Saturday, June 29, 2013


                         "Religious War:
Fighting over who has the best imaginary friend."
Bumper sticker

An Indirect Religious Argument for Gun Control

Actually this isn't an argument so much as an example or demonstration. Religious News Service had this short piece, "Pork-laced bullets designed to send Muslims straight ‘to hell’" The title pretty much says it all. As far as I can tell this is not meant as a joke. These dumb-ass twisted assholes are serious. Even if you were to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they really are not that incredibly stupid it is still an amazingly crude ignorance laden spiteful gesture.

In any case this just seems to scream to be used as an example of why gun control is really a good idea. I am not opposed to the basic idea of gun ownership but I do think some common sense restrictions and regulations are in order. Little things like admitting that for the purpose of hunting or sport shooting fully automatic assault rifles and armor piercing bullets are completely unnecessary. I also find it a good rule of thumb to keep any and all weapons out of the hands of assholes like those behind things like "pork-laced bullets." If you're that fucking stupid and vicious you should not be allowed near fire arms let alone have the legal right to stock-pile them..

A Museum to Inspire Cognitive Dissonance

"New Gettysburg museum explores role of faith in Civil War"
The museum in question seems to play on an all too common approach to history and religion. Faith ends up being used as a propaganda tool devoid of any critically thinking or any thought at all. I do find history inspiring and I am pleased that there is another museum opening but the primary goal seems a bit skewed. It doesn't, of course, occur to people that the premise of the article and that of the museum actually supports a basic criticism of religion in general. Faith can be used to justify and/or gloss over anything! This is apparently the opposite of what some intend.

“'People have found it comfortable to find a way to think about the Civil War in terms of valor and heroism,' said Barbara Franco, executive director of the museum. 'We want to really look at these other parts of it — causes, consequences — and leave people thinking there’s more to this than just the simple answers.'”
Simple answers is what religion/faith does best. It is incredibly rare that religious leaders encourage their followers to go beyond simple answers. In fairness, the leaders of many other institutions and social constructs often push such thoughtless simplicity as well.

Personally, I fail to see how pushing faith any further is going to help anyone gain more insight into history or contemporary society. Our culture has always been saturated with religion. Despite the tacit claims that this is somehow a unique approach for a museum, there are plenty of sources of information that already focus on faith's impact from the point of view of theism. Perhaps what we really need is a museum that looks into the negative aspects of faith. Even better would be a museum that shows both the positive and the negative under one roof. That would be unique.

Another Theistic Conundrum

Assuming the basic premise of "Not all religious convictions are written in stone" it still leads to some inconvenient questions. For instance, if religious convictions are not universal and unchanging what makes them sacred? What makes them any different from any other type of belief(s)? Why should special allowances, which most theists still insist on, be made for faith? It seems to me that this is a theological catch-22. If you allow for change and accept, at least partially modernity and reality, you loose any special claims. If you don't allow for change you add to the variety and strength of criticisms that advancing knowledge inevitably pile up against religion as a whole, which results in religion's irrelevance.

This dilemma is not blunted by the author's preference to focus almost entirely on Homosexual rights. The ideas and questions implied in the title remain no matter hard theists try to deflect them with special pleading or delusional ploys.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


"I count religion but a childish toy,
And hold there is no sin but ignorance."
Christopher Marlowe

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Jesus

There seems to be a mini-craze going on right now comparing the new Superman movie with Jesus. I find this rather entertaining for a variety of reasons. And, yes, I will admit it makes me laugh in part because a certain segment of conservative Christians are having a hissy fit over it. Watching them get bent out of shape over things that are highly unlikely to matter in any way is always fun.

There are two comparisons I do find somewhat apt. One has generally been glossed over in the various articles, blogs, TV spots, etc. The second has not been touched at all. I see both Superman and Jesus sharing in common a type of hyper idealization. To some extent both are meant to represent what we, by which I mean humans in general, value most in ourselves. They can be used to portray how we would like to be. It is fairly easy to do this with both figures since they are both completely fictional. Yup, that would be the comparison that no one wants to touch. Both Superman and Jesus are make believe.

