, justices, no blank check for public prayer"

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Recently I wrote a post called "Somebody talk me down" in which I expressed my frustration and angst over a Los Angeles Times piece, White House takes GOP side on church-state case, buttressed by an article from back in May, Atheist Invocation Sparks Inevitable Demagoguery.

Here are excerpts from the Times article:

In a potentially far-reaching case on separation of church and state, the Obama administration and Republican lawmakers tell the Supreme Court they support easing limits on prayers at meetings.

The Obama administration and congressional Republicans have found something to agree on: Town councils should be allowed to open their meetings with a Christian prayer.

Lawyers for the administration and two groups of lawmakers from the House and Senate, nearly all Republicans, separately made that argument in briefs to the Supreme Court this week. The high court should relax the constitutional limits on religious invocations at government meetings, they argued.

The case could lead to a major change in the law on religion that would go well beyond prayers at council meetings.

Government meetings that include religious prayer, specifically favoring Christianity, don't exactly heed-- What's it called again? Oh yeah-- separation of church and state. Today's L.A. Times has a follow-up editorial aptly titled, "Please, justices, no blank check for public prayer":

The court should reject that position, which would give governments a blank check to pray in a whole community's name with language drawn from a particular faith. If the 1st Amendment's ban on the "establishment of religion" by government means anything, it means that a Jew, Muslim or atheist shouldn't have to endure routine official prayers "in the name of Jesus" as the price of participating in local government. [...]

[T]hen-Chief Justice Warren Burger noted approvingly that the chaplain in Nebraska had removed all references to Jesus from his prayers after a complaint from a Jewish legislator. [...]

[I]f a government insists on sponsoring prayers, it should either keep them nonsectarian or make sure that it offers equal time to a range of voices, so as not to endorse one religious tradition over another. That's what the 2nd Circuit required, and the Supreme Court should affirm its holding.

With that, please welcome back guest blogger K.C. Boyd. You might remember her from her earlier posts. You can link over to her site here for the entire post. It’s well worth a look, because I left out a lot of great upchuckable stuff, including a link back to the L.A. Times piece that I referenced, and so much more:

Another Upchuckable Week - the place where religion meets your rights – by K. C. Boyd

The Weekly Upchuck

Abortion

  • Buckeye-Chuck I : Ohio Abortion Clinic Closes Amid Legislative Debate on Transfer Agreement Restrictions bit.ly/13TN8yy

Climate Change

  • When the Last Tree Dies – Chuck:  Virginia Foxx (NC-R) lamented that some environmentalists “think that we, human beings, have more impact on the climate and the world than God does.” http://huff.to/19fSi92

Education – Or Its Antithesis 

  • Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh Chuck!  Governor Brown Signs Co-Ed Bathroom Bill — California Students Lose Their Right to Privacy http://bit.ly/18s7pem

Evolution

  • Darwin Sucks-Chuck: “We have solid proof in our hands that evolution is a lie: the Bible,” Right. Solid proof. Whatever. bit.ly/16QzyL6

Gay Rights

  • Thou Shalt Murder-Chuck: Lively is accused of violating international law by inspiring the notorious anti-LGBT legislation known as the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda. http://bit.ly/16moVTP

Legislators and Their Legislation

  • Shoot “Em Up-Upchuck: Huckabee asks Nugent to turn his hunting dog ‘loose on some Democrats’ Rather a hideous ask for a Christian like The Huckster to propose. . ‪http://bit.ly/13krRj6  

Military

  • No Atheists In A FOX-Hole-Chuck: Demeaning Atheists who serve. After taking down the article at the urging of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation once, it’s back up. http://bit.ly/1cCLqr3
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2009 health care town hall meetings: "Trust me on this one: The Lord would have said, 'I'm outta here, folks.'"

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In my post "Somebody talk me down," I wrote about (among other things) the article referenced below, vehemently agreeing with the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who said, “A town council meeting is not like a church service, and it shouldn’t be treated like it is.”

And with that, here are more Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Re "White House takes GOP side on church-state cases," Aug. 9

Letting someone open a town council's meeting with a prayer doesn't amount to government endorsement of his religion? As an attorney, I feel that any court inclined to uphold such prayer should consider these questions:

Will the council abide prayers reflecting the full variety of beliefs held by the town's residents? Are such prayers to be allotted pro-rata, per the adherents' respective populations? If the town's religious plurality shifts, say, from Christian to Islamic, will imams then supplant pastors?

Avoiding endorsement of religion while permitting prayer in government meetings seems all but impossible. So we should pray that the U.S. Supreme Court upholds a lower court's well-considered ruling.

Edward Alston

Santa Maria

***

The Obama administration and congressional Republicans have asked the Supreme Court to allow prayers before government meetings. Did any of them think to ask Him (also supreme) whether He even wants to be there?

In 2009 I attended a healthcare reform town hall in Alhambra. Hordes of loud "tea party" activists descended on the city and attempted to sabotage the meeting. They tried to drown out the panel by incessantly shouting vitriol, mainly directed at President Obama. It was ugly, and I actually became nauseated.

Trust me on this one: The Lord would have said, "I'm outta here, folks."

Ramona Salinas Saenz

Alhambra

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Somebody talk me down

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Forgive me for putting on my Debbie Downer hat, but I started the day by reading way too many news stories that, frankly, freaked me out. And when I get freaked out, I share my freak-outitude with you in hopes that we can either commiserate or collectively come up with constructive solutions... or both.

Or maybe you can just do me a favor and talk me down.

