Announcing the Friendly Atheist Book Club

After months of planning, it’s my pleasure to announce a new project that I hope the secular community will enjoy and appreciate: The Friendly Atheist Book Club!

Every month beginning this November — on a site separate from this one — we’ll discuss one book over a series of blog posts and videos. The moderators (Steven M. Long and Emily Dietle) and I will guide the conversation and we’ll invite the authors of the books to join us for an interview each month, too.

For those of you who (like me) enjoy reading books about religion but don’t always have people to chat with about them, I want this to be your outlet.

I know you have a lot of questions (about moderators, trolls, book selection, cost, etc) and I’ve tried to answer the major ones here.

In the meantime, I’m thrilled to announce that the first book we’ll read is Candace R. M. Gorham‘s book The Ebony Exodus Project: Why Some Black Women Are Walking out on Religion — and Others Should Too (Pitchstone Publishing, 2013). It’s all about how black women, specifically, are harmed by Christianity and why they need to abandon their faith.

Like I said, this has been in the works for a few months. It’s an experiment, but one I’m devoting a lot of personal attention to, because I think it will be a valuable resource for our community. If you’d like to become a member of the club, please sign up now and order the book right here. The fun begins next month!

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An Open Letter to the Principal of My Kids’ Elementary School: Let’s Drop the Pledge of Allegiance

This school year, my youngest daughter, who is eight, is being asked to say the Pledge of Allegiance in her public school every day. “Being asked” is too kind, really; it’s on her class program, so like a good little third-grader, she simply does it, every morning, without question — just like her 20 classmates. No one’s told her that she may opt out.

The school has no specific policy on saying the Pledge, leaving it up to individual teachers to incorporate it into their daily routines — or not.

I thought about it off and on for a few weeks, finding it hard to know what to do, if anything. Not rocking the boat has its advantages, which in this case would include not exposing my daughter to the social perils of having an outspoken atheist for a dad, specially in the very school environment where this could hurt her the most. Then again, I’m just not that good at keeping my mouth shut when something bothers me.

When I cautiously broached the principal about this, he immediately offered to discuss any concerns with the staff without disclosing my name, or those of my two school-age daughters. I thought that was pretty classy, so I felt unburdened to send him the following letter.

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American Legion Group Demands Prayer at Public School’s Veterans Day Ceremony, but School Officials Say No

This past June, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Wallenpaupack Area Schools (in Pennsylvania) Superintendent Michael Silsby letting him know that if a clergy member ever again led a prayer at the district high school’s graduation ceremony, they would be hit with a lawsuit. Silsby wrote back in August: “The District will no longer have religious rituals as part of the commencement ceremony.”

Excellent. Problem solved.

So you can imagine how Silsby reacted when he learned what American Legion Post 311 wanted to do during Wallenpaupack Area High School’s Veterans Day ceremony next month. Normally, the event includes announcing the winners of an essay contest, singing patriotic songs, and listening to a guest speaker. But this year, the Legion made an additional, ungrantable request: Let our chaplain say a prayer at the assembly.

Silsby, not wanting to go through the same legal battle again, told them prayer wasn’t an option. It was a public school ceremony. There would be no mixing of church and state.

The veterans didn’t take the news so well. They’re now saying if the school won’t allow their chaplain to say a prayer at the event, they just won’t show up:



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Why Did This Christian Group Fire a Divorced Woman but Not Fire Divorced Men?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, discusses how InterVarsity Christian Fellowship recently fired a woman after she got divorced… even though they didn’t fire men who did the exact same thing:

You can read more details about the story here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

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Tea Partier Suggests Class-Action Lawsuit Against Homosexuality

A former Baptist pastor has figured out the answer to ridding the world of those pesky gays once and for all: just sue ‘em.

Tea Party organizer Rick Scarborough and conservative activist Peter LaBarbera reportedly spoke last week about how to strengthen the Christian anti-gay movement (no, seriously). LaBarbera is the president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, an organization that seeks to counter the “homosexual activist agenda” and definitely doesn’t sound like a bunch of closeted gay men trying to make themselves feel better. Nope. Not at all.

[caption id="attachment_93149" align="alignnone" width="394"]Rick Scarborough[/caption]

Their brilliant solution? A class-action lawsuit tantamount to those filed against tobacco companies, because apparently the two groups are guilty of equally heinous harms against society.

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