Celebrating Women in Black History ~ I

Maya Angelou Quote

Maya Angelou

“Born on April 4th, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Angelou was raised in St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas. In Stamps, Dr. Angelou experienced the brutality of racial discrimination, but she also absorbed the unshakable faith and values of traditional African-American family, community, and culture.

As a teenager, Dr. Angelou’s love for the arts won her a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labor School. At 14, she dropped out to become San Francisco’s first African-American female cable car conductor. She later finished high school, giving birth to her son, Guy, a few weeks after graduation. As a young single mother, she supported her son by working as a waitress and cook, however her passion for music, dance, performance, and poetry would soon take center stage…”

http://mayaangelou.com/

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Philanthropy and Secularism: Two

Adam and Amanda Brown fam picAdam and Amanda Brown are one of the most charismatic couples in the atheist movement. They are seated together taking turns describing how life was growing up as an Evangelical Christian and a Restoration Mormon [respectively]. Two very different paths brought these two together and as a result some very important things are happening, not just to the community but to the role of atheists as a whole.

After researching questions that his faith brought forward in his mind while attending college, Adam compiled all of his information into a website that is now a widely used resource for those who are seeking answers of their own. The Atheism Resource states that it’s “designed to give easy access to loads of information on the subject of atheism from a historical, cultural, political, psychological, sociological, and scientific perspective.” It does exactly that, and much more. It gives people a place to reach out to other atheists and read blogs written on a myriad of topics.

Adam is also the co-owner and creative director of Voss Visuals, which offers vehicle wraps, marketing and printing services. As such he offers a discount to companies that use their services for atheist, secular or humanist needs. That’s not to say that they will not accept business from other companies or organizations, but for projects that some companies will not touch based on who they represent, Voss Visuals welcomes the opportunity with open arms.

Amanda meanwhile, was busy paving her own path. Focusing on hot-button topics like education, LGBT and women’s rights, she became more active fighting not just equality but in the separation of church and state. Soon, it became apparent that being and fighting as an atheist wasn’t enough. People needed a way to reach out to others and let people know they were atheists at the same time. We Are Atheism was the brainchild of that need with Amanda the driving force behind it. The website is a place to read stories about how others came to understand their beliefs and tell their own stories that will hopefully help those who might not otherwise have the courage on their own. Mostly however, it lets people know that they aren’t alone by sharing those essays and  videos.AGA_Logo

Adam and Amanda then pulled their ambitions together and set their sights one step higher. They created a movement called “Atheists Giving Aid” which is exactly what it sounds like. Funds are raised for various campaigns and the money goes directly to those in need, rather than lining another pocket of another corporate organization. How do they ensure this happens? By working with local organizations they ensure that it’s distributed where it’s supposed to be. Currently they have two separate collections in action on the website.

The first, for the Boston Marathon Tragedy is working in conjunction with Boston Atheists and the Secular Coalition for America (Massachusetts Chapter) is raising money to benefit the victims [and their families] of the bombing that occurred there last Monday, April 15. As of Thursday they have successfully raised over $28,000. The second fund running right now is for those who are suffering as a result of the plant explosion in West, Texas that occurred while the country was still reeling from the Boston tragedy. Currently the amount raised there is building toward the $1,000 mark. This isn’t the first time the Brown’s have pulled fund for those in need either. They also raised roughly $25,000 for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy as well.

Amanda Brown on stageAmanda is also one of the primary organizers for ReasonFest in Kansas, which took place this last weekend. Ordinarily she prepares a speech and presents with the other speakers however this year she has devoted part of her time in a different way. Working with Society of Open Minded Atheists and Agnostics, they took donations in the form of non-perishable items . The items collected are then to be delivered to both Harvesters and the Lawrence Community Shelter. Donations requested ranged from non-perishable foods and toiletries to guest needs and linens for the shelter.

