Sunday, October 27, 2013


"A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand."
Bertrand Russell
The History of Western Philosophy

Self-delusion is not Proof of anything

Even though I do find many of the pieces on Salon interesting, I do not place much confidence in their accuracy. A handful of recent pieces seem to be outright silly. One piece I had a good laugh over was Kerry Eleveld's "GOP civil war! Poll shows Tea Party disdains religious right." Kerry has definitely partaken of the Tea Party Cool-aid. Just cause a handful of Tea Party goofballs say something does not mean it matches reality. All you have to do to see through this bullshit is review the past and present darling of the so called "Tea Party" movement. If these groups disdain the religious right so much why do they support candidates that either have direct links to, or frequently pander to the religious right.  Allen West, Christine O'Donnell, Eric Cantor, Ted Cruz....are all lackeys (champions if you are of that mentality) of  the religious right. Another good example of the disconnect between such polls and reality can be found on the various websites maintains by these groups. If Eleveld had spent even ten minutes with Google she should have been able to find a handful of such sites. Scroll through and you will find any number of religious right mouthpieces.
Here's an example (less than a minute to find), on Tea Party 911 you can find there officially endorsed candidates. The first one listed is Matt Bevin who notes his backgrounds is "...built on a bedrock of strong Christian values..." Even though he has not yet placed much emphasis on his positions on social issues publicly it seems a bit too coincidental that they line up precisely with those of the religious right.

Basically, not only is the "tea party" a faction of the Republican Party it is also allied with the religious right. Those that claim to disdain it while upholding its position are just demonstrating how idiotic ignorant and hypocritical they are.

Actually, Atheists Can't be Pigeon-holed

Why is it that the very same individuals who can't be bothered to take the time to look up a basic definition or conduct the slightest fact checking feel free to expound on the traits/qualities of various topics, concepts, and groups of people? The Republican Party's hostility to both atheists and secularist is not news. It is a long standing trait of the party. However, CJ Werleman's piece in Salon, Atheists can’t be Republicans, is pretty damn foolish. I may not understand why any self respecting atheist chooses to belong to the Republican Party but the fact remains that there are both atheists and secularist in the Grand Old Party. Atheists can be Republicans. It seems just as idiotic as homosexuals and women choosing to join a group that is drenched in homophobia and misogyny, but they join and remain in the party all the same. It is an interesting title anyway given that Werleman does point out how diverse atheists are as a whole.

It also escapes me how CJ can make such blatant calls for us to "grow up." What are we being immature about? Because we don't find the need to brow-beat each other into conformity with a specific set of political norms? I'd also appreciate more clarity on the "image problem" he imagines we have when it comes to Islamophobia. It is a common enough charge but has little validity. Sure, some atheists have said some stupid things but I have yet to see how it rises to the level of controversy the media keeps insisting on. If any such critics ever took the time to look beyond sound bites and attempt to put things in context they'd discover that most of the atheist, though not all, have well thought out arguments regarding not only Islam but religion in general.

Debating from Ignorance

The repercussions from Oprah's recent televised stupidity involving the distance swimmer Nyad may end up leading to some positive discussions but that does not mean that she is herself a legitimate partner in such discussions/debates. She is, in fact, one of the worst possible candidates for such an exchange. I feel it necessary to clarify a little. I am biased when it comes to Oprah. I have for quite some time considered her to be a vile, ignorant, and arrogant media-whore.

My first impression of her from watching her talk show a few times in the 80s has not changed much. My soon to be sister-in-law convinced me to watch a few episodes with her. The first one I saw outright infuriated me. There were a few women she had brought on stage supposedly to speak out about rape. Both were rape victims themselves. When Oprah didn't get the answers she wanted as quickly as she wanted she badgered them until they broke down in hysterical sobs. The second show wasn't much better. A woman who suffered from chronic intense migraines was brought on to talk about the condition. Oprah did the same thing. The woman had just explained she was having trouble focusing on the questions because her meds weren't working very well. Rather than give her a moment to collect herself Oprah chose to viciously verbally attack her. For years after that I refused to pay any attention to her rising career.

