Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Three young Muslims shot by atheist in what may have been hate attack

So I've been reading about an attack by an atheist against Muslims in North Carolina. Police are not yet releasing a motive for the shootings, in which three young people -- all Muslims -- were killed.

Links to the shooter's atheism are being noted by the media, and barring some personal grudge against the victims, it seems that religious hatred might well have been the cause here.

[Craig Stephen] Hicks, the alleged shooter, frequently shared links about atheism on what appears to be his Facebook page. One such post reads: “People say nothing can solve the Middle East problem, not mediation, not arms, not financial aid. I say there is something. Atheism.”

 The victims have been identified as

...Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Mohammad’s sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha...
 Whatever the motive, such violence is barbaric and should be condemned absolutely. If anti-theism was in actuality the deciding factor here, the case is perhaps even more tragic-- killing over God, or the lack of gods, is probably the most senseless reason for killing humankind has ever invented. Whether it is done by a religious person, or whether it is done by an atheist it is an absurd and obscene waste of human life.

My thoughts are with the families of the victims during this horrible time.

Update: details are still sparse, but police comments indicate that the shooting motive might have been an ongoing parking dispute...this doesn't mean that religion was not a factor, or even the primary  factor. More details to come as we learn more. It goes without saying, regardless of what the shooter's motivation, this is a horrible crime, and a senseless tragedy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show

Sad news, Daily Show fans...Jon Stewart is leaving the show. From Time:

Stewart announced his coming departure during the taping of Tuesday night’s show, and Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless confirmed it in a statement. It wasn’t immediately clear what Stewart’s next move will be, nor was it clear who would replace him or whether the show will continue.

There's not really much to say, except that this sucks, and I wish Stewart tons of luck whatever he does next. He's a brilliant comedian, and his fake news gig does a far better job than many of the real ones. Particularly the hacks from Bullshit Mountain, but others as well. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Message for Christians who Believe in Public Prayer

Dear Conservative Christian,

Thank you for joining me a second week in a row, friend, for this special Sunday message. Last week we covered Matthew 25, and the moocher nation. Today, at the kindly suggestion of DailyKos user zenbassoon, we shall return to Matthew. This time, we'll open our Bibles to chapter 6.

The topic is the hypocrisy inherent to open displays of religiosity -- and, dear conservative reader, I must give you fair warning: you may be a little alarmed by what your dear Lord and Savior has to say on the matter.

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Alright, I trust you've had sufficient opportunity to pick yourself up off the floor after that shock? Good. So, let's dive into the substance of this piece. What is Jesus saying?

Well, in a nutshell, that insisting on praying in public is hypocritical showmanship. Boasting about how charitable you are is too. The prayer rallies, the public prayers before meetings, the national days of prayer...all this religiosity in the public square, that conservatives insist must happen for the sake of our nation, is actually hypocritical and runs contrary to the will of God. People who do that do not actually garner God's good will. I mean, at least if you take the word of the radical speaking in Matthew 6 as truth (who was that guy again?).

The right way to pray is to do it in private, in seclusion, without audiences (and cameras and publicity). I know, that's can you show off just how much the Bible means to you, if you're forced to act like you believe it?! Still, according to the Bible, it's the people who pray in secret who can look forward to rewards from heaven; the hypocrites who have to show off as they pray are out of luck.

And that, beloved, is our Sunday message. Check back next week for another – and thanks to all who offered suggestions!

Have a wonderful day,
This humble atheist

ICYMI: Frozen is bad news for boys, Jim Parsons (of Big Bang Theory) is going to hell, and threatening to use the One Ring will get you suspended in Texas

So I've had the chance to cover some really interesting stories at Friendly Atheist this past week. And a few of them had a tie-in to things near and dear to my heart: nerdy stuff. And cartoons, which, I have to admit somewhat abashedly, I still watch.

