If I were a fireworks show, you’d probably want your money back. My first salvos were promising, but my launches started fizzling and we had several duds in the arsenal.
There certainly was no grand finale.
Because those fucking God stickers did not come off the Grovetown cop vehicles.
They won. This happened in part because I could not stay to finish playing the game I initiated. I had a few more moves in me, but a game is a game and I had other priorities.
Sorry for the metaphor abuse. I’m simply trying to paper over the fact that I did not, could not do more to go at this issue with gusto. Because I was in the right. The mayor made an idle threat, and I’m madder than hell he got away with it. Lots of you following this saga said I should have continued to um…dialogue with the mayor right then and there because I was well within my rights to do so. It became a two-pronged issue for me when he threatened me with a warrant for my arrest simply because I was having a battle of wits with an unarmed person. This was about abuse of power and separation. And to my mind, the stickers took a back seat to the idea that some podunk Boss Hogg could send a squad car to my house because of an argument we were having in his public email box.
I’m gonna say sorry again, because I failed to advance the larger conversation. I could have made several scenes if it was just me out there, but as I have said it is not just me out there.
I’m going to keep fighting for my rights. I simply have to pick my battles. Those of you who are rational know that we live to fight another day if we withdraw a little, and find a better position where victory can actually be had.
My deepest thanks to everyone who sent me quasi-viral, and thanks to NBC in Atlanta and WRDW in Aiken for publicizing the sticker issue. It’s a trying time in the land of Trump, where bigots feel emboldened to steamroll over the Constitution if it gets in their way of retaining their supremacy.
The people will win in the end if we keep our heads high. That may be an article of faith, for the struggle for rights is not a vector that is always pointed forward. It gets dark sometimes before things brighten again. But knowing that the brightness will inevitably follow buoys me and helps me get up every day and it should you as well.
I’ll close here as Kurt Vonnegut often did in the introductions to his books.
I do a lot of news reading. And I have watched with sadness and more than a bit of anger when I see nontraditional “beliefs” get pummeled by obnoxious flouting of the bedrock principle of the separation of church and state, a principle that endures despite today’s renaissance of fascistic Christian supremacy.
Surely most of you are familiar with the proliferation of the “In God We Trust” motto upon police cars.
You look at this stuff happening somewhere remote, and you say to yourself, “it can’t happen here”.
Then it does.
Sinclair Lewis saw it in his day, and I’m here to tell you it can still happen here. And there. And there too.
Yesterday, the separation of church and state became blurred in my current hometown. My police department is now operating with the authority of God.
Look, I know how that sounds, that I’m getting a little hyperventilated about an issue that is unlikely to affect the rights of nonbelievers. But I’m afraid that I can’t be sure that vesting religious authority in those who administer the law will not be tempted to use their authority to be prejudicial to those of us who advertise that we are not religious.
We’re a defiant folk, those of us who do not have a religion. We are past tired of being marginalized.
Of all the injustices that have been visited upon people in this country, on balance the complaints that atheists (and perhaps practitioners of non-Abrahamic religion) have seem to be a bit petty and privileged in and of themselves. But I can only fight the battles I know best. I read H. Rap Brown’s autobiography recently and it was literary fire for me-but I’m just a white atheist. I’d gladly join far worse oppressed people in their fight for justice, but really I can only speak for my own marginalization. I’m amenable to being recruited for more trenchant issues.
It could surely be argued that I need not speak out against my marginalization, because presumably I have a choice in the matter. I can choose to not be a believer, it is alleged. It’s nothing more than an intellectual conceit. I should be silent about it.
I disagree. Those of us who are not moved by a religious belief have no choice but to conclude that there is nothing moving this universe in any direction that would suggest that “someone” is doing it. Should evidence arise that we are wrong, I assure you we would believe. It’s not the same by a long shot, but it is as indelible as something like color or sexual orientation-we cannot politely say we are who we are or how maligned we have been. Granted, we have not been summarily lynched or anything resembling that (although you can still be killed in other nations for blasphemy and heresy)-but I am saying that it is part of our identity and we have just as much right to coexist as anyone, and the supremacists in our culture ought to know that we are among them.
Anyway, when I saw that this thoughtless decal initiative hit my little hick town in Georgia, I decided I’d had about enough of the marginalization. I went straight to the fount, the mayor who went on record saying that “some will be offended”, and that he didn’t really care. I began to email him at his public account.
