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05/24/2015
My husband and I were at the Woody's BBQ the other day for lunch when, at the table behind us, these people started talking about the end times. Out loud. Like it was just the most normal thing. They talked about how all signs pointed to Jesus coming back very soon. The discussion ended with the matriarch saying, "I don't know when he's coming back but I'm waiting. He comes when he comes."

This is the most bizarre thing.

I really, really don't get it.

I remember once a long time ago, one of my relatives was asking me about religion for some reason and she said, "Does it make you uncomfortable?" I think the implication was that the idea of the Christian god and Jesus make nonbelievers uncomfortable because we're somehow actually afraid, or worried, or...I don't know.

Well, I'm here to tell you that, yes...listening to otherwise normal people talk about the end times and Jesus coming back makes me very uncomfortable. But it's not because it scares me, or makes me think maybe there's something wrong with me, like, I need Jesus. No. It makes me uncomfortable that I could be sitting so close to people so incredibly, deeply deluded. It's freaky.

I just do not understand religion. I don't understand how anyone can look at this world and believe that there is a god who is intimately interested in his or her sex life. And I don't understand how anyone could believe the Bible is in any way true and that Jesus, who most likely never even existed, is going to return and usher in some kind of paradise on earth...or whatever crazy thing Christians believe.

People like this look at Muslims, especially the most fanatical, radical Muslims and call them crazy. But they're not very different. So, sure, talk like that is a little scary. I mean, look at it this way: there is no god anywhere telling any of us what it wants and certainly there is no god around telling Christians what the Bible means. They all think it means what they want it to mean, or what their preacher tells them it means. Look, you've got some of them talking about homosexuality warranting the death penalty, so don't try to tell me right-wing, fanatical Christians are harmless.

I used to whisper when I said the word atheist. But not anymore. We've got crazy people talking about god and Jesus and the end times out loud, in public. I think it's time we stopped hiding the fact that there are plenty of us around who aren't deluded by religion.

I'm an atheist. Does that make you uncomfortable? Why?

 

04/25/2015
So...I go to the art show downtown and this guy hands me a flyer that says: I Love Chocolate.

And I'm like, I love chocolate, give me one of those. But, the picture on the front has a lady drinking something called "double mocha espresso," so, I'm like, ich, coffee. Well, as it turns out, the guy who gave me this flyer is a lunatic. A Jews for Jesus lunatic.

Oh, look how great chocolate is, except, dang it, it doesn't last. What does? Jesus!

That's right. Jesus. Your no caffeine, zero calorie source of comfort!

And get the "please don't litter" request at the bottom! Yeah, well, I didn't throw it away. All I can say is, Oh, my friggin' gawd. You can't even enjoy the art show without nuts. But we had a good laugh reading it.

01/03/2015
So, I was reading this article about Lee Strobel, the guy who likes to tell people he used to be an atheist but if you ask me he most likely never thought deeply enough for it to actually have happened. I mean, really. After reading his book, The Case for Christ, I could tell he doesn't think very deeply at all. Anyway, as I was reading the article, one thought struck me. Here's an excerpt:

Famed Christian author Lee Strobel has teamed up with Houston Baptist University to launch a new initiative that will address the urgent “crisis” of skepticism and non-belief that he believes is running rampant in American society. “We are facing a crisis in America. Skepticism is rising. Too many young people are leaving the faith. Few Christians are able to effectively share Jesus with others,” Strobel told the outlet. “At many churches, reaching spiritually lost people falls to the bottom of their priorities. This is a crisis we need to confront — urgently!”

Here's what I was thinking when I read this. How would it be if instead, the article said this:

Famed atheist author Lee Strobel has teamed up with Houston University to launch a new initiative that will address the urgent “crisis” of religion and belief that he believes is running rampant in American society. “We are facing a crisis in America. Religion is rising. Too many young people are joining churches. Few atheists are able to effectively share logic and reason with others,” Strobel told the outlet. “At many places of science and research, reaching religious people falls to the bottom of their priorities. This is a crisis we need to confront — urgently!”

Can you imagine the outcry? Can you hear Christians screaming out their persecution complexes? How dare we try to evangelize people into atheism! How dare we spread our "non-values" to the world! (Because anyone who doesn't share their values must not have any.) Anyway, this hypocritical nature has always bugged me. I suppose it's what happens when your religion is the favored one. Must be hard to see the world objectively when you're in your safe "Christian nation" bubble. But clearly, the skin of that bubble is wearing thin because, as this article shows us, they're losing their majority status.

So, Strobel and a couple of his buddies have created this program at Houston Baptist University called The Center for American Evangelism. One of its courses is called, according to the article, “Evangelism, The Unexpected Adventure.“ Sounds like one of their Vacation Bible School curricula, doesn't it?

The class, which costs $200, will equip students to naturally speak about Jesus “in an increasingly diverse and skeptical world.”

Good luck with that.
 

10/14/2014
Oh, my god*, I got into another argument online. There's just no satisfaction in it, you know? Clearly, other people get something out of it. I don't. But, I figured out a way that I can. Heh, heh. I'm going to post it right here. I'm giddy with snarcastic glee at the very thought of it. So, let's do it.

I had the unfortunate opportunity to try to read an article at The Atlantic: Irrational Atheism**. It was supposedly written by an atheist and let me tell you, does it prove my point: you don't have to be a rationalist, or even very smart, to be an atheist. I got to the line, "I have taken a leap of atheist faith," and had to stop reading. It's like, ohmyfrickingod when will the stupid stop? It won't, I guess. Anyway, against my better judgement, I commented. I figured, as long as I'm commenting, I ought to get something out of it, so, I included the title of my book at the end. I thought this was quite brilliant. I'm sure it's also arrogant; but I hear a certain amount of hubris is required to merely write a book, much less tell people about it. So, I suppose I'm just the person for the job.

