Friday, December 19, 2008

Interview with Edwin Kagan on Christian radio show

Here is an interview with Edwin Kagin of American Atheists on a show called "The American View." To give you a foretaste of the tone of this program, here is a snippet from their mission statement (the whole thing can be found on their website, linked at the bottom of the post):

To those who will accuse of us of desiring and trying to bring about “a Christian America,” we unashamedly plead guilty though the accusation is far too modest and somewhat muddled. To be sure, we desire a Christian America, and a Christian world, a Christian galaxy and a Christian universe. And, over time, by His grace, we hope to demonstrate that all these things already belong to the Lord Jesus Christ because He created them all and they are His property. This is why all knees must bow to the Lord and all tongues confess that He is the Lord — because He is!


The interview is about the Kentucky Homeland security lawsuit and atheism and government in general. Basically, Edwin completely pwns him on this show. It's rather fun to listen to the host getting hot under the collar every time Edwin catches him in a contradiction or tight spot. And you can tell Edwin is enjoying it, too.

Here are a few things to look for in the show:

  • Edwin quotes the Bible to John Lofton (the host) but the host just dismisses everything, saying that Edwin can't possibly understand the Bible because the things in the Bible are "spiritually discerned." Whatever that means.

  • The host claims that Christianity is not a religion, therefore acknowledging God in the country's laws is not "establishing religion." He even says, if I remember correctly, that he "hates religion."

  • The whopper comes at the end, where Edwin asks the host if he believes that people have the right to worship as they please and he denies it saying "There is no right to worship a false god!" When Edwin brings up that it is a right according to the First Amendment, the host says that must really be "holy writ" to him--and he obviously dismisses the idea that the Bill of Rights actually has any authority whatsoever in this area.




This is what my boyfriend had to say about the show.


...if you listen to anything, start at the 41st minute.

This shows how crazy the fundamentalists are.

"Government rulers should be ministers of god"

"Americans have no right to worship a false god..."

"THERE IS NO RIGHT TO WORSHIP A FALSE GOD..."


This is scary...
Ed



The show is here: The American View Interview with Edwin Kagin

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It’s a Narnia Christmas

I wish I'd put these ideas together in my head. I've been a long time fan of both Christmas and Narnia--and both are strange conglomerates of Christian and pagan mythology. In fact, I learned a whole lot of pagan mythology from reading the Chronicals of Narnia. And from learning the origins of Christmas traditions as well. I think this author has a very good point to make.

Op-Ed Contributor
It’s a Narnia Christmas
By LAURA MILLER
Published: December 18, 2008
Christmas is conglomeration of pagan, Christian and secular traditions, and when people call for a return to its pure, authentic roots, they’re missing an essential quality of the holiday.


Read the rest of the story by clicking on the linked title.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are you a hardcore atheist?

This is a list I copied from The Friendly Atheist (at his invitation) to see if I really qualify as a hard-core atheist. According to him, if I highlight at least 35 of these, then PZ Myers will soon be taking lessons from me. LOL Whatever :)

Anyway, here goes:


Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge.

Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person.

Created an atheist blog.

Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone.

Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic.

Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron.

Own more Bibles than most Christians you know.

Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc.

Have come out as an atheist to your family.

Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering.

Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization.

Had a Humanist wedding ceremony. (May highlight this sometime in the future :))

Donated money to an atheist organization.

Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins. (Well, not a whole bookshelf.)

Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism.

Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize.

Hid your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away.

Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc).

Attended a protest that involved religion.

Attended an atheist conference.

Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel.

Started an atheist group in your area or school.

Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism.

Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die.

Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction.

Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place.

Lost a job because of your atheism.

Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count).

Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills.

Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!”

Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying.

Have turned on Christian TV because you need something entertaining to watch.

Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist.

Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a
euphemistic variant.


Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service).

Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry,
Skeptic)


Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism.

Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God.

Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift.

Wear pro-atheist clothing in public.

Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them.

Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God.

Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants).

Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because
people assumed you didn’t celebrate it.

Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.”

Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at
all.

Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to…

Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray.

Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you.


Well, that is 22 for me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

American Atheists on the Kentucky Homeland Security Lawsuit

After having read the Brief, I was curious as to exactly why AA was asking for damages. This part of the suit has been critisisized by some who otherwise support the suit such as The Friendly Atheist. I have just now found the explaination from AA as to why they are asking for damages, and I think it sounds reasonable enough.


Why are we asking for Damages?
Frankly, because we have to. The US Supreme Court has determined, in a terrible decision last year, that citizens cannot sue the government for church/state separation issues without damages. We must abide by this decision to have standing.

However, we can and will drop this lawsuit for VERY minimal costs to the fine citizens of Kentucky if the State Attorney General declares this one provision illegal and takes it off the books. Of course, the longer they wait, and the more they fight, the higher the costs which must be recovered.


There is also more Q&A about the suit at http://www.atheists.org/Kentucky_Homeland_Security_Lawsuit

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This atheist knows her Bible :)

You know the Bible 98%!
 

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
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An Agnostic Christmas

As we are approching the Winter Solstice and Christmas, I think the words of Robert G. Ingersoll are most appropriate. I pulled this text from an agnostic christmas. If you appreciate the sentiments of Robert Ingersoll, I encourage you to check out more at An Ingersoll Christmas.


The Agnostic Christmas
by Robert G. Ingersoll
The Journal, New York, December 25, 1892

AGAIN we celebrate the victory of Light over Darkness, of the God of day over the hosts of night. Again Samson is victorious over Delilah, and Hercules triumphs once more over Omphale. In the embrace of Isis, Osiris rises from the dead, and the scowling Typhon is defeated once more. Again Apollo, with unerring aim, with his arrow from the quiver of light, destroys the serpent of shadow. This is the festival of Thor, of Baldur and of Prometheus. Again Buddha by a miracle escapes from the tyrant of Madura, Zoroaster foils the King, Bacchus laughs at the rage of Cadmus, and Chrishna eludes the tyrant.
This is the festival of the sun-god, and as such let its observance be universal.

This is the great day of the first religion, the mother of all religions -- the worship of the sun.

Sun worship is not only the first, but the most natural and most reasonable of all. And not only the most natural and the most reasonable, but by far the most poetic, the most beautiful.

The sun is the god of benefits, of growth, of life, of warmth, of happiness, of joy. The sun is the all-seeing, the all-pitying, the all-loving.

This bright God knew no hatred, no malice, never sought for revenge.

All evil qualities were in the breast of the God of darkness, of shadow, of night. And so I say again, this is the festival of Light. This is the anniversary of the triumph of the Sun over the hosts of Darkness.

Let us all hope for the triumph of Light -- of Right and Reason -- for the victory of Fact over Falsehood, of Science over Superstition.

And so hoping, let us celebrate the venerable festival of the Sun.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Atheist group sues homeland security

American Atheists and a group of 10 plaintiffs from Kentucky (including a couple people I know) are suing to get this silly law repealed:


39G.010 Kentucky Office of Homeland Security executive director -- Duties -- Delegation of duties -- Notification of disaster or emergency.

(1) The Kentucky Office of Homeland Security shall be attached to the Office of the Governor and shall be headed by an executive director appointed by the Governor.

(2) The executive director shall:

(a) Publicize the findings of the General Assembly stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth by including the provisions of KRS 39A.285(3) in its agency training and educational materials. The executive director shall also be responsible for prominently displaying a permanent plaque at the entrance to the state's Emergency Operations Center stating the text of KRS 39A.285(3). . . . .


And KRS 39A.285 (3) says:

39A.285 Legislative findings.

The General Assembly hereby finds that:

(1) No government by itself can guarantee perfect security from acts of war or terrorism.

