Tags: atheism

goddess and god

Wiccan to enter fray in Marion, Christianity Was Not Responsible for American Democracy

Wiccan to enter fray in Marion
by Becky Malkovich, The Southern, thesouthern.com, August 18, 2010
"MARION - Rob Sherman and a local Wiccan will conduct a news conference today to set forth their response to a move not yet made by the Marion City Council.

While the council has not made a decision on whether to place a Ten Commandments monument on the city square as requested by a resident, Sherman has been on the offensive since the controversial issue came to light.

The atheist, who recently filed a lawsuit seeking the return of state grant money awarded for the restoration of Bald Knob Cross, made his thoughts on the proposal clear at a standing-room-only meeting of the council Monday when he advised commissioners a legal battle would be likely if the monument went up on public property.

Since Sherman lives in northern Illinois, he would not have standing in a lawsuit against the city but he said any Marion resident who felt as he did could sue the city.

"I cannot sue. Unlike with Bald Knob, which received state money, I don't have standing. That's why I am introducing a Marion resident who is going to want equal time if the Ten Commandments are placed on Tower Square," he said.

Sherman didn't say that the resident, who he described as a "Wiccan," would be a party to a suit, but did say if the monument was placed on the square, the Wiccan could request similar public property on which to express the perspective of Wicca, a neopagan religion, and thus turn the square into a "religious battlefield."
Marion Mayor Bob Butler said he did not wish to engage in a running debate with Sherman regarding a decision that hasn't even been made.

"He can stir as much as he wants. He, I think, is making some anticipatory gestures that may not be warranted," Butler said.

Public sentiment appears to be overwhelmingly in favor of placing the Ten Commandments on the square, Butler said.

"It's really amazed me. I've had only two people state their opposition," he said. "Given the state of the country and the fact that the president says this is not a Christian nation, maybe it's time people begin to exert themselves and stand up and be counted."

Who is Rob Sherman, traveling atheist?
by Adam Testa, The Southern, thesouthern.com, August 22, 2010
"Since making his foray into the affairs of Southern Illinois in May, atheist Rob Sherman of Buffalo Grove has captured the public's attention - not always favorably - and challenged community leaders on his crusade to advocate the separation of church and state.

But Sherman's self-imposed mission began long before he visited the region to challenge the constitu-tionality of a $20,000 state grant to Bald Knob Cross and argued against a proposal to install a Ten Commandments monument in Marion's Tower Square.

Sherman, 57, said his stance as an atheist took full form at age 9, when a teacher failed to answer a classmate's question on what evidence proves God's existence."
The Political Challenge of Religious Diversity in America
Annuit Coeptis (blog) 22nd August 2010
"If Christianity does not predominate, the American experiment in individual liberty and self-governance will disappear. Again: without Christ, there is no American democracy, because the notion of personhood that Western democracy upholds is rooted in Western Christianity. Take out Western Christianity and you take out the foundations of, and the rationale for American democracy. It really is that simple. And that is unpalatable to so many."

Christianity Was Not Responsible for American Democracy
by Dr. Richard Carrier
Solon was born, we believe, around 638 B.C., and lived until approximately 558, but the date in his life of greatest importance to us is the year he was elected to create a constitution for Athens, 594 B.C. How important is this man? Let’s examine what we owe to him, in comparison with the legendary author (or at least, in legend, the transmitter) of the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments. Solon is the founder of Western democracy and the first man in history to articulate ideas of equal rights for all citizens, and though he did not go nearly as far in the latter as we have come today, Moses can claim no connection to either. Solon was the first man in Western history to publicly record an actual civil constitution in writing. No one in Hebrew history did anything of the kind, least of all Moses. The very idea of a constitutional government derives from Solon. Solon advocated not only the right but even the duty of every citizen to bear arms in the defense of the state—to him we owe the 2nd Amendment. Nothing about that is to be found in the Ten Commandments of Moses. Solon set up laws defending the principles and importance of private property, state encouragement of economic trades and crafts, and a strong middle class—the ideals which lie at the heart of American prosperity (and are codified in the Constitution itself: Article 1, section 8, paragraphs (c) through (h), and the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Amendments), yet which cannot be credited at all to Moses.
Let us now turn to the Ten Commandments of Solon (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 1.60), which run as follows:

1. Trust good character more than promises.
2. Do not speak falsely.
3. Do good things.
4. Do not be hasty in making friends, but do not abandon them once made.
5. Learn to obey before you command.
6. When giving advice, do not recommend what is most pleasing, but what is most useful.
7. Make reason your supreme commander.
8. Do not associate with people who do bad things.
9. Honor the gods.
10. Have regard for your parents.

Quotes from the Founding Fathers
Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Christianity neither is, nor ever was apart of the common law." Feb. 10, 1814
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Prosthelytizing, Prejudice, Philosophy, and Public Good

Easter: Is spreading 'The Word' getting too personal?
By Jen Wielgus, phillyBurbs.com (blog) April 3, 20101
"Would you invite a pagan like me to tag along with you on Sunday morning? Or would that be too weird, too forward, too personal? What if I was one of your close friends, and I intended to just sleep in and gorge on hard-boiled eggs? Would you still feel strange asking me to share your pew?
I think this is just a sign of the times. Attitudes on religion are much more liberal, and people feel free to define faith in their own way. Most normal people would feel embarrassed talking about their faith in a social setting, much less trying to coax their acquaintances to believe or worship as they do. It would be seen as too personal, an invasion of privacy. Taboo. "

Neighbours got it all wrong
by Richard Erasmus, Chilliwack Times, ‎Apr 2, 2010‎
"I wrote this letter because of someone I know of who is being pushed out of her townhouse complex because of her beliefs, which are pagan. Others in her complex have accused her of being a Satanist because of her love of Halloween and because she has a pentacle on her tree. They (other neighbours) think it's a satanic symbol and do not know that this symbol is not the upside down symbol of Satanist but a symbol of pagans around the world. This would be as bad as if a cross was put upside down and as insulting to a pagan as it would be to a Christian.

The pentacle or a pentagram has been used as a Christian symbol in the early years of Christiandom and also a sheriff star and has been a symbol of Pagan, the religion of old Europe before Christianity came to Europe.

To be asked or to be pushed out of where you have been living for five years is wrong no matter what you believe in and to not educate yourself on what you may or may not be fact is wrong.

It may be true that true Christians may not act the way these people did, these people say they are representing Christ and His teachings and I would hope that true Christians would not act this way."
I wish I had a place to list all these 'terms of abuse', words that are only used to describe people the speaker doesn't like.

Is the pope a philosopher?
by Nicholas Blincoe, guardian.co.uk, Friday 2 April 2010
"Relativism is a weird word as far as philosophy goes, because there are no relativist philosophers. Only your enemies are relativists: it is purely a term of abuse. Anglo-American philosophers attack French thinkers as relativists. The French reciprocate by attacking Anglo-Saxons as relativism-loving free-marketeers. The problem stems from the fact that all modern philosophies are "relationsims"; that is, philosophies of relations. So, everyone claims they have founded a proper science or logic of relations, and everyone condemns their opponents as mere relativists, whose empty philosophies depends upon nothing and, in an infinite regress, will ultimately sink into a void of meaninglessness. This, to cut through a longer argument, is Kant's contribution to modernity. It arises because of a fundamental relation – a super-relation – that Kant posits between humans and the world. Because we are condemned to be human, we can never know the world, but only our relation to it. After Kant, reason is limited and so we cease doing ontology (the study of what is) and turn towards epistemology (the theory of knowledge)."
What do atheists not understand about "freedom of religion"? Everything, apparently.

