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AIDS in Uganda, the Rick Warren Connection

Posted by dystressed on January 7, 2009

This is an amazing story from The Daily Beast.

Rick Warren has been working closely with the Martin Ssempe, the charismatic leader of a booming born-again minister promoting abstinence only AIDS eductaion in Uganda, more or less scrapping all the success of the previous, hugely successful ABC program of the Ugandan government.

Ssempe enjoys close ties to his country’s First Lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House.

Ssempe is a close ally of Warren and even gave the keynote speech at Warren’s 2005 AIDS conference at the Saddleback Church.

Another amazing insight is that Ssempe believes in witches and arresting homosexuals.

Dr. Helen Epstein, a public health consultant who authored the book, The Invisible Cure: Why We’re Losing The Fight Against AIDS In Africa, met Ssempa in 2005. Epstein told me the preacher seemed gripped by paranoia, warning her of a secret witches coven that met under Lake Victoria. “Ssempa also spoke to me for a very long time about his fear of homosexual men and women,” Epstein said. “He seemed very personally terrified by their presence.”

It’s interesting to see the parallel between witch paranoia and born-again Christians. Now compared to Ssempe, Warren is a dream choice to pray at the inauguration. I just hope that people realize his record on AIDS has an ugly, evil side.

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Posted in Politics, Religion, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Post-Partisan Invocation

Posted by dystressed on December 29, 2008

Much has been made of Rick Warren being invited by Obama to give the invocation at the innauguration. I didn’t much care until I ran across the news that Rick Warren calls his critics “Christophobes.”

I take exception to that. I am not phobic of Christ, but of his followers. I am in fact, a Rickophobe. I am wary of people who wield tremendous power over the hearts and minds of Americans, regardless of their political leanings, but I am especially wary of the religious ones. Religious tyrranny is something the founders of this nation are known for escaping, but it is also something that we have inadvertantly perpetuated. Though we have enshrined religion with freedom and kept it marginally separate from government, we have given it de facto establishment, giving it freedom to abuse its non-profit-tax-exempt status as a billy club against dissenters and non-believers.

The rise of the Christian Right has raised the visibility of the Evangelical Agenda: Make Everyone Believe in Jesus.

If the Rick Warrens of this country have their way, there would be no religious freedom, and indeed no dissent. There would be one country ruled by those who claim to know the will of God. A quick glance back to high school literature class and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible can give you chills when you think about the end result of a theocracy. When there is no freedom of ideas, there is no freedom.

While it pains me to admit this, I believe that Rick Warren should be heard. But let him be heard for what he is, a religious fascist. There are few evangelicals who do not pray for a totalitarian Christian state that would be devoid of freedom of thought.

What Obama has done for the FreeThought community is actually a backhanded favor. By inadvertantly stirring up the embers of a long smoldering fire, he has ensured that religious moderates and liberals can be reminded how dangerous the Evangelical Agenda truly is.

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

How to ally with atheists

Posted by neuralgourmet on December 17, 2008

National Tertiary Education Union.Contrary to popular belief, atheists are not necessarily loners. On the whole, we enjoy socializing with other people as much as anyone. And corrolary to that, organized atheists such as FreeThought Fort Wayne want to ally themselves with other social and community groups that share our values. We recognize that there’s power in numbers.

That can be a bit of a minefield though as many groups that might naturally be our allies can unintentionally make it hard for us by perpetuating common myths and soft discrimination against atheists. To that end, Greta Christina wrote a great article on How To Be An Ally with Atheists that lists some of the top dos and don’ts when working with atheists. I’ll summarize Greta’s points here but please do read her whole blog post.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the common myths and misconceptions about atheists — and don’t perpetuate them.
  2. Familiarize yourself with what it’s like to be an atheist, both in the U.S. and in the rest of the world.
  3. Find common ground.
  4. Speak out against anti-atheist bigotry and other forms of religious intolerance.
  5. Be inclusive of atheists.
  6. Don’t divide and conquer, and don’t try to take away our anger.
  7. If you’re going to accuse an atheist or an atheist group of being intolerant — be careful, and make sure that’s really what they’re being.
  8. Do not — repeat, DO NOT — talk about “fundamentalist atheists.”
  9. Be aware of how religious belief gives you a place of mainstream and privilege.

Now, after reading Greta’s post, some might be tempted to say, “Oh those atheists, whining and stomping their feet again.” Well, if you’re one of them I can assure you that Greta’s post went over your head. Atheists are natural allies of progressives everywhere. You may not agree with or understand our disbelief in the supernatural, but you do share, at the very least, our desire for a society in which there is equality and justice for all regardless of who they are or what they believe. And while organized atheists are a relatively new phenomenom, we are getting organized and our numbers are growing. Can you really afford to ignore us?

