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The big news today is that the Boy Scouts of America are keeping their policy banning homosexuals from participating.
I was a Cub Scout leader for four years, and my son has recently moved on into the Boy Scouts, after he and 3 other boys in my den successfully earned their Arrow of Light – the highest award in Cub Scouting. He enjoys scouting and it is one of the only hobbies that he has stuck with for any length of time. We’ve been through baseball, soccer, karate, piano lessons, guitar lessons and many other activities, but Boy Scouts is the only one that he really enjoys and has stuck with through the years.
As an atheist, I do find some of the scout rituals a little unsettling, but in the four years that I taught as a leader, I mentioned religion on only one occasion. The Bear Scout award has a religious requirement to it, and rather than do it myself, I recruited the local Pastor (the father of one of my scouts) to do a non-denominational talk on faith. From what I remember, it mostly involved trust-falls and having “faith” that when you sit in a chair it would hold you and not drop you on the floor. It seemed mostly harmless, but it was obviously alluding to having faith in God and that He would be there to support you, just like the chair. Whatever.
(The pastors son quit at the end of the year, apparently to pursue other sporting activities, but in the back of my mind, I like to imagine that he was irked by my obvious lack of faith and chose to pull his son out of my scout group. Oh well.)
Incidentally, the religious requirements for the Bear Scout award can very easily be bent to support atheism, and that is exactly what I did for my son. The other parents just signed the book and I took their word that their boys had completed the requirements. I was not about to dicuss religion in one of my meetings.
Atheism and homosexuality are the two pillars of intolerance promoted by the scout movement. So why would I, an atheist, continue to promote and support the scouting movement? Is this not the very height of hypocrisy on my behalf? This is a very good question, and I hope to provide an answer to it…
Firstly, I live in California, and our scout group is very lenient when it comes to pushing religion. I did not mention religion but once in four years of weekly den meetings and in the three months or so of weekly Boy Scout meetings we have been attending since graduating from Cub Scouts, I have not seen one religious reference either. I can only assume that this same lenience would hold true if one of the boys – or parents – announced that he was gay.
This may very well be different in other parts of the country, but from where I am standing, I simply do not percieve the hostility towards homosexuals or atheists that is portrayed in the popular media. Again, this is not to say that it is not true – just that my personal experience with scouting is not one of hate and bigotry. But, this is California – one of the most liberal states in the US – and I don’t doubt that things would be markedly different in the Bible Belt…
Secondly, and most importantly, my son enjoys scouting and I believe it to be beneficial to him as a whole. Sure, we roll our eyes at the occasional non-denominational prayer, and I perhaps ought to feel a little more outraged by it, but I don’t. Incidentally, any prayer must be non-denominational because scouting is accepting of all faiths. Only atheism is not counted as a faith, but as I mentioned above the rules can be bent to include it, just as long as religious people continue to claim that “atheism is a religion” or “atheism requires more faith than Christianity”. Of course, we all know this is nonsense, but a few seconds of eye-rolling in silence is far outweighed by the many other activities and positive benefits that scouting provides – and many of these activities simply cannot be achieved without the backing of such a large and well-organized movement.
However, at the end of the day, there is no doubt that the Boy Scouts of America is continuing to promote outdated, bigoted views that in reality, cannot be justified. But the Boy Scouts is not really the problem here – their policies are simply a side-effect of the culture in which they live.
In other words, as long as homosexuals and atheists are viewed as second-class citizens by the laws and politics of the country, then they are under no real pressure to change. As soon as all 50 states legalize gay marriage, I guarantee that the Boy Scouts policy will be updated to include homosexuals. After all, they don’t exclude black people, because that would be illegal.
The real battle here is with the mindset of the country as a whole. Once the country moves forward and puts the bigotry behind it, the Boys Scouts will fall in line – or become as obsolete and unnecesary as printed newspapers in a world where everyone owns a tablet.
That said, I have been accused (by other atheists) of supporting a movement that very clearly discriminates against people, and I readily admit that I do. But I am not about to pull my son from the one extra-curricular activity that he truly enjoys, simply to make a statement. He is ten years old. He does not deserve to be used as a pawn in a much larger political game that he does not fully understand.
However, if his membership in Boy Scouts is ever questioned due to his atheism (or sexuality), then you can be assured that it will not end there. But I would hope that one day he will realize for himself that the policy of discrimination is wrong and stand against it.
And that will be the proudest day of my life.
I just recieved this email from the Obama Campaign:
Romney and the Republicans announced yesterday that they brought in more than $100 million in June.
For context, that’s about what we raised in April and May combined.
