France Takes Hard Line Against Burqa

datePosted on 21:34, April 12th, 2011 by Kosmic Kurt

Yesterday French police arrested two women who violated the new French law prohibiting full veils being worn in public. The law officially does not call out burqas, the traditional Muslim garb which denigrates women to second class citizens in most Muslim countries, but rather carefully refers to covering ones face. From a security point-of-view the French most certainly have a right to request that one’s identity can be clarified. Terrorism is something that we Americans have very little first-hand knowledge of. In Europe it is a much different situation. The law requires that anyone wearing a full facial veil or mask in public must remove it when asked to for identification purposes. I feel the law is reasonable. But more importantly, from a Humanist point-of-view, full facial veils, specifically the burqa, when worn for religious reasons, are an intolerable attack upon women. Islam is one of the most cruelest and inhumane religious when it comes to the treatment of women. The French pride themselves on individual freedoms. Although, at first, it may seem counterintuitive, the ban on the veils is correct. The less-than-one-percent of the French Muslim women who insist on wearing a burqa in public can be subject to arrest and a fine of 250 Euros. Other European countries are considering similar laws. Here in the United States it is doubtful that anything of the sort would ever happen. But then again, there are decency laws which prohibit inappropriate clothing – and lack of clothing, in public places. It is not okay to wear clothing with vulgar or profane pictures or language – especially in public places where children may be exposed to it. But then, what is considered vulgar and profane may differ from one area to another. Either way, the burqa is offensive against women and provides a security risk. I support the French.

Voting in Christian Brown Deer

datePosted on 18:24, April 5th, 2011 by Kosmic Kurt

Brown Deer is a small Milwaukee suburb of about twelve thousand people. Today as I went to vote at the Lutheran church that had its community room transformed into a polling center, I was keenly aware of the paper crucifix proudly thumb-tacked to the bulletin board between the cutout pictures of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. My leering gaze was interrupted by a cordial salutation from one of the volunteers who knows me by name. I smiled and said, “Good morning.” As my gaze returned to the offending icon, representing thousands of years of oppression and bloody killing, I was interrupted again by another smiling face issuing another genuinely friendly salutation. Should I stand out of the line I was in and make a scene and demand that the offending 12” piece of paper be removed. After all it is the principle of the matter. I was genuinely offended. On the other hand, this is my community and these simple people meant me no harm. Why should I ruin their day and by the angry atheist? In the end, I decided not to say anything. I went and voted and promptly left the church.

Those of you who know me, know what a difficult position I was forced into by the ignorant Christian majority of Brown Deer. I suppose I justified my inaction by rationalizing it was a matter of degrees. Had the cross been larger, had there been someone preaching in the room, I would have been forced to take action. But the little paper cross was so small. And yet, it was large enough to offend me. I decided I will send a letter to the Village President and perhaps someone at the state election board just so they are aware of the situation. Legal precedent would not be in my favor if I filed a formal complaint. Curious if anyone else has had a similar situation?

Catholics Rejoice. Your iPhone Can Forgive You!

datePosted on 21:18, February 8th, 2011 by Kosmic Kurt

Just when you thought that the smart phone for the masses couldn’t get any more impractical, developers have reached a new low. There is now a confessional app for the iPhone. The app has received a lot of attention, much in part to the story released on MSNBC and other news outlets. After a bit of digging I found that there are other confessional apps out there. The one highlighted in the article is sanctioned by Bishop Kevin Rhoades for official Catholic use.

Just to clarify so there is no misunderstanding, if you are Catholic, you can confess your sins to your iPhone you can be absolved of your un-Catholic-like escapades without having to actually show your face in a church. Hallelujah!

However, the app falls way short in my opinion of what it could do. So, for those of us that do not accept the concept of sin in the first place, I have an idea and a challenge to all of you hackers out there. We develop a hack to the app that lets the person complete their confession and then says, “You have sinned and are NOT forgiven.”  Then an image of Satan appears on the screen and the hack causes the phone to begin intense and excessive drain of the battery so that it heats up and eventually melts the phone. Now that would be a great app.

Carl Sagan

datePosted on 20:28, November 8th, 2010 by Kosmic Kurt

Although not formally a self-proclaimed atheist, Carl Sagan embodied the spirit of atheism and freethought. Sagan, more than anyone in recent memory, inspired millions to look at the universe with eyes open rather than closed. November 9th is Carl Sagan’s birthday. The Council for Secular Humanism has a website dedicated to him. Having a day named after this pioneer is very apropos. Many years ago when I was struggling with my own atheism, his book Broca’s Brain, really helped to solidify my convictions. He completely destroyed many myths and superstitions to the point of obsolescence.

