Well, since the Republicans brought it up...
And if you want to see the first ad Dole released on the subject, Campbell Brown does a nice job of talking about it:
Now, as an atheist, I have pretty mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I find it pretty annoying that Dole tried to "smear" Hagan by accusing her of being, more or less, an atheist. On the other hand, while I know why she did it, I'm annoyed that Hagan had to deny the accusation in strenuous terms. As a friend of mine remarked, the situation is analogous to Obama having to assert- repeatedly- that he isn't a muslim.* That it even matters is the real issue, not whether or not he happens to be one. So, I'm just going to settle for being happy that Dole lost.
And as long as we're on the subject, in other atheism-related news check out this narrative from someone who went from being a born-again Christian to being an atheist:
I grew up as an hard-core fundamentalist, and have been slowing drifting secular since the beginning of high school. In sixth grade, my parents got rid of Aladdin due to Jasmine’s inappropriate garb. My church started playing contemporary music in the evening services, and as this form of music is displeasing to God, we changed churches largely for this reason. Together with being home schooled and highly gifted mathematically, I was not what you would call a normal child.
It's long, and pretty heart-wrenching, but it also describes in broad outlines the experience of a lot of atheists who grew up in religious families or in religious regions. Contrary to popular opinion, atheism doesn't just happen. Often, it's the end result of a long and difficult struggle that can make religious conversion stories seem cheap and easy by comparison. Don't worry, though- this conversion story has a happy ending.**
On a related note with a less happy ending, check out this article on Nate Phelps, the son of Fred Phelps, leader of the ever-crazy Westboro Baptist Church:
The mattock, a close cousin of the pickaxe, is used to dig through tough, earthy surfaces—it loosens soil, breaks rock, and tears through knotted grass. Its handle is a three-foot wooden shaft, twice the density of a baseball bat and its dual-sided iron head is comprised of a chisel and a pick. It was Pastor Fred Phelps’s weapon of choice when beating his children according to his son, Nate Phelps.
“The Bible says ‘spare the rod, spoil the child,’” explained Nate, “and he would be screaming that out as he was beating us.” One Christmas night, Pastor Phelps hit Nate over 200 times with a mattock’s handle, swinging it like a baseball player.
Nate would hide out in the garage with his siblings, where he could escape his father’s wrath. What he couldn’t escape, however, was the fear of going to hell. He suffered much abuse growing up under the roof of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (WBC)—he still suffers today.
And if that isn't enough to make you a bit cross at Phelps, consider the first comment in response to this article- from Nate's sister Shirley:
Amazing stuff. At the end of the day, rebel Nate who is a man of the flesh according to the Bible, cannot get it into his head the the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The child crying over a fear of hell is exactly what is intended by the plain language of the scriptures. You can love that and live that and own that and be one with that, as they say, or you can foolishly fight against that. WHO thinks they can beat God? YIKES! He never one time mentions HIS duty to teach HIS children every day in every way with every thing that does and says what the Lord their God requires of them. God is a consuming fire. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, WE PERSUADE MEN! Just look at the way you two brutes got together and tried to put a fluffy spin on rebellion AND the consenquences thereof.
This is the generation that is about to see the rise of Antichrist, THAT WICKED, also called The Beast. He will pursuant to the promises of God arise from the sea of humanity and he has some work to do, and then, he will be destroyed with the brighteness of the coming of the Lord. YAY!
Meanwhile, each of you, while you have the breath of life in your hands, you can eat from this hog traugh, and try to put a nice happy spin on ADULTERY and REBELLION AGAINST GOD, but if you are NOT GOING TO OBEY, shut your mouth about the God Smacks that you have coming to you! For all these things, the WRATH OF GOD ABIDES UPON THE CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE! This is NOT rocket science, it is blessedly simply! OBEY YOUR GOD! It is time for cry-baby, rebel Nathan to man up and take responsibility for HIS ACTIONS! Amazing that he abandoned his family sniffing after a bimbo in Canada and you all are PERFECTLY good with that! Well that first wife so-called WAS NOT HIS WIFE, she had a husband and the Lord your God says that if you marry someone that is divorced, you are living in adultery, so stop lying about your conduct! If he wants peace, he can put away his filthy manner of life and OBEY HIS GOD! Otherwise, he can go to hell with Dawkins and the rest of the rebels that are in great supply in this generation.
You each better understand that when you stand before your God in the Day of Judgment that is in sight now, you will STAND ALONE!
So, yeah, you've got to feel for the guy.
And just to lighten the mood, take a gander at this handy Born-Again/English phrasebook put together by a former Born-Again Christian. A lot of it matches up against my experiences though, I will concede, not everything:
“All you need to do to go to heaven is ask Jesus into your heart.”
Translation: “You’re going to burn in hell if you don’t say this prayer, little boy.”
Acceptable Response: “Dear Jesus, thank you for coming into my heart and saving me…”
Unacceptable Response: “Dear Jesus, where in the Bible do you tell us to ask you into our hearts? That seems kind weird. And why did the ancient world think the heart was the kidney? Hello? Can you hear me? I guess this is just a one-way intercom. How can I know if you’re still around if you don’t say anything back? Okay, if you’re really there, appear to me right now in person like you did to Paul.” Or, “What exactly does Jesus do in my blood-pumping organ?”
“What’s God doing in your life?”
Translation: “I’m getting ready to judge you.”
Acceptable Response: “I’m conquering pride and lust!” Or, “Oh, Jesus, Jesus, I love Jesus my beautiful King and Savior!”
Unacceptable Response: “God’s been teaching me about how much evidence there is for evolution.”
“It takes more faith to be an atheist than a Christian.”
Translation: “I don’t really understand atheism or how it’s possible not to believe in a god.”
Acceptable Response: “That’s right, brother. Denying God is like denying gravity.”
Unacceptable Response: “Believing in something without evidence takes faith. Not believing in something without evidence takes intelligence.”
Good stuff. Check it out.
* For those who haven't heard about this already, check out the claims on Conservapedia for a particularly elaborate hatchet job. It would be more effective, though, if the claims that Obama is a muslim didn't follow the claims that he is, in fact, a super-villain.
** Granted, I define "happy" in a manner most born-again Christians would probably take issue with.