Author Archives: Michael

Final word on Atheism+

September 7, 2012

When i first figured out I was an Atheist I wanted to meet other Atheists.  It wasn’t about the need for community or to gather socially, I was more so curious.  I knew why I was an Atheist and I wanted to hear other peoples stories.  Like many recent deconverts I sought out Atheists on the Internet.  First I discovered a podcast and for the first time heard people say the things that I had already been thinking, and it was quite a novel idea for me at the time that I wasn’t the only one who thought this way.  It was comforting to simply know I was not alone.

Soon after I stumbled across an Atheist community website that had a very active forum section. I was quite content to read peoples opinion, observe discussions, and read peoples stories on how they became atheists.  I found the entire experience quite cathartic and in the early days of my own Atheism it was this kind of thing that helped me get over my own irrational fear and doubt that religion had instilled in me.

After several weeks of reading posts on the site a conversation thread popped up by a poster who claimed to be a nonbeliever but was by his own admittance a racist.  He supplied some very questionable genetic studies and opinions as to why white anglo europeans were superior to darker skinned people in general but specifically Africans.  There was a quick backlash.  Many people did what I would expect and refuted his claims, deconstructed the posted studies, discredited the pseudo-science used, and made well rationed arguments as to why this poster was at best using bad data to form his opinion.  Some took the opinion that the poster was simply a ‘Christian Troll’, while others went as far to say that while he might be a non-believer he wasn’t a ‘real-atheist’.

This is where I got involved in the conversation and questioned what on earth they could mean that someone wasn’t a real Atheist. If someone says they don’t believe in a god or claims of a god are they not by default an Atheist?   The definition I was aware of was nothing but ‘a rejection of the claims that a god exists.’  I was quickly told that to be real atheist you had to be rational and no rational person could be a racist or bigot and an outcry to ban the subject from the site started.  This put me in a weird place.  I was stuck defending the bigots right to be a bigot.  As the quote often attributed to Voltaire goes “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.  I was quickly told that if I didn’t decry his comments as unspeakable that I too was not a real atheist.  Now mind you I had already stated that I did not agree with a word that had been posted, but the answer was education not banishment and exclusion.

This experience quickly soured me on the Atheist movement.  For a group that claimed rationalism and evidence are two of the most important aspects of Atheism many did not use that in their counters on this subjects racist claims.

I left that community soon after, and nearly a year passed before I would attempt to find a real world group, hoping to meet other atheists face to face for the first time.

Since then I have been a member of a small, but feisty, group of Atheists in Ohio.  One of the things that I admire most about our group is its diversity.  There is very little we agree upon as a whole.  Drenn, the Vice President of the group and I differ on Agnosticism and Atheism, which has led to many long debates.  I differ from Lori and Scott on the idea of Gun Control.  I differ from James in quite a few political ideas. Logan and I differ on the death penalty.  I would venture to guess that there is no one in my group whom I likely side with 100% on every social justice issue.  However I would never think to exclude any of them from our group.  When we choose to discuss topics we disagree on each of us hope to make our argument, provide valid supportive evidence and maybe sway the other person’s point of view.

Regardless of what I disagree with someone on I would never choose to exclude them from working to rebuild Mr. Jefferson’s wall.  I would never say to any of them, ‘Well its a good thing I found out you believe that, now I know who not to work with!”  This is why Atheism + is being called divisive.  “We’re not divisive, were just trying to make a safe space for people to discuss ideas.  Free of criticism and seperate from everyone else.” is the response I see to the accusation of divisiveness.  I’m sorry to say, but that is by definition divisive-  creating, or tending to create, division, separation, or difference.

As much as I might agree with Atheism plus on one social issue or another you can not guilt someone who does not into agreement,  and you can not force agreement with threats of exclusion.

If you’re activists, and your goal is to improve the world for LGBT’s, women, minorities, or any other mistreated subset of America we will never accomplish that by isolating ourselves from those dissenting opinions.  If you want to improve the Atheist community so that it is more tolerant of minorities, women, and LGBT’s then the answer is to help educate the community that exists, not to run off and abandon it to form your own exclusionary club so you can figure out who not to work with.  Change isn’t easy and it isn’t quick, but the answer isn’t to give up on the Atheist movement.  The answer is to help it grow by educating those who are misinformed.  Discovering why someone is a racist, a homophobe, a misogynist, and while you may never change that persons mind educating the next generation so they do not repeat those mistakes.

