NOSHA Blogspot - Contemporary resources for atheists and freethinkers in Louisiana
17 February 2013 | 11:49 pm Post a Comment
Whom shall we thank? Standing here at the close of the 19th century -- amid the trophies of thought -- the triumphs of genius -- here under the flag of the Great Republic -- knowing something of the history of man -- here on this day that has been set apart for thanksgiving, I most reverently thank the good men. the good women of the past, I thank the kind fathers, the loving mothers of the savage days. I thank the father who spoke the first gentle word, the mother who first smiled upon her babe. I thank the first true friend. I thank the savages who hunted and fished that they and their babes might live. I thank those who cultivated the ground and changed the forests into farms -- those who built rude homes and watched the faces of their happy children in the glow of fireside flames -- those who domesticated horses, cattle and sheep -- those who invented wheels and looms and taught us to spin and weave -- those who by cultivation changed wild grasses into wheat and corn, changed bitter things to fruit, and worthless weeds to flowers, that sowed within our souls the seeds of art. I thank the poets of the dawn -- the tellers of legends -- the makers of myths -- the singers of joy and grief, of hope and love. I thank the artists who chiseled forms in stone and wrought with light and shade the face of man. I thank the philosophers, the thinkers, who taught us how to use our minds in the great search for truth. I thank the astronomers who explored the heavens, told us the secrets of the stars, the glories of the constellations -- the geologists who found the story of the world in fossil forms, in memoranda kept in ancient rocks, in lines written by waves, by frost and fire -- the anatomists who sought in muscle, nerve and bone for all the mysteries of life -- the chemists who unraveled Nature's work that they might learn her art -- the physicians who have laid the hand of science on the brow of pain, the hand whose magic touch restores -- the surgeons who have defeated Nature's self and forced her to preserve the lives of those she labored to destroy.
I thank the discoverers of chloroform and ether, the two angels who give to their beloved sleep, and wrap the throbbing brain in the soft robes of dreams. I thank the great inventors -- those who gave us movable type and the press, by means of which great thoughts and all discovered facts are made immortal -- the inventors of engines, of the great ships, of the railways, the cables and telegraphs. I thank the great mechanics, the workers in iron and steel, in wood and stone. I thank the inventors and makers of the numberless things of use and luxury.
I thank the industrious men, the loving mothers, the useful women. They are the benefactors of our race.
The inventor of pins did a thousand times more good than all the popes and cardinals, the bishops and priests -- than all the clergymen and parsons, exhorters and theologians that ever lived.
The inventor of matches did more for the comfort and convenience of mankind than all the founders of religions and the makers of all creeds -- than all malicious monks and selfish saints.
I thank the honest men and women who have expressed their sincere thoughts, who have been true to themselves and have preserved the veracity of their souls.
I thank the thinkers of Greece and Rome. Zeno and Epicurus, Cicero and Lucretius. I thank Bruno, the bravest, and Spinoza, the subtlest of men.
I thank Voltaire, whose thought lighted a flame in the brain of man, unlocked the doors of superstition's cells and gave liberty to many millions of his fellow-men. Voltaire -- a name that sheds light. Voltaire -- a star that superstition's darkness cannot quench.
I thank the great poets -- the dramatists. I thank Homer and Aeschylus, and I thank Shakespeare above them all. I thank Burns for the heart-throbs he changed into songs. for his lyrics of flame. I thank Shelley for his Skylark, Keats for his Grecian Urn and Byron for his Prisoner of Chillon. I thank the great novelists. I thank the great sculptors. I thank the unknown man who molded and chiseled the Venus de Milo. I thank the great painters. I thank Rembrandt and Corot. I thank all who have adorned, enriched and ennobled life -- all who have created the great, the noble, the heroic and artistic ideals.
I thank the statesmen who have preserved the rights of man. I thank Paine whose genius sowed the seeds of independence in the hearts of '76. I thank Jefferson whose mighty words for liberty have made the circuit of the globe. I thank the founders, the defenders, the saviors of the Republic. I thank Ericsson, the greatest mechanic of his century, for the monitor. I thank Lincoln for the Proclamation. I thank Grant for his victories and the vast host that fought for the right, -- for the freedom of man. I thank them all -- the living and the dead.
I thank the great scientists -- those who have reached the foundation, the bed-rock -- who have built upon facts -- the great scientists, in whose presence theologians look silly and feel malicious.
