Sunday, May 25, 2014


“I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other.”
Katharine Hepburn,
Ladies Home Journal, Oct. 1991

The Bess Mandate

I have to admit that when it comes to social issues Howard Bess tends to reach some of the same conclusions and promotes many of the same causes that I do. He does, however, get there by very different means and frequently tries to enlist the aid of others using what I consider bogus arguments. He definitely favors the proto-hippy version of the Jesus figure. If people are going to make the huge assumption that there ever was a Jesus I prefer this version. That doesn't make it either true or historical.

Bess' piece "Jesus Mandate: Peace and Stewardship" is rather foolish. He insists that the "scholarship" supports his favored views on Jesus without ever really providing any proof. I find it interesting that he doesn't site a single historian or scholarly work on Christian scripture. I have read a great deal on the topic and have failed to notice that there is any sort of consensus among such scholars. So, how can there be a mandate?

Sentences like, "...there is no way we can avoid the clear Bible standard of limitation of private ownership", are completely ludicrous. Given that the "Bible" includes both Old and New Testament his statement is at best an exaggerated conflation. Jesus does not appear in the Old Testament so the statement in relation Jesus is false. Once you get past that problem you run into the fact that the passages that relate to "private ownership" are inconsistent and at times alternately vague and confusing. Then you have all the problems that arise from the fact that the Bible as we know it is a mish-mash of recovered fragments that have multiple translations and are pulled together by speculation and conjecture. There isn't a single "book" of the Bible, Old or New Testament, that can be said to be complete. Whole copies of these scripture simply don't exist anymore and haven't for quite some time.

There can be no "mandate" based on scripture. They are far too subjective and divisive.

What SBNR ought to stand for

Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) has become a rather common refrain and theme over the past few decades. It is as misleading as it is nonsensical.

A recent BBC post, "A Point of View: Is it better to be religious than spiritual?", did a decent job pointing out the slight difference between "religion" and "spirituality" but still waffled a little on the distinction. People are not actually rejecting religion. They seem to be rejecting rigid adherence to specific sets of rites and rituals, doctrines, and religious leaders. They are moving away from organized religion not religion as a generic social construct.

Personally, I think "Silly Bullshit Nicely Restated" is more accurate to what is taking place.

Stedman almost gets it

"Does Louis C.K. understand atheism?" No, he clearly does not. Chris Stedman, for a change, has some valid points in this piece. Too bad he presents them in a rather wishy-washy half-assed manner. According to Stedman "...Louis C.K. holds some messy and complicated views—as evidenced by some of his statements about atheism." If by that he means that "Louie" is self-deluded and full of shit I'd have to agree whole heartedly.

Stedman offers only mild critiques of such blatant garbage as:
"Something I’ve learned over the years is that when you talk about religion, you want to talk to religious people. Even if you’re talking about something that’s contrary religiously or provocative, a religious audience is a better audience for that. If you talk to a bunch of cool atheists in leather and suede, you know, sucking on their vape sticks or whatever they’re doing, they’re not going to get it because they don’t even think about God. It’s not even on their radar, you know? But if you tell religious people, 'I don’t know if there’s a God, I don’t think there’s a heaven, where’s God’s ex-wife,' these things, they have a connection to it that means something."

Wow! So loaded with the steamy stuff that you'd think this assholes brain was literally made of excrement. I have met in person or otherwise interacted with a decent number of atheists and I can't think of any I could describes as "a bunch of cool atheists in leather and suede, you know, sucking on their vape stick." Hs he actually met any other atheists? Does he think cartoon characters are real? I also have to wonder how he knows what others are thinking? This jack-ass doesn't seem to get that unbelief does not automatically translate into disinterest.

If belief were a prerequisite for interest "Louie" wouldn't have a career. For that matter, there would be no fictional stories at all. Try to imagine the state of the arts if this were actually the way things worked. I find that rather disturbing. It is also odd that he takes this approach since it somewhat contradicts his own statements. He is an atheist. However, he doesn't think he is since he is not certain about God's existence or nonexistence. First, certainty has little to do with whether you are an atheist or not. If you don't believe that you are an atheist. Also, why is he commenting on it at all. By his own standards he should keep quiet.

Stedman seems to give far too much credit when he mischaracterizes some of these comments by writing "I appreciate C.K.’s call for intellectual humility." Umm, no. Promoting fallacies and stereotypes is not an example of "intellectual humility." It is a clear indication of an individual's ignorance and/or bias.