Unity, support, partnership, and education.  That is the answer.

-Michael

: News

Unless your Internet has been down lately or you intentionally avoid all Atheist websites on the net you can’t help but hear people discuss Atheism+.  I’m using discuss in the loosest possible terms here, because discussion is not occurring.  Battle lines have been drawn.

If Atheism+ has taught me anything in its short existence, its that nobody cares what my opinion is and I should shut the hell up.

I’ve tried two previous times to write about the emergence of Atheism+ onto the scene and each time after finishing and going back to read what I had written I decided not to post on the topic.  The first attempt I made was an in depth attempt to express my concerns in a rational and logical manner.  The second was a deconstruction of several conversations I had with people who claim to be A+ers and were defending their beliefs system against the concerns I had expressed.  On this third attempt I simply decided to give my opinion regardless of how unpopular it may be with any particular subset of Atheists.

My issues with A+ have  nothing to do with their stated goals.  I’m all for social justice.  I essentially agree with most Secular Humanistic principles that  I am aware of, though I do not actually consider myself a Secular Humanist.  I do however still have at least two major aversions to A+ that I will discuss.  .

1) The use of the world Atheism.  I’ve heard its use defended by members of Atheism+, and I would like to say I don’t care, I still don’t like the use of the world Atheism.  I prefer to keep Atheism out of the realm of world views, to not add any requirements to it, or to create a world view or a system of belief around Atheism.  Something Atheism is not and should not be is a world view. I do not expect or require that other Atheists share my world view and I would appreciate that same courtesy from the rest of the community.

2) I am not an Atheist by choice.  I am an Atheist because it is the null/default position.  So now I am forced to choose, join the A+ team, accept the label or as it has been put by at least one promoter of Atheism+, Richard Carrier, be against them.  “ are you with us, or with them” He said is a recent blog post.

While I support pretty much every social justice issue that has been raised by people beating the drum for Atheism+, and I’m pretty sure that I land on the same page as the Atheism+ members on the topics of sexism, racism, skepticsm, and critical thinking we differ in at least two key aspects.

1) I don’t wish to alienate anyone and if I were to encounter someone with beliefs and values that differ from my own I would hope to educate them, possibly engage in discussion and debate and maybe change their mind through rational discourse.  After all you can’t force people to change their mind, you can only provide the information and hopefully educate them.  Richard has however made it very clear at his blog that he does not care if he alienates members of the Atheist community and that simply not supporting the idea of making Atheism a world view by adding the + to it is enough to make you an outcast.

“are you going to stick with Atheism Less and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality?
Then at least we’ll know who to work with. And who to avoid.” -Richard Carrier

Does it really make sense attempt to compel membership with threats of exclusion?  So by not adopting their label  I have been resigned to being a member of Atheism Less in the eyes of Richard Carrier and I can only assume more than a few other self identified members of Atheism+, and no longer worthy of working with members of Atheism+ to ensure seperation of Church and State or any other issue that might directly affect me as an Atheist.

It may be my contrarian nature, but I detest being told what I have to believe, have to accept or must follow.  It is with out a doubt one of the main reasons I disliked religion as a child.   Before ever considering the validity of the claims or the idea that a God might not exist I didn’t like being told what I had to accept.  I prefer to make that decision myself, and it is one of the main reasons that I identified as a freethinker long before I identified as an Atheist.  It is also one of the main reasons that while I follow most if not all the principals of Secular Humanism I don’t really consider myself a Secular Humanist, I simply don’t wish to adopt that label.  Now a particular subset of the Atheism, a group I  am only a member of by default,  has chosen to lump me in with the sexists and the racists because I do not wish to fly their banner.

So what has Atheism+ done for Atheism and the Atheism Visibility movement that encouraged me to come out, speak up and get involved?  It has single-handedly killed my desire and motivation to be part of this movement or to identify as an Atheist.  So as of today I will return to identifying myself as a Freethinker so that I can continue to form my own opinions and beliefs with out being ‘less’.

-Michael

 

As always all opinions expressed are mine alone and not representative of the MOA, its Board, or Members.  

: News

The Atheist Stereotype

July 18, 2012

Let us not forget..

 

Atheists are uncaring.

 

Atheists are immoral.

 

Atheists are all old men.

 

Atheists don’t worry about helping other people.

 

Atheists don’t know what real love is.

 

There aren’t that many Atheists around.

