Posts Tagged “agnostics”

Vatican CityIt seems Agnosticism has hit the big time. How do I know that? The Pope launched an attack on it, that’s how I know! As Reuters reports, he declared war on agnosticism, of all things, during his Epiphany address (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict said on Sunday that Roman Catholic leaders must have the courage to stand up to attacks by “intolerant agnosticism” prevalent in many countries.

The pope and the Church have come under increased attack because of their opposition to homosexual marriage and women priests. The pope has repeatedly denounced what he says are attempts to push religion out of public debate.

As usual, he misinterprets what’s really going on. He confuses an effort to make sure religion is not forced on anyone, with an effort to destroy religion entirely. The two are not the same thing, no matter how fervently he thinks otherwise.

“Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs,” the pope said.

“Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a bishop today. He must be courageous,” he said.

Benedict calls agnosticism “regnant,” meaning “ruling,” “governing,” “controlling,” or “dominating.” In fact, it doesn’t govern anything. The majority of people in the world are assuredly religious. In most countries, agnostics and other non-believers are vastly outnumbered, and have virtually no say. This is true even in the 21st century US, where politicians are almost uniformly religious, and there are no non-believers in national office or in any position with national influence. There are absolutely no rational grounds for the Pope to assert that agnosticism is “regnant.” Because — unfortunately — it’s not.

But even if it were, I must ask the obvious question: So the hell what? Once upon a time, religion ruled humanity with an iron fist. Benedict’s own Catholic Church once towered over Europe, politically and socially. What did that get us? Not a lot, unless you think things like the Inquisitions, the Crusades, wars fought against pagans, heretics, and other kinds of ecclesiastical controversies were good for humanity. If agnosticism dominated, could things be any worse?

The age in which a Pope could summon an army and send it off to smite the Forces of Darkness are long gone … thankfully … but it appears Benedict wants that same power back. The fact that occidental society won’t let him have it, appears to gnaw at him. So he ends up making ridiculous accusations, such as that agnosticism is “regnant” and that efforts to keep religion and state separate are the same as efforts to destroy religion entirely. His claim that agnostics are “intolerant” is stupid and childish. Failing to believe what someone else tells one to believe is not “intolerance.” Not wanting to be forced to live according to someone else’s metaphysics, is also not “intolerance.” Both of those are “choices,”, and they’re choices that people in free countries are entitled to make — whether the Pope likes it or not.

Lastly, I’ve said it before and will say it again: Pope Benedict has no viable grounds for propounding morals at anyone. The Church he governs is guilty of having orchestrated institutional abuse of children in its care; of having conspired to cover up that abuse; of having bullied states and societies into letting it get away with it; and of thwarting justice once those states and societies decided they weren’t going to knuckle under to the Church’s bullying any more. Benedict could regain the “moral high ground” he thinks he stands on, by accepting responsibility for all of this, ordering all abusive and obstructionist clergy to immediately turn themselves in for prosecution and accept whatever punishment they merit, and fundamentally altering the Church’s structure and operations so that it can never again do any such thing.

But we all know, he won’t do any of that. No way. Until he does … he can just go fuck himself.

Does my saying that make me “intolerant”? I guess so. I don’t “tolerate” evil, and neither should you.

Photo credit: John G. Walter, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

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Pay no attention to headlines ... they lie! (PsiCop original)It’s not news that the numbers of “Nones,” or the religiously-unaffiliated, are growing in the US. It’s been documented for several years now, particularly after Trinity College’s ARIS 2008 project generated a report in 2009 about what they called “the Nones,” or the religiously-unaffiliated. This week, the Pew Forum released the results of their own survey on the matter. They find that “the Nones” are growing in number (WebCite cached version):

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public — and a third of adults under 30 — are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).

This part of the report has generated any number of mass-media stories trumpeting the growth of “atheists”; for example, this one from Canada’s National Post, whose headline reads as follows (cached):

Rise of the atheists: U.S. Protestants lose majority status as church attendance falls

The NP article itself fails to mention atheists or atheism very much, only noting that they’re merely a subset of the “religiously unaffiliated.” So where does this headline come from?

