29 December 2008

So what's so wrong with a "WYSIWYG" world?

On a recent post on my blog ("Humanist Parents Recreating Religious Community"), some of the reader comments touched on a variety of questions:
  • Are words like "bright" that some use to describe people with a naturalistic worldview useful?
  • Are words like "super" used to describe people with a supernatural worldview useful?
  • Are "bright" and "super" worldviews are mutually exclusive (this is the assumption voiced by The Brights organization)?
  • Do the assumptions behind the words "bright" and "super" impose a literalism that allows no room figurative understanding?
Here is Fausto's comment on this because it provides an excellent summary of these concerns:
The positions they [the terms "bright" and "super"] attempt to describe are not either-or, but fall within a varying range. There are "supers" who find truth primarily through empirical means, there are "brights" who do not deny the possible value to others of mystical experience even if they themselves have not found it helpful, there are "supers" who do deny the value of mysticism, there are naturalistic mystics who deny supernaturalism, and so on. Moreover, it sounds as though both "bright" and "super" as defined may allow only for literal understanding and exclude the validity of figurative expression.
Personally, I disagree with the assumption that a naturalistic "bright" worldview is somehow incompatible with valuing figurative expression.

Humans are a part of the interdependent web -- the fingerprints of our biological roots that we share with the rest of creation are all over us. For example, the Hox genes in humans show our biological connection with jellyfish and fruit flies -- not to mention all bilaterally symmetrical animals.

If we are a part of the web of creation, then I consider it reasonable to view our behavior and the things we create as natural phenomena (the same way we view the dancing of bees and bee honeycombs as "natural phenomena").

I think the amazing creation that we live is a "WYSIWYG" place - "what you see is what you get." I think that this physical plane of existence is all that we can really can know is and it's wonderful.

Given the amazingness of the natural world, do we need to "gild the lily" by adding a supernatural layer to this world we live in?

The stories and religions that we create are valuable not because they contain "literal truths" or even "figurative truths."

These human-created figurative expressions are natural phenomena and they are valuable because they tell us something about what it means to be human and perhaps lead us to a better understanding of ourselves.

23 December 2008

At least Barack Obama didn't ask this religious leader to speak at the Inauguration ...

With all the blog commentary about Rick Warren being selected give the invocation at President-Elect Obama's Inauguration, it's a good thing that he didn't ask for Pope Benedict XVI to speak.

Check out the recent news story from England with the Benedict's comments on how we need to "save the world" from homosexuality:
"Pope: Saving world from homosexuality like saving rainforests"
In comments at the Vatican that are likely to provoke a furious reaction from homosexual groups, Benedict also warned that blurring the distinction between male and female could lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race.

In his address to the Curia, the Vatican's central administration, he described behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations as "a destruction of God's work" and said that the Roman Catholic Church had a duty to "protect man from the destruction of himself".

It is not "outmoded metaphysics" to urge respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman," he added.

"The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less."

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are. It opposes gay marriage and, in October, a leading Vatican official described homosexuality as "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound".

The Pope said humanity needed to "listen to the language of creation" to understand the intended roles of man and woman.

He also defended the Church's right to "speak of human nature as man and woman, and ask that this order of creation be respected".

21 December 2008

Humanist Parents Recreating Religious Community

I saw a link to this Washington Post news story on Hemant Mehta's "Friendly Atheist" blog -- "Humanist Parents Seek Communion Outside Church."

It reminds me of the Time magazine article about "Atheist Sunday Schools" that I blogged on back in November 2007.

Here's the introductory part of the recent Washington Post story:
They are not religious, so they don't go to church. But they are searching for values and rituals with which to raise their children, as well as a community of like-minded people to offer support.

Dozens of parents came together on a recent Saturday to participate in a seminar on humanist parenting and to meet others interested in organizing a kind of nonreligious congregation, complete with regular family activities and ceremonies for births and deaths.
The news story gives the following background on humanism:
Humanism is both a formal movement and an informal identification of people who promote values of reason, compassion and human dignity. Although most humanists are atheists, atheism is defined by what is absent -- belief in God -- and humanists emphasize a positive philosophy of ethical living for the human good.
And here's the rationale behind this conference:
The seminar's organizers wanted to reach out to people like the Proctors -- first-time parents scrambling for guidance as they improvise how to raise their daughter without the religion of their childhood.

"I'm often told that when people have kids, they go back to religion," said John Figdor, a humanist master's of divinity student who helped organize the seminar. "Are we really not tending our own people?"
Regarding the idea of re-creating a church environment (community, values, ritual) without traditional religion, the interesting thing on Hemant's blog was that two readers recommended Unitarian Universalism instead of "reinventing the wheel" for humanist parents (blog comments found here and here).

In fact, one reader described Unitarian Universalism as "community without the religiousness."

The news story describes this conference happening in Boston at Harvard University. Boston is the home of the Unitarian Universalist Association and Harvard University has ties to Unitarian Universalism.

I wonder if these humanist families don't know about our congregations (as unlikely as that would be in New England) or if our congregations are not meeting their family needs.

Even if these families do not want to join Unitarian Universalist congregations, I wonder if we can find ways to collaborate with humanist groups with programs like the Our Whole Lives lifespan sexuality education programs and other family support ministries that could be used by these families.

17 December 2008

Supporting Atheists As Anti-Oppression Work

Greta Christina has recently posted on her blog a list with nine suggestions for traditionally religious folks who want to be supportive allies for atheists and other non-believers.

Greta has more details on her blog about this but I have copied the main points from her blog for your consideration:
1. Familiarize yourself with the common myths and misconceptions about atheists -- and don't perpetuate them.

2. Familiarize yourself with what it's like to be an atheist, both in the U.S. and in the rest of the world.

3. Find common ground.

4. Speak out against anti-atheist bigotry and other forms of religious intolerance.

5. Be inclusive of atheists.

6. Don't divide and conquer, and don't try to take away our anger.

7. If you're going to accuse an atheist or an atheist group of being intolerant -- be careful, and make sure that's really what they're being.

8. Do not -- repeat, DO NOT -- talk about "fundamentalist atheists."

9. Be aware of how religious belief gives you a place of mainstream and privilege.
You can read Greta's detailed exploration of each suggestion for allies on her blog here.

