Friday, November 28, 2008

Commercialism gone totally mad

I worked at a Wal-Mart for about a year while I was in college. I heard enough stories of mad and crazy shoppers to make me sincerely want to NOT be on the job the morning of Black Friday. Fortunately, I never had to.

This time a Wal-Mart temp employee was actually trampled to death opening the doors to the store. I wonder at what point should Wal-Mart be held liable for this sort of thing? What sort of madness leads people to trample on others to get into the store, in the sort of manner that you could expect they might to get out of a burning building? I seriously don't get it...

Wal-Mart worker dies in rush; two killed at toy store

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving in a mixed Secular/Christian family

This is a particular exciting Thanksgiving for me, as it will be my first "two family" holiday season. First my boyfriend, his kids and I will be going to my parents house to eat (along with my sister who is here all the way from Oregon!) and then we will be going to the kids grandparents.

One of the things I absolutely love about my new family is that we are all atheists who share the same values of humanism and reason. Yep, having a significant other with the same sorts of beliefs and values is most definitely something to be thankful for. So even though there is likely to be a Christian prayer before eating at least at my parent's house, we know who truely deserves the thanks. I give thanks to the earth, the founders of the USA who helped guarantee our rights directly at the founding, the farmers who grow our food, the scientists that help us understand the world, the inventors that have thought up the things we use every day, and the everyday people out there who in the process of earning their daily bread support our economic system and our way of life. And those in each family who have worked so hard to earn and prepare the food on the table. And many more people who are way too numerous to mention here.

It would be so much easier just to thank God, but I think that would really miss the point...

Here is the bit from The Meming of Life that I thought was particularly appropriate for Thanksgiving:

We have no difficulty reminding the four-year-old to “say thank you” when Grandma hands her an ice cream cone, but in other situations – especially when a religious turn-of-phrase is generally used – we often pass up the chance to teach our kids to express gratitude in naturalistic terms. Instead of thanking God for the food on your table, thank those who really put it there – the farmers, the truckers, the produce workers, and Mom or Dad or Aunt Millicent. They deserve it. Maybe you’d like to lean toward the Native American and honor the animals for the sacrifice of their lives – a nice way to underline our connection to them. You can give thanks to those around the table for being present, and for their health, and for family and friendship itself. There is no limit. Even when abstract, like gratitude for health, the simple expression of gratitude is all that is needed. No divine ear is necessary – we are surrounded by real ears and by real hearers.
source: The Meming of Life >> Where Thanks are Due

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What I am Thankful For, Part 2

Here are more things I am thankful for:

  • I am in good health.

  • I don't have a headache.

  • I was informed today to expect a job offer next week (due the offices being closed over Thanksgiving) for a good direct-hire job for which I have been interviewing. My period of unemployment is coming to an end :)

  • I have had a good education, and all the benefits that brings.

  • I like the city where I live.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What I am Thankful For

In honor of Thanksgiving, this week I am going to list some of the things for which I am thankful. If I'm diligent, I'll post something every day up until Thanksgiving...but no guarantees. :p

These are in no order except that in which they occur to me.
I am thankful for:

  • my family, and the fact that we can all get together and have a good time

  • my good friends at the Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers group

  • the wonderful loving man I call my boyfriend :)

  • clean water, which I know is not available to everyone in the world

  • ditto about good, tasty, nutritional food

A Four-Letter Word - ExChristian.Net - Articles

I found this fascinating quote today:

Note to Pastor Willard: when you denounce atheists speaking their minds and reaching out to others like them, don't say you do it with love. It has been the slander of the church that has isolated atheists, that has made it nearly impossible for us to be represented by one of our own in public office, that has forced many of us to hide our true thoughts from our business patrons, friends, and closest family members. It is that slander that inspires violence against us and builds walls between believers and non-believers. How cruel is it to say, "No, you can't tear down those walls. You can't have your say in the court of public opinion. You can't reach out to others who feel as alone as you once did?" Then to commandeer the word "love" to make it appear as if people who believe in God are the only ones who feel it -- I don't think the irony could get much thicker. Do you tell your wife and children that you beat them because you love them?A Four-Letter Word - ExChristian.Net - Articles, Nov 2008

You should read the whole article.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bad economy? Find a scapegoat!

