December 17, 2013
It’s Conservatives Who Really
Want Christ Out of Christmas
By Dean Obeidallah
The War on Christmas is on! This epic battle pits the forces on the right who demand that we say “Merry Christmas” to everyone regardless of their faith—or lack thereof—against those who prefer to say “Happy Holidays.”
How fierce has this so-called “war” become? Well, Sarah Palin is travelling across the country alerting people that “angry atheists” want to “abort Christ from Christmas.” Palin is like a modern day Paul Revere—you know, the guy Palin told us warned the British in 1775 that the British were about to attack the colonists.
Bill O’Reilly, the “Father Christmas” of the War on Christmas, recently clamoredthat there are dastardly people who want to, “banish any mention of Jesus in the public square.”
And apparently these atheists—who represent about 1.6 percent of our population—are so dangerous that it compelled Texas Governor Rick Perry to enact the “Merry Christmas law” earlier this year to ensure that public school teachers could say “Merry Christmas” without fear of attack.
But here’s the glaring hypocrisy of the right: they want to keep “Christ in Christmas,” but they don’t want to keep Christ’s teachings in the policies they advocate. It’s as if there are two Jesus Christs. There’s the one in the Bible who advocates helping people in need, especially the poor. And then there’s the Jesus that conservatives worship, whose philosophy is to callously slash programs that help the less fortunate, from food stamps to health insurance to unemployment benefits.
I’m not a religious scholar, but it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in religious studies to comprehend the basic teachings of Jesus. The New Testament is filled with passages where Jesus implores his followers to care for the poor. Arguably the best known is Matthew 25:34-36, where Jesus discussed the importance of helping people in need: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
Yet the same people who demand that we keep Christ in Christmas also support cutting programs advance Jesus’s philosophy. We saw that in September when House Republicans voted to slash $40 billion from the food stamps program. If this had become law, it would’ve result in nearly four million Americans being deprived of these desperately needed benefits. So much for the, “I was hungry and you gave me food.”
Despite Jesus words, “I was sick and you took care of me,” conservatives have waged a war to destroy Obamacare which would provide health insurance to millions of Americans who can’t afford coverage. In fact, 20 States with Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures have refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, making it more challenging if not impossible for the impoverished residents of these States to afford health insurance coverage.
And what would Jesus do about the 1.3 million Americans whose unemployment benefits will end just a few days after Christmas? Well, conservatives apparently believe Jesus would say “no” to any extension. Indeed, Rep. Kevin Cramerrecently cited this passage from the Bible as a reason to slash benefits for the poor: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Interestingly, during the federal government shutdown in September, Congressman Cramer was the only member of the North Dakota Congressional delegation who didn’t donate his salary to charity.
Here’s the reality: Christmas will be fine, but without our help, the poor won’t be. Christmas is not in danger of becoming homeless nor concerned about having enough food to eat to be able to concentrate at school or at work.
We rarely hear about the poor in our nation unless they are being demonized by the right as “lazy” or abusing the system. America’s needy are invisible to most of us- including the 16 million children in this country who live in poverty.
Yet the focus of the right’s outrage is when a public school chooses to sing non-religious Christmas songs and opts for more secular ones. Or when a huge nativity scene can’t be constructed on government property. Why isn’t their outrage directed at those who support policies that cause suffering to our most needy fellow Americans? These are the actions that truly contradict Jesus’s teachings.
And not only is supporting these social programs consistent with Jesus’ philosophy, they are good public policy. A recent study found that the social safety net created by President Lyndon Johnson as part of the “war on poverty” has actually reduced poverty over the past 50 years.
Those leading the fight to keep Christ in Christmas need to answer this simple question. What do you think Jesus would care about more: feeding the hungry and caring for the sick or requiring that all Americans say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”? The answer is clear to anyone who has ever read the Bible.
April 2, 2012
The New Your Times
March 30, 2012
Taking Responsibility for Death
By SUSAN JACOBY
I WAS standing by my 89-year-old mother’s hospital bed when she asked a doctor, “Is there anything you can do here to give me back the life I had last year, when I wasn’t in pain every minute?” The young medical resident, stunned by the directness of the question, blurted out, “Honestly, ma’am, no.”
