Friday, September 25, 2020
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Donald Trump: If Joe Biden Wins, “There Will Be No God” | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist

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During his rally tonight in North Carolina, Donald Trump claimed that a Joe Biden victory this November means “there will be no God.”

Atheists: Our time has finally arrived.

He said it around the 1:04:14 mark in the video below:

… [Biden is] trying to go a little bit more right, like the fracking. “Oh, of course we’re gonna…” but six months [from now], he’s saying there’ll be “No fracking.” Which, I don’t think the people of Pennsylvania are thrilled with — do you agree? — considering that your taxes could quadruple.

I tell it all the time, Texas, right? Texas. They like oil! They like guns, right? In Texas, right? And they like God. So he comes out with a platform: “No oil. We don’t want oil!” This is during the… Democrat deal. “There will be no oil. There will be no God. There will be no guns.” This is not a good campaign!

That’s… not Biden’s platform. (And those are barely coherent thoughts.)

At least with regards to religion, Biden is a devout Catholic who goes to church on weekends… unlike some presidents. Also unlike Trump, Biden doesn’t need to tear-gas people for a photo-op outside a church.

But the idea that “there will be no God” under a Biden administration makes no sense whatsoever, even if that’s supposed to be metaphorical, which it’s totally not. Somehow, God survived eight years under the Obama era. I’m sure God will get through a Biden administration as well. There’s nothing about Biden’s platform that suggests religion would suffer in any way. Conservative Christians won’t get the theocracy they dream about, but religious freedom will be protected.

What does it say about the shallow faith of Trump and his fellow Christians, though, if their God can be defeated — destroyed, even! — by a centrist Democrat? How weak is their savior?

It’s not the first time Trump has said something like this. Just last month, he claimed a Biden victory would lead to “no religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt God, he’s against God.” (Unquote.)

This is nothing more than a pathetic attempt by Trump to spread fear among his gullible white evangelical base. They routinely fall for his bullshit, and Trump knows he can’t win re-election without their continued support, so he tells them exactly what he thinks they want to hear, never considering if it’s logical. Pretending that Democrats hate God is the reddest of red meat.

It’s honestly more of a self-own. What’s the message, anyway? Is Biden so weak that he can’t get anything done, or is Biden so powerful that he can DESTROY GOD?! Pick one. It can’t be both.

And where are the evangelical leaders willing to stand up and say, “Trump is wrong. My God is more powerful than any politician”? (Don’t hold your breath.)

I don’t need more reasons to vote for Biden. But damn, even Trump’s lies make me want to fill out my ballot immediately.

(Portions of this article were posted earlier, because Trump repeats his lies.)





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Divided We Fall | Atheist Revolution

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cooperate and connect

Suppose that there was a group of people in power that was very interested in maintaining the status quo. They oppose whatever changes you or I might consider progress. While some merely oppose change of any kind, others would prefer to roll back much of the progress we have made on a number of issues (e.g., separation of church and state, same-sex marriage, reproductive rights). Some of them even long for the days when atheists were so hated that we might be assaulted for criticizing their preferred religion.

If you were a member of that group, what would be one of the most effective tactics you’d have at your disposal for accomplishing what you wanted? That’s easy! You’d take advantage of any opportunity that presented itself to create division among those of us who were working for the sort of change you opposed. You’d know that as long as we were fighting among ourselves, we’d present no threat to you. We’d be rendered ineffective. This divide and conquer strategy is not new, but too few of us recognize it because it can be done so effectively in covert ways (e.g., social media).

When we devote our efforts to squabbling with those who agree with us on 90% of the issues instead of working to bring about the sort of change we say we want, we are serving the interests of those who benefit from our divisions. This has clear implications for politics. The liberals on Twitter who are attacking other liberals for the “crime” of supporting a presidential candidate who agrees with only 90% of what their preferred candidate wants are working awfully hard to re-elect Trump.

This also has implications for reproductive rights. The feminists on Twitter who jumped all over Alyssa Milano seem to have forgotten that her “sex strike,” misguided as it might have been, paled in comparison to the assault on reproductive rights that prompted it. The pro-life folks reaped the benefit.

