Thursday, September 3, 2009

Once again, I am alive

Wow... its been way too long since I've updated this. The problem is, I usually update this when its slow at work, and it hasn't been slow for about 3 months. I do plan on getting back to the blog, I swear. It isn't a dead blog, and I am hoping I will get back to very regular updates. The only issue I'm running into right now is material. The subject of religion, irreligion, counter-religion, non-religion, has been pretty well covered by many people, so its often difficult to feel like one is bringing fresh material to the plate. As a result I'm considering doing some things more anecdotally, and going more into the history of religion. That is of course once i really get things moving here again.

Because of Real Life(tm) I haven't been able to do much in terms of research for quite some time, and its about time I dusted off my academia.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'm Back

Well, apparently I really needed a break from the religion topic, because a couple weeks off has done me wonders of good. It really is an interesting thing, because no matter how important it is to keep fighting the ideas of religion and theocracy, sometimes we need to step away. This seems particularly evident when one is surrounded by it. As many of you know, I live in Texas, and as far as religious saturation that's about as deep immersed as you can be in the US outside of Salt Lake City.

More than anything I think I tried to put out too much content too quickly and became a bit obsessive for a while. Hopefully things will start to pick up, but we'll see. I am still planning on doing my reviews, there have just been some life setbacks that have kept me from really getting into a new book.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Absurdities in Genesis: Don't Look, Your Irony Meter Will Explode

You're not serious... really? I mean wtf people? That's right, once again its the vast scientific conspiracy where there's a virtual consensus of nearly 100% of all the people who know what they're talking about that fossils can be dated. No, creationists have it right, and are NEVER twisting the facts or ignoring information to make their idiotic holy book right, despite all the contrary evidence.

I really will never understand how they think the idea of a massive global conspiracy of scientists is supposed to work. I mean, a large percentage of these scientific conspirators are Christian. How do you reconcile that? Oh, wait. That's right, the no true Sc... errr, no true Christain argument, that's right.

But really, what's the point? Once, again, After Eden is never funny, and never really informative except as a reference on the insanity of the fundies.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Personal Health

At the beginning of this year I finally committed myself to getting healthier. I was, and am still significantly overweight, but since January I've actually managed to drop from about 289 lbs to 263. I realize this is completely unrelated to my blog's subject matter, but I'm actually rather proud of this fact, since meeting my first goal would be getting down to 260.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

You're an Atheist Because You Want to Sin

This has to be the thing Christians say to me that causes me to roll my eyes the highest and hardest. I mean, aside from the obvious problem that I, and pretty much all atheists, don't believe sin exists as a moral affront to a God we do not believe in, the entire argument on that basis is completely insconsistent.

I'll put it simply: If I wanted to sin and have no repercussions for it, I'd be an evangelical.

Sounds completely contradictory, right? Counterintuitive?

It certainly goes against the spirit of "the law," but according to the wackaloons in the evangelical mindset, as long as you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior (Grace only theology) then you're cool. So, if I were trying to avoid repercussions for so-called sin (since you say i really do believe in God by implication) why would I choose the option where I don't really get away with "sin" in the end over the option where I get to sin all I like and get rewarded at the end of the race?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Absurdities In Genesis: Stupidity at its Finest

Alright... I think its no secret that I hate AiG's After Eden comic series, but this one in particularly im oddly amused by, but not the reason they want me to be. The main reason is the skin coloring on these characters, because they look grey, almost decaying corpse-like. And the second is the look on that guy's face like the banal crap the woman in the comic is spouting is somehow not only interesting, but shocking.

But really, the absolute best thing about this is it reminds us all that Christianity's greatest enemy is not atheism, but Christianity. All these denominations and silly doctrines and dogmas, and they all contradict each other on the basis of things like literalism, catholicism, protestantism, faith/works bs etc. The fact that the Christian comunity will never be organized as a single unit and is in fact undermining itself through group infighting on these issues as well as trying to steal members from each other only leads to disillusionment and apathy to the church as an organization.

It's no secret that this pleases me. Sure, education and understanding of philosophy and science contribute greatly to the growth of atheism and agnosticism, but I think we can give a good share of the credit to the Christian churches themselves as well.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Post Frequency

Regrettably, due to a significant increase in workload my post frequency will be staying lower for a while. I plan to continue posting regularly, just probably not every day, since I can pretty much only find the time during breaks right now.

I will be doing my new book review probably starting in early July.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Crazy Christian Lies

Thanking Slacktivist for the Link to the Site...I just had to say, I love this shirt. I mean, its so completely true. Except when it isn't.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Got... Physical Mail

So, today I got in the  mail a copy of both Ray Comfort's You Can Lead an Atheist... (complete with illegible "Autograph")  and The Atheist Bible courtesy of an anonymous donor to Ray Comfort's ministry. Since I have not gotten ahold of the next book I will be reviewing yet, my plan is to look through The Atheist Bible and, if there's anything notable, ripping the hell into its points while waiting to get ahold of the other book. Money just hasn't been there for adding to the blog of late. Just the way things go sometimes. 

McLeroy Nomination Rejected... Barely

So, its finally an almost respectable day to live in Texas. While I'm extatic that this guy won't be leading the SBOE, I'm highly perturbed by the margin by which the block was able to occur.

Ah well... take the victories where you can find them in Texas.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Darwinius Masillae: Seriously Overblown

Everyone's already heard all about Darwinius Masillae the 47 million year old primate fossil. While I agree with scientists that the find is incredible, particularly in its age and completeness, I have to agree with PZ Myers on this one. Incredible as the find may be, its not a missing link, and there really aren't any missing links. We already know pretty clearly that evolution happened. Its obvious when looking at even partial evidence. This find doesn't make or break the ToE, it simply adds to the growing list of transitional forms that creationists pretend don't exist.

I've said it before, but I'm no scientist. I simply find this subject fascinating, mostly due to the denialism and the recalcitrant idiocy of the fundy camp. Frankly though, I get far too frustrated with "teh stoopid". I mean, working on these people and trying to get them to understand that their claims about science and whatnot are wrong and ludicrous is completely a waste of time. They don't understand because they don't want to. We make concessions regarding the fact that we don't claim to have absolute knowledge god doesn't exist etc, and they will always twist it around into a claim of something its not. The cognitive dissonance is so harsh it hurts. So, I'm not sure I'll be dealing directly with the tools on their own blogs anymore, but that doesn't mean I'm done here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Quickie Post

Your holy book "prediciting" that Christianity would face opposition and persecution with its doctrines against the status quo and being militantly evangelist is roughly as prophetic as me watching you walk into the rain and telling you you're going to get wet.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Absurdities in Genesis: Well, shit... that was quick.

So... yeah. Just post that I'm on a brief hiatus and BAM, I land on AiG and see this:

I mean... really? Come on, this is just beyond pointless. Do these whackjobs completely lack any understanding for what a metaphor is?

Derka derka. I mean, lets be honest here, nobody outside of various animistic pagan groups are you usually going to find someone who literally considers the earth their "mother." For the rest of us it is an obvious metaphor with clear implications regarding what the Earth is to us as a species, and to us as a biosphere. The earth takes care of us by providing us with what we need to survive, and we should be good children and not defile her. Whether you believe it is god causing those crops to grow or placing those animals there is of no consequence, nor does it detract from the metaphorical implications.

The only conclusion i can come to is completely unsavory and that is that these people literally believe that doing -ANYTHING- without the mention of god is implicitly bad or explicitly trying to deliberately sideline their god which is completely ridiculous with things like this that have, in common parlance, no religious connotation any more than me saying "goddamnit" means I believe in god.

And this is the kind of semantic bullshit that frustrates me about the religious debates. They nitpick the stupidest things, but then so do some of ours. How many times has an atheist tried to throw the "bats aren't birds" thing into an argument? The only classification systems that humans still use weren't even codified till thousands of years after the bible was written. Its silly semantic crap. I mean, pi=3 is a valid complaint, and so is the "pillars of the earth" and such. But lets keep it on the level here. If you want to argue semantics, they're going to keep throwing them back.

Taking a week off

Having made it to my hundredth post I'm going to take a little time off from the blog so I don't burn myself out. It'll give me some time to get my creativity back up. Might do some posts if I see something that screams needing a response, but other than that, I'll still be on SMRT.

Monday, May 11, 2009

100th Post: The Septuagint and Eternal Punishment

So, I'm already at my 100th post. Arbitrary marker, I know, But I decided I'd make this an interesting one. I want to discuss eternal punishment with you. Why eternal punishment? Because eternal punishment in hell is one of the most commonly used methods of intimidating people into believing the lies of evangelical christians.

The evangelical christians love the idea of eternal hell. It puts the impetus on a potential convert to either choose to believe or be potentially tortured forever. Its a great big initimidation con, and no doubt gets alot of weak converts from those who are afraid of that potential torture. That said, even so, I will set out to show that the idea of everlasting punishment is not only ridiculous as a doctrine, but completely unbiblical.

In this instance we should look at both the New and Old Testaments, but first the new. Yeshua, in those scriptures, which as best we can tell were initially published in Greek used the words Aionoios Kolasis to describe the eventual comeuppance of sinners and unbelievers. Now, while kolasis does equate to some kind of punishment for a crime or the rehabilitation, aionios is a bit trickier,a nd far more at odds with the fundies.