The truth is that this survey doesn’t really tell us a whole lot about atheists or atheism specifically. The folks at Pew are, themselves, quite clear on this:

This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.

However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day.

The fact is, the majority of the religiously unaffiliated as identified in polls such as Pew’s and the earlier ARIS survey, are believers. They simply don’t belong to any religious organization and don’t attend services regularly. But they remain religious people.

The Pew data itself shows that those designated as “Atheist” has grown only 0.8% since 2007, and “Agnostic” has grown only 1.2% in that time. These results can hardly justify any of the media headlines (such as the above) declaring that “Atheism” is growing astronomically. It isn’t. Non-believers are assuredly a minority in the US, and they’re likely to remain so, for quite some time to come. Only paranoid religionists would fear they’re going to be outnumbered and have their beliefs outlawed.

P.S. The full report is available on Pew’s Web site (cached).

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Richard DawkinsThe world’s theists can’t handle the fact that atheists (and other types of non-believers) exist. They’d prefer never to hear, see, or know about them. They view the very existence of non-belief as a direct and imminent threat to their very existence. This means they’re especially incensed whenever a vocal atheist (or other type of non-believer) comes along. They think non-believers are required to be silent and go away … and those who refuse to comply are trying to destroy them utterly.

The so-called “New Atheists” (i.e. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens) have especially invoked their sanctimonious outrage. Because they’ve all been successful authors, ardent theists have cast about for years to find any and all means of discrediting them. Most of the time all they can come up with is a repeated, old, juvenile whine along the lines of, “Why, these people are criticizing religion! How dare they!? They can’t do that! It’s not allowed!!! Religion is just too precious to permit any critique!”

Apparently, as the (UK) Daily Mail reports, Richard Dawkins recently handed militant theists what they perceive as “ammunition” they can use against him (WebCite cached article):

Professor Richard Dawkins today dismissed his hard-earned reputation as a militant atheist – admitting that he is actually agnostic as he can’t prove God doesn’t exist.

The country’s foremost champion of the Darwinist evolution, who wrote The God Delusion, stunned audience members when he made the confession during a lively debate on the origins of the universe with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The heart of this matter is a clarification, by Dawkins, about exactly what he believes about God:

But when Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams suggested that Professor Darwin is often described as the world’s most famous atheist, the geneticist responded: ‘Not by me’.

He said: ‘On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn’t, I call myself a six.’

Professor Dawkins went on to say he believed was a ‘6.9’, stating: ‘That doesn’t mean I’m absolutely confident, that I absolutely know, because I don’t.’

I’ll say right now that — while I’d welcome Professor Dawkins to the company of agnostics — I neither know nor care whether or not he actually is one. The degree to which he’s an agnostic as compared to being an atheist is not really relevant to me. I have written elsewhere that there is a clear distinction between agnosticism and atheism, and that atheists have revised the definition of “atheism” over the last few decades so as to enlarge their own company. But in the end, agnostics and atheists have far more in common with each other, than either does with theists. That much is undeniable. They are partners — sisters and brothers, even — in non-belief, who are together under siege by militant believers who, rather childishly, cannot and will not accept them as fellow human beings. Dawkins — and the rest of the New Atheists — are as much spokesmen for non-belief in general, as they are for any specific form of “atheism” they may or may not adhere to. Distinctions like this do nothing to mitigate the validity of their critiques of religion or of religious people.

Ultimately, this means that the Daily Mail‘s attempt to discredit Dawkins is a fucking joke. That Dawkins might also be an agnostic in addition to being an atheist, does nothing to refute anything he’s said or done — even if theists erroneously think it does.

One last thing: I love how the Mail called Dawkins a “career atheist.” What a transparent attempt to slur him! Most of us know that Dawkins is, by contrast, a “career scientist.” That he’s published some books on atheism in addition to being a prominent and respected scientist, doesn’t make him any less of a scientist, and it doesn’t mean he’s no longer part of that profession. All it does mean is what I’ve been saying for ages — which is that theists just can’t handle the existence of non-believers, especially outspoken ones like Dawkins.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Shane Pope, via Flickr.