(2) The security and well-being of the public depend not just on government, but rest in large measure upon individual citizens of the Commonwealth and their level of understanding, preparation, and vigilance.

(3) The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God as set forth in the public speeches and proclamations of American Presidents, including Abraham Lincoln's historic March 30, 1863, Presidential Proclamation urging Americans to pray and fast during one of the most dangerous hours in American history, and the text of President John F. Kennedy's November 22, 1963, national security speech which concluded: "For as was written long ago: 'Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.' "

Effective: March 28, 2002
History: Created 2002 Ky. Acts ch. 82, sec. 2, effective March 28, 2002.


See the problem? As my friend (one of the plaintiffs) has said, if this is allowed to sit on the books, it is likely to be used as a justification for further erosion of the separation of church and state in the future.

It is a blatant violation of both the US Constitution and the Kentucky Constitution.

The Section 5 of the Kentucky Constitution states the following:
No preference shall ever be given by law to any religious sect, society or denomination; nor to any particular creed, mode of worship or system of ecclesiastical polity; nor shall any person be compelled to attend any place of worship, to contribute to the erection or maintenance of any such place, or to the salary or support of any minister of religion; nor shall any man be compelled to send his child to any school to which he may be conscientiously opposed; and the civil rights, privileges or capacities of no person shall be taken away, or in anywise diminished or enlarged, on account of his belief or disbelief of any religious tenet, dogma or teaching. No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.

Text as Ratified on: August 3, 1891, and revised September 28, 1891.
History: Not yet amended.

see: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/legresou/Constitu/005.htm


Here is a story about the suit in the Lexington Herald-Leader: Atheist group sues homeland security

So here is an example of how you apply the Bible to modern life?

I just found this on Pharyngula: Langford's Praying Even Harder Now. Maybe his repentance last April wasn't all that sincere?

Right--somehow I overlooked this story earlier in the year. It's just wierd . . .

Forget improving the police force to help a city's crime problem: Try sackcloth and ashes and prayer!

Birmingham Weekly reported two weeks ago that the mayor purchased 2,000 burlap sacks for ministers and other community leaders to wear at a Plan 10/30 summit.
To many Christians, sackcloth and ashes symbolize humility and repentance, but the mayor’s decree came dressed with the usual accoutrements - printed on fine, invitation-stock paper and wrapped in a bright silver folder, adorned by the magic hat logo Langford commissioned for the city last year.

In the decree, Langford said that Birmingham’s crime problem “pails” (sic) in comparison to the biblical City of Nineveh.

The proclamation tells the Bible story of Jonah and the city of Nineveh: “Whereas Chapter 3, verse 5 & 6, of the Book of Jonah, Old Testament states, that the people of Nineveh believe God and proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest of them even to the least of them,” the resolution reads.



WTF?

Click here to read more.

Understand the Difference Between Theism and Atheism - wikiHow

Note: This article is not my original work, but I think it is useful. And the site gives permissions for bloggers to repost the article, so here it is. Enjoy, and let me know what you think. :)

Understand the Difference Between Theism and Atheism - wikiHow


How to Understand the Difference Between Theism and Atheism
from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Throughout human history, there have been people of faith, and people who do not believe in any supreme being. Problems occur when one side misunderstands the other. This article will help you avoid those problems.

Steps


  1. Understand what the terms "theist","atheist", and "agnostic" mean. The theist believes in a god or gods; the atheist does not have such a belief. This does not mean that the theist defends a deity or deities, or the atheist attacks deities. The atheist simply does not share the theist's belief. An agnostic is one who believes that the answer to such questions can never be known. That is, one can be an agnostic theist if one believes that a god/gods exist, but this cannot be proven. Likewise, one can be an agnostic atheist if one believes that there is no god/gods, but this cannot be proven. In a strict philosophical sense, some scholars would argue that we are all agnostics about everything (epistemology) because we can never truly know anything, including our own existence.
  2. Recognize that theists believe in a particular god or gods, but not all gods. In a sense, all theists are atheists about gods they do not believe in. This is an example of the pigeonhole principle in that an individual only has a logical pigeonhole for a single god or set of gods, but there exists additional gods. Necessarily, a theist must be an atheist about certain gods that do not fit into his or her pigeonhole. For example, no modern humans hold Zeus as a member of the set of true deities, so we are all atheists with respect to Zeus. The choice of gods for a particular theist is often determined by where he or she was born and the wishes of his or her parents or community, rather than by conscious choice. There are (relatively) few Buddhists in the United States; likewise there are few Christians in Japan.
  3. Keep in mind that an atheist does not necessarily hate the theist’s god, or any god; he or she simply lacks a belief in such a god/gods. An atheist cannot hate something in which he or she does not believe. Atheists may think theists foolish for believing in such things, be frustrated with theists who do destructive things in the name of their gods, or disagree with theists' moral principles, but he or she doesn’t hate a religious entity anymore than a theist hates the Tooth Fairy.
  4. Understand that atheism is not a religion. By definition, a religion is a belief in a superhuman controlling power. An atheist (as well as a secularist, humanist, or deist, among other ideologies) does not share this belief. As such, these ideologies are not religions.
  5. Notice that proponents of each ideology hold their beliefs strongly. Theists may view atheists as immoral because they do not believe in a god/gods, while atheists may view theists as immoral for believing in a god/gods. Both hold their beliefs strongly and necessarily make sacrifices by subscribing to one over the other. Understanding this will lead to more productive and personable debate which will further human understanding and community.
  6. Find a common ground. Notice that if you remove the supernatural elements of most religions, their moral code is very similar to that of atheists. Most ethical elements of many religions are agreeable to theists and atheists alike, e.g. the golden rule of Jesus: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," or as Rabbi Hillel put it, “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you." Most people agree with that. Recognizing this common ground provides a buffer for the emotional issues surrounding belief vs. disbelief.
  7. Study your "opponent". Most atheists were once theists (or were raised in a theist tradition), but those who were not should consider the ideas of various forms of theism before discounting such ideas, and those who were raised as theists should study theist ideas with which they are unfamiliar. Many theists have been theists all their lives. As such, they have never considered the possibility that there is no god/gods. Before satisfying debate can occur, both parties must understand their opponent by critically examining their ideas.


Tips


  • To come to a broader understanding of human beliefs and understanding of life through folklore and religion, read Joseph Campbell’s works, including Hero With a Thousand Faces, and his series on Primitive, Creative, Occidental, and Oriental Mythologies. Whether theist or atheist, these works will help you recognize the common human experience, and the similar ways mankind has developed for understanding it across ages and cultures.
  • Some people promote the idea that atheism is a religion. It is not. It is simply the absence of belief in any god or gods.


Warnings


  • Anytime you come to a balanced view on such issues, there will be people who try to put you back on an imbalanced path, e.g. "But what about all the horrible things (theists/atheists) have done?!" Just counter with the fact that throughout history people have done wonderful and horrible things regardless of belief or ethnicity, so there seems to be no correlation.
  • Likewise remember that just because someone in a certain religious group did something awful does not mean it's the religion's fault. People are individually responsible for their actions (and inaction), and many are inspired by their faith and courage into amazing acts of self-sacrifice and love.


Related wikiHows





Article provided by wikiHow, a collaborative writing project to build the world's largest, highest quality how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Understand the Difference Between Theism and Atheism. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Commercialism gone totally mad

I worked at a Wal-Mart for about a year while I was in college. I heard enough stories of mad and crazy shoppers to make me sincerely want to NOT be on the job the morning of Black Friday. Fortunately, I never had to.

This time a Wal-Mart temp employee was actually trampled to death opening the doors to the store. I wonder at what point should Wal-Mart be held liable for this sort of thing? What sort of madness leads people to trample on others to get into the store, in the sort of manner that you could expect they might to get out of a burning building? I seriously don't get it...

Wal-Mart worker dies in rush; two killed at toy store

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving in a mixed Secular/Christian family

This is a particular exciting Thanksgiving for me, as it will be my first "two family" holiday season. First my boyfriend, his kids and I will be going to my parents house to eat (along with my sister who is here all the way from Oregon!) and then we will be going to the kids grandparents.

One of the things I absolutely love about my new family is that we are all atheists who share the same values of humanism and reason. Yep, having a significant other with the same sorts of beliefs and values is most definitely something to be thankful for. So even though there is likely to be a Christian prayer before eating at least at my parent's house, we know who truely deserves the thanks. I give thanks to the earth, the founders of the USA who helped guarantee our rights directly at the founding, the farmers who grow our food, the scientists that help us understand the world, the inventors that have thought up the things we use every day, and the everyday people out there who in the process of earning their daily bread support our economic system and our way of life. And those in each family who have worked so hard to earn and prepare the food on the table. And many more people who are way too numerous to mention here.

It would be so much easier just to thank God, but I think that would really miss the point...

Here is the bit from The Meming of Life that I thought was particularly appropriate for Thanksgiving:

We have no difficulty reminding the four-year-old to “say thank you” when Grandma hands her an ice cream cone, but in other situations – especially when a religious turn-of-phrase is generally used – we often pass up the chance to teach our kids to express gratitude in naturalistic terms. Instead of thanking God for the food on your table, thank those who really put it there – the farmers, the truckers, the produce workers, and Mom or Dad or Aunt Millicent. They deserve it. Maybe you’d like to lean toward the Native American and honor the animals for the sacrifice of their lives – a nice way to underline our connection to them. You can give thanks to those around the table for being present, and for their health, and for family and friendship itself. There is no limit. Even when abstract, like gratitude for health, the simple expression of gratitude is all that is needed. No divine ear is necessary – we are surrounded by real ears and by real hearers.
source: The Meming of Life >> Where Thanks are Due

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What I am Thankful For, Part 2

Here are more things I am thankful for:

  • I am in good health.

  • I don't have a headache.

  • I was informed today to expect a job offer next week (due the offices being closed over Thanksgiving) for a good direct-hire job for which I have been interviewing. My period of unemployment is coming to an end :)

  • I have had a good education, and all the benefits that brings.

  • I like the city where I live.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What I am Thankful For

In honor of Thanksgiving, this week I am going to list some of the things for which I am thankful. If I'm diligent, I'll post something every day up until Thanksgiving...but no guarantees. :p

These are in no order except that in which they occur to me.
I am thankful for:

  • my family, and the fact that we can all get together and have a good time

  • my good friends at the Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers group

  • the wonderful loving man I call my boyfriend :)

  • clean water, which I know is not available to everyone in the world

  • ditto about good, tasty, nutritional food

A Four-Letter Word - ExChristian.Net - Articles

I found this fascinating quote today:



Note to Pastor Willard: when you denounce atheists speaking their minds and reaching out to others like them, don't say you do it with love. It has been the slander of the church that has isolated atheists, that has made it nearly impossible for us to be represented by one of our own in public office, that has forced many of us to hide our true thoughts from our business patrons, friends, and closest family members. It is that slander that inspires violence against us and builds walls between believers and non-believers. How cruel is it to say, "No, you can't tear down those walls. You can't have your say in the court of public opinion. You can't reach out to others who feel as alone as you once did?" Then to commandeer the word "love" to make it appear as if people who believe in God are the only ones who feel it -- I don't think the irony could get much thicker. Do you tell your wife and children that you beat them because you love them?A Four-Letter Word - ExChristian.Net - Articles, Nov 2008



You should read the whole article.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bad economy? Find a scapegoat!

The Wall Street Journal has gone mad. Via Pharyngula, I found this article:

Mad Max and the Meltdown: How we went from Christmas to crisis.

Here is a quote:
This year we celebrate the desacralized "holidays" amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin -- fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.


Honestly. The problem is the war on Christmas? And who's fault is it?

Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of "Merry Christmas."

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.


Because, of course, atheists and secularists aren't moral, and can't show restraint and responsiblity. Atheists don't have conscience. Ah, that just clears it all up, doesn't it?

Like hell.

I'd wish you a Merry Christmas, but it's not even Thanksgiving yet...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Broken Spirit?

Religion feeds on a broken spirit, and that is why it tries to break your spirit the moment you come into contact with it. Submit! Obey! Do not question! These words should be chissled above the entrance of every church and every mosque. -Pat Condell


You don't say? I remember the church revivals, youth summer camps, and worship services at Trevecca Nazarene University where everyone gushed over how much they wanted to be 'broken'. I kid you not, that is the word that was used. Here are the lyrics to one of the songs we used to sing, over and over, about 10 times in a row, until about half of the group of kids at summer camp were sobbing and crowded around the altar in the front of the room:


A broken spirit And a contrite heart
You will not despise You will not despise
You desire truth In the inward parts
A broken spirit And a contrite heart.
Lord, my heart is prone to wander
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart Lord,
take and seal it for your courts above.


The idea was that if your spirit was 'broken' you would give up and surrender your will and thoughts to God. It used to sound so wonderful, but now it just strikes me as creepy.

Here is the rest of what Pat Condell had to say on the topic of a 'broken spirit', the bondage of religion, and the freedom of godlessness.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More Catholic Craziness @ The Friendly Atheist

At least, according to what I heard, a large portion of the Catholic laity did vote for Obama. The priests, fortunately, seem to be dwindling in power and influence.

Catholic Churches and Barack Obama

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yet another reason why we MUST have separation of church and state.

As if we needed another reason...

Priest Calls Vote for Obama a Mortal Sin
A Catholic priest in South Carolina has decided that the democratic act of casting a vote is, in some cases, a mortal sin. Therefore, he has decided that parishioners who voted for Barack Obama are not entitled to the grace of Jesus Christ through communion until they've done penance.

"Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law," Rev. Jay Scott Newman wrote in a letter to parishioners at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville.


Read the rest of the article here: Priest Calls Vote for Obama a Mortal Sin

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

'Child-witches' of Nigeria seek refuge - ExChristian.Net - News and Opinion

Still such ignorance in the world. Is this what Palin's paster from Kenya believes in?



From The Observer:


The rainy season is over and the Niger Delta is lush and humid. This southern edge of West Africa, where Nigeria's wealth pumps out of oil and gas fields to bypass millions of its poorest people, is a restless place. In the small delta state of Akwa Ibom, the tension and the poverty has delivered an opportunity for a new and terrible phenomenon that is leading to the abuse and the murder of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children. And it is being done in the name of Christianity.

Almost everyone goes to church here. Driving through the town of Esit Eket, the rust-streaked signs, tarpaulins hung between trees and posters on boulders, advertise a church for every third or fourth house along the road. Such names as New Testament Assembly, Church of God Mission, Mount Zion Gospel, Glory of God, Brotherhood of the Cross, Redeemed, Apostalistic. Behind the smartly painted doors pastors make a living by 'deliverances' - exorcisms - for people beset by witchcraft, something seen to cause anything from divorce, disease, accidents or job losses. With so many churches it's a competitive market, but by local standards a lucrative one.
But an exploitative situation has now grown into something much more sinister as preachers are turning their attentions to children - naming them as witches. In a maddened state of terror, parents and whole villages turn on the child. They are burnt, poisoned, slashed, chained to trees, buried alive or simply beaten and chased off into the bush.

Some parents scrape together sums needed to pay for a deliverance - sometimes as much as three or four months' salary for the average working man - although the pastor will explain that the witch might return and a second deliverance will be needed. Even if the parent wants to keep the child, their neighbours may attack it in the street.

This is not just a few cases. This is becoming commonplace. In Esit Eket, up a nameless, puddled-and-potholed path is a concrete shack stuffed to its fetid rafters with roughly made bunk beds. Here, three to a bed like battery chickens, sleep victims of the besuited Christian pastors and their hours-long, late-night services. Ostracised and abandoned, these are the children a whole community believes fervently are witches.

Sam Ikpe-Itauma is one of the few people in this area who does not believe what the evangelical 'prophets' are preaching. He opened his house to a few homeless waifs he came across, and now he tries his best to look after 131.

'The neighbours were not happy with me and tell me "you are supporting witches". This project was an accident, I saw children being abandoned and it was very worrying. I started with three children, then every day it increased up to 15, so we had to open this new place,' he says. 'For every maybe five children we see on the streets, we believe one has been killed, although it could be more as neighbours turn a blind eye when a witch child disappears.

'It is good we have this shelter, but it is under constant attack.' As he speaks two villagers walk past, at the end of the yard, pulling scarfs across their eyes to hide the 'witches' from their sight.

Twelve-year-old Mary had acid thrown in her face after being accused of being a witch.

Ikpe-Itauma's wife, Elizabeth, acts as nurse to the injured children and they have called this place the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network, a big name for a small refuge. It has found support from a charity running a school in the area, Stepping Stones Nigeria, which is trying to help with money to feed the children, but the numbers turning up here are a huge challenge.

Mary Sudnad, 10, grimaces as her hair is pulled into corn rows by Agnes, 11, but the scalp just above her forehead is bald and blistered. Mary tells her story fast, in staccato, staring fixedly at the ground.

'My youngest brother died. The pastor told my mother it was because I was a witch. Three men came to my house. I didn't know these men. My mother left the house. Left these men. They beat me.' She pushes her fists under her chin to show how her father lay, stretched out on his stomach on the floor of their hut, watching. After the beating there was a trip to the church for 'a deliverance'.

A day later there was a walk in the bush with her mother. They picked poisonous 'asiri' berries that were made into a draught and forced down Mary's throat. If that didn't kill her, her mother warned her, then it would be a barbed-wire hanging. Finally her mother threw boiling water and caustic soda over her head and body, and her father dumped his screaming daughter in a field. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she stayed near the house for a long time before finally slinking off into the bush.Mary was seven. She says she still doesn't feel safe. She says: 'My mother doesn't love me.' And, finally, a tear streaks down her beautiful face.

Gerry was picked out by a 'prophetess' at a prayer night and named as a witch. His mother cursed him, his father siphoned petrol from his motorbike tank and spat it over his eight-year-old face. Gerry's facial blistering is as visible as the trauma in his dull eyes. He asks every adult he sees if they will take him home to his parents: 'It's not them, it's the prophetess, I am scared of her.'

Nwaeka is about 16. She sits by herself in the mud, her eyes rolling, scratching at her stick-thin arms. The other children are surprisingly patient with her. The wound on her head where a nail was driven in looks to be healing well. Nine- year-old Etido had nails, too, five of them across the crown of his downy head. Its hard to tell what damage has been done. Udo, now 12, was beaten and abandoned by his mother. He nearly lost his arm after villagers, finding him foraging for food by the roadside, saw him as a witch and hacked at him with machetes.

Magrose is seven. Her mother dug a pit in the wood and tried to bury her alive. Michael was found by a farmer clearing a ditch, starving and unable to stand on legs that had been flogged raw.

Ekemini Abia has the look of someone in a deep state of shock. Both ankles are circled with gruesome wounds and she moves at a painful hobble. Named as a witch, her father and elders from the church tied her to a tree, the rope cutting her to the bone, and left the 13-year-old there alone for more than a week.

There are sibling groups such as Prince, four, and Rita, nine. Rita told her mum she had dreamt of a lovely party where there was lots to eat and to drink. The belief is that a witch flies away to the coven at night while the body sleeps, so Rita's sweet dream was proof enough: she was a witch and because she had shared food with her sibling - the way witchcraft is spread - both were abandoned. Victoria, cheeky and funny, aged four, and her seven-year-old sister Helen, a serene little girl. Left by their parents in the shell of an old shack, the girls didn't dare move from where they had been abandoned and ate leaves and grass.

The youngest here is a baby. The older girls take it in turn to sling her on their skinny hips and Ikpe-Itauma has named her Amelia, after his grandmother. He estimates around 5,000 children have been abandoned in this area since 1998 and says many bodies have turned up in the rivers or in the forest. Many more are never found. 'The more children the pastor declares witches, the more famous he gets and the more money he can make,' he says. 'The parents are asked for so much money that they will pay in instalments or perhaps sell their property. This is not what churches should be doing.'

Although old tribal beliefs in witch doctors are not so deeply buried in people's memories, and although there had been indigenous Christians in Nigeria since the 19th century, it is American and Scottish Pentecostal and evangelical missionaries of the past 50 years who have shaped these fanatical beliefs. Evil spirits, satanic possessions and miracles can be found aplenty in the Bible, references to killing witches turn up in Exodus, Deuteronomy and Galatians, and literal interpretation of scriptures is a popular crowd-pleaser.

Pastor Joe Ita is the preacher at Liberty Gospel Church in nearby Eket. 'We base our faith on the Bible, we are led by the holy spirit and we have a programme of exposing false religion and sorcery.' Soft of voice and in his smart suit and tie, his church is being painted and he apologises for having to sit outside near his shiny new Audi to talk. There are nearly 60 branches of Liberty Gospel across the Niger Delta. It was started by a local woman, mother-of-two Helen Ukpabio, whose luxurious house and expensive white Humvee are much admired in the city of Calabar where she now lives. Many people in this area credit the popular evangelical DVDs she produces and stars in with helping to spread the child witch belief.

Ita denies charging for exorcisms but acknowledges his congregation is poor and has to work hard to scrape up the donations the church expects. 'To give more than you can afford is blessed. We are the only ones who really know the secrets of witches. Parents don't come here with the intention of abandoning their children, but when a child is a witch then you have to say "what is that there? Not your child." The parents come to us when they see manifestations. But the secret is that, even if you abandon your child, the curse is still upon you, even if you kill your child the curse stays. So you have to come here to be delivered afterwards as well,' he explains patiently.

'We know how they operate. A witch will put a spell on its mother's bra and the mother will get breast cancer. But we cannot attribute all things to witches, they work on inclinations too, so they don't create HIV, but if you are promiscuous then the witch will give you HIV.'

As the light fades, he presents a pile of Ukpabio's DVDs. Mistakenly thinking they are a gift, I am firmly put right.

Later that night, in another part of town, the hands of the clock edge towards midnight. The humidity of the day is sealed into the windowless church and drums pound along with the screeching of the sweat-drenched preacher. 'No witches, oh Lord,' he screams into the microphone. 'As this hour approaches, save us, oh Lord!'

His congregation is dancing, palms aloft, women writhe and yell in tongues. A group moves forward shepherding five children, one a baby, and kneel on the concrete floor and the pastor comes among them, pressing his hands down on each child's head in turn, as they try to hide in the skirts of the woman. This is deliverance night at the Church of the True Redeemer, and while the service will carry on for some hours, the main event - for which the parents will have paid cash - is over.

