Sunday, August 25, 2013


"Science is the one human activity that is truly progressive. The body of positive knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation."
Edwin Powell Hubble

"...hurting science."?!

Once again Connor Wood has proven just how misnamed his Patheos blog is. His recent Science on Religion post, Steven Pinker: Stop bashing religion. You’re hurting science, is nearly as hypocritical as it is full of shit. He doesn't understand science and he certainly doesn't seem to know much about Steven Pinker either. The piece is so chock full of misrepresentations, conflations, logical fallacies, and errors its hard to know where to start. I will stick to just a few points.

One big mistake, though common enough, is Wood's insistence on using the largely bogus term Scientism. Any time a religious person doesn't like what a legitimate scientist, experiment, observation... has to say they tend to slap the label scientism on it. Either you support the scientific method and therefore science or you don't. If you pick and choose when you accept verifiable results you do not have any respect for the process so stop pretending you do.

This is where another major flaw with this post, and the blog as whole, comes in. Science on religion really should be renamed "Bullshit excuses labeled Science". I have read very few posts that did not include various double standards and a considerable amount of hypocrisy as a result. It is not unusual for Wood to hold science to a high standard, which it should be, but utterly fail to do the same when it comes to religion. The title above is absurd to the point of being funny. Religion, when it isn't directly attacking and disrespecting, degrades and belittles science by it's very nature. The whole notion that there are aspects of life that should be accepted on faith is antithetical to the scientific method. Religious people never demand that religion play nice with science so why should the reverse be automatically assumed. Fuck that. Of course, the idea that science goes out of its way to assault religion, which religion certainly does to science, is a myth. It isn't our fault religion and many of the religious are whiny cry-babies who can't handle where critical thinking leads.

Science and religion really are not compatible. I've written about this numerous times (Science Vs. Religion 11/6/11, among others) and have yet to see evidence to the contrary. If someone can explain how these two institutions are not polar opposites or what legitimate reasons science should take religion into account in any way I would love to read it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

It Really is a Business

I've never failed to notice that religion is as much about power and influence as it is spirituality. I find it interesting that devout believers are staring to hint at such even if it is half-hearted and frequently inadvertent. David Gibson's "Catholic gift stores see a (papal) bull market" is decent example. Even though he is focused on the Roman Catholic church most of what can be read between the lines applies to all religions.

I have been to numerous religious sites and not one lacked some sort of gift shop or vendors area. The money these places generate is certainly nothing to scoff at but even that isn't the only dubious aspect of them. The cheap frivolous trinkets and doo-dads, most that have nothing to with anything, are a nice symbol for the faith that hawks them. They tend to be as devoid of substance as the religion. They are simply a means to create a false sense of connection to something greater. In a way, it is a win-win scenario for the sect/denomination that sells them. They get the financial benefit and manage to exert more influence, if somewhat subtle, over their patrons.

I have no way to prove it but I am reasonably sure that many purchases at these sites have more to do with a sense of emotional obligation than any genuine desire to have the items. Much of what gets sold when never be purchased outside a religious venue/context. To some degree this is true of most products at any "tourist trap." However, he religion adds emphasis and acts as a reinforcement to a disturbing type of "brand" loyalty.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Unethical, Unprofessional, and Unconstitutional

Even on the surface, it seems like a judicial overstep for Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew to change a child's first name. An unwed couple ended up in dispute over what their infant's last name should be. On those grounds it makes sense for the courts to be used to settle the disagreement but this "judge" took it upon herself to change the child's first name, Messiah, while she was at it. Some may be tempted to brush this little news blurb aside as basically meaningless. It may have been unnecessary and stupid but what does it really matter? It matters, a lot.

There are any number of grey areas when it comes to Separation of Church and State but this incident is a blatant violation. Magistrate Ballew clearly stated, "The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ." Got that? As a judge, an official representative of the US government, she based a decision solely on a personal religious opinion. There can be no debate that she gave an official endorsement to Christianity. The 1st amendment states that government cannot do any such thing. The judiciary is suppose to uphold the constitution not shit on it!

Ballew needs to be removed from the bench. Passing judgement solely on personal opinions regardless of what the law says is both unethical and unprofessional. Judicial rulings based solely on religious opinion is also unseemly and likely unconstitutional (there's some room for debate) but being based on a specific religion is unquestionably unconstitutional.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


"I know that a creed is the shell of a lie"
Amy Lowell
What's O'Clock

Foolishness all around

Rebecca Hamilton's August 3rd blog post, "A Non-Theistic Christian Now Running the Washington National Cathedral", is yet another example of writing that despite being brief is loaded with all sorts of nonsense. Even the title is ludicrous. By the loosest definition a self-professed "Christian" is a theist. Any one who seeks to follow the example/teachings of the Christ figure, regardless of specific interpretations and perceptions, is living by a "theism." A few sentences from the first full paragraph seems to reveal her real issues with Reverend Gary Hall, "He isn’t too keen on the idea of life-long commitment or fidelity in marriage, either. But he’s in the bag for gay marriage and has personally assured Dr Richard Dawkins that he also “doesn’t believe in the God” that Dr Dawkins doesn’t believe in."

