Sunday, July 20, 2014


"...the more we pursue the implications of mathematical rules, the more flexible a rule-based universe begins to seem. Conversely, the more we understand biology, the more important its physical aspects become - because life isn't a special kind of matter, so it too must obey the rules of physics."
Terry Pratchett
The Science of Discworld

Another piece of assumptions and biases

From start to finish the Atlantic's "Is Evangelical Morality Still Acceptable in America?" comes across as being rather superficial and idiotic. After reading through it a couple times I still fail see much of a point. Alan Noble does a pathetic job of defining or explaining what he really means by either "Evangelical Morality" or "Acceptable." Theists of all stripes whether Christian or specifically "evangelical" are free to worship any way they choose.

He never gets beyond any of the rather large assumptions he makes right from the start. Why he assumes that there can even be said to be an "evangelical morality" is beyond me. I am in no way implying that Christians of any type are automatically immoral. In fact, that is part of the problem with the whole piece. He writes as if there is something innately moral in theism and that each variation of theism somehow has produced its own unique moral structures. I don't buy it. Human beings are capable of being moral or immoral. Groups, though they can be influential, are not innately moral or immoral.

I also seem to have missed the part where being "acceptable" really matters to theistic claims and beliefs. Even if he ever got around to what defines being acceptable, which he doesn't do a very good job, what impact would it really have on evangelicals or any other group. Why the special treatment? Haven't there always been minority beliefs/groups? I'm unaware of there being an active campaign to marginalize or strip the rights of evangelicals. Assuming such a campaign could actually get anywhere given the power and influence evangelicals still wield.

The piece is just silly and ultimately pointless.

"Abortion: Whose Religious Beliefs Should Prevail?"

The answer to the question posed in Georgette Bennett's HuffPo piece, "Abortion: Whose Religious Beliefs Should Prevail?", seems both very clear and obvious to me; no one's. When it comes to medical questions, and she is talking about abortion in both a medical and religious context, no one's religion should be allowed to interfere in other people's care. If, as an adult, an individual wants to either confer or defer to religious doctrines when making medical decisions for themselves they have that right. However, they should never been allowed to enforce their highly subjective religious views on other people in any context and escpecially not in a medical one. It should also not be allowed to be the sole basis of any laws or public policies.

Most of what Bennnett writes about is completely irrelevant and relies almost entirely on the assumption that religious beliefs should automatically come into play when making medical decisions. In other words, it's laced with bullshit.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


“Man is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion—several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat, if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven.”
Mark Twain

And, the answer is...Superficial

That's right the answer to the (sort of ) question "What the Pope’s popularity says about American culture" is the superficial nature of many Americans' understanding of theology. As I have commented before, the only real difference between the current Pope and the past few is a matter of style not of substance. Fawning over the current Pope doesn't really seem to be the main point of this recent post by Jonathan Merritt.

Like many of Merritt's post the piece is really just another opportunity to spread all sorts of deceitful and malicious bullshit. He repeats and promotes a variety of myths, stereotypes, and smears about nonbelievers.
Merritt's disingenuous post includes some of the most common misconceptions and misrepresentations. He provides a platform for such whoppers as the "anti-Christian bias in American news media" and that "Hollywood is rabidly anti-Christian." Conveniently he uses what others have said on such things as a cover for his own endorsement for these two idiotic tropes. Since it is still safe to outright attack atheists he doesn't bother to veil his hostility when directly commenting on us.

An excellent example comes towards the end of the post.
"Some secularists and atheists, of course, despise Christians just for being Christians. But the Richard Dawkins brand of adversary is the outlier and the exception."
Umm, no. Dawkins has family and friends who happen to be Christian. Dawkins, like many of us, has repeatedly pointed out that it is Christianity not Christians that is the topic of debate and criticism. Respecting individuals does not mean the ideas those individuals hold deserve to be respected. Ideas are not people. It is sad that intellectually dishonest twerps like Merritt so often get away with this type of sleight-of-hand trickery.

It says little and means even less

Huffington Post and a variety of other aggregators routinely run pieces on the latest polls and surveys. There isn't anything wrong with doing so so long as you provide some context and even a few caveats. Unfortunately, nuance is not to be expected from such venues as HuffPo. "Majority Of Americans Believe Religion Can Answer Most Of Today's Problems: Poll" is a case in point. Antonia Blumberg never really probes the results in any significant way.

The results themselves are not surprising at all. The average American still identifies as religious so why wouldn't they respond positively about religion being able to cope with problems. There is never any attempt to parse what the respondents believe religion entails or how it might solve problems. Polls of this nature are interesting but in terms of practical use they tend to be too vague and amorphous. In regard to social research "religion" is as tricky as the term "God" since there are so many different views and interpretations that may come into play.

