Thursday, July 31, 2008

In the Same Breath

So I was talking to my mom today... you remember her, the strict baptist.

And she told me that she's finally given up on me. She no longer holds any belief that I will find the lord again. All that really means is that she'll stop bugging me about it because I'm sure she won't stop getting on her knees-clasping her hands- and talking to herself about it. And believe it or not, in the same breath she started telling me a story about the old testiment. I'm trying to remember now what her point was because it sparked the reason for this post and it just went out of my head. Oh wait, I remember now.

Yeah that's it... she was telling me about something they were studying in bible group last week. How all these people were screwing around sinning all over the place, having sex with relatives, etc. and how god gave them a chance to repent and they refused so he brought the flood. The baptists are a simple people aren't they?

Anyway though... so as she tells the story god doesn't make you do anything. He gives you the choice to do as he commands and to repent if you stray. Oh wait, that's what started all this... I asked her why god didn't just make us do what he wants if he wants us to do it so badly, why doesn't he just make it so that we always do what he wants. And she told me that story to demonstrate how he gives us free will.

And this is the point of my whole argument with her. If god gives us free will and we can choose as we like, then why does he kill us when we refuse to do as he wants? We're talking old bible here still right? But it's not free will if he says do it or I'll kill you. Free will is free will. And when you have free will you're welcome to do what you like. There may be consequences, but they shouldn't be at the hand of the person giving you permission to do what you like. In a free will environment you're free to make choices and live the the consequences of those choices as they happen. But you're not allowed to wave a steak in front of your dog and then beat him when he goes for it.

I had this same thing with a couple ex-girlfriends. We would be talking about some hot chick at a party or someone I worked with and they would always say something like... if you wanna sleep with her you're welcome to. No, really, go ahead. You can do whatever you want. And then when I would ask what would happen if I did, they would say... oh I'd leave you, but you're free to fuck her if you want. Well then, that's not really free now is it? It's understood that if I wanna fuck someone else it'll end the relationship. The way to approach that is no you can't go fuck that girl. That way it's understood that my girlfriend does not approve of me fucking someone else and should I choose to do it, things between us will be over. But to say I'm free to do it, go ahead... well, that's just misleading. I'm glad I never actually fell for that trap.

So in the old bible there really is no such thing as free will. You do what you're told or you're fucking dead. Which leads me into one of the god problems right? If the new testament takes care of that by him sending jesus to save us so he didn't have to kill all of us all the time, then that proves god can't exist at all. Because that proves that god made a mistake in the way he was dealing with us before and he had to change his method. And if the entire premise is that god is infallable, then that disproves the entire thing right there. Or maybe he didn't realize he would have to keep killing us and killing us because we never learn our lesson. Either way, god didn't see it coming so he's not perfect.

I really do believe all of this, but GOD I love fucking with my mother.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jesus Cheeto

Yeah, somebody found a Jesus Cheeto. I'm not even going to bother to find a link for it, but if you're into that then I'll repost this link I rediscovered (and posted) a month ago:

A TV was on at work, and this is where I heard and saw it. They said they aren't going to auction it on eBay but will put it in a safe deposit box. Um, okay.

Perhaps they should be blessing Cheetos instead of crackers for communion.

Edit: Faithinate says, here's a link.

Edit: praiseNull says, oh my, that's not even the one I saw. This is. The son of God is coopting our snack foods! What a cracker!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Red Comma

Xtians have some decent ideas sometimes and in fact, they've actually got some pretty clever people working for them. Some of the more fun songs from my childhood were from church camp and they've got some pretty good slogans to boot.

Now that said, the United Church of Christ has a red comma campaign. What is the red comma you ask? Well, simply it's a slogan... Don't put a period where God has put a comma. It's part of their 'still speaking' agenda. I'll admit that it's a nice slogan were it not complete bullshit. All the same though, it's catchy and it comes with that one thing that everyone desires more than anything... symbolic merchandise. You can go to their site and buy all kinds of things with red commas on them. From time to time also, if you pay really close attention you'll see someone with a red comma pin on their lapel. And we all know how much people like to have their little insider symbols. It's like a closed club, but also a way to witness without having to bring it up yourself. If someone sees a comma on your shirt they're likely to ask what it's for. Now you've got them asking about it so you can witness to them and tell them how wonderful your murderous lord is. I'm sorry, did I say murderous? I meant omniscient.