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I Don't Know ... and Neither Do You! | No Gnosis (PsiCop original)I blogged a couple of months ago about an Indiana father who lost custody of his children because he’s an agnostic. That decision was reversed, as reported by WXIN-TV in Indianapolis (WebCite cached article):

A Madison County father celebrated a legal victory Wednesday night. He now has joint custody of his three young children after losing it because of his religious views.

That’s great news, but unfortunately, WXIN misstated the facts of this case:

Craig Scarberry claimed a Madison County court violated his parental rights because he’s an atheist.

WXIN was incorrect about this; Scarberry is not an atheist; he’s an agnostic, as he reported, himself, in the comments section:

i am not an atheist! i am an agnostic and there is a difference.

Note, the article itself remains confused on the subject: While the headline refers to Scarberry as an “agnostic,” the text of the article still says he’s an “atheist” (quoted above), and the article’s URL also includes the word “atheist” rather than “agnostic.”

Being a Fox network station in a “red” state, I’m sure the personnel of WXIN just lump all of us freethinkers into the same basket with “atheists.” We’re all just cold, cynical, god-hating heathens, after all … no? They can’t possibly be expected to understand there’s a difference between the various sorts of horrible people who defy societal expectations by daring not to accept the existence of their sky-god!

If anyone at WXIN — or elsewhere — is confused about the nature of “agnosticism” and “agnostics,” and wants to understand the difference between “agnosticism” and “atheism,” please have a look at my Agnosticism FAQ here on this blog, and see my article on the subject on the Apathetic Agnostic Church Web site (cached).

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I Don't Know ... and Neither Do You! | No Gnosis (PsiCop original)If anyone thinks non-believers can’t be legally discriminated against in the US, guess again. An Indiana father recently lost custody of his children, apparently because he’s an Agnostic. WRTV-6 reports on this decision (WebCite cached article):

An Anderson father is upset after he claims he lost custody of his three children due to his religious beliefs.

Madison County Superior Court, Division 3 Commissioner George G. Pancol Sr. gave Craig Scarberry’s ex-wife, Christine Porcaro, full custody of the couple’s children in a Nov. 1 ruling.

“Further evidence indicated that the Petitioner/Father did not participate in the same religious training that the Respondent/Mother exercises and that the Petitioner/Father was agnostic,” the ruling said.

An apologist for Commissioner Pancol … his own son … claims this is necessitated by Indiana state law:

Judge G. George Pancol, Commissioner Pancol’s son, told 6News he could not comment on any specifics of the case, but did say that according to Indiana statute, religion is an issue that should be considered by the court in custody cases.

“The court is required, under Indiana code 31-9-2-67, when considering joint legal custody, to consider whether or not the parties can share authority for major decisions concerning education, health care and religious training, so religious training is one of the things we are required to consider,” he said.

This doesn’t mean it’s right to deny custody to non-believing parents, or even permissible; not all state laws that relate to religion are enforceable. Take for example a North Carolina state constitutional provision forbidding atheists from holding office. While some North Carolinians have agitated that it be obeyed, it’s not likely any court in the country — except maybe a state court in the Bible Belt — would dare enforce this provision (for reasons I describe in my blog post on NC’s anti-atheism). Let’s hope Scarberry appeals, that his appeal isn’t heard by Christofascist judges, and that this decision is overturned.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith blog.

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Haiti Port-au-Prince séisme 15/01/10
Creative Commons License Photo credit: Planete Vivante

It’s easy for me to laugh about the delusional Marion “Pat” Robertson and his insulting, ignorant remarks about Haiti (which I blogged about, which he stands by, and which have been defended by others). What’s much harder is to decide what to actually do about this horrifically devastating earthquake. Charities are easy to find, but charitable efficiency … i.e. the amount of money directly spent on the cause being supported … can be elusive. Whole Web sites (such as this one and this one) are devoted to measuring this.