I know you won’t change your mind, but you should know that the proposed
police car stickers that proclaim “In God We Trust” is troubling to
those of us who do not believe in the Christian “God”, be they
practitioners of different faith or practitioners of none. You should
choose to be inclusive as a public servant. But you think your faith is
more important than your civic duty, it seems.
Do we have a Christian police force? Did you ask them when you decided
to festoon their cars with religious slogans?
I know stunts like this play well politically in places like Columbia
County but you should probably pay more attention to the overloaded
infrastructure that can’t handle all of the commercial and residential
expansion in Grovetown rather than push people’s buttons on matters of
church and state.
As I said, I might as well talk to a wall from the impression I get of
you but I thought I’d try anyway.
Was I being a smart-aleck? Sure. I knew I wouldn’t make him ask himself if what he was doing was right with reason. But I wanted to be heard loud and clear.
Evidently being mayor isn’t a particularly busy job, because I got a response lickety-split:
In God we trust does not imply any particular God. This statement is broad. Congratulations you are the first to speak negatively about the stickers.
Do you ever wonder how some people keep their jobs? That they’re so stupid it’s a wonder they don’t come to work with mismatched shoes? Well, the mayor is one of those people. You already know from the national stage that stupid people are electable. That said, all grammatical assassination and disturbing punctuation conservation above and below is his.
Anyway, I called him out in the next email for being full of shit.
Thanks for the congratulations. I’m actually quite surprised, given that there is a robust community of nontraditional believers in the county who tipped me off to the story.
Come now, Mr. Jones. Do you honestly believe that anyone thinks of another monotheistic god when they see “In God We Trust”? Additionally, in your predictable response you fail to take into account nonbelievers who take the separation of church and state rather seriously. What about us? Once again I ask: do we have a religious police force?
You know this is your Christian privilege and you know you’re going to get away with it…unless of course one of your officers doesn’t want to drive an advertisement for religion. Then you might have a problem on your hands.
It has been said that the stupid are always sure of themselves, while the intelligent are often full of doubt. So in the spirit of certainty, Mayor Jones wasted no time firing off his next response, attempting to educate me on a subject that he clearly knows nothing about since he’s the dumbshit putting religious slogans on police cars.
I suggest you study up on Separation of Church and State. That statement in of itself does not impose religion upon anyone. Had I used the name of Jesus you may have a legitimate complaint. If you feel that strongly about it…stop using US currency.
There’s a lot to unpack in this response, and I lost my cool a little in attempting. I replied:
The mention of God qualifies as a religious belief. You are being extremely slippery by pretending it’s not about one god or another. The school system uses the same lame excuse when they tell kids to have “respect for a creator”. As I said, you’re being disingenuous by asserting it’s not about one god or another. Last I checked, lying was a sin.
You do not have to come to my house and baptize me to violate church and state separation. Jurisprudence has interpreted the separation of church and state to be more broad than just the imposition of a state religion. When the government gets in the religion business in any way (and once again, belief in a god, any god spells R-E-L-I-G-I-O-N), that’s constitutionally objectionable.
Thanks for making me laugh with the currency jab. Lets me know that I’m not only dealing with a lying bigot, but a jerk as well.
Some of you may think that I took a wrong turn when I called him a name. But he was literally being a jerk. Don’t use the money? Is that all you have, Mayor? Jesus Christ.
Anyway, I pushed the mayor’s angry button. He decided to get all tough with me. I’m a veteran of many an online flame war, and if there’s one thing you can expect it’s that conservatives will resort to threatening when they are losing an argument.
Come to a meeting and say that personally coward
What does that look like to you? It sure sounded to me like a threat or at the very least a personal challenge. So I asked him what he was doing. I am certainly not going to go to a town hall full of his slackjawed, heehawing supporters just to call him a name. Nope, this is my turf. Ron’s the name, writing’s my game.
Are you threatening me? I’ll be sure to forward that to the media.
Which I did. I thought it was totally inappropriate for an elected public figure to be doing the “say it to my face” routine, regardless of what I had called him, which was not only mild as names go, but accurate. Anyway, he decided at this point that he was a victim. That’s always amusing coming from conservatives, because they are so fond of being derisive toward people who actually are victims.
No it’s easy for folks like you to hide on social media and complain about everything as well as call folks names. A threat is constituted by one making statements to do bodily harm. My words no where indicate such. Do not email me again or I will seek a warrant for your arrest.
I did not know that public government email was social media, did you? But whatever, the mayor took his ball and went home, abusing his power along the way by threatening to sic his goon squad on the guy that said mean wittle things to him.
