Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy Blasphemy Rights Day!


International Blasphemy Rights Day place every September 30th, to commemorate the publishing of the Jyllans-Posten Muhammad cartoons. The purpose of this event is to set a particular day as a day to support free speech, support the right to criticize and satirize religion, and to oppose any resolutions or laws, binding or otherwise, that discourage or inhibit free speech of any kind. The focus on 'blasphemy' is simply because it is such a salient issue, and one for which a lot of consciousness-raising is necessary.
The goal is not out to promote hate or violence. While many perceive blasphemy as insulting and offensive, it isn't about getting enjoyment out of ridiculing and insulting others. The day was created as a reaction against those who would seek to take away the right to satirize and criticize a particular set of beliefs given a privileged status over other beliefs. Criticism and dissent towards opposing views is the only way in which any nation with any modicum of freedom can exist. 

RNS: Atheists campaign for 'right' to blaspheme religion
by Alfredo Garcia
Religion News Service
The Amherst, N.Y.-based Center for Inquiry (CFI) has changed the name of its International Blasphemy Day to International Blasphemy Rights Day in a bid to show that organizers are not interested in "mocking religion" for its own sake. 
CFI representatives said the name change better describes the purpose of the event amidst criticism received after last year's inaugural events. 
"There was a lot of controversy last year that we were doing what we were doing simply in the interest of mocking religion," said CFI Spokesman Nathan Bupp. "That, indeed, is not the case." 
CFI bills itself as "an institution devoted to promoting science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values." International Blasphemy Rights Day is part of a larger, national campaign by CFI for freedom of expression. 
The name change is meant to "emphasize the important connection that we think there is between blasphemy and the right to free speech," said Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI. 
Lindsay said some critics "interpreted blasphemy in its crudest form" but "blasphemy is a wider concept than that." 
Although many people scoffed at last year's campaign, he said, the center believes religion is not, and should not be, immune from criticism. 
"Religious beliefs should be on the same level of political beliefs," Lindsay said. 
This year's events are scheduled for Sept. 30, the fifth anniversary of the publication of 12 cartoons of Islam's Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper. It will also come about three weeks after a church in Gainesville, Fla., is scheduled to hosts its inaugural "Burn a Quran Day." 
Although Lindsay said he would "defend the right of individuals to engage in an event like that," he personally thinks it is "an inappropriate event." 
"We would certainly not condone the burning of the Quran. In fact, we believe it should be studied critically." 
Lindsay emphasized that CFI's goal is to criticize the belief, not the believer. "Blasphemy is often, unfortunately, associated with crude criticism of believers. But our focus is on looking at the beliefs," he said.  





Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Angelic Mythology


78% of Americans believe in angels (2004 poll). The prevailing rational explanation for this belief is the need to assign causation to the unexplained events in our lives. Just as primitive people cited evil spirits for all manner of mental disorders, disease, or calamity humans needed an external explanation for the good things that happen as well. This is another aspect of the Just World Hypothesis that I have discussed before: when seeking an explanation for bad things happening to good people, there is a tendency to blame the victim and assume that they did something to deserve their misfortune. This reasoning extends to the belief that a good person has "an angel on their shoulder" or some other benevolent entity who is looking out for them.

In the same 2004 poll, the number dips to 70% who believe in the devil: an angel cast out of heaven. It appears that more people believe in the concept of angels when they are beautiful and benevolent creatures. According to cannon, some of them are quite frightening. It has been well established that many people who claim to be religious have not actually read the holy book attributed to their system of faith. Many have a limited grasp if the tenets of their own religion, let alone other faiths.

There are accounts of angelic beings in several cultures around the world. There are angels in Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism, Celtic and Norse Mythology just to name a few. The concept of an other-worldly protective spirit predates the bible. Many of the hierarchy's overlap. For this post I will focus on the Judeo-Christian Angelic Mythology in which the angels are divided into nine choirs which are further divided into three Triads. The highest order of angels is the Seraphim, followed by the Cherubim, Ophanim, Dominions (or dominations), Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. It is not difficult to see the parallels between angelic mythology and Greek or roman mythology. I wonder if that 78% truly believe that the Archangel Michael has 142 wings and packs a flaming sword.


