Monday, December 26, 2011

Michelle Bachman is a Bad Person


First in an ongoing, occasional series on the 2012 presidential election.

Michelle Bachman - My first foray into research on her just tells me she is truly a bad person. I usually think people are mostly good but deluded or good but under educated. Like that. This person, though, might truly be evil. Let's start with global warming. This from Wikipedia:

Bachmann has charged that global warming is a hoax[82] and has been a vocal skeptic of global warming.[83] She has asserted that since carbon dioxide is "a natural byproduct of nature", it is a beneficial gas required by plant life. She stated that because life requires carbon dioxide and it is part of the planet's life cycle, it cannot be harmful. In a statement she made on the House floor on Earth Day, April 22, 2009, Bachmann stated she was against the cap and trade climate legislation, stating: "Carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural; it is not harmful.... We're being told we have to reduce this natural substance to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occurring in the earth.

Wow. This is just gross ignorance or gross pandering to an ignorant segment of society, i.e. Republicans. Maybe Ms. Bachmann would like to breath a big bag of carbon dioxide for severall minutes? Of course Cabon Dioxide is needed for life but how much? UV light is necessary for some chemical reactions but how much? Plus, to say that global warming is a hoax would imply that someone has something to gain by promoting such a hoax. Who? The entire scientific community is in on some grand practical joke? (See a very nice, concise article on reasons to conclude that global warming is real from NASA.) A hoax from NASA? What do they have to gain by claiming that the earth is warming up? I think Bachman just says the word 'hoax' to gain attention and votes from the idiotic conspiracy crowd that have infected the Republican party.

I find several examples of Bachman being a champion of the new political methodology of 'my way or nothing'. Here's an example.

On August 31, 2009, Bachmann spoke at an event in Colorado, saying of Democratic health care overhaul proposals that: This cannot pass. What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn't pass.

Not much room for debate there is there?

Similarly -

Bachmann has characterized the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as "ObamaCare", and has continually called for its repeal.

No honest debate. No entering of actual bills. Just calling for a repeal.

Now how about evolution. From the Huffington Post:

Not only is Bachmann a fan of creationism and its anti-intellectual offshoot, intelligent design, she's made some outlandish claims about the pseudoscientific subject. For example, she's asserted, "there is a controversy among scientists about whether evolution is a fact ... hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel prizes, believe in intelligent design."

OK, there is no controversy among scientists. There is a "controversy" only because there is a large group of evangelicals who can't accept a simple scientific fact because it might mean that we are no more special than aardvarks. The best news about her claim is how it was shot down by a high school student, Zack Kopplin:

Zack has now challenged Bachmann on her claims. Using a poker analogy and the huge number of scientists who have endorsed evolution, in general, and his repeal effort, in particular, Zack has written, "Congresswoman Bachmann, I see your 'hundreds' of scientists, and raise you millions of scientists."

Given the strength of the hand he has, he doesn't stop there.

For the next hand, I raise you 43 Nobel Laureate scientists. That's right: 43 Nobel Laureate scientists have endorsed our effort to repeal Louisiana's creationism law. ... Congresswoman Bachmann, you claim that Nobel Laureates support creationism. Show me your hand. If you want to be taken seriously by voters while you run for President, back up your claims with facts. Can you match 43 Nobel Laureates, or do you fold?

No response ever from Bachman. But, this is her method. She makes outrageous claims with no supporting evidence, gets her name in the paper and her face on TV. . . and moves on.

How about gay and lesbians?

gay and lesbian people “live a very sad life” that is “part of Satan” with “sexual dysfunction and sexual identity disorders.”

"We need to have profound compassion for the people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life, and sexual identity disorders. This is a very real issue. It's not funny, it's sad. Any of you who have members of your family that are in the lifestyle-we have a member of our family that is. This is not funny. It's a very sad life. It's part of Satan, I think, to say this is gay. It's anything but gay."

Bachman's husband is some sort of counselor and runs a business where you can pray the gay away and get 'cured' of that particular affliction. Here's her response to a hidden camera foray into his counseling business:

HOST: What is your opinion on reparative therapy and is it something that’s conducted in that center?

BACHMANN: Well, I’m running for the Presidency of the United States and I’m here to talk about job creation and that we do have a business that deals with job creation. I’m very proud of the business that we created and I’m here today in Indianola, Iowa….

HOST: But of course the issue today is about this reparative therapy and about what this hidden camera caught and their opinions are going to be aired on tonight’s news. And you don’t want to comment on that and give your side?

BACHMANN: Well, I’m here to talk about the Presidency of the United States. As I said again, we’re very proud of our business and we’re proud of all job creators in the United States. That’s what people really care about.

OK I think we've seen enough. She's a bad person. I think she's so bad that she has no chance. No one can make this many undefendable, crazy statements and survive the scrutiny of a run for the presidency. That would be like if George Bush could get elected! Wait. . .

We need to keep her feet to the fire. When she claims things we HAVE to ask for the evidence. Show your cards. Don't let her just spout off and then get back on the plane to the next sound bite option. I hope she does many more interviews because anybody who has read anything can take her apart easily.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

2012 Presidential Race

Here we go again!

I’m disgusted with the current state of our government. It is a do nothing, CYA, pit of hollering at each other. It is impossible for anyone to simply have a good idea. If a Republican has an idea it is BAD as reported by the Democrats and visa-verse. By definition! No one can break ranks without being ostracized by his or her own party. There is no real debate and no real consideration of what is best for the country as a whole. All proposals are looked at ONLY in the light of ‘what does this do for me and my party’. The hell with ‘the people’.

In that light I’m tempted to just ignore the whole thing. The process upsets me. The bickering is annoying and really the whole thing just becomes depressingly boring. Tempted.

But here comes a new year ending in said election. So, I need to buck up, do a little reading and try to sort out what the candidates really say (should they actually say something) from all the hollering and posturing. I think I’ll start by just reading up on one candidate at a time and writing about them.

I’ll try to keep and open and reasonable mind as I read and write but from the outset I’m going to be leery of anyone who thinks he has an upper hand just because he is more pious than another. I don’t expect America to elect an atheist anytime soon but I’d at least like to find a candidate who, 1. Understands the essence of the separation of church and state and, 2. one who is not anti-science nor anti intellectual. I know that by saying those two things I’ll not find a candidate at all but I’d like to keep banging the drum for reason and for keeping myths out of government.