Greta's suggestions are related to the past suggestions that I have made on my blog about supporting non-Christian Unitarian Universalists in our congregations:
Note: by late Sunday night (21 December 2008), this blog post has 106 comments on it. The conversation has gone into a non-productive rut and I'm closing off comments on this thread.

Strangely enough, a similar thing happened on Greta's blog. She has closed off comments on the original post and has created a new post to comment on her list here. Greta does say that any attempts to use this thread to revive the original shut-down comment thread will result in being banned from her blog.

I'm ready to move on to a new subject like the recent news coverage on humanist and atheist Sunday Schools.

13 December 2008

"Tiktaalik (Your Inner Fish)" Music Video

The music video at the beginning of this clip describes the fossil discovery that Dr. Neil Shubin is most famous for -- Tiktaalik. The video is from the 2008 Penn Reading Project at the University of Pennsylvania.

Tiktaalik is a transitional fossil illustrating the evolutionary development between lobe-finned fishes and tetrapods (four-legged animals like us who are really just a highly specialized form of lobe-finned fish).

Dr. Neil Shubin is a paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, popular science writer, and the author of Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5 Billion-Year History of the Human Body.

This book is a fascinating read and it explains many of the oddities in human anatomy are due to our several million year transition from fish to land-dwelling warm-blooded tetrapod.

For example, the convoluted path that the vas deferens takes in the human body makes sense when one realizes that the path of the vas deferens made sense in our fishy ancestors (their testes were inside the abdominal cavity and not in an external scrotum that is now required in warm-blooded mammals for sperm production at slightly cooler than body temperature).

I'm guessing that museums gift shops would profit from selling Tiktaalik plush toys -- they certainly are very cute looking.

And here is a video clip describing how artists create 3-D reconstructions for museums based on fossil evidence and artistic guess-work from observing living creatures:

08 December 2008

Free Video Resource on Critical Thinking

Here's a free video resource on critical thinking that one can watch online or download for free non-commercial use through a Creative Commons license. In addition to YouTube and Google Video format, you can download the movie in various video formats and in .iso image files for burning your own DVDs.

Here's the description from the movie's web site:
Here Be Dragons is a free 40 minute video introduction to critical thinking. It is suitable for general audiences and is licensed for free distribution and public display.

Most people fully accept paranormal and pseudoscientific claims without critique as they are promoted by the mass media. Here Be Dragons offers a toolbox for recognizing and understanding the dangers of pseudoscience, and appreciation for the reality-based benefits offered by real science.

Here Be Dragons is written and presented by Brian Dunning, host and producer of the Skeptoid podcast, author of Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena, and Executive Producer of The Skeptologists.

03 December 2008

National Republican Congressional Committee Does a "Willie Horton" Mail Ad

The National Republican Congressional Committee sent a postcard attack ad to my house today complaining that Paul Carmouche (the Democratic candidate for Louisiana House District Four is soft on crime and just "too liberal."

They have more attack ad stuff on their web site and the special web site they set up for these attack ads intended to influence the vote in the runoff election happening this Saturday.

Given that the recent Republican history of using racially charged imagery in political ads, it's no surprise that the postcard ad has a mug shot of a black criminal defendant -- it's just a repeat of the racially charged "Willie Horton" ads that the Republicans used in 1988.

Why Atheist Advertising is Important

Hemant Mehta (author of the Friendly Atheist blog) received an email from a Washington DC area high school student giving her positive response to the American Humanist Association's bus ads. Here's a short quote from her email:
The American Humanist Association mentioned that one of the reasons they wanted to do this ad campaign was because some atheists feel alone over the holidays. Well, this morning when I had to listen to a Creationist try to convert everyone in earshot while I was heading to a Catholic school where I am one of only a handful of atheists, I felt alone. That ad on the bus reminded me that even when I feel like I am the only one standing up for truth, there are others out there who are doing the same thing.
You can read the rest of her response with Hemant's comments here.

30 November 2008

Part II -- When Did Expressing Doubt About God Become a "Negative" Attack Message?

I saw a blog post tonight on Hemant Mehta's "Friendly Atheist" blog titled "Questioning God is Apparently Hate Speech." Hemant is the author of I Sold My Soul on eBay (a book that describes his visits to a variety of Christian churches. These visits initially occurred as a result of an eBay auction and the media reaction was the Mehta "sold his soul on eBay").

His blog post is related to my recent blog post on recent American Humanist Association bus ads (When Did Expressing Doubt About God Become a "Negative" Attack Message?).

Apparently, the atheist billboard ad is at the top of this blog post is considered offensive "hate speech" but other billboards in Colorado expressing religious views like the one below are OK:

Here's the news coverage from the Rocky Mountain News about this billboard dispute:
The message is but eight words divided into two short sentences set against puffy white clouds on a blue and black background.

One of the men behind the billboard message says his life has been threatened because of it, which seems an odd thing since those doing the threatening all profess to be Christians.

Just eight words:

"Don't believe in God?" the upper left of the billboard reads. "You are not alone," the lower right says.
The sole purpose of the ads, the group maintains, is what it says: to let other freethinkers, atheists and humanists know there is a group out there for them.

Two of the 11 signs were supposed to go up in Fort Collins and Greeley, the group said. This was so until the moment the media company that owns the two billboards read the message.

The hate mail and nasty, threatening phone messages began almost immediately.

Much of it has been directed at Joel Guttormson, who mostly has been serving as a spokesman for COCORE, as they call it.

Twenty-two and a Metro State junior majoring in theoretical mathematics, Guttormson also is president of the Metro State Atheists, one of the 11 groups that make up COCORE.

"It's been kind of wild, kind of outrageous," he says of days since the billboards went up.

"It has been mostly Christians who've been calling and e-mailing," Joel Guttormson said, "which is strange since the message is not directed at Christians or anyone from any religion.

"You know, if you see an ad for migraine medicine and you don't have a migraine, why would you care?"

Almost all of the feedback, he said, has been from people who say the billboards denigrate Christians. He says he still has no idea how that is possible.

"We are not out to anger people," Joel Guttormson said. "I don't know why people think that. So much of it says we are evil and that we hate everybody.

"Have you seen the billboard? Tell me where any of them mentions evil or hate. Why is everyone so mad?"

There is some good news out of this -- Joel Guttormson reports:
"The cool thing is we've even had some Christians step up and defend us. They know our message is no more offensive than one that reads:

"Believe in God? You're not alone."

29 November 2008

It's Amazing Where Religion Leads Some Folks ...

