Sunday, November 30, 2014


"There is one notable thing about our Christianity: bad, bloody, merciless, money-grabbing and predatory as it is - in our country particularly, and in all other Christian countries in a somewhat modified degree - it is still a hundred times better than the Christianity of the Bible, with its prodigious crime- the invention of Hell. Measured by our Christianity of to-day, bad as it is, hypocritical as it is, empty and hollow as it is, neither the Deity nor His Son is a Christian, nor qualified for that moderately high place. Ours is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilt."
"Reflections on Religion"
Mark Twain

Bad dichotomy.... No reason for you

The false dichotomy of Spiritual vs. Material has always seemed to be one of the most ridiculous and easiest to refute. Unfortunately, it is an incredibly pervasive one. A recent piece on the Elephant website, "The Truth About Spirituality & Materialism", once again reminded me of why I have such a low opinion of this type of tripe.

Really, what exactly do people think they are being "spiritual" about and how do they think they are even capable of contemplating such nonsense? Don't people realize that all thinking and feeling are dependent on the mind? It has been pretty well established at this point that the mind is a direct product of the brain. The brain, put simply, is a physical organ. Despite claims to the contrary, the mind is material. The mind cannot exist without the brain. The mind cannot function without any number of physical, hence material, processes carried out by the brain. The conclusion seems so blatantly obvious that I have a hard time understanding why so few can figure it out. What people talk about when they refer to the spiritual cannot be separated from the mind. It is a product of the brain just as much as the mind itself is. Quite literally, everything is material. Spirituality is not a separate thing. That's the truth.

"Spiritually conscious" = reality impaired

Apparently, Neale Walsh of Conversations with God (Patheos) is planning to write a five part series. On what this series is supposed to cover I'm not quite sure. The first part, "How can spiritually conscious people respond to our world?", seems to be an exercise in spewing as many vague and incoherent phrases as possible while simultaneously being as contradictory as possible. It makes no sense, so, I really don't have any idea what it is supposed to be an introductory piece to.

Even after you set aside the first obvious question posed by the title itself; what the fuck does he mean by "spiritually conscious", the initial paragraph just demonstrate how clueless Walsh is.
"I cannot remember a time during my half century of adulthood when the average human being on this planet found herself or himself looking directly into the face of more stressful events, circumstances, and situations than those now presenting themselves daily around the world."
Umm, does he have some issues with memory/retention or is he being incredibly disingenuous? Walsh is only a little older than I am but does not seem to remember that period of US history we labeled The Cold War. I guess the constant threat of nuclear annihilation just slipped his mind.

Ignoring the tail end of the Cold War is ridiculous enough without him spending a few paragraphs talking about how uniquely disturbing the current era is. He crosses the line from being willfully ignorant to the point of stupidity into being out right contradictory when he immediately follows this claim with "This, of course, is not a new inquiry. Shakespeare put it this way, asking in the famous words of Hamlet 'whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them'…?"
Huh? So, we are living in a unique era despite a late sixteenth century playright commenting on many of the same issues and themes.

About the only consistencies I noticed in the whole piece were Walsh's ability to carry-on in random and meandering directions as well as a penchant for empty phrases incorporating the word "spiritual."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

An odd sense of "facts"

Once again Catholic Online firmly demonstrates why no one should look to a Catholic run media outlet for anything resembling accurate information. Either they are incredibly willfully ignorant, mind bogglingly delusional, blatantly deceitful, plain stupid, or a combination of all of these. A recent piece, "Here are 10 Very Interesting Facts About the Catholic Church You Probably Didn't Know!", contains a handful of false claims as well as a number of rather dubious ones. Two of the ten immediately jumped out because they were so clearly wrong.

"2. The ONLY Christian church in existence for the first 1,000 years of Christian history was the Roman Catholic Church. All other Christian churches which exist today can trace their linage back to the Roman Catholic Church. Most non-Catholic churches which exist today are less than a century or two old by comparison."
Wow! To claim pride in your faith and not have a fucking clue about it's history takes some serious balls. This is, of course, complete bullshit. The Roman Catholic church isn't even the oldest identifiable Christian group. The Copts (Egypt) do not trace their linage to Roman Catholicism. They emerged as a church by the end of the 1st century/beginning of the second century. Even the most basic math skills should help these dumb asses figure out they are wrong by at least 800 years. That's just one example of how truly bogus the above statement is. Any one interested in Christian history should at least have a vague familiarity with the various Synods that shaped the early Christian communities. The Council of Chalcedon, for instance, took place in 451. Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church were not the only participants. There were also individuals from the various Eastern Orthodox churches as well as the Assyrian/Syriac Church. Some of, though not all, the Eastern churches did break off of the Roman Catholic Church. The Assyrians developed independent.
So #2 is completely false.

"5. The Catholic Church is entirely responsible for the composition of the Bible, which books are included, as well as the breakup of the chapters and verses."
What the fuck!? Who in their right mind would believe this statement? How can any one be that fucking stupid? The "Bible" as it is generally known contains the Old Testament which is not Christian in origin. Yes, the Catholic church has produced it's own versions of the what we call the Old Testament but they are far from "responsible for the composition." Unless the Vatican has a time machine stashed away somewhere there isn't even the slightest possibility of this statement being true. The Old Testament was produced by the Jews. In Judaism it is actually known as the Tanakh. Later in this section CO seems to denigrate Protestants for making alterations to the Bible but that's rather hypocritical since the Catholic Church did the same thing to the Tanakh (ex. the order of the books is different).
#5 also completely false and even hypocritical and bigoted.

