Sunday, May 26, 2013

"One has to have the courage of one's own pessimism."
Ian McEwan

Insert head in sand box

Thanks to yet another disaster a number of theists and non-theists are revisiting that age old conundrum of reconciling an all powerful all good God with evil. Personally, I find it foolish to accept it as a conundrum at all. I see it as a pretty simple straightforward choice. Either you accept reality unadorned or you subscribe to a personally/socially constructed fantasy. After all, the "conundrum" is by its own terms irreconcilable. Once you accept that God is all powerful then God has to be the source of everything. How can God be "all good" and yet be the only possible source of evil?

I do understand that choosing between reality as it is and a comforting delusion can be a very difficult and emotionally charged decision. I in no way want to belittle the thoughts and feelings of theists but I also see no reason not to point what seems so blatantly obvious from my own perspective. It also leads to a basic choice on my part when I come across these types of discussions and arguments. I can either scream in frustration or find some type of entertainment and reassurance that our species isn't completely loopy. I prefer the latter.

There were a few sections of a recent Religious News Service piece that did make me chuckle a bit. I came across this little gem in "Where is God when evil strikes?" and had to laugh.

"But they still skirt the central question. Why did an omnipotent God allow Newtown? How can a vicious tornado kill kids when God is good?
There is, alas, no good answer."

Yes, there is. God is a human construction. Sometimes answers can be simple. I still am amazed that such blatantly obvious answers go ignored. If a person shoots lots of people. That individual bears direct responsibility. We as a society may also bear some of the responsibility. Why look beyond those two sources? It has far greater explanatory ability and can be verified. If a tornado tears through a town the damage is directly attributable to that example of extreme weather. Why add the element of an unverifiable highly disputable supernatural agent? What does it really help?

I had to laugh. I don't have enough hair left to risk ripping it out over such foolish nonsense.

And in the Red corner, weighin in at....

It's always fun reading about Exorcisms. It is such a blatant crock of shit that it is truly astounding that so many still fall for that superstitious nonsense. Even more entertaining is that so many find it hard to understand why many non-believers view religion with disdain. Many Christian denominations, not just fringe ones, still officially recognize the devil and demons as being real. Seriously?!! And we're not suppose to make fun of that crap?!

A HuffPo repost of a recent AP story made me laugh. According to Ciaran Giles' "Exorcists Wanted: Madrid's Catholic Church Says It Needs More Trained Priests", "An archdiocese spokeswoman said Friday that Madrid only has one exorcist priest and that it is considering a plan to train more. She spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with archdiocese policy. 'The devil exists. That's a fact,' she told The Associated Press."

I couldn't help picturing the stereotypical old bearded white guy in a boxing ring with a horned red skinned dude exchanging jabs while bobbing and weaving. Theists really need to get their shit together and make-up their mind once and for all whether God is perfect and all powerful or not. If you assume God exists and that God is perfect then there can be no "devil." Demons are as make believe as fairies and leprechauns. Until the church officially disavows this type of garbage there is no reason not to ridicule them for it.

AN answer, sort of

I have a tendency to be more critical of conservative variations of religion but I do not reserve all my critiques for them. Recently there was a post on HuffPo, a liberal and routine target, that clearly demonstrates how clueless left leaning theists can be. Timothy Kurek's "The Answer to the 'Christian Right'" is a litany of liberal Christian ignorance. What makes it truly ridiculous is that the ignorance displayed is of an inward nature. It focuses on a relatively new website, The Christian Left, that purports to be unique. It isn't.

The truth is that Liberal Christians are not new and are not a minority. There are more left leaning theists than there are right leaning ones. It may not always seem that way since the conservatives tend to be louder and more aggressive. The only way both the founders of this site and its followers could have failed to notice this is by not paying attention. I am by no means saying that the site is poorly constructed and run. It is actually somewhat interesting but it is not all that is being made out to be. It is one possible response to Christian Right. A better one is for all liberal theists to wake up and pay attention to details. I'm not going to count on that happening. It would give them the ability to do what they seem to want; counter the conservative version of their faith. However, I can see such theists hesitating to pay too close attention since it would likely lead to more inward scrutiny than they can handle.