You’re quite a specimen, mayor.
So like I said, I went to the media, asking them if they wanted to let people know what a peach the Grovetown mayor is, and I received a reply. It was the reporter who initially covered the sticker story. She wanted to talk to people who opposed the slogans. I gathered a few atheists in my area, but none of us wanted to put our faces out there because Christians have a tendency to be rather un-Christian when you try to object to them barfing their beliefs into the public arena. Additionally, some of us held government jobs and were worried about reprisal.
The reporter wanted to do it the day following her breaking of the story, which gave me only a few hours to prepare. I spent several anxious hours in bed that night wondering what to say and whether or not I could say it right. Eventually I fell asleep and it was game time when my eyes opened.
Boy, was I nervous. But I usually can pull myself together for things like this when they finally happen. So we interviewed for about a half hour and I felt relieved that we all had struck a blow for our side. Everyone involved did great.
However, the piece(which is embedded in my link above) fell super short of my expectations. My conversations with the mayor were known to the reporter but I recited the highlights anyway, because I felt that the larger story was about abuse of power. I don’t think I’d have agreed to interview had the mayor not been a raging dick. None of his unfortunate, embarrassing behavior was touched on. None. We got three or four soundbites about our objections to the stickers. I don’t think anyone learned anything about atheists or separation.
In the end, what could I have expected? Separation of church and state is a complex issue that would require a network special to even scratch the surface of its importance. How we feel is irreducible and it’s impossible to do justice to the subject in 45 seconds. And I guess the local news is reticent to lose viewers over the truth about our bulletheaded, bible thumping leaders. Gary Jones knows that most of his dumb-ass constituents can be rallied by appealing to their feelings of Christian supremacy. It’s not dissimilar to, and this may sound like a stretch, shit that people like Saddam Hussein pulled. When his popularity waned after getting routed in the first Gulf war, he used religion to keep people loyal, going so far as to change the national flag to say “God Is Great”.
Demagoguery is so much easier than actually doing something, especially when your voters are brainwashed. And that’s what this is about. Cut from my interview was me quoting Jeremy Bentham about good governance and behavior. I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said that the ideal aim in society was to produce the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people.
And by that metric, Gary Jones is a fucking political failure.
I could have been homeschooled, if it were legal in my childhood. My mother was very protective of me and if I didn’t feel comfortable with the public schooling I got, she made a stink until I was exempt from the curriculum. And so it was that I missed 6th grade sex education, and got out of reading “Rabbit, Run” in 9th. My little fragile eggshell mind couldn’t deal with the topic of sex and sensuality. I was afraid of it, and my mother allowed me to fear it, because her Christianity taught that it was fornication outside of marriage. When I became born again myself, I felt that too. And even when I left the church and faith behind, the problems I had with sex and the sex act remained.
I didn’t fuck my first girlfriend at all and we went out for 3 years.
I’m still having sexual issues today.
There may be no continuum that links these happenings. Yet, I feel that I was grossly unprepared to be a sexual being and do attribute some of my problems today with the ones I had.
Alright. That’s enough of the personal. I’m going to talk a little about the twin phenomena of homeschooling and Christianity.
Teaching is a tough job. That’s why it should be done by teachers. But zealous Christian parents are afraid that their children will learn about sex and evolution. So they are somehow allowed to teach at home without biology and other sciences being properly presented. Add copious doses of biblical teaching, and voila, you have an uncurious, neurotic youngster who’s ill-prepared to meet the world as it really exists. And I guess that is the point, since for Christians there is much concern about “the world” and how full of evil and temptation it is.
I’m sorry, but I don’t think you should be teaching if you refer to the Bible as the authority on everything. You are going to fuck your kid up and make them believe stupid things instead of know smart things, smart things that public schools could have introduced them to.
Moving right along, let’s talk about math. Math is critical to understanding how the universe works. I am very bad at math, and so I am limited in my understanding of the damn thing. There seems to be a sort of precision to the way things are ordered. Superclusters of galaxies are distributed evenly throughout the universe. Nothing travels faster than light, which always travels at the same speed. General relativity explains the relation of gravity, mass and energy. Why, if you look at the world around you, some things are arranged by a recurring fractal pattern.