And no matter how much we might pride ourselves in being skeptical, rational, or whatever else, secular activism is not immune to this either. When we condemn our national secular organizations for working to advance various social justice issues, who benefits? I suspect the Christian extremists enjoy our division. They must know it limits our effectiveness and makes it easier for them to advance their agenda.

The answer is not to ignore any conflict that surfaces among atheists, secular activists, political allies, or others working to advance the goals most of us embrace. Pretending problems don’t exist rarely makes them go away. At the same time, it is vital to recognize that someone is benefiting from our squabbling and that it is rarely us. Too much is at stake to allow ourselves to be weakened through division.



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RIP Ginsburg. This Changes EVERYTHING.

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Despite what Trump fanatics, such as commenters here, have been saying, Biden was going to romp the election. This is a great analysis of the state of affairs from A rate pollsters only (i.e., the best and most accurate): Before this news, Biden was on to win the 270 from safe and likely states alone, […]



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Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Could Mean the End of Church/State Separation | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist

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The loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg tonight is a stunning blow to progressives across the country and it throws yet another wrench into the upcoming election. You can bet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will nominate a replacement ASAP (the obvious hypocrisy be damned) and Donald Trump will do everything he can to rush through the youngest right-wing female judge he can find in the next few weeks.

Will enough Republican senators stand up against their own party? Never count on Republicans to do the right thing.

Remember: Just last week, Trump released a shortlist of possible Supreme Court nominees as a way to remind his base why they put up with him. The list included Judge Allison Rushing, who was specifically called out by a coalition of atheist groups in 2019, before her confirmation to the bench, for “reverse-engineer[ing] results that privilege religion and violate the Constitution.” And there’s also Amy Coney Barrett who was considered for the last SCOTUS opening and whose devout Catholicism found its way into her legal writings. Both women are staunchly against abortion rights.

Replacing Ginsburg — or 82-year-old Stephen Breyer — with any of those right-wing extremists would further solidify the conservative bent of the Court. Chief Justice John Roberts wouldn’t be able to prevent massive social upheavals by flipping sides. There will be no more 5-4 rulings that offer a pleasant surprise to liberals. It would mark the legal end of abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, civil rights, and church/state separation across the nation — to the point where many people living in red states would effectively be second class citizens.

This is not just a doomsday hypothesis. It’s literally what Trump has been telling his base will happen if they re-elect him and keep the Senate in Republican hands.

Historically, Republicans have cared much more than Democrats about the Supreme Court — to our nation’s peril. I’m honestly not sure how much more they can care about the Court right now when it’s the only thing Trump has done well. But you know the GOP will make this crisis work to their advantage.

Ginsburg’s loss is a reminder that liberals need to give a damn about the Judiciary because the issues we tend to fight for, and protest about, are quite literally on the line. Without a fair judiciary, no electoral “blue wave” will make much of a difference since the courts can just overturn laws based on whatever right-wing whims they have. That’s what they’ve been doing in the Trump era already. Anyone sitting out this election because Joe Biden isn’t a perfect candidate is ceding the Courts to the GOP for generations to come.

Ginsburg’s final words, as told to her granddaughter, were “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Trump won’t care. White evangelicals would be throwing parties tonight if they could.

Biden should make clear that if Republicans replace Ginsburg over the next few months (even during a possible lame duck session), in defiance of their own rules, then he will pack the courts in order to dilute its conservative bent. That would be well within his rights if he has the votes.

The fact that it would be unprecedented has no meaning at a time when Republicans break traditions constantly if it works to their benefit.

Progressives have been saying for years that Democrats must take the Courts seriously. We no longer have a choice.

If church/state issues mean anything to you, then making sure the courts are legitimate — something Republicans don’t give a damn about — is arguably the most important reason to vote for Biden. Sitting out because he’s not a perfect candidate is the most selfish thing you can do right now. Ginsburg’s legacy now depends on it.

