Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, June 29, 2012

Atheists still in the cellar, but climbing

"The good news for nonbelievers is that, for the first time ever, more than half the American population would vote for a qualified, open atheist for president.  A recent Gallup poll shows that 54 percent of Americans would not consider a candidate’s atheism to be a disqualification for holding the nation's highest office...

The bad news, however, is that atheists still rank lowest among the groups listed. Muslims (58 percent), gays and lesbians (68 percent) and Mormons (80 percent) all ranked higher. While no fair and rational observer would suggest that membership in any of those groups should disqualify a candidate for office, to secular activists it is nevertheless troubling that nonbelievers still occupy the cellar of American public opinion."

Atheist Acceptability on the Rise in America | Psychology Today

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Gospel According to Disney

I've been ragging on Disney, psyching myself for the impending family visit with Team Rodent I've not been able to extricate myself from. But on the other hand, there's this to consider:
...in the more than thirty-five animated features Disney has released since 1937, there is scarcely a mention of God as conceived in the Christian and Jewish faiths shared by most people in the Western world and many beyond.
It may be a commercial decision, to embrace the godless form of magic, but wouldn't you rather wish on a star than suborn your soul to servility?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Black atheists break one more set of chains

An Agnostic in Wheaton issues a call for courage and solidarity.

"Religion is so very deeply engrained in the black culture that it can be very difficult for young people to take the path of rationality and independence. With internet communities such as Facebook and YouTube there is no reason for any black atheist to feel isolated. Come on out, be proud and be heard. Logic has no color..."

Quotes by African American free thinkers:
"As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion." – Butterfly McQueen“A black Christian is like a black person with no memory.” – Chris Rock“Salvation for a race, nation or class must come from within.” - A. Phillip Randolph“Gods always behave like the people who make them.” - Zora Neale Hurston“being in the pulpit, was like being in the theatre; I was behind the scenes and knew how the illusion worked.” – James A. Baldwin“It is very nearly impossible... to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.” – James A. Baldwin“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson“We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson“The more I learn about the universe, the less convinced I am that there's any sort of benevolent force that has anything to do with it, at all.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
ContinuesBlack atheists break one more set of chains | An Agnostic in Wheaton

And don't forget the great Hubert Harrison, the "Black Socrates":
“Show me a population that is deeply religious, and I will show you a servile population, content with whips and chains, contumely and the gibbet, content to eat the bread of sorrow and drink the waters of affliction. The present condition of the Negroes of America is a touching bit of testimony to the truth of this assertion. Here in America the spirit of the Negro has been transformed by three centuries of subjection, physical and mental, so that they have even glorified the fact of subjection and subservience.” 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bald Eagle

This Sunday was the day to eat Jesus
And drink His blood—transubstantiation of sorts or
“Holy Mystery” as the Methodists called it—but secretly
I knew it was just grape-flavored juice and tasteless wafers,
Regardless of how it was interpreted.

The old folk
Took turns in groups
Kneeling at the altar as the church organ bellowed
Amazing Grace while the pastor solemnly bestowed
The “flesh and blood” of their Savior. I quickly scanned some
Of the worshiper’s tightly closed
Eyes looking for a gleam—
Even a glimpse or contemptuous gaze—
Or any indication that someone else noticed
The absurdity of this charade.
Unfortunately, inquiry revealed that I was the lone
Youth faking my piety—destined for Hell.

The murmurs and chants
Echoed through the distant background of my distracted
Consciousness (daydreams, if you will), which never failed to save me
From the agony of organized delusion.
My avidity transported me to the barren flats at the base
Of Bald Eagle—the mountainous hill of dirt left forsaken
to gaze upon the completed construction Interstate 64.

At this point in the service,
I was two prayers, one chant,
A parting handshake with the preacher,
And a 10-minute ride home with my Grandmother
From giving every pop
Bottle and can along Barrett’s Creek
Hell with my grandfather’s 22-caliber rifle.

As I walked the cool banks of Barrett’s Creek,
Ascending toward that forsaken hill,
The reality of Paradise and the Mystery of Adventure
Crushed beneath
My feet on that well-worn path. I could still hear
The echoes of church-bells ringing
Off in the distance behind me;
I never looked back.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cold Snakes

Reverend Jim Casey reached confidently into the yellow pine box and pulled out a two-feet long timber rattler and held it up for all the congregation to witness. The serpent— seemingly undisturbed by the apprehension—coiled around the Pentecostal preacher’s hand as a song of praise echoed down that sleepy hollow in the foothills of West Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains. As his flock spoke in tongues, sang hymns, laid hands on the sick, and wept and moaned for the lost and the dead, Reverend Casey paraded around the church shouting praise and demonstrating his faith to their Lord and Savior—serpent in hand.

