Sunday, November 30, 2008
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
Here's the article in all its self-embarrassing glory:
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.
Contemporary atheism marches behind the banner of science.
But don't confuse atheism with science. Even though they both scare fundamentalists, they're not the same thing.
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.
The central argument of these scientific atheists is that modern science has refuted traditional religious conceptions of a divine creator.
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
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
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.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Card-carrying Liberal atheist baby-eater that I am, I don't know how I should react. Should I cheer the atheism or boo the conservatism? Oh what the heck, I'm in a cheering mood. Welcome, fellow atheists!
They're in good company, too: people like George Will (self-described agnostic), Christopher Hitchens and blogs like Atheist Conservative and Secular Conservative.
And I have to admit, despite political differences, they're generally a much more agreeable bunch than the typical religious-right fare and tend to oppose much of the same nuttery that I object to (like creationism) and support much of the good things I like about America, like liberty, justice, and apple pie. And when we disagree, it'll be a matter of fact and logic, and not a matter of God's will. With any luck, it'll at least wear away the ol' atheist=liberal/communist misconception.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Up next, a creationist says that airplanes contradict the theory of gravity.
Contrary to the news headline, his argument seems to be that science must be agnostic on the concept, a conclusion that I agree with. (Similarly, science is agnostic on the existence of tiny, invisible, undetectable fire-breathing dragons but we don't take their existence seriously either) His reasoning is interesting to say the least:
If the world is endless than the science can't prove there's no God,"*unfalsifiable theory alarm activated, burden of proof shifting detected*
According to the theologian, science and religion do not oppose one another, but should jointly oppose various superstitions and false doctrines.Poor guy, he doesn't realize that his own religion is assuredly among the superstitions he disdains.
"Knowledge itself is only a building material. It's impossible to live in building materials, you need to build a house. The house is integral world outlook," Osipov believes."Integral world outlook"? Oh, he means worldview. Well, yeah, that comes into play frequently - any information people are exposed to is inevitably colored by their preconceptions, beliefs and values. But part of becoming an adult means coming to terms with reality and abandoning faulty beliefs that clash with the facts, having the courage to admit error and constantly striving for greater and greater precision as new facts are uncovered. In that way, even the most esteemed theologian still has a lot of growing up to do.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I wish the article gave actual statistics on this (What was the Soviet record? How many atheists are there in Europe?) but alas, it doesn't.
I'll keep an eye out for later developments.
Monday, November 24, 2008
This might be purely coincidental, but it turns out that American politicians fail basic civic literacy tests even worse than your average American and it just so happens that one of the questions politicians failed more miserably the rest of us on was:
|6) The Bill of Rights explicitly prohibits:|
26.41% of citizens answered that question correctly, 21.24% of elected officials got it right (making for an I-can't-believe-you-hold-public-office score of 5.17%) and 100% of crazy theocratic politicians named Paul Broun are utterly clueless about it.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
From the TED talks - the presenter had a really good presentation about how video games have emerged from 8-bit to nearly photo-realistic quality and how gaming has become this huge thing now. It's a decent talk, but it's also kinda obvious to everyone under 50.
But at about 10 minutes in, he shows some guy's video who melodramatically goes on and on about he's some hopeless video game addict who can't tell fantasy from reality and bombards the audience with all the alleged scary implications of video games. Seriously.
I'm a gamer and I love video games. I love the thrill in out-witting and out-playing an opposing army - methodically conquering the whole zone with my own army and leaving only slag in my wake. I love getting the fleet together and doing the same thing on a galactic scale. I love alpha-striking an enemy mech's cockpit with PPCs. I love starting from scratch on some open world and exploring it down to the last rock, learning all its secrets and besting all its adversaries. I love saving the world, and I love dominating the world with an iron fist.
I love video games, but I know they're not real. Don't get me wrong, I relish the experience and I get really into what I'm doing, but I never confuse fantasy with reality.
This guy, however, doesn't seem to be able to separate fantasy from reality. And that's genuinely scary because people who truly are like that belong in the looney bin. At its best, a video game is a form of interactive storytelling - and except for the interactive part, it's not all that different from our other forms of storytelling, like watching movies or reading a book. If you really enjoy reading Harry Potter, that's cool. If you think you are Harry Potter, then you have some serious problems. And (zealous parents take note) the book's not to blame for your problems.
Video games are getting better than ever, but they're just another form of entertainment. They will soar to new heights as the technology behind them allows for more and more realistic representations of real and totally fantastic worlds. But they won't cause you to be some mindless, addicted zombie or any of the other scary stuff the fearmongers casually throw around. Video games won't destroy humanity.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
He wonders how buses with "There probably isn't a God. So stop worrying and enjoy life" on them would fare in Turkey. And even though he's a theist, he wouldn't have a problem with it because he believes in free speech. Awesome! I wish more Americans had that sort of attitude - one of the Imagine No Religion billboards just got pulled because of complaints. Land of the Free, indeed.
But then here comes atheist misconception #1:
by the way, atheism is a belief, not disbelief, as it is sometimes called mistakenly. A true disbeliever would be an agnostic, not an atheist.Wrong, big time. Considering all gods to be imaginary is no more a belief system than considering ghosts or leprechauns or djinn to be imaginary.
Yet what interested me in all this was not just whether Turkish society has matured enough to allow such unorthodox views whether they be on God, Atatürk, or "Turkishness." We all know that the answer is not positive.Yikes. What happened to that open society you were talking about earlier?
What interested me rather was the message given by the Dawkinsian atheists. From the premise that "there is probably no God," they were concluding, "now stop worrying and enjoy life." But why would the existence of God, rather than His nonexistence, be something that we should be worried about?That's an excellent question. Allow me to illustrate:
In the Bible, hell is clearly described as a fiery, eternal torment for much of mankind, where "the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched" and there is a "weeping and gnashing of teeth".
Let's just say that there is a very good reason why the term "God-fearing" exists.
Now, I might be mistaken on this, but I'm pretty sure that believing these kinds of things doesn't exactly make for the ideal society. Especially if you sincerely think this sort of thing will happen to a family member or close friend for the unpardonable sin of not believing the right things.
So yes, I think it is fairly certain that people "worry" over God - both in the sense of divine fear (both the threat of hell and the more comical notion that God is some eternal policeman watching us commit trivial sins with stern disapproval) and the sense that whether or not God exists is something people puzzle over for much of their lives.
Belief in God is an obstacle to enjoying life.Bingo! Yes, that's how it is seen.
Or, to put it differently, life is more fun when you don’t think that there is a God who gave it to you.That one...not so much. That's one heck of a loaded statement, too. A more accurate depiction of a belief that a lot of atheists share is that life is more precious and important knowing that we have but one life to live and that not planning our lives according the wills of imagined Gods frees us up to determine what we want to get out of life and pursue it with all our strength.
Yet today most of us live in open, free societies. We are, thank God, no longer forced to be theists or atheists.Amen to that.
Rather than being the traumatized victims of a neurosis, research has shown that religious people are actually, on average, mentally and physically healthier than secular people.I rather doubt that. Here in the South portion of the United States, there is no shortage of crazy religious folks. I find it very hard to believe that, in the absence of religion, they'd have the same vocation with a secular cause instead.
...even some secular scientists have concluded that our brains are "hardwired for God." Why is that?Wait, stop there. When scientists talk about the brain being "hardwired" for God, it's not usually in the sense that there's an "innate, physical conduit between human beings and God". We're talking about stuff like this:
Anthropologists like Atran say, "Religion is a byproduct of many different evolutionary functions that organized our brains for day-to-day activity."We're talking about the same cognitive traits that evolved to help us survive may also lead us to superstitious thinking - we commonly anthropomorphize non-human things, attribute intelligence and will to inanimate things (my computer doesn't want to print!), see faces in the clouds, and easily develop causal superstitions (my favorite is post hoc ergo propter hoc).
One thing that might strengthen the atheist argument to "stop worrying" is that religious belief brings not just good news but also sobering responsibility. But then again, we have to ask whether man is happier when he feels free from responsibility or when he takes on responsibilities that he willingly fulfills.What? Who said atheism meant shirking one's duties? If anything, the duties are increased, because one must now pursue knowledge and meaning on your own and act in a just manner while at the same time shouldering no small amount of bigotry from one's neighbors. It can be very tiresome indeed.
If I were an atheist, I would rather sit down, reflect about the meaninglessness and the inevitable tragic end of all my existence, and descend pessimistically into nihilism.Jeez, atheist misconception #2! And boy is it a doozy! Come on Mustafa, you know better than that! There's a really good post about it over on Richard Dawkins'...oh wait, nevermind. Try here and here then.
I am rather happy because I am convinced that life has a meaning and death is not the end and that there is a God.Cool. I'm rather happy too, and I don't believe in either a God or an afterlife.
They also recently hit a mosque with a suicide bombing, killing 12 other people. Disgusting.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Comments poured in, and there was much lulz to be had: our children are in thrall to the demonic allure of internet irreverence, adults are having sex outside of marriage, gays are getting hitched - the end times are near! Clearly, this is a moral crisis in need of Spiritual Warriors!
Uggh. The horror.
But seriously, is the internet a detriment to religion? Possibly, but I rather doubt it's as harmful as the fundamentalists make it out to be. It's an open forum where ideas can freely compete - and I'm sure the risk of exposure to another viewpoint has frightened many a fundamentalist. And obviously, the anonymous nature of the internet makes it much easier to be more blasphemous than one might be able to be in real life (for example, I don't think I'd be able to pull off calling religions superstitious in public without risking harm). But it's also a place where like-minded believers congregate (and swap soundbites about America's perpetually imminent Godly destruction) and prop up each other's beliefs in the supernatural. And judging from the prominence of religion online and the ubiquitous presence of Godspam (preachy religious spam e-mails, often unintentionally hilarious in their faulty logic and repetition of urban legends), the internet is also a place of fervent evangelism.
No, the internet isn't killing Christianity. But its cosmopolitan nature raises serious problems for religious tribalism.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The religious do vile work: Pascal's wager, "If there is no higher moral authority, then right and wrong do not and cannot exist because no one human is above another", here's a fine example of the Gish Gallop, and here's one playing on imagined atheist hopelessness and despair where the author sardonically quips "Perhaps, after death, we will learn by the silence and extinction predicted by the atheists that they were right in their belief that death is the end of us. Perhaps we will discover by the sounds of angel music that the atheists were wrong." The list goes on and on, a constant background din of ignorance and confusion. It's to be expected, but it's exasperating to see over and over and over again.
But ironically, a lot of the worst misconceptions and misunderstandings I've ever seen tend to come from atheists themselves, like when Scott Adams made a blog post in favor of Intelligent Design (the original post no longer exists, but reactions to it (including PZ's post) still do). It's an excellent reminder of the need to read up on the subject and come to an informed conclusion about it rather than shooting from the hip and coming out with something deeply embarrassing.
In the newspapers, the atheist voice is far too often a tangled mass of atheist buttery and we're left quibbling with each other rather than putting up a united front against the dogmatism that has enveloped our societies.
Here's a good example of what I'm talking about. The author comes out and says that he doesn't believe in God then derides the atheist bus campaign because he thinks other atheists are smug and sanctimonious jerks who unfairly criticize religion (what on Earth does that have to do with the bus campaign?!).
Well, how are they wrong? As it turns out, he allows that they probably are right, but it's just not that simple. And that line just gets repeated over and over again. It's like arguing with somebody over the color of the sky. Eventually, he agrees that it's blue. "But wait!", he says, "It's not that simple, the clouds aren't blue!" Arrggh!
Why is it not that simple? Because people don't actually believe in a bearded guy in the sky - they just believe in a bearded guy who died for your sins then ascended up into heaven; God isn't actually anthropomorphic at all, Sistine Chapel not withstanding. Okay, even assuming that is right, people are still talking about a godlike entity somewhere in heaven (whatever that is) and that's just plain superstitious even allowing for the beardlessness. It's an utter non-point pretending to be a serious objection to atheist criticisms, and the article is filled with them. It's painful to read.
The other forms of atheist buttery are often in response to the New Atheist crusade against religion by people who aren't religious themselves, but nonetheless think that religion should stick around because people "need" religion.
Here's an example of that:
Some people only have enough willpower or brain power to accept the answers that others feed them. Others, have a little more willpower and/or brain power, and come up with answers (theories, religions) and provide them to other people. Still others are able to question those answers, and accept or reject them on the basis of reason. Finally, a scant few are even able to question their programming from where these questions arise.Resolved: morons need lies. I mean, come on, how condescending can we get? Surely people are smarter and more adaptable than that! Can't people make do without having some kind of sacred cow? Thankfully, this isn't a rhetorical question - vast portions of many European countries are non-religious - not just the hypothetical geniuses who alone can handle atheism, but the whole breadth of society, down to the janitors and fast-food cashiers.
But the vast majority of people fall into the first group; they simply need answers. Without the backdrop of religion, and the peaceful contribution of its answers, I’m not sure the human race would fare very well, or even survive. Granted, the answers are patently false, but they keep a lid on the boiling pot of the human psyche, and keep us from killing each other.
It's exactly these kinds of things that keep us from having an effective voice in the community - we keep sending conflicting (and often inaccurate) messages about ourselves or intentions - one head of the hydra is always busily gnawing on its own neck.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The goals seem to be to encourage nonbelievers to come out of the closet and work together, to break the spell of public deference paid to religions through conversational intolerance, and to protect and promote science education (this is the focus of Richard Dawkins in particular).
I sometimes jokingly refer to New Atheist movement as Celestial Being due the thematic similarities - much-resented "militancy" designed to end conflicts and ultimately bring about positive universal change.
But why did New Atheism suddenly explode on the scene? Worlds Apart has an excellent explanation:
The reason for the sensation are fairly straightforward I think: the silent majority of British people are now non-believers, yet religious organisations have seemingly been wielding a greater and greater degree of political influence in recent years, both domestically and internationally. Hence there is a deep well of non-religious frustration to be drawn upon. Furthermore, amongst intellectuals and scientists, there seems to be a high degree of frustration that religion has not withered away as many had expected, and that religion appears to be associated with the rejection of well supported scientific theories and evidence based reasoning in general.In the United States, I think it's a reaction against organized religion in the wake of religious terrorism and violence, as well as increased intrusion by Christian conservatives in political/social affairs. A good chunk of it is also a growing non-religious population, especially among young adults, who are "getting fed up with being routinely marginalized, ignored and insulted", as the Nation puts it.
Like anything else, the New Atheist movement has its critics: everything from religious people who resent their beliefs being attacked to non-religious people who bemoan the "strident" tone of their fellow atheists.
The usual criticisms of this New Atheism are very predictable and not very convincing:
- New Atheists criticize only fundamentalism, my "sophisticated" and nuanced religious beliefs remain untouched.
- New Atheists don't understand religion.
- New Atheists are dogmatic, arrogant, aggressive meanies.
of the New Atheists are pussycats in their rhetoric, compared to many others."
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
(Hat tip to PZ)
They really should expand on this idea. How about religion-based MTG cards?
Christians get White.
Pagans/Wiccans get Green.
Satanists get Black, of course.
For Muslims, I'm thinking Red for some reason.
Atheists get Blue (duh, logic and reason)
Jews get...d'oh, only five colors. Well, they get to share Red with the Muslims. That'll work out fine, I'm sure.
And the disorganization has been very helpful in the past, when being outed as an atheist usually meant a cruel and unjust death. In medieval times, any centralized organization anathema to the church would quickly be destroyed by wrathful zealots, as pagan religions were demolished. Atheism survived in no small part due to its invisible nature. Religious doubt throughout world history has been like a hydra: you can lop off one head, but it survives - cities, even whole countries, can be firmly pressed into orthodoxy, and doubt can be discouraged in the cruelest and most barbaric ways, but all it ultimately does is drive doubt into secrecy there (where it inevitably outlasts its aggressors) while it prospers in freer societies elsewhere.
But that disorganization is also a huge handicap right now, because it means that atheists in America have very little political influence (to the point that it's commonplace for politicians to attempt to out-Jesus each other each election cycle and news shows can host "discussions" on atheism sans any actual atheists and say that atheists should sit down and shut up) and don't have a whole lot in the way of social support for other atheists (being a lone atheist is really tough, especially in the Bible Belt).
We need a community. We also need to get together and fight for what we believe in.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Way of The Woo has the story: Fox News said that this billboard is offensive. Seriously. Their reputation as a wingnut propaganda machine is well-earned, but this was a new low even for them.
It's absolutely incredible what people think is "offensive" these days. Atheists can't even cough without ticking off a battalion of Christians with persecution complexes. Meanwhile, the religious right freely churns out hate to either zealous applause or indifference - the sheer scope of the hypocrisy is astounding.
Here's a little perception test: check out the following billboards and figure out which ones are offensive and which ones aren't.
If you thought that the first three are horribly offensive and inappropriate attacks on your faith that should be taken down immediately, but didn't flinch at any of the other salvos of overbearing evangelism, ignorance, and just plain creepy screeds - congratulations, you're a fundie.
Fundamentalists are great because they're so forthright and unapologetic - they let you know in advance that they're firmly committed to their supernatural beliefs and nothing will ever change their minds. They're exactly the kind of people that happily put up billboards to castigate atheists as "un-American" and then brazenly claim that it's the atheists who are intolerant. Unbelievable.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
The 1,600-year-old work entitled "Philogelos: The Laugh Addict," one of the world's oldest joke books, features a joke in which a man complains that a slave he has just bought has died, its publisher said on Friday.
"By the gods," answers the slave's seller, "when he was with me, he never did any such thing!"
Those ancient greeks, such kidders. Seriously though, no refunds.
Lately, I've been enjoying some of Lucian's plays and the one about the sale of creeds is hilarious.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I'm trying to find ways to make this blog stand out amongst other atheist blogs, being original/creative/unique. But covering the same news stories that everyone else is covering doesn't really help. I've been surfing the atheist blog aggregates (in a semi-obsessive compulsive way), and I've noticed that we all tend to bunch up around a few stories with nearly identical commentary: Dole's atheist smear, the election, prop 8, Keith Olbermann reacts to prop 8, prop 8 some more, prop 8 protests, Fox News disses Atheists, prop 8 revisited, etc.
I had a pretty funny conversation with my roommate about this; I basically told him that I can't do it if the Simpsons did it. He replied that the Simpsons have done everything and I should just feel free to post about whatever I feel like without feeling like I'm beating a dead horse.
So that's what I'm going to do. If I get the news from another blog, I'll do the polite thing and link them. But if I get it from just cruising the news, I'll just link that. In the meantime, I'll try to shake up my posts and cover more of a variety of things to keep it fresh and interesting.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Ads proclaiming, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake," will appear on Washington, D.C., buses starting next week and running through December. The American Humanist Association unveiled the provocative $40,000 holiday ad campaign Tuesday.
Edwords said the purpose isn't to argue that God doesn't exist or change minds about a deity, although "we are trying to plant a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people's minds."
Not a bad little ad to reach out to fellow freethinkers. But predictably, some of the wackier fundamentalist Christians are incensed. Here's some American Family Association nut's take on it:
"It's a stupid ad," he said. "How do we define 'good' if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what's good, it's going to be a crazy world."*face palm*
And here's a guy from the Liberty Counsel who went to Liberty University, famous for its outstanding biology curriculum:
"It's the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ," said Mathew Staver, the group's chairman and dean of the Liberty University School of Law. "Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want but this is insulting."
Yep, atheists exist, even during the Christmas season. How unbearable for you.For fun, I looked up what these guys do during the holidays. The AFA bullies around companies that dare say the dreaded h-word instead of Christmas. And the Liberty Counsel is doing their 6th annual "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign". Sound vile? That's because it is vile. They basically just intimidate and harass people all season long. Here's a pretty typical example:
In December 2005, Liberty Counsel issued a press release accusing an elementary school in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, of changing the lyrics of Christmas songs to make them more "secular" and threatened to sue the school district "if the district does not immediately remedy the situation." In fact, the school was putting on the play "The Little Tree’s Christmas Gift," written by Dwight Elrich, a former church choir director. The Dodgeville school district attempted to seek a retraction and apology from Liberty Counsel, as well as reimbursement of $20,000 spent in personnel, security and attorney fees to fight the baseless accusation. Liberty Counsel's Staver refused, asserting, "There is nothing to apologize for or retract." Source News reportThese people really think they're vessels of God's Love, too. It's amazing.
Everyone, please be good for goodness' sake. Because if you don't, you might have to be a fanatic for God's sake, and no one in their right mind would want that.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
All right, let me get this straight: some religious group that no one's ever heard of wants to put up a religious monument on a public park that's basically their version of the ten commandments called the Seven Aphorisms (which I managed to look up and now I regret doing so because it's just a whole lot of crazy). Okay, if this isn't an infringement of separation of church and state I don't know what is.
Yet, and this is the best part - their lawyer is trying to defend this drek as "free speech" in front of the Supreme Court. That's like trying to fake your own death at Scotland Yard.
"The most basic of First Amendment rules is that in a traditional public forum like a public park, a city may not discriminate among speakers based on the content of their speech or the identity of the speaker," Dellinger argued.No, what you're doing is not free speech, it's establishment. You can say whatever you want. You can carry around signs proclaiming your beliefs. But you can't just plop down religious monuments on public land without raising some serious church/state issues.
The Bush administration sides with Pleasant Grove City. If the court orders the city to allow Summum's display, Solicitor General Gregory Garre argued, the federal government could be compelled to allow discordant private displays at numerous national parks and historic sites, including, potentially, the Statue of Liberty.
Even the Bush people know this is a stinker and are arguing that the Supreme Court rule against this religious group, pointing out that ruling in their favor may mean opening up all our public parks and historical sites as free advertising space for every cult and fringe group in the country.
Here's an idea: how about we just have normal, clean parks without any religious garbage cluttering them up - no Ten Commandments, no Seven Aphorisms or anything of that nature. Wouldn't that be a heck of a lot better than turning them into ideological bulletin boards?
Further reading: Pew Forum
Monday, November 10, 2008
It's funny because it's true!
So far, this is the only good content they have:
- Copywritten content that hasn't been taken down or is distributed freely (National Geographic, etc) or has been imported from other sites (the Onion, Cracked)
- Awesome lectures (Beyond Belief, TED, etc)
- Movie/video game trailers
- Music videos (except the live versions, which are inevitably horrible)
- News clips that are so egregiously stupid that they're hilarious
- Adorably cute animals
- Actually good original stuff (Angry Video Game Nerd, Ask a Ninja)
- YouTube Poop (seriously, stop it)
- Rickrolls and other fake videos (and almost any internet meme)
- Clips/photos set to music (i.e. Linkin Park and/or Soulja Boy)
- Home videos (aka pointing a camera at a wall for an hour and uploading the result)
- Video blogging (suffers from the dual vices of looking terrible and sounding worse)
They definitely could have picked a better headline, because every time anything in science is branded as an alternative to religion *cough evolution cough*, the zealous hordes quickly descend to smear it mercilessly in imagined defense of their imagined God.
everything here, right down to the photons lighting the scene after an eight-minute jaunt from the sun, bears witness to an extraordinary fact about the universe: Its basic properties are uncannily suited for life.Well, yeah, I suppose that's true in a trivial sort of way. I would be a tad surprised if a planet that contains life wasn't suitable for life.
But it's a bit of a stretch to say that the whole universe is "uncannily" suitable for life as we know it. As far as we know, every other planet in our solar system is utterly lifeless (or nearly lifeless, with nothing more impressive than microscopic unicellular life) in contrast to Earth. And it's a pretty safe guess that most other solar systems out there don't have nearly as favorable conditions our own does (red dwarfs tend not to be very good for life, some stars may not have rocky planets at all, etc). And of course, the enormous void of space and the tendency of the universe to bathe planets in radiation, smash asteroids into them, and overall have horrible things happen repeatedly to any planet's biosphere (we've had 5 big ones ourselves) is not the least bit conducive to life.
It's like a rabbit out on a field that's being used as a firing range (and not one of those wimpy blue state firing ranges either, I'm talking about claymores and anti-tank munitions) remarking about how suitable it is for a burrow.
That's the anthropic principle in a nutshell. And apologists have certainly seized on it, declaring, "Life, therefore God!" (adding, "and don't ask where God's vitality comes from!")
Consider just two possible changes. Atoms consist of protons, neutrons, and electrons. If those protons were just 0.2 percent more massive than they actually are, they would be unstable and would decay into simpler particles. Atoms wouldn’t exist; neither would we. If gravity were slightly more powerful, the consequences would be nearly as grave. A beefed-up gravitational force would compress stars more tightly, making them smaller, hotter, and denser. Rather than surviving for billions of years, stars would burn through their fuel in a few million years, sputtering out long before life had a chance to evolve. There are many such examples of the universe’s life-friendly properties—so many, in fact, that physicists can’t dismiss them all as mere accidents.
But what if life really is just a happy accident? What if our universe just happened to be the way that it is (it would be strange if it weren't the way that it is).
Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.It's a decent hypothesis, and it logically makes sense (after all science has shown us a panoply of new worlds, new solar systems, new galaxies - wouldn't new universes fit the progression?) but sans falsifiability, it doesn't seem to have much of an advantage over supernaturalism.
The idea is controversial. Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved. Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable nonreligious explanation for what is often called the “fine-tuning problem”—the baffling observation that the laws of the universe seem custom-tailored to favor the emergence of life.
“If there is only one universe,” Carr says, “you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.”False dilemma, big time. I remember it from when the IDiots tried to pull the old "God or Evolution" - any failure of evolution to explain the development of life is evidence for the "Intelligent Creator". It's disappointing to see the same thought process on the march again, with a much less well-supported multiverse hypothesis taking evolution's place.
Whether we live in a multiverse or a lone universe, it's disturbing to see people try to install their God in science.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
And here I was, all this time, thinking that scientists were just people trying to piece together facts and figure out how stuff works. Apparently, it was celestial mind-reading all along.
Whew, I'm glad that someone who already believes in God managed to shoehorn science into their pious worldview, otherwise science might be wrongly interpreted as an irreligious endeavor (or possibly even a threat to religion's influence) and then it would have to condemned as atheism and opposed by the faithful. And speaking of, someone really needs to tell the fundamentalists over here in the U.S. that science is complementary to religion, they seem to have missed the memo.
Heller has presented his idea of the unity of science and religion in various forums in recent months. "Physics says nothing about God, but our reflections on, our analysis of the physical, suggests the possibility that God exists outside of time," he said earlier this week in ChicagoUmmm...no it doesn't. Nothing in nature suggests anything at supernatural at all - not ghosts, not fairies, not angels, not demons, and certainly not gods. Rather, people who already believe in Gods imagine that nature points to their God, and every one of them believes in a slightly different God.
In fact, the whole "God exists outside of time" thing is a pretty transparent ad hoc hypothesis specifically devised because of the encroachment of science into what was previously religion's turf - explaining the natural world and the only unfalsifiable God of the Gaps left is the unknowable outside of the universe. Such hasty flights speak volumes of the indefensibility of the God idea.
"This is my idea but it was also the idea of traditional philosophy. Physics nowadays seems to support the traditional view."Oh come on! What traditional view is that? The traditional view is one of an interventionist god smiting his people's enemies, performing miracles and imparting revelations - a God who lives and acts in the world. Methinks a hidden god wasn't what they had in mind.
I sure hope the $1.6 million wasn't for that gem.
"If we ask about the cause of the universe we should ask about the cause of mathematical laws," he said in March when he received the Templeton Prize, a $1.6 million US award given annually to those who advance scientific discovery on "big questions" in science, religion and philosophy.
"By doing so we are back in the great blueprint of God's thinking about the universe; the question on ultimate causality: why is there anything rather than nothing?Normal person answer: "Well, we don't know, but it's possible that some form of matter/energy always existed."
Religious answer: "Because Jesus did it."
Normal person retort: "...but what created God?"
Religious answer: *crickets chirping*
Then why the heck do religious people bring ultimate causality up as some sort of knock-down argument for their beliefs when in actuality, they don't have any more of a clue than anyone else as to why things are the way they are? It's just silly. And it's even sillier hearing the same ancient apologetic thought-terminating cliches (i.e. God works in mysterious ways) spouted not only as if they were new and intellectually-savy things, but also worthy of praise and riches.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
The LA Times breaks the story, in the rather ominously-titled "Anti-religion agenda among social media users" (translation: there are atheists on digg, reddit, youtube, and other social sites)
The article goes into specific examples, like irreverent digg articles, as if this is a some unexpected, surprising development - but anyone who uses the internet regularly (and is thus at the LA Times site in the first place) would know this.
But the frothing really doesn't kick in until they get some religious talking head for comment:
Uggh. The ol' "atheism is a religion" tripe, complete with atheist missionaries converting people.
Just as religious people want to convert people to their perspective, atheist people want to convert people to their point of view," Winston said. "The irony here is that atheism is a form of religion. You're still in something.
Black is white. Up is down. War is peace. Irreligion is religion.
The Internet isn't killing religion. In fact, Winston says more Americans attend church today -- about 60% -- than in the past. "People have a mistaken notion of history that people used to be more religious," she said.
I dunno about that, and I'm definitely going to need to see your sources. I can't just *heh* take it on faith.
But looking at the wiki, that 60% figure looks like a whopper: 2005 Gallup pegged Americans who regularly attend church at 41% and a 2006 Harris poll found that 26% of those polled said they went to church every week, very similar to their 2003 poll. Church attendance figures are often disputed because people tend to tell the pollster that they go to church when they really don't (i.e. people lie to pollsters).
So basically, the entire article was either incredibly obvious or infuriatingly wrong. Gratz, LA Times. Keep up the great journalism.
Yeah!"We stay positive and focused."
"We keep the faith."
Preach it, baby!
"We lock and load our ideological ammunition."Right on, sister!
"....and shoot our fellow Republicans in the face."Whaaa?
Well, apparently here's the beating heart of conservative values:
When the news broke that Palin was a complete moron according to McCain staffers who had to patiently coach her on the intricacies of basic geography and American civics, Michelle Malkin was angry. Not at the foibles of her own party for picking such an obviously unprepared veep, not at Palin for screwing the election, or even at herself for lavishing praise on a candidate who clearly wasn't cut out for the role. She was angry at the snitches.
Oh yes. Damn those McCain staffers! How dare they reveal unfavorable information! (Thoughtcrime via bad-fact) They are so getting outted and blacklisted by me and my goons as traitors to the cause. Full, internets-wide jihad - that'll learn 'em.
It's the funniest thing I've read all week.
Remember kiddies: loose lips sink ships!
(hat tip to Dispatches from the Culture Wars)
Friday, November 7, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
- she didn't know what countries were in NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement - that North American part is a pretty good hint)
- she didn't know that Africa was a continent, she apparently thought it was a country in and of itself
- she didn't accept coaching for the Katie Couric interview and got mad when that went badly
- she was hard to control emotionally, throwing temper tantrums (great qualities for a potential president)
Oh yeah, and conservatives want her as their candidate in 2012. It certainly brings to mind the saying, "Who's the more foolish - the fool, or the fool who follows him?"
There's another video with a lot more juicy news on her foibles (not knowing basic civics, complaining about being mishandled, threw paperwork at her handlers, answered the door in a bathrobe, a bit of a shopaholic, backbiting in the campaign, etc) but the downside is you have to watch Bill O'Reilly flail around trying to explain it all away as not really her fault.
And by the way, Elizabeth Dole lost. Whooo hoo!
Yesterday was pretty bad, sharp pain off and on. I'm okay now, I heal up from that kind of thing quick, but man that was weird. Most people get an injury like that from snowboarding or getting drunk and falling down the stairs. Me? A bad night's sleep.
I need to go buy straps for the bed so I can restrain myself from now on.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Normal Republicans seem to be taking this okay. A little disappointed perhaps, but not crushed by the news. That's good to know.
But how are the Real Conservatives of Real America taking it? For laughs I checked a few of the wingnut blogs and forums.
Bill O'Reilly seems to think that Obama is "indebted" to the "far left" now and will either spend money like crazy, ruining the economy, or cheese off his overlords. WTF. Bill is such an incisive political analyst, it's hard to imagine how such a brilliant guy is wasting away at such an overtly partisan smear machine like Fox News.
Michelle Malkin comes in with a 300esque "now we stand and fight!" post, explicitly denouncing any introspection on whether or not any conservative beliefs themselves may be faulty. Pure zombie mentality. I love it.
Bob Novak has a bizarre piece up that says that despite the clear victory, Obama doesn't have a mandate. O RLY.
The Spectator seems to think that America just sold away its freedom:
"Millions of Americans remain lion-hearted, decent, rational and sturdy. They find themselves today abandoned, horrified, deeply apprehensive for the future of their country and the free world. No longer the land of the free and the home of the brave; they must now look elsewhere."
Some nutbar school board member in Texas says that "Barack Obama is plotting with terrorists to attack the U.S." Wow. Just wow.
(hat tip to PZ)
Meanwhile, the Rapture Ready folks predictably seem to think this is a sign that the end is nigh and the USA is doomed, which is pretty much par for the course.
And last but not least, there are some people with serious mental problems in addition to a whatever political insanity they subscribe to, engaging the readers in nothing more than childish tantrums:
Awwww, how cute.
"Congratulations, moonbats. You finally have your revenge for being forced to look at all those flags after 9/11. This is a day of celebration for everyone hostile to America and the principles of individual liberty for which it stands. Enjoy it while you can."
Well, looks like same old same old from the conservatives. No riots today, just endless whining and distortion.
Ed Brayton has a bunch of good ones in the article and the comments. Check it out.
HJHOP does too. The conservative constitution sleuthing in particular had me in stitches.
The Weekly Standard has an absolutely hilarious piece up, accurately titled "We Blew It" (but omitting the key part: "And We Suck"). Thankfully, us leftists aren't to blame for the horrific disaster of the McCain-Moose ticket losing. Because we're all insane and therefore not responsible for our actions. Oh, and you leftists out there with kids are doing it wrong: "Nobody with kids is a liberal, except maybe one pothead in Marin County." ROFL.
The LA Times has a nice collection of Limbaugh and Hannity fail.
Five Public Opinions has Bill Muehlenberg's take on the election (he's the Australian version of O'Reilly I guess).
"As an example of the media bias, the coverage of the election yesterday was quite a spectacle. Both Australian and American media commentators were absolutely gushing in sycophantic praise, adoration and worship for the new Messiah-King. It really smacked of frenzied idolatry."
(translated: a lot of people liked the fact that Obama won but I don't. Bah humbug.) I love how being happy that your guy won on election night is somehow transformed into "frenzied idolatry". What a buffoon.
Rep Paul Broun of Georgia says that Obama is creating a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist or fascist dictatorship. The stupid, it burns!
Some nutbag in a news site's comments section. Not as notable as the rest, but makes up for it with pure comedy gold: "We have experienced a coup today. And Communism won."
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
But judging from the boos, the Republican faithful aren't going to take this gracefully at all (cue "fallen nation" in need of God's merciful wrath). It wasn't too long ago that the Party had them frothing at the mouth with all sorts of crazy, and it's not like you can just cut that off now that the election is over.
How this plays out tomorrow is going to be interesting.
Canadian Cynic seems to think the Republicans are intentionally trying to lose this time around:
If I am wrong and this is the very best effort of the vaunted Republican machine, then I stand in awe of the nearly complete failure of their proven apparatus to gather and horde power, to massage and control the media and the message. Yes Obama is good and yes the Democratic party has done a good job but the Republicans just aren't this inept, disorganized and disinterested. The only thing that makes sense to me is that this is a fix.I don't think that's the case. I think they genuinely tried, but failed in crucial areas. They definitely massaged the message when they could, but a lot of it what happened was simply out of their control.
- They didn't expect Obama to win the primary. For a while, Clinton was the odds on favorite. Obama had a tough uphill battle, and managed to pull it off. If Clinton had won the nomination instead of Obama, this election would likely be a heckuva lot closer.
- McCain was their best candidate. In the Republican primaries, McCain had the dubious distinction of being the most qualified and least insane guy there. He was up against Archangel Brownback, that 9/11 Guy (I think he's called Giuliani when he's not in a dress), Person-of-Faith Mitt Romney, Pastor Huckabee, etc. And even though he's distrusted in some quarters, he was able to convince enough people to get the nod. After all, in 2000 he did put up a decent fight against Bush.
- Their smear campaign against Obama didn't work. And they didn't have much to go on to begin with - Obama himself is pretty clean so they resorted to guilt by association and pulled out the crazy pastor to impugn his character and then when Obama explicitly rejected his pastor's craziness, they howled that mean ol' Obama "threw him under a bus". Then, they tried blatant appeals of racial bigotry, which definitely backfired on them. Finally, and we're really grasping for straws here, there was Joe the Plumber, followed by Tito the Builder. The Republican hate machine tried, they really did, but they weren't able to demonize Obama in a convincing way to most Americans. And in general, I think the American public is getting more and more resistant to these kinds of ploys. You can't just say 9/11 and expect people to soil themselves anymore.
- Any Republican candidate is going to have a tough time defending Bush policies. Let's face it, Bush isn't a popular guy right now. A lot of Americans really are fed up with these disastrous policies and want something to change. But any Republican candidate they pick is going to have to explain his votes for Bush policies while simultaneously trying to market himself as someone who's going to change things. McCain answered that challenge brilliantly: He's a Maverick Reformer who's going to bring change. What kind of change, I haven't the foggiest.
- McCain really screwed up in choosing Palin. What a trainwreck. It's obvious that this was a calculated move to win over former Hillary Clinton supporters, and it certainly helped him with the religious right. But her utter inexperience and numerous gaffes (not knowing what a Veep does, fruit fly research, questionable understanding of the 1st Amendment) alienated independents, galvanized democrats, and probably led to some of the conservative disillusionment with McCain. McCain clearly didn't expect his pick to backfire as much as it has.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
The religions of the world need us. They need our money, our work, our time, our devotion, and most of all, they need us to spread them to more followers in the same manner that the common cold needs to be passed on from host to host. They depend on us for their continuing survival.
And guess what? We don't need them.
We don't need hocus-pocus creation stories or fantastic cosmologies. We don't need vastly inferior and occasionally deranged moralities imposed on us. We don't need to feel ashamed for being human. We don't need barbarous, often violent tribalism. We don't need to hide from knowledge or new ways of life. We don't need to construct elaborate fantasies to console ourselves from grief or frighten us into obedience. We don't need a latticework of impossible beliefs in order to find meaning in life.
We don't need religion.