Now. . .who shall I start with. . .

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jesus Toast!

Tired of waiting for the savior of mankind to appear on your morning toast? Who isn't. Well wait no more!

Jesus Toaster

Just goes to show you - you can sell some people anything! (I kind of want one though)

JESUS CRUST!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Anthropic Principle

One time a theist friend challenged my atheism by asking me, “How do you explain goodness”? A flippant answer would be, “How do you explain badness”? but I think there’s a better answer.

Think of proto-humans. Short, slow, no claws or fangs. We had sizable brains but not early on. About the only remaining way for the humanoid branch to continue to grow was for packs of us to stick together. Evolution would select cooperation over eating our young or our neighbor’s young for example. This is not unlike the anthropic principle in cosmology. The physical constants and age of the universe are apparently just right for consciousness because we’re here to observe them. Because we’re here at all ‘proves’ that what we now call ‘goodness’ must have evolved naturally - was naturally selected. I put proves in quotes because I haven’t proven anything in a truly slam dunk logical way. On the other hand, which scenario seems more reasonable? That a magical entity whose existence cannot be demonstrated imbued humans with ‘goodness’ and that’s why we’re good and don’t kill each other, or drop bombs on each other, or lie to each other, or steal from each other OR that overall we are more good than bad (regardless of the evening news) because evolution would pick that otherwise I wouldn’t be here to make this clever argument!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What's Next?

I'm reading an article on CNN about the controversy on what to call a 'Chirstmas tree'. It was a holiday tree in Wisconsin's capital and now it's a Christmas tree again. In Rhode Island it's no longer a Christmas tree but is now a holiday tree. Lots of loud talking from theists and atheists alike on what's proper.

This past year has seemed especially busy in the formation of free thinking student alliances on campuses around the country and by the multitude of atheist billboards going up. Of course each of these is accompanied by the usual loud talking and fist shaking by both sides.

And I tire of it.

I started this blog about 6 years ago. I've been reading other atheist blogs, I've read Daniel Dennet and Christopher Hitchens. I read Friendly Atheist every day. Now, I can't help but wonder what is next? The writing, the arguments, the billboards all seem the same, same, same.

And I tire of the rhetoric.

I'm all for and excited about the modern atheist movement but it seems stuck in 'billboard' mode. While I think it's important for the message to continue to go out I yearn for something more. What would that be?

The only thing I can think of that would really stir the pot is if atheist numbers and organization could get to the point to support and promote a truly free thinking, free speaking, atheist political candidate at the senate or governor level. I think we're years away from that but I'd like to think that it is going to happen sometime.

How great would it be for a reporter to ask the candidate about his religious affiliation and have him look straight into the camera and say, 'Atheist'. Follow this by asking the reporter in what way belief, faith, adherence to myths, etc is connected to governing?

In the meantime I guess we just keep banging the drum and speaking our minds. Freely and reasonably.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Magic Sweatshirt


I’ve been running better lately. A little farther. Maybe faster and just generally feeling better while running. Yesterday I had my first bad run in a while. Only went a quarter mile and turned around and came walking/jogging back.

But I had my longest run in a long, long time today (4 miles!) and felt pretty darn good too. What the hell happened yesterday? Hmmm….

I know! Of all those recent runs it was the only one where I didn’t wear my old Maine East High School sweatshirt. So what have we learned children?

THE SWEATSHIRT IS MAGIC.

The same logic works for prayer. When you pray for someone or something and it ‘works’ we’re happy to celebrate the magic while ignoring the millions of other explanations for the outcome. Our prayers were ‘answered’. One reinforcement of a magical hypothesis tends to make many of us ignore other possibilities and conclude that the hypothesis has been proven to be true. This is especially true if you WANT the hypothesis to be true because you’ve already made a philosophical and monetary commitment to magical happenings and their trappings.

So, besides lacking my magical sweatshirt what else could have been different about yesterday’s run? What did I eat the night before? How much sleep? What time of day did I run? Temperature for the run? Wind? There are hundreds of variables and thousands of combinations of those variables that work for or against us runners. We sort out some as we learn about our own running bodies. I cannot run before 7. I can’t and there is not enough magic in any shirt to change that. I can’t run 2 days in a row (very often). My body needs an easy day between runs. Things like that.

When someone is prayed for AND they recover from an illness some think they’re prayers have been answered. Well, they were ‘hoping’ for such and outcome (I can’t find a real difference between hoping and praying) and they got it. It certainly is tempting to conclude that one caused the other but there’s no logical reason to do that and a million other factors to consider. The drugs worked. The doctors diagnosis was correct. The body heals itself sometimes and so on.

Does praying for someone make the one doing the praying feel better? I think it does. I think it makes them feel like they're doing something in a time of maybe feeling helpless. That's fine and I'd never interfere. But ease up on schools and government involvment with church and prayer ok? And don't get on your high moral horse with me if you're praying for someone and I'm just hoping.

Well tomorrow is an off day for running but I'll be back on it come Saturday. I better remember to get that sweat shirt in the wash!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Virgin Mary's Belt
















I read a number of atheist blogs daily which can be uplifting. Some good news here and there with billboards and what not. And then, something like this comes along and I'm reminded of how screwed we are because of our unthinking adherence to magical thinking.

From the NY Times:

MOSCOW — From morning all through the night, tens of thousands of Russians have been lining up since Saturday in the cold with just one aim: to kiss a glass-covered reliquary that they believe holds the Virgin Mary’s belt.

(by the way, in a video on CNN I don't see anyone cleaning the plastic (you can't actually kiss the belt itself) between kisses. Just imagine. . .

All in all about a half million people stood in line in sub zero temperatures for over 26 hours to get a turn at kissing the belt. Why? Because it's supposed to cure of some minor ills but more importantly its supposed to increase fertility. Russia's population is declining so this might be a way to make more people. And of course it is just really, really extra 'holy'.

Where to start?

1. How the fuck could anyone prove that this is the belt of the virgin Mary when you can't even prove that the virgin Mary herself ever existed?

2. How would it work? Oh wait, I know. . . if we could explain it it wouldn't be a miracle and that would suck all the magic out of it. Plus, if you're actually kissing plexiglass several centimeters above the belt how does THAT work. What if you kiss air a foot above that? What if you just blow it a kiss. Tongue? What if I make a kissing sound here in Chicago but aim my kiss toward Moscow?

