Wendy Davis and Secular Politics

Last night, I was at the event where State Senator Wendy Davis (D-10) announced her candidacy for the Governorship of Texas.

Here’s a picture of her of me at the after-party later that night!

Sen. Wendy Davis and Me!My hair looks like shit…

I stood outside in the heat and annoying wind for at least an hour before they let us inside. Once there, I stood for two hours waiting for Wendy Davis to even appear.

An hour before she spoke, the official sign of her campaign was revealed. Here’s the photo I took the second the veil was lifted from it:

Wendy Davis Campaign Sign

Needless to say, I was very excited about this. I was very excited to see Sen. Davis and to hear her speak, een though my legs were about to give out by the time she took the stage.

While I was there, I was very optimistic about the future of Texas. The feelings I had while I was waiting for her to come out were elated and pumped. I have never been to a political rally like this before (I guess, the Reason Rally kind of counts), so these are kind of new feelings for me to experience.

It was also great meeting somewhat like-minded people and being able to converse with them, which was mostly bitching about Republicans and the government shutdown that they caused.

Although I realize that Texas is still very red, I know that if real progressives work at it, Texas can at least become a valuable swing state within this decade.

About half an hour before Sen. Davis came out at five o’clock, we were led in the Pledge of Allegiance. That, I can understand. Sure, I don’t understand the nationalistic aspect of it or the part about “Under God,” but I do understand somewhat why this happens at nearly every public event in America.

Next came out (who I assume was also a State Senator because I honestly can’t remember who they were) someone who delivered an invocation. This is where Shayrah and myself started having a problem with the event. While nearly everyone had their heads bowed, some with their hands in the air like at a megachurch, Shayrah and I kept our eyes on the speaker with a look merely of disapproval.

It didn’t really seem like an invocation though. It felt like preaching. He was very loud and passionate about the things he was saying, throwing in God every few words or saying that something was a gift from God. He said that Wendy Davis was a gift from God. He said that God was a rock and Davis was our anchor to that rock. Religious metaphors that I understood but didn’t see the need for.

Usually at political rallies, they have someone who introduces the candidate with a sort of pre-speech. This “invocation” seemed more like that than invoking the power or blessing of a deity.

If this man had been commissioned by the organizers of this rally to not give an invocation but to simply give an introductory speech for Sen. Davis, would anyone have noticed?

If they had left out the invocation completely, would anyone have noticed?

If the speaker had left out all mentions of God, would anyone have noticed?

Would anyone have noticed or really even cared?

Do political rallies somehow require God to be constantly mentioned? Can’t there be political rallies or public events that simply don’t mention deities or how much we supposedly need them to make our country better? Can’t we make a better world without God?

Why do politicians feel the need to mention God so much? I understand that many of these politicians are Christians, but what good does it do to constantly thank or mention God? You can’t thank the American people or the things that they actually did?

Astrophysicist and popularizer of science Neil DeGrasse Tyson once said that for every football team that thanks God for a win, there is an equal number of teams that can blame God for a loss. Well, if both Democrats and Republicans say they have God on their side or invoke God in some way in hopes of winning an election, the same argument can be made, so what point is there in invoking God?

American politics has created a culture where God has to be mentioned, or else. It has created a culture where there must be a prayer before a rally, or else. If you don’t, then you get called out by the religious right for hating America or for being a godless heathen (which for many Americans is worse, Democrat and Republican alike).

If politicians simply did not mention God all the time or have invocations all the time before events, then they would be seen with less and less importance by the American people, regardless of political party or ideology. Politicians would no longer feel the need to be the most Christian-ey Christian of all the Christians in Christian Land.

This would not only create a secular culture in politics (I’m talking about politics, not government), where one does not need to appease the religious majority anymore, but it would also allow for nonreligious candidates to no longer feel like they need to hide or that they don’t belong in American politics.

Religion and religious affiliation should be irrelevant though. It should not be something that is even worth noting.

I didn’t care that Mitt Romney was a Mormon or that Paul Ryan was a Catholic. I cared that they believed that gays should not have the right to marry and women should not have the right to control their own bodies, among many other things. Whether they justified that through their religion or through secular means was irrelevant to me.

