Bible Belt or BUST!

Ok, so… Remember our last post, where we went through and told you EXACTLY where we were going to be, and when? Well… we lied. Sorry- I mean we have since revised. Based on a number of factors including listener/reader comments, events we didn't want to miss and things we wanted to see, we now have a NEW AND IMPROVED itinerary!

BEHOLD!!!

 Woah. That suddenly looks like a lot of driving...
 That's right, upper-left corner! It IS in the Unites States!

This is where we're really going. Like, for sure. For total sure. 

Unless something else comes up.

And here's what the timing pretty much looks like:

Monday, May 13– Texas panhandle: Amarillo and Groom. Spend the night in Groom (I checked this place out on Google. Small town Texas. Wow.)

Tuesday, May 14– Lunch in Wichita Falls, TX on our way to Dallas. Spend the night in Dallas.

Wednesday, May 15– Lunch in Waco, on our way to Houston. Sleep in Houston.

Thursday, May 16– Stay in Houston (we get to not drive for a day!). FUN MEETUP at night at the Fox & Hound Pub (11470 Westheimer Road)- Houstonites, be there or be square!

Friday, May 17– Drive to Shreveport, Louisiana. Have some fun (TBA). Sleep.

Saturday, May 18– Head to Jackson, Mississippi. Sing "I'm going to Jackson" in the style of Johnny Cash the entire way.

Sunday, May 19– AM church in Jackson, lord help us (yep- that means a church review), then press on to Montgomery, Alabama

Monday, May 20– A long and rather circuitous route through 'Bama will eventually land us in Murfreesboro, TN.

Tuesday, May 21– We leave early, 'cause we gotta make it to Memphis before Graceland closes (though we'll pass through another town called Jackson, so we'll be singing Cash again before we start singing Elvis).

Wednesday, May 22– Wave at Little Rock (maybe have lunch there- any Little Rockers out there wanna join us?) on our way to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Why Hot Springs? Who knows.

Thursday, May 23– Drive through the beautiful (one supposes) Ouachita National Forest to Muskogee County, Oklahoma. Frank's old stomping grounds! I get to see where Frank practiced his trombone for marching band! I'm not making that up!

Friday, May 24- Frank Family stuff. You're not invited.

Saturday, May 25 Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Arkansas! EVERYBODY SHOULD COME TO THIS WITH US! Seriously, if you live anywhere even remotely close to Eureka Springs (and remember, compared to, say, Poland, most American locations are pretty close), you need to join us for this event! Then, we'll go find a place nearby that serves alcohol. Lot's of alcohol. So help me if Eureka Springs turns out to be in a "dry County", I'll know FOR SURE that there's no god.

Sunday, May 26– Party in Bonner Springs, Kansas! We'll send you a full report.

Monday, May 27– Stop in Topeka (home of those nice Westboro Baptists), do some stuff, have lunch, and then put the pedal to the metal, and get our asses home!

KABAM!

So that's it. That's where we'll be and a lot of what we'll be doing! If you want to be a part of it, hit us up! If you're in one of these fine towns, let us know, and we'll try to announce where we'll be, so y'all can join in the festivities. See you soon!

Travel Itinerary for our Bible Belt Tour

Frank and Dan are hitting the road starting May 13 through May 27, and we’d love to meet as many of you along the way as possible. Please let us know if you’d like to meet up.

Mon, May 13 – en route to Dallas from Salt Lake

Tue, May 14 – DALLAS

Wed, May 15 – AUSTIN

Thu, May 16 – HOUSTON

Fri, May 17 – NEW ORLEANS

Sat, May 18 – MONTGOMERY

Sun, May 19 – ATLANTA

Mon, May 20 – MURFREESBORO, TN

Tue, May 21 – MEMPHIS

Wed, May 22 – CLARKSDALE, MS

Thu, May 23 – EUREKA SPRINGS, AR

Fri, May 24 & Sat, May 25 – MUSKOGEE COUNTY, OK

Sun, May 26 – TULSA

Mon, May 27 – TOPEKA

 

It is unlikely that these dates and stops will change, but please let us know if you think they should!

Look Out, Bible Belt- Here Come The Atheists!

Well, y'all, we're doing it! This Spring, Frank and I will be touring this fair Country of ours. Well, we'll be touring part of the Country. The batshit crazy part.

That's right… cue up the banjos, 'cause TGIA is going to the South!

I made the South purple, because every other pic that represents the bible belt makes it red, and then it looks like America just has a rash down there... 
 Mmmm, so Bible-y!

Here's the thing: we don't know what to see! We've both been to the South a bit, but neither of us is overly familiar with the area as a whole (Frank used to live in Oklahoma, of course, but that's a small part of a very big zone). So we need your help!

