Saturday, December 26, 2015

A first century Jew

Taryn Flynn gets one thing right in "Jesus Wasn’t White And Here’s Why That Matters." The Jesus figure is generally believed to have been a first century Middle-Eastern Jew. Such a first century Jew would not have looked like a modern Western European white guy. Virtually everything else in the piece is, of course, complete non-sense since it all relies on assumptions and willful ignorance. Not only is there no historical evidence for Jesus existence to begin with even if you could make a case for Jesus existence you then have the problem of deciding on which Jesus was the real one. The scriptures that contain information on the Jesus figure do not agree on any aspect of that figure. They actually seem to describe separate individuals. Or, more accurately, separate perceptions and preferences for a Messiah persona.

Though it is true that the Jesus figure would not have been a white guy it is equally true that the odds that he existed at all are very low. So it may not matter all that much. I understand why Flynn found the need to point out how this white version has been used for despicable purposes but it is not the only variation that has lead to negative consequences.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Is Jeffrey Salkin Mormon?

It may seem an idiotic question if you are familiar with Jeffrey Salkin's blog Martini Judaism. After all, Judaism is right in the title. However, if you use the same logic of a few of the posts he's put out  over the past week or so it makes sense. It seems that any individual he happens to like the work of can be proclaimed Jewish. His short piece "Woody Allen, Jewish despite himself" at least has some superficial merit. Woody was raised in a Jewish family. He himself is actually an atheist. He is not a practicing Jew and can only be called a Jew in a flimsy cultural sense of the term. His more recent piece, "Was Sinatra Jewish?", is just nonsensical crap. Sinatra never had even a vague affiliation with Jews beyond those that anyone else with friends or acquaintances who happened to be Jewish would have.

In both instances Salkin does a lot of cherry-picking to force the careers of these two men into a mold of his own warped logic's devising. It's as sad as it is pathetic. With both pieces he could have used a few of the vague associations to discuss and examine the whole idea of Jewish identity. There's always been a bit of debate over whether Jewishness is a matter of faith, ethnicity, culture, or a mixture. Just as there have always been questions about to what extent the previous question matters. It is a very interesting topic well worth thinking about. It's too bad Salkin's writing more closely resembles that asinine Mormon practice of "baptizing" individuals as Mormon after they are dead whether they expressed any interest in Mormon faith while alive. It's stupid, dishonest, arrogant, and disrespectful.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Quotation

"Blind faith, no matter how passionately expressed, will not suffice. Science for its part will test relentlessly every assumption about the human condition"
Edward O. Wilson
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge

Fear of "Religious Education"?

Celia Walden's "Why are we so afraid of teaching Religious Education properly to children?" is rather poorly thought out and very misleading. The title itself conveys a number of the problems contained within the piece. To start with "religious education" as a term is rather amorphous and subjective. Walden never even attempts to narrow the scope of the phrase. She also includes the word "properly" in that title that is equally problematic. It doesn't take long to realize that she herself has a rather narrow understanding and perception of the subject she so pathetically blathers on about.

Personally, I see no reason to be afraid to teach about religion within the appropriate context. Teaching what the major world religions have believed over time and how those beliefs have effected history and society is quite reasonable. This means the teaching "about" not the teaching "of" religion. Promoting a particular faith or attacking a specific faith or even the lack of faith should not be allowed under any circumstances within the confines of public education. Mixing "religious education" into History, Philosophy, or Sociology classes, among others, is not only appropriate it is favorable, assuming it is approached in the manner I referenced above.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Unapolegetic Fact-checking

I have one other occasions point out that apologists, especially Christian ones, tend to be willfully ignorant, delusional, stupid, or a combination of the three. A recent post by Justin Steckbauer on the Christian Apologetics Alliance' website does an excellent job confirming this view. "The Facts on Christianity: A Quick Examination" is certainly "quick" but bears no resemblance the rest of its title. Steckbauer fails to provide any facts or even the slightest attempt at examining anything he states. The short piece is especially entertaining since he does a pretty good job destroying his own claims. Of the 5 points he tries to make 3 take the form of rhetorical statements ("Does God exist?", Is the Bible really God's word?", Did Jesus really exist historically?") with the last two being meant as persuasive questions ("But was Jesus Christ really God come to Earth?", "What will you do?").

He starts the first point by stating, correctly, that you do not need absolute proof to reach a reasonable conclusion. He immediately dips into idiocy by trying to use the cosmological argument. Predictably, what follows is a jumble of logical fallacies and double standards. Basically, its the old BS that the universe needs a cause but God doesn't. No attempt at justifying or explaining why God should be exempted. Steckbauer's approach to the Bible is just as feeble. He does make an interesting half-assed attempt at acknowledging what actual scholars have known for quite some time by stating, "But there are over 25,000 whole and partial ancient manuscripts of the Bible, and they all match nearly identically." I don't know what the estimate is currently up to be but the number of fragments that make up the Bible is in the tens of thousands. However, he is blatantly wrong about there being even a single whole manuscript. dating to ancient times. Not one! He further proves what an ill-informed fool by trying to claim, "The Bible when compared with recorded history is 99.7% accurate." Not even close. I would be genuinely shocked if it was .3% accurate since the very few references in the Bible that have any connection to established history tend to be grossly inaccurate. His approach to Jesus is just as false. He mentions but does not reference "historical accounts by witnesses." There are no such accounts. All the earliest information relating to Jesus come from scriptures. There are no historical accounts of Jesus. The earliest historians wrote about Christians not Christ. Most accounts are at best third or fourth hand. You would think if someone wanted to write about "facts" that they might at least spend a few minutes fact-checking.

Apologist really are only good for a laugh. Their "arguments" have not changed in centuries. They have been so thoroughly refuted that there isn't anything more to do beyond satire and ridicule.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Quotation

"No matter how we see our own authentic selves, we can't compel other people to see the same way. We can try to explain what we're really like underneath, but we know it's futile. That fact itself shapes our sense of self."
Ophelia Benson
"What is Identity?"
Free Inquiry December 2015/January 2016

Friday, November 27, 2015

Heartening, sort of

I find it positive that so few women trust the Church when comes to advice on reproductive issues. However, the tone of Timothy Morgan's "Survey: Women distrust churches for abortion advice" implies to some degree that women do turn to the church for advice on other matters. That I find quite disturbing. Even if you ignore all the incidences where various religious groups have blatantly lied or behaved in deceitful unethical ways the "Church" would still be a horrible source of advice in virtually all matters of concern. Religion is authoritarian and highly subjective by its very nature. Facts and reality play little to no role in any of its activities or beliefs. Making decisions based solely on opinion, hearsay, or outright fantasy is a terrible idea with potentially grave consequences. No one in their right mind should be taking advice of any type from religion, period.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

It's a fool's question

I've heard the question numerous times before and to be blunt I'm getting tired of it. Why so many people fall for such a stupid questions is truly mind-boggling. "Can Atheism Replace Religion?" is so loaded with ignorance it is almost surreal. Neither the author of this specific post, Michael W. Austin, nor the man being criticized seems to grasp that there is literally nothing to "replace." What trait or quality of religion do people really need? Which of those wants or needs cannot be satisfied outside religion? Virtually every positive outcome that has been ascribed to religion is neither innate or unique to religion. Again, there is no need to replace anything. The question only works if you make the most ignorant and foolish assumptions.

Christianity and patriotism

I found Benjamin Corey's recent post, "To Start Thinking Like Christians, We Need To Stop Thinking Like Americans", rather amusing. He seems to be saying that good Christians cannot also be patriotic. According to him if you think about Jesus to the extent that a good Christian should you cannot and should not think as much about your country. To some degree his logic does make sense. If Jesus and the coming Kingdom are the primary focus why would a Christian be all that concerned about any earthly matters, let alone those connected to a specific country? The thing about this that I find so entertaining is that I have no doubts that many of the same ignorant bigoted dumb-asses who froth at the mouth when you suggest that "under God" in the pledge is antithetical to our Constitution would agree with Corey without ever noticing the contradiction and hypocrisy of their stance.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Quotation

"Thankfully, we're moving in a direction where some feel it's not an act of courage simply to state that you don't believe in god. . . . We must continue to speak out, be honest about our beliefs."
Pete Stark
acceptance speech for the 2010 "Emperor Has No Clothes Award"
from the Freedom From Religion Foundation

The "ism" that never was

Even once you set aside the fact that atheism isn't actually an "ism" at all given that is defined by the lack of a specific type of belief system, headlines like "Is the New Atheism Dead?" are idiotic. Even as a rhetorical device it is incredibly ignorant and stupid. Ideas/concepts never really die since they never completely go away. Then, of course, there is the problem with the term "New Atheism." It never actually meant anything other than another round of slurs and misrepresentations of atheists. The only thing "new" in the past few decades has been a slightly higher level of willingness in the mainstream media to cover and publish atheists. In the past if an atheist wanted to publish a book on atheism they had to go to the smaller presses. Even then it was not always easy to get into print. The article also takes a funny approach to the latest from Pew. It parrots some of the talking points that have shown up elsewhere about America losing faith yet notes the discrepancy between a growing lack of specific religious affiliation and a consistence of religious beliefs. The author doesn't seem to have a direction yet insists on rambling on.