Let's start with this one from the Los Angeles Times: White House takes GOP side on church-state case, buttressed by this article from back in May that Paddy sent me, Atheist Invocation Sparks Inevitable Demagoguery. Read the title of that first link again. I'll wait.

Okay, now here's the gist via The Times:

In a potentially far-reaching case on separation of church and state, the Obama administration and Republican lawmakers tell the Supreme Court they support easing limits on prayers at meetings.

The Obama administration and congressional Republicans have found something to agree on: Town councils should be allowed to open their meetings with a Christian prayer.

Lawyers for the administration and two groups of lawmakers from the House and Senate, nearly all Republicans, separately made that argument in briefs to the Supreme Court this week. The high court should relax the constitutional limits on religious invocations at government meetings, they argued.

The case could lead to a major change in the law on religion that would go well beyond prayers at council meetings.

As the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said, "A town council meeting is not like a church service, and it shouldn't be treated like it is."

And this happened a few months ago. Keep in mind that Rep. Mendez came out as an atheist:

Republican Rep. Steve Smith on Wednesday said the prayer offered by Democratic Rep. Juan Mendez of Tempe at the beginning of the previous day’s floor session wasn’t a prayer at all. So he asked other members to join him in a second daily prayer in “repentance,” and about half the 60-member body did so. Both the Arizona House and Senate begin their sessions with a prayer and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“When there’s a time set aside to pray and to pledge, if you are a non-believer, don’t ask for time to pray,” said Smith, of Maricopa. “If you don’t love this nation and want to pledge to it, don’t say I want to lead this body in the pledge, and stand up there and say, ‘you know what, instead of pledging, I love England’ and (sit) down."

Essentially, the GOP representative took it upon himself to scrub those icky atheist cooties from the floor. Would you like to know what the evil, filthy non-believer had the nerve to say in his evil, filthy non-believy prayer? USA Today:

A state lawmaker acknowledged that he is an atheist as he gave the daily House invocation Tuesday, urging legislators to look at each other, rather than bow their heads, and "celebrate our shared humanness."

That's right, Republicans apparently feel that encouraging civility and humanity is a bad thing... if suggested by someone who thinks differently from them.

Now hitch that episode up to the report about the Obama administration and our lawmakers pushing for prayer, and you get more potential opportunities for bigotry and a big fat rejection of the separation of church and state.

Why must any religious ritual be a part of government meetings? This opens up a huge can of worms (read the article). Why must religious prayer open those meetings? When did a license to discriminate become synonymous with the First Amendment? What about those of us who do not believe? What about opening sessions with a Muslim or Jewish prayer? Why was an atheist expression of goodwill disdained and discarded like trash? Again, why begin sessions with prayers in the first place?

Instead, call for a moment of silence, and let each person do his/her thing. Why should anyone's god be a priority? I could go on, but I need more talking down from other political ledges, like the disintegration of unions and public schools, the middle class, and the environment:

Re "LAUSD freed of Bush-era rules," Aug. 7

Why do California school districts have to agree that test scores are reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness, a premise that has been disproved, to receive a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law?

From its inception, most teachers opposed NCLB's impossible requirement that by 2014 all students must demonstrate proficiency in every educational standard as measured by one standardized test. Is there any reasonable person who believes that 100% of California's adult population could demonstrate complete mastery of even the fourth-grade curriculum?

Of course, almost all schools are doomed to "fail" under these criteria, and public schools would eventually become for-profit charter schools.

It's time for a more realistic version of NCLB written by those who understand what can reasonably be expected. No waivers necessary.

Kurt Page

Laguna Niguel

***

Re "Middle-class mayday," Opinion, Aug. 4

Smith's op-ed article displays clearly the problem of the wage freeze on American workers since the l970s, even though their productivity had increased by some 80%.

The great reduction in union membership during the past 30 years has been a very important cause. Without the collective bargaining power that only unions can provide, there's little incentive for employers to raise wages to match productivity.

With increased wages, middle-class workers would buy more of the goods and services produced by American corporations. The U.S. economy would be the ultimate beneficiary of this fairer distribution of wealth.

Edward C. Bayan

Northridge

***

Re "A dry and desperate state," Aug. 6

Thank you for the gripping article on the effects of persistent drought in the Southwest, especially New Mexico. This is a dramatic example of the types of extreme weather events that are occurring much more frequently now than half a century ago.

Scientific evidence suggests that these events are a consequence of the gradually rising global temperatures which, in turn, result from the gradually increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

These emissions result from the human use of fossil fuels, and the trend they represent can be decreased only by shutting down the coal- and natural-gas-fueled power plants, which produce the majority of greenhouse gases, and replacing them with alternative energy sources.

Michael Werner

Pasadena

Somebody, anybody, please talk me down.

pleasehelpcoyote

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"It is proselytizing to atheists whenever a deity is given official recognition by a government body."

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Today's Los Angeles Times letter to the editor, because our voices matter:

Re "Prayers in public offices," Editorial, May 21

As a 75-year-old taxpaying citizen who has served in the U.S. Army, and as an avowed atheist, I take issue with any manifestation of religion in any government office or proceeding. I keep my thoughts about religion to myself; is it asking believers too much to do the same?

If those who are devotees of any deity wish to be publicly acknowledged, then why not have a moment of silence for reflection without any specific reference to religion? Those who have a god could still pray, while others could contemplate as they choose.

It is proselytizing to atheists whenever a deity is given official recognition by a government body. Reverse this practice, or allow messages disavowing religions to be spoken.

Maurice Sparks

Los Angeles

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