Friday, September 26, 2008

10 Things Christians Do Better than Atheists - #1 Charity Work

Inspired by suggestions from Hemant Mehta.

For all of the faults in theology, Christians have a lock on charity work. When someone thinks of Christian kindness, I doubt that they imagine brainwashing children to fear a non existent Hell and a deity who watches every move and knows your thoughts. Instead, images of soup kitchens, food shelves, homeless shelters, Habitat for Humanity, even sandbagging ahead of a flood are all things churches are known for. Why aren't the same things associated with atheist kindness?

Atheists do give time and money to charity, but how come no one knows about it? I think that atheists are more concerned with helping others then getting recognition for efforts. The side effect of this unselfishness is that efforts of atheists are ignored. Also, atheists don't tend to organize well. While there are great freethought groups out there, an organization of 300 members can have trouble getting enough volunteers to help with a road side cleanup, but it's members on their own volunteer at homeless shelters, animal shelters, collect food for food shelves, donate blood, and help sick children. While this helps humanity as a whole, it does nothing to rid the stereotype of atheists as a bunch of intellectual nihilists who have turned their back on humanity.

So, where to start? First, you need an idea, then you need to promote, promote, promote. Christians use newsletters, fliers, sermons, posters, calling members, television and radio, and the Internet to get their messages out. Any group can get a few people together to brainstorm volunteer ideas. Choose your events carefully. Decide if you want to have an event which costs money, such as donating new toys to kids, or something which takes time, like stocking a food shelf or raking lawns. Many atheists aren't wealthy, so events which involve time rather then money fit well. One way to get around this, is to go door to door asking for donations for your project.

Most organizations have a newsletter, so start promoting your event early and often. That article on the ontological proof for God can wait until next month. Make up fliers and put them up in public places. Coffee shops, grocery stores, and libraries are great places for nearly free publicity. Atheists don't have sermons, but they usually have regular meetings. Take some time, or a whole hour, talking about different volunteer opportunities in your community that you're going to participate in. A variety of events makes sure more people can participate. Not everyone can donate blood, or make it to a food shelf on a weekday. Start a mail list, or an email list of interested people, so they are always up to date on the latest opportunities. Use social networking tools, like Facebook and MySpace or to post invitations to volunteer events. Oh, and be prepared to offer something to your volunteers for helping out. Food is a strong motivator. Use your website to let members know about upcoming events. You can use a Google calendar that people can subscribe to and keep your events there. It's simple to update, and easy for people to stay up to date.

Not every atheist group has access to television or radio programs, but sending out press releases to news papers, radio and television stations is an easy way to get some publicity. This is especially effective if your story is interesting and unique. You should get to know the reporters at your local news papers. Often times, someone will be more sympathetic then others to print pieces about you, and it's good to know who that is. A press release doesn't have to be elaborate, but should have enough information to entice a writer. If all of your efforts to get the word out have failed so far, the Internet is still a great resource for promotion. Email atheist bloggers, conservative and liberal bloggers, any popular blogger who may be interested in your story. They can have more eyes then a local newspaper, and that type of promotion can lead to news stories. Contact groups that produce podcasts and see if they need a guest. If your story is interesting, most producers will like it.

By using resources you already have, and spending a little bit of time, you can pull people together, make a difference in your community, and promote atheists as positive people.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

At the Nickelodeon - "Burn After Reading"

Joel and Ethan Cohen's new film, "Burn After Reading," is an attempt at creating one of those stories where you get fleeting introductions to characters, but eventually all the characters come together. Does, "Burn After Reading," succeed in creating a unique, interesting tale? Or, do you watch each scene while knowing what's going to happen next because it's so predictable? I'd say it's a mix of the two. While the threads of the story are predictable, what happens with each character interaction approach a strangeness common to cult classic films. I won't even bother with a description of the plot, because it's unnecessary, however, this is a good movie to see if you are a fan of the Cohen brothers, like George Clooney, or Brad Pitt? Did I mention that john Malkovitch is also in this movie? And Francis McDormand?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bjorn and Jeannette on the radio

Because of a last minute scheduling change, we're hoping in studio for Atheists Talk at 9 AM to talk about our wedding. We hope that our story will help humanist couples who are planning their weddings.

"Secular Weddings" with recently married atheist couple Bjorn and Jeannette Watland.
"What's the Difference Between Atheism and Humanism?" with Scott Lohman, president of the Humanists of Minnesota, and August Berkshire, president of Minnesota Atheists.

