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Sad Saga Of A Small Town


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#1 Roll the Bones

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 01:58 PM

This started breaking last week and I was following it closely as it unfolded. Herman at the Friendly Athiest did a nice recap of the incident I'll post.http://friendlyathei...ut-to-get-sued/tons of links and video links included throughout the article if you are so inclined.Hereís another high school atheist youíll want to keep on your radar: Damon Fowler. Iím catching up on his whole story, so to help me out (and maybe to help you out), Iím just writing up the bulletpoint version of what went down. Damon, a senior, knew that prayers would be said during the graduation ceremony at Bastrop High School, a public school in Louisiana. He shared his concerns on Reddit.

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My graduation from high school is this Friday. I live in the Bible Belt of the United States. The school was going to perform a prayer at graduation, but due to me sending the superintendent an email stating it was against Louisiana state law and that I would be forced to contact the ACLU if they ignored me, they ceased it. The school backed down, but thatís when the shitstorm rolled in. Everyone is trying to get it back in the ceremony now. Iím not worried about it, but everyone hates meÖ kind of worried about attending graduation now. Itís attracted more hostility than I thought.My reasoning behind it is that itís emotionally stressing on anyone who isnít Christian. No one else wanted to stand up for their constitutional right of having freedom of and FROM religion. I was also hoping to encourage other atheists to come out and be heard. Iím one of maybe three atheists in this town that I currently know of. One of the others is afraid to come out of the (atheist) closet.Though Iíve caused my classmates to hate me, I feel like Iíve done the right thing. Regardless of their thoughts on it, basically saying I am ruining their fun and their lives, I feel like Iíve helped someone out there. I didnít do this for me or just atheists, but anyone who doesnít believe in their god that prayer to Yahweh may affect.
As he wrote in the letter, Damon contacted Principal Stacey Pullen on Tuesday and said he would be in touch with the ACLU if the prayer happened.Pullen said changes would be made to the program so there would be no legal issues. (YAY!)Mitzi Quinn, a faculty member at BHS for 25 years, decides to open her mouth to badmouth Damon. A teacher publicly trashed a student. Seriously. She said: (In the local newspaper)ďÖ whatís even more sad is this is a student who really hasnít contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates.Ē Quinn is a senior advisor, by the way. A role model of sorts. How about that. Quinn also says (Iím paraphrasing here) other non-religious students have kept their mouths shut about the prayer for years, so why canít Damon? Iím guessing JT EberhardĎs reaction is the same as yours.Damonís brother, Jerrett Fowler, had Quinn as a teacher and wrote her a letter that you have to read. Meanwhile, their mother cut off all communication with Damon.Americans United says Damon has indeed contributed to the school:Heís taught his fellow students that no matter how hard it is, they should stand up for whatís right. He also represents all those who have been afraid to challenge the unconstitutional practice all these years.Reddit gets involved and alerts the whole world to his story. The Freedom From Religion Foundation gives Damon a $1,000 college scholarship for standing up for whatís right. (All the contacts you need for the school district and school board are at that link. And here.)The graduation rehearsal happened Thursday night and one of the students led the longest prayer youíll ever hear at a public school event: ***Update***: Reader Lana provided a transcript of the video:

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Teacher: Before we start the program, there are a few housecleaning chores we need to take care of. At this time, Iím going to ask all of you to please turn off your or silence your cell phones. And once the program is completed, Iím going to ask that all of you remain seated until all of the graduates have processed to the end of the program. And one last thing, um, I want to make sure that you please give these young people the respect they have earned. This is their graduation, and a happy time for them, and we donít want anything to distract from that.Girl takes stage.Girl: Will you please stand for a moment of silence, and remain standing for the presentation of colors and the pledge of allegiance. Before I get started, though, let me say this. I was initially chosen to deliver the invocation, but I was recently informed that I would be leading the moment of silence. However, before I fulfill my obligation, I would like to say that I am of the Christian faith. Now, I respect those who do not share the same beliefs as I do. But at this time, I would like to give thanks to the god that has made the class of 2011 a success.(Crowd cheers from 1:26 Ė 1:55 mark)For those of you who share the same, the same beliefs as I do, I ask that you please bow your heads and pray.(Cheers from crowd)Our heavenly father, we come with thankfulness and a grateful heart for the friendships and the memories that you have given us as the class of 2011. Even though, for many of us, thisíll be the last time that we gather together as a class, we pray that you will lead us, guide us, and watch over us through all of our endeavors throughout the rest of our lives. In Jesusí name I pray, amen.(Crowd shouts ďamenĒ @ 2:26 mark, cheers and claps to 2:37 mark).And now, for a moment of silence.(2:39 Ė 2:49, loud chattering and noises in crowd).Thank you.(more hoots and cheers from crowd.) I know students are allowed to mention God in their speeches, but this gratuitously? And for this long? What were the school officials thinking?!Jen McCreight explains the significance of what happened:This girl used prayer as a weapon to separate the Good Christians from The Others. To alienate. To shun. To mock. And even more disgustingly, the community cheers along like a pack of warriors who have defeated their enemy, and laugh condescendingly at the mention of a moment of silence.
Bastrop High School, prepare to get the living **** sued out of you. This may not be graduation, but itís still a school function. It doesnít matter if you told this girl not to say a prayer Ė the fact that you let it go on for three minutes is a crime. You should have turned off the mic and pulled her from the stage the moment ďbutĒ left her lips. If that video is any indication of how Friday nightís graduation ceremony will go, they better enjoy whatever prayer is said. Itís about to cost them one hell of a lot of money.For those concerned, thereís a Support Damon page on Facebook ó you can all send your love there.And Iím going to go ahead and start a scholarship fund for Damon. (The money is going into my personal account, but you have my assurance Iíll send him whatever amount is raised. Iíll provide proof on this site.)Comment section is gold as usual. I actually first saw this on Pharyngula and then Reddit. Great comments thoughout there as well.Here is a link to what happened at the graduation.http://friendlyathei...ers-graduation/And the current update of the scholarship fund is over $14k Those heartless God-hating baby eating athiests are just awful.
As Eric Idle wrote: You know, you come from nothing - you're going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing!

#2 Roll the Bones

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 02:07 PM

Jarrett, Jason's brother who is a graduate student in Texas wrate a letter on Reddit that is a good read, link in the article. The comments there and at Pharyngula (PZ Myer's pupular blog) are gold. When reading them you realize that though not up to a good Spades rants, is still coming from the same place, Utter Fu cking Disgust at people.
As Eric Idle wrote: You know, you come from nothing - you're going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing!

#3 brvheart

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 02:12 PM

View PostRoll the Bones, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 4:58 PM, said:

And Iím going to go ahead and start a scholarship fund for Damon. (The money is going into my personal account, but you have my assurance Iíll send him whatever amount is raised. Iíll provide proof on this site.)
Oh my hell.

View PostiZuma, on 20 August 2012 - 11:32 AM, said:

napa I was jesus christing suited, you guys just slipped in before me.

View PostEssay21, on 25 February 2013 - 08:32 PM, said:

.

#4 hblask

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 05:49 PM

Yeah, that's just stupid. There's no reason to make a stand like that. A prayer at graduation isn't going to kill anyone. If you don't like it, make up your own words to mock the others and say them to yourself in your head.Seriously, even if you are an atheist, listening to a prayer doesn't hurt. Just give it a break. What next, refusing to go to a friend's house for dinner because they pray before meals?So where should you draw the line? When they try to make you actively participate, or the school's insistence on prayer becomes so pervasive that it is interfering in education. Another example might be if every class made you say a prayer before class started, and wanted everyone to participate.A prayer at special events? Not so much.
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#5 ezelisko

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:08 PM

View Posthblask, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 6:49 PM, said:

Yeah, that's just stupid. There's no reason to make a stand like that. A prayer at graduation isn't going to kill anyone. If you don't like it, make up your own words to mock the others and say them to yourself in your head.Seriously, even if you are an atheist, listening to a prayer doesn't hurt. Just give it a break. What next, refusing to go to a friend's house for dinner because they pray before meals?So where should you draw the line? When they try to make you actively participate, or the school's insistence on prayer becomes so pervasive that it is interfering in education. Another example might be if every class made you say a prayer before class started, and wanted everyone to participate.A prayer at special events? Not so much.
So hearing someone speak about how people who believe in god are wrong would have been acceptable too, right? Also, IT WAS AGAINST THE LAW. He did nothing wrong.

