March 31, 2006

Happy Weekend, Heathens!

I'm cutting out of work early today, so since I won't be seeing (well, reading) ya'll until Monday comes, be good and eat well. Get lots of sleep, go easy on the drugs, booze and whoring and don't forget to turn your clocks ahead tomorrow.

Some sexy bits of meats for sweet dreams this weekend:








This last one is a pic of Buffalo's best heavy metal band: Gutpile(www.myspace.com/gutpilemusic)

(okay so one of them is my baby brother (and no I won't tell you which one), but that doesn't mean I will deny all my friends have mad crushes on him. And the other four are just flat out sexy bitches.
Gaining Acceptance for Atheism

Oy

The early part of the article rehashes the "America Hates Atheists" study we all know about. And, a truly outrageous finding by Andrew Sullivan - courts routinely discriminate against atheists parents in custody hearings.

"That time and place, it turns out, is 2005 Michigan, where a modern Shelley might be denied custody based partly on his 'not regularly attend[ing] church and present[ing] no evidence demonstrating any willingness or capacity to attend to religion with [his children],' or having a 'lack of religious observation.' It's 1992 South Dakota, where Shelley might have been given custody but only on condition that he 'will agree to present a plan to the Court of how [he] is going to commence providing some sort of spiritual opportunity for the [children] to learn about God while in [his] custody.' It's 2005 Arkansas, 2002 Georgia, 2005 Louisiana, 2004 Minnesota, 2005 Mississippi, 1992 New York, 2005 North Carolina, 1996 Pennsylvania, 2004 South Carolina, 1997 Tennessee, 2000 Texas, and, going back to the 1970s and 1980s, Alabama, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska. In 2000, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a mother to take her child to church each week, reasoning that 'it is certainly to the best interests of [the child] to receive regular and systematic spiritual training'; in 1996, the Arkansas Supreme Court did the same, partly on the grounds that weekly church attendance, rather than just the once-every-two-weeks attendance that the child would have had if he went only with the other parent, provides superior 'moral instruction.'"

Of course, this is an outrageous attack on religious liberty. Imagine if Christian parents were denied custody because of their faith. O'Reilly would have weeks of programming. But atheists? Naah. When Christianists declare that they are fighting for religious freedom, bring this issue up. It will determine whether they are in good faith, so to speak, or not.


But, even despite this outrages, there is still hope:


Personally, I have a great deal of hope that this is going to start to change in the near future. Indeed, this is one area where the blogosphere could actually prove quite powerful. Ten years ago, I'm not sure there was anywhere that your average Christian American was exposed to openly atheistic viewpoints. These days, I'm constantly amazed how many prominent bloggers profess their atheism on a daily basis. On the list, with the help of The Raving Atheist: Daily Kos, Washington Monthly, The Volokh Conspiracy (Jim Lindgren), Pharyngula, Daily Pundit, onegoodmove, Matthew Yglesias, Vodkapundit, and of course many others, including me. Notably, many of these have substantial conservative readership.


Of course, the average American still may not tune in to these atheist blogs, but a lot of people do. A lot more than used to face proud, open, secularism a few years ago. And since most of the hostility toward atheists, in my view, is based in the fact that so few people feel they know any, this could well start to have a dramatic effect. The informal nature of blogs, revealing much of a blogger's character and personality, has the potential to be quite powerful in this regard.

It took a long time in America for the tide to turn such that public acceptance of homosexuals could begin to grow. Yet, over the last 10 years, the change has been phenomenal. Ellen DeGeneres, leading to Will and Grace, leading to Lawrence v. Texas, leading to Goodridge -- it could really be described as a revolution. And, of course, that line of progress continues.
Johan Norberg links today to this Pew Poll showing that the U.S. is becoming more socially liberal in a number of areas.


Five years ago, I know I never thought a case would reach the Supreme Court challenging "under god" in our Pledge of Allegiance. Never mind the idea that it would actually win on appeal, and then be dismissed on a technicality. Certainly, that case didn't lead to an upsurge in popular support for atheists. Nevertheless, Newdow's coup before the Supreme Court could well be seen someday as an early turning point.

And it may well be the blogosphere that is responsible for the next step.

Xian Parenting Tip #157: Get Thy Children to a Cult, uh, I mean College!

A College That's Strictly Different

This is a lovely little article found via Pharyngula that illustrates student life at Pensacola Christian College- an unaccredited "college".

Guess where I went to school!



The campus looks just like the glossy brochure: clean, green, and beautiful. The students are well dressed and well groomed, not a pair of jeans or scrappy goatee in sight. Inside the Commons building, two students engage in a spirited game of Ping-Pong. When one of them misses an easy shot, he cries, "Praise the Lord!"

Pensacola Christian College prides itself on being different, not just from secular colleges, but from fellow Christian ones, too. Some of those differences, like the way students dress, are obvious to any visitor. Others are not. Since its founding, more than 30 years ago, Pensacola has blossomed from a tiny Bible college into a thriving institution of nearly 5,000 students. Along the way it has become known as among the most conservative — and most secretive — colleges in the country.

(snip)

Lisa Morris was walking to class with her boyfriend last October when something happened. At first Ms. Morris, sophomore music major, is reluctant to divulge the details. Eventually, however, the truth comes out: He patted her behind.

Someone who witnessed the incident reported Ms. Morris and her boyfriend. At Pensacola any physical contact between members of the opposite sex is forbidden. (Members of the same sex may touch, although the college condemns homosexuality.) The forbidden contact includes shaking hands and definitely includes patting behinds. Both students were expelled.
Of Pensacola's many rules, those dealing with male-female relationships are the most talked about. There are restrictions on when and where men and women may speak to each other. Some elevators and stairwells may be used only by women; others may be used only by men. Socializing on particular benches is forbidden. If a man and a woman are walking to class, they may chat; if they stop en route, though, they may be in trouble. Generally men and women caught interacting in any "unchaperoned area" — which is most of the campus — could be subject to severe penalties.


Those rules extend beyond the campus. A man and a woman cannot go to an off-campus restaurant together without a chaperon (usually a faculty member). Even running into members of the opposite sex off campus can lead to punishment. One student told of how a group of men and a group of women from the college happened to meet at a McDonald's last spring. Both groups were returning from the beach (they had gone to separate beaches; men and women are not allowed to be at the beach together). The administration found out, and all 15 students were expelled.

