Why a secular safe space is still important to me.

The following was written by guest contributor Amber Adamson. I struggle a lot when it comes to my feelings about friends and loved ones who belong to Abrahamic faiths. When in public, I often downplay this. Most of the time, it’s not an issue. They’re progressive politically, and we can just work around the subject of [Read More...]

Waitrose’s donation to bigot slammed

UK Food retailer Waitrose is in the midst of a row this Christmas over a donation it made to a Christian café run in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, by Paul ‘Kill the Gays’ Shinners.

When it was reported by Pink News that the Cornerstone Café had received £330 for its Christmas Lunch event from a branch of Waitrose in the town, dozens of readers left comments expressing disgust.

This was typical of the anger expressed:

F*ck Waitrose! How dare they give legitimacy and money to a man who is partially responsible for the deaths and torture of countless LGBT in Uganda??? I say screw them! This is disgusting, and they show no regret whatsoever for what they are doing, that says ENOUGH!

Waitrose remained defiant over its decision to hand over the cash to Shinners, despite the fact that his café was exposed as a hotbed of homophobia after Shinners had travelled to Uganda in 2012 to incite hatred against homosexuals.

A  Waitrose spokesperson said:

This lunch was one of 300 Christmas events we’ve supported across the country as part of the Waitrose Christmas dinners campaign. The money Waitrose donated went to the Cornerstone Café to provide lunch for those who would otherwise be on their own at Christmas.

Let me strongly emphasise that Waitrose is an inclusive company, and our branches support thousands of community events across the country each year. It would be wrong to link this individual’s personal views with the community event that our St. Neots branch has supported.

The company later tweeted to “Rob71350″ who expressed his anger over the donation:

This event was supported with the best intentions for local people & is in no way an expression of support for Mr Shinners’ views.

D B Law, a local activist who is currently raising funds for the production of a documentary about the spread of homophobia by mainly white evangelicals travelling to Africa, said he too “got the same thing” from Waitrose and emphasised:

They are not his personal views. They are actions. He uses his business and charity to fund his hate campaigns in Africa. He spoke in favour of genocide. The mass murder of LGBTs in Uganda. These are not views, but hate crimes. Waitrose has helped support and promote his business. They need to apologise and make reparations.

Pink News said that it understands that several customers had complained about the store’s decision to support Shinners’ Christmas Lunch event, and it had been “discussed” by its management who were aware of his views before the donation was made.

shinnersrepent

Earlier this year, a large demonstration by mainly gay Ugandans took place outside outside Shinners’ establishment.

Editor’s note: Law’s GoFundMe campaign has so far reached just over £800. Please let’s help him reach his target of £1,200 by the New Year.

Hat tip: Angela K.

Friday Cephalopod: Your conventions mean nothing to me

These Televangelists Were Called Out on Their Duplicity, but They’re Still Making Lots of Money Today

Slate just published a video about three televangelists — Peter Popoff, W.V. Grant, and Jim Bakker — who, despite being caught in their cons, are still making money from gullible Christians:

The worst part about these hucksters isn’t just that they’re taking people’s money; it’s that they’re giving their victims false hope that might actually damage their health in the process. They tell them, in some cases, to throw their canes on the stage or throw their medicine away because Jesus has cured them. It’s the sort of bullshit that becomes very believable to some when it’s tied to the Bible.

But they don’t care because their greed has long overtaken their goodness.

A view from the other side….

When I started this site back in 2007, I was in the process of de-converting from Christianity and trying to come to terms with my non-belief while pondering how I even could have believed in the first place.  The Bible, which I once believed to be the Word of God without contradiction, became a book of myths, fairy tales and riddled with contradictions.  God, who I once believed to be a loving Father in heaven, became an evil psychopath who used humans as pawns in some wicked cosmic game (see this blog).  Through this site, I found many others who were dealing with the same issues and we all wrote blogs and engaged each other in discussion.  Before our two year anniversary, we had reached 1,000,000 views and had over 20,000 comments.

Gradually, we all began contributing less and at some point, the blog atrophied and primarily remained active by Leo, through comments on the Mormon thread and spam.