A few of the more interesting pieces I came across include:

CNN Belief blog
"Superman: Flying to a church near you"

Huffington Post
"Superman vs. Jesus"

Religious News Service - Jonathan Merritt on faith and Culture (blog)
"Superman spirituality: Is Hollywood manipulating Christians?"

What happened to Lying being a sin?

Don't Christians still consider lying to be a sin? A recent cover story of the Christian Science Monitor seems contrary to that little ban. The content of the story does in a few places hint that the title may be a bit hyperbolic but overall the writing seems to be promoting a blatantly false premise. Lee Lawrence's feature is titled, "School prayer: 50 years after the ban, God and faith more present than ever."

Being a religious based magazine it might not have bothered me so much but it is a fairly well respected publication that does carry a certain amount of authority. It is also tiring and irksome to constantly hear this myth treated as if it is a fact. There is NO ban on prayer in school. Any student can pray whenever and wherever they wish so long as it is not disruptive or coerced.

If the Christian Monitor had any decency or standards they should have either not run the piece or made it clear that it is an opinion piece. There are a few instances, as I've already stated, where he gets things somewhat right but most of it is just warmed over delusional religious right talking points masquerading as an article.

Just Another Pope

I'm getting pretty fed up with all the bullshit hyperbole surrounding Pope Francis. He really is not that different from the previous two Popes. His style of conducting public relations may come across a little differently but that is a rather superficial distinction. There were two recent pieces that caught my attention largely because they allow a tiny grain of doubt regarding the false narrative of Francis as a "reformer." Ultimately, however, they do seem to buy into the notion that he is significantly different.

John Gehring's "Opinion: How the 'Francis effect' could rescue the church" simply accepts that there is such an "effect." He gives a few examples where these effects supposedly are playing out. Among them are;
     "He criticizes a 'self-referential' church that becomes spiritually 'sick' when it hunkers down and fails to look outside its gilded cathedrals.
     He has little patience for pastors who act like religious border guards by making it harder for lapsed Catholics to return to the faith and receive the sacraments.
     Francis decries the 'cult of money' and the 'dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly human goal.'"
Simply acting as a stenographer does not prove any of it. I have not found any instances where these have gone beyond the rhetorical realm. In fact, there are plenty of instances where it is clear that the policies and practices endorsed by both John Paul and Benedict are simply being carried on. I have previously posted on some of them.

I do find the idea that the church needs to "rescued" rather entertaining. It ignores that the Catholic Church is still one of the most influential, powerful, and wealthy organization in the world. It also seems to imply that perhaps it really is a completely human institution. If it were really favored and/or founded by God what would it need to be rescued from, and how could it be rescued if God couldn't save it?

Slightly less interesting was Allessandro Speciale's "Benedict and Francis: How much difference is there?" The obvious answer is, of course, little to none. His few examples of differences of substance completely fail any scrutiny. Even the more superficial differences are highly debatable in this piece.

For example, "What’s more, Francis has embraced a much more low-brow view of the papacy, shunning Benedict’s red slippers, ermine capes and papal apartments for a simpler lifestyle that finds him sleeping in a Vatican guesthouse and wearing simple black shoes beneath his white papal cassock."

Really? A few minor adjustments to personal preferences somehow translates into any significant doctrinal or policy differences? That does assume that he has adopted a "more low-brow view." Seems to me that he is still quite happy to use all the same pomp and privilege of his predecessors. When he starts wearing jeans and donating some of the vast amounts of the Churches resources to external non-profits, then I'll start taking his rhetoric seriously.

It won't happen since this Pope really is no different in practice.