Even couples who are not talking or touching can be reprimanded. Sabrina Poirier, a student at Pensacola who withdrew in 1997, was disciplined for what is known on the campus as "optical intercourse" — staring too intently into the eyes of a member of the opposite sex. This is also referred to as "making eye babies." While the rule does not appear in written form, most students interviewed for this article were familiar with the concept.

(snip)

There are plenty of other ways to run afoul of the rules. Last spring Timothy Dow was caught playing the video game Halo 2. Such games are banned by the college. Movies are also forbidden, including those rated G. Music is restricted to classical or approved Christian ("contemporary Christian" artists are deemed too worldly). Students are allowed to watch television news at 6 o'clock, but that's it. The TVs are controlled by college employees, who flip a switch to black out the commercials, lest students see anything inappropriate.

In the library, books and magazines are censored. One student says she saw a pair of black-marker boxer shorts on a photograph of Michelangelo's David. Any books that students wish to read that are not in the library must first be approved by administrators. Those containing references to "magic," for instance, are normally rejected. The rule book specifically prohibits "fleshly magazines and books."


The most tragic outcome of this? These poor kids think they're getting an education - however, attending a "college" that is not accredited means credits can't be transferred. But, they still think they'll be employable after "college".


Mr. Ghobrial, the student from Egypt who doesn't mind the rules, wants to attend dental school. His first choice, West Virginia University, has already said it would not consider his application, because Pensacola is not accredited. "I'm hoping they change their minds," he says.


So, what's that about religion NOT being just indoctrination and control again?

March 28, 2006

Deconversion, or How I learned to stop worrying and love reason

In dealing with theists, an atheist will inevitably be asked why they don't believe in Jesus/Allah/TheGreatPumpkin. Each time I've been asked this question my answer has been different, though I couldn't put a finger on why it was always different. Everything I've said to answer the question has been true, each situation or event has led me to atheism. However, I've never really felt my answers told the whole picture. It was as if I've only ever given half answers, only a piece of the picture. The concern there being that a theist would read it and think it was a silly (or worse yet insignificant) situation or event that made me lose faith. Then, they would conclude that my search for god was never a serious one and that if only I'd give it a true shot would I ever find whatever god they're peddaling.

This is untrue. While I was searching I meant it. Fully intending to convert imagine the disappointment when, after years of study, it became crystal clear that neither religion was for me. And Islam - fuhgetaboutit - Judaism and Christianity are misogynistic enough!

Recently, I had a dream that sparked a memory I'd long forgotten about. The dream is inconsequential - just me and the bf driving around with three white teddy bears in the back seat of the car that somehow turned into three little girls in white dresses. But it was one of the white teddy bears that sparked the memory. And once this little pebble started falling, it unleashed an avalanche - all the pieces suddenly fell into place. I know how and why I became and atheist. And finally, I can answer this question. (but it's a long answer, so it will be in parts. These long posts are for my own benefit, which is not to suggest anyone out there cares. ;) )

A note before I begin: This is only what happened to me. I am not claiming anything about any brand of any religion. So spare me the "this isn't how WE do it" stuff.

Part One: Christianity

That teddy bear is one that my father bought me when I was ten and in the hospital. It was Easter time and I was having my appendix out. But, it had ruptured and had been leaking poison into my body for no one knew how long (the doctors estimated it had been a month - to which I know you medical types are saying "impossible!"- but I was in the hospital a month before hand with a bad staff infection in my left leg, and they knew then that my appendix would have to come out). The doctors had told my parents - well within my earshot - to have "arrangements" ready because they fully expected me to "not make it".

Something very similar would happen again five years later. It was my sophomore year of high school, Easter break again, and I was back in the hospital being given blood transfusion after blood transfusion because I'd come dangerously close to bleeding to death. (which, as morbid as it may sound would have been a nice way to go. I just got extremely sleepy, there was no pain.) And again, my parents were told that it would be "prudent" to be ready for "anything". The doctor had told my parents that a girl of my age should have a hemoglobin level of 12 (percent?) and mine was 2.6. When I survived, he would later say that my heart being so young was what saved me. Had I been a decade older, I'd be dead.

These events and my subsequent survival - despite the doctors giving me little chance of surviving - are what convinced me to start investigating religion more closely. Since those around me seemed convinced that these happy turn of events were divine intervention, I felt compelled to become more devoted. (Up until this point we were light weight xians. I had been an altar girl (of sorts, we were Methodists, not Catholics) when I was young, I was in the choir and all that, but we stopped going when the Pastor died in the early 90's. After that the only thing concerning religion my mother had ever said to me was asking me if I wanted to be confirmed into the church when I was eighteen. (To which I said no, because I had just started investigating other brands of Christianity.)

In the hospital that second time, I found a copy of the Bible in the night stand (damn Gideons! ;) ). I read it. Not the whole thing - just the gospels - as I was instructed to do by a nurse attending me. It was like a revelation - it was all there. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the poor, saved sinners. He loved me and I loved Him. I wanted that feeling of being protected to last. So I started to read more and more - anything that supported and reenforced my hope that god was out there and that he cared.

A few years later, I was off to college and knee deep in Christianity. There I joined a Bible Fellowship on campus and eventually through my Catholic roommate met a priest who gave conversion classes (in case I wanted to join Catholicism). It was at this point that I learned of the schism between Catholicism and the Protestant/Evangelical versions of Christianity. Catholicism, being parent and original, claimed authenticity where as the others claimed superiority. The more I studied the more disillusioned I became. The more bickering between the two brands of the same religion I witnessed, the less I wanted to be in either.

Both were claiming to be exclusively right. Both were claiming that the other was a path to nowhere. Both were claiming that god backed them up.

And yet, they weren't teaching things that were that different. There were minor, petty differences but nothing that necessitated the ranting and raving. I started to feel like a commodity to them, or a prize to be won. It was as if either side could only claim to be the One True Christian Faith(tm) if they won me as a convert. I felt played.

It took me a year to make the decision, but just before my 19th birthday I left both groups. To this day I credit several courses I took in college with helping me make this decision - the Bible as Literature course, the French Civilization and Culture class, and or the (spectacular fem-nazi) Women's lit classes, philosophy classes, and anthropology classes.

