Tag Archives: secular

News Opinion Religion

Religious Intolerance

guest post by Brian Schmied

Nobody is quite as good at intolerance toward religions as other religions. It makes sense when you think about it. Secular people aren’t worried about becoming the collateral damage in a violent fit of divine jealousy, and they don’t worry about their children turning away from the light and burning in eternal hellfire.

Religions don’t like to mix, and they do a great job of worming their way into public policy to either violently suppress diversity or keep it out entirely. The obvious modern day examples are traditionally Muslim nations, which either punish formerly Islamic apostates with the death penalty, or do a terrible job of preventing vigilantes from carrying it out, depending on how progressive their legal system is.

It’s deeply unfair to limit this discussion to Islam, however. If you’re looking to be persecuted for your religious convictions, you don’t need to board an airplane. Radical and genocidal American strains of Christianity are surprisingly comparable.

Imagine you are a Muslim American officer attending a military school and ending up in this class. American military officers have been taught to believe that nuclear genocide of Muslims is not only an option, but necessary for American security. That is not an exaggeration.

The U.S military headquarters, the Pentagon, hosts a Christian Embassy, to better help America’s top military personnel defer their decisions to deeply unqualified, glorified shamans. Given such evidence, Mickey Weinstein’s assertion, “…that a Christian Taliban is running the military.” doesn’t seem so absurd anymore.

As much as these big religions hate each other, nothing gives them the heebie-jeebies quite so much as new religions. Small and strange religions evoke an interesting reaction among the adherents to culturally mainstream superstitions.

In our Christian society, it is very interesting how black and white some things are to the culture. To them, David Miscavige could just as easily be a Wiccan or a Satanist. It’s all boils down to the same Satan worship to them. Never mind that the official Church of Satan is atheistic and doesn’t believe in the existence of Satan, or a god, or any other supernatural things, and certainly doesn’t worship anything.

It’s a very strong Sith versus Jedi mentality that completely shuts down thought and examination. Earlier this year, conservative writer gave voice to the general bafflement among Christians. Raymond Ibrahim wondered aloud about the world’s complete lack of reaction to some anti-Christian mobs in Egypt, which he interprets as an official declaration of war by 1.4 billion Muslims against all of Christendom.

Never mind the 120,000 corpses in Iraq. Never mind that Afghani death tolls are not reported. Of course the U.S military, which has long struggled with the inordinate influence of fundamentalist Christians, couldn’t possibly be motivated to commit war crimes by Christian anti-Islamic sentiment.

On the one hand we have an angry religious mob attacking “non-believers” in their community, and on the other we have a global military network full of religious zealots with a budget nearly the size of Russia’s GDP conquering and occupying entire nations with blatantly made up excuses about WMD’s.

It’s hard to tell if the religious people are using the government to kill their enemies or if the politicians are wielding religion to motivate people to kill in their political interest.

 

Brian Schmied studied political science. He enjoys learning and writing about religions, politics, and the mayhem that ensues wherever they intersect.

General Opinion

Disingenuous fearmongering about the “gay agenda”

I was recently alerted to this video’s existence via a Facebook post by a conservative Christian associate of mine.  It was created by CitizenLink, a Focus on the Family affiliate.

CitizenLink Report: Tools for Parents

It’s more of the same message we often see from “pro-family” organizations: that “parents” (read: heterosexual Christian parents) should be “concerned” (read: alarmed) about “homosexual indoctrination” (read: teaching kids that they shouldn’t regard gay people as horrible, immoral monsters) in schools.

For what it’s worth, I know that there are at least a handful of gay activists out there who do have a disdain for heterosexuals and do want special treatment for their sexual orientation (I know this because I met one).  With a little bit of dressing up, this fringe element serves as a handy strawman for anti-gay activists to reference in videos like this.  Don’t be fooled.  The vast majority of homosexuals just want to be who they are without being treated like freaks.  That’s your real “gay agenda”.

If you don’t want to sit through the whole thing, skip to 6:48 for the part that really made my blood boil.

“. . . it is clear that these kids are struggling.”

Around the 7-minute mark the show’s host plays a clip from a “tolerance” video promoted by a gay advocacy group.  In the clip we see teenagers giving their candid perceptions of their own gender identities, followed by the host and her guest reacting with thinly veiled disgust.  They no doubt picked this clip thinking that it represents the worst of the gay indoctrination that students face, and I personally saw nothing wrong with what that clip depicted.  What exactly is wrong with boys not acting masculine?  Girls admitting that they’re not 100% feminine?  More importantly, what evidence is there that these kids are “struggling” any more than any other teenager struggles with life?

