All in all, it felt easy though it should have; I averaged about 15 miles per hour, but that included some urban "stop and go" type riding and one very quick pitstop.
I thought some about a recent column in our local paper. The editors really bend over backwards to represent a variety of viewpoints. I enjoyed the following column:
Recently, Rabbi Marc Gellman wrote a column for Newsweek
titled "Trying to Understand Angry Atheists." In the article
he admitted that Atheists don't need to be religious to be
good, kind and charitable people (see Warren Buffett and Bill
Gates among others). Thank you, rabbi. His big question in the
article was, "Why are Atheists often so angry?"
The first thing that must be understood is that not all
Atheists are angry. Some of them are - which is no different
than some Theists. The loudest Atheists and Theists are those
on TV with something to say, and that often comes off as
anger. Gellman's question about Atheists may instead be
clergy-speak for "Why do we have to keep dealing with the
issues that Atheists raise?"
Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, and not angry,
told me, "If Mr. Gellman thinks that Theists aren't angry and
don't spend their time trying to aggravate Atheists, he should
read my mail. The hatred and the threats pour out against us
on a daily basis. His handbook . . . his Bible, refers to us
as fools." She further says, "I am profoundly disappointed
when a member of a religion that has suffered horrendously
from discrimination, lies and stereotypes, thinks nothing of
doing the same to another group of human beings."
Personally, I know that I sometimes get angry. I get angry
when the followers of some religions allow their children to
suffer and die in the name of their god. I get angry at the
discrimination that I see in the Boy Scouts. I get angry when
I see the treatment of women in Muslim societies by their
god-loving husbands. I get angry when the religious right
attempts to dismantle the First Amendment separation of church
and state. I get angry when medical progress can be made in
stem cell research, but is hindered because certain people
want to please their god. Blowing up buildings to kill
non-believers makes me angry. I get angry when God is praised
for very minor egotistical reasons, while millions go on
suffering all over the world. I get angry when religion is
forced upon me in public venues, such as the Interstate 74
bridge re-opening. I get angry when respect is not given to
me, but instead, appeasement. Yes, sometimes I am angry, and
my question to Mr. Gellman would be "Why aren't you?"
Gellman reverts to the classic slur that Atheists reject
theology because of some tragedy that may have happened . . .
some uncomfortable personal history. Please Mr. Gellman, try
again. Virtually every Atheist that I know has examined the
claims of theology, has studied the Bible, studied history,
human behavior and the science of the natural world around us,
and has come to the conclusion that this god could not
possibly exist, just as there is no evidence in believing that
there is an 800-pound pink raccoon controlling our lives.
Atheism is not a cult or religious sect to be dehumanized by
those given to fancy and superstition. Atheists are for the
most part not angry, rather, they are concerned, as any
rational person should be, by world theocratization and man's
inhumanity to man "in God's name."
According to a recent University of Minnesota study, Atheists
have become the nation's ultimate social outcasts, rated below
Muslims, immigrants, gays, and other minority groups. Atheist
bashing has become a national pastime, fueled by
condescension, ignorance and arrogance. Atheists have now
assumed the role of the ultimate "other" or social villain
once played by more traditional social bogeymen - Jews,
communists and even Roman Catholics. As in the past, I hope
that bigotry will some day fade away.
PHIL DOUBET is a member of American Atheists and a Morton
resident. You can write to him in care of Religion, Journal
Star, 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, send a fax to 686-3296
or send e-mail to email@example.com.
That, I think is an excellent response. It has been my experience that, outside of a select group of people (mathematicians, academics, Unitarians, ACLU members and the like), one really risks the wrath and condemnation of others if one admits that one simply doesn't hold to the common superstition or at least something related to it.
How many times have you seen signs saying "Atheists hate fags"? How many times have you seen atheists go on TV and say that a group of people have brought tradegy on themselves because they refused to hold a certain belief?