I should have known better than to respond to this guy. He's still over there making snotty comments to people. Anyway, his "logic" is nothing more than the typical nonsense of stating that lacking a belief is a belief. Somehow, in this guy's mind, not seeing meaning or purpose in "reality," is taking a leap of faith. Refraining from making judgements is taking a leap of faith. It's absurd. And unfortunately, still a tad infuriating. But, stupidity often is.

He calls atheists "so called," because...let's see if we can figure out what he's trying to say (a pretty good indicator of bullshit is a lot of words that don't really say anything)...when you refrain from seeing meaning and purpose, you take a leap of faith, and the "fact" that you can't even see what you're doing there, makes you not a real atheist... Because you wander in and out of...? What the fuck?

Look, the universe either has meaning and purpose or it doesn't. But we don't know whether it does or not...right? I mean, to a rationalist (to anyone who is honest enough to admit it, frankly) it looks like there is no purpose, no meaning. But honesty also means admitting that it's possible (in the way that nearly anything is possible)...we just don't know. Nobody knows.

Refraining from trying to force a meaning or purpose onto something when we have no evidence that would urge us to do so is not a bias, it's not faith.

There you go. Because I don't agree with him, I've provided him with another example of someone who doesn't agree with him. The guy's got it all wrapped up.

He doesn't know how to use the word "oxymoron" correctly, either. Evidence of meaning does not at all produce an incongruous or self-contradictory effect. You know, like jumbo shrimp. There can be evidence of meaning in people's lives, in literature, etc. I'm not so sure I'm prepared to say there could not be any evidence of meaning or purpose to life, "reality," or the universe--if it were there. I'm willing to engage the idea that if there were purpose to the universe, we might be able to detect and discuss, even study, evidence of it.

He says we "ignore" meaning. So, he's pretty much saying that there is, for a fact, meaning and anyone who chooses to "ignore" it, or not "believe in" it, is biased, or having a "faith" that there isn't any meaning in the universe. OMG. Just insert God where you say universe and this is just another stupid theist argument for belief. And once again, I was treated to nonsense under the guise of meaning: "Someone you could really call an atheist is incredibly rare, since you're [sic] have to forgo all possible symbolism in reality." What? What does that mean? NOTHING! It means nothing. Wait...is that the "you can't know god doesn't exist because you'd have to know everything to know that and you don't" non-argument? SMH. Why do I talk to crazy people?

The best part of this guy's response, though, is his calling my statements "scientistic." This is just the same old, "you worship science instead of god" meme. "You've got to put your faith somewhere," the believer tells you. "I put mine in God; you put yours in science. You're no different, no better." See? Bullshit. There is something really wrong with people who don't even understand what science is.

Here's a clue: Don't try to dismiss an irrational person by making fun of him with a metaphor. Stupid people can't make connections. Remember? And the dude even got in the "militant" barb. That's right. Speaking my mind = militant! Making a rational argument = militant! Let's face it, to people like MarkML, just being an atheist = militant!

Aw, sorry I scared you irrational dude. But...instead of being scared, maybe you could try being logical. Yes, folks, you read that right. Nobody without a degree in psychology could know anything about the human condition. Well, you know what? I'm just as good as a psychologist...I'm an author! ;)

 

*You'll just have to buy my book to know what I think about that. (You see what I did there?)
**Is the hyperlink the new "quotes" for titles?
 

10/13/2014
Well, it seems I've rekindled my blog. Fine, fine. Just don't expect much. Below are some very old blog posts I found in my archives. Enjoy.

July 23, 2006
On July 6, I had a letter published in Florida Today in which I said this: "Theocrats must think they've hit on a winning strategy. They get their religion into our government under the guise of secularism, and then use their victory to further their religious cause."

I was talking about Florida's official adoption of "In God We Trust" as our state motto. Theocrats get around doing crap like that by saying that God, in this context, isn't religious, it's patriotic. Same with the Pledge of Allegiance: Saying we're a nation under God in no way makes the patriotic exercise into a religious one.
Sure, sure.

But then theocrats, or their army of drones, come at us with nonsense like, "Our nation was founded on Christianity; why else would we have our God in our motto and in our Pledge!" So, it's a win-win strategy for them, and we all lose.

And sure enough, today, we find this letter by Thelma Craigie in Florida Today:

U.S. mottos underline commitment to God
A July 6 letter to the editor was headlined "Use God in government and it cheapens both." Our nation's laws were founded on God's law. There is a level of commitment and acknowledgement he is God. In the "Star Spangled Banner," we sing "And this be our motto, In God is our trust." On our coins it says "In God we trust." Our Pledge of Allegiance says "One Nation under God." The Bible says the Lord is our judge and our king. The Christian faith is the basis of the freedom of our country."

If only Florida Today would publish an "I told you so" letter.
 

February 6, 2006
I receive the strangest mail. This story started with letters to editors in some Florida papers. I received a few emails that contained nothing but cut-and-pasted web pages. After the first, I responded asking the sender why he sent it to me. And later, I told him if he'd like to discuss something that would be great, but I really wanted him to stop with the cutting and pasting of these large documents and filling up my inbox.

He wrote back and said: "Maybe we didn't want to read your junk in the Winter Haven news chief and Lakeland Ledger either so I'm giving you what I believe. Jesus is Lord!! So remember, you started it."

Okay. So, I started it by getting published in the paper. Whatever. We went back and forth and came to what I thought was an understanding. He wouldn't bother me anymore. But then he sent me another email. I'm not complaining really; I don't mind if people want to talk. He didn't, after all, just send another web page.