Of course, that’s a rhetorical question.  I know that the people who are alarmed by the blurring of boundaries between gendered behaviors feel that way because it demolishes two immutable categories that they’ve constructed in their minds.  “Men and women are fundamentally different, even without counting the genitals and physiological differences, and should always behave as such, and you’ll never convince me otherwise!” says my social conservative strawman.

What’s really damaging is the idea that there can’t be middle ground in gender issues, that you’re either a manly man, a womanly woman, a girly gay boy, or a butch lesbian.  No room for bisexuals, or even heterosexuals who exhibit personality traits of both genders, exists in this mindset (let alone trans- or intersexuals!).

An admonition for conservatives who aren’t anti-gay

I understand that there are plenty of economic conservatives out there who don’t have a problem with anyone’s sexual orientation or gender identity so long as they’re productive citizens.  I understand your sentiment that gay advocacy is intruding on public school curriculum with programs like those described in the video, and likewise that lawsuits for the same cause are frivolous and that government intervention on it is excessive.  I don’t completely agree with that sentiment, but I understand where it comes from.

What secular conservatives should understand is that much of the left-wing sentiment backing this type of aggressive advocacy was forged by the backlash from social conservatives against those homosexuals who have “come out” over the past few decades.  Gay rights activists built up this momentum while fighting a culture war for their right to exist in society.  Tell the religious zealots who have hijacked the Republican Party to stop fighting culture wars and focus on the economy, and you won’t have to listen to this senseless debate any longer.

Activism Ethics Lifestyle Opinion

Why I’m a Male Feminist (And Why Our Movement Needs More of Us)

“Feminist” is a polarizing word.  You’ll generally see it used in one of two ways: as self-identification by people who consider themselves feminists, and as a pejorative by people who do not.

It’s a word with an ugly connotation in many people’s minds, not unlike the word “atheist”; people hear the “-ist” suffix and infer an ideology that seeks feminine supremacy rather than gender equality, just as many see atheism as a rebellious denial of God rather than an affirmative acceptance of a godless universe.

To be sure, there are differing opinions among those who consider themselves feminists regarding what it means to be a feminist. There are disagreements about its implications regarding sexuality, marriage, reproductive rights, and parenting. There are disputes about what reforms are needed in modernized Western societies compared to developing nations.  There are debates about who gets to call themselves feminists, particularly about whether this label can apply to men.

Can men be feminists?

I call myself a feminist because I agree with the movement’s most basic tenet: women are people. I feel that throughout human history and in the status quo today, women have been and are either (a) regarded as lesser beings than men, or (b) propped up on a pedestal from which they are not permitted to descend, and often paradoxically both at the same time. I see this as wrong and would like to do my part to correct it.

As such, supporting fair treatment across gender lines means proactively questioning and reforming the way we (both men and women) think about women. For this reason I will use the word “feminist” and not try to make up some new, gender-neutral term for supporting gender equality.

Hoping that I don't sound like this.

I know that there are hardcore feminists out there who object to men calling themselves feminists. I understand their reasons for feeling that way (for example, men presumptuously thinking they can speak on behalf of feminism, men dominating discussions on feminism, and then there’s this guy).

I still feel that I should use the label, as it helps to make feminism less taboo, less scary to people who claim they oppose feminism without understanding what it means. An increase in the number of visible male feminists (or “pro-feminists” or “allies” if you prefer) will increase dialogue among men about their treatment of women, and increase the number of men who stop to think “Y’know, maybe I am being sexist without realizing it. I should reexamine my attitudes about gender roles.”

Being visible among skeptics, or Wearing it proudly

At the SSA conference last month, I chose to wear my bright green “THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE” t-shirt, bought years ago from a fundraiser for a battered women’s shelter.

I don't always wear t-shirts with slogans on them, but when I do I support equal treatment of women.

I’ll admit that I knew I wasn’t going out on a limb with this: I knew that there were many feminists among the population of young atheists and agnostics. It got positive reactions from feminist atheist bloggers Jen McCreight and Greta Christina, and it turned out there were even a few other male feminists there as well.

In proclaiming myself as a feminist, just as happened when I proclaimed myself an atheist, I am bound to make both friends (not all of whom I’d like to call “friend”) and enemies (some of whom I have no quarrel with) based solely on the label.

Case in point: one of the Marxist activists present at the conference seemed to assume I’d be sympathetic to her group’s ideology based on my self-identification as a feminist. I was not.

I’m not aware of any animosity toward me regarding the shirt (I’ve experienced such from male acquaintances in the past), but I have to wonder if it frightened anyone away. I would certainly hope not.

