2013.07 News: State-Supported Religion's Tentacles Start Groping Wisconsin

In order for a church to get state subsidy for its religious indoctrination of Wisconsin's kids, all it has to do is claim to operate a school and apply for a state grant for each pupil it purports to be "educating". The process has begun in 15 communities across the state, including 2 schools in Madison which proudly proclaim "Christian" as their middle name. A check for $6,500 per kid follows, siphoned away from what would otherwise be state aid to the public schools in the same community.

Of course, the voucher program is limited to "only" 500 kids statewide. This year. 1000 next year, presumably the same 500 from this year plus 500 newbies. No mention of 2015-2016. Probably they'll just shrink the program back to nothing, right?

A longer-range view of this topic is covered by Hank Zumach's essay, "Tax Subsidies for Bigotry", over under our "Essays" tab.

2013.07 Update: 1 Down, 1 to Go

It's been a fairly good summer for LGBT Americans, as the Supreme Court threw out the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8, and the Boy Scouts decided to stop discriminating against gay boys. So what does that leave as the minority group that people in general (and the BSA in particular) are still willing to discriminate against? Guess.

PS: Progress is not uniform. One prominent organization doesn't give a rip about your religion but still irrationally discriminates against gay men.


2013.07 Promo: New! Improved! Now with Essays!

As of today, this blog is launching a new feature: Essays. (Click on the tab of that name to see our first entry.) Unlike this tab ("Posts"), essays will be longer, appear less frequently, and not be tied to current events. We hope that you'll find thot-provokers there worth bookmarking and sharing with your friends.

And we welcome submissions. If you've done some writing on the subjects of atheism, agnosticism, religion, philosophy, ethics, etc. that you'd like to share with a wider audience, please submit it to us for possible publication.


2013.07 Biography: Rachael Slick

The internet has been a boon to atheists, as many of us feel like islands in a vast ocean of theism, with no other castaways in view as far as the eye can see. But, via the web, we can hold conversations with an atheist halfway around the world as easily as with one 2 streets over. This is the ideal environment for blogging, and a number of excellent atheist blogs have sprung up to serve the diverse, diffuse, and often lonely atheists of America, wherever they are.

One of the best is Hemant Mehta's The Friendly Atheist. Hemant is best known for "I Sold My Soul on eBay", a publicity ploy in which he did just what he said and got a winning bid from a devout Christian who wanted a crack at him for a day. But he didn't stop there, and his blog is well worth checking out on a regular basis.

Most recently, for example, he featured a little autobiographical sketch from Rachael Slick.
Rachael is the dotter of evangelist Matt Slick, founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM). He was recently featured on an episode of The Daily Show, explaining how badly people like him were being persecuted by homosexual bullies. (Really!) That interview, and Rachael's story of her upbringing, may be found on Hemant's blog here.


2013.07 News: Outrage in Dubai

Just because this story has what I suppose we'll have to call a happy ending doesn't mean it didn't have a horrifying beginning and a staggeringly atrocious middle. A woman was raped in Dubai and did exactly what any woman should do under those circumstances: promptly reported it to the police.

But those weren't your regular police. Oh, no, they were the police in a fundamentalist Muslim country. So, rather than going after the criminals, the bad guys, the ones who used force on one of their fellow human beings, they arrested the woman for having illegal sex, threw her in jail, and charged her with a crime that could've netted her over a year in prison. A Dubai prison.

And people ask us why we pursue atheism! Religion is a blight on the world, and the fact that one lone woman who had the staunch support of her government (Norway) behind her managed to escape that hellhole with her life, body, and sanity intact tells us nothing about the poor, unnoticed, unsympathized-with women who have to live there silently, day in and day out, putting up with whatever crap their insane religion forces on them.

BTW, yay for Norway, a country that, at last report, was about 30% atheist and 50% agnostic. They know how to treat human beings. So much for the religiotic slander that atheists can't possibly have any morals without some externally imposed absolutism.


2013.07 News: Follow-Up on "6 Types of Atheists"

The researchers from the University of Tennessee who recently published their findings about America's 6 types of atheists were recently interviewed about the reaction they've been getting to it.

The interviewer, with CNN, oversells the study as having "woken a sleeping giant", but it's kind of a refreshing change of pace to see any news coverage at all of serious academic research.


2013.07 News: AAA Convention Labor Day in Boston

Atheists and Agnostics of Wisconsin is a proud Member Society of the Atheist Alliance of America, a coalition of grass-roots, democratic local (and state) atheist organizations. AAA's most public activity is its annual convention, which this year will be held in Boston over Labor Day weekend, August 30 to September 2. The honored guest is Dr. Steven Pinker, who will be receiving the Richard Dawkins Award, probably from the hand of Dr. Dawkins himself. If you've ever felt as if you're the only atheist for 100 kilometres in any direction, this is just the tonic for you. Detailed info here.


2013.07 News: Researchers Identify 6 Types of Atheists

Researchers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga decided to get down to the grass roots of ordinary American unbelievers — rather than just the outspoken or organized ones — to find out what they really believe and where they're coming from. This article describes the 6 types of infidels they discovered:
  1. Intellectual Atheist/Agnostic
  2. Activist
  3. Seeker-Agnostic
  4. Anti-Theist
  5. Non-Theist
  6. Ritual Atheist/Agnostic


2013.07 Humor: Bill Maher's New Rules on Religion

Satirical comedian and outspoken atheist Bill Maher has a weekly show on HBO (Real Time with Bill Maher), which always closes with a recitation of "New Rules" for whatever loony thing has been in the news recently. Since "loony things" often include religion, Bill has returned to that particular font of levity multiple times. Some enterprising vidiot has assembled a compendium of some of the good ones. It runs 25 minutes total, but it's best digested a little at a time; each original segment runs about 5 minutes.


