christine~ (eppylover) wrote,

Sunday Sermon ~ Virtual Havens for Non-Believers, and This Week in Holy Crimes

Usual Disclaimer:
Please ignore this post if you're into invisible deities and primitive books of superstition and other such thingies. I reserve Sunday as my day to rant.

Copied/pasted from: Virtual Havens for Non-Believers

Historically and by definition non-believers, such as Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, and Secular Buddhists stood for nothing. Non-believers just went about their lives as though religion didn’t exist, at least not much, and paid little attention to the topic. In recent years, however, that has changed.

Religion has been growing in frightening, threatening, and in fanatical ways.  Religion is infecting our schools, taking over cities and governments, and breaking our constitutional rights. Children are murdered because “God asked me to prove my faith by offering what I love most,” and behind the most vile terrorist attacks are religious fanatics. Non-believers are discriminated against in once friendly organizations like Boy Scouts of America, atheist school children are bullied, and Jewish children have been hit over the head with Gideon’s bibles.

Now, more than ever, non-believers feel the need to unite in communities. Many live in towns that are overrun by fanatical Christians, and they have no friends who understand their world view. They feel isolated, overwhelmed, and frightened by the religious dogma pushed at them. Fortunately, they are not alone.

Virtual havens for non-believers are appearing in places like Facebook and Second Life. Additionally, those of us living in more progressive areas also feel the need to unite non-believers into communities. Standing for nothing is being replaced by standing for freedom, freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

Non-believer communities are growing each day on Facebook through pages, such as Happy Atheist, Atheist Alliance, Atheist Revolution, Positive Atheism, Card-Carrying Atheists, Religion – The number one obstacle to world peace, we CAN find 10 million Atheists on facebook, Atheist, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, The Secular Buddhist, and many more. On these pages, non-believers share their frustrations and fears over government officials engaging in prayer, and breaking constitutional rights with events like National Prayer day. Non-believers share history and facts about the falsity of religious texts and mythical characters.

Through mediums like YouTube, many people are expressing anger and outrage in the Creationism versus Evolution debate, while many non-believers patiently address the many misconceptions and incorrect science of believers.  Thinking advocates like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens are influential icons, leading the way for speaking out.

While many non-believers come out the closet, many fear openly admitting their lack of belief in a mythical God. Instead, they flock to virtual havens like Facebook, and the free 3D worlds of Second Life. By simply registering for a free account and choosing an avatar, non-believers have all the anonymity they want and need.

In Second Life, there are many groups non-believers can join, such as Atheist Center, Dawkins Atheist, Secular Buddhist Land, SL Humanism, Atheists United, Atheists/Freethinkers/Secularists, and Agnostics of SL. Some of these groups have a home base in SL, while others meet at various places. By joining these groups, members receive notices of events, discussions, etc.

This year I created a SIM (an island in SL) called Secular Community for non-believers and free thinkers. Originally, the title had been Secular Buddhist Community, as I saw a real need for a place where modern day Buddhists could share common interests and concerns for problems of ecology and wildlife, and who wanted core Buddhist teachings without the superstitious beliefs of some of the other Buddhist traditions.

However, Secular Buddhists are also atheists, agnostics, or Humanists, so I decided to open the community to include all non-believers. As more people have arrived, I discovered they came from all over the globe, with much relief and happiness to find a place they can discuss their concerns and share their fears and frustrations.

Virtual conversations happen now between non-believers and the religious through places like those mentioned above, and through Twitter. These discussions are not always friendly. Sometimes it’s a battle of closed-minded wills. Yet, for those who are on the fence, for those who have doubts, for those who are simply unaware, these discussions can prove fruitful and freeing, sometimes downright liberating.

Religions need to be exposed for the dangers they pose, for the scams they are, and for the false hopes and real fears they create. While we raise awareness in the world, we provide much needed support for each other. Additionally, we now stand for freedom and the preservation of separation of church and state.

It’s easy to fall into cynicism when discovering how badly religion is influencing our government, dragging down our society, and corrupting morals left and right. But recently, I had the opportunity to listen to and talk with Sean Faircloth, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition of America in a meeting for learning about this organization and starting a grassroots branch for California. I felt inspired with renewed hope.

In addition to pointing out the many problems with religion in our government currently, Sean also pointed out the power of groups, and the determination of the Secular Coalition of America. It became clear to me that non-believers have to unite and work on this problem together. While we are a minority, we are a growing, large group, and we need to be more vocal and united in our efforts.

As these virtual havens have evolved on the Internet, many of us encourage non-believers to come out of the closet, while educating believers into seeing past the myths and stories. Additionally, there are many religious groups, such as Jewish people, Hindus, and Pagans who also feel Christianity violating their rights as individuals and groups.

While we were nearly invisible in the past, non-believers are becoming visible now in both virtual and physical communities. I want to stress to all of them that we need to unite and fight this problem of religion invading our government peacefully and with intelligence. We have the US Constitution to back us up, as well as organizations like the Secular Coalition of America, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Atheist Alliance International, Secular Student Alliance, and others.

One of the things Sean stressed was the need for peaceful, level-headed discourse. While it may be tempting to tell people their beliefs are lame, organizations must focus on the legal aspects, and keep the argument on what rights are being violated. Aside from organizations, we can do a lot in setting an example of intelligent arguments, exposing religions through facts and documented anecdotes, a refrain from being insulting or falling into defensiveness.

In spite of the many problems of the world, we are fortunate to come together in these virtual havens to support and help each other, to increase awareness concerning the problems with belief, faith, and religion, and to unite and multiply efforts to donate money to our lobbyists and causes, to voice our concerns, and to alert the public to violations of the separation of church and state.

Together we can take a stand for our freedoms.

Dana Noure, in Second Life Dana Oceanlane

holy crimes

Copied/Pasted from The Joe.My.God Blog

This Week In Holy Crimes

Over the last seven days...

New Jersey: Pastor Moises Cotto charged with forcing two underage girls to videotape him having sex with a female parishioner.
New York: Youth Bible teacher Samuel W. Langley arrested for molesting a five year-old girl.
Texas: Pastor Mark Stewart arrested for shooting another pastor over a construction contract dispute.
Australia: Archbishop Philip Wilson accused of covering up crimes of pedophile priests.
Illinois: Pastor Howard Richmond arrested for swindling $475K from parishioners.
Missouri: Youth Pastor Jason A. Phillips charged with sexual assault on female minor.
Indiana: Youth Pastor Johnny Eugene Butler charged with multiple counts of sexual misconduct with a female minor.
New York: Father James J. McDevitt pleads guilty to two counts of molesting boys.
Missouri: Pastor Danny O'Guin charged with multiple felony counts of defrauding elderly parishioners.
Texas: Pastor Cornelius Hudson accused of defrauding an elderly couple out of their home.
Massachusetts: Bishops Joseph F. Maguire and Thomas L Dupre will be sued in civil court for their roles in shielding a now convicted pedophile priest. Dupre has been been accused of child molestation as well.

This Week's Winner
Brazil: Father Marcin Strachanowski has been charged with running a "pedophile dungeon" where he organized orgies with underage boys. One victim, who reports having been handcuffed to the priest's bed, says Strachanowski warned him that if the police were notified, "I already know the flowers I will place on your coffin." The Archdiocese of Rio has expressed its "regret."

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