Your morality isn’t in your religion

Where do our moral beliefs originate?

Religious people will tell you it comes from their god. But then they ignore all the things in their religious books that contradict that (slavery is fine, divorcees should be stoned to death, eating shellfish is a sin…).church lady

Those of us who don’t believe come to our morality by using logic and empathy. We don’t act the way we do because of a fear of punishment in the afterlife we don’t believe exists; we do things because we think it’s right — it’s the way we want to treat others and how we would like to be treated in return.

And so do religious people, but they don’t always realize it.

For instance, if your religious leader suddenly told you to do something that you consider wrong, would you do it? If your preacher pointed to the Bible to justify children getting married at age 14 because the Bible allows it, would you say, “Well, that’s what God wants so I’m going to go marry a 14-year old”?

A better example may be gay marriage. Many preachers argue that this is a sin and that God hates gay people, but many religious folks have rejected that. They ignore their leaders — or they shop around until they find another church that agrees with their views.

See? Your morality is within you. It’s in the choices you make. Sure, your religion may offer you guidance but do you know of anyone who says, “Well, I disagree with this view completely but I’m still going to follow it”? Even a majority of Catholics believe that abortion should be legal.

You don’t need religion to have morality and, if you’re being honest with yourself, you can come up with many religious people whose morality is questionable at best.

And that’s why it is so insulting when religious folks tell atheists that we have no morals, because we came by our morals the same way they did.

The 5th Annual “War on Christmas” challenge

Merry War on Christmas, everybody!

Anger drives ratings, as Fox News is well aware. And that’s why they created the War on Christmas. Those poor Christians, being attacked and persecuted and treated terribly — how awful it must be to be a discriminated against majority. All those laws requiring people to never say “Merry Christmas” …  oh wait.grinch1

Every example Fox News gives for a “War on Christmas” always boils down to something like “They won’t let us force kids to sing our religious songs!” or “They say ‘Happy Holidays’ which acknowledges that not everyone is a Christian and therefore they are attacking us!” or “They are refusing to allow us to use taxpayer dollars for a religious display.”

This year is even worse, because the Fox News President claims that finally, people can say “Merry Christmas” again, as if Obama prohibited everyone from saying it. (Here, of course, is where we insert the clips of Obama saying “Merry Christmas” multiple times over eight years).

So for five years now, I have challenged anyone to give me an example of a real “attack on Christmas,” because every one of these examples is, in reality, fought in defense. You wouldn’t even hear about them if these particular Christians weren’t trying to require everyone to obey their beliefs.

There are some Christians who apparently are so self-centered that if you say something like, “I respect your beliefs even though I do not share them and sincerely hope you have a happy holidays,” they are convinced that you are out to take away their rights.

So find me one example of anyone trying to prevent people from celebrating a religious Christmas. Just one.

I have a feeling I know what the result will once again be.

(And yes, of course, just to clarify: #notallChristians)

Gods, UFOs, and evidence

There’s the one thing I always have to wonder about religious people and UFO/alien buffs.

Why is it that out of all the holy books in all of the religions all over the world, not one contains any information that would not have been known by the primitive people at the time?


sometimes they overlap

You’d think one of those gods would have said, “Hey, the earth isn’t flat, and it revolves around the sun. Also, diseases are caused by germs. Everything is made of atoms. There’s an entire other continent across the ocean. Slavery is actually a bad thing. Plus the Red Sox will win the World Series in 2004.”

Nope. Instead we get talking snakes, world-wide floods, people living in whales, angels, devils, and unicorns. It’s almost as if all of these books were written by primitive sheep herders instead of being the Word of God or something.

And the UFO buffs kind of fall into this same category. If flying saucers have been visiting and watching us for thousands of years (because they like building pyramids and stonehenges or something), why has not a single piece of evidence been found? Surely some alien would have dropped something over those years. (If you dropped an iphone forty years ago people would have thought it was some alien technology.) Maybe a piece of a spaceship would have fallen off and we’d have some unusual metal. Or perhaps one of those alien abductors could have said, “Yo, here’s the Grand Unified Theory.”

But then again, as I’ve said before, one of the biggest mysteries to me in life is how otherwise intelligent, rational people will ignore all logic and facts when they really want to believe something.

And ironically, many of the religious folks laugh at the UFO crowd while the UFO crowd laugh at the religious folks despite their similarities.

Atheists: No room in our tent for bigots

by guest blogger David Silverman

(The text of the speech American Atheist President David Silverman gave at a recent convention)

I would like to open this convention with a statement of exclusion. I’ve been an atheist activist for 21 years and throughout that entire period I have banged the drum of the big tent atheism. I have strived to include everyone in this community, Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Socialist, conservative or liberal — everyone has been included in our community as far as I am concerned. Reasonable people can have reasonably disagreements about reasonable topics. That’s what it means to be an American. And to be an atheist.

Some have agreed with me and some have not, but I have stood my ground proudly as we at American Atheists represented the broadest definition of atheist, anyone, and that means anyone, who does not have a belief in a god, or as my friend Aron Ra puts it, anyone who is not convinced that a particular god exists.Silverman

I was right to take that position because we are the most maligned and underrepresented religious demographic in the country, and we all need to speak up and be counted as what we are.

People used to come to me with such silly examples. “Come on Dave,” they would say. “We can’t literally include everyone. What about Nazis?”

And I laughed at them. I would say, “Silly detractors, there are no atheist Nazis!”

Those were the days. But we’re living in a very different country and a very different world.

So let me be clear on something: American Atheists is here to do good. We are here to improve the country by improving the lives of atheists and other religious minorities by erasing religious privilege and that means defeating bigotry and prejudice.

