Saturday, July 27, 2013


"We are all something, but none of us are everything."
Blaise Pascal

Drive Thru Prayer

I couldn't make this up. As much as I ridicule religion I could not have come up with such wonderful examples of how idiotic it truly is if my life depended on it. I have no doubt that many theists will find this little HuffPo tid-bit, "Drive Thru Prayer Offers A Church Of Convenience", inspiring. It will never dawn on them what it says about religious beliefs being innately foolish. Some may pick up on the comparison to fast food, like HuffPo did, but few will go beyond the superficial critique of "commercializing" faith. That religion is materialistic despite claims to the contrary is easy enough to demonstrate. The bigger problem revolves around the futility of prayer itself. After all, a perfect being like God would automatically know what everyone is thinking and feeling. Prayer is useless even if you assume that God exists. Designating places of worship is silly enough as it is but at least there is some sense of community and a chance for social interaction. A drive thru would strip away even the few conditional positives that can be claimed by religion and prayer.

Can Spirituality be Founded on Fraud

There is a slightly odd narrative being bandied about regarding a horror film that is currently at the theaters. Apparently the screenwriters of The Conjuring intend it to be a spiritual experience. Two examples include:

“Our faith led us to write a horror story.”

"Can a horror film lead people to God?"

I find that rather laughable though I do see some connections. They're both fictional. The Hayes brothers probably should have kept looking around for a better project to connect their missionary zeal to. Supposedly they adapted a true story for the big screen. However, their source of inspiration are the factually impaired couple Ed and Lorraine Warren. These are the same hoaxters who popularized such thoroughly debunk tales as the Amityville Horror and the Haunting in Connecticut. Their idea of "based on actual events" includes blatant omissions, wild exaggerations, and wholesale fabrications.

If this is the type of story the Hayes brothers are hoping will lead to deepening people's faith then they either have an even lower opinion of religion than I do or they are very delusional.

Non-Religious Soldiers Are Second-Class Citizens

I have mixed feelings about Congress' recent rejection of humanist chaplains. One one hand, the term is an oxymoron that could easily be used to maintain and further push a variety of myths and stereotypes about non-believers. However, I find the mind-set among legislators that caused the rejection even worse.

“'The amendment holds the military to its current standards on endorsing agencies, which must be recognized religious and faith-based organizations,' said Fleming’s spokesman, Doug Sachtleben."
As reported in Religious News Service's "House rejects call to allow nonreligious military chaplains."

Since military chaplains serve the role of advisors and counselors, this view is blatantly bigoted  and discriminatory. It says, in effect, that the non-religious do not deserve similar services. So long as religious soldiers are afforded faith based counseling services on the public dime there is absolutely no justification for denying non-religious soldiers the same.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


"It is strange beyond anything I can think to be able to believe in any of the known religions"
Kate Greenaway

6 Types, Maybe

In the past decade or so it has become somewhat common for various social science researchers and even some amateur individuals and groups to construct categories for non-believers. Personally, I think that this is a potentially helpful exercise. One of the more recent studies to take this approach has been reported on in a handful of media sources. The HuffPo piece helps reveals some of the downsides to attempts at categorizing non-believers. "Atheist Study Reveals That Non-Believers Are Just As Varied As People Of Faith" is laced with, though subtle, various myths and stereotypes.

The whole tone of the piece seems to be one of surprise. It does not seem to have previously occurred to the author, Yasmine Hafiz, that non-believers are a very diverse collection of individuals. The piece also treats "atheist", "agnostic", and "non-believer" as if they are synonyms. Given that the whole piece is on separating non-believers into categories this jumbling of terms is a tad bit ironic. Hafiz also seems surprised that not all atheists are anti-religious. She certainly does not seem capable of analyzing why some are anti-religious and to what degree they are anti-religious.*

The piece, in various places, also shows a high level of disconnect. It is as if she thinks atheist are some sort of exotic species that just appeared out of nowhere. Hafiz is apparently unaware that atheists are part of the surrounding culture. It is not surprising that some choose to participate in religious services/practices despite a lack of belief. The "Ritual Atheist/Agnostic group" really isn't that mysterious. As social animals we are prone to the same drives towards acceptance and conformity as any other group of people.