And so Irma Broderick Jacoby went home and lived another year, during which she never again entered a hospital or subjected herself to an invasive, expensive medical procedure. The pain of multiple degenerative diseases was eased by prescription drugs, and she died last November after two weeks in a hospice, on terms determined by explicit legal instructions and discussions with her children — no respirators, no artificial feeding, no attempts to buy one more day for a body that would not let her turn over in bed or swallow without agony.
The hospice room and pain-relieving palliative care cost only about $400 a day, while the average hospital stay costs Medicare over $6,000 a day. Although Mom’s main concern was her comfort and dignity, she also took satisfaction in not running up Medicare payments for unwanted treatments and not leaving private medical bills for her children to pay. A third of the Medicare budget is now spent in the last year of life, and a third of that goes for care in the last month. Those figures would surely be lower if more Americans, while they were still healthy, took the initiative to spell out what treatments they do — and do not — want by writing living wills and appointing health care proxies.
As the aging baby boom generation places unprecedented demands on the health care system, there is little ordinary citizens can do — witness the tortuous arguments in the Supreme Court this week over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — to influence either the cost or the quality of the treatment they receive. However, end-of-life planning is one of the few actions within the power of individuals who wish to help themselves and their society. Too few Americans are shouldering this responsibility.
Of course many people want more aggressive treatment than my mother. And advance directives aren’t “death panels”; they can also be used to ensure the deployment of every tool of modern medicine. They can be changed or withdrawn at any time by a mentally competent person.
But public opinion polls consistently show that most Americans, like my mother, worry about too much rather than too little medical intervention. In a Pew Research Center poll released in 2006, only 22 percent said a doctor should always try to save a patient’s life, while 70 percent believed that patients should sometimes be allowed to die. More than half said they would tell their doctor to end treatment if they were in great pain with no hope of improvement.
Yet only 69 percent had discussed end-of-life care with a spouse; just 17 percent, or 40 percent of those over 65, had done so with their children. One-third of Americans had a living will and even fewer have taken the more legally enforceable measure of appointing a health care proxy to act on their behalf if they cannot act for themselves.
The latter omission is especially disturbing because by 2030, more than 8.5 million Americans will be over 85 — an age at which roughly half will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of irreversible dementia. For many members of the baby boom generation — more likely to be divorced and childless than their parents — there may be no legal next of kin.
Without advance directives, even a loving child may be ignorant of her parent’s wishes. My mother remained conscious and in charge of her care until just a few days before she died, but like most women over 85, she was a widow. My younger brother died of pancreatic cancer two weeks before she did. It was an immense comfort to me, at a terrible time, to have no doubts about what she wanted.
My mother drew up her directives in the 1980s, when she was a volunteer in the critical care lounge of her local hospital. She once watched, appalled, as an adult daughter threw a coffeepot at her brother for suggesting that their comatose mother’s respirator be turned off. Because the siblings could not agree and the patient had no living will, she was kept hooked up to machines for another two weeks at a cost (then) of nearly $80,000 to Medicare and $20,000 to her family — even though her doctors agreed there was no hope.
The worst imaginable horror for my mother was that she might be kept alive by expensive and painful procedures when she no longer had a functioning brain. She was equally horrified by the idea of family fights around her deathbed. “I don’t want one of you throwing a coffeepot at the other,” she told us in a half-joking, half-serious fashion.
There is a clear contradiction between the value that American society places on personal choice and Americans’ reluctance to make their own decisions, insofar as possible, about the care they will receive as death nears. Obviously, no one likes to think about sickness and death. But the politicization of end-of-life planning and its entwinement with religion-based culture wars provide extra, irrational obstacles to thinking ahead when it matters most.
As someone over 65, I do not consider it my duty to die for the convenience of society. I do consider it my duty, to myself and younger generations, to follow the example my mother set by doing everything in my power to ensure that I will never be the object of medical intervention that cannot restore my life but can only prolong a costly living death.
Susan Jacoby is the author of “Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age.”
March 3, 2012
Power Point presentation by Dr. Gil Shapiro “Does Religions Belief Deserve Our Continued Respect?”
