Friday, April 22, 2011

Hope for Iowa: Onward Atheist Soldiers

Billboards like this advertising the Easter weekend atheist convention have been attracting attention in Des Moines for several months.

There's interesting news arising this morning from Iowa's sea of Bible-thumping sanctimony --- the American Atheists association is attracting a record crowd for its Easter weekend national convention in downtown Des Moines.

So far, more than 700 have registered, overflowing Embassy Suites and, once all the rooms were filled in that particular inn, causing late-comers to seek refuge at the Marriott. Organizers are hoping for a thousand.

Des Moines was a logical fit for the convention, said David Silverman, American Atheists president: The Iowa Caucuses, for one thing; the politcization of our state's judicial system by Christianist extremists for another.

Beyond the "debaptisms," a featured event, the convention menu sounds fairly conventional --- seminars, speakers and socialization. Protesters are welcome, Silverman said. I should think so. Great publicity.

With Maundy Thursday down and Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday to go, I can't fit the convention into my schedule --- but God bless 'em anyhow. You've gotta love the juxtaposition (and the skillful marketing).


As if on cue, five members of the Christianist brigade in the Iowa House --- Kim Pearson of Pleasant Hill, Tom Shaw of Laurens, Betty De Boef of What Cheer, Dwayne Alons of Hull and Glen Massie of Des Moines --- introduced resolutions Thursday to impeach the four remaining Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in Varnum v. Brien during 2009 that Iowa's Constitution did not preclude same-sex marriage.

Three other justices were dispatched by retention ballot during the November just past, you may remember.

Other Republicans say the resolutions are unlikely to advance, but it was good to be reminded as Easter approaches of why atheism increasingly seems to be a less damaging option.


Speaking of politics, I was interested in this column in today's Manchester (New Hampshire) Union Leader by Fergus Cullen, that state's former GOP chair, suggesting that Iowa's prized first-in-the-nation caucus status could be further undermined by the Christianist takeover of the Hawkeye State's GOP.

There's certainly unlikely to be much excitement among Democrats because of Barack Obama's incumbency. And Republican candidates who are neither born again nor willing to pander hypocritically to those who are seems increasingly likely to bypass the state, Cullen suggests.

"This week came another troubling sign that Iowa Republicans are outside the party mainstream: a birther epidemic," Cullen wrote. "A Public Policy Polling survey found that 48 percent of Iowa Republicans don't believe President Obama was born in the United States, and another 26 percent said they weren't sure if he was or if he wasn't. It's hard to talk about real issues when three quarters of the audience wears tin foil hats.

"Iowa Republicans didn't set out to marginalize themselves, but it's happened -- to New Hampshire's benefit. With several major candidates likely to bypass Iowa, and the odds rising that Iowa's skewed caucus electorate could support candidates with limited general election appeal, the likelihood of New Hampshire being called upon to make a correction grow."


And finally, down in Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry has proclaimed Easter weekend "Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas."

I don't mean to make light of drought conditions in Texas and adjoining states manifested by dangerous wildfires, crop failures and general angst. But so far the reports have not included revelations from preachers about just why God is aggravated at the Lone Star State.

Can't be gay marriage, unlikely to be atheists and Texas still has the death penalty. Could it be Southern Baptists? Now there's a thought.

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