The common perception of angels is of celestial entities who watch over humans like cosmic protectors. They are typically described as beautiful humans with bird-like wings who are the direct servants of God, often emitting divine light themselves. Some of the images of winged beings originate with early religious iconography. Many Old Testament accounts do not specifically mention wings. The New Testament gives a more detailed description.
The other characterization is of medieval warriors, engaged in a constant battle with the forces of evil for the souls of humanity. They are often depicted wearing roman style armor and wielding swords or spears. The defiance of Lucifer began a war in heaven which apparently caused 1/3 of the angels to revolt. The ensuing battle took place on a grand scale, ending with the angels in question being cast out of heaven. This war was apparently waged with metal weapons because even angels were stuck in the Bronze Age.
There are several different classes of angles. The details vary depending on the source material.
I'll just mention the most interesting ones:

Archangels are considered to be of high rank and are typically messengers of God. Lucifer is said to be of this class, along with Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Azreal, Samael. Catholicism claims that there are seven archangels, the individual names vary between different religions. It is from this rank, that God issues his punishments. (seeAngel of Death. ). They usually have two wings and have (at times) been described as having faces of lightening.Daniel 10:5-6: “I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.”

Cherubim are described by the prophet Ezekiel as having four faces: of a lion, an ox, an eagle and a man. They are said to have the hands of a man and the feet of a calf. Cherubim possess four wings; two extended upward, meeting above holding the throne of God; while the other two cover their bodies. Cherubim are often traced back to the griffin or sphinx as inspiration for their physical form. Cherubim (or Cherubs) are often mistaken for Putti: winged toddlers often depicted playing in art from the 15th to 19th century.
**Note: Lucifer is commonly referred to as an Arch Angel, but scripture names him in the rank of Cheribum (Ezekiel 28:12-14). He is also described as being an angel from the highest order (Seraph).

Ophanim (Thrones) are wheel-shaped beings who, along with the Cherubim, carry the throne of God in some cases they are the throne . Ophanim are described by Ezekiel as being covered in eyes and also literally burning with love for God. Depending on the source, they are covered in wings, have only four or none at all.

Seraphim are fiery beings with six wings. Two covering their faces, two covering their bodies and another two to fly with. They are occasionally depicted as having multiple heads. The name Seraphim means "burning ones". These creatures reportedly hover around God and sing "holy, holy, holy" without end. Their fire is said to symbolize the burning love for the almighty. Michael is also listed in this rank at times.

Let's take a look at the common themes here. Fire. An unpredictable element that prehistoric man completely depended on for warmth, and light. It is a symbol for enlightenment and man's dominance over the forces of nature.Animal-human hybrids. Again we're invoking forces of nature. The animals themselves ave metaphorical meanings assigned to them signifying strength, wisdom, and grace. We have seen similar images with Centaurs or Mermaids. Even the Egyptian god Horus had the head of a falcon.


Many of these symbolic totems are markers of the age in which they were invented. Angels, who are incorporeal beings actually use wings in order to travel. Some have multiple wings - something that is not even practical in a material world. We are to believe that the creator of the universe rides on a chariot with living fiery wheels while being supported by the wings of anthropomorphic bird-men...who are also aflame.

To be fair, the majority of these depictions are said to be from revelation (Ezekiel, John, etc). The different accounts are attributed to man's inability to describe a vision of divinity in human language. That being said, the metamorphosis of the physical forms can easily be traced to pre-Judeo Christian folklore. The evolution of the mythology is not as significant as the sheer number of people who regard them as facts. It should be said that the same individuals easily dismiss the existence of other mythological creatures using little more than critical thinking.

This is the dichotomy of American beliefs. More Americans believe in Angels than in Global Warming. The same culture that believes in an invisable man in the sky who sits on an actual throne - was able to map the human genome and land a rover on Mars.

Mid-Week Rant: He's Not With God, He's Fucking Dead

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

QUIZ: How much do you know about religion?

Take the quiz and post your scores in the comment section.

QUIZ: How much do you know about religion?  


Believers Don't Know What They Believe (UPDATED)


From the Department of Not Surprised:

Various news outlets (New York Times, USA Today, CNN, LA Times, etc.) published articles detailing American's knowledge of religion and in a complete shock to me and most people frequenting this site believers don't even know what they believe in.   Conversely, non-believers scored highest in knowledge regarding religion.  I think its due to a little something I like to call: critical thought.  You should try it sometime.

Here is the link to the survey and results.


I'm shocked.  SHOCKED I SAY!