 

View more photos of angry atheists–

Here, Here, and Here.

: News

Many of you may have read the recent article over at the Huffington Post about a little kitten found encased in concrete up to its neck.  While alone this act is disgusting and shocking enough, many people missed the religious underpinning of why such a horrible incident occurred.   Andrew Chatwin, the gentleman who found the kitten is an outspoken former member of The Church of Latter Day saints. Chatwin, who left the FLDS 13 years ago, believes the cruel act was done by members of his former church. He claims both threats and the animal killings have been going on for years.

 

According to our friends at the Cleveland Skeptics:

Stasy (to honor Isaac’s apostasy and bravery in remaining in the area in order to help fellow apostates) was freed from the cement and taken to Best Friend’s Animal Society, a wonderful rescue sanctuary in Utah. Although they were not able to save poor Stasy, they are still helping and hope to help, many more animals in need for many years to come. Let’s make that happen. Don’t let the unreason that led to this innocent death be for nothing.

 

Please help combat this abuse by helping them raise money for ‘ Best Friend’s Animal Society’ of Utah so they can continue to assist our four legged friends and help prevent this kind of abuse.  Click on the link below and donate what you can, every dollar helps.

http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/clevelandskeptics/rememberstasy

-Michael

 

 

All opinions presented are mine alone and not the official position of Mid Ohio Atheists. 

: News

WTF Alabama?

July 3, 2012

Seriously Alabama?  Seriously Christians?  COME ON?!  For once you’ve left me nearly speechless with the utter crazy that comes out of your Religion Christians.  Just when I think I’ve seen it all.  This blatant racism is sickening.   Please Christians, tell me again how Christianity makes you moral and a better person.

 

http://www.myfoxal.com/story/18944454/winfield-residents-upset-over-flier-for-whites-only-pastors-conference

http://www.goddiscussion.com/98071/rascist-white-pastors/

: News

I guess you’re really getting peoples attention when not only do you get the standard hate mail from the fundamental believers but a Baptist Preacher takes the time out of his day to email you.  This was a new experience for me simply because the people who usually email me and want to argue or save my soul are more times then not non-denominational.  Either they attend a non-denominational church or they have abandoned traditional Religion for the idea that it’s a ‘Relationship’ not a Religion.   Which really means I can’t find anyone who is doing the way I like so I’m just going to make it up myself .   I’m sure Paul had the best of intentions, and I may have been a bit hard on him in my reply.  However I tend to get a little hot and bothered when people imply that I’m ignorant of scripture or Christianity in general and then offer their interpretation of some section they feel applies to the conversation.  So for the record I pride myself on my knowledge of the Christian Scripture and its history.  Those who know me well can attest to my knowledge.   If Paul happens to read this I would like to extend an invitation to him to attend our upcoming picnic, who knows, he just might learn a thing or two about atheists.

 

Picnic information can be found here.

(more…)

I would like to address a couple of comments I keep seeing from believers in reference to our billboards.

 

1)  We didn’t put these billboards up for Christians.  I know its hard to believe but they are not for you.  In fact these were not put up for any person of any religion.  They were put up for the other atheists, secularists, humanists, and freethinkers in Ohio.  For those who were unaware that a group like ours exists.  When it was said that we did not put up these billboards to challenge anyone’s beliefs or to attempt to convert people to atheism we received a ton of comments from people who couldn’t understand how we could not have that intention when the billboards are in direct contradiction to their beliefs.  This would be like local Jewish people throwing a fit in the paper because a Christian Church puts up a billboard with Jesus on it.  The Jews do not accept Jesus or think him divine and a billboard with his depiction is a direct challenge to their beliefs.  However Christians do not put up billboards in an attempt to convert Jews to Jesus, and the Mid Ohio Atheists do not put up billboards in an attempt to convert anyone to Atheism.  The goal of these billboards were simple.  1) Announce our presence to like minded people in our area so they could participate in the group if they desire.  2) Assist those who are to far from Mansfield with finding a local group in their area.   We accomplished both of these things.  I have gotten tons of emails, messages, and tweets about the billboards.  I have had a chance to speak with many local people who support the billboards and were encouraged to see them locally.  I have also received many messages from people around Ohio and have been able to put them in contact with their local groups.  The billboard which was forced down received over 500,000 views on reddit in the first day of its posting.  In the words of George W. Bush ‘Mission Accomplished’.

