Sunday, November 24, 2013


"You cannot do anything with knowledge unless you know where it stops and the costs of using it."
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
"The Idea of Negative and Introgenic Science"
This Will Change Everything

Good idea, bad location

About a week ago there was a short piece on Religious News Service that once again called for dialogue between believers and non-believers. It is a sentiment I certainly agree with. However, I have always found it a little disturbing and possibly telling that when theists propose such things they always want it to take place in church. "Free Thought Exchange brings atheists to church for dialogue" is just a recent example of this emerging trend. It will never be nearly as successful as theists claim they want it to be so long as they insist it occur in places that many atheist are simply not comfortable. The sad thing is that there is absolutely no need for creating such an impediment to open honest discussions. There are many venues that could be used where neither party would feel unwelcome or ill-at-ease.

An Interesting Contradiction

A recent piece by Nick Sexton on HuffPo was very interesting in its approach. Throughout "'The World Would Be a Better Place Without Religion' -- A Sentiment Common on College Campuses" Sexton relies entirely on personal experience/anecdotes to try to distance what the average theist may or may not believe from what the religion they belong to promotes. To some degree he has a valid point. However, that point can only be taken so far before it not only loses any meaning but also turns into an outright contradiction. Why do individuals belong to a religion they disagree with most of the time? And, how does that let the institution of religion off the hook for any and all unethical/immoral doctrines and practices? It doesn't.

Such odd and indirect contradictions are both interesting and difficult to explain. Having a dark streak to my sense of humor I also find such things amusing. The last sentence of Sexton's third paragraph was particularly notable:
"When large religious institutions promote oppressive ideals, it is the fault of power-hungry, hateful individuals -- not the fundamentals that are most central to the religion."
It never seems to occur to Sexton that some of those "individuals" not only include prominent leaders within a religion (at one point he refers to the Pope) but central or founding figures as well. How can Christians excuse/reconcile the New Testament passages in which Jesus reveals himself to be a hateful and homicidal asshole?

Simply separating what the average believer actually believes from the teachings and policies of the religion they profess to follow does not in any way negate the horrible aspects of religion. If anything it makes the problem more complicated. It also does nothing to disprove the idea that the world would probably be better off without religion. Sexton's piece is interesting primarily for the questions that come to mind while reading it. In and of itself it is rather pathetic. Even setting aside that it is completely constructed on personal anecdotes, it is riddled with various logical fallacies.

Cowardly Costco

I have to admit that when I first heard about Costco labeling the Bible as fiction I was pleasantly surprised. For a big box chain to do something that would undoubtedly lead to controversy is rare. I was both amused and impressed. The sad truth is that any objective person should not be surprised or upset by such labeling. What sacred text is fact based? Why shouldn't it be labeled fiction? Just because people deem something important or wish to believe something does not automatically make it true.

Rather quickly and predictably Costco apologized. As it turned out the labeling was unintentional. It was an isolated mistake that probably would have gone mostly unnoticed. The only reason it was not corrected without incident is because another arrogant self-righteous asshole had to throw a hissy fit.

Oh well, at this point I have come to terms with living in a society that places little value on reality.

A couple of the articles related to this incident:
'Fiction' Label On Bibles At Costco Shocks Pastor [UPDATE]

Costco Apologizes for Labeling Bibles as Fiction

Sunday, November 17, 2013


"Guardianship is not to give an order but to give one's self"
Nyika (Kenya and Tanzania) Proverb

Right-wing Pundit + "Satire" = Ignorant Asshole

"Why do you Christians always throw the Bible in my face?" seems to have been a rather feeble attempt at lampooning secularism. All Matt Walsh manages to accomplish is to show what an ill-informed malicious dick head he is. There are many instances where genuine satire does use exaggeration/hyperbole and tries to reveal at least a few absurd aspects of a given topic, event, or individual. What Walsh doesn't seem to comprehend is that there has to be at least a tiny grain of truth for the attempt at satire to build on. His whole piece is built around myths and misrepresentations. This is by no means surprising if you've read any other pieces on The Matt Walsh Blog website.

One of the most blatant examples of this dumb-fuck's mentality can be found in the third paragraph. "If it comes from RELIGION, as a secularist, I must hate it. If it’s been heavily influenced or transformed by RELIGION or RELIGIOUS people, I must hate it." That's not secularism! It isn't even close. There is nothing in "secularism" that says you have to hate anything. The basic premise is that since religion is completely subjective and potentially derisive it should be kept out of government/public policy as much as possible. That is not anti-religious let alone hateful. Unfortunately, like many of Walsh's brand of conservatism anything that does not fit his preferences must be evil and ruthlessly attacked. It is also alien to such a mindset that anything can ever be more complex than a soundbite or stereotype.

Even though it is true that some who support secularism are hostile to religion (myself included) that does not necessarily have anything to do with secularism itself. It should be noted that one of the most prominent secularist organizations, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State*, is run by a Christian reverend. Anti-religious sentiment is not innate to secularism. Many secularist happen to either be religious themselves or have respect for religion as a whole. Personally, I do not but that has very little to do with why I am a secularist. I firmly believe in equality and freedom. As a libertarian, Walsh also likes to claim that he believes in such things. Too bad he doesn't behave in a manner consist with such views.

*for the sake of disclosure I feel it necessary to point out that I have been a member of American United for quite some time.

Neither Charitable or Compassionate

The Kansas City Rescue Mission has revealed itself to be at least as bigoted as it it claims to be charitable. Unfortunately, incidences like the one reported recently in the Kansas City Star, "Atheist volunteers turned away by Kansas City Rescue Mission," are not that uncommon. The Kansas City Atheist Coalition was interested in helping distribute Thanksgiving meals to the poor and elderly. Knowing that a particular Christian group already had such a program they thought it made sense to offer their aid rather than start a similar program from scratch. It makes perfect sense if your main goal is to help people. The so-called "Rescue Mission" wouldn't have it. Instead they revealed themselves to be selfish hypocrites far more concerned with recruiting members and perpetuating myths and slurs about atheists than actually helping their fellow human beings. They are by no means representative of all Christians or religious people but there are still way too many such self-righteous malicious assholes around. 

"Religious Liberty" in Bizarro World

A November 11 posting on the National Review's blog The Corner provides yet another excellent example of how truly distorted a certain sub-set of conservatives sense of reality can be. Wesley Smith's "California Against Religious Liberty in Business" is a pretty good glimpse into the bizarro world that some conservatives insist on living. His seven paragraphs can be summed up rather quickly. In his warped and fucked up thinking by merely not allowing employers to force their religious views on those they employ the government has infringed on their religious rights. Apparently, if you have enough money and influence you can not only force others to live by your own religious beliefs but you can falsely label it "religious liberty."

Sunday, November 10, 2013


"It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people."
Good Omens: A Novel
Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Even Vegetarians love Pizza

"Even vegetarians love pizza" has as much meaning and purpose as this bullshit short piece from CNN Belief blog: "Even atheists love this Pope." Some atheists do seem to be impressed by Pope Francis. So what? Not all of us are enthralled by him. I don't understand why so many have given him so much credit. This latest example is rather telling. "Hell, even atheists love him - as shown by the surprising displays on affection tweeted after the Pope publicly embraced a severely disfigured man on Wednesday." Really?! Are people's standards that low. How can you not feel for a severely disfigured person in obvious need of comfort? The Pope did what any decent human should have done in that circumstance. Why all the praise? It certainly doesn't change my views on the Pope. He is a human being and as such has good and bad qualities. Overall, that does not make him an exceptional person and it certainly doesn't distinguish him as the leader of one of the world's largest religions.

Atheists as a whole do NOT love this pope!

Ignorance and Bigotry love Company

It never ceases to amaze me how truly ignorant people are when it comes to atheists/atheism. Unfortunately, many of these clueless individuals find the need to write/talk incessantly about atheists. Two recent, but by no means unique, examples annoyed me quite a bit. Both the Allergic Pagan's (Patheos) "Being an atheist just ain’t what it used to be" and HuffPo John Carlson's "Remembering Albert Camus and Longing for the Old Atheism" are chock-full of bullshit and bigotry.

John Halstead of Allergic Pagan is the more disturbing since the piece is largely about his own son coming out as an atheist and that he himself comments on sometimes identifying as an atheist. He clearly does not get it. Being an atheist is not like picking which outfit you want to wear that day. You believe or you don't. You are an atheist or you are not. Though, that is a minor point in comparison with some of the other ridiculous things he comes up with. Halstead is disturbed that his son will accept "...materialism that bleeds the world of beauty and meaning and everything that makes life an interesting adventure." Does this dipshit not ever pay attention to the news? Didn't we just go through this bullshit with that bitch Oprah? Big hint, moron, there is NO beauty or wonder without materialism. What are you marveling at if you can't sense it in any way. All those feelings and emotions are produced by the brain. The brain is a physical/material organ. His piece is loaded with all sorts of similarly ill-informed biased myths and stereotypes as well as a multitude of logical fallacies.

