I've Moved!

Atheist Morality is now West Coast Atheist at Wordpress. Stop on by and feel free to comment over there!

28 December, 2010

Santapologists

Those who follow and are critical of Apologetics will appreciate this blog that presents the arguments for a loving Santa. Happy Holidays, everyone!



27 December, 2010

Another Year in the War on Christmas

Many religious bloggers and opinion pages are continuing to propagate the "War of Christmas" (that they actually started when they found out there were other holidays around this time of year that people decided to recognize by saying, "Happy Holidays" instead of only greeting Christians with best wishes for the season). They point out that even atheists celebrate Christmas. Oh my goodness! This must mean something for their side! They say ignorant things like, "How can they celebrate Christmas without thinking of the person who gave the holiday it's name?"


Excuse me, but Christ didn't give the holiday its name, (it's not even really his birthday) the Catholic Church did, and it's only its current name. Before that, Saturn gave it its name: Saturnalia. Before that, Isis. All on December 25, all celebrating the same principle of birth/rebirth of the seasons in the form of a God or Goddess. Celebrating these changes was important to agricultural societies who relied completely on this "Wheel" (or, traditionally in ancient N. Europe, "Yule") of the seasons to keep turning. From Yule logs to carolers, to decorating trees, these "Christian" traditions have outlasted the religions they originated from.


So how can an atheist celebrate Christmas without Christ? The same way a Christian decorates a tree without paying tribute to the Druids. Christmas time for me, personally, is a warm break from the coldness of winter, a time to share with family, a time to be a little bit kinder to each other because we're all facing the hard, cold months ahead. It's a gathering of humanity in the spirit of sharing and caring. It has as much to do with a two-thousand year old legendary figure for me as Saturnalia has to to do with those attending midnight mass. So this War on Christmas? It's all in the heads of the Christians who not only want the state to recognize Christianity as an official religion, but insist that we all celebrate our holidays the way they want us to. So I say, Happy Holidays to everyone. Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year and may there be many bright spots as we head into the coldest and darkest months of the year.




23 December, 2010

Climate Skeptics Are Like Creationists

Some people might say that climate skeptics are simply taking the same position as atheists: they hear a claim and reject it until sufficient evidence shows the claim is substantial. The problem here is that their analogy is flawed. An atheist waits for evidence of God that goes outside of simple coincidence and anecdotal stories of people recovering well after receiving care from doctors. The simple fact is that observable and measurable evidence never comes. Theists themselves claim that God can't be measured, therefore the proof must be philosophical or circumstantial.

Climate scientists make no such claims about Climate Change/Global Warming. They don't reduce the argument to philosophy and circumstance, they actually measure the temperatures of the different layers of the atmosphere and observe and record weather patterns and activities. It's absurd to try to confound theology with climatology.

There's simply no reason to think that thousands of scientists are lying or mistaken about what they have seen in study after study. It is the skeptics themselves that are the most like the theists (and most likely to be theists themselves by demographic). The people making claims against the scientists are not actually climate scientists themselves. In fact, in research for a paper I wrote, I found that one of the most outspoken critics of the IPCC report was being paid by Exxon Mobil. Another received over $200,000 from coal companies. Neither had a background in climatology.

I discovered a site in my research by climate scientists from all over the world that started a blog to inform people about climate change and explain the data in somewhat layman's terms (which means that you won't pick up the info straight out of high school and some terms you'll have to google or look in the archives for, but you don't have to have a degree in climatology to follow their posts). It's called realclimate.org and they have a great, easy to navigate site with links to common questions and common rebuttals by climate skeptics. They also link to other websites that address skeptics.

I found this link particularly interesting as it has a lot of the questions the so-called liberal news media picks up and runs with on a regular basis, such as This is just a natural cycle and It's cold today, so they must be wrong. And for more info, many of these sites point to NOAA and NASA for information about the Earth's mean temperature. Could these guys really be so wrong about this? These are the same people that sent us to the moon. Anyone holding to the claims of the climate skeptics with so much evidence out there is clearly the kind of person that could hold onto a delusion despite all evidence. It's a dogmatic position and the position of the atheist is from neutrality. They are worlds apart. The skeptics are more closely related to the Creationists who repeatedly deny fossil and DNA evidence for the evolution of biological organisms. The analogy is broken.

08 December, 2010

Came to Unbelieve, Pt 2

I was probably ten when the idea that Santa Claus wasn't real finally solidified into a realization that my parents had been pretending all along for fun. I was ok with that. It didn't bother me in the least. I realized I had probably suspected it for awhile. My second grade teacher's handwriting looked a lot like Santa's writing in his response to me that year. My little sister had the same teacher the next year and I remember Santa's letter saying he was 100 years old, even though by that time he should have been 101 because he had told me in my letter that he was 100.

So the length of time from that suspicion to finally admitting non belief was a year or two. It wasn't a big deal and it didn't hurt. Neither did my belief in God, at first.

If I could have dropped God when I first did, at the age of twelve, I wouldn't have spent my teenage years as a Wiccan or my early twenties as a non-Christian believer. (Pretty much, I believed in "God" but didn't define it through the Christian faith. I adopted "God" as the definition of a loving supernatural being having a great deal of interest in keeping me sober through Alcoholics Anonymous). More importantly, it wouldn't have bothered me so much at 25 when I realized the mortal state of my body and the end of my own consciousness. Atheists who grow up atheists don't express having this problem.

Anyway, the first time I called myself "Atheist" was at twelve years old. My parents divorced despite my prayers to a God I just knew would take care of me and fix my family. My cat got hit by a car. I had always believed that Jesus would keep us safe no matter what before that. I loved Jesus more than anything in the world. I talked to him even though he didn't talk to me back (much like my stuffed toy, Brown Bunny, but she was real to me, too).

Then I slowly realized that the Bible was made up of a story of the line of one family. I knew already that the story started after dinosaurs and protohumans had roamed the earth. I knew from reading the bible that there were other people around during Adam and Eve's time despite it saying that all men came from Adam and Eve. In my young mind, I figured that the Bible might have been written for the sole purpose of telling people how great their family was. I realized when I got older that it is actually the story of the leaders of a nomadic people in the Middle East. Same basic concept.

I expressed this to a school friend who said, "Yeah, probably, but I don't want to talk about it. My belief is important to me." I didn't tell anyone else. I went through the years not really thinking about God much. At fifteen or sixteen I was introduced to someone who was studying Wicca and I liked the idea that I could use my intention to bend the will of the universe. Even so, in the back of my mind I knew that the rituals were just a way to physically signify my own determination and intentions. It was fun. In fact, I'd still practice it today if I had room in my apartment, but without the chants and invocations. It would be a way to meditate and solidify my decisions. Nothing wrong with it, in my opinion.

I found "God" again later. But that's a story for another day. I was a practicing Wiccan until I was 19 and after that only did a few more spells. Recovery brought me to a whole new concept of "Higher Power."


07 December, 2010

Miracle?

Unseasonably dry weather in Lebanon facilitates wildfires to spread across the nation, destroying forests and orchards and leaving people devastated. Finally, Monday morning, the first rain in two months comes. The Lebanese are calling it a miracle.


I can't help but wonder why rain couldn't have come before 43 people were killed. Why did the fires burn for a week? Also, why couldn't God have sent rain months ago and prevented the whole disaster?


These are the questions that believers in miracles never can answer convincingly. Usually, they are brushed off with "God works in mysterious ways," or, "Suffering happens so we can know sympathy and know his glory when he performs miracles."


If I were God, I'd stop being mysterious and start helping out the people I supposedly love instead of teaching them lessons in "sympathy."



05 December, 2010

Came to Unbelieve, Pt 1

It was springtime. I had recently started walking with a friend of mine around her neighborhood to try to shed some extra pounds. Up and down the steep hills of her Placerville neighborhood we would trek, catching our breath to talk about life, love, and any number of things that troubles twenty-somethings these days. I knew she felt the same way about religion as my own recently found feelings, but I didn't know how to express them.

"So, you know I took that philosophy class a while back, and I've really been looking into faith and I have come to realize I don't know-I mean I don't think-well, I just-I don't really believe anymore. In God. But atheist is treated as such a bad word that I don't even really want to use it yet. So what do I say to people when they ask me?" The question was sincere. I really hadn't wanted to start using the "A" word. I was hoping there was something else I could say that might be clear enough to end any conversation about religion and not bring anymore questions that might lead to me having to say, "I'm an atheist."

She put it simply for me, "My mom tells people she's a Secular Humanist." Zing! And that was what I went by for months, not realizing that there was a whole organization out there that called themselves just that. It was perfect, but for the purpose of softening the blow (especially to my mother) I opted to add in addition to this "Secular Humanism" that I was also a strong believer that something like "The Force" was at work in the Universe; some unknown, impersonal and unconscious power was at work, as long as a person was willing to use it.