Hopefully, the more the various non-bleievers are studied and scrutinized the less alien we will seem to others. For that purpose broad categories are fine. However, it is misleading. We are not a "religion" or an "ism" of any type. Lack of religious belief is not in and of itself a belief system. Ultimately there are as many "types" of non-believers as there are non-believers.There is only one thing that unites the "none" and even that is debatable and in many ways an amorphous topic. We lack a religious system of belief.

*I am anti-religious. However, I am not opposed to religion based on some type of knee-jerk reaction. I also don't particularly want to be anti-religious. The level of my animosity toward religion does ebb and flow depending on how much influence religion exerts on public policy. If theists kept their faith out of public policy and therefore out of my life I wouldn't give a shit about religion at all. I'd have no reason to oppose it or constantly criticize it.

A Shallow Sense of "Humility"

Apparently, an individual's choice of what car to ride in is definitive proof of whether they can be said to have humility. "Pope Francis' Car Shows His Commitment To Humility: Catholic Leader Chooses Ford Focus" is as short as it is silly. Hafiz notes that the Pope has suggested that clergy should not be driving around in expensive cars but does not bother to point out that he has not sought to institutionalize (like in the form of policy) what seems to be a personal preference. She also never bothers to ask where the money saved on the vehicle has gone. Maybe if he actually drove his own car and required all clergy, who are able to do so, follow the example I might take it seriously. Perhaps all the money saved could be earmarked toward reparations for those the church has sexually and/or physically abused.

Admitting to his own short coming and the crimes of the church would be a first step towards humility. Then, of course, he would have to follow it up with actions. Lip service is what I, and many other, have come to expect from religious leaders. Minor actions like being chauffeured around in an economy car doesn't cut it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize.”

Thomas Paine
The Age of Reasn

Bordering on Ambivalence

I have no sense of ambiguity about the need to punish con artists. I am also certain that taking advantage of people is always unethical. I don't want there to be any doubt that I see the individuals being fleeced in the "Chinatown 'Blessing Scams'" as victims and the perpetrators as scumbag criminals. However, part of me has a hard time being all that sympathetic. The NPR news story only gives a few examples so I do not know all the details. Some of the elderly women targeted may not have their full mental faculties in which case it really is very tragic. I doubt that is true of all those who were scammed. The rest I find it difficult to feel that bad for since it occurred largely due to their own superstition fueled ignorance.

"But while I love these truths...."

So, after listing a variety of horror stories and contradictions contained in the Bible Ellen Dollar still comes to the conclusion that it contains "truths". "Do I Love the Bible? It’s Complicated" is not the first or last piece that follows this shoddy analysis of scripture. Equally, this is not the first or last time I will comment on such odd leaps of reason.

I have always been confused as to how otherwise intelligent people can so blindly accept the notion that the Bible is "The Good Book." Literature does not have to contain all positive messages or even be well written to be taken as interesting or inspiring. But the Bible is portrayed as being more than just "literature." Yet, when you apply standards that most people accept in any other aspect of life these scriptures fail miserably.

For example, Dollar insists that "Fundamentally, I believe the Bible is the primary narrative revealing what we as Christians believe about God, the world, and the people who inhabit it." This is after she provides a litany of contradictory and heinous passages. It never occurs to her that by such low standards a reasonable person can easily conclude that Christianity is by its nature contradictory and even evil. I'm pretty sure that is not what she intends. She never really explains how cherry picking and interpreting scripture (which all believers do) establishes the Bible's merits.

In the end, this is simply another piece that clearly demonstrates how deluded Christians are about "The Good Book."