Aionios means "long enduring" based on all the greek sources that I can muster. It does not imply everlasting, and can be as short as a few years or a few centuries, but it is not eternal even in its implication. The term aionios is used dozens of times in the Septuagint (which Yeshua quoted from) in fact, and every single time it is in its meaning of "long enduring" not eternal. At least, not until you get to the New Testament where translators in the late Roman era and early middle ages decided that it meant eternal.

Highly conservative churches of course hate this idea, because it smacks of Origen's ideas about universal salvation, and of course, if you're going to be saved in the end regardless, alot of people aren't going to back the church, and the church's purpose of getting people to their salvation is completely shot, and many people would lose their purpose of living while not actually having to contribute productively. The very idea of universal salvation was very prevalent in early Christian communities, in fact, and even Augustine makes note of such doctrines and their popularity.

So, maybe I've misread something, but I cannot find anything to dispute this. Even if hell were to exist, I would not fear it because I would know it to be only for some time. Of course, as I don't believe in hell at all I fear it even less. But I highly recommend hitting fundies with that one every once in a while, as they really need a reality check, and watching them twitch in the throes of their cognitivie dissonance can be terribly amusing.

While I was researching all this I came upon a book called The Jerome Conspiracy which I recommend people check out. Its not a long read, and puts this all in a more comprehensive narrative. I actually wish I had come upon this source first, since most of my information is also therein.

Friday, May 8, 2009

god is not Great: To Sum it All Up

So, that's everything I'll be covering for god is not Great by Chrisopher Hitchens. Anyone who wishes to look back at the archives to see all the various parts can go here

Overall the book was good. Hitchens is really an excellent writer, easy to read and never goes too cerebral. This I found to be positive mostly because it made the book very accessible while at the same time communicating some very complex ideas. Generally speaking I enjoy Hitchens' style. He's very matter-of-fact as well as putting forth a certain acerbic surety that gives the book a powerful and distinct voice.

That is not, of course, to say that the book is without its flaws. As was stated in various individual chapter reviews its often lacking as far as scholarship. That's also a side effect of what Hitchens did to make the book more accessible. Hitchens isn't really a historian or a scientist; Hitchens is a Journalist, and that's the style that works for him. Its a visceral, easy to pick up style that excludes nobody. However, due to his lack of background as a scientist or historian the arguments often lack alot of the punch that proof might provide, and the very limited citation I would also consider a weakness.  

The biggest weakness though, i'd probably say is that it tries to tackle too much for its scope. Its not a long book, only about 280 pages, but he tries to cover 3 holy books many world religions, and arguments both for and against them. This is really just too much for anyone in my opinion. I fully expect Hitchens to write more on the subject in the future, but I'm really hoping he'll choose a more focused method in his next attempt.

In the end it was enjoyable. In most cases I tend to agree with Hitchens which actually made it difficult at times to to be critical of him, but I think in the end I did a fair job with it overall. Please feel free to criticize or comment. I'd really like to know what people think of the final product. 

god is not Great chapter 18 & 19

The final two chapters of god is not Great are interesting, although in the end sadly not terribly poignant. Hitchens discusses the history of rational conflict with religion which is sadly a very short history due to a shortage of well known atheists throughout history. In the final chapter Hitchens mostly discusses the need he feels for a new enlightenment, basically like Europe had in the 17th through 19th centuries.

Hitchens is a competent historian, but is by no means a professional in the field it would seem. He makes good points in discussing the accusations against Socrates, as well as the writings of Spinoza. But in the end the chapter has little choice but to fall flat. There's plenty of discussion going on, but regardless we have no way of knowing what historical potential atheists really believed, and whether they were in fact atheists. None that I'm aware of actually professed atheism. Now, while we could certainly assume someone like Spinoza was a proto-atheist, at the same time I think its important to recognize something Dawkins said as I feel it applies here: parpaphrased, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

Now, I don't like parroting Dawkins, but I feel that was an incredibly salient point he made. We can speculate about the beliefs of anyone: Spinoza, Socrates, Adolf Hitler, Thomas Jefferson, L. Ron Hubbard. It makes no difference; we can never know any of it for sure. Hitchens even recognizes this, and because he recognizes it, I'm glad he can see the weakness in his discussion, but am at the same time rather disappointed that he ended the body of the book with something without much punch, as this would have definitely been a great place to put one.

When he discusses the need for a new enlightenment, it is pretty much just a call to rational minds. He proposes that, unlike the previous enlightenment, today we have the potential and knowledge available for a kind of mass enlightenment, exponentially more powerful than the first. I've probably blown that up a bit, because it reads very utopian and Hitchens is not a Utopian thinker. That said, it makes a good point, but is not realistic. The religious will continue clinging to their holy books and their gods, and the world will continue to move forward. While I certainly believe the world will change with religion continually falling behind and losing ground, I certainly don't see a major shift in the very near future. Maybe in the next couple decades.

Final analysis later today...

Amusingly Sad

So, back in the very beginning of this blog I made a post regarding a particularly idiotic creationist moron. Apparently the genius that he is, Sye decided to make a covert post on there 2 months after I originally posted it. I don't check the archives for random comments terribly often, though every once in a while I find something. My nihilism discussion pulled in a troll that I never even noticed until this morning, and that was only a day after the post had slipped beyond my usual viewing.

But really, why would anyone bother posting 2 months later? I could easily have gone months without noticing that even peripherally. Frankly, Sye isn't really worth my time, but I replied anyway. I'm sure he'll be back.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Creationist Tool "Venomfangx" Stopped for Fraud

So, apparently the avid Youtube creationist VenomfangX has managed to get himself into some serious trouble. I think its terribly appropriate considering this guy pretty much idolized Kent Hovind. Amusingly enough, his website was also taken off line, get this -by his parents-

I'll admit I have not really watched any of his garbage all the way through, but just what snippets were posted by Thunderf00t on his videos. Still, I'm more than pleased to see this little fraud get shut down, even if he has already started a new channel.

Source: Rationalwiki

New Poll Posted

Ok. The new poll up is regarding the fate of Ray's book once I've read it.*

Be aware, my girlfriend has now made the offer to attempt to read 5 chapters, and if she can't read it I will not be punished mentally for a month for desecrating it ala PZ myers. Please vote, I'm always interested in what you guys have to say.

*This is a non-binding poll. In the end I will decide, though your votes, particularly if overwhelming may convince me in a direction.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

god is not Great Chapter 17: The "Case" Against Secularism

As the title makes clear, in chapter 17 Hitchens will go into the only major argument that the religious use against secularists which Hitchens has yet to address in the text: The old argument of how bad regimes like Hitler and Stalin et al. were, while claiming that the very problem stemmed from Atheism.

I think anyone reading this can think of a hundred reasons why this is a ridiculous argument, form the fact that Hitler and the Nazis under him were a pseudo-religion of german superiority, or Hitler being a Roman Catholic, to Stalin creating a similar cult of personality. These of course are the most common counters which are espoused by those such as Richard Dawkins use in their writings.

While Hitler notes things of this manner in passing, when he discusses Hitler he focuses not on the religion of Hitler himself, but of the relation of religions with hitler. Most notably he goes into the early, somewhat uneasy, relationship between the Nazi government and the Vatican which later become much more mutually supportive. It think it was a good tactic to use as it gives Hitchens a clear direction away from the Dawkins approach, but it also puts things back to the religious. If religions prevent this kind of thing, why didn't they here? Hitchens even goes into some of the fabricated stories of the great resistance of the clergy and religious and why they were obviously fraudulent.

He goes on to discuss other rulers' pseudoreligious regimes like Kim Jong Il, as well as the ancient God-Kings of the middle east. Overall Hitchens tears apart the argument, showing our morality to be a human trait again, not a religious one.

It was an interesting chapter, but not entirely necessary for the argument, and in part it feels tacked on because of it. Worth reading nonetheless.

Chapter 18 & 19 tie into each other, and I will be reviewing them together, hopefully on Friday.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Back From the East Coast

So I got back into town last night. Overall it was a good trip, although I'm always made slightly uncomfortable around my family on the east coast. The whole lot of them are pretty devout in their religious beliefs, and this has always been a bit of a sticking point for me. A good number of them are Nazarene, a few are Mormon and all of them are Christian. Needless to say I was obligated to attend a church service in honor of my Great Grandmother which preceded her birthday celebration.

This wasn't too bad, it was a fairly traditional congregationalist church, meaning they weren't hardcore evangelicals. Just more regular protestants. The amount of Hymns always make me uncomfortable when im with my family because I simply do not sing them because I will not sing praises for something I do not believe. Even so, it doesn't stop some of them from wondering about me because I'm the only one in church not singing, and the only one who doesn't take communion, etc.

Only my immediate family knows about my faith or lack thereof, but its always on the odd side not being part of the group at a family function.

But, all that aside, at my great grandmother's birthday celebration at the tables they had little churches made out of the material from those stress squeeze-ball things. I'm putting up a picture as soon as I have one. Also, we picked up one extra that if someone wants it, I may give away at some point.