So anyway, no matter how good an idea it is, don't fall for it. If you see a red comma on anything just know what you're getting yourself into. And they're not all red. They've gotten quite stylish. Some are black on red, etc. And they've got mugs, pens, all kinds of things.

That's what we need though. The red 'A' is ok, but it doesn't have quite the flare of a comma. Maybe we should have a semi-colon or something. Maybe a nice '!'. The darwin fish is alright but everyone knows what that is. What we need is something that will make people ask so we can anti-witness.

What do you guys think? Does the 'A' have enough panache?

Monday, July 28, 2008

I Like Jesus with Cheese

This is a post I've bee meaning to write for quite some time. In fact I've been planning this since Fathinate first told me that this happened. So what am I talking about... why the ficious Catholic cracker kidnapping incident, of course!!

So if you're unsure of which incident I'm speaking, here are some links with which you can amuse yourself.

OK, now if those don't whet your whistle then nothing will.

Now onto business. I think PZ (2nd link) said it best when he called these people a bunch of fuckwits. This issue is not only what's wrong religion, it's what's wrong with this country and this world. If you assholes honestly think that a thumbnail sized store-bought cracker is more important than a human life then you really need to be kicked off this planet.
I'm getting so fucking sick of these exclusionary groups that are nothing more than cheap excuses for hate.

I'm actually mostly at a loss for words. I never thought I would ever have to tell someone that a cracker doesn't actually turn into flesh.

I was actually talking to a Catholic friend of mine today who was in shock as well. He thinks it's common sense that the whole communion thing is merely symbolic. And I'm sure when pressed behind closed doors, even the Pope would agree that it's all bullshit. He doesn't honestly believe that eating crackers he waved his hand over will turn into actual flesh. And besides... that's just fucking gross. I used to take communion all the time and I stopped because I kept getting the foreskin. Oh wait... Jesus was a Jew... I guess it was nutsack. Anyway, the problem is you never know which portion of the flesh is in your cracker. Did you get the elbow, the eyeball, the intestine, a ball of hair, the inside of the colon, a wad of semen, or... well you get the idea.

I'm making light of this very serious situation because it's just so ridiculous I feel the need to fight ridiculous fire with ridiculous fire.

And now I'm gonna put on my monster face.
Listen you ignorant asswipes... I don't care what stupid shit you wanna feed your kids, but don't force it on the rest of us. If you're so in love with your goddamn crackers then go buy a whole stack of them and build a statue of Jesus. If you're going to kill someone over a single cracker, or even over an entire truckload of crackers then you're seriously fucked in the head.
And just because you believe that a that a guy kidnapped a cracker because 2 thousand years ago a snake talked a woman into eating an apple, that doesn't mean that we have to respect it. And it doesn't mean we have to live by it, or tiptoe around it, or lose our jobs or our lives over it. Keep your fairies to yourself.

Because we tolerate your religion doesn't mean we have to tolerate everything you do. I tolerate my children playing loudly while I'm trying to work, but that doesn't mean I have to tolerate them blowing airhorns in my ear. You religious nuts have had it too good for too long. Gone are the days when you can say believe in god or I'll kill you. Now you have to ask nicely and convince us that you're not completely full of shit and it's a lot harder. Only you slip into your old tricks now and then by fucking with some innocent guy over a fucking cracker or by having a policeman fired for marching in a gay pride parade. These are your new crusades. You're still nothing but bullies and murders only you're not allowed to actually kill anybody anymore. But given half a chance, you'd do it in a heartbeat. Well, we're tired of it and we're not going to put up with it anymore. The right to practice religion and to worship dry, shitty crackers is protected in this country. And so is NOT eating dry, shitty crackers and speaking in tongues. We have every bit as much right to not believe in fairies as you have to believe in them, and YES, having someone fired for that belief or killing someone for it is just the same as them having you fired for your beliefs.