 This was a typical Sunday morning worship service but that day Reverend Casey was asking the congregation to pray for his only son, Little Jimmy. Reverend Casey said Little Jimmy was accident-prone and, once again, had fallen out of the family barn loft on Friday. Little Jimmy, sitting on the front row with two black eyes, several cuts and bruises on his face and his arm in a sling, bowed his head as the Reverend asked the Lord to deliver his son from the Devil’s hands. “My boy narrowly escaped many accidents in the last few years…the Devil is trying to take my boy,” exclaimed the Reverend as he waved the serpent upon high. “Please, Lord, deliver him from evil.”

Ever since Little Jimmy was six years old, a considerable portion of his weekly chores involved helping father prepare for each Sunday's service. Almost every Saturday afternoon, Little Jimmy would walk two miles to Pucker’s Grocery and buy three ten-pound bags of ice and carry them home on his wagon. One bag was for Mrs. Casey’s fresh lemonade that she made for the congregation’s enjoyment after the service. A cold glass of lemonade seemed to compensate for the church’s lack of air conditioning. The other two bags of ice were for the snakes.

 Any snake handler still walking about knows that a snake exposed to cold temperatures will go into a state of inactivity. The last thing a Pentecostal snake-handler wants is an active snake. It was Little Jimmy’s job to make sure the snakes were as inactive as possible for his father’s service on Sunday morning. The Reverend kept the snakes in a pine box in his barn in the summertime and in the spare bedroom of their home during the winter. Little Jimmy would feed the snakes barn rats every Tuesday, then every Saturday evening he would use a long pole with a hook on the end to place the snakes in the old whisky barrel that was half filled with the remaining two bags of ice. In the winter months, placing the snakes on the back porch for a few hours during the night—depending on the temperature—produced the same effect. But spring, summer and fall required a mile long trip to Pucker’s to buy ice. In any event, by Sunday morning the snakes were cold as stones and ready to prove the unshakable faith of Appalachian church leaders. This slight-of-hand was unbeknownst to the congregation.

This Sunday morning was no different from any other service except for one thing: the night before, Little Jimmy had taken the two bags of ice reserved for the rattlesnakes and tossed it down the embankment behind the chicken coop while no one watched. The whisky barrel sat empty as he left the snakes coiled up in their pine box, bathing in the Appalachian heat. That Sunday morning, Little Jimmy loaded the timber rattlers into the family station wagon as usual, careful not to strain his injured arm or soil his pressed white dress shirt.

Ten minutes into the service, the boiling Pentecostal fervor began to grow more intense—weeping, wailing and speaking in tongues—as they laid hands on Little Jimmy to drive out the demons that gripped the youngster's soul. “The Lord will deliver my boy from evil,” shouted the Reverend as he laid down his Bible and reached into the pine box to retrieve yet another serpent to prove his faith in the Lord’s ability to drive the Devil from his son. Some worshipers were shaking about wildly on the church floor in epileptic-like seizures as others shouted in tongues, crying uncontrollably and jumping pews. The six women who kept their hands firmly on Little Jimmy’s cut and bruised head began to sing Amazing Grace in perfect unison. Reverend Jim Casey, in the full charisma of Pentecostal commitment, reached into the box and began to raise a second snake above his head for the congregation and the Lord to witness. But fate and faith crossed paths. As the Reverend raised the second poisonous snake with his left hand, the serpent struck and hit him on the left side of his face, piercing the Reverend’s left eye and cheek with its fangs. The Reverend’s screams of agony blended perfectly with the fever pitch of the Pentecostal service and went completely unnoticed until he fell headfirst into the front pew—emitting an eerie cracking sound as his forehead gave way to the hardwood pew. The timber rattler coiled around the Reverend’s neck as the other serpent bit deep into his right thigh as his upper-body slid off the pew onto the tail of the other snake. Screams and mayhem echoed down that sleepy hollow while Little Jimmy just stared up at the lone stained-glass window like he had so many Sundays before. The Pentecostal church buried their pastor three days later. The minister presiding over the funeral said Jimmy Casey was a man of faith.

Little Jimmy’s mother raised him as a single parent. He grew up and developed into a fine young man but that summer’s Sunday was Little Jimmy’s last day in church. Miraculously, in light of the demonic possession that caused his many accidents, he never as much as slipped on a shoelace after his father’s death. Little Jimmy went on to attend college and became a lawyer with a successful practice in Lexington, Kentucky before eventually moving back to his hometown to take care of his aging mother. The town folk would always ask Little Jimmy—they still called him by that name—why he never came to church anymore. Little Jimmy never said much more than he was too busy with work or his mother wasn’t feeling well, but the town folk always reminded him how he was always so accident prone until that day his father begged the Lord to deliver him from the Devil’s hands.

“You should come to church…the power of God is real,” they would say, “The Good Lord saved your life.”

“Yes he did,” Little Jimmy would say as he walked away, “Yes he did.”

