In Praise of Anti-Theism

Martin Hughes joined the ranks of former anti-theists yesterday. Earlier that morning, I’d written some musings on the value of anti-theism on Facebook. They weren’t meant to be a counter to Hughes’ position at the time, but they do that work. I’ve expanded them here.

It isn’t about doing your job or not doing your job.1 I think it was Miri who pointed out last year that everyone should have some point at which they refuse to do their job. “I was just following orders” hasn’t been an acceptable excuse for a long time now, and that’s a good thing.

It’s about where your refusal point is. You make implicit promises when you take a job, so the real question we’re debating is what makes it worth breaking those promises. What does it take for you to become forsworn? There should be a penalty, in reputation if nothing else, when you break promises.2 What makes that worthwhile to you?

There are variations on that, greater “crimes”. There are people who train to become biology teachers so they can refuse to teach evolution. There are doctors and pharmacists who train knowing they’ll refuse to do parts of their job. That’s premeditation and changes the calculations, but the question remains, “What makes this worthwhile?”

This, folks, is where we have to be willing to deny the authority of religion. Continue reading “In Praise of Anti-Theism”

In Praise of Anti-Theism

On Shame and Elections

I had some things to say about shame while driving down to Skepticon. I did manage to save them until we switched drivers, at least, but then Twitter got an earful. Enough people shared the thread there that I’ll collect the whole thing here.

Continue reading “On Shame and Elections”

On Shame and Elections

When You Already Are the Middle Ground

We’ve all seen the media promote false equivalence in matters of science (evolution, climate change) and history (David Barton; need I say more?). Roy Speckhardt has a recent article up in The Huffington Post pointing out that they do the same thing when it comes to human rights.

Take for example the debates over LGBT rights. On one side are people who understand the constitutional guarantee of equal protection for all and advocate for marriage equality, employment non-discrimination, and equal benefits on that basis. Leading the opposition are religious fundamentalists, who interpret their holy scriptures as condemning homosexuality. While there are certainly two different opinions, only one is a valid expression of political thought, while the other is merely a vocalization of deeply held bias.

Arguments for LGBT discrimination are based not upon considerations for public health or legal precedent but upon religiously enshrined prejudice. It’s embarrassing and unjust that practices like employment or housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity persist in many states. And one of the ways this discrimination continues is through fabricated debate on topics not worthy of deliberation.

Speckhardt also mentions men’s rights activists in his post, which makes the comments what you might expect.

The important thing about these “debates”, aside from acknowledging that they are used to hurt and control people, is to recognize their shape. Continue reading “When You Already Are the Middle Ground”

When You Already Are the Middle Ground

We Have No Authority

By now I think we all know how the corruption and unparalleled power of the Catholic Church has led to the sexual assault and rape of an appalling number of children. Because Benny the Rat was responsible for policies that kept priests abusing, it’s easy to point to the top and say that we’ve found the problem.

Of course, that isn’t actually true. The unearned authority of an institution like the Catholic Church means that when a corrupt decision is made, it has far-reaching effects. It doesn’t mean that corruption can’t be a factor in similar cases on a much smaller scale.

Since Smith’s arrest in October on sexual abuse and statutory rape charges, which follow similar allegations from 2010, forgiveness from his congregation has become critical to his survival as its pastor. It is this group of about 100 souls — not a bishop, nor a disciplinary committee nor national church leaders at a faraway headquarters — who will decide Smith’s future in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Unlike members of many denominations — such as Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalian and Presbyterians — Southern Baptists don’t conform to a centralized, hierarchical structure.

Instead, authority resides at the local church level. And that’s true even amid allegations of clergy misconduct.

Would anyone care to guess what kind of considerations are being used to decide this? Continue reading “We Have No Authority”

We Have No Authority

Speaking for the Religious

When atheists criticize religion, we alienate the religious. The more harshly we criticize it, the more we alienate.

Right? That’s one of the pervasive tropes, invisible in its ubiquity. It is one reason given by some people who really want to do interfaith work and extend hands to the religious for telling us to hush up and tone it down.

We seem mean. We appear to be attacking people. Our anger and disgust are unpleasant, unattractive emotions. We’re pushing away the moderates who could be our allies.

