Dan Barker was an evangelical preacher and gospel song writer until he realized it was all superstition. Now he is co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the largest freethought association in North America.
With more than 22,500 members, the nonprofit FFRF works as an effective state/church watchdog and voice for freethought (atheism, agnosticism, skepticism).
You can read Dan Barker’s story in his new book, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists.
Great speech, President Obama! Short and to the point, which automatically makes it far better than most political speeches.
Published on Jul 4, 2015
In this week’s address, the President wished everyone a happy Fourth of July. He honored the individuals who, throughout the history of America, have struggled and sacrificed to make this country a better place, from our Founding Fathers, to the men and women in uniform serving at home and overseas.
On this 239th annual celebration of our Declaration of Independence, President Obama spoke for 2 minutes and 39 seconds, according to one Youtube commenter. (It says 2:40 above, but why quibble over a second or two?) I’ve seen no word on whether that timing was planned or accidental.
So what’s wrong with President Obama’s speech? You won’t believe what these “conservative,” Republican, knumbskulls are holding against our President now!
By 10:02 pm that same evening, The Blaze, a small news aggregator apparently run by Glen Beck, had posted the article, Obama’s Fourth of July Address to America Omits One Very Big Word, by Dave Urbanski. What word was it? God, of course. He never mentioned the word “God” in his 159 second speech.
Urbanski describes the speech briefly and comments it “had its good points.” Then he continues:
But at the very end, when presidents — including Obama — usually sign off with some form of “May God bless the United States of America,” he offered a different finishing touch.
One that left God out.
Obama ended it like so: “Thanks, everybody. From my family to yours, have a safe and happy Fourth of July.”
Any time the President speaks for 159 seconds, is he supposed to mention our favorite national invisible friend by name and ask for His blessings upon our nation? I don’t think the Constitution mentions that requirement.
It’s apparently not enough to mention “the Creator.”
Urbanski then reminds us the President had referred to “the Creator” earlier in his speech (at 1:03), but that evidently wasn’t enough for him. He tells us, “You be the judge.”
No doubt by next week they’ll be lampooning our President for “trivializing” his speech by timing it exactly that way. Some will claim–as if they knew–that he left off the name of God in order to make the trivialized timing match our national history a second for a year, thereby making the name of God Himself a trivial matter. (Maybe he did, for that matter. I don’t know, either. Nor do I care.)
This President never had a chance to serve our nation effectively. Before he even took office seven years ago, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress and elsewhere were announcing their primary goal was to make sure he was a single-term President. They should have been impeached immediately, of course; but there were too many of them. They would have had to impeach themselves.
Since they couldn’t find any excuse to impeach our elected President, he served that first four-year term and we re-elected him for another one. For seven years now, Republicans have done their best to block him at every turn. It’s not as if they had better solutions to our problems; they just blocked practically everything that came before them. And the Republican candidates who hope to replace him in office in a little over 18 months threaten to undo even the few things he has been able to accomplish, often through Presidential decree.
An arrogant, ignorant, desert sheriff who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff” and seems to think he is God took it upon himself to send deputies to Hawaii to investigate the validity of President Obama’s birth certificate. He concluded it “doesn’t look right,” but he didn’t seem sure enough to ask Congress for an impeachment.
When the President has asked Congress for badly needed legislation and they did nothing, people accused him of “grabbing power” by acting on immigration and other matters on his own initiative. Somebody had to do something!
Last week he was mauled for using the word “nigger” in an appropriate manner in a discussion about race relations.
Now they criticize him for only referring to “the Creator” and not once mentioning the name of God in this particular very short, informal speech. And it’s not just this one article by one man in this one online publication, either. Many other writers in other online publications have already made the same complaint. Twitter was buzzing about it for a while.
People who have nothing better to do than complain about whether or not the very real American President whom we elected spoke the name of their favorite imaginary friend in a particular 159-second, very informal speech need to get a life.
Half of Town’s Protestant Preachers Preach Against Another Church to Show Unity
What?!? Yeah, that’s what they say.
