The main page of this blog ("Posts") contains frequent, short pieces with timely news value. In contrast, this page contains longer essays of lasting interest to atheists and agnostics. It will be added to only sporadically, but our hope is that each essay will be a reference point for some significant idea that you can bookmark and refer your friends to.

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.

As of this writing (July 26), we are just beginning, with a single essay on "Churches and the Corporate Org Chart", but nonetheless here's the superstructure for what's to come, a table of contents:

CONTENTS (Click on a title to go directly there.)

Churches and the Corporate Org Chart
Tax Subsidies for Bigotry
Why We Atheists Ridicule Theists

Churches and the Corporate Org Chart
by Richard S. Russell
In difficult economic times, you may hear more than usual about GDP. It’s short for “Gross Domestic Product” and is the dollar value of all the goods and services produced within a given country (or state or region) in a year. “Goods” are products, material objects that customers want; “services” are procedures, actions performed to help customers. Together, these products and procedures reflect the wealth generated by the economy.

In the US, a lot of goods and services are produced by big corporations, which are organized to do so effectively and efficiently, using those techniques much beloved of Econ 101 courses, division of labor and specialization.

Here’s an organization chart for a typical manufacturing corporation, one that produces material goods:

And here’s what goes on inside each of those little boxes:
  1. Management makes decisions, tells everyone else what to do, and handles investor relations.
  2. Internal Services support the rest of the company in general; the category includes accounting, info tech, personnel (AKA human resources or HR), labor relations (AKA employment relations or ER), safety, maintenance, regulatory compliance, and legal.
  3. Research and Development (R&D) investigates new ways of doing things and tests them out.
  4. Purchasing acquires raw materials, equipment, and property.
  5. Manufacturing (the biggest part of the company, employing the most people) generates actual useful products.
  6. Inventory Control deals with both raw materials and finished products and includes transportation, warehousing, shipping, delivery, and quality assurance.
  7. Marketing uses media to spread the word that people should buy the company's products.
  8. Sales works directly with individual customers to get them the products they want in exchange for their money.
  9. Customer Service works directly with customers who are having problems with a product.
The chart gets slimmed down a little if we’re talking about services instead of goods. Here’s an org chart for a typical service corporation:

Notice that manufacturing has vanished altogether (no goods being produced), and that the bulk of the people working for the company are the ones directly helping customers. You still have Purchasing and Inventory Control, but these are much smaller operations (since they now deal mainly with furniture and office supplies instead of heavy machinery and raw materials) and so are generally subsumed under Internal Services.

Finally we have the kind of organizations that produce neither goods nor services, namely churches. Here’s how they work:

There are still lots of entries under Management (bishops, archbishops, abbots, cardinals, popes, etc.), since these guys (by which I mean "men") are really into hierarchy.

There’s the normal array of Internal Services, with the diminished activity under ER (no unions, heavy emphasis on conformity and obedience) and regulatory compliance more than offset by the need for lots of work under legal (discrimination, pedophilia, etc.).

Nothing under R&D. (New!?)

Nothing under Purchasing. (Spend? Contribute to the economy!?)

Nothing under Manufacturing. (Useful products!?)

Nothing under Inventory Control.

But tons and tons o'time is devoted to (or, more properly, "wasted on") Marketing and Sales. In fact, in the absence of goods and services, it’s the only thing religion does at all. In other words, the priest class spends all its time pushing companionship with themselves, in return for nothing useful or even (as in the case of more traditional prostitutes) pleasurable.

The most telling part of the chart, tho, is Customer “Service”, where the ironic quotation marks emphasize the difference between what a church does and what an actual contributor to GDP does. A responsible, reputable company assumes that, if you’ve got a problem, it’s their own product’s fault, or the result of shoddy service from one of the company’s representatives. But in the case of religion, any counseling they provide for people with problems is designed to show, first and foremost, how the religion itself is never, ever at fault, that the problem is entirely the customer’s, because he or she didn’t follow directions properly. In short, the motto of Customer “Service” for a church is “The customer is always wrong.”

In effect, since religion never solves any problems (not even those of its own making), Customer “Service” is just another mechanism under Sales and Marketing, which is why it’s shown as subsidiary to those activities on the skeletal org chart above.

