Archive for August, 2010


What is your opinion of “Burn the Koran” day?

For those who are not aware, Terry Jones, a Florida pastor and author of the book “Islam is of the Devil,” has declared September 11th to be International Burn a Koran day, and claims to have been inspired by another recently created “awareness holiday,” Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. (WARNING: Linked page contains images of the prophet Mohammed!)

Someone asked for my take on this recently, and I thought it would be an appropriate topic of discussion for this blog.

First, I’m always skeptical of any kind of bold public statement made by someone who has a book out. It almost always seems like shameless self-promotion to me. I don’t want to leave out the possibility that this is all just an effort to move a product, and nothing more.

That said, there are two different issues that I feel need to be discussed here – burning the Koran (or any book) and drawing Mohammed (or anything else).

First, burning books: I’m against it. I don’t care if it’s the Koran, the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, Going Rogue, or The Origin of Species; burning books is one of the greatest acts of fearful ignorance that I can imagine. It is a throwback from a more primitive time, when anything that made the villagers nervous had to be destroyed with fire – and that occasionally included other villagers.

We are smarter than that now. We really shouldn’t be burning books anymore, and those who still have those urges should be embarrassed over them, not displaying them proudly. It makes us look stupid when we do it, and I really wish people wouldn’t participate in it.

But, it is free speech. And because it is, I support anyone’s right to do it.

Now for the second bit – the one about drawing Mohammed, and how such activity could inspire something like Burn a Koran Day. Since I am an artist, you can probably guess where I’m going to go with this one.

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day was inspired by the reaction to depictions of Mohammed on an episode of South Park and in political comics in newspapers and magazines. Devout Muslims have issued death threats against artists for drawing their prophet – an act forbidden by certain Islamic texts (but not the Koran).

As I have said in previous posts here, I support anyone’s freedom to believe as they wish, and follow any rules that those beliefs may include, as long as those rules do not involve harming others.

But you don’t get to try to force me to follow those rules, too. I can make all of the graven images I like (and I do, daily) because your religious rules do not apply to me.

It is an act of independence, not of ignorance.  An act of creation, not destruction. That’s the difference.

So, to recap: Burning books is stupid and shameful, but in the end, I support it as free speech. Drawing Mohammed is an act of independence from rules that should not be enforced against nonbelievers, and is nothing at all like burning books.

(Now that I’ve written all of this out, I have been thinking that this September 11th, the greatest act of independence from both Dove Ministries and Islamic fundamentalism that I could do would be to read some of the Koran along with some skeptical analysis of it, at the Skeptic’s Annotated Quran.)


How are you spending your Sunday? (08/29/10)

(Atheists have Sundays too, we just tend to sleep in. Almost every Sunday, I post about how I plan to spend – or just spent – my day.)

My daughters and I have landed parts in the next children’s play at the theatre where we volunteer, and the first read-through of the script is later this afternoon.

While we’re there, we plan to meet up with a theatre friend of ours that we haven’t seen in a while, and have a few adventures today. Maybe we’ll go to the beach or the park and goof around for a while.


How do you feel about the controversy over the mosque at Ground Zero?

For those who may not know about the story: There is a big controversy brewing in the United States right now regarding the possibility of a mosque being built on the former site of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed by terrorists on September 11th, 2001. Some have suggested that since the terrorists were Islamic, this act could be seen as a sort of religious “conquest.”

As it turns out, this is yet another case of the American public having an incorrect view of reality, which has been aided by a news media that isn’t very interested in setting the facts straight (after all, rationality doesn’t sell as much cat food and laundry detergent as outrage does).

Here are some facts on this issue:

1. The “Ground Zero Mosque” isn’t slated to be built at Ground Zero (or, the former site of the World Trade Center). It is two blocks away.

2. The “Ground Zero Mosque” isn’t a stand-alone building, nor is it even a mosque. It will be a prayer room contained in a community center.

3. There is already a mosque built closer to the WTC that no one seems to have any sort of issue with whatsoever.

Now, for my opinion. I’m not comfortable with the government deciding which religions can build  holy sites and which cannot. That act goes against our Constitution. If they were to decide that no religious buildings were permitted at all, then that would be as reasonable as permitting any of them. So if there’s going to be a ban, then they must ban everything – mosques, churches, synagogues, temples, you name it.

A few folks who are much smarter than myself have made some excellent points on this issue. In the New York Times, Dick Cavett had the following to say:

“What other churches might be objectionable because of the horrific acts of some of its members? Maybe we shouldn’t have Christian churches in the South wherever the Ku Klux Klan operated because years ago proclaimed white Christians lynched blacks. How close to Hickam Field, at Pearl Harbor, should a Shinto shrine be allowed? I wonder how many of our young people — notorious, we are told, for their ignorance of American history — would be surprised that Japanese-Americans had lives and livelihoods destroyed when they were rounded up during World War II? Should all World War II service memorials, therefore, be moved away from the sites of these internment camps? Where does one draw the line?”

The only point I would add to Mr. Cavett’s comment is this: The Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed by Christian terrorists. Are there churches near that site? If so, we should tear them down before we start restricting mosques at Ground Zero.


If you don’t believe in God, does that mean that your life has no meaning?

No, in fact it’s quite the reverse – to me, life is incredibly precious, because it is the only life we get.

In fact, I see the other side of the argument as reversed, too – a belief in an afterlife sometimes puts less value on this life. I see this whenever someone talks about how they will be reunited with their loved ones after death, or when they speak of someone who has passed away and say “He is in a better place now.”

For me, these things don’t work. For all that I know, I won’t see my parents, relatives, or friends who have died, ever again. This makes my time with them infinitely precious.

Then there are those who firmly believe that the good things we do in this life are absolutely worthless, and that faith in their god is the only thing that counts. To me, this is one of the biggest examples of someone giving zero value to life that I can imagine. (In fact, it creates a huge contradiction when someone who believes this also claims that atheists have no reason to be moral, but that’s another topic…)


Have you ever been dead?

(This is the 22nd – and last – question in Brett Keane’s Atheist Challenge)

Yes, I have.  To borrow the wisdom of Mark Twain:  “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

And that does it for Brett Keane’s 22-question Atheist Challenge.  Feel free to look back at all of my answers and see if they spark any new discussions – that’s what this blog is all about!


Explain in detail the process of death.

(This is the 21st question in Brett Keane’s Atheist Challenge)

I’m not sure of the exact process, but I know it involves the brain shutting down, followed by all of the body’s organs and functions that it controls. After that, it’s all rigor mortis and decomposition from there.

I’m still a bit iffy on what this has to do with atheism…


Would you sacrifice yourself for a loved one, with the chance that you may end up in hell because you are an atheist?

(This is the 20th question in Brett Keane’s Atheist Challenge)

Simply put: Yes.

Not-so-simply put: If there was a way to lie, cheat, steal, or kill to spare the precious lives of myself and my loved ones, I would do it in a heartbeat. Otherwise, yes.

As for the “hell” portion of the question – thinking about which of the many hells from the myriad of world religions that I would go to would take way too long, and probably distract me from jumping in front of the bullet / knife / car / train / herd of water buffalo in order to save my loved one. So I’d probably skip it, for the moment.

I am an atheist, a person who does not believe in the existence of any gods.

Many people don't know a lot about atheists, and have questions about them. In this blog, I do my best to answer them, to help build an understanding between atheists and theists.

Do you have a question? You can post it in the comments to any of my blog entries, and I will do my best to answer it in a new entry.