My daughter is in 6th grade.  Middle school.  Today she comes home, laughs, says “Look what I got!”, and flips this hideous orange pocket sized New Testament put out by the Gideons.

My first thought was to laugh it off.  Then she tells me that the principal made an announcement that people were outside handing out bibles and students were to treat them with respect.  I think he was probably trying to give the students the heads up that there were people outside handing out bibles and he probably couldn’t get rid of them.  Because you know they weren’t really on school property even though the school takes up the entire block.  How were they not on school property, you ask?  They were on the curb.

The curb is “public” property.

So far, what I can tell is that some people are bothered by this (probably mostly non-christians) and some are not.  I’m not really “out” to most of the people I know, yet I posted this concern on Facebook so it might turn rather interesting.

I’m still unsure as to how to proceed, or even if I should.  It pisses me off that a group would target kids instead of their parents, it’s downright creepy.  Especially in this area.  I hear of this happening in other places and never thought it would happen here, as we have a fairly diverse population.

The kicker is the introduction by the Gideons.  It has such gems as “…its histories are true” and  and that it (the bible) “…will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents”.

I’m torn because I sort of want to make a formal complaint, but I really don’t think the principal was trying to condone it, just make sure the kids weren’t freaked to find people out there.  What would you do?


No Questions

The more I read atheist and free-thinking blogs and literature, the more I am amazed at how unquestioning I was about certain things.  I was just reading at The Atheist Yogi about her feelings when reading Chronicles of Narnia and how it was written to parallel Christianity.  The interesting thing is, I read the entire series just a few years ago (and I’m in my late 30’s) and even then, I never really saw that.  Maybe I just wasn’t looking for it, I saw it as an entertaining read, another fun piece of fiction.

At first, this realization that there are a lot of things I never questioned or looked at from a religious perspective made me feel as though I had been a fool in the past.  The more I think about it, the more I think that I just never questioned religion all that much.  When I “believed” (it’s in quotes because I don’t think I ever really did), I had the belief that all religions led to the same god, it’s just that they called him different names.  I don’t think it is much of a leap to move from that to wondering or questioning if religion is “real” at all.    I think I didn’t have interest in it at a very young age.  What I remember most about church is liking the music, especially at the guitar mass at Christmastime.  And it wasn’t the beliefs that I questioned, but the practices.  Like, why can’t I wear shorts to church? (Never did get a reasonable answer to that one).  Why can’t I get communion? (when I was a small child).  Why do I have to go to church at all if God is everywhere? (that was the first step to not going at all).

Interestingly, I never really questioned the tenets of faith and religion themselves.  Not until I had shed all belief did I see how easy it is for children to just accept and do what their parents do.  I have always questioned why 13 seems to be the magic age where you are considered an “adult” in religion (Bar Mitzvah’s & Confirmation), yet you are not allowed to really make that decision as an adult.  Even as a young teenager, I really didn’t want to be confirmed, but went along because it was expected.  And all my friends were getting confirmed as well.  Looking back, what 13 year old has the experience and the knowledge necessary to really make an informed decision about something that is supposed to be HUGE in the Catholic church?  Even though I didn’t want to be confirmed, I would have been hard pressed to actually give you an answer as to why.  Except that maybe I felt I wasn’t ready to make that decision for myself.

I read with fascination how others questioned the impossibility of the ark and the flood.  It never occurred to me to ask.  It was just a story to me.  Or the fact that Adam and Eve had two sons.  Where did everyone else come from?  Was never on my radar.  My DNA does not carry the faith gene, yet I tend to be naive and trusting to a fault (I do think that people are basically good – most of them anyway).  Is it possible to be a skeptic but not a cynic? I tend to have a positive attitude, and was told recently that I have a certain “lightness of being” that is refreshing to be around.  I know cynics.  I love one.  He claims not to be a pessimist, but a realist.  It’s all fine and good, but it can occasionally drag me down.  Cynicism in some instances is good, and I try to teach my children some skepticism, especially where advertising is concerned (“Don’t believe a word they tell you!  Find out for yourself!”).