The scientists never persecuted, never imprisoned their fellow-men. They forged no chains, built no dungeons, erected no scaffolds -- tore no flesh with red hot pincers -- dislocated no joints on racks, crushed no hones in iron boots -- extinguished no eyes -- tore out no tongues and lighted no fagots. They did not pretend to be inspired -- did not claim to be prophets or saints or to have been born again. They were only intelligent and honest men. They did not appeal to force or fear. They did not regard men as slaves to be ruled by torture, by lash and chain, nor as children to be cheated with illusions, rocked in the cradle of an idiot creed and soothed by a lullaby of lies.
They did not wound -- they healed. They did not kill -- they lengthened life. They did not enslave -- they broke the chains and made men free. They sowed the seeds of knowledge, and many millions have reaped, are reaping, and will reap the harvest: of joy.
I thank Humboldt and Helmholtz and Haeckel and Buchner. I thank Lamarck and Darwin -- Darwin who revolutionized the thought of the intellectual world. I thank Huxley and Spencer. I thank the scientists one and all.
I thank the heroes, the destroyers of prejudice and fear -- the dethroners of savage gods -- the extinguishers of hate's eternal fire -- the heroes, the breakers of chains -- the founders of free states -- the makers of just laws -- the heroes who fought and fell on countless fields -- the heroes whose dungeons became shrines -- the heroes whose blood made scaffolds sacred -- the heroes, the apostles of reason, the disciples of truth, the soldiers of freedom -- the heroes who held high the holy torch and filled the world with light.
With all my heart I thank them all.
1 December 2012 | 8:43 am Post a Comment
For those who are not aware, for several years Sierichs has written a regular column for the Atheists for Human Rights newsletter (edited by Marie Alena Castle). It's called "Christianity In Its Own Words." He focuses on specific issues (marriage and sex, racism, church-state separation friends and foes, laws Christians used to suppress dissent) by mostly quoting from Christian sources with some commentary and context.
In the following, he dissects a Cal Thomas column from earlier this year. The column is self-explanatory. This is his second dissection of a Thomas column, which explains his lead sentence.
I hate to keep picking on Cal Thomas because it’s such a guilty pleasure: It’s too easy and it’s too much fun.
But Thomas wrote a May 2012 column that is more honest than he likely intended. He attacked President Obama for endorsing same-sex marriage as cherry-picking Scripture by referencing the Golden Rule: “It is difficult to be [a Christian] while simultaneously holding a low view of the Bible …” Thomas assailed Obama for ignoring biblical statements about the beginning of human life, fornication, marriage and adultery. He blasts those who disagree about the Bible “to claim that the Bible doesn’t say what it says, in effect calling God a liar. Obama apparently hopes there are sufficient numbers of biblical illiterates” he can fool. Thomas correctly notes that “Liberal theologians have tried to modify, or even change, what is contained in the Bible …”
This cherry-picking has been going on at least as far back as Christian abolitionism. That subgroup of abolitionists routinely claimed that the Bible did not say what it actually says about slavery, at times either retranslating passages to say that “slavery” references were actually to “servants” or claiming that generic Jesus statements about humanity were a repudiation of slavery. Liberal Christians since then have somehow found pacifism, human rights, democracy, feminism, etc., in the Bible.
The problem is that most Christians historically did not see these ideas in the Bible and certainly did not act as if the Bible condemned slavery or endorsed equal rights for women, gays and non-Christians, and representative governments. For example, the Bible speaks only of kings and kingdoms; Jesus is praised as a king, and he prayed to God that “thy kingdom come.” This also was an appeal for the apocalypse to occur soon, in which most of humanity is slaughtered and then tortured eternally after death, while Jesus reigns as a king over his followers, who share in some sort of paradise.
Consider Christianity’s history on the issue of homosexuality. Passages in the scriptures plainly condemn homosexual acts, even mandating execution for people convicted of sodomy. Despite some modern attempts to reinterpret the Bible so as not to condemn homosexuals, Christians historically disagreed.
In the late 7th century, the Visigothic law code banned sodomy: “The doctrine of Orthodox Faith requires Us to place Our censure upon vicious practices, and to restrain those who are addicted to carnal offences. For We counsel well for the benefit of Our race and Our Country, when We take measures to utterly extirpate the crimes of wicked men, and put an end to the evil deeds of vice. For this reason we shall attempt to abolish the horrible crime by which men do not fear to defile men by filthy debauchery, which is as contrary to Divine Precept as it is to chastity.” Castration and other penalties were ordered.
In a study of heresy in Germany, scholar Richard Kieckhefer noted, “Thus, it is not surprising that popular dialect in parts of southern Germany placed heresy and unnatural sexuality on the same level, as perversions of Christian decency: the term ‘Ketzerei’ could mean either ‘heresy’ or ‘sodomy.’ ”
In a history of Italian law under Christianity, scholar Carlo Calisse said that burning was the common penalty for sodomy.
