Sunday, July 31, 2011

Morality 2: Not-So-Good Books

This is Part 2 in a three part series. Part 1 is Morality 1: Good Without Gods and Part 3 is Morality 3: Of Objectivity & Oughtness.

via QualiaSoup.


Sunday Morning Hate ~ Rick Perry Supporters

Here’s a nice little compilation of SMH all-stars who happen to support Gov. Perry’s Aug 6th rally of prayer and fasting.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s lawsuit arguing that Perry’s involvement in the rally was a violation of the 1st Amendment’s establishment clause was dismissed by a Houston judge.  Perry is “considering” a run for president.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Link Dump 7/29/11

Obviously the subject of the past week was the horrific attacks in Oslo, Norway. First and foremost, we would like to extend our sincere and deepest condolences to the family, friends and fellow citizens of the victims. Sadly, many people around the planet can sympathize with your pain in one way or another. We are sorry for your loss.

As I am sitting here putting this FLD together—like I have dozens of times before—it dawns on me that there is really no good way for me to segue into the rest of the link dump so I am just going to jump in. Sorry if it is jarring.

Oslo Attacks & Religion: Wait For the Evidence: My first attempt at addressing the travesty. I was mad.

So What Is He, Christian Or Not: Full disclosure: Kriss has been giving us a lot of love lately and we are mentioned in this article. Honestly, the reason I wanted to post this was because it embodies the debate going on right now. Is he or isn’t he a Christian? It is not easy to sort through. To that end, Jack and I wrote our two cents in a kind of opposing viewpoints. They are immediately below.

Glenn Beck: Young Norway victims like 'Hitler Youth': If I too wanted to invoke Godwin's Law I could point out that Beck runs a "heritage-based education for youth" camp, but I wouldn't do that.

Humanist statement on terror attacks in Norway and World Humanist Congress on Peace to be held at site of Oslo bombing

Christian Terrorism and Islamophobia: Sam Harris’ take.

Pat Buchanan Praises Breivik’s Cultural Analysis: Of course he does. BTW, Pat Buchanan is just one of the reasons I refuse to watch MSNBC. Again, I put forth the proposition that the liberal media myth is exactly that...a myth.

OK...non-Oslo links below.

A ‘Modest Proposal’ For Dealing with Heretics: Just a reminder what many Christians want to do us. This one happens to be written by a preacher.

Author of ‘Anti-Christian’ DHS Report on Right-Wing Extremism is a Conservative, Anti-Choice Gun Owner: “Those leebruls er ulways tryin’ ta denuhgrate goood Chreestian folk!       Huh?   Tha arthur wuz a whut? Oh...”

Atheist group wants to stop World Trade Center cross: Adam sent this link to me and said “Silverman is such a cock. Even when he's right.”       Hehe...yeeaaah.

Grandparents were key to prehistoric man's survival: I read the article this link is based on in Scientific American and it was great. It made me think that so much of human culture is simply based on longevity and the multi-generational information and consistency that goes with it.

Mid-Week Rant: Jamie DeWolf: I thought this was fantastic. Such a powerful and damning performance.

Dear Angry Lunatic: A Response to Chris Hedges: a great piece by Sam Harris countering false claims against him by a hack “journalist.”

Morality 1: Good Without Gods

The Invisible Big Kahuna: Yeah you need to read this. It includes: Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Victor Stenger, Polly Toynbee, Richard Wisemen, Jerry Coyne, Michael Shermer, Daniel C. Dennet, and PZ Myers.

50 Renowned Academics & Scientists Talk About God

Huge voter suppression plot exposed in Wisconsin: This needs to be known.

Poorest place in the United States and Western Hemisphere: Pine Ridge Indian Reservation: This is criminal.

Christian Jihad? Why We Should Worry About Right-Wing Terror Attacks Like Norway's in the US: I’ve been saying this for awhile now...

Rick Warren is such an asshole. To some Christians credit, they find him just as objectionable as we do:The Purpose-Driven Lie

Here is a petition for MSNBC to fire Buchanan. It won’t make me watch that channel, but I signed it just to hopefully screw him.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

No True Christian?