But is it true? Well, let me tell you a little story.
Continue reading “Speaking for the Religious”

Speaking for the Religious

It's the Authority, Stupid

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

Massimo Pigliucci has a post up entitled “The goals of atheist activism.” *sigh*

I recommend PZ’s post deconstructing much of Massimo’s argument and note that Massimo is every bit as wrong about the confrontational tactics of the gay rights movement as he is about the civil rights movement. If he thinks people weren’t called “murderers” over their response to the AIDS crisis, he wasn’t paying attention.

I’ll add a harumph of my own for the idea that atheists don’t experience “real discrimination.” Maybe Massimo and his friends have things cushy enough that the kinds of discrimination atheists face aren’t real to them. It’s a little different for those who had to fight to prove they were fit to be custodial parents. It’s different for those politicians who know they can’t aspire to higher office without facing de facto religious tests in their districts. It’s different for those who work for religious bosses or companies and get to choose between being quiet and fighting a lawsuit for discriminatory treatment or termination that they can’t actually afford.

But this post isn’t actually about atheists. This post is about the fact that Massimo still managed to miss my main goal in his list, despite me pointing him to my response to the Stedman article when Massimo linked it on Twitter.

Continue reading “It's the Authority, Stupid”

It's the Authority, Stupid

At Least He's Trying

You’re getting newsy bits until I can stay awake and focused long enough to do some writing again. Here’s a local one–another sexual abuse scandal in a church.

Darwin Schauer worked for eight years as a lay pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lake George, Minnesota, a small community southwest of Bemidji. He did so despite the fact that district leaders of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod knew he was convicted in 1983 of sexual abuse of a minor.

Schauer, 70, retired in 2008, but continued to fill in as a minister at Trinity up until early March, when he was arrested and charged with 15 counts of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old girl.

Now, the ordained pastor who replaced Schauer, the Rev. Don Kirchner, is demanding a shakeup of the Missouri Synod’s leadership in response to the fact church officials tolerated a sex offender continuing to work in a leadership position.

Let’s hope he gets it. It’s bad enough that the unearned authority of a priesthood is there to be abused in cases like this. It’s even worse that those with more authority abused their positions of trust to make it possible.

Note as well that this is one of the things that makes the structure of the Catholic church an evil in and of itself. At least this pastor has a chance of making changes. That can’t happen in a completely top-down organization with a leader who claims unique access to the mind of God.

At Least He's Trying

Iowa Jury Decides Assault Just Fine for Pastors

That isn’t what the headlines read, of course, but it’s hard to read it any other way.

The confirmation student testified earlier Friday that the incident started when he wouldn’t stop using his cell phone in class.

The Mason City High School student said he was using his cell phone in class to text a friend about the Mason City High School homecoming football game.

He said Nelson told him to put the phone away and when he didn’t Nelson allegedly snatched it out his hand.

The boy said he responded by saying “What the (expletive)?”

The boy said Nelson punched him in his upper right arm eight to 10 times with a closed fist.

The only differences between the teen’s testimony and the pastor’s are that the pastor says it was six times with an open hand and that the teen swore twice instead of once. Continue reading “Iowa Jury Decides Assault Just Fine for Pastors”

Iowa Jury Decides Assault Just Fine for Pastors

How to Fix a Bad Pastor

You’ve probably heard of Bishop Eddie Long. If you didn’t already know him as one of the many “men of God” who have gotten into trouble for using their positions to coerce sex (Long to the tune of reported a $15 million settlement), you probably heard about his “crowning” just over a week ago.

Bishop Eddie Long has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League over an incident in which he was wrapped in a Torah scroll and crowned “king.”

As shown in a video that went viral, the televangelist was wrapped in a “Holocaust Torah” and crowned king during a recent ceremony at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, his suburban Atlanta congregation.

“The ceremony was not my suggestion, nor was it my intent, to participate in any ritual that is offensive in any manner to the Jewish community, or any group. Furthermore, I sincerely denounce any action that depicts me as a King, for I am merely just a servant of the Lord,” Long wrote in a letter dated Saturday.

Urban Faith has used the bizarre ritual as an opportunity to talk more generally about pastors behaving badly. Continue reading “How to Fix a Bad Pastor”

How to Fix a Bad Pastor