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Passive-aggressive Christianity

Posted by Skeptigator on December 8, 2008

Flag of the Episcopal Church

Flag of the Episcopal Church

I occasionally peruse a local afternoon newspapers website for interesting local interest articles and I stumbled upon Kevin Leininger’s recent column, Viewing Episcopal split through historical lens, discussing the split within the Anglican Church over the issue of homosexuality.

I thought it was a good article and I usually enjoy his articles, I don’t often agree with him, but I appreciate them nonetheless.

What struck me however was the very last sentence,

And don’t tell me all of this just illustrates how silly and dangerous organized religion is. The record of organized atheism – Nazism, Communism, etc. – makes the Inquisition look tame.*

My first thought was, “What? What does that have to do with his article”. Since we are editorializing here, let me do my own. Why does the author feel its necessary to include this? On it’s face the comment really had nothing to do with the article which was specifically about a doctrinal division of a specific denomination and how it is coming to grips with living in the modern world.  But with a little further thought I think this textbook passive-aggressive swipe at an entire block of people betrays a certain doubt within the author himself. As an atheist, I’m reading this article with some interest but I never thought to myself, “This is why atheism is better” since I know atheism says *nothing* about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality (or anything for that matter).

I think that this little swipe also offers a bit of an insight into (at least) one believer’s mind and his belief that the *entire world* is shaded by those who believe in a god and those that do not. It’s the same boring Us vs. Them mentality. What this bit of lazy journalism exposes is the fact that there is a fundamental lack of perspective by the author. It is an implicit (or inferred?) approval of a black and white world and not the much more complicated grey world we actually live in, you know the Real World.

"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend the basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life" - Adolf Hitler, Feb. 1st, 1933.

"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend the basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life" - Adolf Hitler, Feb. 1st, 1933.

The author’s wife’s church, Catholic, was so grossly complicit in the Nazi regime that it should be an well-known embarrassment. And don’t get me started on the Catholic radio host, Charles Coughlin. Communism and particularly the Stalinist brand is a textbook example of ideology that exerts an enormous amount of control over people. I dare say that Stalin’s suppression of all religious activity had little to do with his disbelief in a god but more to do with the threat to his absolute control that the Church could wield. 

Any ideology that suppresses Free Inquiry should be fought, for if a belief is to be found to be true and good it should always and constantly be subjected to questioning. What many within “organized atheist movements” such as Secular Humanism have a problem with is the fact that Political and Economic ideologies are constantly argued over however any kind of critical examination of religious Ideology seems to be considered at best “bad form”.

Look at how many of the faithful simply demonize the dissenting opinions. Lienenger mentions specifically the Inquisition as if this is the only egregious example of  religious tyranny and that the truth or falsity of something is tied directly to its body count. Perhaps he meant to end it with the following:

And don’t tell me all of this just illustrates how silly and dangerous organized religious is. The record of organized atheism – Nazism, Communism, etc. – makes the Inquisition, the Crusades, Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, The Troubles in Ireland, the witch hunts of the 17th/18th century, Jonestown Massacre, Heaven’s Gate, 80% of all conflict in the Middle East and Apartheid look tame

If your religion is worth believing in, it should be open to examination. It will then be found to be deserving of it’s following or found to be lacking. The split within the Episcopal Church highlights exactly that process because many within that particular sect have found it’s doctrines to be lacking and I personally think the Episcopal Church should be applauded for even having the discussion.

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* This statement is riddled with logical fallacies making the statement almost a joke. It’s most obvious is one called Tu quoque (you too). It’s a fancy way of saying, “Because there is an example of wrong on the other side of an argument, I am therefore allowed to engage in it as well” or “Because you have no evidence I therefore need none as well”. This fallacy is almost always accompanied by a straw man logical fallacy in which the “wrong” attributed to the other side of an argument is not an actual example of the other sides arguments.

Posted in FreeThought, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

The 4 Craziest Right Wing Fears About Obama

Posted by neuralgourmet on December 5, 2008

liberalboners1It’s a dirty job but someone had to do it. And that someone is Cracked.com’s Robert Brockaway who recently spent quality time in the muck and mire of far right wing message boards to dig up the four most insane conspiracy theories about President-elect Barack Obama. What can I say? It’s funny, funny shit. And so very, very sad.

Posted in Humor, Politics | Leave a Comment »

God First, then Homeland Security

Posted by dystressed on December 4, 2008

Via the Rachel Maddow Show

Kentucky law currently requires its department of homeland security to depend on god. This is the opening portion of a statement that is required to be posted outside their entrance:

The safety and security of the commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance on almighty god…

Any high schooler should be able to tell you that requiring a state agency to rely on god is a violation of the first amendment. Thank the Universe that a group has gotten the stones together to sue the Commonwealth.

