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Reason Resources

Freethinking is rising.  I’m sure that the right wing is already aware of this but maybe the left isn’t yet.  In the past couple of weeks I have been astonished at the sheer number of websites, podcasts, authors and youtubers who have come out of the closet as atheists, agnostics, panentheists, freethinkers, pastafarians, etc.

Now, I’m not here to convert anyone.  In fact, you believers of mainstream churches like the Presbyterians, liberal Catholics, liberal Christians, Methodists, Quakers, reformed and conservative Judaism etc can relax.  I think you guys have your heads on straight and there’s no reason to change, that I can see.

But woe to you more conservative and fundamentalist sects.  You guys are in big trouble.  Because the most vociferous, adamant and irreverent new atheists seem to come from your side of the Judeo Christian tradition.  You might have taken away a lot of the mainstream believers in recent decades but it’s my sense that those the mainstream churches retain are theirs for a lifetime.  *Your* people reach a breaking point, usually right about the time when they’re deeply involved in the strict lifestyle they’ve been forced to lead.  They go beyond what is considered humanly possible to be the perfect Christian.  And then, it’s usually one conversation or one thing that they read that pricks their curiosity that leads to a complete unravelling.  In that unravelling, they shoot right on past mainstream Christianity and wind up rejecting the whole damn thing, church, bible and god.

Some of the podcasts I have been listening to feature quite a number of pastors of fundamentalist Christian sects.  After awhile, the pastors didn’t find joy in damning people each week for all too human faults.  They questioned and they researched and they rejected.

The reason I think it is important to follow this trend is because it may explain why the right has been so rabidly hysterical about “religious liberty” this year.  There are still a lot of believers in the US, indeed, they are going to outnumber freethinkers for a while.  But the rapid growth of the freethinking movement, especially when lead in some cases by the very people who used to be deep into Christian fundamentalism, must have them very, very nervous.  The apostate has their number.  He or she knows just what makes these churches tick and after their research can refute their arguments with devastating precision.  And the numbers of deconverters may start to impact the politics of the right wing tribe as well.  If you are in organized religion and you hitched your wagon to the right wing movement conservatism, you know that your days are limited.  Likewise, the right wing political arm knows that there will be a tipping point where they won’t be able to marshall the fundamentalist christians to do their bidding because there won’t be enough of them.

It’s not just the impending mortality of their senior base that has the right wing worried.  It’s the rapid rise of the freethinkers, and those people who cut the cord with television and their churches, and who are finding each other on the web.  Last night, I tuned into The Thinking Atheist podcast and found that Seth had thousands of active listeners, waiting to be patched in to talk to him.  Over and over again, they thank him for letting them know that they’re not alone and that there are many others like them having the courage to deconvert and unbaptise themselves.  Almost all of them have a thorough knowledge of the bible and are appalled by what they find in it.  Forget Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, the evangelicals and fundamentalists  should be scared to death of regular average people who used to be in their churches.

I could be wrong but it feels like a backlash against fundamentalist christianity.  These people don’t hate God.  They don’t believe in him so there’s nothing to hate.  But they sure don’t like the way they were raised or the lives they were forced to live.  And they are no longer afraid to speak up.  Before the internet, these people would have been outcasts and loners, disinherited by their friends and families and used as an example by the religious as what will happen to people who don’t toe the line.  But with this recent explosion on the web, these people are finding out that there’s nothing wrong with them, they’re normal and there are many people who are going through the same thing and want to get together and talk about it.

The trajectory of the freethinker movement may be different here in the US than it is in Europe.  In Europe, it may be no big deal because freethinkers are a significant population.  But European culture is structured differently as well.  There is more interdependence, more public squares and meeting places.  You don’t have to make too much of an effort to find people to talk to and form a sense of comaraderie.  Here, with the American emphasis on rugged individualism and community through faith, coupled with suburbanization where everyone around you is a cookie cutter of everyone else, it has been a lot harder to be the first one on your block to be an atheist and still have a social life.  I’m going to predict that freethought will take on a more organized flavor in the US.  It will have to be if the numbers keep increasing and freethinkers get increasingly disgusted with being second class citizens to the religious.

While I’m still collecting data, I’ll keep my other thoughts to myself.  There are definitely some emerging trends that should keep the political operatives up at night.  I have no idea how they’re going to spin or try to disrupt The Reason Rally coming up on March 24, 2012 but I have no doubt that they’ve got plans to either media black it out, mute it or are currently data mining and formulating talking points to minimize its impact.  But this genie is out of the bottle.  The non-believers are finding their voice.

Here are some places where you can hear them:

The Thinking Atheist : Seth, the son of two evangelical theologians, takes your deconversion stories and provides a sympathetic ear

Living After Faith : Former Pentacostal pastor Rich Lyons and his wife Deanna discuss deconversion to atheism with other former evangelicals and fundamentalists

No Longer Quivering : Ever want to know what’s like to try to live like Michelle Duggar?  Vyckie Garrison and her former baby farmer friends tell the truth about Quiverful.