A similar legal penalty led Portugal’s inquisition to burn five men at the stake for sodomy in 1559 in the colony of Goa, India.
England’s Virginia colony decreed, “No man shall commit the horrible, and detestable sins of Sodomy upon pain of death …” The Puritans likewise mandated death for homosexuality. A 1658 New Plymouth colony law: “Capital offences liable to death … Sodomy Rapes Buggery.”
Christian literature was anti-gay. One earthly apocalyptic vision, “Pseudo-Methodius,” saw the 7th-century conquests of the Arabs — who “are not human beings but are sons of desolation and upon desolation their faces are set upon the sword” as agents of God — as punishment for Christians’ sins, which included homosexuality among other sexual acts.
Another, “Wetti’s Vision” in 824, said God was offended most by sodomy. “For not only does the violent contagion of this creeping disease infect the polluted soul of males who lie together, but it is even found in the ruin of many couples. Stirred up in madness by the instigation of devils …”
So naturally, gays were counted among Hell’s more-tortured occupants. The “Monk of Evesham’s Vision” of 1197 found in the lowest level of Hell that, “The most loathsome and severe of all remains still to be told, because all who were punished there had been guilty of a wickedness in life that is unmentionable by a Christian, or even by a heathen or pagan. Those therefore were continually attacked by huge fiery monsters, horrible beyond description. Despite their opposition, [the monsters] committed on [homosexuals] the same damnable crimes that they had been guilty of on earth.”
Dante put gays on the seventh level of Hell, where they supposedly must walk endlessly on a burning plain under a constant rain of fiery drops.
For many decades, the U.S. treated gays as criminals. The Christian-dominated government considered them security risks and so barred them from many government jobs unless they hid their sexual orientation. The psychiatric profession even classified homosexuality as something like a mental illness down into the 1970s, not on the basis of any scientific evidence but simply because of traditional, that is, Christian, bigotry.
Opposition to equal rights for gays, including the right to get married, has come almost entirely from Christians, led generally by clergy. Arguments, even when put into a somewhat-secular form, invariably draw upon Christian beliefs, notably that marriage was instituted directly by the Christian god. Despite changing modern views, we have had the following incidents very recently:
In December 2011, Catholic Cardinal Francis George compared advocates of equal rights for gays to the Christian Ku Klux Klan, which used terrorism and murder to deny blacks and sometimes Jews their equal rights.
In a May 6, 2012, sermon, Ron Baity, of Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., called for the prosecution of gays, “For 300 years, we had laws that would prosecute that lifestyle. We’ve gone down the wrong path.”
In a May 10, 2012, Facebook posting, Miss. state Rep. Andy Gipson quoted the Bible in condemning homosexuality as a sin and cited Lev. 20:13 about executing homosexuals.
In a May 13, 2012, sermon, preacher Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C., called for all gays to be quarantined within an electric fence and allowed to die out because “They can’t reproduce.”
These statements highlight just how religiously bigoted was the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1986 5-4 ruling, under Chief Justice Warren Burger, in Bowers vs. Hardwick that sodomy laws were constitutional. Burger’s concurring opinion with the majority cited Roman death-penalty decrees for sodomy — he specifically called homosexual sodomy a “crime under Roman law” — but his citations were not to pagan laws but to laws by Theodosius II and Justinian, both Christian emperors, and declared, “Condemnation of those practices is firmly rooted in Judeao-Christian moral and ethical standards.” The U.S. Constitution explicitly rejected biblical and Christian beliefs, so Burger was openly incorporating Christian beliefs into secular U.S. laws. Burger also lied about history to justify a subterfuge to insert a Christian prejudice into American law; pagan Romans, like many other pagan peoples, had no prohibition on homosexuality (Roman culture did have taboos on aspects of sexuality, but not on homosexuality in general; and other, ancient, pagan cultures either tolerated homosexuality or even sometimes encouraged it, such as in Sparta or Thebes.)
When the court reversed its “Bowers” injustice by a 6-3 ruling June 26, 2003, in Lawrence vs. Texas that people’s sex lives are private and cannot be controlled by the government, the three justices (Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas) who voted to uphold Texas’ sodomy law were all conservative Christians noted for their hostility to the godless Bill of Rights and to the right of non-Christians, particularly nontheists, not to have religion forced on them.