Carl Sagan was the most recognizable scientist in the world at the time of his death. He brought the wonders of science into people’s living rooms. One of the reasons that science is having such a herd time defending itself against the ignorant religious right is the fact that there are not many scientists taking the time to reach out and talk to people. Sagan took the most complex subjects and brought them down to a level that even the most illiterate theist could understand.

Perhaps Sagan’s most enduring gift to humankind was the way he debunked pseudoscience. He was tireless in exposing nonsensical claims and religious dogma. Now, more than ever, we really need someone like Car Sagan. We need someone with the intelligence and the courage to reach out and speak out. Fourteen years after his passing, his words ring as true today as when he first spoke them.

My deeply held belief is that if a god of anything like the traditional sort exists, our curiosity and intelligence are provided by such a god. We would be unappreciative of those gifts (as well as unable to take such a course of action) if we suppressed our passion to explore the universe and ourselves. On the other hand, if such a traditional god does not exist, our curiosity and our intelligence are the essential tools for managing our survival. In either case, the enterprise of knowledge is consistent with both science and religion, and is essential for the welfare of the human species.”

Broca’s Brain

In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed”? Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.”

Pale Blue Dot

The major religions on the Earth contradict each other left and right. You can’t all be correct. And what if all of you are wrong? It’s a possibility, you know. You must care about the truth, right? Well, the way to winnow through all the differing contentions is to be skeptical. I’m not any more skeptical about your religious beliefs than I am about every new scientific idea I hear about. But in my line of work, they’re called hypotheses, not inspiration and not revelation.

Contact

Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy. Think of how many people rely on these prophecies, however vague, however unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs. Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science? … No other human institution comes close.

—The Demon-Haunted World

FFRF 33rd Annual Convention Day 2 Part 2

datePosted on 19:59, October 31st, 2010 by Kosmic Kurt

The Banquet Dinner was set up in the ballroom where the speakers had been. Only, we now had tables. My wife and I found a place to sit and had dinner. To our left was couple from Louisiana and to my right was a couple from Arizona.  The gentleman was a retired doctor and very strong advocate of woman’s rights. We had a great dinner consisting of awesome conversation with fellow freethinkers.

The drawing for “clean” money was fun – no I didn’t win.  Clean money is money produced before 1954 when the United States mint printed “E. Pluribus Unum” instead of the offensive “In God We Trust” which most uneducated right-wing theocrats think was used all along. The foundation had several young people draw the winners – the youngest being only two years old.

After the drawing, Dan Barker and Pulitzer Prize cartoonist Steve Benson provided the evening’s entertainment with “Tunes and Toons.”  Basically it was Steve Benson’s amazing artwork with Dan Barker’s phenomenal piano playing. It also included humorous banter between the two of them.  I can honestly say it as probably the highlight of the evening. Dan’s piano playing always leaves me awestruck. Combine that with an award-winning illustrator and you have Tunes and Toons. The final cartoon was a picture of John Lennon making a peace sign with one of his hands.  The Twin Towers were behind him burning with the smoke rising forming the word “Imagine” in the clouds while Dan played his rendition of John Lennon’s classic Imagine. That image, along with the song, pretty much summed up the weekend.

FFRF 33rd Annual Convention Day 2 Part 1

datePosted on 18:01, October 30th, 2010 by Kosmic Kurt

Welcome back freethought fans. Day one of the Freedom From Religion National Convention was a really moving and exciting day. But all of that was just a warm up for day two.

Today’s festivities started out with the traditional NonPrayer Breakfast. Sadly we decided to sleep and instead opt for the free breakfast at the Governor’s Club Lounge that our “deluxe” room entitled us to. I did make it for the presentation of the Thomas Jefferson Student Activist Award. This year award was presented to Indiana student Eric Workman.

When the presentation started and Eric walked up to receive his award I thought it was going be boring and I started to get up to leave;  however, when he did speak, I was blown away. This brave young man stood up to his entire high school, the school board, all of his peers and even the community, as a whole. There was going to be a Christian prayer at his graduation and he objected to it. He called the ACLU and was the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the school district. It was hell for him and his family. In the end, he won. However, that wasn’t the end of the matter. At his graduation where spoke as valedictorian, he took on the issue and gave a direct affirmation of state and church separation – despite protests from the audience. Talk about bravery.

Later in the morning I attended a presentation by FFRF staff attorneys Rebecca Markert and Patrick Elliot. The amount cases they take on each year is truly astounding. The heart of FFRF is, of course, writing letters and filing lawsuits against those who would try to bring religion into where it does not belong. Their success rate in protecting the constitutional separation of state and church was both enlightening and inspiring.

