The Story Of The Challenge Coin, One Story

April 20th, 2011
by admin

By now, most people who have serve recently in the military have or at least had a challenge coin. These are generally imprinted with the branch of service on one side and the unit on the other. Given to help boost morale they have a much richer history that is up to some debate. They are often called army coins but this is simple because they are the largest branch of service and therefore the most likely to be seen. The Air Force challenge coins, however, might have been the start of their use in the US military.

That story dates back to World War I, a time before the Air Force existed by that name. Then it was known as the Army Air Corps. As the story has it, there was a early pilot that can from a family of some means. As a way of banding the other pilots together he had his family make the coins for all the pilot in his unit.

Now the story could end there and be a fine explanation to the origins of the challenge coin but it doesn’t. One of the pilots carried is coin in a satchel around his neck. He was shot down over Germany and captured. At the POW camp he was striped of everything but his satchel. When he later escaped he tried to make it across no-man’s-land were he was captured by the French. Thinking he was a German spy, he was sent to be executed. He managed to save himself by producing the coin which made the French verify his identity and saving his life.

Now challenge coins are carried by all members of the service to help build an esprit d’ corps. It, of course, has picked up little traditions along the way that seem to be agreed upon by everyone. One is that the coin must always kept free. This means that mounting it in a belt buckle or drilling a hole in it renders it useless as a challenge coin. Another is that it can not be kept in a wallet. There are two reasons for it. One is that it makes an indention in the wallet that looks like a condom and the other that it marks the wearer as a serviceman, not always a safe thing to do in some countries.

What evere the story behind their inception and use, challenge coins are now a military tradition.

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The New Growth Of Atheism

February 25th, 2011
by admin

Grow or shrinkage of any belief system is a little hard to measure accurately. Yes, you could try to quantify it the same way they do most things which is by taking a survey but that does not work well on these sorts of beliefs. Why? It is because it is perhaps the most personal detail that defines us. People are not quick to open up on those. Also there is still a fear of repercussions. Yes, we know in our rational mind there won’t be but that other not-so-rational part of us thinks”well, you never know.”

For these reason the best measure might be our choice in reading material. You might say you go to church or temple every week but you are not going to read the Bible or Torah every day at lunch to look the part. So, when you look at what has been selling very well it is books on Atheism. And this has been a growing trend during this century but why? The answer is simply the Internet.

How has the Internet caused this? That seems like something unrelated. Well. In truth, it is directly related. There are two main reason for it. Although it is unrelated, it is the same two reasons Internet porn became so big. Those are anonymity and dissemination. While the two are totally unrelated drawing the parallel works in a demonstrative sense.

We can start with anonymity. Despite the fact that we live in a “free” society there is still a social stigma involved with Atheism. While this might not bother long time believers in Atheism it did people that were just interested in learning a little more about it. Now anyone that wanted to learn more about the subject could without announcing it to the world. It also gave them a place to talk with other like-minded people. That was hard to do in smaller towns.

Then you have the issue of dissemination. In the last 10 years nearly everyone has Internet access and can find out every thing the ever wanted to know on the subject. Also, with the low cost of having a website and the ease they can be built there are now 10′s of 1000′s of sites and a user can visit any one of them. This Internet boom has done the same with science sites that are often used by Atheists to make a point.

The post-2000 Internet boom has inspired a whole new paradigm in free thinking. Atheism has benefited from it.

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Atheism Taught By God

February 18th, 2011
by admin

That title might seem more than a little oxymoronic but that does not mean there is not some sad truth in it in a certain kind of way. There can be little doubt how many people become atheist. They, after deep reflection and objective thought, have come to the conclusion that there is no evidence that points to the existence of good. Even the most fundamental Christian should have no problem accepting that and just let the person be, they are beyond “saving.” There is, however, an entirely different subgroup of Atheist that came to the conclusion that god, with the current evidence, does not exist for other reasons. How did they get here?

Most religions teach, by and large, teach that god is a god of love. Moreover, they teach that he wants us to be happy, get married, live in the suburbs and have 2.3 children, a dog, and a white picket fence. Further more you will get that as long as you follow a few simple rules like “don’t murder the guy that cut you off in traffic” and “don’t sleep with your neighbor’s, or anyone else’s, wife.” That seems like a pretty sweet deal but not without flaws.

Most religious people are basically good at heart, even the one that might come off a little heavy handed with their zeal. Too often, though, zeal turns people pious and being pious leads to vengefulness. No longer is it “you should go to church”, it becomes “you must go to church.” In time that becomes “if you don’t go to church your hair will fall out and you will burn in a lake of fire forever..” Somewhere along the way the message of “god is a god of love” got lost. When this happens the seeds of rebellion are sown, especially in younger minds. Is there any surprise they turn to Atheism.