It may not be that difficult

The recent Religious News Service analysis piece "Non-religious voters present a puzzle for political parties" makes a few decent point but does overlook a few key points. I won't pretend to speak for all atheists let alone all of the "nones" but there does seem to be one political element that many of us can agree on; Separation of Church and State.

Markoe writes:
"The nones are also a difficult group for politicians to define and woo, said Dan Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute. They’re not cohesive, in that they include atheists and agnostics but also believers unattached to religious institutions. And unlike the pursuit of an actual religious group, it’s not so clear how to connect with the millions of people defined by their lack of religious connections."

It is true that we are one of the most diverse demographics around. However, I have yet to come across any that fall under the "nones" label that particularly like being told by others what and how we should think. Most also seem to distrust or dislike religion being foisted on the rest of us. Seems to me that if a politician wants to court us as a group they would have to make it clear they will not use their own or accept others attempts at imposing religious views on the rest of us. That would mean clearly and consistently supporting the Separation of Church and State. That doesn't seem too "difficult" to figure to me.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The sham of multi-faith dialogue

I agree that it is far better for different faiths to get along rather than harass and persecute each other but that does not mean that "interfaith" or "multi-faith" proponents and activists are not full of shit. I'm sure many of the groups that have been advocating for this approach to religion are well meaning but they fail to acknowledge some innate problems with this movement. Ultimately, all religions are divisive. Cooperation can only go so far. A recent post on the Patheos blog Uncommon God, Common God inadvertently admits to this rather important and disturbing flaw.

In the very opening paragraph of "Don’t Compromise on Multi-Faith Dialogue" Paul Metzger states,
"Moreover, while multi-faith engagement seeks to safeguard against manipulation and bait and switch strategies of evangelism, it also seeks to provide compelling reasons why one would/should become an adherent of a particular religious tradition."
Reread that sentence and think about what he's really saying. Right away you should notice the contradiction. The latter part of the sentence is explicitly about evangelizing. So, yes, the approach is at least partially about "bait and switch." Many individuals and groups really are as concerned with converting and spreading their favored faith over all others. That is not cooperative or tolerant. The  truth is that theists view their faith as having more merit and therefore all others are of lesser value. Why else would have continued to be part of their religion?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Quotation

"Psychological well-being is not determined by the presence of one type of emotion but by a diversity of emotions, both positive and negative."

June Gruber
"Sadness is always bad, Happiness is always good"
This Idea Must Die

Perception doesn't change Reality

Any experienced social scientist knows that by themselves self-reported results don't mean all that much. They are great for getting broad basic information and in helping determine further areas of study. The Pew Research Center is excellent at this type of broad swath data collection. Unfortunately, their results are all too often misconstrued and abused. A recent Religious News Service piece is a great example of this bogus approach. Cathy Grossman's "Do science and religion conflict? It’s all in how you ‘see’ it" does a disservice to one of the recent surveys conducted by Pew. The title isn't too bad but the writing implies things that are blatantly false. Just because a large number of people are able to reconcile conflicting ideas or institutions does not mean the conflict is not there. I have previously written about this issue. Check out my November 6, 2011 post "Science Vs. Religion" Despite people's desire to pretend there is no conflict I have yet to come across a well supported argument that counters the fact the two are opposed to each other by their very nature.

Rhetorical or not

I do understand that in many instances when a theist asks a question like the title in a recent Watching God post, "Should Christians Watch Horror Movies?", it is meant as a rhetorical device as it is a genuine inquiry. However, I find such questions to be by their nature ignorance laden. Anyone who values critical thinking should see just how foolish these questions tend to be. The answer is always what the theist asking prefers it to be. There are no definitive well founded answers. There cannot be any given the completely subjective amorphous nature of supernatural based concepts.

Paul Assay goes through the motions of reviewing some of the common reasons given for supporting or opposing watching Horror movies among Christians but it is notable that he never gets around to a rather obvious problem with allowing horror movies. They tend toward the absurd. If anyone among the theist crowd ever made a push to dismiss them on this point they run the risk of exposing their beloved religious beliefs to the same critique. That's a far larger problem than any of the others Assay does note.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Conflating Religion With Morality

David Gushee seems to have trouble following the train of thought he himself initiates. In "Do the Democrats have a moral agenda for 2016?" he does note how superficial politicians can be when talking about religion. Sadly, that's about the only thing Gushee gets right. Throughout the piece he tacitly accepts the all to prevalent view that religion automatically translates into morality. It doesn't. He never seems to realize that his conflation of the two only serves to reinforce a blatantly false and dangerous myth. It should also occur to anyone with any sense of history, reason, and decency that mixing religion into politics has almost always made things worse.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Not heartwarming, at all

I frequently come across fluff pieces that many seem to think are heartwarming and inspirational. I don't doubt that is at least part of the author(s)' motivation for writing them but I actually find them rather disturbing. In a number of these scary human interest stories the element that transforms them into supposedly inspirational tales is religion. A recent entry on Huffington Post, "How 6 LGBT Catholics Kept Their Faith -- Despite Being Shunned By The Church", is a prime example.

If you replaced "LGBT" with housewives and the "church" with wife-beaters how heartwarming would the story still be? The underlying principal is the same. A group of people are standing by those that harass, denigrate, and abuse them. It's despicable not inspiring.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

No such "peace" has been made

The Fortune piece entitled "The Pope makes peace between science and faith" is patently absurd. Not only does the author fail to provide any arguments to support the claim the piece routinely slips into a whole slew of logical fallacies. Almost nothing stated stands up to even the slightest fact checking or critical thinking. Reading this short bit of tripe is rather tedious and painful. Kluger starts with a number of cheap shots at atheists and never gets much better in his reasoning. And, of course, a key point never seems to cross his mind.

The very idea that the head of one of the largest Christian denominations could ever bridge the gap between science and faith is ludicrous. For whom is Christianity named? The Christ figure is the antithesis of science and critical thinking. Who in their right mind can truly reconcile the notion that a person can spontaneously raise themselves from the dead? No one who really respects the scientific method can accept the resurrection stories. What about the miracles? What about the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. According to Catholic teaching the Eucharist literally, not symbolically, becomes the body of Christ the moment the priest blesses it. Since when is magic part of Science?

Sorry, Jeffrey Kluger, but you are a complete moron if you think the Pope's agreeing with scientific consensus on a few specific topics qualifies as making "peace between science and faith."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Quotation

"Magic, it must be remembered, is an art which demands collaboration between the artist and his public."
The Myth of the Magus
E.M. Butler

2 Titles, 1 Delusion

E.J. Dionne's September 20th column for the Washington Post has two equally idiotic titles. The one under which it is publicly available on the Post's website, "Pope Francis’s actions speak louder than his words", is completely opposite. Francis has spoken far more about reforming the church than he has acted on. In fact, the very few "actions" he has taken are pathetically minor and feeble. The title the same column was given after being published in the EBSCO databases, "Francis's radical challenge", is also full of shit. The fourth paragraph is a pretty good summary of the whole piece.

"It’s hard to see how progressives don’t come out ahead, simply because the pope has radically reordered the priorities of the church. He is not fighting culture wars. He is fighting against them. This, in part, is what accounts for his broad popularity among former Catholics, Americans of other faiths and even secularists and atheists."

Actually, it's pretty easy to see how anyone with the ability to think critically can handily refute every sentence of this paragraph. As I have previously pointed out in numerous posts, Francis has in no way altered church doctrines. He has done nothing to significantly reform church practices or policies, either. The only noticeable difference between Francis and his predecessors is in style. He's better at PR. How is he not involved in fighting "culture wars" if he heads the organization that is constantly opposing secular egalitarian policies supported by a majority of citizens in multiple countries? He is complicit if not leading the charge to impose narrow religious views on everyone; Catholic or not, religious or not. His popularity among non-Catholics is questionable. Outside Christians it is even more debatable.

Essentially, Dionne is taking the approach that the Catholic Church's hierarchy tends to favor. Ascribe your own baseless personal opinion onto everyone as if it is factual. It isn't. Simply repeating the same bullshit over and over does not make it anymore a part of reality. It just demonstrates how willfully ignorant and delusional theists can be.