***Update***: Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s President and CEO Rachel Laser released this statement:

“As the only organization solely dedicated to protecting the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state, we at Americans United esteem and honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s lifelong dedication to real religious freedom, and her influence on many key Supreme Court decisions on this issue in her long service to the court and the American people.

Justice Ginsburg understood that the Constitution established religious freedom as a shield to protect us, not a sword to harm others. Or, as she quoted in one opinion, ‘[y]our right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.’ Time and again, she defended every American’s right to practice any faith, or no faith at all, without harming others. As she explained while quoting Thomas Jefferson, the framers of the First Amendment sought to ‘buil[d] a wall of separation between church and state’ because, she explained, ‘while the union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion, separating the two preserves the legitimacy of each.’

“On a court that in recent years has chipped away at religious freedom, granting religious privilege to those who would use their faith to discriminate, to exclude or to deny equality, Justice Ginsburg’s voice on behalf of one of America’s most important founding principles – and the vulnerable people it protects – was stalwart and clear. She consistently joined the opinion most protective of the separation of religion and government in virtually every case during her long tenure.

If she is replaced by a Trump-nominated justice with opposing views, we could face a disastrous erosion of the separation of religion and government. It is particularly sad that a Jewish justice who stood for religious freedom for everyone, including religious minorities, died on the eve of the Jewish New Year. As is said in her faith, may her memory be for a blessing.”

Other reactions are coming in…

Caroline Mala Corbin, a Professor of Law at the University of Miami who has written extensively on church/state separation, told me “As a tireless advocate for women’s rights, she was a hero of mine.”

American Atheists president Nick Fish:

Our nation has lost a champion of equality. Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer, a fighter, and an advocate for the rights of all Americans. She understood that religion should never be used as a weapon against the most vulnerable and that true religious freedom means guaranteeing equality under the law for all Americans, not religious privilege for the powerful few. Her voice on the Court will be missed.

While we mourn her loss, we should honor her memory by continuing the fight for a more perfect union. “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

I agree with the sentiments of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

I urge the Senate to focus on providing relief to Americans who are still struggling because of the COVID19 pandemic and allow the President, whoever that may be, to fill this vacancy in January.

(Screenshot via YouTube. Portions of this article were posted earlier)





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Statement on the Death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Washington, D.C.—On Friday, September 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States announced the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg due to complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas. Justice Ginsburg was 87.

American Atheists president Nick Fish released the following statement:

Our nation has lost a champion of equality. Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer, a fighter, and an advocate for the rights of all Americans. She understood that religion should never be used as a weapon against the most vulnerable and that true religious freedom means guaranteeing equality under the law for all Americans, not religious privilege for the powerful few. Her voice on the Court will be missed.

While we mourn her loss, we should honor her memory by continuing the fight for a more perfect union. “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

I agree with the sentiments of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

I urge the Senate to focus on providing relief to Americans who are still struggling because of the COVID19 pandemic and allow the President, whoever that may be, to fill this vacancy in January.

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Introducing Our Advisory Council – Atheist Alliance International

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As we approach our 30th birthday, Atheist Alliance International has learned a few things about how to support atheists, especially those living under threat, and how to promote secularism and evidence-based thinking but we surely don’t know it all. So we have reached out to the atheist community for help.

The AAI Board invited activists, writers, organizers, podcasters, academics and others who can enrich our thinking to join us. We formed the AAI Advisory Council. Everyone on our Council has generously volunteered to give their time for free.

So we take this opportunity to welcome and sincerely thank them all and to introduce them to our members and supporters. Council members, we promise to seek your advice individually and collectively and to listen to you attentively.

We believe this announcement is a milestone for AAI that will forge stronger links with the atheist community and bring fresh experience and wisdom to bear on the toughest challenges atheists face.

Members of our Advisory Council
Members of our Advisory Council

See details of all our Advisory Council members here.

Membership of the Advisory Council is strictly by invitation only. however, if you know someone who could make a great contribution, please advise the AAI President, Howard Burman at president@atheistalliance.org.