I’m not saying for Christian politicians to hide their Christianity (far from it), but in order to make all people, of all religious beliefs, feel more welcome, that requires a secular culture in politics and in the broader society as a whole.

Simply don’t have invocations before rallies. What purpose do they serve? We’re attending a rally, not a church service.

Again, I have to ask. Would anyone have noticed if they just did not have an invocation before Sen. Wendy Davis spoke and announced her candidacy? Probably not.

Fox News host ‘tired’ of atheists, says ‘they don’t have to live here’

There are a lot of things that I’m tired of. Traffic. Annoying advertisements. Going to the bank. People who don’t realize the left lane is the freaking passing lane.

But I’ve never been tired of an entire demographic of people. Yes, I disagree with certain groups of people, like conservative Christians, and I may even not like some of them, but it’s usually a prominent figure when they say or promote bigotry, but I’ve also never told them that the entire demographic should leave the United States.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Dana-perino-02.jpg

That’s how Fox News host Dana Perino feels about atheists though.

While discussing the lawsuit currently in the Massachusetts Supreme Court brought by the American Humanist Association about the constitutionality of the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, Perino, who was also the Press Secretary under President George W. Bush, said on Wednesday’s episode of “The Five” that she’s “tired” of atheists.

I’m tired of them. I remember working at the Justice Department years ago when I first started right after 9/11 and a lawsuit like this came through, and before the day had finished, the United States Senate and the House of Representatives had both passed resolutions saying that they were for keeping ‘Under God’ in the pledge.

She also continued with this lovely statement:

…if these people really don’t like it, they don’t have to live here.

Okay. If you don’t like that women have the right to an abortion, you don’t have to live here, Perino. If you don’t like that people can marry those of the same sex, you don’t have to live here. If you don’t like that we have a separation of church and state, you don’t have to live here.

I guess, if you don’t like something, anything at all with American law or culture, you should just leave the country entirely. The only problem is that no one would be left.

I also just love that Bob Beckel, who started out the segment by saying that David Niose, the lawyer arguing the case, forgot to mention that students can opt-out of doing the Pledge, responded to Perino’s remarks by saying, “Yeah, that’s a good point.”

You know what I’m tired of? Not this!

I love hearing the stupid and bigoted things that people continue to say on an almost daily fucking basis about atheists, gays, women, and other minorities still fighting for their rights, which apparently is taking away the rights of the poor Christian majority.

Religious right prays against LGBT inclusion into San Antonio anti-discrimination ordinance

In San Antonio, a fight is underway over a piece of legislation that would update the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

The San Antonio Express News reports that a “majority of council members have already declared their support for the measure,” almost ensuring that the ordinance will pass.

It is great to see that more and more local governments are responding to change in a positive way and moving with the times, even when their own state governments refuse to.

Texas is just one of 29 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, where it is still legal to fire someone for being gay, while in 34 states it is legal to fire someone for being transgendered.

At city hall, supporters and opponents of the update showed up in force. Apparently everyone decided to be color coated to know who is who. Those who were in support wore red and opponents wore blue. San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, a rising star in the Democratic Party, was spotted wearing a pink shirt.http://ww4.hdnux.com/photos/23/36/31/5105227/0/622x350.jpg

Those who opposed the ordinance update, most of whom were black and Hispanic clergy and their congregants, held a prayer group on the steps of city hall and prayed against the protection of another minorities rights while holding small, white signs that read “Vote No.”

KENS reported that one of the clergy in attendance was Associate Pastor Tyrone Lee Christian of My Friends House Christian Fellowship, who said, “[Those of the gay and lesbian agenda] have constantly been trying to attach themselves as a civil rights movement but it’s not a civil rights movement. It’s a movement of choice.”

Fifty years after Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech to hundreds-of-thousands at the National Mall in Washington D.C., hundreds of blacks and Hispanics were in San Antonio fighting against the very ideals that he stood, fought, and died for.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Greg Abbott, who recently announced his plans to run for Texas governor, came out against the ordinance, saying that it would infringe upon the religious rights of others.

Abbott apparently doesn’t know the meaning of religious freedom. This doesn’t surprise me knowing the stances he’s taken on many issues involving the separation of church and state.

