Monday, January 30, 2012

Justified Antitheism




“The noble title of ‘dissident’ must be earned rather than claimed; it connotes sacrifice and risk rather than mere disagreement.”
 
                                                                                    ― Christopher Hitchens


In response to various and repeated criticisms of how and to what degree the New Atheists' (I still dislike that label) critiiques of religion are conducted, I just wanted to make a short statement. FYI: this particular issue popped up on my radar while talking with a friend about Chris Hedges who, if you aren't aware is a pretty good journalist; but has a seemingly irrational perception of atheists. That is old news, but I and several others have written recently about the religionists (even the liberal ones!) need to silence atheists via false equivalency or outright demands to stay silent.

This seems pedantic and simple, but it apparently it needs to be overtly stated: The religious believer's moral outrage/righteous indignation at criticism of (a) religion hinges on whether the criticism is justified or not. If it is not justified—if there is nothing to criticize—then we atheists are in the wrong. However, if there are aspects of religion, or within the core concepts of religion, that warrant(s) an honest discussion and subsequent criticism; then the claims of “atheist fundamentalism”, immorality, bigotry and racism are not only unjustified by the religious, but they are pathetic attempts to deflect any criticism.

These accusations leveled at atheists by believers are straw men and thought terminating clichés. To build up an opponent’s position to such a ridiculous caricature of itself while inserting accusations of bigotry is not actually arguing for your position. It is obviously not defending a position. It is simply painting a false and warped version of an opponents’ position to diminish it without actually having to address the issues; of which there are many. That is intellectually dishonest and it is rampant in the religious community.

Yes, we need education to combat the rampant ignorance that fundamentalist religion feeds off of. Yes, we need charitable humanist organizations to help people without their having to adhere to religious doctrine. Yes, we even need dialogue with faith groups (but it is not “inter-faith”) to ensure the gap isn’t so far that it turns truly ugly. We also need to confront and argue. Preferably in the most rational way possible, but this doesn’t mean it has to be always friendly. There is a lot of  religion that is unfriendly. And just because it is religious does not automatically grant it respect.

We already know that the fundamentalists are not our friends and have no qualms about using whatever power they can gain to silence anything that doesn’t fit their worldview. So Chris Hedges and the liberal Christians that passive-aggressively argue straw men can tell us to be quiet all they want. Alain de Botton and the accomodationist atheists that think critical atheism is counter-productive can continue to live in their fog where no one is out to instill their religion on others either through politics or violence. No, we need to normalize the open, unfettered discussion of religion. Nothing must be above reproach.

Whenever something is beyond reproach, it has become oppressive.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pennsylvania Resolution No. 535 "Year of the Bible"


In a move which is not only antithetical to the ideals of the United States of America’s Constitution and to William Penn’s pluralistic vision for Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania General Assembly adopted House Resolution 535 by an unanimous vote of 193-0. I could reiterate it here, but let’s just post it verbatim so it can be seen in all its unconstitutional glory.

The General Assembly ofPennsylvania  
House Resolution No. 535, Session of 2012
A RESOLUTION
Declaring 2012 as the“Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania. 
WHEREAS, The Bible, the word of God, has made a unique
contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and
blessed nation and people; and
WHEREAS, Deeply held religious convictions springing from the
holy scriptures led to the early settlement of our country; and
WHEREAS, Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil
government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution of the United States; and
WHEREAS, Many of our great national leaders, among them
 President Washington, President Jackson, President Lincoln,
 President Wilson and President Reagan, paid tribute to the
influence of the Bible in our country’s development, as
 exemplified by the words of President Jackson that the Bible is
“the rock on which our Republic rests”; and
WHEREAS, The history of our country clearly illustrates the
value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the scriptures in
the lives of individuals, families and societies; and
WHEREAS, This nation now faces great challenges that will
test it as it has never been tested before; and
WHEREAS, Renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through
holy scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people;
therefore be it
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives declare 2012 as
the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania in recognition of both
the formative influence of the Bible on our Commonwealth and
nation and our national need to study and apply the teachings of
the holy scriptures

193-0. Not a single legislator with principle. Cowards. All three of this blog’s contributors were born in Pennsylvania. Adam I still live here in different cities. This does not represent us. Not in any way. Let me be clear for our Christian family, friends, and neighbors: if the Resolution somehow banned religion and banned the Bible I would stand alongside you to protect your rights and ensure the state does not attempt to remove your freedom of religion, thought, and personal belief. I don’t have to agree with it, but it is your right to believe whatever you want with the obvious caveats that we, as a society, have adopted. I personally know Christians that were very offended by this and do not accept it. We all, religious and irreligious, need to speak up when our representatives fail us and the ideals of our Republic.