It's amazing to find where religion leads some folks.

Imagine a British woman of Sub-Saharan African descent who became a "born-again Christian" and is now defending the institution of slavery because "slavery is not wrong."

Apparently if it were wrong, God would have condemned it in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures - here's the money quote from this blogger:
The bible does not condemn slavery. So Christians try to act like Job's friends and try to defend God in a rather foolish way by condemning slavery, as if God forgot to do it Himself in the bible. I think this is a very unwise thing for a Christian to do because if slavery was wrong, God would have said so himself. But He doesn't say its wrong. As John MacArthur says in his study bible, " The New Testament nowhere directly attacks slavery; had it done so, the resulting slave insurrections would have been brutally suppressed and the message of the gospel hopelessly confused with that of social reform.
Of course another possibility is that the authors of the slavery-supporting Bible verses are simply wrong for defending slavery.

The funny thing is that I've heard folks speak against the Welcoming Congregation Program and other Unitarian Universalist social justice programs using a similar logic -- they should be discouraged because they interfere with spreading our Unitarian Universalist "gospel" in our congregations and our communities.

[Hat tip to Evolved and Rat/i/onal (Religion exploits unpatched vulnerabilities in the human mind) and Pharyngula (PZ Myers' blog) for finding this unusual perspective on slavery and the Bible for us.]

28 November 2008

When Are Your "Privately Held Religious Beliefs" Not So Private Anymore?

Here is Dan Savage's answer to the question proposed in the title of this blog post and in Dan's original online article:
When you donate $1500 to a political campaign to strip other people -- people who are not your co-religionists -- of their civil rights. Richard Raddon is, or was, the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival. All hell broke loose after it emerged that Raddon, who is Mormon, had donated $1500 to the "Yes on 8" campaign.
Dan writes about how making a large donation to a political campaign isn't a private expression of religion any more:
Bill Condon, the gay guy who directed of Dreamgirls, attempted to get Raddon's back: "Someone has lost his job and possibly his livelihood because of privately held religious beliefs."

No. No. No. Raddon lost his job due to criticism of his public political actions, not his private religious beliefs, and his public political actions were a part of the public record. If Raddon wanted to go to church and pray his little heart out against same-sex marriage, or proselytize on street corners against gay marriage, or counsel gay men to leave their husbands and marry nice Mormon girls instead, that could be viewed as an expression of his "privately held religious beliefs." Instead he helped fund a political campaign to strip a vulnerable minority group of its civil rights.

"Millions of Californians definitely lost their civil rights," says John Aravosis. "But I'm not hearing a lot of concern about any of those victims, only sympathy for their attacker. When you use the power of the state to rip away my civil rights, and force me to live by your 'values,' you are no longer practicing your religion. You're practicing politics."

In the wake of Prop 8 millions of gays and lesbians all over the country have decided that we're no longer going to play by the old rules. We're not going to let people kick our teeth down our throats and then run and hide behind "Nothing personal—just my private religious beliefs!" That game's over.

26 November 2008

When Did Expressing Doubt About God Become a "Negative" Attack Message?

This blog post is in response to another blogger's article on the American Humanist Association's recent ad campaign.

For the life of me, I cannot see why an ad campaign that suggests there is no need to believe in god or gods is somehow a negative attack message.

When did an honest expression of doubt and skepticism become an expression of religious intolerance in the eyes of some believers?

This ad is critical of traditional religious belief. But we should not live in a society where we engage in religious "idolatry" where honest questioning is discouraged.

Any idea (religious or non-religious) must be able to withstand criticism.

Any idea that cannot withstand critical analysis should be rejected or modified.

13 November 2008

Unitarian Universalism as a "Safe Place" for Atheist "Deconverting"?

Greta Christina - a favorite blogger of mine who writes on "sex, atheism, politics, dreams, and whatever" - writes in her blog today about "How can we make people who are questioning their faith feel that atheism is okay?"

She mentions Unitarian Universalism as a place for "people who have left religion but still miss its ritual and community" and a "non-denominational religion without the need for all that pesky God stuff."

You can read the rest of her article here.

I guessing that the changing social norms surrounding church attendance and changes in religious demographics may affect how "atheist-friendly" our Unitarian Universalist congregations are to those who are "deconverting" in the future.

The social expectation that one must attend church is no longer enforced in the United States - in my "Bible Belt" town, most of my neighbors do not attend church regularly (based on the numbers of folks observed doing yard work and other stuff on Sunday mornings).

Christianity is currently the majority religion but it's shrinking. The "atheist/agnostic/unchurched "demographic is growing. Check out the "American Religious Identification Survey" findings for more details about these demographic changes.

Both of these demographic trends and the non-mandatory nature of church in our society will affect our future demographics and future growth. I suspect that our atheist, agnostic, and unchurched neighbors will stop joining us and create their own institutions for supporting their families like the "Atheist Sunday School" mentioned on my blog and in Time Magazine.

08 November 2008

Easy Web Site Tool -- Google Sites

If your congregation or other community organization needs to set up a low-cost web site, I would check out the Google Sites web site building tools.

Our community's PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter web site's domain name registration had expired and it was taken by poachers.

To create a temporary web site while we decide where we want to do next on the web for our group, I used Google Sites -- here's the new Shreveport PFLAG web site.

With tools that are this easy to use, there is no excuse for a church not having a web site today.

01 October 2008

Dan Dennett Video Clip -- A Proposal to Teach All Religions in All Schools

At 4:20 after the start of the video, he advocates for teaching a fact-based curriculum on all religions.

Dennett's suggestion is very similar to the one that Joel made on his blog.

28 September 2008

Maybe Disney will make a movie about this year's election season?

[Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for posting this video clip on his blog.]

Video Resource on Cultural Misappropriation

Here are two clips from White Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men, a one-half hour documentary dealing with the popularization and commercialization of Native American spiritual traditions by Non-Indians.

White Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men, Part 1 of 3

White Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men, Part 2 of 3

I found a study guide for this documentary that asks the following questions:

1. What are the motivations for many non-Indians who take use Indian religious practices?

2. Do you think any of them are aware of the problems caused by what they do?

3. Do you think any of them consider the possible dangers related to their appropriation of Indian religion?

4. Which of the non-Indian people interviewed might be the most aware of the fact that they are exploiting Indian religion and people?

5. What are some of the recognizable names discussed in the video?

6. When non-Indians appropriate elements of Indian religions, what does it say about their view of the complexity of Indian cultural practices?

