The Right to Offend

As a Texan, I am, by constitution, friendly and congenial to most anyone. I love to have a good time and I love for everyone else to have a good time. That’s why we Texans love Texas. No matter our political, religious or college football loyalties, we are generally polite and considerate of each other enough to get our party on and leave the inner bitch at the door.

This is quite the handy personality considering I live amongst and am related to heavily-leaning right wingers, Fox News watchers, Rush listeners, Alex Jones readers, Obama deplorers, firearm devotees and Bible beaters. Don’t get me wrong, I llloooovvvvveee Dallas. I really, really do. But everyone knows what our batshit-crazies in the ballot booth hath delivered to us as governor and that our state legislature is erasing decades of reproductive rights for women, trying to get Christian lessons taught in public schools, and also pissed off the Justice Department with voter ID laws aimed at handicapping the minority vote. Hoooray.

How do we, citizens and voters, be the change we want to see and push, pull, and shove our state and country toward the progress we seek to achieve? I’m a liberal atheist. How do I, as busy mom of an infant and toddler, have skin in the game, put my money where my mouth is and work for a better world for my boys?

Raise my voice. Raise all our voices. Be it blogs, be it conversation, be it my Obama/Biden t-shirt in the grocery store. The best way we can be a force for good is to be visible and audible in our goodness. But if others don’t like our version of good, or are even offended by it, are we still doing good?

Yes. Groupthink has been the anchor that has kept Texas and the rest of the South resistant to modernity and the inevitable arc of history. Everyone assumes everyone else is Christian and pro-life and Republican and anything outside those bounds is cold, uncomfortable and to be avoided.

Change is unavoidable, however. The DFW area has one of the largest, if not THE largest, groups of free-thinkers in the country. How did this happen in such a deeply religion-entrenched metropolis? An atheist or agnostic here started a group and then another and then another and then attendance at free-thinker meet-ups exploded. All because a few trailblazers raised their voice.

Breaking free from the groupthink, from the borg of the close-minded, by simply speaking up is the biggest, most effective tool we have to exert change peacefully and effectively. It takes bravery to tell someone you do not agree with them.

Many times, this does include offending people – especially those self-righteous enough to consider their opinion sacred and untouchable as our culture has led many religioners to believe. But when religion has become a weapon of oppression, it is the responsibility of the rest of us to raise our voices and join together to illuminate a path to for those who wish to escape the bondage of their culture, family or groupthink – even if we risk offense to the stalwart ideology of those who live with certitude.

Jon Stewart once said, “I’m not going to censor myself to comfort your ignorance.”

In a free society, freedom of speech bears with it the right to be offended and to offend. It is an immature, intractable mind that cannot tolerate disagreement. If we adhere to those standards and believe politeness to be our first priority, we slow our development and we inhibit the change necessary for a better world.

We cannot be afraid to say what we think or fear what others will think of us. It is not okay to hide behind a religion in an effort to stifle the rights of others or dictate the will of your neighbor. It is not okay. I will not bow to others’ expectations or cultural norms that would hinder a cleaner, freer, more humane society. We must do good by being good and talking good. Even if it’s bad.

I exert my right to offend others and appreciate their right to speak their truths. May we all find celebration in our mere ability to discuss and disagree without hate or violence or fear of imprisonment.

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God in Sports

Continuing my sports/religion blog theme this week, I’m going to weigh in on the whole religious display issue during sports games.

It is no secret that the religious displays are fairly annoying to most of us non-believers. That may be motivation for some to actually perpetrate these head bows, skyward pointing. This is sports, not church. If I wanted to go to church, I would. I don’t. I want to drink beer, curse the opposing team, and enjoy a physically demanding competition between enthusiastic participants. God has nothing to do with it.

Let’s say, for shits and giggles, God DID have something to do with it. Let’s pretend, in all his glory and infinite wisdom, God decided who won and lost a professional football game. Or if the college kicker scored the deciding field goal. If the Little League pitcher delivered strikes or runs.

I would want nothing to do with that god.

The Super Bowl is the most highly sex-trafficked event on the earth.

Wow. Good job, God. Does He get prayers of thanks for that?

What about the riots in various cities after various games and championships?

And why would God give a shit about your game when he can’t find time to solve the crises in Syria, Darfur or global warming or poverty. What about the Russian orphan epidemic or the AIDS epidemic or the scourge of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Is God only responsible for the good things in the world, or is the invisible magic man also to blame for the bad?

