Friday, July 27, 2012

Occupy Washington circa 1932

Occupy Washington circa 1932
 
In the spring and summer of 1932 43,000 did an Occupy Washington D.C. type live-in in our nation's Capital. The group consisted of 17,000 Veterans and the rest were primarily family members. Many of these Veterans had been out of work since the start of the Great Depression but some since the first World War. These protesters were called the Bonus Army.
 These Veterans were there to protest the "World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924." The act had awarded military personnel "credits" for their service. These were in addition to their military pay but were not redeemable until 1945 (there were insurance and additional revenue the government expected to get back at that time). But the rolling '20s had fallen into the Great Depression and these papers were useless for people trying to feed their families.

President Herbert Hoover (hope is just around the corner) was stuck in the situation of dealing with 43,000 people living in tents in Washington D.C. He directed his Attorney General, William D. Mitchell, to order the veterans removed from all government property. The police were sent in with the tools they have, the gun and the club. These veterans had all seen combat and were not going to be moved and after the clash there were between 2 and 15 veterans dead.

Since force had been so effective already, President Hoover ordered the army to clear the campsite. Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur (yep, that MacArthur) personally commanded the attack. He led the infantry, cavalry and six tanks.

Before we go any further, let me tell you a little about the "Bonus Army" and their ramshackle garbage town they called "Hooverville." They only allowed veterans who could prove they were honorably discharged from the armed service, held daily parades in D.C., and built sanitation systems, to keep their town of garbage dump scavenged materials clean. So, yes this was a blight on the Capital, but it was controlled and clean for basically a bunch of tents and home made shacks.

On July 29th, 1932 at 4:45 p.m., the United States Army, commanded by General MacArthur, supported by tank commander Major George S. Patton (yep, that Patton), and MacArthur's junior aid Major Dwight D. Eisenhower (soon to be general and then President Eisenhower), attacked United States Veterans. The army charged with gunfire and bayonets after an initial volley of vomit inducing adamsite gas.

The veteran protesters and their families fled across the Anacostina River. After clearing them President Hoover ordered the assault stopped. General MacArthur, who thought the protest was a Communist attempt to overthrow the US government (remember this is prior to the Cold War), ignored the President and ordered a new attack. In this second wave of military assault on American Veterans there were a couple deaths, a lot of injuries and 135 arrests and one miscarriage.

These were the good old days. After a financial collapse caused by the abuses of an under regulated financial system a group of Americans staged a live-in. The government of the United States used a military force to disperse them.

 I look around at the Occupy Movement and I see the Bonus Army movement. I see Americans with no other course of action than to put their bodies in a place and not move. I see the violent retaliation of the political establishment on non-violent protest. I am reminded of Dr. King and the attack dogs, Kent State, UC Davis last year and this recent business in Anaheim California. I look around and think about how the Government's monopoly on and use of violence crushes non-violence and leaves citizens with only violence as their last recourse.

I guess this post is a reminder that the good old days never existed and that everything old is new again. Even governments attacking their own citizens.

-Josh

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One year later


Our first blog post was dated July 15th, 2011. The Offensive Atheists Blog was our first step in this grand idea that we had...the idea of exposing the world as much as we could, and in as many ways as we could, of critical thinking. And all of this was going to come from two guys who had no idea what they were doing.

On July 20th, 2011, Josh and I sat down in front of microphones, and hit record for the first time on what would become REASON Podcast. That was one year ago. The first episode that any of you have heard was recorded August 14th, 2011. We spent a month practicing, preparing, trying not to sound as terrible as we felt we did that first July recording. 

In the year since, we have recorded over 50 episodes, and we have written over a 100 blog posts. We have gone back and listened to the early shows aghast at how bad we sounded, and had similar reactions when reading through our first writings.

We've also watched ourselves grow. Post after post, Show after show, episode after episode, we can see the slow honing of us working towards creating a product that we can be proud of. And, we know that there are still miles to go.

We have also watched more and more of you sign on, log in, and come to the table. We've watched you come, and we've seen you stay. Our number of listeners and readers has gone up consistently since the day we started, and we are happy to report that as of this week, we have officially passed what we consider to be a huge benchmark. As of this week, this show has been downloaded over fifty thousand times, and we have over 10,000 readers of The Offensive Atheists

We are proud of the work we've done, and we love doing what we do. It is that love that has pushed us through the trials of this first year. The hours spent every week preparing and writing, the spontaneous soundboard explosions, dropped microphones, missed ques, failed arguments, and the occasional being put in our place by our critical readership who doesn't allow us to get away with factual inaccuracies, and certainly shouldn't.

And yes, in addition to the time spent, there is also the financial investment that Josh and I have made in our show. Between web-hosting, blog talk radio, the occasional new soundboard, microphones, cables, printers, plugs, adapters, and any one of a thousand different things that we have needed over the past year to keep this ship afloat, it has cost us over five thousand dollars to continue to bring you the show live every Sunday, and fitting in a blog post every now and then. 

