Monday, December 29, 2008

People will soon thank Bush

Denial isn't just a river in Egypt

Quite frankly, I'm sick and tired of the incessant whining from the Bush administration that their poor little feelings are hurt from all the totally unwarranted negativity surrounding their policies and vowing that history will someday vindicate them.

Rather than acknowledging their screwups and heaven forbid changing course away from disastrous policies, they play childish propaganda games with delusions of posthumous grandeur writ large.

In addition to Rice, Mrs Bush, Rove, and Rush Limbaugh have repeatedly played trotted out this argument. Even the Wall Street Journal is in on the act, likening disapproval of the Bush administration with outright disloyalty.

It's sickening.

Last year, Lieberman even had the gall to suggest that Bush will be remembered by historians as a great President. In actuality, a majority of historians surveyed consider him the worst President ever, with most of the rest placing him towards the bottom of the pile.

And here's what they had to say:
“No individual president can compare to the second Bush,” wrote one. “Glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self, he has bankrupted the country with his disastrous war and his tax breaks for the rich, trampled on the Bill of Rights, appointed foxes in every henhouse, compounded the terrorist threat, turned a blind eye to torture and corruption and a looming ecological disaster, and squandered the rest of the world’s goodwill. In short, no other president’s faults have had so deleterious an effect on not only the country but the world at large.”
I can hardly disagree. We've had the bailout disaster (unabashed corporate welfare at every taxpayer's expense), the flood of national debt that had previously been surplus, the global warming denialism, the Halliburton and Enron scandals, the monumentally screwed-up War in Iraq (and the outright lying leading up to it), torture, domestic spying, pushing abstinence-only sex ed, the endorsement of Intelligent Design Creationism, and spearheaded the crusade against gay marriage. And that's just for starters - there has been so much much fail in the past 8 years that it's difficult to keep track of it all.

History will never forgive these failures.

In just a few days, the Bush administration will finally be over. Good riddance.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

On Conversion

Recently, the atheosphere lost an atheist blogger - The Raving Atheist has converted to Christianity.

Here are some reactions from the atheosphere: PZ, God is for Suckers, and The Raving Atheist forums. Additionally, Daylight Atheism and The Uncredible Hallq soured on his blog long ago, with both PZ and Pandagon predicting his conversion, and assuming it isn't a joke, they have now been proven right. There are some Christian blog reactions as well: The Curt Jester is rooting for him to convert specifically to Catholicism, and Think Christian has a fairly brief review (with hilariously stereotypical comments).

I'm certain that an explanation for his change of mind will shortly come to light, but it seems instructive to note his strong abortion views and his attempt to ground them in metaphysical terms (specifically, dualism) claiming that humans are more than the sum of their parts (sadly, the the concept of emergence was ignored while magical souls were invoked) and that the mind is more than a "bubbling cauldron of cranial soup". From there, it's only a hop, skip, and a jump to Jesus.

Well, actually, it's not really that easy, which is why I find the process of conversion fascinating - it's not just changing one's mind on a single idea (whether or not a god or multiple gods exist), it's quite the leap of faith in quite a number of areas - what kind of God exists, whether God has any offspring, whether any sort of afterlife exists, if miracles occur, if angels exist, which books are holy, etc, etc. It's quite surprising that such a turnabout would happen simultaneously in all areas. Alternatively, I suspect that conversions are frequently more about social psychology, purely pragmatic reasons (for example, converting for marriage) and emotional/ideological hooks than rational contemplation - religious avowal seems more like an Asch conformity experiment than an honest appraisal.

But this kind of thing does lead to no small amount of (forgive the pun) soul-searching. Conversions (and deconversions) happen ever day - someone wakes up one day an atheist and an evangelical Christian on the next (or vice versa), or converts to Scientology or Hinduism or Islam. The joke is that Americans change their religion about as often as their long-distance plan (and phone companies hassle people far less!), a whopping 44% if you include shifts from one Protestant domination to another.

As a deconvert, I consider myself fairly resistant to conversion - I've already peeked behind the curtain and figured out the whole great and powerful Wizard of Oz shtick. You can't unlearn that sort of thing. Emotional appeals don't work (only the facts matter, and they either support the conclusion or they don't) and pragmatic pressures fail (I refused to compromise what I believe, even when it may be substantially in my interest to do so). Barring the unlikely event that I look out an airplane window and see God, complete with attendant angels merrily playing their harps, I consider my atheism fairly secure.

For thousands of years, theists have insisted that a God created the cosmos, and for thousands of years, no one has ever been able to give the slightest confirmation of such claims, and certainly not for a lack of trying, but tricks of logic (the tastiest possible steak dinner would have to exist to be delicious, therefore it does exist) simply do not convince. Sure, I might be wrong about a million other things, but when it comes to the supernatural, I'm betting on black.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Angel heals girl with pneumonia

This has been circulating like mad recently: link

Not only is it a supposed to be a supernatural/miraculous healing, but it's also an angel caught on film - finally the proof believers have been waiting for.

There's just one problem - it's almost assuredly a hoax. That's my take, at least. I suppose we'll have to wait until more information comes to light.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Science Behind Santa's Mystical Journey


Essentially, it's a brain-melting journey into Santapologetics - how Santa (who really exists) uses sufficiently advanced technology to really deliver the Christmas presents on time. The stupid just oozes from this one.

Here's how some kids think he does it:
"He has a gadget on his sleigh that makes it go turbo. He can go down the chimney in one second!" he said.

Over in Hillsdale, N.J., however, five-year-old Amelia offered a simpler solution: "Maybe he has a secret shortcut."

Next, there's a literal rocket scientist's take on the whole thing:

He believes that Santa -- whom experts say moved to his underground complex at the North Pole more than 500 years ago -- has spent the last five centuries researching better ways to deliver presents at light-speed to kids everywhere.

In doing so, he and the elves have made scientific breakthroughs that the rest of humanity can only dream of, Silverberg said.

To understand kids' wishes, he simply constructed a ginormous underground antenna, to "collect incoming electromagnetic waves and filter them, finding out which thought-waves are coming from which kids." Then, Santa filters the the "though-waves" by naughty/nice somehow, and when it's deliver time, he wraps his sleigh and eight reindeer in a "relativity cloud", which apparently uses Einsteinian relativity to create a time-dilation bubble, which can then physically shrink Santa and Co. so they can fit through keyholes and dog doors instead of chimneys, since few homes have chimneys nowadays.

Apparently, all this was figured out by a whole team at NCSU running detailed calculations (wow, what an incredible waste of time).

Oh yeah, and Santa uses super-high-tech GPS/navigational devices that put Fed Ex to shame and he genetically engineered his reindeer to fly.