If a god, an almighty, all-powerful, all-loving god were willing to have a hand in a sporting event whilst abandoning those truly in need of his grace and mercy, I wouldn’t follow that god, let alone give him the glory.

When douchebag athletes display such open religions devotions, it makes me throw up a little in my mouth. It’s immature and selfish and dismissive of those truly in need of a benevolent supreme being.

Scientology – My Take

A few weeks ago, I read the New Yorker’s exposé on Scientology (or most of it. It’s long-as-hell, but worth the read if you’re into cultish, oppressive new religions) by Lawrence Wright. He details in great length the experience of Oscar winner Paul Haggis’ as a member of the organization in a preview of his new book “Going Clear,” about the inner workings of this secretive organization. I was already familiar with most of the allegations, but was really interested to read Haggis’ description of his thoughts before and during his time in Scientology.

I haven’t decided whether or not to read the book. The New Yorker article alone made me want to punch not a few people in the throat and I don’t know if I want all that bad mojo for however many days it takes me to complete the book. And I’m certain I don’t need to it the book to reinforce my current position on the “church” in any case.

Scientology – Run Like Hell

The latest allegations of the abuses committed by Scientology aren’t even necessary to assess the ethical standings of the organization. Nor is it’s theology or teachings. It’s secretive. This is almost always a bad thing. Whether it’s a corporation, a government, a church, an educational institution, the more secretive the operation, the greater the opportunity for abuse and likelihood of its existence.

Scientology has a celebrity center. It’s fucking laughable. Any religion or institution of spiritual instruction that targets celebrities for membership – without any other wrongdoing – is obviously a money-making scheme that is most likely avoided by all but the very naive and emotionally needy.

Take the widespread claims by former members that Scientology instructs members to “disassociate” with family members. The “church” (har, har) denies this, but EVERYONE who comes out insists this is the case and I believe them. Any organization that punishes members for contacting ANYONE should obviously be avoided.

Also, it costs oodles and oodles of cash to move up in the organization by taking specific classes and achieving advancement. The article asserts Scientology filed lawsuits against young adults who had been members as children for back pay for classes they took when they were minors.

One surprise The New Yorker piece offered was Haggis’ revelation that his children and other Scientology children were generally sequestered from mainstream media outlets and sometimes rarely come into contact with non-Scientologists until they were 18. While this probably isn’t true of all but the hardcore Scientology families, even if this happens on a very minuscule occasion, it is the greatest offense. Exposure to information and experiences the world has to offer are fundamental to good decision-making. If this is true, and the claims seem very credible, Scientology leadership are guilty of imprisoning the minds of minor members.

Yes, the allegations of unlawful imprisonment, beatings by leader David Miscavige, as well as the well-known extreme abuse of the legal system give clear indication that Scientology, at the very least, is an organization to be avoided and, at the very most, a criminal outfit. But, if even a fraction of the claims made by ex-Scientologists are true, Scientology should absolutely be stripped of its tax-exempt status and by investigated for illegal activity.

Celebrity Involvement
I agree with the sentiments of David Wright yesterday morning on Morning Joe, Tom Cruise is accountable for the atrocities committed by Scientology as he is their leading salesman. So is every other celebrity who participates in this rotten, festering American ulcer of Scientology. I saw Kirstie Alley and Anne Archer (whose son is spokesman for the, gag, “religion”) go apeshit on a reporter who was once questioning them about Scientology. That level of fierce defensiveness was so transparently indicative of cultish indoctrination, it should by taught in psych classes across the American university system.

Whether you’re Beck or Giovanni Ribisi (tear) or Jennifer Lopez, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Jenna Elfman, the voice of Bart on The Simpsons, or Isaac Hayes or whomever, if you are a member of this church, you are participating in and helping the organization to oppress minors and abuse members. In most instances, I will avoid the consumption of their products because I do not in any way want to contribute to the practices carried out by this secretive, controlling, and grotesque organization.

As online media helps bring to light the true nature of Scientology, I hope it dissolves as a viable “religious” organization. We cannot legislate stupidity and, if people want to become members and muddy the gene pool, so be it. I think an organization so inherently slimy cannot and will not stand the test of time. Until then, I can only throw my hands in the air and shout, “What the hell is wrong with people?!!”

Glad the Gay-Bashers Lost the Super Bowl

Before last week, I was little enthused about the Super Bowl. San Fran and Baltimore do not belong on the radar of pro teams I semi-follow. I’m a college football gal, anyhow.