Why did we quit contributing?  I know for me, I came to a point that I just didn’t care anymore.  Many of my former beliefs became so ridiculous to me, that it seemed pointless to even discuss it.  I became firmly rooted in the “other side” and I no longer needed to come to terms with my non-belief, it was a reality.  I am interested to know if this was the case for the others also.  In other words, I became fully transformed by changing the way I think.

I’m assuming there are constantly new groups of de-converts who are walking the same journey we walked and I would love for these groups to keep the blog alive as it’s a useful process to come to terms with non-belief.  I’m not sure at this point on how to connect with these individuals but please comment here if you would like to become a contributor to this blog.

I will try to do a soft re-launch in 2015 and see where things go.  I will dig through my email and see if I have any de-conversion stories I requested and begin publishing those.  I welcome any other suggestions.

- the de-Convert

donotbeconformed


Filed under: The de-Convert Tagged: christiani, deconversion

WESTERN PHILOSOPHY: “On True Wisdom” / Socrates ☮

Socratesh/t: ॐ Collectively Conscious ॐ


Strange Fire Before the Lord

(From Chapter 4 of Strange Flesh: The Bible and Homosexuality by Steve Wells)

During the Exodus, Moses took seventy elders up to the mountaintop to see God, along with Aaron and his two sons, Nadab and Abihu.

Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink. Exodus 24:9-11
Little else is said about Nadab and Abihu until Leviticus 10, where God burns them to death for offering “strange fire before the Lord.”
And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Leviticus 10:1-2
The Bible provides no clue about what this “strange fire” might have been, but Howard Eilberg-Schwartz suggests in God’s Phallus (pp.189-193) that it was some type of sexual offense against God -- either failing to avert their gaze while viewing God’s nakedness, exposing their own nakedness to God, or making some type of sexual advance to God.

Sort of puts the strange in "strange fire" now, doesn't it?

[Thunderdome]

Evil-Santa

This is Thunderdome, the unmoderated open thread on Pharyngula. Say what you want, how you want.

Status: UNMODERATED; Previous thread

Christian Pastor Releases Anti-Gay “Documentary” Called AIDS: the Judgment of God

This week, a controversial new movie was released online… and it’s not The Interview.

Pastor Steven Anderson unleashed his “documentary” AIDS: the Judgment of God, and it’s 45 minutes of gay-bashing, bigotry, a man screaming at you between sermon clips, and “proof” that homosexuality is harmful:

A still from the credits, showing that Anderson has no remorse for his recent statement about how gay people should be executed

I watched some clips of it last night and had to stop. I couldn’t handle that much bullshit at once. but I hope any of you who decide to watch the whole thing leave the most important timestamps and summaries in the comments.

Gallup: Religious “Nones” Represents 16% of the U.S.

According to the latest survey results from Gallup, 75% of Americans consider themselves some form of Christian — no significant change from last year — while the percent of Nones/Atheists/Agnostics is pretty steady at 16%:

You’ll notice a very tiny change from last year and it follows the general trend of people shedding their faith:

The slight erosion of Americans’ identification as Protestant and concomitantly slight increase in the percentage with no religious preference exemplifies general trends in religious identity over the past decades.

Keep in mind, of course, that “Nones” is quite the catchall term since many of them believe in a higher power even if they don’t use a religious label. So it’s not like 16% of Americans are atheists. Not even close.

Gallup: Religious “Nones” Represents 16% of the U.S.

According to the latest survey results from Gallup, 75% of Americans consider themselves some form of Christian — no significant change from last year — while the percent of Nones/Atheists/Agnostics is pretty steady at 16%:

You’ll notice a very tiny change from last year and it follows the general trend of people shedding their faith:

The slight erosion of Americans’ identification as Protestant and concomitantly slight increase in the percentage with no religious preference exemplifies general trends in religious identity over the past decades.

Keep in mind, of course, that “Nones” is quite the catchall term since many of them believe in a higher power even if they don’t use a religious label. So it’s not like 16% of Americans are atheists. Not even close.

EJ&T Deuteronomy 25: Forty lashes, sex with your dead brother’s wife, cutting off a woman’s hand without pity, and remembering Amalek

In the Every Jot and Tittle project, I am listing all of the Bible's commandments from Genesis to Revelation, in accordance with Jesus's words in Matthew 5:18-19. I have no idea how many commandments I'll find, but Jewish tradition claims there are 613. See here for a list of those that I've found so far.