After college a friend of mine convinced me that she had changed and was doing a lot of great things in regard to promoting history and literature I gave her a another shot. As it turns out nothing had really changed. Most of what she was peddling was not real history. Her episode on the then recent release of the movie Amistad was an excellent example. She was promoting the idea that all Americans of African ancestry were descendants of slaves. Though I agree that slavery is a shameful aspect of our history that should never be forgotten or excused I DO NOT agree with promoting false history to achieve it. Any one with an interest in history could easily discover that her claim was a blatant lie. For example the first African-Americans to end up in Virginia were indentured servants not slaves. There is nothing in the historical record that indicates they were treated any differently than the "white" indentured servants. Granted, such servants were treated like shit but it doesn't seem to have had anything to do with their ethnicity (authority and economics mattered). What of those individuals who migrated before and after the end of slavery? Were they ot real Americans? She has since established a rather terrible track record for promoting all sorts of faux-history and pseudo-science.

However, she is not the only one guilty of being an ignorant ass in the various comments and arguments that have sprung up around her exchange with Nyad. A recent piece on the International Business Times website, "Can Atheists Still Be Spiritual? Oprah Prompts Debate", is a pretty good example of how much of the "debate" is a bunch of drivel. It all seems to hinge on being completely ignorant of even the most basic terms and concepts involved. The big one, of course, is the idea being associated with "Spirituality." The simple answer is that atheists probably can't be "spiritual." The problem with pointing that out stems from the fact that the term is being misused and pressed into perpetuating a number of myths and biases. Spirituality is a religious term that cannot be separated from its supernatural underpinnings. Nyad screws up by accepting the term. Awe and wonder are not really synonymous. You can find wonder and beauty around the world without accepting any supernatural bullshit. There shouldn't really be a reason to debate the point that atheists are human beings. That is what assholes like Oprah seem to be trying to do. They want to make us seem less than human by insisting we can't have feelings and emotions like theists. So long as "debates" are set up this way there is no real point in engaging such blindly ignorant bigoted morons.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
Aldous Huxley

Can a Mythical Figure make Predictions?

Even if you make the huge assumption that King David was an historical figure there are still problems with Joe Badens CNN Belief blog post "How King David predicted modern Judaism." One major flaw is that "King David" didn't say or write anything about himself even if he did exist. Every passage related to David in the Bible is attribute to other authors. Most scholars long ago figured out that even the psalms he supposedly penned were most likely written by others after his supposed life time.

As for the "prediction" Badens claims, that is also nonsense. His own writing refutes the notion.
"The Israel we know today is a nation that David created virtually out of thin air. Before David, there were two territories, Israel to the north, and Judah to the south."
How does merging two previously established territories qualify as "virtually out of thin air"? Any King seeking to consolidate power would do the same. That is simply a natural progression of political power that is not innately religious let alone unique to a specific religion. A handful of paragraphs later Badens adds an even more telling comment,
"We tend to think of Israel in biblical terms: the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the land of the 12 tribes. These concepts were created in the wake of David’s reign."
So, he admits to certain aspects of the Biblical David being fabricated* but fails to question those elements he's counting on for the pieces main premise. How convenient.

The piece never gets any better. None of it is supported by known history. In some ways it is rather impressive how ignorant and delusion Badens is regarding a number of fields of study. Most of the concepts and themes he brings up can be explored from Archeology, Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Theology,... He doesn't managed to adhere to the basic research principles of any of these fields. All of which can provide at least partial insights on the rise and establishment of Judaism. Inconveniently for Badens main point is the fact that Judaism predates the sections of the Bible that David is referenced in. There is also a considerable amount of debate about how different Pre and Post-Temple Judaism really is and whether those differences are as significant as they have traditionally been accepted to be.

*Yet another topic I have commented on previously.
Speaking of Faux History (7-16-11)
Family Values with a side of Indigestion (7/28/12)
"History" in the Bible (3/10/13)

On Occasion Answers are Simple

Even though it rarely works out that way, there are sometimes very simple answers. A recent American Buddhist Perspective blog post recently asked a fairly routine question: "Buddhism: religion or philosophy?" It's a religion. Buddhism by its basic principles is a supernatural based belief system, which therefore makes it a religion. It may be true that it is one of the more philosophical religions but that does not make it any less of an organized religion.

Mr. Whitaker throughout his piece seems to make comments to the effect that he knows this already. Throughout he seems to be trying to reconcile himself to the possibility that it could be equally both. I disagree mainly because it ignores a number of common critiques of common theistic assumptions. It doesn't matter if religions are capable of being a specific way if it is possible to be that way without any religious elements. He talks about reducing Buddhism to "techniques" which is the same half-assed argument used in promoting Yoga in public schools. "Yoga" the way many people "practice" it is a matter of technique/method devoid of its original religious overtones. That isn't really Yoga. Essentially you are mixing calisthenics with meditation. It does not require any supernatural beliefs let alone a belief system. Adapting meditative and relaxation techniques from Buddhism does not make you a Buddhist.