Did your questioning arise later in life, after you spent some time in adulthood, or were you one of those kids who asked “Why?” incessantly until you got an answer you could be satisfied with?  Nowadays, I tend to ask “Why?” more often, as well as “What exactly are they trying to say to me/sell to me/get me to believe?”.  Yet I still feel as though I come off as flaky when I change my opinion on something.  But isn’t that what we all do?  Accept that something is the truth until some evidence comes around that proves otherwise?  And aren’t we all free to change our opinion?

Found at CharismaNewsOnline:

A New Jersey mosque is spearheading a national prayer rally in Washington, D.C., that organizers expect to attract tens of thousands of Muslims to pray for the soul of America.

Describing the event as the first-ever of its kind, leaders of Dar-ul-Islam in Elizabeth, N.J., expect 50,000 Muslims  from around the world to gather for the Sept. 25 rally being held on Capitol Hill.

Hassen Abdellah, president of Dar-ul-Islam, said the event, which begins at 1 p.m., will not include political speeches but will focus only on prayer.

You’d think the fact that we have a commie socialist godless president that the Christians would find this an opportune time to unite themselves with the Muslims for a common goal.

Yeah, right.  The response of the Christian conservatives was predictable.

Some Christians also are mobilizing to pray on that day. An e-mail circulating virally calls for Christians to oppose what they see as Islam’s growing influence on the U.S. through prayer.

Not that it’s surprising given where this article originated, but the comments are the typical fearmongering and arrogance you’d come to expect.  There is definitely a tone of Christianity being the one true religion, and even though it was stressed in the article that this is a peaceful protest:

Abdellah said he doesn’t understand why Christians would object to Muslims praying. “What is there to fear about that?” he said. “Nobody’s praying for any destruction? We’re praying for reconciliation and that people get along.”

the commenters are so full of Christ’s love that they are prepared for a holy war.  And people wonder why so many of us feel that religion isn’t just silly, but dangerous.

From Channel 23 (ABC) in California:

It starts well, but goes downhill, as usual:

For the last few months, the Tehachapi City Council meeting has started off with an invocation prayer, but a letter sent last week from the Freedom From Religion Foundation has Tehachapi residents debating the constitutionality of saying the prayer.

Tuesday night’s council meeting started with the standard Pledge of Allegiance, but unlike meetings over the last six months, no prayer.

There’s still that pesky “under God” in the pledge.

While the council discussed the letter in closed session, the public spoke out in favor of the prayers during public comment.Only one person spoke out against the prayer, but said it would be OK if the prayer was more inclusive.

I think that person probably has their heart in the right place, but as long as there is prayer at all, it will continue to be exclusive to anyone who does not believe in god.

“They’re making schools not give scholarships to other religious colleges,” Councilman Shane Reed said during the meeting. “So, this is the type of group we’re dealing with and I encourage everyone to look at their site and see what we’re dealing with.”

I’m not entirely sure what they are referring to, probably because I think they got their facts wrong.  They are not denying scholarships, they are concerned about the use of taxpayer money in violation of the Establishment Clause.  And they are fighting against “… the Bush Administration’s claim that it can use taxpayer money to support religion without complaint by taxpayers”. I’m guessing they skimmed the information and picked up information on a case that was stated as a precedent for the current lawsuit Hein v. FFRF.  In that case:

Flast v. Cohen (1968) permitted a taxpayer challenge of federal assistance to religious schools. The court ruled that challenges could be heard that question the use of “the taxing and spending power . . . to favor one religion over another or to support religion in general.”

And the typical response already in the comments:

How can this happen? “In God We Trust” is on all our money, but we can’t pray? This world is getting worse. What’s next, “Freedom of Speech?” I’m sadden by the Country that I love is trying to push out the God that loves us and was there when we won our FREEDOM. IN GOD I DO TRUST~! My freedom I’m worried about..

Oh you can pray, on your own time. You may not take time in a government venue to basically hold people hostage and proclaim your faith that they may not share.  It’s called separation of church and state and it’s one of the tenets our country was founded on.  I almost commented there, but at the last moment I saw the sign that said “Don’t feed the trolls”.