Crayon color can tell you if you’re gay or possessed by demons, claims ex-gay therapist

During an appearance on This Is Your Day with Benny Hinn recently, an ex-gay therapist claimed that he could easily tell if someone was possessed by demons.

What was his super scientific method for figuring this out, you ask? Was it brain scans? Was it intense research with psychologists, neuro-scientists, and other professionals?

Of course not. That would require actual science, which we know many on the religious right seem to have such a problem with, because it teaches us evil things like that men come from apes and that the Earth’s climate is changing.

No. You can tell someone is possessed simply by having them pick a crayon from a box and coloring in a drawing of the human brain.http://farm1.staticflickr.com/136/404298099_c60259d30a_o.jpg

Yes, you read that correctly. Jerry Mungadze is an ex-gay therapist from Zimbabwe that claims to have degrees in “Bible,” Biblical Studies, and even a Ph.D. in counselor education. This is all according to his website. I highly doubt that he has any degree, in anything.

There’s a certain color someone uses that I won’t mention that tells me someone’s been demonized,” said Jerry Mungadze, “Everything that I talk about is based on numbers, is based on studies, which is what you do is when you’re a scientist” (emphasis mine).

There we go again, claiming things that just aren’t true. Mungadze is not a scientist, even if he had the degrees that he claims to have. This is as ridiculous as Ken Ham or Ray Comfort claiming to be a scientist.

He also added that “you can actually see demonization in people’s brains.” If that’s the case, I would love to see what that looks like. Can we see a little demon going around someone’s brains when we give them an CT-Scan?

Want to know what crayon color means you’re possessed by demons? Too bad. Mungadze won’t reveal it.

Except when he finally does later in the interview, saying that black, gray, and brown are proof that someone is demonically possessed or that they “come from the occult.”

Not only that, but if you choose to color in the brain diagram with pink, that means you’re gay. Sorry.

Texas Pastafarian student allowed to wear pasta strainer in photo ID

A Texas college student has been allowed to wear a pasta strainer in the photo for his driver’s license after months of calls to local and state officials.

Eddie Castillo, a student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, is the first American to be allowed to wear “religious headgear” in a state issued driver’s license as part of his religious beliefs as a Pastafarian, also known as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.http://kcbd.images.worldnow.com/images/23248235_BG3.jpg

A New Jersey man was recently denied that same right, but a man in Austria back in 2008 was allowed to do this, only after he was required to get a letter from a mental health professional on his mental state to see if he was fit to drive.

“You might think this is some sort of a gag or prank by a college student,” Castillo told KCBD, “but thousands, including myself, see it as a political and religious milestone for all atheists everywhere.”

I appreciate that Castillo is not being abrasive, condescending, or sarcastic about any of this but is instead keeping things lighthearted. I think it does wonders to show the wider public that atheists are good people, even if we do humorous and sometimes ridiculous things to get the spotlight on a certain issue. What’s that old saying? You attract more flies with honey than vinegar.

That’s what the whole Pastafarian “religion” is all about though. Poking fun at religion, Creationism, church/state separation issues, etc. The church itself began with a letter in 2005 to the Kansas State Board of Education mocking their proposal to teach Intelligent Design.

Since the argument was being made that students should hear multiple viewpoints on who or what created the Earth and decide for themselves, the church sent an open letter to the school board saying that students should other viewpoints too. The church offered the theory (and I use that word loosely here) that the Earth was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

They also claimed that the warming of the Earth, as well as the increase in assorted natural disasters around the world, is due to the decrease in the amount of pirates in the world. This was a jab at the constant mantra from some on the religious right that natural disasters are happening because of God’s wrath over sins, such as homosexuality.

I also learned recently that Dr. Darrel Ray, author of The God Virus and Sex and God, is the High Priest of the Pastafarian Church. I had the pleasure of seeing him in his religious garbs at the American Atheists Convention down in Austin for their costume party. Surprisingly, he was not covered in spaghetti.

Nonetheless, I wish Castillo the best (and a quick shout-out to the SSA at Texas Tech). I hope he doesn’t mind getting pulled over by the police and having them think he’s mentally ill for having a driver’s license photo with a pasta strainer on his head.