If individuals adopted some but not all the various religious based principles along with the methods then you might have more of a debate/question. That does not seem to be what Whitaker is talking about. Buddhism is by its nature a religion. It is just as attached to supernatural thinking and concepts as any other faith.*

I have previously written about Buddhisms supernatural underpinning;
How Atheistic is Buddhism? (12/31/11)
Buddhism and the God Concept (2/24/13)

The Stupidity of Low Standards

Even though the first few paragraphs may imply that the question in James Tabor's recent post may have some merit it doesn't take much to figure out that it is utter nonsense bordering on idiocy. "How Christian Is the New Testament Book of Revelation?", is a question that to some degree destroys itself. Which religion draws any authority from the New Testament? That's right the answer is Christianity. If you applied Tabor's incredibly low standards consistently then the New Testament is itself not "Christian." There are no unique or original elements contained in what most consider the truly Christian half of the Bible.

So why ask the question? Most of the Gospels (the entire Bible, in fact) are loaded with all sorts of incoherent and even horrifying passages. Revelations is one of the most problematic books in the New Testament for far too many reasons to cover in a single post. The point is that many modern "scholars" and apologists are constantly trying to find ways around such problems. As far as I can tell this is the only real reason for Tabor's piece. Distancing your preferred Faith from unpleasant aspects in one section of scripture while preserving the rest is not a new tactic. Others have tried it and many more will try it. It is intellectually dishonest and ultimately a failure.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


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

"Gay rights vs. religious rights"

I keep coming across the notion that by accepting gay rights you automatically must be infringing on someone's religious rights. Bullshit! There is s simple way to demonstrate that this tactic aimed at fighting the slow steady move towards equality for homosexuals is complete nonsense. Simply swap "homosexual" for any other identifiable group of people (ex. African Americans or Jews). If it doesn't sound reasonable anymore then how is it okay when aimed at homosexuals?

A couple fairly recent posts try to go after homosexual equality by making specific points.
Religious News Service "Gay rights vs. religious rights: 7 issues to watch"
Patheos "When religious liberty clashes with gay rights"
None of them stand up to any scrutiny. For the most part all the various arguments can be boiled down to two very bogus premises. First, they rely on the assumption that religious people somehow have, or should have the right to impose their views on others. They do not! These "points" also rely on the assumption that homosexuals and/or the government is somehow going to force people to participate in the lives and activities of homosexuals. They can't. I have yet to hear anything about there even being a desire to do such a thing. If an individual feels their religion forbids gay marriage they do not have to participate in one or have anything to do with it. As for the idea that someone should have the right to refuse services to gays that is no different than refusing services to any other group. If your service is offered to others (rather than expressly private) you forfeit the ability to pick and choose based on broad categories like gender, ethnicity, nationality, etc.

There is no innate conflict between gay rights and religious rights when it comes to civil law. Only the most ignorant, narrow minded, bigoted assholes could cling to such a bogus stance.

Jesus still hates himself

Though there are any number of claims that can be made and supported by scripture about Jesus there are a few that are outright ludicrous. The notion that Jesus hates religion is both incredibly silly and very ignorant. This is not because you could cherry pick and interpret scripture to back the claim but more that you have to have scripture to enforce the claim in the first place. The earliest information, in fact the only information, about the Jesus figure comes from religious texts. Without religion (specifically Christianity) Jesus ceases to exist. Even if you make the huge assumption that there ever was an historical Jesus, the Christ figure would still be completely unknown today without religion.

"'Jesus (still) hates religion’: An interview with YouTube sensation Jefferson Bethke", a recent post on Jonathan Merritt's blog, is still a pretty interesting interview to read. I genuinely like Jefferson Blethke despite is naive and ignorant take on Christianity. His YouTube video, which I've written about previously (May 17, 2012 Naive, Idealistic, and Ignorant, but not Controversial) , is worth watching. I have also previously commented on the bogus notion that Christ can exist separate from Christianity (December 21, 2012
Actually, Christ does Need Christianity). I would point out that the reverse is not true. Christianity can survive even if its adherents finally accept that Christ is a myth.