The Wall Street Journal has gone mad. Via Pharyngula, I found this article:

Mad Max and the Meltdown: How we went from Christmas to crisis.

Here is a quote:
This year we celebrate the desacralized "holidays" amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin -- fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.

Honestly. The problem is the war on Christmas? And who's fault is it?

Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of "Merry Christmas."

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

Because, of course, atheists and secularists aren't moral, and can't show restraint and responsiblity. Atheists don't have conscience. Ah, that just clears it all up, doesn't it?

Like hell.

I'd wish you a Merry Christmas, but it's not even Thanksgiving yet...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Broken Spirit?

Religion feeds on a broken spirit, and that is why it tries to break your spirit the moment you come into contact with it. Submit! Obey! Do not question! These words should be chissled above the entrance of every church and every mosque. -Pat Condell

You don't say? I remember the church revivals, youth summer camps, and worship services at Trevecca Nazarene University where everyone gushed over how much they wanted to be 'broken'. I kid you not, that is the word that was used. Here are the lyrics to one of the songs we used to sing, over and over, about 10 times in a row, until about half of the group of kids at summer camp were sobbing and crowded around the altar in the front of the room:

A broken spirit And a contrite heart
You will not despise You will not despise
You desire truth In the inward parts
A broken spirit And a contrite heart.
Lord, my heart is prone to wander
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart Lord,
take and seal it for your courts above.

The idea was that if your spirit was 'broken' you would give up and surrender your will and thoughts to God. It used to sound so wonderful, but now it just strikes me as creepy.

Here is the rest of what Pat Condell had to say on the topic of a 'broken spirit', the bondage of religion, and the freedom of godlessness.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More Catholic Craziness @ The Friendly Atheist

At least, according to what I heard, a large portion of the Catholic laity did vote for Obama. The priests, fortunately, seem to be dwindling in power and influence.

Catholic Churches and Barack Obama

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yet another reason why we MUST have separation of church and state.

As if we needed another reason...

Priest Calls Vote for Obama a Mortal Sin
A Catholic priest in South Carolina has decided that the democratic act of casting a vote is, in some cases, a mortal sin. Therefore, he has decided that parishioners who voted for Barack Obama are not entitled to the grace of Jesus Christ through communion until they've done penance.

"Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law," Rev. Jay Scott Newman wrote in a letter to parishioners at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville.

Read the rest of the article here: Priest Calls Vote for Obama a Mortal Sin

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

'Child-witches' of Nigeria seek refuge - ExChristian.Net - News and Opinion

Still such ignorance in the world. Is this what Palin's paster from Kenya believes in?

From The Observer:

The rainy season is over and the Niger Delta is lush and humid. This southern edge of West Africa, where Nigeria's wealth pumps out of oil and gas fields to bypass millions of its poorest people, is a restless place. In the small delta state of Akwa Ibom, the tension and the poverty has delivered an opportunity for a new and terrible phenomenon that is leading to the abuse and the murder of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children. And it is being done in the name of Christianity.

Almost everyone goes to church here. Driving through the town of Esit Eket, the rust-streaked signs, tarpaulins hung between trees and posters on boulders, advertise a church for every third or fourth house along the road. Such names as New Testament Assembly, Church of God Mission, Mount Zion Gospel, Glory of God, Brotherhood of the Cross, Redeemed, Apostalistic. Behind the smartly painted doors pastors make a living by 'deliverances' - exorcisms - for people beset by witchcraft, something seen to cause anything from divorce, disease, accidents or job losses. With so many churches it's a competitive market, but by local standards a lucrative one.
But an exploitative situation has now grown into something much more sinister as preachers are turning their attentions to children - naming them as witches. In a maddened state of terror, parents and whole villages turn on the child. They are burnt, poisoned, slashed, chained to trees, buried alive or simply beaten and chased off into the bush.