All you assholes are intolerant; you're bullies; you're exclusionary; you're bigots; and your actions are completely unacceptable.

We're done putting up with your childish antics. Come into the adult world and join the human race.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

AOTD: Frenchman's Wire Walk Between Twin Towers

In 1974 a guy walked a wire between the twin towers. I'm guessing somewhere near the top. But what caught my attention for this blog was the end of the article:

"Meeting the Gods" is how he refers to it. "I'm nonreligious," he added. But the combination of the "Twin Towers, my balancing pole, the police, the onlookers, it was a sacred presence, an amazing piece of theater."
A number of snarky comments come to mind, regarding faith, or such an amazing act being proof that [specifically the Christian] God exists, or that being so far up there, you'd think God could smite that unbeliever more easily. But in all it's just kind of a cool little article with a good feel to the story.

Here it is.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lazy, Lazy, Lazy - More good links

More links. I've just been introduced to The Skeptics Annotated Bible, which has already done all the work of pointing out the worst Bible passages (and categorizing them...this is a really, really well put-together site). And, The Brick Testament, in which Bible stories are done in Legos.

Edit: A VERY interesting article, linked from, on "Why Muslim women who are oppressed by their families are often reluctant to break free".

Snappy Comebacks

Continuing my Week of Lazy Posts, here we link to Friendly Atheist's What Christian Arguments Could Use a Good, Short Answers?. This one from the comments, man, THIS one I'm gonna use all I can:

“Atheism is a religion too!”
Atheism is a religion the way “not collecting stamps” is a hobby.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Atheist Spot

Just spreading the word: you must all go visit The Atheist Spot and spread the word further. Giggity.

We all have to be Muslims now

They found the name of Allah and Muhammad in pieces of meat in a diner:

"When the writings were discovered there were some Islamic scholars who come and eat here and they all commented that it was a sign to show that Islam is the only true religion for mankind," he said.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hancock: There's power in numbers

We just got back from seeing Hancock so I'd like to talk about it a bit. For those of you who haven't seen it yet, I'm gonna try not to really give too much away, but but consider this an official spoiler alert.

There are many things we can get from Hancock and I'll try to keep this kinda brief so I don't start sounding too much like a shrink... cause I'm definitely not.

But the xtians would have you believe that there's no real way to have any morals w/o god and oddly enough Hancock kinda hints at that. Will plays a superhero who's a real asshole (just don't call him that). He's the only one of his kind and he doesn't even really remember anything about himself or even his name. So he just stops caring about people and about himself. And it isn't until he's shown some kindness from someone that he starts to turn around. So what could be said is that Hancock doesn't have any real morals because he doesn't believe in god or belong to any kind of religion. That's the way the xtians would have us believe it though. And to a degree they're right, just not in the way they think. See, it's not believing in god that gives you morals and purpose, it's belonging to a group. Whichever group you belong to is where you get your morals. Groups of criminals hang out together in prison and become better criminals. Groups of assholes hang out together and become xtians. It's all the same, right? Ok, that was a bit of a joke, but the point is, it's more belonging to a group; having someone to answer to, or just want to please that defines your moral code. People get together and define moral codes all the time. And it never has anything to do with religion. If it did, they why isn't every athiest in the world out causing everyone they meet tons of damage? If you go by the xtian standpoint, the seconde I decided I was an athiest I should've started molesting my kids, beating up my neighbor's dog, and shooting drugs; all this because I no longer have the moral compass religion provided me. Whatever dude.

Now, one thing that this movie does to help us work this out is the cons in the prison. They're going to group therapy and baring their soles to each other trying to become better people. There's no religion, no god, no mention of anything like that... just a group of guys trying to overcome their pain. And that's what it's really all about. Being able to belong to something bigger than you so you can become better. And knowing you're not the only one with your problem really helps. You can get ideas on how to cope with things and get support when the times get tough. That's why support groups are so incredibly popular. I think they do an excellent job also of showing these guys to be plain people trying their best to work with what life's given them. They're trying one step at a time just like the rest of us. They don't always succeed, and their failures are generally worse for the public than ours, but nonetheless, they're still just people trying to make themselves better. It's a human side of prison you don't see very often in movies. And don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those bleeding hearts who thinks all cons are basically good, misguided people. Just this group of cons in his support group.