As if the bickering over nothing wasn't bad enough, these classes illustrated several things that had been bothering me. Bible as Lit, and Women's Lit illustrated the nature and extent of "females as second class citizens" - that my bible study glossed over ("oh, our church doesn't do that") or made cute excuses for ("God made Eve from Adam's rib so that she would be by his side, but under his arm to be protected"), but never explained. French Civ and Culture introduced me to the unlucky Cathars. Anthropology introduced me to evolution. The philosophy courses were the intro to, the philosophy of science, and the Philosophy of religion.

Philosophy of religion dealt the death blow to my studying Christianity. The course was not critical of religion, but rather attempted to reinforce it. The prof attempted to use philosophy as a substitute for empirical evidence. I remember the exact class where I finally decided to get out. The prof had been talking about free will and how god gave us free will so that we would not be fawning followers" like the angels are. ( I know, I know. Bear with me a moment.)


I asked "what about 'god has a plan'." He said "God won't let you stray off the right path because he loves you." (No, I'm not kidding. And please note this was a SUNY (State University of New York) college, not a religious one.) I said: "but you just said we had free will to chose. If we have the free will to chose, then he can't have already decided we weren't "allowed" to stray off his path. If we can't stray off the path, we don't have free will."

He stared at me, then repeated a slightly modified version of what he had just said. It was something like "god doesn't want you to stray" or some such nonsense. It was that straw that broke the camel's back. It wasn't as if I hadn't had this conversation with the priest or the bible fellowship before. But in that moment, I was looking for more divine intervention. I was looking for a sign that I shouldn't doubt. And this is what I got.

I studied from the age of 15 to nearly 19 - all that time served only to prove to me that Christianity was not where I belonged.

This is ultimately why I rail against xianity more than others. Yes, I'm American so I am confronted with Xianity more so than all other religions. Yes, that also means that it's xians (read: the religious wrong) trying to destroy this country, so they are ripe for ridicule. But beyond all of that I feel betrayed. My search for god was reduced to a tug of war between the two.

Now some may say this is my own fault for trying on both - perhaps I should have tried one at a time. Perhaps. But, that would not have spared me from being questioned by the opposing side. Neither would have stopped the "oh you're not a True Christian (tm), then" jabs, or prostelyzing attempts by the opposing side.

In an attempt to gain the whole picture, and to be as thorough as possible, I tried on both. I don't regret it.

Then, feeling upset that I'd lost touch with god, is when I met Simon Barat (an anglicized version of his real name). A self-labeled "freelance" bouncer originally from Israel, who'd come here after spending time in the military.

And he led the way into part two: Judaism.

(coming soon)

A Self-Pity Party for American Xians

A 'war' on Christians? No. By Tom Krattenmaker

This past holiday season brought us the "War on Christmas."

Now, if we are to believe the promotions for an event starting today in the nation's capital, something bigger and darker is afoot in America: "The War on Christians."

Such is the title of a conference that boasts a lineup of some of the biggest stars of the so-called Christian right - Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, onetime presidential candidate Gary Bauer and Eagle Forum leader Phyllis Schlafly.

The chief organizer is Rick Scarborough, leader of Vision America, a group that describes its purpose as reversing America's moral decline by getting more Bible-believing Christians to participate in the political process.

"Christians are under a constant, relentless attack - from Hollywood, the news media, activist organizations, and the cultural elite," warned a Web page promoting the "War on Christians and the Values Voter" event, in language typical of the prevailing zeitgeist.

Isn't this more than a bit overblown? And in a time when the country is caught up in a real war with religious overtones, shouldn't the word "war" be tossed around a little less recklessly?

'A kernel of truth'

Certainly, liberals and secularists must concede a kernel of truth to the religious conservatives' charges. To the eyes of conservative Christians, much appears to have changed for the worse in American society in recent decades.

There are stricter limits on explicitly Christian expression in schools and other public settings. There is growing public acceptance of homosexuality and out-of-wedlock births, while television and movies seem awash with sex, nudity and profanity.

And if the claims of Christian persecution sound shrill, so do those of secular Americans who sometimes equate the political activity of religious conservatives with a crusade to replace our Constitution-based government with a hard-edged theocracy.

Still, the rhetoric of persecution from Scarborough and his fellows rings false. A war on Christians?

It sounds more like an exaggerated scare tactic aimed at grabbing attention, rallying the troops and sowing deeper division between the opposing sides in the ongoing debate over the proper role of religion in the public square.

Worse, it trivializes the true persecution of Christians in the early history of the church and the real abuse unleashed on Christians today in some corners of the world.

Christians in America are hardly being thrown to the lions. In many ways, the political and social values of conservative Christians are carrying the day. We are in the second term of the most faith-friendly, explicitly Christian presidency in many a decade.

Not only has President Bush talked a good game with evangelicals, but his administration has backed it with dollars for faith-based initiatives and abstinence-education programs.
Hollywood is producing more Christian-friendly movies while Christian news media, Christian music, Christian novels and other forms of Christian pop culture continue making their strong mark on society.


Nevertheless, the rhetoric of persecution and oppression seems irresistible to many. Nowhere was the theme of Christian oppression more vividly on display, and combatively expressed, than at Justice Sunday III, held Jan. 8 at a predominantly African-American congregation in north Philadelphia on the eve of the Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.
Joining host minister Herbert Lusk at the altar of Greater Exodus Baptist Church were four of the leading figures of the Christian right - Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell and Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.


(snip)

"We are facing, like we never have before, this hostility against the people of God," roared Lusk, a former running back for the Philadelphia Eagles and the leader of a church whose community outreach work has received more than $1 million in federal funding from President Bush's faith-based initiatives program.

"Don't fool with the church, because the church has buried many a critic, and all the critics that we have not buried, we're making funeral arrangements for them!"

(snipped rest)

There's the good xian love we all know so well!

It never fails to surprise me that xians in American cry oppression and persecution when they - above all others - are first in line to oppress and persecute others (gays, women, other religions, those evil atheists, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc).

While they're whipping themselves into a frenzy of imagined (YES, IMAGINED) persecution, I'm laughing my ass off at them. Whenever Goliath pretends to be David, it's pathetic and tragically funny. It's hard to take them seriously when the fake president panders to them constantly in many ways, not the least of which is the MILLIONS of tax payer dollars funneled into crappy faith-based programs, when a report showing that THEY are the most tolerant of torture has just been released, and when for two months at the end of every year the entire country has to put up with their shallow mass-consumerism dressed up like a holiday.
Once again theists, you're embarrassing yourselves.

