Letter to the Editor 12.31.11

January 1, 2012
christmas 2007

Image by paparutzi via Flickr

The year 2011 is now over, and I ended the year on a good note, with a letter to the editor in my local paper. The link won’t last long but I’ll reproduce my piece here:

Regarding “Why can’t we say ‘Christmas’?” (Your Views, Dec. 25):

I suspect the two letter writers are themselves to blame for their own bitterness this holiday season with their insistence on the use of the word Christmas instead of more inclusive language.

I thought the season was about fellowship, family, goodwill toward others and appreciating what one has. Nope. Apparently, it’s just about a particular brand of spoiled, privileged Christians making sure everyone in our multicultural society is constantly reminded that despite the well-known origins of Christmas and its traditions, Christians own the season.

Apparently, what most concerns these people is that anyone would have the audacity to respect others in precisely the same manner as both letter writers demand for themselves. Though I myself follow the time-honored Jewish tradition of atheism, I never take offense to being in good faith wished a “Merry Christmas!” Would the letter writers be as gracious if sincerely wished a “Happy Kwanzaa”?

But what I do take great umbrage at is this sense of entitlement and presumption that Christianity alone holds the deed to the winter season. I consider that both a grave insult to this nation’s founding principles and a grotesque mockery of true spirit of the season.

And on that note, hope everyone had a happy holidays. See you all in 2012!

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Where did all the good atheist billboards go?

December 2, 2010

It seems like the atheist advertisements are getting worse and worse. I was a big fan of some of the earlier ones like the one that read, “Don’t believe in god? You are not alone.” I also liked the “Imagine no religion” one, the “good without god” ones, and the “There is probably no god. So stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Now the atheist ads have turned more bitter and petty as well as becoming pretty much indefensible…though sadly, that hasn’t stopped those responsible for them from trying to hopelessly defend them anyway:

I’m sorry, David, but your billboard is shit. It’s doing a disservice to the atheist community. And you look like a total asshole to Fox News viewers for defending it.

Then there’s the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who have reproduced their stupid Washington Christmas “display” from last year in Wisconsin that is essentially just giving the finger to the religious.

Now I recognize that no matter what billboard atheists put up, it’s guaranteed to piss someone off no matter how inoffensive it is but that’s no reason to put up a billboard that is legitimately out to offend people…especially at this time of year.

Like last year, numerous atheist groups have tried to play Fox News’ game by playing along with this “War on Christmas” nonsense in the most childish of ways. Now I don’t think Christmas should be a national holiday either but honestly, who the fuck cares?

There are so many bigger fish to fry and sticking your tongue out at Christmas at this time of year is not going to win friends. I say, stop being reactive or childish and let them have their Christmas.

And while the holiday season commences, we should display a positive secular humanist message to the world. One of the best examples of this that I’d seen was the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia’s “Tree of Knowledge” display, which sadly this year has been disallowed. This display said all the right things. It can hardly even be called an “atheist” display at all. It celebrated tolerance, unity, and a diversity of viewpoints. And atheism was simply included as one of those viewpoints. That’s taking advantage of the sentimental spirit so representative of the season.

An even better way to promote atheism this holiday season would be to organize atheist and secular groups to take part in charity work while wearing your atheism on your sleeve, both literally and figuratively. And an even better way would be to unite atheist groups and religious groups to perform charity work together for the common good. This last one makes for great free publicity. News media love feel-good stories about opposing groups coming together for a good cause.

My point is that Fox News wants everyone to think atheists are angry, bitter assholes like the one featured in this hilarious, less than subtle trailer for the direct-to-DVD film Christmas With A Capital C:

So why would you give them exactly what they want?

C’mon atheists. This holiday season, let’s remind Americans that being an atheist can make you a better person and not just a jerk.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 11.9.10

November 10, 2010

1. Large Hadron Collider causes mini big bang

“The Large Hadron Collider has successfully created a “mini-Big Bang” by smashing together lead ions instead of protons.”

2. Spain’s LGBT community prepare to welcome Pope with kiss-in – Organisers are using Facebook to grow a  ‘queer kissing flashmob’ intended to congregate in front of Barcelona’s cathedral on Sunday:

“No placards, no flags, no shouting and no slogans. Only kissing allowed,” the Facebook page reads.

3. Liberty Counsel announces its 8th annual “Naughty & Nice list” – This is the Christian group that tries to discourage people from shopping at those evil stores that have the audacity to use “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” in their advertising. Here’s the official list. I plan on shopping only at the “naughty” stores and passing on the “nice” ones.