  1. Settle disputes with judges who will justify the righteous and condemn the wicked.
  2. If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. Deuteronomy 25:1

  3. When a judge decides that someone is wicked, make him lie down and beat him with up to forty lashes.
  4. If the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee. Deuteronomy 25:2-3

  5. Don't muzzle an ox while it is treading the grain.
  6. Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. Deuteronomy 25:4

  7. If a man dies before his wife has a child, the widow must marry her dead husband's brother.
  8. If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. Deuteronomy 25:5

  9. When a man marries his dead brother's wife, the firstborn son receives the dead brother's name.
  10. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. Deuteronomy 25:6

  11. If a man refuses to "go in unto" his dead brother's wife, she shall loosen his shoe and spit in his face.
  12. And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother. Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house. Deuteronomy 25:7-9

  13. A man who refuses to have sex with his dead brother's wife shall be called "him that has his shoe loosed."
  14. And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed. Deuteronomy 25:10

  15. If two men fight and the wife of one grabs the "secrets" of the other, "then thou shalt cut off her hand" and "thine eye shall not pity her."
  16. When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her. Deuteronomy 25:11-12

  17. Remember what Amalek did to you.
  18. Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt. How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Deuteronomy 25:17-18

  19. Don't forget to blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.
  20. Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it. Deuteronomy 25:19

Indiana State Senator Wants to Pass Useless Bill to Protect Christmas from… Well… No One

While we’re having a discussion about Nativity scenes on government property in Indiana, it seems like a good time to talk about State Senator Jim Smith (R):

Last year, Smith tried passing a “Merry Christmas” bill that would allow people to celebrate Christmas. Because, you know, we’re in the middle of a war:

Sen. Jim Smith, R-Charlestown, proposed a similar bill during the 2014 legislative session that would have provided legal protection to public schools and teachers who want to celebrate Christmas in their classrooms. The measure would have let teachers honor Christmas traditions, such as putting up a Christmas tree, as long as they also recognize at least one other holiday celebration, such as Kwanzaa or Hanukkah. The measure passed the Senate but stalled in the House.

The bill eventually stalled in the legislature, but to be clear, all of this was already legal. It just pandered to his Christian base, so that was that. (He modeled it after a similar bill that passed in Texas last year.)

This year, Smith is incensed over the controversy in Franklin County, so he plans to file the bill again — and expand it:

This year, Smith wants to expand the bill to permit religious holiday displays on city and town properties, such as city halls, as long as they are coupled with secular displays or recognize multiple faiths.

So the new bill will allow people to do even more of the things… they could already do before. Smith somehow found a way to make his bill even more useless.

“The Christmas season encompasses so many meaningful traditions, but many times these traditions and the people who participate in them are threatened,” Smith said. “Just this week, a town in Indiana is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation for a Nativity scene that has been on display for more than a half-century on its courthouse lawn. This bill is a step toward defending a sacred holiday that is otherwise being stolen from our children and our culture.”

Huh. The only displays that seem to be vandalized are the non-Christian ones. Smith doesn’t care.

But more importantly: Nothing is being “stolen from our children.” Christmas will continue to be celebrated. What Smith wants is for his holiday to be given special treatment.

The town in Indiana could have avoided a lawsuit altogether by simply allowing those other displays. The problem is that the local government is putting up a Christian scene on city property — and nothing else — and it’s about time that came to a stop.

Maybe if Smith spoke with all of his constituents instead of just his Christian ones, he’d understand how good his people already have it.

At least the ACLU knows the “War” is really about protecting everyone’s rights:

Gavin Rose, an attorney with the Indiana ACLU working on the Franklin County case, said their legal action is about safeguarding the U.S. Constitution.

“The Indiana General Assembly can’t protect from a lawsuit under the establishment clause; it’s rudimentary that the U.S. Constitution trumps anything they try to do,” Rose said. “A lot of people really do get into this war on Christmas thing. It’s not a war on Christmas. It’s an attempt to make sure government abides by what the constitution recognizes is governments role actually is.