Corporations that opposed Texas equal pay bill face boycott

Recently, I wrote over at Secular View, the site my partner runs, about how it was revealed by the Houston Chronicle just a few days ago that Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed a bill back in June that would have made Texas law fall in line with the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 because of pressure from corporations and business organizations.

Those who lobbied against HB 950 were Kroger Food Stores, as well as “Macy’s, the Houston grocery company Gerland Corp., Brookshire Grocery Company, Market Basket, the Texas Association of Business and the National Federation of Independent Businesses,” as reported by the Huffington Post.

In response, progressive groups in the state are calling for boycotts of these companies. The major one making this push is Progress Texas, which has a petition that people can sign to make it known to Macy’s and Kroger that they will be boycotted until they support equal pay.

http://www.pnstate.org/images/content/pagebuilder/Boycott-Macys-Kroger-Banner.png

They also respond to Gov. Perry’s claim that HB 950, which was authored by Sen. Wendy Davis (who I have written much about lately over at Secular View since her famous filibuster of SB5) and Rep. Senfronia Thompson, was unnecessary because it “duplicates federal law.”

As I wrote about in my piece for Secular View:

Those who supported the bill were saying that the bill was entirely necessary, because it allowed those who believed they were being discriminated against to file suit in a state court instead of a federal court, which costs more money (taxpayer money), and because sometimes the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act does not apply to certain state cases. As ThinkProgress noted, “Forty-two states have passed state-based equal pay laws, recognizing that Lilly Ledbetter was not enough.”

Not only that, but the Fort Worth Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court both have said that laws, such as HB 950, are indeed necessary, mostly for the reasons that I just listed.

Aside from the interest groups that are reacting, so are the politicians themselves.

State Sen. Sylvia Garcia was supposed to appear on Wednesday at a local Macy’s to kick off the tax free weekend, but decided to cancel the event after the revelation that Macy’s took part in the effort to kill the equal pay bill.

The Huffington Post reports:

While I strongly support the tax free weekend that allows parents struggling to provide clothing and supplies for their children before they return to school, I was dismayed to learn that Macy’s and Kroger would oppose equal pay for equal work,” Garcia said in a statement. “As a co-sponsor of the legislation and supporter of equal rights, I am supporting the call to boycott until these stores reverse their position and declare their support for equal pay.

Not only that, but Sen. Thompson was contacted by the Houston Chronicle and said that in light of the news that Kroger tried to kill her bill, she will no longer be shopping for her groceries there but will instead shop at HEB, a grocery chain that can only be found in Texas and parts of Mexico.

I recommend you all sign this petition. If you shop at Macy’s or Kroger (which I do), then stop supporting them until they stop trying to kill legislation aimed at protecting their employees from sexist wage discrimination and start supporting equal pay for all.

Conservatives upset Secular Coalition wants equality for non-profits

http://p6d01d57scwksv19.zippykid.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/aclj-e13402411753981.jpg

Some of you may be aware how the Secular Coalition for America is wanting equality between secular and religious non-profits, namely churches, when it comes to the privileges that non-profit organizations receive.

The SCA wants churches to be subject to the same rules and regulations that other non-profits are subject to. Well, some in the religious right aren’t too happy about that, specifically the American Center for Law and Justice, a right-wing litigation firm that is basically the conservative version of the ACLU.

In a blog post titled “Atheist Coalition Urges Unconstitutional Government Intrusion into Church Finances,” ACLJ’s Matthew Clark stated, “The [Secular Coalition for America] is pushing a legislative proposal that would bring about radical changes to churches’ long-held tax-exempt status including the possible forced disclosure of donors.”

“Even more disturbing,” he continues, “this push calls for direct government intrusion into the affairs of churches – something the Constitution directly forbids.”

OH NO!!! Churches might have to disclose donors and be subject to oversight from the big, bad government…like literally every other non-profit in the country. The sky is fucking falling!

The ACLJ apparently released a statement detailing how exactly this “intrusion” was unconstitutional, but they fail at even a basic understanding of the Constitution (emphasis mine).

[Putting] the government in a position of authority over churches, by being able to grant or deny their tax exempt statuses, threatens the protections set forth in the Establishment Clause.

Clark reiterates this in the next paragraph (emphasis mine).

