Category Archives: Religion

Indistinguishable from fiction

When we see thinking that is wrong we have to say, in the kindest and most helpful tone possible, perhaps, that it is wrong. For example, the earth is roughly 4 billion years old. If someone wants to claim it is 10,000 years old, they need to be told they are wrong. The writings of superstitious Bronze Age mystics can’t be taken as credible evidence for such a theory given the overwhelming evidence for a very old earth. The two theories are unequal by a long shot.

When I dismiss the Bible as “the writings of superstitious Bronze Age mystics” I am not trying to be disrespectful, I’m trying to be accurate. A depiction of the authors of the Bible as holy men in direct contact with god is fanciful in any rational sense. The same is true with the notions of heaven, hell, original sin, divine conception, resurrection, Doom’s Day, and so on. They are indistinguishable from fiction. None of it meets any of the standards that we have for considering something “believable”. Every religion has as much direct evidence as the ancient Greeks and Romans had for Zeus and Venus. I’m not trying to be unkind, I’m stating an obvious fact.

But I recognize that this fact still befuddles many people. They believe in god and they believe in an afterlife and they are not at all ready to listen to what I’m saying. That’s fine. I’m not on a mission of conversion. I think it is important that people think rationally — religion is a corruption of the mind in this sense. It helps keep the door open to dogmatic, arbitrary and wholly unsupported thinking. Furthermore, such beliefs are considered to be “off the table”. Under the guise of respect we treat fanciful mythology as perfectly acceptable.

Why? The more you think about it the more it boggles the mind.

I must add my standard atheist disclaimer: I don’t know if there is a god or not and I don’t know what happens when you die. I’ve calculated the odds of each and found the likelihood vanishingly small. My calculation is subject to change. There is no faith in my position.

(This started as a comment.)

At least 65,000 Catholics are retards

From Fox News:

Nearly 65,000 people have signed an online petition protesting President Obama’s scheduled May 17 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, saying the president’s views on abortion and stem cell research “directly contradict” Roman Catholic teachings.

It’s hard for me to even comment on this. How weak is your goddamn faith if you can’t hear THE PRESIDENT OF THE FUCKING UNITED STATES SPEAK AT YOUR UNIVERSITY.

Jesus Fucking Christ, these people are idiots.

True Christians

From an interesting article at People for the American Way (via The Minnesota Independent)

“Barack Obama’s choice of Joe Biden sends a clear message, true Christians need not apply in the Democratic Party,” said Dr. Gary Cass, Chairman and CEO of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission. “Instead of picking a true Christian, Obama, a fake evangelical, has selected Biden, a fake Catholic.”

The CADC proclaims its mission is to “advance religious liberty for Christians by protecting Christians from defamation, discrimination, and bigotry from any and all sources,” but that apparently doesn’t apply to those it considers “fake” Christians such as Obama and Biden. It might seem odd that an organization founded to protect Christians from defamation would among the most frequently and vocally defaming Obama’s faith, but only if you don’t understand that Cass’s mission is reserved solely for those he deems “true Christians” who have proven their faith via “actions and [holding] the beliefs personified by all of us who proclaim the name of Jesus Christ as Savior: the need to be re-born in Christ and the affirmation of historic Christianity, having a demonstrable and proven record of support for traditional Christian morality.”

It’s hilarious that an organization with the words “Christian Anti-Defamation” in their name would defame the Christian faith of Obama and Biden.

I’m an atheist but I’ve read the New Testament several times, back when I was a Catholic, and these “true Christians” seem to me like the people who Jesus would rightly reject as hypocrites.

Beware of people who tell you what God wants. They are always delusional or liars.

The real lesson of the Westboro Baptist Church

Here’s the deal — almost every thinking person thinks the Westboro Baptist Church is completely full of shit. They are evil, intolerant little fucks who put words into God’s mouth and act as if they have the complete and utter backing of the most supreme being in the universe, even as they spread hate and intolerance throughout the nation.

The problem is — they are no different from any other religious sect. ALL OF THEM make assumptions about what God wants and what God likes and doesn’t like. I don’t believe that any of you know what God wants. I don’t believe that any of you have some direct line of communication to God and I don’t believe that an ancient, tortured text like the Bible includes the true word of God in any way, shape or form.

So religion is arbitrary. It’s made up.

Now if you take as your initial premise that there is a God and that he did create and does interact with us pitiful humans, things get complicated. If you pull this initial premise out of your ass, it changes how you think about this stuff. You are assuming there is truth and you need to find those things which support it. You pick and choose from the Bible and make your own cafeteria-style faith based on your intuitions. It’s still just as arbitrary as the Westboro Baptist Church.

People accuse atheists of being moral relativists, but really it is religious people who invent a confused and contradictory morality out of thin air. This is why we have extremist Islam, fag-hating Christians and cults like the Mormons who have sex with minors and systematically abuse women.

Yes, many religious people are good people and many religious organization do good things in the world. But it’s all based on a house of cards and a fictional God and we are right to reject it.

PZ Myers is a great man

This is awesome:

The Great Desecration

Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanities’ knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma

Speaking of annoying

The Liberal Debutante posted Why Atheists Annoy Me. I’m sure she is a very nice, smart person but I find that article completely annoying because it repeats all the same, lame criticisms that atheists are constantly barraged with by theists. It gets even worse in the comments.

It’s annoying because the other side of this little debate is full of ridiculously self-righteous people who believe they are going to heaven and we are going to hell. They, in their weird little minds, literally have God on their side. If you take as your initial premise that your actions are sanctioned by God and those on the other side are damned by God, we are not going to have a real conversation. Thus, we don’t. Atheists do a great job of talking to other atheists and theists do a great job of talking to other theists. We virtually never really talk to each other. (I’ll point out as an exception my excellent interview with Ernan McMullin.)

So, to quickly run down her list, lectures are not annoying, conferences are not annoying, Dawkins is not annoying, intelligence should not even be on that list, atheists are probably the most open minded people on earth, to a degree that is shocking to many theists, atheists are positive and spirituality is a feeling that is always better explained with non-supernatural explanations.

Dear Katie, if your life is a monoculture of atheism, yes, you should be annoyed. If it’s not, please go back and delete this post! :) It’s the equivalent of writing a post called “Why Women Annoy Me”. Some women are annoying. Some men are annoying. Some theists are annoying. Some atheists are annoying. The list goes on and nothing good comes from it.

A Real Cause of Atheism

After having recently interviewed Ernan McMullin I found this page on writings by Christian scientists. These are the lot that Myers and Dawkins tend to not talk about because they make sense. I still tend to think their theology is silly but at least it doesn’t conflict with scientific principles.

I found this quote interesting from Is Evolution Atheistic? by Dr Denis Alexander:

Evolution itself is not atheistic. A robust Christian theism readily encompasses evolution as an expression of God’s creative actions. But, sadly, there are prominent scientists, like the Harvard sociobiologist E.O.Wilson, who left their earlier Christian experience to become atheists because they faced hostility to evolution. Arguably, attacks by well-meaning Christians on evolution promote rather than counteract atheism.

It makes two great points: 1) Evolution does not at all deny the existence of God; and 2) Ignorant attacks on evolution by well-meaning Christians actually undermines their aims.

Framing: Duh

Over at scienceblogs there is a recurring argument debate about “framing”. My definition of framing is wording an argument in a manner that your audience is going to be most receptive to. It’s crafting an argument carefully with the goal of convincing people of its authenticity.

Using this definition its literally self-evident that if you want to convince people of something that you should approach your argument in a manner most likely to do so! That’s just obvious.

It’s a separate question whether you should have that goal or not. I.E. it would be a tedious world if everyone always spoke with utter care for maximum convincing power. I’m going to talk about religion differently if I’m with a bunch of atheists than I do if I’m at a funeral. Sometimes we preach to the choir and enjoy reveling in our superior views.

But, yes, if your goal is to convince, framing is a no-brainer.

Generally the framing debate at scienceblogs relates to the “new atheists” and the “battle of science and religion”. Dawkins and Myers alienate the people they are trying to convince, says one side. Dawkins and Myers respond: fuck you, we have every right to speak our opinions when and how we feel.

They are both right.

Dawkins and Myers do alienate the people they are trying to convince by focusing on the most radical and ridiculous examples of religion. That’s not all they do, by a long shot and I agree with them on literally almost everything. But they do alienate people. That’s a fact whether you like it or not. Religious moderates, who are an important political ally of secularists, are painted with the same broad brush as loonies like young earth creationists.

But on the other hand, and really more importantly, what Dawkins and Myers have done is say what they think. They used their best judgment. They have no responsibility to religious moderates, secularists or anyone else. Their words have been a very important part of the debate and we would be much poorer without them. We’re all grown ups and we should be able to handle it if it gets a little rough sometimes.

The Lolife Podcast No. 75

Here is a very interesting interview I did with Ernan McMullin. He is a fascinating guy who knew Schrodinger and Carl Sagan. He is a priest and he studied theoretical physics. He is currently the O’Hara Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and the godfather of a good friend of mine. I blogged about him before in regards to Intelligent Design, which he thinks is nonsense on both scientific and theological grounds. It’s a fairly long but highly interesting interview. Check it out!

Download/Listen (MP3, 01:13:19, 34.4MB)
Subscribe (RSS)

Why IDiots are idiots

Here’s what we know:

1. 13.73 billion years ago, the universe was created.
2. Somewhere around 4 billion years ago the Earth was created.
3. Around 3 billion years ago, life formed.
4. Life evolved and grew more and more complex and diverse.
5. Today there are millions of species.

The Intelligent Design (ID) movement, exemplified by the movie Expelled, has a problem with #4. They think God mucked around in #4. Science doesn’t have a theory (yet) for how the universe was created (#1). We know exactly what happened milliseconds after the Big Bang, but we don’t know how the Big Bang banged. We don’t have much of a theory about how life was created (although we are making significant progress) (#3). We have really, really good theories of #2 and #4. They are based on hardcore science and have been argued about and tested very thoroughly.

So if you are fervently religious and want to believe that God did #1 and #3, fine, great, have at it. We’ll probably prove you wrong on #3 someday but for #1, God snapping his fingers is as good of theory as any.

But why would you argue with #4? Evolution is obvious. Natural selection is obvious and if you think God is smart then he might think of a way to do things that was clever! He didn’t zap fully formed humans into existence He created a beautiful machine that opened up like a flower over billions of years from which stepped a mind capable of wondering and worshipping. Evolution is a testament to the patience and the brilliance of God. Science is never and could never be at odds with the will of the Creator.

So ID isn’t just bad science, it’s bad theology, it’s bad philosophy, it’s bad everything. It’s especially destructive because it falsely presents itself as being on the side of believers. That is nonsense. True believers are in awe of God’s creation, including the Big Bang, the old earth and natural selection. Science studies God’s creation, it doesn’t oppose it.

I-35 — A holy road to the insane

I heard this story mentioned on NPR and if you do a Google search you’ll see it was on a lot of national media.

They call it the “Highway of Holiness.” Others call it Interstate 35.
Evangelicals throughout the Midwest, from Laredo, Texas, to Duluth, Minn., have been praying at 24-hour prayer rooms for a month for Interstate 35 in order to “light the highway.”

…The scriptural basis for the new movement comes from Isaiah 35:8, which reads, “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it.” Because of chapter 35, believers say the highway mentioned must be Interstate 35. In addition, a number of people in the “Highway of Holiness” movement claim to have had prophetic experiences that involve Interstate 35.

Now there is a phrase for this: COMPLETELY FUCKING CRAZY. I was appalled at how “respectful” everyone was being about this. This is insane. You are insane if you believe that Interstate 35 is written about in the Bible. This sort of quackery should be ridiculed and these people evaluated for possible institutionalization. They should be arrested for abusing their children with this insanity. The last thing we should treat this tripe with is respect.

Shelter your children from ideas

Of course the Jesus freaks are up in arms about the upcoming movie The Golden Compass because it was written by…gasp…an atheist! The Head Retard of the Catholic League is concerned:

Our concern is this, unsuspecting Christian parents may want to take their kid to the movie, it opens up December 7th and say, this wasn’t troubling, then we’ll buy the books. So the movie is the bait for the books which are profoundly anti-Catholic and at the same time selling atheism.

First of all, this series of books is really, really entertaining and IT’S FICTION! It’s made-up stories about a made-up world. It is no more “selling atheism” than Narnia is selling Christianity. Bill Donohue has proven once again that he is an intolerant bully with his head up his ass.

Second of all, even if this book was “selling atheism”, you and your kids can still enjoy it and make up your own minds. Can’t you? Are you capable of making up your own mind? Are yours kids capable of being exposed to different ideas? Or do you need to shelter them in a little dome of ignorance?

This movie looks like it is going to be awesome.