7. Why do they think it is okay to do use Indian religious practices?

I saw this video several years ago when I attended a Young Religious Unitarian Universalist "Spirituality Development Conference" as an adult advisor.

This documentary with a follow-up discussion would make a very useful adult or youth religious education class on appropriate and inappropriate borrowing from other cultures in Unitarian Universalism.

09 September 2008

McCain speaks out against child abuse prevention

I bet my headline has caught your attention.

Some may think it's unfair to make this charge against Senator McCain.

But it's really no more unfair the recent McCain campaign criticism of Senator Obama's support of age-appropriate sexuality education during his time in the Illinois State Legislature ("McCain criticizes Obama vote on sex ed legislation")

Senator Obama's support of age-appropriate sexuality education is endorsed by public health and sexuality education experts like Rev. Debra Haffner:
Educating Children for Prevention
A high quality sexuality education program, such as Our Whole Lives (OWL), is one of the best methods for sexual abuse prevention. Children who learn that their bodies are good, that their sexuality is a gift, how to make good decisions, and the language to communicate accurately and effectively about sexuality are also being prepared to respond appropriately when faced with abusive behaviors, to assert their right to control their own bodies, and to tell an adult if such behaviors occur.
So ... Senator McCain's criticism of Senator Obama's support of " ... one of the best methods for sexual abuse prevention" tells me that Senator McCain is either intentionally or accidentally speaking out against effective child abuse prevention.

Many Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ congregations offer this type of age-appropriate sexuality education in our congregations for children in kindergarten and first grade. And the excellent resources used in these congregations can also be used in other religious and secular settings as well.

Now -- I don't seriously believe that Senator McCain is really in favor of child abuse.

But I do believe he is in favor of putting his honor and integrity into a blind trust so he can be elected President.

08 September 2008

The Religious Gap Between "Theory" and "Practice" ...

Greta Christina (a blogging favorite of mine who writes on "Sex, atheism, politics, dreams, and whatever") recent wrote a post on atheist bloggers.

Greta made an observation about the gap between religious "theory" (religion as taught in seminary and the academic world) and religious "practice" (religion as it is actually lived in congregations and communities):
Truth to tell, though? I honestly don't care all that much about advanced modern theology. If you have an argument to make, I'll certainly read it. But for the most part, I'm just not all that interested in religion as it's believed and practiced by a handful of theological scholars. I am primarily interested in religion as it overwhelmingly plays out in the real world.
Greta's comment got me to wondering about Unitarian Universalism. Do we have a gap between academic "theory" and day-to-day "practice" in the Unitarian Universalist tradition?

06 September 2008

Can we call it sexism if it's done by her supporters?

Several days ago, I asked a question on my blog about Alaska's Govenor Palin's selection as the Republican Vice-President pick with a t-shirt that referenced her perceived attractiveness:
"I wonder if this is the intended message of Senator McCain's VP pick?"
A few Unitarian Universalist bloggers criticized me for asking this question.

However, it's interesting to view some of the campaign buttons worn by Gov. Palin's supporters:

I'm relieved to see that her selection as the Republican VP candidate was a measured and well-reasoned decision based on her public service experience as a PTA parent/community organizer and politician.

It would be a shame if her appearance was a major factor in Senator McCain's decision-making process.

The 2008 election is more important than a high school election,

However, our elections seem to resemble high school elections in terms of framing of the candidates. And because of this, the outcome is worse for our nation.

Instead of voting for the "smart" candidate, we end up voting for the more popular kid or more attractive kid.

This is how we ended up with the "class clown" president instead of the Nobel Peace Prize winner president in the White House.

And we can't afford another four years of "class clown" government.

01 September 2008

Debating the Wisdom of Abstinence-Only Sexuality Education

It may be time for us as a nation to examine the public health outcomes and public policy impact of our nation's decision to federally funded "abstinence-only" sexuality education to the exclusion of other types of sexuality education in our schools and our wider society.

There are two recent news stories that I saw on Google News that are related to our public policy decision on this.

One story is concerned with the personal life of Gov. Palin's oldest daughter:
Gov. Palin Says Her Unmarried 17-Year-Old Daughter Is Pregnant
"We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us," reads the statement from Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband Todd.

"Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned," they continued, referring to their 17-year-old daughter. "As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.

The Palins said that "Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family.
The second story deals with the public policy position that Gov. Palin has taken regarding "abstinence-only" sexuality education:
Palin backed abstinence education
(CNN) – Sarah Palin, who announced on Monday that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, indicated during her run for Alaska governor that she was a firm supporter of abstinence-only education in schools.

In a 2006 Eagle Forum questionnaire, Palin indicated that she supported funding abstinence-until-marriage education programs instead of teaching sex-education programs.

"Explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support," Palin wrote in the conservative group’s questionnaire.
However, we do know that the comprehensive sexuality education programs used in Western Europe do have a better public health and public policy outcomes in comparison with the United States. However, this isn't the type of sexuality education that Gov. Palin or Sen. McCain supports.

Here are a few graphs from the Advocates for Youth "Adolescent Sexual Health in Europe and the U.S.—Why the Difference?" fact sheet:

If the teen pregnancy, teen abortion, and teen sexually-transmitted infection rates in the US were the same as the Netherlands, we would have 657,000 fewer teen pregnancies, 441,000 fewer teen births, and 215,000 fewer teen abortions. It would also save the taxpayers $921 million each year (in 1997 dollars).

Unplanned pregnancy is a something that can be prevented. It's not something that "just happens" and it doesn't take "rocket science" to prevent it.

Our Western European cousins have an excellent track record with promoting healthy sexual decision-making in their teens. This is something that we could do in the US if we want to.

As Unitarian Universalists working in partnership with the United Church of Christ, our gift to the wider world is our excellent "Our Whole Lives" lifespan series of comprehensive sexuality education curricula.

16 August 2008

"Postchristianity" and the Future of Unitarian Universalism in North America (Part II)

I understand that folks are upset by the recent use of the "p-word" by a Unitarian Universalist Association spokesperson after the recent Knoxville shooting. I've got several comments about this in my last blog article ("'Postchristianity' and the Future of Unitarian Universalism in North America").

But I'm going to post this question to see if we can get folks to focus on the long-term demographic trends in North America that point towards a postchristian society:

If we end up with a postchristian society similar to Western European societies where religion fulfills at most a cultural, symbolic, and ceremonial role, what is our future as a Unitarian Universalist movement in this postchristian society?