#6 CaneBrain

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:10 PM

View Posthblask, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 9:49 PM, said:

Yeah, that's just stupid. There's no reason to make a stand like that. A prayer at graduation isn't going to kill anyone. If you don't like it, make up your own words to mock the others and say them to yourself in your head.Seriously, even if you are an atheist, listening to a prayer doesn't hurt. Just give it a break. What next, refusing to go to a friend's house for dinner because they pray before meals?So where should you draw the line? When they try to make you actively participate, or the school's insistence on prayer becomes so pervasive that it is interfering in education. Another example might be if every class made you say a prayer before class started, and wanted everyone to participate.A prayer at special events? Not so much.
yeah, it is stupid. I went to private school where we recited the Lord's Prayer at every school function. Part of going to school is learning to deal with different cultures. I couldn't disagree more with his assertion that the prayer would be "emotionally stressing" on an atheist. Prayer is the only thing about religion that is, 100%, not stressful.But that doesn't excuse the response. It doesn't excuse defying the 1st amendment ruling and then basically rubbing it in this kids' face with extra prayer. It doesn't excuse a teacher taking to the press to bash a student.Worse, this is Louisiana so I am sure most of these people sympathize with the Tea Party and their constant Constitution thumping. Big surprise that this kid trying to assert his Constitutional rights was met mostly with derision and anger. Pretending to love the Constitution while ignoring big parts of it is gross.(Yes, I know I am stereotyping all Louisianans as conservatives but given their voting trends it's not a huge stretch.)Also, to turn this around, everyone could have just used the silent time to say a prayer in their head.....much like your advice for the kid. Just because he is a whiner who needs a hobby doesn't make the response by this school (faculty and students) a complete disgrace.
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#7 hblask

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:11 PM

View Postezelisko, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 8:08 PM, said:

So hearing someone speak about how people who believe in god are wrong would have been acceptable too, right? Also, IT WAS AGAINST THE LAW. He did nothing wrong.
Yep, if I go to a dinner party and my friends feel like reciting the atheist creed or whatever, or thank the FSM, I'm fine with that, just as I would be if it was said in court or at graduation.I don't care if it is against the law, it's a stupid thing to piss people off about. He did nothing legally wrong, or even morally wrong, just tactically wrong. Don't spend $1000 to solve a $1 problem.
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#8 SuitedAces21

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:12 PM

prayer has no place in public school. prayer has no place in public school events. if the christians want to pray before graduation they can all meet in the church basement before the ceremony and pray there. what if a muslim student demand a muslim prayer? or a jewish student? or a scientologist? should we do them all? or should we leave that idiocy out of events that everyone attends? the answer is obvious.any stand against the irrational nature of religion is a good stand.
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#9 ezelisko

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:19 PM

View Posthblask, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 7:11 PM, said:

Yep, if I go to a dinner party and my friends feel like reciting the atheist creed or whatever, or thank the FSM, I'm fine with that, just as I would be if it was said in court or at graduation.I don't care if it is against the law, it's a stupid thing to piss people off about. He did nothing legally wrong, or even morally wrong, just tactically wrong. Don't spend $1000 to solve a $1 problem.
Unfortunately, I do disagree with your statement. IN YOUR OWN PERSPECTIVE, you feel it is acceptable, which is 100% fine. However, if he has a problem with it, the who is anyone to question/judge it? It is his right. It is just like the Westboro Baptist Church. I fully disagree with them and what they believe. However, It is their right to express themself. They were backed up by the law. It's the same exact thing. He asserted his LEGAL right, but was jumped on for it. I don't think it is as much a religious problem as it is a legal issue, although the main topic is religion. What the school allowed was WRONG, legally.

#10 ezelisko

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:20 PM

View PostSuitedAces21, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 7:12 PM, said:

prayer has no place in public school. prayer has no place in public school events. if the christians want to pray before graduation they can all meet in the church basement before the ceremony and pray there. what if a muslim student demand a muslim prayer? or a jewish student? or a scientologist? should we do them all? or should we leave that idiocy out of events that everyone attends? the answer is obvious.any stand against the irrational nature of religion is a good stand.
Lol he said scientologist. Sorry...