Evid3nc3: This youtuber documents his deconversion from devout Christian to atheism in well produced, thoroughly researched and compelling videos.

CStheApostate: What happens when you try to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses and find out you can’t take your family with you?  Phineas explains it all.  (His first Thanksgiving video will make you cry)

The Out Campaign: Encouraging atheists to come out of the closet.  It must be working.  BTW, one of our blogroll favorites, Blue Lyon, is out as an atheist.  She has the scarlet letter symbol on her sidebar.  Something to look for if you’re into looking for such things.  I’m not quite there but would consider myself in the freethinker camp and their symbol is a pansy:

They’ll never know what hit them

In light of reports that Obama is starting to cave on the contraceptive issue to the red beanie boys, it would be a good idea to show him and the Democrats (forget the Republicans, they’re a lost cause) that secularism is alive and thriving in America.  I am amazed at the growing number of podcasts and personalities who have taken to online media in just the last couple of years.  They’re scientists like Richard Dawkins, former pastors like Dan Barker, advertising executives like Jane Caro, and lively and beautiful people like Margaret Downey and Seth, The Thinking Atheist.  They are changing the face of the non-believer, the skeptic, the freethinker.  They have a sense of humor and a genuine concern for people and the planet. Something is happening here.  Secularists are coming out of the closet in a wave.  Just like women who have finally had enough after the Komen debacle, the secular are starting to push back.

Even if you are a believer, of whatever, but are adamant about the separation of church and state, consider going.  If you think it is wrong that some old, celibate dudes from Vatican Inc can make decisions about your reproductive organs to preserve their job security, if you think it’s wrong that the religious get too many breaks, too much deference and have too much influence, if you think it is alarming that our government officials have to continually swear allegiance to a bunch of people who let a Bronze Age piece of literature run their lives, this rally might be for you.

March 24, 2012, the Mall, Washington, DC.  Be there.

Speaking of The Thinking Atheist, he’s got a new episode up today on Religion and Sexuality, which seems quite timely.  “We interview Dr. Marty Klein http://www.martyklein.com, author of such books as “America’s War on Sex: The Attack on Law,Lust & Liberty.”  And we speak with Darrel Ray, Ed.D, author of the book “Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality.”

(Too funny, that podcast veers wildly from professional to profane and Seth turns out to be somewhat of a prude.  Towards the end, it even made me squirm uncomfortably, which just goes to show that we’re not all the same and there are places even the ungodly won’t go.)


Santorum picked up wins in some states in yesterday’s Republican primaries.  Veddy interesting.  I think this is how it’s going to work out: Romney has the party apparatus and the financing guys all lined up but he’s going to have to take on Rick Santorum as VP to appease the mighty religious contingent.  Come to think of it, the red beanie boys must have seen the numbers over the weekend and that’s why they’re pushing Obama to make compromises on the contraceptive front.

Everyone knows that the VP spot is largely ceremonial (which is why I want Hillary to stay clear of it, but I’m pretty sure she already knows this).  But the “Christians” will like the idea of Ricky standing by in the wings and *counseling* the Mormon on what is morally right, like Mitt is going to spend the next four years tearing his garments over abortion and birth control.  Am I right, rapture-ready people?

So, where is Rick Santorum getting all of his support?  Beats me, I still think the country is evolving away from religion, which is why Vatican Inc is getting so panicky and pre-emptive.  But Santorum did get the Duggar endorsement.  I have relatives who are in awe of the Duggars.  Recently, I forced myself to sit through some of their youtube episodes to see what the attraction is.  I mean, one particular relative made it sound like Michelle Duggar was Mother Teresa and General Patton all rolled up in one.  Her family is held up as some kind of example of perfection.

Ehhhh, I’m not feelin’ it.  But I think I see what the problem is.  Here it is: the people who admire the Duggars have somehow convinced themselves that modern women have been deceived into a unfulfilling life of hard work when they would be much happier if they stopped fighting the natural and godly order of things, got back into their houses and produced a lovely family full of clean, obedient and musical children.

I don’t know *what* makes them think this is a good thing for all women and children.  It is held up as an ideal of Godly perfection but it ignores everything about human nature.  And it’s not like this relative hasn’t seen this kind of lifestyle played out disastrously before in a different high control group religious cult.  The Duggars are no different.  The boys’ profile pages are full of their favorite subjects, like math and science (they’re all homeschooled).  The girls’ pages are mostly devoid of subject matter.  Girls have a father figure holding authority over them for all of their lives from father to husband to older sons.  They don’t have careers outside the home and they are expected to leave their family size up to God.  The whole family travels as a pack together.  Or they split up into other reasonably large sized chunks.  The children sleep in dorms.  They rarely have a minute to themselves.  There is always a buddy or a sibling to be a minder.