Some parents scrape together sums needed to pay for a deliverance - sometimes as much as three or four months' salary for the average working man - although the pastor will explain that the witch might return and a second deliverance will be needed. Even if the parent wants to keep the child, their neighbours may attack it in the street.

This is not just a few cases. This is becoming commonplace. In Esit Eket, up a nameless, puddled-and-potholed path is a concrete shack stuffed to its fetid rafters with roughly made bunk beds. Here, three to a bed like battery chickens, sleep victims of the besuited Christian pastors and their hours-long, late-night services. Ostracised and abandoned, these are the children a whole community believes fervently are witches.

Sam Ikpe-Itauma is one of the few people in this area who does not believe what the evangelical 'prophets' are preaching. He opened his house to a few homeless waifs he came across, and now he tries his best to look after 131.

'The neighbours were not happy with me and tell me "you are supporting witches". This project was an accident, I saw children being abandoned and it was very worrying. I started with three children, then every day it increased up to 15, so we had to open this new place,' he says. 'For every maybe five children we see on the streets, we believe one has been killed, although it could be more as neighbours turn a blind eye when a witch child disappears.

'It is good we have this shelter, but it is under constant attack.' As he speaks two villagers walk past, at the end of the yard, pulling scarfs across their eyes to hide the 'witches' from their sight.

Twelve-year-old Mary had acid thrown in her face after being accused of being a witch.

Ikpe-Itauma's wife, Elizabeth, acts as nurse to the injured children and they have called this place the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network, a big name for a small refuge. It has found support from a charity running a school in the area, Stepping Stones Nigeria, which is trying to help with money to feed the children, but the numbers turning up here are a huge challenge.

Mary Sudnad, 10, grimaces as her hair is pulled into corn rows by Agnes, 11, but the scalp just above her forehead is bald and blistered. Mary tells her story fast, in staccato, staring fixedly at the ground.

'My youngest brother died. The pastor told my mother it was because I was a witch. Three men came to my house. I didn't know these men. My mother left the house. Left these men. They beat me.' She pushes her fists under her chin to show how her father lay, stretched out on his stomach on the floor of their hut, watching. After the beating there was a trip to the church for 'a deliverance'.

A day later there was a walk in the bush with her mother. They picked poisonous 'asiri' berries that were made into a draught and forced down Mary's throat. If that didn't kill her, her mother warned her, then it would be a barbed-wire hanging. Finally her mother threw boiling water and caustic soda over her head and body, and her father dumped his screaming daughter in a field. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she stayed near the house for a long time before finally slinking off into the bush.Mary was seven. She says she still doesn't feel safe. She says: 'My mother doesn't love me.' And, finally, a tear streaks down her beautiful face.

Gerry was picked out by a 'prophetess' at a prayer night and named as a witch. His mother cursed him, his father siphoned petrol from his motorbike tank and spat it over his eight-year-old face. Gerry's facial blistering is as visible as the trauma in his dull eyes. He asks every adult he sees if they will take him home to his parents: 'It's not them, it's the prophetess, I am scared of her.'

Nwaeka is about 16. She sits by herself in the mud, her eyes rolling, scratching at her stick-thin arms. The other children are surprisingly patient with her. The wound on her head where a nail was driven in looks to be healing well. Nine- year-old Etido had nails, too, five of them across the crown of his downy head. Its hard to tell what damage has been done. Udo, now 12, was beaten and abandoned by his mother. He nearly lost his arm after villagers, finding him foraging for food by the roadside, saw him as a witch and hacked at him with machetes.

Magrose is seven. Her mother dug a pit in the wood and tried to bury her alive. Michael was found by a farmer clearing a ditch, starving and unable to stand on legs that had been flogged raw.

Ekemini Abia has the look of someone in a deep state of shock. Both ankles are circled with gruesome wounds and she moves at a painful hobble. Named as a witch, her father and elders from the church tied her to a tree, the rope cutting her to the bone, and left the 13-year-old there alone for more than a week.

