Dangerous Words, Dangerous Ideas


It’s happened again.  Another freethinker, freespeaker, has been killed for

. . .thinking and speaking.

Faisal Dipan (BBC)

Cut down by the sharp blade of supernatural belief.

Why is it that “believers” and “followers” are so afraid of words and ideas?

How is it possible for people who say, “I believe in a God of Love” and “I follow a Religion of Peace” to act so violently?

Are More Words and More Ideas more dangerous than Fewer Words and Fewer Ideas?

Keep thinking about that.

And speaking.

Read more on the Free Mind Blog

Why I Support the Satanic Temple (and You Should Too–after You Faint)

Scary, Silly or Sensible?
Scary, Silly or Sensible?

Alright, calm down.  I’ll make this quick and painless (maybe).

In many places where Fundagelicals and Evangementals (fun wordplay here) are having lots of fun dropping Ten Commandment monuments or Massive Crosses on public property and trying their damnedest blessedest to get our kids, courts and congress people to pray and pray and pray (to Jesus–the only Real God Out There to pray to). . .in many of these places, the forked-tongue-in-hot-cheek Satanic Temple gallops up to offer a Constitutionally protected alternative:  If YOU are going to force your Religion on the rest of us, here WE come to claim our Fair Representation!  Some Hindu and Humanist groups have stepped forward as well.

The point is to affirm True Religious Freedom and fundamentally fair Free Speech.

Makes sense to me.  I support that wholeheartedly.

Here’s the latest:  Satanists offer School Invocation (the case of the WA Coach who prays on the 50-yard line after high school games).  This coach has become an Evangemental Hero to many, so that (exclusive) American community can now experience a taste of Pluralistic America.

Do I like everything about the Satanists?  Um, ah, well, I suppose NOT.  Then again, how many religious groups do I support?  Right.

What I most wonder about, while watching these Battles of Beliefs, is:

Where are the Seculars?  We need to be much more organized to do just what the Satanic Temple is doing, to follow their model, maybe without the “shock value.”  Or maybe the shock is better?  A few Secular Chaplains could do the trick.

On the other hand, I always have to ask, Where are the “Progressives”?  You know, those who stand on the sidelines and yawn, saying things like, “Oh, come on, it’s JUST a prayer, JUST a cross in a public park, JUST a motto on a police car, JUST a Christmas display at town hall, etc, etc.!!  I don’t have much time for these folks.  I don’t see much “Progress” in these “Progressives.”  They don’t see the bigger picture, or feel the exclusiveness of  sectarianism in the public square.  They actually don’t seem to get the Constitution, or fairness or basic equality. . .though they say they do.

Anyway, Hallelujah for the Satanic Temple!  Crap, I know Someone out there (UP there?  DOWN there?) will want to punish me for saying that!

New Film on Chaplains

A Civil War Chaplain
A Civil War Chaplain

My wife just returned from the World Parliament of Religions in Salt Lake City.  The trailer for a new film on Chaplains was screened.  It looks like a fairly broad and interfaith presentation, though Secular/Humanist chaplains don’t seem to be included (or Pagans or Hindus for that matter).

As I watch the film I’ll be asking some questions:

-What do people mean by “spiritual counseling”?

-How do these chaplains handle non-believing clients?

-Is there any passive or active proselytizing?

-Could there be room in this presentation for non-theist chaplains?

-As the film itself asks, what about separation of church and state?

At least this producer is recognizing some positive contributions of a chaplain as a supportive, compassionate presence.  We’ll see what the overall message is in this documentary.  I hope the questions raised will lead to deeper and wider exploration of the meaning of chaplaincy.

A Dis-arming Question

flower gun

I really hate pissing off people with guns (esp since I once owned some).

So, I offer this flower-in-the-barrel for peace.

No one wants Mentally Impaired Persons to have weapons, right?

Even most gun-owners seem to agree with that.  Common sense, of course.

So here’s my (disarming) question:

If someone is living with so much fear they have to have a deadly weapon at hand at all times (paranoid that “they’re coming for me, my family, my guns!”).

If someone enjoys going into the woods to shoot and kill things just for fun and “sport.”