3. Maybe Russia's population is declining because IT IS A SHITTY PLACE TO LIVE WITH A SHITTY CORRUPT GOVERNMEMT! Maybe do some work on that side of the ledger instead of kissing a fucking belt and you might actually effect some change!

4. They had belts then?

5. Now virgin Mary's garter belt might be a different story!

6. Why do I even try. . .

Oh and that creepy priest with the beard and the hood. . . . can kiss my ass for promoting this kind of drivel.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Candidates and Christ

Reading at CNN today about Cain's 'spiritual' path to presidential candidate. Shockingly, he felt that God was telling him to run. Of course there's also the usual bible belt, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, God helps those that help themselves philosophy. Cain is a minor big shot in his church and so forth. But here's the thing. . .

When someone says God told him to kill the neighbor they are quickly put in jail and given treatment. When someone says God told them to run for president (or invade Iraq) they are considered glowing examples of 'spiritual' goodness. How do you know that God the prankster did in fact deliver both messages? You can't know this. You can't know whether God is really speaking to someone or whether they are just having that thought that God is speaking to them.

And, why do we still put belief in un-proveable conjectures as a yardstick for goodness? Americans will put a guy's 'spiritualism' way ahead of his ideas, his track record, his writing. If he looks good in a conservative suit and can proselytize he's got a shot. Especially in Iowa!

John Kennedy was a war hero, a writer, a thinker of big ideas, and a Catholic. He would be un-electable today. Why? He never made religion or 'spirituality' a premise or connected it with governing.

Here's Kennedy's famous speech where he does confront his Catholocism and makes some other dynamic points. It's worth a read. It's really worth a read. Parts in bold are my emphasis.

December 5, 2007

On Sept. 12, 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy gave a major speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Protestant ministers, on the issue of his religion. At the time, many Protestants questioned whether Kennedy's Roman Catholic faith would allow him to make important national decisions as president independent of the church. Kennedy addressed those concerns before a skeptical audience of Protestant clergy. The following is a transcript of Kennedy's speech:

Kennedy: Rev. Meza, Rev. Reck, I'm grateful for your generous invitation to speak my views.

While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election: the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida; the humiliating treatment of our president and vice president by those who no longer respect our power; the hungry children I saw in West Virginia; the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills; the families forced to give up their farms; an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.

These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues — for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected president, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in — for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew— or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of presidency in which I believe — a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group, nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

I would not look with favor upon a president working to subvert the First Amendment's guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so. And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test — even by indirection — for it. If they disagree with that safeguard, they should be out openly working to repeal it.

I want a chief executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none; who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him; and whose fulfillment of his presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.

This is the kind of America I believe in, and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we may have a "divided loyalty," that we did "not believe in liberty," or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the "freedoms for which our forefathers died."

And in fact ,this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died, when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches; when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom; and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey. But no one knows whether they were Catholic or not, for there was no religious test at the Alamo.

I ask you tonight to follow in that tradition, to judge me on the basis of my record of 14 years in Congress, on my declared stands against an ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools (which I have attended myself)— instead of judging me on the basis of these pamphlets and publications we all have seen that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of Catholic church leaders, usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and always omitting, of course, the statement of the American Bishops in 1948, which strongly endorsed church-state separation, and which more nearly reflects the views of almost every American Catholic.

I do not consider these other quotations binding upon my public acts. Why should you? But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or persecute the free exercise of any other religion. And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny their presidency to Protestants, and those which deny it to Catholics. And rather than cite the misdeeds of those who differ, I would cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as Ireland and France, and the independence of such statesmen as Adenauer and De Gaulle.

But let me stress again that these are my views. For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.

Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.

But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith, nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.

If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being president on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser — in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.

But if, on the other hand, I should win the election, then I shall devote every effort of mind and spirit to fulfilling the oath of the presidency — practically identical, I might add, to the oath I have taken for 14 years in the Congress. For without reservation, I can "solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, so help me God.

Transcript courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

See what I mean? Completely un-electable!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Child's Brain

In my on-going research on science for young children I ran into this:

Children are naturally equipped to learn through observation and investigations. Every experience, every word, every toy deeply impacts her understanding of her world and the connections she makes. Every time a child learns something new, the brain rewires itself based on the child’s understanding. Every time the child repeats a task or a skill that particular neural pathway is reinforced and strengthened. “Learning changes the brain because it can rewire itself with each new stimulation, experience, and behavior” (Jensen, p. 13). (From Early Childhood News)

If you let a child continue to explore the natural world and help them along the way they would NEVER 'discover' god. There is no set of observations that would naturally lead one to conclude, "God did it". The only reason anyone has a belief in any god is because when they were very young a grown-up that they trusted told them about God. At a young age they are not equipped to challenge and moreover are wired to trust the adults.

God is only part of our cultural landscape because we keep re-telling the same old stories. God is NOT part of our natural discoverable world.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pray for . . .

In the wake of the Penn State disaster one cannot but help but read about how we should pray for the victims, pray for JoePa, pray for Penn state, so and so is 'in our prayers. It goes on and on.

Here's what I think about all that: It's self-serving.

It is soooooo easy to say, "I'll pray for you". It makes you sound (to some) like a 'good' person. But in FACT there is not one shred of evidence that doing so does anything for the person being prayed for. Fifteen seconds reflection/research should convince even the devout of this FACT. So, to say that you are praying for someone or that you are promoting others to join you in praying for someone is just your own ego trying to launch your own self into the 'good person' club. Please. . . get over yourself. A billion Chinese people could give a rat's ass if you pray or not.

Listen, here's the best way to be in the 'good person' club. Get off your ass and DO something. Help somebody. Volunteer. Show up. Give money. You can pray all you want. That's fine. But let's back it up with something real, OK?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tebow Changes his Name to Kneel


Ok, it's only football but the whole Tebow fiasco in Denver might just be a microcosm of what's wrong with religion. Maybe not wrong but better might be un-workable. So, the faithful, and by the faithful I mean white people in Denver, DEMANDED that the home team play Tebow. Why? Clearly and from every indication it was NOT because of his prowess as a NFL quarterback. Every scout and analyst agreed that he wasn't there yet and probably wasn't going to get there. He had the numbers to prove it!

