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      (MANDOS POST MANDOS POST MANDOS POST MANDOS POST) In a weird twist of fate, American liberals and (some) leftists are finding themselves in the non-traditional position of standing in the “hawk” corner, while (some) American conservatives under Trump are in the position of wanting to cut deals with so-called traditional enemies of the USA.  Whether […] […]
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Whoo-Hoo, Jerry DeWitt makes the NYTimes!

My favorite pastor turned non-believer made the NYTimes front page today in a 5 page story on his deconversion.  I discovered Jerry’s videos early this year, shortly before the Reason Rally.  Jerry was born to be a pastor.  He’s a very charismatic speaker.  He might even make a great politician someday, provided we can keep him away from Atlas Shrugged.  If you have some time, check out how coming out has been one of the best things to happen to him psychologically but the worst thing to happen to his personal life.

And if you haven’t had an opportunity to meet Jerry yet, check out this appearance at Arkansas Society of Freethinkers from May of this year.  It’s a long video but it flies by.  You’ll appreciate how he handles the believer in the audience.  What a mensch.

And this goes out to former preachers who just can’t quit Louisiana:

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Thursday: Charity, a question and a poll

Well, that didn’t last long.  My car is making unpleasant noises and is hard to steer.  Not sure what’s going on but I know who’s going to make it right so off I go back to the garage this morning.

In the meantime, Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist, is setting out to prove that secular people can be as generous and caring and humanitarian as religious people.  He has found two charities that are worthy of your attention. You *can* do good without God. Take a look:

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The Question: In less than a year, we have seen marches for the 99% by Occupy Wall Street, Rallies on the Mall for Secular people and even vigils of hoodied people for Trayvon Martin.

Where the f^&* are the women???  Why isn’t NOW, NARAL, the Feminist Majority, etc, planning a massive jillion woman march in Washington?  I am completely baffled by our lack of a presence.  We should be out there with big signs that say, “I’m female and I vote”.  The best I’ve seen so far is the protest in Virginia, while well attended, is hardly the national presence we need sitting down in Washington.  Yeah, they’re tearing up the Mall right now for renovations but c’mon, this is just inexcusable.

Side question: has anyone other than me noticed that NOW seems to have mission creep?  I know that marriage equality, racism and Trayvon Martin are important issues but maybe it would be better to just stick to the basics for awhile and stop trying to be all things to all people.  The site is starting to remind me too much of the all suffering, sacrificing mother who can’t say no to all the demands on her and neglects her own interests.

*********************************

The Poll:  Atrios is getting down to the final wankers for the lead up to The Wanker of the Decade.  Who is it going to be?

In Praise of Bernie Sanders

I’ve seen some commentary on the left blogosphere lamenting the loss of Dennis Kucinich’s seat in Congress to Marcy Kaptur.  Apparently, we’re all supposed to mourn Kucinich’s departure from the political scene.  For all we know, the exile is only temporary so I’m not sure what the blogosphere is getting so worked up about.

But here again, I find myself out of step with my own side.  First it was over Howard Dean.  Apparently, I was supposed to be reduced to wild paroxysms of ecstasy over his “Democratic wing of the Democratic party” single line in a single speech but all I saw was a dilettante dabbling in politics in his spare time while his wife looked after patients and tended the garden.  And the 50 state strategy, in retrospect, was a disaster because it brought so many Blue Dog Democrats into Congress.  Hardly the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.  What I learned from Howard is that you need a real moral movement behind the electoral successes you want to see.

Then there was my difference with the same left blogosphere over their support of Barack Obama vs Hillary Clinton.  I have written over 1000 posts on that disaster so there’s no need to recount it here.  What I learned from Obama vs Clinton is the value of evidence.  If you can’t find any, distrust any claims.  On the other hand, if you see behaviors that you don’t like, you’d be a fool to ignore them just because you assume the candidate is something you are divinely wishing for.  Wishing doesn’t make it so. There simply is no substitute for data and there is nothing more likely to lead to the wrong conclusions than confirmation bias.

And now, there is Kucinich and the further demise of the true liberal Democrat.  There really aren’t that many left in Congress since Steny purged Massa and Weiner and made examples of them to other progressives if they even thought about bucking their leadership.  Some people claim that Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich were the last of the true liberals.  But I would disagree whether Dennis Kucinich is in Bernie Sanders league.  What I recall of Kucinich was his anti-war stance.  And it was very popular among lefties.  Well, we don’t like war, even those of us who have family members in the Army don’t like them.  And I was the single holdout in my family who never bought into the reasons for going to war in Iraq (see above for the value of evidence), which made me popular at family dinners.  When Kucinich ran for president, anti-war was what defined him in my mind.  Oh sure, he was for single payer health care and everything but for some reason Kucinich never resonated with me.  Whatever the left ever saw in Kucinich just left me cold.

