Saturday, January 31, 2009

The maw of the Bible Belt

Gallup has new poll results out: the religiousity of individual states in the USA.

They asked people "Is religion an important part of your daily life?"

Unsurprisingly, a majority (65%) said yes. And again, a real shocker is that people from the Bible Belt states were far more likely to say yes than people from Pacific or New England states. This data matches nicely with gallup's previous poll, which indicates that these states have large non-religious populations while the Bible Belt states have relatively few. The religious epicenter is undoubtedly somewhere in Alabama, spreading like kudzu to all nearby states, including my own state of North Carolina, #8 on the rarely-coveted most religious states in the Union category.

It's official, I live in Jesusland USA.

In North Carolina in particular, the joke is that we have two religions: Baptist and Catholic. (Other protestant denominations are dwarfed by the baptists, there are very few non-Christian believers, and evangelicals are humorously known to view Catholicism as another religion entirely rather than a different denomination in the same religion)

The good news is that the religious stranglehold is slipping, with national dips in approval of organized religion and increasing secular outlooks among the younger generations. So maybe there's hope after all.

Friday, January 30, 2009

What atheism is (and what it isn't)

There's always been a heckuva lot of confusion regarding atheism, but lately, I've noticed people take it to who new levels. It's not uncommon among fundamentalist circles see atheism denounced as a religion. Even for your average person, misconceptions abound. For many, it seems they think that atheism is a "system of belief" or some miraculously universal worldview that all atheists share.

Christian apologists in particular seem to have a hard time with atheism. I don't think they can quite grasp the concept of being irreligious - instead of wasting time understanding it, they lazily project their own religious norms on others, even people who aren't religious at all. Thus, we have popular myths of atheists worshiping everything from Satan to Darwin to themselves. And a frighting chunk of believers buy into their every misinformed word.

So what is atheism?

Atheism is merely a response to the question, "Do you believe in the existence of a god?". Theists say yes, while atheists say no.

Atheists are simply people who disagree with theistic claims - claims of a Creator God who made the universe. That's it. There's not necessarily any other point of agreement.

Atheism isn't a philosophy or worldview or even a religion for the same reason that not believing in leprechauns represents a worldview. Atheism isn't even a belief, it's a rejection of a belief and the only real difference between it and a-leprechaunism or a-unicornism or a-fairyism is that very few people seriously believe in such things anymore.

That said, atheists do not "believe in nothing". Atheists can indeed construct valid and positive worldviews, but these views are not atheism, they are beliefs in addition to atheism.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama offends Christian Nation wingnuts

Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars

At Obama's inauguration, here's what he said:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth
He's emphasizing the diversity of the American people as one of our great strengths. Everyone (well almost everyone) agrees with that. But he made one mistake, he said that we're a religiously diverse nation (which is factually true, check the latest polls). And that has the wingnuts up in arms.

They insist that America is a Christian nation (read: soft domionism). Well, what does that mean? It means that America has been and should continue to be governed under Christian (as opposed to secular) principles and it heavily implies that non-Christians aren't "true" Americans and should have no say in their own country. Nothing but historical revisionism (particularly about the founding fathers) used to fuel thinly-veiled religious bigotry and theocratic fervor.

Imagine people saying that America is a "white country" and that government should promote "white values". See the problem? Yeah, it's horribly racist and an attempt to abuse governmental authority to promote their narrow-minded, sectarian, racist ideology - a notion of "white values" that many white people would likely dispute. American theocrats have the same gameplan. And that's why they despise Obama's admission that America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and nonbelievers in addition to Christians. They can't admit the diversity of American religious opinion because then they have to surrender the myth that America has always been and should continue to be based on their religion beliefs. Without the enduring myth of the Christian Nation, they cannot hold power.

Wingnut Daily went to town on this latest news, complete with links to other crazy wingnut sites. Here's one reaction:
A television commercial that aired in South Dakota by a group calling itself the Coalition Against Anti-Christian Rhetoric juxtaposed the audio of Obama's "no longer Christian" statement over images of the presidential candidate dressed in Somali garb and a picture of him with his hands rested below his waist while other politicians place their hands over their hearts during the Pledge of Allegiance.

"It's time for people to take a stand against Barack Hussein Obama," declares the voiceover on the commercial.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Atheists are Insane

Via Catalyst

Oh man, you're definitely going to need a padded cell after this anti-atheist diatribe is over.

First, let's raise a toast to one brave soul - an Amazon forums spiritual warrior named Paul. Hallowed be his crazy rants about atheists quoted with admiration from the next cell over.

First up, atheists only talk about God because they hate God. They're mini-devils who apparently aren't as even-minded as the devil, who himself believes in God.
They hate God. It is very clear. Oh, they hate Christians too, and the Bible and the church.
Well said, Paul. You truly are a fountain of wisdom.

The atheist responses? What nuggets of madness do they bring? What evil, Satanic hatred will they inflict on these poor, persecuted believers?

Well, it turns out they just dislike believers who define moral goodness through religious affiliation, thus condemning atheists as evil. Awkward...

From that short pit stop at sanity, we just hang a right on the Damascus road straight to crazyville.

Every tenet of Christianity is just assumed to be true, complete with frequent bible verses, and therefore atheism is only explicable through insanity or outright malevolence. Why else would someone reject an obviously true deity?

Read the whole thing, it's great. It's essentially a few sentences worth of actual thought stretched out to a couple pages worth of how evil and crazy atheists are for not believing in the author's God.
Many Christians think that atheists are fools. Rightly so for so does God. “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 53:1) In fact I call it a conscious and deliberate insanity. Perhaps that’s fair, because many atheists think that Christians and theists are fools as well.
I'll give it the author one thing, deliberate insanity is certainly in the air.
The fact is the depravity of the human heart proves that all sinners hate God more than anything else. There is no REAL CAUSE for their hatred still they hate Him. Every hatred has a cause, but in their case it is a falicy and a myth. They think it very real and reasonable, but it is evidence of their hatred and insanity. They ought to love Him. Yet they hate Him. And so store up more and more wrath for that day of judgment.
Quick question: I was sort of under the impression that everlasting torment is pretty much the maximum possible punishment. Explain how more wrath is supposed to make that worse.

Well this is definitely shaping up to be fstdt material, because it has requisite ALL CAPS and egregiously misspelled common word, "falicy".

Okay, now that we've established that there is no REAL CAUSE for atheist hostility towards God/goodness/Christianity/puppies, let's go ahead and pretend like we know the cause. It's a breeze - all you have to do is apply armchair psychology to millions of people. Ready?
The insanity of the atheist is all to clear. No doubt they hate Him for He is holy and they are not and darkness always flees at the entrance of light. He is pure and they are not. He is altogether lovely and they are not. He insists on their obedience but they will not. Therefore they hate Him. This is insanity!
The real reason atheists hate on God/believers: they're jealous of our freedoms holiness. That's right, "The atheist hates God because He is so good."
Most atheists are usually avid evolutionists for all they have is eternal matter. There is no eternal God. Self is of supreme importance
Those crazy evolutionists, believing in that pseudoscientific hooey about how the world and all life wasn't poofed into existence by an intelligently designing God 6,000 years ago. How gullible! And they actually believe that their self is of supreme importance. How self-centered! They should totally have the God of all creation come down to Earth and get murdered for their sins.
The atheist thinks all Christians should be placed in a mad-house, an asylum for the insane, for they believe in God, in Jesus, in Sin, in Heaven, in Hell, in Angels, in Demons etc. etc.
Atheists think all Christians are insane? Strawman ahoy! Palin 2012 crazy, maybe. Clinically insane and in need of a padded cell, no.
the atheist is supremely convinced of his reality - so very much so. Look at all the websites and books by skeptics and atheists.
Yay, atheists genuinely, sincerely don't believe that a god exists.

There's just one problem with that: you just said that they somehow "know" that God exists ("While they inwardly know he is their real friend") and simply choose to hate him.
My dear atheists, does your own moral course commend itself to your conscience and your reason? If not, what are you but a moral maniac? Atheist man, atheist woman, must you in truth write yourselves down as moral maniacs?
Uggh. Nope, can't say mounds of drivel are very convincing. Berating the kids for not believing in Santa Claus isn't a very good apologetics technique, but it's painfully common and the endless froth gets lots of laughs. Thanks for the entertainment, I feel sorry for you if you're serious.

Atheism is a Religion

From the ironically-named blog, Atheism's Fallacies:

1) Atheism is not a religion.
2) Atheist activism! Humanist chaplains!
3) ZOMG, atheism is a religion!!!!1

I love it. The train of thought is great. It's linguistic torture with deliberate obfuscation, all designed reinforce one bumbling, obviously incorrect myth - that atheism is a religion. It's exactly the kind of godly dishonesty that makes one proud to be an atheist.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Nurgle Gurgle

I've been out for a while with a very nasty stomach bug which hit me like a ton of bricks during the snowstorm. I felt cold, weak, and tired for entirely too long. And the best part was feeling nauseous at the mere mention of food while simultaneously being seriously under-nourished.

But now I'm back and better than ever.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Jesus appears in lava lamp

Australia man finds Virgin Mary and baby Jesus in his lava lamp, the latest in a long line of nuts who claim to see religious figures in such unlikely places as toast, a concrete underpass, floor tiles, even road rash.

“This is a true, tangible miracle that is not just an optical illusion", he exclaims. Because you know, if I were a deity, I'd choose to broadcast my presence by gracing an assortment of mundane objects in a manner that's utterly indistinguishable from pareidolia (and therefore supremely unconvincing) rather than actually trying to interact with people in a normal manner. That makes perfect sense.

Bus ad extravaganza!

Muslim bus ad draws protests

Not to be outdone by atheist bus ads, CAIR put up $60,000 worth of bus ads in Broward county, Florida. It says "ISLAM: The Way of Life of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad."

But the ironically named Americans Against Hate (because it seems that hate is all they do) will have none of that. Their head, Jewish activist Joe Kaufman claims that the ad is deeply offensive and misconstrues Abraham and Moses as followers of Islam (which is something Christians never ever do).

Here's the hilarious part: both groups claim that the other one is affiliated with terrorists.

And the strange thing is that they both sort of have a point. CAIR was investigated (but unindicted) by the Department of Justice as a possible conspirator for a Dallas-based Muslim charity that funneled money to Hamas. Meanwhile, AAH is allegedly affiliated with some Israel-based Jewish terrorist group that was banned in Israel and had its assets seized in the US for its terrorist dealings.

Monotheism: making the world a better place, one nutbar terrorist organization at a time.

But the ensuing biblical slapfest going on between AAH and CAIR is ticking off one County Commissioner. She said, "We have restrictions on cigarettes and adult entertainment, and we should eliminate religious ads hereafter,"

Eliminate all religious ads?? Score one for the atheists, muahaha.

Meanwhile, in the UK, British MPs tabled a motion in parliament against the atheist bus ads because Christians and Muslims supposedly find the atheist bus ads "offensive and morally unhelpful". (these are same people who respectively find evolution and Danish editorial cartoons offensive enough to warrant censorship)

These poor, persecuted souls want the atheist ads silenced and are apparently willing to feign victimization to get it. Mediawatchwatch has the scoop.

Last, but certainly not least, Pink Triangle reports that a British bus driver refuses to drive any bus with an atheist ad on it because it offends him. He's taking the same courageous moral stance that Christians over here do when pharmacists refuse to sell contraception (which is kinda sorta their job) or Muslim cashiers who refuse to scan bacon or beer (again, this sort of falls under the whole job thing). The bus driver reportedly recoiled in shock and horror that there "probably" isn't a god. Yeah, well try getting an IT guy on weekends.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Book Review: Doubt: A History

Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson, by Jennifer Michael Hecht

This book is amazing. I highly recommend. My copy is falling apart right now from overuse. I desperately need one of those Quran book-holders to preserve it. For atheists, the book will likely introduce you to many religious skeptics that you haven't heard of before and offers insight into both the history of atheism, and to a lesser extent, the history of religion. For theists, it offers a easy and painless introduction to religious skepticism, and Hecht's warm and friendly tone is sure to be a welcome relief. At 494 pages, it seems quite formidable, but once you get into it, it's a breeze.

I really liked Ebonmuse's summary:
A magisterial history of religious doubt, dissent and freethinking from the ancient Greeks to the modern day. Readers who can get past the book's admittedly intimidating size will find treasures on nearly every page, showing that doubt has been alive and well in even the darkest of dark ages. I learned an enormous amount from this book and will use it often as a reference - strongly recommended.
The book starts out with my favorite part, Greek doubt. It goes over the major schools of thought - Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Skepticism, and introduces us to Greek doubters: Xenophanes, Democritus, Epicurus, Diagoras, Anaxagoras, Socrates, etc.

One thing that always strikes me about this book is the sheer multitude and diversity of doubters throughout history:
  • The Carvaka (in the play The Rise of the Moon Intellect, Passion's diatribe against religion is absolutely hysterical)
  • Islamic doubters al-Razi (who famously wrote The Prophet's Fraudulent Tricks, The Stratagems of Those Who Claim to Be Prophets, and On the Refutation of Revealed Religions and yet died of natural causes) and al-Ma'arri ("O fools, awake! The rites ye sacred hold / Are but a cheat contrived by men of old / Who lusted after wealth and gained their lust / And dided in baseness-and their law is dust.")
  • Chinese philosopher Wang Ch'ung (who attacked magical thinking and espoused naturalism)
  • Giordano Bruno (who pursued Copernicanism to its logical end and shockingly claimed that the universe was filled with other suns and other worlds just like ours, teeming with life. He was burned at the stake as a heretic, although with probably the most badass last words ever, "Perhaps you, my judges, pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I recieve it." Even today, the Catholic Church still cries crocodile tears over his death murder. Cardinal Angelo Sodano called it a "sad episode", but quickly added that we should not judge those who condemned Bruno and that the inquisitors "had the desire to preserve freedom and promote the common good and did everything possible to save his life." What a load!)
  • And I can't forget Baron d'Holbach, one of the first openly atheistic atheists (who mused on God, "If he is immovable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his decrees? If he is inconceivable, why occupy ourselves with him? If he has spoken, why is the universe not convinced?")
I could go on all day (and heartily enjoy every moment of it), but you get the picture. There are gems here, and that's not all. Hecht does an excellent job weaving together the myriad lives of religious doubt, noting the common refrains, and presenting naturalism as a both a valid and worthy alternative to supernaturalism, with its share of heroes and firebrands, its moments of triumph and loss, and its ability to inspire and enrich the lives of people.

Doubt is a must-read for anyone interested in religion's critics.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Two strikes against forced indoctrination

First, a Chicago dentist violated discrimination laws by forcing employees to submit to indoctrination in the tenets of the Church of Scientology. Because don't you want someone poking around in the most tender and sanguinary parts of your gums with wickedly sharp instruments to believe that there are evil spirits dancing around in there?

But wait, it gets better. Not content at merely forcing probably the world's most vile religion on Earth on people, he also subjected 18 female employees to sexual propositions and fired people who complained about the whole "you have be Scientologists in order to work here" policy.

He, of course, continues to deny all wrongdoing, and settled merely to "to avoid further expense and disruption" of his business. The U.S. district court ruled that he must pay $462,500 and prohibits him from continuing to engage in "any further sexual or religious workplace discrimination". I consider this a win for the Marcab Confederacy.

Second, a public school accused of some very disturbing breaches in church/state separation just lost the case. The U.S. District Court judge ruled that the school should discontinue the following:
  • Promoting prayer at school-sponsored events, including graduation.
  • Planning or financing religious baccalaureate services.
  • Promoting religious beliefs to students in class or during school-sponsored events and activities.
  • Holding school-sponsored events at churches.
What the-? At churches?! That's crazy. And the summary is quite the understatement: by "promoting religious beliefs to students" we're talking about documents instructing teachers to preach about "judgment day with the Lord" to their students, not as part of any sort of religious curriculum, but just to drop the J-bomb whenever and wherever they feel like it.

The ACLU filed suit about this back in August 2008, and they say that both school board members and the principal had "a repeated pattern" of "promoting and endorsing prayers at graduation ceremonies and other school events, of sponsoring religious ceremonies and holding official school events at churches."

The filthy, Jesus-hating pinkos of the ACLU said that this was wrong because "Parents, not the public schools, should be responsible for deciding whether their children receive religious education," and that "Religious freedom is eroded when the government endorses any particular religious viewpoint."

Needless to say, the Christian sites are shocked, shocked I say, at both the persecution of Christians and the anti-God bias of both the ACLU and the courts (and somehow missed the rationale for the lawsuit), spinning the decision as some sort of Orwellian removal of all religion from schools. Some of the more literacy-impaired ones out there don't seem to understand the difference between state-sanctioned prayer as a part of official school events and unofficial, voluntary prayer, and they're chalking this up as an all-out-attack on the rights of individuals to pray. (which probably isn't the ACLU's actual position given the free exercise clause in the first amendment)

That's why I have a tiny little challenge for any persecuted Christians out there: imagine a public school holding official events at the local mosque and pushing Muhammad during class. You would be screaming your lungs out for religious neutrality, you contemptible hypocrites. You only value the freedoms of secular government when it serves your interests, and attack the very freedoms you claim to hold dear when it's your group doing the evangelizing. That is all.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Christians fast for the new year

Christian Post

You guys know we're already hip-deep in January already, right?
Over 300 churches are hoping to make a tremendous impact on the body of Christ and throughout the world through 21 days of prayer and fasting.

For 21 days, thousands will be going without food, certain meals, television, Internet or "anything that feeds your flesh-man."

"It’s really not about the food. It’s about denying your flesh-man the things that feed it," Chris Hodges of Church of the Highlands Birmingham, Ala., stressed.
21 days? That's not a very good symbolic number. If you really want to please the guy upstairs and usher in the new year with a *reads from the pamphlet* "supernatural, miraculous tone", I think ya ought to go at least 77 days without consuming any health-sustaining organic matter. It's either that or the flesh-man wins.

God wants you weak, poorly nourished and on the verge of hallucinating, otherwise this revolution around the sun (which have been happening like clockwork since time immemorial) might potentially be less than supernatural or not very miraculous. And we wouldn't want that, now do we?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Creepy PSAs

I love the government. From the earliest days of my childhood, I will forever remember it as an often efficient purveyor of grade school food-like products - grade F meat parts with a side of some kind of preternaturally green lettuce-like plant and a brownish milk pouch labeled "skim" that totally didn't look like a reused hospital blood packet.

Well, it turns out that they do something useful on the side - pumping out clever, completely factually accurate, and totally not permanently traumatizing ads to inform us dumb citizens who otherwise wouldn't be able to grasp complex and difficult issues of not standing on train tracks or not eating paint chips. Behold their genius:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another Panda attack

"I always thought they were cute and just ate bamboo," Zhang said
Every time something like this happens people are always incredibly surprised that a huge bear with formidable teeth and claws and enough strength to take out Chuck Norris could possibly hurt them.

Even the media buys into the fuzzy and harmless depiction of pandas from time to time:
Gu Gu is not your typical soft and cuddly giant panda
Gu Gu is your typical giant panda. Your typical giant panda will maul people who jump into its cage. It's not a puppy, it's a wild animal. It will probably hurt you if you get close to its cage.

But on the other hand, Panda cubs are friendly and absolutely adorable.

A disturbance in the Force

Sacha Baron Cohen's black Jesus to shock America

Oh man, there's so much potential for this to go very, very wrong but it also might be absolutely hilarious. Either way, Cohen's sure to antagonize half the country and that's always funny, hehe.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Replicator ecosystem created in the lab

Via Wired

It's not life (which by definition, is composed of cells), but it certainly evokes the word.

Basically, researchers created RNA enzymes with the potential to replicate with each other. Then, they added nucleic bases to the mix and the enzymes started replicating, producing more enzymes than were initially there. From there, evolution took hold and three mutant strains ended up dominating the population which were better at replicating than the initial population.

Good ol' impossible evolution in action, and an excellent experiment providing insight into early life.

I wonder where the creationists are in times like these.

A Christian response to the bus campaign

Via Crosswalk

Basically, the author is smugly amused that the bus ads say that there probably isn't a god rather than saying that there definitely isn't one. In a blinding display of brilliance, he assumes that this indicates a lack of conviction and "demonstrates the weakness of the atheistic argument" (The irony is that if the message was more along the lines of strong atheism, these people would just accuse atheists of being dogmatic. Smug dismal either way.)

Well, as it turns out, the real joke is in the comments. The author didn't do the research and some reader kindly pointed it out to him.

But the mere fact of not understanding what they're talking about sure doesn't stop idiots from repeating the talking point. (who themselves are kindly corrected in the comments)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Oregon Church refuses to marry straight people until gays can marry


First Congregational United Church of Christ’s Rev. Pam Shepherd, seeing the act of signing marriage licenses for heterosexual couples as a form of discrimination against gays and lesbians, decided that in the name of fairness no licenses should be dignified with the signature of the church’s clergy until all families receive equal treatment under the law.
While well-intentioned, I don't think this sort of thing is a very good way of advancing gay rights. Seems like it's just adding to the problem by cheating yet another group out of their marital wishes.

Church removes crucifix for being too scary-looking

This story still has me in stitches. It's like an irony onion, layer upon layer of folly.

Basically, a church removed its own crucifix because it was "too scary" and conflicted with their Christian mission of hope and happiness.
Rev Souter, formerly a cell biologist, said: "The crucifix expressed suffering, torment, pain and anguish. It was a scary image, particularly for children.

"Parents didn't want to walk past it with their kids, because they found it so horrifying.

"It wasn't a suitable image for the outside of a church wanting to welcome worshippers. In fact, it was a real put-off.
Indeed, it is horrifying - a man brutally tortured and killed. But you know, that's sort of the whole basis of Christianity.

This part is pure genius:
"We're all about hope, encouragement and the joy of the Christian faith. We want to communicate good news, not bad news, so we need a more uplifting and inspiring symbol than execution on a cross."
Yeah. We're all about sharing Jesus here. You know, that guy who was crucified...oh wait.

What's going to replace the crucifix? A nice, shiny "ultra-modern stainless steel cross". Modernity's a-knockin'.

I like the deadpan snark from one churchgoer who disapproved of the change:
One long-standing member of the church, who asked not to be named, said: "The crucifix is the oldest and most famous symbol of the Christian church.

"Pulling it down and putting up something that would look more at home on the side of a flashy modern shopping centre is not the way to get more bums on seats.

"Next they'll be ripping out the pews and putting sofas in their place, or throwing out all the Bibles and replacing them with laptops. It's just not right."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Australian atheist bus ad banned

Telegraph has the story.

In Australia, atheists hoped to put up bus ads saying "atheism – celebrate reason" or "atheism - sleep in on Sunday mornings", but they were banned by the advertising company.

Why, you ask?
Metro has previously allowed adverts from religious groups including anti-abortion campaigners, but says it has now changed its policy to ban all material deemed controversial.
Basically, they get carte blanche to censor whatever they don't like. Ridiculous.

But it's not like this reaction wasn't expected - they gave it a no wayback in November. I guess it's just official now.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Pastor: Humans innately seek the right religion

News and Observer
Most people don't "find" or discover their religion - it finds them.
Doubtful. Most people get their default religion (the religion of their parents or community), some exposure to outside ideas (in modern, cosmopolitan societies, the amount of exposure can be quite large), and whatever ideas they can conjure up themselves.

Contrary to the assertion that people's religions "find them", religions tend grow and spread in fairly predictable, mundane ways - passed down from generation to generation and through evangelism. Native Americans don't just up and convert to Christianity prior to contact with Christians. Individuals are the same way, they work with what they have, and traditions tend to weigh heavily.

But according to the pastor, humans have to innate qualities that pull us towards religion:
I believe humans have two inward drives: The first is a drive or desire to know why they exist. Man has a sense that we are "effects" from a "cause" that is outside of the effect. We exist because of something or someone else greater than ourselves. We yearn to find that someone. There is an innate appetite to discover and admire him.
Sheesh, just say the G-word already.
Second, there seems to be a moral code or law written in our hearts.

We have something inside of us that tells us that we are not only in trouble with earthly authorities but accountable to a "higher power."
Okay, even assuming there aren't massive logical errors hiding there (like say, erroneously projecting your own Judeo-Christian reasons for belief in God unto absolutely everybody), how do we know which religion is right?

The response is pure genius:
Is the belief system accurate from an anthropological, genealogical, geographical, scientific and social perspective?
Scientifically accurate? This is religion we're talking about here. Here's a quick run down of a few of them:
  • A dead guy comes back to life and decides whether or not you get tossed into everlasting fire for all eternity.
  • All of humanity's problems are caused by spirits of space aliens who were sent to Earth and blown up by their evil ruler.
  • Magical spells really work.
  • The world is not only a lie, but is inherently full of anguish and suffering, which can be escaped through a regiment of religious practices.
Up next is the remarkably helpful question:
Does the religion claim to be authentic and sanctioned by God?

This is just a wild guess here, but yeah, chances of that are pretty high.
Does the religion claim to be salvific and capable of appeasing the anger of a just God?
Remember that projection thing from earlier? You're doing it again.

Long story short, whichever religious claims that are most similar to Christianity (claims of historicity, salvation, appeasing God's holy wrath) are most likely truthful. Circular logic triumphs again.