2)  I’ve also received several inquires from Christians wanting to meet with our group and tell us why we are wrong.  ”I just want to come to your meeting and answer questions.”  They say.   Do you contact the local Muslims and offer to meet with them and tell them why they are wrong?  Do you call up a Christian Church with a different interpretation of Christian Doctrine and attempt to tell them why they are incorrect?  Our meetings are open to the public, and anyone is welcome to attend.  However if your coming to preach, provoke, or proselytize,  then I would suggest staying home.   However if any of these people determined to explain to us why we are wrong would like to setup a formal debate on a specific point then by all means we would gladly come to your church and have a member of our group debate you, your pastor, or whom ever. Set it up, give us a call.  419-862-5044.

In closing the most insulting comment I’ve seen several times is “Well they’re only 30 people.”  Along with some insult about the size of our group or the fact we are not the majority and then usually some implied idea that because we are not we should remain silent.  To that I can only remind them of Samuel Adams, organizer of the 1773 Boston Tea Party.

It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.  – Samuel Adams

 

-Michael

: News

Recently in the Mansfield News Journal an opinion letter about the Mid Ohio Atheists was submitted and printed.  While the author of this letter, W. Willy Allen of Bellville Ohio (I like to pretend the first W stands for Wild), shows throughout his letter that he lacks the ability to understand some of the most simple concepts– well there is only one thing in his letter I really feel needs to be addressed.

W. Willy Allen said
“Every so often in Richland County the local atheists come to the surface. They have popped up twice in recent months. Like Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog, they pop to the surface. They’re cute, but not cuddly.”

I sir, will not stand for this slight against my Atheist brothers and sisters!  How dare you imply that we are not cuddly!  While I’m sure Wild, as I will refer to him from this point forward, was probably unaware but June 1st, just two days before the publishing of his letter was National Hug an Atheist day.  Everyone knows that atheists are by far the most cuddly people on the planet.

Some of our Cuddly Atheist friends at the University of Minnesota

 

Atheist Blogging superstar PZ Myers! Notice how cuddly?

I do want to thank Wild for, well, a wild idea.  He has inspired me to write a new series here at our blog.  Often as Atheists we are accused of so much.  Having no morals, being evil, not understanding the Bible, not having been raised properly, or just hating god.  Well the only way to dispel these ideas is to introduce you to some of our members.  Starting in the next couple of weeks I will be posting about some of our members, who they are and what they do– when they aren’t– well you know–  being atheists.

Now I realize that any evidence or ‘proof’ that the members of our group are not evil people bent on the destruction of Christianity and America is likely to be ignored so that faith can be preserved by many who will read those blogs.  Just know that I’m ok with that.  I’m not here to turn you into an Atheist.  I will happily settle for a few less hateful Christians.

As most people are aware just a few short weeks ago Mid Ohio Atheists were please to announce three billboards that would be placed in the Mansfield Ohio area. They sported three slogans that were were selected in various ways.

‘There is no God. Don’t believe everything you hear.”

Which was a copy of billboard placed in the Mansfield area by the McElroy Church of Christ

“On the first day man created God”

Which was selected by popular vote in our billboard contest.

and

“Reason Faith is a Virtue.”

Which was selected by the members of Mid Ohio Atheists.

When these billboards went up I anticipated some moaning and groaning along with the possibility of someone defacing one or more of them. I also assumed there was a slight chance that one of the billboards would be forced down. Today we received the news that the owner of the land where one of our billboards was placed has threatened to cancel his lease with Lamar if they do not take down our billboard. Had I been forced to guess which one of the three we put up people would find most offensive and which one we would be forced to take down I would have been wrong. Apparently what people fear the most in Mansfield Ohio is not being told there is no God or that God is an invention of man. No my friends what they fear more than those two messages was a message encouraging the use of reason over faith. The following billboard was deemed offensive by the owner of the land and was removed today.

 

 

 

I always knew reason was a powerful tool.

-Michael

: News

As happy as I was to discover people all over the internet talking about Mid Ohio Atheists and our Billboards I was surprised that they also spurred some controversy, and less surprised that some people didn’t understand why we made certain choices.

Martin Wagner of the Atheist Community of Austin and Atheist Experience fame wrote about us at the AXP blog praising the design and overall appeal of our campaign.   He also took American Atheists to task for what he described as “often poor and flat-out amateurish graphic design”.  Most of what Martin had to say could not really be disputed, but Justin Griffith, the Military Director for American Atheists attempted to take Martin to task for his comments at his blog.