He sent me this [There are too many errors in this email to keep putting sic all over it; so just muddle through the best you can. It's pretty bad]:
-----Original Message-----
From: deleted to protect the delusional
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2006 10:03 AM
To: Dianna Narciso
Subject: God 
 I was reading my Bible and guess what?, you are mentioned in there. read Psalms 53:1. I know that the following men are not as intelligent as you are, but I want to give you some quotes.(1) "To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confress, absurd in the highest possible degree....The belief that an organ as perfect as the eye could have formed by natural selection is more than enough to stagger anyone.
  (2)"This most elegant system of suns and planets can only arise from the purpose of an intelligent and mighty Being." 
 (3) "The harmony of natural law reveals an intelligence of such superiority that compared with it, all the systematic thinking of human beings is utterly insignificant." 
If it its all the same to you, sweetie, I think I'll stick with my original belief in the Bible and God and His Son. 
 Oh yes, Who said those quotes above? 
(1) Charles Darwin: Shute,E., Flaws in the Theory of Evolution, Craig Press, pp127-128 
 (2) Sir Isaac Newton. 
 (3) Albert Einstein. 
 I'll give you the last word because I believe this should come to a end, don't you? Sincerely [deleted], Florida
 
I'm sure your wheels are turning like mad with ideas on how to respond to all this. Here's what I said:

Mr. M*****,
I hadn't realized we had "started something" to end, but all right…we'll end it. I certainly appreciate being "given" the last word, but I always get the last word when I want it. I have two blogs filled with last words.

Anyway, back to ending this.
I do not, nor did I ever, care what you or anyone else believes. I'm sure I never said you should not believe whatever you wish. You are free to continue to believe in your gods and your holy book. I have always only demanded that you respect the rights of conscience for everyone else on this planet, and in this country, by keeping religion and government separate.

I am not surprised anymore when I am insulted by Christians. I've grown used to it over the years. The typical response to being called a fool by a Christian is to quote Jesus back to him: Matthew 5:22. But they always have a witty rationalization for why it's okay for them to do what Jesus asks them not to. I'll ignore the "sweetie" remark, as that may be attributable to some misogynist tendency on your part that may or may not be (though likely is) related to your religion.

You also insult me when you snidely claim that I would pretend an intelligence greater than Darwin, Newton, or Einstein. You mean to call me vain, I suppose. Not knowing me, I suppose you say such a thing because I do not believe in god, and those men, supposedly, did. Certainly Darwin was a theist. He remained a believer of sorts even after his work on the Beagle. But he was not a Christian. Newton, certainly was as far as I recall.  

Einstein was not a religious man and said as much:
"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." - Albert Einstein in Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas (Einstein's secretary) and Banesh Hoffman, and published by Princeton University Press. 

But the point you were trying to make illustrates very well the difference between you and me, and between science and religion. Science does not work like religion. In religion, you have great men who speak for gods. They tell you what to think and everything they say is held dear. Science does not respect every word out of the mouths of great scientists merely because they say it, and because they are great scientists. Science respects the things great scientists say that can be shown to be factual.

So, what Darwin, Newton, or Einstein said is meaningless in the debate over religion, science, and human origins. It just doesn't matter what they believed. It only matters what can be tested and shown to be factual. But, just to show you that people are so much more complicated than you would apparently like them to be, here is Darwin, from his autobiography, Recollections of the Development of my Mind and Character, 1876:

 "....During these two years (March 1837 - January 1839) I was led to think much about religion. Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come by this time (i.e. 1836 to 1839) to see the Old Testament, from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rain-bow as a sign, &c., &c., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian....
....Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished.
And this is a damnable doctrine...." 

As to the quote you offered by Darwin on the development of the eye, I must apologize to you profusely. You have been duped...badly. There are people in this world who, like you, very much believe that there is a God and he had a son and he wrote a book called the Bible. And they are willing to say anything to get other people to believe it, too. They are even willing to lie. Perhaps, like St. Paul, they believe that lying for God is okay. (Romans 3:7) 

If you had read Darwin's The Origin of Species yourself, you would know that Darwin, throughout his work, posed rhetorical situations regarding the impossibility of this or that by natural selection, only to continue to explain in what way natural selection could, in fact, explain it. After making the rhetorical claim you quoted about the eye, Darwin goes on to say:

"When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory." 

And scientists have gained a lot more information since Darwin's day. Darwin didn't know anything about genetics, for example. The study of genetics has gone on to shape and mature Darwin's theory of natural selection.

So, I suppose this ends it. Here is where it stands: Some people believe that the Christian God exists. Whenever they get information that seems to discredit science, they use it. But they are wrong. They are wrong for one of two reasons. Either they have not bothered to educate themselves about the science they denigrate and do not understand, or they refuse to accept whatever evidence they come across in that study because it defies their cherished belief.

But either way, they are willfully blind.
 

January 30, 2006
It took me a while, but now I'd like to respond to this blog by Danny Carlton, in which he calls me and the Musgroves vampires. Carlton quotes an Associated Press article giving the basic details of the lawsuit against Brevard County over allowing graduations to take place in a church. Then he says: "So according to Judge Gregory Presnell bigotry and intolerance is constitutional?!? Since when? How much harm would it do these kids to see a cross or a Bible from a distance. What, are they vampires?"

Considering that Carlton is a deeply religious man, I find his insulting comments unsurprising (while at the same time feeling more respect for former President Jimmy Carter, another deeply religious man whose book I am reading, who would probably agree with the judge in this case).