I won’t bother pointing out the specific problems with this Resolution. Most of the readers here probably understand why this is unjust. Besides FFRF is on the case and has written a response to the Speaker of the House SamSmith and House Minority Leader Frank Dermody.

Reader and Guestposter Nick, also a Pennsylvanian, forwarded me a letter that he wrote and sent to his representative. I thought it was well written and constructive so I asked him for permission to incorporate it into this post so fellow Pennsylvanians, secular and religious, have a template letter to email or send to their legislator. It is posted below and I have included a link to Google Docs template.

Representative Reed, 
I am writing you today concerning the passing of House Resolution 535, passed 193-0 on January 24, 2012.  
As a life-long citizen of Pennsylvania, and an eight year resident of District 62, I feel that this resolution is inherently discriminatory, and skates the fine edge of constitutionality.  While not a law, and therefore not compulsory to action, it may pass the Lemon Test.  This does not change the fact that it sends a very poor message to the citizens of our District, Commonwealth, and our fellow States.  The language of this Resolution does not even make an attempt to be non-sectarian, let alone secular and inclusive.  For example:
"WHEREAS, The Bible, the word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people..."
And
"WHEREAS, Renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through holy scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people..."
This is a clear endorsement of not only religion, but a specific religion; Christianity. No other tradition refers to its "holy scriptures" as the "Bible".  It is an insult to those who do not follow this particular religion by insinuating that we cannot be moral, upstanding citizens.  In fact, it would claim that we are the problem.  You have only to look at countries that have adopted inclusive and secular government to see how this is false; i.e. Sweden, Denmark, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia.  
In addition, there are blatant falsehoods in HR 535.
"WHEREAS, Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.."
While the Declaration ofIndependence does mention a Creator, the Constitution of the United States does not.  The sole reference to religion in the Constitution is Article VI, par. 3:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
This, of course, is indirect opposition to Sections 3 and 4 of our 1967 Constitution of the Commonwealth.
In addition, the ideas upon which our system of government is based are to be found nowhere in the Bible.  If you can find references to democracy, powers derived from the governed, or equality under the law, I would be glad to read them.
Our nation was foundedand established by people of varied religious and political opinion, as well as considerable strengths and weaknesses.  But they produced a set of documents that were a product of the Enlightenment, not the Bible.  There is much more Locke, than Luke, in the Constitution.
I hope that you will see that this Resolution is in direct conflict with the founding principles of this nation, and as such it should be moved to discard it.  I look forward to your response on the matter.
Sincerely and Cordially,
Nicholas Posey
  
For those of you that are Pennsylvania citizens I urge you to write your legislators. You can say whatever you want. You obviously do not have to use this template word for word or at all. I know I have a few tweaks to make, but please do not sit on the sidelines thinking it is all useless. That is how we are marginalized further by the fundamentalists and extremists. They do not have the numbers, but they have political power. This is a direct result of moderate and liberal believers and apathetic non-believers just sitting by and allowing it to happen.

Find your PennsylvaniaState Representative here.

Find your PennsylvaniaState Senator here.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Link Dump 1/27/12


The Irrelevance of Choosing to Be Gay Steve = piss and vinegar

Faith in Doubt  Adam = philosophical and eloquent

It’s official! Internet overuse causes brain damage! Oh wait…no, it doesn’t…

Think I really thought this was well done.

God, Rid Me of God It saddens me that this needs to be written & that people still cling to that which injures them.

Look forward to the death of organized religion: Richard Dawkins

Frothy Mixture: Colleges Diminish Faith He really is the embodiment of all that I despise.

The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children, by Katherine Stewart If you frequent this site I probably sound like a broken record, but Dominionism is kind of a real thing.

BatChristian I love how pissed Adam got after I posted this. He commented twice,...two days apart.
 

America's science decline Neil deGrasse Tyson and maps! You know you want to click it.


Romney Elaborates on Evolution This has been making the rounds over the Interwebs. Well...it’s better than the rest of the GOP field, but there is one problem here: It’s from 2007. No way he still says this.




New Clue to the Origins of Carbohydrates --The building blocks of DNA and RNA

Noah's Ark (Parts 1 & 2) One of NonStampCollector’s best AND I first saw this via Sam Harris’ Facebook page! Pretty cool.