What we're looking for is the kinda stuff we talk about on the show. Creationist museums, nutty Christian revivals, besieged Mosques, world's largest crucifix…. Anything odd, surreal, or otherwise of interest. Or really good roller coasters. You know… whatever.

Also… YOU! We wanna meet you, our faithful (ha!) listeners! So, with that said:

  • Live in the South? Convince us that your city/town/area is worth making the stop. What's happening out in your neck of the woods that makes your hometown awesome/terrifying/hilarious?
  • Been to the South? Tell us about your not-to-be-missed experiences.
  • Read about something cool? Pass it along!
  • Know nothing about the South? Keep your filthy trap shut!

You can comment here, or email us at podcast [at] thankgodimatheist [dot] com, or click here to find us on the Facebook (and "like" us, while you're at it!).

See you soon!

The Mormon Temple Ceremony: You Make The Call

Ok, folks. Here it is: the endowment ceremonies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am not responsible for making this video, mind you, I'm only making you aware of it. And I gotta say, I hesitated to do that.

As we discuss in podcast episode #59, this video represents the laying bare of something that is held so sacred by the Mormons that even I, who never went through the temple, feel like I'm violating something by presenting it here. I've honestly had to wrestle with some fairly deep questions of conscience about it.

"But why, Dan? You don't believe in the Mormon church anymore. Why do you care about what other people think is sacred?"

Well, fictitious questioner, one reason is I know A LOT of Mormons and I have no desire for them to feel hurt or betrayed by me. It's tough because religious people in general, and ESPECIALLY Mormons, feel attacked soooooo easily. Anything you say that questions any aspect of their religion is instantly perceived as an attack. Even stating your own non-belief is thought to be an attack. So, as someone who has a blog and podcast dedicated to looking at the world through the lens of atheism, I'm bound to piss some folks off. That is not my intention.

What is my intention is to take a real, open and honest look at the world and ask the questions that come up. And this video brings up A LOT of questions. For those of you who were never Mormon yourselves, I'm guessing this will positively baffle you. And make you cringe. And possibly wish you could un-see it.

Oddly, it may be even freakier for those of us who were Mormon. To have known so many good, intelligent people who submitted to this weirdness and accepted it as something that would bring them closer to a god for me brings up a cognitive dissonance as powerful as what first-time temple-goers must feel. You have to understand: newbies to the temple go into this ceremony completely unprepared for what they're about to see and do. Nobody explains any of what's about to happen to them. Usually all they know is that what they're about to experience is sacred, and they'll walk out in new underwear that they'll then have to wear for the rest of their lives.

My mind reels thinking about it.

So, rather than droning on more, I'm just going to present the video and let y'all have at it. I'm really interested to hear your reactions. Is it weirder than you expected? More boring? Both? What stands out to you? 

 
UPDATE: As Mike commented below, "This is what Mormons call a "LIVE" session. The movie version of the endowment is a lot easier to hear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VrsFEiTpsQ." So here it is:
 

The Pope Is Out To Get You!

So, in the same week that the Mormons announced that they were changing the ages at which young people could serve their missions, effectively increasing their marketing force by a substantial margin (as we discuss in episode 47 of the podcast), I encountered two other interesting articles. This one from USA Today discusses a new study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life that shows "nones," or people professing no religious affiliation, rising to almost 20% of American adults (yay!). And this one from RNS is about the Pope convening a Synod of Bishops on “New Evangelization” to stem that "tsunami of secular influence.”

That's not my regular Avon rep... 

 "Lock the door and hide!" "Is it the Mormons?" "No…"

What? The Catholics looking at "evangelization"? Shit just got real!

Seriously. Gone, apparently, are the days of the Catholic church resting on its laurels as the all-powerful religious monolith. These days, they're going to have to work for their money like everybody else. I suppose they'll stop short of sending young folks door-to-door for converts, but you can smell the desperation, can't you? I know I can.

We "nones" have gone from 15.3% in 2007 to 19.6% today. That's a pretty speedy ascent if you ask me! I certainly don't think it will continue at the same pace for long- this comfort with not having a religious affiliation is really new, and I suspect this could be termed our honeymoon period. But I'm guessing the pedal will be to the proverbial metal for a while, yet. Where will it slow? Who knows? 30%? 45%? Surely it will slow before it hits 50%, but at that point everything will look VERY different for us.

Mind you, being an out-and-proud atheist, I'm not sure how comfortable I am sitting in the same category as my wishy-washy "spiritual but not religious" friends. I find belief in "Universal Energy" or "healing light" or even just "there's gotta be SOMETHING out there, right?" pretty damned religious, even if the believer can't really nail down any specifics. I'd probably prefer that the Pew people separate them out, when all is said and done, but whatever.

