Sunday, October 26, 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."
Katherine Hepburn

A not so cute WWJD story

The story that Mick Mooney creates in his piece "WWJD: What Would Jesus Do? Do You Really Want to Know?" is intended to be a cute demonstration of what it means to follow Jesus and how some people misinterpret the real Jesus' central messages. The problem is it isn't cute at all. It is, in fact, as dishonest as it is arrogant and condescending. Mooney passes judgment on the mother in the story as if he actually has definitive knowledge of the Jesus figure. He doesn't. He can't. As I have pointed out so often the only available information about the Christ figure is contradictory and in places incoherent. To make matters worse, there isn't a single verifiable fact about Jesus. Mooney is ridiculing the notion that there can be other valid interpretations of the Jesus narratives without ever considering his own views are as baseless as any others. Apparently, he is among those who don't "really want to know." Then again, there probably isn't actually anything "to know" about Jesus.

An early appearannce

That fun annual phenomena that is best labeled Christmas cultural arrogance has made an early appearance. One advice columnist has already answered a reader's concerns about the upcoming Christian silly season. I largely agree with Amy Alkon's response in her "When atheist meets pious: A Christmas story." However, I think she let's the boyfriend in the scenario off way too lightly.

Basically, a dilemma is created by the boyfriend of this relationship when he tries to guilt his girfriend into attending Christmas mass with his very religious parents. He himself is not religious but tries making it seem that it would be disrespectful not to attend mass with his parents. Bullshit. Amy points out that it is not disrespectful and does a decent job explaining why that's the case. She should have noted that it is the boyfriend who is belittling other people's views, namely those of his girlfriend. He's being the disrespectful one. She, the girlfriend, has not indicated that she has in anyway sought to dissuade or interfere with the parents beliefs. He is doing to her what he falsely perceives she is doing to his parents.

Not being religious himself has not prevented a common misconception from clouding his judgment. The notion that everyone should approach Christmas from a Christian perspective is pervasive. Christians rarely bother to consider how weak and pathetic their claims on winter celebrations are. Even those of us non-believers who are generally comfortable celebrating Christmas don't necessarily want to constantly deal with the theological baggage that comes with it. Why should we? "Christmas" is not unique and doesn't have to be.

An "ordinary" Jesus?

It is true that people find it easier to relate to those individuals who more like them rather than less like them. That does seem to be a part of human nature. So, for marketing/public relations purposes much of what Kevin Emmert writes about in "You Need a More Ordinary Jesus" does make sense. However, it only makes sense in that specific context.

It is rather entertaining that this piece appears on Christianity Today's website. Promoting Jesus as a sort of every-man is not all that new. It is very problematic from a philosophical and theological perspective. This is what amuses me so much. If you think about it critically for more than a minute the innate contradiction of this approach should be blatantly obvious. To virtually any Christian the most import aspect and message of the Jesus figure is the resurrection. Coming back from the dead is about as far from ordinary as you can get. And, through your death and resurrection "saving" all humanity is an equally extraordinary feat.

Accepting all the supernatural elements infused in the Jesus figure is rather preposterous but it is equally foolish to try to trick yourself into believing that stripping out all those elements somehow makes the reputed messiah more palatable to current and/or potential followers. How? Who really expects the guy next-door to be a savior of all humankind? If you are looking for a messiah wouldn't you want a bigger-than-life figure to serve that function?

Sorry Mr. Emmert but a "more ordinary Jesus" is just as alien and untenable as a fully supernatural one.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


"The question of the truth of a religion is one thing, but the question of its usefullness is another. I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue."
Bertrand Russell
My Religious Reminiscences

Lecrae: neither humble nor honest

The Blaze's "The Simple Question This Famed Christian Rapper Has for Atheists Like Richard Dawkins" is a rather laughable attempt to pass off a blatantly propagandist puff piece as an actual news story. Both the author of the written part and the interviewer in the embedded video all but stick their tongues up Lecrae Moore's self-righteous ass. And, he is quite self-righteous.

The pretense that he is sincere, humble, and honest is ludicrous. He constantly contradicts his own supposed message/points. He doesn't actually want to ask questions or interact with atheists at all. He wants to insist on his own views while denigrating and belittling others. In fact, he does look down on atheists and does view the world in an us-vs-them mentality despite claiming the opposite. Throughout the video he speaks in a manner that is dismissive and confrontational. His claim to having been an atheist is just as disingenuous as the rest of his act. Lacking interest in religion and having a lack of morals is not part of the basic definition of an atheist.

Any one with a functioning brain should be able to see through this pathetic charade.

"Me & Dog"

I think I'm going to have get a copy of "Me & Dog." It sounds like a pretty good kid's book. It sounds like Weingarten took a well balanced approach to the topic of God. I'm glad he didn't take the possibility of others being offended too serious. I do think he is fooling himself a little about the potential responses. Despite not intending to be offensive it is all but guaranteed that conservative theists will hear about it and viciously attack not only the book but Weingarten himself. The majority of them will probably never read it themselves, he's right about that, but that won't keep them from ramming their views about it down other peoples throats.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Synod Silliness

It is nice to see that at least a few people are paying more attention to details during the latest round of "Pope-a-palooza." Far too many are still being incredibly naive and delusional about the Synod Pope Francis has been heading. Many of the reports in the mainstream media have taken the minor step of pointing out that the document being talked about is "preliminary." Sadly, virtually none of the mainstream sources have acknowledge that it is at this point strictly a matter of rhetoric. A few sources have even confused this report as having actual substance. The subtitle to a Salon piece read "The Church issued a document indicating a profound shift in doctrine on civil marriage and homosexuality." It is not only misleading but blatantly false. The "document" in question is a draft and does not contain anything that will alter official doctrine or practices.

One of the most talked about phrases from the draft that relates to the church's views on homosexuals is about the “gifts and qualities to offer.” Few have really looked at what that really means. Many of the mainstream sources are still bending over backwards to make it seem like this is a major breakthrough for homosexual rights. They have used terms like "earth shaking" and "revolutionary." It isn't. Even if it is taken at face value, which there is little reason to do so, it is at best a very, very tiny step in the right direction. Again, there is nothing to indicate a change in doctrine or policy. There is nothing to bar the church from continuing to lobby against homosexual right on a variety of fronts (marriage, adoption, workplace, housing, etc.). Homosexuality is still viewed as a sin. Basically, it is the equivalent of the clergy smiling at homosexuals while explaining they are welcome to sit in the pews, donate to the church, serve as volunteers for the church, but that they will still be receiving a one way ticket to hell from the church.

I still don't see how the current Pope is that different from his predecessors. There isn't any reason to see this latest round of reporting as an intentional move to generate positive PR for the church after decades declining membership and increasing criticism.

Below is a short list of some of the more intersting pieces floating around about the synod.

At the Vatican, a Shift in Tone Toward Gays and Divorce (New York Times, 10/13/14)

Vatican urges Catholics to recognize “gifts” same-sex couples have to offer (Salon, 10/13/14)

A new welcome for gay Catholics in the church (CNN Belief Blog, 10/13/14)

Under conservative assault, Vatican backtracks on gay comments (CNN Belief Blog, 10/14/14)

Never Mind, Catholic Church Will Probably Just Keeping Hating Gays Like Always (Wonkette, 10/14/14)

Everyone Keeps Falling for the Catholic Church's Good Cop/Bad Cop Routine (Slog, 10/14/14)

Initial Report From Vatican on Families Is Criticized (New York Times, 10/16/14)

Sunday, October 12, 2014


"It takes two to speak the truth - one to speak, and another to hear."
Henry David Thoreau

Prayer can be entertaining

Kevin Drum's review of a recent Life Way survey was pretty amusing. I agree that the survey result for which his piece is named, "5 Percent of Religious Americans Routinely Try to Fool God", is both interesting and revealing. I would, however, go further than Drum and point out that praying for "Success in something you knew wouldn't please God" can be interpreting in a number of different ways. None of them are flattering to the individual theists or to religion as a whole. It does imply that some theists may not believe as deeply as they themselves think they do. It also seems to imply that God is a rather demanding grumpy asshole. It is possible that they intuitively realized just how unlikely it is for the average person to live up to many of the ludicrous and dehumanizing constrictions religion often places on its adherents. There are a number of other survey results that can be interpreted in different ways, Similarly none of those interpretations bode any better for the faithful. I also really liked what I would deem the "lazy bastard approach." 20% of the respondents prayed for "Success in something you put almost no effort in." Yup, religion does a great job shoring up peoples ethics.

The "disconnect" isn't new

Michael Boorstein's Washington Post piece, "Catholics find disconnect with divorce doctrine but are drawn to faith", should not be surprising to anyone who knows more than a handful of Catholics. The majority of Catholics I'm familiar with don't really seem to accept any of the church teachings that distinguish the Roman Catholic church from other Christian sects and denominations. Divorce is not the only doctrine that many self-identified Catholics disagree with the hierarchy over. It has often baffled me that many "Catholics" remain in a church that they share very little in common with. As far as I can tell many simply stay out of sense of tradition and misplaced loyalty.

