Sunday, September 29, 2013


"Trust a witness in all matters in which neither his self-interest, his passions, his prejudices, nor the love of the marvelous is strongly concerned. When they are involved, require corroborative evidence in exact proportion to the contravention of probability by the thing testified."
Thomas Henry Huxley

Myth + Myth = History on HuffPo

Despite the bullshit title, "Synagogue In Mary Magdalene's Hometown Offers Clues About Judeo-Christian Worship", roughly half of the this HuuffPo piece is legitimate. It talks about an archeological site that could reveal some interesting and insightful finds related to 1st Century CE. The other half is basically pandering drivel. Not only is there no evidence at this site that can be associated with either the Jesus figure or the Mary Magdalene figure there is no such evidence anywhere else. They talk about them as if they are well established historical figures. It is also a bit irritating that they throw in a bunch of links pretending that it gives the piece more authority. If they actually went to something of substance that might help their case but links like the one attached to "an exact death date of April 3, 33 A.D." simply go to other HuffPo produced nonsense.

Had Bennett-Smith stuck to the actual details of the dig the piece would have been pretty interesting and worth reading. Throwing in so much speculation about figures that only exist in scripture transfer what could have been a piece about history into a campy childish tale on religious myth and fantasy.

"Racism" as a Convenient Gag

The original Guardian post by Nasrine Malik was bad enough but when Alternet chose to re-post it they made it slightly dumber and more bigoted. And, yes, Malik's "Message to Richard Dawkins: 'Islam is not a race' is a cop out" is very prejudiced. Despite her attempt to project her own biases onto Dawkins and other atheists the fault lies at her own feet.

From the very first paragraph she rather lamely tries to conflate criticisms of Islam with racism.
"Of late, a new variation of the old chestnut 'I'm not racist but …' has emerged. It goes: 'I've got nothing against Muslims, it's Islam I hate'. Otherwise known as the 'Islam is not a race' argument."
Right away she makes a number of common mistakes prevalent among theists. Even if she cannot distinguish the individual believers from the the religion they follow does not mean that Dawkins and the rest of us can't see the difference.

She quickly follows this up with a definition of racism that does not support her main premise. Malik makes a feeble attempt at rationalizing how this definition should be reinterpreted. There are a variety of problem with her line of thinking but I will focus on one very telling one. Her standards of reasoning are so low that by accepting her preferred interpretation of "racism" there can be no legitimate criticism of Islam so long as there is even the slightest bit of ethnic diversity among individual Muslims. In effect, she is arguing for an "old chestnut" of her own. It goes: Religion must be respected and revered by all simply for being religion. Bullshit!

The HuffPo title for the re-post, "Why the New Atheists Need to Stop Slamming Islam", is worse than Malik's own title yet it is slightly more honest. It comes closer to what seems to be the real purpose for its writing. They want to be able to tell atheists to shut-up while holding the moral high ground. None of the lame excuses for claiming that criticizing Islam is racist actually apply to atheists alone. Just the opposite is the case. Even if you can find non-atheist critics that Malik's caricature of racism applies (sadly there are quite a few) it still has nothing to with with atheists. Virtually all the arguments/criticism Dawkins has made can still be made if every Muslim on the planet magically turned into white upper middle class men (like Dawkins). I can't think of a single criticism made by myself or other atheists that use race let alone rely on it. So, where's this "racism" she wants to smear us with?

Makes me wonder if a prominent black atheist came to Malik's attention would she make the same argument? Maybe she should seek out an interview with someone like Jamila Bey. It seems to me that in this instance it Malik who has the preoblem with prejudice and bigotry.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


"That's all religion is -some principle you believe in... man has accomplished far more miracles than the God he invented. What a tragedy it is to invent a God and then suffer to keep him king."
Rod Steiger

An Idiot's Deal

Rachel Held Evans does seem to be a nice enough person but she has proven on more than one occasion that she is equally clueless and rather willfully ignorant. Here recent piece, "Hey atheists, let’s make a deal", is so loaded with false equivalencies, double standards, and outright bullshit it's hard to decide where to start. To make it simple I just start at the beginning.