Every one’s belief are their own and that is fine. You can choose to believe in god, not believe in god or even believe that the whole universe is really the yolk of an egg laid buy a HUGE chicken. It should, however, be your belief and not a reaction to someone else’s.

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The Atheist Longest Fight

February 11th, 2011
by admin

Of course Atheist and Theist disagree at the most fundamental level, is there a god. That then leads to more questions about where things come from. The universe? Life on this planet? Man himself? There are some good arguments that can be made for each side but what they, Atheist and Deist, are doing is much more simple. They have made a decision and will find the facts that support that belief.

A good place to start is the creation of the world. According to the Bible the world is about 6,000 years old. That one is pretty easy to dismiss out right. If it is 6000 years old it was made to look a lot older. Point Atheist. Even the general formation of the solar system makes perfect sense and is hard to argue with. Where the Atheist will start to really lose the Deist is with the Big Bang. There must be something very mathematical about it because it is considered to be fact but even the die-hard Atheist must admit that the idea does sound a little flaky Besides, you are still left with the question of where did that subatomic sized piece of matter that has all the matter in the universe condensed into it come from? Did god make that? The one point that Atheist and Deist can agree on is that there is a forever. Alas!! There is some common ground.

Now that the world is here, by creation, science, or magic, where did life come from. Did we rise up from the muck or were we just created. The problem that the Atheist has here is spontaneous generation of life. For the right set of chemicals to come together in just the right way would be all but impossible, a Deist would argue. It would be like a tornado passing through a junk yard and creating a working car. That would be an unlikely set of events but is it a good analogy? Maybe not. Scientist have detected amino acids, a complex compound and the building blocks of protein, in the gases of Jupiter. Maybe given the right set of events it will always happen.

If that last part is true it poses some very interesting issues. The question is no longer is the life on other planets. It now becomes how much is there.

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Atheism In A Nutshell

February 4th, 2011
by admin

It might seem silly to an Atheist that the concept of atheism needs any explanation at all. While it is simple the Atheist must remember that around 80% of the worlds population is a Theist of one flavor or another. Because of that, the same thing happens to Atheism as happens to anything people don’t understand. They make assumptions about it and then in a lot of other belief systems get lumped in with Atheism.

The simple definition of Atheism is a belief that there is no God. It is not an indictment of those that do, they just believe that there is no evidence to support the concept. In that way it has a somewhat neutral view of a God. An Agnostic would be a true neutral with Atheism being neutral strongly leaning to the negative.

That is the simple definition of what they are but what are Atheist not but sometimes thought to believe.

One group that gets lump is with the Atheist are those that believe in Pantheism. This group believes that nature and god are the same thing. Yes, things occur naturally but that is though god and his work stops there. Pantheist do not believe in a personal god in the way that Christians, Jews, and Muslims do. They are not Theist so in to the Atheist pile they go.

Then you have Deist. The Deist basically believe in a god that started the universe. That’s it. That was all he did or is going to do, This is not the prayer answering sort of god.

Last, and hardest to understand, are the Anti-theist. In someways they are like Atheist in that they do not believe in god but they take it to the next level. They don’t believe in god, but if there was a god, which they will not concede, it would be a very bad thing. So the long and short of it is it that the thing that does not exist is evil.

Those are the three main groups that are sometimes called Atheist but are not. For the most part, if a large booming voice spoke to every one at once in a tongue they could understand, a true Atheist would just shake his head and say “Wow, I did not see that coming” Until that time however, it is doubtful that most will see the evidence needed to change their mind.

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The Roots of Atheism

January 27th, 2011
by admin

Something that every atheist needs to know about is the historical basis of the idea of atheism. Even though many people think it is a new phenomenon, atheism has actually been around for quite awhile.

The first mention of something like modern atheism occurred in Ancient Greece and Rome where some philosophers rejected traditional religion and criticized it. Most of these philosophers ultimately became theists or believers in one God but they set the precedent of rejecting all religion.

The idea of atheism largely vanished with the collapse of the Roman Empire and the Western Dark Ages. Although something like atheism did flourish in much of Asia where some Buddhist thinkers rejected the idea of God or Gods.

Atheism and the Enlightenment:

The idea of atheism was reborn in Europe and America during the Enlightenment in the 18th Century. Scientific and scholarly discoveries caused many thinkers Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and others to question the ideas of religion and God.

In particular many thinkers saw the Christian Churches in Europe as backward and promoting superstition. The American and French Revolutions saw the first attempts to create secular societies without official religion. The French efforts collapsed in the violence of the Napoleonic Wars but the American experiment was successful. For the first time a government without an official religion had been created and flourished.