Point 1: Judge Presnell did not say that bigotry and intolerance are constitutional. Carlton's obfuscation is blatant and bizarre. The lawsuit was not about bigotry or intolerance; it was about separation of religion and government. The government can not compel any person to visit a church. By holding the solemn and important ceremony of graduation in a church, students and their families were compelled to choose between entering a house of Christian worship or missing this event.

[Let's discuss voting in churches here to nip in the bud the arguments from those chomping at the bit: by law, churches opening their doors to voters must cover religious symbols. Also, voting absentee or early in little way renders the act any less patriotic, while graduating with one's class in cap and gown imbues the ceremony with import and grants lifetime memories to the student and parents. Graduation from high school is a once-in-a-lifetime event.]

The government is not allowed to invite students to churches. Judges have already agreed that when assemblies are held in schools, the presenters are not allowed to invite the students to a church afterward, or to any event that is religious. Why? Because the school authorizes the assembly and by allowing the presenters to invite the students to a religious event, even held outside school hours and off school property, the school is thereby authorizing the religious invitation. And government schools can't do that. They have no business inviting our children to attend religious events.

Graduation is similar. When the school program is held in a house of worship, on an altar, in front of an enormous cross, the school is giving the appearance of endorsing Christianity. And not all parents will be comfortable watching their children receiving diplomas against the backdrop of a religious symbol. Certainly not all students will feel welcome in that venue. Religion is divisive. Keep it out of government and government schools.

So, this has nothing to do with bigotry or intolerance, except that directed toward the Musgroves and me for standing up for the rights of all students and their parents to be free from religious coercion by the government.

Point 2: How much harm would it do these kids to see a cross or a Bible from a distance? (That, Mr. Carlton, is not your call. It is my decision what my children will learn regarding your cross and holy book.) But again, Carlton's obfuscation is desperate. This is not about our kids seeing a cross or Bible "from a distance." This is about being compelled to enter a house of worship for a solemn and important ceremony and enjoying a life-changing moment on an altar in front of an enormous Christian cross.

Point 3: No, we're not vampires. Seeing a cross or a Bible doesn't hurt us. If you can not understand why it is wrong to take a secular ceremony and move it to a church, I don't know if there is any hope for you on this issue. But think about it this way: Can the school erect an enormous cross in its auditorium for graduation ceremonies? Of course not. So, it can not put the ceremony in front of a cross. If Palm Bay High School chose to use another school's auditorium for graduation, would the kids feel comfortable graduating with, say, a huge wooden cut-out of Melbourne High School's mascot with the letters MHS on it as a backdrop? Wouldn't they cover that up? Of course they would. Why? Because symbols have meaning.

And there's the rub. The church is God's house when they don't want to pay taxes on it or want to scream "hate crime" when someone vandalizes it. But when they want secular school students in it, suddenly it's just a building. And the cross is their holy symbol, meant to show God's greatest gift to mankind (self-torture), until they want students in the building for a solemn secular ceremony; then it's just two sticks.

Would Carlton step up for religious freedom if his children's graduation ceremonies were scheduled to take place in the American Atheists' headquarters against the backdrop of a huge sign that reads: NO GODS? How about in the local Satanist Church with a pentagram behind the altar as well as on the floor upon which students will stand to receive diplomas? ....I thought so.

It's very clear to me with whom the bigotry and intolerance lies.


January 1, 2006
Happy New Year! It's been an amazing year for me and for Space Coast Freethought Association. Reading over the past year's blog reminded me of all we've done. It's hard to believe all that happened in just one year. I'd like to start the new year off right by exemplifying the treatment atheists receive regularly from the general public. Often people like to pretend that we're a Christian nation where other religions and atheism are tolerated. But atheists get reminders all the time about just how tolerated we would be if this were a Christian nation. There are always letters to editors letting us know that if we don't like the way things are done here, we should just leave. But sometimes we get to the heart of what's really on the minds of religionists.

I had a recent letter published at the TCPalm website for Treasure Coast newspapers. My letter was published on December 21 and can be found in the letters archive section for a while, I suppose. [No longer available] With their new website, users can respond to letters and articles online by clicking the comment link below them. A man named Vernon Shiloh responded to my letter with this:

Good Lord, it's scary to know that someone like DIANNA NARCISO is living in this area. Isn't there some government agency she is required to register with? If not, there should be!

9:54:22 p.m. on December 21, 2005
VERNON SHILOH | #

I also responded to some of the other letters and Vernon Shiloh has seen fit to make some other interesting comments to and about me.

I responded to a letter called "Remembering Christ at Christmas." Actually, I was responding to other responders. So, Vernon Shiloh called me a drunk:

"Well DIANNA NARCISO, I don't know what heathern diety you worship, but if I had to guess, it would be clothed in a brown paper bag and usually worshipped when people are not looking. Quite often your diety will manifest itself when you are required to blow into a little tube, after being confronted by a heathern Christian wearing a badge, and having a little blue flashing light on top his sleigh.

10:15:20 p.m. on December 21, 2005
VERNON SHILOH | #

Notice his atrocious spelling. Why is that so common with bigots? What is a heathern anyway? And it's deity, not diety. Diety isn't a word is it? I've been all diety lately from lack of junk food? I don't think so. I did NOT respond to "Just can't get enough Christmas," but Vernon felt it necessary to attack me there anyway:

And Merry Christmas to you Robin....I can smell those cookies and feel the happiness in your home through your loving words.

Too bad a pathetic soul like DIANNA NARCISO is being eaten from the inside out with such smoldering internal hate. I truly hope she is, or is destined to be a barren woman, so as to not further contaminate the world with any offspring who might sadly be reared by her and "conditioned" to carry on her wrath.

10:30:17 p.m. on December 21, 2005
VERNON SHILOH | #

Same thing with "Vero lacks Christmas spirit":

May its because DIANNA NARCISO has a lot of her relatives living there.