A shroud of stupidity

At least a small percentage of theists are just plain stupid. Maybe that is harsh and judgmental but I don't see any other way to put it. There is yet another conference on the Shroud of Turin. This fraud has been so thoroughly debunked from a variety of angles that it is just mind-numbingly dumb to think it has any merit. The cloth has been dated to the middle ages. The pigmentation has been shown to be ink NOT blood. Applying basic geometry has proven that the individual pictured would be grossly misproportioned and excessively tall for the era.

So unless these dip-shits think that Jesus was a time traveling mutant giant with mismatched limbs and huge head that bled ink, I fail to see what they could possibly have to talk about at such a conference. Blind faith really can make some people stupid.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


"As humans, we are so prone to false memories that you can sometimes induce one simply by casually telling a person about an incident that didn't really happen. Over time, that person may 'remember' the incident but forget the source of the memory. As a result, he or she will confuse the imagined event with his or her actual past."

Leonard Mlodinow
"3 Remembering and Forgetting"
Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior

Confusing bias for substance

The folks over at Teaching Nonviolent Atonement definitely have problems with reality. I'm all for nonviolence but I take issue with delusions, willful ignorance, double standards, and plain old deceit. Yet another of their Patheos blog posts is chock full of all of the above. The title,"How Christians Reject Jesus: On Trying to Outsmart God", implies a number of things that Adam Erickson not only never establishes but also has no objective way to establish.

When he writes "reject" what he really means is that there are Christians who do not accept his preferred version of the Jesus figure, which is true. It is also true that his views of Jesus are highly subjective, debatable, and unproven. Virtually every paragraph of the piece shows that he is writing solely from his own biased views without any substantive thought. In the very first paragraph he insists, "We take seriously the words of Jesus that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us." No, they do not. The selectively choose which bits of scripture favor their own preferences. There are plenty of passages where Jesus acts in a hostile and violent manner.

Throughout the post Erickson makes similar comments. Among them, "Excuse me for stating the obvious, but Christians are not Biblians. We are Christians. As Christians, we should be putting Jesus first...And Jesus calls us to nonviolence." Problem is that it is not obvious. It in fact is false. If you strip away scripture Jesus literally disappears. As I have on numerous occassions pionted out, Christians to some extant have to take scripture literally if they want to preserve belief in their messiah. I have also on numerous occssions challenged any Christian to come up with a plausible way to reconcile Luke 19:27, ""But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.", with the notion of a peace-loving Jesus. Last I knew dividing people up with a an Us-vs.-Them mentality and then oredering mass murder is the opposite of "nonviolent"

The writing never gets any better. However, it does become a bit more entertaining towards the middle. His observations about wisdom gave me a pretty good chuckle.
"Notice the distinction being made between God’s wisdom and human wisdom. The wisdom of God is the way of nonviolent love in the face of violence that often leads to the cross...Human wisdom, on the other hand, is the wisdom of retributive violence."
There are so many things wrong with this that I can't possibly write about all of them. I'll stick with just a few of the more blatant flaws with Erickson's line of thinking.

It seems to me that even the most devoted theists would have to realize that the only way a flawed human being could perceive "God's wisdom" is through the filter of "human wisdom." So how can you possibly make any "distinction"? And how can you know you aren't completely fucking it up? Then there's that gem about God being non-violent. What?! Even if you discount the whole of the Bible how do you account for human violence. Isn't God suppose to be source of everything? Isn't everything suppose to play out by God's grand design? I also have to marvel at the implication that all human wisdom supposedly leads to "retributive violence." Did Erickson just inadvertently admit that he and everyone else at Teaching Nonviolent Atonement are a bunch of dumb-asses?

Believing in the proto-hippy Jesus is better than the tight-ass obey me or go to hell version but that is still no excuse for blathering on in such a blatantly error laden ignorant way.

Friday, October 3, 2014


Apparently, one of the editors of The National Review Online seems to think comparing atheism to a disease is a good way to express the dangers of "lukewarmness". I assume Kathryn Lopez means to use the term "apathy" but lacks the intellectual ability and honesty to manage it. Her brief post on Patheos, "Avoid the Plague of Practical Atheism", is lazy and stupid. She basically throws a couple of quotes with just a few of her own sentences. Isn't a lack of effort sometimes seen as evidence of apathy? The quotations themselves aren't all that impressive either. The first has Pope Benedict XVI commenting on how superficial peoples views of God can be. That's pretty entertaining given that like virtually all Popes his behaviors have not matched his rhetoric.

Basically, this is just another instance of conservative asshole attempting to dress up what amounts to a "fuck you" to atheists.