The cause of all problems

Jesus and Mo:

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Namaste, PZ

I stopped following PZ Myers (@pzmyers) on Twitter about a month ago. I just noticed how much I've enjoyed not missing him, and wonder if others wouldn't benefit similarly from shutting off that particular faucet of vulgar, constantly-streaming antipathy for pretty much everyone not in lock-stop with the masher from Minnesota.

The "Why I Am An Atheist" series on his site did admittedly provid a useful template in our "Atheism & Philosophy" course at MTSU. (Most contributors, like just about all of my students, are a lot nicer than their host.)...

Continues: Delight Springs: Why I stopped following PZed Myers

Saturday, June 16, 2012

God damn it, you’ve got to be kind

Dale McGowan's last blogathon post, inspired by Bertrand Russell and  Kurt Vonnegut (that's his imperative instruction to "babies" in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater), merits special attention on Fathers' Day.

"Nonreligious folks are not unkind. Many are the gentlest and kindest people I know. But as a movement, we too seldom recognize the importance of talking once in a while about human emotional needs — until those moments when we are feeling “the opposite of triumphant” and find ourselves, as individuals, hoping for a kind word or thought or deed.

As a parent, I find myself more upset by the unkindnesses my children do — especially to each other — than by any fuzziness of thought. And I find it harder to forgive my own lapses in the former than in the latter."
The Meming of Life Parenting Beyond Belief on secular parenting and other natural wonders

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Great Controversy!!

Did anyone else receive this book in the mail recently? It's from a NPO in Maryland. Originally written by E.G. White in 1888 (yes, that old), The Great Controversy was edited by White in 1911 and then re-released over the following 100+ years all over the world. It speaks specifically of end-times and the battle between good and evil, God and Satan. On the back it says that it "transcends culture, nationality, and religious affiliations." I have a serious problem with this, being that the entire book quotes the King James Bible--a specifically Christian text. I'm also really disturbed by the insert advertisement in the center of the book. It shows an opportunity to receive FREE BIBLE STUDY GUIDES from a company calling itself "Amazing Facts." I'm truly concerned by the insert's claims to answer "with laser-light accuracy" (whatever that means) questions about what happens after death, who is truly deceiving us, what freedoms are taken from us and by who. It goes on and on about how it has this "universal" message for "every person." It's based specifically off of "the infallible Word of God" and it's complete "truth."

I have no problem with people believing whatever they want...but when you sit there and write this book, quoting a Christian-only source, and then you claim that it's the only one, true way, you're offending far more than just atheists. This is an obnoxious reminder that "the one, true God" has his eye on us, and that historical "evidence" points to his existence. It uses practically no historically accurate information. I need to stop or I'll start ranting about insignificant things...

My point is...I received this Christian-only book IN THE MAIL from an organization that I have literally no affiliation with. I did not request this book whatsoever. They're soliciting a belief structure that "must be read by all persons" and requires us to believe in the truth of their Bible. It's a sort of harassment for anyone who isn't a part of the Christian community...even other religious affiliations. Why is it that I don't receive scientific books in the mail? I would rather read about current developments in genetics or neuroscience etc etc. Why can't we receive a book that's like a catalog for religions? Here's some Islam! This month's edition: Buddhism. We don't get books like this for free because no one is gaining anything from it...other than knowledge....and why would we want that?

Freethinkers in the south, unite!

"SAUCE FOR ALL stands for “Southern Atheists United for Candid Expression, Freethought, Openmindedness, Reason, and Living Life.” It was founded in 2011 in Starkville, Mississippi by a pair of students at MSU, with support of several groups around that state. It has since grown to 17 groups in Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas, and continues to grow..."

Blogs / Podcasts / Etc.

Sauce For All – About

Doubting millennials double

The percentage of Millennials reporting doubts about the existence of God has doubled in five years, from 15% in 2007 to 31% today. No other generation saw a change larger than 2%...

"Our generation is causing a fundamental shift in how society will see religion,” said Jesse Galef, the Secular Student Alliance Communications Director. “The internet has exposed young people to different worldviews, and they’re carrying their newfound skepticism onto campus to organize.”

Millennials’ Religious Doubts Double, Causing Campus Atheism Boom - Butterflies and Wheels

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hello, everybody

Apologies for my late arrival to the party, but my summer has been unusually busy.  I can't promise that I will be as prolific as I have been in the past with regards to posting and commenting, but I will promise to put God-free in Tennessee in my regular rotation of blog reading.  I look forward to reconnecting with all of you.


Bill Maher's new Religulous is very much worth the watch for any doubter or believer. It's more on the jesting side of atheism--poking fun at the religious, but it's sincere and Bill seems to be fully concerned for the humans around him. He preaches doubt, and that is exactly what we all need to preach.