One quick question: why can't we just say that Timmy's parents love him and bought him presents? Seriously.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Priest ruins Christmas forever

A Catholic priest has been criticised by parents in a city in northern Italy for telling their children that Father Christmas does not really exist.
Hahaha. Oh the irony!

The priest got a lot of flak from angry parents who accused him of ruining their family's Christmas by daring to suggest that Santa may be a human invention rather than a real being, but he said that he wasn't trying to hurt anyone's feelings.

Oh the price Santa-atheists pay for challenging the prevailing dogma - the legions of Santa-worshiping fanatics who go into hysterics at the slightest criticism of their Great Red Lord. The Yuletide defense mechanism makes any criticism of Santa a social taboo. It's very fortunate for humanity that Saint Nick is the only manifestly implausible belief that people hold to be sacrosanct, otherwise, we might be in real trouble.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pope: Discriminating against gays just as important as the environment

Pope Benedict said on Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behavior was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

Wow. I'm speechless.

My faith in my ability to dodge Poe's Law has been shattered. It is now officially impossible to tell conservative Christianity from its many parodies, as well as real church leaders from your average sign-wielding, Westboro-esqe fundamentalist. Heaven help us all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Shoe Terrorist

Originally, I wasn't going to talk about this, but apparently throwing a shoe at the President has suddenly become a big deal. Go figure.

The latest news is that the Powers That Be are trying to tie this guy to terrorism. Seriously.

Apparently, this dastardly "assault" on the President was orchestrated by none-other than an anonymous freedom-hating and allegedly throat-slitting terrorist. Right. Because otherwise, no one would ever consider vocally displaying their anger and contempt of Bush's administration and its misadventures in Iraq. Seriously, the guy is universally adored in a country he invaded.

Pop quiz time - can you spot the terrorist?

And where did this whole terrorism thing come up from? Turns out it might have been coerced under torture:

He said he visited his brother in jail on Sunday and found him with a missing tooth and cigarette burns on his ears. Muntadhar al-Zeidi told his brother that jailers also doused the journalist with cold water while he was naked, Uday al-Zeidi said.

Thanks guys, that makes this whole incident so much better! So let me get this straight: you "liberate" a country to "spread freedom" and then when an Iraqi journalist exercises that freedom in an admittedly aggressive way (but on my side of the world, throwing a shoe at somebody is an extremely minor misdemeanor at worst) you torture the him and fabricate some terrorist connection. Basically, responding to an act of protest with torture and distortion, angering not only the Iraqi people (whose representatives vote on whether or not American forces stay or go) but also all Americans who value justice. What a disaster.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

God VS Science

From Science Daily:
A person's unconscious attitudes toward science and God may be fundamentally opposed, researchers report, depending on how religion and science are used to answer "ultimate" questions such as how the universe began or the origin of life.
Especially considering that scientific theories regarding the origins of the universe or the origins of life are very controversial topics amongst religious people right now, with denialism still very much in ascendence. This is a recurring thing (evolution/cosmology is the new outrage, heliocentrism is an old and settled one) - religions tend to build their monasteries in human ignorance and when human knowledge expands - due to science - a conflict between science and religion is inevitable. Whenever any religion makes a falsifiable claim (a testable claim about the natural world), you'd better believe that the claim is going to be scrutinized and that the truth of the matter will eventually come to light - and the discoverable truth seems to contradict the premature dogma at every turn. Miracles, resurrections, depictions of the structure of the universe, and especially origin myths are all fair game. Only by restricting itself to the airy, insubstantial plane of utterly unfalsifiable claims will religions fail to conflict with science, and religions fail at attracting and keeping followers when supernatural beings no longer have real, tangible effects on the world.

"It seemed to me that both science and religion as systems were very good at explaining a lot, accounting for a lot of the information that we have in our environment," she said. "But if they are both ultimate explanations, at some point they have to conflict with each another because they can't possibly both explain everything."

Indeed, both science and religion are explanatory systems. But religion relies on faith while science relies on evidence. Science grows with new discoveries, while religions are threatened by them and find it difficult to change their old dogmas, which are (sometimes literally) set in stone. It's not hard to figure out which one will inevitably falter as humanity grows and learns.

But all this is hardly a recent revelation, the experiment is the new thing. It's interesting, but a little odd: subjects read an excerpt about the Big Bang theory or the Primordial Soup hypothesis, which ends with either positively or dismissively. Then the subjects had to categorize various words as either positive or negative, but before each word appeared on the screen, a 15 millisecond subliminal message appeared, saying "God" or "science", which seemed to nudge the subjects in that direction. Long story short, subjects primed for a positive evaluation of God tended to score science negatively and vice versa.

Why is this the case? Because these are two are very different systems of figuring out the universe, because they have historically been at odds, and because however artfully believers can mesh the findings of science with their dogmas, the methodologies of science and religion conflict at a fundamental level - the rugged skepticism of science has never been able to sit well with the magical thinking of religion.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Many Americans say other religions can lead to eternal life

Pew Polling Results

While this isn't exactly earth-shattering news per se (the U.S. has a history of ecumenism and inclusivism, almost to the extent that one can be considered a "person of faith" in good standing and pray to a beached sperm whale), exactly which other religions Americans give high marks to is interesting.

Here's the crunch:

80% of Christians identified at least one non-Christian religion as granting eternal life (that number is surprisingly high even among evangelical Christians at 72%)

The non-christian religion most favored is Judaism (69%), followed by Hinduism (53%), which just barely edged out Islam (52%). Dead last (pun, get it? bah) are atheists (42%), which somehow managed to be less of a route to eternal life than not being religious at all (56%). I guess they didn't realize that a lot of atheists would fit very comfortably in the non-religious category as well. Or maybe it's just good ol' fashioned fear of atheists.

But how exactly does one obtain eternal life? Beliefs. No, actions! *gets dragged into theological debate with both views seemingly supported in the Bible* Each view enjoys about 30% popularity.

