Sunday, March 30, 2014


"Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking; where it is absent, discussion is apt to become worse than useless."
Leo Tolstoy

Blitzer and Kennedy didn't "Know"

A recent piece at CNN's Belief Blog really needs to be retitled. Instead of "5 Things You Didn't Know about Popes and Presidents" it should be "A few things Blitzer and Kennedy were ignorant of." The piece does a decent job further demonstrating how ignorant and foolish people can be. My opinion of Wolf Blitzer has been pretty low for quite a while so his assertions (along with co-author Kennedy) didn't surprise me. Their list of five things do actually contain some facts but are presented in rather skewed ways. Of course, a few on the list are not factual but rather dubious opinions based on personal preferences and omission of facts.

The five are:
1. George Washington banned the burning of papal effigies
2. A pope almost recognized the Confederacy
3. The Vatican helped end the Cuban Missile Crisis
4. The United States didn’t have a Vatican ambassador until 1984
5. Pope John Paul II tried to prevent the Iraq War

1, 2, and 4 are not debatable in terms of the historical record. Why they matter and to what extent they matter can and have been argued. 3 and 5 are the ones I found most interesting given that there is really no substantial support for either claims especially in the manner they are proclaimed. Somehow, the fact that the Pope made a public statement about peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis automatically means the leaders involved actually took it to heart. Huh?! Lots of prominent religious, social, and political leaders from around the world made similar calls for calmer relations during the crisis. How does the Pope's rise above all the others? The same is true regarding the Iraq War. Although, in relation to the Iraq war it is possible that the Pope could have done more. He never went beyond statements despite the sway that religious figures had with the Whitehouse in foreign policy. Odds are that Bush & Co. would have ignored him on this particular set of foreign policy issues but he could have tried more. He didn't. Personally, I prefer religious leaders stay the fuck out of politics completely.

Overall, the piece doesn't reveal much beyond the lack of knowledge and insight of it s authors.

Will the Interview Translate

I recently listened to an excellent interview on Point of Inquiry. The March 24, 2014 episode,
"Frank Schaeffer on Escaping Fundamentalism, and the Death of Fred Phelps", was very interesting but did make me wonder. Has Frank really, finally wised-up. Prior to the release of his book Patience with God I heard a couple of interviews with him that were also quite good. He came across as being very reasonable, compassionate, and sincere. Then I read the book. Calling it a worthless piece of shit would be kind. A had a hard time getting through it and it pissed me off so much I went back through and noted many of the heinous flaws. I wrote up the notes in a Google doc with the intention of doing something further. I never decided what that would be. I do still have the Google doc, though.

I'll be interested to see where things go from here. Will Schaeffer live up to his rhetoric or sink back into a far-right irrational bigoted mentality?

Sunday, March 23, 2014


"I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort where we overlap."
Ani DiFranco

Issues in "Pluralistic Marriages"

I understand and accept that religion can and does play an important role in many people's lives. However, I refuse to accept the degree to which many people force it to play a role. Lets face the truth, religion is completely subjective and based on nothing more than opinion. When people see problems being caused by religion it is generally because at least a handful of people have made it a problem. The same is true in a (religiously) pluralistic marriage.

Jim Burklo's "Pluralistic Marriage" is interesting and does bring up some important points. It never seems to tackle what I find to be one of the most important points. Conflicts within such mixed marriages are completely unnecessary. As I've already stated, religion is completely opinion based. Marriage is not (not that there aren't differnces of opinion in them). You go to bed and wake up every day with the person you married. Even if you sometimes take things for granted, there are any number of examples of how real your relationship is. Shouldn't the love for your partner trump some theoretical ideas no matter how important those ideas are? You may never "know" that God exists, that there is an after life, or that your chosen faith has any merit. You can know that you have a loving relationship, otherwise why'd you get married in the first place.

Ultimately, I think if religion is what divides you then you have some serious questions to ask yourself. Was your relationship ever that well founded? If faith can divide people who love each other why should it be seen as good in any way? If religion is the wonderful thing that many want to believe it to be shouldn't it encourage love and relationships regardless of socio-cultural differences?