Later, when I made the switch to "Atheist," I definitely got reactions from people. By then, I expected it.  Bill Maher's "Religulous" inspired me to seek out videos regarding creationism on YouTube. There, I found that hundreds of scientists and educated people had started channels for the sake of debating and informing people about science and scientific discoveries while showing the absurdities of Intelligent Design and the 6,000 year old earth. Further clicking led me to more sites where users were debating the major philosophical arguments for the existence of God, familiar to me through the class I had taken. Around this same time, someone close to me who had recently converted to Baptism had let me borrow, "I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist" by Geisler and Turek. All arguments in that book were addressed by these amateur film-makers and YouTube scientists and activists.

I had to relearn the definition of "Atheist." I was told my whole life that they were close-minded people with bad intentions and no moral ground. After all, how could they be so certain there was no God. I got my answer: they aren't. An honest atheist, or an atheist who came to be an atheist through searching for God, or one who grew up in a secular household will never tell you they know there is no God. They simply reject the claims of theists. Atheist isn't a belief there is no God. It's no belief in any God.

If a person tells me that elves make shoes every night for an old man on Main Street, I don't believe that extraordinary claim until that person shows me proof beyond a reasonable doubt that elves are in fact making shoes. If someone makes the extraordinary claim that there is a magical, immeasurable and perfect being who made the universe and that everything science has studied about life is wrong, I need to see some definitive evidence.

It can't be flimsy, either, because of the sheer nature of such a claim. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I wouldn't send anyone to the electric chair for less, why would I base my entire world view, and possibly my "soul" (and my Sunday mornings) on anything less?  What if I got the wrong God? I realized that this was the approach I had been taking the whole time I was on my journey to find God, I just hadn't realized that I was already an atheist when I started. I thought I was "agnostic," a term often confused with "unsure one way or the other." (Agnostic really is a position that no one can ever know whether God exists).

Having finally defined myself as an atheist, I started coming out. The reactions were huge and emotional at times, and even harder inside my own feelings toward the prospect of a universe without any supernatural authority or justice, but I slowly began mustering the courage to tell people that I no longer believed, and why.

Came to Unbelieve, Intro

It's not a short road between faith and atheism. I've briefly explained some of the past beliefs I've held and things that led me here, but I think that an elaboration is in order. It isn't to make it seem as if my way is better (leave that to my more snarky posts, teehee) or that my journey is typical of all atheists. It's probably more for those close to me who still don't understand how I got from one to the other. It would seem to them that it happened in a short amount of time, but the fact is that I held  a lot back for a long time, simply for their sake.

I'm going to try to keep it to specific events that were turning points for me. I'll try to keep them brief and to the point, but some things will need more explaining than others and some will need to be backed by links and background information, such as philosophical arguments and writings. Some things, I hope, will speak for themselves, even to people who still believe as I used to believe. Perhaps they have had the same questions and found different answers for themselves. For me, the result of my journey to find God left me an atheist. I'm not saying that everyone in my position or with similar experiences is bound to find the same thing.

The story won't be linear at times. I'll try to make clear what happened when, but some things I won't remember many details about, as is true of all personal stories. Bear with me, life is a complex adventure where nothing fits neatly into little boxes. I hope my story will do the same.

25 November, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving blessing from Herb Silverman, President, Secular Coalition for America:



"Let us take a moment to think about where the food we are about to enjoy has come from and to acknowledge those who worked to bring us this food. Let us appreciate the earth, the sun, the air, and the water needed to nourish the plants and animals. Let us thank the farmer who cared for the plants and animals and the migrant worker who toiled to harvest the crops. Let us thank the laborer who processed the food, the truck driver who brought the food, and the grocery store workers who displayed it. Finally, let us thank our friends who prepared this meal and have provided us with the opportunity to be together and share each other's company."

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



21 November, 2010

Sometimes Comedy Says It Better

I'd like to share a YouTube video that popped up in my subscription box this week. It's by an artist/comedian atheist I started following for his ability to use wit to show the absurdities of theism in a fun and entertaining way. This latest video is called If God Were A Car . Please watch, rate and sub.



20 November, 2010

God Appointed Hitler

A YouTube user named ProfMTH makes a good point in his latest video titled, "God Appointed Hitler? (The New Testament, Government, & Morality)." Passages in the New Testament clearly gives governments in power a divine mandate. These passages have propped up the Divine Right of Kings through centuries of oppression, yet Theists claim that morality can only come from the Bible and that without it, Hitler's actions could not be judged as "wrong." This video makes a point that the Bible would have supported Hitler's power. The fact that he gained power would be treated as a sign of blessing from God himself if judged with the splintered moral ruler of the New Testament.


What's more, and is not addressed in the video, is that the entire US revolution would have been an offense to God himself and Tea Partiers would be damned for eternity for not gladly following Holy Decree. Of course, a Christian or Theist could counter (as they often do when pointing out the horrors of the Bible) that one must look at the "context of the times" or read it as metaphorical or as a teaching. However, I think it's clear why those passages made it into the Bible when Constantine needed a religion to legitimize his power and the power of all who came after him. It is in direct opposition of passages such as these that the words of the First Amendment were written, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."



Dembski Fail

I'm not sure how well received Hithchen's arguments were at a Christian school, especially after said school coached the audience beforehand, but reading from A Texan Baptist news journal article, I noticed that Dembski is quoted as saying “Secularism can be just as ideologically driven as religion,” because "Atheism demands evolution."


Another theist missing the point entirely, but I'm sure it went unnoticed among the already-indoctrinated crowd. Atheism, first of all, doesn't demand anything. Not even science demands evolution. If, after review, it was found that all observable evidence didn't support evolution, scientists would be the first people looking for an alternative explanation for the diversity of life. Also, looking at evidence and coming to a conclusion isn't ideologically driven, it's driven by a desire to explain the world around us according to the world we see around us.


Creationists don't understand this and never will, but if they had no church, no Bible and no one telling them that the world was created 6,000 years ago, and they began gathering the evidence around them and looking at it objectively, they'd never come to the conclusion that a magical being made everything. That is the stuff of superstitious, ancient nomadic tribes that had no grasp of science or critical thinking. So-called evidence for Biblical creation always begins with the premise that Biblical creation is true. Creationists will even lie and distort the "evidence" to convince other believers that they have a gold mine of evidence for God. Who, now, is ideologically driven? The group that starts searching, already knowing their conclusion or the group that starts with a question?



14 November, 2010

Atheism: In Your Words

The Guardian has released an article about a video on the YouTube channel, The Thinking Atheist, that features viewers telling their own search for answers that eventually led them to atheism. Also poignant is the reaction that many of them got from families and friends after "coming out," which I think many of us can relate to. Here's the link.



03 November, 2010

California Election Results

All I can say is that on this dark day, I can at least be happy that CA has a better memory than the rest of the nation. It took the rest of the US just four years to forget twelve years of Republican fail and only two years to forget eight years of Bush fail. Of course, they refuse to remember anything important in the meantime, like this stuff.


This entry is being cross-posted on all my blogs in honor of the victims of American illiteracy and ignorance, such as the great Ted Strickland and Russ Feingold.



24 October, 2010

Lord, Teach Us To Pray

Matthew 6:5-6
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."


1 Timothy 2:8
"I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing."



The Bible is clear in the first chapter of the New Testament that one should pray quietly and not on street corners. Later, it insists on men praying everywhere. Which is it?

Well, the first quote is said to have come from Jesus himself, so let's go ahead and establish that one as the definitive rule just for the sake of argument. What then, to make of those that are making money selling books on how to proselytize on street corners (Ray Comfort), and the owners of mega churches that broadcast their prayers all over the place (LDS, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen)? If Timothy is correct, these folks are fine. But then what to say about those that modestly pray at home? Shouldn't someone do something about them? They aren't being outspoken enough. Do they still get to go to heaven?


The inherent flaws in the Bible cause so much confusion that there are more than 30,000 sects of Christianity, each with its own set of rules.  All of them rely on scripture to justify their beliefs. How does anyone that is seeking a spiritual life decide how to live? The morality in the Bible is divisive and confusing, not unifying and absolute as Christians would have you believe. If they can't get something as simple as prayer right, can you imagine what else they got wrong? How can you trust the Bible at all?

18 October, 2010

Why Don't I Believe in God?

Look at the world around us. How could I not believe in God?

Well, it's because when I look around at the beauty and wonder of nature and someone says, "Well then, how was this all made?" I think, "The accretion disk from the birth of our sun. Scientists see it happening all over the galaxy." The End.

Being a Radical

Religion and Politics should never be talked about. Because people have told religious and political people that these things shouldn't be talked about. So it seems rude to even bring it up. (Ever think about that? If that saying had never become a popular statement and we all talked openly about these subjects, would we be so divided)? Alas, it's deplorable to even try. You might say it in the nicest way, but it's still going to be looked at as hate speech. It's best to not even try.

I don't believe in agnostics. Agnostic just means "without knowledge" as atheist simply means "without belief." Yet, not carrying a belief is seen as more radical, dangerous, and insulting as someone "without knowledge." So, the end result is atheists who mistakenly call themselves agnostics. They say things like, "I don't know if there's a God," or "I'm waiting for more evidence." These are both atheistic positions; they lack belief. A true agnostic says, "We can't ever know." Most people missed that in philosophy class, if they ever even bothered to take it. Regardless, the vast majority of people don't even want to know this. They'd all rather "just get along."

Being in the middle of the road is seen as some virtue. Some stance that a person can go either direction on an issue. But that's simply not true. In the ballot box, at home, among like-minded individuals, people are more set in their ways than they would ever admit. Moderate Christians at church speak about the divinely inspired Bible while telling their non-theist friends that the Bible is a metaphor that God uses to teach us things. In the end, the people leaning more one way or another is going to defend even the extremist fundamentalists of the crowd. It's human nature.

Seems like the best thing to do is just not have an opinion. People without opinions make the most friends with people who do have opinions. People without opinions don't get called radical. People that take no position, regardless of the wealth of knowledge that might be available on a subject, are seen as "tolerant." Taking an opinion, especially one that might not have been a relatively new one, or one that gets a lot of people pushing back against it (such as "Darwin was right") is seen as stirring the pot or being intolerant, despite the fact that everyone has to listen to the opposite opinion every single day. Not that the opinion is even shared by a majority, but the majority still insists on "tolerance" for these people because, after all, they are just a twisted offshoot of the majority and to do otherwise would be trampling on their right to believe how they want to believe.

The only way to get out of being called a radical for pointing out the faults of a majority faith, or even the faults of it's more extremist sects, is to not have an opinion. Shut your mouth and just nod your head. Never question when people tell you that "The Secret" is all about Quantum Mechanics. Don't say anything when a homeopathic remedy is handed to you that is so diluted that whatever original herb was in there can't even be traced by a mass spectrometer. Stop the urge to speak up when someone says "that a monkey never gave birth to a human being, therefore, evolution is false." If you just lay low and keep quiet, no one will be offended. You will never be blamed for "attacking" someone's "sacred beliefs" and faith. You won't be charged as a radical or a fanatic. No one will ever call you dirty words and hell, maybe your mother will even talk to you again.

15 October, 2010

Morality Without God


This  is a pretty good video that expresses the "morality" of the Bible. The excuses that theists use to justify the stories is addressed with a Dawkins quote at the end.




Ask yourselves, theists: How is it that morality comes straight from the God of the Bible and yet the morality and laws of the modern age are far superior to anything found in the Bible. There is nothing in the Bible that even compares to the progress we've made in modern society. So where is your morality really from?

07 October, 2010

Creating Cells and Growing Limbs

She seemed like such a smart girl. Alas, when I mentioned that scientists had created a cell, she seemed to get a little huffy-puffy. I mentioned how it's possible that someday we'll be able to grow back the arms of amputees. Her response was, "That's bullshit, they can't just play God." I had to smirk. I know it was an arrogant thing to do, but I wanted to see how far she would go to defend her belief.

"God's never grown back an arm," I said. She argued that there were people with different sized legs that had finally grown equal and that her friend was deaf her whole life and faith healers prayed over her and she could hear. I could have pressed, "Who was this person; did she have any medical treatment whatever along with these prayers?" but I don't think it would have made any difference.

I just mentioned that I've never heard of any amputee growing back a limb. She smirked herself at this and said, "You've never heard of anyone growing a limb," as if I was appealing to my own authority or something and she knew more than me. I added that it would be all over the medical journals and the news if it happened. Then I dropped it.

I was leery of this girl before, but now that I know she's fundy-bat-shit crazy, I'm glad I'm starting a new job soon.

If people started miraculously growing limbs with no help from science, I'd think that would give anyone a great excuse to believe in God. If God "just wants us to believe" like so many Christians say, why wouldn't he do something that's never been done that all of us billions here on earth could actually see and believe? Wouldn't that save a lot of us from going to hell? And isn't that the point? Or is God just a total dick that hides out and never shows up except in little coincidences and then insist we worship the raw power he never shows? What a fucked up Supreme Being that would be...

27 September, 2010

Misinformation and Vaccines

Some people still read these articles and think they have any validity, even after the one study that linked vaccines and autism has been peer reviewed and proven to be false. Despite the fact that no doctor or scientist in the world has been able to duplicate the results of that study or have found any link between autism and vaccines, people still insist on staying ignorant. How many of these mothers refusing to vaccinate their children from horrible things like Polio and Measles even know that the mercury they are railing against isn't even used in vaccines anymore and hasn't been used for years? Very few, I'm sure.

So just a word of warning to those who read the following article:

http://www.pregnancy.org/article/conservative-vaccine-schedule


Go over it with a fine-tuned comb. Notice the fallacies and rhetoric the writer uses to try to persuade parents from getting vaccines under the guise of "informing" her readers. This woman has a BA, nothing else and is not a scientist nor a doctor.

Most telling is this paragraph here, where the writer dangerously tells her readers that measles are "rarely fatal."


If you are concerned, remember that many childhood diseases, such as chicken pox, influenza, and even the measles, are rarely fatal. However, severe autism can be a "death sentence" for a lifetime. Consider your options, do some research, and trust your heart as a loving parent.


The vaccine myth crowd has the same pattern of delusion as the super religious. They hold their beliefs despite any evidence to the contrary, saying, "We know the truth" and forever setting the goal posts to falsifying their irrational beliefs ever further away. Be wary, for yourself and for the next generation.

23 September, 2010

Good Article, But...

http://www.collegian.com/index.php/article/2010/09/092310_athiest

I only have a few minutes before I need to get to work, but I just wanted to point this article out.

In it, the writer says, "Unlike many converted atheists, Barker never experienced personal trauma to commence his dramatic change in beliefs."




I'd like to know what the numbers on this are. It seems like a baseless claim and an assumption on the part of the writer. Is there any evidence or any studies that show that atheists generally convert based on traumatic experiences? I would be surprised to find that that is the case, especially in older, more educated atheists.

That is all. off to work.

22 September, 2010

Getting in the Habit of Not Relying on God

I have to get into the habit of not relying on God. I've recently taken a trip to Europe, gotten an apartment in a town miles away from where I live, became engaged and have now landed a part-time job in the field I am in (rather than having to take some retail crap to hold me over).

I'm extremely afraid of flying. I cried three times during four total flights. I was determined not to pray. The second to last flight, from Munich to our Philadelphia layover, we hit turbulence on the way down. The plane literally dipped in the air. Everyone on the plane simultaneously gasped. When we finally rolled to a stop, everyone was clapping. I didn't pray the whole time. I'm trying to break the habit of blaming a God for the bad and hoping in his fickleness that he'll give me the good. I've found that the results of not praying have the same effect as if I had. Statistically, there is no difference.

I applied in July with my now-fiancĂ© for an apartment opening in September. It is sixty miles from where I live, but just down the street from the University of California that he will be attending for his PhD. I have literally slept on couches, lived with friends and family, and rented converted garages that are probably illegal for almost five years. Prior to that, I shared an apartment with my sister. The landlord charged us so much for "cleaning" that he barely gave us any of the deposit back (If I knew then what I know now I would have taken him to court-there was nothing wrong with that place when we left).  Needless to say, I don't have a real or good rental history and that doesn't look good for apartment buildings. Without praying for it, we got the place.

I had an interview on Monday. I really wanted this job. It's in my field and it's a very upstanding place. Walking up to the place before the interview, I kept saying to myself, "I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope they decide to hire me." I made it through without imploring to a Greater Being or Higher Power. They didn't call me Tuesday so I called them today. They want to hire me.

This all happened without God. I didn't need to worry about placating some power outside of myself in order to do my best, attempt hard things, be willing to face rejection and get the job done. If something hadn't gone well, I wouldn't have had to wonder what I did wrong. I wouldn't have to make some excuse for God's absence like, "Oh, he must have something better for me down the road." I wouldn't have to blame anyone who I couldn't see. It's a new feeling, but it's freeing.

16 September, 2010

Facebook Debates

Facebook debates on religion are usually not stimulating enough for those not involved to read the entire thread. It's almost akin to reading the comment thread on icanhazcheezburger. Not exactly a favorite past time. Nonetheless, I've found that some interesting topics do in fact come up sometimes that have nothing to do with the original, provocative or controversial status update, note or comment that got the thread going.

Just yesterday, on my fiancé's facebook, an interesting discussion began after he asked about the point of prayer with an omniscient God. Eventually the discussion somehow digressed to the topic of circumcision. One of his facebook friends who pretty much started the topic by saying that choosing not to circumcise her own son led to the weakening of her belief in God even thanked us for our candidness on the subject.

I find it interesting that some people are surprised at our generation's willingness to talk about controversial subjects. To me, it is as if we are only learning from the mistakes of previous generations by ending the practice of squashing curiosity. So harmful is ignorance to people (abstinence-only sex ed comes to mind as one of the biggest failures of this taboo-respecting practice) our generation seeks to step into the light and critically look at our society in a progressive, learning, and open way.

So, I encourage all to ask away. Ask as if your life depends on it. (Someday it might). Don't be afraid to be curious about your body or the world around you. Think critically about the answers you are given. If you get an answer that doesn't lead to more questions, ask someone else. The search for knowledge shouldn't end with "That's just the way it is" or "God did it." You will be surprised at how much freedom comes with knowledge.

25 July, 2010

Quantum Physics

The conversation went something like this:

Person A: "I love quantum physics. I could read books about it all day."

Person B: "Me, too! Did you know that "they" did a study of rats and they measured the way their cells rotated and then applied musical theory to those numbers and it made music? That's quantum physics!"

Person A: "Oh yes, music is inside us all."

Person B: "And they measured the cells on a rat with cancer and it played two bars of Chopin's Funeral March! That's quantum physics! Just goes to show we create from within."

Me: Mental face-palm while trying to look distracted by my work.


So what stopped me from saying, "You know, applying musical properties to math is arbitrary because we created that scale and applying a different scale would get you a different sound." What stopped me from saying, "Quantum physics doesn't actually have anything to do with mice, music or cells, but is a way of explaining the properties of sub-atomic particles."

Well, Person A is in a position of power over me, and other than the above statement, I know next to nothing about Quantum Physics or Mechanics.

I couldn't find this "study" of rats anywhere online. It's one more anecdotal, flimsy support of an argument that uses sciences that a lot of people don't understand or deliberately misuse to try to prove supernatural and spiritual worldviews.

Creationists arguments have been refuted time and time again, but there is this pervasive, insidious movement growing related to "spirituality" where people use anecdotes and misunderstand science to try to back up some "Great Mystery" that could be running the show. It has no church or lobby group, but runs the risk of being as decidedly dogmatic as the other religions have become.

So how do you refute something like this? I'd like to know. I will never be a physicist and don't have enough knowledge on the subject myself, but perhaps someone can suggest a book that explains it in a way that could clear the matter up?

Please leave your suggestions in the comments.

06 June, 2010

Arguing the Problem of Evil

The problem of evil was compelling in pushing me from an honest, agnostic search to an atheist because the basic concept of God that I had chosen to believe in for so many years after having stripped him of the dogmatic Christian traits I had grown up with, were the same as stated by J.L. Mackie in "Evil and Omnipotence." After having given up Christianity in my teens, I had still held the belief that there was a God who was omnipotent, benevolent, and omniscient. God would then be required to do the utmost possible good in the world.

To be short, "Evil and Omnipotence," which I recommend atheist and theist alike to read, addresses the theistic responses to the problem that if an omnipotent, benevolent, omniscient God exists, than evil cannot exist because God, being all good, would do everything possible to eliminate it. His argument against the "free will created evil" is particularly damaging to the theist's argument because it points out , among other things, that there is no logical impossibility to giving someone free will and allowing them to have only choices that would create good. The acceptable arguments he states either change the nature of God or change the nature of evil, which theists are reluctant to do.

In arguing this with a theist, however, I fell into the trap of redundantly refuting the definition of good, of love, and of free will. 

I've come to the conclusion then, that this argument, while a great reason to question the nature of God as it is laid out by theists, is no smoking gun against the existence of a God. It is sufficient to question the Western conception of God, but is not useful in debating whether or not God exists. 

Having seen the breakdown of my own conception of the nature of God, and then seeing that there was no evidence for God led me to atheism. The former does not stand on its own and reach the same position, it is merely a ruling out of the nature of God as it is declared by the Western religions.

02 May, 2010

The Argument

The more I think about it, the more I find it ridiculous that people will even argue for the existence of an invisible being for which there is no evidence. The fact that they have to argue about the existence of a being that is supposed to be all-powerful should be enough. Anything that exists should be able to be observed. The fact that he never shows up to defend himself says a lot, I think.

I know that philosophically, this is a fallacious argument and wouldn't stand up to rhetoric, but it does seem absurd to me that people don't see how starkly plain it is that God probably does not exist. For all the arguments, whether cosmological, ontological, or any of the thousands of straw men and ad ignorantium arguments, the debate can really be reduced to:
Theist: "There is a God."
Non-theist: "Where?"
Theist: "He's invisible."
Non-theist: "Then it doesn't really matter if you are right or not."

The end.

20 April, 2010

The First Amendment

National Day of Prayer has been ruled unconstitutional. Our President calling our nation to prayer is a violation of the first amendment Establishment Clause. Period. I do not need to be led in prayer and my tax dollars should not be used to endorse any religion or religious act. So why is President Obama going to make a national proclamation despite the ruling? I must admit, I'm disappointed, and it's not because of his appeasement to Christians, but because he will be essentially ignoring the Constitution of the United States.

Also in law this week is the Supreme Court case Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez. The Christian Legal Society club, or CLS, at UC Hastings, a public, University of California law school in San Francisco, is suing because the school will not officially recognize a group that excludes members based on religion, race, or sexual orientation. The Christian Legal Society has decided that non-Christians and gay people are not allowed in their club. Because the school funds clubs, it is argued that the club must follow the rules that apply to all clubs, but the CLS believes their First Amendment rights are being infringed upon. The UC argues that the money for club activities comes from a student fund and therefore, in order to receive those benefits, a club has to follow the same rules that any other club must adhere to. I agree with the UC. No surprise there, right?

What do the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment mean to the reader personally? I'd like to hear. Is there a way to ensure that people can practice their own religion and beliefs without endorsing them? Or, as a co-host of one of my favorite skeptic podcasts put it, can we ensure freedom of religion while promoting one over the others?

17 April, 2010

Religion's Waning Defenses

I often hear out-spoken atheists wrongly accused for "attacking" religion for simply asking why people hold beliefs despite the lack of evidence for the stories and the illogical conception of God, but I hold the opinion that those who are the most offended are those whose faith is the weakest.

A billboard goes up that says, "Good without God? You are not alone," and the locals on the news are interviewed saying, "Why do they have to attack religion?" What exactly is threatening about the billboard? Nothing. I suspect that what is so threatening to them is that they have no evidence of God and that God has failed to physically or materially show himself to anyone since Moses went up a volcanic mountain, breathed in some smoke, and had a hallucination about how to keep his followers in line.

So I ask, "Why are out-spoken secularists, agnostics and atheists so frightening and offensive to believers? Is what they are saying all that insulting, or is the theist merely uncomfortable with their own inability to defend the beliefs they hold regardless of an incredible lack of evidence?"

I'd like to hear an honest answer.

13 April, 2010

On Heaven

Having successfully made the transition from Deist to Agnostic to Atheist in the last three or so years, I've found that there is a quite large support group for new atheists or agnostics looking for answers in blogs and other online mediums such as podcasts. I often find that these different blogs, articles and shows provide stimulating answers to my questions, but more importantly, ask questions that I had never thought to ask.

Through these questions I have come to believe that Heaven is a place that even a Christian would not want to go. In fact, it may very well be (if it were real) a very tyrannical and oppressive place to be after all.

For instance, every Christian will tell you that free will is God's greatest gift to man and yet it is also the root of all evil. If it were not for God giving man free will, man would not have eaten from the tree of knowledge and subsequently would not have unleashed evil upon the world. Ignoring for this blog entry the inherent problems with the nature of God that arise from this premise (see J.L. Mackie's Evil and Omnipotence) let's examine what heaven means to a free-willed creation of God.

First, does God allow free will in heaven? If so, does that mean that one can choose to leave heaven? Can any thought, action, or argument against God cause a supposedly saved soul to be cast from heaven right down to hell? Can't a person choose to assault another soul in heaven, or even blaspheme against God? If not, can a soul truly have free will?

If one answers, "Of course they have free will to do these things, but no one will want to when they get to heaven," then my answer must be in the form of a question to them: "Why, then didn't God go one step further and create an Earth where people have free will, but don't want to commit crimes. If God is truly Good, shouldn't he want to reduce as much as possible the sufferings of his creation if he is able?"

If one answers, "No, there is no free will in Heaven," my question would be, "Then why call it heaven?"

If one answers instead, "Yes, there is free will and yes, one can be cast from heaven," again, I would ask, "Can it truly be called heaven if it is the same as Earth? Why even call it by a different name?"

Another question that comes up often in arguments with theists regarding the nature of God and Heaven is how a benevolent God could possibly be so angry over minor infractions as to banish his creation, which he supposedly loves, into fire and torture for eternity. I've discussed this problem somewhat in this post and so am only mentioning it to lead into this question: If you knew that you were going to heaven for an eternity, but knew that your unsaved loved ones-be they parents, siblings, children or even just your friends-were going to spend eternity in misery and insufferable pain, how could you possibly be truly happy? How could you call it heaven?

Feel free to answer the best you can, theist or not. I have a feeling that theists will have a hard time looking at these questions and not wondering themselves about the religion they've bought into without contradicting some doctrine or dogma in their Bible or falling back on the "God works in mysterious ways, we are not meant to know them all" argument.

04 April, 2010

Happy Easter

I'm celebrating today that I don't believe in a God who is so impotent that he has to kill an innocent man in order to defeat evil (and yet still allows evil in the world), or in a God so hateful that he would send his children to eternal fire forever and ever just for having minds of their own.

I'm also celebrating the fact that Spring is here and Summer is on its way. I'm doing so by participating in activities deeply rooted in paganism, such as painting eggs and feasting on good food.

Happy Easter everyone.

29 March, 2010

Christian Militia Group Raided

Hutaree Christian Militia group has been raided and at least three arrests have been made. It has been speculated that the charges involved selling pipe-bombs, but the FBI hasn't made an official statement as of yet.

Hutaree is a group whose stated purpose is "preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive." Why do they dress in camo, provide weapons training and call themselves soldiers? Because they believe that the End Times are near and that "The hutaree will one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield if so god wills it."

At the same time, they insist that they will be merely protecting those that are saved and saving those that aren't. But why would you need to arm yourself for that? What would Jesus do?

The Hutaree are one more example that Christians–any religion, in fact–can be just as extremist, violent, and delusional as Muslim terrorists. They can quote the Bible just as easily as the Qur'an is quoted to to justify suicide bombing.

Attending a town hall on health care reform over the summer, there were buttons being sold that actually depicted President Obama as the Anti-Christ. These buttons have been sold by Republicans and Conservatives to Republicans and Conservatives and have been largely ignored by our so-called "liberal" media, so it's hard for one to argue that the news outlets are to blame for this type of hysteria acted upon by the likes of the Hutaree Militia and others like them. Right-wing media has called into question the death threats and violent speech against Democrats this last week, saying that the "liberal media" is playing these things up to make the Tea Parties and Conservatives look bad.

How long can they argue that the rhetoric that has been spewed by the Right since Obama was elected has no consequence and doesn't incite violence? How many more arrests? How many more death threats? Even more frightening, is someone going to be hurt before the Republicans are held responsible for their words?

Hutaree is one more example of how religion and politics can be used to control masses and incite violence. In a secular nation, these questions about the anti-christ and this anger over health care reform backed by large religious groups should not be an issue at all. In a secular nation, home-grown terrorists are not supposed to get their targets from ex-governors and and their representatives in Congress. Groups like these, the pundits that endorse them, and the congressmen that lead them are the enemies of democracy and liberty, not the protectors. What will it take for the nation to wake up and see that?

27 March, 2010

"A" week on Facebook

I'd like to bring to my readers' attention that starting next monday, the Richard Dawkins website The Out Campaign is beginning a week-long event on facebook to encourage more people to come out as atheists and to let people know that if they doubt God, they are not alone.

For instructions on how to participate in this event, see this website here. Copy the event, joint the event on facebook, tweet about it, etc.

It's time to let the world know that you are "good without God."

24 March, 2010

Health Care Reform Has Been Signed Into Law

President Obama signed health care reform into law yesterday, after many months of debate and many years of effort. Already, approval of the legislation has gone up. Goes to show you what civil discourse will do for an effort. What with the teabaggers spitting on lawmakers this past week and continued hints at future violence by their leaders, the American people are seeing how ridiculous the Republicans are being.

08 March, 2010

State Senator Ashburn, Republican, Gay Man

Last week, California State Senator Roy Ashburn was pulled over and given a DUI after leaving a popular gay nightclub with an unidentified male. After much speculation, Mr. Ashburn finally admitted on a radio program that he is, in fact, gay. When asked why he voted against gay rights legislation consistently in his political career, his answer was that he wanted to vote how his constituents would want him to vote.

The answer seems noble enough, but is it honest? Why not come out earlier? I suspect that it is because there is no place in the Republican Party for gay people, a message that constantly reiterated by the GOP. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, lunatic-fringe extremist group, 'Young Americans for Freedom,' or 'YAF' berated the GOP at CPAC for inviting GOProud, a gay, Republican group, to be a co-sponsor of the event. To come out as a gay Republican is political suicide.

Which is why, I believe, Ashburn is only coming out for two reasons: 1) He was caught. 2) His term limits are up and he can't be elected as a State senator in California again. He has since given up exploring a bid for Congress. These are not reasons at all to come out of the closet. They are forced, and whether someone believes their "personal life" should stay personal or not, knowing his constituents wanted him to vote against gay-rights legislation, isn't it a bit dishonest not to tell those very people that they in fact voted for a gay senator?

At first, I thought that it might be a noble thing to do to only vote as the people in his district would have him. After all, that is what representative democracy is all about. But then I realized just how ridiculous that sounded. If he can represent his constituents, but can't tell them who he really is, then he isn't really honest, he's just trying to stay in power. If he were eligible for re-election, would he have been so quick to come out? If he hadn't been "caught" would he still be living a lie?

UPDATE:
I've just been on his website and on the biography page, it proclaims that he is "a champion of openness, accountability, and bi-partisanship." Obviously, openness is in the eye of the beholder-until it explodes in the media.

06 March, 2010

Evidence of Things Unseen

Faith is the highest of all virtues in any religious group whereas peer review and correct methodology are the highest in science. The reason study after study has shown a correlation between IQ and atheism and/or liberalism is because people with higher abilities to reason and understand logic are less likely to take words as evidence and more likely to think critically about what they are told to believe. How could a person with these abilities not one day look at the most important belief in their life-the belief in God-and not examine the reasons behind the belief. Investigating and not finding any evidence for the Bible or Koran or whatever it may be would not make the person angry like it does the Young Earth Creationists who soapbox on street corners, it would impel them to change their hypothesis.

There is a war, however, from the right on the legitimacy of science. But instead of actually using the scientific method that has brought us knowledge of our Cosmos, a higher standard of living, the curing or prevention of numerable debilitating diseases and conditions and the technology we all use to live in comfort, they simply accuse Science of doing exactly what religion has been doing for thousands of years.

First, they say that evolution is "only a theory" that "Darwinists" believe in without any evidence at all. They do not understand the difference between the colloquial use of "theory" and the scientific definition of the word, else they would drop that argument altogether because "theory" is, in a scientific sense, just a system to explain evidence and facts. The fact of evolution is already there, Darwin's theory of evolution explains the mechanisms of evolution. You can read more here. In their uneducated and angry minds they are convinved that "believing" in a "theory" is equal to believing in a 2,000 year old book that has been handed down from king to king, thus science should not be held in any esteemed regard because scientists won't endorse teaching the Judao-Christian creation myth in public schools.

But what have they done there? Not only are they completely misunderstanding evolution, science and the definition of a word, but they are not defending their position at all. "Evolutionists {their word, not ours} believe in evolution without any evidence at all!" But there is no evidence that the stories in the Bible are true at all. So to degrade the act of believing something without evidence is just degrading their own beliefs. Not only that, but no evidence is good enough for them. They have a book. We have fossils, DNA, variation, biology, zoology, research, transitional forms, etc.

Second, they claim that Evolution claims that life came from nothing. Again, they are merely projecting their own beliefs onto science that they continue to fail to understand. Evolution explains how life forms change, not how they got here. For the latest on the origins of life, look up the chemistry behind Abiogenesis. It's intriguing stuff. It is, in fact, the Creationists that insist life came from nothing. God either made Man out of mud, which was made by God from nothing or god simply created Adam out of nothing, depending on which creation myth you choose to believe in Genesis, as there are two accounts in the first book of the Bible.

Is it any wonder that these are the same people that claim that a handful of meteorologists, many with ties to funding from Exxon Mobile and other energy companies, constantly deny Climate Change? Is it any wonder that these people buy into right-wing spins and demagoguery and populism while never once looking at who right-wing economics and policies are actually protecting: the richest 1% of the nation that hold 70% of the nation's wealth?

It's amazing that any group in this day and age would hold faith as something to strive for. It's like saying that wearing a blindfold while wandering around the Grand Canyon is something everyone should hope to do in their lifetime.

02 March, 2010

Avatar, a few months later

Despite Avatar being the highest grossing film of all time, I seem to be the only person on the internet that liked the movie. Seriously. The backlash of amateur critics and bloggers has been huge, and yet the movie has made more money than any of them will ever see in their lifetime. Maybe it's because I'm an evolution/biology/geography geek and my boyfriend is a linguistigeek. Plus, I'm totally for pantheism.

27 February, 2010

Ticking Time Bomb

There are millions of people on the planet that believe in one deity or another and that their deity is the only one out there; that everyone else is not only mistaken, but needs to be told they are mistaken or even slaughtered for not realizing it.

I am no psychic. In fact, it would take a lot for me to even believe in that kind of thing anymore, but with the rising numbers of members in Islam, the increasingly political Christians in the US and the hatred harbored by different nations over borders for centuries, I believe that religion will either someday disappear completely or destroy the entire human race. That bothers me.

I was listening to NPR today and heard something that struck me. Turkey's military has a lot of power. It was set up to protect a secular constitution. In order to join the EU, the military has to be scaled back and the power it has must come from the people, who are mostly Islamic.

This is one of those times when I think of Nietzche (who I acually disliked in Philosophy class). What if I am wrong about this guy? He basically said that it was up to a small number of people (nobility, for example) to use the large number of lower class people in order to create the best world for themselves. I completely disagree. But when I see something like the balance of power going from secular, reasonable, thought to passionate, irrational religious beliefs, I tend to wonder if Nietzche's ideas aren't so crazy after all in some context.

It's the same with representative democracy in the States. Democracy says that 51% of the nation can make decisions for 100% of the nation. Religious people are more likely to have more children than non-religious people because non-religious people don't count on God to clean up after them when the world gets polluted and unsustainable. They don't like by the "Go forth and multiply" creed of religions like Catholicism and Mormonism. In a few generations, this country will be in the grips of the superstitious, zealous, paranoid war-mongers that are bred by church doctrine. Is that right? Shouldn't the smarter, more educated, more protective, secular population find some way to prevent this?  I don't know. I myself hope that if it gets too bad, I can move to Europe or Canada. But is there an answer?

I want to say no, but the fact that there are people out there that actually believe the world is 6,000 years old and want that belief taught in science class sinks my heart to my chest. Thinking about the future of my country is the same feeling as thinking of a diabetic who insists on eating pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What is the general feeling in the secular community regarding these questions? I'd like to know.

23 February, 2010

Stifling Free Speech in the Name of God

Why does it bother religious people so much when atheists put ads on the sides of busses or on billboards?

What are they afraid of? Billboards are all over the Central Valley near where I live that literally say, "Jesus died for you." It's not even open to consideration. I might even take to them better if they said, "God is probably real and if he is he loves the heck out of you." Regardless of their obtrusive and presumptuous billboards, I wouldn't vandalize them or try to get them taken down. They have the money and the free speech rights, but religious people (who claim the Bill of Rights was Divinely Inspired) are so afraid of atheism that they would fight to the point of vandalism to silence the skeptical community.

These attitudes are left over from the Dark Ages and the Inquisitions. It's almost in the blood of religious people to react this way, and it has been excused for two thousand years. I can only hope that these examples will wake up those who are agnostic or undecided when they see that the religious "doth protest too much" in defending their sacred beliefs. After all, if their Truth really is Absolute and there really is no doubt as to the existence of God, why would they be so worried about some words on the side of a bus?

21 February, 2010

Regarding Developmental Disabilities

I have worked with adults with disabilities for three years now. Down's Syndrome, Angelmans, Cornelia DeLange, Autism, Asperger's, Cerebral Palsy, etc. I started working at the facility that employs me, using my extensive college training in Human Services that, in the end, I found could only be used as simple guidelines rather than rules when dealing with real people. The job is so much more complicated and the people and situations so much more complex than the Law and Ethics guidelines and Empathetic Communication Handbooks can begin to portray.

I also learned about the human spirit, the innate want to belong and to feel useful to society, the creativity and compassion that occurs when the complications of abstract thinking and the pressures to be at the top of the corporate ladder are simply not important. These people aren't dumb for being hugely excited over a $5-$30 paycheck for two weeks of work, their joy is the essence of human experience-the joy of a job well done no matter what the reward. It's a beautiful and refreshing outlook that I am lucky enough to witness five days a week at my job.

None of the people I work with are truly "disabled" unless they themselves think they are. I got that bit of wisdom from a consumer confined to a wheel chair with cerebral palsy who also holds a job, rents an apartment, and has a wife.

I used to be like all the other "normal" people who haven't been educated or haven't had exposure to people with developmental disabilities. I would say that this guy or this lady that did something stupid was "retarded." I used to think Carlos Mencia was funny when he talked about arguing with a disabled person over why they get to cut to the front of the line at Disneyland.

Our society breeds this kind of attitude and misinformation because the surprisingly large population of disabled people is kept out of the spotlight. In movies, they are always portrayed the same way, functioning enough to not make the audience uncomfortable, but slow enough to be endearing. "Cutesy," in a way. At school, they have segregated classes and lunch rooms.

As advocacy groups run by the consumers themselves continue to grow and get a voice and as organizations like Special Olympics gets more exposure, there has been some progress. (Almost) gone are the days when families would hide a disabled family member in a locked room when company came over or send a child to a state facility. The "R" word is now a word that any public official or media personality will be rebuked for using, although this usually leads to a firestorm against "those P.C. assholes" usually with many expletives and the use of the "R" word itself. (How often have I spoken up against the use of the "R" word in internet forums, only to have some brilliant mind tell me that "People who don't like the word 'retard' are 'retarded'").

However, there is still a very long way to go. Which is why it is so hard to hear people like Sarah Silverman exploit the condition of disabled people for schock value and then see that there are people that actually support this kind of behavior. At the end of the above mentioned article, the writer of the HuffPost article, Alex Leo, pretty much throws his support behind Silverman by mentioning that "we kindly disagree" with the AOL co-founder, Steve Case saying that Silverman is not funny and mentions that she received a standing ovation from half of the audience. A standing ovation. making jokes out of using the "R" word for her own gain.

And the comments below the article talk about how the people that found her offensive are "closed minded." This is what is so troubling, that people actually think that making fun of disabled people is some open-minded, free-thinking, bold and funny ideal.

Our society still has a long way to go before people like Silverman are finally put in their place on the margins of the media and largely ignored or rebuked for their ignorant, bigoted behavior. Hopefully that won't be long.

19 February, 2010

Religulous Justice in the UK

In the UK, ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife, a Roman Catholic Crown Court Judge, is suspending sentences based on the religiosity of offenders. A man fractured someone's jaw because of a dispute while waiting in line at a bank and Mrs. Blair suspended his sentence, stating, "You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable behaviour." But wouldn't that mean that he just shouldn't have hit the other man in the first place if he knew better? Shouldn't everyone know better and therefore be treated equally under the law?
But this is what happens when politics and justice are looked at through the lens of religion.

15 February, 2010

Dear Christian Friends

Dear Christian friends, I was pondering the idea of God Given Free Will when it struck me that I don't remember ever reading that in the Bible. I don't remember God saying, "I give unto you free will." If I'm wrong, let me know, but please also include an explanation for the numerous passages in the Bible where it says God predetermined before birth or creation who was going to go to heaven and who was not.

Kthxbai.

Individuality and Accomplishment in Religion

What is it about religion that demands that the followers be held in contempt by the being that created them? What purpose does this serve man to be so far removed from good, even though they are supposedly God's favored creation?

The answer is that it doesn't serve man at all. Religion does not thrive on happy individuals who acknowledge their own triumphs and accomplishment. Religion thrives on taking away individuality and self-esteem. Religion could not thrive if little children aren't taught to hate themselves in the eyes of the Lord and get their entire self worth from the fact that God loves them, regardless of their accomplishments in school, work, etc. These children grow up to serve that same church, using their talents and skills to benefit the religion rather than themselves or their communities, all the while giving a silent, invisible being all the credit.

This demand for Bad Souls doesn't come from any human desire to tear itself down. It comes from the need for control of the masses and the squashing of individuality that makes it so easy for kings and priests to manipulate. Religion is inherently destructive to individuals, but gives enough of a false sense of community to keep the sheep in the fold.

I will never forget telling someone that the fact that I quit smoking after a flu-like illness was pretty good proof of a Higher Power of some kind because I hadn't been able to quit before. The response I got was, "But you did quit and now you don't want to give yourself credit for finally overcoming your addiction." That hit home pretty hard, as I hadn't really prayed to God for a flu or to quit smoking. In fact, I hadn't even completely made the decision to quit when I got sick.

In April, I'll be four years free from cigarettes. Thank, me. :)

13 February, 2010

Jesus and the Sinners

I find it funny that there are so many stories of Jesus favoring those that don't deserve God's love over those that are so pious that they must be walking on water themselves, and yet, hardly a Christian Conservative will treat a prisoner with compassion in their words, deeds or their hearts.

I heard a Christian today say that privatizing the prison system and saving money by feeding them bread and water is just fine. While it was a funny remark and did touch on the anger that Californians feel over the fact that prisons get more of the budget than our public university system, it was a remark that struck me as completely un-Christian. The person later retracted the part about privatization because there might be the possibility of liberty not being protected, but never went back to the comment about letting them live on bread and water.

This man is young, pretty well set in his opinions and is the typical rural, white American neo-libertarian Christian, so I can't blame him for not quite thinking all the way through what he said. Private business is something that should be protected at all cost and I'm sure that's been drilled into his head for the last twenty years that the country has become more and more polarized. At the same time, though, I can't really excuse the bread and water remark. He seemed like he really meant it, but then again, I might even say something like that just to express my frustration at the budget situation while knowing all well that if the practice were going on, I would probably say it was bordering on cruel and unusual punishment and fight to stop it. But something about my experience with many of these same types of Christians tell me that while he wouldn't actively try to turn it into law that prisoners only get bread and water, he certainly wouldn't actively try to stop the practice if it were really going on. That, I think, is the difference between a Christian Conservative and an Atheist Liberal.

08 February, 2010

From my other blog

There's a direct correlation between high IQ, atheism and liberalism, so I'm going to go ahead and assume that any atheist reading this will also be interested in liberal politics, so I'm going to post a link to my latest blog post from my wordpress blog. I've had it for some time, but I hadn't been updating it regularly until recently.

Anyway, hope you enjoy. Here it is.

07 February, 2010

Rejected Super Bowl Ad

Will reason one day prevail? One man has hope.

Why Science Works

The biggest "gotcha" used by many Young Earth Creationists is that scientists or archeologists have published studies on data that turned out to be entirely wrong or even hoaxed. Conveniently omitted by people like Kirk Cameron is the fact that it has been scientists that have exposed these flaws in studies or these hoaxes.

An example of the effectiveness of peer review has just come out in the news recently, regarding autism and measles/mumps vaccines. Said vaccines have saved millions of lives of children since the practice of inoculation was first implemented.

Then, in 1998, Andrew Wakefield published a paper in The Lancet, a British medical journal asserting a direct connection between the measles/mumps vaccines and autism. This was landmark, as the cause of autism was, and still is, largely unknown. However, the results could not be reproduced by other independent studies and so the scientific community was largely against the hypothesis.

Sadly, however, parents of autistic children became activists against the vaccines and the number of children vaccinated went down as more and more parents feared that the mercury in the vaccines would cause autism. Despite finding no correlation between the mercury and any health issues, the manufacturers of these vaccines greatly reduced the already very low amount of mercury or excluded it altogether in 1999, according to the CDC. Many of the staunchest anti-vaxxer celebrities either ignore this fact or are ignorant to it.

Diagnoses of autism continued to rise despite the lower rate of vaccination and the removal of the mercury. Finally, after much peer review and investigation into Andrew Wakefield's methodology, the entire paper has been retracted by The Lancet.

The public rejection of Wakefield, who apparently was being funded primarily by trial lawyers, has been a long time coming. Without the sensationalism of our media, our affinity to conspiracy theories and the activism of well-meaning but ill-informed parents, this might have just been a blip in the medical journals. Alas, the damage is already done as the mistrust of vaccines grow, despite the overwhelming evidence that vaccines have saved millions from pain, suffering, crippling disability such as Polio, and even death.

However, science and reason did win out in the end. The same science and reason that has pointed out the other hoaxes and misinformation perpetrated in the early years of evolutionary science. The voices of parents decrying vaccines will lessen and perhaps quiet as now the scientific community can move on from studying vaccines and get to the real root causes of autism. This is how science works.

Hypotheses, peer-review, duplication of results, and an acceptance or rejection of hypotheses based on evidence and clear methodology. It's a process. The occurrence of mistakes using the process doesn't undermine the entire process, especially when those mistakes are brought to light using the process itself. Yet there are people out there who would do everything in their power to get you to believe that this process doesn't ever work and that it is unreliable. Hopefully, the consequences won't be so damaging as the Wakefield case.

06 February, 2010

Was Jesus a Roman Urban Legend?

I was listening to the "Stuff You Should Know" podcast and they were talking about the origins of the most popular urban legends in the US, one being the couple at lover's lane being murdered by a psycho killer.

If there was any truth to the story at all, it is impossible to find out. Oral tradition works in such a way that details in the story such as location and time are constantly change. When retelling the story, people always tell it as coming from someone who knows someone they know, making it just out of reach for the person hearing it to fact check it, but close enough to be believable.

If these oral traditions could survive in our day, even with sites like Snopes that continue to debunk our most favored urban legends, what kind of stories could have been thought up during an age when superstition was the rule and the scientific method was still centuries away?

The earliest writings about the divine Jesus being raised from the dead are estimated to be between 30-60 years after his ascension to heaven. With an average lifespan of 30 years, that is an entire generation away. That and the very nature of oral tradition makes that story almost completely unreliable. In fact, there were other books written around that time that were gathered in the second or third century and decided by the new, dominating Church to be too outlandish, put Jesus in too magical a light, or would undermine the power of the Church and were subsequently thrown out.

This puts a shadow of doubt over the entire Gospel of Jesus, the foundation of Christian authority. And there are people that want us to base our laws on the literal interpretation of these very stories. Seems a bit ridiculous when you think about it that way, doesn't it?

04 February, 2010

Uganda and "The Family"

As much as I am proud to have a person in office with a real education and leaning toward policies that don't favor corporations of individuals, I can't help but be annoyed that the US President, Barack Obama would call the proposed Ugandan law dubbed the "Kill the Gays" bill "odious" and yet, still sit down with the US religious organization that supports the bill in Uganda for the National Prayer Breakfast.

"The Family," which is describe here as "a shadowy, international right-wing religious group" whose official name is "The Fellowship Foundation."

It is bad enough that the abnormally high number of Fundamental Christians in this country have enough power to demand that any leader be at least a member of some Christian sect, regardless of the First Amendment, but that the option to truly rebuke these shady, back-door religious organizations and deny them a leader's presence in the face of their outrages support of such an atrocious law is just deplorable. I find it absolutely sickening that religion calls itself the upholder of morals and still tries to control politics and supports bigotry and hatred at every turn. I have seen some progress since this administration took office, but this is another sign that progress comes very slowly and that some things will seemingly never change.

03 February, 2010

Questioning God

What exactly was it about religion that appealed to me so much when I believed in God? I'm not just talking about when I was very young and Santa Claus and Jesus gave me the same warm-fuzzy feeling that I got when I thought about my mom or dad. I'm talking about even after I shed Christianity altogether. For awhile I called God "Goddess" and then I simply called it "God" and described it as an indescribable, loving being having nothing to do with any holy books.

My case is unique, I believe, simply because at 19 I found that reliance on that simple idea of God saved my life. I understand today that the belief in a higher power is the higher power that got and kept me clean and sober for seven years (seven today, in fact), and that regardless of not believing in God anymore, I still haven't gotten drunk. I am now the second atheist I've ever known in recovery, although I don't often go to meetings anymore.

So how can one live for years believing in a miracle and suddenly become an atheist? That brings me back to the first question. The idea of God let me do quite a few things when I was getting sober. It let me believe that I wasn't shouldering the whole responsibility of changing my life and my behavior, a task that would have seemed too arduous had I tried to do it on my own. The saying, "God never gives you more than you can handle" was very comforting when trying to put the torn remnants of my life back together. It gave me someone to cry to when I couldn't or didn't want to get someone on the phone. It helped me learn patience when things didn't go my way (all in God's time). It did a lot for me for quite awhile.

Looking back, I didn't originally need a belief in God in order to learn these things. After all, if that were the case, I would have learned them between the ages of 5 and 12 when I went to church and truly believed in Jesus or from 15-19 when I played around with witch craft. It was a predetermined physiology that I was born with a tendency to drink heavily and use drugs and therefore not surprising that I ended up looking for the only solution that I knew (my mother is also in recovery and achieved sobriety when I was six). I see now that it was just that the conditions were right. If my parents had been Scientologists, I would have gone to Narcanon.

The day that my belief began to end was when I was telling someone why I believed in a most basic and mysterious idea of God. I thought how precise the laws in the Universe were and that they seemed so perfect to be holding everything together. My friend told me that the Universe is far from perfect, that black holes can't be explained to serve any purpose, there are fluctuations in the forces that hold everything together and that there are probably multiple dimensions that we just can't sense yet. I remember a large stone dropping in my stomach. From then on out, faith started losing its grip. It took about two years, some investigating of my own, and a philosophy class (taught by a Christian, so no one can tell me the class had a liberal, atheist bias) and I found myself an atheist.

I cried. I did. I'm not afraid to admit it. But since then, I've found it remarkable how free it feels.

Even believing in the basic concept of God while trying to shed the punishing, jealous God of my youth during my recovery, I would find myself wondering if God were punishing me when things went wrong. Did I get a flat tire because I skimped out on working on one of my 12 steps last night? Did God make me an alcoholic because I lied to my parents as a teenager? Did my parents get divorced because I had a cigarette when I was 12? I no longer have those thoughts very often. Out of habit my mind wanders back there sometimes, but it's not often.

The other night I was in a situation in which an event I've been planning with two bands at a local venue almost crashed down around my head. After doing everything I could to calm the situation, I gave up and gave the people involved time to work it out on their own. I remember thinking, "This is usually the point when I used to say the Serenity Prayer and ask God to let everything work itself out." I didn't pray. I told myself that everything would work itself out, band or no band. I went home and ate dinner. Everything worked itself out -- with band -- and God had no hand in it. It was as simple as that, but still profound to me as I've only truly been convinced of the absence of God for a few months now.

That is my own journey to non-belief. I truly think that if someone like me can shed the chains of faith, then anyone can do so with enough investigation. It isn't a pleasant journey all the time, but in the end I have to agree with Carl Sagan. "It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

Morals, Ethics, and the Creationists Argument Tactics

It baffles me that religious people can so readily and easily claim that without God, Man could not have come up with the moral codes and laws that keep our society from chaos while at the same committing shameless and barefaced lies, deception, falsities, and censorship of dissenting opinions throughout their literature and throughout the internet.

The two tactics most common to Creationists are quote-mining and outright censorship. Quote-mining is the practice of taking quotes from books written by scientists out of context and using them as "proof" against Evolution. Charles Darwin, called the Father of the modern theory of Evolution, is the most common victim of this. There are two passages in particular that are most often quoted by Creationists. These passages are passed around the internet by people who have never read, "The Origin of Species" and never will read the book without ever consider the passages that precede or follow the quote in question.

The first of these outrages fabrications of doubt has to do with the eye. Charles Darwin wrote,
"To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree."

What Darwin is doing here is setting up the argument against his theory and in the next paragraph explains that through examination of evidence and reason one could come to the conclusion that evolution of the eye is in fact possible:
"Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself first originated; but I may remark that several facts make me suspect that any sensitive nerve may be rendered sensitive to light, and likewise to those coarser vibrations of the air which produce sound."

The second quote seems very damaging indeed when taken out of context. It is from a letter in which Darwin writes, "often a cold shudder has run through me, and I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a phantasy."

The entire quote, taken in context, shows Darwin thanking a fellow scientist for confirming the evidence of his theories.

For myself, also, I rejoice profoundly; for, thinking of so many cases of men pursuing an illusion for years, often and often a cold shudder has run through me, and I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a phantasy. Now I look at it as morally impossible that investigators of truth, like you and Hooker, can be wholly wrong, and therefore I rest in peace.

Are Creationists merely mistaken about these quotes or are they deliberately taken out of context and preached to lay people for the soul purpose of propping up their unsubstantiated ideas through the use of the terrible fallacy of discrediting their opponents? Often, a religious person has said, "Well, those quotes are used because they get passed around by word of mouth or some other means. They aren't doing it on purpose." But I can't help but scratch my head at the fact that they wouldn't look up the quote themselves to see if it's true. Obviously, the father of evolution undermining his own theory should seem like quite a shock to them. If I heard that Freud was quoted as saying that psychoanalysis was useless, I'd probably look that up just to be sure the person telling me this had the quote right. It's a natural quality of critical thinking to look at information in this skeptical light.

The second fetid pile of Creationist dishonesty is the habit of censorship of opposing viewpoints. On site like Answers In Genesis, don't even try to leave a quote that might shed any doubt on their creationist theories because it will not get approved. Of course, it is their site and therefore their prerogative to do so. Though unethical and telling of their consternation toward anything that might shake their dogmatic beliefs, it is a decision that is rightly theirs to make.

But what about when this attitude of censorship spills out onto public websites that they do not own? What are their tactics and what are the consequences?

The most prevalent example of this is on the popular video hosting site, YouTube, where the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, or DMCA, is used to flag videos that argue against creationism or intelligent design. To avoid a lawsuit, YouTube automatically takes down flagged videos and suspends flagged accounts while an investigation ensues. The only action the account user has is to file a counter notice, which could eventually put the Creationist perpetrator in front of a judge for perjury. For a detailed account of these YouTube battles, see this blog here that I found.

The other YouTube censorship tactic these Creationists are known to use are votebots. The frequency in which a video comes up in a search is through the rating system on YouTube, not on the number of views a video gets. The rating system is a one to five star system, one being poor and five being awesome. Votebots are set up on fake accounts and vote one star on these videos as often as possible. A pattern emerges in which a person might get a thousand good ratings over a period of months and then is suddenly hit with hundreds of one star ratings, bringing down the average rating of the video. It's a vile and underhanded tactic.

Why do these Creationists continue to insist that without God, man is immoral, but have no qualms about committing these deplorable tactics? I personally believe that it is simply that it takes a very warped mind to continue to believe in thinks for which there is no evidence for and much evidence against. (In fact, this is a reason I believe that many conservatives are Christians as well, but that's a different post for a different day). It is the same twisted logic that allows an anti-abortionist to justify to himself that taking the life of an abortion doctor is what God wants, or a terrorist that flying a plane into a building will put him on the fast track to Allah's glory. Morals, supposedly unshakable and universal to all people according to the Abrahamic religions, are actually fluid and capricious if doing things in the name of God.

How is this morality better than the humanist morality that says that each culture and society decides what is best for the survival of its own people? How is this more moral than group morality that says that what is best for the group is best for the individual and that is how these laws and codes have developed? The idea that morals are greater than man (which requires the premise that man is naturally evil and sinful, as explained in a previous post) and that they come from an unerring, benevolent creator is one of the core beliefs of Western religion. And yet, the most fervent and zealous in their ranks are caught the most often in acts of dishonesty and deliberate misinformation.

This is why it is such an insult to hear religious people say, "Atheists have morals because God gave them morals, they just don't know it." It is absolutely absurd that these people call themselves pious and righteous. Hopefully, the world is waking up to this double-think and catching on to the deceit of the Abrahamic religions, Christianity especially. These people are not moral at all an their book has no impact on the morality of the individual members of the church. This begs the question, "What good is religion at all, then, if not for the teachings of morals?" It has yet to be answered.

31 January, 2010

Christian Group Fail

A Christian Group has been charged with human trafficking for attempting to take 33 children from Haiti. The spokesperson for the group writes the incident off as a misunderstanding that the group needed to complete more paperwork in order to take the children, while one girl in the group lamented to authorities that she is in fact not an orphan at all, and thought she was going to summer camp.

For more information, see the article here

30 January, 2010

Catholics Come Home

The Catholic Church is realizing that its membership is leaking like sieve. So to bring back sheep that may have strayed, they've created a new website and commercials made to give estranged members a warm and fuzzy feeling, reminding them of the happy times they had going to mass with mommy and daddy, sometime before they stopped believing in Santa Claus and before their priest raped them in the rectory-erm-rectum. Or both. (Just sayin').

Fortunately, those that left the church because of the concretized, unforgiving and oppressive dogmatic rules and doctrine can see from the first page that the Church is still the same one that cast the world into the dark ages for thousands of years and stalled scientific progress that would have had us on the moon centuries ago. They are the same church that exhort over-population, AIDS through the condemnation of condom use, bigotry, zealousness and hatred.

All you have to do after watching their introduction video that encourages you to "ask the questions" that you may have about the Cahtolic Church, you can click on over to the "Answering Your Questions" tab and get all the answers you may have forgotten in the years of your absence.

Here's one of the most ironic "answers" the site will give you.  In, "Contraception and Infertility" the website explains why the church is against letting women or couples have reproductive rights over their bodies and their lives through the use of contraceptives. You see, using The Pill or condoms opens a couple up to the "problem with a couple deliberately saying "no" to the possibility of God's gift of children."

Now, call me crazy, but is this website really saying that the religion whose core belief rests on the  virgin birth of their savior is against contraception because it might prevent God from giving a woman the gift of child?

Really, Catholic Church? Really? Do you truly believe that people are too dumb to notice this inconsistency? Wow.