We’re still tallying our own numbers, but this means their gap is getting wider, and if it continues at this pace, it could cost us the election.
We need to reverse this trend — and we need to start now. Will you make a donation of $4 or more today?
Because you’ve saved your payment information, your donation will go through immediately:
QUICK DONATE: $4
— QUICK DONATE: $35
— QUICK DONATE: $50
— QUICK DONATE: $100
— QUICK DONATE: $250
Or donate another amount.
One hundred million is alarming enough, but it doesn’t even include the millions pouring into pro-Romney super PACs — or the fact that, unlike four years ago, it’s perfectly legal for the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Karl Rove, and anonymous billionaires to funnel unlimited money into attacking President Obama in critical battleground states.
I’m proud of the way we build this organization. Through the primaries, more than three-quarters of our donations were from people giving less than $1,000. Meanwhile, in that same period, Mitt Romney’s campaign raised three-quarters of its money from people giving $1,000 or more.
If we don’t take this seriously now, we risk finding ourselves at a point where there is too much ground to make up.
We need to do something about it. Today.
Please donate $4 or more:
More to come.
Obama for America
I don’t know about anyone else, but I am sick to death of this shit. It’s not simply a suggestion that the White House can be bought – it is now a plain and obvious fact.
Democracy in America is dead and gone. The WhiteHouse is up for grabs by anyone who can afford it, regardless of their political acumen or plans for the nation.
I’m sick of it and in the true spirit of cutting off my nose to spite my face, I refuse to donate any more cash to this dog and pony show. America is going to Hell in a handbasket and the Republicans are paying for the one-way ticket.
Wake me up when the circus is over. I never did much enjoy dancing elephants and talking asses anyway.
Whenever the subject of public prayer in school or government arises, there will always be at least one person who is unable to see how this would affect people of other faiths or of no faith at all. Obviously, as an atheist, I would rather not have any prayer at all and when I mention this, the inevitable response is usually something like “It’s only a prayer. Suck it up”.
Of course, it is “only a prayer”. And again, being atheist, praying (or at the very least, pretending to pray) shouldn’t really bother me. After all, prayer to an atheist is about as much use as a bicycle to a fish. You can’t expect either the atheist or the fish to really care too much, and it’s a waste of time to show them how to use it.
However, what if it were Muslim prayer that was being offered in school? Would that make any difference to your average Christian? After all, it is “only a prayer”, so just “suck it up”, right?
For reference, here is a set of instructions for how to perform the Muslim prayers. I can’t see many Christians being too happy with chanting “Allahu Akbar” and prostrating themselves on the ground, in the same way that non-religious persons are not too happy with having any prayer at all.
Ah, but isn’t the United States founded on Christian principles, making a Christian prayer the natural choice? Actually, no, it is not. The 1796 treaty with Tripoli states that the United States was “not in any sense founded on the Christian religion“. In fact, religion is not even mentioned in the Constitution, except to exclude it. Websites such as WallBuilders are attempting to rewrite history from a Christian perspective, pushing the idea that the Founding Fathers were devout Christians when at best, they were simply deists – not Christians.
Most secular people do not have a problem with prayer itself. In fact, if it makes you happy then go for it. Whatever floats your boat. But when you bring your private prayer into the public space and subject other people to your religious beliefs, that’s when we will speak up.
After a conversation on twitter regarding this very subject, the final comment from a Christian was “I guess I agree with that in a public school setting. However, I still think it’s too far to sue over it”. While a small part of me wants to fist-pump the air with the triumph of reason over religion, I cannot help but agree with him. It really is too far to sue over it, but unfortunately that is often the only way that people will pay attention to your argument.
Unless you open a meeting with a Muslim prayer, I suppose.
Ok now that I have gotten the attention of our mouth-breathing, Obama hatin, bible thumpers…lets take a look at an often overlooked quote from the Red Commie himself Karl Marx:
“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.”
What we usually only get is “Religion is the opiate of the people”, but to read his full quote demands you give the man more respect on this subject. This quote is perfect in its analysis of our big 3 religions(muslim/jews/christians). He describes both why we have it, why its wrong, and why we are better off to leave it behind. It has all the same attributes associated with a drug:
To be fair Marx is not blaming the world’s problem on religion, he has greedy-rich oppressors to fill that role…but what he really is saying is deeper than that. Marx’s real issue is that of a world that has grown cold and heartless do to the industrial revolution, greed, corporations and their value of profit above all else. To him Religion is merely trying to fill that void of the “good life” most in his day would never get the chance to experience. So to him religion was the drug most often used to ease the of pain an often miserable life.
