Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blogging From a Sea of Red

My name is Shamar. I'm a 28 year old psychology major, and I live in the middle of Texas, or as some like to say "in the middle of a sea of red". The reason that I mention where I live is because I am an atheist, a freethinker, and a huge fan of the outspoken science and skepticism community, all of which is a bit of a minority here in Texas. There are however, a few concentrated bastions of liberalism here in texas, such as Austin, and small areas in some of the larger cities like Houston. For example, Austin is the home of the ACA (Atheist Community of Austin), who hosts the increasingly popular call-in cable t.v. show (and podcast) The Atheist Experience. If you haven't already seen it, you should check it out, it's quite educational as well. You can also find clips of the show uploaded by fans all over youtube. However, I don't live in Austin or Houston, and throughout most of this state are huge amounts of conservatives and fundamentalists, and these are the types of people who make our laws, run our towns, our schools, etc.
For an example of this religious dogma that effects us all, is one memorable mark of shame on my state. First off, last month (around the beginning of October) a man named Khristian Oliver was sentenced to death after the jury consulted the bible while deliberating to decide his fate. Here is an account of what had happened:
At a hearing in June 1999, four of the jurors recalled that several Bibles had been present and highlighted passages had been passed around.

One juror had read aloud from the Bible to a group of fellow jurors, including the passage, "And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death".

Now, first off, allow me to say that I will agree that this man apparently did a horrible thing, and there doesn't seem to be any question over whether or not he committed the crime. However, it seems unthinkable that in our modern judicial system a jury would be allowed to use the dogmatic rules of some old bronze age religious text to decide the fate of someone convicted in the court of law.
Moving on to the present, I am saddened to say that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the decision, and Khristian Oliver was killed last week. I must say that, no matter how I feel about the fact that this man was guilty, it scares me when the state allows a jury to pick and choose dogmatic rules from such an archaic book that contains many immoral rules as well. Rules that allow you to stone disrespectful children to death, condones slavery, sexism, and many other types of immoral decisions that do not belong in our society today.

That was one example of the type of thing that reminds atheists and freethinkers like myself how much faith, religion, and dogma, effects our lives in this state, and in many places across America. This is why atheists like myself, and other members of the science and skeptical community are speaking out more and more against dogma, woo (a term coined by The Amazing James Randi, and has become quite popular in the skeptical community to describe pseudoscience and any ideas pushed on us that are not based on real evidence), and other forms of faith-based pseudoscience. We do however, have a way to see through the dogma, and see reality, by applying the rules of logic and the scientific method. These tools, powered by skeptical thinking and a bulk of modern scientific knowledge, are our keys to escaping from dogma.

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