Small wonder that St. Paul thought everything was arranged perfectly, and proved to him the existence of a being, a designer who made that perfection for us. But that vision breaks down even at observable levels-climate is changing because the earth is getting hotter, storms are more destructive than ever.Volcanoes and earthquakes and floods and droughts and wars kill millions. In the theoretical world, our math is beginning to hit barriers as physicists try to grapple with quantum mechanics and strange unseen matter that has to be there because the numbers say so. Nothing is chock full of something. It’s all up in the air-it is a bewildering time to be a scientist, and yet so exciting too. But the bottom line is, the more we know, the less we understand and that is the current cycle of science. That’s a feature, not a bug.
But if you want to be an ignoramus, just claim that Jesus created math. That is not only an affront to history, it’s based on the mistaken idea that it is perfect as only a creator could be. So anyway, this dildock who homeschools is postulating exactly that. He spins a parable:
Good morning class! It’s time for us to study mathematics.” The second-grade students all open their textbooks and pick up their pencils. “Let’s review first. Who can answer this question? What is 2 + 4?”
Seven-year-old Johnny raises his hand and offers an answer. “Six?”
“Very good, Johnny!” responds his government school teacher. “That’s correct.”
Fully expecting to go on to the next question, the teacher looks back at her teacher’s manual. Her thoughts are interrupted by a raised hand out of the corner of her eye. It is Johnny. He is such a precocious and inquisitive young man.
But his question catches her off guard.
“Why what, Johnny?”
“Why does 2+4 = 6? Does it always equal six?”
“Of course it does, Johnny. Why do you ask?”
“Well, can it ever be something different? Like, seven on Monday, and eleven on Christmas, and thirty-nine on my birthday?”
“No, of course not.”
At this point, the teacher, who was not homeschooled, would have chosen something countable in the room, and proceeded to put 4 in one pile and 2 in another. She could then combine the piles and count the total. Unless Johnny wants to argue the identity of numbers themselves, he would have shut the fuck up. But that’s not the way our homeschooler looked at this supposedly intractable problem of how to explain to Johnny how math works. He thinks the teacher is in a real bind:
With this question, the teacher has just found herself in a tight spot. Like it or not, she is facing a question that, by state law, she is not permitted to answer honestly. She quickly thinks through her list of options.
Finally, she decides to answer according to the metanarrative (the big overstory) of the government school system. What most teachers spread out over 10,800 hours of K–12 instruction, she decides to truncate into one short soliloquy.
Then he has this theoretical teacher recite the “government(???)” history of the universe to get Johnny to understand. And it’s all for no reason at all, the teacher says. Sorry, Johnny. It’s all accidental.
This is considered a sad way to go through life by Christians. They’re always existentially worried that their lives have no meaning and so they’ve invented a benevolent creator who loves them and their ultimate goal is to love him back. I’m not going to bore you with why that is pathetic and wrongheaded, because fellow atheists already know.
But anyway, our homeschooler pivots away from the why of math. He wants to know the who:
If you were to ask a teacher who is committed to the official narrative of government education, “Who is the author of mathematics?”, they would respond that it was evolution, or time plus matter plus chance.
Um, no, I don’t think they would say that at all. They would point you in the direction of the ancient Egyptians and Pythagoras, or tell you to Wikipedia it like I did and fuck off. Christians think they know the nonbeliever(or the government educated) mind so well. But they’re only projecting their anxieties on you. They need people to feel as bad as they do about things, otherwise the purposeless life they thought they escaped creeps back in again.
But anyway, 2+4=6 because….
Jesus is the Author of Math
And the evidence for this? Scripture!
[He] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1:15–17)
That’s all. That mystical gobbledygook is all he needs for proof. QED. No need for pesky science because this holy book has it covered. The miniscule scraps of some letters to a church from a bedazzled monk are far more reliable than anything man has ever postulated. Fuck me running. Who’s crazier, the guy who discovered virtual particles or this homsechool Jesus freak who thinks the government is trying to indoctrinate your kids into…learning? To be honest, it’s getting harder to tell but just because it’s a wiggly world, it doesn’t mean I’m going to lose my mind over it.
I need music. Here.
Kim Davis, World’s Ugliest Person Inside And Out, is still blithering to anyone who will listen to her about her beef with teh gay and their marriaging. She should have fucking relegated herself to hiding in a cloister but no, our special snowflake chose public service. As you well know, that is not something she is good at because she thinks some public is better than other public.
On the latest episode of “Truths That Transform” from D. James Kennedy Ministries, the organization’s president, Frank Wright, interviewed Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis about her fight against the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision, during which she refused to allow her office to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because doing so conflicted with her religious beliefs.
