This Is What a Witch Hunt Looks Like

Dr. Skyskull, in addition to being one of our funniest Mock the Movie participants, blogs about history. His usual topic is the history of physics, but he runs across other interesting tidbits too. About a week ago, he pointed at this translation of a contemporary description of a persecution for witchcraft. I thought it might help our community to see what a witch hunt actually looked like.

On Friday, June 30, 1628, the aforesaid Junius was again without torture exhorted to confess, but again confessed nothing, whereupon, . . . since he would confess nothing, he was put to the torture, and first the [Page 24] Thumb-screws were applied. Says he has never denied God his Saviour nor suffered himself to be otherwise baptized; [1] will again stake his life on it; feels no pain in the thumb-screws.

Leg-screws. Will confess absolutely nothing [and] knows nothing about it. He has never renounced God; will never do such a thing; has never been guilty of this vice; feels likewise no pain.

Is stripped and examined; on his right side is found a bluish mark, like a clover leaf, is thrice pricked therein, but feels no pain and no blood flows out.

Strappado. He has never renounced God; God will not forsake him; if he were such a wretch he would not let himself be so tortured; God must show some token of his innocence. He knows nothing about witchcraft. . . .

On July 5, the above named Junius is without torture, but with urgent persuasions, exhorted to confess, and at last begins and confesses:

It’s just like the blogosphere, isn’t it?

This Is What a Witch Hunt Looks Like

Why We Marry, Part 2: The State

A while ago, Tauriq asked why we should get married. In The Guardian, he argued that we shouldn’t, or at least that he shouldn’t.

I, on the other hand, have spent the last few months deep in Minnesota Atheists’ work on getting marriage law changed so that atheist and humanist celebrants don’t have to declare themselves religious or be recognized by organizations that identify as religious in order to have the state recognize the ceremonies they perform as legal marriages. This means I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people who perform nonreligious ceremonies and to people who have been married in nonreligious ceremonies about why these ceremonies are important to people. I’ve spent somewhat less time talking to legislators about the state’s concerns with the changes we’re asking for.

It also means I’ve spent a bunch of time answering questions about why we’re involved in the issue at all. There are two that are incredibly common in various forms. Why should we take an interest in marriage? Why are we supporting the idea that the state should take an interest in marriage? I’d like to address both of these questions. I’ll split them into separate posts, because they are very separate issues.

In Part 1 of this, I addressed marriage as a ceremony, a ritual that signals a commitment and a combining of families. Now it’s time to look at the state’s interest in marriage, because it does have a legitimate one.
Continue reading “Why We Marry, Part 2: The State”

Why We Marry, Part 2: The State

"No One Else Has Done More"

Via Ophelia comes the news that the sweet, friendly, new pope that everyone loves has a rosy outlook that extends to the coverup and facilitation of child sexual abuse by the Church.

“The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No-one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked,” he said in an interview with Il Corriere della Sera daily published Wednesday.

The same article notes that the Vatican has been denounced by the United Nations for appalling response to allegations of abuse. Commenters at Ophelia’s compare the response to allegations in the Church and at the local school, finding the Vatican wanting. They point out that the Vatican is a haven for those running from facing the problem. Me, though? I think it’s time to check back in with Minnesota Public Radio on our own local problem. Continue reading “"No One Else Has Done More"”

"No One Else Has Done More"

Why We Marry, Part 1: The Ceremony

A while ago, Tauriq asked why we should get married. In The Guardian, he argued that we shouldn’t, or at least that he shouldn’t.

I, on the other hand, have spent the last few months deep in Minnesota Atheists’ work on getting marriage law changed so that atheist and humanist celebrants don’t have to declare themselves religious or be recognized by organizations that identify as religious in order to have the state recognize the ceremonies they perform as legal marriages. This means I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people who perform nonreligious ceremonies and to people who have been married in nonreligious ceremonies about why these ceremonies are important to people. I’ve spent somewhat less time talking to legislators about the state’s concerns with the changes we’re asking for.

It also means I’ve spent a bunch of time answering questions about why we’re involved in the issue at all. There are two that are incredibly common in various forms. Why should we take an interest in marriage? Why are we supporting the idea that the state should take an interest in marriage? I’d like to address both of these questions. I’ll split them into separate posts, because they are very separate issues.

So why should a group like Minnesota Atheists take an interest in marriage? In order to answer that, we need to look at why people have marriage rituals at all. Continue reading “Why We Marry, Part 1: The Ceremony”

Why We Marry, Part 1: The Ceremony

"There Is No LGBTQ Movement"

Someone passed along this post from Steve Ahlquist (yes, Jessica’s uncle), titled, “There is no atheist movement: The American Atheists and CPAC“. The premise of the post is that:

  1. Atheists have no shared values, as demonstrated by American Atheists attempt to pay $3,000 to table at Conservative Political Action Conference;therefore,
  2. There is no atheist movement, because movements have shared values.