I would like to focus on this question and how it might affect future Unitarian Universalist growth and survival.

Any thoughts?

"Postchristianity" and the Future of Unitarian Universalism in North America

Postchristianity has been talked about on the Unitarian Universalist blogosphere for the past few weeks -- you can read these discussions here, here, here, here, and here.

However, I think we're overlooking the very real "postchristian" demographic trend in North America and its impact on our congregations.

Here's a brief quote from Wikipedia to help us with what the term "postchristian" might mean:
Postchristianity, postchristendom or postchristianism are variants of a term used to describe a contemporary cultural attitude strictly linked to postmodernism. It may include personal world views, ideologies, religious movements or societies that are no longer rooted in the language and assumptions of Christianity, though it had previously been in an environment of ubiquitous Christianity (i.e., Christendom). Neopaganism and its cultural backgrounds, are the most notable examples of this kind of postchristian new religious movements.

Thus defined, a post-Christian world is one where Christianity is no longer the dominant civil religion, but one that has, gradually over extended periods of time, assumed values, culture, and worldviews that are not necessarily Christian (and further may not necessarily reflect any world religion's standpoint). This situation applies to much of Europe, in particular in Central and Northern Europe, where no more than half of the residents in those lands profess belief in a transcendent, personal and monotheistically-conceived deity.

Or in simpler terms, postchristian describes a culture where Christianity had been the dominant civil religion in the past, is still present today, but is not the dominant religion today.

In other words, religious life in our culture is moving from Christianity as the majority religion to simply being one of many religious views in North America. The suggestion that Christianity is present but not dominant visually depicted by this Universalist lapel pin where the cross is present but not central (image provided by UniUniques):

If the term "postchristian" is insulting, I suppose this lapel pin is insulting as well. Go figure.

In a postchristian world, we can't assume that our potential members will understand the Protestant Christian assumptions that influence our Unitarian Universalist congregations in the past and today.

We will see this demographic shift happen in Canada first based on the extrapolation of current demographics provided by the Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance:
"The percentage of Canadians who identify themselves as Christian has been dropping by about 0.9 percentage points per year. This is very close to the rate of decline in the U.S. If this trend continues, then by about the year 2023, non-Christians will outnumber Christians in Canada."
And here is their prediction for the United States:
[In 2001,] 76.5% (159 million) of Americans identify themselves as Christian. This is a major slide from 86.2% in 1990. Identification with Christianity has suffered a loss of 9.7 percentage points in 11 years -- about 0.9 percentage points per year. This decline is identical to that observed in Canada between 1981 and 2001. If this trend has continued, then:
  • At the present time (2007-MAY), only 71% of American adults consider themselves Christians
  • The percentage will dip below 70% in 2008
  • By about the year 2042, non-Christians will outnumber the Christians in the U.S.
In the past, we have recruited many of our members from those who have left Christianity to become Unitarian Universalist as adults. Close to 90% of our adult membership are adult converts who were not raised as Unitarian Universalist.

However, this group of potential Unitarian Universalists is shrinking.

What impact will this have on our future growth and long-term survivability as a religious movement?

While we discuss the suggestion that "postchristian" is an insulting or loaded term, this demographic issue remains untouched even though it could and probably will impact us within the next 10 to 30 years.

29 July 2008

Candace Chellew-Hodge's Open Letter to Sean Hannity

Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge has written a response to the right-wing pundit incitement to violence connected to the recent Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shooting.

Candace is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as associate pastor at Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, S.C.

Here's a short quote from her open letter to Sean Hannity (who used to be a former co-worker when she worked in the news media business before entering the ministry):
Sean, you occupy a position of power. All words have power, but some words are more powerful than others simply because they are amplified from a larger stage. With power comes responsibility. If there is any of that old Sean left—the one before the big office, the popular TV and radio show and best selling books—I appeal to that man. Understand the power of your words. I know that words of division are profit-making words for you. We human beings apparently love to see a good fight, or feel our views justified by a good argument. But I hope this incident will give you pause and help you begin to choose your words more wisely. I hope, in choosing future words, you’ll consider not what’s best for the Hannity bank account, but what’s best for humanity.

I long for the day when profitable words are words that uplift, encourage, and inspire people. The strength of this nation has always been our unity in diversity and our unity in the face of adversity. By using your words to create a world of “us” and “them” you only perpetuate violence and discord in our society. I am asking you, Sean, to examine yourself and your words. You don’t have to agree with liberals and their views, but you can oppose liberal ideas without painting those who hold those beliefs as enemies who need to be stopped or defeated. If conservative ideas are truly superior, then a compelling case can be made for them without resorting to the politics of personal destruction.

Sean, your words have the power to heal and the power to destroy. The choice is yours.
The rest of the letter can be read here.

Her new book, Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, will be published in September 2008 by Jossey-Bass.

12 July 2008

Bloggingheads Video Clip -- "Science Saturday: The Young and the Restless"

Check out the Blogginghead online conversation between Abigail Smith (University of Oklahoma grad student and blog author of erv) and PZ Myers (University of Minnesota - Morris professor and blog author of Pharyngula).

An excellent explanation of the importance of Richard Lenski's research on evolutionary biology of bacteria during this discussion can be found here.

The portion of this discussion related to recent Bill Donohue-PZ Myers dispute can be found here.

Background info on the Donohue-Myers dispute can be found here and here.

10 July 2008

More Outrage and Death Threats Over "Religious Insult" - Round Two

After the initial "cracker kidnapping" incident, the Minnesota biology professor PZ Myers has commented on the over-reaction on the Pharyngula science blog:


PZ Myers blog was noticed by Bill Donohue and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights:


Bill Donohue has asked his followers to harass Myers and the University of Minnesota President. Myers' reaction to this harassment can be found here:

Now I've got Bill Donohue's attention

Earlier today, Myers reported the following response to his criticism of the religious over-reaction from Donohue and the Catholic League:

Fight back against Bill Donohue!