Do religious universities serve the public good?
by Todd Pettigrew, Macleans.ca, ‎Apr 2, 2010‎
"To begin, then. Do religious universities serve the public good? I will argue that they do not. I contend that religious universities promote religious belief, and that religious belief is detrimental to the public good because it encourages belief in what is false and because it encourages belief without sound reason.
But no one believes in those ancient gods any more, so what is the point? Well, that is precisely the point. A thunderbolt-hurling Zeus is no more plausible than a Sodom-smiting God. Apollo the Sun is no less credible than Jesus the Son. It’s just that Zeus and Apollo no longer have a broad social endorsement. As my fellow humanists are fond of saying, all religious people are all atheists who make one exception."
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Asatru Group Forming, and Jesus Who?

Organization meeting set to explain pre-Christian pagan religion
by Mary Garrigan, Rapid City Journal, ‎Mar 6, 2010‎
"If the only thing you know about the Asatru religion is that a convicted killer lost his legal bid for a plastic sword so he could practice it at the South Dakota State Penitentiary, then Harold Chant has an invitation for you.

Chant, of Rapid City, is hosting an organizational meeting for people interested in the teaching and practice of the ancient pre-Christian religion that dominated much of Europe thousands of years ago.

Asatru is the modern revival of historical Germanic and Norse paganism and covers a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices. Chant prefers the term “heathenism” to “paganism” as a description of a belief system that is centered on the natural world and whose ceremonies follow the season, such as the upcoming spring equinox."
Jesus Who?
by Stephen Mason, Psychology Today (blog), March 8, 2010
"What's the difference between a religion and a cult?
About a thousand years."

*sigh* I wish people who don't know anything about religion would just shut up. This man clearly doesn't know anything about the classifications of religions.
"Christianity is a more traditional sect and goes way back. However, it took a long time before a hodgepodge of ancient legends, savior cults, pagan rituals and hero myths were all strung together to form what is generally accepted as the life and death narrative of Jesus Christ. The weird thing is, there's a surprising lack of any contemporary accounts. Now just stop and be reasonable for a moment. Wouldn't you think that someone who supposedly attracted a big bunch of followers and created some pretty significant social upheaval would have been mentioned by all the major writers of that period? By way of contrast, Caesar Augustus is firmly tied to the history of his era. There's no question that he existed - right?

So how come historians of the period were so quiet when it came to Jesus?"

I know that some people like to claim that Yeshua bar Yosef (the real person Jesus Christ is based on) didn't exist. And maybe he didn't but, it just seems more likely to me that there really was a person to act as the nucleus for all the later mythology to collect around.

There were lots of messiahs coming out of the desert at that time. Some who had a lot more followers than Yeshua bar Yosef at that time. Some of those messiahs actually fielded armies. One reason there might not be much independent record is that he started out as a local minor irritant. It was only after his death that his followers built up a larger following.

The earliest Christians were just a Jewish sect. The Christians like to talk up their persecution at the hands of the heathen Romans. But the Romans were dealing with terrorist political insurgent Jews. Half the time they were persecuting Christians they were doing it because they couldn't tell Christians from Jews. It was Paul's work with Gentiles that really spread Christianity to non-Jews.

Another factor is that the Catholic Church was the major preserver of documents for hundreds of years. They actively suppressed and destroyed documents that contradicted Church doctrine. [And Rome burned down several time, destroying government records.]

There was enough confusion around his teaching. It's not important to my faith but I just think Yeshua bar Yosef really existed and was a Jewish mystic and teacher.

I'm reading The Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew by Bart D. Ehrman.
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Atheists challenge Prayer, Imbolc Festival, Witch Hunts in Africa

Legal line of prayer unclear
Atheists challenge Fresno council custom
By Russell Clemings, The Fresno Bee, Feb. 12, 2010
" Whether an atheist group succeeds in challenging invocations at Fresno City Council meetings may come down to a legal distinction between "sectarian" and "nonsectarian" prayer.

Nonsectarian prayer -- promoting or endorsing no specific religion -- is allowed under a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court decision. But more recent court decisions have barred prayer that invokes the name of Jesus or otherwise crosses the sectarian line.

Where exactly is that line? That's not entirely clear.

The Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which sent Mayor Ashley Swearengin a letter Monday complaining about the City Council's invocations, says it has written similar letters to six other California cities and is looking for a test case.

"We are contemplating the possibility of litigation in California," said the foundation's co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor.
Gaylor said her organization hopes that, in the end, the Fresno council will opt to do without invocations, rather than trying to navigate the channel between sectarian and nonsectarian versions. But she said she's not confident that will happen.

"We're atheists," she said. "We don't believe in miracles.""
Huge crowds turn out for Marsden’s Imbolc Festival
by Steve Catchpool, The Huddersfield Daily Examiner, UK, Feb 13 2010
"MASSIVE crowds descended on Marsden last weekend for the acclaimed annual Imbolc Festival.

Jack Frost and Arctic winter chills were sent packing at the stunning festival, attended by excited people from near and far.

In fact more than 3,500 people – one of the biggest crowds for years – flocked to the Colne Valley village to see the fiery celebrations, organised by local enthusiasts and the Standedge Tunnel and Visitor Centre.

The 2,000-year-old event featured performances by fire jugglers, fire-swingers and “human fireworks” and many revellers took part in the festival procession from Marsden railway station down to Tunnel End.

Thousands more gathered at the visitor centre to enjoy the fire circus, fire sculptures and the festival finale – a stunning fiery battle between Jack Frost, representing winter, and the Green Man, representing spring."
Witchcraft-killings tension brews
By Mpume Madlala, Independent Online, February 15 2010
"A heavy police presence is still in place at Umlazi's E Section, where three homes were set alight by community members more than two weeks ago on suspicion that their inhabitants were practising witchcraft.

Mbongeni Zungu, 68, died of smoke inhalation when his home, which he shared with his wife Mildred, 58, grandchildren and children, was set alight in a mob rampage on January 29.

His funeral took place on Friday.

The chairman of the Umlazi community policing forum, Sihle Chiliza, said another family had to leave the area last week after they were accused of witchcraft after a neighbour had collapsed and died.

"We tried to calm the community members, who were very angry, but it did not work. We then decided to place the family in hiding because we feared that their home would be set alight," he said.

Chiliza said that at a community meeting on February 7, people refused to give up their suspicions that the victims were practising witchcraft.

"They also made it clear that they did not want the families back in the community. We then pleaded with them to allow Zungu to be buried at his home, as it was African tradition to do so. They agreed, but said the family should leave," Chiliza explained.

He said 11 people had handed themselves over to the police.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Vincent Mdunge, said the 11 suspects, who had been charged with murder, attempted murder, malicious damage to property and arson, had been released on bail. Police would remain in the area until the situation returned to normal, he said."
Five women lynched over witchcraft
By Richard Adrama, New Vision Sunday, Uganda, 14th February, 2010
"A 90-YEAR-OLD woman and her daughter were last week lynched by a mob in Kucuala village in Zombo district on allegations of practicing witchcraft.

The north-eastern regional Police spokesman, Henry Alyang, identified the women as Veronica Diacwinya and her 40-year-old daughter, Celina Jokocibo.

Alyang said the mob picked five women at about 8:30pm and clobbered them with sticks and hoe handles.

The mob also reportedly burnt 18 huts in the homesteads of the accused.

“The attackers accused the women of bewitching their daughter, who recently became mentally impaired,” Alyanga said.

The other three, who were not identified, were rescued by the Police after a tip-off from the residents. They sustained serious injuries.

Six residents of the same village, suspected to have headed the mob justice, were rounded up by the Police during a cordon-and-search operation.

Alyang identified the six as John Nyalula, Awola Ajoge, Lenya Ayella, Vincent Nachiku, To Bin and Charles Alengo.

They were detained at Zeu Police station.

In a related incident, a man was lynched by a mob in Marro central village in Nebbi town on Friday morning.