The idea of atheism remained popular and grew and spread throughout the 19th Century. Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution seriously undermined the support for the Church by discrediting its basic beliefs. Other philosophers such as Karl Marx and Frederick Nietzsche also attacked the church and called for an end to religion.

By the early 20th Century there was a large movement of intellectuals who openly practiced atheism. Many called for an end to official religion or all religion at all.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 led to the creation of the first officially atheist state the Soviet Union or USSR. Unfortunately the ideology that came out of the Russian Revolution: Communism took on many of the trappings of a religion. Its’ followers worshipped idols, suppressed dissent, denied scientific facts, murdered heretics and in general behaved just like the people of faith they criticized.

The events of the 20th Century led millions of people all over the world to question and reject traditional religion. In particular the two world wars, the Nazi Holocaust and the numerous crimes committed by the Communists led many people to question the notion of “God.” Ongoing scientific advances such as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the discovery of DNA also seriously undermined religion.

Atheism Today:

In the early 21st Century the violence perpetuated by Islamic Radicals and the fervent and often ignorant beliefs of fundamentalist Christians in the United States and elsewhere has given new life to atheism. Many more people are questioning the ideas of religion and God and their benefits.

Even though most people still profess to be believers in traditional religion, atheist ideas are popular. For example popular animated television shows like the Simpsons and South Park often mock religion and call its beliefs into question.

A militant atheist movement and many popular atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have appeared and even reached a mass audience with their writings. It appears that atheism could well become the “faith” of the 21st century.

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Atheism and Violence

December 18th, 2010
by admin

One argument that atheists will undoubtedly hear from time to time is that religion is necessary because it curbs or prevents violence. Indeed many defenders of religion will accuse atheists of making violence inevitable.

The best response to this tired old claim is that violence is a behavior not a belief. History has proved that persons who hold almost any kind of belief including atheism can and do engage in violence. Indeed devout believers in religions that theoretically preach peace such as Christianity, Islam and Buddhism often commit violent acts.

Religious Belief and Violence

Another point that atheists should make is that more secular societies with less religious devotion are generally more peaceful. European countries like Sweden, Britain and Denmark where church attendance is low and a large percentage of the population admits to being non believers have lower rates of crime and violence than countries where most people are actively and visibly religious. The most violent countries like Iraq and the Sudan are also the most religious.

A similar argument can be made in the United States where crime rates are higher in the Bible Belt where many people are fervently religious than in the Northeast where there are fewer believers. In other words the evidence seems to indicate that religious belief doesn’t curb violence and might actually encourage it.

Atheists Have Nothing to Be Defensive About

When it comes to violence atheists have nothing to be defensive about. The idea that atheism encourages violence is simply not true because it isn’t supported by the facts.

I might also add that some very prominent pacifists and opponents of war and militarism such as Bertrand Russell and Carl Sagan have been atheists. This means that a person can be an atheist and promote peace and oppose war.

The best way for atheists to deal with claims that they promote violence is to point out the facts. There is no correlation between atheism and violence. Nor is there any basis in fact for any claim that atheism in any way leads to violence.

Indeed atheists should challenge the people of faith to live up to their own beliefs. They should ask the people who think faith leads to peace why they aren’t trying to get their fellow true believers to live by their own words rather than criticizing others.

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Atheism and Freedom

December 17th, 2010
by admin

One claim that atheists, particularly those living in the United States; will hear is that there is some sort of atheist conspiracy to destroy Christianity and other religions. Indeed many Christians and Muslims think that there is a secret cabal of militant atheists secretly working to destroy their faiths.

The best response to these claims is to note that responsible atheists believe in the freedom of religion. That is atheists respect the right of others to practice their faith as long as it does not threaten the freedom or lives of others.

Indeed atheists should be strong advocates of religious freedom because atheists have often been persecuted for their beliefs. In some countries such as Iran it is still illegal to be an atheist.

Atheists and Conspiracy Theories

Atheists should also take note of the conspiracy theories and worry about them. In the past imaginary conspiracy theories have often been used as a justification for the oppression and sometimes murder of members of unpopularity minority groups.

This means that atheists should work to refute the ridiculous claims made about them. A good way to do this is to not interfere with religion and to publicly defend believers in religion who are being persecuted.

It should made clear that atheists have no desire to have their beliefs forced upon children or to abolish religious education. Instead atheists should work for tolerance for all beliefs.

Another to counter such claims is for atheists to give money or volunteer time to religious organizations that are doing good works in the community. An example of this would be for atheists to volunteer at a soup kitchen or donate money to religious groups that help the poor.