Instead of "turning the other cheek," Myers blog commentary on the "cracker" incident has earned the following reaction:
So far today, I have received 39 pieces of personal hate mail of varying degrees of literacy, all because I was rude to a cracker. Four of them have included death threats, a personal one day record. Thirty-four of them have demanded that I be fired. Twenty-five of them have told me to desecrate a copy of the Koran, instead, or in some similar way offend Muslims, because — in a multiplicity of ironic cluelessness — apparently only some religious icons must be protected, and I would only offend Catholics because they are all so nice that none of them would wish me harm. I even have one email that says I should be fired, that the author would like to kill me, and that I only criticize because Catholics are so gentle and kind.
Myers has also received death threats in the comments on his blog:
If God doesn't get you, I will
You're a fucking giant sized scumbag. I hope you die slowly and painfully. Cunt.
And it's starting to get noticed outside the blogosphere and in the mainstream media:

Communion wafer held 'hostage' raises holy heck

And we're still waiting for the moderate religious voices to condemn threats of violence and economic harm over a cracker that wasn't eaten and the subsequent commentary about this uneaten cracker.

09 July 2008

Death Threats Over "Religious Insult" in the US??

Remember the Danish Muhammad cartoon controversy where a perceived religious insult led to death threats for those doing the insulting?

Apparently something very similar happened in Florida on a college campus after a student "kidnapped" the "body of Christ":
So far, I have seen no press coverage of moderate or liberal Christian voices speaking out against this religious extremism happening within Christianity.

This is no different from the relative lack of moderate or liberal Islamic voices speaking out against religious extremism happening within Islam.

Apparently, the safety of a human is less important to some Christians than the safety of a cracker.

05 July 2008

Does this describe a "typical" Unitarian Universalist?

I ran across this web site after reading an interview with the author.

Much of this list describes a very common demographic group in Unitarian Universalist congregations. Much of this list would describe (in biting satirical accuracy) a "stereotypical" Unitarian Universalist.

Check out the complete list here.

Given the population demographic trends presented in Rev. Peter Morales' opening speech at the 2008 General Assembly candidates forum, this is an area for future work.

30 June 2008

Congregations, Ministers, and the New "Incompetence" Rule

There has been some concern in the Unitarian Universalist blogosphere over the new rule concerning ministerial incompetence that was approved at the 2008 UUA General Assembly. You can read about it here, here, and here.

See the UU World online article titled "Ministers can be terminated for incompetence" for more details. Here's a summary of the new rule change:
"The fellowship of a minister may be terminated by the Ministerial Fellowship Committee for unbecoming conduct, incompetence, or other specified cause."
First, it seems funny to me that any professionals should be this concerned about protecting colleagues who are incompetent in their profession.

A minister who demonstrates serial incompetence through several congregational postings does impact the public perception of ministry throughout the UUA. This requirement to be professionally competent is just as "vague" as the requirement to not engage in "unbecoming conduct."

This is especially important in light of the fact that our denomination considers ordained clergy to be an option for congregational formation and sustainment within the UUA. Ordained clergy are not a requirement for a congregation to be in the UUA and many congregations exist and even thrive without ordained clergy.

However, payment of pro-rated fair share contribution to the UUA Annual Program Fund and 30 members at the time of application are requirements to be a UUA member congregation -- check out Article III and Rule III in the UUA Bylaws for what it takes to create a new UUA member congregation.

If we want to see lay-led congregations grow to the size where professional leadership is needed for further growth, then these lay-led congregations should be satisfied that ministry as a profession is generally competent. A few negative examples will be enough to convince these smaller congregations to forgo hiring a minister.

Second, in spite of the language we use to describe ministers as "called," what we're really doing is "hiring" a religious professional through a formal congregational vote. I'm not a big fan of high-falutin' language. Ministers are employed by congregations (even if they are treated as "self-employed" for IRS purposes).

Third, Scott Wells is right that the UUA does very little to require competency in the various local "franchises" that carry out the local business of this association of congregations.

For example, my local congregation did a horrendous job with the Welcoming Congregation program a few years ago -- you can read about my congregation's "incompetence" here.

The local congregation's decisions have impacted our growth and outreach efforts to folks in the bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender communities. Our decisions have also affected outreach to allies (e.g. families who have BGLT relatives). We have lost members over our Welcoming Congregation decisions and many in the BGLT communities perceive us as unwelcoming.

The really strange thing about the Welcoming Congregation issue for our congregation is that one of our board members sent an email out to our minister and 31 of his closest friends where he wrote that our minister was "incompetent" for speaking in favor of the Welcoming Congregation program in our pulpit back in the fall of 2007 (we all know that email is always the best way to communicate in a congregation where there is a disagreement).

The sermon podcast audio where our minister spoke in favor of the Welcoming Congregation can be listened to here ... judge for yourself if this is "ministerial incompetence" or simply a sermon that made one board member uncomfortable.

23 June 2008

Ubuntu "Hardy Heron" -- Observations After Upgrading

Yes -- I know that Ubuntu Linux 8.04 ("Hardy Heron") has been available for free downloading since 21 April 2008.

I just don't like being an "early adopter" for a new operating system because this role can morph into being a "beta tester."

As much as I enjoy trouble-shooting computer software and hardware problems, my laptop is something that I want to "just work" and not be an experimental project most of the time.

Last night work life, church life, and home life all allowed me to upgrade my laptop to the latest Ubuntu release.

I have been using Ubuntu Linux on my laptop full-time since June 2007 -- having gone from version 7.04 ("Feisty Fawn) to 7.10 ("Gutsy Gibbon") to 8.04 ("Hardy Heron").

Ubuntu's philosophy is to provide a totally free and open-source computer when installed with the default selections.

However, there are multimedia resources (sound and video) and data file formats that many computer users outside the open-source community use daily. Philosophical purity may conflict with real-world interoperability.

For these practical considerations, one needs to be able to use the wide range of multimedia data available online even if it involves proprietary software.

The "Ubuntu restricted extras" package will allow you to play most common multimedia formats, including MP3, DVD, Flash, Quicktime, WMA and WMV, including both standalone files and multimedia content embedded in web pages.

Any other multimedia content requirements can be satisfied through the Medibuntu Project web site. The "how-to" instructions on this page will walk you through the steps needed to play commercial encrypted DVDs on your Ubuntu Linux computer. I've also installed the VLC video player for use with DVDs. I watched a few minutes of Battlestar Galactica Razor DVD last night to confirm commercial encrypted DVD operation.

These multimedia resources take care of nearly every multimedia requirement that was formerly provided to me through Automatix -- Automatix and EasyUbuntu were automated install tools for these multimedia options for earlier versions of Ubuntu Linux.