#11 SuitedAces21

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:25 PM

View Postezelisko, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 9:20 PM, said:

Lol he said scientologist. Sorry...
i included scientology because christianity needs to be viewed in the same context. they are both cults that preach unproveable nonsense. only one has more idiots in its flock.
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#12 ezelisko

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:26 PM

View PostSuitedAces21, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 7:25 PM, said:

i included scientology because christianity needs to be viewed in the same context. they are both cults that preach unproveable nonsense. only one has more idiots in its flock.
And you had to say that....

#13 vbnautilus

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:35 PM

View Posthblask, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 6:49 PM, said:

Yeah, that's just stupid. There's no reason to make a stand like that. A prayer at graduation isn't going to kill anyone. If you don't like it, make up your own words to mock the others and say them to yourself in your head.Seriously, even if you are an atheist, listening to a prayer doesn't hurt. Just give it a break. What next, refusing to go to a friend's house for dinner because they pray before meals?
I'm pretty sure you're not an atheist (at least I'm inferring that from your post, please correct me if I'm wrong), and if that's the case you really have very little idea what it feels like to experience something like this. If you are an atheist, your views certainly don't represent how most of us feel. Your comparison between what happens at a public institution and a friend's dinner party is ludicrous. Part of what is so infuriating about hearing a public institution endorse particular religious beliefs comes from the fact that an important principle of government is being violated. Its one thing to be ostracized by peers at a dinner party, but to have your own government which is supposed to represent you do that is absolutely distressing.

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So where should you draw the line? When they try to make you actively participate, or the school's insistence on prayer becomes so pervasive that it is interfering in education. Another example might be if every class made you say a prayer before class started, and wanted everyone to participate.
What? There is no gray area. It's a public school. They can't have prayer at a school function. The supreme court has ruled on it over and over again, even if it is student-led. Its a closed case.

#14 ezelisko

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:38 PM

View Postvbnautilus, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 7:35 PM, said:

I'm pretty sure you're not an atheist (at least I'm inferring that from your post, please correct me if I'm wrong), and if that's the case you really have very little idea what it feels like to experience something like this. If you are an atheist, your views certainly don't represent how most of us feel. Your comparison between what happens at a public institution and a friend's dinner party is ludicrous. Part of what is so infuriating about hearing a public institution endorse particular religious beliefs comes from the fact that an important principle of government is being violated. Its one thing to be ostracized by peers at a dinner party, but to have your own government which is supposed to represent you do that is absolutely distressing. What? There is no gray area. It's a public school. They can't have prayer at a school function. The supreme court has ruled on it over and over again, even if it is student-led. Its a closed case.
I've agreed too, and I am Christian. It is what it is man.

#15 hblask

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:59 PM

View Postvbnautilus, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 8:35 PM, said:

I'm pretty sure you're not an atheist (at least I'm inferring that from your post, please correct me if I'm wrong), and if that's the case you really have very little idea what it feels like to experience something like this. If you are an atheist, your views certainly don't represent how most of us feel.
I don't usually talk about it, because it is such a divisive issue, but I am an atheist. But I'm open-minded about it; I think most people who are religious are better off with their religion. Atheism is not for everyone. And yes, I know all the arguments, obviously, of how it's a slippery slope of irrationality, of all the harm done in the name of religion, but for most people, it just isn't harmful, and the joy and social connection they get from their religion (not to mention the excuse to act more morally) easily outweighs the harm.

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Your comparison between what happens at a public institution and a friend's dinner party is ludicrous. Part of what is so infuriating about hearing a public institution endorse particular religious beliefs comes from the fact that an important principle of government is being violated. Its one thing to be ostracized by peers at a dinner party, but to have your own government which is supposed to represent you do that is absolutely distressing.
Yeah, I knew I was pushing it with that comparison. Still, my school said the Pledge of Allegiance, and I wasn't traumatized by the last two words. People around me pray all the time, and I think good for them, whatever they need to get through the day.My point is, there's a big difference between being forced to participate in a religious ceremony regularly and having to witness -- not participate, but witness -- someone else's religion on rare occasions.