It's good to be back. I'm looking forward to more great discussions.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spontaneous Analogy That I Had to Write Down

I was thinking about this particular Comfortian argument: 

If you go before a judge, convicted of a crime and you say to the judge, jusdge, I know I have been found guilty but since you are a good and fair judge, I believe you should let me go, being that you are so good and fair. What do you suppose that judge would say to you? They might give a slight chuckle but they would likely say, "because I am a good and fair judge, I cannot let you go free. I must see that justice is served and if I let you go free it would show me to be corrupt."
And thought to myself: How would a Christian argue that analogy if one added this line?
"But your honor, during your last campaign I brought you thousands of votes through my campaign contributions and my faith in your capacity to judge, as well as my understanding of how much you sacrifice for justice!"
How should the judge reply?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Away For a Weekend

I don't usually post on weekends anyway, but I did want to tell people who stop by regularly that I will be gone for the weekend. I will be in Pennsylvania near Philadelphia and Elizabethtown. I'll be out there celebrating my great grandmother's 100th birthday.

I will be trying to get ginG done within the next week so I can move on to other projects. I will probably take a week or two off before starting in on Ray and read a novel or two in the interim. Don't worry, I won't be reviewing novels here. Just wanting to read something fun before touching Comfort.

As for my format this time around...

I expect God Doesn't Believe in Atheists is broken up into chapters unlike his most recent book which, while it has chapters uses an easy to break down Q&A format. I intend for this review to once again be comprehensive, but unlike my ginG review, I expect it will be alot more sarcastic and possibly melodramatic. We'll see. The book sounds awful enough that I expect I'll be doing whatever I can to make it fun.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

god is not Great Chapter 16: Is Religion Child Abuse

This chapter, which is almost a direct continuation of the previous chapter focuses largely on the things that religions do to children. Overall, Hitchens makes some very good points, although my larger personal opinion is noted in a recent entry, Hitchens goes much further than I did.

He starts with the psychological, delving into the issue of things like Hell. Terrorizing children witht he prospect of eternal torture and damnation for disobedience and religious infidelity. I too wonder how many children have been harmed by these and similar practices by well meaning, and not so well meaning authority figures.

As Hitchens demonstrates, the institutions of religion have long understood how impressionable young children are, and that the key to having a hold on the adult is to indoctrinate him as a child. Overall, when it comes to the psychological damage section Hitchens writes a good piece, but in this exercise was well overshadowed by Dawkins in The God Delusion.

Regardless, Hitchens goes next into discusssing the physical abuses children suffer as a consequence of religions. He points out, of course, the issue of circumcision first as it is perhaps the most obvious. I can't help but agree with Hitchens, particularly with regards to infants. There is no good reason to mutilate a child's genitalia without their having a say in it, or even more importantly, without their even ever having known of the option to say no. It seems immoral to make a decision like that which is basically irreversible.

One place that Hitchens goes that is not covered in others (to my memory) is the masturbation taboo and the psychological and sexual repression that comes with it. Overall, a small section but somewhat poignant.

Overall the chapter didn't provide alot that was new, or illuminate much. It was a good read, but I would still stand by my personal opinion as stated previously.

Eugenics: Nobody Was Innocent

Quoited from Pevensie15: "Eugenics was done by ignorant atheists, who should have read the Bible!"

Ignorant assertion for the win!

I already replied to him on his blog, but as usual he completely ignores my points, probably because the kid has nothing even resembling a cogent answer.

Now, Aj there has raised what is really an obnoxious lie common to the fundamentalist Christian position. Eugenics was certainly an outgrowth from the ideas of evolutionary theory, but that does not make it inherently atheistic. Studies of various hominids yielded information regarding things like general skull measurements and other empirical qualities that led people to start applying those measurements as benchmarks regarding what races were more evolved than others. This was done worldwide, from bible believing American Christians, the British, The Chinese, Japanese, etc. Its association with the Nazi agenda simply hastened its departure from acceptable science.

Were there Atheists involved? Hell yes. Was it racist? Damned straight. Denying that would be revisionist claptrap like claiming Hitler wasn't a Christian (forgive my Godwin* breach). Now, I've pretty much come to expect this from current fundamentalists since they generally only know what they're taught which is usually a very white-washed version of history painting Christianity as some kind of heroic underdog despite being the establishment for about 1500 years in the west.

The second part of what AJ says really bothers me and shows palpable ignorance of the Tanakh. The bible supports outright genocide of non-believing neighbor nations and encourages erradication and/or enslavement. You know what, AJ, you're right. Reading the Bible would have stopped them from starting Eugenics. It would have encouraged outright slaughter rape and enslavement instead. Good point!

Of course, we all know that those Christians involved in Eugenics weren't true Scotsmen... err Christians. Right?

*Thanks ExPatMatt and Beamstalk

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Poll Completed!

Ok. So, now its over... and with  50% of the votes you have all condemned me to reading Ray Comfort's God Doesn't Believe in Atheists as my punishment for running an Atheist focused blog. 

Anyone who has anything in particular they'd like covered or focused on in the review I will certainly consider any suggestion. I will also be putting up a new poll probably next week regarding the Pharyngulation of the garbage book. 

Just for the record, if I decide to do a poll for my next review Ray Comfort will not be an option. 

The Brick Testament

The Brick Testament has reached an all time high with its 4 newest stories.

This guy is a lego genius.

Religion as Child Abuse. My own thoughts

I wanted to discuss my opinion on this argument separate from my analysis of Hitchens' presentation of it in god is not Great. This is mostly because I think it deserves more space than being intertwined with my analysis. Hopefully I will be posting a review of that chapter tomorrow, but I was inspired to write this instead for today.

The argument that religion being put forth to children is child abuse, and I am very much of two minds about that position. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion presented the argument in a way so as to demonstrate that there are no "Catholic Children," or "Marxist Children," and such trying to justify that religious indoctrination of children is immoral and abusive. I agree with this insofar as I think deep indoctrination of children into just about anything is wrongheaded and an affront to reason as it pushes the child in a prechosen direction before they have developed the reasoning skills to comprehend the enormity of the decision.

But then I also have to disagree. Indoctrination is a loaded word in this case, and is particularly poignant when applied to religion. That said, at some point we have to think about where can we draw a line at what values and beliefs parents can instill in their own children. While I, and no doubt many people reading this, view religion as a hostile and caustic influence in the world the parents of the religious children literally believe they giving them "truth" whatever that may be. The same goes for a parent instilling capitalistic values, or stoic values or, whatever values, beliefs, and opinions you may wish to look at.

Do we draw the line of abuse at obviously harmful values, like racism and bigotry? Or do we start dictating the majority status quo with the ability to decide what is abusive? Take it to the courts? But any of these options bothers me. I'm not currently a parent, but someday I intend to be; I would not want the government or some other external authority telling me I could not teach my own child from my own experiences and values. So i'm really at a loss here. We can't just limit it to religion since that's far too narrow, and hardly the only indoctrinating philosophy category available.

I personally think it to be impossible to not indoctrinate children, even unintentionally. If, as parents, one does not teach their child, the child won't learn anything. Its also natural that in any environment a young child will learn by adopting something from the actions, words, and habits of his or her parents. Children from different backgrounds will obviously develop differently in this respect, but we can't really expect every religious parent to stop all religious habits to protect their child and give him a free development without influence. Its not realistic, and its questionable whether it would be moral.

So, is religion child abuse? Possibly. But I personally don't see that there's anything that can be done to stop it as a whole without violating a thousand other rights, and that I'm not ok with.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Intelligent Design and the Echo Chamber

I'm sure I'm not the first one to write on this, but I can't help but making note; It seems to me a very odd phenomenon that the only people who argue for the idea of intelligent design are religious. And beyond that, not only are they all religious, but they are almost all evangelical Christians, with a few fringe Jews like Ben Stein. The fact that this is almost an exact match to the same group of evolution deniers (other than the muslims) is rather telling when you look at it from a scientific and sociological perspective.

The largest part of this group is what is commonly called an echo chamber. They all tell each other what they want to hear while bouncing their own ideas back at each other and keeping any dissenting opinoin out. But this group never looks outside the chamber to make the obvious conclusion: If we're the only ones who don't believe something and we all happen to share one certain belief system, perhaps its not the other side that's closed-minded.

Of course, that would be an admittance of severe cognitive dissonance that the average fundamentalist simply cannot accept. It's world-shattering in their view after all. But when we look at modern evolutionary theory which is generally accepted by (non-fundamentalist) Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Shinto etc. you have to look at that and wonder how the recalcitrant deniers of evolution can possibly make their case when they are basically the lone voice of dissent. If their absurd dating was correct certainly someone outside the echo chamber would have come up with something supporting it, but that's never the case. And then, of course, the ones outside the echo chamber are considered to be either consipiratorial, or just plain closed-minded.