Carlson was not quite as annoying since the title made it pretty clear what I was in for. It is yet another piece that has picked up on a fairly recent tactic being used by critics of atheists/atheism. They want to seem reasonable and civil by "praising" or "respecting" the "Old Atheism" while denigrating or dismissing the "New Atheism." It is a crock of shit from start to finish. First it creates a blatantly false dichotomy. The ideas and arguments of atheists haven't really changed that much. The only verifiable distinction between the "old" and "new" has to do with media. The mainstream media, though still rather biased, is willing to talk/write about atheists more than they ever have in the past. It is also now possible for atheist to get published by large publishing houses. Not that long ago only small niche publishers would touch the works of an atheist. That is the only noticeable difference, assuming you actually pay attention to what atheist say and write rather than pretending you do. I have a sneaking suspicion that many who claim to have read the works of this or that atheist have not actually done so.

The second major problem with this contemporary canard of theists is that it is often grossly inaccurate. To be honest, I'm not that familiar with Camus so I do not know whether Carlson is misrepresenting him or not. I do know that other critics have used long-dead atheists to similar ends. One I am familiar with is Nietzche. Numerous critics have presented very opinionated and flimsy interpretations of Nietzche's work for the sole purpose of attacking contemporary atheists by contrast. It's an odd tactic but seems to be growing in popularity among certain circles. It is not an example of sound literary criticism or any intellectual endeavor. It is simply bigotry dressed up.

Why these assholes find the need to go on about things they clearly do not understand or have any interest in understanding is both confusing and annoying. If you want to engage in discussion and debate or just learn about an unfamiliar demographic that would be one thing. Doing that involves real inquiry not making up shit based on what you prefer to believe.

A Group of Clergy Deserving Praise

I do not have any problems with the average theist. It is religion as an institution that I tend to distrust and despise. My criticisms are generally aimed either at a specific set of theists or else at the doctrines, policies, and hierarchies of specific religions (or the sects/denominations within a religion). However, I do believe in giving credit where it is due. The 50 clergy noted in the Philadelpia Inquirer's "Methodist ministers defy church at same-sex union" certainly deserve to be commended. It is not merely that they have risked their positions within the church, and therefore their livelihoods. A considerable part of individual clergy's identity is wrapped up in their religious affiliation. Being stripped of their position as clergy and potentially being expelled from the faith itself could be very traumatic. These individuals have shown a great deal of courage and resolve in standing up for both civil rights and for basic human decency. So long as religion continues to exist I am grateful that at least some clergy will put the well being of people above that of religious dogma.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


"The kind of fraud which consists in daring to proclaim the truth while mixing it with a large share of lies that falsify it, is more widespread than is generally thought"
Marcel Proust

Catholic Idolatry

I find it very amusing that many Christian denominations have always looked down on pagans and various non-Christians for things like idolatry. This is amusing in part because it is so blatantly hypocritical. A fairly recent Catholic Herald article on the Pope is a really good demonstration of how self-deluded and full of shit the Catholic Church is, at least on this point.

How any Catholic can square the contents of the CH article "In front of Fatima statue, Pope Francis entrusts the world to Mary" with the basic idea of idolatry is beyond me.

Just for clarification the Chambers 21st Dictionary defines idolatry as follows:
noun (idolatries)
1. the worship of idols.
2. excessive, love, honour, admiration or devotion.
idolatrous adjective.
idolatrously adverb.
[13c: from Latin idololatria, from Greek eidolon idol + latreuein to worship.]"

Religion really does warp people's ability to reason and think critically, especially about their own beliefs.

Not Ideological?

Why do people give Pope Francis so much credit? He has yet to match anything he says with positive actions. In fact, he frequently acts in opposing ways. All the talk about being friendlier to women and homosexuals seems to have been pretty well negated by his actions. He has stated definitively that the Vatican will not even consider ordaining women (In the Catholic church only the clergy have power). He has excommunicated a priest who advocated for homosexuals.

With those examples in mind, head lines like "Pope Francis describes 'ideological Christians' as a 'serious illness'" come across as outright farcical. How the fuck is the Catholic Church itself not ideological? It isn't as if the church bases its doctrines and policies on objective criteria. Only a completely clueless and delusional ass could make such a blatantly hypocritical statement. By his own words in combination with a basic understanding of the term "ideological" there can be only one conclusion. The Pope is very ill!