A lot of critical thinking will reveal some unwanted truths. Religion, liberal and conservative, is at its heart incoherent ludicrous crap.

Note: Liberal theistic "spokesmen" routinely appear in mainstream media. Two that immediately come to mind are Jim Wallis and Barry Lynn. They have even appeared on such stalwart conservative outlets as Fox News.

Empty Rhetoric?

Over the past week Pope Francis has gotten a lot of attention for himself over comments about atheists. Though, I appreciate his admitting that we are decent people I was not really all that impressed. After all, it is no different from praising someone for admitting that water is wet. The fact that it generated so much attention is the more notable point. It reveals just how narrow minded and bigoted society can be.

It should also be noted that there are two major assumptions being made by media and society as a whole in regard to the Pope's attention grabbing homily.
1. he is sincere in his statements
2. his statements will translate into practice
As I have previously written ("New Pope, Same as the Old Pope 4/21/13) there are reasons to suspect that this Pope's outreach is simply a public relations ploy. So, though I would like to believe he is being sincere and will actively seek to end the practice of marginalizing and demonizing non-believers I am not going to go on those assumptions.

If the Pope is sincere he should announce some type of policy that would forbid church employees/representatives from smearing atheists. Publicly apologizing for all the nasty shit the church has done and continues to do would be a notable gesture as well.

Just a few of the pieces from this past week:

Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics

Heaven for atheists? Pope sparks debate

Atheists Like What They See In Pope Francis' New Openness

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Theology: An effort to explain the unknowable by putting it into terms of the not worth knowing"
H.L. Mencken

"When religious beliefs become evil: 4 signs"

I actually do agree with a great deal of what John Blake wrote in his April 28th CNN Belief blog post
"When religious beliefs become evil: 4 signs." Does a decent job provide examples from a variety of religions. By doing so he does at least partially acknowledge all religions fit the four signs he talks about. However, even when he does imply that this can include mainstream faith/believers he does go out of his way to make it seem like such incidences are rare and therefore the Religion as a whole is not to blame. I not only strongly disagree I would point out that all 4 signs are innately a part of, if not all, most Religions. That includes the mainstream as wells as the fringe groups.

The fours signs written about are:
1. I know the truth, and you don’t.
2. Beware the charismatic leader.
3. The end is near.
4. The end justifies the means.

Even a cursory examination of these should lead to a number of potentially damning when applied to either individual religions or Religion as an institution. Which doesn't believe it has the "truth"? Even when a particular group pays lip service to tolerance you have to ask why they have chosen the specific faith they have? If they do not believe it to be better or more "truthful" why are they members? It also rather common among religions to have both a charismatic founding figure and some type of belief in the end of the world. There isn't a single religion that has not engaged in "end justifies the means." What faith has not condoned, encouraged, or commanded behaviors that outsiders find unethical or immoral? Most still do to some degree.

Writing from a culture saturated with Christianity Blake should know better. Since I grew up in this culture and have done more than my share of reading and research I can state with a great deal of confidence that Christianity as a whole fits all four. And I do mean Christianity not simply a few denominations/sects. Christians certainly believe in the "truth" of Christ. Very few are willing to concede even in the possibility that Christ is mythical and that most "Christian" teachings are either variations or repackaged elements form previous belief systems. Christ, whether mythical or not, was the epitome of a charismatic leader. His message was definitely tied into his character. According to the Gospels he routinely insisted that people give up their family and friends who were not believers in him. Also by way of the Gospels, Christ does predict the end of the world and clearly states that it would be within that generation. There are passages in which Christ justifies a number of behaviors that did not fit the message he was portraying. I have in other posts pointed out some of these bad behaviors of Christ including mass murder.

Once again, theists are pretty good at pointing out what is wrong with other people's beliefs but generally fail in applying the same criteria to themselves.

Once again, Religion NEEDS Government endorsement

Every year I become further convinced that is not simply that the various Religions and religious groups want support but rather that they need the support of government. I find it slightly ironic that may of the same people who insist that the "free market"(and they don't limit that to economics) is always right are the ones who insist on ramming religion down everyone's throats. One of the latest examples of government being used to prop up faith comes from Georgia.