I think its important to avoid an echo chamber mentality, wchich is why I listen to dissenting media quite a bit. I like to make sure I'm analyzing the other side which gives my personal convictions a stronger basis through reasoning. For example, I hate Michael Savage. I think he's an ignorant alarmist who is riding solely off of sensationalism. But I listen to him because every once in a while an interesting point pops up that I can't reasonably dispute. Then i research the claim and see how valid it really is. If it is, I've learned something. I may come a to a different conclusion than that asshat, but I did learn something. When you're in the Echo Chamber its rarely learning something new. Its regurgitation of what you already believe, and what you want to hear.

I think that's valuable for many skeptics and rational thinkers. Many of us do fall into the same problem, but to a less severe degree. Luckily, particularly with evolution, the facts and science are very much on our side. But that's not always been the case, and while most of us are open-minded to new theories and ideas, but we need to keep it that way.

And that doesn't mean giving pseudoscientific garbage a fair shot. Homeopathy, ID and such are pretty much objectively garbage. But even so when a reliable source presents dissent we need to (and usually do) listen.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Absurdities in Genesis: Close But Not Quite

This one kinda hurts my head, but more because its so close to having a semblance of truth to it, then it just fails miserably. Sadly it demonstrates an absolute zero understanding of what argument from incredulity is. The pictured "evolutionist," were he anything but a poor caricature would point out that given enough time and possibilities the potential for our evolution becomes far less improbable, and becomes much more about how we evolved, not about the probability of whether we evolved.

Of course, that's why argument from incredulity is a fallacy. If i roll a 1 billion sided die, every result has a 1 in a billion chance, but when I roll a 426,325,201 I just beat 1 in a billion odds of rolling that. If we know something happened against probabiliy we want to know how. We already know whether it happened or not.

As an aside, their artist has a really weird obsession with those lame ass fish that people put on their cars. I mean just in the last month we've had the one above, as well as this one, and just this year so far there's those plus this, this, this, this, and this. I mean really they do about one a week, and almost half of them for the year feature those stupid things.

Poll: Last Chance

Last chance for those who care what I review next. only about a day and a half left on that poll. Be sure to vote if that's of interest to you.

Forgot to bring my copy of ginG to work today, so sadly cannot do more reviewing today.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Archaeology, History, and the Bible

I apologize that I will not be citing sources here, but I am at work.

Fundamentalists have made some pretty fantastical claims about the historicity of the bible. They love to say things like, "Archaeology has never contradicted the bible," and "historically the bible is the most accurate book ever written," and plenty of other nonsense. But does it really hold up? Of course not.

Firstly, lets look at what the bible gets right, because there is a significant amount that it does do well. It is an excellent reference on the cultures of Israel and Judah, including their religious practices, their social customs, as well as their laws. Also, after the unification of Israel and Judah (reunification is as best I can tell ahistorical)it is a reasonably good history.

Archaeology has confirmed some of the history, including the existence of Jericho, the existance of Nebuchadrezar of Babylon, and other bits of information that we can confirm. There's even a possibility (if dubious) that two cities potentially analgous with Sodom and Gomorrah were discovered.

But what has never been proven? Well, lets start with anything supernatural. There is no real evidence other than legendary of even the existence of Moses or his supposed miracles, let alone any evidence of divine intercession at places like Jericho. Search as they might, archaeologists have found no proof of Solomon or David beyond the biblical legends, and have also shown that if Solomon was real his empire was greatly exaggerated in the biblical texts. Archaeology has also shown no evidence of inhabitation at oasis in the Sinai desert where the Israelites supposedly stayed for 40 years. If they were there, surely there would have been something left behind, but there are not even pot sherds. The history of egypt has never recorded the mass use of slaves, let alone any record of an entire nation of Jews enslaved. In the real world, egyptian monuments and great buildings were mostly public works projects as evinced by discovered workers' camps.

The problems in Genesis alone are innumerable for archaeology and historians alike. It is obvious to the historians who know that many of the legends of Genesis were cribbed off of earlier successful civilizations' mythologies, like the sumerians. This is particularly obvious in things like the ages of the patriarchs and the Sumerian kings, as well as the tower of Babel.

But what should we take from this?

Actually, its very telling. not so much saying that the bible is inaccurate, but it tells us that archaeology is confirming exactly what we should expect it would. The supernatural claims remain unsubstantiated, but the cultural cues and traditions, which the authors would have been very familiar with are relatively accurate. And this is of no surprise, yet fundamentalists treat this as if it were some amazing proof of the bible's accuracy. Its inevitable, when a book is written within a culture that those cultures specifics will be available. This is not proof. It is not even evidence. It is simply the way archaeology works.

I'll use an analogy.

If I were an explorer in India, and discovered an island off the coast (sri lanka) and went there, discovered that the cultural details and such conformed to what was written in the Ramayana. Should I then conclude that Ravana the demon lived on the island and that Rama went there to save his wife Sita from him? No, of course not. It means a text written within the context of a culture follows the norms of the culture, and the mores of the culture. It speaks nothing to supernatural claims whatsoever. This is not exceptional, this is expected.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

god is not Great Chapter 15: Religion as an Original Sin

In chapter 15 Hitchens takes four key points of doctrine and tradition in religions and explains in his view and experience why these are "not just amoral, but positively immoral." These four points are quoted as follows:

  • The doctrine of blood sacrifice
  • The doctrine of atonement
  • The doctrine of eternal reward and/or punishment
  • The imposition of impossible tasks and rules.

In the analysis of blood sacrifice Hitchens largel discusses the Judeo-Christian scriptural blood sacrifices of animals, but is quick to also discuss the ghastly story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. By Hitchens' view, whether the sacrifice was stopped before it occured or not, it does not change that such orders from a tyrannical deity do not make for a good rationale for worship. I, myself, in fact find the very concept repulsive, when the presumed intent of the story is to inspire faith and trust in God.

All in all this section was less than it could have, and probably should have been, ironically because it focused so heavily on the most well known religions. It could have benefitted gretly from a discussion of the infant sacrifice of Carthage for example, or perhaps the ever so common Aztec human sacrifices (although he mentions them under atonement). Blood sacrifice of both humans and animals is in enough religions that 2 pages is insufficient coverage in my opinion.

As he hits on atonement it is clear that it is mostly targetting the Christian traditions. He discusses the very immorality of vicarious redemption, which I agree is absurd. Nobody can take responsibility away from someone, and as Hitchens would probably say, it would be immoral for someone to ask, and immoral for me to accept. He rails rightfully against the idea that we are all as humans responsible for the torture and subsequent crucifixion of the mythical son of God, and that to require us to atone for this, and the "original sin" of Adam is like the proverbial situation of god making one sick and then telling him to heal himself. It is absurdity in the highest degree. Hitchens also takes the opportunity to take a bit of a shot at the Christian tradition of blaming the Jews for Christ's execution.

Let me pull away at that point, because it never made sense to me. The Christians (traditionally), both Catholic and Protestant (don't kid yourself Ray) have historically blames the Jews for the crucifixion. The crime of deicide. But looking deeper, what they're really saying is the Jews fulfilled Christ's purpose on Earth, since without his crucifixion he a. wouldn't have been the sacrifice he was purportedly intended to be, and b. could never have resurrected which, according to Paul is what the entirety of their faith hinges on. So, they blamed the Jews for giving them their religion. How grateful.

Onward to Eternal Punishment and Impossible tasks. I've personally discussed the absurdity of eternal punishment for temporal crimes many places, but Hitchens doesn't really delve into that. What he does do, however, is beat up on pascal's wager a bit for good measure, mention ways religions have profited from people terrified of damnation (i.e temporary brothel marriages in muslim countries, and papal indulgences) and then discuss the issues of Judeo Christian law that impose impossible restrictions on people.

He starts with the most obvious, the commandment not to covet. This is of course, as we all know, impossible. This goes also for the common argument of, "have you ever lusted?" that some evangelists love so well. If you make the rules impossible of course its impossible to meet the standard. Its a similar situation in Buddhism that I feel Hitchens is remiss in not mentioning. One of the biggest points of the philosophy is overcoming and rejecting all want, which is pretty much impossible.

This is, again, actually a very good chapter with some regrettably big flaws. It could benefit significantly from more research and historical understanding, as well as a broader religious view. While the focus on the most commonly known religions is important to the book's accessability, if your thesis is "religion poisons everything" a better universal case needs to be made.

From here, Hitchens actually segues directly into his next chapter, which is also a favorite topic of Dawkins': Is Religion Child Abuse? Should be an interesting review.

When Writer's Block Sucks...

I bring you Fashion S.W.A.T!

Mostly I find it amusing to see them glibly mock the teabaggers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In Reference to my Previous Post

If we really need an anti-religion acronym for Earth Day I recommend the following:


I think its a lot more amusing that way.

Absurdities in Genesis: Dominion Over the Slag Heap

Really? Seriously? Do you people have any concept of what Earth day is about? Well, let me educate you a little bit...

We have one planet. Just one. Now, we have systematically since the beginning of the industrial revolution devastated the ecology of our planet, damaging, destroying, or making uninhabitable rivers, lakes, forests, plains, and just about any other ecosystem you can imagine. This disgusting lack of respect for the planet has led to mass deforestation and subsequent desertification.