This enables atheists to demonstrate that they are good and caring human beings. It also shows that atheists are broadminded and willing to recognize that religion can be a force for good.

Finally atheists need to make a strong stand in favor of laws, governments and countries that exist to protect human freedom. Atheists need to show that they are good patriotic citizens who are willing to pay taxes, serve in the military when necessary and obey the law.

In particular atheists need to show their support for laws such as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that establish freedom of religion. Atheists must stand up for such laws even in the face of popular opposition in order to disprove their critics.

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Atheism: Strong or weak?

November 15th, 2010
by admin

It’s wrong to assume that there is only one form of atheism as this form of living is often divided
in two basic types of belief; there is atheism that is strong and then there is weak atheism. The
categories might seem simple to understand at first glance but the distinction talks about the
broad mixture of beliefs which exists amongst people who call themselves atheists. There is
enormous difference in regards to their stances on the existence or in fact, the non existence of
any supreme being.

Implicit atheism or weak atheism talks about the belief of there being no god. This form of
atheism is generally understood and broadest in regard to the level of people’s awareness. These
people just subconsciously have a deficiency of belief in supernatural beings, gods, religion, etc
for reasons that are antagonistic and hence, are often called Agnostic Atheists.

Meanwhile, there is Explicit Atheism that we refer to as Strong Atheism that goes a few steps
being Implicit Atheism. They deny the reality of one god, multiple gods-in fact, all kinds of gods.
These people are better informed with all sorts of religious practices and are knowledgeable.
They provide facts and figures for what they assert to be as proof for no existence of religion
and gods. Any time someone claims that some god or any god doesn’t exist, the person is then
obligated to support their statements with proof.

All of this doesn’t mean that these ‘types’ of atheists actually refer to denominations or levels of
atheists the way there are different levels of caste and believers in Hinduism, Christianity, etc.
By calling them ‘types’ we don’t mean to imply that there is any vital difference in their belief-
it’s just based on the dissimilarity of knowledge that differentiates a strong and a weak atheist.
Some atheists might not just consider certain types of religious belief worthy.

The label a person uses to define themselves is a general sign of what their inclination is going to
be during a debate on religion. Someone who calls themselves a ‘weak’ atheist may simply deny
the existence of some gods but might not go far enough as to deny existence of all gods. Instead,
they might wait for some one else who is a ‘theist’ or a strong atheist to take the next step by
presenting an argument and thereby helping the weak atheist make their decision about the
credibility of a god.

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Evolution of Atheism

November 14th, 2010
by admin

The term ‘atheism’ originated in France back in the 16th Century. However, ideas that make up the base of atheism can be seen from as far behind as the classical antiquity period.

Atheistic schools of thought can be found in Indian subcontinents history with beliefs that there is no God. In fact, the human being himself is powerful enough to determine the course of their life, action himself to create necessary changes that would allow him to become successful in life. This materialistic approach to life originated in India back in the 6th century but is not part of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism today.

The Enlightenment Era is generally credited as the time when atheism emerged in the western world but when you look in deeper you see roots of the concept in pre-Socratic Greek Philosophy times. They viewed religion and belief in accountability to a God as a man-made invention meant to keep human beings on the morality track. It is from these times that scholars such as Socrates became public with what was considered atheistic beliefs and resulted in him being sentenced to death. Another thought process that emerged during this era was that the ‘gods’ were past’s heroes, conquerors, etc that had cult fan following which transformed into religious devotion over time. Many atheists also thought that even if there were gods, these supernatural beings were actually unconcerned with humanity and hence, all the trouble in the human world exists. Over the course of the classical antiquity, the precise meaning of atheist changed.

Europe was relatively atheism free in the Middle Ages with focus on religion, theology and metaphysics. However, different views emerged in terms of nature, transcendence and knowledge of God. Come the time for Renaissance and we saw expansion in the ideas of freethought and allowing religious skepticism. This is the time that the Christian Church faced a lot of opposition from individuals like Leonardo Da Vinci, Niccolo Machiavelli, etc who all were deemed atheists, illuminati, etc for their forward thinking.

In recent times, the atheism lifestyle has flourished in many societies in terms of Marxism, feminism, anarchism, secular humanism and the science based rationalistic movement. This time also saw an increase in religious freedom for minority religions. Communism and states like the Soviet Union actually propagated state atheism, sometimes even with violent measures.

Atheists today are more knowledgeable about the religions of the world than an actual follower of the belief. A 2010 survey in U.S.A revealed that non-believers scored better on religious questions than actual Christians and Protestants.  One can only suppose they want to be better prepared with religious knowledge to defend their own non-faith.

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