And unsurprisingly, views on exclusivity are linked to church attendance. As church attendance goes up, exclusivity goes up and as attendance goes down, exclusivity goes down. If they go to church at least once a week, 42% say that their religion is the only path to eternal life. If they go less than once a week, that number changes to 18%. (Evangelicals are 60% to 30% respectively, while Catholic numbers don't change much at all, from 85% to 84%)

What does this poll tell us? Judaism rocks. Granted, the other "religions" on offer are kind of weaksauce: Islam, Hinduism, atheism, and no religion at all. No deism, pantheism, Buddhism, Taoism, Baha'i, or any pagan religion. I'm really surprised Buddhism in particular didn't get on the ballot, considering that the Dalai Lama is one of the few non-Christian religious leaders that Americans are likely to be familiar with. Maybe next time, they'll increase the ever-widening net of interreligious inclusiveness and endorse my beached whale religion as a path to everlasting life just as valid as whatever crazy religion they believe in. For the sake of tolerance, let's all pray for it, towards whatever human (or whale) died for our sins. Ramen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Funny Inventions from the 1930s

It's amusing how many human-powered flight attempts didn't take off.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Investigating Near-Death Experiences

Interesting article on the latest attempt to figure out scientifically exactly what's going in the brain while people are having near-death experiences.
“I see no reason why a priest should tell us about death when we have all this technology available,” says Dr West Dr Parnia. “Death is a biological process and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t study it through medicine.”

Getting a scientific handle on this phenomenon is fiendishly difficult. Dead people don’t report back, and it is very hard to assess the status of survivor accounts — are they merely hallucinations occurring before the crisis or just after? Perhaps they are no more than the brain’s way of soothing your path to extinction.

Perhaps. Or "visions" are reconstructed from a barrage of random firings of an oxygen-starved brain into a semblance of a narrative.

The Skeptic's Dictionary and Secular Web have some useful notes on the variety of NDEs (suffice it to say that the typical white-light, life review, seeing dead people stories don't appear to be the norm)

It definitely seems like there is a cultural expectancy factor - there are famous stories of people seeing bright lights, so people tend to see bright lights. Christians see Jesus, Hindus see the Hindu god of death, etc. It's like UFO reports - the flying saucer-type was first popularized in 1947 and was the common reported shape until more recent times, and as the flying saucer craze has declined in popularity, other depictions (black triangles, cylinders, etc) have become more common.

And, as in all things, it is the human mind that is at the heart of the matter. If we can float out of our bodies, then the mind is separable from, and, perhaps not dependent on, the brain.

Well, we do know that our brains are adapt at filling in the blanks (think blind spots) and tricking us into thinking we can see things that we can't actually see.

Twelve years after Tom Wolfe famously announced in Forbes magazine that, as a result of developments in neuroscience, “Your soul just died,” it may be time to say: “No, it didn’t.”

Yeah, let me know when there's conclusive evidence for that.

But is such a thing as a separable mind poss-ible or even conceivable? The answer is yes. In explaining why, it will be necessary to plunge into philosophy and quantum mechanics.

And why does "possible" have a dash through it?
Dualism is the default human conviction, embraced by religions, philosophies and, in fact, by everybody in their lives — if we didn’t embrace some degree of it, we’d be constantly worried about crashing our cars into other people’s thoughts.
We’re all imprisoned in the chains of cause and effect that started with the big bang.
Materialism means fatalism, apparently. I don't buy it.

Just because things have material causes does not mean that we're stuck on some pre-ordinaned timeline - people can take different actions and a different timeline can be traversed. And in some cases, even if human actions do not change, one event could easily occur instead of another (a lightning bolt could strike one tree instead of another). Granted, those sorts of small-scale changes are unlikely to have large-scale results (a butterfly in Hawaii isn't going to stop hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico), but it's something at least.
He is a distinguished physicist at the University of California at Berkeley. He is convinced that quantum mechanics applies to large as well as small things.
Okay, I'm not a scientist, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't happen. On a macro scale (i.e. our everyday world), stuff is pretty well explained by your normal, garden-variety physics. Quantum Mechanics doesn't enter into it.
The world as a whole is just as weird as the inner workings of the atom. The truth of the world and ourselves is that the whole thing is a chaotic swirl of energy and particles. But we don’t see it, because we make our own reality, our own truth, by only asking certain questions. The brick is a product of our mind; to all-seeing, non-human eyes, it is just a swirl of almost nothing.
New Age drivel. Where are the news editors when you need them?

Reporter: "I'm getting some quotes from a scientist, do you mind if I just spout deep-sounding New-Agey nonsense as if it were science between his quotes?"

Editor: "Sure, that sounds like quality journalism to me."
This idea would, if widely accepted, end the reign of scientific materialism, replacing it with a new dualism. It would mean the universe is not a “causally closed” system, locked down since the big bang, as mainstream science has always insisted it is, but open to freedom of choice by the autonomous, floating, matter-altering mind. We would have regained our souls.
*groans again*
Second, you’d have to accept that a lot of the things that now seem like products of charlatans and grifters — telepathy, spiritualism, even psychokinesis — will suddenly seem much more credible. Thirdly, you need not anticipate instant oblivion on death but a series of very weird and very illuminating experiences.
Let me know how that turns out.
But a bucket of iced water is necessary at this point. Few scientists think any of this is going to happen.
Finally, some much-needed skepticism. And yes, I rather doubt there's a lot of scientific backing for telepathy, psychokinesis, or an afterlife. It would have been nice if you stated that before making it sound like science was just inches away from proving it.
NDEs have fired the imaginations of the religious. But they also fire the imaginations of the investigators. Everybody with an interest in this area has been inspired by a personal experience of a confrontation with death and by the startling vividness and transformative powers of the NDE. Whatever it is, it means something.
Indeed they have fired people's imaginations, perhaps in the literal sense. At any rate, I'm confident that it will be figured out eventually, and I rather doubt it'll be the evidence for the truth of religion that the religious expect it to be, especially sense they claim different and often contradictory things.
Hard materialism is just one more philosophical position, and the authentic sceptical reaction is not a derisive snort but a humble acceptance that there are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in any of our philosophies.
Jeez, talk about derisive. What's up with the blatantly evil connotation of materialism anyway? It's like these people first learned about materialism while Night on Bald Mountain played in the background.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are you a Hardcore Atheist?