Basically, as a self-contained piece Blumberg's post is crap. It only has any meaning when you take the results referenced in comparison to other polls, surveys, and studies that have been conducted over decades. Pretending that one poll is profound is just silly.

As Credulous as ever

As reported in a July 2nd Guardian piece, "Vatican gives official backing to exorcists", the Pope once again demonstrates that he is just as conservative, superstitious, and credulous as his predecessors. He is neither modern nor a reformer. He abides by all the same ridiculous doctrines and policies that the last handful of Popes have blindly followed.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


“The sum of historical knowledge has always been held by a small number of educated people at any given time, and this has not changed. But our world is geared at keeping up with a furiously paced present, with no time for the complex past; and the fact that a very large number of literate people with unprecedented access to advanced education and scanned sources has no sense of what the world was like only yesterday points to the possibility of eventually arriving at a state of collective amnesia. We risk remaining stuck within a culture where everyone ignores the sundry causal connections that make the present what it is…”
Noga Arikha
What We Should Be Worried About

Separation is in the Constitution

Separation of Church and State is a founding principle regardless of how many times religious right assholes insist of denying or lying about it. One of the more recent dumb-fucks to try ranting about it can be found on Patheos. Bethany Blankley's "'Separation of Church and State' Is Not in The U.S.Constitution" does not seem to be simply a matter of ignorance. There are some hints that she does actually know that what she is saying is neither accurate or honest.

It is not just that she focuses on the exact phrase "separation of church and state" since a lot of religious conservatives have used the same bogus argument. She is very careful about how she talks about the "Founding Fathers". For instance in the second paragraph she states:
"In fact, not one of the ninety Founding Fathers stated, argued for or against, or even referred to such a phrase when they debated for months about the specific words to use when writing the First Amendment. Congressional Records from June 7 to September 25, 1789 reveal that none of these men, including Thomas Jefferson, ever used the phrase, 'separation of church and state.'"
I have not checked to verify the statement in part because it does not actually matter. It is irrelevant to her argument for two main reasons. The first being that if it matters what the founders really believed she would not limit their thoughts and writings to a single date set. Many of the founders did comment on separation at various times before and after the Constitution was written. In "fact" the phrase's origin can be traced to Thomas Jefferson. The other glaring problem with this and the premise of the entire piece is that the exact phrase is not what is at issue. The concept is expressed clearly in the 1st Amendment regardless of the precise phrasing.

It is both irksome and entertaining that people like Blankley constantly use the same feeble and intellectually bankrupt ploys over and over again. What this unethical bitch seems to conveniently overlook is that her low standards are far worse in their consequences for her own goals. By her own argument I can clearly state that not only is the Constitution secular but that it goes even further. It must be anti-religious if exact phrasing is the standard that matters most. The words "God", "Jesus", and "Christianity" do not appear anywhere within the text. The two references that can be said to be religious are framed in the negative. So, by Blankley's logic the Constitution can only be against religion.

Fortunately for slimy weasels like Blankley that is not how our government actually works. The Constitution was designed to protect the rights, religious or otherwise, of all.

Their Anger is a Constant

The recent post on the Formerly Fundie blog (Patheos), "3 Key Reasons Why Religious Right Leaders Are So Angry", is quite good. There is only one point that should have been added. Anger is a constant among the religious right leadership. Even if things were going better for them they would still be angry*. Put simply they are angry because as authoritarians no amount of power and control will ever satisfy them. They will always want more. These coercive bullies tend to be all the terrible things they insist on projecting on other people.

*Unfortunately their outlook is not as bad as they or Benjamin Corey perceive it to be. They do still have power and influence and our pathetic ideologically driven Supreme Court has handed them a few gifts recently.

Another instance of the wrong question

There is definitely a better and potentially more revealing question than the rhetorical device used by a recent CNN Belief blog post, "Why you should leave religion off your resume." Why would you ever put your religious affiliation or, for that matter, your non-religion on a resume? What type of job is it that an individual's religious views should matter at all? I also take issue with some of the conclusions that the researchers involved in the study referenced seem to have made.

"'People have a fear of the unknown,' said Michael Wallace, a co-author of the study and a sociology professor at the University of Connecticut. The study 'implies that when people don't know much about a religion, they have an instinctive fear of that group.'"
This does have some merit but the implication that it is a major reason employers don't accept an applicant is a bit premature. Personally, I would be hesitant to consider an applicant who goes out of their way to identify their own faith for a very different reason. I would immediately wonder why they found the need to point out such personal information. Are they looking for special treatment? Does this imply they are not competent enough to do the job without such special treatment? Are they more interested in evangelizing than working? Are they going to pester me or other employees?

I just don't see any reason to include that type of information on a resume. It has no real bearing on any job I can think of other than clergy. Adding it automatically makes me suspicious and uneasy in regard to the individuals motivation for including it.