Not all religions are violent and not all violence is perpetrated or stoked by religion. We know this because the Earth has, as of yet, not been eradicated. However, all religions have the potential to spawn violence. As do all political systems and nearly any belief. This is recognized by almost everyone paying attention and being honest. The perception that Christianity enjoys in the Western world is that it is largely immune from this extremist violence and constantly gets a pass. The idea that a religion, and one that has been awash in blood for centuries, is suddenly immune from violent supporters, is dishonest, disconcerting, and the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting. In Anders Behring Breivik’s video manifesto there is a cartoon of the “West” sticking its head in the sand and what I presume to be Mohammad cutting the head off at the neck. This cartoon is actually apt in the sense that any group could use it and supplant the two characters for their own society, group, religion, etc. and the other as the threat. The one group that gets a pass in popular culture and the mass media...Christianity.

As I wrote the day after the attacks regarding the labels used to describe perpetrators of violence “the media's language changed from ‘Jihadist,’ ‘Islamist’ or ‘terrorist’ to ‘right-wing extremist’ or ‘madman.’ Very few mentions of ‘Fundamentalist Christian’ or, Zeus forbid, ‘Christian Terrorist.’”

But that is what he is. A Christian Terrorist. He is also a bigot and a political zealot, but Christianity is the basis of his worldview and a Christian Theocracy is his goal. Religion is the grand justification. The media and Christians can call it the work of a “lunatic” all they want, but he seems rather in control and lucid in his faculties. His extreme nationalist and religious worldviews have most definitely warped his thinking, but that is not the same thing as being clinically insane. Why are the media and Christian apologists so quick to dismiss him as unhinged? Any Jihadist that commits the same act is not afforded that assumption. With good reason. It’s not true.

From watching his video manifesto, reading parts of his 15,000 page written manifesto, and reading what others have written I think that his, at times, muted claims of being Christian are telling. To him, Christianity is the default belief. There is no debate. Only the civilized are Christian. Those “others” are “less than.” Savage. Foolish. Weak. Ignorant of the Truth. Dangerous. This is the fundamental belief of extremist religion. This fundamentalist belief set is tempered by the exact things Breivik wished to destroy.
  • Multiculturalism: when you get to know people from other religions and cultures you see them as human and tend to not want to blow them up/kill them.  
  • Secularism: where rational and objective views temper blind faith and the subjective religious mindset. Also, one religion is not held up over others to preserve a balance.
  • Progressive religion: where other views are accepted, maybe not as truth, but as a part of the truth. At the very least there is a lack of hate and fear. I don’t agree with it, but hey, it’s better than the alternative.
Breivik, while having political targets, is still a religious terrorist. The bomb was placed to target the secular government. The children were horrifically targeted to either send a message to their secular, left-leaning parents or eradicate their “bloodline.” He did this to send a message to those he held responsible for allowing Muslims into his country and Europe at large. He wants to establish a Nationalist Theocracy with Christians supplanting every level. Americans are more familiar with the term “Dominionism.”  Let’s be clear: that worldview/theology is the same thing.

For the Christians that automatically claim “well that is not ‘true’ Christianity” I have some news for you. I know that his is not reflective of (most of) what you believe to be Christ's teachings (thankfully for the rest of us), but at this point the confluence of the teachings of Christ and the actions of many of his "followers" is irrelevant. Also, whether or not you agree with their theology is irrelevant. They would just as quickly dismiss yours. It is all too easy to dismiss him/them as "not true Christians," and they you. That is called a "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

In one breath he says this:

“If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.”

Then in another excerpt from his manifesto:

"The Bible tells us that we are now all good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Whether we want to face up to it or not, we are all living in a war zone as a result of the curse of Adam and Eve that is still in full operation on this earth. Anyone of us at anytime can come under human or demonic attack. The daily news will prove that to you without any shadow of a doubt."

Regardless of the muted statement in the former, the latter is a wholly Christian statement and there are many more like it. He may be inconsistent, but we know religion and the religious aren't always consistent. His lack of a personal relationship with Jesus can mean a lot of things. Being a “good soldier of Jesus Christ” is pretty specific.

Breivik and his Dominionist brethren have no regard for anything other than their objective and they are much more organized and driven than any group of peaceful, Progressive Christians. That is the problem. It doesn't matter if they follow the "true" teachings of Christ from a mainstream Christian perspective. They are all still a threat and the Dominionists are an even more powerful one here in the US.

The right-wing extremist Christians, Dominionists, Christian Nationalists, Reconstructionalists, etc.— whatever you want to call them—are using this “pass” to their advantage.” They have been infiltrating our schools, business, media and government for 30 years. They have been actively trying to get politicians from their ranks elected and they have succeeded. Now they are trying to get a President (*cough* Bachmann, Palin, Gingrich, Huckabee, Pawlenty (?), etc.) elected. Imagine if that happened...

UPDATE 7/27/11:
I thought I should clarify something in my post in light of Jack's great post, The Mad Norwegian. I do not think that Christianity is wholly to blame for Breivik. It's never that simple. That still does not exclude him from Christian Terrorism. Jihadists have political reasons that influence their motives and assist in warping their religion. They too, have their apologists, but they are still labeled Islamic Terrorists. 


The Mad Norwegian

I suppose, in a sense, Anders Behring Breivik is a singular example of what atheists have been saying about the flawed nature of religious worldviews. How they can be used to justify anything no matter how heinous. I’ve spent a good deal of time looking through his manifesto over the last couple days though, I will say this: I think it's incorrect to put the blame squarely on Christianity for his actions, however Christianity was definitely an ideology from which he drew a great amount of inspiration. He wanted to kill and found association with a convenient ideology that in his mind justified the actions he already wanted to carry out. The ideology itself, in this case, is secondary. I don't think he's a killer because he's a religious zealot, I think he's a religious zealot because that allows him to be the killer he is without too much cognitive dissonance.

The most disturbing thing is that here we have a man who is so full of hate and disdain that he is capable of dedicating the better part of a decade to planning a single attack on innocent people in the name of God—and no one noticed.

No one noticed because he hid in plain sight. At church, in the Freemasons, he would go out with friends from time to time, appearing (at least by his accounts) to be sociable and jovial. He self-describes as "not an excessively religious man" and "laid back and quite tolerant on most issues", and there’s been little to suggest that anyone had the slightest idea that there was something terribly wrong with him, which means he must have been quite convincing. But given the depth of his obsession, it’s a bit hard to get your head around the fact that no-one noticed any red flags.

His writing is dispassionate. To hear him tell it, he doesn't hate Muslims. He ‘merely’ wants to create a nationalist-theocracy, which would ‘kindly’ help them to be displaced back to their ancestral lands, and kill them if they refused. He goes on at rather great length about his grand segregationist plan in such detail that it makes Hitler look like an under-achiever. He makes little mention of outright attacks on Muslims. Instead his targets are political as part of a culture war between Islam and Christianity as a binary. He seems to feel you are either on one side or the other. He accuses secular-humanist governments, and blames them for changes in his culture by allowing Muslim migration in the first place. By all indications he sincerely believes the only way to rectify this is to dispatch with those leaders so they can be replaced by members of the church to "ensure that a sustainable and traditional version of Christendom is propagated". His is a world divided that will never be whole.

Perhaps this black and white thinking is the most ominous and confusing part. He says on several occasions that he has no personal relationship with Jesus, but instead that he believes "in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform", and that is why he calls himself a Christian. Clearly, however, his belief extends far beyond that invoking rhetoric not unlike that of Islamic suicide bombers: "How blessed to die a martyr! Rejoice, brave athlete, if you live and conquer in the Lord; but glory and exult even more if you die and join your Lord."

Now, many Christian commentators have already chimed in on this subject, and denounced him as a madman and ‘not a real Christian.’ All I can say about that is, much like I said about Obama, denouncing someone for their self-identification is just pointless. And further, it demonstrates a big inconsistency in current Christian dogma. If he is not a ‘real christian’ then why do they not accept that Islamic terrorists aren’t ‘real muslims’? To say that his beliefs are not in line with contemporary Christian ideology is ultimately meaningless because there are almost 40,000 different Christian denominations worldwide, and each and every one of them thinks they are the only one that’s absolutely correct. Yet, there’s absolutely no proof that any of them are correct about anything, much less that one of them is completely correct. So let’s put this ‘true christian’ nonsense aside. Christianity has been a justification for violence on many occasions in history (in fact, these are times which Breivik attempts to glorify), this is just one more time.

