Friday, August 31, 2012

Infomercial for God Seems Legit

From the totally honest and legit Michael Kaylor Ministries, you can obtain “…supernaturally received keys to unlimited access to heaven!” via an “anointed” six part audio CD for the low, low price donation of $35.00! It’s better than AOL Online!
Get rid of all that fussy doubt and cognitive dissonance so you can “supernaturally have no struggle with your faith!” Have unlimited access to God and the supernatural via audio CDs!
“It’s time to become normal!”

Friday Link Dump 8/31/12

The RNC is in full swing and I have avoided the television completely.  As expected we have seen some fear-mongering, unsubstantiated claims and just a dash of good ol’ racism.
Not a bad way to spend a few days in the sunshine state.

Ryan’s VP Spin is pretty legit.  I’m looking forward to the DNC fact check.

Fact-Checkers Wrong on Ryan GM Claim Oh, I wanted grab a stick and join in hitting the Paul Ryan piƱata on this one.  But this was not a blatant lie.  Just a gross misrepresentation of the truth.

Tom Morello: 'Paul Ryan Is the Embodiment of the Machine Our Music Rages Against' Steve talked about this on The Left Hemispheres Podcast Ep 01: Star-Bellied Sneetches

A Troubling Chant on the Convention Floor Be sure to read the editor’s note stating that this was not at all what it looked like.

AA billboards come down Due to a  “large volume of threats.”  Stay classy theists.

'Pregnancy Begins 2 Weeks Before Conception' Now The Law In Arizona   Steve says:In what reality is something considered to exist when it clearly does not.
Oh. Right...”

Say Something Smart – Starts With A Bang An incredibly complex scientific English!

Effects of Einstein’s Elusive Gravity Waves Observed

NASA’s Next Big Rover to Hunt for Water on the Moon This is a project that may yield some profit.

Bill Nye 'The Science Guy' Talks Creationism Critique, Religion, Education Follow-up interview after the internet response to the previous video.

Prominent Catholic priest, Rev. Benedict Groeschel, says first-time sex offenders shouldn’t be jailed Right.  Because they’re just children.  Anyway, suffering builds character.  

Kepler finds a planet in a binary star’s habitable zone The planet itself is probably Jovian, but it may have moons like Tatooine

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Donations Needed to Fight Witchcraft Accusations in Africa

Leo Igwe of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is conducting a “field study into witchcraft accusations in Ghana” and needs our help in funding it.

via Foundation Beyond Belief member email:

Leo Igwe, one of the most prominent and acclaimed humanists in the African continent, is leading a field investigation into "witchcraft camps" currently holding thousands of women accused of witchcraft in Northern Ghana. Leo received a $2,000 FBB Small Grant Award, but in order to go forward, the project is still in serious need of funding.

Actually the study needs $19,880 for its full year project budget. Please consider donating whatever you feel comfortable with. To donate, please go the this page.

If you are unfamiliar with the scope and consequences of witchcraft accusations in Africa please see the following links.

Belief in Witchcraft Widespread in Africa

My People! My People!! This Witch Hunting Must Stop By Leo Igwe

Accusations of sorcery still drive women from their homes in Africa

There are also some older Left Hemispheres posts regarding witchcraft in sub-Saharan Africa. Adam wrote the excellent Suffer a Witch to Live and we also have a horrific video of a witch burning embedded in the post Nigeria: Suspected Witches Beaten and Burned Alive. We do not post this video to be sensational, but to emphasize that this is a real phenomena with tragic results. This is magical, supernatural belief taken to the extreme and it has repercussions.

Again to donate, please go the this page.

Religious Logic

The logic of religious conclusions is not—in a sense—incorrect.

*waits for it*

As I am sure many non-believers no doubt let out a pip of laughter at that last statement. I should point out that it is incorrect to snicker at the concept of "religious logic." Of course there is religious logic! They have premises and reasoning which inform their conclusions based on the former. This is what theology and apologetics are.

So we can say that yes, fundamentalists have logic and are simply following scriptures to their logical conclusions. I would even go so far as to say that fundamentalist religiosity is not internally illogical and is actually completely logical based on the premise of scripture. The fundamentalist closely follow the premises that scriptures dictate.*

Conversely, liberal theologies have the problem of being internally illogical and inconsistent. They are the perfect example of cherry-picking. To defend portions of scripture as “Truth” while omitting entire passages or books as irrelevant, out-of-date, or just too horrific…well…it has no logical consistency.

By stating this I am not conceding anything nor am I defending it. Too often people have an incorrect view of what logic is, as if proper logic ensures a correct conclusion. It does not. Logic is the process of getting from point A to point B (or C, or D, etc.) via valid reasoning, when A is “given.” None of this is a defense of religion, religious belief, or apologetics. What it is, however, is a condemnation of the premises of religion. It is the premises of supernaturalism and theism that are unsupported and absurd. I have no reluctance in stating that it is wrong, but it still can be logical given “the given.”