9:59:11 p.m. on December 21, 2005
VERNON SHILOH | #

So far he's gone quiet. Of course, I don't read the comments of everything in that paper so who knows. It's comforting to know that there are Vernon Shiloh's in the world showing people just what religious intolerance and bigotry are all about. Maybe they'll make the connection and finally understand the danger minorities face when religion and government are merged.


October 4, 2005
Check out George Colburn's LTE in Florida Today, published on October 1: [that hyperlink won't be good forever...darn Florida Today]

Washington saw nation as being 'under God' [I can't fault him for the title; we LTE ranters don't get to make those up.]
"In regards to all the controversy over our Pledge of Allegiance having the phrase 'under God,' and therefore being unconstitutional for recitation in public schools, as some courts have claimed, I would point to the words of George Washington as suitable precedent from on of our Founding Fathers. In July 1776, the leader of the Continental Army fighting for our independence wrote, 'The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.'
Let us never give in to the atheists. We always have been a God-loving country."

Don't you just love bigots? They make things really easy for smart people...but stupidity sure does spread quickly among them. Where to start.....?

First, IF the quote by Washington was accurate, which it is not, it would mean nothing. Washington, in Colburn's mangled rendition, appears to be saying that the FATE of unborn millions is under God. What the hell does that mean? It's a good thing that's not what Washington said.

Washington said, "The fate of unborn millions will now depend on God, on the courage and conduct of this army."

Second, if the Founding Fathers words and actions are precedent...we'd still be owning slaves and denying women the right to vote. Sheesh, Colburn, get a clue.

And third, thanks for making it very clear to everyone that you don't think atheists deserve the same rights you have. At least you're not pretending to grant us equality out of one side of your face while denying it out of the other like so many of your friends.
 

September 2, 2005
Dear Mr. Swank,

Thank you for adding to the vitriol with your inappropriately named missive: the truth about separation of church and state. We're all so happy to have been twisted about to fit your pretzel, I'm sure. I have to say, you had me in agreement with paragraphs two through six. (I wasn't sure what the first line was all about.) I'm not a liberal, so if you want to lash out at them for something you feel they did wrong, go for it. But, as I continued on with paragraph seven, I began to understand that not only do you not understand the separation problem (dare I say, "per usual"), but you even fail to target your opponent.

Let me help you out. It'll make me feel better. After all, as evidenced by the entry for September 1, you'll realize I've been in a bad mood of late.

First. All secularists aren't liberals. And all liberals are not secularists. Secularists are those people who understand the importance of freedom of conscience and who demand that government recognize that freedom in its dealings with the citizenry. So, you see, many people who are not secularists, are not so because they do not understand it. And many people are not secularists because they're bigots. After you read this, you can tell me of which sort you are.

Beginning with paragraph seven of the 'truth' <ahem>, you say that liberals want to redefine the phrase 'separation of church and state' to "exclude Judeo-Christian religious expression in America." Naturally I balked at such an absurd idea. I wanted some specifics...and you valiantly attempted to offer evidence for your accusation. You failed, however, first to link secularism with those nasty liberals. [You know, there are a lot of Christian liberals. A lot, a lot.] Then you failed to adequately prove such a notion. [I notice you like to use the word "prostituted" a lot. I'm wondering if there's anything Freudian in that.] Your evidence involves the idea that the prostitution-oriented, liberal secularists are trying to oust religion from America by the strange method of replacing it with Islam. [I'm confused, here.] The specifics are as follows.

One: School districts [unnamed] are hiring Muslims [unnamed] to speak to teachers [unnamed, of course] about giving Muslim students honor and space. This is very bad, you seem to think. "No such invitation, of course, has been extended to Judeo-Christian specialists speaking to public school educators on how to give Judeo-Christian adherents honor and space." Well, my first question would be, do we NEED Judeo-Christian specialists to do that? Are Jewish and Christian students having a problem? Are they a minority that is being left out somehow? If that were true, I am sure people like you would see to it that Christian specialists, at least, were hired to talk to the apparently non-Christian teachers about how to honor and "space" the Christian students among the non-Christian majority. Funny, I'm not seeing the world that way at all. Didn't you, after all, just spend a few paragraphs telling us about our Judeo-Christian heritage and how we "tolerate" other religions? And now you're complaining that the majority Christian student population needs help with honor and space? Something's not right here.

Two: In a nearby [where?] high school [unnamed], a prayer room has been set aside for Muslim students. This is very bad, you say. "No such prayer room or any other respect has been presented those of the Judeo-Christian heritage." Well, let's see...do Christians have to pray at certain times during the day to keep a commandment? I didn't think so. So, why would they need a prayer room? What other "respect" do they need? I may be with you on this one, anyway, Mr. Swank. We might need to take it to court and get a clear <cough> judgment on it. It seems to me that if you're going to attend a government, secular school, you'll have to do your praying in silence somewhere...like the rest of the students. But I'll have to think about it some more.

So that's it. That's your evidence that "liberals will do whatever it takes to obliterate America of its rightful Judeo-Christian heritage." That's sort of silly, really. Again, if you didn't get it the first time: a lot of liberals are Christians. And secularists...well, you don't understand secularists at all, do you? I wonder why that is? Before I explain secularism to you, let's take a look at something really funny.

You said, "This is accented every year particularly during the Christmas season. Any other so-called 'religious expression' can come to the fore but the Christian particulars must be silenced at all costs."

I have to giggle there. I'm wondering what sorts of "other" religious expressions you might find at the "Christmas" season. As if...Christians own the season! Ah, well. You are wrong again, of course. The concern is not to get rid of the Christmas symbols and replace them with other religious symbols. If you really think that's what it's about, I have to wonder where you've been.