Hopefully, the upcoming bill will stall just like last years. It won’t change anything, but it’d at least send the message to Smith that he needs to stop wasting everybody’s time.

Why Would True Believers Want Us To Lie Before God?

Yesterday I reposted an excellent article from Dylan Walker’s Skeptimus Prime blog. In it he explained that the reason he refuses to participate in Christmas prayers or other religious prayers or rituals with family or others is that as an ex-Christian he takes seriously the meaning of prayer. Prayer was a big part of his life [Read More...]

A Rare Sight: Puerto Rican Atheists Hold Protest Over Nativity Scenes on Government Property

We often hear about Nativity scenes on government property in the U.S. and the battles that take place over them. But we don’t always hear about similar problems that take place in Puerto Rico.

The U.S. territory follows the same rules of church/state separation and, a couple of days ago, atheists there held a public protest against the Christian-only displays on government property. The Humanistas Seculares de Puerto Rico (HuSe) stood outside the San Juan Judicial Center and said that either all displays must be allowed or none of them can be:

HuSe Board Member Dr. Victor Rivera explained the motivation for the protest in an email (modified for clarity):

In early December of this year, based on complaints from members of the organization that crèche displays have been placed in most of Puerto Rico’s court houses, the group immediately sent a letter to judge/attorney Isabel Llompart-Zeno, who administers all of the court houses, requesting equal space to place a secular message beside each crèche scene all over the island.

As Christmas Day approached, and having received no definite response from the administrative judge on the subject, our group took to the streets on Tuesday and (in a symbolic act) called a press conference in front of the courthouse of Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan.

We were not allowed to go into the lobby of the courthouse (though other protestors in the past have been allowed). So we were told to remain at street level were we displayed our secular message, a short version of the Freedom from Religion Foundation organization’s solstice message.

For an island that’s more than 97% Christian, that’s a big freakin’ deal.

Great job to everyone involved. I can’t wait to see what will happen when HuSe partners with American Atheists for a regional conference on the island in August of next year.

No democracy, no freedom under Islam

Responding at the beginning of 2014 to public outrage over an alleged blasphemous article, Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, above, urged calm, telling the protesters he would take:

All necessary measure to defend Islam and its prophet.

Islam, he added:

Is above everything, above democracy and freedom.

blasphemer

Today it’s reported here that the man who sparked the fury in the west African country – Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, above – has been sentenced to death.

This is Mauritania’s first death sentence for apostasy since independence in 1960.

Mohamed, aged in his late 20s, fainted when the ruling was read out late Wednesday in a court in Nouadhibou in the northwest of the country.

He was revived and taken to prison.

Mohamed has been in custody since January 2, after his arrest for an article he wrote that appeared briefly on several Mauritanian websites.

His text challenged some decisions taken by Islam’s “prophet” Mohammed and his companions during holy wars.

During his trial, the judge told Cheikh Ould Mohamed he was accused of apostasy:

For speaking lightly of the Prophet Mohammed.

The defendant pleaded not guilty and said it was “not his intention to harm the prophet,” a judicial source said.

No information was immediately available on whether he would appeal.

Local Islamic organisations said it was the first time a text critical of Islam had been published in the country.

Mauritania upholds the strict Islamic law known as sharia. But it has not meted out the harshest punishments provided under that law, such as executions and floggings, for nearly three decades.

Mauritania last executed a prisoner in 1987, according to Amnesty International. Capital punishment is mainly reserved for murder and acts of terrorism.

President Aziz was “accidentally” shot in 2012 when a military patrol fired on a convoy in which he was travelling. He recovered in a Paris hospital.

In his article, Cheikh Ould Mohamed, named by some local media outlets as Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, claimed “an iniquitous social order” was being perpetuated in Mauritania, with an underclass that was “marginalised and discriminated against from birth” and to which he belonged.

His court-appointed lawyers had asked for leniency on the grounds their client was repentant.

But the judge agreed to the prosecutor’s request for the death penalty, ruling that the country’s criminal statutes called for capital punishment for any Muslim:

Who has renounced Islam explicitly or through acts or words in that sense.

The verdict was met with shouts of acclaim from the court’s public gallery, while on the streets there were jubilant scenes as cars sounded their horns.