"5 Things Christians Should Remember This Election Cycle"

I'm pretty sure that Benjamin Corey means well in his September 17th blog post. A few of his points have some merit, though in a superficial and somewhat self-serving manner. However, he fails to note the most important point for any theist to remember during any election cycle.

The United States of America is NOT a theocracy! We live in a democracy. Religion should not be imposed on anyone. All Americans are free to worship or not as they see fit. Religion has no place in public policy. Period. So all his nonsense about Christian standards and criteria is misguided, even arrogant. He seems to think, like far too many Christians, that he really knows the true Jesus and the essence of Christianity.That there even was/is a Jesus or an essential Christianity is in itself a myth.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

I'm not anti-semitic, Salkin is arrogant

Quite a few of Jeffrey Salkin's blog posts have been loaded with all sorts of ridiculous self-serving crap. His recent post, "Say it ain’t so, Bernie!", was particularly irritating. All too often when someone points out how full of shit pieces like this are they get accused of being anti-semitic. Why? Why isn't this viewed the other way around. Salkin seems annoyed that Bernie is not being a good representative of Judaism despite the fact that Sanders has never identified himself as religious. He has identified himself as culturally Jewish, which I'll come back to later. Sanders is running for President, a secular leader. What his religion may or may not be should be irrelevant. Not to Salkin. He seems to think it's perfectly fine to impose his religious standards on someone else. That the religion in question happens to be Judaism is also irrelevant. If a candidate was born to Baptist parents does that mean they should be hounded by another Baptist if they choose not to practice that specific denomination, or any sect/denomination at all? Why should that be seen as a factor in any profession they choose?

Personally I find the "culturally ____ (fill in your faith of choice)" nonsensical. So what if you grew up in a culture saturated by Christianity, Judaism, or whatever? Do you believe it now? Are you practicing it now? It's a cop out. It loans respectability to something that hasn't really earned it. After all, if it was actually worthwhile you wouldn't need the adjective "culturally" before the term itself. You would simply be X. Bernie Sanders is not practicing Judaism. So whatever he may think about Judaism, I see no reason to assume he owes that faith anything. More importantly, as a candidate for the highest elected office he should be expected to serve all US citizens equally. So, no, Jeffrey Salkin, you do not merit any special attention or treatment despite your insistence on it. You are not better than the rest of us. The very notion that Sanders owes you or any others who are practicing Judaism is arrogant, hypocritical, selfish, tribalistic, bigoted, and despicable.

Yup, he's a leech

No doubt you've seen all sorts of fluff pieces about Pope Francis' pending visit to the United States. Have you seen even one that mentions the fact that we tax payers are going to being footing a large chunk of bill? I have not. Instead you occasionally come across pieces like this one: "Secret Service director: No credible threats against Pope Francis." Of course, we will not be passing on that expense to the Catholic Church. Instead of letting one of the wealthiest organizations on the face of the planet pay for it's own propaganda campaigns we get to do it.

As much of an affront to our Constitution as this is (think Separation of Church and State) it is also rather revealing in terms of religious philosophy. What threats can civil authorities protect the "Vicar of god" from? The Pope is supposedly God's representative on Earth. Shouldn't God be protecting him? I want to be clear on the next point, I do not want to see the Pope hurt or killed. That said, why would it be such a big deal to anyone who happens to be religious if the Pope is assassinated? Wouldn't such an occurrence by it's very nature be the will of God? And, being such a holy figure wouldn't he be getting an express ticket to Heaven? Doesn't sound like such a horrible consequence if you really believe in that sort of thing.

Basically, we all get to pay for a representative of one specific church to further spread it's lies and bullshit. The media won't talk about that. They will, however, continue to give the overprivileged pompous bishops and cardinals a venue to pretend their religious liberties are being violated when they can't force their views and opinions on the rest of us even more than they currently get away with. Francis and the rest of the Catholic Hierarchy are hypocritical, dishonest, social and economic leeches.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A pebble becomes a mountain

Morgan Guyton's "Capitalism’s war on the Sabbath" does contain a tiny grain of truth. Sadly and predictably he takes that minuscule point and creates a mountain of arrogance laden nonsense. It is true that the form of capitalism that currently dominates the American economy is not labor friendly in any way. It does not, however, directly oppose the idea of a period of rest. It seek to maximize profit by pushing hour of operation and production as much as possible. If it were possible to do that and allow adequate rest Big Business would be fine with providing that. In practice it isn't possible so it does end up undercutting time off for employees.

This isn't really what Guyton is writing about. He makes it clear early on that is views of the "Sabbath" are very biased and ignorant. The idea of a rest-period is not unique to religion and certainly isn't innately Christian. It is the Christian version that he is passing off as a unique and universal concept. Sunday is not the holy day for Jews or Muslims. So, even within the Abrahamic faiths Guyton's take on the Sabbath is half-assed. This bit of nonsense isn't even among the most egregious bits of absurdity penned by him. There are far too many to note them all so I'll just quote one as an example.

"God does not make arbitrary rules for the sake of his honor and glory; God’s commands are for the sake of our flourishing..."

Apparently, he's never paid attention to the two version of the Ten Commandments, or for that matter, many of the Mosaic laws. God himself, according to scripture, makes it clear that many of the rules and rituals are expressly for honoring God. Yes, in fact God does make arbitrary rules. Those rules are interpreted differently not only among the various religions but also within Christianity.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Quotation

"Getting rid of a delusion makes us wiser than getting hold of a truth."
Ludwig Borne

No, those arguments shouldn't be made

Though I appreciate Penwell's semi-sarcastic mocking tone in "9 Arguments From the Bible Fundamentalists Should Have to Make" and I understand it is meant to be more rhetorical than literal, the arguments he talks about have no real merit. No argument of substance can actually be made "from the Bible" since it tends to alternate between being vague, inconsistent, contradictory, and incoherent. It really doesn't matter if an individual or group leans more towards the liberal or conservative end religious interpretation since they both have ample material to cherry pick and repackage to suit their interests. No religious "argument" can ever be fully right or wrong based on scripture. Arguing over scripture is an act of self deception and willful ignorance. Basically, there are no legitimate arguments that can be made expressly from the Bible.

A bit late, and far too short

It is nice to see at least a few mainstream outlets acknowledge perceptions of the current Pope are inaccurate even if those pieces tend to be rather shallow and weak. One of the few recent articles to feebly point out this disconnect from reality came from Time in the form of "The Top 4 Misconceptions About Pope Francis." In comparison to all the misconceptions surrounding Francis this really is pathetic. If it were just a starting point for a series of short pieces on the myths surrounding the current Pope it might work well as a gentle way to broach the subject but I doubt Time will follow it up with anything even remotely resembling a substantial analysis. The author, a liberal leaning Catholic activist, never bothers to point out that the Pope has not actually even hinted at let alone attempted to change a single Catholic doctrine. The few practices he's made minor adjustments to are of little to no consequence and are easily ignored and/or over-ridden by local clergy. Sadly, this does not seem to be accidental either. The minuscule steps taken by Francis to combat economic corruption and child rape seem to have been designed to allow a lot of leeway for those most responsible for such crimes. The very few who have been punished in some manner are simply being used by the Vatican and its pontiff as a relief valve, a public relations sacrificial goat.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this Pope really is no different in reality from his predecessors.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Editing the "Bible"

The Religion Q&A blog's August 16th post, "Why were some verses removed from the New Testament?", actually pretty good. However, it does omit quite a bit that relates to the question posed.
The post does a pathetic job of dispelling one of the major myths/misconceptions that seem to be at the heart of the qustion.

"CASSANDRA’S QUESTION:
I’m just shocked by the information I just received about the N.I.V. Bible, that many verses of the Scriptures have been removed. So I’m searching for a reliable version of the Bible to study from. Any suggestions?"

Cassandra seem to think that there is a single original "Bible." There isn't. According to the best available research there never has been a single complete original version of either the Old or New Testament. All versions of the Bible are interpreted and edited. What's worse for those self-deluded willfully ignorant dumb-asses who claim it is the "word of God" is that there isn't even a single original copy of any of the Books of the Bible (Old or New). There isn't one intact "original" copy of any of the Books. I thought it would be a good idea to repeat that. Not that it will sink into the the psyche of any who insist the Bible is authoritative. The Bible is simply a compilation of fragmentary ancient writing that the blindly devoted routinely repackage.