In true 'screw the facts I believe what I believe' fashion fans actually bought billboards to the tune of thousands of dollars demanding that the Broncos start Tebow. They want him to start because they like him. They like him because he is a man of faith (he believes in invisible people). Somehow they are twisted enough to think that his faith would somehow make up for his lack of skill as a NFL quarter back.

It doesn't work that way.

Belief in invisible, pretend things will always run smack up against reality and lose every time.

Sorry Kneel!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

FBI investigating Amish beard-cutting attacks

By Chris Welch, CNN

Bergholz, Ohio (CNN) - Members of the Amish community in eastern Ohio are the subject of a federal investigation following a wave of Amish-on-Amish incidents, FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson confirmed to CNN Wednesday.

I don't know. . .I just thought I'd never read a sentence with 'Amish-on-Amish incidents'.

That's all!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gotta love Iran!

From CNN: I've excerpted the important parts of this news story. . .

Nadarkhani, the leader of a network of house churches in Iran, was first convicted of apostasy in November 2010, a charge he subsequently appealed all the way to the Iranian Supreme Court. In an appeals trial last month at a lower court in Gilan province, Nadarkhani refused to recant his beliefs.

After the trial, however, reports by the semi-official Fars News Agency on September 30 indicated that the charges against Nadarkhani have since changed and the pastor is now charged with rape and extortion. "This issue has nothing to do with his abandoning his religion," reported Fars.

"He is a Zionist and has committed security-related crimes," Gholomali Rezvanii said in the Fars News report. Renvanii is the deputy governor of Gilan province, where Nadarkhani was tried and convicted.

In a 2010 Iranian Supreme Court brief obtained by CNN, the charge of apostasy is the only charge listed.

Ok, I had to look up 'apostasy' but it seems this guy in Iran was basically convicted of being a Christian. I write about this to just show how ridiculous ALL religion is. It can even get THIS crazy in the 21st century. Iranian rulers don't even get that they will be exactly proving the point of this very ridiculousness if they actually hang this guy. I'm totally FOR freedom of religion and with that the total separation of church and state. That works for EVERYBODY.

I hope that world opinion comes to this guy's help. Not because he's a christian but because he's a human and should be allowed to believe what ever crazy shit he wants to believe.

And, by the way, does this whole story have an "Inquisition" feel to it? RECANT!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Cults?

Interesting to note that the Republicans (that would be the religious, evangelical, right) are busy arguing about whether or not Mormonism is a cult or not.

Two points. . .

My take on this is that ALL religions are cults. A group of people drawn to a bizarre idea involving invisible people living in the sky. That's a cult. Just because your membership is huge and you play golf doesn't mean you are NOT in a cult.

Secondly, its good to know that all of America's problems have been solved so we can waste time and ink on assholes arguing about Mormonism. Let's drop all this ridiculous rhetoric and get back to the real business of America: How many angels really CAN dance on the head of a pin?

We're doomed.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Nobel Prize

On Monday, the Nobel Prize for Medicine was give to Ralph Steinman, Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffmann for their work increasing understanding of the immune system, which could lead to curing cancer and other diseases

Oh. . .once again no one in "Creation Science" won. Better luck next year!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Why Neutrinos are Important

I recently got a note from a good friend that reads: What is a neutrino and what does it mean to us everyday people? This note is due to the recent media coverage of the result coming out of CERN that shows (perhaps) neutrinos going faster than light which is expressly (and sternly) forbidden by Einsteinian relativity. So in answer to the question. . .

Like any human endeavor the news and fine points of that endeavor are always of more interest to those who spend their lives doing such things. I’m sure there are HUGE happenings in the etymological world on the origins of silent letters (I blame the French) but I’ll not notice nor care. However faster than light neutrinos might be on a different scale.

The structure of our material world is based on the Standard Model of how very fundamental particles (quarks, electrons and neutrinos) behave. That now well established model requires the use of Einstein’s relativity and so faster than light neutrinos would throw quite a large monkey wrench into the works. (note that a professor at good old Indiana U. has worked out an alternative to the Standard Model where faster than light particles are allowed.) So, do neutrinos affect your world? Yes and no, right?

From a strictly physical standpoint neutrinos hardly affect anything! Billions and billions of these little guys are streaming to and through the earth each second from the sun. Almost all of them go right through the entire planet. That’s how weakly they interact with matter. The fact that these guys exist at all and that we CAN detect them by being very clever monkeys is in itself a fascinating thing. From a historical standpoint I’m sure there were people in the 1920’s who wondered what this crazy quantum mechanics stuff meant to them and then a few years later it is that very quantum mechanics that guides our invention of the myriad of silicon devices of which we’ve become so fond. So you never want to be the one to say, “What good is all this. Shouldn’t we spend our money more wisely”. You just never know where pure research leads so you do want to support it and give it free rein.

In keeping with the theme of this blog, I watched the talk that was streamed out of CERN where the lead investigator presented the findings of the faster than light neutrinos. It was so refreshing to see the enormous lengths they went to to eliminate sources of error. How careful they must tread to make any sort of claim. How reasonable everyone was about the presentation whether they agreed or not. In fact the guy NEVER actually claimed the neutrinos are going faster than light. He's saying that they have a result with faster than light neutrinos that they cannot explain. They're basically asking for help and they are about to get it as other labs (Fermilab for one) try to duplicate the findings or sort out their errors. In other words I enjoyed the reasonableness of it all and the complete absence of shrieking or claims of magic.

Finally, from a philosophical/sociological point of view I would just choose a society where the discussion of neutrinos, extra solar planets, relativity, (and silent letters!), etc are all valued and supported just like I prefer to live in a society that supports opera even though I’m probably never going to go (can’t stand the soprano!). I rail against people who say such things as, “Why do I have to pay for the library? I never use it”. You can still CHOOSE to live in a society where we have libraries. It is the big things like libraries, Fermi Lab, or national parks that we can choose to value via our government and our taxes.

So, finally, 'Yes Rebecca - there is a neutrino and it IS important!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks. . .

From CNN we find a story about people being 'visited' by a dead loved one. There are lots of these stories and I find a link between them. The visited person is always the only one visited. That is to say, there is never any corroboration. Why isn't a family visited all at once or a collection of co-workers?