If someone believes their rights, their freedoms and their beliefs are always more important than anyone elses.

If a person is so excited to carry cold steel on their hip that they don’t care how intimidating they are to families when they walk into a restaurant or church.

If a person reads a two-hundred-year-old document that calls for a “well-regulated” militia carrying muskets and this person is against any “regulation” of weapons and thinks it grants them the right to any and all weapons including military weapons.

If someone sees a report of a classroom full of children getting blown away and their first response is, “They’ll be coming to take my guns!”

Would you maybe, just maybe, call this person, to some extent, “mentally impaired”?

Thought I would, peacefully, ask. . .

Healthy-minded, sensible folks might want to support Everytown.

An All-New God. . .Courtesy the U.S. Marines!


Leave it to one of our finest. . .another Preacher with Guns. . .to bring us an all-new and improved deity!

This, from Friendly Atheist

Colonel Sean C. Killeen, USMC, responded to the MRFF’s earlier objections about the “God bless” sign with the rather unconvincing claim that “God bless” is really a secular, non-religious expression:
“God Bless” is commonly used in our culture in a number of contexts and there are numerous references to God in this nation’s symbols, songs, mottos and oaths. This sign has the secular purpose of conveying a message of support, does not advance or inhibit religion or any particular faith, nor does it foster excessive government entanglement with religion.”

I suggested that the word “God” on the sign have an asterisk.  Below would be a list of ALL Gods (it would be a very Big Sign!).

OR. . .it would be a disclaimer, saying, “We’re sorry, but the God we are speaking of on this sign is not available right now, please leave a message.”

OR. . .(since this IS Hawaii):  “Kū, Kāne, Lono, Kanaloa Bless.”

Do you think this is what the Colonel had in mind?

The most intriguing thought from all this for me is. . .

A Secular God.

Truly a wonderment.

When a Patient Believes God has Abandoned Them

Maybe one question left out?
Maybe one question left out?

I found this article a good challenge:

What Caretakers Can Do When Their Patient Believes God has Abandoned Them (Deseret News)

A study says people who are suffering and believe they are being punished or that God has left them don’t heal as fast as those who are more “spiritually optimistic.”

It seems plausible that negative thinking can sure have an impact.  Such as thinking your family doesn’t support you or that they judge you.  The blame game makes it all worse.

This statement at the end of the article makes some sense.

With an empathetic, patient-centered approach, caretakers “can help people (address their negative spiritual beliefs) and see something different, albeit not over night,” Ellor said.

What the article fails to mention is that these times, when people are going through questioning of their faith in the midst of suffering, may be ideal moments to reconsider their beliefs.  Indeed, it may a good time to let go of  thinking about the supernatural itself.  This is when a Secular Chaplain (or other truly caring person who includes non-belief as an option) could be a great help.

When people have told me they think God is punishing them or has left them, I listen and wonder if they have more to say.  Maybe it isn’t simply a matter of changing their negative beliefs to positive beliefs.  Maybe it’s the moment when they are realizing their God, their faith, their religious sentiments are no longer valid.  Maybe this is their time to acknowledge or admit there is another option:  It’s not God that abandoned them–it’s their time to abandon God.

I’m not saying that a suffering person who has religious beliefs should just let them go and become an atheist.  I’m saying a good chaplain might just leave one more door open to help them through their suffering.  The door of leaving faith.

The professor of health psychology says, “If you believe God’s working against you, it’s going to be hard to get better.”

I agree.  And, for some people, it may be good for “caretakers” (compassionate supporters) to at least be open to the possibility that belief in the supernatural itself can be a cause, or a part of the suffering.

Chaplains might be more helpful and more effective keeping this viable (and potentially healing) option in mind.

If Only Everyone Had a Gun, a God and a Good Book

Boy Reading the holy bible

The Giddy-ons (Gideons) recently tried to hand out The Only Textbook You’ll Ever Need their Bibbles to kids outside a middle school down the road (2 Billion Bibles in 200 countries!  How nice).  Some parents were upset, administrators scrambled for their tea-stained copies of the Constitution, and generally. . .in the common manner around here. . .it all seemed to blow over.