Go to a leukemia support group and tell each one of those parents that their child is dying because god wants it. Or try telling them that they're just not praying hard enough. They'll most surely tell you that it's even simpler than that and that medicine is the answer. Tell a parent at that group meeting that you're happy god finally came through and put their child's leukemia into remission and turn around in the same breath that god doesn't care for the other couple's child who is about to die because their treatment didn't work. It's bullshit people. And that "god's plan" shit doesn't cut it anymore. People want REAL answers. People want REAL results. People want something that's repeatable. Their tired of being told that god has a plan for their infant.

And I know what you're going to say... most of these people turn to religion and are highly religious. They actively pray for their child's condition to improve. Well, I don't know about 'most', but you're right, many of them do turn to god. But what do you expect them to do? They feel helpless and powerless and they are. They have to feel like they're doing something to make things better and the xtians are always telling them prayer is the answer. So they turn to god in a last ditch effort to save their poor suffering kid. I get it man, I really do. But if a group of athiest doctors developed a cure for leukemia and would only give it to the kids if the parents denounced god what do you think they'd do? Would they save their child, or would they chalk it up to religious martyrdome and let their kid die rather than turn their back on their lord who has never physically done anything for them? My guess is that they'd save their child at all costs. At that point they're so desperate, they're willing to turn to religion because they promise them hope. But I guarantee you that if this group of doctors HAD the cure, they'd turn their backs on god faster than you could say a hail mary. They want results. The different between a group of athiests with a cure and a group of xtians with a cure is an athiest would save your child no matter what you believe in. They wouldn't require you to pledge allegience for or against anything. Xtians would hold the cure in front of your head like a carrot until you swore that you would always be THEIR kind of xtian.

I've got some more stuff to say on this general topic, but I promised I'd try to keep this short so I'm stopping now.

However, I'll leave you with one parting thought on the movie. I think the saddest part of the whole movie is that Will got to fuck the shit out of Charleze Theron for like 3 thousand years and he doesn't even get to remember it. And you say there's a god... whatever.

Oh, and one more thing... see if you can find one special actor in there. He's the guy who played Ogre in the Revenge of the Nerds movies. I'm not gonna tell you who he is in the movie, but look for him. Start with his voice and work from there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

AOTD: Dan Savage, Sex, and God (yet again)

Here's this week's Savage Love column, which begins with a letter from a woman who WAS having sex, but now that she's living with her boyfriend has agreed NOT to have premarital sex under parental pressure, blah blah. Dan's response includes this gem:

After all, kids, the same vengeful, sex-obsessed, entirely fictitious God who disapproves of premarital sex also disapproves of any and all "non-intercourse ways" of getting your boyfriend off. Spilling his seed is a sin, too, NSFU, whether you're helping him spill it on the ground or on your tonsils.
Let's hear it for our fellow rationalists out there spreading the word and raising the national IQ!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Prayers, rewritten

That scene from Firefly of River rewriting the Bible is one of the things making me think about the things people say to God - prayer - and what it really means. So let's take an example of a simple prayer that any random American Christian might make any day of the week, say at a casual Bible study (I've heard hundreds and made dozens like it over the years):

Dear Lord, we praise You and thank You for this day, for our health and for this fellowship. Thank You for guiding us all here safely tonight, and we pray that You will bless us and see us safe back to our homes again.

Lord, please open our hearts so that we may hear Your message here tonight, and go out to be a beacon for Your Holy Word.

We pray for Lia Ashton, Father, and ask that You bring her up out of bankruptcy. Bless her and her family, and lead her to a good job.

Lord, we also pray for Tim Stife tonight. We ask that you will lay Your healing hands on Him and bring him back to good health, if it by Your will.

All this we ask in Jesus' name, Amen.
Wow, that was kind of creepy...I haven't composed a prayer in years now. We're omitting some fairly standard pleas to guide the president, protect military personnel in war zones, and generally save the nation. We gotta start small here.