So, in reverse order, there was Fox and Friends' Steve Doocy discussing with the head of the conservative Christian women's group Concerned Women for America, Penny Nance, the hidden danger to boys of seeing a cartoon in which the main character man is not perfect. If you're in the mood for head-scratching comedy, I recommend watching the whole segment -- there's more gems in there than I could cover in one article. From the story:
After Doocy wondered what “message” these clips sent to boys, Nance revealed what she saw as the challenge this presents to good mothers.
… the question for us as moms when we bring our daughters to see Frozen or whatever the movie is, we often have our little boys sitting there, and is this message helpful? We want them to know they’re essential, we want to raise heroes, we want to raise real men that will stick in their families and be great dads and be great providers and great husbands.
There's more at Friendly Atheist, in case you need to know why watching Frozen will make your sons grow up to leave their future wives and kids, and be cowards. You know what they say about being forewarned!

My second fun story was the one about the Young Conservatives writer who is very, very concerned about Jim Parsons. You see, Jim is going to hell. And Young Conservatives' Michael Cantrell has the scoop on why The Big Bang Theory star has booked a permanent stay on the toasty shores of the Lake of Fire: because Parsons is playing God in a Broadway version of The Last Testament.

Since God will not be mocked, and the role mocks God...well, you know: Parson's destined for an eternal time-out at Satan's barbeque (which, supposedly, is worse than family barbeques -- your first clue that the hell claim is a load of nonsense).

Cantrell has a brilliant solution, though: Parsons should convert and repent. Again, more at the article. Suffice it to say, I'm sure Jim Parsons is quaking in his boots right now.

And, finally, there was the story of the Texas elementary student who was suspended for, of all things, threatening to unleash the power of the One Ring on a classmate, by making him disappear. Which was deemed a "terroristic threat sufficient to warrant suspension.

As someone who takes Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit pretty seriously (see: my blog title), I have to say...this seems like kind of, a tiny bit of, an overreaction... 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday message to those Christians who scream about our "moocher" nation

Dear Conservative Christian:

That's right, you. You, with the Facebook page full of the Obama-is-the-Devil and God-is-love messages. You, who are simultaneously incensed over the idea of women having the option of abortion, and the government checking to make sure the people who buy guns aren't convicted killers. You, who simultaneously throws a conniption fit if someone suggests maybe cutting military spending by a little, while throwing fits about all the money we're wasting on feeding school children. You, who thinks Gateway Pundit and Fox are news sources, and the Bible is a scientific text. That's right, I'm talking to you.

You like the Bible a lot. You use it all the time. Chances are, you've used it to suggest that gay people shouldn't be allowed to get married. You probably think the Bible is the ultimate argument against abortion. There's a pretty good chance that you think God led white Christians to what would become the United States of America to establish a nation in his honor...and that the Bible predicted it would happen. So let's talk Bible.

Today's message comes from the book of Matthew, chapter 25. The portion of interest to us today discusses Jesus' prophesied return, how God will separate the sheep and goats, how he will choose the righteous from the unrighteous. The criteria is pretty interesting -- so, dear readers, let us open our Bibles to Matthew 25, starting at verse 31.

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
(emphasis added)
Now, this is certainly a passage of scripture that is often ignored by your political party, so I understand, dear conservative reader, if you are unfamiliar with the text. I encourage you, however, to read it. Mull it over. Think about it. Because, if you believe the God proposition presented in the Bible, this is a pretty clear charge: take care of your fellow man, go to heaven. Let your fellow man languish in hunger, ill health, etc., and there's, well, pretty much fire and brimstone to look forward to.

And if you're about to say "oh, but that doesn't mean the government -- that means private charity!" ... or any equally inane fallback...don't. Charity and churches aren't and historically have never adequately handled the problem. If you're actively opposing efforts to feed or clothe the poor, provide healthcare to those without it, comfort to the strangers in your midsts, etc., according to the Bible, ye did it to God as well.

And while I am a mere atheist, who doesn't actually believe that your God exists, I'm actually very much in accord with the sentiment of caring for those who need help. And you're not. Which is to say, that I -- an atheist -- and every person out there who is opposed to starving the poor, depriving people of healthcare, etc., are more closely aligned to your God than you. And, really, when you and your party are shrillest voices proclaiming the supremacy of Christ, it should worry you when you are the least like him; it should worry you when liberal atheists have more in common with your religion's idea of Christ than you do.

And that, beloved, is Sunday's message. (Check back next Sunday for a new message).
In reason and love,

A humble atheist