4. Skeptics in India launch their own paranormal challenge – Inspired by the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, skeptics in India are offering 50 Lakh rupees (about $112,000) to anyone who can definitively prove under proper scientific conditions that ghosts exist.

5. American Atheists puts up their first billboard and it’s going to be in NYC – The billboard is going up near the Lincoln Tunnel on the NYC side on November 23rd and will remain there for one month. I’m not all that crazy about it as I’d rather we dropped the whole holiday season schtick and addressed something of more substance, but I don’t hate it either. Here’s what it will look like:

 

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The atheist who stole Christmas

September 19, 2010

The Christians have decided to prematurely fire the first round in “the war on Christmas” this year with a little D-movie that makes Left Behind almost look like Citizen Kane by comparison. This looks like a low budget (possibly lower than Clerks) film starring nobody actors with a plot fit for the Hallmark Channel. Hell, it seems they couldn’t even afford Stephen Baldwin, so that got Daniel Baldwin (who knew he was following in his one loser brother’s footsteps rather than the, you know, successful ones?). And it also features the dude who played Marcy’s second husband in Married With Children. And it’s going straight to DVD…right before it goes straight to the $0.99 bargain bin. But it must be awesome because in the marketing material they compare it to Capra’s classic It’s A Wonderful Life.

But judge for yourself. Here’s the trailer for the unambiguously titled “Christmas with a Capital C”:

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Rep. Henry Brown and other Republicans’ new proposed waste of tax-payer dollars

December 29, 2009

I’ve blogged about this story before but here’s a horrible waste of tax-payer money during a recession:

Rep. Henry Brown of South Carolina and 74 Republican co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives actually wants Congress to pass a resolution condemning people for saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.”

Son of a bitch! This is seriously how these clowns want to spend tax-payer dollars? Really? After refusing to support spending for health care reform, a measure that would have undeniable benefits for almost every man, woman, and child in the country? These people are insane. They should be locked up in mental asylums, not running our country.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There’s no “War on Christmas.” The only “war” being waged is by Christians against anyone else who has the audacity to not celebrate Christmas. I have no beef with Christmas. It’s not even a real Christian holiday and many of its traditions are either Pagan in origin, secular in origin, and/or explicitly condemned in the Bible such as the Christmas tree in Jeremiah 10. Also, if you polled a hundred people on the street about their favorite part of the holiday, you’d be lucky to find even one who’d name Christmas mass or any other unambiguously religious element.

Sure, I’m a little unnerved by the ultra-commercialism of this time of year. And I think pressuring everyone into being generous is manifestly paradoxical and ultimately a flawed system since ideally, everyone reciprocates by giving presents to those they receive presents from and those presents are ideally of relatively equal worth, guaranteeing that people would just be better off buying their own gifts (hence gift cards and cash presents). But I enjoy many elements to the season. I love Santa Claus, the patron saint of this holiday, who’s inspired by numerous cultures’ myths as well as the Coca Cola Corporation, and as I understand it, is said to have died for our sins on a cross (That is what the holiday’s about, isn’t it?).

But it isn’t enough for these wankers that this holiday, currently most associated with one specific religion, is ALREADY regarded as a national holiday. No, that isn’t good enough for them. They need to force this down everyone’s throats and force us all to celebrate no matter what. Well I call bullshit! This is the United States of America, goddamnit! And we don’t have to celebrate or honor a goddamned thing! I’ll celebrate Burn The Flag Day if I please, and there ain’t a damned thing you can do about it because that’s my Constitutional right as a citizen of this amazing country. And if you don’t like it, you can just close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears, and sing, “la, la, la, la” over and over again. That’s your right. Your right to swing your fists end at my nose.

And ironically, it seems that the more atheists surprise Christians by announcing that they enjoy celebrating Christmas, the more Christians seem to be outraged and call for the exclusivity of the holiday. Just see Garrison Keillor’s rant in the Chicago Tribune, which I’ve previously mentioned in a blog. You just can’t win with people who insist on being argumentative about everything and will argue regardless of what side you’re on. So atheists might as well just continue to praise Christmas for its secular and explicitly anti-Christian components just to see if we can get more Christians to denounce the holiday.


News From Around The Blogosphere 12.10.09

December 10, 2009

1. The Human Ambassador Project to greet alien Visitors: no longer science fiction? – No, it’s still pretty much science fiction. But in case intelligent extraterrestrial life should ever come to Earth, they want to have volunteer ambassadors ready. I’m not sure yet whether to laugh at this project or commend it for its forward-thinking.