Your "comic" here serves to illustrate a profound level of ignorance and complete arrogance. You think this is about your God? You, who in your anti-abortion furor claim to promote a "culture of life" are basically promoting the idea that environmentally sustainable living is an affront to your God regardless of how many will die to support your "culture of life". How utterly pompous and self-important.

Let's break it down a bit...

You say that Earth day promotes:

We exist because of the earth: This is undeniable. As stated previously, we have one planet on which to live at our current level of technology. If you can think of somewhere else we can currently exist, give me a call.

The earth is our mother: This is mostly metaphorical, and is, when used literally a bit of a pagan thing. But generally Earth day is populist, not religious.

Celebrate the Earth: Why not? Its where our crops come from, it feeds the animals that we eat in turn... Oh that's right. It doesn't explicitly mention YOUR god. Well, it doesn't explicitly remove your god from the equation either. Whether you believe god gave dominion over the Earth to you or not, if you don't take care of it, its not going to last.

Love the Earth: See above.

Why does it always have to be about your religion? If you stop and think about it for two seconds maybe you'd look less idiotic, but that might be asking a bit much. If you think Earth Day has anything at all to do with your religion positive or negative, you need more of a reality check than even the average YEC wingnut.

Pharyngulation of Ray Comfort Book Possibly Held Off

Ok. So, my fiance is less than supportive of me destroying a book of any sort, even the garbage of Ray Comfort. Sadly this means that I will either not be destroying God Doesn't Believe in Atheists after I'm done with it, or doing it anyway at somewhat of a relationship cost. I'll probably put up a non-binding poll for that once the current poll is done.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

god is not Great Chapter 14: There is no "Eastern" solution

For the entire book to this point Hitchens has focused almost entirely on the monotheistic traditions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. At this point he takes the opportunity to try and demonstrate that the eastern religious traditions are no better, particularly targeting Buddhism. 

What makes this an interesting chapter is how different Hitchens' focus is in his writing. While discussing the monotheisms he was very harsh (often justifiably) to the doctrines and scriptures as well as the acts of the adherents. This time, however there is basically nil as far as discussions of offensive or questionable doctrines, replaced by what I see as largely exceptions to the rules. Case in point, Hitchens writes about a clearly corrupt Buddhist retreat where the guru was encouraging wealthy attendees to give up their worldly posessions (to "the monastery" of course) and posting a sign saying "Shoes and minds must be left at the gate." Now, to be fair, Buddhism does encourage these things, but not to assuage the greed of its proponents. That will of course never stop the truly enterprising from abusing their flocks and fleecing to their heart's content. 

Buddhism also gets quite its share of flak from the Japanese atrocities justified by it in a kind of Imperial cult Mahayana Buddhism. Whether this could be seen as a Buddhist movement creating a nationalistic furor, or a nationalistic furor infecting the local Buddhist sects is largely irrelevant; Buddhism was still used as an encouragement to violence and conquest no less deplorable than the Crusades or any Jihad. 

But sadly this is where Hitchens ends the chapter. It would have been interesting had he gone into Confucuanism, or Taoism (having discussed Hinduism with Gandhi), but he doesn't, and that's a bit disappointing to me. He's trying to make a case against religion as a whole, and he targeted three western religions, but in depth thus far only one eastern religion. His coverage of Hinduism is brief and discussed only one man's usage of it. This chapter really could have been much more. 

Admittedly, I agree with Hitchens' premise, but I do not think his writing sufficiently represents his goal. I realize it is nearly impossible to sufficiently cover every possible religion available, but in this case, more should have been done to paint a broader, if still imperfect picture. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ray Comfort Review

So, its very much looking like, with about half the votes and only a week left on the poll that I will be reviewing Ray Comfort next. If anyone here reading has a copy they would either sell cheap or lend, I will happily pay for shipping. I would just like to see if there are any copies used before I let any of my hard earned money go to Living Waters.

That said, you never know how things can change in a week, but I am planning ahead.

god is not Great Chapter 13: Does Religion Make People Behave?

As is fairly obvious fromt he chapter title Hitchens this time discusses the issue of morality in relation to religion. Of course, anyone reading this is likely to already agree with Mr Hitchens that religion does not incite morality. Hitchens makes a very good case against the morality of religion in this chapter, and it is probably his strongest argument.

He uses this chapter to discuss several personages and groups as examples in support of his thesis. Dr. Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, the Christian, but Muslim backed LRA, and the Rwandan genocide's catholic supporters.

In the cases of the individuals he shows that their good acts were never founded on religion so much as raw morality, and particularly in the example of Dr. King how the religious allusions he used were from a religion that in innumerable instances had been used textually to oppose exactly what his goals were. This of course creates an inconsistency wherein the religion cannot be right on all sides, and someone is immoral either way.

He exposes Gandhi as a hypocrite in his passifism, feeling somewhat justly that he was perfectly content to let the Japanese do his fighting for him. At the same time Gandhi's efforts to keep India village based, and his status as a Hindu Mahatma directly hurt the ability for India to remain one nation after the British occupation ended. It seems a good argument from Hitchens that religion has a tendancy to color our morality and often make things acceptable that normally would not be, including slavery, inquisition, torture, and murder.

Perhaps the nastiest case he discusses is the genocide in Rwanda where, while the Vatican was likley not complicit, the Catholic population and clergy had served as aiders and abetters to horrific genocide.

It is of course important to note that Hitchens does not make the argument that relgions do not do any good. He does however heavily lean to imply that they don't do any good that could not, or would not, be done without them. And there I certainly agree with him. One of religion's most powerful aspects is by far its ability to take perfectly good people and make them capable of the atrocious.

Perhaps my favorite recounting of Hitchens in this chapter, and maybe the most telling was his brief discussion of a debate between A.J Ayer and a Bishop Butler where after a comment of Ayer's notes he sees no good reason to believe in god the bishop replies that he could not see why ayer did not lead a life of "undridled immorality." This of course speaks volumes about how this bishop feels he would act did he not believe in god, and says nothing that makes Ayer in any way immoral by fiat.

Friday, April 17, 2009

To ExpatMatt

Remember this guy? You really pissed him off. Must be the thinnest skinned evangelical I've ever seen on teh intarwebz

Yeshua Was Not a Capitalist

In the last few weeks I've been absolutely boggled by the number of Christians complaining about the Obama tax plan. I understand the rich whining about having to pay more taxes, but the largest percentage of the people bitching in this astroturf roots campaign are either not affected by the tax plan, or helped by it. And really, do these so-called Christians even know their own myths? Does "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" sound familiar to any of them? Does the fact that it was basically Yeshua telling people that they should pay their taxes even register?

Apparently not.

I recently listened to an evangelical broadcast saying that Christians support this so they have more money because Christians with more money are more effective witnesses. I must have done a triple take. Soooo... becoming wealthy is an absolute plus in the religion subscribing to the guy who said (paraphrased) "Give up all your worldly riches and follow me." And he meant it literally.

You can argue ephemerally that it is your God given right to be a capitalist, or to do as you like. According to you, God gave you free will, and the option to do as you like. That said, don't pretend that God told you that you should become wealthy and serve him, or that God favors Capitalism. This is a relic of the cold war mentality, and completely without merit In your own scriptures.

If anything, Yeshua was a socialist.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


This is just a plug to check out Wonkette's coverage of the "teabagging" yesterday. The commentary is excelletn.

Arrogant Atheists Indeed

Atheists, probably more than any other demographic, get tarred with the epithet of arrogance. Its no mystery why this is the case, particularly with such outspoken famous atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who are so unapologetically atheistic (or antitheistic in Hitchens' case) that their confidence comes across as arrogance to those who do not share their views. Their being British doesn't help them in the States as British people are regrettably already too often smeared with an unjust label of intellectual snobbery.

But let's look at the bigger picture on rality. Atheism is a skeptical view at its heart. Atheists (at least intelligent atheists) do not claim a perfect knowledge of any of the following:

1: Is there a god and/or gods?
2: What Caused the Universe to Spring Into Being?
3: What Happens After We Die?

Atheists try and answer as best we can, and to that end we end up with plenty of "likely's" "probably's" and "I thinks" which is in stark contrast to the surety of the monotheists who claim to -know-. Now, this is not universal. Many monotheists simply claim it is what they believe, and hedge in many of the same ways as we atheists do. But the ones who claim to know, like Ray Comfort for example, are all too willing to call atheists arrogant (or insane*) for what we know to the best of our ability through reasoning and science, while they claim to know with absolute surety on the basis of their own personal convictions and no real evidence outside of a highly flawed book dating anywhere from 1400-2500 years ago (pick your poison).

And we're the arrogant ones. Ok, right, gotcha. There area arrogant people on all sides of the fence and in all walks of life. But when it comes to theological views (or lakc thereof) it certainly isn't the atheists whose beliefs are on their own arrogant. The only reason the theists consider it arrogant is because it offends their religious sensibilities that we not only don't believe in their sky daddy, but are loud about it, and proud of our atheism. I guess when you have a good argument it can seem arrogant.

*Dawkins has certainly said the same of theists, so this doesn't really offend me, but the theist grounding for such an assertion is so weak that it is basically laughable.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Bit About Me

I realized when i wrote my reveiew of ginG chapter 11 that I pretty much never talk about who I am here, but I guess i probably should, to give everyone an idea of where I'm coming from when it comes to atheism and religion.