Her very first paragraph states, "Famed atheist Richard Dawkins has been rightfully criticized this week for saying the 'mild pedophilia' he and other English children experienced in the 1950s 'didn’t cause any lasting harm.'" Notice she doesn't bother to mention who has been criticizing him. She never bothers to mention that some the earliest and most vocal critics have been atheists. I have myself read some rather scathing takes on Dawkins latest stupid comments by among other P.Z. Myers, Greta Christina, and Ophelia Benson. She can't mention that since a huge chunk of her narrative relies on falsely implying that we atheists don't go after are own when they act like assholes. We do.

She quickly follows this nonsense up with,
"Dawkins is known for pushing his provocative rhetorical style too far, providing ample ammunition for his critics, and already I’ve seen my fellow Christians seize the opportunity to rail against the evils of atheism.
As tempting as it is to classify Dawkins’ views as representative of all atheists, I can’t bring myself to do it."
Here we get a twofer; a false equivalence combined with a myth. Later she brings in Pat Robertson as a sort of Christian counterbalance. But there is no equivalence. Dawkins never sites atheism as a reason or justification for his comments. What does his atheism have to do with it? How can any decent rational human being even consider tarring all atheists with the comments of one individual who just happens to be an atheist? Robertson has not only said far worse but always justifies it with Christianity. He even quotes scripture (you know, that stuff all Christians claim to be sacred to them). As for Evens not bringing herself to tar atheists, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING?! That's pretty much the whole point of the piece. That's what the "deal" in question is about.

After proposing her deal not to throw Dawkins in our face if we don't throw Robertson in Christian's faces she comments, "Believe me. There are plenty of Christians who raise hell every time Robertson says something homophobic or a celebrity pastor somewhere says something misogynistic." Who? I have heard some, usually liberal leaning theists, offer rather mild criticism but "raise hell"? I can't think of a single critic of Robertson who did try playing the "True Scotsman" gambit at some point during their milk-toast criticism of him. They always try to distance themselves by implying if not outright claiming Robertson isn't a "true Christian." Of all the atheists I've read that berated Dawkins, not one even suggested he isn't actually an atheist.

She continues her string of false equivalences and double standards two paragraphs later with,
"What if, instead of engaging the ideas of the most extreme and irrational Christians and atheists, we engaged the ideas of the most reasonable, the most charitable, the most respectful and respected?"
Now I freely accept that Dawkins in the past few years has made some rather stupid comments but I fail to see how they rise to the level of "most extreme." They certainly are nowhere near as heinous as the things Robertson and any number of other Christian leaders have spewed. And what exactly is it about Robertson's views that any "Christian" can really refute? He has on numerous occasions quoted verbatim from the Bible. But, no we can't engage in a way that might actually question the very underpinning of Christianity without being label all sorts of ugly things. Scripture is the foundation of Christianity whether Christians want to face it or not.

Towards the end she rambles on about Dawkins not being representative of atheists and throws out the names of some atheists she seems to like. It's a nice little sop but does nothing to diminish that fact that the whole tone and outlook of the piece is built on and perpetuates a variety of myths and stereotypes. It is also rather pathetic that her main points depend on double standards, logical fallacies, ignorance that borders on delusional.

What deal? Does she really think others won't continue to tar and feather atheists on the flimsiest of excuses. She can't even acknowledge that she herself is guilty of doing the very thing she's asking others not to do. Then again, our criticism actually have a basis and we don't have a problem policing ourselves. We will continue to behave rationally and ethically whether or not theists choose to follow our example.

Religious Violence as a Zero-sum Game

Derek Flood's recent HuffPo piece, "Does Religion Promote Violence", is actually fairly well written. He does not view the question in the title as if it is really a yes or no answer. Unfortunately it is equally clear that many of his otherwise valid insights are tainted by a variety of myths, assumptions, and false premises. He seems to think that most critics, especially non-believers, of religion that write/talk about religious violence see it in such a simplistic way.

I have come across very few atheists who treat this legitimate criticism as a zero-sum game. No critics I'm aware of insist that Religion automatically or directly leads to violence. That is not the criticism. The problem with religion in regard to violence is that it is so amorphous and subjective that it easily loans itself to justifying all manner of horrendous behavior and faulty thinking. The question should really be treated as a set of inter-related questions. It should be possible to inquire into the specific circumstances and interpretations that have led to violence without being accused of bigotry or narrow mindedness. 