2013.07 News: "Religious Freedom" Amendment Proposed

The Wisconsin State Journal periodically publishes "At Issue", an update on proposals that are bubbling their way to the top of the legislative agenda. Today's entry was ostensibly about "religious freedom", which is a code phrase for "letting religious zealots get away with bad behavior that sane citizens are prohibited from engaging in".

Here's a synopsis:

Assembly Joint Resolution 43 and Senate Joint Resolution 38 aim to amend the state Constitution, adding a right to act — or refuse to act — based on religious conviction unless the government proves that the action would violate laws, rules or regulations that the state has a “compelling interest” in enforcing. The government would also need to prove it was using the “least-restrictive” means. If enacted in two consecutive Legislative sessions and approved by voters, the amendment would prohibit the state from “burdening the right to conscience” even indirectly, for example by withholding benefits or imposing penalties or excluding someone from facilities.
Dale and Leilani Neumann were undoubtedly acting out of sincere religious conviction when they let their 13-year-old dotter Kara die a lingering and painful death from easily treatable diabetes. If this amendment had been in effect at the time, they would have gotten away with it, too.


2013.07 HowTo: National Secular News Updates

AAW is affiliated with Atheist Alliance of America, which in turn is a founding member of the Secular Coalition for America. SCA represents the atheist, humanist, and freethot community in the nation's capital. As part of that mission, SCA maintains 2-way communications, not only briefing Congresscritters on what atheists are thinking but also reporting back to us on what Congress (and the federal bureaucracy in general) are up to on church-state matters.

If you'd like to get this kind of info delivered directly to your own inbox, SCA has helpfully divided it into categories for you:
  • The Morning Read -- A daily run down of the morning's top secular and movement-related news and opinion stories.
  • The Weekly Wrap Up -- Our easy to digest weekly newsletter with updates on the SCA and the secular movement.
  • National Secular Movement Update Call Agenda -- This information-intensive newsletter is for the real secular insider, with a rundown of politics, lobbying efforts, court cases, news, movement updates and other information affecting all facets of the secular movement. The Call Agenda is accompanied by a 30-minute movement-wide call every Thursday at 12 PM Eastern--open to all!
  • Action Alerts -- Get notified when something is happening on Capitol Hill, with the easy and immediate ability to contact your legislators.
  • Event Notifications -- Updates on local and national Secular Coalition events.
  • Secular News Daily -- News and opinion from a secular perspective, including updates from all of the Secular Coalition's member organizations and much more!
To sign up for as much or as little of this info as you like, visit the SCA website and click on the "Sign Up" link at the upper right. This is all free, and you need not be a member of SCA or any of its member organizations to get any of it.

Good public policy starts with good information. Again, that works in both directions.


2013.07 News: Kid Killer Conviction Stands

As you may be aware, there's a loophole in Wisconsin's law about child neglect and abuse that says, basically, it's OK to abuse and neglect your child if you're doing it out of sincere religious conviction. How far does that exemption go? Does it extend to neglect up to the point that the child dies?

Well, just such a case arose back in 2008, when ardent (tho non-denominational) Christians Dale and Leilani Neumann let their 13-year-old dotter Kara puke her guts out and wither away before their eyes from diabetes, dehydration, and malnutrition without seeking medical care. The condition was easily treatable, and Kara could have led essentially a normal life except for needing regular shots like almost all other diabetics. But noooooo — seeing a doctor would have detracted from the glory due to God, according to her clueless parents, so they let her die — a horrible, lingering, painful death.

The parents stood trial separately, and 2 separate juries said that the legal loophole didn't extend so far as to absolve them from negligent homicide. The judge agreed. And now the Wisconsin Supreme Court has also agreed.

Back to the slammer for the kid killers, who apparently still think they did the right thing.

Christopher Hitchens had it right with the subtitle of his book God Is Not Great: "Religion poisons everything".


2013.07 Action: Creationism Out of School

Do you favor getting religiously based creationism (including under its disguises as "academic freedom", "teaching the controversy", and "intelligent design") out of the classroom? If so, here's your chance to ask the White House to support that position.

Here's the text of the petition:
Since Darwin's groundbreaking theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, scientists all around the world have found monumental amounts of evidence in favor of the theory, now treated as scientific fact by 99.9% of all scientists.

However, even after 150 years after the establishment of evolution, some schools across the US are "teaching the controversy," including Creationism and Intelligent Design. Both of these so-called "theories" have no basis in scientific fact, and have absolutely zero evidence pointing towards these conjectures. These types of loopholes in our education are partially to blame for our dangerously low student performances in math and science.

Therefore, we petition the Obama Adminstration to ban the teachings of these conjectures that contradict Evolution.
This is probably more about "sending a message" than expecting an actual ban, but at 100,000 signatures, there's supposed to be an official response put out by the White House regarding it.

As with all such petitions, you will be required to sign in, and this will undoubtedly result in your contact info going into a database of people who are concerned about SOCAS (separation of church and state) and science issues. That's probably a good thing overall.