Turning the Table on Bill Donohue

Donohue has always been a hypocritical, hateful, pompous wind-bag. So, it's particularly entertaining to see one of his slimy ploys backfire on him. A recent piece on Gawker, "Homophobe Won't March In Gay Pride Parade Because He's Welcome To", is a nice example of how full-of-shit he is. Basically, he applied to march in a gay pride parade assuming the organizers were assholes like himself. He wanted to be turned down so he could then accuse them of bigotry. To his dismay and surprise they approved his application. He will not be marching. He never intended to march. Then again, he has never had an interest in actually talking with or interacting in any way with homosexuals or any other group he enjoys demonizing.


This past week Jonathan Merritt shoveled some exceptionally deep steamy piles of shit. Many of his posts are rather self deceptive and ignorant but they usually are spaced out a bit more evenly. The more ridiculous pieces generally have at least a handful of days to separate them but not this week. His March 18th interview with A.W. Tozer is pretty lame on both ends. Merritt asks a number of obvious and credulous questions with Tozer giving predictably feeble answers. For example, Tozer insists that the scripture based version of God is ridiculous and should be discarded. I, of course, don't dispute that conclusion but Tozer proclaims the more abstract version to be the right one. Based on what? There is no attempt to back up the assertion with anything beyond negative comments on the scriptural version. It never occurs to either of them that disputing one version of a concept does not automatically verify an alternate version. I particularly found the wording of the first question very amusing. It included the phrase "an invisible God" which screams out to have a very simple question be asked in follow up. What really distinguishes "an invisible God" from a non-existent God?

Just two days later Merritt posted "Setting the record straight on Jesus, ‘the friend of sinners’." As you may have surmised neither Jonathan or any of the individuals he quotes actually sets "the record straight on Jesus." Every single one of them cherry picks and interprets various biblical passages to derive the messages they personally prefer. There are passages where Jesus seem to be disposed to befriending and helping sinners. However, there are also passages where Jesus turns into a zenophobic bigoted asshole (which I have written about on other occasions).

Surprise, surprise, Jesus is both. No one will ever "set the record straight on Jesus" since the only known information* comes from scripture which is itself a mish-mash of vague, incoherent, or contradictory passages.

*I use the term information since there isn't a single verifiable fact about Jesus.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What is up with Jonathan Haidt?

I've heard a few interviews with Jonathan Haidt in which he generally comes across as a reasonable person. That is until he starts talking about the "New Atheists." Suddenly, his brain turns off and he starts acting like a self-righteous deceitful and willfully ignorant dumb-ass.

His most recent bullshit laden diatribe* focuses on the idea that the so-called new atheists are more certain (implying arrogance among other mythical smears) than religious extremists. It has been reported in some places that this conclusion is based on a "study." It isn't. It is Haidt's opinion. He claims to have support for this view since he used a third party algorithm to count a specific set of words in a specific set of works by "new atheist" authors. There is a bit of a problem with this approach. It is completely inaccurate. It does not account for context or even attempt to control for modifiers (adjectives and adverbs). It simply finds and counts each word completely apart from the sentence in which they exist. Some of these word are themselves modifiers but they still are not cross-referenced with the other listed words. His words include; Always, Never, Certainly, Every, and Undeniable.

Consider this sentence:
Eve though it is undeniable that science is an excellent method of determining what is factual, I am certainly not claiming that it is always without errors.

According to Haidt's method this sentence would be proof that the speaker is completely certain of his claim and therefore more arrogant and self-deluded than a religious extremist. It contains three of the target words. See the problem? The point of the sentence is to express and embrace uncertainty which is the exact opposite of Haidt's claim. He can only make that assertion by completely separating the individuals word and imposing rather dubious means of interpretation.