That first sentence is basically just a biased opinion with little to no foundation. I have not read much on Hall but what little I have does not seem to support the idea that he has no respect for marriage. This seems to be a conflation. Somehow if you're not a prude or willing to tell others who they can love and how, you must be anti-marriage. Hamilton seems to think that only heterosexual relationships count and that you must publicly insist on a strict "conservative" view of sex for your beliefs about marriage to matter. This blatantly narrow minded approach should not surprise anyone who's read more than a few posts from her on the "Public Catholic" blog. In my experience the Catholics, and theists in general, who are the most in-your-face about their faith also tend to be the most narrow minded, hypocritical, and bigoted.

As the title of this post implies, it is not just Hamilton who is full of shit. Hall himself is also a bit of a fool. He has actually commented on Dawkins in the way Hamilton quotes him. Despite claims to the contrary, Dawkins does not criticism only one version of the God concept. It is true that he tends to focus more attention on the personal/scriptural version but he has pointed out flaws in the more abstract variation. Basically both of them are rather clueless and have no idea what they are talking about. If it were just another spat between to competing Christian interpretations I wouldn't care that much. Unfortunately, competing theists tend to drag in and abuse everyone around them. The Dawkins related quotation was meant as a slur.The piece does further various biased misrepresentations of atheists and non-theists in general.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


"It takes two to speak the truth, - one to speak, and another to hear."
Henry David Thoreau

Rhetoric is not Doctrine

I was hoping that by now the fawning over Pope Francis would have subsided but the media seems insistent on proving just how inept they are. The coverage of this Pope has been, right from the start, as overabundant as it has been superficial and downright idiotic. A number of outlets now are latching on to the false notion that the Pope either has or might change Church doctrine on Homosexuality. Why? Because he said a few things that are not as harsh as previous Popes? That is nice and it could be a step, though a very minor one, in the right direction.

Even when it is acknowledge that words do not always translate into actions many reporters, commentators, and pundits still seem to think Francis' more polished PR style is somehow an amazing feat. Have they forgotten previously reported items that referenced the fact that the Church has been more careful about public statements or that it has hired different PR individuals and firms to handle their image? As I've said before the only real difference between the present Pope and previous ones is simply a matter of personal style. It is superficial.

What if we could ban ignorance and misinformation?

Rebecca Klein at HuffPo seems to be surprised that a conservative religious group is making outrageously ridiculous claims. Rebecca would be rather ignorant when it comes to issues of church and state, as well as the mind-set of the religious right. "Kentucky School Prayer Petition Links Prayer Ban With AIDS Epidemic" is, unfortunately, rather standard fare for the religious right. The bogus claim cited in the title of her piece isn't nearly as disturbing as her own ignorance and constant repetition of an equally bogus claim. Klein refers to a "ban" on school prayer throughout her short piece. There is no such ban!

Children are free to pray in school so long as it is not disruptive. As I have repeatedly pointed out on previous posts, what is not allowed is coercive prayer. The school itself (including all its employees and representatives) can not conduct or enforce prayers. So, yes, it is annoying to hear nutbags going on about a connection between a lack of coercion leading to AIDS and various other social problems. That is not as bad as otherwise rational people falling for and then continuing to disseminate misinformation. This type of crap only serves to weaken one of nation's greatest principles, Separation of Church and State.

"Why millenials are leaving the church"

"Why millenials are leaving the church" has a number of problems not the least of which is that is phrased as a statement rather than a question. Rachel Held Evans does make some decent points in her CNN Belief blog post but ultimately fails to deliver on what she seems to think are decisive insights. Like many other theists who have wonder why more "millenials" are leaving organized religion in larger numbers she makes no attempt at setting aside her own biases. She stops short thinking that once she has found a few possible answers that those must be the answers. Not once does it occur to her that a percentage of this demographic may have reached the conclusion that religion just does not make sense. Personally, I have met a few who were disturbed by "Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people." However, that was merely a starting point for some. After thinking about it they found it was hollow and just wasn't worth thinking about anymore.

Evans also at various points slips into contradictions and superficiality. Not quite halfway through her short post she complains, "Invariably, after I’ve finished my presentation and opened the floor to questions, a pastor raises his hand and says, 'So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands. …'” This would have been a valid point. The idea that some clergy just can't grasp deeper issues and problems is not that unknown but Evans displays her own superficial understanding a little later on, "Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being 'cool,' and we find that refreshingly authentic."

"Cool"?! I have yet to come across any atheist who left religion behind because it was "cool." I'm not even sure what that means in the given context. Usually the term is used to denote something that is popular or fashionable. Is being part of a distrust demonized minority really considered cool? By who? Even though there have been reports in our numbers rising it is rather misleading. To some degree it has to do with more being willing to self-identify. Our numbers are still well below 10% when you limit to specifically "atheist." When the term "none" are applied it does rise but that includes many who actually are theists, all be it devoid of a specific brand of religion. I'd also note that there is no objective basis for concluding what she does about church traditions. You can just as easily argue that they are by their nature arrogant and repressive rather than "unpretentious."

In the end there are no one-size-fits-all answers for such a broad question. It gets even messier when you look at more than a narrow demographic like "millenial." People of all ages and backgrounds leave organized religion all over the world. The reasons are as numerous as the individuals involved. And, there is, of course, a related question theist seem to avoid completely. Why be concerned with others leaving religion in the first place? It's as if they can't sustain their own beliefs unless they are shared.