There are sibling groups such as Prince, four, and Rita, nine. Rita told her mum she had dreamt of a lovely party where there was lots to eat and to drink. The belief is that a witch flies away to the coven at night while the body sleeps, so Rita's sweet dream was proof enough: she was a witch and because she had shared food with her sibling - the way witchcraft is spread - both were abandoned. Victoria, cheeky and funny, aged four, and her seven-year-old sister Helen, a serene little girl. Left by their parents in the shell of an old shack, the girls didn't dare move from where they had been abandoned and ate leaves and grass.

The youngest here is a baby. The older girls take it in turn to sling her on their skinny hips and Ikpe-Itauma has named her Amelia, after his grandmother. He estimates around 5,000 children have been abandoned in this area since 1998 and says many bodies have turned up in the rivers or in the forest. Many more are never found. 'The more children the pastor declares witches, the more famous he gets and the more money he can make,' he says. 'The parents are asked for so much money that they will pay in instalments or perhaps sell their property. This is not what churches should be doing.'

Although old tribal beliefs in witch doctors are not so deeply buried in people's memories, and although there had been indigenous Christians in Nigeria since the 19th century, it is American and Scottish Pentecostal and evangelical missionaries of the past 50 years who have shaped these fanatical beliefs. Evil spirits, satanic possessions and miracles can be found aplenty in the Bible, references to killing witches turn up in Exodus, Deuteronomy and Galatians, and literal interpretation of scriptures is a popular crowd-pleaser.

Pastor Joe Ita is the preacher at Liberty Gospel Church in nearby Eket. 'We base our faith on the Bible, we are led by the holy spirit and we have a programme of exposing false religion and sorcery.' Soft of voice and in his smart suit and tie, his church is being painted and he apologises for having to sit outside near his shiny new Audi to talk. There are nearly 60 branches of Liberty Gospel across the Niger Delta. It was started by a local woman, mother-of-two Helen Ukpabio, whose luxurious house and expensive white Humvee are much admired in the city of Calabar where she now lives. Many people in this area credit the popular evangelical DVDs she produces and stars in with helping to spread the child witch belief.

Ita denies charging for exorcisms but acknowledges his congregation is poor and has to work hard to scrape up the donations the church expects. 'To give more than you can afford is blessed. We are the only ones who really know the secrets of witches. Parents don't come here with the intention of abandoning their children, but when a child is a witch then you have to say "what is that there? Not your child." The parents come to us when they see manifestations. But the secret is that, even if you abandon your child, the curse is still upon you, even if you kill your child the curse stays. So you have to come here to be delivered afterwards as well,' he explains patiently.

'We know how they operate. A witch will put a spell on its mother's bra and the mother will get breast cancer. But we cannot attribute all things to witches, they work on inclinations too, so they don't create HIV, but if you are promiscuous then the witch will give you HIV.'

As the light fades, he presents a pile of Ukpabio's DVDs. Mistakenly thinking they are a gift, I am firmly put right.

Later that night, in another part of town, the hands of the clock edge towards midnight. The humidity of the day is sealed into the windowless church and drums pound along with the screeching of the sweat-drenched preacher. 'No witches, oh Lord,' he screams into the microphone. 'As this hour approaches, save us, oh Lord!'

His congregation is dancing, palms aloft, women writhe and yell in tongues. A group moves forward shepherding five children, one a baby, and kneel on the concrete floor and the pastor comes among them, pressing his hands down on each child's head in turn, as they try to hide in the skirts of the woman. This is deliverance night at the Church of the True Redeemer, and while the service will carry on for some hours, the main event - for which the parents will have paid cash - is over.

Walking out into the night, the drums and singing from other churches ring out as such scenes are being repeated across the village.

