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Rock Beyond Belief

On September 25, 2010, thousands of Christians gathered in the military base at Fort Bragg to celebrate “Rock the Fort,” an event sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelical Assocation as part of the military’s Spiritual Fitness initiative. The event involved a full line-up of speakers and musicians and had to goal of converting as many people to Christianity as possible. Afterwards, there were reports of as many as five hundred conversions on stage.

More importantly, the event was funded by more than $54,000 of taxpayer money and directly sponsored by Fort Bragg’s Religious Support Office. Each piece of advertisement contained official Fort Bragg contact information, and press releases were on Fort Bragg letterhead. The event was also publicized through official Fort Bragg emails from the Public Affairs Office.

Okay. You might think you know where this is going. We atheists are very upset about this, so we kick and scream all the way, right?

Well, a very hard-working group of volunteers decided to put together a new event called “Rock Beyond Belief.” The event includes speakers like Dan Barker, Richard Dawkins, our very own Hemant Mehta, musician Roy Zimmerman, and many many others. Yes, it was going to be a huge event at Fort Bragg, but with a leaner budget (only $42,000). To make this event possible, the organizers were counting on promises from Fort Bragg officials for “equal treatment” and “a similar level of support” as well as large donations from groups like the Stiefel Freethought Foundation.

Up until a few days ago, things were going great. Then Fort Bragg officials suddenly decided to rescind their pledge to support this event. Instead, the organizers of Rock Beyond Belief were instructed to put a disclaimer on their advertisements saying that the event was not associated with Fort Bragg. They were also approved for a whopping zero dollars.

Basically, Fort Bragg spent $54,000 of our tax money on a huge Christian rock party, as well as considerable resources sponsoring and advertising for it directly. But when a secular group comes along and asks for a similar deal, they are told to not even to associate themselves with Fort Bragg and to go find their own money.

Here’s what I want to see happen next:

1) Sue the hell out of them. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), along with the Freedom from Religion Foundation, has already agreed to litigate. Full speed ahead.

2) Have the event. There are thousands of atheists in the military, tens of millions of nonbelievers in the U.S., and hundreds of millions around the world. And I have to admit, we are on average a pretty wealthy/successful group of people. You don’t think we can find $50,000 in a couple weeks?

For inspiration, I encourage you to look on the website of MRFF. They are a very important advocacy and support group, especially for atheists serving in the U.S. military.

If atheists wrote religious Facebook status updates…

If atheists wrote religious Facebook status updates, it would be something like this:

Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett. They are the Enlightened Truth, the Path Away from Darkness! In times of struggle, let me hear your wise words that proclaim the GLORY of science. So let us praise Reason! Hear its love and its infinite and perfect wisdom. Forgive us, Science and Logic, for although we are nothing compared to your holy name, we will study your Word and live a life of Righteous anti-godliness.

In the name of Darwin’s ghost, Amen.

And then my friends would comment:

Amen!

Hallelujah.

Thank you for your comforting words. They mean a lot to me.

Reason is truth! Yes!

I would get approximately 20 likes.

The State of the Nation

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40732028/ns/technology_and_science-science/

4 in 10 Americans still hold creationist views

If you’re in a room of 100 people, odds are likely about 40 think God created humans about 10,000 years ago, part of a philosophy called creationism, according to a Gallup poll reported Friday (Dec. 17). That number is slightly lower than in years past and down from a high of 47 percent in both 1993 and 1999.

The optimists will say that this is progress, but I just want to point out how long the road really is.

Note that in addition to this group of creationists, another 38 percent of Americans believe that God directed evolution over millions of years. How this supposed process actually worked and what evidence there is of such divine interventions is never really described in detail by these people, which is not at all surprising. I, holding the radical “opinion” that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, think a theory of evolution that involves supernatural guidance is an affront to the actual theory of evolution. Supernatural evolutionists maintain that all of these happenings in the past — the slow and indifferent processes that have led to the extinction of 99% of all species including multiple human species — were designed and coordinated so that we are sitting here today. This is an attack on science, not only because it speculates about the supernatural, but also, by inserting God’s hand into the picture, it destroys the role that an indifferent environment plays in determining “fitness” (a term that is too often misunderstood to be equivalent to traits like strength and intelligence). Supernatural evolution is not only bad science, nonscience, and pseudoscience, but it is based on the lie that we evolved as a specially designed creature.

For the 40 percent who think that the Earth is 10,000 years old, Richard Dawkins points that that these people aren’t just wrong, but so incredibly wrong that it is “proportional” to saying that the distance from New York to San Francisco is about ten yards.

Americans’ views on human origins varied significantly by level of education and religion, the poll found. Those with less education were more likely to hold a creationist view that God created life thousands of years ago, while college graduates were more likely to hold one of the two viewpoints involving evolution.

I know I repeat this point over and over, but there is and always has been a solution to this problem: education. Virtually every poll, every study finds that as you give people the opportunity to receive a good education (e.g., when you increase the percentage of people going to college), the baseline statistics all rise, leading to not only a decline in religiosity, but also declines in crime, poverty, along with gains in health and social harmony. This is especially why it is so important, at a time when we are beginning to realize that America is not leading the world anymore in basic science education, that we resist the attempts by creationists to pressure our public schools and universities to teach their packaged ideas. If creationists really want their ideas in textbooks, they should not take the political shortcut, but try to first get their ideas peer reviewed and published in journals, just like how every other scientist in the world operates.

Science: a Wondrous Pursuit

These are just two of the many Symphony of Science videos that are on Youtube; they all intrigue me very much. Unfortunately, as a nonscientist, I may never really understand the technical details of physics, biology, or other sciences, but the importance of videos like these is that the wider public can really appreciate the beauty and poetry that flows from study of the natural world. The awe-inspiring scenes of scientific eye-candy combine with musically-tuned quotes from great modern thinkers. What more can you ask for?