UPDATE:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Morning Stupid Quotes: Christine O'Donnell

"Wait...Shhhh, God's about to tell me something"
Republican Nominee for the Senate in Delaware.

"American scientific companies are crossbreeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains," -O'Reilly Factor, 2007

“Well, as the senator from Tennessee mentioned, evolution is a theory and it’s exactly that. There is not enough evidence, consistent evidence to make it as fact, and I say that because for theory to become a fact, it needs to consistently have the same results after it goes through a series of tests. The tests that they put — that they use to support evolution do not have consistent results. Now too many people are blindly accepting evolution as fact. But when you get down to the hard evidence, it’s merely a theory…”

“Well, creationism, in essence, is believing that the world began as the Bible in Genesis says, that God created the Earth in six days, six 24-hour periods. And there is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting that…”

"We took the Bible and prayer out of public schools. Now we're having weekly shootings. We had the 60s sexual revolution, and now people are dying of AIDS." -August 1998, "Politically Incorrect"

"God may choose to heal someone from cancer, yet that person still has a great deal of medical bills. The outstanding bills do not determine whether or not the patient has been healed by God." -November 9, 1998, Cultural Dissent

“Absolutely, but let me qualify that—I consider myself an authentic feminist. Not as defined by the modern movement. And, let me clarify that a little bit more. I was an English major, so break it down: -ist means one who celebrates. As a feminist, I celebrate my femininity.” - July 2010, Interview with Americans for Prosperity

"During the primary, I heard the audible voice of God. … He said, 'Credibility.' It wasn't a thought in my head. I thought it meant I was going to win. But after the primary, I got credibility." - November 12, 2006, Wilmington News-Journal

O'DONNELL: You know what, evolution is a myth. And even Darwin himself -
MAHER: Evolution is a myth? Have you ever looked at a monkey?
O'DONNELL: Well then, why they -- why aren't monkeys still evolving into humans?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Morning Hate: Bishop Eddie Long

Hateful Rhetoric from Religious Leaders



“That’s the reason why we got sexual immorality. That’s the reason why there’s a rise in the gay agenda. That is the reason why… Church won’t say nothing — It’s amazing, church folk: ‘Well, I’m gay. Well, ‘Just don’t bother me. Or you can bother me.’ That’s the only statements. You don’t say, ‘and the Lord said.’ You’re out of order. You’ve turned the truth into the lie. You can be converted. You were not born that way! Let me pray with you. Let me tell you, don’t you be conformed to this world. But be ye transformed from the, ‘Well, I don’t know what I am.’ Tell it, take your clothes down, I’ll show you who you are!”

A fourth young man has come forward this week detailing a sexual relationship with Long.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ha! No We're Not.

Friday Link Dump - 9/24/10

Are you chromosomally predisposed to be attracted to the same sex? Concerned for the fate of your immortal soul? Let not your heart be troubled. This church camp claims to be able to fix the flaw in your intelligent design.

Looking to join a hate group, but don't know where to start? Here's a Hate Map.

How does a believer ward off the assault of factual information on the Internet? By creating a search engine that only allows websites that confirm their worldview.

My favorite example: Conservapedia. If you can read a whole entry on any of the google suggested subjects you should probably leave our site and go back to foxnews.com.

How are the brains of liars different than non-liars? Please don't ask my wife.

Does Atheism Poison Everything? Hitchens Vs. Berlinski


Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20th: ''Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day''


Today is the day for believers to come together and pray for one of their most outspoken opponents.
Still the king of dry wit and sarcasm, when asked about his health recently, he replied.
''Well, I'm dying, since you asked, but so are you. I'm only doing it more rapidly.''
Mr. Hitchens has responded positively to the sentiment of the prayers from the faithful. Excluding, of course the prayers for his death and decent into the inferno.
He appears to recognize them for what they are. Well wishes and support. He has stated that the prayers have not actually made him feel better.
"Incantations, I don't think, have any effect on the material world."
Today, Mr. Hitchens we shall keep you in our thoughts. We would not presume that the cosmos is listening.

Monday Morning Stupid Quotes: Ann Coulter

AHH! KILL IT WITH FIRE!
"I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo." From her column on 21/12/05

"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren´t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That´s war. And this is war." Ann Coulter writing about terrorists in her column the day after the 9/11 attacks

"When we were fighting communism, OK, they had mass murderers and gulags, but they were white men and they were sane. Now we´re up against absolutely insane savages." Ann Coulter comparing the cold war to the war on terror 16/08/04

"The ethic of conservation is the explicit abnegation of man´s dominion over the Earth. The lower species are here for our use. God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet - it´s yours. That´s our job: drilling, mining and stripping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars - that´s the Biblical view." 12/10/00

"These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband's deaths so much." -on 9/11 widows who have been critical of the Bush administration

"Being nice to people is, in fact, one of the incidental tenets of Christianity (as opposed to other religions whose tenets are more along the lines of 'kill everyone who doesn't smell bad and doesn't answer to the name Mohammed"). From her column March 4th, 2004

"They're [Democrats] always accusing us of repressing their speech. I say let's do it. Let's repress them. Frankly, I'm not a big fan of the First Amendment". University of Florida Speech October 20th 2005

"In 1960, whites were 90 percent of the country. The Census Bureau recently estimated that whites already account for less than two-thirds of the population and will be a minority by 2050. Other estimates put that day much sooner. One may assume the new majority will not be such compassionate overlords as the white majority has been. If this sort of drastic change were legally imposed on any group other than white Americans, it would be called genocide. Yet whites are called racists merely for mentioning the fact that current immigration law is intentionally designed to reduce their percentage in the population". Bush's America: Roaha Motel June 6th 2007

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Morning Hate: Pope Benedict XVI

Hateful Rhetoric from Religious Leaders



More than two-thirds – 67% – of the global total of 32.9 million people with HIV
live in sub-Saharan Africa. -
The Guardian

March of 2009. On the flight to Yaounde, Cameroon. Discussing the AIDS epidemic.

NOTE: I have two different quotes here, due to seperate translations from his native language: Sith.

"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem."

"[AIDS is] a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems."
He also said the "traditional teaching of the Church" on chastity outside marriage and fidelity within it had proved to be "the only sure way of preventing the spread of HIV and Aids".

Other Vatican officials have perpetuated lies about the effectiveness of condoms. It is doubtful that the pontiff actually believes that condoms cause AIDS. He does not seem to care if his followers believe it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Link Dump - 9/17/10


Life’s hell under the Jewish Taliban - Well its a good thing the Western world doesn't implicitly condone this behav...oh.  

Hawking and the Multiverse -People, I implore you to read more Victor Stenger.



After Three Years Creation Museum Is Evolving (But Not In That Way) – This makes me sad for America.

Galileo Was Wrong - Wow.  Just wow.  And you thought the Creationists were crazy?

Atheist billboard provokes Oklahoman Christians - So why does this reporter include the Satanists in an article about Atheists?  Because he’s a hack, that’s why.  Additionally, I would also like to point out that if you drive down any highway in America you'll see a Christian propaganda billboard approximatively every 30 minutes.  Hypocrites.  

Tea party racists can't avoid Obama monkey jokes no matter how hard they try – Check this site out.  They do a great job of finding things that will make you pull your hair out.


Playing Video Games Enhances Decision Making - /forwards article to wife and waits for breathless apology. 


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pope Violates Godwin's Law, Any Semblance of Decency: UPDATED

The Pope is in the UK today to kick off his four day trip to promote his intolerant, hateful form of Christianity.  In his opening remarks he didn't disappoint:
"Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29)".
I submit the following quotes as evidence that Nazism was influenced not by atheism but by Christianity:
“Men created by God must live in accordance with the will of the Almighty.” 
"Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."
"My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people."
"Verily a man cannot serve two masters. And I consider the foundation or destruction of a religion far greater than the foundation or destruction of a state, let alone a party."
"The attack against dogmas as such, therefore, strongly resembles the struggle against the general legal foundations of a state, and , as the latter would end in a total anarchy of the state, the former would end in a worthless religious nihilism."
          -Adolf Hitler

UPDATE AFTER THE JUMP

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Atheist

I almost expect adamantium claws to come out.  
One of our (four?) readers thought it would be interesting to have posts about how we “became” atheists.  Not sure about the others desire to do this, but I’ll bite.  This is the short version.

I was raised in a Christian (Lutheran) household and went to church every single Sunday for the first…I don’t know…11 years of my life.  After that it was every other week due to custody/visitation alternating weekends between my parents.  Both of my parents were Christians, but my mom was the church-goer.  She was always very involved in most of the activities and whatnot.  I know she believes, but I think being so involved in it was just as much of an escape from the house and some interaction with other people.  My dad was more of the believer that didn’t attend church and didn’t understand fuck-all about what he believed.  Later on when I was adult and we discussed belief vs. non-belief  he would “argue” with me using really tired and flawed logic.  Basically the same religious talking points you hear from any believer who desperately wants you to be Saved, or as I see it: validating their belief system.  I let it go.  He was my old man and he just couldn’t grasp anything I was saying.  He passed away almost three years ago. More on that later. 

My parents separated when I was seven years old and divorced when I was eight. My mother got remarried a year later to the new minister at our church.  This is where most people's heads explode since I should the perfect little Christian boy or go “Oh, so that’s why you are against religion,” but no, that is not why I am “against religion.” My step-father is a good man.  We have always gotten along for the most part.  And by “for the most part” I can honestly say when we didn’t get along I was more than likely being an asshole teenager.  I can't complain and say that I was raised in some crazy Jesus Freak household that suffocated me and pushed me away from religion (it was not like this at all). It was all pretty easy going and loving.

I can't really pinpoint the exact moment I became an atheist. I don't think happens that way.  Its a process.  When I was a kid I think I believed. I think. Who the hell knows because you really are programmed to believe growing up. Would you have
any inclination to believe the stories about Noah, Moses, Jesus and God if your parents didn’t tell you all about it?  Would you be able to make any sense out of the Bible without adult authority figures telling you that its all true?  No.  No you would not.  I sang the songs and knew all of the stories.  I "understood" most of it. I also asked questions that annoyed the Sunday school teacher, but it didn't annoy my parents.  They were cool with science so it’s not like I was taught a bunch of crap or denied a real education like so many other kids.  

I started to hate going to church between 10 and 12 years old. I mean really hate it.  I would piss and moan about going. Every Sunday morning was a battle. I was never confirmed. I went to one confirmation class and never went back. I think I remember being a sarcastic asshole during that one class. It couldn’t have been easy for my step-father and my mom. "The 'preacher’s kid' wouldn't attend confirmation and has a bad attitude." They never really said anything to their credit.  My rejection of it was a combination of not believing a word of it when looking at things objectively and having a healthy bad attitude about “church people.” I was, after all, there ALL the time with these people. So many of them are like Ned Flanders and those people make me uncomfortable.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Godless, Country, Corps

I suppose I should start with credentials.  I joined the Marine Corps at 18 and spent 5 years and 19 days on active duty, which included several deployments to Latin America and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I then spent 7 years in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, which included an all expense paid trip to a Katrina-devastated Big Easy. On a scale of one to ten, with one being a determined belief in a deity and ten being a determined disbelief in a deity, I’m a nine.  I say a nine only because, while I do believe that lack of evidence is evidence of absence, I’m willing to change my mind if empirical evidence were presented.

After thinking about this post and how I wanted to go about it, I realized there was a long and short of it.  The short being my personal experiences during my 12 odd years in the military, and the long being insights into the current events involving religion and the military.  I’ll tackle my experiences first in this post, and then cover some of the more recent events in posts to follow.

The United States Marine Corps is steeped in tradition; even the screw-ups who get kicked out will speak proudly of being a Marine.  It goes without saying that along with tradition comes “that old-time religion”.  My first Sunday on Parris Island, SC, we were brought to the Protestant services, one and all.  No one was given a choice that first week, and I was subjected to what was a very Southern Charismatic service with lots a hand-clapping and recruits being possessed by the “Holy Spirit”.  After that we were given a choice between Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Church of Christ, Mormon and I believe even Buddhist, among others.  Those of us who didn’t want to go to religious services stayed back at the barracks prepping uniforms for inspection, writing letters, and sometimes cleaning.  There was no overt punishment for not going, but being one of a handful of recruits left behind meant you were visible to scrutiny.  Those who went to services were able to talk freely amongst each other, and didn’t have to worry about punishment once a week, even if it was only for an hour or so. 

I took the opportunity to escape drill instructor scrutiny and explore the minority faiths while I was there.  I wore a yarmulke and prayed Adon Olam with the Jews, sang a cappella with the Church of Christ and got totally weirded out by the Mormons.  I attempted to go to the Muslim service, but received unwelcome looks, so I went back to the Church of Christ service, because they had grape juice.  I was in boot camp during the Jewish High Holidays, and Jewish recruits were allowed off base (with a DI escort) to go to a synagogue for services.  I attempted to go along, but since I had put down “no preference” (atheist wasn’t an option) on my paperwork, the idea wasn’t even entertained.

Graduation was, of course, accompanied by a benediction from a Christian chaplain, and I quickly learned how deeply religion permeated the Corps.  Promotion warrants and awards all included “In the Year of Our Lord”, tattoos and t-shirts proclaimed “God, Country, Corps” and every unit had a chaplain.  A note on chaplains, by the way- James Madison was against them.  If you don’t believe that the author of the First Amendment believed in separation of church and state, read this.   So there it is, Sean Hannity.

From boot camp I went on to Marine Combat Training, the Defense Language Institute, Goodfellow AFB and finally Camp Lejeune, NC.  It was at Lejeune that I truly learned what religious discrimination was.  Our battalion Sergeant Major had monthly Prayer Breakfasts, which were not compulsory, but highly encouraged and conducted during the week.  He once asked the company commanders for a list of non-attendees, and their reasons for not attending.  Then, of course, there was the time during my Pros and Cons(a periodic performance review) that I was told I could never be a good Marine, because I hadn't accepted Jesus.

I never had an issue with the reason behind going to Afghanistan, and honestly I have been disappointed by the half-assed way we have conducted that war.  Iraq, on the other hand, filled me with reservation from the beginning.  In the military, there are three options for confidential counseling: the chaplain, a military psychologist/therapist and your friends.  The third option is sometimes risky, and does not really fulfill the need for an outside opinion.  Going to see a psychologist can be career suicide in the military, especially if you have a security clearance, and it is generally frowned upon.  The only socially acceptable “professional” counseling in the military is the chaplaincy.  Looking for someone to talk with about my doubts (which were apparently justified), I went to the battalion chaplain.  After airing my concerns, I was told, and I quote, “We just have to trust that God is working through the President.”  No shit, that’s what he said.  And your tax dollars paid for this sage advice.

I ended up going to Iraq, after spending 40 days on the USS Saipan listening to Christian prayers over the 1MC(ship’s PA) every night, and being hassled in northern Kuwait for a month by Chaplain Charlie and His Traveling Clown Show(thanks to Morris for that one!). 

They say there are no atheists in foxholes.  “They” are idiots.  Never once did I pray or beseech, nor did I hear or see others doing so in the field, except at the behest of a chaplain.  Even when I heard artillery coming in on top of us (our own, by the way), my “last thought” was a resounding, “Ah, shit.”  I had long since accepted my eventual oblivion and, while I did not welcome it, when I thought the moment had come I did not make a plea to some imaginary being. 

I got off active duty about a month and a half after I got back from Iraq, moved to Philadelphia, and joined the PA Army National Guard.  Being a weekend warrior, I didn’t see the chaplains very often.  That changed when I was called up during Hurricane Katrina.  While I tried to avoid them, I couldn’t avoid their literature, which they had strewn about the abandoned department store that we were living in.  There was a book by James Dobson written specifically for the military that popped up on every level surface.  Dave, another freethinker, and I would hide copies of it in each others’ gear.   When handing out food I was told, “God bless you” several times.  He certainly hadn’t extended that courtesy to them.  One woman said we were a godsend.  I wanted to tell her that we had been sent by Ed Rendell, and he is definitely no god. 

In high stress situations, especially when life and limb are on the line, people do tend to fall back on irrational beliefs for comfort and consolation, and the military is no exception.  If a Marine, soldier, sailor or airman wishes to rely on an imagined deity and the hope of eternal reward they have that right, but to force it on those of us who see reality through the hard, empirical lens of science is both immoral and unconstitutional.

Monday Morning Stupid Quotes: The Qur'an Burning responses

A special Monday Morning Stupid Quotes since everyone has had so much fun with this topic for the past week.  I hate to endorse anything by the Huffington Post, but here is a decent article outlining the media’s complete failure at doing their job properly or effectively. 


*Note: I’m not giving the cult leader that started this whole thing another word of press.  I have not quoted him anywhere in this post.  Besides, at this point I am sure we have all seen his brand of crazy and don’t need to revisit it. 