Then there’s slavery, for which Christians found ample support in the Bible. The Jewish scriptures contained numerous pro-slavery passages and specifically or by implication allowed the rape of slave women, such as the story of Abraham and Hagar, Gen. 16; Ex. 21:4-9; Lev. 19:20; Num. 31:17-18; Deut. 20:14; and Deut. 21:10-14. The Jewish scriptures even provided laws to regulate slavery, such as Ex. 21:1-11; Lev. 25:39-55; and Deut. 15:12-18. Two versions of the Tenth Commandment explicitly condone slavery — Ex. 20:17 and Deut. 5:21 — by forbidding the coveting of a neighbor’s male and female slaves (some translations use “servant” instead, but the texts implied property, i.e., slaves).
Passages cited from the Christian scriptures included: Mt. 18:23-35, 24:45-51; Lk. 12:42-47; Rom. 13:2; 1 Cor. 7:20-22; 2 Cor. 11:20; Gal. 4:30; Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-25, 4:1; 1 Tim. 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10; 1 Peter 2:18-20. Whether all these passages actually supported slavery was open to debate — 19th-century abolitionists disputed the meaning or interpretation of many of them — but slavery defenders held to them.
Scholar A.J. Mattill Jr. has noted other passages that condoned slavery including Mt. 6:24, 10:24, 20:26-28; Mk. 10:43-45; Lk. 7:1-10, 15:22, 16:13, 17:7-10, 19:12-27, 22:50-51; and Jn. 18:10. Perhaps most important of all, as slavery defenders liked to point out, Jesus is never quoted as condemning slavery or ordering his followers to free slaves, while Paul implicitly condoned slavery in giving slaves advice, including obedience to their owners, while never denouncing slavery itself.
Christians certainly understood the Bible to support slavery. A few examples:
In 511, on the request of King Clovis of the Franks, bishops met in Orléans and issued decrees on the laws. One law said a slave who fled to a church could be forced to return to his owner if his safety were guaranteed; the owner would be excommunicated for violating his oath; the owner could seize a slave who refused to leave the church after his safety was promised.
Charlemagne issued laws in “The Capitulare Paderbrunnense” in 785 that taxed people to support churches and “for every 120 men among them, be they noble or free or ‘lidi,’ they are to give a male and a female slave to the church.”
The laws of King Wihtred of Kent, England, (695) stated:
· If a slave sacrifices to devils, he is to pay six shillings compensation or be flogged.English courts ruled in 1677 in two suits, both styled Butts vs. Penny, that “negroes were infidels, and the subjects of an infidel prince, and are usually bought and sold in America as merchandise … negroes being usually bought and sold among merchants, as merchandise, and also being infidels, there might be a property in them sufficient to maintain trover …” and in 1694 (Gelly/Gilly vs Cleve) that “trover will lie for a negro boy, for they are heathens, and therefore a man may have property in them, and that the court without averment made, will take notice that they are heathens.”
· If anyone gives meat to his household in time of fasting, he is to redeem both freeman and slave with ‘healsfang.’
· If a slave eat it of his own accord (he is to pay) six shillings or be flogged.
To put these rulings in historical context, the word “slave” comes from Slav because, during centuries of anti-pagan crusading in northern Europe, Christians sold captive pagan Slavs into forced labor. So what Christians did to Africans was no different from what they did to countless millions of European pagans.
Which is why it should be no surprise that most of the hundreds of defenses of slavery written in the U.S. were composed by nearly 300 clergymen, nor that during the Civil War, many people blamed churches for being the leaders of the secession movement, specifically to defend slavery.
12 November 2012 | 12:49 pm Post a Comment
If you're not up on Louisiana's new voucher system, let me start by filling in a few details. The voucher program is supposed to expand parental choice as to which schools their kids can go to. A parent who wants to send his or her child to a private school can get a voucher for a fixed amount from the state. The parent can give the voucher to the school in payment or partial payment for tuition, and the school can redeem the voucher for cash from the state. While schools have to be approved to participate in the program, the requirements and process for approval remain poorly defined. It is clear, however, that public funds are now going to private schools, some of the religious. (Please note: there isn't an actual paper voucher used by parents.)
I'm interested in this issue because I was simply flabbergasted by what I saw in the textbooks some of the religious schools use. I suspect most people imagine, as I did, that religious schools used the same books as secular schools to teach math, science, or history, adding separate courses on religion to the secular curriculum. That is the case with some religious schools, but certainly not all. Some are choosing to use textbooks that insert religious dogma into all subjects. Their science books have good science in them, but they also have bad science in them, and some material that isn't science at all, but pure religious dogma.
This morning (August 14th), I managed to attend a meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), which was at least partially about that approval process. I was the only member of the public to speak on this agenda item. I pointed out that some schools were subordinating their entire curriculum to religious objectives, using textbooks that insert dogma into non-religious subjects such as science and social studies. Far from "teaching the controversy," or presenting both sides of the Creation-Evolution debate, some textbooks teach only a straw-man version of Evolution that is easily undermined. Some books go so far as to say that belief in Evolution is what Satan wants, that science can not produce truth, or that any belief that contradicts the Bible must be wrong. I emphasized that these claims are not being made in the religion curriculum, but are embedded in books that are supposed to be about science.