Now, here's your call to arms: "What those of the Judeo-Christian heritage must do — and far more concertedly than they have ever done in the past — is to make clear to the public what 'separation of church and state' really means."

So, I must ask you, Mr. Swank, what exactly DOES separation of church and state REALLY mean?

Of course it does not mean to wipe religious expression out of America. And it doesn't mean to wipe Christianity and its expression out. No one [except those who don't understand it] thinks it does. Not the liberals, and not the secularists. No one wants to stop you, or any American, from expressing his religion at any time, at any place. Americans should be free to worship, to gather, to build churches, to collect money, to spread the word, to debate and disagree. That's freedom of religion. We're supposed to have that here.
Americans should also be able to be free from religion, if they choose. They should be free from any coercion by the government to support, acknowledge, or endorse any god or religion. That's freedom of religion. We should have that in America.

To separate church and state means to allow freedom of religion in the only way possible: by keeping religion and government separate. When government endorses religion over non-religion, it infringes upon the freedom of conscience of the nonreligious. When it endorses a particular god, it infringes upon the freedom of conscience of millions of citizens. When government acknowledges one religion, we have no true freedom of religion.

Anyone who would use the government of a religiously diverse population to acknowledge, support, or endorse his god and/or his religion, is immoral.
Now, you have accused "liberals" of misunderstanding and misapplying separation of church and state. I have to wonder how well you understand it. Do you acknowledge the rights of non-Christians and atheists to be free from government endorsement of your god through the motto (changed in 1956), the Pledge (changed in 1954), money (added beginning in 1864), and religious displays on government property?

Or are you just as bad as those nonexistent, prostituting, liberals you attack in warping the meaning of the phrase so as to allow government to endorse only your god and your religion?
[Figures.]
 

August 19, 2005
DH and I were recently discussing the basic human motivators. He's got them down to just a few: greed, lust, anger, power and fear. I think that's his list. When I look at them, I wonder if we can't just boil them all down to fear--fear of loss, inadequacy, and the unknown.

Abraham Maslow, the psychologist, created what he considered the hierarchy of human needs. First are the survival needs, then safety, social, self-esteem and finally, self-actualization needs. It was his opinion that the lower-order needs must be fulfilled before higher needs can be met. His hierarchy looks like this:
Physiological
hunger, thirst, shelter, clothing, sex
Security
physical, emotional, financial
Affiliation
love, affection, companionship, acceptance
Self-esteem
achievement, recognition, attention, respect
Self-actualization
reaching our full potential

Like philosophers, psychologists spend much time ruminating about things and making up answers to perceived problems, more often than not muddying things up rather than clarifying. I think too often we try to make humans into something more than what we are to explain our behavior in anything but evolutionary terms. A better description of human needs, I think, is Alderfer's ERG which looks like this:

Existence
Relatedness
Growth

But I'd toss out growth. Humans grow. I don't see growth as a motivator...or a need. Existence is a very big motivator; though as modern humans we may not feel it so much. Relatedness, I think, is the key. We fear exclusion, abandonment, rejection, and death so deeply that we act not only to avoid them, but to deny our own fear of them--to admit the fear is to admit the possibility. Greed, lust, envy, pride, gluttony, anger, and sloth are all methods we use to avoid and/or deny the fear of abandonment, rejection, and death.

Greed: If we have more, we will be loved more. If we are god-like, we won't die.
Lust: If we have more sex, we are loved more. If we reproduce a lot, we won't die.
Envy: If we had what they had, we'd be loved more.
Gluttony: If we fill ourselves up with more food, sex, whatever, we'll forget how little we feel loved.
Anger: We are so afraid of losing our place in our community [family, tribe, life], we explode.
Sloth: If we stop trying, that we are unloved is not our fault.

Oddly enough, or not, those are the seven deadly sins.

Why would modern religion tell us to consider these motivators of human behavior sinful? They'll say, I suppose, because those behaviors lead to evil. I would disagree. It is true, I think, that unchecked [and more importantly, unacknowledged], these behaviors can lead to problems with our interpersonal relationships, which then only exacerbate the origin of the behaviors and increase them. But, if we stopped labeling these motivators as sinful, and accepted them as natural human reactions to fear, wouldn't we then be more capable of conquering said fear and living fulfilled and happy lives?

One would think. And yet, modern religions are eager to make natural human behavior into something vile and distasteful, if not outright deadly. We ought to turn away from anything that reminds us that we are fearful animals and instead concentrate on the lie that we are immortal divine beings, or immortal children of a divine being [same difference, if you ask me]. Why?

What is it about religion that it calls us to deny our humanity and our fear, when doing so only leads to neuroses? Religion can't survive unless it denies reality. It creates that denial in us, agitates it with threats of torture and abandonment (by the divine parent), and then increases our anxiety by not allowing us to act on the confusion it has created in us. We must trust, with faith, that we are vile/divine, worthless/worthy.

Political machines control the people through agitation and fear. So do religions.
 

August 11, 2005
Here's another interesting letter. In the Pensacola News Journal today, Don Dippel Sr., a regular letter writer like myself, said that letters claiming God was unfair to cause "hurricanes, accidents, cancer and other calamities" were nothing more than "self-righteous drivel." He was pretty upset about it. He said that we don't know even 1% of everything there is to know. Then he went on to say stuff like: God knows 100% of what can be known; those who disdain God's rules are the ones breaking them; those same people think they can judge God; "the truth is we are all sinners;" we deserve punishment for breaking God's law; God was perfectly justified to leave us in that sin state; God sent his only son to pay the penalty for us; God only asks that we accept this gift; After accepting said gift, we will experience the joy of living in fellowship with God.