*If it is indeed possible to follow scripture perfectly (due to the contradictions) one would be labeled a monster and ultimately incarcerated. What does that say about scripture?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Left Hemispheres Podcast Ep 01: Star-Bellied Sneetches


Frank Turner "Glory Hallelujah"

Friday Link Dump 8/24/12

Atheist + Toast has butter and jelly and cinnamon sugar
and maybe some cream cheese...

Atheism Plus? Sounds awesome! Well maybe for a minute there.

Foot-In-Mouth Syndrome: Why The GOP Breeds Politicians Like Todd Akin It’s amazing to me how many other republicans are demanding that Akin fall on his sword for the good of the hive party.

Rape More Often Leads to Pregnancies  "Rapists don't pick victims at random," Gallup told Popular Science. "Unbeknownst to them, rapists clearly target victims based on their likelihood of conception. They tend to preferentially target young, post-pubescent females that are in their reproductive prime."

Obama mocks Akin over rape comments We rarely post Fox News links but this title is full of win.

Air Force rules limit size of tattoos, role of gospel Wait.  Say that last thing again?/

The Surprisingly Progressive Republican Party Platform...Of 1956 The tragic irony here is the frequent republican lament of the modern age and a longing for a simpler time (like 1956) when women and minorities knew their place and when only really lazy people relied on government aid.

Romney and the White Horse Prophecy This will be so much worse than a zombie apocalypse.  Zombies eat your brain quickly.

Kids found bound, blindfolded in Walmart lot said their family feared demons

I Am the Alpha and the Omega... I challenge you to prove that he doesn’t exist.

Deluded Individualism ”Thus, we can entertain nostalgia for a time when everyone pulled his own weight, bore his own risk, and was the master of his destiny. That time was a myth. But the notion of self-reliance is also a fallacy.”

Bonobo genius makes stone tools like early humans did

Christopher Hitchens’ Last Words Excerpts from his upcoming book Mortality.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I'm Sorry That I Don't Care About Atheism+

I'm Sorry.  I really am.

I read.  Day and night, I absorb as much information as I can withstand.  I have a job and a family and I actually like both of them most of the time.  If I lived alone in a cave (with wi-fi) I would read around the clock and would further my personal education in matters of science, philosophy, ethics & literature.  I would read that copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray that Steve got me for my birthday in 2004.  I would take a really solid crack at Kant's Metaphysics.  I would read the Bible, the Qur’an, the Tao Te Ching.  I would surely double the Internet intake of essays and blog posts about all things Atheistic.

I would probably read all of the posts buzzing about the revolutionary concept of A+ and how it adds (or takes away) from the existing brand of atheism.  With all of these other things competing for my attention I simply do not have the time or inclination.  I have trouble getting past the first few paragraphs of almost everything I read on the subject.  I have read a few interesting takes on it but it all boils down to who is allowed to sit with the cool kids at the lunch table.

I am fully aware of the controversy that sparked this manufactured movement and I can identify with the frustration of anyone who feels that they are being treated unfairly.  Obviously, I find rape/death threats and misogyny toward any woman abhorrent.  I am further disgusted that it happens in any form inside a community that I am a part of.  None of these things have anything to do with atheism.

There seems to be this belief that atheism existed in some alternate form pre-2001 then suddenly burst into public consciousness when people actually started asking non-believers what they thought about 9/11.  Back then; many atheists were disenchanted from religion for Humanist reasons (slavery, sexism, bigotry etc).  When technology allowed for us to reach each other and the web-log gave everyone a voice and a potential audience, the subsequent burst of ideas was labeled “New Atheism”.  We have spent more than enough time discussing that topic on this blog.  I don’t accept this “wave of atheism” theory.  I think it’s closer to a “wave of atheism awareness”.

Now, eleven years later it seems like people who pride themselves on freethought are upset when their “movement” doesn’t mirror all of their ideas.  Again, I’m not opposed to any of the ideas of the Atheist+ label.  In fact it is damn close to my personal ideology. That’s why I’m so bored with it.

I am an atheist and a secular humanist and a progressive and a feminist.  I’m a rationalist and a naturalist and a skeptic.  I’m a bit of a materialist, a Darwinist and a Neil DeGrasse Tysonist (the last one doesn't exist but it should).

I am all of these things, but I'm also none of them. The problem isn't that I haven't found the correct label for myself the problem is a tendency to try to find a label at all. I will not fall into the vortex of a parallel universe where cats are herd animals. I can't make myself care about a new title that will be just as inadequate at describing my beliefs as all the others.  And I feel little bad about it.  I do.  But I have so many other things to read.