Perhaps, deep down he realizes his opinion of the "new atheists" is baseless but just can't seem to help himself. He doesn't like them so he has to find a way to justify his antipathy. There's no real evidence so he resorts to fabricating it in a way he can sort of claim is scientific.  Either way, when it comes to his fellow atheists Haidt's ability to reason seems to completely disappear. I don't get. I wished he'd either come up with reasons he can back up or just shut the fuck up about it.

*Haidt's piece has been noted and summarized by a handful of bloggers (both atheists and theists) but the original can be found on This View of Life website titled "Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind.
" Sam Harris has responded to this type of shit from Haidt before. An example can Be found on the Edge website, "Sam Harris Response to Jonathan Haidt."

Debating the color of Smurfs

How idiotic would it be to debate the color of Smurfs? It is a pretty fucking stupid waste of time given that they are fictional to begin with. If you add on top of that that the "literature" all indicates that they are blue it makes even more absurd. It is this type of silly frivolous nonsense that comes to mind when I read pieces like "‘Noah’ film sparks debate over one of the world’s oldest and most beloved stories." Seriously?! What is there to debate? It's a fictional story and even if you want to look at it in terms of metaphors or "deeper meaning" it is still horrible crap. Noah is a bad drunk (Genesis 9:21-24) and God is a genocidal asshole. Drowning a whole planet you created because you don't think it turned out quite they way you wanted is pretty fucking twisted.

I'd rather debate Smurfs. They are at least cute and don't hurt anyone, metaphorically or otherwise.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Misused and Abused: Intolerance

A fairly common criticism of atheists, especially the "New Atheists", is that we are intolerant. Ironically, this assessment may actually be technically correct. However, the term is often falsely used as a synonym for discrimination. It has absolutely nothing to do with discrimination.

According to Chamber's 21st Century Dictionary:
adjective: (often intolerant of something) refusing or unwilling to accept ideas, beliefs, behaviour, etc different from one’s own.
intolerance noun.
intolerantly adverb.
[18c: from Latin intolerans, from tolerare to endure.]"

Put simply, you do not have to accept the beliefs of others in anyway in order to be respectful of their right to believe whatever they wish. You certainly do not have to agree with another individual's views in order to support and defend their rights. Being intolerant has taken on a number of meaning that the actual defintion does not support.

If theists want to verbally attack non-theist for not buying into their bullshit they can but that does not give them any moral higher ground. In fact, what it really does is expose their own ignorance and hypocrisy. They not do not understand the terminology they choose to make use of they do not apply it to themselves.

Note: I will admit that on occasion I have made the same mistake. I try to catch myself but I do sometimes slip.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


"Well, it's over, isn't it? You're not here and I still am. But, needless to say, I miss you. It was great having a god on my side...."
Free to Live, Free to Die
Malcolm Boyd

"Experience" Certainly is Subjective

"My long experience with many student atheists -- faculty atheists too -- has taught me that the roots of atheism are often found in primitive, narrow views of the Divine picked up in preteen years." That is how Stafford Betty opens the third paragraph of his "A God for Atheists" February 28thth piece on Huffington Post. It is possible that he has met and interacted with more atheists than I have but I have little reason to doubt that his "experience" is very superficial. My own experience as an atheist and with other atheists clearly indicates that Mr. Betty is either really bad at paying attention, prone to gross exaggerations, or is completely full of shit.

I have come across very few atheists who don't understand that when people talk about God they are not all necessarily talk about quite the same thing. The God concept is not nearly as monolithic as theists often think it is. I admit I have met many non-theists who's initial objections/skepticism is focused on the scripture based version of the God concept. However, very few get stuck on that one narrow view. It is also interesting to note that even those theists who claim to believe in a more sophisticated abstract version of God frequently mix in traits from the "primitive" version.

Basically, Mr. Betty hasn't got a clue what he's talking about. All he really seems to be doing is maintaining yet another myth/stereotype about atheists.  Whether this is out of simple ignorance or something more intentional I cannot tell from the piece. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume his intentions are meant to be positive but am unwilling to let such blatant bullshit go without the criticism it deserves.

The "Church-Shaped Hole" scenario

Time magazine has once again displayed its zeal for conveying and promoting the most superficial aspects of pop-psychology crap.  Peter Watson's online piece "A Church-Shaped Hole in Our Lives" offers no real insights into one of the more common assumptions among many Americans. The "church shaped"/"God shaped hole" phrase that is all too often used as a criticism of atheists is based almost entirely one two ignorance laced assumptions. The more blatant of the two is that all atheists must suffer for a lack of faith. We don't. There is a sizable fractions of atheists who have never had any faith to begin with. How do you miss what you never had and never had any desire for?

The second assumption is potentially more complicated since it carries a few tiny grains of truth. This is not to say that Watson's portrayal of the situation is accurate in anyway. It isn't. According to his very first paragraph:
"One common dilemma today is this: Knowing what we now know — from geology, cosmology and evolutionary biology — many people find it just impossible to believe in any kind of supernatural entity. At the same time, however, many atheists regret no longer having the comforts and psychological benefits that stem from religion."
This is a complete distortion. There are a number of former pastors (ex. Dan Barker) who have written and spoken at length about their transition from being religious to being non-religious. Even though they have admitted that sometimes they miss the comfort and certainty faith gave them they DO NOT regret its absence. For some the transition can be very difficult but that does not mean they are now confronted with a dilemma. Along the same lines it is also notable that the "hole" is not innate. The notion that religion was ever necessary to provide a sense of meaning or community is a complete fabrication. In many ways the "hole" only exists because theists insists it has to. It is debatable that religion in and of itself actually provides all that theists insist it does. I have yet to come across any evidence that the average person cannot find all the "comforts" religion is said offer from other sources.

Be an Asshole for (organized) Religion

Apparently, the Acton Institute doesn't think being a decent human being should count for anything. They don't even seem to think simply being a believer matters all that much either. You must belong to a specific faith and blindly follow that organized religion or else you are scum. That is main message in Elise Hilton's Power Blog post "'As Long As I’m A Good Person'"

She opens with:
“'It doesn’t matter what I believe…as long as I’m a good person.'
How many times have you heard that? As our society trends more and more to the secular, this type of thing becomes more common. We’ve gone from a society that, at the very least, paid lip-service to communal worship and having moral standards set by a higher authority, to 'I can worship God on my own; I don’t need a church to do that' to 'It doesn’t matter what I believe, as long as I’m a good person.'
Is that right? Can a person believe “whatever” and still be good."

Her answers end up being, big surprise, NO. You must be a blindly obedient ignorant sycophant to be a good person. It never crosses her mind that if a person ends up behaving decently then perhaps their beliefs are positive. It certainly never occurs to her that beliefs do not always translate into actions. Perhaps we should look at a balance between what a person believes and what they actually do with those beliefs?

Nope. Religious Right assholes cannot accept such a reasonable approach no matter how positive the outcome. They are as interested in controlling people as they are anything else. At least the blog's name is honest.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


"Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more."
William Cowper

More "Spiritual" not "Religious" BS

I have pointed out previously that "spiritual" and "religious" are not necessarily synonyms but that they are inter-related to the point that they can be used in very similar ways. In effect if you are one then you are the other as well. Usually what is actually meant by those who say they are "spiritual but not religious" is that they do not belong to and/or identify with a specific organized religion. Generally, I am in favor of theists going the "spiritual" route if they find religion necessary. I do not, however, accept it as an excuse to further promote myths and stereotypes.

A recent post by Linda Mercadante on CNN's Belief Blog repeats a number willfully ignorant views. Unfortunately, her ignorance around two terms in particular are rather common. She has no clue what she is talking about when she refers to "scientism" or "secularism."  Scientism is a rather bogus term that is analogous to "social Darwinism." Like social social Darwinism, scientism has no real connection to the term it is supposedly predicated on. Scientism is a refutation of science not an off-shoot of it. Science is in essence a tool and a self-correcting process. Scientism is a rigid ideology held by those who lack even a basic understanding of science. Mercadante may be right in insisting that the "SBNRs" oppose "scientism." but that doesn't necessarily mean much since they have no clue what they are talking about. In many instances, scientism has been used by a sub-set of theists to attack science. It is the straw man fallacy writ large; convenient bullshit.