According to Alyang, the man, who is commonly known as Dodo in Paidha where he worked as a butcher, was found in possession of a stolen goat which he was carryingn an un-registered motorcycle."
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Atheists Billboard, Jewish Valentine's Day, Voodoo Priests

Oh, God. Who needs one? Not this group
by Barbara Hijek, Sun-Sentinel, FL, ‎Feb 9, 2010‎
"Who needs God?

Not the United Coalition of Reason, a group that doesn't believe in God -- or any gods.

And they want to share that with folks in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.

They paid to have two billboards erected that feature a blue sky with clouds and the words: "Are you good without God? Millions are," reports the St. Petersburg Times.

The group is spending about $100,000 to blast its message on billboards, bus shelters and transit stations across the nation. The two Tampa Bay billboards cost $7,600 for four weeks.

One motorist who has seen the billboard is Yassel Quijano, a massage therapist who practices Wicca.

"People have the right to just express what they want, what they feel," Quijano said. "I'm sure there are a lot of people who are afraid of saying it. Someone had the courage to do something like that. For me, that's something I admire."

Do you?"
A Jewish Valentine's Day
by Brad Hirschfield, Beliefnet.com (blog), February 10, 2010
"Perhaps the notion of a Jewish Valentine's Day sounds odd. After all, Valentine's Day combines the cultures of pagan Rome and early Christianity, so where does Judaism fit in? I know, it's "really" a secular commercial day and even thinking about the day's religious roots is "silly". But those roots, be they Pagan, Christian or Jewish, tell a wonderful story about romance, how to find it and how to keep it alive.
Like many Jewish men, I bring home flowers for my wife each Friday afternoon - usually roses, but that depends on what is nicest at the florist. We dress nicely for dinner, light candles, open a bottle of wine, eat a lovely meal and even indulge in dessert. No, it's not always chocolates, but you get the point.

Our cell phones are off, and so is the TV. All external distractions are limited. I even sing to wife before we begin eating. Frankly, I don't know if that proves how much I love her or, based on her willingness to put up with it, how much she loves me. Either way, it is the stuff of romance which Valentine's Day reserves for once a year and we do it every week. And then there's the sex.

Without going into details about my own life, I find it both fascinating and beautiful that Jewish tradition celebrates sexuality on the Sabbath. Most religious traditions have taught that sex undermines the sanctity of the Sabbath. And while there have even been Jewish sects which taught the same thing, that has never been the Jewish norm.

Loving sexuality in the context of a committed relationship is not only commensurate with the sacred; it is one of its highest expressions. According to Rabbi Yaakov Emden, when a husband and wife make love on Friday night, the divine presence, called the Shekhinah, is in bed with them! Is that why people shout "Oh my God"?"
Haiti calls on voodoo priests to help battered nation heal
by Brian MacQuarrie, Meghan Irons, The Boston Globe, February 10, 2010
"In a nation where government barely functions, and where more than half the population of 9 million is believed to practice voodoo in some form, the assistance of these priests is considered critical to better assess the situation. The priests in Haiti dispense unofficial justice and cater to religious needs.

The religion, born in Africa but melded with elements of Christianity by colonial slaves to mask its “pagan’’ veneer, is a nature-based belief that venerates one’s ancestors, calls on their spirits, and promotes a fervent love of family and community.
As a result, the voodoo priests - “houngan’’ if a man, “mambo’’ if a woman - are conducting an informal national census of the dead and injured, Beauvoir said. They also will participate in a national ecumenical memorial service that has been scheduled over six days beginning Friday.
In addition to the census, the priests have been busy practicing their healing arts. In a tent city in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville, the local mambo, Lamercie Charles Pierre, recently stood beside a pregnant woman who had been bleeding heavily. After a treatment of voodoo medicine, Pierre said, the bleeding stopped.
After the Jan. 12 earthquake, Pierre, who projects a calm, serene authority amid the devastation, gathered her neighbors onto the nearby grounds of the shattered Italian Embassy. There, they pitched makeshift tents from tarps, wood, and sheets. Soon, after reaching out to a French relief agency, Pierre obtained portable toilets for their new home."
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Why I am not an Atheist or a Christian

There are only three ways that people can disagree with each other: over facts, over semantics (what the words they use mean), and over belief. Disagreements over facts can be resolved. Disagreements over semantics can be resolved. Disagreements over belief can not be resolved.

