Atheist Group Continues to Help Community Clean Up Its Riverbed

For 21 years, the City of Santa Clarita in southern California has held an annual “River Rally,” where local citizens converge on a section of the Santa Clara River to clean out thousands of pounds of litter and debris, and for the third year in a row, the Santa Clarita Atheists and Freethinkers, of which I’m a member, joined 1,400 other people to help clean up another couple of miles of southern California’s last completely natural river, an important refuge and migratory route for dozens of species of wildlife.

SCAF River Rally 2015 with logo

Why do we do this? It must be because we think that all people and all living things are nothing but accidental piles of molecules with no meaning, purpose, or value, right? It’s because we don’t give a crap about life, death, or anything in between, right? I mean, many Christians frequently tell me that’s what I think. Helping the environment and the community for free is what immoral, uncaring, cynical, selfish nihilists like us do, right? [Read more...]

I Gave a Sermon at a Church About My Atheist “Spirituality”

From my work on the local interfaith council in my home town, I’m familiar with several clergy from a wide variety of churches, and so a senior member of the Unitarian Universalist Church who knows me well invited me to give a sermon as a guest on Sunday, August 9.

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I Was a Guest Speaker at a Church Last Sunday

In May of 2013, Kile Jones launched a nation-wide project called Interview an Atheist at Church Day where he matched atheists and preachers for video-recorded conversations in their churches. I had immediately signed up as a candidate, but he was not able to find a match for me. Since then, he has continued to do interviews of his own and to pair up several more atheists with pastors. Finally, several weeks ago, he introduced me to Dr. Scott Colglazier, the pastor of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, and we had the interview last Sunday, June 28. (Thank you, Kile, and thank you, Dr. Colglazier.)

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Atheists and Believers Respond to Westboro Baptist Church with Unity, Positivism, and Resolve

On their way to Hollywood to peddle their drug of addiction, hate, outside the Academy Awards Sunday night, half a dozen members of the Westboro Baptist Church paid a morning visit to my home town 50 miles north of Los Angeles. They targeted five churches in a series of brief picket protests for the sin of having female pastors and other doctrinal practices that they abhor. Armed with their typically vile signs and antagonistic rhetoric, they timed their demonstrations to be seen by the parishioners as they arrived for or left Sunday services.

A few of us from the Santa Clarita Atheists and Freethinkers (SCAF) joined 200 to 300 members of the community to counter-demonstrate at each of the churches, despite the drizzle of much-needed rain. Groups from other churches and faith organizations, many students from Gay-Straight Alliance clubs at high schools and the community college, military veterans, and plenty of families and individuals turned out to overwhelm the little sidewalk bigot squad with a flood of harmony, acceptance, and love.

Here’s a small sampling of the nasty and rather goofy messages of the WBC:

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Ask Richard: Parents Pressure Atheist to Persuade Her Sister to Have a Catholic Wedding

Note: Letter writers’ names are changed to protect their privacy.

Hi Richard,

I’ve never actually come out and told my family that I’m an atheist, but it’s something of a poorly kept secret. They certainly know that I’m no longer a Catholic as I was raised, as I’ve refused to have my daughter baptized. But now my parents have decided that it is my lack of faith that has pulled my sister away from the Church, and now that my sister and her fiancé have set a wedding date, this has become an issue that must be immediately remedied.

Both my parents have separately taken me aside and “requested” in the strongest possible terms that I try to persuade my sister to have a Catholic wedding. She doesn’t want to have a Catholic wedding, her fiancé doesn’t want a Catholic wedding, and I think that should be the end of the matter. But my parents want them to have a Catholic wedding, and his parents want a Catholic wedding, so somehow that’s my problem? I would try to talk to the parents about it, but frankly, I’ve never been able to have a rational and reasonable conversation with my parents.

I’m tempted to just stay away from my parents for a while until they cool down, but there are two things that make me hesitant to cut them off. First is my daughter, she spends a day with them every week, and they are wonderful to her, and everyone would be truly crushed if they didn’t get to spend the day together. The second is that I don’t want my little sister to feel that I have abandoned her. She and her fiancé are capable of standing up for each other, and have been more honest with their parents than I have, even though they are much younger, and I don’t want them to feel that they have to make this stand alone.

So I guess my question is, do I just walk away from the situation and hope things calm down? Or do I allow myself to get dragged into this drama and actively try to keep everyone calm in what appears to be a hopeless situation?


Dear Sandra,

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