An AP story revealed that the National Park Service in Georgia had been placing copies of the Bible in its cabins. After having it pointed out that doing so is a violation of our Constitution the matter should have been resolved but instead conservatives are using it to push their narrow minded personal views on everyone else. If it were not for the constant reminder that the Bible is the "Good Book" how many would really view it that way? It has been demonstrated countless times that most Christians have never actually read the whole thing. So why do so many find the need to promote it? It is doubly ridiculous since the Bible is readily available. If people want to read it they can get a copy without any difficulty. How many libraries don't have a copy? What Christian church wouldn't have copies available?

Government involvement in such matters is not only unnecessary it is downright unethical and un-American.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Give me truth; cheat me by no illusion."
Margaret Fuller

Saturday, May 11, 2013

More Victim/Martyr Bullshit

"When Christians become a 'hated minority'" is a piece looking for an excuse. The whole thing relies on the assumption that myths, delusions, and conflations by a self-selected group is a good source for a serious post. Why repeat the baseless nonsense being spewed but such an obviously clueless bunch of nut jobs. The title itself gives you a pretty good idea of the level of stupidity that follows. The story takes place right here in the US where Christians are the majority. The first obvious question revolves around how the majority can simultaneously become a minority, hated or otherwise. Conflating one denomination/sect of a given religion with that religion as a whole is such a blatant mistake that you would think Blake would have done more to point it out. He also does very little to point out that disagreements with, and even dislike of a specific group should not be reported as "hate." If the group taking issue is also seeking to cause harm to the other group then "hate" might be a reasonable term to use.

In fairness, Blake does bring up some of these questions but in a very mild manner. He seems to fall for the same trap so many mainstream journalists give in to; false balance. Loaning credibility to ideas and claims that are demonstrably false does a disservice to all of us. Even though I and many others, theist and atheist alike, frequently disagree and even dislike many of the doctrines and ideas associated with Christianity it in no way means we hate Christians. It is also idiotic to even hint at the false notion that Christians are a minority. If Christians have problems with the way Christianity is being presented in our culture the first thing they ought to do is look in the mirror and at each other.

Wait, who's the bully?!

Apparently this is yet another attempt at distorting reality for rather selfish and self-deluded purposes. Overall, Meredith Bennett-Smith's piece, "Reach America's High School Anti-Chritian Bullying Video Calls For An 'Army' To Save America's Souls", is pretty well written but does reveal a slight bias towards the group in question. She states that, "However, while some of the points in the video are factually accurate, others are not entirely on the mark."

Actually, no there are no factually accurate "points" made at any point during the video*. On the occasion they use a fact it is distorted and interpreted to support their idiotic notion of religious freedom. I have watched the Reach America's short video and cannot see any merit to it. What they are really upset with is the fact that schools are finally starting to put a stop to the favored tactics of far-right conservative Christians. They are upset that they can no longer completely count on getting away with harassing and coercing, among others, homosexuals, non-Christians, and non-conservative Christians.

It is actually Reach America that would be accurately labelled a "bully."  The very premise for their existence is absurd to the point of being laughable. The site insists that, "Without a doubt, Christian youth are living in an increasingly anti-Christian culture." Really?! Our culture is still dominated by Christianity. The majority of Americans are self-professed Christians. The majority of our political, social, and economic leaders are likewise self-professed Christians. Minorities have comparatively little power and influence. Any sense of persecution they feel is either imagined or they are doing it to themselves.

*The May 2013 issue of American's United for Separation of Church and State's journal Church and State has an excellent piece that addresses many of the false claims made in videos like this one. "School Prayer Palaver: Busting Myths About Religion In The Classroom" should be posted in every public school where morons like the drones in the Reach America video insist on making such false claims.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

"If atheism is a religion, then bald is a hair color."
Mark Schnitzius

Not so Pacifist

It may at times seem like I go out of the way to criticize Christianity, especially Catholicism, but that is not the case. I tend to write more about them for the simple reasons that it is the dominant religion of the culture I live in and it gets the most attention. Most religious "news" that gets reported tends to be focused on Christianity. However, recently Buddhism has been featured. I have previously pointed out that if you actually look into Buddhism it becomes clear that that religion is not nearly as "atheistic" as people assume. Recent reporting also points out that it is not quite the pacifist faith that many also assume it to be.