The end of the film is a sort of call to arms for all atheists and sort-of believers still on the fence. He begs us to let go of the dogma in order to stop the self-destruction of mankind. This is a point that I hope we can all stress when we're in a conversation with a believer. Regardless of the existence of an afterlife or omnipotent being, we should be very wary of what's going on in the world around us. Just because many religious people are peaceful does not mean that many aren't looking forward to the "end times." This obsession with an apocalyptic future leaves many unmotivated to preserve life on Earth. That's something I cannot stand idly by and wave at.

I suggest that all of us Godless Tennesseans not argue incessantly with the religious, but that we try to inspire all of those around us to care just a little more about others and the future of the world as is. You can believe whatever you want about life after death, but it would be a lot easier for all of us if we were a bit more concerned about life before death...and not just our own lives, but the lives of our fellow men and women.

Either way...Hi everybody!! Hope all of your summers are going well!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"What kind of church raises such frightened followers?"

"...the church to which they said they belonged believed that the prayers of any nonChristian were pleas to the Devil, and that even to sit through one quietly would put their souls at risk.

I have no problem with anyone running to save his soul, but from words? From another person’s heartfelt prayer of gratitude? I began my interfaith studies in my junior year of high school, and I’ve sat through lots of prayers to lots of Gods in decades since, and I never felt any fear for my soul. That may be because I don’t believe I have one (having a personal soul negates my belief that we are all manifestations of the One Soul, the One Self, Brahman, God, etc.), but still, what kind of church raises such frightened followers?"

Beyond Religion with Rabbi Rami

The lazy atheist

The blogathon continues...
"It should be easy to be an atheist, since all you have to do is not believe in God. But here’s the thing — it’s really hard.
The not-believing isn’t the problem. There are a thousand good reasons for deciding that God was created by humans, not the other way around. But like not breathing or not stopping at a red light, the problem isn’t the act itself — it’s what happens next.
Tell your mother-in-law or boss or boyfriend that you don’t believe in God and suddenly everything becomes complicated..." 
Dale McGowan, The Meming of Life » 2. The lazy atheist Parenting Beyond Belief on secular parenting and other natural wonders

Meming of Life supports SSA

Dale McGowan: "Here’s the first of 33 consecutive posts in 16 hours — about the same number I’ve done in the past six months. I do this NOT because I think I have 33 things to say, but because Jen McCreight told me to. I am nothing if not obedient.

I also do it to support the Secular Student Alliance, the World’s Bitchinest Freethought Organization™ and beneficiary of this Blogathon, to which you must donateifyoureachtheendofthissentence. HA! Now go straight to the sidebar and chip in for the future you say you want..."

The Meming of Life » 1. Naked Parenting Beyond Belief on secular parenting and other natural wonders

Support the Secular Student Alliance

"SSA Week will be ten days devoted to supporting secular student activism. Writers across the country will be fundraising for the secular students, highlighting their accomplishments and bringing attention to their need for your help...What can you do?  Well, you can donate to the SSA.  You could also...

Secular Student Alliance | organizing atheist, agnostic, humanist, and skeptic students

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Welcome Jamie & Dean!

Welcome to new "God-free in Tennessee" contributor Jamie Sutton! He's neither "in Tennessee" this summer,  nor entirely "God-free" by my definition; but he brings a uniquely valuable perspective to this forum. (See his comment on "An Atheist Defends Liberal Religion" below). 

On the question of tolerance and pluralism, Jamie and I do find solid common ground. But I also have a degree of tolerance, even measured approval, for the more hard-core uncompromising atheists among us as well... so long as they're careful to emphasize what's positive and good about non-theism, not just what they reject in theism.

Dean Hall has also taken the plunge, though he warns that holding his "stridency" in check will be a challenge. Good, you'll keep us all on our toes. Dean is the sweetest-natured strident atheist you'd ever want to meet.

More new contributors are in the wings, I think. Andrew, David, Steven, Brian, Rachel, Kat, y'all... Come on in, the water's fine!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Freethinkers of the world, unite...

"Would you like to start or help start a secular student group on your campus? Just follow the steps below to request a free Group Starting Packet"

Request a Group Starting Packet | Secular Student Alliance

Snake-handling in Tennessee

The new Religious Studies specialist our department just hired is interested in studying this phenomenon. She's coming to the right state.
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
While other churches ignore this passage or treat it metaphorically, serpent handlers follow it literally. Their intense faith demands sinless living and rewards them with spiritual ecstasy — the chance to hold life and death in their hands."
Snake-handling believers find joy in test of faith | The Tennessean | tennessean.com

Friday, June 1, 2012

The delusion continues

"According to a Gallup poll released today, 46% of Americans believe in Creationism, 32% of Americans believe in god-guided evolution, and 15% of Americans are actually right... We are a country full of deluded people…" Gallup Poll: 46% of Americans Are Creationists