Robertson, 76, has a history of controversy. His 1991 book The New World Order was based on a host of anti-Semitic sources, although Robertson has always been pro-Israel for end-times theological reasons. The same book opines that former presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush may have been unwitting dupes for Lucifer. On his TV show, Robertson once charged that Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians represent “the spirit of the Antichrist.” In a Sept. 13, 2001, diatribe, he asserted that the terrorist attacks on America happened because of the Supreme Court’s rulings in favor of church-state separation. In the ensuing controversy, Robertson shifted the blame to Jerry Falwell, who had been on the show with him.
Over the years, the failed presidential candidate has often dallied with brutal dictators. He celebrated Guatemala’s Pentecostal strongman Efrain Rios Montt, lauded Frederick Chiluba of Zambia as a model for American politicians, hunted for gold with Liberia’s Charles Taylor and did business with Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. (He was caught using relief airplanes owned by his charity, Operation Blessing, to ferry diamond-mining equipment in and out of Zaire.)
Despite all of this, Robertson retains a close relationship with the Republican Party establishment. Operation Blessing has received $1.5 million in taxpayer funding through the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
CBN is Robertson’s flagship tax-exempt operation. He also founded and runs the American Center for Law and Justice, a Religious Right legal group (see below); Operation Blessing and Regent University, a school offering degrees in law, business, journalism, theology and other disciplines. Added up, Robertson-related groups brought in $461,475,115 in tax-free donations in 2004.
Robertson Quote: “The fact that [the courts] are trying to ignore this country’s religious heritage is just horrible. They are taking our religion away from us under the guise of separation of church and state. There was never any intention that our government would be separate from God Almighty. Never, never, never in the history of this land did the founders of this country or those who came after them think that was the case.” (“700 Club,” July 19, 2005) [...]
Christian evangelicals are plotting to remake America in their own imageIt's February, and 900 of America's staunchest Christian fundamentalists have gathered in Fort Lauderdale to look back on what they accomplished in last year's election -- and to plan what's next. As they assemble in the vast sanctuary of Coral Ridge Presbyterian, with all fifty state flags dangling from the rafters, three stadium-size video screens flash the name of the conference: RECLAIMING AMERICA FOR CHRIST. These are the evangelical activists behind the nation's most effective political machine -- one that brought more than 4 million new Christian voters to the polls last November, sending George W. Bush back to the White House and thirty-two new pro-lifers to Congress. But despite their unprecedented power, fundamentalists still see themselves as a persecuted minority, waging a holy war against the godless forces of secularism. To rouse themselves, they kick off the festivities with "Soldiers of the Cross, Arise," the bloodthirstiest tune in all of Christendom: "Seize your armor, gird it on/Now the battle will be won/Soon, your enemies all slain/Crowns of glory you shall gain."
Meet the Dominionists -- biblical literalists who believe God has called them to take over the U.S. government. As the far-right wing of the evangelical movement, Dominionists are pressing an agenda that makes Newt Gingrich's Contract With America look like the Communist Manifesto. They want to rewrite schoolbooks to reflect a Christian version of American history, pack the nation's courts with judges who follow Old Testament law, post the Ten Commandments in every courthouse and make it a felony for gay men to have sex and women to have abortions. In Florida, when the courts ordered Terri Schiavo's feeding tube removed, it was the Dominionists who organized round-the-clock protests and issued a fiery call for Gov. Jeb Bush to defy the law and take Schiavo into state custody. Their ultimate goal is to plant the seeds of a "faith-based" government that will endure far longer than Bush's presidency -- all the way until Jesus comes back.
"Most people hear them talk about a 'Christian nation' and think, 'Well, that sounds like a good, moral thing,' says the Rev. Mel White, who ghostwrote Jerry Falwell's autobiography before breaking with the evangelical movement. "What they don't know -- what even most conservative Christians who voted for Bush don't know -- is that 'Christian nation' means something else entirely to these Dominionist leaders. This movement is no more about following the example of Christ than Bush's Clean Water Act is about clean water."