I specifically asked that all private schools applying to participate in the voucher program be required to file documents specifying exactly which textbooks are used for which subjects and grades. I also asked that these documents be posted to BESE's website so taxpayers and parents can see what their tax dollars are underwriting and see what educational content their children are being subjected to. I also asked BESE to vet the identified textbooks, developing a list of books that would disqualify a school from the voucher program, if used outside of a course on religion. I emphasized that none of these proposals would restrict in any way what a private school teaches or which textbooks they use. These proposals would only restrict how tax dollars are spent.
I could not read the reaction of the Board members, which was mostly polite, but silent. I suspect that most were unaware of the details of the content of some of these textbooks. Only one Board member asked me a question, which allowed me to provide some examples of how these books teach a straw-man version of Evolution in place of actual scientific theory. I was able to meet with him briefly to share copies of pages from some of the texts. While I hope to be able to follow up with him, it is far from certain that any action will be taken.
I suspect that public funding for such mis-education is not gong to go away by itself. Taxpayers are going to have make noise about it. We need to educate both BESE and the public about poor quality of content in some private, religious schools. Above all, BESE needs to hear from more taxpayers who oppose this abuse of public funds.
14 August 2012 | 7:12 pm Post a Comment
So I decided that since I missed out on the Reason Rally in March, it would benefit me to make the effort to attend an event that would address issues that are near and dear to my heart: feminism. And secularism. And the meshing of both.
The first session was a panel moderated by well-known author Susan Jacoby titled “The Intersection of Non-theism and Feminism.” The speakers included Ophelia Benson, Sikivu Hutchinson (who will be a speaker at AHA in
“Because women are dumber-er.” That was the typical comment or variation of a theme that some men offered. Being religious is known as a common trait and characteristic of females world-wide across all socioeconomic levels. Education is not as much of a factor either. Black women with better education than black men are still more religious on average. It is heartening that younger women and better educated women are more than likely to be less religious, but as a whole, they aren’t as involved in atheism as a movement. It isn’t an easy sale to them.
“Dawkins is not the pope, Sam Harris is not a cardinal and Christopher Hitchens is not, forgive me, the Holy Ghost. And Susan Jacoby is not a nun,” she quoted to uproarious laughter.
She made a very important point that philosophy and science were not hospitable academic fields for women prior in the 1980s which was when and from where the leaders in the secular humanist movement developed, so it isn’t hard to see why women didn’t gravitate towards it as a group. They simply weren’t involved in the same numbers.
Oddly if men of the late 20th century were not interested the history of civil rights for women, Robert Ingersoll, the 19th century Golden Age freethinker, resembled more the feminists of the 1970s. Jacoby said he believed that it was a lack of opportunity for education that held women back and that the right to vote was a big “salvation” in his eyes. And it should be noted that women have always been part of the secular movement over the past two hundred year, but were never given as much public credit.
However, she has found that men as a group tend to not see this as a primary interest for them and the idea of the “smart-ass nerd guy” prevails. She would like to see more men become in involved in education issues and the civil rights of women which would lead to growth in numbers overall.
27 May 2012 | 11:36 am Post a Comment
$179 = Full Registration Only (access to all breakout sessions, no meals)
$60 = Day Pass (access to all breakout sessions for one day, no meals)
$20 = Single Session Pass, Award Ceremony Pass (attendance at one session or one award ceremony, no meals)
$65 = Friday Night Banquet
$45 = Saturday Luncheon
$65 = Saturday Night Banquet
These rates are not available online. You must make your payment by phone at 1-800-837-3792. If you are a student, you can find out more here. You may register for only $25 if you produce a valid/current student ID.
21 May 2012 | 7:19 pm Post a Comment
Various secular organizations tried to send Jessica a spray of flowers to celebrate her legal victory and found that several of the florists refused to comply with their order, saying because they didn't agree with the teenager's efforts, they weren't going to accept the business.
While I don't want to rehash the entire ordeal, I did want to share a letter from the florist who eventually did fill the orders, Glimpse of Gaia. The Freedom From Religion Foundation profiled this in the January/February 2012 issue of Freethought Today. This is the response to one of the few negative emails he received and it touched on some very important principles. Sean deserves his own big bouquet of flowers.
Feel free to liberally apply this reasoning whenever possible!
20 April 2012 | 7:45 pm Post a Comment