And if that isn’t scary enough, “The Coalition’s recommendation ignores the line between church and State and violates the Establishment Clause by suggesting the allowance of severe government entanglement with religion through the IRS.”  The last thing we need right now is to give greater empowerment to the IRS to directly target churches.

I think the term you’re actually looking for is “Free Exercise http://t.qkme.me/35ke38.jpgClause.”

Now sure, they do mention how this proposal would “threaten the Free Exercise rights of every religious congregation in the Nation,” but then why would they continuously mention the Establishment Clause? This situation has nothing to do with the Establishment Clause, but is instead an issue of Equal Protection and Free Exercise.

But I love how the religious right is advocating for separation between church and state, but it’s obviously only when they feel like their privileges as the majority, which they see as “rights” somehow, are being taken away.

It may be true (emphasis on may) that having the IRS, you know, actually regulating churches creates an entanglement with religion, but there is a compelling government interest in creating equality between all non-profits.

If you want the non-profit status in America, then you have to play by certain rules that everyone else is made to follow. We shouldn’t care if it’s a church or anything else. Churches do not get a pass simply because they are churches.

To show how unfair the tax code really is though, look at some of these examples of how easy churches have it compared to secular non-profits.

When American Atheists filed suit against the Internal Revenue Service back in December of 2012, AA claimed, “Groups like American Atheists receive tax-exempt status under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) but, because the organization is not classified as religious, it costs American Atheists and other secular non-profits significantly more money each year to maintain that status.”

In a May press release, Edwina Rogers, SCA’s executive director, stated, “Churches and religious organizations are being singled out—for special treatment. Churches and other religious organizations have been using their tax exempt statuses for years to politick from the pulpit are rarely even investigated for their flagrant disregard of IRS law.”

The SCA press release continues:

In fact, churches are heavily insulated against general procedures and investigations that other secular non-profits are subject to. The Church Audit Procedures Act, §7611 of the Internal Revenue Code, stipulates that only “an appropriate high-level Treasury official” can initiate an investigation, if there is suspicion that the church is incompliant with 501(c)(3) requirements. The Act defines “appropriate high-level Treasury official” as “the Secretary of the Treasury or any delegate of the Secretary of the Treasury whose rank is no lower than that of a principal Internal Revenue officer for an internal revenue region.”

In an April report released by the Secular Coalition, they detailed exactly how churches are given special treatment:

  • Religious organizations do not have to inform the public of assets, annual income or expenses through an annual 990.
  • Organizations recognized under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. tax code are subject to limits or absolute prohibitions on engaging in political activities and risk loss of status as tax exempt status if violated, yet hundreds of churches break these laws without being investigated.
  • Even when churches are in violation of IRS rules, the IRS, based on Church Audit Procedures Act of 1984, has special rules that make initiating an audit of churches, mosques, synagogues and other religious entities more difficult than with other secular nonprofits.
  • K-12 schools run by religious organizations, funds or retirement programs run by religious organizations, and religious organizations organized for overseas missionary work do not have to file an annual return.
  • Clergy employed by religious organizations are exempt from owing any income tax on the property that they rent or live in if the property is church-owned.
  • A special tax exemption in the Internal Revenue Code allows a house of worship to provide one or more of its “ministers of the Gospel” to receive tax-free housing or tax-free income equivalent to the rental value of the clergy’s residence.
  • Clergy may also deduct their real estate taxes and mortgage interest from their taxes-as any taxpayer who owns a home may do. But clergy are allowed to do so even if the mortgage interest was paid with the tax-free housing income[3]. This is considered a “double-dip”, and is generally prohibited by the tax code.

Yet somehow churches are somehow going to be “targeted” by the IRS, and those poor Christians and their precious churches are going to be persecuted if they are required to play by the same rules that every other non-profit in the United States must abide by in order to maintain their non-profit status.

When inequality is done away with, it is not taking away someone’s “rights,” it is giving rights to those who were treated unfairly or no longer giving special treatment to some over others.

What the Secular Coalition for America is asking for is not unconstitutional. It is not intrusive into the business of churches. It is not taking away anyone’s right. A failure to recognize that is simply a failure to understand the Constitution and constitutional law.