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Hot Buttons | Bert Bigelow

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Everybody has hot buttons…issues that energize them…either positively or negatively. Car salesmen are taught to find prospective customers’ hot buttons. What are they looking for? Are they turned on by sporty appearance, spoilers, flashy wheel covers, race car performance? Or are they interested in fuel economy, smooth ride, or interior space? Or maybe they don’t care about any of that as long as it’s red. Google “hot buttons” and you will get hundreds of “how to” tutorials for salesmen on how to find them in a target prospect.

Politicians do the same thing. Trump pushes the hot buttons of the Religious Right…abortion, gay marriage, gender identity. Many of the people who have those hot buttons also distrust government, which is why his “drain the swamp” hot button went over so well., even though he did the opposite once he was in office. Many of the voters he is targeting also tend to be…um…let’s say partial to white people. And so, they oppose any social programs to help the poor, who are largely people of color. Of course, they are horrified by the current protests against racism, especially by law enforcement. Trump has capitalized on that by pushing a “law and order” hot button, which has improved his poll numbers recently.

For many devout Christians, the mother of all hot buttons is one issue that stands out above all the rest, defining their political stance to such an extent that they are referred to as “single issue voters.” That issue is, of course, abortion. Trump’s “conversion” from pro-choice to “pro-life” (pro-forced-birth) was inevitable. Even as a political neophyte, he knew that he could not run as a Republican unless he changed his pro-choice stance. For a reported 80% of Evangelical Christians and Catholics, that was all he needed to do to get their vote. His adamant defense of “religious rights” (i.e., right to be a bigot if their god says so) and his anti-immigrant stance was icing on the cake, pushing the hot buttons of the “Bubba’s” in our society.

The spectacular success of that strategy has been a disheartening eye-opener to many of us on the liberal/progressive left. We suddenly realized the vast extent of an ugly underbelly in our society. A warning: Those folks have not gone away, and they will be voting en masse for Trump in November. Nothing a Democratic politician can do or say will sway them. Anything Trump does or says, no matter how dishonest or despicable, will have the slightest effect on their vote. They will either deny it as “fake news,” or dismiss it as irrelevant.

Hot buttons are a powerful psychological force in human decision making. Psychologists call it “hot cognition,” in which a person’s thinking is primarily influenced by their emotional state. Conversely, “cold cognition” uses logic and critical analysis, and is independent of emotional involvement. Most of our decision making is a combination of the two, but when a hot button is pushed, there is no doubt which one dominates.

Personal relationships involve hot buttons. Over time, we learn to avoid the ones that trigger our spouses and other family members, or irk our work colleagues and friends. Failure to do so can result in unexpected emotional outbursts that can undermine relationships…and destroy a nice sunny day.

All politicians make use of hot buttons, often because they themselves are triggered by them, but demagogues use them cynically to manipulate people in order to attain political power. If the result is confrontation, even violence, so much the better. We see how they thrive on it.

The current political situation in the US is an example of how this can happen. Too many of us have allowed ourselves to be duped by a demagogue, and the result is threatening our nation in frightening ways, undermining our form of government. We are sliding toward anarchy, and eventually, dictatorship.

Ben Franklin supposedly warned us about this. The story, which has probably been embellished, and may be apocryphal, goes like this:

On the final day of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when our Constitution was adopted, people gathered on the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia to await the news of the government our founders had crafted. When asked by Elizabeth Willing Powell, “Well doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied:

“A republic, if you can keep it.”

Whether the story is true or not, the warning clearly applies to our current predicament. A word that has been (over)used by a certain individual seems appropriate to describe what is happening:

Sad.





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The Problem of Sleep | Jonathan MS Pearce

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This is another guest post, this time form Slograman, long-term reader of the blog here, and someone from central Ohio, just for a bit of context…

Introduction

I’d like to think of myself as an amateur philosopher, which means I’m admittedly often out of my depth. I still enjoy a rousing discussion, however, and I like to think of philosophical conundrums. Even if I don’t have the language of a well-read, well-learned expert, I still like to talk to others about, let’s say, the Problem of Evil.