This article by an Atheist defending Atheism just re-enforces my belief that Atheism is a religion. His disagreement with Guy Rundle is entirely over worldview. I found Guy Rundle's critique spot on and Russell Blackford utterly fails to understand it, so his response totally misses the point.
Guy Rundle is reported to have said of the "New Atheism":
"It misses the point, he says, goes out of its way to hurl insults, misunderstands how belief systems work, uses straw man arguments and is boring because it “takes the least sophisticated form of theism and beats it around the head”."

and Russell Blackford has no idea what any of that means.

As a religious person I find these "New Atheists" as intolerant and ignorant of the beliefs as others as the fundamentalist Christians they constantly cite in an effort to discredit "religion". Talking to an Atheist about religion is like talking to a 4 year old. They can point and laugh or call names, but when it comes to discussing issues of deep philosophical value they just don't have anything to contribute.

From reading Blackford's critique a big part of the problem is his insistence that "religion" is no more than "the behavior of churches". There is no religious person in the history of humanity who would agree with that definition. Which is why all his arguments: misunderstand how belief systems work, use straw men, and attack the most simplistic form of theism.

Implausibility, Transcendence, and Atheism
by Russell Blackford, Metamagician and the Hellfire Club, Jan 10, 2010
"Of course, Rundle totally omits the central point—that religious organisations and leaders continue to exert social and political power, even in the supposedly enlightened nations of the West. All too often, they seek to control how we plan and run our lives, including choices about how we die. We still see intense activism from the religious lobbies of all Western democracies, and even in relatively secular countries, such as the UK and Australia, governments pander blatantly to Christian (and now Muslim) moral concerns."
I have no problem with that argument. But one can be a mystic and a theist and agree with that. I would go as far as saying that Jesus agreed with that. The problem of organizations and leaders not living up to the ideals they were based on is hardly new and has nothing to do with theology.
The following is a wonderful article that explains some of the many reasons I am a Wiccan and not a Christian.
Pantheism and Biblical Christianity
By Bill Muehlenberg, Christian Today Australia Columnist, 11 January 2010
"In the famous painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo there is the memorable scene of the creator God extending his finger to the outstretched hand of the newly formed Adam. The imagery makes clear that Adam is a creation of God, not an extension of him. Creator and creation are distinct.

That is the clear understanding of the Judeo-Christian worldview. In contrast to Eastern religions, where God is seen as everything (pantheism), or in everything (panentheism), the biblical teaching is that there is an eternal, personal and infinite God who is not to be confused with his creation.
Many of the people today who tinker with the East are really just imbibing in the New Age smorgasbord. They pick and choose those aspects which they like, and leave those which they don’t. It is all very Western really, fitting our consumerist lifestyle. Thus Eastern thoughts and concepts have very much become a part of Western life.

And films like Avatar are in many ways just a reflection of this. Instead of a creator God who stands outside of us, and places expectations and demands upon us, in the new Easternised spiritualities of the West, people are free to call the shots and determine what is right and wrong, true and false.

Indeed, they get to be God. That is the real attraction of the New Age worldview. Instead of a transcendent God with whom we must do business, and bow to, we in fact are all a part of the divine already. We just need to realise that we are already God, that we are already divine.

And sadly, many Christians have bought into this explicitly non-Christian worldview as well. Many Christians seem to think they can simultaneously hold to Christianity while dabbling in New Age beliefs and practices.
Philosophies like the New Age, and films like Avatar readily appeal to us. They allow us the right to set the boundaries and determine the rules. They assume mankind is already alive and part of the divine. Biblical Christianity, by contrast, assumes that we are all spiritually dead and alienated from God. That is why Christ came – not to tell us we are already part of the divine, but to show us how to flee the wrath to come, and how to become who we were truly meant to be."