  • Religious organizations do not have to inform the public of assets, annual income or expenses through an annual 990.
  • Organizations recognized under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. tax code are subject to limits or absolute prohibitions on engaging in political activities and risk loss of status as tax exempt status if violated, yet hundreds of churches break these laws without being investigated.
  • Even when churches are in violation of IRS rules, the IRS, based on Church Audit Procedures Act of 1984, has special rules that make initiating an audit of churches, mosques, synagogues and other religious entities more difficult than with other secular nonprofits.
  • K-12 schools run by religious organizations, funds or retirement programs run by religious organizations, and religious organizations organized for overseas missionary work do not have to file an annual return.
  • Clergy employed by religious organizations are exempt from owing any income tax on the property that they rent or live in if the property is church-owned.
  • A special tax exemption in the Internal Revenue Code allows a house of worship to provide one or more of its “ministers of the Gospel” to receive tax-free housing or tax-free income equivalent to the rental value of the clergy’s residence.
  • Clergy may also deduct their real estate taxes and mortgage interest from their taxes-as any taxpayer who owns a home may do. But clergy are allowed to do so even if the mortgage interest was paid with the tax-free housing income[3]. This is considered a “double-dip”, and is generally prohibited by the tax code.

- See more at: http://secular.org/news/tax-day-secular-americans-congress-end-religious-privileging-tax-code#sthash.VK2eQ9AM.dpuf

Churches and religious organizations are being singled out—for special treatment,” said Edwina Rogers, executive director for the Secular Coalition for America. “Churches and other religious organizations have been using their tax exempt statuses for years to politick from the pulpit are rarely even investigated for their flagrant disregard of IRS law – See more at: http://secular.org/news/atheists-say-irs-not-doing-enough-hold-churches-accountable#sthash.AhbcZ9M2.dpuf

Right-wing pundit says DOMA ruling like trying to suspend the law of gravity

Mathew Staver“If the Supreme Court were to say that we’re going to suspend the laws of gravity, how ridiculous would that be?”

Pretty ridiculous, if you ask me.

That was how Mathew Staver of Faith and Freedom Radio put it Wednesday while talking about the Supreme Court’s recent rulings striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

He also compared the DOMA ruling to the Dred Scott ruling and other rulings that have been looked at through the lens of history as some of the worst decisions of the Supreme Court, including the 1940s case that allowed for Japanese internment camps.

Staver went on to say:

There are certain natural laws. The laws of gravity are certainly natural laws. The natural created order of men and women, husbands and wives, is part of the natural created order. You may want some other union but you cannot create marriage into something that it is incapable of being.

Brushing aside the obvious mistake of confusing prescriptive laws, which is what DOMA was and what all other laws put by governments are, and descriptive laws, which is what the law of gravity is that describe the natural world, Staver is claiming that same-sex marriages are “incapable of being,” because they mess with God’s “natural created order”.

Let’s look at God’s natural order when it comes to marriage, shall we?
http://atheistatlarge.org/articles/uploads/2011/06/MarriageAccordingToTheBible.jpg
  • God allows for us to marry multiple women.
  • God allows for us to marry slaves.
  • God allows for us to marry prisoners of war and who are the spoils of our victories over pagan cities.
  • God allows us to marry the widow of our brother.
  • God allows us to marry a woman and have concubines on the side.
  • God allows us to marry a woman we just raped (as long as we pay her father some silver).

(Thanks to Right Wing Watch)

 

There are certain natural laws,” Staver declared, “the laws of gravity are certainly natural laws. The natural created order of men and women, husbands and wives, is part of the natural created order. You may want some other union but you cannot create marriage into something that it is incapable of being – See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/staver-scotus-doma-ruling-trying-suspend-law-gravity#sthash.i9letbo4.dpuf
There are certain natural laws,” Staver declared, “the laws of gravity are certainly natural laws. The natural created order of men and women, husbands and wives, is part of the natural created order. You may want some other union but you cannot create marriage into something that it is incapable of being – See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/staver-scotus-doma-ruling-trying-suspend-law-gravity#sthash.i9letbo4.dpuf
There are certain natural laws,” Staver declared, “the laws of gravity are certainly natural laws. The natural created order of men and women, husbands and wives, is part of the natural created order. You may want some other union but you cannot create marriage into something that it is incapable of being – See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/staver-scotus-doma-ruling-trying-suspend-law-gravity#sthash.i9letbo4.dpuf

Study of the religiously unaffiliated shows they are just like everyone else

A new study released by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga about those in America that consider themselves nonbelievers, and the researches involved in the study are saying that atheists and the nonreligious are just like everyone else, in that they are just as varied in personality types and differing ideologies as the religious.