When asked what their ultimate goal for all their activism the answer was “tolerance.” They want to help put faces to atheism so that when people hear the term they think of someone close to them. Or perhaps a stranger that helped them out when they were in need. Recently the Brown’s helped a homeless man outside of a chain restaurant near Austin Texas. He was hungry and asking for money. The couple bought him some food, gave him some money, and then did what most wouldn’t think to do. They had a conversation with him. During that talk it came out that the couple were atheist which surprised the man. Everything he had heard before meeting them painted a very unfriendly picture about people who choose not to have faith. He walked away knowing that not only had everything he had heard been wrong, but that in fact the exact opposite is true. Regardless of whatever he believed they were willing to help him in his time of need. That’s their message, at it’s core. People are people, no matter what path they follow or whether having faith is the lamp that lights that path. Adam Brown's painting

Indoctri Nation (Part III)

Jesus dinoIndoctri Nation

Part Three

The last two parts of my “Indoctri-Nation” series have been about creationism and intelligent design pouring into public schools, whether hidden in the pages of a textbook or offered as an after school activity. I believe that it is wrong and my reasoning is simple. The Humanist in me says children should be encouraged to explore things for themselves, research facts and peruse real evidence – not to accept the personal opinions of others as verbatim, but to come up with and form original opinions of their own. The Secularist in me thinks that, legal or not, the church should not be butting into places where it does not belong. A public school funded by tax dollars is, undeniably, one of these places. The Atheist in me says that having to discuss the credibility of any deity, which is becoming more common in school curriculum, is asinine. And finally, the mother in me says that I would rather home school my kids than subject them to that sort of education, and frankly if I had that kind of patience and discipline I would already be a teacher, starving under the tenure of a sadly ill-advised career choice.

So just what am I doing here? I am an outspoken blogger, tired of seeing our education treated in this country the way the rest of the world already sees us, as an educational laughing stock. I am tired of teachers with their own agenda. Teachers should be seeking out their positions because they want to teach our kids information that will make them, as the next generation entering the workforce, competitive with the rest of the world. Instead, some are promoting failed pseudo-scientific mythology, without evidence, and altering history to fit their own personal tastes.

Teachers are not alone to blame. Parents – YOU also need to be better educated yourselves. Question everything. Ask, before you swallow that big pill, what it actually does. Ask about side effects and addiction potential. Ask about fatalities. Ask about morals and equality. Learn that the answers don’t always come from a pulpit.

Next are lawmakers who should be passing laws that protect our system of teaching, not allowing it to be corrupted by myth and mystical beliefs. These are people who are chosen [in theory] by the people, to serve the people, regardless of the views and culture of those they represent. So why don’t they listen to what growing numbers of us want and has been upheld by Supreme Court decision after Supreme Court decision? It makes me ask another question; just who is pushing for all this, and why?

I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist. I would rather believe that this grip is the last “fig leaf” to fall. We have reached the end of the church rule and they are struggling to hold on to the last corner of the blanket. That’s what I hope. I grew up with an outspoken conspiracy theorist and I know what the conclusions sound like. I cannot tell you how much time I spent rolling my eyes and laughing at the latest convoluted collection of odd stories and weird assumptions of people of varying races, religions and political parties strung together with thin threads of circumstantial “evidence” and misinterpreted information.

Trust me, I get it. However when something like this presents itself, I have to ask…”Why?”

 

Also posted at:

http://nationalatheistparty.tumblr.com/post/45986723246/indoctri-nation-part-3

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/22/1196036/-Indoctri-Nation-Part-3

Indoctri-Nation (Part II)

Indoctri Nation

Part Two

As if the attack on our schools and the textbooks isn’t bad enough it seems that, behind the scenes, is an even more frightening prospect; easily the most dangerous method of filling their rapidly-depleting ranks of faithful followers. As more and more families are “coming out” as secular-minded and the reach of the church diminishes, they have been busy sneaking in through a side door and they are using a legal precedence to get in.

An Evangelical group, calling themselves “The Good News Club” is using public school classrooms in an after school program to teach children the “Word of God”. Why is this a problem? It undermines our Constitutional separation of church and state. It’s using fear to indoctrinate children at an impressionable age (usually between 4 and 13) into complete obedience.

The Good News Club (GNC) is perfect for what they are intending. The creators have developed a very effective program using a reward system and absolute fear. Because they are holding these “classes” after school hours at schools across the country (over 3,000 schools, reaching some 900,000 children in 2012, according to Child Evangelism Fellowship) the children are under the impression that it’s real information. After all, children go to school to learn. If it’s taught at school, it must therefor be true. They are unable to distinguish between school-sanctioned programs and a program that’s simply held at the school.