My wife and I went outside to the framer’s market around the state capitol. It was beautiful fall day. I felt very lucky to be at the steps of the state capitol attending a conference on freedom while purchasing food from local growers and bakers. Afterwards we had a spot of lunch at the hotel and then went back to the conference for the afternoon activities, which would prove to be the best yet.

Julia Sweeney stole the day with her intelligence, charm and wit. We were treated to a reading from her up-and-coming book which she is writing. Some of it was so funny that we literally were crying from laughing so hard. After having seen Letting go of God, her amazing tale of atheist discovery, I can honestly say that Sweeney is one of the best spokespersons for rational thought. Here is someone who was a believer and did everything she could to believe. But the more she tried, the farther removed she became. But, what separates her from others is that she has the unique ability to take a very serious subject and reduce it to a laughable, yet poignant soliloquy. He approach and delivery are both deceptively effective. They work where sometimes harder logic fails. Julia Sweeney solidifies herself as one of our best storytellers.

Next we had Madison cartoonist Mike Konopacki. His presentation was slower and dryer that we would have liked. However, he did acknowledge that after Julia Sweeney, he was going to be a bit of a “downer.” Konopacki basically took Christianity to task with images showing all of the bloodshed that it was responsible for. He created a pamphlet with his artwork juxtaposed against passages in the bible that Christians had used to justify their insidious defamation of humanity

The second Emperor Has No Clothes Award was given to Cenk Uygur. Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali the night before, Cenk is a maverick who has made a stand to expose religion for what it is. He delivered a riveting, humorous, tirade against the inconsistencies and offensive nonsense of all major religions. He also went on to point out that all of the horrors currently committed by the faithful demands a response and challenged everyone present to fight the religious with logic, reason, and truth whenever the opportunity presents itself. For example, the bible clearly states that you should never eat shellfish. So, whenever you get the chance, you should ask a Christian or a Jew if they really don’t eat shrimp and what issue their god has with eating shrimp.

Cenk is the host of The Young Turks, the largest on-line news show in the world. Even though is audience is huge, he was able communicate at a level that everyone could relate to. A very powerful and intellectually motivated speaker, he really empowered the audience.

That’s it for now.

FFRF 33rd Annual Convention Day 1

datePosted on 10:21, October 30th, 2010 by Kosmic Kurt

Greetings freethought fans.  I’m here at the Freedom From Religion’s 33rd Annual Convention. About 700 of us are gathered at the Concourse Hotel in downtown Madison Wisconsin.

Last night the opening ceremony included a wonderful video message from Wisconsin Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton. Lawton gave a very positive and powerful welcome thanking FFRF for all of it’s work. Lawton is a big proponent of state and church separation. She, no doubt, has received a lot of flack from acknowledging a “heathen” group. Kudos to her!

Journalist Linda Greenhouse gave a very interesting speach about the Supreme Court and rulings regarding separation issues. Greenhouse, a brilliant author and journalist has been covering the Supreme Court of 30 years. Her talk was enlightening.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Emperor Has No Clothes Award. This year presented to author /activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali gave an absolutely wonderful and highly moving acceptance speech. She gave a moving and telling account of her trials and the trials of women, in general, in Muslim countries. As she recounted the actual fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes. She is the little child at the end, of course, that tells the truth and exposes the emperor as actually having no clothes. What’s fascinating is that as a young child growing up with a reform Jewish education, I too was exposed the fable. However, the Jewish religion had hijacked the fable for it’s own self-serving purposes. You see I was taught that the little boy was actually a Jew exposing the Christian believers and their god as false. The Jewish god is the only god and Hans Christian Andersen wrote the fable to illustrate that. For many years I grew up actually believing that lie. Now, as an adult atheist, it gives me great satisfaction to hear this wonderful fable understood as it was meant to be understood. Courageous pioneers like Hirsi Ali are indeed the deserving recipients of awards like the Emperor Has No Clothes Award. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a beautiful, articulate, engaging individual who is a credit to all women and freethinkers everywhere. Her speech brought many present to tears with her lucid antidotes.

At the book signing which followed her speech, my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting Hirsi Ali. It was an honor.

The first day was really entertaining and educational.  More later.

More 9/11 Madness

datePosted on 20:50, September 10th, 2010 by Kosmic Kurt

Another year; another 9/11 celebration; another chance for the religious to celebrate their ignorance. This year we have the added excitement of Terry Jones and his Koran burning stunt. Jones, who immigrated here from Germany just two years ago and set up his little slave-labor camp in Florida, is doing all he can to alienate the Islamic community. For the record, Jones has a constitutional right to criticize, mock, and yes, burn, any book he wants. However, the message sent is one that is abhorrent to most civilized people. The Koran is a terrible book of nonsense, true. But then, the Judeo-Christian Bible trumps the Koran any day when it comes to horror, lies, rape, incest, murder and the like. Being an atheist I would much rather burn a Bible, than the Koran. But that’s just me. However, I am also a humanist and I realize that publicly destroying something that is special to someone is a selfish, nasty act that will only bread hatred and discontent. The global mess that is ensuing is the fault of the western media. Making a big deal out of nothing is what is happening. A Baptist church did the same thing two years ago and no one even commented on it. One religion picking on another. Same old story.

