Today Christian’s 10 Questions for Every Atheist

Next time Today Christian poses questions for atheists, its authors and editors might consider some sort of mechanism by which said atheists might answer them rather than declare “Atheist [sic] Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer” them, lest the questions be mistaken for something that “leads to some interesting conclusions” as to their true motives for asking.

I’ll answer anyway.

Continue reading “Today Christian’s 10 Questions for Every Atheist”

Today Christian’s 10 Questions for Every Atheist
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Are You Mainstream? Then Act Like It.

At a Los Angeles film meetup, I once met a Christian who claimed that she was oppressed for being a “woman of faith.” Why? Because most of her friends are non-religious, she is sometimes assumed to be an atheist, and she is outnumbered at social events to the point where she feels uncomfortable with the idea of challenging the mockery of religion that is part of the conversations there.

She didn’t take my suggestion that she move a few mile down south to Orange County, home of the Trinity Broadcasting Network and some of the nation’s largest megachurches (and now home to overtly-religious city councils), too kindly. Though there was some baffled sarcasm in what I said, I wasn’t wrong: even LA County has its share of megachurches. She is hardly outnumbered or oppressed in any real sense of those words.

That she is not actually oppressed for being a Christian who chooses where she lives, works, and socializes is readily apparent to any person, secular or religious, with an understanding of how much of the world exists in its current state. However, plenty of people make similar — and similarly ridiculous — claims of oppression about matters as personal as shampooing to issues as political as veg*nism and non-monogamy. Continue reading “Are You Mainstream? Then Act Like It.”

Are You Mainstream? Then Act Like It.

Sure, I’ll Actually Think Biblically About Everything, Biola

The first time I heard of Biola, I thought it was an educational institute dedicated to biology. I was disappointed to find out that Biola is actually the oddly twee abbreviation for “Bible University of Los Angeles.”

Alrighty, then. Many fine (and not-so-fine) educational institutes have religious origins, even religious outlooks and messages. What can I do, really.

Then, I started seeing this billboard on my nigh-daily trek up the 55 North freeway.

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The billboard was apparently part of a larger campaign to promote Biblical thinking about everything.

I suppose that because the re-tweets numbered fewer than a dozen and only one person re-shared the corresponding Facebook post, they realized they weren’t going viral and had to pay to get attention.

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(The ever-awesome Elizabeth caught this.)

I’d imagine that they’ll elicit a snicker rather than incite Biblical thinking about everything by targeting ads to this site.

As I live relatively nearby, I contemplated a response to their marketing campaign. Showing up on campus with a posse of people each in a current state of violation of at least one Biblical principle — one person eating shrimp cocktail, another wearing mixed fibers, two people of the same gender kissing, a married woman whose husband declared that she hadn’t been a virgin on her wedding night, and so on — sounded kind of fun. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that calling out the absurdity of the Bible by violating its principles yourself is just so… played.

Instead, I’m going to think Biblically about everything. “Everything” includes Biola’s website, right?

Their faculty page reveals that they have have female instructors, ones who brazenly sport pearls and braids, no less! Unless those women teach women-only courses, they are in clear violation of the Bible.

Lest I rely too heavily on the misogyny of Paul, who is clearly a rather low-hanging fruit of a target, I turn to Leviticus, one of the favorite thump-worthy section of the Old Testament. Shockingly, according to their president, Biola isn’t in favor of putting their gay male students to death.

I wanted to continue with Leviticus by bringing up Biola’s explicit condoning of shellfish, but then I found a piece written about that very topic on their site.

Christians ought to look for the principles behind the different Old Testament laws to discern what they say about God’s unchanging holiness, he said. An essential part of this is to understand what the rest of the Bible teaches, especially in the New Testament, he said. Homosexual behavior, for instance, is clearly shown throughout the rest of Scripture to be inconsistent with God’s will – whether in Genesis or in Paul’s letters, Saucy said. “You find it as a running theme throughout the Bible,” he said. “If you didn’t have it anywhere else, and you didn’t have strong implications from creation, and all you had was Leviticus, then it would be a more difficult question.”

Am I to believe, then, that when they say “Think Biblically about everything,” what they mean is “Use your personal judgment to figure out what in the Bible is worth paying attention to and what is worth utterly ignoring”?

Sounds suspiciously like something a lot of us are accused of engaging in, that term thrown out by Bible-lovers worldwide as if it were a slur rather than a descriptor: moral relativity.

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The horror.

See the alleged trump card Biola advocates using against “New Atheists.”

What makes your moral standard more than a subjective opinion or personal preference? What makes it truly binding or obligatory? Why can’t I just ignore it?

Right back atcha, Biola.

Sure, I’ll Actually Think Biblically About Everything, Biola

Politeness as Manipulation: Ray Comfort

In addition to helping fund-raise for the Orange County Freethought Alliance Conference this year, I’ve been a volunteer for the con since its first year and spoke there last year. People who knew I was there asked me if I ran into Ray Comfort. When I’ve told them that I left during the dinner break, they have lamented the fact that I missed out on encountering the infamous Banana Man (he doesn’t like talking about that particular yellow, phallic fruit anymore).

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The truth of the matter is that I’m incredibly glad that I left before I was subjected to that man’s smug mug yet again.