2. Friends with benefits relationships are psychologically sound

Having surveyed 1,311 Minnesotan youngsters whose average age was 20.5 during 2003-04, they found no evidence that the odd fling leads to psychological problems whatsoever.”Young adults engaging in casual sexual encounters do not appear to be at increased risk for harmful psychological outcomes compared to those in more committed relationships,” says Eisenberg.

The study did appear to refer to so-called “friends with benefits” cheery consequence-free shagging among likeminded sorts who already know each other socially, as opposed to more risky practices such as simply picking up sailors on the docks.

3. Hipsters, 1, Hasidic Jews, 0 – The two groups were fighting over a bike lane in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Hasidic Jews got rid of the bike lane, so in the dark of night, the bicyclists just painted it back. But it’s not over. The Hasids are citing traffic problems, the danger it poses to their children getting off the school bus and the lack of “appropriate” clothing on female cyclists. And the bicyclists are launching their own attacks. And I’m sure hilarity will ensue.

4. Private letters reveal science is a sham – The latest response to ClimateGate.

5. Rick Warren finally condemns the Uganda anti-gay bill…kinda – Actually only about 20% of his response is a direct condemnation of the bill. He kind of sandwiched it in there between self-promotion and a Christmas message.

Here’s also still pretending he’s never been involved in promoting anti-gay legislation of any kind:

6. Nineteen House Republicans with horrible senses of priority – In the mists of a major recession, two wars, two turtle doves, and rising unemployment, these guys have decided that the most pressing concern is to force Christmas down everyone’s throats EVEN MORE THAN IT ALREADY IS! Oh, did I mention that six of the nineteen are from South Carolina?

7. Keith Olbermann mocks Arlington, TN Mayor Russell Wiseman, who actually thinks Obama is not only just a secret Muslim but also thinks Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan in order to stop the airing of “The Charlie Brown Christmas Special.” Seriously, people voted this psycho into office.


News From Around The Blogosphere 12.7.09

December 8, 2009

1. Studies suggest men really do have big egos…but also that women have small egos – This was the finding after an analysis of 30 different studies.

2. An elderly couple was conned out of $78,000 with a bogus lottery scam – As tragic as this is, it can at least serve as a teaching moment:

Sweepstakes, lottery and “person in need” scams are pervasive and on the rise, said Maria Audas, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs.

During the past fiscal year, the agency has seen a 50 percent increase in the number of complaint calls about swindles, Audas said.

“We’ve had a huge rise in many of these scams, especially the fake-check scams.”

The Tackeses received fraudulent checks with the names of well-known companies like GEICO, Marriott and Delta Air Lines.

“Nine times out of 10, they’re scammers that aren’t playing by any rules or regulations, and the feds often can’t even trace them,” Audas said. “There’s not much we can do at the back end, but if you catch credit card misuse, we can stop it.”

Money orders or wire transfers, however, are virtually untraceable.

“That’s why the scammers ask for your money that way,” she said. “In a case like that, getting the money back is not an option.”

There are more tips in the link.

3. Seattle Atheists pushing to get sign in Washington State Capitol Building – Last year, the rule change that allowed any group to put up a display in the Washington Capitol Building led to the Freedom From Religion Foundation putting up a sign that pissed a lot of people off. And it kinda pissed me off too because it was deliberately mean-spirited and seemed poorly conceived  when I thought they should have used the opportunity to promote a more inclusive message. But it was possibly effective in that the decision has been made this year to not allow any holiday displays inside the Capitol Building. But they are still allowing displays just outside the building. So far, only a Jewish group and the Seattle Atheists have applied.

And I’m very happy that the Seattle Atheists chose a far more inclusive message this time out:

“In this holiday season let us remember that kindness, charity and goodwill transcend belief, creed or religion. Happy Holidays, Seattle Atheists”

Now this is a display that I can get behind. Great job, guys.

4. An atheist goes undercover to gay conversion therapy sessions

An atheist, Ted Cox, spent the past two years going undercover as a gay man undergoing gay-to-straight therapy programs run by Christian groups (as if there were any other kind).

What he found was precisely what you would think: These programs do nothing to “convert” you from gay to straight. They just try to make you suppress your (gay) sexual urges. They make up their own “facts” — you’re not born with it, it’s the result of a traumatic childhood, Jesus can save you from The Gay, etc.

It clearly worked for Ted Haggard. Oh, wait.