Christians feud again. Now they’re using a “coordinated sermon series” against “progressive Christianity” to “demonstrate the unity of the body of Christ.” In other words, these eight pastors were preaching against “liberals” in the ministry. That’s what the preachers I know call them anyway.
Yes, I’m well aware some Baptists say they are not protestants, basing their claim largely on a poorly written little booklet named Trail of Blood. The booklet is worthless for several reasons, including the fact that it would be impossible for ordinary people to check its documentation. They just have to accept it “on faith.” The same way they accept the Bible.
Christians feud, gang up against the Methodists
It was the Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and non-denominational congregations in Fountain Hills, Arizona–eight congregations in all–that teamed up against their Methodist neighbors with coordinated sermons and banners.
The sermon series—“Progressive Christianity: Fact or Fiction?”—was launched with an op-ed and half-page advertisement in the local newspaper, and promoted with banners at the eight churches involved.
Now that’s different. The Baptist preachers I used to know wouldn’t let anybody tell them what to preach, much less a bunch of non-Baptists. They preached on whatever the Lord led them to, and they might not know what it was going to be sometimes until they stood behind the pulpit. And they surely wouldn’t team up with the non-denominationals about anything!
According to their own church website, the First Baptist Church (see picture above) has four sermons available for download on the subject of Progressive Christianity: Fact or Fiction at the link below. They were preached on separate Sundays beginning May 18. I didn’t listen to them. I’ve heard enough Baptist sermons.
Pastor David Felten at the United Methodist Church supports LGBT rights and a “progressive theology.” Among other thing, he rejects doctrines like the virgin birth. And what’s maybe even worse, he is known to have visited a Mosque recently. Yup, that’s liberal for sure.
He is accused of “rejecting traditional Christian belief” and being intolerant.
WHAT?!? WHO’S BEING INTOLERANT?
It was Christians feuding and backed up by law that drove many of the early Americans here from Europe. Remember the Mayflower? They just can’t seem to stop fighting. At least they don’t control the laws directly here. Let’s keep it that way. Use your vote wisely when the time comes.
I didn’t hear about it in time to post sooner. It happened last night.
This time, it was outside a Mosque
I read about it over at the Friendly Atheist, run by Hemant Mehta. Hemant was very critical of the demonstration and its organizer. It was not upholding freedom of speech. If that were the purpose, there would be no need to gather outside a mosque where men were praying. A demonstration of this type has just one purpose: to make trouble.
I agree completely. This guy running this is an atheist who sells T-shirts that say “F— Muslims.” He’s the kind of person we don’t want on our side. Stirring up trouble just for the sake of stirring up trouble will not do anybody any good.
The local imam said all the right things. “Everybody has a right to be a bigot. Everybody has a right to be a racist. Everybody has a right to be an idiot,” Imam Shami said. He advised his followers not to engage with the protesters. He said, “They are not here to conduct an intellectual discussion.” The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) advised worshippers to stay home this week to avoid trouble.
Fortunately, things apparently didn’t get violent. Protesters and counter-protesters lined the sides of the street and yelled at each other as policemen stood in the center to keep them apart. Not the best situation, by far. But it could have been a lot worse.
Mike Huckabee says the President of the United States should not obey Supreme Court decisions that violate God’s laws. Mike Huckabee is wrong.
Presidents, judges, Supreme Court justices, and many other office holders (both elected and appointed) swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America before they are permitted to take office. There is no mention of taking orders from God.
There is a reason for this omission.
The Constitution itself makes clear that we may not have any established state religion. Presidents and other holders of government office are welcome to have their own religion, but they have no right to try to impose it on the rest of us. Indeed, if a president were to try to do so, it would surely be grounds for impeachment.
Last April, speaking at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Huckabee made a similar argument, claiming that the Supreme Court could not overturn God on same-sex marriage:
I respect the courts, but the Supreme Court is only that — the supreme of the courts. It is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule God. When it comes to prayer, when it comes to life, and when it comes to the sanctity of marriage, the court cannot change what God has created.