It would also be helpful if the media didn't constantly misrepresent and distort the criticism atheist have actually made. The truth is that religion has led to violence, That does not mean either that Religion automatically leads to violence or that atheist are claiming that it does. 

Despite some of these bogus implications Flood's piece is worth reading since he does bring up a number of legitimate questions and concerns.

"Not What God Intends"

Karyn Wieseman's HuffPo piece, "Not What God Intends", is another example of the innate contradictions and/or self-delusions that exist within faith. Personally, I agree that society and life should be more peaceful but the conclusion that violence and conflict must be against God's intentions does not follow. There are a number of problems with Wieseman's line of thinking.

One of the biggest problems, theologically and philosophically, with her primary assertion is that it is not compatible with one of the main traits of Christianity. If Christianity really is monotheistic then God has to be perfect and all-powerful.* It logically follows that if God is all-powerful we cannot possibly have free will. Every detail of the universe is exactly as it has to be. It would literally be impossible for things to occur that are not caused by God. In this sense everything is as God intends it to be.

There is also the question of whether it is even possible for God to have intentions. To have intent you first have to have a mind. Does God have a mind? How is that possible? Most contemporary theologians don't agree on much but most seem to agree that God does not have a physical body. Since the mind is a product of the brain it seems unlikely that God has a mind from which to form let alone project intentions.

Even for the sake of argument simply accepting God has intentions and that somehow we mere mortals can defy God's will there is still another problem with Wieseman's assertion. How the fuck can imperfect beings possibly know what the intentions of a perfect being are?

I find it hard to believe that most religious people either understand what they claim to believe or believe them to the extent they want to think they do. Most religious concepts are either incoherent or contradictory.

*I've previously written about this. Some previous posts in which I have talked about this include "Monotheism and Morality" (12/10/11), "Monotheism and Christianity" (12/31/11), and "The Same God" (9/8/13).

Sunday, September 15, 2013


"No discourse whatsoever, can end in absolute knowledge of fact."
Thomas Hobbes

A Predictable Loss

Reading about Michael Newdow's most recent legal set back was not at all surprising. It was also not surprising to see the biases in a variety of short news and blog pieces on the loss. HuffPo's, "Atheists Lose Battle To Have 'In God We Trust' Removed From U.S. Currency", is one of the better pieces. I have to admit that actually did surprise me. The tone is slightly dismissive but not nearly as contemptuous as many similar posts that have appeared on the site over the years.

In the end, no matter how it gets reported it is still very telling as to how bigoted and unethical our court system tends to be toward atheists. There is only one reason these cases continue to be quashed; blind ideological bigotry.

"But in dismissing the suit, U.S. District Judge Harold Baer, Jr., wrote that 'the Supreme Court has repeatedly assumed the motto's secular purpose and effect,' according to the Associated Press. Baer also ruled that the federal appeals courts 'have found no constitutional violation in the motto's inclusion on currency,' and that the placement of the phrase didn't constitute a 'substantial burden' on atheists."

Seriously?! "God" is an expressly religious concept with no secular purpose or application. Use it in national symbols is an official government endorsement. How is that not a violation of the 1st Amendments separation clause? It in effect says that believers are more important than non-believers. It contributes to an attitude and atmosphere that accepts the denigration of non believers. How is that not a burden?

I also take issue with those who try claiming it is an insignificant aspect that is a waste of the courts time. Symbols do matter. I would love to hear them mouth off about how silly it is if the government started officially using phrases and mottoes that belittled them on a daily basis.

Still Spinning Francis

This past week there was another round of disingenuous misleading wave of fawning over Pope Francis. I would preface this post with a clarifying statement of my own. I am not opposed to positive coverage of the Pope any more than I am oppose to the Pope actually reforming the Catholic Church's approach to non-believers. That said, it has yet to be demonstrated that the Pope is actually making any effort to improve relations with non-believers. The media coverage of an open letter Pope Francis published through the Italian news paper la Repubblica has been blatantly skewed to reinforce the preferred story line that this Pope is a reformer and is making a concerted effort to reach out to atheists.