Today the story appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

Posted in Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ten Most Wanted Promoters of Pseudoscience

Posted by dystressed on November 16, 2008

I am a skeptoid fanboy. I will admit it. The podcast is a great resource for the beginner skeptics out there.

The recent October 28th podcast covered his list of the 10 most wanted celebrities who endorse harmful pseudoscience. Now I must specify that he does not want these people to be hurt or harmed, he simply wants people to be aware of how dangerous following these people can be.

There are figures on both the right and the left politically, but all are taken to task for the harmful ideas they promote. Guess who is number 1: Oprah Winfrey. A magazine I read about a year ago called Oprah the closest thing America has to a living Deity. All the more reason to take whatever she says with a truckload of salt.

The rest of the list:

  1. Oprah Winfrey – Jumping on every Alternative Bandwagon that comes along
  2. Jenny McCarthy – Anti-Vaccination
  3. Prince Charles – Alternative Medicine
  4. Bill Maher – Alternative Medicine
  5. Larry King – Bad Journalism
  6. Pamela Anderson – PETA
  7. Ben Stein – Comparing Science to Nazism, Creationism
  8. Joe Rogan – 9/11 Truther, et al.
  9. Chuck Norris – Christianity
  10. Montel Williams – psychics

I urge you to check this podcast out. It’s only about 10 minutes long to listen to and even faster to read.

Posted in Politics, Science, Skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Liberating the Founders

Posted by Skeptigator on November 10, 2008

A couple weeks ago I heard an excellent program on NPR about the separation of church and state. On Sundays at 4PM local, Krista Tippett hosts the show Speaking of Faith.

On the October 30th show, Krista Tippett interviewed Steven Waldman (here) who runs the BeliefNet.com website. Steven Waldman speaks ostensibly about his book Founding Faith however he delves quite a bit into the early role of Evangelical Christians in establishing the separation of church and state.

I would highly recommend his book as well as listening to this podcast.

Posted in FreeThought, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Truth v. Facts: The Reality-Based Community

Posted by dystressed on November 9, 2008

Sharon Begley at Newsweek has another article on what she hopes for the new Obama Administration: Reality-based Science.

We have lost so much due to misinterpretation (or perhaps dis-interpretation) of the facts. We have lost ground in the fight against global warming, stem cell research and other life sciences.

The truly poisonous legacy of the past eight years is one that spread to much of society and will therefore be much harder to undo: the utter contempt with which those in power viewed inconvenient facts, empiricism and science in general.

I would also contend that the ugly stepchild of this practice is the crass anti-intellectualism that has pervaded society in recent years. We need intelligence to lead our nation. Just because we would rather have a beer with John McCain or Sarah Palin, that doesn’t really qualify them for the White House more than a lawyer from Harvard.

Without a drastic change, we will continue to be mired down by anti-achievers and naysayers. We must embrace science and progress in order to overcome the ever mounting problems facing society.

Posted in Politics, Science | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Opinions are like…

Posted by Skeptigator on November 5, 2008

Well maybe I won’t finish that title but you get the idea.

Now that the 800-day election cycle has just been completed and Barack Obama appears to be the President-Elect he is sure going to get a lot of advice, some of it requested much of it not. Over the next few months he’ll be planning his transition to the White House, figuring out his first steps not only from a policy perspective but who he’s going to appoint into Cabinet positions and other “spoils of war”.

If you were asked to sit at the table when Obama makes out his policy initiatives, what would be, say, the top 5? Who should he pick, either specifically or general descriptions of qualifications, for key Cabinet positions?

These are pretty much open-ended questions, but try to keep the suggestions FreeThought-y…

Here are some of my thoughts to kick off the discussion

  • Actually pay attention to your US Office of Science and Technology (aka the President’s Science Advisor)…
  • Significant funding for alt-fuel/energy, a Manhattan-style project (might I suggest SciAm’s Grand Solar Plan)
  • Disband the Faith-Based Initiatives program
  • Close Guantanamo Bay
  • End the Cuban embargo (last time I checked the Cold War was over)
  • Revise our Trademark/Patent system
  • Maintain Net Neutrality (yes it’s totally nerd but you’ll be surprised how you could be affected).

Cabinet positions

  • Warren Buffet for Treasury Secretary
  • Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State (or maybe Department of Health)
  • Al Gore at the Department of Energy (or perhaps the EPA)
  • Sarah Palin, Ambassador to Antartica

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »