Sunday, June 28, 2015


"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


"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?