But what about the Problem of Sleep?

The necessity of sleep – and, sleep as a theological necessity

On average, humans need 6-8 hours of sleep every day. If you frequently get less than that, your health declines, and complete sleep deprivation kills lab animals. So needless to say, we need sleep – no argument can be brooked to the contrary.

In my mind, this begs the question of why an omnipotent god would require this of us. To break down what is meant by this, consider the following facts.

If sleep is necessary for survival, then humans can’t live without sleep.

If God is omnipotent, he must therefore impose sleep on his creation.

Therefore, sleep is a theological imperative of some sort. Sleep is not necessarily religious in nature, not in the same way that prayer inherently is. It might be. But whatever it is, it must be an intentional choice by an omnipotent god.

To put this in perspective, we sleep 25%-33% of our lives away. Sleep as a theological problem is too much of our lives to ignore. The average human, even a very religious one, spends much less time praying, or studying their religion, or considering other religions, or exercising what they might think is free will in order to make supposedly important moral decisions.

One might argue that sleep, despite taking up so much of our lives, is inconsequential. I would argue that its inconsequential nature is part of the problem, and I’ll try to convince y’all of this shortly.

Free will definitely doesn’t exist… not in sleep anyway

Many people argue all day and night about the nature of free will, whether it exists or not, and so on. Whatever free will is or might be, it’s certainly not an aspect of sleeping, unless you count lucid dreaming. Given the infrequency of lucid dreaming, however, we should set that aside as a fringe example. If anything, the difficult and rarity of controlling a dream proves my point: We spend a large portion of lives unable to exercise free will.

This is problematic for theists who believe in a personal god, which is a large enough chunk of theists that it should give theism a collective pause before they go back to their pews or their pulpits. Largely, they won’t, of course, but pesky problems rarely stop the recklessly determined.

Regardless, it’s fun to ruminate anyway. For the nonbeliever, it’s amusing to think that the idea of a personal god– one that is obsessed with the morality of our choices and the possible damnation of our souls – created us with the inability to exercise free will for such a large chunk of our lives. It’s so arbitrary that it makes one wonder whether there is a god at all.

Sleep should be a central theistic tenet in all religions, but it is not, and that’s weird

Sleep is so prevalent and important to us, and yet it is summarily ignored by the major world religions. In Christianity, there is no focus on the interpretation of dreams. There is prayer, and many Asian countries advocate for meditation, but religions don’t advocate to train to lucidly dream in order to exercise free will.

Sleep is instead ignored as an inconvenient anomaly. The Christian god, almost always envisioned as a personal god and often as an interventionist god at that, knocks us out for a quarter or a third of our lives, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Christianity doesn’t advocate for fighting the need for sleep, and there aren’t any well-funded Christian studies on getting rid of sleep so that god’s little Christian soldiers can do his will more often.

My possible (but implausible) solutions

I’ve thought about this problem quite a bit – clearly, more than Moses did when he wrote the Ten Commandments, or when all those Psalms were penned by bronze-age zealots by Gord O’Mighty Himself. It would be unfair for me to present a problem and not also present solutions. However, I don’t think theists are going to like them.

And that can be a lot of fun.

Solution #1: God is an uncaring a-hole. God made us for unknown reasons (God knows why)! But whatever those reasons are, they don’t include a whole lot of care. God recklessly, or carelessly, or with a telling lack of attention to detail or worry, created human beings with the need to not exist intellectually for 25%-33% of their lives. Of course, maybe it’s not a bug but a feature… yet all the modern gods, beliefs in gods, and their dogmatic believers can’t really explain what this “feature” is for. Biologists can – an uncaring universe produced sleep as a biological imperative – but the Church of Sleep Study doesn’t (yet) exist. (See solution #3 for more on this).

Solution #2: God is not all-powerful. Not only is God not omnipotent, he’s not even powerful enough to design humans without needing sleep. God is a slave to entropy, and humans are no exception. Or maybe the Devil causes sleep. Who knows! Not religion, that’s for sure.