So, for someone who admits he knows less than 1% of all there is to know, Mr. Dippel sure claims to know a lot about this character he calls God.
His final words are priceless. He says, "Stop being so self-righteous!"

Right back at ya, Dippel, you funny guy.
 

August 3, 2005
One of my LTEs got a response--that's always exciting. My letter was titled "Prayer doesn't work" and was published in the Pensacola News Journal on July 22nd. I was responding to a guest column by Reginald Dogan who claimed that he prayed about hurricane Dennis and his god saw fit to lessen its strength and spare Pensacola. He claimed this was a scientifically observable phenomenon. Well, naturally, I said that he was mistaken. I said that what he was saying, basically, was that his prayers were answered while the prayers of thousands during the season of 2004 were not. What made his prayers worthy? I also mentioned that people pray all the time when children go missing; but usually those prayers aren't answered. I said that Christians make up excuses for why their prayers aren't answered the way they hoped. One of those excuses is that the will of their god takes precedent over what they want. So, why bother praying?

Bob Ward of Myrtle Grove answered that question with his letter, published August 2. Here is his profound explanation:
"Sometimes say no" [I find this title intriguing--I wonder what the editor was thinking]
In response to Dianna Narciso's letter appearing in the July 22 News Journal (''Prayer doesn't work''), it is my experience that God always answers prayers. Sometimes he says no.

So, that's it. Sometimes, God says no. Please God, save my child from the pedophile/murderer. No. Please God, save my children from starving to death. Nope. Sorry. Please God, save me from this rapist/murderer. No. Ain't gonna do it. And yet, if an athlete prays to god for a win, God often says, sure. God took the time and energy to put George W. Bush in the oval office, but he wouldn't save three boys who'd accidentally locked themselves in the trunk of a car in New Jersey.

What kind of god do these people worship? And, why?
 

June 30, 2005
I just finished reading Godless in America: Conversations with an Atheist, by George Ricker. In his book, Mr. Ricker describes coming face-to-face with his own mortality--that moment during which evangelical Christians claim we atheists will backslide faster than Jimmy Swaggart in a strip club. But, as Mr. Ricker describes it, he never considered gods or the hereafter when he thought he was going to die...instead, he thought of his family and friends, the people he loved.

That reminded me of something that happened to me about thirteen years ago. I developed a lump on my neck. Naturally I imagined all sorts of horrors, most notably, cancer. My first doctor's visit did nothing to allay those fears, and in fact, made them worse when I told her that it didn't hurt. She seemed to think that was not a good sign. From that point I was passed along from specialist to specialist and had some very interesting tests and procedures that finally pinpointed the problem. It was a my thyroid and not life-threatening.
But in those couple of weeks of waiting and wondering, and being probed and photographed, I went about wavering between numbness and constant tears. There I was with a brand-new baby and a toddler under two. I was going to die soon and they were going to be without a mother! How would that affect them? Would they be wounded badly? I decided to tell my husband to please marry someone else as quickly as possible so the children would think they had a mother all along. That thought only sent me into more spasms of tears. How could I expect my husband to just marry someone else so quickly? But he HAD to! I even thought about finding him a new spouse before I died.
I didn't tell him any of that, of course.

Well, as you see, I didn't die. And now that I recall it, I realize I never once thought about gods or the afterlife. I was never afraid of a hell; I didn't even think about a heaven. I was concerned only with my husband and children and their welfare. I recall also spending a good amount of time imagining all the things in their lives I would miss. I planned letters I would write to them to be opened on those important occasions. But I spent no time concerned with my actual death.

Now, I don't know what that says about me personally. But I think it says one very clear thing about Christians who are so quick to presume what other people will think or feel in frightening situations. They obviously have so little confidence in their faith and so much fear of death that they can not imagine someone else not also being so neurotic.
 

May 19, 2005
It's been an interesting couple of days, to say the least. I've learned quite a bit. One thing I learned is that reporters are pretty sloppy. I've been in the news quite a bit and too many times the facts were just wrong. And when certain people get hold of a wrong fact, they really don't want to let it go. I've also learned that people make connections in their own heads that shouldn't necessarily be made. That's due to a horrible lack of critical thinking skills, if you ask me. Still, all in all, the press wasn't too bad.

I'd like to share with you some of the hate mail I've received. (It's always fun to irritate people.) Virtually everyone who wrote me, did so through the Space Coast Freethought Association's website, because, for some odd reason, they thought SCFA was a plaintiff in a court case instead of me. Silly people. So, some of the mail is directed at all of SCFA.
As is the usual practice in sharing hate mail, I'll leave all the spelling errors as they were when we received them.

From Mark W. we have this lovely comment:
"You and your group are a complete waste of oxygen, the repercussions of your graduation debacle will come back to haunt you. Ceratinly you can dedicate your cause to something worthwhile but no, you feel you can impose your will on the majority who want the graduation at Calvery. I suppose it's OK to vote at a church since I don't hear a peep out of you at election time. Hippocrites!"

Well, Mark, what can I say? I guess we're not allowed to complain about one case unless we've first complained about the cases you think we ought to be complaining about. But then, you really have no idea what we've complained about and what we haven't. You also have no idea what thought and work go into deciding what you're going to fight and how and what you're going to wait and see on. But then, deep consideration of the issues is probably not your strong point.