To the sane: read the whole article. It points out that there are REAL wars going
on.

March 27, 2006

100th POST! The atheist and the moderate Muslim

The atheist and the moderate Muslim (via Atheist Revolution)

Those angry protesters were really, really going at it. They rallied and yelled and said the artwork "sew[ed] evil into people," made a mockery of their god, and that, "there should be freedom of speech but there should never be freedom for desecration."

Said indignant Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, "If this show portrayed Mohammed or Vishnu as homosexual, ridiculous and ineffectual, it would never have seen the light of day."

Oh, I'm sorry. Did you think I was talking about something else?

No one died during this particular protest, mind you, but apart from that there's not much difference between Christian Brits recently protesting Jerry Springer: The Opera and Muslims protesting those Danish cartoons.

Both groups were offended. They were upset. Their feelings were bruised. As sullenly explained by Pakistani regional chief minister Akram Durrani, "Nobody has the right to insult Islam and hurt the feelings of Muslims."

Hurt feelings? Are you fragging kidding me!?

It used to be mommy would get you a cookie when your feelings got hurt if nobody wanted to play with you because you wore the wrong clothes or had stupid hair. It is sort of cute and appropriate when you're a toddler. It's not so cute when grown men call for shows to be shut down or for the hands of artists to be chopped off, because they've been offended!

If you're Oprah Winfrey and your feelings have been wounded by an author whose tall tale you couldn't see through, surrounded as you are by the haze of the cult of self-help, you take that author to the public woodshed and spank him for an hour. James Frey has been a bad, bad man for hurting Oprah's feelings.

But at least he's not a filmmaker, who, like Ang Lee, has made a movie "morally offensive" to Catholics. Or a British insurance company whose employee incentive program, consisting of bottles of wine, resulted in a Muslim employee ending up with "hurt feelings." And let us not forget the music teacher in Colorado who showed students clips of the opera Faust. It "glorifies Satan," an outraged and offended parent said.

Well, of course it does, dear.

When a misunderstanding had it that Britney Spears was to appear in a guest spot on Will & Grace as a right-wing Christian, The American Family Association said the role, "mocks the crucifixion of Christ." Would you like a cup of warm milk and a lie-down?

It's comforting to know there are people out there who try to shield other sensitive souls from being offended. Like the Suffolk schoolteacher who asked that the crosses be removed from the cafeteria hot-cross buns so as to not upset pupils who are Jehovah's Witnesses. Or, bless their hearts, our very own CHFI radio, which will not run an ad that uses the word vagina, because it might make their listeners "uncomfortable" or make children ask questions, something that must be discouraged at all costs.

So, to sum up: pastries, cartoons, vaginas, opera, literary licence, free wine, cowboys romping and Britney Spears. I have to say that, apart from Britney, there's nothing there I find even slightly offensive.

Hot-cross buns are yummy. Editorial cartoons are a quick and smart way of making a point in a world increasingly attention-span-challenged. Without vaginas none of us would be here. Opera is, granted, an acquired taste, but once you get it... . Literary licence is not against the law and can lead to evocatively interesting prose. Who doesn't like free wine? Good-looking guys who are into each other? Pretty.

Even Britney is kind of amusing in her idiocy. Point being, if you don't like bread and female genitalia and fat singing ladies and gay love and wine and authors who lie, don't look. Don't listen. Don't read. Don't go to the opera. Turn away. Shrug your shoulders and go enjoy whatever it is that calms your fragile psyche.

Just spare us the nonsense about the hurt feelings and the offence taken. What are you? Five?

Think very hard about whether your personal sense of hurt and feelings of being entitled to an existence never rocked by doubt or discomfort is worth the risk of works like The Life of Brian, The Satanic Verses and The Last Temptation of Christ being made.

Consider carefully the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.

Here's a radical thought: Instead of getting upset by ideas, check out the old guy who is right now freezing to death under the overpass. Or consider the thawing of the polar cap. Or check out those videos of people getting their heads sawed off. There is plenty of real stuff to pour all that outrage into.

I work hard, as an atheist, at not being angered by the increasing inclusion of this, that or whatever god in areas of life that should be secular. I succeed because I tell myself it's none of my business what people believe, although every time they pray on Survivor or I hear another one-hit wonder thanking God for His direct hand in securing a People's Choice Award, I do feel the need to say a dirty word. Just to counteract.

I happen to think religion is destructive, oppressive and overburdened by silly hats. I also think the only reason Christianity has more adherents and respectability than, say, the Raelians or the Scientologists, is that the Christians came along first.

Don't let that keep you from looking heavenwards. Do what you will in the comfort of your own home or place of worship and rest assured that when I visit I will behave politely, cover up whatever vile parts of my body offend your particular god, and refrain from eating ham sandwiches while you pray.

If being offended is such a necessity to your enjoyment of life or your sense of self, think about the censorship you implicitly advocate. Consider that you may not be the one who gets to decide what is offensive and should be banned.

Maybe it will be me.

I guarantee you wouldn't like it.

March 24, 2006

Bulldozing Churches for Mini-malls

Any Houses of Worship Could Be Destroyed Under “Jobs & Taxes” Justification

Quote:
Arlington, Va.-Since the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case last summer, City officials have new power to file condemnation actions against churches to make way for private commercial development. Throughout the nation, more and more religious leaders are finding the government and its wrecking ball at their doorsteps. Tax-hungry governments teaming up with land-hungry developers are capitalizing on the fact that churches (and all not-for-profits) are tax-exempt, using Kelo to justify taking religious buildings on the grounds that the land can generate more tax revenue or amplify job growth as businesses or homes for the wealthy.

Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, said, “After the Kelo decision, local governments apparently are free to take private property on the theory that generating higher tax revenue is a valid ‘public use’ of property. This certainly is a substantial threat not only to churches and nonprofit organizations, but to every homeowner whose property could be taken and put to a higher commercial use. This is bad public policy which cannot be permitted to stand.

Some examples include:

* Sand Springs, Okla., is attempting to seize and demolish the Centennial Baptist Church-home to a large black congregation-by eminent domain. The City plans to hand the land over to a private developer to attract major retailers and other stores. “The Lord didn’t send me here to build a mini-mall,” the Rev. Roosevelt Gildon told the New York Times. “I guess saving souls isn’t as important as raking in money for politicians to spend,” said Gildon on National Review Online.