There is nothing remotely definitive or authoritative in any of the current versions of the Bible. There can't be since every Book of it can be debated as to which fragments are best to use for that specific part of the Bible. Not one Book has been agreed upon by contemporary theological and historical scholars. No one who knows anything about the Bible should be "shocked" by it's editing and selections. In reality, there are no "reliable" versions in the way Cassandra seems to want.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Quotation

"The starting point is neither selfishness nor altruism but the state of being bound together. It's an illusion to believe that you can be happy when no one else is. Or that other people will not be affected by your unhappiness."
Tor Norretranders
"Altruism"
This Idea Must Die

It'll still be "whitewashed"

Though it is nice to hear that there will be a film that portrays African-Americans in a positive way this does not mean the film will automatically have any significant value as a film. It certainly doesn't mean the film won't "whitewash" other aspects of its theme(s), characters, or plot. In point of fact without ever having seen The War Room (I have seen the trailer) I already know that it will be whitewashing its main theme. According to Jonathan Merritt's review:
"The fifth feature film produced by successful Christian moviemakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick tells a story about the power of prayer."
Since the overwhelming majority of well designed scientific studies have all reached the conclusion that prayer does not work, the idea that there is such a thing as "the power of prayer" is complete bullshit. The few studies that found any merit are flawed and still don't show it as having any more significance than a placebo. Basically, it is all about emotional appeal and willful ignorance. It is dishonest propagandistic tripe. It is also interesting to note that the short trailer that is available at Internet Movie Database is chock full of militant language and imagery. That's a rather disturbing take on morals/values. If you have family and/or marital problems go to "war". So much for the notion that Christianity is innately loving and peaceful.

Conflat-a-palooza (polyamory edition)

Brian Pellott's review of a recent YouGov survey is interesting but very misleading. As with any survey, the wording is very important. Questions can be leading and biased. The results are only as accurate as the surveys construction. Unfortunately, none of the links in Pellott's "Most non-religious Americans condone polyamory, new survey finds" lead to the actual survey. I also could not find a copy on my own so I do not know how the questions were worded. What I can tell from his review is that within his own mind he has conflated a variety of interrelated but separate aspects of the issue being surveyed. He mixes together morality, ethics, criminality, personal views, and public policies among various others.

The conclusion that:
"25 percent consider polyamory, which YouGov defines as the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all people involved, morally acceptable.
14 percent consider polygamy, the marriage of more than two partners, morally acceptable."
May or may not actually reflect people's opinions since I can't analyze the questions they answered.

All I can really do is use my personal views to demonstrate these conflations. Personally, I do find polyamory immoral but not necessarily unethical and certainly not criminal. I find it hard to believe that more than two people can be as devoted to each other as a couple. I could be wrong but if I'm not than one or more involved in such a poly-amorous relationship would be, in a manner of speaking, second-class. I firmly believe that all should be equal partners. Claiming to love someone and then treating them as less important than yourself or another I find dishonest and potentially harmful.

With that pointed out I would add that this is not automatically unethical. The reference to "consent" in the conclusion is essential for my accepting such a relationship as ethical. If each adult involved understands and accepts the relationship they are entering into I see no reason why I should object. When it comes down to it, other people's romantic relationships (assuming they are consenting adults) should not be any of my business. It is a private matter. The government should also not be prohibiting or criminalizing it. This, however, does not lead to the notion of condoning it. I also don't think it should be given the same legal status as a marriage.

Basically, I personally disapprove of the idea of polyamory but see no legitimate reason for it to be either officially condemned or condone through public policy/government intervention. I wonder how many answering the survey answered the way they did because they also did not wish to outright condemn the choices other adults have made for themselves. I can easily see how I might have answered a survey in a way that would skew towards the false conclusion that I find polyamory "morally acceptable".





Monday, August 10, 2015

Interesting use of Mockery

Talia Lakritz' YouTube video, "18 Things Orthodox Jewish Feminists Are Tired of Hearing", is fairly entertaining but a review I came across of the video was a bit confusing to me. Had I never read Antonia Blumberg's take on the video I never would have even considered that it was meant to support the idea that Orthodox Judaism and feminism are compatible. I had assumed based on what I saw that it was intended to ridicule the idea that the two could be reconciled. Watch the video and see if you can find any trace of even a single argument for compatibility. I've re-watched it a few times and still don't see how the creator thought it would be seen as anything other confirming that the two cannot be put together.

After mentioning a number of criticism that Lakritz portrays Blumberg states; "Lakritz challenges these arguments in her video." There's a slight problem with this observation. There's no basis in reality for it. Lakritz essentially creates a dramatized stream of mockery with no real explanations and certainly no argument/counter-argument. And, even if she did the tone still seems to be to mock the beliefs and practices of Orthodox Judaism. The implication is that the Orthodoxy is innately sexist. Changing the mysogynistic elements would basically end a huge part of what separates Orthodox Judaism from its more liberal counterparts. Doesn't that prove they are not compatible? "Things Orthodox Jewish Feminists Are Tired Of Hearing" makes no sense. If Lakritz's intent is as Blumberg describes she may want to do some re-editing.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Repost: Proof of God: Scenario 2 (originally posted 3-12-12)

It can and has been argued that aggression has served a variety of evolutionary purposes. However, it no longer seems to be of any benefit to our species in today's world. We also don't seem to be able to prevent it.

Another scenario I would accept as proof of God's existence is the cessation of all forms of human aggression. Since it no longer seems to be of benefit to us and we can't seem to end it ourselves there is no reason God could not solve the problem for us. I am fully aware of the rationale many theist use to contradict this idea. Free will has always been a pathetic excuse. I do not know a single person who has chosen to be mugged or asked for children to shoot other children. Since, I and others routinely push for crime prevention measures and gun control why are we made to suffer along with those who refuse do do anything useful about these problems. If God created us and our world then there is no reason God cannot make such a modification as the elimination of all aggression. There would still be plenty for us to disagree and make decisions on. So assuming that free will is even possibly in the presence of a supreme being, which it isn't, it would be unaffected by the absence of aggression.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Quotation

“All good intellects have repeated, since Bacon's time, that there can be no real knowledge but which is based on observed facts.”
August Comte
The Positive Philosophy

Didn't know, don't care

To be fair, I have no real interest in "celebrities" or being a "fan" of any sort. That does not mean I don't appreciate the individuals who often get lumped together as celebrities or pop-culture figures. I have absolutely no doubt that many of them are talented, intelligent, decent people. I still don't understand why specific aspects of their personal lives should matter to the general public let alone be reported on in any way. Two recent pieces on Religious News Service seems to play into such superficial tripe.

"Serena Williams’ secret weapon: ‘Jehovah God’"
"Omar Sharif wasn’t the only Muslim actor famous in America. Here are 5 others"

Omar Sharif and Serena Williams are both very talented. I am sure their beliefs are important to them but I fail to see how that made them the exceptional talents they are. So, why pay any attention to that one aspect of their lives? It seems, especially silly given that I have never noticed either of them making that big a deal of their religious preferences during any of the public appearances or interviews I've seen.

I didn't know anything about their religious preferences and still don't really know anything significant about their religious views. It has not changed anything. So why should I or anyone else care about that detail? What is the point? It seems odd that RNS would run both pieces on the same day unless their was something notable. Yet, I don't see any reason to run such similar pieces at the same time unless you are trying to imply that religion relates to talent. It doesn't.

CiNO?

You may have heard of RiNOs (Republicans in Name Only) and probably various other "in Name Only" acronyms/labels. I've never come across anyone using Catholic in Name Only? Why not? This isn't a new idea. A recent post by Cathy Grossman at the Religious News Service brought this back to mind. Her review of a recent study in "Catholic families: strong on prayer, weak on sacraments" is rather entertaining though slightly puzzling. She seems genuinely surprised by the findings. Doesn't she know any Catholics or have any awareness of related surveys and studies?

A growing number of self-identified Catholics do not actually agree with or follow many of the Catholic Church's doctrines. They certainly don't, as a whole, agree with most of the policies and practices that the church has created based on those doctrines. Many seem to be Catholic by heritage/culture rather than by belief and behavior. Many of the Catholics I know personally do not seem to abide by any of the doctrines or policies that distinguish the Catholic church from any other Christian sect or denomination.

I'd be willing to bet that the CiNOs outnumber the more orthodox, conservative Catholics by a long shot.

Monday, July 6, 2015

What if it were Southern Baptists, or Catholics, or....

Listening to the religious right go on about how marriage equality is a violation of their rights makes me want to throw up. They are so full of shit. Not is there no possibility of finally recognizing the rights of yet another marginalized minority not a threat it is in fact these fucking whiners who are the threat. Sadly, our pathetic media still coddles such deceitful hypocritical ignorant assholes.

Showing how disingenuous they are is also very easy to do. Simply replace homosexual with Southern Baptist, Catholic, Orthodox Judaism, or any other conservative sect/denomination. Then see if they still agree with the notion of discriminating on religious grounds.  I am not religious at all but if I were I assume I would still be on the liberal end of the spectrum. I can easily see making a case that supporting in any sense conservative theists as being a violation of my "spiritual" beliefs. By working or serving with conservatives I could easily claim that that makes me an accomplice of evil. Why should I jeopardize my soul by becoming a collaborator with the agents of evil? See how that works? Clearly I should not have to provide any products or services to any religious conservatives. Shouldn't I be able to make a case for my religious freedom? Shouldn't I then be allowed to refuse any and all conservative theists?

NO! And, anyone who thinks this is a valid excuse to harass, persecute, or discriminate is a fucking waste of flesh. Basic civil rights should never be negotiable.

A few of the milder pieces that still made me want to scream include:

"Will the Court protect religious objectors to same-sex marriage?" Religious News Service

"Republicans pivot from gay marriage to religious liberty fight" CNN

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Quotation

"I know that a creed is the shell of a lie"
Amy Lowell
What's O'Clock

Full of himself and full of shit

I'll start by stating up front I know nothing about William Giraldi beyond what he has written about himself in his July/August (2015) New Republic piece "Confessions of a Catholic Novelist." With that said I have to say my impression of him is rather low. He seems to be very self-obsessed and very ignorant of a topic you would assume he at least knows a little bit about.

He starts off from the very first line being hyperbolic and arrogant.
"It’s not altogether easy being a Catholic, and it’s immeasurably harder being a novelist, so you might imagine the myriad conundrums of being both." I can't say I was all that interested in imagining what he wants since the very first thing to pop into my head was a fairly basic question: in comparison to what? What makes being a Catholic any more difficult than abiding by other belief systems? What makes being a writer an especially difficult profession? Giraldi never successfully answers either of these. What he does succeed in doing is exposing his poor understanding of literary criticism and study.

Virtually every example he gives fails completely. Almost every author he writes about either went out of their way to make more of their Catholicism than any one else every did or they are authors who have been so thoroughly studied that no aspect of their life and times has not been examined. Their religion being just one more piece of that review. If this was the only flaw in his piece it wouldn't be worth bothering with but he goes even further in various places. He creates a false impression and then tries passing it off as factual.

Another line that irked me quite a bit was his patently false statement:
"More to the point, you won’t find a novel by Malamud or Roth or Bellow subtitled “The Adventures of a Bad Jew,” and even if you did, you wouldn’t have to prep yourself to be preached at (revisit Roth’s story “The Conversion of the Jews” to see for yourself)."
Bullshit. You can find literary pieces with that type of title. For instance after roughly a minute to two minutes perusing Google I found a review of a contemporary play entitled "Bad Jews." As for content, Catholics are not the only ones to produce either self-deprecatory works or preachy screeds. Just knowing an author's religious preferences doesn't immediately lead me to assume anything about their writing. That it clearly does bias Giraldi is no reason for him to project that onto anyone else. Yet, he does without a second thought.

There isn't anything in Giraldi's piece that can't be easily refuted and attributed to a lack of intellectual honesty. There's nothing automatically wrong with having strong opinions or even slipping into a woe-is-me self important stance but if that's all you've got why bother?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hypocrisy be thy name, Francis

I've never fallen for Pope Francis' PR veneer. He has done little to nothing to earn the praise he has routinely received since becoming Pope. Recently, even his superficial veneer has been wearing thin. Sadly, very few have actively criticized him for these massive doses of bullshit. One episode of hypocritical deceit that he recently unleashed should have every self-respecting historian calling foul. An AP story that the HuffPo reposted is just laced with an absurd level of hypocrisy.

"Pope Francis: 'Great Powers' Did Nothing When Jews Were Taken To Auschwitz"

This statement is a lot like someone finding the need to chastise his neighbor for playing with matches only moments after the whiner accidentally burnt down that same neighbors house with a flamethrower. Apparently a little paper known as the Reichskonkordat slipped the Pope's mind. The Vatican and the German government signed a treaty with each other in 1933. Even though Germany very quickly played fast and loose with the terms the Vatican stuck pretty close to it. In other words, in order to not get in trouble with the Nazis the Catholic Hierarchy did nothing to help the Jews or any other minority. If he actually did any fact checking he would have discover that the only reps of his beloved church to get off their asses to help were local parish clergy who frequently acted against the wishes of their superiors.

Francis is full of shit.

What makes an event "religious"?

Theists do genuinely seem to have difficulty coming to terms with the fact that religion can only have any meaning if they make it have meaning. In and of itself religion is nothing. This is demonstrated quite nicely in a recent blog post on the Religious News Service. A line towards the end of Cathy Grossman's "Better than church? Religions’ social events have higher purpose" is great at indicating just how willfully ignorant and/or self-deluded she and so many other theists tend to be.

"There’s also a twist to the popularity of religious events: People with no religious ties like them, too."

Grossman fails to notice that not one of the types of events discussed prior to this statement requires any religious elements whatsoever. In other words, the "events" that are so popular are secular in nature. Every type of event noted already is enjoyed by the non-religious without any religious trappings. That non-religious don't care about those details nearly as much our theistic fellows is not news. This is the same type of mentality that leads theists to be surprised when they discover their friendly neighbor atheist actually likes Christmas carols. It is silly. Unfortunately, it tends to indicate a greater level of misunderstanding.

Monday, June 22, 2015

"God stepped in"

So, according to a certain sub-set of Christians God has to be one of the laziest, most clueless, incompetent assholes to ever exist. The only other possible interpretation (assuming God does exist) of comments from dim-wits like Debbie Dills is that she and her type of theist is willfully ignorant and/or self-deluded to an astonishing level. The Religious News Service commentary "God stepped in, says Debbie Dills, who spotted alleged S.C. killer" is yet another example of how easily religious beliefs can turn peoples brains into tapioca.

The very notion that God deserves any praise for allegedly being involved in any way with the tragedy that occurred recently in a South Carolina Church is disgusting. Why give this supposed supreme being any praise? God "stepped in" to help catch Dylann Roof after he committed murder but what about before the actual crime? Was God playing golf while this scrawny little asshole was plotting the murders? God couldn't get off his ass to give the little bastard a heart attack while loading his gun?

This is the type of thinking that infuriates me. Praise God on one hand and ignore everything else. It isn't just sloppy thinking it is downright fucking stupid. It is contradictory and a clear sign that this type of theist hasn't a fucking clue what they are talking about. Even if you accept this version of the God concept it is a being far from praiseworthy. None of the apologetics that have been tried to cover such a worthless piece of shit comes even close to being coherent let alone plausible. The most common excuse for such tragedies when they are actually questioned is "free will." One of the more irritating flaws in this stupid response, setting aside the innate contradiction with God's perfection, is that the "free will" of one scumbag somehow must out weigh the "free will" of numerous decent human beings.

Dill belittles herself and everyone else who sought to apprehend Roof by crediting a villainous fictional character. It's pathetic

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Quotation

"Just as evolution can create a multitude of species by expressing a common process in specific environments, so too can the mind create a multitude of mental species. You can no more count emotions or moral concerns than snowflakes or colors."

"Numbering Nature"
This Idea Must Die Kurt Gray

An incredibly naive question

At the beginning of the month Arthur Keefer posted "Could Charlie Hebdo have been prevented if France allowed religious instruction? (COMMENTARY)" on the Religious News Service's website. Though I do not oppose "religious instruction" outright I do find the idea to be very problematic. Keefer seems to be blissfully ignorant of one of the biggest problems with allowing religious instruction in public institutions. The term is rather amorphous and open to interpretation. Not everyone means the same thing when they talk about "religious instruction".

If Keefer means that a general overview of multiple faiths in terms of the most commonly accepted tenets within each and how each faith has influenced and been influenced by local, regional, and global culture, I would support such an idea. However, that still doesn't mean it would have prevented the tragedy that occurred at Charlie Hebdo. Comparative religious studies can increase tolerance in the general population that participates in such studies but it is not a panacea. Various studies have indicated that a percentage of the population will not only fail to become more tolerant but will in fact become more extreme if that is the mind-set they have already embraced. Religious instruction is just one potential mitigating factor. By itself it cannot accomplish nearly as much as Keefer seems to think

Ultimately, there is just as much reason to believe that relatively strict secularization is just as effective in terms of containing and combating religious extremism as is inserting religious instruction into public education. Personally, I think we should be teaching comparative religion in public education but do not assume it will automatically quell religious extremism. I would encourage it more out of a deep seated loathing of ignorance. So long as religion is a major component of culture it should be taught in as objective a manner as possible. This, inevitably, leads to another problem Keefer overlooks and a major reason why religious conservatives will continue to oppose religious instruction over religious indoctrination. Studies have shown that the more exposure to comparative religion a given population receives the lower the rates of religiosity (in terms of organized religious observance) among that same population.