Forgive but don't forget

That phrase about forgiving without forgetting ran through my mind a few times this past week. I'm not convinced that forgiving is always such a good idea. The incident that really pissed me off was the initial denial of Margaret Doughty's application for citizenship. If she did not meet the legitimate requirements that would have been appropriate but the denial was based on an incredibly bigoted and unconstitutional bias. Being both a pacifist and a very honest person she could not pledge to defend this country through violent means. She's not alone on this point. Many do claim "conscientious objector" status. They did not accept her claim because it was not based on religious doctrine. Basically, according to current rules, theists can make the claim but not atheists.

She has now been granted this status but the rule has not changed. Why should I or any other atheist forgive such ignorant discriminatory practices? Fuck that. I not only find it idiotic but also the height of hypocrisy and delusion. People really seem to believe that religion is a basic foundation of morality. I see it to be exactly the opposite. After all, if you can't figure out right from wrong without such a distant speculative external source of authority what does that really say about your values? To me it says those individuals are at best foolish sheep. I see my vlaues and morals as being stronger than any theists. I have no direct ulterior motive for doing what's right. There is no divine punishment or reward hanging over my head. Even some of the rationalizations I abide by are speculative. I do believe that by doing what's right more are likely to follow suite and eventually that will make a better society. Notice I do not automatically assume that what I want to work will and I do not expect it to happen at any given moment. Still, I do what I believe to be right.

And yet, people still seem to be shocked and upset when atheist speak out with any immediacy. The media loves to paint us as being angry by nature. Really?! How many theist don't lash out in anger when they are "offended"? Why should we respond vehemently when we are actually being demonized, harassed, and discriminated against on a regular basis?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies."
Thomas Jefferson

Actually, She is a Believer

"When I say I am not a believer, it doesn't mean I believe nothing. It is that belief is not central to my religious and spiritual life. As a matter of fact, belief holds little importance to me at all. Belief doesn't structure my experience; my experience structures what few beliefs I might have"

This is how T. Thorn Coyle opens her piece "Why I Am Not a Believer." The very first sentence is a synopsis of an all too common misconception/myth. The idea that if you do not have religious based beliefs you automatically believe in nothing is absurd. Everyone has beliefs. The nature of those beliefs vary greatly. This is not quite what Coyle means by not being a believer but her variation of this misunderstanding is not much better.

Most of what follows the opening paragraph not only fails to support the idea that beliefs are secondary for Coyle, a great deal of her own writing seems to be self-contradictory. She goes out of her way to isolate belief from experience. Though it is true the two are not synonyms and should not be treated as if they are they do still have a great deal of interconnected aspects.

In some ways the piece was incredibly painful to read. Despite its brevity it was crammed full of all sorts of new age spirituality and psycho-babble. Ultimately, it seemed like she was trying to convince herself that she is not a "believer" mainly because she cannot strip the term of a variety of traditional connotations that she is uncomfortable with. If this little exercise helped her in some way then I'm happy for her. If she thought she was sharing some type of insight with others I hope she re-reads her own writing and thinks about it a bit more.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Portland-based writer specializing in...

According to a note at the bottom a recent Religious News Service commentary, Tom Krattenmaker specializes in "religion in public life." I'm not familiar with Krattenmaker or his writings but if the short piece entitled "COMMENTARY: A new evangelical engagement with public schools" is any indication of his expertise I am not impressed. Within the first paragraph he clearly indicates that he hasn't a clue what he's writing about.

"Why would evangelical Christians want anything to do with public schools? Judging from decades of culture war rhetoric, these are bastions of secular humanism where God and his fearers are unwelcome. School prayers — not allowed. Teaching creationism — verboten. Abstinence-only sex education — few to be found. Sharing the gospel openly — forget about it"

Utter nonsense! There is no ban on prayer in schools. Every student has the right to pray. What they do not have a right to do is preach. During any break or free time students are allowed to pray as they see fit. There are, of course, reasonable restrictions. Their prayers cannot be disruptive. They cannot interrupt a class or other students activities. It is also not allowed for the school itself, whether in the form of policy or by individual faculty/staff, to impose prayer on students. Basically, students have always had and continue to have the right to pray regardless of where they are. That is strike one.