Mike Huckabee believes the United States and its officials should be taking orders from God. Mike Huckabee is wrong. There is no polite way to say it. Mike Huckabee is wrong. And it’s an extremely dangerous mistake for somebody who wants to be President of the United States. Look at Saudia Arabia or Pakistan, if you don’t believe me. They are ruled by men who believe they are taking orders from God.
The fact is, the executive branch can overrule the Congress by vetoing a bill, while the Supreme Court can overrule the Congress and Executive by striking down a law that does not comply with the constitution.
The United States is not–and never has been–one nation under God. Since 1785 we have been one nation under the Constitution of the United States of America.
We don’t need another president who thinks he knows what God wants, especially not one who is willing to break his vows to uphold the Constitution. Our next President must be ready to uphold and defend the Constitution, including its separation of powers. Mike Huckabee has already told us plainly the Constitution is not his top priority.
I must have been the last person in the world to hear about it. I’m usually not a fan of families with 19 kids. Now we all learn that Josh Duggar, one of the 19 and now 26 years old, did something that wasn’t OK almost half his lifetime ago when he was 14 years old.
Josh is quoted as making the following statement:
“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends, I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”
It is reported that he fondled several of his younger sisters and another girl. What prompted his confession to his parents? I don’t know. Had his sisters already reported him? I have no idea. He said he understands that continuing that path would have ruined his life. Does he also understand that he may have damaged some of their lives as well? Again, I don’t know.
I haven’t read a lot about it. I don’t know the details, and I’m not likely to ever know them. As I already said, I’m not a fan. I don’t know whether the situation was handled well or not. I do know that I’m glad I don’t have to answer for everything I did when I was 14. (No, I didn’t do what Josh Duggar did. Furthermore, I’m not going to tell you what I did do. So there!)
I’m definitely not taking up for the man, but I don’t think what he did when he was 14 years old means he’s a pedophile or that he’s likely to be a rapist. I think it means he was a teenage boy with raging hormones and needs he didn’t know how to provide for. It’s a shame he didn’t have help. No I’m not blaming his parents. Their biggest mistake was having 19 kids! And counting!
What I find absolutely asinine is Eric Hovind’s reaction to the revelation. Eric is the son of Kent Hovind, also known as Dr. Dino, who runs the Pensacola theme park and museum called Dinosaur Adventure Land when he’s not in federal prison for refusing to pay his taxes. I understand Eric runs it in his absence.
“If evolution is true, then there is no absolute right and wrong. If evolution is true, Josh should not have admitted his faults over a decade ago because what one evolved bag of molecules does to another bag of molecules just doesn’t really matter. If evolution is true, there is no ultimate Judge who will hold every man, woman, and child responsible for their actions. And if evolution is true, you will not give an account for every idle word you speak.”
Who cares whether right and wrong are absolute or not? Certain things are still right and wrong, because of the effects they have on people. Relative rights and wrongs work for me. We have laws that determine what’s OK and what’s not OK. If something’s against the law, it’s not OK. Such laws prohibit things that harm people. (Of course that’s oversimplified.)
The fact that each of us is an “evolved bag of molecules” makes absolutely no difference. What matters is that we have brains. So we can hurt. We can feel. What happens to us matters, both as individuals and as groups. The fact that we are evolved simply has nothing to do with it, and Eric Hovind should know that.
Hovind is trying to make points where no points exist. He cannot prove evolution is false, because it isn’t; so he tries to make it seem undesirable. It’s a con, and you should be able to see through it. Similar cons have been going on longer than I can remember, and they’re just as phony now as they were then.
As social animals, we grow up learning not only what’s good for ourselves, but also what’s good for each other, and for the whole group. As societies of social animals, we learn as we go along, and we try to pass that knowledge along to our youth. Sometimes we succeed better than other times.
Most of us probably have some basic morality built into our genes. These rudimentary principles must be trained by our family and school and society and restrained by laws. Some people probably have more innate moral tendencies than others. Certainly some get better training at home and in school than others. But the fact is that humans are sentient animals. We not only think, but we feel. We suffer. Basically, whatever we can do to prevent suffering or death is good, and whatever we do that causes suffering or death is bad. (Yes, that’s oversimplified, too.)