The godfather of the Dominionists is D. James Kennedy, the most influential evangelical you've never heard of. A former Arthur Murray dance instructor, he launched his Florida ministry in 1959, when most evangelicals still followed Billy Graham's gospel of nonpartisan soul-saving. Kennedy built Coral Ridge Ministries into a $37-million-a-year empire, with a TV-and-radio audience of 3 million, by preaching that it was time to save America -- not soul by soul but election by election. After helping found the Moral Majority in 1979, Kennedy became a five-star general in the Christian army. Bush sought his blessing before running for president -- and continues to consult top Dominionists on matters of federal policy.
"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost," Kennedy says. "As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society." [...]
And listen to my favorite Republican candidate for a Senate seat:
Katherine Harris attempts to defuse controversial comments
By Jim Stratton
The Orlando Sentinel
ORLANDO, Fla. - Rep. Katherine Harris sought Saturday to smother a campaign brushfire stoked by an earlier claim that failure to elect Christians to public office would allow lawmakers to "legislate sin."
Harris, appearing at a gun show in Orlando, said she did not mean to offend non-Christians in her comments to the Florida Baptist Witness last week. She explained that she referred exclusively - and repeatedly - to Christians because she was being interviewed by the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.
"My comments were specifically directed toward a Christian group," said Harris, a Republican senate candidate from Longboat Key.
To reinforce that message, Harris' campaign also released a statement Saturday. It described her strong support of Israel and said when Harris called the separation of church and state a "lie" she was addressing "a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government."
"My rallying cry," she said, "has always been people of all faiths should be involved."
Harris ignited a furor with her Witness interview. She sounded a fervent evangelical tone, saying that God "chooses our rulers," that voters needed to send Christians to political office and that God did not intend for the United States to be a "nation of secular laws."
Speaking to Witness editors, Harris said:
"If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin."
"If we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women," then "we're going to have a nation of secular laws. That's not what our founding fathers intended and that's (sic) certainly isn't what God intended."
So, just who is intolerant and angry?I've included the Rabbi's column below:
April 26, 2006 - I think I need to understand atheists better. I bear them no ill will. I don't think they need to be religious to be good, kind and charitable people, and I have no desire to debate or convert them. I do think they are wrong about the biggest question, “Are we alone?” and I will admit to occasionally viewing atheists with the kind of patient sympathy often shown to me by Christians who can't quite understand why the Good News of Jesus' death and resurrection has not reached me or my people. However, there is something I am missing about atheists: what I simply do not understand is why they are often so angry.
So we disagree about God. I'm sometimes at odds with Yankee fans, people who like rap music and people who don't like animals, but I try to be civil. I don't know many religious folk who wake up thinking of new ways to aggravate atheists, but many people who do not believe in God seem to find the religion of their neighbors terribly offensive or oppressive, particularly if the folks next door are evangelical Christians. I just don't get it.
This must sound condescending and a large generalization, and I don't mean it that way, but I am tempted to believe that behind atheist anger there are oftentimes uncomfortable personal histories. Perhaps their atheism was the result of the tragic death of a loved one, or an angry degrading sermon, or an insensitive eulogy, or an unfeeling castigation of lifestyle choices or perhaps something even worse. I would ask for forgiveness from the angry atheists who write to me if I thought it would help. Religion must remain an audacious, daring and, yes, uncomfortable assault on our desires to do what we want when we want to do it. All religions must teach a way to discipline our animal urges, to overcome racism and materialism, selfishness and arrogance and the sinful oppression of the most vulnerable and the most innocent among us.
Some religious leaders obviously betray the teachings of the faith they claim to represent, but their sacred scriptures remain a critique of them and also of every thing we do to betray the better angels of our nature. But our world is better and kinder and more hopeful because of the daily sacrifice and witness of millions of pious people over thousands of years.