Also, consider this from the article:

Did you ever hear a story of a mother who somehow knows before anyone told her that something awful has happened to her child?

Yes I have heard of such stories. Have you ever heard of a story of a mother who somehow 'knows' before anyone told her that something awful has happened to her child. . . and then it turned out to not be true? THAT probably happens WAY more often but is not reported. Why would it be.

Anyway, I'll get on board with all of this as soon as Galileo visits me. . . and buys lunch!

Monday, September 19, 2011

This says it all. . .

Click on panel to see the whole thing.

Calamities of Nature, irreverent webcomics by Tony Piro
See more comics from Calamities of Nature

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ron Paul = Idiot

Why do we have to keep writing the same thing? Why aren't people who don't understand the first thing about science or the real meaning of the word 'theory' silenced, ignored and poked with a stick the first time they say:

Evolution is only a theory.

I guess I'll just have to keep pounding this drum. I'll try to get right to the point.

Evolution is a well founded, workable, and tested theory by every measure of what makes a good scientific theory.

Theory in this sense does not mean 'theoretical'. It means a short list of testable assumptions (mutation & and natural selection) that then explain a myriad of heretofore unexplainable observations.

NO ONE working in the field of biology, paleontology, micro-biology, genetics, etc doubts the basic tenets of evolution for one second.

To assume a creator causes more un-explainable assumptions than it explains. That's not a workable or useful theory. It's not a scientific theory at all. It only reveals a desperate expression of faith and a fear of knowledge.

That having been said, why does a man with an education who is running for the presidency of the United States continue to say it and not be laughed out of the race? Why are Americans drawn to potential leaders who are just as ignorant as themselves (Sarah Palin) rather than shooting higher? Why are so many Americans suspicious of intelligent and educated potential leaders?

We HAVE to keep pounding this drum. We HAVE to keep asking people like Ron Paul what he means by only a theory?

Now here's the deal. It won't matter. There is no way in this United States for a Republican to win the nomination for the presidency and NOT say he doesn't believe in evolution.

Think about that.

Any Republican saying reasonable things about a well founded 135 year old scientific theory cannot not win the nomination. Such a person would be seen to somehow be siding with the crazy liberal press, professors and other intelligentsia. GASP! What the hell happened to the party of Abe Lincoln?

So, I suspect that the current batch of Republican candidates will all HAVE to declare their suspicion regarding evolution just to get a whack at the nomination. Who knows whether they all truly believe that or not which makes them all either ignorant or disingenuous. Unfortunately it doesn't make them un-electable! Far from it.

I wonder what would happen to a candidate who made it a point to say that Newton's gravity is only a theory and we should consider other theories as well? Perhaps the sticky-earth theory.

Want some help making arguments for evolution? Try these books:

Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin


Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne


The second one especially makes very clear and simple arguments with plenty of supporting evidence to show what a beautiful and true theory evolution is.

Got to keep on keeping on brother!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Thoughts

Epilogue

Underway aboard Enee Marie under full sail. I’m stretched out on the leeward side so as to see the tell-tales as I steer with one hand. We’re on course, Enee is heeled over maybe 5 degrees and we’re making 6+ knots on the rolling ocean. Steve Earle is on the stereo. I turn to Sue and say, “This is it Sue. This right here, right now. This is just about as happy as I can get”.

Just about.


video

Yesterday I watched Lucy dance in front of the band at the street fair. Big smile on her face as she hopped about, head thrown back, jumping up, landing on her butt. I couldn’t tear my eyes away. I couldn’t stop smiling. Just about the happiest she OR I can be I guess. She’s so happy and so un-aware. She knows nothing of 9-11 or terrorists. No bad guys. Doesn’t know about Republicans, Sara Palin, or Tea Party. The economy? What’s that? She’s never been sick. Nobody’s ever died. Of course all of that will come.

Given all of that why would you lay something like “original sin” on a perfect child like this? Why would you scare them with stories of a vengeful big guy who lives in the sky and KNOWS WHAT YOU ARE THINKING! Doesn’t that seem just a little mean spirited? Is it because as we grow into our world the world tends to make us a little bitter and suspicious. We grow up with our regrets. We have war wounds. Is it all of this that makes us not be able to wait to get the children feeling guilty and miserable as well in the name of religion?

Maybe worse, is it fair to have them believe in fairytale goodness when in fact we’re really on our own and goodness is self generated? Do you want self-reliance or hopeful belief that ‘somehow’ things will work out.

In John Lennon’s Imagine he imagines no heaven, hell, nor countries. No possessions, greed, nor hunger. That is exactly the perfect state that Lucy is in right now. It will pass for sure but I don’t see any reason to rush things along by introducing the silliness of magical invisible beings, heaven, nor hell.

All I know is that watching Lucy dance in the street is in fact the happiest I can get*.


*Well, I was pretty damn happy when the Bears won the Super Bowl but I guess that’s different.



Tuesday, September 06, 2011

I'm BACK Jack!

Thanks to my friend Rich for discovering that this blog had been hijacked so that you couldn't open it at all. You just got a weird page about some blogroll something or other. A little research found that a number of other atheist type blogs had been hacked in a similar manner.

Interesting.

The worst thing for religion is the free exchange of ideas and especially those that question doctrine. This is why children HAVE to be taken to Sunday school and indoctrinated into religious thought BEFORE they can start questioning for themselves.

This is why people from the religious right will deface, tear down, or disallow atheist billboards while atheists themselves find religious billboards (and there are many) rather sad but not threatening.

This is why the religious right wants to have creationism taught in science class in a desperate attempt to muddy the waters in an attempt to create controversy where there is none.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sticking to Your Guns

Interesting piece by Anderson Cooper (yeah there's going to be a commercial first) with a reporter trying to interview followers of Warren Jeff's church. Warren Jeffs who is now serving 45 year sentence for basically raping 12 and 15 year old girls that he called his 'spiritual wives'. Indeed!

If you watch the clip it is absolutely frightening to see the blank look on the faces of the followers as they refuse to even listen or talk to the reporter regarding the conviction of their prophet. Once guy says, "I know everything I need to know" reminiscent of Nixon's famous, "Don't confuse me with the facts". Another guy says he knows how the government can manufacture evidence.