For the basics I was raised, as I have stated previously, in a Mormon household. That said, it was not terribly cultic as far as things go. While many of the doctrines were in force our family was overall pretty lax when it came to the prohibitions on caffeiene and such (alcohol was a huge no though). We were a convert family, so its not terribly odd that we were never really perfectly adapted to that lifestyle or the amount of indoctrination that some were.

Anyhow, it was an interesting way growing up. I can honestly say that for quite some time I actually believed pretty much everything that was said about Joseph Smith, the history of the church, and whatnot. It was ironically their intense teenage indoctrination program, which they call "seminary" that broke me of the spell. Seminary was basically 4 years of deep scriptural study with a preapproved church curriculum.

In addition to being a Mormon, I was also a history nut, and too many things in the Book of Mormon just didn't work. The main one that tipped me off was mention of Horses in the Americas B.C.E. From there it was just downhill, andby the time I turned 16 I didn't really believe in all the crap anymore, and shifted away into an agnostic/deist stance for awhile, and "came out" to my parents about my agnosticism the month before I turned 18. Going to university changed my perspective even more, and after a brief stint of disingenous paganism and pantheism I went full on Atheist. Having throughly researched history I'd realized that my pantheism was only half right; religions were all equal, they were just equally false.

From there I somewhat lost interest in religion until I picked up The God Delusion last November, and since then the entire subject of positive atheism and active, "out" atheism has drawn me in, and I've been going ever since. And now we're here.

I know, pretty dull stuff, but if anyone has any quesitons about mormonism or anything else up here, feel free to ask!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Pirates of Penz... err Somalia

I'm sure we're all fairly well aware of these guys by now, but I feel the need to explain something because I've been hearing this shit on right wing wacko radio for the past week almost.

Pirates are not terrorists.

Yeah, they're unsavory, they do terrible things to people, steal cargo, ships and pretty much do whatever they want, but that doesn't make them terrorists, and here's why: they aren't motivated by intimidation, but by profit. Islamofascist terrorists are motivated by intimidation, religious furor, and often martyrdom. So a terrorist wants to fuck you up to cow us, a pirate wants to fuck you up because you have shit he wants. That said, a pirate sure as hell plans on walking away from his job with his ill gotten gain, a terrorist may or may not.

People need to get this through their skulls, because labelling every enemy who is not an official nation a terrorist is both foolish and inaccurate. Now, I have no problem with having similar policies for dealing with pirates as terrorists, but in all seriousness you aren't going to see a pirate come over and suicide bomb a school. By labelling pirates terrorists we are assigning to them an ideology and objective they most likely do not subscribe to.

Oh wait, that's right. I'm talking about right wingers. Good luck on getting through their thick skulls

god is not Great chapter 12: How Religions End

The title of Chapter 12 is actually a bit misleading. While it does discuss the rise and fall of a specific movement within Judaism, it could hardly be considered indicative of how religions (in a general sense) end.

Hitchens chooses Sabbatai Sevi as his subject. To those not familiar with him, Sevi was a mid-seventeenth century candidate to be the Jewish messiah. He had a large backing from people as well as Jewish religious figures, but in the end was imprisoned and forced to either convert to Islam or die (guess which he picked), and left Jerusalem never to return, dying in relative obscurity. Hitchens declares "So the Sabbatai Sevi religion came to an end," but that's not entirely honest in my opinion.

Yes, Sevi failed spectacularly in converting to Islam, and by extension he was clearly no messiah for the Jews. That said, however it was not an end to Messianic Judaism by any means, and calling Sabbatai Sevi a religion is a bit of a stretch in my opinion. What Sevi is a very good example of is how easily myths arise around a messianic archetype both within their lifetime and shortly after. Miracles were attributed to him, supposed eye witnesses vouched for him, and he had no shortage of followers. If his Muslim captors hadn't been as wise to history and the power of martyrdom as they were, we very likely could still be hearing about Sabbatai Sevi today. The parallels of him to Yeshua up until his conversion to Islam are that Stark.

All in all, it was an extremely short (4 pages) chapter that sadly didn't set out to show what it said it did. It is so far, probably Hitchens' weakest showing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

god is not Great chapter 11: Religion's Corrupt Beginnings

Interestingly, halfway through the book we get to the origin of religion and the problems that spring from it. In all, this chapter was very telling, and struck a chord with me in particular because it discussed my own erstwhile denomination, the Mormon church. Additionally in this chapter he discusses two other modern religious phenomena, those being the Pentecostal Marjoe, and the "Cargo Cults" of Melanesia.

Anyone who has read The God Delusion should already be familiar with the ideas of the cargo cults and the ease in which religions can create themselves in the right situations. Hitchens demonstrates how easily in this case primitive superstitions and a simple lack of understanding regarding how something works can even over a short amount of time result in a full blown religion around such. What is terribly striking about this, of course, is the difficulty it takes for them to give up that belief once it has been shown to be a fraud, which Hitchens rightly points out, and is certainly telling as far as other, more mainstream religions are concerned. The age of thsoe religions may make their beginnings less transparent and certainly a bit more mysterious, but that doesn't mean, by any account that there is some real difference between them in their initial formation.

Hitchens next addresses the issue of Marjoe, the Pentacostal youth who was abused into preaching by age four. Hitchens goes on to explain that he finally rebelled and even later showed exactly how miracles and such are created for the unwitting observers. Its an obvious case of group encouraged delusion when the preacher admittedly knows its a fraud and demonstrates its a fraud, but people believe anyway, mostly because they want to. Marjoe is a case of showing how the charismatic movements in Christianity are absolutely corrupt, and despite even one of their own showing how its done publicly and on film they still prosper and profit off the donations of ill informed dupes.

Then, of course, Hitchens addresses the Mormons. The demonstrably man-made Book of Mormon has spawned a religion spanning the world and around ten million followers. Joseph Smith, the founder, was as most know, a polygamist as well as a con-man from his youth, but apparently was a good enough con-man to get people to believe his religion despite its obvious flaws, and his previous criminal convictions.

The benefits to Smith are obvious. He got tithing money for doing essentially nothing other than reinforcing the religious propaganda he started, and making a strict social structure with him at the top. He got multiple wives due to his so-called "revelations" from God, much to the consternation of his first wife Emma. Smith even referred to himself as a new Muhammed, showing a great cunning and understanding of exactly what his intent was from the outset.

All in all the Mormon section of the chapter packs the greatest punch as well as the most pages. And its easy to see why. Of all the religions that have arisen in modern times perhaps only scientology could lay claim to greater corruption and transparent falsehood. That said, while Hitchens does demonstrate ways in which religious movements arise, he doesn't demonstrate a universally binding necessity for corruption.

This is of course the problem with the really hisorical religions, like Judaism and Christianity where we cannot pin a single founder, and lack a good history of the events surrounding the rise. Christianity, and to a lesser extent Islam suffer from the same issues in criticism.

All said, the chapter supports the hypothesis that religions are parasitic, but whether they poison everything by their very existence may be a bit of a stretch.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Buona Pasqua?

I realize there's alot that could be said about today's particular religious trappings and history, but each time I try and write something it seems trite and insignificant next to the body of work on the subject. That said, I'd just like to wish all my fellow skeptics and atheists a Happy Zombie Jesus day. Hopefully I'll be able to think of something really worth saying tonight. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Apparently this has been around for a couple of years, but is new to me. Seriously though. Couldn't think of anything more original? Its pretty much an exact imitation of the Atheist Out Campaign. It smacks of despair, and a lack of creativity. And lets be honest, the Out Campaign really isn't that "creative" to begin with, but at least it was the original.

Like being an "out" Christian is an oddity anywhere in the English speaking world to begin with.

god is not Great Chapter 10: The Tawdriness of the Miraculous

Chapter 10 as the name implies discusses miracles and their decreasing effect on the views of people over time. Overall, this is really nothing that any of us don't already know as rational modern people, so I expect it won't be a terribly long review this time.

Thankfully Hitchens early on defines what would be viewed as a miracle calling it "a disturbance or interruption in the expected and established course of things." This is about as fair of a definition of a miracle as one could probably come up with.

To explain his title regarding miracles being "tawdry" he discusses the typeds of people who have debunked miracle workers and magicians using laboratory conditions such as James Randi. This serves for Hitchens as a segway into criticising the sources reporting miracles, particularly the New Testament wherein he explains the problems in the miracle narratives, as well as demonstrating via Bart Ehrman's work there is significant evidence of the greatest miracles (i.e resurrection) being added well after the initial writing. All in all, once again, things all skeptics and atheists are fairly familiar with, and among the many things that make us non-believers to begin with.

Once again the part that is most interesting comes from Hitchens' personal reports and experiences. His anecdotes this time come from his experiences regarding Mother Teresa. He opens the section with an old miracle associated with her which was shown to just be a matter of film choice, and not deific preference, and then he goes on to discuss when he took position of Devil's Advocate against Mother Teresa's beatification.

This I found personally fascinating as he showed how willing people are to believe in miracles despite all evidence that something was natural; the film incident, or even more stark the recovery of a patient from tuburculosis and an uteran growth which had greater claim to the doctor's skill than divine intercession via Mother Teresa. Despite this, the subject swore up and down that it was a miracle, not medicine that had saved her.

Overall, this chapter was a bit of a reality check for the faithful, but just an amusing read for the skeptic.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

For the Right Wingers...

Ok guys, lets have a lesson as to why this is ridiculous. Other than the fact that the source is WND of course.

Now, let's talk history. The Declaration of Independence, being one of the founding documents of the United States, is held in high esteem on these shores as a message of freedom from tyranny, combatting taxation without representation, and a declaration of war against our erstwhile parent state. That said, the DoI cannot be repealed or negated by any act less than directly and abjectly becoming subjects under the British crown. Even then, technically the DoI as far as in legal force has never existed, and the wars which it began have been considered resolved as of the end of the War of 1812. You know. 200 years ago.

Remember, the constitution guarantees no such thing as "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," or any such thing in so broad terms. It guarantees specific rights and freedoms to citizens of this nation. None of which are corporate. None of which guarantee that international oversight will never be necessary. This is of course not to mention that the DoI was written at a time when the concept of our current global economy wasn't even a blip on the radar.

And even if the Declaration of Independence were a legal document, I think most of you right wing nutters would be even more unhappy. Life as a right? Well, there goes the death penalty you're so fond of. Liberty? Can't have prisons can we? Pursuit of Happiness? I guess rape and murder and various horrible things (like *gasp* gay marriage) would be ok as long as it would make you happy.

Aren't we all glad for what the Declaration was? It was a declaration of independence from Great Britain. That's it. Perhaps you remember reading about a war regarding that document. Yes, the phrasing was beautifully Lockeian, and it was powerfully written, but its still just a declaration of war with no legal precedent setting power.

And while we're at it, what the hell is with the tea party crap? Do you even understand what the boston tea party was about? Do you understand what kinds of injustice it was a response to? Unrepresented taxation and a willingness to turn on the people violently with tyrannical force. This was not an elected government like we have today. Legitimately and legally put in place by the people. Pretending these two situations are even comparable is not just a mockery of our history, but a descent of this country into a gross self parody. Let's close with an Image comparison:

This, is the Boston Tea Party:

This, is how you guys look by comparison:

Any Questions?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Glad Nobody Considers them a Real News Source

And here I thought Worldnet Daily was already scraping the bottom of the barrel for their contributors what with Chuck Norris and all. Those guys sure proved me wrong.

As a completely silly aside: The picture of Savage on that article makes me think he's going to be begging me for change on the street.

god is not Great Chapter 9: The Koran is Borrowed

After a bit too long of a break due to losing track of my copy of god is not Great I'm back to reveiw chapter 9 taking me up to about halfway through the book. This time we look at what Hitchens describes as both "the most and the least interesting of the world's monotheisms."

Hitchens, in his usual style, beigns by targeting the weakest points of Islam. He alludes to the previous two chapters in noting that because of how much Islam borrowed from its elder siblings, the failure of them to be valid contributes directly to a failure of Islam. He even goes so far as to compare the supposed annunciations of the virgin Mary and Muhammed specifically as both "unverifiable and unfalsifiable."

An interesting comparison Hitchens makes is between the resistance of all three of these monotheistic traditions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to having their scriptures translated into the common languages of various nations. The Torah by tradition is still hand written almost exclusively in Hebrew when for liturgical use(although Hitchens notes that many, if not most, of the rituals have been abandoned) the Koran is still considered only correct in Arabic. The only one of these three that has broken out of the linguistic stasis is the Christian scripture, and the largest denomination, Roman Catholicism, only stopped doing Latin exclusively in the 1960's.

He provides an amusing anecdote of a discussion he had with someone in Washington DC where a man bemoaned the fundamentalist muslims who were (and still are) vexing the US. Hitchens gave his explanations and noted there was more proof for Muhammed than Jesus, and his acquaintance threatened him with violence.

Whether the story is true or not (and I don't see hwy he would make it up), it does illustrate well how touchy religion is. Islam in particular is reactive and much too often violent. It was born in violence, and thirved on conquest for the first few centuries of its existence after all. But if a Christian cannot withold threat of violence in defense of his own faith, how could he not expect the same of a believer in another faith?

Our author does make one claim that is of probably the most importance in the entire chapter: All three books, the Tanakh/Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Koran each have one common problem, that being that they were all penned significantly after the events they allude to take place, or, in the case of the Koran, significantly after they were said to have been recited. By this problem, none of the three have a good claim of authority. Each makes some claim to the divine, but none have the hard evidence needed to prove it. The Christians claim eyewitness writers of the gospels, but they were written decades after the events, and the claims of apostolic authorship are dubious at best. The Jewish scriptures claim to discuss events from well before they were written, and the evidence for their original writing dates indicates likely centuries after when they claim. The koran, worst of all three, claims it was passed on perfectly orally before finally being written down.

He concludes the chapter discussing how religions like Islam stifle inquiry regarding the religion itself, particular in these days of much greater scientific understanding where we can examine the claims more accurately. Hithens posits that this is most likely a fear of being proven wrong, which would be insurmountably detrimental to the faith.

All said, it was an interesting chapter. Perhaps his best of the three holy book chapters. He supports his thesis well, and makes many good points. All in all it was quite worth reading.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Playing With Matches Around a Straw Man

Ok... what part of this is satire, and not just blatantly idiotic?It lacks understanding of the scientific method and how peer review works. Satire exposes something and is either ironic or sarcastic. This is just sarcastic hyperbole.

"Please note that this evidence is conclusive because it is going to be published in a scientific journal which is always 100% accurate."

Seriously? You think we believe that scientific journals are 100% accurate all the time? Hate to break it to you, but we all know very well that science makes mistakes. So let's try this from the reverse perspective, simply because I think we know which case is stronger.

I found a dinosaur bone. After long hours of analysis, fact checking, and reading my bible I came up with some fascinating conclusions!

Firstly, of course, I wanted to date the bones to find out how old the fossils I was dealing with are. Well, I ran some tests, and wow, guess what? The dating method said the fossils were at least 65 million years old. But then i thought to myself, no way. That's not possible. The earth is only 6 thousand years old, so I revised the dates, and decided there must have been something in the great flood that caused the apparent age to be much greater. So with estimates modified, i found the fossil was still amazingly about 5800 years old! Fantastic, its almost as old as the Garden of Eden!

Secondly, I examined the DNA of the fossil to analyze it further and found that it had DNA remarkably similar to our own! Clear proof that God designed all his creatures from a similar base. That makes total sense. So much more than common descent!

Finally, looking at the bones i couldn't determine a cause of death. I found this perplexing, but then realized it must have died in the flood. How fortuitous to find such amazing proof of the deluge. Why else would it be bured like that? No possible way could it have been because of thousands of years of sediment and tectonics andbuilding layers on layers. That's absurd.

Also, please note that this is all completely reliable because it fits within biblical interpretations of reality. I even got it posted on AiG! Also, don't worry. If any parts of the bible are contradictory its ok, because God is infallible and there has to be a reasonable explanation why it doesn't fit with actual history.

Wow. Isn't building straw men fun?

PZ Scarred My Brain

with this.

I'm tempted to see about getting a copy of this, just to see how bad it is.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Absurdities In Genesis: Oversimplification

So, it's looking like I'm sort of making this a regular series here, but its always interesting to see what ridiculous crap is coming out of AiG or other denialist websites. That said, its a column I kinda like doing, so will probably keep doing it until I get bored. I don't plan to focus on their articles so much as the randomly ridiculous. There are much better refutations of their articles from people far more qualified. That said, I bring you idiocy!

Does this even remotely resemble the development of modern Easter celebrations? Not remotely. AiG, or whoever does their poor comics seems to think that the celebration of Easter is based on Christianity, and not the Pagan Eostre from which the name Easter is taken. It demonstrates a lack of understanding how the fusion in Anglo-Saxon culture and European Christian culture fused.

Surely there has been a gradual shift away from the solemness of either tradition, but the cartoon itself is neglecting the primary tradition that led to its final image, as well as all the celebratory traditions that the Christian church assimilated and adapted. It is entirely disingenous, and frighteningly ignorant, not to mention that it is (once again) being foisted upon children.

This is also of course a lack of understanding as to what devolution would be. This is, in fact evolution of an idea and the culture. Evolution does not mean "better"; even if evolution did mean unilateral improvement it would not necessarily mean what one demographic wants. Now, in theory devoltution would mean reverting to a preivous state. So, wouldn't that mean full on pagan worship as opposed to a fusion of the Christian and Pagan praxes? Of course, using their definition, I'd consider that Evolution.

Should Have Said Earlier

Anyone interested in continuing where I left off and lambasting the moron, his rather rarely used blog can be found here. I don't expect many if any will take it up, since he's just a really smalltime Comfort Clone, but hey, if you want to slam against a brick wall, be my guest!

Weekly Poll Reminder

Just a reminder, particularly for those who may be new readers. Please vote in the poll for what I'll read/review next. As is, its pretty heavily in favor of Ray Comfort with over half the votes. Still quite a bit of time left though, so we'll see how it bears out.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A discussion I've been having...

Complete tool posts:

If God really does exist and He created hell as home for sinners, then can you afford to be wrong about whether or not you will end up there? If one person believes in God and that He created hell as a home for sinners and is therefore terrified over the possibility of ending up there, and another person does not believe in God or hell and therefore lives comfortably, how can you tell which one is correct? Can you afford to be wrong? If God does exist and created hell as the destination for sinners, then not believing in Him or in hell has absolutely no effect on their existence. What if you are wrong? If a Christian is wrong, then they are wrong for their lifetime but if an atheist is wrong, then they are wrong for eternity. Are you willing to make that gamble? Are you willing to challenge the Creator of the Universe? Is it easier to believe that nothing created everything or that creation must have had a creator? You know that your house exists, it is a building and must have had a builder. Perhaps you were that builder. You know that the cars on the road exist, they too had a creator, Ford/Chevy/Dodge/Honda/etc. You know that sun exists, you can feel its warmth and see its light every day, it too was created. So is it really so hard to believe that God created everything? You know the answer.

I reasonably reply countering the standard absurdities of Pascal's wager:
Pascal's wager has never been a good case.

First of all, you have narrowed things down to only two possibilities ignoring all others. This is what is known as a false dilemma. What if the muslims are right? A muslim could present the exact same argument to you and you would think it absurd, would you not? But according to them you would be going to hell. Can you really afford that risk? Of course you can.

And this could go for any religion. Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Norse traditional, Roman pantheistic. In the end why is it your deity, of all those that have ever been created by man that would have to be right? WE skeptics and atheists believe that because there is no good evidence of deity, let alone the identity of which if any exist, why should we worship or follow any? If it is a just God then infinite punishment for temporal crimes is not reasonable, which makes an eternal Hell that much less believeable.

I have listened to and read many apologetics, but Pascal's wager is extremely weak. I would recommend building a foundation on something much more substantial than threat and intimidation, which believe it or not is exactly what the threat of hell is.

He irrelevantly retorts:
The "threat" of hell is a warning, much like road signs, it is meant to keep you from harm. I can think of no greater harm then to spend eternity seperated from all that is good. You can choose to ignore the warning signs and continue on your way, but sooner or later it will be too late and you fall off the cliff. So my question remains. How long are you willing to ignore the warnings? There was a man once who, during a massive flood, climbed up on his roof and decided to wait for a God to rescue him. After a short while, a boat came by and the occupants asked the man to come and join them and be safe from the flood. The man refused, saying that he was trusting God to save him and they went on by. After some more time passed, and the water has raised even higher, another boat happened by and again the occupants urged the man to join them and escape the flood. Again the man refused, insisting that God would save him. By now the water was almost over the roof and the man was getting nervous. Suddenly a helicopter came along but the man still refused to be rescued because he thought he would know when God would save him and a short time later, the man drowned. When he stood before the Lord, he asked, why did you not come and save me? The Lord answered, I sent you two boats and a helicopter, why did you not trust Me?

Eternal Critic said: If a muslim presented the same argument to you, you think it absurd would you not? and If it is a just God, then eternal punishment for temporal crimes is not reasonable which makes an eternal hell that much less believable.

First off, I would be completely contradicting my faith and message if I agreed with you and I do not agree. The message itself is valid and powerful no matter who presents it. Even for muslims, it is those who do not honor and worship God who are the infidels bound for hell. They honor and respect Christians and Jews, at least those who trully follow the Qu'ran and not the extremists who pervert it. My beliefs may differ slightly but I will still be going to heaven because I trust in and follow God.
Secondly, it is exactly because God is holy and just that He must punish sin and make no differenciation of it. Sin is sin and it must be punished. If you go before a judge, convicted of a crime and you say to the judge, jusdge, I know I have been found guilty but since you are a good and fair judge, I believe you should let me go, being that you are so good and fair. What do you suppose that judge would say to you? They might give a slight chuckle but they would likely say, "because I am a good and fair judge, I cannot let you go free. I must see that justice is served and if I let you go free it would show me to be corrupt." And that is based on our standards. God holds much higher standards than that because He is perfectly Holy and Just. You can claim that His ways are unfair and unreasonable all you want but it makes no difference. We are without excuse and will all have to face Him on judgment day, where He will test even our thoughts and seperate the goats from the lambs.

I reply once again:
You actually completely ignored the important part of the question. If a Muslim presented you with the argument: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammed is his prophet. If you do not accept this and follow the tenets of Islam and submit to Allah's will you will be damned for eternity in Jahannam. If you do accept this you could spend all eternity in a heavenly paradise. What have you got to lose? If you choose not to believe, and are right, you lose nothing, but if wrong you lose everything! If you believe in Allah and his prophet and are wrong you lose nothing, but if you are right gain everything.

This is the exact same argument put from a Muslim's perspective. And because I know you won't accept that argument, why do you think someone should accept yours other than because that's what -you- believe? I'm not sure who taught you about Islam, but there is no ambiguity in Islam that you would be going to hell for not being a believer.

As for your claims of fair judgement you again avoid the actual question. How does one make eternal judgement on temporal crimes? If I stole a tee-shirt (random example) I would be punished based on the severity of the crime. If I steal a car, my punishment will be summarily more severe. Why would it be just to jusge a petty thief the same for all eternity as (forgive my Godwin) Hitler. Or, that being switched around, why should a great philanthropist who has contributed to the benefit of mankind and done many good works and little wrong (nobody being perfect) be punished for all time solely on not believing in something he has no good evidence for while a serial murderer in prison for multiple life sentences should be saved on the basis of one single belief in an ephemeral, unproven concept. If that's justice, any crime should be a capital crime punishable by execution.

He once again replies, hypocritcally this time, sure to point out that he is not a hypocrite despite the obvious hypocrisy of claiming Pascal's wager is gold for Christians but BS for Muslims:
In regards to Eternal Critic's comments: That is not what you said originally since you mentioned nothing of Allah or Muhammad which actually was not the basis of my original post to begin with. I will reitterate that if I rejected my argument because someone else made it, I would be a hypocrit and my argument invalid. But you are right in that I would not accept the argument as you presented it. As for your argument about fair judgment I would remind you to stop insisting on your own ideas about is fair. Sin is sin and has no place in the presence of God. HE does not tolerate sin no matter how small WE think it is, and no matter how unjust WE feel HE is. He is Holy and just and will punish ALL sin. As humans, we make our own judgments about making the punishment fit the crime but WE ARE NOT GOD!! He also gave us a precious free gift in that Christ died to take our punishment for us so that we would not have to spend eternity in hell seperated from HIM! This is GRACE and it is given to us by FAITH through CHRIST alone and not by works that any may boast but a free gift from God.
Think of it this way, if I am convicted of murdering someone for instance. The evidence is irrefutable and the case has been tried and I am found guilty. I know that I am guilty and so did the jury. The judge asks me if I have any last words before he passes my sentance. In a last ditch effect to appeal to his goodness, I say "judge, I know you to be a good and fair judge and I believe that because of that you should let me go since I have learned my lesson and it will never happen again. You are so good and fair so I think you will agree that I should be allowed to go free as this would show how good and fair you are. How do think that judge would respond? They would probably laugh at such audacity and then make it perfectly clear that it is because they are good and fair that they must see justice served. They would be corrupt if they let anyone go unpunished if they were guilty. The world seems to think that God is TOO GOOD to punish them for their sins but is exactly this,God's goodness, that will condemn them. Sin must be punished and the punishment is seperation in hell for eternity. Apart from trusting and following Christ as savior there is no escaping that punishment. But since Christ became that punishment for us and defeated death, we can go free in Him for He loved us so much.

Finally I give up, since this guy is clearly an idiot lacking any ability to reason.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Opine Silence

Interesting how quiet Opine Editorials has been about the whole Iowa deal. They must still be in a state of shock. I know -I'm- terribly amused by their silence.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Just a link this time

PZ Myers, still full of win.

Absurdities in Genesis Redux

You too can take your family on a creationist vacation!

"Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us we are to talk about God's Word everywhere we go. Vacations should be no exception. Opportunities to see and explore God's amazing creation abound, whether at a national park, a Christian-themed venue, or a natural history museum. Places with secular propaganda can easily be turned into learning opportunities, as we learn to separate truth from error. With some preparation, you and your family can enjoy a purpose-filled vacation as you gain a better appreciation for the Creator who made all things."

But let us look into this even deeper. I know we -all- want to obnoxiously chatter about Gawd all the time. Because who doesn't want to hear about the Word!? Well, according to Answers in Genesis(see map and list), apparently only people not living in two out of seven continents! You mean there's no creationist sites anywhere outside of the North America, Britain, an two locations off those continents? You can't even get a creationist friendly site in the middle east. This has to be the only group of fundy loonies that doesn't try and sell people on trips to Israel.

But here's the really fucked up part. Most of these sites are great sites. For rationalists and scientific minded people. La Brea tar pits for example are pretty amazing. But could you go anywhere that shows the age of this world more? Perhaps the Grand Canyon. But seriously, these guys never cease to amaze me with what they pull out of their collective asses.