So what is it? The club uses songs, games and snacks to cover up the fact that they are using dark biblical teachings about sin and Hell. Telling children that things like refusing to clean their room is not just a sin but a ticket straight to the fiery pit for an eternity of suffering. Children are told that they are born “full of sin” and “deserve to go to Hell” if they show any signs of independence. Sound extreme? It gets worse.

Eric Cernyar, an attorney who attended GNC as a child, remarked, “The Good News Club likes to market itself as an organization that teaches morals. Well let me tell you what the supreme moral of the Good News Club is: Obedience. Complete obedience, under any circumstance. Even commands to commit genocide, if that’s what God commands.”

Taking this belief one step further they use the ordered genocide of the Amalekites by God as an example. They explain that because Saul failed in his completion of the genocide he is ultimately rejected from heaven by God. They use this example to show that not following God’s orders to the exact letter, no matter what the order will result in refusal in to heaven later. Bryan Halloway, House of Representatives for North Carolina (and former high school teacher) supports this sort of belief by saying “We may or may not know what His purpose for asking him to do these kinds of things were and I think, for me I take the bible for what it says…if God ordered it, then it was good.”

Earlier I mentioned a legal precedence. There was a case seen in the Supreme Court (no. 99-2036) Good News Club et al. v. Milford Central School in which a Conservative judge ruled in favor of Good News Club, stating that among other things Milford violated the Club’s free speech rights when it excluded the Club from meeting after hours at the school. This win not only allowed for their club to hold “classes” in Milford, but the precedence opened the flood gates throughout the entire country. This also raises the GNC above the rest of the after-school programs because now it cannot be prevented, whereas

programs like art or even gender and special interest-based programs can. This club has become untouchable.

Not everyone who follows the Christian faith agrees with what GNC is up to. Reverend J Brent Walker, Executive Director – Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty stated, “It’s not government’s job to do what Jesus commissioned his church to do. It’s not biblical. I must not ask my government to promote my religion if I don’t want government to promote someone else’s religion and I must not permit government to commit harm to someone else’s religion if I don’t want government to harm my religion.”

Reverend Barry Lynn ~ Executive Director – Americans United for Separation of Church and State has a theory as to why Christians are going through all this trouble. “I’ve been at this a long time and for decades I’ve been hearing people say ‘Well it is a Christian country but we don’t want to have a theocracy,’ meaning they don’t want a country run strictly along Christian religious lines, but I think they are fibbing about that. I think people on the so-called religious right want to create a Christian-based, bible-based legal system in the United States and if you are a non-Christian you are a second class citizen.”

So, are right-wing Christians working toward a theocracy? I do not believe that the majority of the people involved with the “Good News Club” are bad. I am sure that they feel they are just educating children of “God’s Word.” If this is true though, why does it feel like an attempt to create a generation of Christians prepared to carry out whatever order “God” decides to issue? Is it perhaps to create a self-fulfilling prophesy? If so, what is to become of those of us who are “second class citizens?” I have no way of knowing any of these answers, I just know I fear for the future of our nation.

Reference Links

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=000&invol=99-2036

http://goodnewsclubs.info/index.htm

http://www.cefonline.com/

Also posted at: http://nationalatheistparty.tumblr.com/post/45415156323/indoctri-nation-part-2 http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/15/1194224/-Indoctri-Nation-Part-2  ~

Indoctri-Nation (Part I)

Creationism dino saddleIndoctri-Nation

Part One

      There is a cancer that is spreading across the country, threatening to infect our children where they are most susceptible…in school. I’m referring to the addition of Creationism and Intelligent Design to our students’ natural science curriculum. Actually, that’s a little misleading. “Addition” means Creationists want to teach it alongside the current proven scientific theory of evolution. What’s really being attempted is closer the replacement of science-based education with superstition and myth. What should be an institution of learning is fast becoming a home base for unwanted indoctrination.

This is not a fresh fight. In Tennessee in 1925 “The Butler Act” outlawed the teaching of evolution , allowing for teachers to be prosecuted for simply doing their jobs. In 1958 textbooks were published including evolution, which (until then) just hadn’t been done. Nearly a decade later the Supreme Court ruled that barring the teaching of evolution from schools was unconstitutional. In the 1980’s, Arkansas and Louisiana passed bills that would allow the teaching of Creationism equal time with evolution, and 23 other states introduced similar bills, although they were not successful . In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled these to again be unconstitutional and they were struck down.