The point here is that we are a very real and rapidly growing force, and the religious world is scared. This isn't just a trend, it isn't just a short-term change from which the pendulum will soon swing back. This is how it's going to be. These noises you're hearing from the mouths of religious leaders the world over aren't the clarion call sounding the rise of religion back to the top- they are the death throes. The long, angry, violent thrashing of an anachronistic institution sensing (but not admitting) it's impending irrelevance.

We're going to win. They're going to lose. Society will be better for it. And yes, I'll take bets on that. Hell, I'll give you odds!

Am I The Only One Who Sees This *Plot To Take Over The World* Coming?

Ok, so a few weeks ago on the Podcast I noted that Mormon church president Tom Monson looks like a cross between Danny Devito as the Penguin and the Emperor from Return of the Jedi. So, as I promised I totally might do, I hit the web for pics to support my claim. That's when the interwebs reminded me of something I had forgotten: that Facebook wanted my attention. But THEN the interwebs reminded me of something else: The Emperor look-alike position has already been filled. Regardez:

Separated at Moment of Evil Spawning?
 Actually, this comparison makes the Emperor look a little weak…

[Side note: I worked for HOURS trying to create a GIF of His Popeness morphing ominously into the Emperor. I put all my After Effects skills into overdrive trying to make something that looked cool and wasn't completely embarrassing. I failed]

Anyhoo, I suppose it's fitting that the Pope would be more like the Emperor, he's a bigger deal than Tommy Monson. However, I stand by my Devito Penguin analysis:

Add some hair, and TA-DA! 
 Holy freaky look-alikes, Batman!

See? Dirty up his teeth a little, give him a hat and an ascot, and boom! You got yourself an arch villain!

So what does all this mean? Is Hollywood purposefully targeting religious leaders FROM THE PAST? Have the evil liberal anti-theists from the movie industry found a way to time travel into the future so that they can cast people as crazy-looking villains who will eventually turn out to look like beloved figure-heads of major world religions? Who will be their next victim? I'm looking at you, Richard Chartres, Bishop of London…

 Bishop Chartres and some fluffy-haired guy
 I honestly couldn't think of a movie malefactor that looks like this… Thoughts?

Why don’t Mormons accept they’re not Christians?

The so-called "Mormon Moment" has shown that professional writers are really just a bunch of kids in a candy shop. And like a kid in a candy shop, these writers are easily distracted by whatever all of the other children are running to. Polygamy and "magic underwear" have received more than their fair share of attention. 

One argument that we need to hear more of, but haven't, is that Mormons aren't Christians. You've probably heard people say this before, and you may have even heard a half-assed explanation. In my experience, though, few people have enough familiarity with Mormon theology to clearly and succinctly explain why Mormons aren't Christians.

Why they aren't:

  • Christian believe in an infinite and singular God.
  • Mormons believe in a finite God who is one of a plurality of Gods (Elohim is the God of this creation; he resides on the planet Kolob).
  • Christians believe that Jesus is the incarnation of their singular God (hence the Trinity)
  • Mormons believe that Jesus is God's half-human offspring (hence the Godhead

Mormons assert that they believe that through Christ their sins are forgiven. This sounds about right, but upon closer examination, their version of Christ's expiation differs from their Christian brothers and sisters. Mormons don't believe that the atonement occurred in Christ's death, but earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane. The outcome is the same, but the function is different. 

I need to cool off and remind myself that this is all moot. Keep repeating to yourself, Frank, "I don't believe in any of this crap." (It's so fun, though.) I should take this moment to point out the obvious in that Mormons aren't Christians because no Mormon would ever get an awesome tattoo like the one to the right.

And here's a tip: no matter your familiarity with this topic, don't tell a Mormon that he or she isn't Christian. They're liable to scratch your eyes out. Mormons don't understand that it's not an insult, in fact it makes them a whole hell of a lot more interesting to view them as distinct from Christianity. The assertion is simply an honest understanding of Christianity and Mormonism, and that the two have a relation that more resembles the one between Christianity and Islam. Islam builds upon some aspects of Christianity, and Mormonism does the same. But protestant is where it's at in this country, so goddammit, the Mormons will throw as much of their religion away as they have to in order to get in good with the cool kids. 

Simon Critchley—commenting online for NYTimes—spells it all out in this thoughtful explanation of Mormonism. He mixes Mormon theology and Mormon cosmology into a piece about how the LDS faithful understand God and how their theology separates them from mainstream Christianity. 

And he shares a couple of doozies… 

“So, dear Simon,” my new friend concluded, “we, too, can become Gods, American Gods, no less.” He chuckled. I was astonished. 

Continue to the article at NYTimes.