Random Quotes of Religious Privilege

I don’t even care about the damn billboards as I don’t think they are that clever or effective.* It’s the following quote that I take issue with: 
"It’s never appropriate to insult another person, it’s never appropriate to disrespect another person.” - Christian Life Center Pastor Mark Matthews
Insulting or disrespecting religion is NOT insulting or disrespecting a person. Religion is an idea, a concept, a belief. These things are not synonymous with a person. A person may HOLD these beliefs, but any insult or disrespect aimed at the concept/belief is not an attack on the individual. In this case we have a clear example of religious privilege. Open criticism of religion is not to be tolerated. If that criticism can no longer be silenced by a nice fire around a stake then the new tactic is to call it “hate speech” and whine about it.

*Are they aimed at relgious people or atheists on the fence? What is the audience? How is this effective either way?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Random Quotes of Insufferable Divisive Rhetoric: Richard Carrier

Richard Carrier exposes the divisiveness of some of the Atheism+ proponents. I ask anyone how this is constructive or defensible. This is a typical “You’re either with us or against us” false dichotomy and Carrier should know better.   

“There is a new atheism brewing, and it’s the rift we need, to cut free the dead weight so we can kick the C.H.U.D.’s back into the sewers and finally disown them, once and for all. 

“…I call everyone now to pick sides (not in comments here, but publicly, via Facebook or other social media): are you with us, or with them; are you now a part of the Atheism+ movement, or are you going to stick with Atheism Less?Then at least we’ll know who to work with. And who to avoid.”

update: Now complete with "enemy" rhetoric

I don't know. Therefore, God.

Religions enforce the notion that humans are incapable of understanding the universe and our existence. Simultaneously they make grand claims that something very specific and incredible exists and they of course know this to be true.

Well God could be this! God could be that!


<100 years later>

Unquestionable truth!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I Am the Alpha and the Omega...

Selfish Piety

“I’m so blessed!”
“I have God on my side!”

“The Lord works in mysterious ways!”

“I know it can be hard, but you always to believe that God never gives you more than you can handle!”

“God is so good to me!”

These are all exaltations of unthinking people. Do they really think that they are so special that in this vast universe their deity picks them to favor? Based on what? How hard they pray? How often they attend church? The amount of money they put in the offering tray?

Do they do not realize how utterly callous it is to make these statements? They can’t all be self-centered people, can they? These words and phrases diminish and demean the suffering of others. They ingrain the idea, consciously or unconsciously, that one individual is better than another via God’s favor.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Just Atheism, Part II (or Why A+ Already Exists)

About a month ago I wrote an essay called It's Just Atheism outlining my rationale for disagreeing with a growing chorus of atheists that want to expand the definition of atheism.   I still disagree with this and given recent developments I feel the need to reiterate it again. Over this past weekend Jen McCreight posted How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism outlining her idea that atheism needs to change. This very quickly resulted in a follow up post Atheism+. Both posts call for a new type of social justice atheism. To be clear, I find this goal honorable and not without merit, however, I must disagree with the concept and the resulting parade of people jumping on.

I guess the easiest way to segue into the thesis of my post is t clearly state that I am a “dictionary atheist.” That, for one, won’t win me many friends with the FtB/PZ crowd. In my earlier post (which now will be considered Part I) I wrote that:
The desire to conflate a lack of belief in god(s) to a scientific, progressive, libertarian, rationalist, naturalist, secularist, humanist, skeptical, feminist, antitheist or any philosophy or method is a potentially powerful force in the culture wars. All the various cats can be herded together under one big cat tent. It brings a sense of belonging, unity, and power. Together we are stronger. There is no denying this.
I wasn’t always the “dictionary atheist” type and so yes; I understand the desire to have a large cohesive movement. While I share the goals of my fellow atheists as I listed above I have never considered that a central part of my atheism per se. They may or may not have resulted in my rejection of god, but then it became something else. To me, and to a lot of others, atheism simply is the lack of belief in god(s). It’s easy like that.

Why do I have major reservations about attaching all manners of philosophies and agendas to atheism? To "protect" atheism. I do not disagree with the goals of the social justice crowd. However, this agenda has absolutely zero to do with atheism as it is defined. It's as if they want to reinvent secular humanism for no apparent reason. A "third wave" of atheism (presumably to resemble the third wave of feminism they espouse) is unnecessary. A greater focus on humanism and building a humanists movement instead of atheism would be more appropriate.

What do I mean by "protect" atheism? By attaching these ideologies, as correct as they are, to atheism one hinders the ability to appeal to a broader demographic. Atheism is simple: Don't believe in god(s)? Welcome. That's it. Nothing else is relevant.