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort. It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world, we are engaged with the Islamic community.”
-Gen. David Petraeus

You know what endangers troops in Afghanistan?  Being in Afghanistan.

“This is a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda. You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in American cities or European cities.”
-President Barak Obama

Why does this ring hollow to me?  Oh, that’s right…that’s because there is already serious violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan and “radical” Islam is recruiting no matter what some asshole cult leader in Florida does. 

“We stand here collectively as the world is facing a great threat and danger. What is being planned by Reverend Terry Jones and his followers... not only wounds the feelings of the Islamic Ummah [community], but I am also certain the feeling of the followers of other faiths; and indeed can threaten international peace and security.”
-Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Again, I would like to point out that it is complete madness that this would threaten international peace and security.  What does that say about Islam and religion in general?  Just sayin’.

“We hope that the US authorities will take strong action to prevent such an outrage being committed. While we await the action of the US authorities, we would appeal to the media in India - both print and visual media - to refrain from telecasting visuals or publishing photographs of the deplorable act.”
-Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram

Any "strong action" by any governmental authority within the Unites States of America would be illegal.  Additionally, good luck with your censorship.  

“Each religion, with its respective sacred books, places of worship and symbols, has the right to respect and protection.”
-The Vatican

Too bad innocent, defenseless children don’t have a right to respect and protection. 

“This action cannot be justified at anytime and certainly is doubly unjustified coming at the holy month of Ramadan. To my Muslim brothers and sisters, I urge you to show restraint while we deal with this issue as we continue to build and strengthen our fortress for religious tolerance and continuing peaceful coexistence.”
-Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan

Actually, this response is one of the few sensible comments I have seen.   

And just for fun since he always brings the crazy:

“[The proposed burning is a] Zionist plot that is against the teachings of all divine prophets. Zionists and their supporters are on their way to collapse and dissolution and such last-ditch actions will not save them, but multiply the pace of their fall and annihilation.”
-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Oh, Mahmoud. 

50 Atheist Billboards Go Up in Atlanta

via the Friendly Atheist via FFRF

I bet some theists piss and moan about it.












Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Morning Hate: Rabbi Lapin

Hateful rhetoric from religious leaders


From the September 3 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Christopher Hitchens: The New Commandments


 via Vanity Fair

Friday Link Dump - 9/10/10

Early man butchered and ate the brains of children as part of everyday diet - RAWK! 

 


More teens becoming 'fake' Christians  - Oh yes, we must be sure to indoctrinate the young ones before our Bronze Age beliefs finally go extinct.  This modern world makes too much sense to them with its science and reason. 

This article is Exhibit 863 as to why CNN is no longer journalism.  Spineless…


Ignoring Scientific Errors – I highly recommend reading anything by Victor Stenger. 

The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution - I like the idea of humans domesticating themselves.  

Does Your Language Shape How You Think? – Great read.  I’ll never forget learning this in Anthro class because it made so much sense to me: Language determines thought.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tim Minchin's The Pope Song

(NSFW)

Incoherent Religious Hate: Burn a Koran Day




"Those who begin by burning books will end by burning people."  Heinrich Heine 

Sweet, Delicious Irony

Jehovah's Witnesses just have no self-awareness.  


"A new group of atheists has arisen in society. Called the new atheists, 
they are not content to keep their views to themselves."

via Pharyngula

Filling the Gaps: Why Hawking is More Dangerous than Dawkins


In The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking, says that God is not necessary to explain the birth of the universe. The Big Bang was the inevitable consequence of the laws of physics. He goes on to say, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist." This last sentence is the reason so many people are mad at Dr. Hawking. From the worlds most famous physicist, we expect to hear about the how. But he said why. Why we exist is supposed to be the realm of religion. Cue outraged theists: Rev. Dr. David Wilkinson, astrophysicist and principal of St. John's College, Durham. "[The theory] raises a number of questions which for many opens the door to the possibility of an existence of a creator," such as cosmic purpose, the source of the laws of physics and the intelligibility of the universe. -We'll get back to Dr. Wilkinson in a moment. The Archbishop of Canterbury: Rowan Williams, “Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the Universe. It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence.  Physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing.”  Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the Universe. It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence. “Physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing.” As refreshing as this not quite god of the gaps position is, it implies that God is the invisible glue holding this popsicle sculpture together. It also falls into the trap of denouncing science as ill equipped to explain the mysteries of the universe. This is largely due to science not explaining the universe in a way that complements the dogma of the critic. In this regard, Hawking's unnecessary God may be more damaging to theology than Dawkins' Delusion of God . Dawkins says that God does not exist because there is "No shred of evidence." Hawking says that we don't need him.
Honestly, they really should have seen this coming.

An over-simplification of a complex theory: About 30 years ago, Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose posited the theory that the universe began with an infinitesimally small point with infinite mass density. The "Bang" was what Hawking called The Singularity. This was based on Einstein's Theory of Relativity. At this time Hawking did not rule out a Prime Mover setting this into motion. The frequently quoted last line of A Brief History of Time has had believers counting him on their side for decades: "However, if we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God." Hawking's meaning by this passage has been mis-represented almost as much as Albert Einstein: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it". (The Human Side 1954).  Hawking has since refuted his original claim. Relativity is incompatible with Quantum Mechanics (or, rather, we do not have a cohesive model that can incorporate both theories). I'd like to point out that this is the best part of science. It is open to revision as additional facts come to light. Someone with the credibility of Hawking can come out and contradict himself without losing the respect of his peers because it shows his intellectual honesty. Hawking believes that M-Theory may lead to the explanation for the universe. M-Theory is a concept born from the advanced understanding of the existing string theories. It is essentially the theory that connects the five different string theories together, while also considering 11 dimensions. Colloquially, this has been called the Theory of Life, The Universe and Everything (see 42). Further, this theory goes against our natural tendency to think of the universe beginning at some fixed point in time. A flipping of the cosmic switch. Time does not exist before the universe began. Lawrence Krauss explains in an interview here how the positive particle energy and negative gravitational energy balance out. Essentially explaining how the universe can be born from "nothing". Hawking began discussing the possibility of science answering the big question in 2006 at a conference on the same day that the pope asked scientists not to explore this subject. Not everyone agrees with the science. Not everyone understands the science. I will admit to being mostly self-taught in this area. The science itself is not the dangerous part. This book is a scientific event that spawns a philosophical debate about the very nature of reality. Reality has been in the clutches of the faithful since the beginning of time (you know what I mean). Dr. David Wilkinson's arguments [taken apart by Dawkins here]] levels a decent philosophical argument with his three major problems with the theory: "One would be the the purpose of the universe. Although science might discover the mechanism, we are still left with the question of what is the purpose.'Second is where the laws of physics come from. Science subsumes the laws but we are still left with the question of where the laws come from.'Third is the intelligibility of the universe. It strikes me as interesting that Stephen Hawking can make it intelligible. Albert Einstein once said that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. For many of us who are struck by the intelligibility of the physical laws, the explanation is that the creator is the force of rationality both for the universe and for our minds." The answers to these protests are at the heart of the danger for theology. First we must assume that the universe has a purpose. To that, I say: Does it need one? Second, the laws are the properties of the system. If the system were different, the laws would be different. In this reality, water is wet. Third is the real problem. Our ability to understand our environment is no more proof of a divine hand than our inability to understand it in the past was proof that there was magic all around us. This position lends itself to the belief that the universe is perfectly arranged for life to exist. The enormous blind spot here is that a different cosmic environment could support a different type of life. This planet was not made for us. Take the opposite and remove the intent. This isn't rocket science here - just quantum mechanics.

The only god that can be left to reason is a god of the gaps.The overwhelming evidence of evolution has removed most of the rational argument from the opposition. Even The Vatican has admitted that evolution is not incompatible with Christianity because they cannot deny that it is true. Our continued understanding of the method by which life emerges has pushed a creator god right up to the unexplained catalyst of DNA. In astrophysics, a cosmic button-pusher is so far removed from the Abrahamic or Islamic God that even the name seems to fall into lower-case. It becomes a god. The belief in a personal god who answers prayers, scores touchdowns and gives brain cancer to infants does not seem necessary. Hawking answers the question of why by stating that the laws of gravity make the creation of a universe inevitable. Theists will reject this because it does not tell them what our purpose is. We do not need the continuous rational gymnastics to explain the purpose/plan behind random events. A Theory of Everything may be able to decode the patterns and probabilities. To predict what we now call random events. It will tell us the why, but not our purpose. That is still up to us. This is an abyss that most of us don't want to stare into. But if anyone is staring back, its not a god.