Saturday, July 30, 2011

Constitutional Scholar?

Barrack Obama has been described as a constitutional scholar on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, as president, he has done nothing to justify such a characterization. One of the few pledges he made during his campaign he immediately ditched upon being elected. His promise to reform the Faith Based Initiative of Bush was not of much comfort since he not only promised to keep the initiative as a whole but also to expand it. How using public funds for religious purposes is not an affront to the constitution Obama is suppose to know so well is a mystery to me.

Recently, as noted on The Wall of Separation blog, Obama further distance himself from any claim to championing our constitution by insisting that dealing with religious based discrimination within the Faith Based Initiative " a very difficult issue..." It is not. It is actually quite simple. If you are going to allow a religious group to use public funds then it is not too much to expect them to follow the same rules everyone else is obligated to follow. If these groups don't want to play by the same rules do not give them any public funds. How is that difficult?

This, of course, skirts the fact that the few studies and objective measurements conducted to date clearly demonstrate that religious group do not perform any better than secular groups. In fact, in many instances religious based efforts are an absolute failure. Don't believe me? Ever heard of Abstinence Only? What about faith based drug rehab? Faith based counseling in general?

Noah: Cute kid's story or epitome of religion's absurdity?

I realize quite a few moderate and liberal Christians and Jews view the story of Noah's ark as a symbolic moral lesson rather than a literal historic event. However, there are plenty of others who do view this ridiculous myth as much more than that. Even if they did not it is pathetic even in terms of symbolism. What is the moral lesson? Is it okay to be vengeful and genocidal? Is it okay to blame others for your own incompetence? After all, God supposedly is the creator of everything. Was it humanity's fault he did such a shitty job? Personally, I do not find this story to be cute and it certainly is not one in which anything resembling morality can be drawn from.

So set aside the Childrens' books and plush toys and take a look at the following:

Barry Lynn's assessment of The Ark Encounter

Non-Stamp Collector's Noahs Ark

Charles Martin Halle's "A Chat With Noah"

If anyone can read, assuming they have a comprehension level better than that of a kindergartner, the Noah myth in Genesis and still insist there is value in it I have to conclude they are seriously twisted.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Finally, it is the commitment to freedom of conscience -not freedom of religion per se- that can help us distinguish between religious beliefs and practices that liberals should tolerate and accommodate and those that must be denounced and resisted. In the end, it is not religions that deserve our respect. A religion is a collection of metaphysical ideas and moral ideals. Ideas are believed or disbelieved; ideals are pursued or rejected. What deserves respect (or not) are people. We do not respect people by accepting whatever they think and do, but by holding them to the same intellectual, moral, and legal standards we apply to ourselves."
                                                                                                                              The Secular Conscience
                                                                                                                              Austin Dacey

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"To accept a faith just because it is customary, means to be dishonest, to be cowardly, to be lazy. And do dishonesty, cowardice, and laziness then appear as the presupposition of morality?"
The Dawn Frederick Nietzsche

Religious Bigotry of DOMA

I'm thrilled that at least a few of our politicians have some sense of decency. There effort to repeal the highly discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act is commendable. However, more emphasis should be placed on the nature and origin of this hideous affront to our Constitution and the freedoms it is supposed to guarantee.

Religion is the source of this irrational bigotry aimed at homosexuals. Occasionally, opponents of same-sex marriage try justifying their denial of basic rights to homosexual through sociological and cultural claims. All of them have been routinely debunked. Al Franken's exposure of Minery as a liar is a pretty good example (check out the video in the piece linked above). It always comes down to religious beliefs, and religious beliefs alone.

I find this both annoying and amusing since it is very hypocrital. There are two passages from Leviticus (18:22 & 20:13) that are almost always cited for the purpose of justification. Setting aside that creating public policy out religious beliefs alone is in direct violation of the first amendment, this narrow focus is rather telling. Nowhere in the Bible does it specify which parts of Mosaic Law (Contained predominantly in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy)are to be given greater weight. There are dozens of "sins" listed before, between, and after the Leviticus verses on homosexuality.