So, no, it is highly unlikely that religious instruction would have made a difference in France when it comes to the most extreme among the religious right.

Well intended but...

Despite having criticized Karl Giberson on numerous occasions and even having questioned his motives in the past I think he does mean well in one of his recent HuffPo pieces, "Fundamentalists Think Science Is Atheism." And, even though he is correct about science and atheism not being synonyms he is wrong about virtually everything else in this short piece. Well meaning intentions are not enough.

The very opening sentences of the piece reveal just how ignorant, biased, and deluded he continues to be.
"Equating science with atheism is one of the most dangerous byproducts of America's culture wars. This strange polarization portends disaster, as the country divides into factions that cannot find common ground on the way the world operates."
Seriously?! This false equivalence is what he sees as the "most dangerous byproducts" of the culture wars. He doesn't see the continued interference of a minority of theocratic minded activists harassing and undermining the rights of everyone else as being more dangerous? He doesn't see religious inspired and/or religiously justified violence as more of a threat? As for finding "common ground on the way the world operates", I'm not convinced that is even remotely possible let alone desirable. If someone's views on the world are not grounded in reality why should I or anyone else give a fuck what they think?

I will not go so far as to say that the wishy-washy-kumbaya-lets-all-get-along approach is completely devoid of merit. This approach seems to be all Giberson relies on. The example he uses to show the type of "controversy" he wants to avoid is also very telling. Using the evangelical debate over the Adam and Eve myth as his primary example shows Giberson's own lack of grounding in reality. It never becomes apparent to him that he does an excellent job demonstrating that mixing the two terms "science" and "atheism" and their associated beliefs are far from being the "most dangerous byproducts." In fact, he unwittingly illustrates that willful ignorance and scientific illiteracy are far more dangerous.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Repost: Proof of God: Scenario 1 (originally posted 2/25/12)

One of the false accusations theists like to level at atheists is that we are just as faithful as they are. They insist that no amount of proof would change our point of view. Bullshit. I'd set aside the fact that theists have no proof but that is, in part, the point of this post. Other atheists have talked about what would constitute proof but I'd like to add a few more.


The first scenario I would accept as proof of God's existence is a simple message conveyed in a not so simple way. A message along the lines of, "I am God, I exist," would be sufficient provided it was delivered simultaneously all over the world in every possible language and medium for no less than an hour. Every written media (newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, etc.) spontaneously becomes re-written to contain that one message. Also all TV, cable, satellite, phone, radio, and internet venues carry the message. For good measure, it should also be broadcast telepathically. If God exists I see no reason this should not be possible. In the same token I cannot conceive of how an individual or group of individuals could possibly pull off such a message. Creating and coordinating a message in such a wide variety of media for even a short space of time would be virtually impossible. Re-writing and altering already created content in even one media would be impossible. And, since there is no such thing as telepathy (this avenue of  message delivery could be shorter to avoid long-term harm) there could be no human agency involved. Group delusions have occurred but never on such a massive scale. It is also highly unlikely that after a half hour or more that a decent chunk of the Scientific community would not think to record the message in various ways. The skeptic/atheist/free thinker community would also probably seek to record it in various ways. It would then be verifiable beyond reasonable doubt.


I would accept that as proof. Anyone care to hold their breath waiting for this one?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Quotation

Keira Knightley: If only I wasn't an atheist, I could get away with anything. You'd just ask for forgiveness and then you'd be forgiven. It sounds much better than having to live with guilt.
David Cronenberg: Yeah, but you could always lie about being an atheist. I don't think an atheist could get elected in America right now.
Keira Knightley: No, I don't think they could either."

Interview Magazine, April 2012
Keira Knightley in an interview with David Cronenberg in
 

Your deceit isn't their hypocrisy

America is not the only country where a subset of theist find the need to lie and whine in defense of their beliefs. After fact checking a piece I found on the Christian Concern website it was blatantly obvious how incredibly unethical and vicious the assholes who work there really are. Virtually nothing in "Humanists' hypocrisy after sending atheist manuals to every Scottish secondary following Christian book ban" turned out to be true.The Humanist Society of Scotland did not seek to "ban" the so-called "guide book" entitled It's Your Move.

What did the Humanist Society of Scotland actually have an interest in accomplishing? They sought to remove from public school curriculums a clearly Christian centric book and bar those public schools from paying for the books out of school funds. Got that? They did not ask that children be prevented from receiving the books. They just found it inappropriate for public schools to pay for and actively push a sectarian book on children. Christian Concern and the Free Church of Scotland both routinely misrepresented the facts and sought to demonize a group of individuals who actually applied basic civil rights and human decency to an incredibly bigoted set of circumstances.

This gang of assholes also left out a number of details along the way. They didn't bother to mention how well connected the Free Church of Scotland already is with various public schools around the country. They certainly didn't mention that the book the Humanist Society of Scotland has offered for distribution would be a small token in an attempt to deal with centuries of bias towards theism or that they have donated all the books. It definitely slipped their minds that these books from the beginning are only being offered as an option. They are not being forced on kids like the Christian guide book had been. The publisher, Scripture Union, of the It's Your Move book even brags about directly connecting churches to schools through it's books and curriculum in it's introduction video.

Anyone who even skims through the "Resource Booklet" that accompanies the Christian guide book can't help but realize that this really is a set of Sunday School lessons being passed off as public school curriculum.

The very notion that the humanists are the ones being hypocritical is absurd to the point of being laughable. Christian Concern, The Free Church of Scotland, and other supporters of this guide book being force fed to other people's children are being deceitful tyrannical assholes. Their whining about responsible adults opposing them is hypocritical not to mention despicable.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Quotation

"The intelligent beings in these regions should therefore not be surprised if they observe that their locality in the universe satisfies the conditions that are necessary for their existence. It is a bit like a rich person living in a wealthy neighborhood not seeing any poverty." 
Stephen Hawking
A Brief History of Time

Ignorance may not be bliss but....

Even if ignorance really isn't bliss it certainly provides comfort and cover for many individuals, especially theists. I came across a letter to the editor last week that I found somewhat interesting. The first read through of Miss Fogg's "Defense of Christians doesn’t mean ‘special rights’(Letter)" seems relatively naive and harmless but if you reread it you may notice it is an example of an attitude that is highly corrosive. She finds the need to defend an individual who quite frankly doesn't need defending. He isn't actually being attacked. i couldn't even find any examples of people who are supposedly attacking "the April 23 opinion of columnist, Don Roberts." 

Miss Fogg seems to have drank the cool-aid that willfully ignorant self-righteous assholes like Roberts have been doling out for years. Yes, that would be an attack on Roberts opinions and his character. Unlike Roberts I can point out why he deserves both criticism and derision. He represents a variety of mean spirited myths and stereotypes. He also is a very dishonest self centered individual who does wish to see the right of others stripped away. Despite lying to herself about Roberts not claiming "special rights" for Christians, Fogg fails to see all the propagandist bullshit Roberts' "In defense of Christianity - Maine legislators should take note: Christians have rights, too" contains. Just start with the title. Who is challenging the actual rights of Christians? Why would Maine's legislators, who are predominantly Christian, fail to protect their own rights?

Roberts sets the tone of his opinion piece very clearly in the first paragraph:
"The world is experiencing a war against Christianity. Our nation, founded on Judeo-Christian principles, faces the greatest challenge to our existence in modern times. Amazingly, our enemy, the radical Islamic terrorist movement, is underestimated at the highest levels of American government."
The religious right loves to use the symbols and language of warfare. I'd also point out that he is pushing the conservative, and false, notion that the US was founded to be a "Christian Nation." I have previously commented on this bogus premise.* Roberts is the one being belligerent and is most certainly trying to claim "special" status for Christianity. The sad truth is that any group you can identify has been, and in many instance are still being, abused, persecuted, and even killed somewhere in the world. It isn't right. It should be stopped. That is not what he's trying to bring attention to. He doesn't give a shit about all the other groups. I seriously doubt he is all that concerned about all Christians either. I don't get the impression from his writings that he has any problem persecuting "Christians" who don't conform to his favored version of the faith.

Sorry, Miss Fogg but you are blinded by your own biases. Roberts is not the champion you seem to think he is.

*Conflation Nation (4-12-15)
http://www.atheismith.blogspot.com/2015/04/conflation-nation.html


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Funny but still misleading


This appeared on Facebook not too long ago. Though it is rather amusing it is also very misleading and inaccurate. In most instances people don't object to a "concept." I certainly don't object to the concept of God. It's actually a rather fascinating one. I do object to how the concept is often used. I also object to the notion that it is a concept that has any basis in reality. You can see how significant this difference is if you simply insert something that is more commonly accepted as fiction in place of "a deity." For example, I find Puff-The-Magic-Dragon to be a pretty cool fictional character. I would even be fine if people wanted to emulate some of this characters accepted values. I would strongly object to anyone tryiong to tell me to do or not do something because it's what Puff wants, or rather what they claim Puff wants.

No, the concept in and of itself is not something that needs to be opposed. You can, of course, argue whether it has any merits. It is far more important to pay attention to what beliefs people accept, reject, or project based on a given concept.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Quotation

"William James used to preach the 'will to believe.' For my part, I should wish to preach the 'will to doubt.' ... What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite." 
Bertrand Russell
Skeptical Essays

....And Jesus wept

....Or did he? Chris Boeskool's HuffPo piece "Saving a Murderer's Life: Who Would Jesus Execute?" is pretty ridiculous. It meanders in and out of all sorts of logical fallacies and disjointed trains of thought that if it weren't for the title it would be easy to lose the main point he seems to be trying to emphasize. Even though I actually agree with a few of the point he makes when he wanders into "non-religious reasons to be against the death penalty" even those are poorly represented and expressed. The whole piece is based entirely on his own narrow interpretation and understanding both theology and the social issues/public policies related to capitol punishment.

Ultimately he comes back to his main objection: his views on what Jesus would do. Of course, he has no clue that what he has expressed is not only an opinion loosely based on other opinions but that it actually has no solid foundation in the scriptures as he assumes it does. I have pointed out over and over that there is no single narrative for the Christ figure and therefore not a single version of Jesus. There are plenty of instances where it is easy to see the Jesus figure not just being okay with executing Tsarnaev but outright demanding it. Anyone care to reread Luke 19:27 and then try claiming Jesus would forgo putting this asshole to death.

Here are just a handful of previous posts I have written about such interpretations of the various claims about Jesus as a single "historical" figure.

A not so cute WWJD story (10-26-14)
http://www.atheismith.blogspot.com/2014/10/a-not-so-cute-wwjd-story.html

How many assumptions can be squeezed into one title? (9-14-14)
http://www.atheismith.blogspot.com/2014/09/how-many-assumptions-can-be-squeezed.html

What makes it a "taunt"? (4-20-14)
http://www.atheismith.blogspot.com/2014/04/what-makes-it-taunt.html

Which Jesus is More Absurd (2-24-13)
http://www.atheismith.blogspot.com/2013/02/which-jesus-is-more-absurd.html

Jesus is.... amorphous (9-15-12)
http://www.atheismith.blogspot.com/2012/09/jesus-is-amorphous.html

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Quotation

"If a plane crashes and 99 people die while 1 survives, it is called a miracle. Should the families of the 99 think so?"
Judith Hayes
In God We Trust: But Which One?

I choose to live in a world where.....

I choose to live in a world where unicorns play in open fields of green. Wouldn't that be nice? Problem is that reality doesn't give a shit what we want. It simply is what it is which is what makes it reality rather than fantasy. The absurd notion that wishful thinking somehow has a direct correlation with what is real seems to be the primary underlying justification for a recent post on the Patheos blog Mercy Not Sacrifice.

Even though I agree with some of Morgan Guyton's criticisms of John Shuck, the overall theme and tone of "I choose to live in a world where resurrection happens" is ridiculous. I'm not convinced that Morgan spent any time contemplating what was written in this piece before posting. The whole thing is so wishy-washy and reliant on emotional appeal that his reasoning is even lamer than the sort of idiocy you'd expect from a fictional character like Homer Simpson. His idea of a "mystical" experience is about as convincing as a stoner's insistence that they can fly through the moon.

Conflation Nation

To be honest, I'm not sure if John Reynolds is being intentionally deceitful or if he is just clueless. In either case his Eidos blog post on Patheos, "Did America become a Christian nation in the Fifties?", relies heavily on conflating two very different meanings for the term "Christian nation." In the very first sentence of this piece he states:
"My newsfeed has two kinds of common historically inaccurate stories. Members of my own Faith often exaggerate the Christian nature of the American Founding and experience while secularists keep writing that America was never a Christian nation."

I don't know what sources he uses but given that I read voraciously I have to assume he is either reading the most esoteric and extreme outlets possible or he is being disingenuous. Virtually every secularist, liberal, and atheist I know does refute the notion that our country was founded expressly on "Christian" values and doctrines. They do not deny that the majority of Americans at the time, including the "Founding Fathers", were themselves Christian. Those are two quite different things.

Even though Reynolds makes a few valid points in the piece most of it is degraded by this false premise that everyone using the term "Christian nation" is talking about the same thing. I got the impression that this was at least partially intentional. It seemed like he wanted to be able to criticize secularists without seeming unreasonable, petty, or preachy. Instead, I found him to be misleading and ignorant. I'm pretty sure that was not his goal but since he cannot make his case without logical fallacies or outright falsehoods it is hard not to view him in such a way.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Quotation

"Supporters of separation of church and state are not vampires. They can tol­erate looking at a cross. But when that cross is displayed by government on public property using taxpayer funds, it sends a message: This is our com­­munity’s favorite religion. If you share this faith, then good for you. If you don’t, you’re a second-class citizen."
"The Cross’s Purpose: Government Must Focus On Secular, Not Sacred"
Church & State, April 2015

Religious Freedom already exists

The Indiana legislatures ploy to legally discriminate has publicly stirred up more of the religious rights ongoing bullshit. Unfortunately both the mainstream and some of the alternative media have fallen into line by accepting a variety of assumptions and distortions. CNN Belief blog has a piece, "How to fix religious freedom laws", that falls for the all too common notion that somehow we need more legislation and interference in this area. Actually, we don't. The Constitution and virtually every State Constitution already includes provision design to uphold an individuals freedom of conscience/religion. What we need to do is stop religious zealots from perverting those principles and ramming their beliefs down our throats.

An excellent example of hos stupid people can be once religion is interjected into politics can be read in Debra Haffner's HuffPo piece "Discrimination Is Never a Religious Value." She clearly has no memory span or ability to think beyond her preferred beliefs. History makes it pretty clear that Religion have and continue to discriminate. I am not talking about individuals who happen to be religious being discriminatory. Religions as a whole by doctrine and policy have a tendency to discriminate. Even a cursory reading of history should be enough for anyone not blinded by their chosen faith to see that is the case.

Anyone interested in religious freedom should be supporting one of the most basic principles of the Constitution: Separation of Church and State.

"Do You Believe"

I believe that there is a subset of Christians who should be grateful they can even manage to walk and talk at the same time. Christian films do tend to be incredibly ridiculous. Even though I have not yet seen the movie Do You Believe I have come across a number of reviews that leads me to assume it will be no better than some of the Christian themed films I've seen in the past. For instance, one of the reviews that was relatively sympathetic to the film reveals some rather blatant propagandistic falsehoods innate to the script.

According to Newsday's Rafer Guzman:

"It develops when an EMT, Bobby (Liam Matthews), tends to a man half-crushed in a worksite accident. Bobby checks the man's religious affiliation -- "I don't know," he answers -- then presses a wooden crucifix into his hand and encourages him to accept Jesus as his savior (he does, before dying). Not surprisingly, this lands Bobby in hot water, and soon he feels pressured to apologize for his faith.
It's a dilemma meaty enough to sustain an entire film -- but not this one, which isn't interested in digging deeply into issues. Instead, Bobby becomes the victim of rampant secularism."

Did you catch that? The EMT comes across a severely wounded man and the first thing he does is try to convert him. Calling this guy out for being incompetent and lacking any semblance of professional ethics gets distorted into his being persecuted. Last I knew his first and only job would be to do whatever he could to save the guys life not act like a preacher. From what I can tell before getting around to seeing it myself, the film is essentially just a series of logical fallacies and emotional ploys strung together.

For a more entertaining review of the film I'd recommend the Scathing Atheists' take on it.
http://scathingatheist.libsyn.com/scathingatheist-110-do-you-believe-edition

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Quotation

"Creeds are not guide-boards; they are tombstones. On every creed can be read three words: 'here lies ___ and such lies!'"
Marilla M. Ricker
"Science Against Creed"
Women Without Superstition

Actually, it is eurocentric

Once again Bad Catholic is proving just how bad at logic and critical thinking he is. In a recent post, "No, Christianity’s Not Eurocentric (But You Kind Of Are)", he conflates a few things and ignores a lot more. Christianity is not eurocentric because there happen to be racist individuals among it's membership. That is not the argument. Christianity is eurocentric because it is dominated and always has been by those of european decent. Marc's own preferred faith, Catholicism, is a prime example. All you have to do to see how full of shit he is is ask two basic questions (and, of course, find the answers). Who runs the Catholic Church? How is Christ commonly portrayed?