It is because of these expenses that the time has come for us to ask for your help. We have started a donation campaign at indiegogo.com. Going to our campaign and donating even a buck or two would put us in your debt, and as you'll see, for a little bit more, there are perks that come with every donation. They range from coffee mugs, to t-shirts, to us devoting entire episodes about who you are, and how wonderful you are. 

You can find the campaign at indiegogo.com/reasonpodcast  Go, and at least check it out, and take a look at the video that took us months and months to make. Do what you can to keep us afloat, and we'll be incredibly grateful.

And with the money that you donate, we will be able to take the show in the directions that we've been dreaming of: moving the show to a live format, and having a studio audience, being able to do more than one episode a week, and being able to do more than one show, finding other podcasts and shows of a skeptical and rational nature, and making a 24 hour channel of intelligent programming. These are just some of our ideas, some of our thoughts on how we can do our part in the fight for intelligence, reason, and critical thinking. We will, of course, keep you informed as to our progress, as always, through The Offensive Atheists.

Our dreams are big, we know...but we've already come so incredibly far...we just need your help to go a bit further.

Paul & Josh
REASON Productions

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

If God can do bad can the Devil do good?

If God can do terrible things for a greater Good then does the Devil do wonderful things for a greater Evil?

 Many Atheists dispute the existence of the biblical God by asking why God commits or allows terrible things to happen. Children born with excruciatingly painful incurable diseases, Starvation, Genocide. These all seem kinda bad. If God is All Knowing and All Powerful and All Good then how does this occur. This is "The Problem of Evil," one of the arguments against the existence of the Biblical God.

I have never used this argument because it seemed silly to me. If God is this all powerful all knowing creature then He would know that there is a best scenario and these seemingly terrible acts lead to a greater Good. This seemed easy enough to brush away and I never gave this argument much thought.

Today I was musing, as I often do, about about the concept of divinity and why people believe this shit. I started thinking about how people thank God for all the good but don't blame him for the bad and it got me thinking... What if it is not God doing these good things? What if it is the Devil?

God allows starvation and death and disease and all that shit for a greater good why would the Devil not commit wonderful acts of kindness for a greater horror?
 Perhaps the Devil helped with the technology needed to transport people to Emergency Rooms in order to facilitate Global Warming. 

Maybe the devil helped Bob Sportsfigure (Michael Vick?) to win the big game in order to make him a big star so he would have the resources to start a dog-fighting ring.

What if the Devil created antibiotics in order to create antibiotic resistance which will bring about a super flu   like in "The Stand"?

Splitting the atom to bring about Armageddon, giving golden tablets to Joseph Smith to make less Christians, giving Israel back to the Jews so the world has to go to war in the Middle East, or maybe appearing to a Saul on the road to Demascus in order to turn Christianity into a new incarnation of the Roman Pagan faith?

It is worth a thought. If God allows and commits atrocity to bring about a greater good how do the religious know that their blessing is not just the Devil doing good to bring about a greater Evil?

-Josh





Sunday, July 8, 2012

An angry response


On our Facebook page, we posted was is admittedly a disturbing picture comparing God to an abusive spouse. We also put it up here. See, right there --->

 A person chose to respond to this picture with the following: (The caps really are hers!) IM OFFENDED BY THIS PICTURE BECAUSE NO WHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT SAY THAT GOD SAYS ANY OF THESE NON RELIEABLE QUOTES 
(sic)

Now, for some reason, either Facebook itself, or one of my compatriots, marked this as spam, and moved on. "ein minuten bitte" said I, for I felt that her words required a response. Now, since the post is several days old now, and Timeline, as you all know, can really suck sometimes, it stood to reason that most of our loyal followers may never go back it time(line) to read my lenghty and researched rebuttal. NO NO NO, this cannot stand, I say! So, I decided to post it here so that we all can share in the fun. And, if you want to follow along and see if [person] ever replies, then just take a look at our REASON Podcast Facebook page.  

What follows is my response:


[Person], In spite of your inability to find that pesky caps lock key, I have decided to address your statement. I shall begin by saying that the quote marks are slightly misleading, but to represent that the above statements do not represent the will of God is a position that could only be held by someone who has not taken a look at this so called holy book that you refer to. I shall now address each statement, which YOU imply is not the intention of your God:

1) 'You're nothing without me' (John 15:5) - I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

2) 'If you even think about leaving me...' (1 Corinthians 5:13) - God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

3) 'You don't deserve me.' (Matthew 10:38-39) - Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

4) ' You'll never find anyone as good as me.' (Exodus 20:3) - You shall have no other gods before me.

5) 'You brought this upon yourself.' (Jeremiah 2:17) - Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when he led you in the way?

6) 'I know best.' (Luke 13:3) - For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

7) 'You're a terrible person, and you need to do better.' (Luke 13:3) - I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

8) ' You're not worthy of my love.' (Romans 3:23) - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

9) 'I'm only doing this because I love you.' (Hebrews 12:6) - because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.