There are two things virtually every outlet has either glossed over or outright ignored. First, the only way Francis' "outreach" can be characterized as "friendly" is by redefining the term itself. It would be nice if it were true but it can only be true if "friendly" means not being overtly hostile. I've read and re-read two separate translations (I have included links below) of the letter in question and fail to see its tone as friendly. I would describe it as being neutral at best.

The more important detail that has been spun to the point that it seems like it should have its own gravity is the purpose of the letter. Most have portrayed it as another example of Francis offering a gesture of acceptance and/or friendship. Actually, if you read it it is clearly a theological response to a previously published open letter by an atheist. The piece has far more to do with answering criticisms. The Pope's main intent seems to be to make the Church seem reasonable and civil. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is a PR ploy.

There are, of course, other problems with the letter. If you read with any interest in critical thinking a variety of issues emerge. If it really was meant as a way to reach atheists it fails miserably. Virtually everything he comments on that could be interpreted as friendly is immediately justified by scripture/doctrine. This, to me, makes it feel impersonal and even authoritarian. I do not get a sense that he wants to play nice with atheist because it is the right thing to do but rather because it fits his interpretation of various religious doctrines (assuming his rhetoric is sincere in the first place).

A lot of what he writes also seems to refute the media portrayals of him. Telling atheists to "obey their conscience" seems to imply two things. The Pope seems to think we don't already do so. Really? What does he think we follow? Bronze age superstition laden mores don't mean shit to me. This also makes him seem far more arrogant than humble. As the head of the Catholic Church it makes some sense for him to tell Catholics what they should be doing. How does telling atheists how they should behave support the favored "humility" story line? If his idea of reaching out to atheists is constantly droning on about scripture and doctrine rather than the values that may be held in common Francis is going to fail no matter how sincere he might be. And, as I've pointed out before, rhetoric alone will not accomplish anything no matter how pleasant and welcome it may be.

The La Republica translation
Pope Francisco writes to La Repubblica: "An open dialogue with non-believers"

The Zenit translation
Pope Francis' Letter to the Founder of "La Repubblica" Italian Newspaper

Sunday, September 8, 2013


"Whatever good you would do out of fear of punishment, or hope of reward hereafter, the Atheist would do simply because it is good; and being so, he would receive the far surer and more certain reward, springing from well-doing, which would constitute his pleasure, and promote his happiness." 
Ernestine L. Rose
"A Defence of Atheism"

The Same God?

The question of whether Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God is both revealing and foolish*. Though it is true that each has their own interpretations and ways of worship their is no logical way around the basic theology each claims to follow. Each claims to be monotheistic therefore they must worship the same God. How can they believe otherwise without inadvertently admitting to a false belief. Accusing the other "monotheists" of following a false god is incoherent. There can be no other god, false or otherwise, or even a god-like being under monotheism since such a system of belief would require the one true god to be all-powerful.

Basically, if each truly believes in monotheism then they must follow the same god. That they question routinely comes up seem to indicate that many theists aren't nearly as confident in their beliefs as they'd like to think. 

*Jeffrey Weiss' CNN Belief blog post, "Do Christians, Muslims and Jews worship the same God?", is recent example of this recurring question.

Shoe on the other Foot

The issue of having "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance comes up routinely and it is downplayed and or ridiculed without any real thought. Another court case has come up and I have little doubt it will fail. Few, if any, will pay any attention despite its blatant prejudice and violation of our nation's principles. If even a fraction of theists made an attempt to put themselves in place of non-believers there might be some hope. How would theists feel if a commonly used oath associated with patriotism stated there is "no God"? It may not seem so trivial to them if their belief was linked to being un-patriotic or if they were routinely told their lives as citizens did not count the same as those who agree with that one phrase in the oath.

"Prayer Failed for Jesus"

Green's Debunking Christianity blog post, "Prayer Failed for Jesus!", makes some excellent points. I find these contradictions of scripture very entertaining. They are also rather revealing. Many theists come up with the same feeble response to such blatant flaws in their beliefs. They like to insists that we are being "literalists". The problem with this attempted dodge is that it is largely a projection. What branch of Christianity does not claim authority through scripture? It is not the fault of critics that virtually every doctrine and concept put forth by theists is linked to and/or justified by scripture. We didn't choose to build our beliefs around bronze-age bullshit.