You know the short word for any activity that’s all talk and no walk (or, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle)? Scam!

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Tax Subsidies for Bigotry
by Hank Zumach, President, La Crosse Area Freethought Society
Freethinkers have a wide range of views, from liberal to conservative, on how government programs should affect the economy. However, we have near universal agreement that government programs must not be used to promote discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion.

For those readers who are concerned about the direction some of the unfolding political ideas might take the country, please consider just one facet of what has been injected into several states by the more conservative political party.

I am 71 years old. In my youth, Blacks were not allowed to vote or use public bathrooms or attend White-only public schools. Employers could refuse to hire women. Women were paid less than men for doing the same work and could be refused promotions simply because they were women. Homosexual activity was a felony, and gays were imprisoned, some for life. Jews, because of their religious beliefs, were openly discriminated against in our country and were being killed in Europe. All of these practices had the active support of various religious denominations.

But gradually a few brave men and women, some of them religious leaders, began to speak out against the bigotry and irrational hatred. Some of these people were imprisoned and some were actually killed for speaking out, but others then stood up and took their place. For some of us the words “Selma” and “Stonewall” mark important turning points for when our country began to change our laws so that all citizens — regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs — were treated the same.

I am sure the large majority of Americans believe that those dark days are long gone and there is no need to be concerned about their ever returning. However, very few people are aware that laws have been passed which allow actual tax subsidies for groups which advocate severe discrimination against females and gays and want to impose their religious beliefs on others. The political leaders behind these laws are being very clever in how they justify governmental backing for these egregious practices. These politicians use carefully chosen phrases such as “parents’ rights” and “freedom to choose”. The media have been drawn into using these phrases when reporting on any disagreements over the laws.

Do I believe that parents should be free to teach their children certain values and beliefs? Yes, of course. However, I also believe the vast majority of our society believes that teaching children to be bigots should be seriously discouraged and certainly should not be supported by tax dollars. As a simple example, I abhor the idea that some parents want their daughter to believe she must be submissive to males, that she should not have a job where she would have to supervise and instruct male co-workers. A similar example would be teaching a son that he should physically or otherwise abuse any classmate believed to be homosexual. And no child should be taught that the leaders or followers of another religion are evil.

What is most distressing to me is that the political leaders who claim to oppose these tax subsidies do not have the courage to stand up and use clear, unambiguous language to directly defend women’s equality and gay rights, or oppose taxes being used to demonize a particular religious group. The dark days are slowly returning, and these political leaders quietly stand by as the lights are dimmed.

If you do not believe what I have written is fact-based and true, take the time to learn what is being taught in some Wisconsin schools being subsidized with vouchers. While a number of denominations, both Christian and Muslim, use vouchers, I refer you to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod website because it gives a comprehensive, easily understood description of what this one denomination believes and teaches. Also, WELS is the largest Protestant school system receiving voucher subsidies in Wisconsin. (There are a number of other denominations’ schools with similar teachings.) Here are some of the ideas being taught using our taxes:
Our basic social values of equality and non-discrimination are under attack and in danger. We need leaders, both secular and religious, to speak out against this contrived circumvention of the important principles of the separation of church and state outlined in our Constitution’s 1st Amendment. And we need to hear their voices now, before the darkness returns to the youths of the next generation.

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Why We Atheists Ridicule Theists
by Richard S. Russell
Every weekend, publishes a new essay on what they call their Belief Blog — something to do with religion and occasionally atheism. And I’ll often join other atheists in the comment section as we point out the many, many flaws, fallacies, and outright lies in the cases the religionists are trying to make. I in particular often favor the use of humor in my observations, but I’m hardly alone in that regard. And this has led any number of religionists to whine that we have no respect for them or their faith, and that we’re just mean to poke fun at them.

I don’t deny that I derive a certain glee in doing so, but I submit that it’s a perfectly normal, utterly human reaction, in defense of which I offer up one of Jesus’s favorite tactics ...

= = = = = = T H E   P A R A B L E = = = = = =

You’re sitting around your favorite table at the corner tavern with the usual gang, when your friend Norm comes in, all excited.

“Norm, where ya been, buddy?”