I’m sure the anti-choice folks are rejoicing over this one.

From ForWomenOnline:

RU-486, also called mifepristone, was approved by the FDA in 2000 for early pregnancy termination, it was expected to improve access to early abortion because pregnancies could be terminated more privately, within a few days after conception, without surgery, and with only a prescription for the medication from a woman’s personal physician, no matter where the woman lived.

In 2005, out of a total of 3,141 counties in the U.S., RU-486 prescriptions were written in only 307 (10 percent). Of the 62 million girls and women of childbearing age, an estimated 36 million (58 percent) lived in a county with an RU-486 provider.

These results, the researchers conclude, indicate that RU-486 “has not brought a major improvement in the geographic availability of abortion.I like the idea of having the whole process be more private, but it’s disappointing that to those people who choose to terminate a pregnancy are still finding that it’s a major hardship to do so.  Health care for everyone, for everything, should be accessable.  I also wonder if part of the low numbers of RU-486 use have to do with pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions.  If the government says it’s OK for a pharmacist to deny someone the opportunity to prevent pregnancy because of their personal beliefs, you can damn well be sure they aren’t filling a script for mifepristone.  Irony is, if birth control was more affordable and more attainable, abortion would be less needed, which is something I think we all would be happy to see.

In the sake of honesty, I have never had an abortion, and not sure I would if I had to choose, but I firmly believe that the choice needs to remain.

Slowly Outing Myself

It never really occurred to me when I started having doubts that there is a sort of process I am going through towards being fully “out” as an atheist.  Other than my spouse, only one other family member I think really knows where I stand on the whole belief thing.  That in and of itself is a bit of a relief.  As for my parents, I think my mom knows but we don’t discuss it, and I don’t know about my dad.

What I’ve found to be one of the toughest areas is on places like Facebook.  Part of the difficulty is that I went to a catholic high school.  This has resulted in my fellow alumni running the gamut from tree-hugging godless liberals to conservative christian right wing tools (at least in my opinion).  In my info, I played it safe and put in ‘Humanist’ in the religion area.  It’s heartening to see that the people who I feel are the most sane are the ones who tend to be the least religious, and a lot of my former classmates will take on and challenge those who seem to argue from religion first, and facts second.  Over time, I’m slowly letting my feelings be known.  I became a fan of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Bill Maher, & Richard Dawkins.  We have a 20 year reunion coming up and I’d like to be confident in who I am and who I believe, should conversation steer that direction at all.

The whole process is helping me approach a point in the future where I can answer personal questions about church, god, and faith with an unequivocal answer.  Currently, I tend to waffle a bit due to fear of how my answer will be received.  One of the best interactions I’ve had recently is with one of my cousins.  I am her teenaged son’s godmother.  Her young daughter asked me if I believe in god and I told her I’m not sure.  My cousin asked if I was uncomfortable or offended that I had been asked to be a godparent.  I was pleasantly surprised that it really wound up being a non-issue, and she was more concerned about how I felt than the fact that her son has a godmother that most likely doesn’t believe in a god.

I’m hoping to be a little more active on the blog, as well as commenting on other godless blogs.  I have yet to pop my Pharyngula commenting cherry, but it’s my self-preservation instinct kicking in.  It feels a bit like diving into a shark tank wearing nothing but a shark-bait bikini.

Found at Pantagraph

Apparently more than 850 people in Illinois want “In God We Trust” on their license plate.  It is a specialty license plate that requires an extra charge to purchase if you so desire one.  Purchase of it is “…to raise revenue for families of Illinois National Guard members and reservists facing financial hardships”.  Which is wonderful.  Obtaining this specialty license plate is entirely voluntary.

Do you think we could get enough people that would want to buy a plate with a secular or even better, atheist message on it?

The secretary of state’s office only prints specialty plates when more than 850 registered motorists are willing to pay for them, spokesman Henry Haupt said.

If we could pull it off, do we have a choice as to where our money goes?  If so, what organization would you choose to receive the revenue?