If I had to choose a team, my initial pick would have been the 49ers because I love that coach-for-a-day commercial they did and I’ve always been a fan of Crabtree from his days at Texas Tech.

The gay bashing last week by 49er cornerback Chris Culliver, however, was so beyond the bounds of human decency – as well as the follow-up anti-gay sentiments of fellow players Ahmad Brooks and Isaac Sopoaga. Their words were contemptible.

I would have at least respected the organization had they suspended the players – yes, for the Super Bowl. Their comments deserved no lesser punishment. In fact, had those players issued such opinion about any other minority group, they would have been benched. For the 49er management to allow those men to take the field after such outrageous, outward bigotry, leaves little to respect. Shame on the whole lot of them.

If some big, bad football players lack the maturity and professionalism that should accompany the uniform, they shouldn’t be on the field. It’s time for progress to force its way into pro sports. These adults need to grow up and open their minds. And I will be boycotting their games until amends are made.

Sidenote: I didn’t support Baltimore either, really – Ray Lewis being a probable murder-participant was also a huge turnoff. I wish both teams had lost. And that Louisiana invests more in its infrastructure.

Angry Atheists

Keli Goff posted a blog on The Huffington Post that pretty much said, blah, blah, blah, why are agnostics so angry, blah, blah, blah, they shouldn’t be so angry, blah, blah, blah, I only know four agnostics, blah, blah, annoying worthlessness.

As an atheist, I feel compelled to explain our “anger.”

Preface: 1. I’m sassy, not angry. 2. I skimmed the last 2/3 of her blog because the first third was so annoying. Don’t judge, you’re probably only skimming this blog right now. 3. I’ll be speaking of atheists as though we are a homogeneous group in complete agreement about everything (Which is quite untrue. You wouldn’t believe how many non-believers favor Ron Paul. Blech. And I disagree with Bill Maher all the time, especially on his aversion to meat). 4. I’ll be lumping agnostics in with atheists for the purpose of this blog. I know the debate and nuance regarding the distinction between the two, but please, time is money, people. 5. This blog will be just as annoyingly long, if not more so, than Keli’s.

Keli G. is a prime example of a minority group failing to understand the oppression and experience of another minority group. This is an understandable reality. People shouldn’t expect black people to be in total lockstep with the LGBTQIA community simply because black people have faced extreme oppression. Black women are the most Christian demographic in this country. Oppression does many things to a group of people, but it doesn’t guarantee empathy. Her lack of understanding and attempt to suggest to us an alternative approach to thinking and behavior simply illustrates the age old adage that she should walk a mile in our shoes before declaring judgement.

Now I begin my bulleted, therefore easy-to-understand, list of atheist grievances.