“Guys, you’re not gonna believe this, but I swear it’s true, every word of it. I was just leaving the house and heading for my car when I heard voices coming from my back yard. That was strange, so I went around back to see what it was. And you’ll never believe what I saw.”

“So don’t keep us in suspenders, what was it?”

“It was a leprechaun. And he was talking to the Easter Bunny. Not exactly talking, they seemed to be arguing, but they were using some language I couldn’t understand. Loud, tho, that’s why I heard them all the way around the front of the house.”

Some sniggering, but Bob down at the end of the table rises to the bait. “Easter Bunny, huh? How do you know it was the Easter Bunny and not just a regular rabbit?”

Norm shoots the questioner a reproachful look. “Because he was 6 feet tall and wearing a polka-dot vest. And talking! OK? And while I was just standing there goggling, the leprechaun reaches behind his ear and pulls out a big gold coin and just throws it at the bunny, like he’s really mad or something.”

“Oh, do go on!”

“Well, I kind of slid into the shadows, hoping they wouldn’t see me, and just then the flying saucer shows up.”

“Flying saucer, eh? We’ll probably get lots of coverage of that on the news tonight, then?”

“No, probably not, because it was only about the size of my hand when it appeared. I didn’t even see it coming, it just settled down on the lawn out of the sky. And then it suddenly just grew, right before my eyes. Got about as big as my garage. And then ...”

“Yeah, then a little green man came out, right?”

Will you please shut up and let me tell it? I was there, and you weren’t! Yes, he was little and had those slanty eyes you always see in the movies, but he wasn’t green, more grayish. And only 3 fingers on each hand. And he didn’t say anything but he kept waving his arm at the other 2, trying to get them on board the saucer.”

“And did they go?”

“The leprechaun did. Right away. Just scooted in past the space alien. But the bunny didn’t look like he wanted to, and you could tell that the little green man, I mean gray man, was getting irritated, because he waved harder and stamped his foot. Finally the Easter Bunny hopped on up the ramp and got on. Had to duck a bit to get thru the doorway.”

“Norm, if you think ...”

“Will you wait a minute? Then the opening in the side of the ship just closed up, the saucer shrank back down to about hand size again and took off straight up, faster than I’ve ever seen anything move. It was out of sight in about 10 seconds. So that’s what happened and why I’m late.”

And everybody else just looks at each other and then busts out laffing. Norm is miffed. “I’m telling you, that’s exactly what happened!”

“Norm, my friend, we are just simple everyday working guys. Our drug of choice is beer. What on Earth have you been smoking?”

“Nothing! Nothing at all! Haven’t had a drop to drink, either. I’m stone-cold sober.”

“Been doing a little experimental cooking with mushrooms, then, have you?”

No! I’m telling you that’s exactly what happened. God’s honest truth. Would I lie to you?”

A round of nods and a chorus of “Oh, yeah!”s, and Norm gets really pissed and stomps off.

= = = = = = = = T H E   E N D = = = = = = = =

OK, be honest, now. You would’ve made sport of Norm, too, wouldn’t you? What an incredible crock of shit! He’s practically begging for scorn and ridicule.

And if, in the coming days and months, Norm stuck to his guns and continued to insist that his account was true, despite lack of any evidence whatsoever, you’d eventually fear that your buddy had suffered some kind of psychotic break and start urging him to seek professional help.

But at least Norm had the advantage of claiming first-hand, personal, eyewitness experience. And, no matter how far-fetched his tale, it didn’t contain any outright impossibilities. How much crazier do you have to be to solemnly subscribe to the even more incredible bullshit from the Bible, all of which (supposedly) happened 2,000 years ago and is attested to only by 4 pseudonymous authors, otherwise unknown to history, who didn’t even live thru the events they wrote about?

And you religionists wonder why we jeer, scoff, roll our eyes, and poke fun at you. Put yourselves in our position, and imagine the self-restraint we have to use to hold it down to only that. The only reason we take you at all seriously is because you wield political power and have historically shown that you’re perfectly willing to barbecue people like us for pointing out your idiocies, so you’re not merely pathetically funny, you’re irrationally dangerous.

"People who don't want you to laff at their beliefs shouldn't believe such funny things."

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