The bottom line

I will echo the sentiments of atheists who have found the AAFHSS community to have a detectable sexism problem, if based solely on what I’ve read in the blogosphere (I personally heard no such comments at the SSA conference).  I do suspect, however, that many groups and social movements have the same problem, if not a more deeply embedded one; the difference is that there are outspoken feminists in the secular movement who recognize sexism when it rears its ugly head and call people out on it.

I also will ask that any men who feel threatened by feminism take a serious second look at their attitudes toward women.  Are you afraid of becoming a second class citizen, or are you afraid of losing special privileges you’ve become accustomed to?  Are you afraid that values associated with your gender will someday no longer be the default?

I won’t tell other skeptics and freethinkers that they should get behind a particular ideology, but I will ask them to consider what they do believe about sex and gender and examine the evidence on which they base their views (even feminists should do this – any idea worth believing is worth scrutinizing).  You may find that you hold biases you weren’t aware of.

Opinion Religion

On the vilification of secular humanists

First, an introduction. I’m Matt Foss, a new contributor here at Skeptic Freethought. I’m an atheist, secular humanist, and skeptic, just starting to get involved in the secular movement.

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a handful of items appearing on my Google Alerts for “secular humanism” from Christian news sites and right-wing blogs. They all had a common theme: that secular humanism is the modern world’s greatest threat to the American Christian way of life. Take a look at these two articles in particular:

Secular Humanism is the Established State Religion” – an assertion that humanist values should be kept out of public schools per the Establishment Clause.

The Worldview War” – an absurd rant about how Muslims and secular humanists are working together to bring America to ruin.

You’ll notice that the second article references one Dr. David Noebel as a source of knowledge on the concept of “worldviews”. A quick Google search identifies him as the retiring president of Summit Ministries, an organization focused on apologetics for a world it believes has gotten over Christianity.

Paranoia over secular humanism is nothing new, of course; Christian fundamentalists have been trying for decades to block its “teachings” from public schools on the grounds that promoting skepticism, science, and human rights somehow amounts to religious indoctrination. The Religious Right has been getting more and more vocal as of late, however, and I’m concerned that this sort of anti-humanist diatribe will become a trend.

Why the fuss about humanists?

It might come as a shock to some that Christians would be so alarmed by a group of people who advocate respect and tolerance; wouldn’t they be more afraid of vitriolic, firebrand, capital-‘A’-Atheists than of someone who simply claims to be “good without God”? Aren’t so-called humanist doctrines really just the same ethical standards at the core of every free society?

Note: I in no way intend to take sides on the “tone wars” here, nor imply that “atheist” implies “firebrand” or that “humanist” implies “diplomat”. I’m referring to the connotation that the two words tend to have based on my personal experience in discussing them with religious believers.

After reading and thinking on this a while, I’ve realized why they are so afraid of humanists. It’s precisely because of the benign-sounding messages such as “Be good for goodness’ sake!” and “Millions are good without God.” It’s because, framed within a worldview in which a sly Devil seeks to trick gullible humans into abandoning faith for worldly concerns, a friendly and inviting godless philosophy is far more dangerous than an aggressive militant adversary.

As I understand it, these fundamentalists want atheism to be an empty, miserable state of mind for which they represent the ultimate cure. The idea of a worldview that emotionally, intellectually, and socially fulfills people without belief in their God negates the very purpose of their religion’s existence. In this respect, I don’t blame them for feeling threatened by humanism, and I won’t be so surprised in the future when fundamentalists react negatively to non-threatening billboards like the (vandalized) one pictured above.

Opinion

Freethought and the media- how to effectively market your campus group

Hi all! My name is Jessica, and I really like public relations and the mass media. So what does that have to do with the free thought movement? Well, I’ve found that many campus group leaders, like yourselves, aren’t quite sure how to effectively manage the media and certain PR strategies to benefit their groups. Or maybe you’re not sure what kind of Facebook page is best, or if your group needs a Twitter.

That’s where I come in. I’m here to answer all your questions, and give you the best advice possible, on how to use all these tools, and more, to your utmost advantage.

By now you’re probably wondering why you should bother listing to me. In my going-on-4 years at Boise State University, I’ve held many positions involving print media and PR. I’m actively involved in BSU’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America as their VP, and I manage the website and various social media sites for our independent campus media group. I’m also involved in a business and marketing organization, and of course, my campus secular group.

I’ve had plenty of experience in public relations and media management, which means I can offer you, as a campus group leader, insight on how to work the system to your advantage! In the coming weeks I’ll cover everything from how to distribute a press release so it actually gets noticed to how to track who views your website to when it’s best to post on Facebook! If you have a specific issue or question, you can email me at jessicaswider35@gmail.com and I’ll answer it in my following post. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to help other group leaders get noticed and manage their media relations more effectively!