What she said:

A charming elderly gentleman, whom my parents had long known, proceeded to the lectern to lead us in prayer. I wish I’d paid more attention, for I cannot now remember how he led up to the fateful words asking God to help us in the fight against “the rise of secularism and the aggressive atheists”.

[…]I took my chance to ask him what he meant. And he meant it as a fight all right. But the really scary thing was what he thought we wicked secularists were up to – we apparently want to prevent him worshipping, destroy his faith and banish Christianity from the face of the earth. I explained that I don’t want to stop him worshipping or destroy his faith.

As a secularist, I am quite happy if people carry on with their religious practices as long as these do not give them special privileges in the affairs of state. As a humanist, I think we should rely on ourselves, not on an invented god. As an atheist, I would be delighted if people stopped believing in their various gods, and stopped believing their religion was right and everyone else’s wrong. But I do not want to fight them over it unless they try to impose it upon the rest of us.

Fighting talk in church
Sue Blackmore

Focus on your own family

I just finished watching the 2010 documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition (link is to the full movie online).  I’ve known about the film since it’s preview days, and I was happy to see that it’s now available to view online (though I don’t know how long that link will be active, so get to watching it, ASAP).

I spent the first half-hour of the film in tears — though not all of the sad kind. I loved hearing the story of one of the first same-sex couples in California to get married.

But not all of my tears were happy ones — I really had a difficult time hearing of the horrible discrimination this couple felt by some of their religious family members, the ones who reacted negatively to the news of their marriage.

[note: If any of my friends or family members were to ever reject Emma should she grow up and be a lesbian, I can confidently state right now that it would be the end of my relationship with them.  There is simply NO EXCUSE for that kind of rejection or judgement, and such a oppressive ideology has no place in my (or my family’s) life.]

The film is definitely worth a watch, if only to learn about the deceit and maliciousness of the movement to pass Prop 8 — a political effort spearheaded by the LDS church.  The film also spends much of its time focusing on the HUMAN damage caused by the implications of Prop 8 and the relational damage of blind religious obedience to hurtful dogma.

Of course, watching this film was positively influenced by the news of the Prop 8 trial decision from a month or so ago — not to mention that I can already feel the tides of history changing, because soon it won’t be an issue for ANYone to be married, if they so choose.

I’m just glad I’m on the ethical side of this issue.  I know one day I’ll be able to tell my daughter about this human rights battle and about who said what and where when it came to marriage equality.  Plus I’ll also have access to all the YouTube clips of all the hateful, vile religious leaders who spewed their bigotry in their quest to preserve discrimination.  If watching those videos doesn’t turn people away from these faith ideologies, I don’t know what else will.

Bring on the Supreme Court, I say. No more H8.

What separation?

Earlier today I issued a rallying cry to our Saskatoon Freethinkers group to make some noise about the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast taking place this weekend. Here’s what I wrote — join us in our effort to hold elected officials accountable to the actual people they represent (and not their version of an invisible friend).

This Saturday “his worship” Don Atchinson will be hosting the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, an annual event he has sponsored since taking office in 2006. If you check out the list of special guests/speakers for this breakfast, you’ll find a very evangelical Christian line-up.

This weekend, the Saskatoon Freethinkers Council decided that we, as a group, would like to take a vocal stand against this obvious breach of church/state separation. One member has already written a letter to the Star Phoenix, and another is readying a press release to circulate to media outlets, informing them of our objection to such a blatant religiously-endorsed civic event.

If you would like to voice your individual concerns to the Mayor and City Council over the annual prayer breakfast, here is a website where you can electronically submit a letter.

The following is a sample letter you may use to express your concerns over the prayer breakfast — feel free to edit or personalize it as you wish:

As a resident of Saskatoon, I would like to express my objection to the “Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast” that will take place on Saturday, March 13, 2010. I find it troubling that Mayor Atchison, an elected official, is willing to use his civic title and position to promote a particular religious ideology while also appearing to turn a profit in ticket sales. The invited speakers and performers for the prayer breakfast appear to represent a very specific evangelical Christian ideology, which undermines the mayor’s credibility and impartiality as a public official who has a duty to represent all citizens of Saskatoon. Perhaps the Mayor’s efforts would be better directed in finding ways to benefit all Saskatoon residents, rather than only those who believe in his particular religious point of view. I hope that the Mayor and council will refrain from holding the prayer breakfast in the future.

If you would just like to email your concerns to the Mayor, his website is here.

Mailing and telephone information:

His Worship Donald J. Atchison
Office of the Mayor
222 Third Avenue North
Saskatoon, SK S7K 0J5

Phone: (306) 975-3202

ACT NOW!! The prayer breakfast will be held this weekend.

Misinformation in the name of the Lord

Last week the Obama administration welcomed the Secular Coalition for America to come to the White House to meet with officials in the administration. Keeping in mind that presidential administrations meet with special-interest groups and lobbyists all the time, you would think that this particular meeting wouldn’t have been as big of a deal — but this was the first time a US presidential administration has initiated contact with an atheist/agnostic/humanist organization.

First of all, it’s first notable that my current president acknowledges such groups (as compared to his predecessor) — but what’s even more interesting for me is to note some of the religious right’s response to this meeting. Case in point, CBN (Pat Robertson’s domain of the Christian Broadcasting Network) presented this news report:

A few things to point out in this “news” segment:

First of all, don’t you love that last-minute quote thrown out at the end of the report that “99.9% of Americans believe in a higher power”? Did you notice how the statistic is made EXTRA accurate because it’s verified by the speaker asserting “and that’s about accurate”? I suppose I should just take his word for it. So much for the accuracy of the 2008 Pew Forum’s report on the US’s religious landscape (which found that 92% of people believe in a supernatural force, but only 6-in-10 people view God as a personal, relational being).

In the report/article the CBN reporter outlined the three objectives the Secular Coalition wanted to discuss with the Obama administration — here they are, in all of their godless glory:

First, to protect children from what they call “neglect and abuse” for parents who cite religious reasons to deny their children medical treatment.

Second, to end coercion of military men and women from being proselytized or forced into participating in religious events.

Third, to make sure that faith-based organizations that receive federal funds cannot hire on the basis of religion or proselytize to those receiving their services.

Aren’t these demands utterly OUTRAGEOUS?! <-- sarcasm Seriously, what is wrong with this list? Why would the religious right want to call foul over these issues? Are they saying that children should NOT be protected from neglectful parents who choose prayer over insulin? Should it be US military policy that all soldiers be forced to participate in religious rituals whose beliefs they do not subscribe to? Would evangelicals be so protective of Faith-Based initiatives if most of faith agencies receiving governmental funds were of the Muslim, Hindu or Mormon faith systems that discriminated and proselytized? But the kicker for me is the fight over preserving the “under God” portion of the pledge of allegiance. Did you notice how protective the news report was over that phrase? Whenever someone gets red-in-the-face arguing for preserving the pledge, their ignorance is revealed. The “under God” portion of the pledge wasn’t added until 1954, when it was inserted during the McCarthy era as a way of distinguishing us good Americans from the red-commie atheist Russians. I’m sure Jefferson is still rolling in his grave over that insertion. Would these defenders of the phrase be so adamant if we said “under Allah” or “under Zeus” instead of “under God?”

Ah well. Nothing like a little CBN watching to brighten my day. Earlier this afternoon I was subjected to watching a graphic propaganda film on abortion. I’m continually amazed at how easy it is to mask unethical approaches under the guise of religious belief.