Both Automatix and EasyUbuntu are now unsupported orphan software or "abandonware" at this time. However, their ease-of-use multimedia features have now been replaced by the incorporation of the restricted extras and Medibuntu resources available to all Ubuntu users.

To ensure that I can open any Microsoft Office 2007 documents sent to me, I installed the "odf-converter-integrator" package -- this allows me to open any Microsoft Office 2007 file (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) using OpenOffice. Instructions for installing these Office 2007 converters can be found here.

For those who are not familiar with Ubuntu Linux, here's a brief description adapted from the Wikipedia article text on Ubuntu Linux:
Ubuntu is a computer operating system. It has consistently been rated among the most popular of the many Linux distributions. Ubuntu's goals include providing an up-to-date yet stable Linux distribution for the average user and having a strong focus on usability and ease of installation. Ubuntu is a derivative of Debian, another free operating system.
Ubuntu also emphasizes accessibility and internationalization, to reach as many people as possible.

The most recent version of Ubuntu comes installed with a wide range of software including: the OpenOffice.org productivity suite, the internet browser Firefox, the instant messenger Pidgin, and the raster graphics editor GIMP.
The amazing thing about Ubuntu Linux is that one can take an older computer that would be considered "obsolete" for Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office use and keep it useful through more efficient and leaner software. This is an advantage for churches and other non-profit organizations that depend on cash and used property donations to meet their needs.

When a church member or community non-profit supporter gets a new computer, he/she should consider asking if the church or non-profit can use the older hardware as a potential Ubuntu Linux workstation.

The gift of an "old computer" may mean the difference between a volunteer or staff person having or not having a computer in some cash-strapped churches or non-profits.

Ubuntu Linux provides the same functionality that Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Office provides (web surfing, email, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc) on older hardware that would not support or would poorly support Windows XP or Microsoft Office (not to mention the resource hogs Microsoft Windows Vista or Microsoft Office 2007).

Ubuntu Linux is available for PC, 64-Bit and Mac architectures. The alternate installation CDs require at least 256 MB of RAM (the standard installation CD requires 384MB of RAM). Install requires at least 3 GB of disk space.

For example, my son's homework/web surfing computer is a used Compaq Pentium III (800 Mhz) with just 256 megabytes of RAM and 20 gigabytes of hard drive storage. It provides enough power for light word processing and web surfing. All of this is done with a "free" operating system that isn't susceptable to the many computer virus and spyware threats that plague Microsoft Windows.

Tonight, I updated my congregation's web site to reflect next Sunday's worship service info and I also prepared last Sunday's sermon podcast audio using Audacity and the LAME mp3 encoder on my laptop's new "Hardy Heron" setup -- so far everything is working as advertised.

My next two "Hardy Heron" installs will happen in the next few weeks -- updating the sermon podcast digital recorder computer and a spare loaner Pentium III computer that we provide to congregation members or staff who need a computer for home use (this loaner computer is identical to my son's computer).

Then I'll update my congregation's part-time chaplain's computer (yet another Pentium III identical to my son's computer).

19 June 2008

A Question For Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman

Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman made the following comment on her UUA Presidential Candidate web site in answering a question:
"Thanks for the website of the Freedom of Religion Foundation. If you had said Freedom from Religion I would have been concerned."
The person with the question had typed "Freedom of Religion Foundation" but provided the URL for the "Freedom from Religion Foundation" in her question.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is a non-profit group dedicated to promoting church-state separation and educating the public on matters related to non-theism. This group's social justice work sounds like something that many Unitarian Universalists would support and affirm.

Are you suggesting that Unitarian Universalists should reverse their past social justice positions affirming church-state separation?

Are you suggesting that we should not support non-theism education when we know that non-theists are marginalized in our culture?

A 2006 University of Minnesota study reported that atheists are perceived as a group worthy of marginalization and exclusion by many Americans. They are viewed as the least-trustworthy group according to this survey.

I know the disputes within Unitarian Universalism over "language of reverence" and theological diversity can and often do get heated.

However, we do need to remember that our churches have a duty to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" -- part of this duty may include finding a way to be welcoming to all and not excluding the non-theists in our congregations in order to improve our "marketability" in the religious marketplace.

16 June 2008

Not just "better living through chemistry" ...

... all living happened through chemistry and time:

There may be very little need for the supernatural in creating life on Earth.

03 May 2008

"Fundamentalist Atheists," Godwin's Law, and Blake's Law

Godwin's Law (or Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies) is a descriptive adage first proposed by Mike Godwin in 1990:
"As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."
Now that Usenet newsgroup discussions have been superseded by blogs, wiki talk pages, and other discussion areas, this would probably be updated:
"As an internet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."
Godwin's Law is often invoked in online discussions to caution us against the use of exaggerated comparisons and is often conflated with fallacious arguments of the "reductio ad Hitlerum" type.

Some would suggest that anyone who invokes a Nazi analogy has "lost" the online debate.

For discussions involving atheism and skepticism, a similar adage is Blake's Law:
"In any discussion of atheism (skepticism, etc.), the probability that someone will compare a vocal atheist to religious fundamentalists increases to one."
Or in simple terms, most comparisons to Nazis or fundamentalists are not true attempts at dialog but rather rhetorical devices intended to shut down discussion through name-calling.

And once a person has invoked a "fundamentalist = atheist" comparison, it's pretty apparent that an honest discussion is over.

We're lucky that YouTube and the Internet were not around in 1968 ...

The following quote is from a Newsweek special feature on Martin Luther King's legacy.

It mentions the title of his final (and undelivered) sermon:
On Thursday, April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. had retreated to room 306 of the Lorraine Motel, worrying about a sanitation strike in Memphis and working on his sermon for Sunday. Its title: "Why America May Go to Hell."
This sermon title was for the sermon he would have preached if he had not been assassinated.

In case anyone is curious, the first ARPAnet network (the grandparent of the modern internet) didn't come online until November 1969.

28 April 2008

Theology vs. Politics in Response to Rev. Wright

Joan Walsh and many other political pundits are on-target for the political impact of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's public comments on Senator Obama's Presidential campaign.

But the political analysis of Rev. Wright's comments show a gaping hole in religious literacy when it comes to liberation theology and its roots within the teachings of Jesus.

Most folks have heard the beatitude "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" in Luke 6:20 so long that they don't see the harsh politically-tinged social justice message in this Bible verse.