* In March 2006, Long Beach, Calif., began condemnation proceedings against the Filipino Baptist Fellowship, a vibrant congregation in the heart of Southern California, to make way for condominiums. The City recently designated the building as “blighted” under California’s vague blight statutes, giving redevelopment officials the power to take the church by eminent domain. “Every day, the young kids pray that this church would not fall,” said congregation member Jovine Agustine in the Baptist Press. Pastor Roem Agustine added, “We’re just resting on the promise of the Lord that he will not leave us nor forsake us.”

* Boynton Beach, Fla., which has already cleared out long-time small businesses and homeowners in the name of redevelopment, voted in October 2005 to take two churches by eminent domain so a private developer can build apartments, stores and parking
facilities. The Jesus House of Worship, which caters specifically to needy families during the holidays, and Triumph the Church & Kingdom of God were included in the City’s redevelopment area, leaving them subject to condemnation at the City’s whim.


* Scituate, Mass., has wavered since 2004 on whether to take 25 acres belonging to St. Frances X Cabrini Catholic Church for private development. The Church continues to own its land under the threat of eminent domain.

* Restoration, a non-denominational church in Visalia, Calif., made a deal with the Main Street Theater to purchase its downtown building for a new worship center in 2004. While in escrow, the City condemned the property by eminent domain, prohibiting the Church from acquiring the property. The reasons cited were that the City preferred a private arts center to a place of worship.

* In 2003, Biloxi, Miss., condemned the parking lot of the Living Waters Ministries, a church on Caillavet Street, to make way for a proposed casino that was never built.

* Alabaster, Ala., voted to condemn a church in August 2003 for the benefit of Colonial Properties Trust, which planned to build a 400-acre retail development anchored by Wal-Mart.

* After years of meeting in a rental basement and saving up money, St. Luke’s Pentecostal Church in North Hempstead, N.Y., purchased a permanent home, but it was taken from the church by the North Hempstead Community Development Agency for
private retail development. Six years later, the lot is still empty.


“This is a clear-cut violation the Fifth Amendment’s public use clause,” said IJ Senior Attorney Scott Bullock, who argued Kelo before the Supreme Court. “When the government can take somebody’s land based on promises of taxes and jobs, churches
are especially at risk because they don’t pay taxes.”

THEN MAYBE THEY SHOULD PAY TAXES.

In all honesty, there's very little funny in this eniment domain bullshit. There was a case recently in my own area of an elderly woman who'd lived in her home for more then 50 years who was being told to get out to make way for a new road, or some
such nonsense. Though, we haven't heard of her since. Hopefully, she's suing.

But, knowing that it affects even churchs - in this *chuckle guffaw* "Xian" Nation, does make me laugh. It seems even the xian god isn't safe from being unseated by the one true god - MONEY.

Though the press release makes a good point - this is affecting minority churches more:

"Steven Anderson, coordinator of the Castle Coalition, warned, “We’re seeing more and more minority churches disproportionately affected by eminent domain abuse.”

The Institute for Justice and Castle Coalition are working with organizations such as the NAACP and the National Council of Churches to protect people’s fundamental right to keep what they already rightfully own."

Anyone care to venture a guess as to why this would be?


Source: http://www.castlecoalition.org/media/releases/3_21_06pr.html & and the AN.

Xian Partenting Tip #237: Spank 'em with PVC pipe

Dead child's mom sought discipline tips

Lynn Paddock ordered books by a minister and his wife that recommended using pipe to spank kids

A few years ago, Lynn Paddock sought Christian advice on how to discipline her growing brood of adopted children.

Paddock -- a Johnston County mother accused of murdering Sean, her 4-year-old adopted son, and beating two other adopted children -- surfed the Internet, said her attorney, Michael Reece. She found literature by an evangelical minister and his wife who recommended using plumbing supply lines to spank misbehaving children.

Paddock ordered Michael and Debi Pearl's books and started spanking her adopted children as suggested. After Sean, the youngest of Paddock's six adopted children, died last month, his older sister and brother told investigators about Paddock's spankings.

Sean's 9-year-old brother was beaten so badly he limped, a prosecutor said. Bruises marred Sean's backside, too, doctors found.

Sean died after being wrapped so tightly in blankets he suffocated. That, too, was a form of punishment, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said.

The Pearls' advice from their Web site: A swift whack with the plastic tubing would sting but not bruise. Give 10 licks at a time, more if the child resists. Be careful about using it in front of others -- even at church; nosy neighbors might call social workers. Save hands for nurturing, not disciplining. Heed the warning, taken from Proverbs in the Old Testament, that sparing the rod will spoil the child.

Paddock and other moms in her rural Baptist church chatted about the Pearls' strategies for rearing obedient children, Reece said.

"I think she was trying to do the right thing by her children," he said. (Note: clearly BEATING THEM TO DEATH is not trying to do right, ASSHOLE)

Paddock, 45, faces a possible lifetime behind bars or execution if convicted of causing Sean's death.

Paddock seems to have carefully followed the Pearls' teachings. Investigators found 2-foot lengths of plumbing supply line in several rooms of her remote farmhouse.

The Pearls offer shopping advice on their Web site, www.nogreaterjoy.org: "You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility will keep the kids in line."

The Pearls' first book, "To Train Up a Child," has sold more than 400,000 copies since it was published in 1994, according to Mel Cohen, general manager of the Pearls' business, No Greater Joy Ministries. After the book came out, so many readers wrote in with questions that the Pearls started a newsletter. Every two months, Cohen said, the Pleasantville, Tenn.-based ministry mails more than 60,000 newsletters to parents around the world.

The Pearls declined to be interviewed. "They feel the material speaks for itself," Cohen said.
Christian evangelicals who, like the Pearls, teach the importance of corporal punishment have loyal followers. The results are tangible, said Dot Ehlers, executive director of a Smithfield nonprofit who teaches parenting skills to mothers and fathers referred to them by the Johnston County Department of Social Services. She said about a quarter of the 60 parents she instructs each week say their faith defends and encourages corporal punishment.
The Pearls' techniques helped Sandy Hicks, a mother in Texas who said she was desperate to restore peace in her home.


"Some people would rather spend an hour reasoning with a defiant 5-year-old instead of requiring the kid to behave and giving him a swat if he doesn't," said Hicks, who said she has used a peach-tree switch to spank her four children. "Some people are just queasy about swatting their kids."