October 3, 2011
Transition from CFI-SAZ to FreeThought Arizona
Since 2004, Center For Inquiry–Southern Arizona (CFI–SAZ) has worked in Tucson to advance CFI’s mission to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.
Over the past seven years, however, it has become clear to both the CFI–SAZ board members and CFI headquarters that this shared goal could be better realized if CFI-SAZ became an independent, local group, so beginning October 1, 2011, CFI–SAZ will separate from CFI and become an independent 501(c)(3) group called FreeThought Arizona (FA).
The current CFI–SAZ advisory board will serve as the FA advisory board until our first Annual Membership Meeting in February, 2012.
FreeThought Arizona, will continue to establish, grow, and support a community of freethinkers, skeptics, agnostics, atheists, and humanists based on reason, science, and critical thinking. Our goals are to maintain separation of church and state, advance education and science, examine and discuss literature, support families, work to eliminate prejudice and discrimination, and protect the civil rights of our members and others through meetings, lectures, debates, discussions, protests, web sites, podcasts, blogs, letters to the editor, broadcast appearances, and any other reasonable and civil means available.
Monthly meetings will continue to take place on Sunday mornings at the DuVal Auditorium at the University Medical Center. Other new and additional events will be announced on our new and developing website, as well as by email notification.
Membership with CFI
Membership in CFI is world-wide and includes benefits beyond local group activities. After the transition, all current and active CFI–SAZ memberships will continue to be CFI memberships and will also be honored by FreeThought Arizona until their natural expiration dates. When these memberships expire, those wishing to renew their CFI membership may do so through the CFI website or by calling 800-818-7071. CFI members are of course free to continue their support of CFI, join FreeThought Arizona, or support both organizations, but cross-group-memberships will not be honored once currently active CFI memberships expire. (For more information about CFI membership, please visit http://www.centerforinquiry.net/support. For information about donations given to CFI–SAZ prior to September 30, 2011, please call 800-818-7071.)
Membership for FreeThought Arizona
Membership in FreeThought Arizona will be $50.00 per Member PER YEAR (Same for Individual or household). Those who pay membership will be called Members and will receive a membership card and name tag.
Present CFI–SAZ members will be eligible for reduced rates on the first year of FreeThought Arizona membership. Details will be spelled out at our 1:00 PM meeting on September 18th or they will be available on our upcoming website.
Donations are encouraged and are needed above and beyond the membership fee to cover our expenses for operation. Membership dues and donations can be made to FreeThought Arizona by cash, check or (eventually) by Pay Pal on our website, which will launch on October 1, 2011.
Submit cash or checks at the event table or mail checks for membership to:
2941 E. Toledo Place
Tucson, AZ 85716
April 2, 2011
From the Arizona Daily Star: Fort Bragg atheists: ‘We’re here, we’re normal’
February 20, 2011
Bill Moyers: Americans Can’t Deal with Reality
Fevruary 10, 2011
From the Arizona Daily Star: “The bedrock of public policy should be secular, not religious”
November 20, 2010
Steve Martin’s gospel song for atheist
Report on Secular Humanist Conference – Betty Hughes
October 24, 2010
On October 7, Ed and I joined approximately 320 other Secular Humanists/agnostics/atheists and assorted other nonbelievers for a four day event at the Biltmore Millennium Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, CA. The audience was made up of a cross section of Americans and Canadians, more men than women, many young people and a few young families. The event, billed as Secular Humanism’s Next 30 Years was a Free Inquiry subscribers’ conference, sponsored by the Council for Secular Humanism headquartered in Amherst, New York.
The event featured many prominent speakers whom we got to know a little through their writings in Free Inquiry magazine, such as Paul Kurtz, the founder of Secular Humanism. Tom Flynn, the editor of Free Inquiry, Richard Dawkins, Robert Wright, Sam Harris, Jennifer Michael Hecht and many others. We were looking forward to seeing and hearing them in person.
The event started off with an evening reception on Thursday. Friday morning we were informed and entertained by James “the amazing” Randi” as he shared his efforts to expose the fraud of faith healing televangelists, enlisting the help of Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show several years ago. Tom Flynn and Paul Kurtz spoke about the first 30 years of Secular Humanism. The afternoon was filled with a panel discussion about “Science and Religion: Confrontation or Accommodation?” Each panel member made their presentation and then the floor was open for questions and discussion.