Jarred L. had this to say:
"To Whom It May Concern, Your recent actions against the Brevard County School board are utterly rediculous. Thousands of graduating high school seniors and families are looking to celebrate a significant milestone in their lives. For this organization to support and try to keep graduation ceremonies from occuring because of the building in which they take place, is to put it simply, absurd. It doesn't matter what building the commencements take place in, no one is celebrating religion or even acknoledging a higher power. If one feels they can not accept the place of graduation, they're always welcomed to not participate, but to try and ruin a clebration of education is proposterous ! This organization should be ashamed of itself for trying to upset thousands of graduation seniors and their families."

I just have to wonder if Jarred would feel the same way if the ceremony was held at the American Atheists headquarters...or a mosque, or maybe a druid circle out in the woods.

Roger G. wrote this:
"Well, maybe you're getting some of the 'press' you must desparately need because I saw your organization's name alongside the idiocy one of your members is displaying in protest over the location of his child's graduation. Too bad a child has to be submitted to such forms of parental abuse, that is, growing up with the prejudices foisted upon the child by such a parent. The 'hall' in which a graduation is held is pretty irrelevant, given the excitement of such an event for the kids. Y'all ought to find a worthy endeavor or two. Be Well Stay Fit *-R-*"

What prejudices are the parents in question foisting upon their children? I don't get it. And it's not a "hall," it's a church sanctuary. But thanks for the thought on fitness...I guess.
 

May 10, 2005
Yesterday, in the Herald Today out of Bradenton, Nancy L. Davis, in a letter to the editor, had this to say:
"I would also like to comment on another letter the same day, entitled 'Free not to believe,' written by atheist Dianna Narciso, in which she takes issue with the phrase 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance. Ms. Narciso, whether you want to believe history or not, this country was founded by believers. The majority of our population are believers and we continue to want it that way. The last statement in your letter read, 'How can this country be indivisible if we let religion divide us?' It isn't religion that divides us, it is the atheists who want to take all semblance of God out of our nation. Perhaps you would be more comfortable in a country that doesn't believe in God but before you consider that, you should read up on the history of that country and see if it thrived. God bless America."

First, note how Mrs. Davis makes a point of emphasizing my atheism. That is very important to her. As an atheist, in her mind, my view is suspect. Next, look at her assertion that our country was founded by believers. She doesn't mention what our founders believed in; I think we're supposed to take it on faith that it was whatever Mrs. Davis believes in. She, naturally, completely misses the point that whatever our founders believed or didn't, they created a secular constitution, free of any mention of her God, Jesus or Christianity. That the majority of people in this country are Christian "and want it that way" is a very telling statement, indeed. What Mrs. Davis is saying is that she and theocrats like her want to remain the majority in this country and they are willing to infringe upon other people's freedom of conscience to do it.

Mrs. Davis then claims that it is the millions of American atheists who are the problem. We're trying to take "all semblance of God out of our nation" and that is causing dissent. Zealots excel at twisting their opponents' arguments into extreme nonsense. Sometimes it feels that trying to set the record straight is a wasted effort. Nonetheless, here I go again: Secularists do not want to limit the freedoms of believers; we want all people to enjoy freedom of conscience and we're intelligent enough to know that when government acknowledges gods and supports one faith over others or over no faith, we are not all free.

I am aghast at Mrs. Davis' insinuation that fighting against oppression and theocracy is divisive and somehow bad. All Mrs. Davis needs to do, if it's possible for her, which I doubt, is to imagine being on the other side of the issue. She should imagine herself, a Christian, living in a country filled with atheists. Now imagine they want her to say a Pledge of Allegiance that states our country is "under no gods." Is she trying to tell me that she wouldn't balk at such an infringement on her right to believe? Of course she would.
Lucky for Mrs. Davis, no one wants the Pledge of Allegiance to say any such thing. We'd just like it to stay silent on the issue of gods. Somehow, for theocrats, if the government doesn't support their god outright, it's somehow forcing atheism on them. That's such an absurd idea; I am at a loss as to how to explain the very reasonable idea of separation of religion and government to such persons.

And finally, Mrs. Davis tosses in the typical rallying cry of the bigot. If you don't like it here, leave. I should consider living in a country that doesn't believe in her God. But again, because she has so skewed my argument, her offer is ridiculous. I'm not interested in living in a country in which no one believes in her God. I'd like to live in a country that recognizes everyone's rights to conscience in a secular government. The best example of such a country was the United States of America at its founding. But from the very beginning, theocrats and zealots have fought against secular government. They are anxious to instill in all our lives, their god, their morality, their righteous indignation at not being allowed to control all of us.

The oddest thing about Mrs. Davis' final statement is that she can make it without thinking too deeply about it. If she did, she might think about, perhaps, researching the history of countries with theocratic forms of government. But I have a feeling that Mrs. Davis isn't really all that interested in history, and I doubt she'd recognize the warning signs as having anything at all to do with her theocratic tendencies. That's the problem with dullards--they talk a lot without thinking, and they offer a good deal advice without empathy.
 

March 20, 2005
So, there was this article in the newspaper the other day about a lost dog. His owners lived somewhere up north when they lost him and now they live here. Some guy found the dog and took him to his own state and then got arrested. While he was in jail, the dog was found by somebody else and they used his tag information to locate the owners here. It's been a few years, apparently, since they lost him. There's nothing truly remarkable about this story except that the guy who found the dog never replaced the tag (no, it's not remarkable at all that he never bothered to contact the owners).

However, the owners here attribute the dog's return to God. That's right folks, God does nothing while 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford of Homosassa is abducted and murdered by a pedophile, but he returns these bozos' dog. This is the all-powerful and benevolent God of Christianity.

Even the criminal who had the dog attributes the coincidence to some spiritual shenanigans. He said that was the reason he was arrested and jailed! It was all so that the dog could find its original owners. Sheesh. The world has gone completely mad and I'm stuck here in the middle of it. No wonder I eat too much chocolate.