He stopped too short, but to his credit he was not writing the “Atheist Manifesto” he had political philosophy in mind, i will help him out here though…
The Church is the crack dealer on the corner selling dope to kids. They appeal to the weak and fearful who are easy pickings for the promise of a better “afterlife”. They prey on the intolerant who only want live in a world that extends no further than their town border. They created this matrix we live in and thus will do their best to make sure we keep taking that blue pill for fear the myth is exposed and we see there really was nothing to fear all along.
So Marx was right about religion as it pertains to the individual, but missed the chance to really expose the institution as it relates to all of humanity. As we move more and more into the “information age” we all increasingly have that opportunity to choose which way to go? Do we demand that our societies, leaders, friends, relatives, etc give up this conditioned illusion…or do we continue to put our faith in a world of fiction?
I had a very good conversation with my wife a few days ago, regarding something that was bothering me. And no, it wasn’t anything to do with our relationship (even though it’s probably doomed after 13 blissful years without Jesus constantly meddling in it), but it was a much needed talk about stuff that was on my mind.
She correctly told me I was being an idiot and to stop worrying about it. She laughed at me at the appropriate times and she looked concerned when I was trying to be serious.
We get each other and it’s awesome. Actually, it’s far better than awesome – it’s everything that I could hope for in a marriage and it just keeps getting better, year after year.
But anyway, I won’t sit here getting all sentimental on you… I just wanted to mention that I honestly feel pity for people who believe in God. Because my wife is real. Her responses and reassurances are real. Everything about her is real¹. I do not have to imagine that a God, or Creator or Holy Spirit or whatever is watching over me. I do not have to pretend that He speaks to me and makes me feel better, while simultaneously ignoring the plight of starving children or giving people cancer.
Putting God before reality is to my mind, an absolute insult to those you profess to love. My wife comes first² and that’s all there is to it. And of course, unlike God – she actually exists and talks to me.
Thank you dear. I love you.
¹ aww yeah… 😉
² The secret to a happy marriage
I spend quite a bit of time on Twitter, arguing theology, passing ideas around and occasionally promoting a new article from this blog. Twitter is a very useful tool for connecting with people, sharing ideas and keeping up to date on current events. But the thing that makes Twitter so useful, is also its Achilles Heel.
“Tweets” are limited to 140 characters, so it is vitally important that you can get your point across as succintly as possible. For someone like me, who tends towards more verbosity than Twitter allows, this can be quite a challenge! However, the bigger issue for me is the preponderance of trite, sickly, feel-good quotes that serve only to bring a warm glow to the numerous people that subscribe to both the account and the associated theology.
One such example of this was a tweet that I have used as the title of this article:
“God allows trials in our lives to teach us lessons we need to learn“.
From the theists point of view, this is probably a wonderful, deep, meaningful quote that stirs all sorts of positive emotions. The hardships you endure every day, from running late to work to being unable to find your car keys, or frustration with a colleague to a dressing down by your boss – all of these trials can be viewed as lessons to make us stronger. What a wonderful notion! God is there, watching out for us, sending trials our way to strengthen our resolve and make us into better humans. What a truly loving Father He really is! Of course, the obvious problem with this can be summed up in my simple reply:
“Those starving African kids sure need a lot of lessons”
Suddenly, the context has changed completely. God is no longer a wonderful, loving Father watching over us as we hunt for our car keys, but a tyrant that wilfully ignores obscene amounts of suffering and pain. Every excuse for God allowing such suffering is exactly that: a weak excuse. After all, is He not supposed to be omnipotent?
What sort of being permits endless suffering and misery, while simultaneously enjoying heaps of praise from well-to-do Americans with what can only be described as minor inconveniences in the face of the atrocities taking place every single day in other countries? It makes no sense at all.
However, what really angers me about this, is that the original message was retweeted over 50 times the last time I checked. This means that at least 50 other people have agreed that God watches over them personally (occasionally strengthening their character through the use of specially chosen lessons) while wilfully ignoring starving children and the horrors of an existence in war-torn, famine-stricken, disease-ridden Africa. Who knows how many hundreds of other people have agreed with this quote but not forwarded it on?
It makes me sick. Self-righteous, deluded idiots, wilfully ignoring every single non-sensical premise, contradiction and baseless assertion that religion provides, simply to ease their minds and pretend that God loves them as they live every day fearing for the salvation of their immortal soul. While simultaneously, children starve to death and fear for their very lives – Which, incidentally, lives we know are real, unlike the complete lack of evidence for any kind of soul.
How about you get off your sanctimonious ass, quit praying and thanking God for
minor miracles coincidences and actually do something to help? Because if any God at all exists, I would like to believe that He rewards positive action over self-pity and undignified grovelling.