In reading both of their takes I have to say neither was spot on in their story.  So I’m here to set the record straight.

Sure, Martin was incorrect in not giving American Atheists some credit for our campaign and he has since added to his original post making that correction.  Mid Ohio Atheists is an American Atheists Affiliate and I am a life time member, something of which I am very proud.   It was also the American Atheist National Convention in 2011 that motivated me to get more involved and attempt to do something like this, so in many indirect ways American Atheists did have a part in the campaign from the start.

The original billboard erected by the McElroy Church of Christ

They also had a more direct role.  When I was inspired to attempt a billboard campaign in our area that inspiration came from an unlikely place, the McElroy Church of Christ and their failed billboard campaign from just a few months earlier.  The fact that a Church, in an attempt to lure skeptics to their website, by going with a provocative message and that their intent totally missed the mark made my decision for me.  I wanted to put up the same exact billboard.

I’ve seen several people post comments to say “Well I would never say there is no God.”   Yes we are all aware that the person making the claim is the person required to provide the evidence.  The original purpose behind putting up the same message was not to initiate some deep philosophical debate, it was a simple one.  We had gotten credit for putting it up already.  When people thought we had put it up our regular meetings went for 9 or 10 people in attendance to 20 and 30 people in attendance.  So the billboard was effective, even if we didn’t actually put it up.  Now we had a chance to actually put it up and sure we get to essentially thumb our collective noses at the McElory Church of Christ at the same time.  Not to mention how much complaining could religious people do when the billboard the atheist group is putting up is a design borrowed from a Church?  Win/Win/Win.

 

Our take on the original McElroy Church Billboard

 

This is where American Atheists and David Silverman get credit.  When I started trying to raise funds I sent emails to three national Atheist Organizations asking for assistance in doing our own billboard and I pitched the idea of doing the billboard with the exact same message.  I received two replies.  One organization said they would assist us but we had to choose from one of their billboard designs.  Dave was the only one who saw this idea for what it was worth and took a chance on us by agreeing to fund this billboard.  Originally American Atheists would have funded about 1/3 of the total cost of the campaign.  However when LIND media backed out of our original contract to put up billboards we were forced to switch companies.  When the cost was all said and done with the new company the donation by American Atheists provided for 1/4 of what we needed to put up three billboards.  With our members kicking in over half and anonymous internet people donating  just under 1/4 we were able to reach the needed amount only days before the deadline.  Aside from making a sizable donation to us what Dave should really get credit for is taking a chance on a small group in a backwater town in the middle of some corn fields in Ohio.  He knew it was good idea when he heard it and he trusted us to make it happen.

 

Contest Winner

The one selected by our members

 

I would also like to point out that all three designs were donated to the Mid Ohio Atheists by their designers.  With out their kindness we would not have had such awesome designs as every penny we were able to raise went to the purchase of the billboard lease.  The other two billboards do not sport the American Atheist logo and were not funded by American Atheists .  I only point this out because I feel it cheapens the work and dedication put in by our members if we simply write this off as  an American Atheists campaign.  I want people to understand that our group is not a large group like you find in some major cities, we only have around 30 members on our roles with 15 to 20 active members. To accomplish this in our area was no easy task and those members involved are very deserving of your admiration and support. So Justin’s claim when referencing Martins original blog post that “Mid-Ohio Atheists billboards that he praises were in fact American Atheists billboards.” isn’t 100% true.    American Atheists were part, but only a small part and while we are extremely thankful to have had then involved I can’t help be reiterate the tireless dedication to this project that I witnessed from our President Ron Stephens and the other members of our group.

So yes American Atheists were involved and yes we are extremely thankful and proud to have them as part of our campaign, but this is ours, our members did the work and they deserve to be recognized for their commitment.

In the end if anything comes from this I hope its a better understanding of what works, and I think these designs work.  I hope this clears up some of the misunderstandings.

Finally I would like to encourage everyone to take part in American Atheists ‘Good Billboard’ contest to draw attention to the State House’s recent designation of 2012 as “The Year of the Bible” .  A billboard contest is a great idea!  I wonder how they came up with it? 

 

-Michael

 

 

The opinions expressed in this post are mine and mine alone. More specifically, I am not speaking for the Mid Ohio Atheists or are any opinions expressed representative of the position of the organization.  

: News
Page 1 of 812345»...Last »