"In Myanmar, living in fear amid religious violence" AP (resposted by NPR)

"Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims?" BBC

This is by no means the first time Buddhism has been used to condone and/or encourage violence.

Can there be any question that Catholicism is political?

This past week it was announced that the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops would be using a right-wing media flack for his spokesperson. A former adviser of Sarah Palin will now serve as the mouthpiece of the Catholic church in the US. The USCCB is already a far right cabal of politicians that market themselves as spiritual leaders. The use of a far right pundit only seems to confirm it even further. Given the track record of Kim Daniels it seems all but a forgone conclusion that any pretense at claiming to be honest and ethical is a deceitful ploy. I would also assume that the USCCB is preparing to interfere in public policy even more than they already do.

One of the dumbest questions, ever

"Does Atheism Require Faith?" is the title of recent American Spectator blog post by R.J. Moeller. I, to be honest, don't expect much from an ideological and factually challenged rag like the American Spectator but this one was particularly ludicrous. The title alone gives you a pretty good idea about the level of idiocy involved. So, lets deconstruct it it a bit.

"theism" - a religious based belief system
"a" - a  prefix meaning none or without
a lack of a religious based belief system

How many belief systems rely almost entirely on faith? How does lacking one type of belief system tell you much about what an individual or group may or may not actually believe in? Moeller's title is as vacuous as the content of the rest of the piece. The blog is essentially a review of "the latest effort from radio show host and best-selling author Dennis Prager’s virtual 'Prager University'" during which "Dr. Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, is the instructor for the new 'God or Atheism' course and in it presents a case for why belief in a Higher Power is not as irrational as many in the academic world and entertainment industry would have us believe. Professor Kreeft opens his argument by citing the first 'way' in Thomas Aquinas’ 'Five Ways' to prove God’s existence — The Argument from Motion."

I suppose you could claim that this post is a bargain since you get 3 dumb-asses for the price of one. If you are not familiar with Prager feel free to look him up but keep your expectations very low. He is as stupid as he is narrow minded and deceitful. I have also never understood why so many are so impressed with Aquinas. Even for his own time Aquinas' thinking was grossly flawed and rather easily refuted. In the end, this blog drags out a number of old fallacies and apologetics that have been routinely trounced.

For the record, the answer is a resounding no. Not only does it not require faith by definition it cannot. If you have "faith", at least as it is commonly used, you are not an atheist.

"Sharing faith" as a Euphemism

Religious conservatives can't seem to help themselves. They just keep demonstrating how ignorant, arrogant, and whiny they really are. A piece at Religious News Service talks about one of their latest gripes in a rather wishy-washy manner but it doesn't take much to see the complaints for the self-deluded martyr-wanna-be bullshit that it truly is.

The first paragraph reads,
"Christian conservatives have grown increasingly alarmed in recent weeks over reports and rumors that the Pentagon is considering new policies aimed at discriminating against Christians and disciplining or even court-martialing those who share their faith."

Problem is that what conservatives mean by "share their faith" is coercion. The second paragraph points out that, "The Department of Defense on Thursday (May 2) sought to debunk that speculation, saying that while aggressive proselytizing is barred, evangelization is still permitted and the rights of all believers – and non-believers – will be protected." It would be acceptable if this were accurate but unfortunately it is not. The military still has serious problems with Christian officers getting away with intimidating and cajoling the ranks into participating in various prostelytizing activities.

Basically, they are bitching that they are now being questioned about such intolerant and coercive behavior. On the occasions that they have been prevented from harassing non-Christians they immediately turn around and play the victim card. They are a bunch of hypocritical, deceitful assholes. Their blatant disregard for the Constitution and the basic foundation of our government should be grounds for their court-martials. They should not be armed. And they sure as hell shouldn't be viewed as defenders of our country!