The Pearls' teachings helped mobilize another group of Christian parents to speak out against such corporal punishment. The Web site Stoptherod.net rails against the Pearls' first book; the Web site's founders, Susan and Steve Lawrence of Virginia, say the book "reads like a child abuse manual." The Web site encourages parents to post critical reviews of the book on Amazon.com.

Some of the Pearls' defenders say you can't blame them for parents who take their advice to an unhealthy extreme.

Gena Suarez, publisher of a magazine for home-schooling parents that publishes advertisements for the Pearls' books, said their teachings are often inappropriately used to defend child abuse.
"[The Pearls] are talking about something that would fit in a purse," Suarez said. "The only way you can kill a child with that is by shoving it down his throat."


The Pearls acknowledge that discipline turns to abuse when the "child is broken in spirit, cowed and subdued ..."

The minister advises one mother on his Web site: "I always give myself one swat before I swat the child to remind myself how much force to exert. It stings the skin without bruising or damaging tissue. It's a real attention-getter."

(News researchers Susan Ebbs, Becky Ogburn and Lamara Williams-Hackett contributed to this report.)

Sing it with me now:
Jesus Loves Us to Beat the Children
Over the hills and everywhere
Jesus Loves Us to Beat the Children
Since Jesus Christ is born!

or how about:
Jesus Loves me this I know
Mommy's PVC pipe tells me so

You know xians are all hysterical over gay adoptions. But, um, how many stories about gay adoptive parents beating kids to death (or cutting off their arms, or starving them, or forcing them to drink lethal amounts of water or laundry detergent, or caging them) do we hear? Oh right, NONE. Clearly, it's NOT gays that should be denied adoptions.

(Note to theists: I don't give a damn if you're offended. Everyday you offend me.)

March 23, 2006

Brutal Women

I came across this link via Pharyngula. Brutal Women I am already in love with this blog. Esp because of this post:

Dear S. Dakota: More Fuck Yous

The President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, was incensed (at the SD abortion ban). A former nurse and healthcare giver she was very angry that a state body made up mostly of white males, would make such a stupid law against women.

“To me, it is now a question of sovereignty,” she said to me last week. “I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction.”

&

Support the SD Oglala Sioux Planned Parenthood

March 22, 2006

Lower than Muslims AND Gays

Tell me again why I'm supposed to love my country which so clearly does not love me? ;)


It's good to know how much we're loved (via Pharyngula)

March 20, 2006

How to spot a baby conservative

(via Democratic Underground & The Toronto Star)

How to spot a baby conservative

Mar. 19, 2006 KURT KLEINERSPECIAL TO THE STAR

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative. At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals.

The study from the Journal of Research Into Personality isn't going to make the UC Berkeley professor who published it any friends on the right. Similar conclusions a few years ago from another academic saw him excoriated on right-wing blogs, and even led to a Congressional investigation into his research funding.But the new results are worth a look. In the 1960s Jack Block and his wife and fellow professor Jeanne Block (now deceased) began tracking more than 100 nursery school kids as part of a general study of personality.

The kids' personalities were rated at the time by teachers and assistants who had known them for months. There's no reason to think political bias skewed the ratings — the investigators were not looking at political orientation back then. Even if they had been, it's unlikely that 3- and 4-year-olds would have had much idea about their political leanings.

A few decades later, Block followed up with more surveys, looking again at personality, and this time at politics, too. The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.

The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests. The girls were still outgoing, but the young men tended to turn a little introspective.

Block admits in his paper that liberal Berkeley is not representative of the whole country. But within his sample, he says, the results hold. He reasons that insecure kids look for the reassurance provided by tradition and authority, and find it in conservative politics. The more confident kids are eager to explore alternatives to the way things are, and find liberal politics more congenial.

In a society that values self-confidence and out-goingness, it's a mostly flattering picture for liberals. It also runs contrary to the American stereotype of wimpy liberals and strong conservatives.

Of course, if you're studying the psychology of politics, you shouldn't be surprised to get a political reaction. Similar work by John T. Jost of Stanford and colleagues in 2003 drew a political backlash. The researchers reviewed 44 years worth of studies into the psychology of conservatism, and concluded that people who are dogmatic, fearful, intolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty, and who crave order and structure are more likely to gravitate to conservatism. Critics branded it the "conservatives are crazy" study and accused the authors of a political bias.

Where Have All the Red States Gone?

Jesusland circa election time 2004:

duh

America March 2006:
Blue

Radical Russ explains:


Revel in the newest incarnation of the Bush Approval Map! This map displays the state-by-state job approval polls of Pretzeldunce Chimpy McFlightsuit. His Net Approval is his job approval minus his job disapproval ratings, with positive numbers representing states where more people approve than disapprove, and negative numbers representing the opposite.

I've color-coded the states according to their relative "Bush Love" in red to their relative "Bush Hate" in blue, with those states more toward the center shaded in purple. (I've made a change in the color scheme from the previous versions; I decided that the brighter reds and blues better visually demonstrated the figures. Plus the color shades change in 1% increments for more... uh... subtlety.)

The map begins at the 2004 Election, and every five seconds a new month appears.



(thx to Radical Russ & Tenn. Guerilla Women)

Religion as an Addiction

When Religion is an Addiction
(via Pharnygula)

I remember hearing popular psychological speaker and writer John Bradshaw say that the “high” one gets from being righteous was similar to the high of cocaine. As both a former monk and addict, he knew the feelings personally.

As the religious right pushes its anti-gay, anti-women’s reproductive rights, anti-science, pro-profit agenda nationally and in state capitals across the nation and wins, that high is a sweet fix for the addicted. It gives them a comforting feeling of relief that they’re really right, okay, worthwhile, and acceptable.

Like all fixes, though, it doesn’t last. So, the addict is driven to seek another and another – another issue, another evil, another paranoiac threat to defeat. It can’t ever end. Like the need for heavier doses, the causes have to become bigger and more evil in the addict’s mind to provide the fix.

This mind-altering fix of righteousness covers their paranoid shame-based feelings about the internal and external dangers stalking them. The victim-role language of their dealers, right-wing religious leaders, feeds it. Like alcoholism and drug addiction, the fix numbs the religious addict against any feelings about how their addiction affects others.