Adding to this is the consideration that a lot of charities are religious, and donating to them will add to the coffers of religious causes; as a non-believer, I’d like to find somewhere less religious, and more humanistic, to give my money to.

Well, famous atheist Richard Dawkins has come along with a solution to this dilemma: Non-Believers Giving Aid. He has selected as beneficiaries two organizations, the International Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders. This page will allow you to donate to these as you wish, using PayPal. The great part of this is, all of your donation will go to the charity/ies you designate, since Richard will pay the PayPal fees (up to $10,000).

I urge everyone reading this to donate as much as s/he can. I urge non-believers to take advantage of Richard’s page to do so. Religious folks, donate as your conscience dictates … either there or to some other organization, so long as you’re sure the money will get to Haiti.

P.S. The White House Web site and numerous media articles and ads are telling people to donate using their cell phones to send a particular text message to a particular number, which will bill them for a donation to Haiti. I suggest not doing this, but donating directly to a charity … it’s not clear the money will be used for relief very quickly. (No, I’m not saying this isn’t a valid way to donate — it is! — rather, I’m suggesting it might not be an optimal way to donate.)

P.P.S. I hope this puts the lie to frequent accusations by theists, that non-believers are amoral, selfish, and greedy.

Hat tip: Numerous sources (Pharyngula, iReligion forum, Unreasonable Faith, American Atheists, Atheist News, British Humanist Association, and many more). It’s nice to see freethinkers around the globe are pulling together on this.

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In case you haven’t figured it out by now, Fox News’s latest star, Glenn Beck, has finally gone around the bend. He’s lost it. Completely. Here’s video of him going berserk over supposed godlessness in the US:

I’ve transcribed his initial remarks, which are really the most important part of his puke, the rest is just frosting on the cake:

America, how have we arrived at this place? Is it capitalism that has failed you? Is it the evil, greedy corporations? Is it because there’s no cap-&-trade, no healthcare, not enough social justice? … Or is it the fact that, as some of our money doesn’t say now, God is no longer trusted in America?

Like any good Religious Right wing-nut, Beck doesn’t let little things like “facts” get in the way of his sanctimonious, hyperemotional tirade. Right at the start, he (erroneously) alludes to the urban legend that “In God We Trust” is no longer being put on American coinage. This is false, as Beckie-boy would have figured out, had he taken half a second to go to Snopes, which has pages about this rumor as applied to dollar coins and the new pennies.

Mr Beck, it is by no means true that “God is no longer trusted in America.” The vast majority of the US population remains firmly theistic in nature, as the ARIS 2008 survey by Trinity College makes clear. OK, they may not be the fundamentalist thinkers you love so much, or a Mormon like yourself … but most Americans definitely are theists of one sort or another.

Moreover, Mr Beck, this country is not run by non-believers, as you would have us think. There are no non-believers in any major office in the country … i.e. state governors, in Congress, the White House, or the Cabinet … except for one (Pete Stark, representative from California, is the only one who even comes close).

Beckie boy, it is not “the godless” who caused any of the great ills you rave about. Not by any means.

The truth is that you, Beckie boy, and all your fellow theists, have collectively managed to run this country into the ground … all by your hyperreligious selves! Don’t go blaming “godlessness” for what you and your fellow theists have done.

Oh, and do try to get at least some of your facts straight before you go on television and bellyache about what your Religious Right friends and colleagues have done … OK?

You don’t fool me, Beckie boy. You’re as transparent as a sheet of glass. I can see your Howard Beale act for what it is. Moreover, your beliefs do not grant you a metaphysical license to lie (neither about coins nor “godlessness”). It’s time you and the rest of your ilk grew up — for the first time in your sniveling little lives — if you can somehow summon the integrity required to do so. Personally, I don’t think you even possess the mettle to admit your factual error about the country’s motto not being on some coins.

Hat tip: The Friendly Atheist blog and the Pharyngula blog.

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