Our tent is big, because we need to raise awareness of our breadth and ubiquity.
Our tent is big, because infighting and division can kill a movement. Our tent is big, because our job is big and our work is hard and we need all the help we can get.

But ladies and gentlemen, the events in Charlottesville and elsewhere that have permeated our news over the past few weeks demand that we speak out. That we clarify. That we say, in no uncertain terms, that we will not tolerate intolerance.

American Atheists fights to eliminate bigotry against our community. And we cannot support bigotry from our community. I certainly cannot.

So to be clear (and I can’t believe I need to say this from the stage): If you are a person who believes white supremacy is “reasonable,” if you believe bigotry against other people because of their race or gender or sexual orientation is morally acceptable, if you think good people can march alongside Nazis, our tent is too small for you.

I don’t want your money.

I don’t want your membership.

And I sure as hell don’t want your friendship.

Your cause is not our cause.

Calling yourself an atheist doesn’t make you part of our community. It just means we happen to share one thing in common. And that one thing isn’t good enough.Dave_Silverman.svg

Conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, big government or small government, firebrand or diplomat, you are all welcome here. But white supremacists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and bigots have no place in American Atheists, and are not welcome at this convention or anywhere near me.

When I became an activist 21 years ago, I thought such idiocy was a thing of the past. I was wrong.

I still believe we have to keep this tent as large as we can, but we must not include those who would destroy our community or the people in it by embracing bigotry or simply turning a blind eye to it.

We must own the fact that some atheists can be bad people. Simply rejecting gods doesn’t make you a good person. It doesn’t make you reasonable.

The fact is that some of these bigots are atheists. Religion doesn’t have a monopoly on bad ideas. Just because vast majority of those who would take away the rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters, women, and the rest of us do so because of their religious beliefs, that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones.

The atheists who side with religious bigots against the cause of equality are no friends of mine. I have far more in common with the Christian who strives for equality than I do with any atheist, no matter how outspoken, who advocates hatred.

I hope that’s clear and I hope the time of Nazis and racists and white supremacists marching in the streets in America passes in short order.

But it’s not enough to hope. This is a fight we all must fight. It is a fight that American Atheists will fight. It’s a fight I will fight. And I hope it’s a fight I can count on you to fight.




Ten Commandments? What are they?

Hobby Lobby recently was charged by the Justice Department with stealing millions of dollars of artifacts in violation of the law.


These devout Christians, you may recall, went all the ways to the Supreme Court to fight for their right to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees because of their strongly held religious beliefs. And then the Court made one of the worst decisions in its history by deciding that corporations could have religious beliefs and discriminate based on  those beliefs.

Well, not surprisingly, like many (if not most) Christians, they only care about some of the things their religion tells them. Stealing and lying — both clearly prohibited by their Ten Commandments, doesn’t seem to apply to them. Contraception — not mentioned anywhere in the Bible — well, that’s different.

Picking and choosing what religious laws you want to follow is nothing new, but the hypocrisy here is overwhelming.

To make matters worse, these artifacts were stolen in Iraq, and most likely stolen by agents of ISIS, so Hobby Lobby should now be categorized as a terrorist supporter, and the leaders of that organization should face serious criminal penalties. I mean, after all, I’ve represented people in my law practice who were stealing a few dozen dollars worth of stuff from WalMart who are now sitting in jail. Surely someone who violates the law and steals millions should be treated worse.

Ha ha! Just kidding. You know that will never happen.



Why saying “I’ll pray for you” is insulting to non-believers

Look, I know you mean well. I know that no insult is intended. But try to look at this objectively:

Saying “I’ll pray for you” because I don’t believe in the same thing you believe in has the same affect on me as if you said, “I’ll ask My Little Pony to give you sweet dreams and chocolate.” It’s meaningless to me.

The reason it’s insulting is because what it really says is, “I pity you because you don’t share my beliefs, and therefore since I am superior to you, I will grant you this boon, you poor unfortunate soul. Thanks to me praying for you, you may escape an internal torment in Hell, you evil person. You should thank me.”9459f74d551d0038ee0551450f4099b00b42a91ad1f7dfec24adf03c6cbbf2df
In other words, the only person such a statement serves in this context is you. While you mean well, it ignores my beliefs completely, telling me that you’re completely insensitive to them. 

Someone saying “I’ll pray for you” as soon they find out I’m a non-believer is equivalent to me saying “I hope you get smarter” when someone tells me they do believe. It’s condescending and insulting to your belief, because it completely discounts it and treats it as meaningless and beneath respect.

I will gladly debate religion with anyone, but let’s not start off by insulting each other for our beliefs. 

“I’ll pray for you” also depends on the context. If you’re saying that because I’m in the hospital, then I know it means “I am wishing you well” and I am happy to receive such thoughts. I take no offense, because it means you care. But when you say it in response to learning I don’t share your beliefs, it’s dismissive and insulting.


Christians are “broken people” who “cause poverty”

A Democratic Mayor of a prominent city recently said that Christians are “broken people” who are not “productive members of society.” She said that they were the “deepest systemic causes of generational poverty.”

This kind of bigotry is unacceptable, of course. We are a land that values our beliefs, and in fact, guarantee the right to believe or not believe in the very first Amendment. To degrade an entire group of people simply because of their beliefs is about as unAmerican as you can get. So you can imagine how people who strongly believe in the 1st Amendment and the values of our country are protesting this woman.

Oh.  Wait.  My mistake.

She didn’t say that about Christians. She said it about atheists.

Well, that’s completely different, isn’t it? Even though some estimates place non-believers in America somewhere in the 30% range (much larger than Jews or Muslims or Mormons or any non-Christian religion), it’s still perfectly acceptable to degrade, insult, and demean non-believers in a way that would ruin the career of any politician saying that about a religious group.