The person who shared it with me felt that I would appreciate this argument as akin to the “How can we call ourselves a movement if we welcome behavior that pushes out more people than it invites in?” arguments that we’ve had about movement atheism. (For the record, I think that’s still a movement, just one that’s hobbling itself badly.) As it turns out, I disagree. Ahlquist’s argument only works as long as he leaves out key information. With that information included, his argument instead becomes a framework for understanding American Atheists’ decision. Continue reading “"There Is No LGBTQ Movement"”

"There Is No LGBTQ Movement"

Another Way to Fleece the Flock

On the way to a meeting last week, I saw a Christian billboard. I see a lot of billboards, but this one caught my eye as being rather unusual. I didn’t get a picture, but since I followed up on the billboard, the advertising is now following me around on the internet too. Here’s a sample.

Banner ad with text: Making Good Bolder. Actors Models & Talent for Christ. plus contact info
Yes, boys and girls, God needs your talent to…uh…well….

So I got curious and checked out the website to figure out what was going on. Was there another company like Faith Films that was going to produce unintentional, painful hilarity? Were they looking for unknowns to help them keep their budget, oh, so low?

No. As it turns out, they weren’t looking for people they could pay very little. This group is looking for people to pay them, all for a chance at stardom! Continue reading “Another Way to Fleece the Flock”

Another Way to Fleece the Flock

Today in Christian Persecution

Yesterday, Hemant wrote about a student group that came up with a brilliant way to advertise themselves while getting others to think about the flaws of Christian apologetics. They studied up on an apologist who was coming to their school and turned all the bad arguments and logical fallacies into a bingo card, which they then handed out to people entering the talk. It made it easier to focus on the bad arguments instead of their good delivery, and the back of the card provided information on the student group itself. As I said: brilliant.

So I tweeted the article. Then this happened. (The Storify is here if the embed doesn’t work for you.) Continue reading “Today in Christian Persecution”

Today in Christian Persecution

Reviewing Marriage Officiant Law

If you’ve been following along here or receive the Minnesota Atheists monthly newsletter, you know we’ve been working toward changing Minnesota marriage law so that religious clergy are not the only non-government-employees who can legally officiate a marriage in Minnesota. We’ve discussed the issue with members of both the state house and state senate. In December, we met with Senator John Marty, who asked us some very good questions about our options for changing the law and the support that these options have.

In response to those questions, we surveyed atheists and secular humanists across Minnesota to get their opinions on the options they would support. The results of that survey appear in this month’s newsletter and will be shared on the Minnesota Atheists website shortly. I’ll link to them when they’re posted.

In addition, Senator Marty also asked how non-government-official, non-religious officiants are handled in the law of other states. Having a research background and finding this sort of digging fun, I volunteered to pull together this information. Below is the information I pulled together, along with links to the relevant law. These are the states that extend the ability to officiate marriages to more than elected officials (mayors, county commissioners, legislators, lieutenant governors, and governors may all officiate in some states) and judges or clerks of the court. Emphasis is mine, to draw attention to the relevant part of the legal code.

Hopefully this will make things easier for any other group that wants to change the law in their state. Be aware, however, that what I quote is a snapshot. Laws change continually, and the information should be verified before being used for another purpose. Continue reading “Reviewing Marriage Officiant Law”

Reviewing Marriage Officiant Law

Our Lady of Perpetual Ice

Woman #1: Oh, that looks just like the Virgin Mary. Helen*, do you see that?

Woman #2: Oh! Ya.

Woman #1: Harry, Harry, look! Doesn’t that look like the Virgin Mary?

Man: No, I’m not religious.

I didn’t laugh out loud. I’m more polite than that. I didn’t even look behind me to figure out who was having the conversation. I just made sure Ben took a picture of the “virgin” after they moved on. That’s why we were at the Apostle Island National Lakeshore after all, to take pictures of ice. Continue reading “Our Lady of Perpetual Ice”

Our Lady of Perpetual Ice

Comparing Secular Services

The Sunday Assemblies have gotten more people than ever talking about what people want or need from their atheist and humanist organizations. They didn’t start these discussions, of course, but expanding them is good. I have been, however, struck by how many of the articles and blog posts focus on what one person does or doesn’t want from a meeting with other nonbelievers.

Here in the Twin Cities, we were approached by Sunday Assembly, and there’s been some curiosity. The moderate amount of interest wasn’t enough to draw the founders all the way out here on their tour this summer (though it is ongoing).

Back in November, for the Atheists Talk television program, I sat down with representatives from three Twin Cities groups to talk about the general concept of atheist and humanist congregations and what these groups had to offer their members. I’ll note that we have many more than three groups for nonbelievers here, but I only had three chairs to work with. I spoke with August Berkshire of Minnesota Atheists and Scott Lohman, president of Humanists of Minnesota, representatives of the largest local atheist and humanist groups. I also spoke with Rev. David Bredeen, pastor at Minneapolis’s First Unitarian Society, which is unusual for a UU group in that it was founded specifically as an atheist congregation.

Things only got a little competitive.

Comparing Secular Services