That's a really interesting and telling comment since Jeffs never even denied having sex with the under age girls! There was nothing to manufacture. And, it shows how you can't convince a religious nut of ANYTHING using logic and when I say religious nut I mean anyone who has adopted a point of view based on faith instead of facts and research. Since the position was just selected because it makes the person feel good there is no way to 'backdoor' that with logic.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Rick Perry

Rick Perry recently had a discussion with a young girl about evolution and creationism. He said something to the effect that evolution was 'just an idea'. He said, " . . . in Texas we teach both. . .isn't that fair?"

No. It's neither true nor fair.

First off Texas recently turned down all additions to their textbooks that dealt with creation 'science' and in fact bolstered the factual and logical deductions of evolution.

Secondly, no it's not fair on two counts.

1. Science is not in the business of presenting every crack-pot idea that comes along (nor is any other discipline come to think of it) but rather the proven theories of science, how they came about (evidence and experiment), and science as a process of gaining truth. We don't (we meaning those of us north of the Mason-Dixon line) don't teach creation 'science' in the same way we don't teach the earth is flat, that gravity is stickiness, or that the universe is steady state and non-changing. We don't because those theories are unworkable, dis-proven, or un-provable.

2. As was decided in Pennsylvania, creation 'science' is just a transparent attempt to sneak Christianity into the public schools. It's faith based plain and simple and therefore has no place in our public schools.

It's sad that now 150 years after Darwin we have to keep beating this drum but beat it we must. Rick Perry is either that deluded by his fundamentalist position or, as I suspect, simply knows that if he says anything to the effect that evolution is 'just an idea' that that turns into significant numbers of votes. Let's not have that work. If your faith (and you are welcome to it) is threatened by well-founded work by decades of honest working scientists then perhaps it is your faith that should be challenged or re-thought and not Darwin.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Everything is FINE!

From today's Trib:

A teenager six months pregnant was shot and killed in the Marquette Park neighborhood on the South Side, but doctors were able to deliver her son, authorities said.

"The baby is pretty much fighting for his life," Debbie Jefferson said of her grandson. "He lost some oxygen and the doctors say there could be health issues. I believe in God, I believe everything is going to be OK."

Sure everything is going to be ok. . .EXCEPT YOUR DAUGHTER IS DEAD! What the hell?

I'm soooooo tired of this reasoning or lack thereof and it is pervasive.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Two Recent Ideas

Walking down Belmont Ave. in Chicago the other day and saw a sign outside the big Catholic church there. It read

Lord, take pity on me.

That's it. I assume 'me' means all of the faithful and they should be pitied why? Original sin I guess. It sounds more like,

Please don whip me massa!

The Lord as straw boss on a chain gang or plantation I guess. Yeah that's the lord I want to pray to.
-------------------------------
One way the God idea works.

One way the God idea works is that you get it screwed into somebody's head (at an early age mind you) that there is a being (not unlike Santa) that not only knows what you are doing but also what you are THINKING. And you know you can think some pretty naughty stuff. So you pray for forgiveness, etc.

I don't have a god but I do have a running goddess. My daughter is my coach, my running inspiration, she picks me up when I have a bad run, she leads by example, she maketh me to lie down by still waters I told myself today, and only in my own head that I could run past my old mark and up north to Fullerton. After passing my old mark I could stop anywhere as that would be farther than my old mark. I didn't have to run to Fullerton. I only said that to me. BUT THE GODDESS WILL BE ANGERED even though I never mentioned to her. That's how religion works! In my head I don't want to disappoint even though I never mentioned it out loud.

Weird.

I ran to Fullerton.

Amen!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SETI is back


Money for the SETI project was recently cut but now some donations (Jodi Foster for one) have raised $200,000 to get the array up and running again. I like that. Seems like we might as well be listening just in case someone is broadcasting.

Contact with alien species would be THE story since the beginning of time on earth. What will the religious say when intelligent aliens have never heard of God (any of them) or Jesus? On one hand it would be nice to think that they'd then drop the whole bad idea but then they could have thought that when they encountered the American Indians. The bend in your brain to convince you to believe in invisible people who have your best interests at heart does not have a back door for un-believing. No. You just figure the people in question (Indians or aliens) just haven't gotten the 'word' YET. Fire up the missionary rockets!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Semi-interesting article by a guy who was a missionary and now thinks that evangelicals shouldn't evangelize. Big deal but then I find this quote:


Funny thing is, Jesus never said, “Go into the world and convert people to Christianity.” What he said was, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

Even funnier than that, pal, is that no one really knows what Jesus said or didn't say. No one can even prove he existed. The new testament was written by unknown authors 300-400 years after the mythical figure we call 'Jesus' was allegedly around. This is what no one wants to talk about. Everyone wants to argue what the word of 'the Lord' really means or what he really said when and where but there is a HUGE uncertainty hooked on to all of that due to authorship and the effects of time on the written and passed on word.

But I just know people think the New Testament is a real time record of events in the life of Ivan DeJesus Jesus but it is nothing of the kind and biblical scholars are in agreement about this. Pretty easy to put words into the Lords mouth 400 years after he may have existed. And, if he is the son of the creator of the universe why not straighten out any misconceptions.

Ah, that wouldn't be mysterious!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jesus on a Walmart Receipt

Yes fans another breathless story from CNN and other sources about a South Carolina (hmm...that's in the 'south', right?) who spotted our savior and son of the creator of the universe on the back of a Walmart receipt.

Yep, that's how the omnipotent communicate with us.

You can clearly see that that is Jesus, right? Wait, or is that Charles Manson? Or my bowling buddy, Mel?

What the hell is wrong with people? The couple in question said the image was 'breathtaking'. Yeah, sure is. . .IF YOUR A STUPID CORN PONE LIVING IN SOUTH FUCKING CAROLINA! You can see puppies in clouds too. You can see the image of Isaac Newton in your coffee grounds. We are wired to look for faces so we find faces where there are in fact none.

I've been over this before.

1. Nobody knows what Jesus really looked like so if you saw the image of a round bald guy that MIGHT be the image of Christ. How would you know?

2. Why in the hell do the news idiots cover this shit? Why? And they do it every time.

Somtimes I wish the south had won the civil war.