“I was obeying my law,” she insisted.
Sweetcakes, no one has their own law. If we do, then I would like to tax the public for a rainy day fund dedicated to me for traveling the world, acquiring the best opium Afghanistan has to offer and I want to hire the entire Vivid stable to give me blow jobs twice a day. That is my law.
Hm. No one seems interested in my new edict. If I can’t have mine, Kim, neither can you. You were tasked to help the public but got icked out by two dudes wanting to love each other.
“I had couples bring in the whole Supreme Court ruling and I said, ‘You know, I really don’t need to see this because that’s not a law, that’s a ruling.’
Yes. Correct. The one that doesn’t allow the government to make its own laws regarding gay marriage, You ma’am, like it or not, are bound to not do that, as part of a government operation. You and your kind tried to make your own law, and now it is unconstitutional. Your “law” is what caused the Obergfell “ruling” to happen in the first place.
“And so then I go to the Bible and I’d tell them, [and they’d respond,] ‘Don’t be reading me the Bible.’ Well, you asked why I couldn’t issue you a marriage license and I’m explaining to you, I’m showing you why I cannot. They didn’t want to hear that though. They wanted to shove that paper down my throat and make me eat it for my dinner.”
If I was gay and wanted to get married, I’d probably want to make you eat that paper too or at least brain you upside the head with it for your obstinacy and your bible-thumping. You passed judgment-something I believe you are not to do as a Christian. You used god’s book to make them lesser beings.
I hope you feel good about it, you stupid bitch. I thought you were gone but you’re going to milk this shit for all it is worth.
My kids wear a shirt that says, “The thing about science is that it’s true whether you believe it or not”.
That about nails it.But as you may have noticed, some people are having issues with the facts that teachers tell children. They shut down talk of sex. They whine about “new math”(which is only a paper representation of what your brain does anyway). And, they get positively apoplectic when evolution is taught.
In sum, these poor kids who have to suffer this will go into the world very ignorant of basic reality. Some call it child abuse. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I bristle when I get told that I have a religion because I believe in evolution:
A federal court rejected the argument from a Christian group in Kansas which said that evolution was religious “indoctrination” and should not be taught in schools.
COPE said that teaching evolution took children “into the religious sphere by leading them to ask ultimate religious questions like what is the cause and nature of life and the universe – ‘where do we come from?’”
What? Huh? These are not religious questions. The’re fundamentally existential. Everyone asks these questions at some point, and not all of them come to a conclusion that we are here because of a god.
You know, I have got to hand it to the court system lately. Even in a bass-ackward state like Kansas judges know that something stinks about their claims about the school system endangering children:
But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver last week upheld a lower court’s ruling which said that COPE lacked standing to bring the suit because it could not show that it had been harmed.
Bam. Case closed. Sanity rules the day. Blow it out your ass, Christians. Your quest to make your kids dumb is thwarted, at least for the time being.
California is gearing up to remove the “personal belief” exemption from children’s vaccines. That’s important:
The reason why California lawmakers are considering SB 277 is because scientists have figured out that once the portion of a population that’s been vaccinated drops below 95 percent or so, that population no longer enjoys herd immunity. Without herd immunity, highly contagious diseases like measles can flourish. According to data compiled by the New York Times, more than a quarter of California kindergartens are currently below the herd immunity rate.
But leave it to the religious and science-dumb to dig their heels in against something sensible:
According to State Assembly GOP Leader Kristin Olsen, however, the idea of requiring vaccinations for children in public and private schools “erodes parental rights.” In an interview on the Broeske & Musson radio program last week, Olsen declared that, despite the Disneyland outbreak, “there’s really no need for this bill whatsoever,” dismissing it as an “emotional reaction” to a “one-time incident.”
“I think this is an example of people overreacting to incidences,” Olsen told the hosts. “What we need to make sure in Sacramento is we’re making decisions based on logic and sound data.”
Lady, this is your stomping grounds. Pay attention. Read a newspaper instead of your Bible and then you might know that your fucking state had a whooping cough outbreak just last year. I live 3000 miles away and even I remember that. As far as “parental rights” go, I want to know-has she ever met any parents? We all suck. We make bad decisions on behalf of our kids every fucking day. That is why we need standards of care. I am grateful for the expert guidelines that serve my communities, because I sure as fuck don’t know everything. I can’t. It’s a complex, scary world and I will take all the help I can get to not have my kid die before I do.
You’re endangering your children with religious bullshit. Fuck off.