10) 'Do not listen to anyone who doesn't understand what we have' (Psalm 14:1) - The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.


So, [person], I hope that straightens out any misunderstandings resulting from the (admittedly improper) quotes. If that does not clear it up, however...let me summarize: Your God is a wicked, horrible monster, and you should be ashamed of yourself for standing behind the words I just quoted above.

-Paul Wittmeyer

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The story so far

The following is what was written for the 'about us' section for wnyatheist.org. We decided to share it as a blog post, as well.

The Atheist Community of Buffalo, and Western New York was started in July of 2011, after a particularly fortuitous trip to New York City for the Fourth of July. The trip itself was quite an experience, to say the least, but what was most impactful were the eight hours spent sitting on a train slowly working its way West to our region of the Empire State.

The product of those eight hours were thoughts and conversations about science, history, philosophy, sociology, caring, mattering, making a difference in the world, fighting uphill against the gigantic crosses that scattered the landscape of the farms of believers between Albany and Buffalo. Looking at those crosses,  and wondering, exactly, why it was that we had talked about finding fellow Atheists in the Buffalo area, but haven't lifted a finger to do so. Wondering why it was that we had talked about doing a Podcast for years, but just never quite got around to it. Wondering why having the Center For Inquiry in our backyard never got our asses up, and out on a Friday night to hear lectures given by people that we admire, and have been reading, and reading about, for years. We wondered if we would sit in our air-conditioned offices for years, wondering why we never decided to act.

And so, returning home without any answers...we decided to dive head first into the Atheist Community of our hometown. We decided to find out who was doing what, throw ourselves in the thick of it.  And, after doing our research, here is what we found:

Whoever said organizing Atheists is like herding cats was not wrong.

A quick Google search brought us to our first collection of Atheists, "The Atheist Experience of Western New York." This group met for coffee twice a month, and discussed what most Atheist groups discuss - World Domination...of course. There may have been some tangents into religious iconography being somewhat pornographic, at times, and I believe someone professed to being convinced that the Pope keeps a gumball machine in his hat.

There was also a group called "Drinking Skeptically," which had fallen into disrepair.

Then there is "The Buffalo Freethought Society" - Another Coffee Meetup that we've not been able to attend because of the conflict of doing a live radio show on Sundays at 8pm, right around when they meet.

"Atheist Potluck" at the Center for Inquiry - A hit and miss chance to share some good food with some good company, but not the most reliable of trains.

"Buffalo State Freethinkers" - a student run group at Buffalo State College.

"UB Freethinkers" - a student run group at the University at Buffalo.

"The Center For Inquiry" - an organization whose mission statement is: to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

" WNY Atheists, Freethinkers and Secularists." - a Facebook group which is the closest thing that these groups have to a home base.

What all of these organizations have in common are the advancement and support of Atheists, Humanists, Skeptics, and those who believe in science and logic and evidence and facts. Also in common were several members, who went from group to group. What was missing was some sort of a cohesive whole. And, that is where we come in: Trying to build a community out of all of these houses of lack of worship.

And so, The Atheist Community of Buffalo and Western New York was formed. Formed, with the intention of having all of the relevant information for anyone interested, all in one, easy to find place.

In the past year of our existence, we have managed to do just that. We've been able to introduce groups together, exchange members, and direct new faces on where to go to meet up with the like minded folk.
But our work doesn't end there. As we get these groups together, it surprises us as much as anyone just how many of us there really are. And with these large numbers, we can move forward with forcing society to no longer ignore us, forcing politics to acknowledge we exist, and being the force for change in the Buffalo area, in the Western New York area, and beyond. If we have the numbers, then we have the power. The Power to stood up and be recognized, the power to invoke change, the power to have our voice in what happens in our schools, our communities, and in our Country and the World as a whole.

Members of every single one of the above mentioned groups attended the Reason Rally, March 24th, 2012, on the Mall in Washington, D.C.  Members of every single one of these groups saw the power in numbers, and the difference that we can make.

There is a long road to travel, and it will be years, for example, before we could use this website as a portfolio when applying for any random web development job without any fear of biasing a potential employer. The road is long, but we've come so far. The road is long, but with each step we relish in the small victories of watching our attendance grow, as it has at coffee, at Drinking Skeptically, and on the Internet.

We started The Atheist Community of Buffalo and Western New York because we wanted to have a community of our own. What we didn't realize was that we had one all along. And, if we have made it easier for people to feel more welcome, less excluded...if we have done even a small part to open people's eyes to the fact that you are not alone, that there are others who think like you, who will welcome you, and who will probably even buy you a cup of coffee or a beer, then, we will sleep better at night for it.

Thank you to everyone who has helped along the way. And we thank those who continue to help us as we continue to grow.

-The Atheist Community of Buffalo and Western New York

Tuesday, July 3, 2012