Sunday, January 26, 2014


"Men rarely (if ever) managed to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child."
Robert A. Heinlein

One Misunderstanding?

The title of Neil Walsch's HuffPo piece, "Our One Misunderstanding About God", made me laugh quite a bit. He actually seems to think he has boiled down the various disagreements and contradictory assertions about God to one thing. Theists think too primitively. While I don't completely disagree with that idea it is far too simplistic and definitive. Once you cut through all Walsch's touchy-feely new age crap it isn't hard to figure out that he suffers from a very basic misunderstanding himself. He does not seem to realize that the God concept has more than one version. Part of why he fails to note, let alone think critically, about this is that he never really acknowledges that there isn't even a single agreed upon definition for God. Sorry Neil but there are lost of misunderstanding and there will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Setting aside most of the ideas and beliefs attached to a the personal scripture based God won't be an end to the concept's confusion and misunderstanding.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


“Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?”
Sandra Day O'Connor

Anger and Hate not Required

I have no reason to doubt that Michael and Jenet Erickson are generally nice people with no malicious intent. However, it does not make them any less ignorant, self-deluded, or bigoted. This couples opinion piece, "Michael and Jenet Erickson: Being for traditional marriage does not mean being against anyone", would be laughable if it did not represent such a prevalent mindset.

There are two blatant fallacies that dominate the whole thing. There is no universally accepted definition of "traditional marriage" and never has been one. Scripture are full of examples of acceptable marriage practices that would horrify the likes of Michael and Jenet. Even if that were not the case it does not matter in regard to US law. Legislating anything based solely on highly subjective religious interpretations is flat-out unconstitutional.

The second problem is that you cannot claim you are not "against anyone" when you are in fact actively seeking to deny the rights of others. You can believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman but when you seek to deny the rights of others you have gone beyond just believing something. Denying other people the same rights you yourself enjoy is harmful and, yes, it is also bigotry.

What? The Vatican Lies!?

"The Vatican acknowledged on Friday that close to 400 priests left the priesthood in 2011 and 2012 because of accusations that they had sexually abused children."

Slight problem with this statement in that it is an intentional deception.

It was further explained in "Update: Vatican clarifies number of defrocked priests" that in fact, "Bishop Charles Scicluna, formerly the Vatican's top prosecutor of sexually abusive clergy, said 384 priests left the priesthood – either voluntarily or not - in 2011 and 2012, the last two years of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy."

Did you catch that part about "voluntarily"? If you resign it is not the same thing as being "defrocked." They also conflate all those that were defrocked with those specifically removed for sex-abuse crimes. The number actually includes priests that were removed for supporting women's rights and homosexual's rights. A practice detrimental to basic civil/human rights that the current Pope has continued to enforce.

It should be noted that the number of priests defrocked for sexual abuses during the specified time-frame is actually 125. I am certainly glad that they have been removed but is no where near the 400 claimed. In other words, the Vatican lied to make itself look better without having to actually do much to address the serious issue of pedophile priests.


One of the latest narratives to emerge from the mainstream media related to Pope Francis is interesting in that it is more accurate than most of the pieces they have produced but is still grossly misleading. The main theme present in most of these pieces is that the Pope is looking to create diversity within the upper echelons of Catholic clergy. However, writing like "What the Pope's choice of new cardinals means", are incredibly superficial in their approach to the basic concept of diversity. As far as I can tell from reading such examples no one has bothered to look into these cardinals beyond where they are from geographically.  What part of the world each cardinal hails from is by no means trivial but it also is not the epitome of diversity. I found nothing that would indicate they vary in any other aspect. At this point, for all we know they will be a bunch of strict "traditionalists". I see no reason to draw any conclusions about the effect these men will have on the Catholic church at this point.

So to the mainstream media, NO, this is not further proof of their favored premise that this Pope is a reformer.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


"Is a church too small and too poor to pay taxes? That means that not enough people want the church seriously enough to pay for its upkeep. Then, why should such a church exist? Why should atheists, agnostics and non-churchgoers be forced to maintain such a useless, unwanted church by granting it tax exemption?"
E. Haldeman-Julius
"The Church Is a Burden, Not a Benefit, In Social Life"

"Forced to bake a cake"

A recent legal decision that was handed down in Colorado has caused some to throw a hissy fit. That a privately owned business does not have a right to discriminate is not a new idea. The precedent that Barry Fagin writes about in his ridiculously named "Forced to bake a cake" commentary was established quite some time ago. What is most disturbing about his writing is that he is not necessarily a far-right firebrand or a religious conservative. So why does he write: "To some, it's freedom of conscience. To me, it's freedom of bigotry. But we agree that someone's freedom was lost last Friday, at the hands of the Colorado judiciary."