“Congratulations, non-believers. You’re essentially normal,” said Thomas Coleman III, one of the researchers involved in the study.

Along with Christopher Silver, the two researchers looked at the personalities of nonreligious Americans, as well as their differing outlooks on god(s), spirituality, and religion.

The results showed that atheists are just as diverse in their personality as any other group of people. Coleman called it a “normal distribution of personality types.”

Silver and Coleman’s study also focused on the different types of nonbelievers. The reports overview read:

Previous research and studies focusing on the diverse landscape of belief in America have continually placed those who profess no belief in a God or gods into one unified category infamously known as the “religious nones.” This catch-all category presented anyone who identified as having “no religion” as a homogenous group in America today, lumping people who may believe in God with the many who don’t.

The basic gist is that those who are unaffiliated with a religion, the so-called “nones,” are not some monolith. They are, in fact, very different. Not all of them are atheists or agnostics, and not all of the atheists and agnostics are the same “type” of atheist or agnostic.

According to the Raw Story:

The study identified six types of non-believers: Intellectual Atheist/Agnostics (IAA), Activist Atheist/Agnostics (AAA), Seeker Agnostics (SA), Antitheists, Non-theists and Ritual Atheist/Agnostics (RAA).

Silver said that these categories were a “first stab” at trying to classify the different types of nonbelievers. “In 30 years, we may be looking at a typology of 32 types,” he said.

Intellectual Atheist/Agnostics (IAA) are the “individuals who proactively seek to educate themselves through intellectual association, and proactively acquire knowledge on various topics relating to ontology (the search for Truth) and non-belief.”

Activist Atheist/Agnostics (AAA) are those “not content with the placidity of simply holding a non-belief position; they seek to be both vocal and proactive regarding current issues in the atheist and/or agnostic socio-political sphere. This sphere can include such egalitarian issues, but is not limited to: concerns of humanism, feminism, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered (LGBT) issues, social or political concerns, human rights themes, environmental concerns, animal rights, and controversies such as the separation of church and state.”

Then there are the Seeker Agnostics (SA), which consist “of individuals attuned to the metaphysical possibilities precluding metaphysical existence, or at least recognizes the philosophical difficulties and complexities in making personal affirmations regarding ideological beliefs.” Basically what we would generally consider someone who identifies as agnostic.

Antitheists “may be considered atheist or in some cases labeled as ‘new atheists,’ the Anti-Theist is diametrically opposed to religious ideology. As such, the assertive Anti-Theist both proactively and aggressively asserts their views towards others when appropriate, seeking to educate the theists in the passé nature of belief and theology.”

Non-theists was not easily summed up in a sentence or two in the study, so here is my best interpretation of it: someone who does not take an “epistemological position,” whether religious or irreligious, and is apathetic and/or disinterested in intellectual discussions of god(s) and the atheist movement.

Last but not least are the Ritual Atheists/Agnostics (RAA), who are in fact atheists but still “may participate in specific rituals, ceremonies, musical opportunities, meditation, yoga classes, or holiday traditions. Such participation may be related to an ethnic identity (e.g. Jewish) or the perceived utility of such practices in making the individual a better person.” The RAA should not be confused with someone who says they are “spiritual but not religious.”

Silver and Coleman both noted that many Jews in the US are best described as Ritual Atheists/Agnostics.

I think I personally would fit into the IAA and AAA categories, which Silver and Coleman say make up the majority of nonbelievers, but antitheist also does describe me at many times, and that’s what Dave Muscato of American Atheists says his organization’s position take. They say that religion “is dangerous” and religious traditions and rituals are just “superstitious and there’s no purpose to them and that we have better things to do.”