Unfortunately, more states are pushing through "academic freedom" bills that allow the teaching of creationism in science class. Technically there has never been a ban on creationism in schools in general even before these bills. What was not seen as acceptable was passing it off as science. Schools have and still do teach various aspects of creationism in other classes. Strike two.

Even though the Obama administration has begun to reinstate some funding for comprehensive sex-ed classes the majority of states still favor abstinence only based sex-ed courses over comprehensive curriculum. This has been the case for decades. Abstinence only despite its proven failure is still the standard for sex education throughout the country. Strike three. And we have not even gotten to fact that Christians do openly share their religious views, including the Gospels.

How exactly does this guy specialize in "religion in public life" when he has no idea how infused religion is in this country? By this incredibly low standard I should not only be considered an expert on religion, which I do not consider myself to be, I should be a demi-god of this subject matter. After all if such a blatantly clueless dumb-ass like Krattenmaker can be seen as having any expertise it should be easy to argue that I am near omniscient in the field.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


"Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."
Isaac Asimov

The Devil Made Me

And here we have more fun with absurdist theist theatre, "Catholic Priest: Disbelief in the Devil main cause of atheism." That's right fellow non-theists, our beliefs, or lack there of, are the direct result of a theistic imaginary frenemy. The devil didn't just make me do something the red-hued horned one actually made me what I am. Good to know.

Since father's day is coming up, should I consider getting a card for Satan? Like usual, while reading this ridiculous piece a couple things popped into my. For a good hour, or so, I could not get out of my head either the Grateful dead song Friend of the Devil or one of the SNLChurch Lady's catch phrases, "Could it be SATAN?!"

Oh, and remember kids, If you believe in the Boogey Man you're not really a monotheist.

Friday, June 7, 2013

"Wasting food is like stealing from the poor"

I don't disagree with some of the things Pope Francis touched on during a speech he gave this past week. I just happen to find it rather amusing, in a twisted way, that comes from such a pampered individual. The last paragraph of the short Religious News Service piece, "Pope Francis: Wasting food is like stealing from the poor", tries to deflect legitimate criticism of the Pope's seeming hypocrisy with a rather superficial excuse.

"The Argentine pope has been a vocal advocate for the poor since his election to the papacy in March, and has personally practiced austerity at the Vatican, living in a guesthouse rather than in the papal apartments and cutting down on elaborate vestments and liturgies."

A have a sneaking suspicion that their idea of austerity and mine are very different. I'm not familiar with the "guesthouse" but I doubt it is anything less than luxurious. I'd also point out that every time I've seen him in the media the same pomp and circumstance that has surrounded every Pope I've seen in my lifetime has remained the same. All you have to do is look at the photograph that is included in the story and the idea of "austerity" becomes a blatant joke.

Even the most basic temporary staging can be quite pricey. I'd be willing to bet the value of that dais in the photo could feed a third world village for a few months. Throw in the value of the Pope's outfit and the five other individuals surrounding him and you can feed that same village for a handful of months more. This is all before getting into the Vatican's menu. Anyone who thinks these spoiled jerks dine on tuna fish sandwiches and mac-n-cheese or that they pay attention to the amounts heaped on their plates is an idiot.

When religious leaders start behaving in a more respectable manner rather than just offering empty rhetoric I might consider taking them as sincere and decent. Till then I see no reason not to call them out as liars and hypocrites. All evidence seems to support my rather low opinion of them.

I'm Not Surprised

Yet another HuffPo repost of an AP story is very revealing in regard to how ignorant, biased, and clueless theists can be. "Bible In Norway Is Bestseller; 'The Scriptures' Surprisingly Strong In Largely Secular Country", as a title this is somewhat damning when you actually think about it. Don't Christians go on about how wonderful the Bible is on a regular basis? Are they assuming that we are apathetic and/or illiterate? Is it too difficult for the average theist to fathom that at least one reason some of us despise religion so much is because we have actually read and thought about it?