This is not ignoring these other issues so much as ensuring the focus of each agenda is attended to properly. Atheism as a movement wants to appeal to people that are in-the-closet non-believers and those whose faith is wavering. Get them out of religion, weaken the faith-based machines of our culture, and bolster a secular society. The addition of these other agendas has the potential to turn off those on the brink holding onto to their religious indoctrination. How many atheists were against LGBT issues, abortion, women's rights, etc. in their former religious life? Did their perceptions of these issues change overnight upon rejecting the claims that god(s) exist? Likely not. I fail to see how attaching these agendas to atheism progresses the intent of the atheistic movement. These things need to be fought for, no doubt; but they are more appropriate under the banner of humanism which has a firmly established history of a broader agenda.

From my earlier post:
When we lump all these groups together and say “this is what we are” we are automatically excluding those that live quietly on our side of the fence. These are the people that need to be attracted to being, at a minimum, open about their irreligion and be comfortable with it. This is not a critique of the outspoken. Without them (us) we would get nowhere. My critique lies within the drawing of battle lines that need not be drawn.
A few things to expand upon here: First, this is not a rejection of the social justice agenda. It is my opinion that “mission creep” will ultimately retard the growth of the movement. Yes, I know we are winning, but that does not mean it is time to change gears on that front. I think there is enough room in our movement for more than one line of attack. It is like lines of evidence. The current atheist movement is made up of those that use science to negate religious claims, philosophy to show the illogic of specific religions and the existence of their deities, using the contradictions of theology illustrate the incoherency of religion, etc. All this creates cognitive dissonance about faith. We are not done on this front. We have not succeeded. Those arguments are not over. They still must be presented and I think it is best without any appended ideologies. Let people find their humanism after they reject theism.

Regardless if you’re bored with those arguments and battles and are dismayed at the treatment of our fellow humans by forces external and internal then creating a conflated atheism is simply not logical. While it well known that the LGBT community has some its greatest allies in the atheist movement those actually only result in the humanism found by rejecting god(s) and religion. It’s not a one-step process. There is evidence for this in the idiocy of the anti-feminist crowd that has been the catalyst for the newer atheism or A+. I do not begrudge those that wish to fight it. I do too, but honestly I do that as a humanist and “humanism” has been somewhat ignored the past decade. We have not been the “New Humanists.” We have been the “New Atheists.” If we require a new wave to inspire human equality it should be separate from the wave that removes the poison of faith. They are related, they are extensions of each other; but they are not the same. I fear joining the two will hamper both.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Link Dump 8/17/12

Left Hemispheres: Best of Year 2 We hit our two year mark yesterday. Blows. My. Mind.

How Do We Know Anything? “A word of warning: All models are imperfect, none so far are in absolute, complete and total agreement with the world, though the most reliable are also those that so far match it the closest at present.”

Your Bible Is Making You Stupid “The data clearly shows that reading the Bible is positively correlated with illogical, irrational behavior because the thinky parts of the brain are stupidfied and the bad parts of the draim are made all strongy.”

Dear Son... Another parent disowns their child due to their atheism.

Atheist group unveils DNC billboards bashing ‘space alien’ Mormonism, ‘useless savior’ Christianity I can see the reactions to these now. The Mormon one: “Haha that’s funny. Stupid cult.” The Christian one: “Heeeyyyy. Waaait a second there! That is offensive!”

Atheists Condemn Family Research Council Shooting Cue the right wing outrage machine based on no facts in 3...2...1..

Does Mormonism Encourage LDS People to Lie? Well, considering how it started...

Leader Of Anti-Semitic Party In Hungary Discovers He's Jewish No, this is not an Onion article. Yes everyone has already made the Clayton Bigsby joke.

Mose Giganticus "Last Resort" The latest anti-Religion Radio post. I really love this album.

Baptists have 'opportunity' to reach out to Sikhs "Sikhs often... struggle with Christian explanations of the Trinity." With good reason. It's nonsense.

Why do we allow discrimination based on culture? “Double standards as always – racism is bad and illegal and immoral. Misogyny? Oh, that's just culture.”

Secular group: 27 secret atheists in Congress Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Will we ever… find life elsewhere in the universe? It is inevitable as long as we around to keep looking. There’s the rub.

Religiosity Raises Risk Among Sex Offenders, Clergy More Dangerous Than Other Groups “...religiosity was positively associated with the number of convictions for sex crimes and the number of victims among convicted male sex offenders”

Here's Where Farms Are Sucking The Planet Dry I saw this in my facefuck feed complete with the moronic comment “Yeah shit all over the people that grow us food. Morons.” <pinches bridge of nose> No you simpleton, we just need to do things better. We really aren’t doing anything different than thousands of years ago.

Toddler dies in exorcism gone wrong Adam sent this to the LH inbox with the comment: “Exorcism gone wrong? What does it look like when they go right?  If the goal is no demonic possession then isn't every exorcism a success?”

Religion linked to BMI in obesity study The Australians are seeing the same data. Have you ever been to the American Bible Belt? It’s a big belt!