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.