Evolution is Awesome

Hat tip to PZ

Quite possibly one of the coolest commercials I've ever seen:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What good is half a bike?

Kudos to Panda's Thumb and Carl Zimmer for bringing the pwn.

Casey Luskin, one of DI's last remaining Quixotesque crusaders for Creationism Truth, embarrassed himself recently with yet another botched analogy for Goddidit:
“Bicycles have two wheels. Unicycles, having only one wheel, are missing an obvious component found on bicycles. Does this imply that you can remove one wheel from a bicycle and it will still function? Of course not. Try removing a wheel from a bike and you’ll quickly see that it requires two wheels to function. The fact that a unicycle lacks certain components of a bicycle does not mean that the bicycle is therefore not irreducibly complex.”
Actually, bicycles can and do still function after a wheel is removed. It's called a unicycle.

This comes of the heels of a long line of botched analogies, most notably Behe's insistence that the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex, just like a mouse trap.

Actually, it turns out that if you take away most of the parts of the flagellum it's still functional as a type 3 secretory system.

And if you're really want to blow ID out of the water, you can get E. coli to evolve novel flagella. Guess a designer isn't really so necessary, after all.

Even the infamous mousetrap analogy itself fails miserably:

And if you look at the evolution "debate" closely, it's interesting to observe the rank-and-file creationists talking about evolution as if it were merely the addition of new, fully-formed parts, and that if you rewind the clock, you get organisms without the vital tools needed for survival. After all, what use is half a wing or half an eye or half a flagellum? That's essentially the argument of the Discovery Institute's argument, rebranded creationist arguments from ignorance.

It's hard to comment on exactly how wrong this line of reasoning is. It's like arguing with someone who seriously thinks that the Spore creature creator is how evolution actually works - that organisms are simply bestowed new parts as they go along and presto changeo, your eyeless fish suddenly has complex eyes. Similarly, with a wave of his magic wand, the Christian God Intelligent Designer has given previously-immobile bacteria the gift of the bacterial flagellum. Magic sure is neat!

But that's not really how evolution works at all. New features do come into fruition on occasion, but not out of thin air. And parts used for one function can find a new function (case in point: hands) The key concept in evolution is variation: finch beaks with slightly different lengths, primate skulls with slightly different dimensions, etc. A nearly endless variety of forms off just a few basic parts. That's how evolution really works.

And try as they might, creationists can't explain the diversity of life with magic. It simply fails as a science.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Anti-atheist blog makes a factual error, film at 11

Good catch from Friendly Atheist.

Hehe, confusing Africa with a country, those silly apologists. But that's orders of magnitudes less stupid than their usual fare. (A lot of the same people run Atheism Sucks and Atheism is Dead, as well as the now-defunct pre-internet site: "Ye Atheism most foul art mortally wounded, my good sirs", distributed with free copies of the Malleus Maleficarum)

Screw going after trivial slip-ups, there are failboat fleets out there just waiting to be photographed and archived for posterity.

Here's one of my personal favorites: a linkstorm of "excellent" anti-evolution resources. And there's a twist! These aren't your (relatively) high-class AIG or DI sites, we're talking links to sites that are low-quality, even by creationist standards. (the first link is to Conservapedia for crocoduck's sake) All with the author's glowing approval. D'oh!

And let's not forget this example of superb logic: Logic exists, therefore God exists. Seriously.

Geographical errors are the least of their concerns.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Well, it's a whole new year, just like last year.

It's funny, I'm a cashier and despite the "War on Christmas" bugaboo, few people made a fuss over whether I said "Merry Christmas" or not. But on New Years Eve, people practically demanded that I tell them "Happy New Year" a half-dozen times before finally leaving. What's the big deal?

To me, New Year's Day has got to be one of the most utterly arbitrary and senseless holidays out of the year. Our arbitrary calender year is over - whooo hoo! Party time! Let's get drunk! Makes no logical sense. And it always seems to fall in the midst of a nigh-endless block of cold and miserable weather, which only makes for more of a letdown when we all start off the new year feeling sick and cold (and possibly hung over)

And it's so saturated with fake optimism: things will be different this year! No, they won't.

And let's not forget the empty promises: I'm going to be a better person! I'm going to lose 20 pounds! I'm going to manage my money better!

No, you're not. You'll be right back to your old habits by February, if you even make it that far.

So happy arbitrary celebration day! Have a wonderful [standard unit of a time]!