New evidence suggests Archaeopteryx dressed in black Glenn Danzig immediately clones 7 of them to circle over him wherever he goes.

Oklahoma Lawmaker Wants To Outlaw Use Of Human Fetuses In Production Of Food But they’re sooo tasty!

No seriously, this is total bullshit and this legislator is a moron wasting everyone’s time and money.

Independent researchers find no evidence for arsenic life in Mono Lake Science is so dogmatic!

Atheist or Religious, We All Need Good Science Paul Wallace generally makes me cringe, but I can’t really take him to task on his stance here even though it presents a false equivalency between science and religion.

The [in]compatibility of science and religion But Victor Stenger will!

Sex Act Morality Flow Chart Please consult. It could save your soul!

Moralizing’s High Cost


NASA's Kepler Announces 11 New Planetary Systems MOAR!

The Holy Grail of Planetary Astronomy: The Search for Earth's Twin “At night when you look at the stars and you look at the constellations and you wonder ‘Is anyone out there?” just realize that somebody out there could be looking back at us and wondering “Gee, is there any life on this solar system that we call our home?’” - Dr. Michio Kaku

6 Myths Everyone Believes about Space (Thanks to Movies)

Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, with Jonathan Miller It’s three one-hour clips so not for those with ADHD.





Thursday, January 26, 2012

Faith in Doubt


So, What if I’m Wrong?

One of my finer moments in spontaneous atheist apologetics came in my early 20’s at a college campus in a friendly debate with a theist.  I was asked, “If you die and come face to face with God, what will you tell him about why you didn't believe in him?” My immediate reply:

“I’d tell him that he needs better messengers.”

Contrary to the tired theist argument, I do not have any faith in my atheism.  That is to say, I am required by the design of my worldview to doubt and question my own beliefs.  I make a genuine attempt to think about the positions I take and the beliefs I hold.  I argue with myself.  I try to look at my beliefs from different angles and give my best effort to acknowledge my biases and conceptual blind spots.  So as an atheist, I think about the possibility of a Personal God as a real entity.  I admit that this thought experiment usually occurs with a Christian God because; it is the religion of my childhood.  I am occasionally at odds with the confidence many atheists present their views with.  If I have faith in anything it is in doubt.

For most of my religious life I was a deist.  The concept of an aloof and uninterested God made perfect sense to me based on my observation of the world.  When I try to imagine the creator of the Universe occasionally looking at me with an infinite eye, I think about what it must be like to actually be loved by this being and to know that I play a role in His cosmic opus.  

Then Mr. Doubt walks in, adjusts his hipster glasses, takes a sip of his coffee and starts asking questions.  Why would this loving god throw you into an eternal torture chamber for doubting his existence?  Why should this or any god give a damn about you?  Could you really be more interesting to examine than say...a dwarf star?  (Maybe not since there have to be considerably more dwarf stars in the Universe than humans and we have “Reality TV”).  And of course the one we always go back to: Why does the observable Universe look so much like a godless one?  

This is how it happens.  Every. Time.  But the same process occurs with the things I do believe.  I read apologetics' arguments like this.  I pour over alternate arguments.  I poke holes in atheist rebuttals when I see distortions or fallacies.  I have attempted to watch Fox “News” but I keep getting mysterious nosebleeds.

I understand the point theists are trying to make when they say that atheists have a dogmatic faith in science, but this assertion is colored by their perception and projection of concepts like faith and dogma.  We are using the same words, but we mean different things (see Theory vs. Hypothesis).  I have confidence (not faith) in science because it has proven itself to be a worthy tool.  Apologists tend to give science an agency status when making this argument like "you believe whatever ‘Science’ says."  This is clearly a “God Shaped Hole” fallacy to assert that one must have devotion to some idea to compensate for a lack of belief in magic.  Of course science doesn't actually say anything.  The implementers of science say things and they don't always agree.  One can be unshakable (dogmatic) about the process of science because the method has built-in doubt.  The guys in the lab coats call it "peer review."  I say it all the time:  Science is the process we use to describe and predict aspects of reality.  That's all.  When the outcome changes, the method demands that the assessment changes.

Doubt is a virtue to the freethinker.  Why else would it be so poisonous to faith and theism in general?  

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8

So maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe there is a Creator God (probably Mangar-kunjer-kunja ~ [Google him]) and I may stand before him some day and explain my atheism.  Having undeniable proof of the supernatural would not shatter my worldview.  Admitting that I am wrong only happens after I have learned something.  I am much more interested in truth.  