Listen to AM 950 KTNF on Sunday at 9AM Central to hear Atheists Talk produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call the studio at 952-946-6205 or email us at radio@mnatheists.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Friday, September 19, 2008

Scarry Halloween Costumes from 2004

It's getting to be about that time. It's the time when I drive to work and the sun isn't up, and the whole day is ruined. It's also time for pumpkin pie, and Halloween costumes. In my research for ideas, I stumbled upon a site with the Scariest Halloween Costumes of 2004. Featured are Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, an electronic touch screen voting machine, Lyndie England, a Bush protester, and Jenna Bush's liver. part of me wants a kid, just to dress them up in comical costumes.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Impeach for Peace Co-Founder Jodin Morey Shot With Rubber Bullet at the RNC

Jodin Morey, co-founder of Impeach for Peace was shot in the back during a peaceful demonstration in the free speech zone in front of the RNC in Saint Paul, MN. It is easy to blame police violence on violent protesters, however, this is an act of police brutality and unnecessary use of force against a peaceful demonstration. Some of you may have met Jodin. He was the singer in our wedding about a month ago. He is also generous with his time as a volunteer for Camp Quest. To hear his account and to see videos, click here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Summary of Sarah Palin Speech

Barack Obama will take all of your money, so when the terrorists kill you, you'll have no money to will to your children and if you do have any money left, Obama will take your fortune away in a Death Tax.

Richard Greene from Clout on the Psychopathology of The Republican

Last night, Jeannette and I wandered over to the Como Lakeside Pavilion where a crowd of Democrats assembled to hear talk show hosts, musicians, and politicians speak.  The last speaker of the night was the host of Clout, Richard Greene, gave an interesting speech in which he explains how he reasons a way to talk to Republicans.  He asked the audience to raise their hands if anyone was friends with a Republican, got along with them great, except on political issues.  Nearly everyone raised their hand.  How could we understand their worldview and where they are coming from?  To be rational with someone you don't understand, you first need to understand them.  A moment of clarity for Greene took place at the DNC last week as he moderated a debate between Dennis Prager and Thom Hartmann. What Prager said was:
"I don't think we're basically good, as it happens/  And that is at least a theoretical political divide . . .   It is so obvious to me that people are not basically good that I stand in awe of those who think that people are basically good.  You have no evidence for it.   . . . Babies are not good . . .  What is so good about a baby . . .   This notion that we are born good is nonsense . . . We don't start off good.  This is fantasy . . . We aren't basically good.  People stink as a rule. . . ."
He goes on to write that it is this base understanding that people are not inherently good which drives the actions and positions of Republicans.  We must dominate or else we will be dominated.  We must combat and be on guard for evil always.  Within every child is a potential Hitler or Stalin.

I have heard this before, "The Republican Party is the Daddy Party, and The Democrats are the Mommy Party.  When we're in a time of war, we need a Daddy Party to protect the country.  When we aren't in war, the Mommy Party can make everyone feel safe and take care of health care and education."  

Greene uses an example of a child afraid of the Boogyman in the closet.  They know that there is a Boogyman in there, and they are terrified.  When someone is so frightened, they don't think, they can't reason.  Whether it is terrorism, attacks on lifestyle or morals, or the weather, no amount of reasoning will work, because they are not listening.  They know that if we are not victorious in Iraq and around the world against terrorism, that before we know it, terrorists will be at our door killing our children.  No amount of reasoning will change that.

What does Greene suggest?  Shut up.  Stop talking.  That is a big sentence for a talk show host to say, but it makes sense.  They aren't listening to you.  But, that doesn't mean that you do nothing.  What do you do to calm a child who is afraid of the Boogyman?  You don't fling open the door at them, they'll just hide under the covers and prepare for the impending attack.  You need to ask questions.  That starts the reasoning process, until they can understand for themselves that there is no Boogyman.

This analogy, while not perfect all of the time, is helpful for me, at least.  I think people are naturally altruistic to a point, and selfish and greedy to another point, but I don't have the view that everyone is out to get me.  

Monday, September 1, 2008

Anti-war and RNC protesting

Jeannette and I usually go to the Labor Day festival on Harriet Island this time of year, but since there are several new visitors in town, i.e. the RNC, we skipped that. We met up with Laura who was a CIT at Camp Quest, saw a camper on the march route, and marched with Jerry Rauser and friends. I'm more anit-war then I am anti-Republican. I don't think those are the same things. I trust someones actions regarding policy as more important then their party affiliation. I think war is wrong, and I can think of nothing which is more expensive, and destructive to humanity then that. The counter protesters stood in silence while angry protesters yelled at them chants of "No More War", "Four More Months," and "No Blood For Oil." The counter protesters all had the same sign, "Victory Over Terrorism - Let Our Soldiers Win." War is an absolute last resort. War on terrorism doesn't make sense. David Cross once said, "War on terror? You can't win a War on Terror. That's like a war on jealousy." This treats an action which consequence is to prevent the loss of life and suffering for people as a game which must be won. In this game, there is no goal line, there is no 10th frame, there is no 18th hole. How do our soldiers win? They get to go home. As long as our country keeps sending troops into war, we all lose.