I see heartbreak in the Duggar family future.  One boy says he wants to study science and cure cancer.  Can’t do that without fully accepting the concepts of natural selection and evolution.  He’s going to have to make a choice.  For all we know, he might be the kid who can crack this nut but we’ll never find out if he doesn’t go to a rigorous college or university and if he stays within the family’s faith and circle, he won’t ever get that opportunity.

There’s a good probability that some of the younger boys will be gay.  I’ve read about this before about large families and gay sons. (need citation)  It’s either related to the size of the family or the number of older brothers.  Evolutionally, it kind of makes sense.  If you have a large number of siblings and your parents die, it’s good to have a couple of kids around who won’t have kids of their own who can provide resources and take on parenting tasks.  I think that having a gay kid in a large family is a blessing, but I’m betting the Duggars don’t.  And I’m preeeetty sure I know which one of these kids it’s going to be (betcha the Duggars do too).

Then there are the girls.  One of them, Jinger Duggar, has a very expressive face and is frequently caught on camera rolling her eyes or otherwise having a “And that affects me *how*?” look.  There’s even a couple of websites dedicated to freeing Jinger Duggar.  But she’s not the one I would expect to be the rebel.

Nope, I’m placing my money on Jessa Duggar whose natural extroversion, wit and ambition are not going to be satisfied with a batch of babies.  No, not Jessa.  Jessa likes the Prayer of Jabez.  Jessa wants prosperity.  Her focus on the success of the family business makes her an excellent family spokesdaughter.  I’d like to see her father try to hand her authority over to some fresh faced Christian boy who thinks he can guide and protect her.  That’s a series I’d be willing to watch on TLC.

Then there’s oldest daughter, Jana.  At 22, she’s unmarried and probably close to her expiration date.  What’s up with that?  Can’t they find some decent courtship material for her or is she holding out for a conservatory education so she can continue to play the harp in peace for a few hours a day?

That’s not to say their childhood is bad.  They’re clean, well fed, well cared for and none of them appear to be stupid. Anyway, it’s all they know, since the most contact they have with the outside world in their childhood is with the production crew that follows them around and their own circle of like minded Christian families. But they are a herd and in this herd there are mavericks.  Their world is highly intolerant of mavericks.  It’s going to be very hard on some of them to lose the love that Michelle and Jim-Bob have spent so much time and energy creating.  They either have to deny their faith and upbringing or they have to deny themselves.

And this is a choice that the Duggars would like to impose on the rest of the country.  In the world of the conservative religious, the only grace you get is from Jesus.  The rest of the country should not expect unconditional love under a Christan regime.

Wednesday: Feminism first

I’ve got some stuff to do today and will be checking in periodically.  In the meantime, here are two videoclips by Australian writer, Jane Caro.  I’ve been checking out a lot of freethinker videos lately, particularly because the speakers represent the other end of the religio-socio spectrum.  Most people fall into the middle of a gaussian distribution when it comes to religion.  At one end of the spectrum, let’s call it the “right” end, there are people who feel religion very intensely.  The fundamentalists are a subset of this group.  The other end of the spectrum is composed of people who look at everyone to the right of them and say, “Um, I don’t get it”.  These people just put a lot more emphasis on logic and reason.  Those people are starting to come out of the closet.  They now have global conferences, they write books and they’re speaking out. Dan Barker, who I mentioned the other day, says he thinks that American culture is evolving to become more like European culture.  Europe burned itself out on religious wars and now most Europeans do not profess a faith.  What we’re seeing in American is the last shrieks of a group that is losing its fight with modernity.

By the way, after I watched some of these clips and the way people all around the world make fun of super religious Americans, I find it enormously embarrassing.  There is a perception out there that Americans are all religious freaks who joyfully embrace ignorance and aren’t afraid to stuff it down your throat.  That’s the way the world sees us.  Next time you go to Europe on vacation (I’m assuming that’s something everyone has on their bucket lists whether they’ve gotten there yet or not), just remember that everytime you open your mouth, the rest of the continent is going to immediately think you’re the equivalent of Tammy Faye Baker without the dripping eyeliner who doesn’t understand something as simple and elegant as evolution.  We have a lot of work to do to reclaim our reputations as an enlightened, modern people.

Anyway, Jane Caro says feminism is more important than atheism and she makes a couple of very compelling arguments. She skewers everyone, even Buddhists. Enjoy the humor and insight of these two videos and ask yourself how female Obama voters got it so wrong.  *Real* feminists do not vote for guys like Obama.  That would be like being a female suicide bomber for Al Qaeda.  No matter how much you do for the cause, your paradise is not going to involve deflowering 72 virgins.

Real feminists look after their own sex first.

Jane Caro- Intelligence Squared Debate clip

Jane Caro- Global Atheist Convention 2010, Melbourne, Australia