Settling for Good Enough

How many people would bother going to the same dramatic performance week after week when they expect the writing, staging, and acting to be average? Why waste the time and money on theatre that is only "okay"? Most of us don't settle for mediocrity when it is going to cost us something. Unless, apparently, you happen to be religious and the performance is church.

"Clergy Contribution To America's Wellbeing Ranks Below Military, Doctors, Scientists, Engineers: Survey" brings up a number of interesting results. The one that jumped out at me is that only 52% of weekly churchgoers said clergy contribute "a lot" to society. These are presumably the same people who in other surveys and studies insist that religion is either the most important or one of the most important aspects of their lives. Think about that for a moment. It is so important that only slightly better than half think the primary figures in delivering the service actually contribute a lot to society. Why/how is it important? And, why do the other 48% keep going?

I'm not really sure what such a result really means but I do have some suspicions. I have pointed out before that I am reasonably sure that most religious people either don't really believe what they claim, at least not as fully as they think they do, or they have never bothered to critically examine their own beliefs. I fail to see any other rational explanation for why people would settle for such mediocrity on matters they themselves claim are so important.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


"This is the inevitable consequence of government’s decision to regularly open its deliberations with sectarian forms of prayer. Those who agree with the chosen invocations receive the unmistakable message that they have a close relationship with the powers that be, that they are favored. All others are something less...Some government leaders may feel that a Christian prayer is permissible because it represents most of the com­munity. In fact, chances are good that it represents only a certain segment of Christianity – and, of course, it also excludes the many people who practice non-Christian faiths or no faith at all."

"Pushing Public Prayer: Government Must Respect The Rights Of Everyone"
Church & State, July/August 2013

Separation of Church and State, The Peele and Lynch way

This video is awesome!
In case embedded video doesn't work right go to

For a little behind the scenes read "Comedy For The Cause" in Church & State July/August 2013 issue.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Liberal Christians make Assumptions, too

In a recent HuffPo piece Derek Penwell makes a few claims that are highly debatable and loaded with a number of assumptions. "The Problem With Assuming Liberal Christians Hate the Bible" simply highlights the fact that different strains of Christianity interpret the Bible in different ways. Penwell seems to be quite oblivious to the reason many Christians have reached a number of biased assumptions about their fellow Christians. He does this while maintaining a deluded notion about the Bible itself.

"But here’s the thing: Liberal Christians love the Bible. No, seriously. We love the Bible. We just refuse to treat it as though it is a set of timeless golden tablets that says all that needs to be said once and for all about everything of importance. (It doesn’t say anything, for instance, about why the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series in over 100 years.)...Liberal Christians aren’t liberal in spite of the Bible, but because of it. They don’t pursue justice for LGBT people because they haven’t read Scripture, but precisely because they have. And in the arc of the narrative of God’s interaction with humanity, liberal Christians find a radical expansiveness, an urgent desire to broaden the embrace of God’s hospitality to include those whom the religious big shots are always kicking to the sidelines."

What makes it sacred? What is there to love about this specific book that cannot be claimed about any number of other pieces of literature? He talks about supporting homosexual rights based on Bible. Seriously?! Therein lay the problem. The Bible contains as many passages that condemn homosexuals as there are that encourage acceptance. Penwell points out that the Bible is not a set of "timeless golden tablet" but how do you determine which passages are still relevant? Personal morals, perhaps? Which means that liberal Christians are not liberal because of the Bible.

The truth is no Christian is anything "because of" the Bible. People have their point of view and values based on any number of factors but scripture is not one of them. The scripture of most religions, Christianity among them, alternate between being incoherently vague to being outright contradictory. How do establish beliefs on such a mishmash of nonsense? You don't. You simply retrofit to what you already have come to believe for a variety of other reasons. Assuming the "Good Book" is good just because that's what yopu've always been told or because you want ti to be so does not prove anything.