First of all, encountering him isn’t some super rare occurrence that I missed out on. Ray Comfort is not a hard man to find. If you want to run into him, just hit up the pier at Huntington Beach, CA on Saturday. He’s a Southern California fixture, not some retiring fellow who only makes rare appearances.

Secondly, while I know that some people get off on dealing with rabid ranting fundies, I don’t. Back when I wore a headscarf, I was often accosted by Christians. Every word they chose to use with me dripped of condescending assumptions: that my father beat me into submission, that I was forced to cover, that I didn’t know English, that I knew nothing of Jesus or the Bible. While it did afford me a bit of smug satisfaction to school them, I would have preferred to have been left alone. Post-deconversion, I was subjected to the same treatment if they happened to read my looks as “Muslim” or hear me speak of my Muslim past.

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As a student, I did counter-protest Brother Jed as well as the Big Christian Sign Guys (the same people who once protested a fundraiser for orphans that I attended, not even kidding). However, what I enjoyed about that was not dealing with fundies, it was representing the majority opinion of the UC Irvine student body (i.e. that sign-waving, bile-spewing fundies are horrible people) as well as showing others that atheists aren’t just some force of negativity in the world.

Last, but not least, the way most atheists talk about Ray Comfort betrays both how bad of a person he is and how skewed I sometimes find other atheists’ priorities to be.

In my estimation, Ray Comfort is a bad person, period. The first time I met him, he attended an Orange County Atheists meeting. At the time, I was still laying low as an atheist, so I sat at the table designated for those who did not want to be recorded for his website. He ended up paying for dinner (which annoyed me since I was broke at the time and had only ordered an iced tea in anticipation of having to pony up for the bill). The glow from his having fed us faded quickly as soon as I caught wind of his blog post on the matter, where he admits to having bought us food to shut us up. In my humble opinion, what was expressed was not the speech or attitude of a sincerely nice person.

Upon further research, I discovered his penchant for, ahem, creative editing, which knowledge later served me quite well. I attended Richard Dawkins’s talk at CalTech. Guess who was waiting, but without a ticket, along with the rest of the queue?

All the atheists in line were eager to engage with Ray Comfort. They, like many, thought it was a unique experience to have the chance to interact with the viral, hilarious Banana Man. I knew better and ran about the queue, calmly but firmly warning people them that he was in the habit of recording people and then selectively editing the video so that they look confused, contradictory, and otherwise wrong.

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His response was to confront me with a holler of “You atheists make yourselves look stupid!” Suddenly, a video camera was pointing in my face and the Banana Man was accosting me with questions. I refused to be recorded but he continued his verbal assault. Our “conversation” mostly consisted of him rudely throwing non-sequiturs and insults at me, interrupting me, and insisting that I was a deluded fool. I’m inclined to think his butthurt over my spoiling his dishonest fun at the expense of atheists revealed his true nature: smug, self-righteous, and unkind to anyone who doesn’t play along with his tricks.

Later events corroborated this assessment. When he caught wind that the atheists of UC Irvine were ready with banana-shaped debunking bookmarks for his doctored copies of Darwin’s The Origin of Species, he preempted his set schedule and came to campus early, then spun the story as if it were one featuring a bunch of angry atheists attacking him.

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I don’t care how many gift baskets he sends to PZ, how many atheist meals he bankrolls, or how “nice” a fellow other atheists insist that he is, Ray Comfort will always be an asshole to me, not that super duper hilarious guy from YouTube. He’s playing atheists and other pro-evolution folks quite skillfully with his faux-niceness, and most of us have fallen for it. It’s about time we stopped.

Once more, with feeling: Ray Comfort’s “niceness” is a tool wielded by a complete tool of a man who will craftily edit even the most eloquent pro-evolution argument into a portrait of a bumbling fool, meeting him is no big deal since he’s publicly available every weekend, and he is only buying you food so that you’ll shut the hell up.

Politeness as Manipulation: Ray Comfort

Religion and Social Justice in America: A Secular Alternative?

This piece is adapted from my research and notes for the speech I gave this past Sunday, May 20th, at the Orange County Freethought Alliance Conference. The talk was entitled “Push and Pull: The Role of Religion in Social Justice.” The titles of the previous two pieces, as well as this one, have been altered thanks to the very apt observation by Pseudonym on the US-centric nature of my writing.

Progress on LGBT rights within religion aside, why has religion generally not been great for women’s and LGBT rights as opposed to those of African-Americans? Continue reading “Religion and Social Justice in America: A Secular Alternative?”

Religion and Social Justice in America: A Secular Alternative?

Religion and Social Justice in America: The Pull

This piece is adapted from my research and notes for the speech I gave this past Sunday, May 20th, at the Orange County Freethought Alliance Conference. The talk was entitled “Push and Pull: The Role of Religion in Social Justice.” The follow-up to this piece will address the present-day role of religion in social justice and whether there is a secular alternative.

There is no doubt that religion has hindered social justice movements and continues to do so. I am not saying that said movements were dependent on religion, that their achievements could not have been accomplished without religion, that religion didn’t have its place in hurting the efforts of the movements, or even that religion didn’t necessitate them in the first place. At the same time, to deny religion’s role in certain aspects of specific social justice movements is to ignore an incredibly important aspect of American history, especially for certain minority communities. Continue reading “Religion and Social Justice in America: The Pull”

Religion and Social Justice in America: The Pull