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What? There is no gray area. It's a public school. They can't have prayer at a school function. The supreme court has ruled on it over and over again, even if it is student-led. Its a closed case.
I understand that the legal case is clear cut. I understand the moral and intellectual case. What I am saying is there is a time and a place to pick your battles. For me, the idea that it is worth it to alienate a whole town to save yourself from hearing -- not participating, but hearing -- a prayer once per year is just insane. This sounds like a pretty closed-minded town. The kid knew that going in. So the choice is pick better battles, or don't whine when you get the exact result you expect.
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#16 hblask

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 07:03 PM

View PostSuitedAces21, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 8:12 PM, said:

what if a muslim student demand a muslim prayer? or a jewish student? or a scientologist? should we do them all? or should we leave that idiocy out of events that everyone attends? the answer is obvious
The "obvious" answer to me is that if you know you are a tiny minority, and putting up with it costs you absolutely nothing, and challenging costs you a lot, just put up with it.So if I moved to a town that was 90% Scientologist, or 90% Muslim, and they wanted to say a prayer in their particular religion once per year at an event that I was forced to attend, I'd just shut up and check out the hot women in the room while everyone was praying. Their heads are down so they won't see me looking.
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#17 hblask

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 07:08 PM

Here's another example of when not to pick a battle. Say you are unjustly accused of a crime in the Bible Belt. And you go to a trial by jury, and you get called to the witness stand. They ask you to put your hand on the Bible and say "so help me God". You know you have the right to ask for a different, non-religious version.The jury is staring at you, suspecting you are a heathen.Just put you hand on the Bible and say it. Really, it's not worth it to make a stand here.Pick your battles.
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#18 SuitedAces21

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 07:13 PM

You've hit upon the biggest problem: We live in a world where it is socially unacceptable to question someone's religious (irrational and moronic) beliefs. So much so that people like you, who are smart and educated and athiest, would rather just close their eyes and ignore it than speak out against this lunacy. And if we cannot oppose religion, we will continue to remain blind to, and ineffective against, the harm that religion causes.
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#19 vbnautilus

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 07:15 PM

View Posthblask, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 7:59 PM, said:

I don't usually talk about it, because it is such a divisive issue, but I am an atheist. But I'm open-minded about it; I think most people who are religious are better off with their religion. Atheism is not for everyone. And yes, I know all the arguments, obviously, of how it's a slippery slope of irrationality, of all the harm done in the name of religion, but for most people, it just isn't harmful, and the joy and social connection they get from their religion (not to mention the excuse to act more morally) easily outweighs the harm.
Please spend more time in the religion forum? :club:

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Yeah, I knew I was pushing it with that comparison. Still, my school said the Pledge of Allegiance, and I wasn't traumatized by the last two words. People around me pray all the time, and I think good for them, whatever they need to get through the day.My point is, there's a big difference between being forced to participate in a religious ceremony regularly and having to witness -- not participate, but witness -- someone else's religion on rare occasions.
See I was always bothered that I was expected to say those words in the PoA and it made me very uncomfortable to do so. I guess I don't see the graduation ceremony as something a student passively witnesses. The ceremony is rite that you participate in and having it invoked with a bible passage makes me feel like I am participating in a religious function when I should be participating in an academic function.... (not to mention the irony of celebrating the education system by adulating the most pervasive enemy of education).

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I understand that the legal case is clear cut. I understand the moral and intellectual case. What I am saying is there is a time and a place to pick your battles. For me, the idea that it is worth it to alienate a whole town to save yourself from hearing -- not participating, but hearing -- a prayer once per year is just insane. This sounds like a pretty closed-minded town. The kid knew that going in. So the choice is pick better battles, or don't whine when you get the exact result you expect.
Was he whining about the result? I guess I just think this is something worth fighting for. The implications of his actions go well beyond his own personal comfort once a year; this is going to create a different environment for every kid that subsequently participates in graduation at that school... and possibly similar towns elsewhere. Strangers on the internet around the country are already discussing his action and what it means.

#20 vbnautilus

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 07:18 PM

View PostSuitedAces21, on Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 8:13 PM, said:

You've hit upon the biggest problem: We live in a world where it is socially unacceptable to question someone's religious (irrational and moronic) beliefs. So much so that people like you, who are smart and educated and athiest, would rather just close their eyes and ignore it than speak out against this lunacy. And if we cannot oppose religion, we will continue to remain blind to, and ineffective against, the harm that religion causes.
Yup, I think this is a big part of it.




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