Walking out into the night, the drums and singing from other churches ring out as such scenes are being repeated across the village.

It is hard to find people to speak out against the brutality. Chief Victor Ikot is one. He not only speaks out against the 'tinpot' churches, but has also done the unthinkable and taken in a witch to his own home. The chief's niece, Mbet, was declared a witch when she was eight. Her mother, Ekaete, made her drink olive oil, then poison berries, then invited local men to beat her with sticks. The pastor padlocked her to a tree but unlocked her when her mother could not find the money for a deliverance. Mbet fled. Mbet, now 11, says she has not seen the woman since, adding: 'My mother is a wicked mother.'

The Observer tracked down Mbet's mother to her roadside clothing stall where she nervously fiddled with her mobile phone and told us how her daughter had given her what sounded very much like all the symptoms of malaria. 'I had internal heat,' she says, indicating her stomach. 'It was my daughter who had caused this, she drew all the water from my body. I could do nothing. She was stubborn, very stubborn.' And if her daughter had died in the bush? She shrugged: 'That is God's will. It is in God's hands.'

Chief Victor has no time for his sister-in-law. 'Nowadays when a child becomes stubborn, then everyone calls them witches. But it is usually from the age of 10 down, I have never seen anyone try to throw a macho adult into the street. This child becomes a nuisance, so they give a dog a bad name and they can hang it.

'It is alarming because no household is untouched. But it is the greed of the pastors, driving around in Mercedes, that makes them choose the vulnerable.'

In a nearby village The Observer came across five-year-old twins, Itohowo and Kufre. They are still hanging around close to their mother's shack, but are obviously malnourished and in filthy rags. Approaching the boys brings a crowd of villagers who stand around and shout: 'Take them away from us, they are witches.' 'Take them away before they kill us all.' 'Witches'.

The woman who gave birth to these sorry scraps of humanity stands slightly apart from the crowd, arms crossed. Iambong Etim Otoyo has no intention of taking any responsibility for her sons. 'They are witches,' she says firmly and walks away.

And by nightfall there are 133 children in the chicken coop concrete house at Esit Eket.


Video and pictures at 'Child-witches' of Nigeria seek refuge - ExChristian.Net - News and Opinion

Monday, November 10, 2008

Church told 'obvious lies,' gay activists allege

I just found this on CNN's website. It would not be the first time the religous have lied to push an agenda. Not only about gays--atheists and the Theory of Evolution also immediately come to mind.

Church told 'obvious lies,' gay activists allege

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

For the first time in a while, I am very proud of my country...

I'll have to admit it, I've been a bit down on the US for a while. You see, I was raised believing that my country is the beacon of democracy, liberty, and security in the world. The land of the free, and the home of the brave! The last eight years have left me totally disillusioned. The events of 9/11/2001 woke me up to the fact that if our government ever fell, if it was ever taken over (and in the period of confusion on that day, before anyone knew what was going on, I feared that that could actually happen), our wonderful Constitution and our Bill of Rights would be nothing but historical pieces of paper. It took the PATRIOT Act to make me realize that it wouldn't take a overthrow of our government to undermine the Constitution, if our own leaders were willing to do it themselves! I grew up believing that things like unlawful imprisonment, torture, and the suspension of due process were things that happened in the old Soviet Union, but not HERE! Not in the land of the free and the home of the brave! And then we invaded and totally demolished another country, and on false pretense. Not a proud day to be an American.

I was afraid for a while that the American people were just too asleep, and too cynical to actually do something about it. I worried that all the vicious attacks on Obama would lead to McCain (or worse, Palin!) becoming President of the United States. I was concerned about the Supreme Court and what new ultra-conservative judges might be appointed to further weight the bench. Bye-bye liberty for religous disent, abortion rights, and gay rights, and who knows what else. Hello to endless war.

But that is not what has happened. America has spoken, with an overwhelming voice, that that is NOT what we want. We actually looked beyond racial issues, and empty threats of 'ooh, he's a muslim, I can't vote for a muslim' and all the attempts at 'swift-boating.' I don't expect I'll like everything that Obama does in office (I already disagree on the faith-based initiative) but at least I can trust that he will act out of Logic and Reason, and not out of 'God told me so'.

I know I'm getting a bit emotional and lofty but I can't really help it. I really think the best man for the job was elected last night. It gives me hope.

Friday, October 31, 2008

a minor self-censorship

I do mostly Internet based programming for a living. Some Windows console stuff, but mostly web pages and Internet based programming. At least, I was until about a month ago--when I got laid off from my last job. Or had the contract terminated (it was a contractor job). Or however you want to put it. Probably since the economy is a bit slow, new opportunities for employment have been few and far between.

Anyway, enough whining. I decided it would be good for both my moral and skill set to learn PHP and MySql and set up a website that I can show to show potential employers. Though I do mostly C# and .Net on the job, these are just too expensive for me to do on my own. Anyway, if you can program with one language, you can pick up others. It's the general programming skill that counts most.

I am also doing it so that I can show off some of my writing skills by blogging. Yes, I have this blog, but there is a problem. There are a few things on this blog that could irritate, isolate, and offend potential employers. That is, I write a lot about atheism. It's just better to leave the opinions about religion out of the job interview. It sucks, but I guess that's the way it is for now. For this reason I am not going to link to this blog from my 'professional' web site, nor will I link to there from here.

I even wonder a bit about the potential fallout of the recent article in the Courier-Journal about atheists that mentions me by name (Mikayla Starstuff is a pseudonym of course.) A Google search on my name brings that article up, often as the top result. I just can't help but wonder what the effects of that could be on my life--things that I will never know about for sure.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Reason-Driven Life

I'm currently reading Robert's Price "The Reason-Driven Life". It is intended as a point by point response to Rick Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life", which is a huge hit in the evangelical community and a book I have seen on the coffee tables of some of my relatives. If it had been written several years earlier, it would likely have been on my own coffee table. Anyway, I haven't read Warren's book, and I don't intend to.

That being said, you don't have to read 'The Purpose-Driven Life' to understand and appreciate 'The Reason-Driven Life'. That is, not if you were raised in just that sort of mainstream Evangelical atmosphere that eats up the words of people like Rick Warren. Unlike most other books written by non-believers critical of Christianity, this one specifically addresses the issues of the mainstream Evangelical Christian beliefs.

Some of the things I had issue with that Price addresses directly include:

  • The assumed virtue of narrow-mindedness in religious matters, since any thoughts or information that leads to 'doubt' could send one on the path to non-belief.

  • The notion of being 'in the center of God's will', as if you could read the mind of God.

  • The problem of evil, and the ways Evangelicals try to get God off the hook.

  • 'Let go and let God' as an abdication of one's one responsibilities and avoidance of those things that will come back and bite you eventually.

  • The idea that this life is just preparation for the afterlife and the ultimate 'final exam', where if you get some of the important questions wrong (such as: Who was Jesus?) you fail and will be sent to Hell.

  • The horrible justifications of Hell by Evangelicals, such as 'God doesn't send anyone to hell, they choose to go there!'

  • The short-circuiting of reason in favor of faith.



Robert Price brings both his experience as a formal fundamentalist and his long-time in-depth study of the Bible to bear on these questions and many more. This is a book I wish I would have gotten my hands on when I was just on my way out of Evangelical Christianity--it would have made the transition so much smoother. Reading this book brought back loads of memories of my own experiences of Christianity. The whole spiel about "It's not about me!" and "Let go and let God." I greatly recommend this book to anyone who has been raised in Evangelical Christianity.

Friday, October 17, 2008

job hunting again

Well, that last job didn't work out really well. I was there 2 months then got a call after hours on October 1st and found out they were terminating my contract. Well, that's life as a contractor... These are always emotionally and financially trying times. But at least I do have an interview in the works for early next week. Life goes on.

While I have the extra time, I'm working on creating a PHP website and spending more time playing the flute. And I'm still with Ed (who I mentioned in the post about 'my crazy life' a few posts back), so I can't complain too much. :)

Monday, October 06, 2008

More atheists are sharing their views

There was a story in the Louisville Courier-Journal about my atheist group! And I was interviewed for it too :)



More atheists are sharing their views


When she first logged onto an atheist Web site five years ago, Mikel Childers' hands were shaking.


Since she was a teen, she had harbored growing doubts about the conservative Christian faith, "but I was so programmed against the word atheist," she said.

When she eventually decided she was one, a "feeling of almost euphoria" descended upon her, said Childers, now 28.

"I no longer had to justify why a good and loving God would allow (bad) things to happen," she said.

Her experience is shared by others who are part of Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers, a loosely organized group that meets monthly in an upstairs room at Kaelin's Restaurant for burgers, drinks, discussions and fellowship. About 35 attended a recent meeting.

"We believe in living for this life and this world and using science and reason to understand the natural world better," said John Armstrong, one of the organizers.

They're part of an increasingly vocal minority of atheists, and other Americans who claim no religious affiliation, who are fighting the influence of religious groups on politics, schools and scientific research.

The percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans has doubled since 1990 -- rising to 16 percent.

That growth represents one of the largest trends in American religion today, according to a poll released earlier this year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

About 2 percent each describe themselves as "atheist" or "agnostic." Most of the rest say they're nothing in particular -- and half of that group actually still has religious beliefs or practices.

Twelve percent of Kentuckians and 16 percent of Hoosiers have no affiliation with any religion, according to the survey, which didn't provide a breakdown by state of how many describe themselves as atheists.

Those trends coincide with the rise of the "new atheism" -- attacks on religious dogma mounted by such best-selling authors as Richard Dawkins ("The God Delusion") and Christopher Hitchens ("God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything").

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by Muslim terrorists "brought a lot of people here," Armstrong said. "But you really don't even need to go to 9/11 for an example of why religious certainty about things nobody can be certain about is dangerous."

Members of the Louisville atheists group also say they want to combat conservative Christians' political activities in areas ranging from embryonic stem-cell research to creationism to courthouse postings of the Ten Commandments.

Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst of the Family Foundation of Kentucky -- which has worked alongside religious groups endorsing conservative causes such as the 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage -- said he welcomed the atheists' involvement.

"As long as they believe in the legitimacy of people of faith furthering what they believe, I don't see any problem with groups like this furthering their agenda," he said.

Religion And Voting

In recent years, religious practice has been one of the leading indicators of voting patterns.

The more frequently people attend worship, the more likely they are to vote Republican.

And while Democrats are struggling to regain some of that voting share, they won the religiously unaffiliated vote by a 75-25 percent margin nationwide in the 2006 congressional elections, according to exit polls.

In this year's 3rd District rematch, Republican Anne Northup leads among those who attend worship frequently, while incumbent Democrat John Yarmuth leads among all the rest, according to a SurveyUSA/WHAS-TV poll in July.

Atheist group member Alan Canon of Louisville, who often wears a pin with a scarlet-letter "A" to prompt conversations about atheism, grew up in a fundamentalist household and was a Bible camp prize winner.

But his family also valued science, and he ultimately couldn't reconcile the two.

"For people openly to say they're atheist is similar to gay people coming out," Canon said. "It's not popular at all for people to say they're atheist, especially in these parts."

Members of the Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers reflect the complexities presented in the Pew survey -- that people with no religious affiliation often have some religious practices.

Some meditate or practice Wiccan spiritual rituals, tied to the rhythms of nature.

Several belong to Unitarian Universalist churches, which have no theological creed but proclaim values of love, justice and truth-seeking.

"We do believe in spirituality," said David Cooper, 59, who belongs to Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church. "It may not necessarily be a type of theistic spirituality."

Common Ground

Religious groups, meanwhile, are responding to the new trends.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention -- alarmed by a 2004 report showing one-third of Kentucky adults with little or no church connection -- has seen many churches work to be more "culturally relevant," said Larry Baker, director of new work and associational missions.

"We have to meet people exactly where they are, respect them as individuals and then share boldly and with clarity about what we believe about our relationship with Jesus Christ," he said.

Others are finding common ground with atheists.

The Rev. David Emery, pastor of Middletown Christian Church, recently led a sermon series on the recent atheist best-sellers.

While he criticized them for ignoring the positive work of religious people for social justice, he applauded them for raising issues of religious violence and the problem of suffering.

"The questions that these atheists raise are questions people of faith have also, that they haven't been given permission to ask," he said.

Reporter Peter Smith can be reached at (502) 582-4469.

Religulous

I went to see Religulous in last night's matinee. I saw it with a group of about 20 other freethinkers in the Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers meetup group.

Generally, I loved it. I think Bill Maher did a GREAT job in pointing out all the absurdities in the major western religions. There were Bible-thumping fundamentalists who clearly didn't understand the Bible all that well, nor many of the things that Jesus said. There is an interview with one guy who actually thinks he is the second coming of Jesus himself--and he expects us to just take his work for it. There are Muslims who say their is room for dissent in Islam and that Islam is a religion of peace, but could not bring themselves to say that someone should be put in fear of their life for writing a book (see: Salmon Rushdie). Must humorous to me were the devices devised by pious Jews to enable them to work around the specifics of the laws about what one is not supposed to do on the Sabbath. Like a programmer who devises a complex work-around to accomplish a simple (but perhaps mundane and boring) task, it seems they do a lot of work in order to avoid doing work.

I have a few general complaints--there are times that Maher a bit mean and rude. Not in all the interviews though, and less in those interviews where the interviewee is actually making some kind of sense.

You just have to see it for yourself.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

my crazy life

I've got a lot going on lately, and have not recently had the time or the motivation to write for my blog at all. I've have bought a house, fallen in love, and I am yet again in search of a new job. Ironically, the reason I'm looking for a new job is because the person I am in love with is working at the same place--when my bosses (or someone up the chain of authority) found out, I was given 1 month's notice till the end of my contract (as I was working there as a contractor). Last Friday the 11th was my last day, but I can't complain. Good love has been a lot harder for me to come by than a good job. My area of expertise (C# development) is in pretty high demand, and I already have a few interviews set up for this week. The reason I have the spare time by myself to write this blog entry is because I had a job interview cancelled this morning (the interviewer called in sick). I'm cautiously optimistic that I will be working again by August.

Here is a picture of the house:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sudden darkness at midday. Judgement Day? No...

New England's darkest day (literally). Feared as a sign of God's wrath in it's day--but now finally explained over 200 years later. This is something to keep in mind whenever the 'unexplainable' happens.

May 19, 1780: Darkness at Noon Enshrouds New England

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Questions for Christians who accept the Theory of Evolution



Questions for Christians who accept the Theory of Evolution

Do you believe in a literal fall of man? According to the Biblical narrative as a whole, as I was taught, Christ came to reverse the curse that was brought on the world by the sin of Adam. (See Romans 5:12-21) The whole idea that god himself needed to offer himself as a sacrifice for our sins was based on this idea. So, if there was no literal Adam and no literal fall from grace and no curse, how do you make sense of the idea that Christ needed to die for our sins?
Even if there were a literal Adam at some point in the history of the world, the whole history of the world before he evolved would have included death and pain and decay. So what of the idea that it was due to the sin of man that death and suffering came into the world? (See Genesis Chapter 3).
Do you believe that an all powerful, and all knowing God would use a process as cruel and arbitrary as natural selection to shape life on earth? Would god have purposely created some species only to go extinct? I personally have no moral objection to natural selection itself, but only because I see it as having no sort of conscience foresight or intent guiding it—it is a totally natural process. The Blind Watchmaker, as Dawkins puts it. But is this the route you really think an all-powerful and all-knowing, not to mention loving God would use?