It's like that saying by Steven Weinburg: "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion."

Anders Behring Breivik is a bad person, and no amount of secular culture would have changed that. He was, after all, born and raised in Norway by secular parents and taught in state schools. He found religion. It wasn't thrust upon him. It is clear that his beliefs most definitely added courage to his conviction. Religion inspired him. Religion allowed him to feel that what he was doing was right and moral. One wonders if such a religious infrastructure didn't exist if he'd have the drive, the rationale, and the single-minded sense of purpose that lead him to kill so many in cold-blood.

Yet it seems inappropriate to say that religion is at fault. If it wasn't religion it almost certainly would have been something else. But it was religion, which is far more ominous. If Anders Behring Breivik had written about orders from his dog, or that his victims were aliens in disguise we would all hasten to agree that he was a lone man plagued by delusions. Instead we are left with an horrible act which the stated justification is, at least partially, rooted in beliefs that many people share. Focus on the Family’s own Bryan Fischer went so far as to say that Breivik’s “analysis of cultural trends in Europe and the danger created by Islamic immigration and infiltration is accurate”. Which is to say he disagrees with Brevik’s methods and actions, but not necessarily with his conclusions. This might be the most frightening part of all. Breivik is delusional, yes. He is megalomaniacal. He is dangerous and his beliefs make him even more dangerous. Worst of all, with today’s over-amplified rhetoric, vitriolic commentary, and the ever more divisive cultures that surround the Abrahamic religions there is no way of knowing who will decide to share in the most wicked parts of his delusion with him.

See Steve's No True Christian? for a counter-point. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Morning Quotes: Voltaire

“Si Dieu nous a faits à son image, nous le lui avons bien rendu.”

“If God has made us in his image, we have returned him  
the favor.”

“All men are born with a nose and ten fingers, but no one was born with a knowledge of God.”

“Every sensible man, every honorable man, must hold the Christian sect in horror.”

“All murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

“As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities.”

May we not return to those scoundrels of old, the illustrious founders of superstition and fanaticism, who first took the knife from the altar to make victims of those who refused to be their disciples?”

“Common sense is not so common.”

“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.“

“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”

Regarding Christianity: “Ours [religion] is without a doubt the most ridiculous, the most absurd, and the most bloody to ever infect the world.”

“It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Morning Hate: John Hagee

America right now has its fist in the face of God and in the name of pluralism we are honoring paganism coast to coast in this nation.You want to know what drives environmentalism in America? Paganism, paganism, this is exactly what Paul spoke about in Romans. And Paul said, when a generation does this I will give them over to a reprobate mind, they will believe a lie and they as a generation will be damned. Let me say this to you very clearly and those of you watching over the internet: There is one God in this book, it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Allah is not God, Buddha is not God, Mary is not God, Mary Baker Eddy is not God, birds, animals and bugs are not God, Jehovah God is the God of all Gods. He is a jealous God, and He demands that He be the Lord of all or not at all!We have allowed the worship of Satanism in the U.S. military, most Americans are not aware of that, and we wonder why it takes us ten years to defeat our weak enemies as Moses said in Deuteronomy 28. How is it that in World War II we whipped the world in four years and now we’re bogged down in one lingering war after another that does nothing but rape our economy and kill our young men? Why? Maybe the God of Heaven is not with us. He says when you accept another God, I leave. I’m either the only Lord, or you’re on your own. That means stop voting for pagans and putting them in public office

via RightWingWatch 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Morality 1: Good Without Gods

This is Part 1 in a three part series. Part 2 is Morality: No-So-Good Books and Part 3 is
Morality 3: Of Objectivity & Oughtness.

via QualiaSoup


Oslo Attacks & Religion: Wait For the Evidence

It is intellectually dishonest and dangerous for atheists to revel in the extremism of the religious. Immediately after the horrors of the Oslo attacks everyone and their uncle assumed it was Islamic Jihadists. Right-leaning Christian Americans just couldn't wait to line up some Muslims and kill those barbarians. Others are shamelessly using it for their political ends. Then it becomes known that the attacker was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, ethnic Norwegian.