For the sake of expedience I'll stick to just a few that appear in between:

      "And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.
       And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; tou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19: 9-10

So, nearly every one in agriculture are sinners. They tend to harvest everything they can. How many in the big agricultural companies reserve a portion of their fields for the poor?

       "Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee" Leviticus 19: 19

I've always thought Monsanto and ConAgra were evil but this seems to be a bit excessive. The fashion industry also seems to have avoided the wrath of god despite all their blended garments. Are there any wardrobes left in America that don't mingle different materials?

        "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that commiteth adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." Leviticus 20:10

Just how many of the Republican politicians who always seem eager to oppress homosexuals have not committed adultery? Does this mean if they can justify DOMA we can justify lynching them? Even if you're Bible thumper this one has to end badly. After all, some of their greatest Biblical heroes were unrepetent adulterers (Abraham, Noah, David, etc.)

These are just a few of the passages they conveniently ignore. There are plenty more. As for using any passage of the Bible to promote public policy I just have one thing to say,

        "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peacably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances." Amendment 1, United States Constitution

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Speaking of Faux History

CNN recently aired a piece titled "Are these ruins of Biblical City of David", which was as interesting as it was ignorant. The reporter did provide some scrutiny in regard to the city and the kingdom it is assumed to represent. It was mentioned a few times that there is no solid evidence for the existence of the Kingdom of David, certainly not as it is described in the Bible. However, it is taken for granted that David himself was an historical figure. The piece glosses over the complete lack of any evidence for David's existence outside the Bible. Why?

It seems to be another example of theists projecting their own double standards and ignorance on their surroundings. Atheist are often accused of not believing simply because they don't want to. It seems silly to me since I see no connection between what I may or may not want and what the state of reality actually is. Theists seem to be the ones that shape "truth" around what they want to be true. It is the City of David mainly because the want it to be. It could be one of the earliest cities of a Jewish Kingdom but that is not the same thing and it remains to be verified. Of course, there is also the problem that this discovery further negates the biblical narrative of the "City of David." The Bible clearly states that the city is Jerusalem.

I also find this wishful thinking as history odd since I can not fathom why anyone, theist or non-theist, would even want to believe in David. In the the biblical account he was a drunken short-tempered adulterous and genocidal scum-bag. Check out the rampage he goes on in 1 Samuel Chapter 27 verses 8-12. This cute little bloodbath is just a warm up. Most of 2 Samuel is a homicidal romp through the promised land.  Another revealing set of verses can be found in Chapter 11 of 2 Samuel. Heard the name Bath-Sheba? David sleeps with another man's wife then arranges for the man to be killed. And David is one of the good guys of the Bible!

There is no evidence that this dick actually existed (unless you count two disputed, vague phrases on the fragmented remains of a wall). Unfortunately, there have always been bastards like him in the real world. Wanting that to not be true won't make a bit of difference. I doubt the archeologists, their wishes set aside, will find a direct link between the unearthed city and the one in the Bible. I will freely admit I still want them to keep working on it since it is a pretty awesome find even with the baggage of theistic delusions.
"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."
A Scandal in Bohemia Arthur Conan Doyle

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Biblical Scholarship: Robert M. Price

I have read a handful of articles and books by Robert M. Price. I highly recommend his works as a starting point if you are interested in learning more about the development of Christianity.

Madman or Myth

For the most part the video put together by Breitbart is really good. However, I would hope that he follows it up with another on the "historicity" of Christ. His introduction stating that Christ is "quasi-mythical" is a bit inaccurate. If you apply the standards of historical research to the life of Jesus he disappears altogether. There is not a single verifiable fact about Jesus. There are also no legitimate external sources of information about this figure despite apologists' claims to the contrary.

As for the questionable moral character of the mythical figure of Christ, I agree completely. He was not that special and certainly not that nice. There is also plenty of evidence within the New Testament that can be used to demonstrate that Christ was at best mentally ill or an outright asshole. I will have to elaborate on this in separate posts since there is too much to cover in brief. Don't believe it? Reread the New Testament and pay attention to what you are actually reading.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Free Expression vs. Intolerance?