I think these are all good reasons to think that if evolution is real—and we have an abundance of evidence that says it is—then the God described in the Bible could not exist and the whole narrative of Christianity makes no sense at all. But I don’t want to just assume that I’ve come to the correct conclusion about this without hearing what the other side has to say. So, any Christians out there who accept the theory of evolution, how do you reconcile the implications of evolution and natural selection with your faith? Please feel free to respond by comment or video.

Thanks.

Ben Stein Pwned!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Review of "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed"



I went and saw Expelled today, and I can tell you I am sickened and fired up. I’ve known all along that the Creationists, and that is what they are, are shameless, but they have really undercut my lowest expectations with this one. Well, not really, because my expectations were really that low.

The premise of this film is that within the scientific community there has been such a crackdown on intellectual freedom that for any one but anyone to challenge the theory of Darwin is for them to put their reputations and job on the line. They then show a series of about ½ dozen people who have lost their job in some academic institution or another and claim that it was because of their view on intelligent design that they were fired. All the evidence given for these claims is shots of letters where you are not allowed to actually see the whole letter (not long enough to read it at any rate) but only shown a few highlighted remarks about ID. None of these stories are reported on or examined in any sort of depth or detail. These folks just say they lost their job due to ID, and that is good enough for Stein. They do, at least, mention that the decision makers at all these institutions deny it all. Humm . . . I wonder why that is?

At some point in the film they mention the Scopes trial and how ‘Evolutionists’ consider that to be a victory. But no, it was a loss for them because the law against teaching evolution was upheld in Tennessee and Scopes was found guilty. Now, where is their upholding of academic freedom? A teacher being barred for teaching ID is being persecuted, but if a teacher is prosecuted for teaching evolution it is the upholding of the law? I smell a double standard.

After this the majority of the film is a mishmash of emotional manipulation confusing social Darwinism with the scientific Darwinist theory and basically blaming Darwin for the Holocaust. Someone Stein interviewed even said that while Darwinism was not a sufficient condition for the Holocaust, it was a necessary condition. Hold on just a moment. Is he saying that all the centuries of the persecution of Jews in Europe was not sufficient in itself? Martin Luther lived long before Darwin and you can already see serious signs of the hatred of Jews in European Christendom long before Martin wrote his “The Jews and their lies.” I have provided a links regarding this in the sidebar. I also have provided a link to the Expelled Exposed site which shoots down the “Darwin leads to Eugenics” argument. Also, check out the other material on their site—they examine the Expelled augments in much more depth than I do. At this point I’ll let the historians pick this argument apart.

There were also other little subtle things I picked up on. For one thing, Stein goes to great length to explain that all this Intelligent Design stuff is not about just about God, but in the end it’s all about God. And of course, Evolution necessarily leads to atheism. That is really what this is all about, after all. And He claims that ID has been misrepresented in the media as saying stuff like “life is to complicated so god must have done it” but a few scenes later he and his friendly interviewees go on the record as really saying exactly that! They use a cell animation to boggle the minds of their audience with the vast complexity of the inner workings of the cell and say, “this is too complicated to have come about without an intelligent designer.” Like the in the example of the Scopes trial above, they again show their hypocrisy.

Not that I expect their followers will not question anything they say. But then again, some of those followers just might question. I, after all, was weaned on creationist propaganda—even in my home school high school biology textbook. A major bit of what lead me to my atheism was learning about all the lies and shameless distortions the creationists use to advance their cause. So, to all of those out there who really think that Ben Stein and co have made some good points—don’t just believe everything they say. Read, research and find the answers for yourself. Do what Ben Stein claims he does. QUESTION AUTHORITY AND GET TO THE TRUTH!!!


http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/Luther_on_Jews.html
http://www.expelledexposed.com/index.php/the-truth/hitler-eugenics

Friday, May 02, 2008

1000 Cathedrals do not make a God happen

I found this vid on YouTube and I want to pass it on. I love Gothic architecture myself. Beautiful testimony to human creativity and engineering. Nothing supernatural though.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Jane Goodall @ Hanover College, 03/27/2008



I got to go and hear a presentation by Jane Goodall last Thursday evening. Quite an experience :) The opportunity just fell in my lap when a friend of mine got ahold of a couple of tickets and invited me along (tickets were free, but there was a very limited number of seats and it was PACKED.)

Dr. Goodall spoke on a variety of topics. She started out with giving up the chimp versing of "hello" which got quite a chuckle from the audience. Then she spoke about her own career, starting as a young girl in war-time England. The most amazing part to me was that when these old respectable men could not have a girl running around by herself in the jungles of Africa, she was required to have a companion in order to stay there. So her mother actually came from England to live out in the wild in a leaky tent for about 6 months, if I remember right. LOL There is what I call supporting your kid's dreams.

Of course, she did talk a bit about chimps. But I'm not going to reproduce it all here and I would not do it justice if I did.

What seemed to me to be the most important point made was the need to live and promote environmentally sustainable lifestyles. A major point being that even if we do get the warring factions in places like Africa to put down their guns and make peace, but their environmental issues are not addressed, they will end up just picking those guns right back up again. What good is peace if your land can no longer support crops, and your water supplies are dry or polluted? So the whole idea of envronmental sustainability is a major piece in promoting peace in troubled areas.

After the presentation, my friend and I headed for the book table, where we couldn't resist getting a few books (different ones, so we could borrow off each other). Then, since I decided that I just could not buy a book at a book signing and not get it signed, we ended up waiting about an 1 1/2 to 2 hours in line. It was well worth it.





Thursday, March 27, 2008

If only...

If only some religion somewhere out there has shown its god to actually know thousands of years ago what we only have found out very recently. Just something, SOMETHING!, that the human authors could not have known on their own that would have turned out to be amazingly and accurately in line with modern scientific discovery. This video displays the absurdity of all the existing religious creation stories, by way of contrast. Here is what those ancient creation myths should have said.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why I am an atheist

This is not a comprehensive list. I just had a bit of time on my hands last night and was thinking about a time when someone, pretty much out of the blue, asked me why I was an atheist. I replied that it was because I didn't believe in God. (How much simpler could it get?) But I was thinking that next time someone asked me that I'd rather be a bit more prepared.

Feel free to add more reasons in the comments section. If you disagree with any of my reasons, mention it in the comments and I'll try to address that one in a later post.

Enjoy!

1. I do not believe in an all-powerful invisible human-like figure that controls the clouds to make it rain (or not), and I don’t believe in any such power behind any other natural phenomena either. Including the very origin of the universe (assuming the universe can be coherently said to have an origin...)

2. Because “God” means different things to different people. Vastly different things. So much that the concept of “God” is pretty much useless.

3. Because prayer to any kind of god or force makes no difference whatsoever outside of the physiological realm. If you would like to challenge this assertion, bring evidence.

4. I think it is more plausible to believe that people have lied or been fooled than to believe that any miracle story is actually true. This is why I asked for evidence in #3.

5. Whenever a new scientific breakthrough is made, the realm of the gods gets smaller. Especially stuff like the Theory of Evolution. This is why fundamentalist Christians rage against science—they may be crazy, but they are not stupid.