That evening we were treated to a Gala Banquet honoring the 15th anniversary of the Center for Inquiry, Los Angeles, a very involved and hard working group of people. Entertainment was provided by Opening Minds Productions, a live theater revival of the award winning PBS series Steve Allen’s Meeting of Minds. The actors in period costumes represented Steve Allen, Charles Darwin, Emily Dickinson, Galileo Galilei and Attila the Hun.
Saturday brought yet another thought provoking presentation of speakers discussing Secular Humanism and Human Values, enforcing the idea that secular humanism is distinguished from mere atheism by its emphasis on values and ethics; asking the question – – What can philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, and the sciences contribute to our pursuit of the good life in this life? Panelists for this discussion included a professor of philosophy and Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the U. of Oregon; Jennifer Michael Hecht, an award winning author of philosophy, history, and poetry; Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism in Amherst, NY. And Christopher diCarlo, a professor of science and ethics at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and one of Canada’s most prominent humanist activists.
The lunch time speaker was Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Initiative and co-director of the Cosmology Initiative at AZ State University.
The afternoon session continued with a discussion titled “The State of Church and State“, moderated by Tom Flynn, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism and editor of Free Inquiry. “Relations between church and state are inflamed as never before. Burning questions include how devout religious minorities should be treated, how those who live without religion should be treated in society, and to what degree religious expression should be favored or discouraged in public life.” My favorite speaker in this group was Rev. Barry Lynn who is executive director of Americans United for Separation of church and State, a Washington, DC based organization dedicated to the preservation of the Constitution’s religious liberty provisions. I’ve seen and heard Rev. Lynn speak before and I’m always impressed! Another panelist was Eddie Tabash a board member and a noted civil liberties attorney. Eddie is putting his name forward for a federal judgeship, saying its time atheists were represented on the bench in our courts.
The Keynote presentation Saturday evening was a discussion between noted authors Sam Harris and Robert Wright. Although we were very interested in the topic, “Where Should Seculars Stand Today and Tomorrow on Questions of Religion and Belief“, we felt too much time was spent arguing about the dangers of Islam.
The event ended Sunday morning with a session titled “The Challenge of the Rise of the Nones”. (‘Nones’ now 15% of population – USA Today – 3/9/2009) Sean Faircloth, executive director of the
Secular Coalition for America, a former Maine legislator, spoke about the need for secular humanists to come out of the closet. A lot of time was allotted for questions from the audience at the close of the event.
What I took away from this whole event is an effort put forth by Center for Inquiry called 3 FOR TOMORROW; Act, Combat, and Promote.
Act – Act to end the stigma attached to being nonreligious
Combat – Combat religion’s privileges and its influence on public policy
Promote – Promote science-based skepticism and critical thinking
I would recommend attending at least one of these events if at all possible. You can check out this conference at: Council for Secular Humanism
I would also recommend visiting the beautifully restored historic Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
” The grande dame of downtown hotels is the elegant 1923 Millennium Biltmore Hotel…” ~ USA Today The premier choice for celebrities, presidents and dignitaries for over 85 years, the Millennium Biltmore Hotel offers historic grandeur and modern luxury in the heart of exciting downtown Los Angeles. The legendary Biltmore Bowl hosted eight Academy Award Ceremonies in the 1930s and ‘40s.
This page is intended to be a link to articles and videos that may be of interest to Freethinkers.
September 28, 2010
From the Arizona Daily Star: “The godless know the most about God”
September 8, 2010
From the Arizona Daily Star: ” Buring of Quran would be Discraceful Act”
May 6, 2010
From the Arizona Daily Star: ” Judge who rejected Day of Prayer reviled”
April 16, 2010
From the Arizona Daily Star: “Judge, siding with atheists”
April 8, 2010
“The Baloney Detection Kit”
March 30, 2010
“Does God Have a Future?”
Archrivals are in the same room as science and faith do battle.
It’s Conservatives Who Really
Want Christ Out of Christmas
They’re terrified America’s tiny number of atheists will change the meaning of the holiday. But conservatives are the ones who are really at war with its message.