John Dominic Crossan (the former Catholic priest and co-founder of the Jesus Seminar) writes about this in his book Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. Crossan's exegesis of this verse takes us to a very uncomfortable place. The following quote is from Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, page 62:
Now what on earth does that mean, especially if one does not spiritualize it away, as Matthew immediately did, into "poor in spirit" -- that is, spiritually humble or religiously obediant? Did Jesus really think that bums and beggers were actually blessed by God, as if all destitute were nice people and all the aristocrats were correspondingly evil?

If, however, we think not just of personal or individual evil but of social, structural, or systemic injustice -- that is, of precisely the imperial situation in which Jesus and his fellow peasants found themselves -- then the saying becomes literally, terribly, and permanently true. In any situation of oppression, especially in those oblique, indirect, and systemic ones where injustice wears a mask of normalcy or even of necessity, the only ones who are innocent or blessed are those squeezed out deliberately as human junk from the system's own evil operation. A contemporary equivalent: only the homeless are innocent. That is a terrifying aphorism against society because, like the aphorisms against the family, it focuses on not just on personal or individual abuse of power but on such abuse in its systemic or structural possibilities -- and there, in contrast to the former level, none of our hands are innocent or our consciences are particularly clear.
Now in terms of a modern-day preacher saying "God damn America" like Rev. Wright did, it does not make sense from a personal or individual point of view.

But it does make sense when viewed an anti-oppressive liberation theology lens when applied to the very real and very ordinary systemic injustices our country has committed and continues to commit today.

It's probably fortunate for John McCain, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama that Jesus isn't alive today to be a personal friend.

Otherwise, they would have to explain their connection to this crazy preacher who is so anti-American in his sermons.

26 April 2008

Bill Moyers Interviews Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Here's an hour-long interview of Rev. Jeremiah Wright by Bill Moyers -- worth checking out to understand the context of the YouTube soundbites from his sermons (and the web broadcast on one's computer doesn't interfere with Battlestar Galactica on Friday nights).

"Brick Testament" -- Bible Stories Told Through Legos

2 Samuel 11:2 -- "And from the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful."

The Brick Testament
is worth checking out -- here's a brief explanation from the web site:
The Brick Testament is the largest, most comprehensive illustrated Bible in the world with over 3,600 illustrations that retell more than 300 stories from The Bible.

Launched first as a website in 2001, then as a published book series in 2003, The Brick Testament project is an ongoing one-man labor of love, constructed and photographed entirely by The Rev. Brendan Powell Smith.

Honesty, Ethics, and "Expelled"?

It's really puzzling to watch the efforts of some people to promote Expelled, a movie about "intelligent design" that is tainted with dishonesty in its production and marketing.

[The next paragraph has a correction that is printed in bold italic text. The correction comes from off-blog email between myself and Shawn Anthony.]

Shawn Anthony, a Brethren in Christ blogger who examined for one year Unitarian Universalism as a possible faith community during his M.Div. studies, has commented on Expelled on his blog. You can read Shawn's original post and the reader comments about this here.

My final comment on Shawn's blog (which may not make it through if he deletes it) is quoted here:
My concerns were not over the intelligence of those promoting Intelligent Design in the movie "Expelled" -- my concerns were with their honesty.

Is supporting dishonesty OK if it supports a cause one believes in?
Here are a few examples of the dishonesty behind this movie:

Richard Sternberg -- "Expelled claims that Sternberg was 'terrorized' and that 'his life was nearly ruined' when, in 2004, as editor of Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, he published a pro-intelligent design article by Stephen C. Meyer. However, there is no evidence of either terrorism or ruination."

Guillermo Gonzalez
-- "Expelled claims that Iowa State University astronomy professor Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure because of his views on intelligent design. However, this shows a na├»ve and distorted understanding of the tenure process at a major research university. The tenure process involves intense scrutiny of a candidate’s accomplishments in order to assess his future potential; the beliefs or extra-academic opinions held by the candidate are not a factor. Gonzalez’s academic record is not as golden as Expelled would have you believe, and due process was rendered at every level of appeal. ISU was justified in rejecting his application for tenure."

Caroline Crocker -- "Expelled claims that Caroline Crocker was fired because she mentioned Intelligent Design in a class she was teaching. However, the evidence says otherwise. While there may have been grounds to fire her with cause, Crocker was not fired and continued to teach her course after student complaints; in addition, she did not just 'mention' intelligent design, but rather was teaching demonstrably false creationist material. We do not know for certain why Crocker was not re-hired for her non-tenure track job. Such positions carry no promise that contracts will be renewed. Only tenure-track jobs come with such an expectation, and only tenured professors have a guarantee of employment."

Biology professor PZ Myers was "expelled" from a private screening of the movie -- you can read the account of this incident here. For all of the moviemakers' claims about about intellectual inquiry and academic freedom, this action speaks much louder than their words. However, you may want to read Richard Dawkins commentary on this incident ("Lying for Jesus"). Here's a brief quote from his article:
"Now, to the Good Friday Fiasco itself, Mathis' extraordinary and costly lapse of judgment. Just think about it. His entire film is devoted to the notion that American scientists are being hounded and expelled from their jobs because of opinions that they hold. The film works hard at pressing (no, belabouring with a sledgehammer) all the favourite hot buttons of free speech, freedom of thought, the right of dissent, the right to be heard, the right to discuss issues rather than suppress argument. These are the topics that the film sets out to raise, with particular reference to evolution and 'intelligent design' (wittily described by someone as creationism in a cheap tuxedo). In the course of this film, Mathis tricked a number of scientists, including PZ Myers and me, into taking prominent parts in the film, and both of us are handsomely thanked in the closing credits.

Seemingly oblivious to the irony, Mathis instructed some uniformed goon to evict Myers while he was standing in line with his family to enter the theatre, and threaten him with arrest if he didn't immediately leave the premises. Did it not occur to Mathis -- what would occur any normally polite and reasonable person -- that Myers, having played a leading role in the film, might have been welcomed as an honoured guest to watch it? Or, more cynically, did he not know that PZ is one of the country's most popular bloggers, with a notoriously caustic wit, perfectly placed to set the whole internet roaring with delighted and mocking laughter? I long ago realised that Mathis was deceitful. I didn't know he was a bungling incompetent."
All of this gives creationism and intelligent design a patina of dishonesty. Unfortunately, this reputation for dishonesty can taint Christianity if they don't do anything about it.