God at work. . . sometimes

From the Chicago Tribune;

Two Chicago police officers were shot and wounded late Monday in the West Garfield Park neighborhood, authorities said.

The 29-year-old patrolmen from the West Side Harrison police district were expected to recover from their injuries, according to police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who spoke with reporters this morning outside the emergency room at Stroger Hospital.

"God was with us tonight," McCarthy said.


Where is he on the nights that officers are shot and killed? Imponderables. Who doesn't love 'em?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Illinois seeks scientists to help in Asian carp fight

This headline struck me as funny because the implied message (perhaps) is, "After politicians once again find themselves powerless, clueless, and impotent. . .they turn to science. Wait could it be? Could LOGIC and reason save the day?

Again?

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Catholics Take the Low Road Again

Catholic Charities in Joliet, Peoria opt out of adoptions


This decision is in conjunction with the new civil unions law in Illinois. The Catholic church doesn't want to put children in homes with homos. That's it pretty much. Forget the quality of life those kids might enjoy and take advantage of. Forget thinking about the KIDS (except in a biblical way for some priests).

I wonder if they'd place kids in homes with a heterosexual atheist couple?

I'm so sick of people living in the ancient, dark, paranoid, past when the future is really so bright!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Time to Start Bashing Sarah Palin


Here's a great link to the 9 most disturbing beliefs of Sarah Palin. Read it.

I'd like to just point out one example:

Until somebody digs up the remnants of a T. rex with an ill-fated caveman dangling from its jaws, the scientific community, along with most of the American public, will be at peace with the theory of evolution. But this isn't true of everyone. More than 80 years after the Scopes "Monkey" trial, there are people -- and politicians -- who do not believe in evolution and lobby for creationism to be taught in schools. Palin is one of those politicians.

I think this example and others are perhaps not so much an example of how stupid and un-educated Sarah Palin is but how she and a host of other conservative republicans will take ANY STAND if it means votes. I'm not sure which is scarier and perhaps she is both - uneducated and evil.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

HEY! It's May 22!

Well, what do you know. The world didn't end. That means the Cubs still have a chance. . . some day.

Surprise!

But to those who believed, their money sure as hell (get it? Sure as hell?) is gone! Interestingly, Family Radio has not been updated and is still predicting the end of times. . . yesterday!

I mean really. . . why would you donate to Family Radio instead of giving your money to family members if you really thought it was the end of times. What the hell is this nut-ball organization going to do with your money if they are really sure that on the 21st they were going to heaven? HEY! You really can't take it with you, right?

On one hand I shake my head at the stupidity of people who believe some nut case can do math based on something in the bible and get more than 3 people to go along with him. Sell their houses, join a caravan, whatever.

Understand that I and other rational people were not standing by to see if the world was going to end. It never entered my world of possible things. Now that it didn't happen I don't feel smug. I didn't go "Whew!" I don't feel like 'I won'. To do that would be to fall into the whole non-thing. A non-happening that attracted thousands. In the same way I could give a rat's ass what the pope says.

No, I only feel sadness. I'm saddened by our educational system that produces people who cannot distinguish between being the ability to go to the moon and numerology. Moreover I am unable to distinguish between the few thousands who gave up a chunk of their lives for a nut case and the millions of devout Christians who basically do the same thing day after day. They give up their reason. They give up some of their money. They miss the truly amazing things about being sentient and getting to observe this amazing universe by imagining a rather boring supernatural universe with pastel clouds and unicorns.

How different is it for a guy to claim he has calculated the end of times from the bible than for some ancient priests to claim the son of god somehow died for my sins (of which I have virtually none and I have the judges decision to prove it!) and rose up into heaven where I get to go too.

Somehow.

If it sounds ridiculous it probably is. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

The whole fucking thing is depressing. . .

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Skeptics vs. Conspiracy Nuts

Some are wanting the US to publish the photos of the dead Osama to quiet any critics who say it may be a hoax. I think this would be a mistake.

1. If he's not dead let's have a current picture of him or video holding the day's paper.
2. publish DNA evidence...that's not that hard to read.
3. Ask his wife who was there: "Is your husband dead?"

But none of this would work including the publishing the picture because a conspiracy nut takes his conspiracies as a true hobby. No matter WHAT you show them they just ratchet it up and claim that the conspiracy is that much bigger or more insidious. They are exactly like religious nuts in that they have already claimed their conclusion and facts and evidence be damned. It's a losing gambit to try to 'show' these people anything. You can't win and you just give them more air time.

As my uncle used to say: "Never try to teach a pig to sing. You only frustrate yourself and you annoy the pig"!

Let Osama prove that he is alive!

Finally, being skeptical is different than holding on to a conclusion in spite of the evidence. Being skeptical means that you withhold your conclusions until you've seen some evidence and you want a LOT of it from qualified sources. No cherry picking!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Bin Laden. . . . DEAD!

Well, that's certainly good news and I did have a little, "In your face!" thought. I'm a little disturbed by Americans taking to the streets, waving flags, and chanting USA though. All of that seems so . . . so . . . ummmm....Middle Eastern!

I'm glad we never gave up and that this dirt bag was found and killed. Fair enough. But, I don't care for the public celebrations of death to an individual. Just seems a little tacky.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Surviving a Tornado

From CNN:

The same tornado, Amin said, virtually destroyed the tiny town of Phil Campbell, which has a population of little more than 1,000.

Those who survived the disaster thanked God or simple luck.

Just a quick note about the obvious: How can you tell the difference between God's interference and blind luck? I'll sit back and wait for my answer.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Praying for Rain in Texas

I'm for this. I'm for it raining so hard in Texas that the whole fucking state washes into the gulf of Mexico.

Seriously. . .

The Govenor of Texas, Rick (Jimmy Bobby) Perry, has proclaimed an official state wide 3 days of prayer for rain in Texas to put out the wild fires. Texas is a very big state as you know so with that kind of power behind a prayer it ought to work, right?

And yet. . .

There is not one shred of evidence that prayer works. This after numerous controlled experiments. I know, I know, I know. . . I just keep ruining the whole magical prayer thing with this fact. Notice how people actually LOVE controlled experiments when it makes for neater gizmos like air conditioning or iPhones but choose to NOT like controlled experiments when it gets in the way of believing in magic. Typical cherry picking

But let's assume that prayer does send a message to a super being. Why does more people praying help? Why three days? Why not 4 or 2? Why not pray for the wisdom to provide more money and fire equipment for your apparently outmatched fire department? To pray like this, to ask for rain from a perhaps benevolent creator is really weird to me. What then if it doesn't rain? What do you conclude? Prayers didn't get through? You and your whole stupid state are not worthy? God has a plan but you're not part of it?