Religion doesn’t have to be this way; it can be healing. But what we see in the dominant religious/political right-wing fundamentalism that’s driving the debate on most conservative issues (political, social, economic, international) is anything but healthy. It’s what addiction specialists call a process addiction, like sex or romance addiction, or workaholism. In an addictive society, such addictions are encouraged.

Like substance addictions, it takes over, dominates life, pushes other issues to the background, tells them how and what to feel to prevent them from facing their real feelings about themselves and life, creates a mythology about the world, protects its “stash,” and supports their denial that they have a problem. Addiction specialist Anne Wilson Schaef would say, like all addictions, religious addiction is progressive and fatal.

If you’re outside the addiction, you’ve probably wondered about what’s going on, what’s the dynamic that’s driving the right-wing religious agenda that looks so hateful and destructive. Why is it so hard to crack? Why won’t evidence or logic work?

If you’re an enabler or the addict yourself, the above must sound over the top. You’d prefer to deny or soften the reality of the addiction.

Yet, if we’re going to think clearly about the right-wing juggernaut’s use of religion, and not function as its enablers, we must realize that we’re dealing with an addict. Right-wing political-religious fundamentalism can destroy us too if we’re like the dependent spouse who protects, defends, and covers-up for the family drunk.

So, what can we do to protect ourselves, maintain our sanity, promote a healthy alternative, and confront religious addiction? What’s the closest thing to an intervention when we’re dealing with the advanced, destructive form of religious addiction that’s become culturally dominant?

It takes massive inner strength and a good self-concept. There’s no place for codependency and the need to be liked or affirmed by the person with the addiction. ALANON knows that. It requires clarity of purpose, freedom from the need to fix the addict, and doing what maintains one’s own health and safety.

Addicts reinforce each other. Fundamentalist religious organizations and media are their supportive co-users. So the person who deals with someone’s addiction cannot do it alone. They must have support from others outside the addiction.

You can’t argue with an addict. Arguing religion to one so addicted plays into the addictive game. Arguing about the Bible or tradition is like arguing with the alcoholic about whether whiskey or tequila is better for them. It’s useless and affirms the addiction.

You can’t buy into the addict’s view of reality. Addicts cover their addiction with a mythology about the world and with language that mystifies. This means we must never use their language.

Never say, even to reject it or with “so-called” before it: “partial-birth abortion,” “gay rights,” “intelligent design,” “gay marriage,” etc. Speak clearly in terms of what you believe it really is. Say “a seldom used late-term procedure,” “equal rights for all,” “creationist ideology,” “marriage equality.”

Don’t let the addict get you off topic. Addicts love to confuse the issues, get you talking about things that don’t challenge their problem. When you do, you further the addiction.

Never argue about whether sexual orientation is a choice. It doesn’t matter.

Never argue about sex. Our country is too sick to deal with its sexual problems.

It’s okay to affirm that you don’t care or these aren’t the issues. You don’t need to justify your beliefs to a drunk or druggie.

Get your message on target and repeat it. Get support for your message from others so that they’re on the same page. Make it short, simple, to the point, and consistent.

Don’t nag addicts. Don’t speak belligerently or as if you have to defend yourself. Just say: The government and other people have no right to tell someone whom to love.

Don’t accept that the addiction needs equal time. Stop debating as if there are two sides. Get over any guilt about a free country requiring you to make space for addictive arguments. You don’t have to act as if here are “two sides” to the debate. Addicts and their dealers already have the power of the addiction and addictive communities behind their messages.

Model what it is to be a healthy human being without the addiction. Addicts must see people living outside the addiction, happy, confident, proud, and free from the effects of the disease. In spite of the fact that we’re a nation that supports both substance and process addictions so people don’t threaten the institutions and values that pursue profits over humanity, live as if that has no ultimate control over you.

Don’t believe that you, your friends, children, relationships, hopes, and dreams, are any less valuable or legitimate because they aren’t sanctioned by a government, politicians, or religious leaders that are in a coping, rather than healing, mode of life.

Dealing with addictions takes an emotional toll on everyone. Yet, recognizing religious addiction as an addiction demystifies its dynamics and maintains our sanity.

© The Fairness Project, February 2, 2005.

March 13, 2006

Report: The State of Men in MANmerica

Men are reining in those uppity U.S. girls


After decades of oppression, men are making a comeback. Spurred on by President Bush and his new Supreme Court, they're reclaiming their God-given right to control women.

And about time, too. Women have had it their way too damn long, and now it's time for payback.

It all began in 1973 when women were given the right to choose an abortion in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. What a catastrophe! The rest of it fell like dominoes. First, women didn't have to be pregnant if they didn't want to, then they wanted those other rights, like equal pay (which never really did take off, but the very idea was a thorn in the side).

Who knew what reproductive freedom would wrought? Or wring? Or whatever that word is?

So it became clear Roe v. Wade had to go if women were to be put back in their place. After all, if you can rape a woman and she has to stay pregnant, well, by golly, you've got the goods, don'tcha see?

And that's about to happen! South Dakota has banned all abortions except when the pregnancy or birth is about to kill the woman.

This is the big one, boys. This is the one that's gonna get you back in the saddle - and not that sissy Brokeback saddle, either.

The law is being challenged, of course - which was the point - and will go to the Supreme Court. With Bush's anti-abortion Justices Sam Alito and John Roberts on the bench now, that women-loving Roe v. Wade ruling is probably gonna be toast!

The men in charge aren't entirely without compassion. South Dakota Sen. Bill Napoli says he'd consider letting a girl have an abortion if she was brutally raped, a virgin, religious and planned on saving herself for her husband. Women should feel so darn good about having a guy like that to make their decisions!

(Note to women: If you think you might ever end up in this predicament, start going to church now, for cryin' out loud! You want to be seen as religious if you get knocked up by a rapist.)

And - ooh ooh, listen to this one. This one is so cool, guys! Matt Dubay of Michigan is working hard on your behalf to be able to just have sex without taking any responsibility if a baby comes along. That's right! Poor Matt. Right now, his ex-best girl is collecting $500 a month from him to support a daughter he never even wanted. He just wanted the sex!

So Matt is going to court. He says if a woman can choose to keep a baby or give it up, then a man can choose to support it - or not. You go, Matt!

Also - you won't believe how amazing THIS is - if a woman has sex, then the feeling down at the Bush administration is that she deserves cancer! That might sound harsh even to you fellas who want to get back in the saddle, but here's the reasoning.