"God's will" is our will

Timothy Dalrymple's recent Philosophical Fragments post is loaded with not only fragments but lots of philosophical holes. "Mistaking God's Will for Our Own" has numerous problems in its logic. He fails at establishing a basic premise to start with. How can any human or group of humans even come close to determining what God's will is? He himself notes that we are imperfect while God is perfect but fails to take that notion to the next logical step. We can't know "God's will." In practice God's will has to be our will. It can never be anything more than our own biases and interpretations that creates this "will." So form start to finish God's will is our will. If that is a mistake then it is an innate mistake that cannot be otherwise.

This, of course, only matters if you fail to see the huge assumption underlying the whole argument: God exists. No one has yet provided any proof that God actually exists. Basically God is a human fabrication and therefore leads to the same conclusion anyway. God's will is our will. Religious people can dress it up in any number of arguments they want but the result is the same. Theists choose to believe in God just like they choose the type of God they prefer and the "religious experience" they want. God and religion are a convenient set of ideas that can be used to reinforce and justify what individuals and groups want to be true whether they are or not.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


"Delusion is the child of ignorance."
Bhagavad Gita

In poor taste?

I don't necessarily disagree with the commentary that putting a cross emblazoned cracker on top of a burger is in poor taste. Personally, I would agree with such statements for a more specific and technical reason. It is literally tasteless. The cracker is without flavor. As for the insistence, especially among Catholics, that it is "crass and offensive" I find it ludicrous and rather hypocritical.

I say especially Catholics primarily because their own doctrines claim that the eucharist* literally becomes the body and blood of Christ. What is more crass and offensive; creating a burger in homage of a band you happen to like or believing that you are eating the actual body of another person? Even doing this symbolically I find rather creepy and disturbing. So, Christians who is really being rude and offensive? I'll taking poking fun at a patently absurd ritual over knowingly ritualizing cannibalism.

*An actual consecrated wafer and wine rather than a pretend one. Assuming, of course, you don't see the whole ritual as a twisted and perverse fantasy.

Yes, Jonathan there is Context

In a recent Religious News Service post Jonathan Merritt once again does an incredibly shoddy job of reporting what he claims is the "woeful silence of the American church in the face of a global epidemic of Christian persecution." His blog post entitled "Three reasons the American church is ignoring Christian persecution" is really just warmed over Christian Right persecution paranoia. He takes a few grains of truth from widely exaggerated, misleading, and biased sources and then repackages it as if he actually knows what he is talking about. His main source seems to be the deeply flawed piece by Kristen Powers at the Daily Beast. He makes references to a number of puff pieces and out right hack jobs from sources like USA Today and The Hudson Institute. He doesn't seem to have bothered to do even the most basic fact checking of a single one of his sources. This would be bad enough if they were drawn from reasonable researched sources but not one of his sources has any credibility when it comes to investigative reporting. In fact, a few of them are routinely exposed as bigoted liars.

There are far too many problems with both his sources and his own writing to do them justice on a simple blog post so I will focus on one very important one: context. For Merritts piece to actually have any merit (yes, the cheesy pun is intended) the "facts" would have to be put in context. Sadly, it is true that somewhere in the world you can find ample evidence that one religious group or another is being persecute and even killed. This should not be allowed. However, making such hyperbolic claims about Christians being persecuted when put into context actually has the opposite of effect of what Merritt seems to intend. It debases the piece to absurdist theatre. When you look at both who is being persecute and who is doing the persecuting, Christians are the least victimized of all. What about Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians, or the countless indigenous faiths?

Not one of Merritt's 3 reasons stands up to any critical examination. In a global context it comes across as pathetic satire. If you narrow to a North American context it would be more accurately characterized as the school yard bully complaining that a few students refusal to give up their lunch money without being beaten led to his getting a bruised fist. And, no I am not justifying or rationalizing Christians being persecuted. Again, no one should be persecuted. If your Religion happens to be "the" dominant faith* on the face of the planet complaining about being abused when you have done little to help those being similarly abused comes across as being a pampered cry baby.

*No one in their right mind can possibly claim otherwise given that the overwhelming majority of individuals and groups that dominate the world's social, economic, and political institutions are Christian.

"12 'blasphemous' artworks censored or vandalized by angry believers"

I have written about this sort of thing in past. I don't necessarily want to go through it again but felt that the Religious News Service piece referred to in my post title was well worth taking a look at.

"12 'blasphemous' artworks censored or vandalized by angry believers"

It's sad that even a fraction of believers from various religions find it necessary to do this kind of shit.