Another bit of nastiness this year is the Awakening Awareness Alliance’s Cry Out America. Here we have right-wing Christians encouraging all Americans to pray to their god. This is the second year this group as done this public prayer fiasco. Unfortunately many naïve Americans are falling for it and will be participating in their activities on 9/11. For the ignorant, this is a strictly evangelical Christian right-wing hate group that believes the United States should be a Christian nation. They are against the 32 million of us non-theists and of course very anti Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc. They want to transform the United States in their warped Christian worldview. Don’t let them!

We rational non-theists must stand firm and resolute in pointing out that 9/11 happened because of religion. It is religion that killed the innocent and it is religion that is killing people in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and even here in the United States right now. And, rest assured,  it will be religion that will kill many more people after this year’s round of 9/11 foolishness is over. Stop the madness! Stop religion. Not one group or sect, but all religions. Then, and only then, will we have chance to create a better world, free from the hatred forced upon us all by the deluded godmongers.

Remember 9/11 – Without the Prayer Please! (Previous post click here)

Atheist Leader Works With Theists

datePosted on 13:03, August 6th, 2010 by Kosmic Kurt



Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Australia, is also the first female Prime Minister, and more importantly, the first openly acknowledged atheist Prime Minister. As an atheist, Gillard does not believe in deities, saints, or other make-believe entities. However, as Prime Minster she needs the support of the Christian majority to stay in office. So, yesterday she publicly acknowledged the canonization of Mary MacKillop and pledged money for a celebration party. MacKillop was a nun in the 19th Century that helped poor and orphaned children. She will be the first Australian Saint.

“Whether you believe Mary MacKillop’s a saint, whether you believe she was a great Australian pioneer providing education to kids who needed it, whether you believe both, this is a great moment to celebrate.”

–Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Gillard obviously does not believe in saints but does recognize the prestige of having an Australian Saint.  This will go a long way to helping her to get re-elected in two weeks.  Gillard is to be commended for her efforts in putting things into proper perspective and maintaining a balance. The saint thing is a big deal for the Catholics, so she is letting them have their day, and then she will move on to other things – like running the country. As the nation’s first atheist leader she does need to tread carefully. She has found a way to placate the theists and still maintain her rational world view. I admire her courage and still acknowledge her conviction and honesty. More importantly I admire the people of Australia for allowing her to be their leader in the first place!

Mel Gibson: A perfect example of why religion is bad

datePosted on 13:03, July 21st, 2010 by Kosmic Kurt

In a rather scathing editorial released on Monday in Slate (click to go to article), award-winning author Christopher Hitchens blasted actor Mel Gibson as a fascist and a racist whose behavior is consistent with the right wing of the Catholic Church. Hitchens makes the inescapable conclusion that Gibson’s extreme religious views leave no tolerance for anyone else’s views and that he should be the “poster child” for the Catholic Church itself. Personally I agree with everything Hitchens says; however, I would go one step further. You see it’s not just the Catholic Church. No, it’s religion period! We all know the horrific atrocities the Catholic Church is responsible for and continues to perpetrate each day. Catholics are bad, but they are not the exception. Almost every major religion discriminates and abuses people. Women, in particular usually get the worst of it.

Orthodox Jewish women are never allowed to question their mates or speak in temple. In fact, they are not even allowed to sit with men – they must sit in the back of the synagogue as second-class citizens. In Judaism, women are always second class.

Muslim women are so discriminated against that one could fill volumes speaking about the mental and physical abuse they must tolerate each day. From genital mutilation and full-body stoning for nothing more than allow part of their flesh to be seen by another to being sold into slavery for their entire lives, it really sucks to be a Muslim woman.

I could go on, but you get the point. It is religion itself that makes people do these bad things. It is belief in the objects of the religions – the gods. It is the unquestioning, relentless, dogmatic, mindless adherence to age-old hypocritical abusive and destructive behavior that only religion can create. Mel Gibson is scum, but he is no worse than any other religious pundit who feels their actions are justified by their deity de jour. This is just one more of an infinite number of reasons why you can not be moral with religion.

You want to see just how “moral” religion can make you? Take good look at Mel Gibson. He is religion incarnate.

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