No Religion? Here Are 7 Types of Non-Believers

image courtesy of University of Birmingham

No Religion? Here Are 7 Types of Non-Believers (Alternet)

“Catholic, born-again, Reformed, Jew, Muslim, Shiite, Sunni, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist…religions give people labels. The downside can be tribalism, an assumption that insiders are better than outsiders, that they merit more compassion, integrity and generosity or even that violence toward “infidels” is acceptable. But the upside is that religious or spiritual labels offer a way of defining who we are.  They remind adherents that our moral sense and quest for meaning are core parts of what it means to be human. They make it easier to convey a subset of our deepest values to other people, and even to ourselves. 

For those who have lost their religion or never had one, finding a label can feel important. It can be part of a healing process or, alternately, a way of declaring resistance to a dominant and oppressive paradigm. Finding the right combination of words can be a challenge though. For a label to fit it needs to resonate personally and also communicate what you want to say to the world. Words have definitions, connotations and history, and how people respond to your label will be affected by all three. What does it mean? What emotions does it evoke? Who are you identifying as your intellectual and spiritual forebears and your community? The differences may be subtle but they are important.”

Fun, useful list, with helpful breakdowns, citations, and examples! (I like lists.)

Airman denied reenlistment for refusing to say ‘so help me God’

Airman denied reenlistment for refusing to say ‘so help me God’ (Air Force Times)

“An atheist airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was denied reenlistment last month for refusing to take an oath containing ‘so help me God,’ the American Humanist Association said Thursday.

According to the AHA, the unnamed airman was told Aug. 25 that the Air Force would not accept his contract because he had crossed out the phrase ‘so help me God.’ The airman was told his only options were to sign the religious oath section of the contract without adjustment and recite an oath concluding with ‘so help me God,’ or leave the Air Force, the AHA said.

The AHA’s letter also called attention to a quiet update last year of Air Force rules governing reenlistments, which now require all airmen to swear an oath to God. Air Force Instruction 36-2606 spells out the active-duty oath of enlistment, which all airmen must take when they enlist or reenlist and ends with ‘so help me God.’ The old version of that AFI included an exception:

Note: Airmen may omit the words ‘so help me God,’ if desired for personal reasons.

That language was dropped in an Oct. 30, 2013, update to the AFI. The relevant section of that AFI now only lists the active-duty oath of enlistment, without giving airmen any option to choose not to swear an oath to a deity.”

This is outrageous and certainly unconstitutional.

“The government cannot compel a nonbeliever to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being,” Miller said. “Numerous cases affirm that atheists have the right to omit theistic language from enlistment or reenlistment contracts.”

The AHA is planning on suing if the airman is not allowed to reenlist. I hope it doesn’t come to that – I really hope the Air Force will just do the right thing. Because this man did the right thing; he was honest, and he wouldn’t sign an oath he didn’t believe in. This airman is exactly the kind of person I want defending my country.

Not Your “Fashion Dots”: The Continuous Appropriation of Bindis [July 2013]

Not Your “Fashion Dots”: The Continuous Appropriation of Bindis [July 2013]

When a non-South Asian person wears the bindi, it is generally seen as edgy and cute. Fans and music media alike praise these celebrities for their bold “fashion” choices. But when someone like me or my mom wears the bindi out in public, we are either stared down with dirty looks, told to go back to where we came from, or exotified as having magical qualities.

For my mom and me, it’s a mark of our otherness, a reminder that we don’t belong in this country and never will — unless, of course, we assimilate and leave our cultural symbols behind. Now that is what the dream of becoming a Canadian citizen is supposed to mean: having your culture sold as fashion statements and themes for dinner parties.

Cultural appropriation is a difficult subject to discuss. I already know some people will read this and their response will be, “they should get over it.” If that is your response, fine. I’m just here to remind you that getting over it is easier said than done, and whatever feelings you might have about this issue don’t invalidate someone else’s.

And in case you’re wondering why I’m bringing this up now (which is a valid question – the article is almost a year old), the answer is Coachella. Luckily, it seems that the Hipster Headdress is out of style, but that just means more bindis.

For more reading, check out Beyond Bindis: Why Cultural Appropriation Matters. (Her response to your get over it attitude is perfect, because she acknowledges that there are many bigger problems, but that doesn’t negate the fact that

a pop star like Selena Gomez wearing one is guaranteed to be better received than I would if I were  to step out of the house rocking a dot on my forehead. On her, it’s a bold new look; on me, it’s a symbol of my failure to assimilate. On her, it’s unquestionably cool; on me, it’s yet another marker of my Otherness, another thing that makes me different from other American girls. If the use of the bindi by mainstream pop stars made it easier for South Asian women to wear it, I’d be all for its proliferation — but it doesn’t.

Think about it.

How evangelicals won a culture war and lost a generation

How evangelicals won a culture war and lost a generation

But most of all, the situation put into stark, unsettling relief just how misaligned evangelical priorities have become. When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gays and lesbians helping to provide that aid, something is wrong.

There is a disproportionate focus on homosexuality that consistently dehumanizes, stigmatizes and marginalizes gay and lesbian people and, at least in this case, prioritizes the culture war against them over and against the important work of caring for the poor.

Evangelicals insist that they are simply fighting to preserve “biblical marriage,” but if this were actually about “biblical marriage,” then we would also be discussing the charity’s policy around divorce.

But we’re not.

This excellent analysis was written by the wonderful Rachel Held Evans, whose blog I used to read regularly but somehow got away from. I look forward to catching up on her writing.

Missions Signal a Growing Role for Mormon Women

Missions Signal a Growing Role for Mormon Women

“…the biggest gender change in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in memory. After the church lowered its age requirement for female missionaries in October 2012 to 19 from 21, so many women have signed up — 23,000, nearly triple from the total before the change — that many Utah colleges suffered sharp drops in enrollment, and the standard image of a Mormon missionary, a gangly young man in a dark suit, was suddenly out of date.

In the coming years, these women are expected to fundamentally alter this most American of churches, whose ruling patriarchs not long ago excommunicated feminist scholars and warned women not to hold jobs while raising children. Church leaders have been forced to reassess their views because Mormon women are increasingly supporting households, marrying later and less frequently, and having fewer children. And for the first time, waves of women are taking part in the church’s crucial coming-of-age ritual, returning home from their missions with unprecedented scriptural fluency, new confidence and new ideas about themselves.”

Fascinating analysis of the changing role of women in the Mormon church.

Follow-up article: From Mormon Women, a Flood of Requests and Questions on Their Role in the Church