I know of people praying for cures for the sick and dying. Those aren't answered either and still the praying goes on.

What a fucking waste of time. Maybe the great apes evolved from us instead of the other way round. You don't see them wasting their time like this. Oh wait, that would bring up the whole evolution thing and that's not allowed in Texas either.



From Plognark.com

Go there

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Holy Oak Tree!

Recently, a disgruntled Alabama football fan poisoned the cherished oak trees at Auburn University, their arch rivals. The trees were a rallying point for celebrating Auburn's success at football where the Auburn fans would 'decorate' the trees with hundreds of rolls of toilet paper.

Pause. . .

Well, that's sad for the trees to be sure. What this shows though is what can happen when you swear your allegiance to something that is not real. Football is real enough but to live and die with the idea of the team is a different story. Being a fan is truly a weird thing. The team is different every few years, the uniforms change, coaches come and go, new stadiums are built. So, what is the thing that keeps you being a fan of a particular team? The idea of it. WE are the good guys. Everyone else is evil. Starting to sound a little familiar?

Also, the poisoner in question (now a prisoner?) is 62. That's little old for rah, rah, sisss boom bah, don't you think? I suspect, like many die hard fans, he never attended Alabama. Also, I'm interested in the whole idea of the trees themselves becoming 'holy'. The trees got connected to the football team which people had somehow become intimately connected with. (Excellent marketing?) So by association the trees were 'holy'. I say 'holy' in the same way that a chunk of ground, or a rock, a wall, a tasteless wafer, or a building can become holy by association with deep feelings about things that aren't real. To attack the physical object then is to attack someones cherished beliefs.

If one were to spit on the wailing wall or take a leak inside a mosque think of how much worse the repercussions would be while in fact it would really be about the same level of defilement as the killing of the oak trees. In fact the oak tree incident may be worse because there was the actual death of the living trees. When it's YOUR team, or YOUR wailing wall, or YOUR mosque things take on an elevated sense of importance that is way beyond what the true effect or importance is.

Oh, and none of this applies to Cub fans. We truly are the chosen ones as everyone knows and Larussa is Satan!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Chain of Questions

Let's take Christianity. . .

Jesus was born to a virgin and rose from the dead. In between he made water into wine, fed a multitude on one box of Triscuits, brought Lazarus back from the dead (and left several more most certainly dead), walked on water, and cured the occasional cripple.

There is nothing actually written by Jesus himself or by any of his contemporaries. Despite the red type in the New Testament (I always thought that was extra special when I looked at the bible as a kid) Jesus has never really been quoted. His words were the words of the devout put down for him (for them?) several HUNDRED years later.

OK

For example, when someone says, "I believe in life after death", you get to say,
"That's pretty out there. Why do you believe that?"
"Well, it was said to be true and promised by Jesus himself. "
"Actually, we're not sure what he said, are we"?
"It's in the bible."
"Who wrote it down?"
"It was written by the hand of God".
"Yes but somebody had to actually write it down."
"His hand was guided by God."
"That's a pretty strong claim. How do you know that?
"It's in the bible."
"Do you see a circle here?"

My point is that there is no way a theist can allow a natural, logical stream of questions - A stream of questions no more complicated than those that you'd dive into if it were negotiating the purchase of a car or a home loan. Questions on theism and faith all end in circles and pure belief. Of course the "counter argument" is that skeptics don't know everything either.

This is like saying, Soriano is a bad left fielder for the Cubs and having the counter argument be, 'lots of people have dropped baseballs.' Well, sure but still . . .

Indeed. I'd be the first skeptic to admit that I don't know everything but several have beat me too it. In fact society's general lack of knowledge in several areas is the only thing I'm NOT skeptical about. Lack of knowledge while on the quest for answers, data, and trying to understand the universe, to fill in those gaps is quite different from denying that such knowledge is possible. That reason itself is impossible. When a scientist is just short of an answer to his question he does not revel in it. He does not make it the cornerstone around which he builds his world view. Around which he builds his church. No, that would be giving up. He marshals on. He strives for understanding. He* strives to pull back that shroud of darkness and really see.

Do you see the difference? The scary theist revels in his lack of understanding and uses that to invent gods. They use that to infect our school boards. They use it to build huge money making edifices called churches. They use it to build fences: We own marriage. We own only white people. They use it in a feedback loop to reinforce they're own lack of understanding. To make it "good". The 'good' people all misunderstand together.

This in the face of the skeptic striving, with a moderately functioning brain, for understanding in what is surely a reasonable universe. To actually use that small brain, to not be afraid, to keep following that chain of questioning, bravely, wherever it might lead.

The devout Christian (or other) will always take the moral high road based on their 'faith' but I see them as people who have given up. They've surrendered that which makes them truly human - their reason. It is the only thing that separates us from the other mammals.

*Sorry to keep saying "He". You get what I'm going for, right?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pray. . . a LOT

Recently, I've gotten tangential information about a sick child. My reading tells me that all of us need to pray for this little kid and pray a LOT. Get others to pray if you can.

Now, you can't go after someone who is trying to do good in this way and I never would. I can't help thinking of a couple of things to myself though (and gauging by comments, writing here is the SAME as thinking to myself :)). First off, if praying for a sick little kid could help it seems mean that you have to pray 'enough'. Are we to imagine a fatherly figure with the big white beard (was God ever young?) listening and counting and knowing of this little kid's suffering (God knows all) and then. . ."Nope, not enough prayers and several people didn't really pray hard enough. NO SOUP FOR YOU. NEXT!"

Is that the God people are praying to? I guess it is. Is there some sort of innate desire to be subservient to a guy with a big white beard (without being an elf) that makes us ok with just not praying enough or hard enough? That way it's our fault and not God's? This is some pretty twisted logic but of course it's not logic at all.

And of course there are the numerous tests that have shown that praying has no effect for the sick and may even have a negative effect if they know you're praying for them.

So. . . why do we keep behaving so strangely?