Well shit...

Suddenly these Christians were silent. The media's language changed from "Jihadist," "Islamist" or "terrorist to "right-wing extremist" or "madman." very few mentions of "Fundamentalist Christian" or, Zeus forbid, "Christian Terrorist." So what happens next? My fellow atheists almost seem to burst with sarcastic glee.

/pinches bridge of nose

It’s not uncommon for atheists to be called dangerous extremists. Ignorant theists make the ad naseum attack that the “20th Century saw the the most horrific genocides in history and these regimes were atheist or secular." We know how to answer these charges: Hitler was Catholic, Stalin and Mao did nothing in the name of atheism or secularism and built their totalitarian regimes on political extremism. Same with Pol Pot with the added rebuke that he was not secular. He mixed Theravada Buddhism with totalitarian, agrarian communism. There was a supernatural component to his beliefs.

What bothers me more and more, and I freely admit I have not been immune to this position and rhetoric, is the implicit idea by atheists that the inevitable conclusion of belief is extremism and that we, as atheists, are immune.

I have previously talked about the improbability of “Atheist Fundamentalism,” but I consciously did not say that about extremism. Why? I can very easily see some lunatic asshole be influenced by nearly any philosophy to violent action! With all our talk of immoral Biblical teachings, the threat of religious dogma and their own extremism it wouldn't be too much of a jump for an unstable non-believer to feel an overwhelming paranoia and threat. Could this person act in a manner similar to al-Qaeda members? Probably not. Could they have a very small group of sympathizers like Timothy McVeigh? Maybe. Could they have an automatic rifle and kill 84 kids? Sadly, yes.

I bring this up not so much to scold atheists and antithiests or to tell them in some accomodationist speak to keep quiet, but be careful of  logical fallacies and assumptions. Even if the person is influenced by religion, philosophy or politics; sometimes they really are just sick. If this Anders Behring Breivik turns out to be part of a network of Christian Extremists then we can have an informed discussion about that. In the meantime we would be wise to wait until the evidence is in and keep out preconceived notions to ourselves. We are supposed to be skeptics and rationalists first, right?

Why do I feel i have the right to say this? Because I am guilty too. I assumed it was an Islamic attack. Then when I heard he was possibly a Christian Fundamentalist I admit that I sneered. Then I immediately realized that this is wrong. This isn’t a “gotcha” moment. It is sad and horrifying.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Link Dump 7/22/11

It's been that kind of week for me. 

Tell Christian Sheriff to Stop Persecuting Atheist: ← Please sign it.

And if you can, please donate to the Atheists of Florida Legal Defense Fund and support EllenBeth.

If good, when die, go to meatland!

Pentagon looks to social media as new battlefield: “Under the proposal, researchers would be expected to unearth and classify the ‘formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes)’ in social media.” Know your enemy.

Random Quotes of Franken!

Why Focus On The Family’s ‘Fatherless’ Studies Are Irrelevant To DOMA: This is what Franken is talking about in the above video.

Crazy Wingnut Screed of the Day

Political showdown creates conflict in Roseburg park: This honestly made me shake with anger. That is not hyperbole. 

"Death Dance" Stars Found—May Help Prove Einstein Right

Potentially habitable Tatooine spotted only 40 light years away: pfft. Star Wars nerds and their references.

*waits for trip to Risa.*

Monday Morning Quotes: Gene Roddenberry

Why Autism Strikes More Boys Than Girls

Are Atheists Too Aggressive?: This post was a prime example of people not actually watching or reading something on Twitter and just popping off based on the title. There were some funny replies too, but mostly it was Christians and atheists clearly not paying attention. Then there was the atheist that commented on the blog...ugh.

Drugs and the Meaning of Life

Actually, that's not in the Bible

A Perfect Circle playing John Lennon's "Imagine" at Festival Pier in Philadelphia. Video thanks to fellow atheist and metalhead themorbidslayer.