Einstein was pretty much an atheist

In response to the comment on PZ sums it up for us:

Two thoughts.

1. Einstein was pretty much an atheist by modern standards although technically probably a deist. I agree with his notion of the mystery of it all and I don’t object to calling the mystery “god”, I just think it is a horrible name for it. Atheists are not like he describes us. We are mistaken for that because of…

2. Part of what you are feeling is that, once you accept atheism for what it truly is — a rejection of claims without proof — the coddling that religion enjoys seems utterly daft. I think religion is ridiculous. I am amazed at the number of highly intelligent people who do not reject its flawed, overblown and largely intolerant and unhelpful claims. Yes, religious people are capable of all sorts of great things. They are great people. Its just not their religion that makes them so. Often it is in spite of their religion that religious people are great people. The religion isn’t helping and according to some its hurting.

This is a painful observation to people who are spiritual. They don’t feel ridiculous and they are not happy with this characterization. I understand that. It doesn’t change the fact that I am not a radical by saying it. They are “radicals” because they believe a bunch of nonsense for reasons that, under scrutiny, are much more tenuous than they would like to believe.

Now add on top of this that religious people feel they have the moral high ground, that atheists are evil, immoral and will deservedly suffer for eternity in Hell and the fact that a large population in this country believes in creationism, a 6000 year old Earth and the Second Coming…it is we, the godless, who are force-fed the radicalism. And now that there are a few more percent of us speaking out, we take on criticism like this — that we are mean and hostile. It’s utterly fucking daft. We’re mean and hostile because we are surrounded by people who speak, as if fact, about how Jesus Christ entered their lives and speak of evolution, cosmology and physics as if they are bad lies made up by a conspiracy of evil scientists.

You’ll note that Einstein was solidly on the side of science. He was barely, if at all, on the side of the theists. He was uncomfortable with that last quantum leap, just like you.

Atheism != Hopelessness

I read a quote by James Lipton, the guy that hosts “Inside the Actor’s Studio”. He was asked his own question: “If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?”

He said “You see Jim, you were wrong, I exist, but you may come in anyway”.

It would be foolish to not want to exist forever. Everyone wants that. Just like everyone wants to win the lottery. I hate to tell you this, but you are never going to win the lottery. Does that make your life hopeless? Or course not. While we all would love to have highly improbably really great things happen to us, most often they don’t. You are not going to win the lottery.

You are also not going to exist forever. In fact, nothing lasts forever. Eventually the sun and the earth will be gone. Nothing exists forever. This is the natural state of things.

But look on the bright side, you exist! What a lovely miracle. You get some 80 years to live your life and learn and laugh and love. Think of all the things that won’t ever exist. Lucky you.

We don’t know what happens when we die. We don’t know why this is all here. But as lovely as it is to make believe that we are the chosen beings of some universe-creating supergod, there is no reason whatsoever to think so. You are alive. That is very, very special. Be happy with that.

Jesus and Kathy Griffin

This is hilarious:

Her point is valid and I’m surprised that the pious aren’t more offended by very rich people thanking Jesus for keeping them in money, blow and whores.

Muslims should have no reason to think that Mohammed will never be depicted in cartoons and Christians should have no reason to think that Jesus won’t ever be joked about. Welcome to Earth, a planet of 7 billion people, none of whom agree with you on everything or even most things. You can hope, but not expect, that everyone is going to be respectful of your wishes.

Says Fox News:

I want to actually show you that, in fact, Kathy Griffin is wrong. Jesus had everything to do with her winning that award. And here’s the reasoning.

Jesus died on a cross 2,000 years ago. His dying words were, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” He died and they buried him in a rock cut tomb. Three days later, as the Bible says, he rose from the dead. That day is what Christians celebrate as Easter.

After the resurrection, Christianity began to take off like wildfire, spreading from the Middle East northward to Europe and westward into Ethiopia. In 300 A.D. Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity and it beccame the religion of Europe. Rome soon became the seat of the faith. After several years of human failings, the church went through conflicts and quite a few unbiblical years — the crusades and the inquisition to name just two. Out of that came the Reformation — the reforming of the Church, sort of a back-to-basics Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Out of the Reformation emerged a vision of law by Samuel Rutherford, called Lex is Rex, Law is King. From that, others devised a secular version that is used to help lay the foundation of government for a new land called America. Ninety-four percent of America’s founding era documents mention the Bible; 34 percent quote the Bible directly. The idea of bringing unity to the universal is a particularly Biblical concept.

The freedoms we enjoy in this country to speak freely and to live freely are directly related to that man who died on a cross 2,000 years ago.

So, you see, Kathy Griffin, Jesus has everything to do with you winning that award.

I rest my case.

Christian thugs

Griffin’s ‘offensive’ Emmy speech to be censored

A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. Can you believe this shit? Hell has frozen over. Suck it, Jesus, this award is my god now.

I’m so sick of the fucking Catholic League. They are a bunch of thugs that try to squash any speech which does not honor their mythological gods. You know, the Catholic pantheon of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary and a gazillion saints. The Christians are becoming just as bad as the Muslims, with this false idea that we all need to revere whom they revere. It’s crap and we shouldn’t put up with it. It is not “hate speech”, it is simply the speech of people who have no reason whatsoever to treat him, her of the other guy with reverence.

I don’t expect you to revere whom I revere and you should not expect me to revere who you revere.

The truth hurts: Religion is harmful

I read an unfavorable review of The God Delusion. The link I clicked to get there suggested it was written by a “rational atheist”. (Like there is any other kind.) If the reviewer is an atheist, they are the world’s most religiously sympathetic atheist I’ve ever seen. I don’t care if they are an atheist or not and I don’t really care that they don’t like the book. What bothers me is the review is full of nonsense. For example:

This leads to a form of confirmation bias on the part of atheists. They look into the distant past, see some actions we disapprove of in the modern world, notice that the people who chose the actions had a religious world view, and conclude that the religious world view caused the problem.

Fuck the past. I don’t give a rat’s ass about the Spanish Inquisition or the Crusades, the two examples the reviewer defends. Religion is a detrimental force in the world today in very tangible ways. Let’s run a few of them down.

1. Abstinence-only sex education programs. The “pro life” crowd has caused more unwanted babies in the world than everyone else combined. Teenagers do have sex and the result of the ignorance campaign perpetrated by the religious right has caused the spread of disease and unwanted pregnancies. It hasn’t stopped people from having sex.

2. Undermining science education. People are proud activists on a crusade to force science education to take their religious views into account. That is absurd. Science literacy is bad enough in this world without having these zealots try to cram their idealogical agenda into it. Send your kids to a religious school if you want them to learn how the earth is 6,000 years old and God zapped Adam and Eve fully into existence in an instant. Leave your religion out of our public education system.

3. Politics. Religious litmus tests are one of the downfalls of our democracy here in the USA. Politicians must pander to the religious. You’ll recall pastors kicking people out of their congregation for supporting the wrong candidate. How about the Republican debate where only one or two hands went up in support of evolution? Religious people are insuring that we can only choose from superstitious retards theists for public office.

4. War. Sad but true, the religious right are the same people who want America to dominate the world through military power. I don’t know why this correlation is true, but it is. They want us to crush the Palestinians, bomb Iran, invade Iraq and go to war with North Korea. What is it about “thou shalt not kill” that is unclear? What about the compassion and gentleness of Jesus Christ leads you to believe he would support modern warfare? When you mention this they always bring up some old testament crap. And this is without mentioning the explicit religious conflicts like Iraq, the Balkans, Northern Ireland and many others. Religion causes war today.

They go on:

Dawkins spends a great deal of time damning religion, but spends very little time highlighting the real-world positive effects of an atheistic world view. That is because, beyond the sciences, atheists really don’t have anything to crow about.

The sciences are unarguably the most important thing, period, in terms of human progress ever. Science has tangibly improved lives, saved lives, raised standards of living and helped us to unlock tremendous power. Science is successful because it is naturalistic, a dirty word to theists. So the writer should have said “beyond the most important thing to humanity ever…”. Yes, idiot, its science that we’re concerned about. Atheism is largely a political movement to protect science and rational thinking. Invoking ancient scripture or mythical beings is the antithesis of scientific thinking. I don’t care if y’all do it at home, just leave it out of our schools and our politics.

“The God Delusion” is a trite, shallow unimaginative book.

I’ve just started reading The God Delusion and I think it is brilliant, concise, fair and well written. The reviewer is obviously offended by the rough handling of religion in the book. As Truman said, “I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.” The truth hurts when Dawkins is telling it.