Researchers have developed a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer. You'd think we'd be dancing in the streets over this one - an actual cancer vaccine that could save thousands of women's lives annually. It works by safeguarding women against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

Here's the rub. Women should get the shot before they're sexually active. That means it should be part of standard childhood immunizations.

And that won't do. Bush says removing the threat of cervical cancer would make women promiscuous. Abstinence only, girls! If you get cancer from sex, you're just a slut anyway.

Now, I realize not all men are with the program here. There are millions of men who actually feel confident that women's freedom doesn't erode their own strength and sexuality and humanity.

To those men, I say this: We like you the best. You've got a much better chance of getting la "¦ uh, some intimacy "¦ than the troglodytes in your midst.

There are 1,044 days 'til Inauguration 2009.




There is also this lovely tid bit: The GOP's Abortion Anxiety


(both links thx to Tennessee Guerilla Women)

March 09, 2006

Okay, Lemme explain

You Are 70% Evil

You are very evil. And you're too evil to care.
Those who love you probably also fear you. A lot.



What can I say? I was a crazy teenager.

(thx to Bacon Eating Jew)

March 06, 2006

Theist + Religious Study = Atheist

The Book of Bart

Where does faith reside? In the soul? The mind, the marrow of the bones?

In the long hours of the night, the voices of the evangelical preachers on the AM dial seem to know. Believe, they say. Then daylight comes and the listeners' questions fade.

Bart Ehrman is a sermon, a parable, but of what? He's a best-selling author, a New Testament expert and perhaps a cautionary tale: the fundamentalist scholar who peered so hard into the origins of Christianity that he lost his faith altogether.

Once he was a seminarian and graduate of the Moody Bible Institute, a pillar of conservative Christianity. Its doctrine states that the Bible "is a divine revelation, the original autographs of which were verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit."

But after three decades of research into that divine revelation, Ehrman became an agnostic. What he found in the ancient papyri of the scriptorium was not the greatest story ever told, but the crumbling dust of his own faith.

"Sometimes Christian apologists say there are only three options to who Jesus was: a liar, a lunatic or the Lord," he tells a packed auditorium here at the University of North Carolina, where he chairs the department of religious studies. "But there could be a fourth option -- legend."

Ehrman's latest book, "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why," has become one of the unlikeliest bestsellers of the year. A slender book of textual criticism, currently at No. 16 on the New York Times bestseller list, it casts doubt on any number of New Testament episodes that most Christians take as, well, gospel.

Example: A crowd readies itself to stone an adulterous woman to death. Jesus leans down, doodles in the dust. Says, let the one without sin cast the first stone. The crowd melts away. It's one of the most famous stories in the Bible.

And it's most likely fiction, says Ehrman, seconding other scholars who say scribes added the episode to the biblical canon centuries after the life of Christ.



This is just the beginning of the very long article. Worth a read.

It illustrates exactly what I've thought since my own "tour of study" - once you look close enough, it's not possible to buy it any more.

Perhaps that's why there's nothing in the bible in praise of intelligence.

March 03, 2006

Guess the Country

Guess in which country it is common practice to force incarcerated women to give birth with their legs shackled and with no anesthesia?

Why in the good old "pro-life" US of A! (thx to Tenn. Guerilla Women blog)


Ms. Nelson was serving time for identity fraud and writing bad checks when she gave birth at age 30. She weighed a little more than 100 pounds, and her baby, it turned out, weighed nine and a half pounds.

The experience of giving birth without anesthesia while largely immobilized has left her with lasting back pain and damage to her sciatic nerve, according to her lawsuit against prison officials and a private company, Correctional Medical Services.

"It is unbelievable that in this day and age a child is born to a woman in shackles," Mr. Erato said. "It sounds like something from slavery 200 years ago."

"This is the perfect example of rule-following at the expense of common sense," said William F. Schulz, the executive director of Amnesty International U.S.A. "It's almost as stupid as shackling someone in a coma."

March 02, 2006

A new favorite blog to add to the list

In America it's getting rough. Theists running wild trying to negate everything our fore fathers worked to build, the worst president in all of history, a stupid war needlessly killing our soliders, the entire world wouldn't cry one tear if we disappeared tomorrow, the fact that people are still talking about Britney Spears and her white trash hubby. Ugh. How depressing it can all get.

Then, you stumble across a webpage that warms the heart.

Tennessee Guerilla Women

For a raging progressive feminist like myself, that there are women even in the buckles of the bible belt willing to fight theocrat asshats makes me almost believe in miracles.

Pascal's Wager: An Embarrassment to Theism

For those who don't know, Pascal's Wager is the childish "argument" that it is better to believe in god (as opposed to being an atheist) because if you believe and there's no god, you've lost nothing. But, if there is a god and you don't believe, when you die you'll spend eternity being tortured in hell.

Let us lay aside the obviously primitive nature of this statement - because it's simply to easy to attack (neanderthals could see through it, for goodness sakes). Instead, let me point out - as other atheists have done ad nauseam - that there is one very simple retort to this.

If there is a god, but when you meet him discover that it is not the god you followed during life, we'll see you in hell.

Aside from this glaring error of such a silly "argument" I would like to add:

-If the only reason you believe is to get the big reward at the end, it is a shallow and selfish faith you follow.

- Let's say for the sake of debate the god does exist. If he does, and he both plans our lives for us, and being omnipotent knows all, then he planned for us to be atheists and who are we to go against you're almighty fairy tale? See An Exercise In Logic

-I do more work for my community and fellow man than any theist I know. (And being that this is a densely xian area - I know plenty.) As there is no god to pray too and no after life to make excuses for, it is incumbent on every individual to help their fellow man. I volunteer in two shelters (presently), I donate blood every other month and my hair (to Locks of Love) every other year. I knit/quilt blankets for Project Linus. I donate money to a few charities. I don't lie, cheat or steal. I try not to gossip, or bear grudges. If god does exist, and my life is not good enough for him solely because I didn't spend money on empty headed churches, or praise him every day, then he is a selfish, childish deity unworthy of worship. And since according to you he planned for me to think so, then he's a sadist as well.

Like all active atheists, I know you have nothing to justify your faith. It's emotional, illogical etc - and that's fine. You don't need to justify it. If it makes you feel good (and you're not hurting anyone) do it. But, spare me the pathetic and flaccid attempts at emotional blackmail. You're embarrassing yourselves.