A recent piece at the Huffington Post seems to be a little more muddled and confused than usual. The authors, Esposito and Lalwani, seem to have difficulty differentiating intolerance from discrimination and persecution, which are by no means synonymous.

They start out relatively clear about there being a fine line between free speech and harassment.  Initially, they appear to endorse the right of expression even when it is hateful. However, they derail their own line of reasoning when they get to "the stunning verdict in Geert Wilder's acquittal." What really makes it stunning? Wilder did not physically attack or harm in any way any individuals. His speech was reprehensible but well within the bounds of the free speech/expression Esposito and Lalwani previously defended.

This odd disconnect does seem to stem from the very first sentence. The notion of "defamation of religion" is absurd. Not only does religion neither need nor deserve protection it is also impossible to objectively determine what constitutes such defamation. Who gets to say what rises to the level of defamation? In my view a number of Huffington Post writers, like Rabbi Boteach, routinely defame atheists.

Esposito and Lalwani also seem to ignore the difference between individual believers and the specific religion they follow. They are not the same. The rights of an individual whether it relates to religion or not should never be violated. A religion is not a person and should never be treated as if it is. Religion has no rights. Only an  individual has rights.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Experience teaches slowly, and at the cost of mistakes." J.A. Froude

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Big A

A short column in the July issue of Ebony starts out, "Technically, I am an atheist, but I consider myself much more of a freethinker. Freethinking says I prefer critical thought, critical reasoning as my primary mode of evaluation as opposed to whether I do or do not believe in a specific God."* An excellent point. One, that unfortunately, is all too often overlooked or misunderstood. There has been a long standing argument over how much the label "atheist" really says about those who identify with it. Directly, it really doesn't say a whole lot. But this is not to say it is not a very important aspect of a person's identity.

Being an atheist is an essential part of who I am but is only one aspect of my life. It is also true that being an atheist makes it more or less likely that a person will believe or disbelieve any number of things. For instance, it is highly unlikely that an atheist will be found to believe in ghosts but it is possible. This is where a lot of people seem to get confused about atheists/atheism. Most want to be able to group all atheists into one tidy category. It does not work that way. We are the most individualistic, even fractious, minority there is. We are not a religion, despite claims to the contrary. There can be variations within a particular religion but in the end members at least tacitly agree to a specific set of doctrines and principles. Atheists do not.

My point is that we atheists use the term as part of our identity but it is only one trait. An important trait that we can cling to in an environment that is far too often hostile to us. If people want to understand who atheists as a group are they are bound to be frustrated. I make no apology for this since I too have found it frustrating at times. It is far better to engage us as individuals.

* "I Am the Big 'A'; One Man's Journey To Atheism" Ebony. July 2011

Common Antagonist

A letter in the Washington Times June 28th, "Homosexual activists should support atheists", raised some good points even if they were not quite original. The notion that advocates of homosexual rights and atheist advocates are, or should be, natural allies has been considered on a number of occasions but is well worth commenting on further. However, the letter writer does seem to imply something I take issue with. The author, though supporting gay rights, does not seem to think an equal right to marriage is by its nature a moral stance. I would have to insist that all Civil Rights rise to a moral imperative.

He also seems to overlook one of the major points of common interest between homosexuals and atheists. We share a common antagonist. That antagonist is, of course, religion. The discrimination and prejudice against us stems predominantly, if not entirely, from that one source. I have never understood how homosexuals can continue to be religious when the basic doctrines and sacred texts are so hostile toward them. Claims to the contrary are simply delusional since the level of interpretation and cherry-picking necessary to make them seem compatible is mind numbing. This is not to say homosexuals need to be atheists. They don't. The concept of God is independent of religion even if the reverse is not the case.
Having a common source of persecution may not always seem like an automatic reason for alliance but add in the fact that both minority groups are by their nature very concerned with Civil Rights and it makes a lot of sense.

Calling all Liberal and Moderate Christians

Liberal and Moderate Christians raise your hands if you've taken action against these assholes.


Okay, raise your hand if you've at least publicly spoken out against them.


So, what's "wrong" with you?