In 2008 Louisiana responded with the “Louisiana Science Education Act,” under the guise of promoting critical thinking in classrooms. This Act allowed publicly-funded education vouchers to be used in sectarian-based schools that use Creationism to teach children of the origins of man and the universe. Tennessee, using Louisiana as a springboard passed their own Creationism/Intelligent Design law just last year (2012) again allowing teachers to use their religious beliefs to “educate” children, effectively ignoring any Supreme Court ruling.

In their February 3, 2013 newsletter, The Texas Freedom Network reported that the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) chair Barbara Cargill (R) was “pressuring publishers into including junk-science arguments against evolution in new textbooks.” Why is this important? According to Gail Collins in the New York Review of Books, Texas’ textbook influence nationwide is staggering, and will reach “due to size—4.8 million textbook-reading schoolchildren as of 2011.” To standardize texts, publishers need to conform to Texas rules or publish separate textbooks for each state.

According to Cargill, “Our intent, as far as theories with the [curriculum standards], was to teach all sides of scientific explanations…. But when I went on [to the CSCOPE website] last night, I couldn’t see anything that might be seen as another side to the theory of evolution. Every link, every lesson, everything, you know, was taught as ‘this is how the origin of life happened, this is what the fossil record proves,’ and all that’s fine, but that’s only one side.” She went on to say that she thinks the textbooks to be released for use in 2014 should have “softer” language concerning evolution.

(The Texas CSCOPE [a made-up acronym] curriculum management system is charged with standardizing what skills when and what will be taught and to standardize the curriculum statewide. CSCOPE is a Texas state agency.)

The Texas Freedom Network (TFN) President, Kathy Miller said the following in a press release issued last month: “These comments should serve as a big red flag about rubber-stamping her [Cargill’s] reappointment. Senators must ask hard questions about whether she will pressure publishers into writing textbooks to conform to her personal beliefs instead of sound science and once again put the culture wars ahead of our children’s education.”

“State board members in 2009 heard Nobel laureates and other distinguished scientists patiently explain that no valid scientific evidence contradicts the consensus on evolution,” Miller said, “So if Ms. Cargill wants textbooks to include ‘another side,’ then she’s insisting that our schools teach something that isn’t science and that will undermine our children’s education.”

She continued, “After the adoption of science textbooks this year, the state board is scheduled to consider social studies textbooks in 2014. Those textbooks must be based on curriculum standards that Cargill and other board members adopted in 2010. The social studies standards are so controversial that they have drawn sharp criticism from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which has called the American history portions a ‘political distortion’ filled with ‘misrepresentations at every turn.’ ” The scariest part of all of that is that Ms. Cargill hold’s position as the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) chair. That means that her opinion carries a lot of weight.”

In the ever-growing race to keep church and state separate, we continue to fight to keep bible classes from being held in public, secular schools. We keep voting against Creationism and climate-denying educators from trying to inject their disproved theories into publicly-funded institutions. We will carry on the fight to protect our textbooks and our schools curriculum until we reach an absolute separation of church and state. Not because we want to prevent religion, but because it is our First Amendment protected right to enjoy freedom of and, for a growing number of us, from religion.

~~~~~~

      Next week we look at an Evangelical group, calling themselves “The Good News Club.” We see just how they are using public school classrooms to teach children the “Word of God” and discover why it’s legal for them to be there.

Reference Links

http://www.scientificamerican.com/slideshow.cfm?id=timeline-evolution-in-public-education

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/13/us-usa-education-tennessee-idUSBRE83C0JR20120413

http://tfninsider.org/2013/02/05/told-you-so-texas-ed-board-chair-wants-science-textbooks-to-teach-another-side-on-evolution/

http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20130228/ARTICLES/130229808/1042/NEWS?Title=Bill-would-OK-Bible-classes-at-public-schools&tc=ar

 

Also posted at http://nationalatheistparty.tumblr.com/ http://www.usanap.org/news/indoctri-nation-part-1.html/  ~ http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/08/1192614/-Indoctri-Nation