I appreciate C.K.’s call for intellectual humility - See more at:
I appreciate C.K.’s call for intellectual humility - See more at:
I appreciate C.K.’s call for intellectual humility

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Not so "Ballsy"

Prior to reading CNN Belief blog's "The next chapter in faith films: comedy" I had seen a handful of ads for "Mom's Night Out." It looked pretty lame and a bit annoying. As far as I can tell it relied entirely on outdated stereotypes and slapstick. In other words, there was nothing notable about it. Now that I know it is a "Christian" comedy I am slightly, only slightly, more curious. I still assume it will be mediocre at best but I am interested in seeing what those involved in the project seem to think makes it different from other comedies of its type. I doubt very much. Sean Astin's comment that it's "ballsy" for aiming at "middle-class Christian families" as a demographic is revealing. That demographic is basically the average American. It isn't ballsy so much as it is common practice. The majority of Americans are Christian. The majority of movies are aimed at them and will be so long as the average American still pays to see films.

In this type of context labeling anything "Christian" seems rather silly and self-righteous. Why bother? You can't get enough people to take your bullshit seriously in its proper setting so you have to resort to various ploys? That's certainly what it seems like to me.

Note: I probably won't bother seeing this in the theatre. I doubt it's worth the admission. I haven't decided if the curiosity factor outweighs my initial impressions. I also can't stand Patricia Heaton. I have seen a number of interviews with her and she isn't a particularly good actress. The "characters" I've seen her play aren't that far removed from who she really seems to be: a whiny self-absorbed sanctimonious arrogant bitch.


"Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith. I consider the capacity for it terrifying."
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Religion and "Alternative Medicine" share Common ground

Unfortunately, medicine has always been intertwined with some degree of supernatural and superstitious bullshit. The medical field has over time become more rational and fact based. There is now a distinction between actual medicine and pseudo-medicine. Even though we may never be able to completely purge faith-based nonsense from real medicine it is important to continue to expose the garbage that now gets labeled "alternative medicine".

A recent Religious News Service piece, "Reiki goes mainstream: Spiritual touch practice now commonplace in hospitals", reported that:
"Like acupuncture, yoga and other once fringe practices, Reiki is now viewed by many as an effective, accepted alternative practice in mainstream America, where at least 1.2 million adults have tried the energy healing therapy."
That is fucking scary. Yet, there is some hope. Even religious reporters can still be honest about such bogus treatments. Mr. Sacks does refer to these practices as "fringe" and throughout his writing you get a sense of mild skepticism. It would be great if a higher level of critical thinking were applied but that is not likely.

Skepticism and critical thinking are a threat to both alternative medicine and religion for similar reasons. Faith requires ignorance. Both alternative medicine and religion are entirely built on faith. They also both can be potentially very harmful not just to their practitioners and followers but to all of us. The sheer amount of resources wasted on this nonsense is damaging. The fall-out in terms of its impact on thinking and social interactions is even greater. And, all that is before you contemplate the physical damage it can lead to or allow.

For more on Reiki I find the following podcasts to be interesting and informative.

Skeptoid: Your Body's Energy Fields

Skeptoid: Therapeutic Touch

Oh No Ross and Carrie: Ross and Carrie Creep People Out: Reiki Test Edition

Getting sick of Chris "'Faitheist' Twit" Stedman

Who does Stedman hang out with?  "Why atheists should care about transgender issues: A conversation with Kayley Whalen" seems to imply that atheists don't care about transgender issues. We don't? I don't know how many atheists Stedman interacts with on a regular basis but I can't imagine it is many or somehow he's defied probability by finding only the shallowest and self absorbed individuals among atheists. I can't think of any atheists I'm familiar with who do not firmly support basic civil/human rights. I'm not aware of any of those I know making any exceptions based on gender/gender identity, I certainly don't.

The first sentence of this piece says more about Stedman than the rest of us.
"The atheist community has been struggling with sexism for years."
We have? There have been a few incidents that got a decent amount of attention but that demonstrates the opposite. As a whole, there is far less sexism among atheists than virtually any other demographic. When incidences do occur we address them. Many of the arguments surrounding "elevatorgate" were rather superficial and failed to note clear signs that we do take such things serious. Lots of individuals and groups were quick to condemn sexual harassment and sexism in general. Why start with such a bogus and insulting claim? Why not start with something more along the lines of  "...though atheists are active in combating sexism we can and should do more..."