Since so many pray to, or in the name of Jesus, why is it unfair to point out that according to their own scripture Jesus' prayers went unfulfilled? If some branches of Christianity claim that Jesus is simultaneously God and Man, what makes it rude to point out how silly it is for him to pray to himself?

More humanist than religious

Even though I cannot definitively disprove the existence of God or similar supernatural entities/forces. I am certain that at the very least the conservative/fundamentalist interpretation of such things is utter bullshit. I had this reconfirmed to some degree this weekend. I, an atheist, attended a homosexual wedding within the walls of a Christian church. I'm pretty sure that with the size of attendance I was not the only atheist present. I'm certain the grooms were not the only homosexuals there, either. There were no lightning strikes, spontaneous combustion, or earth quakes. No fire-and-brimstone, vindictive type entity could resist such an easy target. Apparently, even in theory, a fundamentalist type deity really doesn't give a shit if same sex marriages occur.

On a more pleasant note, I have to say that the ceremony was one of the most personal intimate ones I have ever witnessed. There was, of course, a considerable amount of religious trappings and rhetoric. However, almost every aspect was catered to the grooms. For example, in place of a second scriptural reading a short story that related to the type of men the grooms are was used. Vows were more like a pledge that focused on their relationship rather than the "marriage as a sacrament" mumbo-jumbo. Basically, it was about their love for each other far more than some bullshit take on why marriage is justified and/or maintained by religion. Despite being officiated by a reverend it was more of a humanist celebration than a religious one. It was beautiful.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


"Dreams may be pleasanter for the moment than realities; but happiness must be won by adapting our lives to the realities."
Leslie Stephen
An Agnostic's Apology

It's not just about Separation

Even if you set aside the fact that the bill S. 1274 is a gross violation of Separation of Church and State, which it is, it causes a number of problems in terms of theology. The bill in question would require FEMA to help pay for the reconstruction of places of worship that have been damaged by natural disasters.

When you think about it it can be seen as a demonstration of how little religious people themselves think of their "all-mighty." The same group of people who uses phrases like "God's plan", "act of God", and "playing God" now want the rest of us to pay to counter "God's will." Seriously?! They don't see the contradiction and hypocrisy in this type of bullshit. If God does and exist and is all-powerful then that place of worship was meant to be destroyed according to "God's plan". Wouldn't rebuilding it be "playing God"?

By even the most basic interpretation shouldn't this bill be seen as sacrilegious by believers. Attempts to reconcile this type of thing with apologetics also seems to lead to a variety of contradictions. If it is a "test of faith", a favorite excuse for all sorts of nonsense, should the test be answered by the faithful without the aid of others? Does this type of insistence on external help show weak belief? Do they fail the test?

It seems to me that this is a bad bill both in terms of its constitutionality and on theological grounds. It is just another example of unfounded pathetic beliefs needing to be propped up by government assistance.

Left, Right, or Center, keep out of policy

I don't disagree with the bullet list of points Krattenmaker includes toward the end of "What the Christian Left Can Learn From the Christian Right" but it can all be replaced with one simple point: keep your faith out of my life. Participating in the political process does not mean you have the right to impose personal religious opinions on others. I don't give a shit if a theist leans left or right, faith is a subjective personal matter that should never be imposed on others.


I'm aware of a wide variety of summaries, descriptions, and criticisms of Christianity but I don't recall anyone calling it "boring." Even before considering all the mischief and mayhem this major world religion has foisted on the rest of us, reviewing the massive doses of intrigue and in-fighting that has occurred within and among the 40,000+ sects/denominations is anything but boring.

Once you get past this silly notion Acuff's example of excitement from the Gospel of Luke is pretty terrible. Then again, the Bible is chock full of horrendous behavior and piss-poor role models. The whole piece, "Should Christianity be so boring?", is a rambling mess that doesn't ever come together or make any coherent valid point.

If you're studying Christianity, or any religion, and you find it boring you either aren't paying attention or your research skills really suck. Whether you like it or not, religion is one of the most fascinating fields to study.