His view of "freedom" seems to be a rather childish one. Throughout the piece he seems to imply that freedom is an absolute to the point that it comes across as a supernatural force rather than a human social construction. Even if we existed in a pure state of anarchy, which is also not possible, you still would not be able to do precisely whatever you wanted the moment you wanted. There are all sorts of practical reasons that this type of "freedom" does not and cannot exist. It does not take much thought to reach the conclusion that either Fagin is clueless or disingenuous. After all, would he argue that every American should have the right to kill anyone they choose to? By the same standards aren't government prohibitions against murder also limitations to our freedom?

It is not just his basic premise that is flawed. He continues:
"Does anyone seriously believe that forcing a private business to provide a product or service to a gay couple is even remotely progressive? That it will help promote tolerance and acceptance? And why would a gay couple choose to do business with someone under those circumstances? Are the political points scored really worth it?"

First, no one is "forcing" Jack Phillips to do anything. He still has a choice to make. He can continue to refuse to serve homosexuals and face fines, or he can comply with the law (which already exists and is simply being enforced). This passage makes me think that Fagin is both clueless and disingenuous. How do you simply gloss over things like the Civil Rights Movement? All you have to do to see this as utter bullshit is swap "gay" for "African American."  Should I or anyone have the right to refuse service to women just because they are women? When such discrimination is found the government has a duty to put a stop to it. We live in a civil society governed by law. Does enforcing the law always "promote tolerance and acceptance" among every individual and group in the country? How do you make progress without action?

Fagin may have reached the right conclusion that Phillips is a bigot but his route to that decision is dangerously flawed and loans credence to ideas and perceptions that do not deserve any respect.

Better PR Doesn't Equal a Revolution

I really didn't expect the mainstream media's love affair with Pope Francis to end just because the facts refute their favored view of him. However, I also didn't expect such a ridiculous piece to come from the BBC. Of all the mainstream outlets the BBC is usually one of the better ones. "Pope Francis gives Catholic Church gentle revolution" is chock full of bullshit. Most of the changes referenced are either completely imagined or exaggerated far beyond the superficial nature of them. The main piece of evidence that there has been any sort of revolution, gentle or otherwise, is that Francis is making the Church more palatable. People's perception of the Catholic Church has improved. Improvements in public relations does not qualify as a "revolution." The church has not actually changed. Not even a little.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


"If atheism is a religion, then bald is a hair color."
Mark Schnitzius

You can't "try on" atheism

Overall, I agree with Heman Mehta's summary ("To the Pastor Giving Atheism a Shot for a Year: You’re Doing It Wrong") of Ryan J. Bell's interest in better understanding atheists/atheism. I think he should be encourage to go ahead with his year long experiment. Hopefully, along the way he will realize that despite his sincere motives his approach is infused with a slew of myths and stereotypes. He seems to think that atheism is not only a actual "ism", which it is not, but also that it is basically just another religion.

The basic premise of his experiment is absurd. You can't "try on" atheism. Either you are an atheist or you are not an atheist. Even though Bell's views on organized religion seem to be evolving he does still follow religious beliefs thereby making him a theist. This seems to me to be a sort of metaphoric mirror image Bob Seidensticker's participation in the prayer expirement ("Not all Experiments Are Equal" 9/29/12). These are experiments that are by their own terms contradictions.

However, I still think it is worthwhile. It would be nice to have theists take a serious positive interest in atheists.

A HuffPo Piece Worth Reading

James Ishmael Ford's "The War on Atheists" is actually pretty good. It's one of the few HuffPo pieces I've read that isn't riddled with logical fallacies, factual errors, or outright bullshit.

Definitely Anti-gay

I would love it if the mainstream media finally started paying attention to what the Pope actually does, or doesn't do as opposed to the frequently disingenuous superficial rhetoric he offers on a regular basis. It is doubtful but one can hope. Francis has once again provided ample evidence that when it comes to substance he is no different than his predecessors. He has made his opposition to extending adoption rights to gay couples known. How is opposing equal rights to homosexuals "gay friendly"? Seems to be rather anti-gay to me. Even though some mainstream outlets have reported on this they are comparably short and unenthusiastic. Time's "Pope Francis ‘Shocked’ by Same-Sex Adoption Proposal" is an excellent example. It's wishy-washy tone is predictable. They did afterall just name Francis their Person of the Year. For a better piece on the incident read Hemant Mehta's December 30th blog post "Pope Francis Encourages Bishop to Condemn Same-Sex Parenting."