I haven’t heard if the Bible Blitz continues, but here’s something I wrote to the local paper which, so far, isn’t choosing to publish (too boring or too sparky?).  Most of my readers and other freethinkers won’t be surprised.

“Freethinking and Faith”

The recent response to the Gideon Bible handout near a Tiburon school got me thinking: I wonder how often this happens in this county? How often are faith groups attempting to influence public school students or any of us in the public square?

As a current freethinker (and former faith leader) I’m a strong supporter of our secular Constitution and its protections for free practice of religion as well as clear protection from any government “establishment” of religion. Anyone can freely live their faith within the law, but no public institution (school, council, court, congress) can show preference for one faith over another or show preference for faith over no faith.

Unfortunately, the Bible handout is only one example of how some groups, through proselytizing and coercive activities, seek to claim special privileges in the public square. Whenever someone wants to hand out their “sacred literature,” it naturally invites anyone to hand out alternative “sacred literature.” When one group places a religious message or monument on public property (such as the ten commandment monuments in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, et. al.) it opens the floodgates for groups such as the Hindu Association or the Satanic Temple to place their own statues on public property. A group may wish to have only prayers from their religion said at a graduation, a school sporting event or in a town council meeting, but this is not only insensitive and unfair, it is not legal. Evangelistic groups may not like that, but they have no special privileges under the Constitution and cannot expect exceptional favors from public officials elected by taxpayers of many faiths and no faiths.

There are persistent misunderstandings about expression of faith in public schools (here I rely on the fine work of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, whose director is an ordained Minister). Students can pray, read their scriptures and form clubs, but these activities cannot be led by teachers, administrators, coaches or clergy. All informed educators know this. “Teach others as you want them to teach you” might be a good twist on the old traditions.

What happens in and around our schools impacts the wider public arena. I find it alarming when I hear Presidential candidates claim they are “called by God” to run for office, that America is a “Christian Nation,” that “God’s Law” takes precedence over the laws of the land or that a Muslim should not be elected. This reflects an educational problem. With growing numbers of non-religious people across America, it becomes even more imperative that we competently teach the secular foundations of this country that protect both faith and freethinking.

I have lived and worked for many years with people of many faiths. I think most of them would agree that “faith in the public square” needs to be handled wisely with great sensitivity. Those of us without supernatural beliefs do not seek to eliminate faith but to enhance and enjoy this Big Classroom we call home.

If my daughter was still a student in Marin and she came home to tell me there were people handing out Bibles near her school, I would calmly take her with me to stand on the sidewalk near these folks. I would set up a small table with my copies of the Tao, the Dhammapada, the Gita, the Qur’an and Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason. We would quietly offer an “educational opportunity” for any students who had questions. We might even have a pair of binoculars and a microscope for students to gaze in wonder at the beautiful world naturalist and freethinker John Muir called “Nature’s Bible.”

Please Draw This Cartoon!

So, Let's See What "Bringing God Back to School" Would Look Like
So, Let’s See What “Bringing God Back to School” Would Look Like

Please, someone with artistic talent (with good sense and a good sense of humor), draw this picture:

A Public School classroom (maybe high school) full of students (girls are conservatively dressed and sitting toward the back)

The 10 Commandments, a Cross and Picture of Jesus prominently displayed (maybe a caricature of Muhammad with a slash through it)

Four or five Large American Flags are hanging over heads

Each of the students at their desks, intently reading their Bibles (Science and History texts stacked under each seat)

On every student’s belt or in their pocket:  a Gun (maybe one girl has a pink one and a guy has a camouflaged one; some have crosses)

The Teacher stands in front, a cross around his or her neck and a t-shirt with a “God and Guns” message, with a worried look, bowing anxiously in prayer

On the board, boldly written: “Christian Nation”

Finally, for one last touch, a copy of the Constitution of the United States sticking out of a trashcan

For a long time I have tried to paint a similar (verbal) picture of what so many people seem to envision for the nation, but they never say exactly what that vision would look like.

With this cartoon/picture (and a twist of humor), maybe we can all see what the future would be.

Not very funny, is it?