Most of the other points do not contain such blatantly false statement but there isn't a single one that could be said to be completely factual either. Many rely on assumptions and very specific interpretations of terms. All are quite dubious and serve no purpose beyond trying to make the Catholic Church look good while implying that others look bad in some way.

Congratulations Catholic Online for denigrating your own history while making yourself look like petty whiny self-centered assholes.

Torching another strawman

Louise Ridley's "Does Religion Really Cause War - And Do Atheists Have Something To Answer For?" is yet another example of how theists find the need to distort a common atheist criticism in order to attack it. Ridley seems to think that claiming religion is the primary or sole cause of war is "the most common comeback from atheists to people of faith." Given that I am an atheist and I frequently read the works of other atheists as well as listen to/and or watch podcasts, interviews, documentaries, etc., that are about or by atheists you might think I'd have come across this "common comeback" quite often. I haven't. That is in fact not the argument/point that gets made. Religion is very often a cause of war or used as a justification for war. It also is frequently used to promote or rally support for a war already underway. Those are the points I'm familiar with and they are well founded.

Ridley never seems to notice that one of the quotes she uses to try to tar and feather Richard Dawkins with this bogus claim actually refutes her premise. She points out that he has stated that in the absence of religion's influence there would be "a much better chance of no more war." Notice it is not the definitive statement the strawman requires. Claiming there is a "better chance" is not that same as stating that religion is absolutely the one and only cause of all wars. It is far from the same thing.

Ridley also tries to make it sound like she has ample evidence to disprove the connection between religion and war. She draws nearly all her information from a single report, "Five Key Questions Answered on the Link between Peace and Religion?", of the Institute for Economics and Peace. The report is loaded with bias and methodological issues. One problem is that the report itself assumes a number of myths and stereotypes about atheists and about the perceived connection between religion and war. Even upon an initial reading it is hard to miss the authors favorable bias toward religion. They want to find a way to claim that religion is not only not violent but that it is essential to promoting peace. Even if all the finding were sound, which they are not, it still does not provide the type of evidence Ridley thinks it does. At best it would refute the claim she thinks atheists commonly make about religion's role in war. But, as I've already pointed out, that is a false argument.

Later in the piece she does at least get a few things correct. She does concede that the Communist leaders who committed various atrocities, though atheists, did not do so in the name of atheism. I will give her credit for not falling pray to that all too common fallacy that many theists seem to enjoy throwing around. Overall the piece was interesting but a bit irritating.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


"So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence."
Bertrand Russell

....not unless you are very ignorant

"These converts challenge everything you know about religion" is the opening title of a piece that is incredibly ignorant and stupid. It plays into the basest fears and misconceptions that so many use to harass and denigrate others. The authors, or at least the re-posters, seem to realize this since the title you see once you click on the story changes. The actual title, though an improvement, "Where Do The Converted Find Their Fervour? The Different 'Selling Points' Of Faiths", is only slightly better. The contents are as skewed as the the banner found on the main page of Huffington Post's Religion section.

The very first paragraph sets the tone and never wavers from massive doses of idiocy and bigotry.
"Picture a typical religious convert and you are likely to conjure up a zealous American-style preacher, or the ginger-bearded jihadi fronting recruitment videos for Islamic State in Syria. The phrase 'the fervour of the converted' is common parlance, giving the impression that converts are attracted to extreme aspects of faith."

I have known many individuals from acquaintances to family and friends who have converted from one faith to another, sometimes more than once, and none of them have ever turned out to be zealots or jihadis. It never would have occurred to me to automatically connect "convert" with extremists of any stripe. Why would I? Why would anyone?

It's funny how many theists insists that atheists are bigoted and ignorant when they come up with nonsensical shit like this with such regularity.

More dishonest theistic cheerleading

The factually impaired "news consortium" Catholic Online has once again resorted to what is commonly referred to as a lie-by-omission. In their short piece entitled "Holy Bible edges out Darwin's 'Origin of Species' as most valuable book to humanity'" they imply and even outright state that the British people have chosen the Bible as the most valuable book ever written. Slight problem with this characterization: it's false. If you read various other sources the intent of the survey conducted by the Folio Society is made quite clear. They did not ask about the actual content of the 30 books they asked individuals to rank. They actually wanted to know what books people thought have been the most influential on society as a whole. That is a huge difference. The directions make it clear that they were not being asked to evaluate the books on their merits. Two examples of reporting that did a far better job include:
The BBC's "The Bible tops 'most influential' book survey"
and The Independent's "The Bible voted more valuable to humanity than Darwin's Origin of Species in Folio Society poll

As a side note: I found it rather entertaining that conservative Catholics tend to be the loudest whiners when it comes to the perception that the society has become far too materialistic. Their short piece was very difficult to read but not because it was so poorly written, though it was that as well. It was difficult getting through because of the massive number of ads inserted throughout the page. Seems the revenue stream definitely trumped the message they were trying to peddle.