At this point, we are three for three.  I’m beginning to wonder if there is something wrong with me or the left.  Going by the track record, I’m guessing it’s the rest of the left.  They need to figure out why they keep falling for politicians who don’t deserve them.

Anyway, I want to sing Bernie Sanders’ praises.  The guy is golden.  He is a true lefty but he understands the concerns of the little guy like few politicians can.  He seems to get how difficult it is to live in this country if you’re not rich.  I think he also has a different definition of success.  Success is not necessarily measured by how much money you make.  I don’t agree with Bernie on some issues.  For example, I don’t think the constant bashing of pharma is helpful, especially for those of us who have been forced out of pharma and have to figure out how to make a living while having to work in the big pharma framework on a smaller scale and dodging the CEOs and vulture capitalists who seek to exploit us.  I’d really like it if he spent some time exploring our issues, maybe talking to some of us, getting a deeper understanding of what drug discovery means.

But then I look back on his filiBernie from last year and I am eternally grateful to him for so much of what he DOES get right.  He knows what economic injustice means and how devastating it is to our future.  And he explains the issues and argues his points to clearly and persuasively.  It’s almost a shame we have C-Span.  Before the days of cable, a speech like Bernie’s might have gotten our full attention on prime time.

And Bernie is hard working.  I can’t remember when I subscribed to his email or twitter feed but I know more about what Bernie is up to than my own senators Menendez and Lautenberg.  My senators are relatively reliable liberals too but I have no idea where they’re speaking this week, what radio shows they’re appearing on, what bills they are introducing or co-sponsoring.  For any of that information, I’d have to go research.  But Bernie’s got a crack team of people letting me know what he’s up to every minute of the day and I have to say, Bernie appears to be working his heart out.  He might be a Don Quixote tilting at windmills but damn, the dude is tilting.  He appears to be tireless.

So, I’d just like to say, thanks, Bernie.  Thanks for sticking to your convictions as well as you do.  Thanks for speaking for the working people.  Thanks for looking out for our interests.  And thanks for being so well prepared, hard working and organized because luck favors a prepared mind.  Maybe this is what sets me apart from the left.  I admire the hard work, dedication, passion and preparation of people like Bernie Sanders.  That kind of behavior isn’t as topical or trendy as being the anti-war candidate but I can rely on Bernie to dig down into an issue and base his support on principle and conviction.  It reflects a kind of integrity.  If I ever had the chance to vote for Bernie, I wouldn’t find it difficult.  I only wish I didn’t have to move to Vermont to do it.

****************************

Continuing my theme of pounding on New Atheism and the secular movement, here is another podcast that is worth a listen.  This one is based out of Austin, Texas and is for feminist atheists.  It’s called Godless Bitches.  The title doesn’t reflect the articulate and rational voices of the participants whose dialog is sprinkled liberally with strong Texas twangs.  The latest podcast from the Godless Bitches takes on Rush Limbaugh and the birth control debate.  In this podcast, the shock and disbelief of the attack on women’s reproductive rights comes through loud and clear.  It is inconceivable (no pun intended) to these women that this fight is even taking place in the 21st century.  I hate to say this to the Judeo Christians out there but the horse has already left the barn on contraception.  You are not going to win this one.  In fact, this is the issue that may very well be your undoing.  The backlash will be ferocious.  You can check out Episode 2.5 here.

Now, some of you may be wondering why I keep bringing up all of these atheist podcasts.  Well, for one thing, they’re just the tip of the iceberg.  There is an ocean of them and I discover new ones every day.  They come in every flavor.  There are some that are rational to the point of being dry, there are some humorous ones like the war on Christmas speech that Rebecca Watson of Elevatorgate fame gave, there are brilliant speeches by activists like Greta Christina and there are some mainstream, accessible ones like Ask An Atheist and The Atheist Experience.

My point is that this is a growing movement based on positive atheism.  You don’t have to be an atheist to appreciate their point of view and advocacy of secularism.  The movement includes freethinkers, skeptics, rationalists, humanists and agnostics.  They are speaking out, coming out and getting together.  They are the push back to the Judeo Christian right.  In the past, it might have taken decades for these groups to organize to the point where they had an impact.  In many respects, it resembles the LGBT movement that developed over several decades.  But modern technology is changing all  of that.  Plus, they are having conventions and seminars all over the country and the world.  This is going to develop much more quickly than previous movements. In a couple of years or less, it could be a legitimate threat to the religious right, which may be why the religious right is pulling out all of the stops this year.  This election year may be the last one where the Republican party is able to use the dwindling numbers of the Judeo Christian right against our secular government.  It has to get as much authoritarian crap written into law as it can before its base loses critical mass.

So, this message is to those of you who are holding back about coming out.  It’s ok.  There are a lot of us out here who have deconverted from our Judeo Christian upbringings.  You may lose some friends and family but it gets better.  You will find other people like you as more and more of us come out.  And activists like Greta Christina are advocating for physical spaces where we can connect and build our own communities what will take the place of the churches we leave.  I think that’s going to happen more and more.  For all I know, the “religious liberty” meme is directed at the New Atheist movement.  It’s trying to get ahead of the rest of the American public because this movement has the potential to have a greater impact on government than Occupy.  It’s better organized, has been in existence longer and has a clearer set of goals.