6. Anytime I’ve questioned a person if they say God has “spoken” to them, it turned out that they just got inspired. I’ve never been able to see what God had to do with it. Why don’t these people credit their own good thinking?

7. Anytime I’ve heard that God has worked in someone’s life, when I found out what actually happened it was usually something really mundane or total explicable by natural causes. Even with the really amazing stories, the conclusion that God had anything to do with it would have to be a non-sequitur.

8. Because “theology” is nothing but speculation—I determined this when taking Bible/theology classes during my two years at Trevecca Nazarene University. Everyone has a pet theory—but naturally no one can actually check to see if their idea is anywhere near the truth.

9. Because the traditional view of the history of Christianity (and probably any religion) does not match the actual history of Christianity. I also learned this at the Christian university mentioned above.

10. Because it used to matter dearly what version of Christianity a person followed—so much so that members of different versions of Christianity would sometimes torture and kill each other over theological differences—now people are relieved if you only just believe in some sort of higher power at all. Just so long as you are not an atheist. The church used to rip its critics like an enraged pit bull, but the influence of secular Enlightenment values and scientific discovery has knocked out most of its teeth.

11. Because any real morality and ethnics has a perfectly good secular foundation. No one bases their morality on the Bible, except maybe Fred Phelps. And most Christians I know don’t think much of people like him.

12. Because no God or any form of higher power has ever shown himself to me, even when I believed that one would.

The Four Horsemen--Hour 1

Good stuff. I found this on Google videos and thought I'd do my part to pass it on.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Expelled from Expelled

This is too funny. PZ Myers tried to go see the new creationist propoganda film, and they wouldn't let him. Oh, the irony...

EXPELLED

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Padme

I have more cute cat video :) She really gets into the acrobatics when going after the door hanger toy, so I had to get some of that on video.



Besides attacking her toys, and my washcloth (I'll have to get a vid of that later) her next favorite pastime is fish watching.

I could title the pictures below "temptation". :-)


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Obama and his Pastor

Obama denounces pastor's 9/11 comments
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080315/ap_on_el_pr/obama_pastor


Apparently, Obama's long time pastor, the one who converted him to Christianity and the one that inspired the title of one of his books, has made a statement that Obama very clearly does not want to be associated with.



In a sermon on the Sunday after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Wright suggested the United States brought on the attacks.



"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," Wright said. "We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."


In a 2003 sermon, he said blacks should condemn the United States.


"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

I find this story very interesting, from a number of angles. There is the religious angle, the political angle, and the social justice angle.


On the religous level, anyone who knows me well knows that I am an atheist and would really rather have someone in the most powerful office in the world be lead by reason and not by faith. Please, no more faith-based foreign policy!


I'm also wondering if this church is still tax exempt, as they have clearly been endorsing a candidate.


As for the political level, I think the influence of religious zealots on the American political system is ludicrous in a country for which there is supposed to be no religious test for office. There have even been rumors circulating that Obama is a Muslim and is trying to destroy America. Knowing full well the prejudice against Muslims in this country, this can only be a rather nasty smear tactic. But it seems to have been swallowed hook line and sinker by a number of people in this country including a lady who works in the same office as myself.


As for his needing to openly reject these remarks of his pastor, I am a bit torn. Yes, I think if you are a public figure and you have have publicly tagged someone as your spiritual leader, in cases like this it would be appropriate to go on the record as seriously disagreeing with what they have to say. On the other hand, I think it is stupid for the media to latch on to this. First Obama's a Muslim, now they seems to conceded that he is a Christian, but his pastor's a hate-spewing anti-American! Where does it end?


Finally, on the issue of social justice, I am deeply disturbed by what this pastor has to say. America has most definitely committed some terrible foreign policy snafus in the past...hold on, did I just call Hiroshima and Iraq snafus? When all is said and done, I think there needs to be some people in America who are speaking about against these sorts of atocities. It's not popular and not politically correct. Not good publicity for a presidential candidate, whatever his views really are, that is for sure. Anyway, it's part of the job of a politician to try and make sure only their popular views make it to the public light I suppose. So even with the candidates I like, and I do like Obama, I still don't believe half of what they say. Sad state of affairs, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

So am I a Buddhist or an atheist who meditates?

These thoughts have been rolling around in my head lately, though I haven't really given voice to them. I found the article below which describes very well how I've been thinking lately. While still being absolutly conviced that practicing Buddhist meditation and mindfulness, etc, is very beneficial in everyday life, I'm not sure if it is really honest for me to call myself a Buddhist. But maybe it doesn't really matter :)

http://homoeconomicusnet.wordpress.com/2008/01/03/why-i-am-not-a-buddhist/

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Birds Do It. Bees Do It. Dragons Don’t Need To.

This is a very interesting article about odd reproductive methods found in nature. I knew that some species could reproduce without the assistance of a male when the males are not accessible. I've even heard of one type of fish (though I don't remember the species right off the bat) where their is no male at all--though the females mimic heterosexual sex in order to conceive. I think what makes this article most interesting is the way addresses the issue of cloning in human circles (since for an animal to reproduce asexually is for it to produce a clone of itself) and challenges the argument that cloning should not be done because it goes against the natural order. Anyway, I think it is an interesting read so I am passing it on.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/opinion/24shubin.html?ex=1361509200&en=c439992dc81f4cae&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thought for the Day

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences. Robert Green Ingersoll

I was just browsing the web, and found this link for a quiz to help you determine how the presidential canditates line up with your own political views. You have to skip a bunch of adds right after the quiz before you get to your results, but otherwise it is a pretty good quiz. Here are my results:

http://www.selectsmart.com/president/2008.html


1.
Theoretical Ideal Candidate (100%)
2.
Barack Obama (71%) Information link
3.
Hillary Clinton (62%) Information link
4.
Christopher Dodd (withdrawn) (61%) Information link
5.
Wesley Clark (not running, endorsed Clinton) (61%) Information link
6.
John Edwards (withdrawn) (60%) Information link
7.
Al Gore (not announced) (59%) Information link
8.
Dennis Kucinich (withdrawn) (58%) Information link
9.
Joseph Biden (withdrawn) (58%) Information link
10.
Alan Augustson (campaign suspended) (55%) Information link
11.
Bill Richardson (withdrawn) (52%) Information link
12.
Michael Bloomberg (says he will not run) (48%) Information link
13.
Ron Paul (44%) Information link
14.
Mike Gravel (43%) Information link
15.
John McCain (40%) Information link
16.
Rudolph Giuliani (withdrawn, endorsed McCain) (40%) Information link
17.
Wayne Allyn Root (37%) Information link
18.
Mike Huckabee (34%) Information link
19.
Kent McManigal (campaign suspended) (32%) Information link
20.
Chuck Hagel (not running) (31%) Information link
21.
Elaine Brown (29%) Information link
22.
Alan Keyes (27%) Information link
23.
Mitt Romney (withdrawn, endorsed McCain) (26%) Information link
24.
Newt Gingrich (says he will not run) (25%) Information link
25.
Sam Brownback (withdrawn, endorsed McCain) (23%) Information link
26.
Fred Thompson (withdrawn) (22%) Information link
27.
Tommy Thompson (withdrawn, endorsed Giuliani) (22%) Information link
28.
Tom Tancredo (withdrawn, endorsed Romney) (21%) Information link
29.
Duncan Hunter (withdrawn, endorsed Huckabee) (20%) Information link
30.
Jim Gilmore (withdrawn) (17%) Information link
31.
Stephen Colbert (campaign halted) (12%) Information link