It is hard to find people to speak out against the brutality. Chief Victor Ikot is one. He not only speaks out against the 'tinpot' churches, but has also done the unthinkable and taken in a witch to his own home. The chief's niece, Mbet, was declared a witch when she was eight. Her mother, Ekaete, made her drink olive oil, then poison berries, then invited local men to beat her with sticks. The pastor padlocked her to a tree but unlocked her when her mother could not find the money for a deliverance. Mbet fled. Mbet, now 11, says she has not seen the woman since, adding: 'My mother is a wicked mother.'

The Observer tracked down Mbet's mother to her roadside clothing stall where she nervously fiddled with her mobile phone and told us how her daughter had given her what sounded very much like all the symptoms of malaria. 'I had internal heat,' she says, indicating her stomach. 'It was my daughter who had caused this, she drew all the water from my body. I could do nothing. She was stubborn, very stubborn.' And if her daughter had died in the bush? She shrugged: 'That is God's will. It is in God's hands.'

Chief Victor has no time for his sister-in-law. 'Nowadays when a child becomes stubborn, then everyone calls them witches. But it is usually from the age of 10 down, I have never seen anyone try to throw a macho adult into the street. This child becomes a nuisance, so they give a dog a bad name and they can hang it.

'It is alarming because no household is untouched. But it is the greed of the pastors, driving around in Mercedes, that makes them choose the vulnerable.'

In a nearby village The Observer came across five-year-old twins, Itohowo and Kufre. They are still hanging around close to their mother's shack, but are obviously malnourished and in filthy rags. Approaching the boys brings a crowd of villagers who stand around and shout: 'Take them away from us, they are witches.' 'Take them away before they kill us all.' 'Witches'.

The woman who gave birth to these sorry scraps of humanity stands slightly apart from the crowd, arms crossed. Iambong Etim Otoyo has no intention of taking any responsibility for her sons. 'They are witches,' she says firmly and walks away.

And by nightfall there are 133 children in the chicken coop concrete house at Esit Eket.

Video and pictures at 'Child-witches' of Nigeria seek refuge - ExChristian.Net - News and Opinion

Monday, November 10, 2008

Church told 'obvious lies,' gay activists allege

I just found this on CNN's website. It would not be the first time the religous have lied to push an agenda. Not only about gays--atheists and the Theory of Evolution also immediately come to mind.

Church told 'obvious lies,' gay activists allege

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

For the first time in a while, I am very proud of my country...

I'll have to admit it, I've been a bit down on the US for a while. You see, I was raised believing that my country is the beacon of democracy, liberty, and security in the world. The land of the free, and the home of the brave! The last eight years have left me totally disillusioned. The events of 9/11/2001 woke me up to the fact that if our government ever fell, if it was ever taken over (and in the period of confusion on that day, before anyone knew what was going on, I feared that that could actually happen), our wonderful Constitution and our Bill of Rights would be nothing but historical pieces of paper. It took the PATRIOT Act to make me realize that it wouldn't take a overthrow of our government to undermine the Constitution, if our own leaders were willing to do it themselves! I grew up believing that things like unlawful imprisonment, torture, and the suspension of due process were things that happened in the old Soviet Union, but not HERE! Not in the land of the free and the home of the brave! And then we invaded and totally demolished another country, and on false pretense. Not a proud day to be an American.

I was afraid for a while that the American people were just too asleep, and too cynical to actually do something about it. I worried that all the vicious attacks on Obama would lead to McCain (or worse, Palin!) becoming President of the United States. I was concerned about the Supreme Court and what new ultra-conservative judges might be appointed to further weight the bench. Bye-bye liberty for religous disent, abortion rights, and gay rights, and who knows what else. Hello to endless war.

But that is not what has happened. America has spoken, with an overwhelming voice, that that is NOT what we want. We actually looked beyond racial issues, and empty threats of 'ooh, he's a muslim, I can't vote for a muslim' and all the attempts at 'swift-boating.' I don't expect I'll like everything that Obama does in office (I already disagree on the faith-based initiative) but at least I can trust that he will act out of Logic and Reason, and not out of 'God told me so'.

I know I'm getting a bit emotional and lofty but I can't really help it. I really think the best man for the job was elected last night. It gives me hope.