Remember always that “what one evolved bag of molecules does to another bag of molecules” matters a lot, if the particular bag of molecules in question has a mind and can feel pain and joy. To think otherwise is just stupid.
Denying children vaccines just one part of the problem
But denying children potentially life-saving vaccines is just one part of the problem; I’d like to eliminate even more exemptions: those now enshrined in many laws permitting religious parents to withhold scientific medical care from their children in favor of faith healing.
Professor Jerry Coyne
A couple of days ago I discussed briefly Dr. Jerry Coyne’s new book Faith vs Fact. Yesterday he published an article in Slate, in which he made the statement above. I very strongly agree with it.
As you can guess from his picture, Coyne is an outspoken man. As a biologist, he is intimately familiar with both health and disease. He promotes vaccines to prevent diseases. He believes American children should be required to have their vaccines before starting to school, with no exception except for medical reasons. Personal philosophy or religion, he says, should not be an excuse for endangering the public health.
Jerry Coyne says it’s time to eliminate religious exemptions from medical care for children
Forty-eight states—all except West Virginia and Mississippi—allow religious exemptions from vaccination. (California would be the third exception if its bill becomes law.) A similar deference to religion applies to all medical care for children. As the National District Attorneys Association reports, 43 states give some kind of criminal or civil immunity to parents who injure their children by withholding medical care on religious grounds.
According to Coyne,
Some states allow religious exemptions from required testing of newborns for metabolic disorders, such as the inability to break down fats or amino acids, that can kill an untreated child but are perfectly treatable if caught early.
To illustrate his point, Dr. Coyne tells of a teenage girl who needed medical help for “fainting spells.” Her father refused to get her to a doctor, so she asked teachers for help. Apparently getting no help from her teachers either, she ran away from home; but she was found and returned to her father. Three days later she died from a ruptured appendix.
Many of the same states also allow exemptions from giving newborns hearing tests, eye drops to prevent blindness from herpes infections, testing children for lead levels in their blood, and even “learning about disease in school.”
In perhaps the most bizarre and potentially dangerous law, public school teachers in California can legally refuse to be tested for tuberculosis on religious grounds.
Christian scientists, Scientologists, faith healers, and little fundamentalist cults scattered all over the place are protected by these laws, while their children sometime die in agony. This is not right, and should not be permitted in any civilized country.
Infants and people who cannot have vaccinations because of medical reasons are put at risk by those who refuse to have them (or let their children have them) because of their superstitions, both religious and otherwise. Coyne discusses these problems at length in his new book.
Vaccinations should be required in all states; and children should be protected from parents who refuse them necessary medical treatment on ANY grounds and let them die or suffer from untreated cancer, diabetes, or other disease.
Parents do not own their children, and parental rights are not infinite. A parent may make his or her own decisions about healthcare, but he or she must not be permitted to make such decisions for a child and let the child suffer or die without effective medical treatment because of the parent’s religion or philosophy. Evening cases where a child himself refuses medical treatment for religious reasons, it must be remembered that a child cannot make mature decisions; and a court should determine whether or not the treatments continued. Religion or other superstitions should not be a factor.
See also Dr. Coyne’s recent article in The Scientist.
Sir Terence David John Pratchett (April 28, 1948 – March 12, 2015), more commonly known as Terry, was an English author of fantasy novels, who sold his first story when he was fifteen. It earned him enough money to buy a second-hand typewriter.
His first novel, a humorous fantasy entitled The Carpet People, appeared in 1971. He worked for many years as a journalist, writing in his spare time and publishing a number of novels. His first Discworld novel, The Color of Magic, came out in 1983. In 1987 he turned to writing full-time, and never looked back. He published a total of 36 books in the Discworld series, of which four were written for children.
Terry Pratchett left his testimony for us that he had never found God and never expected to. Most of those who think they have will never know the difference, since they will die into nothing. No heaven. No hell. No nothingness to experience. Just nothing. There’s no convincing evidence of anything else.
It’s not a pleasant thought for most of us. I want to live forever in a place of perfect health and friendship and joy, with no pain or sorrow or death. It just isn’t realistic. Neither is God.