A note to Pascal: Even if you pick the correct god, he would know if you were full of shit.

                                                             ~        ~        ~
Doubt

I've gone from Jekyll to Hyde
Man to monster
Zen to Karma
Dante to Heidegger
Still too divided to conquer
I've read the words of a man from Galilee
Temporarily abandoned reality
Now I place my faith in doubt
Intellectual alchemy.


.

Frothy Mixture: Colleges Diminish Faith

I should hope so. Nothing like a nice dose of education and critical thought to clear the fog of revealed “knowledge” and faith.

This is why the GOP and Fundies don't want adequate education. They want to keep us stupid and malleable to their archaic, backwards worldview. It is their attempt to take over the Mountain of Educationwhere truths, or lies, about God and his creation are taught.”  It is a goal of Dominionism.



Monday, January 23, 2012

The Irrelevance of Choosing to Be Gay



"I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not."

      - Cynthia Nixon via New York Times (I read it via Joe.My.God.)


I have had this idea for a post for a long time, but—as a straight, white, American male—I was hesitant speak up about it*. That in and of itself is a problem and no I'm not crying about the persecution of the straight, white, American male. I just mean that my generation (late Generation X) has grown up in an era where we were programmed (Anglo-American guilt!) to be sensitive to minority groups and to not speak up on certain things regarding those minority groups, i.e. race, ethnicity, homosexuality, feminism, etc. Above all else do not criticize them as if you know better! Sweet fancy Moses, no! Anyway, I am about to break that programming. To be clear this is my opinion. I am not stating that the LGBT rights movement messed up and I know better. Ok…I am kinda stating that, but y’all are free to ignore it. After all; I’m a straight, white, American male. WE’RE ALREADY IGNORED IN AMURRICA!

I have long thought that the LGBT community has painted themselves into a corner with the “we are born this way” mantra. Now, I agree that people are born gay. Who you are attracted to is not a choice.  It is probable that people who claim to “chose” to be gay are bisexual and do not themselves see it that way. Regardless, I think this is all irrelevant.

The reasons I— as a straight, white, American male looking at it from the “majority group” — think that the gay rights movement pushed so hard with the “We are born gay!” mantra was for two reasons. One reason was to parallel previous civil rights movements that played into people’s (especially American’s) belief that you should not be punished for what you are born into. The second reason, and the one I have issue with, was a misguided attempt (though somewhat successful) to placate the religious majority, namely American Christians. If they were born gay then God made them gay. If God made them gay then it wasn’t the Free Will to choose to be gay and therefore they aren’t sinning. This largely worked on most moderate and liberal Christians. The Fundies and the Religious Right still don’t buy it because some, if not most, think that you should ignore those “deviant” impulses and shoehorn oneself into their idea of the perfect human servant to God.

The problem here is twofold.  First, you have people who outright claim to have chosen to be gay. That is pretty straightforward (no pun intended) and undeniable. You can argue with them about it, but the fact that people feel this way and vocalize it will only create ammunition for the homophobes. Second, it plays into the hands of ALL theists. “God either made you this way and you are OK in His eyes or he didn’t and you’re sinning.” This dichotomy is irrelevant. God didn’t do shit because no god made you or me. God does not exist. So now a significant portion of the gay rights movement is tied into Christian theology and it allows the bigots on the Right to use “choice” to discredit equality. Great. 

Hypothetically, who gives a damn if someone chose to be homosexual? Why would this matter? The problem with the ‘choice vs. birth’ dichotomy is that it implicitly presents homosexuality as bad in one instance and acceptable in another. It’s bad if you choose homosexuality, but acceptable if you’re born into it and can’t help it? What the hell is that? That is fucked up.  What gay rights activists should have done (/ducks), as I think all civil rights movements should do, is divorce itself from anything other than humanist goals. Keep religion completely out of it. Homosexuals LGBT** deserve equal rights because they are people. Fucking simple.

The religious, once again, do not get to impose their worldview either overtly or subtly. They don’t get to insert their religions into the conversation of equal rights as if their theologies matter. The religious can fight for equal rights but they do this as decent human beings not because their god or scriptures told them to. Neither is true. Their gods have not told them to do so and the scriptures are obviously archaic and wrong. People are people. People are not chattel for the religious and their invented gods to quibble over. We have human rights because we are human. Not because it is granted to us by some deity’s human followers who think they, and they alone, speak for their tyrant of the universe. Oddly, their god always shares their personal opinion on the matter. They think they can grant equality in the name of their imaginary god? Fuck them.





*of all the potentially controversial things I have written for this blog I was most nervous about posting this one.

** mini-update: Corrected. I did not mean to exclude bisexual and transgender people from this conversation. I assumed it was implied (which I shouldn't), but I wanted to clarify here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sex Act Morality Flow Chart

This has been making the rounds today. I'm not above posting it anyway. 


via Friendly Atheist and Joe.My.God. via Boing Boing

Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, with Jonathan Miller

A three-part series from 2003. Each part is one hour long. Enjoy.









Thanks to the Hardcharger for the heads up.

Friday, January 20, 2012

BatChristian

This is a year old, but it's new to me! The top 10 things I got out of this.

1) How dare they they bastardize Batman this way! BLASPHEMERS!*
2) The only way to square the contradictions in the Bible is by faith. In other words...ignore them.

/sticks fingers in ears "lalalalala"


3) Obsession with blood? check!
4) Persecution/Martyr complex? check!
5) The "Scorner" (S.C. Orner. Clever!) "secularizes" the good Christian family by giving them a copy of the evil Toy Story 3. In a parody of Batman. Derp.
6) Anyone who thinks differently is a threat. They will divide.
7) Anyone who questions faith or religion is to be defeated.
8) Kicking someone's ass in a church for thinking differently is OK. Good to know.
9) "Cast out the scorner and contention shall go out. Yea strife and reproach shall cease." DO NOT THINK FOR YOURSELF. BE A PART OF THE HERD!
10) In the credits the one person asking honest questions about the Bible is simply labelled "Atheist." Yup.



BatChristian from Andrew Garcia on Vimeo.

via Ben O.C. Grimm via Stuff Fundies Like



*I'm sure some fundie will accuse me of worshiping a false idol in Batman. They would be correct.

Friday Link Dump ~ 1/20/12

#StopSOPA #StopPIPA Web StrikeOn Jan 24th, Congress will vote to pass Internet censorship in the Senate, even though the vast majority of Americans are opposed. We need to kill the bill - PIPA in the Senate and SOPA in the House - to protect our rights to free speech, privacy, and prosperity. We need Internet companies to follow Reddit's lead and stand up for the web, as we Internet users are doing every day.” ~Left Hemispheres joined in the protest and the site went dark on 1/18/12.  It is unknown at this time if anyone noticed.


The perfidious “liberals don’t love the troops” lie rears its head again | Angry Black Lady Chronicles  "We can accept the sad fact that death is a necessary end of war, but we can also be justifiably appalled at those who revel in death. While the Marines depicted in the video were very likely experiencing the mental ravages of prolonged combat, their stateside apologists have no such excuse. It’s deeply insulting to every member of military, past and present, to suggest that a moral equivalence exists between the behavior of enraged mobs in Mogadishu or Fallujah and the standards of conduct to which our fighting forces are held."


Shit Atheists Say OK, I will admit to saying at least some of these things on occasion.



Some Church Preachers are Really "Closet Atheists" “You see for me, once I lost the foundation of word and I realized the word wasn’t infallible, the religion of Christianity instantly crumbled away."
~ Damn, my job only sucks sometimes.

Ask Richard: Teen Suicides Atheism Covered up by his Parents This is a really touching correspondence between a young non-believer and Mr. Dawkins.

The Blog: Your God is My God: Sam Harris This is a great hypothetical speech that Romney would need to give to get the support of the Republican base.  My prediction is that he will be (reluctantly) given the nomination and will choose an ultra conservative right wing Young Earth Creationist wingnut as his running mate to “energize the base”.  Cloning the politically savvy that McCain used when he opened the Pandora’s box that is Sarah Palin.  Just wait…you’ll see.




Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics! The only thing cooler than this tunblr site is its name.

Curve Ball for Christians Nice little thought experiment to counter the claim that God is the source of morality.







New Batch Of Ron Paul Newsletters Just As Racist As The First I don’t know why but I believe Ron Paul when he says that he’s not a racist.  I’ll bet some of his best friends…are racists.


Liberalism, atheism, male sexual exclusivity linked to IQ The IQ differences, while statistically significant, are not stunning -- on the order of 6 to 11 points -- and the data should not be used to stereotype or make assumptions about people, experts say.” 
~So before you go quoting this study to your conservative friends recognize that the difference is only statistically significant.  If you don’t know what that means then you’re probably a conservative.





Fischer: God Will Cure AIDS If Gays Stop Having Sex Wait, I thought the purpose of AIDS was to stop gays from having sex…Or was it to kill Africans?  I can never remember.








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