I like this study more than the one recently released by the University of North Texas, where I go to school, which claimed that atheists are just this monolith of privileged old, white men that are defiant to religion, because it gets in the way of their privilege.

Texas Governor Perry signs ‘Merry Christmas Bill,’ says ‘freedom from religion’ not a right

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While signing the “Merry Christmas Bill” on Thursday surrounded by nearly a dozen Santa Claus impersonators (as opposed to the real Santa Claus), Texas Governor Rick Perry made the statement that “freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.”

The H.B. 308, commonly referred to as “Merry Christmas Bill,” would provide legal protection for “students and district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including: ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Hanukkah,’ and ‘happy holidays’,” because that was apparently not allowed in Texas schools before.

This would mean that I had been breaking the law for thirteen years while in Texas’ public schools. Oh no! I hope those evil, secular Nazi Muslims don’t find me out and take me to a FEMA concentration camp to endlessly watch Rachel Maddow to reprogram me to eat my locally grown broccoli and drive a Prius!

Nonetheless, as I reported on ANR when the Texas Senate passed this bill a few weeks ago:

State Senator Robert Nichols, who introduced the bill into the Texas Senate, is quoted as saying on the website of the Merry Christmas Bill, “To me this is a matter of helping our teachers and administrators feel safe talking about these holidays at school without fear of legal action being taken against them.”

“I’ve never had a question from a teacher about what they can and can’t do around holidays,” said Linda Bridges, president of the Texas branch for the American Federation of Teachers.

This is a solution looking for a problem, and it’s not even a solution. There was never, ever a problem with Texas teachers, faculty, or students saying “Merry Christmas” to each other. EVER! Despite this, the bill sailed through the Texas House and Senate with bipartisan support.

H.B. 308 also says that public schools can put up sectarian holiday displays, as long as there are at least two religions represented or at least one secular holiday display alongside them.

Obviously, this bill is open to abuse by the religious right.

Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, said on his blog a few days after H.B. 308 was originally introduced, “Consider a school that puts up a huge Nativity Scene… with a tiny Santa somewhere nearby. It would be endorsing Christianity but following [Rep. Bohac’s] law.”

“Or a school could also theoretically put up a Nativity scene and a Menorah and call it a day,” claimed Mehta, “[If] an atheist wanted to put up a ‘Celebrate the Solstice’ sign alongside the others, the school wouldn’t have to comply since they already have two different religious displays up.”

According to the San Francisco Gate, “The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Dwayne Bohac of Houston, said he drafted it after discovering that his son’s school erected a ‘holiday tree’ in December because any mention of Christmas could spark litigation.”

No, the mere mention of Christmas would not “spark litigation” from those evil secularists. Only the endorsement of a religion would do that, and having a Christmas tree is an endorsement of Christianity. Having a “holiday tree” is not.

Just because you don’t like that your religion cannot be endorsed in public schools – well, now it can because of this law – does not mean that Christians are being persecuted. What it means is that everyone is treated fairly by having a completely neutral position taken by the government.

Now, back to Governor Perry’s original statement.

At the signing, Perry said, “I’m proud we are standing up for religious freedom in our state. Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion,” while surrounded by Santas and cheerleaders from the Kountze Independent School District.http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/300x300/27391299.jpg

What do religious people think “freedom from religion” means? Because I think their understanding of it is much different from mine.

Do they think it means that religious people cannot express their beliefs and only atheists have that right? Do they think it means that atheists have the right to stop others from expressing their beliefs? Do they think it means that everyone must accommodate atheists by never having religion around them in any way? What do they think it means?

I know what I think it means. I think it means that the government cannot endorse religion, but that’s just me. It does not mean that I’m going to take away anybody’s right to believe what they want. It does not mean that I will sue anybody that expresses their faith around me. It does not mean that I take someone to court for saying, “God bless you,” when I sneeze or saying, “Merry Christmas,” during the holidays.

I can’t wait to see what Texas passes next to protect the religious freedom of the poor, persecuted Christian majority.

Will they pass a law to give Christians the right to vote finally? Will they allow Christians the ability to earn the same as their non-Christian counterparts? When will the Christians finally be given the same rights and treatment by those atheists?

Okay. Enough of that.

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