Solution #3: Theists need to create a religious movement centered on the Problem of Sleep. Whether they’re scientific or theological studies, theists really need to look into sleep more instead of ignoring it. Some sects might argue that sleep needs to be overcome, and these theists will forward a portion of the faithful’s tithes to anti-sleep research. Others will suggest that sleep is God’s Will, and it’s up to humans to figure out what it all means. And still others will dedicate themselves to enacting their free will on dreams as much as possible. The best lucid dreamers are a heavenly shoo-in. Nightmares are God’s vengeance. Wet dreams are of the devil.

Solution #4: Ignore the problem or explain it away. AKA the default position. Theists are welcome to explain why the Problem of Sleep isn’t really a problem, but I’ve laid a lot on the line here, so they have their work cut out for them. I’m more interested in what explanations theists have for sleep. Comment below!

 

 


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Evangelical Group Continues Residential School Legacy of Anti-LGBTQ Hate | Val Wilde | Friendly Atheist

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Canada’s system of residential schools had a specific purpose: to replace Indigenous values, beliefs, and understandings of the world with those of the European colonizers. A key part of that process involved converting students to Christianity. It may sound like ancient history, but it’s actually pretty recent, with the last government-funded residential school closing in 1996.

As for the project those schools existed to enact, it continues on under a different name.

Consider the case of Northern Youth Programs, the “conservative Mennonite para-church organization” that is the focus of a new investigation by the CBC’s Jody Porter. The group, which formerly ran three residential schools, closed its last location as recently as 1991.

But they’re still active, pitching colonial Christianity in remote communities and running Bible camps, religious retreats, and counseling services not far from the Ontario/Manitoba border.

Peddling Bible lessons on-reserve is a dicey proposition given the history of colonization, but it’s the counseling that’s the real trap. Mental illness is a known problem in First Nations communities, in no small part because of the trauma inflicted on children attending residential schools. Yet in spite of higher rates of mental illness than the general population, the communities are notoriously underserved.

In comes Northern Youth Programs to fill the gap with “a Biblical approach to counseling” and, given the scarcity of services, people in crisis take what they can get. Even if — as is the case for queer Indigenous youth — the proffered help ends up making the problem even worse:

American missionary families associated with the group often fly in to remote First Nations, including to Wapekeka First Nation after the suicide crisis there in 2017.

But conservative, Bible-based teachings on homosexuality may be contributing to the suicide crisis in northern Ontario First Nations, not lessening it, say LGBTQ2 youth familiar with the pressures of evangelical Christian teachings.

(The number 2 in the acronym, commonly used in Canada, stands for “two-spirit”: a uniquely Indigenous umbrella term that describes a range of queer identities informed by Indigenous culture and traditions.)

It makes perfect sense. In a society where homophobic and transphobic sentiment is still a major problem, LGBTQ youth are at risk for mental health problems and suicide. Indigenous youth are already at elevated risk whether or not they’re queer. Combine the two, and it’s easy to see the danger in making Bible-based counseling one of the few services struggling people can access.

There’s no reason to suspect that the Wapekeka suicide crisis had any relationship to anti-LGBTQ sentiment. But it’s a tragic illustration of the gap in funding and access that makes remote First Nations communities so vulnerable to charities with religious agendas when they offer a literal lifeline to people in crisis.

Northern Youth Programs also plays a role in making communities less hospitable for queer members by promoting anti-LGBTQ sentiment in their educational materials. They have distributed a booklet — Freedom from Destructive Spirits — arguing that LGBTQ identities have demonic origins:

Evil spirits attack people physically. These unclean spirits can cause all kinds of sexual sins such as homosexuality, perversions, and lust. This uncleanness is a result of rebellion in man’s heart. God hates this kind of uncleanness (Romans 1:24–32) and will punish it.

The document also claims that “the family is under attack” (where family is very specifically defined as “father, mother, and children, with the father as leader”) and encourages the faithful to cut contact with “family or friends who are still involved with demonic activity,” lest evil spirits re-infect them.