Atheists winning the ‘War on Christmas’?

November 28, 2009

Church and State separation is being followed in Washington:

It’s also being followed in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania:

Poor Fox News.

And also in Pennsylvania, the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, which my brother is involved with, has put up their new annual holiday display, the Tree of Knowledge.

This is my favorite of all the holiday season displays because it says all the right things. It’s not even an atheist display. It’s about promoting the free marketplace of ideas. On the tree are the covers of numerous books including philosophy texts, various religious holy books, and books of religious criticism by the so-called “New Atheist” aurthors. I hope that next year, other cities will follow suit with their own Tree of Knowledge displays, particularly New York. This definitely looks like a job for New York’s Center For Inquiry.

Happy Season of Reason everybody!


News From Around The Blogosphere 11.25.09

November 26, 2009

1. Suicide bomber Barbie – Okay, actually it’s just Barbie in a burqa. This only goes to show that Barbie will never stop keeping women down in society. But I guess at least it’s for a good cause:

Wearing the traditional Islamic dress, the iconic doll is going undercover for a charity auction in connection with Sotheby’s for Save The Children.

2. War on Christmas continues with new athvertisement – And though I really shouldn’t have to say this, of course there’s no such thing as the “War on Christmas.” But it’s fun to play along with Fox News’ little conspiratorial delusion. The American Humanist Association is sponsoring a new nation-wide campaign involving ads with the slogan, “No God? …No problem! Be good for goodness’ sake.” This is the latest variation on a common theme. And despite the fact that it doesn’t say anything negative at all about anyone’s religion, I guarantee that it won’t be long before we hear from outraged Christians who feel personally slighted by the ad.

3. Marietta, Georgia considers dropping “so help me God” from police officer oath – Of course there’s some strange controversy over it. Councilman Van Pearlberg apparently just inquired as to whether it had ever been challenged, which somehow led to the option to remove it being considered. Pearlberg, however, claims he never actually objected to it and thinks it should not be removed, while also saying, “I don’t think anybody should be forced to say anything…I just don’t know what the alternative would be.” Keep it as part of the oath or give people the freedom to say what they want? Which is it? They’re mutually exclusive positions. If what you’re saying is that people should not be required to say it but they can should they be so inclined, then why not just obey the Constitution and remove it while leaving open the option for individuals to unofficially include it should they desire to do so?

4. Matt Barber blames everyone for Will Phillips’ decision except Will Phillips – Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel, a Religious Right organization, has publicly come out to respond to 10-year-old Will Phillips’ decision to not stand for the Pledge until gay marriage is legalized. Basically, that response is simply ranting about how all of Barber’s ideological opponents are responsible for brainwashing the kid. He’s apparently a pawn of his evil parents, liberals, atheists, gay activists, Hollywood, etc. To whoever that newscaster was who asked Will Phillips what a gay-wad was, Matt Barber’s your man. Hopefully Jon Stewart can dispatch some pro wrestlers to force an apology. What I want to know is, who is responsible for Matt Barber’s being a flaming moron?

5. Small children prove more knowledgeable about evolution than Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron:

6. Chris Matthews vs. Bishop Tobin over recent Catholic extortion tactic:


Christians call The Gap ‘naughty’ even after getting what they want

November 19, 2009

If ever you needed more proof that pandering to religious wackaloons doesn’t get you anywhere, The Gap was listed as “naughty” by the Christian group Liberty Counsel, who called for a boycott, because they didn’t single out Christmas on their website. Then The Gap mentioned “several unrelated holidays” in this commercial:

The commercial of course made the ironically named American Family Association furious. And I can see why. I’ve never seen such an anti-Christian commercial!

AFA believes this ad to be completely dismissive and disrespectful to those who celebrate the meaning and spirit of Christmas. AFA asked Gap for a meeting to discuss the ad, but Gap has not responded.

If this is Gap’s answer to recognizing Christmas, we are deeply disappointed.

The AFA also wrote (emphasis theirs):

Did you notice it? Gap compares Christmas to the pagan holiday called “Solstice.” Solstice is celebrated by Wiccans who practice witchcraft!

Gap also encourages you to “86” or “dismiss” traditions and “do what feels just right.”

Those heathens at The Gap should be crucified for this outrage…or burnt at the stake. You know who I think is really to blame here? The Jews. First they kill Jesus and now this.

I encourage everyone to call the The Gap’s customer service number (1-800-427-7895, Select more options then feedback to get a live person) and thank them for the all-inclusive commercial to counteract the nonsense of bigots.