It is not just that Stedman has once again pulled crap straight out of his pompous ass, the content of the interview also doesn't match the piece's title. There is very little in Kayley Whalen's answers that indicate hostility or even ambivalence toward transgender individuals coming from atheists. Among the most critical bits I noticed was: "I know many other atheists and Humanists in the transgender community, but not very many who are as passionate as me about building atheist community." Is this what Stedman is referring to in the title? Overall, it sounds like Whalen has been accepted and given support. But, hey, it's typical of Stedman to exaggerate or fabricate "issues" within the atheist community.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


"A fact never went into partnership with a miracle. Truth scorns the assistance of wonders. A fact will fit every other fact in the universe, and that is how you can tell whether it is or is not a fact." 
Robert G. Ingersoll

Rationalizing Bigotry

John Ragosta's April 23rd post to Religious News Service, "Can there be a rational compromise on the Pledge of Allegiance?", confused the shit out me. He seems to understand both the political issues involved as well as the historical precedents. Towards the middle of his piece he writes:
"Jefferson understood that the government had no business promoting religion or even suggesting that those who did not believe in God, or some other particular of religion, were somehow less patriotic or less committed citizens. (This is even truer with schoolchildren.)
In the Jeffersonian tradition, we should not force any citizen, much less a child, to choose between making a religious declaration and appearing to be unpatriotic and facing the negative opinion of his or her peers."

Ragosta seems sincere in his sympathy regarding atheists being singled out and harassed. This apparent attitude does not seem to match the title of the piece. Unfortunately shorty after displaying some understanding he starts to turn to mush. It is almost as if he wants to find a way to accommodate discrimination.

"At the same time, as a lawyer, historian, parent and citizen, I wonder whether a lawsuit is the best way to resolve these disputes. In addition to wasting enormous amounts of tax dollars and time, the litigation risks further dividing Americans, forcing us to “choose sides” against one another."

Huh? I admit it is unpleasant and unfortunate that this is the route we have often had to take when defending or establishing the rights of specific groups of our citizens. That does not make it any less necessary or open the door to "compromise". It also seems to escape him that it is not, in fact, the litigation that is "dividing Americans." The Pledge as it is currently written already divides Americans. The phrase "one nation under God" is pretty clear in its meaning. If you don't believe in God you are not part of the "one nation." It doesn't get any more divisive than that. As for wasting tax dollars, I have a problem with that statement for two vary simple reasons. 1. Since when is defending basic human/civil rights a "waste"? 2. The government is itself forcing such "waste" by continuing to support the use of such divisive ploys as inserting religion into public policy.

As an atheist, how can you compromise with something that insists by its very nature that being an atheist is un-American. And how can any decent theistic American put up with such an affront to the very ideals our country claims to stand for? There is NO "rational compromise" on discrimination and bigotry. It seems rather straightforward and simple to me. Either you support equality or you don't. If you support the current configuration of the Pledge then you have just confirmed that you are a bigot.

Connor Chugs more Kool-Aid

I can always count on Connor Wood to defy the name of his own blog. In a recent post he resorts to his usual tactics in feebly attempting to claim "How religion will save the world." Cherry picking what you like and omitting what you don't doesn't prove anything. Connor's main premise that only through the concerted effort of the world's religions can climate change be addressed fails for a wide variety of reasons.

On of the biggest problems with this ludicrous notion is actually hinted at by Wood himself in the third paragraph.
"Our biggest challenges in tackling these large-scale problems are going to be overwhelmingly social. I’m talking about securing consensus and agreement on these looming ecological and systemic catastrophes, and how to marshal our shared resources to address them."
Before anyone can even attempt to resolve the various disagreements and conflicts between the world's major religions, not to mention the myriad of minor ones, you would first need to get the adherents within each of those religions to reach something resembling "consensus." It hasn't happened yet. A subset of Christians seem to be just as interested in harassing and abusing other Christians as they are about smearing and ridiculing other religions. Throw on top of that that a decent chunk of the various faiths do not see climate changes as either being real or that even if it is real that is a "problem" to be solved by humanity. There are, after all, some factions that want to accelerate it to bring about the end of days.

Christianity alone has over 30,000 identifiable sects/denominations. There is no consensus. So, despite Connor's insistence that he is "not claiming that religions will mumbo-jumbo away our problems" he is in fact counting on some type of miracle. How else can something that has never been attempted let alone accomplished in thousands of years be achieved? He seems to think that since religion is a motivating factor for many that will somehow overcome the fact that such motivation is essentially local in its nature.

If religion could save the world I would not have such a problem with it. In fact, I would probably help promote it despite all its lies and authoritarian tendencies. Unfortunately, it has never "saved" anything but itself.