Friendly Atheist has an amusing quiz:
  1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge. No, but I was rather enthusiastic about the idea and applauded fellow atheists taking a stand. The anonymous leaks/protests, too.
  2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person. Nope
  3. Created an atheist blog. Ding ding ding. We have a winner!
  4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone. Oh yes. The entertainment value alone makes the FSM one of my favorite deities, second only to the Old Ones.
  5. Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic. Yes!
  6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron. No, but I wouldn't watch it anyway.
  7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know. No, I still use the one from confirmation.
  8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc. No, I take great care not to damage any books in my possession. I NEVER write in my books.
  9. Have come out as an atheist to your family. Sadly, no.
  10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering. Yes. Meetup ftw.
  11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization. No.
  12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony. No.
  13. Donated money to an atheist organization. No.
  14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins. Yes, sort of. I have a decent-sized pile of atheist books, I just lack the furniture to house it.
  15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism. Never! I may be a frothing atheist by night, but my relationships with people are much bigger than mere theism/atheism.
  16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize. No. I'm quite shy irl and simply politely refuse such offers. My pleasant demeanor is deceiving; I secretly consider such intrusions very pushy and insulting and would very much like to counter-evangelize in favor of the Old Ones. Alas, I'm chickenhearted. My sole moment of triumph was when a lone, elderly JW came to my work and mindlessly thrust a bunch of Watchtower tracks in my face (which apparently, I was supposed to pass out for him) and walked off. The ball of violently balled-up tracts made for an excellent 3-pointer in the trashcan.
  17. Hid your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away. No. I don't hide my atheism to people who inquire.
  18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc). No.
  19. Attended a protest that involved religion. No.
  20. Attended an atheist conference. No.
  21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel. Bookmarked.
  22. Started an atheist group in your area or school. No.
  23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism. Not that I know of.
  24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die. Nope, burial at sea. Seriously.
  25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction. No, and that's a little messed up.
  26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place. No.
  27. Lost a job because of your atheism. No.
  28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count). Yes.
  29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills. No.
  30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. No, but now I garble the "Under God" part.
  31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!” Yes. I either say gesundheit or nothing at all.
  32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying. No.
  33. Have turned on Christian TV because you need something entertaining to watch. Oh God no! Shoot me if I ever get that bored.
  34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist. No. First generation, afaik.
  35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant. No. So far, I have resisted the urge for Facebook and similar sites.
  36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service). No.
  37. Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic) No.
  38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism. No.
  39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God. No.
  40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift. No.
  41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public. No, I don't broadcast my atheism.
  42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them. No.
  43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God. No. Jeez, that's screwed up.
  44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants). Oh hell yes.
  45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it. No.
  46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.” No, I heard all I need to from other atheist blogs coverage of it. Plagiarism, Godwin's Law.
  47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all. Yes, anytime someone brings up astrology with me, I emphatically inform them that it's hogwash.
  48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to… No, but that's not a bad idea. I check out the fundie sites every once and awhile for the comedy value.
  49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray. Frequently. Even as a theist. I never understood the whole closing-your-eyes thing. What's that supposed to accomplish? Or better yet, what's the point of prayer in general? Is there some sort of system - the high magnitude the wish prayer, the more people are needed and the more frequent the prayers have to be?
  50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you. Yes, I'm highly irreligious and so I avoid churches altogether (except to vote, and then I caustically remark at their rare utility)
Results: 12 out of 50. Atheist white-belt, but it is my hope to accomplish #2, #9, #11, #16, and #20.

I'm far behind the pack: Evolved and Rat/i/onal (38/50), The Atheist Blogger (33/50), Homosecular Gaytheist (30/50), Stupid Evil Bastard (26/50) and Magnificent Frog (22/50)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Creationism on the View

Wow, we're really scraping the bottom of the barrel now.

The Intelligent Designer Jeans. The Blind Pursemaker. Uggh.

fyi - they stole my cockroach retort.

The stupidity antidote: Stupid Design with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New Poll: Americans believe in God, UFOs

New poll results under the unintentionally hilarious headline: Belief in God, UFOs prevail
  • 80% believe in God (98% among regular churchgoers; not too many atheists in the pews)
  • 75% believe in miracles
  • 73% believe in heaven
  • 71% believe that Jesus is the Son of God
  • 71% believe in angels
  • 70% say Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that the Bible is, all or in part, the "Word of God."
  • 68% believe in the "survival of the soul after death"
  • 62% think that hell actually exists
  • 61% believe in the Virgin Birth
  • 59% believe that the devil exists.
Essentially, 60-75% of my fellow Americans are completely out of their gourd. I can see the God stuff - belief in God is relentlessly indoctrinated and also has the advantage of an (incorrect) association with goodness. But Hell and Satan? That's just plain crazy. People who truly believe that there's some horned demon prancing about, tricking poor souls into believing the great lie of evolution (a joint atheist-jewish-communist-nazi conspiracy, so I'm told) - that's insane.

Now we get to the bumpy part of the ride, the (unbelievably popular) fringe beliefs:
  • A third are evolution denialists (compared to 47% who aren't creationists and 22% who apparently haven't figured it out yet)
  • 40% believe in creationism, though the question did not elaborate on exactly what that term meant.
  • 44% believe in ghosts
  • 36% believe UFOs are real (trick question: UFOs are known to exist; alien spaceships aren't)
  • 31% believe in both witches and astrology.
  • About a quarter believe in reincarnation, or "that you were once another person,"
Wow. Witches and astrology? That's quite the combination. Great, so out of the aforementioned 65-70% crazy religious people, I have to deal with the ~30-40% crazy supernatural/superstitious people. I'm sure there's a substantial amount of overlap, but still, that doesn't leave many level-headed people left.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bush shocks evangelicals

Story here
George W. Bush's recent statement that he believes the Bible is "probably not" literally true has apparently left many Christian conservatives reeling in shock.

One blogger at the conservative Washington Times, commented the next morning, "I already have an e-mail from a former Bush administration official who writes, 'This just completely alienated his evangelical supporters.'"
Finally, the last Bush supporters this side of Crazyville have at long last had it with the guy.

And why do they dislike him? Not because of the torture, or the domestic spying, or waging a war under false pretenses, or screwing environmental legislation (especially endangered species legislation), truly epic accumulation of debt, or the bailout (whatever happened to the omnipotent Free Market?). They don't like him because he said that theistic evolution was possible and that the Bible probably isn't literal in each and every instance. Oh heaven forbid! Our President, Emperor Nero the Mad, had a fleeting moment of sanity for once in his life (twice if you count calling off a military strike against Iran).

Look at this graph (blue is approval rating, red is disapproval rating)


Everybody with a pulse and the ability to recognize disaster already jumped ship by 2004. Even the Republicans figured out that the guy is a terrible president, and they haven't even figured out whether or not evolution happens yet. But for the past 8 years, the Evangelicals have treated him like he's the second coming, and only now, in the final days of his presidency, has he finally alienated these people. Hell, they probably would have done an apotheosis on his grave if he didn't let slip that he's not a total fundamentalist-literalist.

And here's the ever predictable never-was-a-Christian reaction:
"Evangelical Christians were conned into thinking that Bush was 'one of them,'" the Moral Collapse blogger concluded. "the reality is that he isn't one of them and he never was."
ORLY. He tirelessly promoted the evangelical agenda - sneaking Intelligent Design into science classes, championed the remarkably bigoted idea that gays can't marry, diverted money from fighting AIDS to fund churches, and the guy even said that God told him to attack Iraq. I can't think of a single U.S. President who has tried harder to look as Jesusy as possible or wears his religion on his sleeve quite like this guy. He even said Jesus was his favorite philosopher, for Christ's sake. That's like saying that Ken Ham is my favorite scientist or that Bill O'Reilly is my favorite novelist. Bottom line: if Bush isn't an evangelical Christian, then no one is.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pope: Atheism weakens committment to human rights

Yeah, I know, I've been picking on Catholicism lately. What can I say, it's probably the easiest punching bag in the world: practically daily wrongdoing, a talent for truly objectionable press statements, a long history of blatant hypocrisy when it comes to doing the right thing (wrapped in a smooth, silky veneer of piety and milk chocolate), with regular and irresistibly shoddy arguments against atheism. Don't worry, I'm aware that other religions have their share of crazy as well, like the Muslim lawyer's bizarre take on Christmas festivities. Don't worry, I'll get to other stuff soon enough.

Anyway, on to the Pope's address:
Without doubt, we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go: the right to life, freedom and security of hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters are still under threat; the dignity and equality of each individual is not always respected
Yeah, no kidding.
Natural law, written by God within human conscience, - continued the Pope – is a common denominator between all men and all peoples; it is a universal guide that everyone can recognise and thanks to which people can understand each other. And so, human rights are ultimately founded in God the creator, who gave each one of us intelligence and freedom. If we ignore this solid base, human rights will remain weak because [they are deprived of] a solid foundation.
Uggh. That's epic logic right there. Where to begin? First off, despite the ceremonial deism in the Declaration of Independence, human rights are understood as an innate thing - all people should have certain rights because all people desire life, liberty, and happiness. It's a travesty of the highest order to suggest that innate, self-evident human rights bear no meaning without belief in God. Rather than based in God, human rights are quite clearly based in mankind.

It's no small irony that the Catholic Church has previously condemned the idea of human rights - Pope Gregory XVI put it quite clearly when he said that it is an "absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone" and "Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty. " History 1, Pope 0.

To add to Pope Benedict's speech, a Cardinal lays out his views on freedom of religion. Apparently, it's not enough simply to have have the basic right to free exercise of religion, he wants the deluxe package:

During the commemorative congress, Cardinal Bertone in his observations on human rights, highlighted the value of religious freedom as a “fundamental right”; “the object of this right, is not the intrinsic content of one determined religious faith, but immunity from all coercion, a security zone capable of guaranteeing the inviolable space in which every believer and the community in which he expresses his beliefs are free to act, without outside pressures from persons, social groups or authorities, whomever they may be. It is an evident fact that religion has a direct influence on the internal life of States and the International Community. Despite this, there are increasing indications of trends that seem to want to exclude religion and the rights connected to it from the possibility of concurring in the building of social order, even in full respect of that pluralism which distinguishes contemporary society”.

That is one reeaaallly strange statement. A religious "security zone" where believers can do... whatever they want I guess, without any sort of "pressures" (criticism?) from outsiders. I could be mistaken about this, but from the tone and the secularism bogeyman at the end, it really does seem like he's advocating a criticism-free version of religious tolerance, similar to the one Muslims demanded from the UN.

Read some of his earlier stuff, it's a real eye-opener - endorsing religious entanglement in politics with the succinct phrase, "politics needs Christianity".

Everything needs Christianity nowadays. Human rights needs Christianity. Ethics needs Christianity. Science needs Christianity. Politics needs Christianity. The public square needs Christianity.

Know what I think? Christianity desperately needs a niche.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gays welcome, just not at the chapel

Well, today was Day Without A Gay (so I had to come to work sick lest rumors abound, thanks a lot guys :P).

In the wake of Prop 8, the religious backers of this blatant attack on equal rights, the Mormon and Catholic churches, are certainly feeling the backlash.

That's why a handful of Catholic clergy recently put out letters assuring gays and lesbians that they are "cherished members of the church". The priest added, "who can't get married because our religious belief is that gays are perverted, child-molesting abominations who will surely be tossed into the everlasting fires of Hell by God. Oh yeah, and we think other countries executing gays is just fine. Be sure to toss a 20 in the collection bin on your way out, thanks."

And I thought politicians were two-faced! Yikes.

But it gets better, one priest's open letter tried to defend his pro-prop 8 stance:
"Religious leaders in America have the constitutional right to speak out on issues of public policy," Niederauer wrote in a statement posted on the archdiocese's Web site. "Catholic bishops, specifically, also have a responsibility to teach the faith, and our beliefs about marriage and family are part of this faith."
By all means, talk about whatever you want (heaven forbid infringing on someone's rights), but what you're actually doing isn't teaching the faith, it's imposing the faith. There's such a huge difference between the two concepts that you can have fleets of aircraft carriers do doughnuts in the gulf between them.
Mahony and Niederauer said their support for Proposition 8 was intended to preserve the traditional definition of marriage, not harm gays or lesbians.
Exactly. No harm was intended. They just don't want your kind to have the right to marry. That's all. Jeez, you guys make it sound like it's bigotry or something (which you seriously need to stop doing, let's have a little respect around here).

Have no fear, gays and lesbians, your church is here for you. They were here for you you on 11/5 and they're here for you now. And, God willing, they want to be there for you on ballots across the country for years to come.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bush: Bible not literally true

In a stunning change of pace, George W. Bush said something reasonably intelligent. Two things, actually:
  • The Bible is "probably not" literally true.
  • Evolution is compatible with belief in God.
Granted, he's still sticking to his pro creationism cdesign proponentist intelligent design stance, but I suppose even this meager admission is a tremendous leap forward for a presidency drenched in dino-riding Christian fundamentalism.
You're getting me way out of my lane here. I'm just a simple president.
Right. Good call, not wanting to speak about things you feel you may not have enough knowledge or expertise to be comfortable addressing. Best to leave this sort of stuff to the experts.

One question: where was this humility when you said that schools should teach ID?
I think that God created the Earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty
Yay, God of the Gaps.

I'm curious, what specific part of the history of the Earth is so mysterious that it needs a deity? Was it when the Earth first formed? The very first replicator? The first eukaryotic cell? The first chordate? The first primate? Answer the question and you will find scientific data detailing its formation due to purely naturalistic processes. Suddenly, it's a little less mysterious and the God of the Gaps evaporates.

I wonder how the religious right, particularly the creationists/IDiots, are going to take this. Even Bush, a president not widely known for his intellectual prowess, dismisses biblical literalism. That has got to hurt.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pope prays for the poor and jobless

Pope starts Rome holiday season, prays for jobless
Pope Benedict XVI is praying for those who lost jobs or are struggling to pay bills as Rome's holiday season began with a traditional appearance by the pontiff near the Spanish Steps.
This holiday season, the guy swimming in money wants to let you know he really sympathizes with the plight of the poor. So when you cut him a check this year for 10% of your earnings, know that he feels your pain.

And by the way, he condemns love of money and power (one cannot serve both God and Mammon), so on behalf of over 1 billion souls, he's praying to God for your financial security.


I just don't understand how people can compartmentalize like this. It's ridiculous.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Deepak Chopra stands up to Sean Hannity

For once, I have to give the guy props. Even though he peddles New Age nonsense, he knows a blowhard when he sees one.

Read it, read it now

The crowning moment of win:
You have a powerful platform that influences many people. Why do you use your influence to monger fear, militancy, divisiveness, and jingoism?

Why I Love Editorials

Yeah, I know I said that I loathe editorials earlier. Did I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. (I am large, I contain multitudes.) Walt Whitman ftw.

That said, there's been a bunch of good ones recently:

Atheists should teach Bible Class

In Texas, it looks like they're getting ready to offer Bible classes in high schools. And well, there's been some suspicion that the underlying motivation behind move is more along the lines of proselytizing than education. Thus, one clever writer offered this wrecking amendment: have atheists teach it. Hilarity ensues.

The Religious Right should start their own Party

Sick of religious conservatives interfering in political affairs (like a priest calling voting for Obama sinful), this Modesto citizen offers them helpful advice: start the Theocratic Religiosity Party. Hey, it works in the Middle East.

And finally, I'm going to applaud a group of Christians for trying to meet us halfway on doubt.

A St. Louis Church is responding to the New Atheist movement by offering courses on doubt:

Rather than return fire at atheists or get defensive and caustic, The Journey’s senior pastor, the Rev. Darrin Patrick, decided to explore the nature of doubt with his congregation.

He’s asking the church’s 2,300 members to be honest about their own skepticism and doubts about Christianity and is encouraging them to meet atheists halfway.

Certainly, it's a welcome change of pace.

On a recent Sunday, Patrick encouraged his congregation to go see Religulous and assured them he would, too. Church officials play a short video of atheists and skeptics they’ve interviewed making thoughtful points about unbelief, or questioning the nature of a certain Christian theology or doctrine.

Patrick then tackles that topic in a 45-minute sermon that dives deeper into the questions brought up by skeptics. Some of Patrick’s sermons are titled "There can’t possibly be only one 'true’ religion, can there?"; "Doesn’t belief in religion only breed prejudice, violence, and injustice?"; and "Why would I pattern my life after a book of old stories that have been proven by science to be mere myth?"

Now, we all know where this is going - the church website says the program is designed to get religious doubters to "doubt your doubts", but it beats other churches takes on doubt - demonizing it as sinful and treating atheism is if it were a "belief in nothing". Hopefully, this more realistic approach might at the very least educate Christians about skepticism and atheism and provide them with a better understanding of where atheists are coming from.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Blood Type Craze in Japan

Blood type obsession in Japan

Apparently, increasing numbers of Japanese citizens are subscribing to the theory that "blood types determine every aspect of personality, temperament and interaction with others".

Sounds suspiciously similar to astrology.

Despite a undeniable lack of scientific evidence proving a link between blood type and temperament, this has not stopped the Japanese population enthusiastically embracing the concept.

The above is an excellent working definition of pseudoscience - scientific-sounding claims sans any actual science, yet it amazingly finds popular appeal among people who ought to know better.

The descriptions of the bloodtype-derived personalities are simply absurd:

TYPE A – Patient, uptight, sensitive, responsible, cautious.

Famous examples: Adolf Hitler, Britney Spears, Ringo Starr

TYPE B – Individual, unconventional, optimistic, unpredictable, creative, strong

Famous examples: Paul McCartney, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo Di Caprio

TYPE O – Trendsetting, passionate, vain, self-confident, loyal.

Famous examples: The Queen, John Lennon, Liam Gallagher

TYPE AB – Sociable, popular, calm, rational, critical, indecisive

Famous examples: Marilyn Monroe, John F Kennedy, Mick Jagger

Two words: Forer effect

There's nothing magical about the blood type system. It's just antigens on the surface of your red blood cells, that's it. It doesn't dictate personality, it dictates immune response when receiving a blood transfusion.

The history of this incredibly gullible way of thinking makes for interesting reading:

The fad faded in the 1930s as its unscientific basis became evident. It was revived in the 1970s with a book by Masahiko Nomi, a lawyer and broadcaster with no medical background. Nomi's work was largely uncontrolled and anecdotal, and the methodology of his conclusions is unclear. Because of this he has been heavily assailed by the Japanese psychological community, although his books are phenomenally popular.

A dying pseudoscience that was revived by a non-expert's popular books and enjoys ridiculous popularity despite the fact that it's completely wrong? Okay, now it reminds me of creationism.

And don't get me started on the blood type diet...

Freedom of religion scares Islamic cleric

Fundamentalists say the darnedest things. Here's a great quote from Saudi Cleric Al-Munajid:

The problem is that they want to open a debate on whether Islam is true or not, and on whether Judaism and Christianity are false or not. In other words, they want to open up everything for debate. Now they want to open up all issues for debate. That's it. It begins with freedom of thought, it continues with freedom of speech, and it ends up with freedom of belief. So where's the conspiracy? They say: Let's have freedom of thought in Islam. Well, what do they want? They say: I think, therefore I want to express my thoughts. I want to express myself, I want to talk and say, for example, that there are loopholes in Islam, or that Christianity is the truth. Then they will talk about freedom of belief, and say that anyone is entitled to believe in whatever he wants... If you want to become an apostate – go ahead. Fancy Buddhism? Leave Islam, and join Buddhism. No problem. That's what freedom of belief is all about. They want freedom of everything. What they want is very dangerous.

Actually, that's a great idea. Open everything up to debate, allow free speech and freedom of belief. Also, allow people to join (or leave) any religious affiliation.

It's funny that guys like him are so scared of granting people these basic freedoms. What are they scared of?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dinesh D'Souza, certified Liar for Jesus

And the arguments are still incredibly silly.

Quick summary:

#1 - Sunnis suiciding bombing Shia mosques and Shi'ites retaliating with death squads has absolutely nothing to do with religion. Seriously. Same thing with the historical violence between Catholics and Protestants - and these kind of conflicts are literally called "Wars of Religion". And religion has nothing to do with it? Fail. Big time.

#2 - The ancient Greeks and the Romans didn't believe in compassion or "sacredness of human life", whatever that's supposed to mean.

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.”
- Seneca the Elder, a Roman orator

#3 - Science is faith-based. Oh dear, he's really digging that hole. But wait, it gets better: "D'Souza went on to say that these assumptions are the direct legacy of Christian theology. They are: 1. The universe is rational. 2. The universe is lawful. 3. The rationality of the world is mirrored by the rationality of our minds."

Wow, what a trainwreck. And no, concepts like the universality of physical laws owe nothing to laughable tales of the dead rising up from the ground, demon-possessed pigs, and iron axe-heads that float on water. Besides, if imparting scientific knowledge was the goal of the Bible, you'd think there'd be a heck of a lot better advice in there than using magic to cure snakebites.

But still, D'Souza seems to think that while the universality of physical laws makes sense to Christians (it's apparently analogous to the concept of divine law), us poor atheists believe this stuff purely on faith. Those foolish scientists apparently didn't run experiments, replicate those experiments to double-check people's work, and observe natural conditions elsewhere to make sure that alleged physical constants are indeed constant. Nope, no one ever thought of that.

#4 - This one is really my favorite part, he takes a page out of the neo-Nazi playbook and tries to downplay alleged atrocities by the faithful. Instead of good ol' fashioned Holocaust denial, we get Inquisition denial and witch-burning denial. He claims that the inquisition only resulted in 2,000 deaths. He must've been reading the completely unbiased Vatican version. Well, at least the witch-burning claim isn't as unsubstantiated - 19 people were indeed executed in Salem. (one additional man, Giles Corey, was killed in an act of judicial torture and a few more died in prison, but details shmetails!) What Dinesh apparently forgot was that Salem wasn't the only city with a witchcraze - the witchcraze body count in Europe ranges into the ten of thousands. In fact, people are still killed for alleged witchcraft to this very day.

#5 - In his last foot-in-mouth moment, Dinesh suggests that the real reason atheists don't believe in God is that they want a morality-free existence:
The atheist, however, has found a beautiful solution to the problem of moral judgment: Just abolish the Judge. If there is no God, there are no Ten Commandments, everything is permitted. To atheists, that is a gospel of liberation.
And here it is, your moment of zen:
The new atheism is different in that it attacks belief in the private sphere. Its goal is to eradicate, demolish and discredit Christianity. Many atheists want to make each and every Christian feel like a complete idiot.
This one cracks me up every time. You need no help, my friend, you're doing just fine on your own.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nexus: The Jupiter Incident

My roommate is really into this game. I'd apparently never even heard about until just now, but when he showed me this video, my jaw hit the floor.

My God, it's full of stars.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Scared of Atheism

Something about atheism seems provoke fear and anger in people.

Just putting up a few signs with extremely mild messages like "Don't believe in God, you're not alone" have been met with waves of anger and resentment from a small but vocal minority of Christians, who are now working themselves into a frenzy against the imaginary assault against the Winter Holiday. Simply writing a book critical of religion will earn you the wholly inaccurate "militant atheist" label, the not-very-subtle equation of vocal, peaceful atheism with the evils of religious violence and terrorism. And sometimes, you don't even have to actually do or say anything to anger the wrath of the faithful - Senator Pete Stark was demonized by Christians simply for the crime of unbelief.

What is it about atheism that gets people so riled up? And by riled up, I mean throwing insane fits of rage.

Surely, it's not the atheists themselves: even at the devil's convocation - atheist meetups - there's scarcely anything more threatening than griping about creationism and calling religious beliefs superstitious (which, I hasten to add, is exactly what Christians believe about every other religion on the planet).

Perhaps a great deal of it lies in Christians' own fears and prejudices - doubt is a sin after all, and denying the existence of God is the only unpardonable sin. (Matthew 12:31-32) And since Christianity gives hope and meaning and joy, then atheism - the rejection of God - must be its opposite: meaninglessness and despair.

Believing that atheists are Satan's little helpers goes a long way to explaining it, but that's not the whole story. Non-Christians are not viewed with nearly as much apprehension, and they also disbelieve Christian dogma. Ah, but they believe in supernaturalism - in gods and spirits - and chances are, they also believe in faith. Surely, some Christians take comfort in the fact that the world prays (and believes in prayer), even though the religious beliefs are not the same.

I think that's the main source of the animosity towards atheists - not only do they not believe, they don't believe in belief. And if that's the case, then no amount of diplomacy will ever work with these people - simply being an atheist is threatening to them, and they'll fight any attempt to get the word out, now matter how mild the billboard's message. They simply cannot be reasoned with. And in some ways, I feel sorry for the people engaged in pious hysterics, people like Rep Davis and Knute Berger: they're prisoners of their own hate.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fresh War on Christmas Fail

One of the most sanctimonious and hysterical editorials I've seen on the Faux War on Christmas so far. You can almost visualize the angry froth against atheists for spoiling this magical sacred tradition (that has only truly existed since its reinvention in the 19th century)

Up first is the standard theocon rant, bemoaning the PC secularization of Christmas and horrendous persecution of Christians in having to share a nativity scene on the state capital building with other religious (and even atheistic) messages :
Since you can't selectively use public property to endorse a long-standing religious tradition anymore, the pendulum has swung wide and now anyone with an axe to grind on a Christmas, excuse me, "holiday" tree, is welcome.

(By the way, Atheist Revolution has an excellent explanation of what happened in Washington State that apparently prompted this editorial writer's meltdown. Suffice it to say it was hardly as anti-Christian as the writer made it out to be.)

Next comes the hernia-inducing denunciation of Dan Barker's sign, which says:

"At this season of the winter solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds"

Apparently, this "atheist-sympathizer" is quite insulted by "Godless blowhards" and their refusal to consider hold anything sacred (if only we paid more deference to what other people hold sacred, then we would be considered nicer people!)

But alas, the die is cast, "the War on Christmas continues. The atheists, playing spoilers to Judeo-Christian belief, give atheism a bad name instead, while PC public officials pursue policies that debase the whole notion of the sacred season. I score this a loss for the anti-Christmas forces."

But the author reprimands the "pro-Christmas forces" as well, though with the curious metaphor that they're "as selfish and murderous as Somali pirates". Say what??

But the piece doesn't end until the fat lady sings her verse - a Christ-like appeal to the cudgel:
This is a war that nobody is winning, but everyone had better hope the atheists are right. Otherwise, there'll be hell to pay.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Humor: You're Doing It Wrong

The good news: a well-meaning article with tips on how to appreciate humor.
The bad news: it's full of fail and reads as if it was made for a 1950s homemaker.

Seriously, folks. The author lists reading newspaper comics as a viable source of humor. That's just plain wrong. Some of the stuff is good enough to crack a smile (Calvin and Hobbes, Far Side, etc) but the vast majority is humorless drek (Family Circus).

Then there's another activity recommended as a great way to get you laughing: writing funny captions in the family photo albums. Uggh, shoot me if I ever do something like that.

Dave Letterman's Top Ten List (how many decades has it been since that was ever funny?)

Add "find something funny" on one's to-do list (spontaneity fail)

Then there's this:
When a person offends you or makes you angry, respond with humor rather than hostility. For instance, if someone is always late, say, "Well, I'm glad you're not running an airline."
Yeah, that makes you a jerkass, not a comedian.
Spend 15 minutes a day having a giggling session.
Recall several of the most embarrassing moments in your life.
WTF.'s apparent that this article wasn't meant for me (or possibly anyone born before 1920), especially its insistence on the lubby-dubby normal people's levity, like smiling at "the sight of kids playing, a loved one or friend approaching". Meanwhile, I'm chuckling at Pedobear and mechwarrior mechs photoshopped into old WWII photos. Methinks the common ground is pretty thin.

Normal people's type of humor:

My type of humor:
I typically go for a mix of black comedy, slapstick and absurdist humor and I throughly enjoy Dave Chappelle, Monty Python, Futurama, Three Stooges, Invader Zim, etc. I adore off-color jokes, like Mel Brooks parodying Hitler (especially the Hitler on Ice bit) and satirical jabs like the Cannibal Corpse Lounge music joke (NSFW).

I really wish people could appreciate that kind of stuff more and expand their horizons just a little bit. There's a whole wealth of humor out there that people, especially the author, seem to miss out on.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Humanist Cards Redux

Remember those New Humanist religion cards?

Well, turns out they were a big hit with religious people. So big that they used them in their age-old infantile sectarian spat over which one is worse - a Christian blog claims they're not tough enough on Muslims (apparently they're not big on literacy over there) and some other site has it as possible "Islamaphobic" (but certainly right wing) material (which is ironic because the card made fun of Muslims' uncanny ability to take extreme offense at anything remotely critical of their faith, even to the point of violence)

You know what I think? I think they're hilarious and you bozos are the punchline.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dinesh D'Souza, still not very bright

and generally not very bright fella, but I didn't find out just how bad he was until just now, when I recently tortured myself by reading the drivel firsthand instead of watching the slapstick from the merciful distance of the nosebleed section.

Here's the article in all its self-embarrassing glory:

Contemporary atheism marches behind the banner of science.

Whoa. Hold it. That's not necessarily the case. A lot of atheists are rather ticked off about religious demonization of science and theists' attempts to remove or censor scientific facts that they dislike for religious reasons. The effect of this ongoing denialism is that now atheists can point to facts about our world that some religious people still don't accept as proof positive that some religious beliefs are faulty and that the concept of religious faith certainly plays its role in enabling this triple tragedy of being wrong, refusing to learn, and foisting known falsehoods on one's children and the public in general as if it were gospel truth.

But don't confuse atheism with science. Even though they both scare fundamentalists, they're not the same thing.

The central argument of these scientific atheists is that modern science has refuted traditional religious conceptions of a divine creator.

Well, God-of-the-Gaps conceptions at any rate, where God is trotted out to explain gaps in human knowledge (i.e. creationism). The other conceptions of God are too ghostly to have much weight.
But of late atheism seems to be losing its scientific confidence.
Why? Because atheists put up billboards that don't have anything to do with science, apparently. Is that really what they consider a good argument on the planet that you're from?
Instead, we are given the simple assertion that there is probably no God, followed by the counsel to go ahead and enjoy life. In other words, let’s not let God and his commandments spoil all the fun.
*cue the clips of atheists descending into reckless hedonism and carnal lust*

Oh, and here's why atheists have "given up the scientific card": fine tuning and the question of whether or not there are other universes.

Uggh. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt and lost it in Universe Alpha (we're in Universe Beta, by the way)
There are two hurdles here, one historical and the other methodological. The historical hurdle is that science has for three centuries been showing that man does not occupy a privileged position in the cosmos, and now it seems like he does.
Umm...okaaay, there are all kinds of things wrong with that. #1 - we're talking about life in general, not necessarily human life. #2 - it's a just-barely-possible existence, combined with numerous planet-sundering threats and a nigh certainty of extinction. #3 - "privileged position in the cosmos"? Seriously?? How on Earth did he arrive at that conclusion?
The methodological hurdle is what physicist Stephen Hawking once called “the problem of Genesis.” Science is the search for natural explanations for natural phenomena, and what could be more embarrassing than the finding that a supernatural intelligence transcending all natural laws is behind it all?

Wow. Apparently, hackneyed fine-tuning arguments are all that's needed to prove God. A lot of conditions in the universe are suitable for life to form (there wouldn't be any discussion on the matter if they weren't), therefore God. God-of-the-Gaps logic, what could possibly go wrong?
No wonder atheists are sporting billboards asking us to “imagine…no religion.” When science, far from disproving God, seems to be pointing with ever-greater precision toward transcendence, imagination and wishful thinking seem all that is left for the atheists to count on.
Oh my God. This whole editorial was a fraud. "When Science Points to God". Guess what it has a distinct lack of? Science in any way supporting theism.

What a crock.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Vatican says that cell phones and Internet are bad for the soul


In yet another slide into both irrelevance and absurdity, the Catholic Church is now against "excessive" cell phone and internet use, claiming that it's harmful to one's spiritual life.

In a way, that's quite absurd ("souls" don't really exist and however annoying your Bluetooth habits are, you can sleep easy knowing that you're only harming the peace of those around you and gradually turning yourself into a mindless gabaholic) and untrue (in the US, Jesus is our Facebook buddy).

But on second thought, it does make some sense. The Catholic Church is an organization that (desperately) needs the attention of its members and every Sunday, and their Mass services compete with all other ways people could spend their time. (I heartily recommend sleeping in) People who are doing other things aren't attending Mass and therefore aren't getting brainwashed getting their weekly dose of Jesus. So naturally, it's in their best interest for such organizations to prohibit competing activities (which is one of the wonderful reasons why drunks can't buy alcohol on Sunday). To sum it up: more iGod = less God.

But the funny thing is that on this issue, I don't think they've quite figured out how to keep their story straight yet (unlike rock music, condoms, atheism, and enjoying sex) :

“Nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture,” he told a recent assembly of the Synod.

However, Pope Benedict has embraced many aspects of modern technology in order to convey the Catholic message to a young, tech-savvy audience.

Hilarious. So they like it when it spreads the meme but don't like it when it hurts the meme. Gee, who could've seen that coming?

Bonus! Moment-of-zen style picture:

Awwww. He's pretending to have a job that's valuable and useful.