The first paragraph also provides a few hints about the level of foolishness that runs throughout the piece.
"It may sound like an unlikely No. 1 best-seller for any country, but in Norway – one of the most secular nations in an increasingly godless Europe – the runaway popularity of the Bible has caught the country by surprise. The Scriptures, in a new Norwegian language version, even outpaced "Fifty Shades of Grey" to become Norway's best-selling book."

Um, did this "journalist" not do any investigation at all? The Bible is one of the all time best selling books! That is not a fact that is hard to come by. As for it selling so well in Norway right now, look at the last sentence. If the language has been modernized, thereby making it easier to read, why wouldn't there be an up-tick in sales in a book that has always sold fairly well. Like it or not, The Bible is considered to be a classic of world literature.

If Mohsin is surprised by this then a perusal of my book shelf would probably put the ignorant fool into a coma. Aside from a copy of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and three different editions/versions of the Bible, I also own a copy of the Tao Te Ching, Dhammapada, and Quran. On top of which I have also read, cover to cover no less, all the Vedas, Baghavad Gita, Book of Mormon, and a slew of other lesser known sacred texts from various world religions. I have never gotten the impression that I am all that unusual among non-believers.


"The man who has no mind of his own lends it to the priests."
George Meredith

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Just kidding, and F You

Wow, didn't have to wait long to be proven right about the Pope's latest PR ploy. A day after the Pope made his comment about atheists being redeemed a Vatican spokesman nullified the sentiment. That wasn't what surprised me. I was assuming they'd find a weasle-way to negate it without drawing too much attention to their intention. What did make me pause was the way Rosica attempted at reconciling the Pope's statement with it's correction*.

"[Pope Francis] is first and foremost a seasoned pastor and preacher who has much experience in reaching people...His words are not spoken in the context of a theological faculty or academy nor in interreligious dialogue or debate."

To me, that sounds like an admission that it really was a PR ploy. It also seems to imply that the Pope has little to do theological doctrines. Really?! Isn't he the top guy? "God's vicar" here on earth?

In comparison to a few other implications from the statements made by Rosica this is also of little consequence. Inadvertently, this spokesman has effectively admitted to a number of other points I, and others, have been making for years. He made it clear that the Catholic version of Christianity is by its nature divisive and bigoted. He justified his alterations to the Pope's statement by pointing out that the Catholic Catechism states,
"All salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body,..."

If you stop and think about that for more than a minute it is a rather horrible statement. Essentially, only Christians can be "saved." It implies, at best, that everyone else is automatically damned. All non-Christians, whether atheist or theist, are wrong. It implies that billions of people are morally and ethically inferior to Christians. That is the theological equivalent of a big old Fuck You to the rest of us.

*Officially, the Catholic Church still maintains the doctrine that the Pope is infallible. They won't even admit that his statement was corrected since that would imply a mistake. They like to couch such corrections in terms like "clarified" or "amended."

Pope Unchanging

Why people keep blathering on about the new Pope being a reformer is beyond me. Not only has he not actually changed anything or even attempted to do so, he can't even talk about change in any substantial way. This should not surprise any one who has ever attempted to study Christianity and the various other world religions. When they change at all it is very slowly and in very small increments. The Religious News Service has recently added a new feature wherein they share a quotation from the Pope. One such quote I found particularly revealing in how it reflects both Catholicism and Christianity more generally.

“I try to maintain the same way of being and of acting that I had in Buenos Aires, because if I were to change at my age it would certainly be ridiculous.” – Pope Francis, in a letter to a priest friend in his native Argentina, quoted by the Zenit news agency.

What would make change ridiculous? Why would your age matter? Shouldn't it be a goal of every thoughtful person to constantly assess and re-assess what you believe and why? Nope, nope when it comes to religion. I cannot think of a single religion that encourages critical thinking in regard to itself. It is, of course, fine to critique other faiths but never their own. Even when they make claims to the contrary they never actually do so. Occasionally they will pretend to self-evaluate but the moment you look into their process/method you can easily find all sorts of double standards and special pleading.