  • I don’t care if you find this self-indulgent conceit; it is true at this day and in this time. Athiests/agnostics are more informed and educated than the average citizen. An overwhelming majority of the scientific community does not believe in a supreme being. Only 2% of prisoners in the U.S. are atheists. An understanding of the history of Christianity and religion itself provides a clear illustration of Christianity as a business/political tool that renders belief in Christian doctrine almost silly and yet it is the basis for so much prejudice and hate. It is difficult to watch over and over Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, John Hagee and all the rest use their position, due to religious fervor, for certainly evil purposes. These men wield powerful influence for ignominious purpose because scores of the population believe the ridiculousness in the Bible is true and divine. This is irritating and frustrating as all get out. It’s not that Christians are on the default stupid list, but you never see news stories about Ponzi schemers targeting a group of atheists.
  • If Christians were Christ-like, we would have no beef with them. Alas, Christians are by far one of the most hateful, exclusive, intolerant, mean, judgmental group of people to grace this planet. Visit Austin for a weekend, where quite a bit of the populace is atheist. You will find warm, friendly welcomes everywhere you turn while you drive a few hundred miles north to Oklahoma and you’ll find some very negative religious vibes. I know. For something awful I done in a past life, baby jesus seen fit to make me live in OKC for almost two years. I only survived by drinking heavily. You want to find a group excepting, understanding, engaged, interesting and friendly peeps – visit your local atheist meetup and the odds are you’ll have a good time and leave with an exhilarating afterglow from the presence of people who welcome your experience, not just your wallet. Maybe I oversold that a bit, but you get the point. Now for the requisite disclaimer that I know a ton of Christians who are loving and friendly and warm and cuddly. I live in Texas for chrissakes.
  • Public perception of atheists is, for not one comprehensible, defensible reason, HORRIBLE. Closet atheists blanket the land of the free and the home of the brave. Visit clergyproject.org. Visit an atheist meetup. You’ll encounter person after person who lost acceptance from all of their families and friends because they don’t believe in a god. The stories posted on Friendlyatheist can be heartbreaking. A 2006 Univ. of Minn. study found atheists to be the least trusted of minority groups, behind Muslims, recent immigrants, and homosexuals. USA today reports of a small study by the Univ. of Oregan found that: “The study, conducted among 350 Americans adults and 420 Canadian college students, asked participants to decide if a fictional driver damaged a parked car and left the scene, then found a wallet and took the money, was the driver more likely to be a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher? The participants, who were from religious and nonreligious backgrounds, most often chose the atheist teacher.”What the fuck is wrong with people?! I’m one of the nicest people I know!
    Think about it. Obama is probably a closet atheist and has to stay that way because his elected office dreams would have been toast were he to be honest and open about this non-belief. And it’s not just the president. Try being an atheist in the South. Mum is the freaking word if you aren’t a churchie of some sort. Revelations of this flavor get people faird (fired) down here in these parts. Teachers are mean to your kids; neighbors won’t let their kids play with yours. Media outlets won’t run your advertisements. If we looked different, we’d face any and every form of discrimination legal and otherwise. Imagine your mom and dad disowning you because you took a look around and said, you know what? The evidence isn’t there. I just don’t believe all this baloney. That would make a person angry, Keli Goff.
  • Much of the terrible, civil rights-limiting legislation passed these days has its foundations in religious doctrine. Atheists think of gay issues as their issues, women’s reproductive rights issues as their issues. You will search long and hard to find an atheist opposed to gay marriage or a woman’s right to choose an abortion. That is due to the fact that these are merely two examples where offensive legislation has its roots in religious doctrine, where believers choose to thrust their prejudice upon the rest of us, defending their repugnant ideals and actions by clinging to the false notion that the U.S.A. is a Christian nation, the “Founding Fathers” ordained it so. While they will remember the Constitution’s tenets well enough to permit those of other religions to legally worship, they continue to foist their “beliefs” on the rest of us, limiting our freedoms to choose to do in our private lives what we will. They would use the government to control others, while screaming foul the second the government forces them to respect the will of others. They eagerly accept government funds and tax exemptions while decrying government control and inserting opinion into the political sphere. Their actions are nothing sort of detestable, hate-fueled hypocrisy of the shadiest sort and they bring shame upon this country – which belongs to ALL OF US. So, why would we be angry, Keli Goff?

You know that bumper sticker: If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention. Well, maybe the question isn’t why are agnostics (and atheists) so angry, it’s why aren’t we angrier. Maybe if we were, Scott Walker would have lost his recall election, Republican billionaires wouldn’t have so much power over our electoral system, religious leaders would be deterred from attempting to determine the direction of the legislative agenda, corruption wouldn’t be so completely entrenched in our state governments, etc., etc.

If you find our anger unpleasant, Keli Goff, than so be it. I would say you are then an obstacle to progress. Our anger will help change this country for the better, whether we are enjoyable to be around or not. Perhaps one should try to understand why a group of millions of people are the way they are before suggesting they should all change.

And, P.S., I’ve only scratched the surface about why we angry.

And can someone set up a meeting between Keli Goff and Jamila Bey??

Which States Ban Atheists from Holding Public Office?

Liberal Images 5/6/12

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Liberal Images 6/1/12

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Shitty Thing a Republican Did Today 5/31/12

Because it seems like the Republicans do something horrific or shitty or unethical or mean or unjustified practically every day, I feel the need to announce the worst thing I’ve seen that day.

Today, the winner is Jay Townsend, spokesman for NY-R Repub Nan Hayworth (@repnanhayworth) who, on Saturday, said online, “Let’s hurl some acid at those female democratic Senators who won’t abide the mandates they want to impose on the private sector.”

I know the asinine buffoon was being “metaphorical,” but he could not have used worse language. I don’t even need to go into it.

So, let’s educate him about the results of real acid attacks:

 

Republicans always insist on using out-of-line, violent rhetoric. Shameful that they would use such a privilege of free speech – a privilege countless have died for – to call for violence against fellow Americans. He’s no better than the terrorists we fight overseas.

Feel free to tweet his boss and announce your disgust. I did.

Liberal Images 5/22/12

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Liberal Images 5/17/12

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