Expect to see and hear anti-atheist messaging from the right in the next couple of weeks.  The last thing it wants is for secularism to make a resurgence in this election year.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson predicts the extinction of the fundamentalist Judeo Christian:

Talking about anger

Although this video of activist Greta Christina is primarily about atheism, this post is not really about atheism.  She gets the “Why are you so angry?” question from religious people all the time.  It’s a trick question, really, because it’s not like she’s a raving lunatic jumping up and down screaming about the religious right’s war on Solstice or anything.  It’s more like *anything* that remotely in the teeny tiniest way calls into question the believer’s faith in the existence of god is deliberately misinterpreted as an aggressive act.

But what I like about Greta Christina’s talk the most is that what she says about how to use anger can- and MUST- be adopted by the reawakened feminist movement.

Smart lady.  The best moment comes at about the 20:50 minute mark.  Priceless.

Coming out of the closet as a non-religious person

Digby’s back to her usual quotable self today, lamenting why it is that the religious get all of the respect.  With respect to a doctor’s concern with his freedom to treat women in a Catholic hospital according to his professional judgment, Digby writes:

He points out that the Catholic Hospital system has been growing as they take over more and more community hospitals around the country. He also points out that they receive many millions of taxpayer dollars to do it. So, what about my conscience? It is truly offended by this behavior and I’m not being facetious. Why does this only go one way?

This isn’t just about lady parts, although they are as obsessed with them as ever. This is about dying with dignity as well, another extremely personal decision that these religious people take out of the hands of individuals and their families and insist on their own religious practices, regardless of the medical necessity among other extremely personal issues.

I find that story morally reprehensible and I deeply resent contributing to such practices. Maybe it’s time for non-believers and those of other faiths to seriously start challenging this with their own arguments. Many of doctors who’ve been forced into these institutions chafe at what they are required to do as well. Perhaps they should invoke the Hippocratic oath and stop doing harm as well.

[…]

Maybe we should be thinking about ways to change that mix.

Well, there’s always The Reason Rally that’s coming up on March 24. Richard Dawkins and Adam Savage will be speaking there.  The rally is intended to be a demonstration of the growing numbers of secularists in America.  You don’t have to be an atheist to attend.  You just have to want to protect our secular government and the separation of church and state.

But now that I’ve brought it up, how many people have come out of the closet about their religious beliefs?  The podcast, TheThinkingAtheist, hosted by Seth (whose last name I can never find), takes calls from many people every week who have come out to their family as non-believers and get a similar reaction to coming out as gay.  Their families reject them or treat them as sub-adult.  What’s really annoying is that the religious refuse to confer the same respect for the non-religious believer’s worldview that the religious demand from everyone else regarding their belief in God.  Some out of the closet non-believers have been disinherited.  You can even lose your job or custody of your children if you’re an atheist.  In many respects, it really is like being gay.

But the numbers of non-believers is growing and there is some safety in numbers.  I’ve really been surprised by the number of non-believer outlets out here that have sprung up in just the last couple of years.  There are worldwide conferences as well.  For some strange reason, Australia seems to host a lot of them.  Maybe that has something to do with their single, white, female, atheist prime minister.  But even here in the US, freethought societies and atheist associations are springing up all over the place including the south, where being an atheist might be hazardous to your health.

This new cohort of non-believers are all ages, all sexes, all socioeconomic groups.  There are more women and they’re not the Madelyn Murray O’Hare types of the 60’s.  They’re people like Annie Laurie Gaylor of FFRF, Cristina Rad, and atheist minister Margaret Downey.  And Seth gets calls from young and old, cosmopolitan and good old boy.  Suddenly, it’s getting safer-and apparently a lot more popular, to be a non-believer.
This bunch of non-believers are not rejecting God so much as thriving in a naturalistic worldview without God.  It’s a return to nature.

We’re not a majority.  The religious still outnumber us by a wide margin.  But our numbers are not insignificant anymore and we are a growing voting bloc.  Whether this is a natural evolution of the human condition, part of a step from totems and anunna spirits, to polytheism, to monotheism, to something else, or just a reaction to the non-stop, shoving of 13th century BCE traditions down our throats to the point where they have a choked the life out of our modern American culture is a question that will only resolve over time.  But whatever it is, it’s not going back in the bottle.

So, what’s the membership like these days?  Can we get a show of hands? (BTW, there’s no way for me to know who you are if you respond to this poll.  Your secret is safe from me)  

My resident atheist was mildly curious about my recent interest in the atheist community.  “Are you ready to come to the dark side?”, she asked with a grin.  “We have cookies.”

I have to admit that the prospect of hot chocolate chip cookies and a glass of cold milk is very tempting…