The author also seem to misunderstand/misrepresent secularism. For instance she states:
"They are tired of being confined by systems and structures. They are tired of having their unique identities reduced to bureaucratic codes. They are tired of having their spiritual natures squelched or denied."
What?! That's what secularism is designed to prevent. Secularism allows individuals and groups to freely believe whatever they want without others interfering with those beliefs. Secularism seeks to keep government and religion apart so that there is no coercion or infringement on people's beliefs. If the "SBNRs" are opposing secularism then they are defeating themselves. It is the absence of secularism that allows larger and/or more powerful religious groups to harass and coerce others. It is also the lack of secularism that allows government or other non-religious affiliated groups to dictate to theists what they can or cannot believe.

From start to finish "Good news about the ‘spiritual but not religious’" is laced with all sorts of ridiculous nonsense. Most of Mercadante's bullshit seem to stem from her complete lack of understanding. It is almost as if she took a slew of terms and their defintion along with various myths and stereotypes and threw them into a spin-art. Reading it was both amusing and painful.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

"Should Christians Take Medication for Mental Illness?"

I am happy that Mr. Noble has come to the right conclusion but the very question is fucking scary. Unfortunately, I do not get a sense from "Should Christians Take Medication for Mental Illness?" that Perry Noble is some fringe wack-a-doodle. He seems to be a fairly mainstream religious leader. Does that imply that this question is far more common than I or others realize? I hope not.

I do not want to promote any myths and stereotypes about mental illness. It is a serious and potentially devastating problem. The majority of people who deal with mental health issues are decent law-abiding citizens who do not deserve to stigmatized. Sadly, there is a small percentage who have and will turn violent. If medication could have helped but they chose not to take it that is a huge concern. If religious beliefs are interfering with the treatment of any mental illnesses that is inexcusable. It is an outrage not only because it may contribute to violent and potentially lethal incidences but also because it can contribute to needless suffering in general.

Again, the overwhelming majority of people with mental illness of one type or another are not a threat to anyone. This does not mean there is not a considerable amount of personal suffering. I have seen individuals struggle with mental health. It can terrible. It can cause the individual a great deal of pain and take a huge emotional toll on those around them. If medication can help there is no ethical or moral reason not to go that route. Any religion that even casts the slightest doubt on such treatment should be seen as vile and petty.

This is yet another example of the "what's the harm" bullshit that many theists tend to fall back on when their faith is challenged in any way. Potentially, there is a lot of harm. I will state again that I am very pleased that Mr. Noble has come around to the right conclusion and hopefully the majority of theist will do the same, if they haven't already. The question is still heinous.

The Bible(NT) Says....Jesus is a thief

"And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them." (Matthew 21:1-3)

Basically, Jesus sends two of his followers into town to steal a donkey and a horse. I've heard apologists try to weasel their way out of this one by claiming they were freely given. That's the bullshit excuse Jesus tries but it does hold up to scrutiny. Notice that Jesus claims that if the followers are caught they should say the "Lord" needs them and everything will be fine. Really? Even if you blindly accept the divinity and validity of scripture this is still problematic. Already Jesus has an incredibly shitty track record at fulfilling promises and prophecies so there is no reason to assume he knows which donkey and colt the followers will come across. He also does not give any useful description of how to find these animals or any way to distinguish them from any others. Why? Maybe because he never sought permission to take them so it wouldn't matter which ones were taken or from whom? Also notice something that is implied with "the village over against you." This could (depending on version/translation) be a vague reference to directions. It may be simply saying the village you see opposite of where we are standing. It could also be Jesus saying that since that village is hostile to us we can justify taking whatever we want from them. Either interpretation is possible.

In any case, apologists excuses don't hold up. The Jesus figure felt he needed two animals so he sent his followers to take them.

Jesus is a thief.