To answer the first question an excellent resource is the Vatican itself. Using the Vatican's own information about it's hierarchy reveals that even those not currently of an european nationality a sizable percentage are of European ancestry. Just go through the List of Cardinals according to Nations and in order of Age as a jumping point to look into there background and you will confirm this fact. So lets recap. The individuals who run the church and are responsible for all it policies and doctrines are largely of European descent. This pretty well refutes Marc. If the overall membership of the church is becoming more diverse and has been for years shouldn't the leadership reflect that? It doesn't. Ooops.

Then we have the way Jesus is often portrayed by the church. Jesus supposedly was born and grew up in the Middle East yet he almost always look like a white western European gentleman. Why? The answer to this question is also pretty simple. Europeans run the church and are more comfortable with figures who look like themselves. The central figure of Christianity is presented as an European despite claims to his having been a Middle Easterner. How is that not eurocentric?

Yup, Bad Catholic is still a willfully ignorant dumb-ass.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Quotation

"Faith is powerful enough to immunize people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feelings. It even immunizes them against fear, if they honestly believe that a martyr's death will send them straight to heaven. What a weapon! Religious faith deserves a chapter to itself in the annals of war technology, on an even footing with the longbow, the warhorse, the tank, and the hydrogen bomb."
Richard Dawkins
The Selfish Gene

Becoming "biblical"

It is nice to see theists occasionally do some research and a bit of basic fact checking. On those grounds I do think Ellin Jimmerson does deserve some credit for her piece "When Did Biblical Marriage Get To Be A Thing?" She even makes a point of distinguishing between what people perceive to be in the Bible versus what's actually in the Bible. However, there is a rather important point that she overlooks. It is somewhat odd since it also relates to the disparity between the perception of what is in the Bible versus what is actually written. Anything can and does become "biblical" when those using the phrase find it convenient. The Bible loans itself quite nicely to virtually any belief individuals or groups choose to hold and endorse. Scriptures as a whole, whether Judeo-Christian or not, tend to alternate among being vague, incoherent, and contradictory. They can always be interpreted in a variety of different ways. It is generally pretty safe to assume that anything that carries the label "biblical" is full of shit.

Evidence, proof, and low standards

Apparently, having large numbers of a specific type of believer in a specific geographic area really can warp people's sense of reality. The Deseret News of Salt Lake City, Utah wasted both ink and space on a piece that was so ridiculous I had to read it multiple times just to make sure it really was printed. Daniel Peterson manages to make one point that is technically true but so incredibly misleading and silly that it hardly matters at all. The main point of "Defending the Faith: Proof, evidence and the need to decide" rests on the fact that evidence and proof are not synonyms. That's is true in the strictest sense. However, there are two huge problems with Peterson's premise. The first is that the average person uses these two as synonyms. I'm pretty sure he is aware of how common that conflation of those two terms are. The second and larger problem is that the standards of evidence that Peterson has to rely are so pathetically low that anyone could make a case for any idiotic notion that occurs to him/her. By his use of the term "evidence" I could make a case that the events in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is based on a true story. His reasoning really is that pathetic. It also, amusingly, never occurs to him that even if you can come up with "evidence" for something it is still possible that others can come up with evidence that refutes your own. At no point does he ever note that all evidence is not equally valid. This is not necessarily a surprising approach given that he is most concerned with defending the Book of Mormon from criticism.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Quotation


"[P]rescientific people... could never guess the nature of physical reality beyond the tiny sphere attainable by unaided common sense. Nothing else ever worked, no exercise from myth, revelation, art, trance, or any other conceivable means; and notwithstanding the emotional satisfaction it gives, mysticism, the strongest prescientific probe in the unknown, has yielded zero."
Edward O. Wilson
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge

Pleasant surprise from Salon

Since for the past few years Salon has been a liberal bastion for atheist bashers I was quite surprised by Jeffrey Tayler's "Religion’s new atheist scapegoat: Why the Chapel Hill shootings weren’t about Islamophobia." It was nice to read a piece that wasn't laced with ignorance laden anti-atheist bigotry. It is one of the few pieces written about the Chapel Hill murders that is both objective and driven by facts rather than speculation, double standards, and deceit.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Religiosity?

I'm quite please to find out that there are theists willing to question the idea that religiosity can actually be measured in any meaningful way. Benjamin Zeller's "Religiosity? What’s in God’s name is that?" makes a few of the same points I have previously commented on. It's also nice to come across a theist that accepts their own personal spin/interpretation is not the only possible or valid point of view on a given topic.

I previously wrote about this topic in:
Can Religiosity be Measured? (February 23, 2014)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quotation

"Every judgement teeters on the brink of error. To claim absolute knowledge is to become monstrous. Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty."
Frank Herbert
Dune

Psalmist Lecrae

I won't pretend to know much about Lecrae's music but I don't really need to. Claudia May's Patheos piece "Lecrae: A Modern-Day Psalmist Voices the Messiness of Humanity Through Hip-Hop" is as much about him as an individual as it is about his music. I have seen interviews with Lecrae and based on his own presentation of himself I can say I am not impressed. I am pretty sure that by "psalmist" May does not mean self-righteous deceitful hypocritical asshole. If she did I'd have to completely agree with her since he is a self-deluded pompous ass. I have previously pointed out why I have such a low opinion of Lecrae.

My prior critique can be found here:
"Lecrae: neither humble nor honest" (October 19, 2014)

The President is not a priest

There are two recent pieces that were quite irritating and disturbing. Both "Which U.S. Presidents were the most religious?" and "Does Obama's 'God Talk' Stand A Chance In A Polarized America?" convey a wide variety of assumptions, misconceptions, and implications. Though it is true that there is no way to completely separate religion and politics it does not mean that we should not make every effort to do so. Our government is by design secular. Religious conservatives are wrong in their claims that we are a "Christian Nation." In the entire US Constitution there are only two references to religion and both are in effect negative. We are not a theocracy. What an individual president personally believes and/or believed in regard to religion should not matter. It is the presidents job to govern the nation as a whole rather than cater to a specific group of people. He is the president not a member of the clergy.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Quotation

"To say that this Timeless God began Time along with the Universe at a time when there was no Time implies that at that moment when He initiated this Unique Event He was engaged in a Time, or at a time in order to bring this Event about. He did something. What brought that Event about?"
Peter A. Angeles
The Problem of God: A Short Introduction

"Angry Atheist" Debunked

The myth of the angry atheist has been pretty thoroughly dismantle on numerous occasions by a variety of other so this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. However, I thought it worth posting since "The Myth of the Angry Atheist" is one of the first studies of its kind to be published. Brian P. Meier (Gettysburg College), Adam Fetterman (North Dakota State University), Michael D. Robinson
(North Dakota State University,Main Campus), and Courtney M. Lappas (Lebanon Valley College) do an excellent job systematically taking apart this ridiculous bigoted stereotype.

King of Contradictions

It seems that the Pope is looking to earn himself a title similar to one commonly ascribe to Jesus. Instead of the "King of Kings" Francis is vying for the "King of Contradictions." His stance on cracking down on frivolous pampered clergy really does seem to be just a matter of PR window dressing. The Religious News Service headlines for February 10th unintentionally provided an excellent visual reference:

Notice the juxtaposition of "Ousted 'Bling Bishop' makes soft landing in Vatican" with "Pope Francis faces a big week in his effort to reform the Vatican." Umm, what reform? The German Bishop was supposedly fired for his flagrant misuse and abuse of funds. Problem with that line s that he wasn't actually fired. Just so we are clear about the message I will quote a National Catholic Reporter piece from March 2014.
"Pope Francis on Tuesday effectively fired a German bishop who had attracted controversy for extraordinary expenses on a new diocesan center, sending a signal that he is willing to oust bishops who do not align with his vision of a 'poor church for the poor.'"
What really occured was that the Pope set him aside while a new cushier position could be created for this corrupt asshole. According to the "Ousted..." piece shown above, "The post was created for Tebartz-van Elst and has the hallmarks of a “make-work” job because the Vatican couldn’t figure out what else to do with the prelate." What's wrong with doing what they said they'd do: fire his greedy ass.

This, by the way, is just another example of Francis contradiction. Another recent one includes his statements like "Pope Francis Says Catholics Don't Need To Breed 'Like Rabbits'" being quickly followed by "Couples Who Choose Not To Have Children Are 'Selfish,' Pope Says" I have pointed it out before and I'll keep pointing it out that this Pope is only set apart from his predecessors in style. When it comes to substance he really is indistinguishable from other popes.



Sunday, February 8, 2015

Quotation

"How can a preacher talk with a straight face about political graft? He is, himself, profiting by one of the most notorious political grafts in this country."
E. Haldeman-Julius
"The Church Is a Burden, Not a Benefit, In Social Life"