If you find it hard to envision how those views could be anything but harmful to queer youth, you’re not the only one. Porter had similar questions:

In a statement to CBC News, Northern Youth Programs said its message to LGBTQ2 youth is: “We love you as you are. So does God. You’re a unique person.”

When asked to clarify how the materials about unclean spirits and God’s punishment align with the message that God loves everyone, Northern Youth Programs CEO Norman Miller said, “We support and love those that choose to commit sin, and so does God.”

Miller denies that what his organization offers is conversion therapy, saying they don’t focus on changing anybody’s sexual orientation or gender identity. But even if that’s technically accurate, it doesn’t excuse the harm the organization causes to First Nations youth.

Prejudice against sexual and gender minorities is another painful legacy of colonization and assimilation, practices that groups like Northern Youth Programs apologize for even as they continue to encourage and enact it in remote communities.

Fortunately, not everyone is buying it. Activists continue to label the rejection of queer Indigenous youth as a colonial practice, antithetical to traditional First Nations values. Even more importantly, leaders of Northern Ontario nations have begun to challenge LGBTQ exclusion by changing governance structures to provide access for LGBTQ voices or refusing aid from organizations that promote anti-LGBTQ views.

If Canada is serious about reconciliation, the government would do well to invest in mental health services for remote communities, so they aren’t relying on counselors who, Bible in hand, gamble with the lives of First Nations children… just like the residential schools once did.

(Thanks to Dorothy and Richard for the link)





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Too Weak To Be An Atheist?

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Atheist Cat

You’ve heard the saying “ignorance is bliss.” For many people, it rings true. Perhaps not everyone is cut out to strike out on one’s own and pursue truth no matter how unpopular it might be. For many people, moment-to-moment comfort, even false comfort, is far more preferable. I suspect most of us would agree that it is easier to adopt the position of the majority and refrain from questioning it as long as one can. If we are sufficiently motivated to “go along to get along,” it is easy enough to turn on the TV and let others tell us what to think, shut down our minds, and refuse to dwell on the difficult questions. Some of us might not be successful at doing this for long, but others manage to pull it off for their entire lives.

It is not my intention to suggest that these people are necessarily weaker than those who do not do this. In some ways, I envy them. They seem to have at least one ability I lack in that they are able to quiet their questioning mind when the questions become inconvenient.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard something like the following, I’d be one of those filthy rich “job creators” the Republican Party loves to tell us about so much:

I could never be an atheist. I need something to believe in.

Once we get past the obvious problem (i.e., the speaker’s assumption that because atheists do not believe gods, we do not believe in anything), we arrive at the question of weakness. Is the speaker saying that he or she is too weak to be an atheist? I think so. At least, I have had several Christians say this directly to me over the years (i.e., that they are too weak to be atheists).

My initial response is usually to suggest that the speaker is being too hard on himself or herself. But that probably reflects my hope for them more than any external reality. Could it be that some people really are too weak to be atheists?

It does take a decent measure of strength and courage to throw off the shackles of religious belief, and I’m not sure this is changed by the fact that many of us did not experience this as a voluntary process. At some point, we still had to come to terms with it and decide how (or if) it was going to factor into our identity. That all involves a measure of courage. Not only does one become a member of a hated minority group when one identifies as an atheist, but one loses the false comforts offered by religion. And because religion can be psychologically damaging to youth, one may also have some repair work to do. If there is one concept one can count on encountering among most of the formerly religious, it would be that of trauma.

I think what troubles me most about the notion of people being too weak to be atheists is that it makes me uncomfortable to suggest that individuals with a strong need to belong are somehow weaker because of it. In my experience, many religious believers cling to their faith because of the social connections it confers. I have a hard time seeing them as weak just because their desire to belong might be stronger than mine.

What do you think? Are some people really too weak to be atheists? Or maybe, some people just aren’t well-suited to be atheists and it has nothing to do with weakness.

This is a revised and expanded version of a post that originally appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2011.



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