  • "Dear Lord, we praise You" - This never makes sense to me. I praise my dog, but I never say "I praise you, Rover". You say "good dog, Rover". So instead of constantly SAYING "Praise God", shouldn't you stick with "God is great, God is cool, thanks're the best!!" I know they do that too, but "praise God!" is SO common. Drives me nuts.

  • "thank You for this and for this fellowship" -Thanks for now - I guess you're just happy to exist, sure-sure - but is God DIRECTLY responsible for your current health? Shouldn't He get the blame when you're sick? "Fuck, Lord, why did you have to give me the runs today?? You're a SUCKY God." As for fellowship: Thanks for an excuse to hang out with my friends, because Lord knows (ha!) we couldn't have gone bowling or something.

  • Getting there and back - Same thing as praying for health. If He's responsible for your safety minute to minute, He should get some pretty pissy prayers when shit goes wrong. And if not, you're just saying you HOPE no one flips their Hummer on the way back.

  • blessings - Praying for the Lord to "bless us" seems like a cheat to me, like rubbing a rabbit's foot every morning on general principles. Bless us. Just whatever good shit pops into Your mind today, you can give that to me (instead of, say, some welfare mother or a starving African kid with HIV).

  • "open our hearts" - I can't tell you HOW many times I've heard that, "Lord, open our hearts". They're mildly insinuating that if you don't buy whatever is thrown out there, you have failed God, or at least you're not relying on God, which is terrible. You WILL be assimalated. And you gotta be a beacon, or at least a light that's NOT under a bushel (Matthew 5:15, Mark 4:21, Luke 11:33)

  • Praying to change people's lives / bless them in specific ways - This is one of SurferJesus' pet peeves (if you can call it that). So, Lia has bad luck (WTF, God?) or mishandles her finances, and she's facing bankruptcy / repo / foreclosure. The Lord's gonna fix it. How? By getting her a good job. How? Well, Lia goes out and applies to a zillion places plus four temp agencies, goes on 7 interviews and studies her ass off to pass 3 different kinds of exams. And then she gets a job offer. What, exactly, did God do? If, say, he nudged somebody (I call messing with free will!) to give Lia the job over another candidate, He's deliberately fucking up THAT guy's life.

  • healing hands - Why do we have to ask for healing hands in the first place? Why are you waiting till we ask for you to do something about it? The guy had a fuckin heart attack. "Healing hands" can only mean (a) You miraculously cure the guy of a heart condition and blocked arteries (I call magic!), or (b) You let nature and modern medicine take their course (I call shenanigans!).

    This brings me to another point: Petition prayer. Somewhere it's written (no, it's not) that the more people you get to pray for a certain something, the more likely God is to pay attention, or change his mind. Or maybe there's a scale for certain things: 10 prayers equals a raise, 1,000 gets you healed from the flu, and with 10,000 you can pick between the goldfish or the giant Snoopy doll. Is prayer currency?

  • "if it be Your will" - Man oh man. If it was his fucking WILL, he would've done it then, wouldn't he? You're just saying "Do what you wanna do,'re smarter than us. Having said that, we'd REALLY like blah blah blah..."

  • "All this we ask in Jesus' name, Amen." - This, now...this is the magic password that opens the vault of divine favors (John 14:13, John 16:23-24). "God, gimme a pony. I ask in Jesus' name, Amen."

If it's any solace (and it kind of isn''re still talking to your invisible friend and expecting a reaction), some Christians are preaching against this sort of thing too. Well, that's certainly a start.

So let's finish this off with the above prayer translated from Christian to Normal:):
Dear God, you're totally cool. Thanks for making us and not making us sick and giving us an excuse to hang out together. I'm glad I got here without crashing; I sure hope I get home without crashing too.

Everybody better listen up tonight, because we're talking about the Bible and we SUCK if we don't believe in that. Oh yeah, and we need to tell people about what we learned or they'll go to hell and it's partly our fault. We suck.

As we're sure You know, Lia blew her money on weight-loss products and road trips, and then got fired for telling the customers about her last pap smear. She needs a job, so, like, posess some hiring manager or something and hire her. And do something nice for her family, because we thought about it and asked nicely.

Tim's bypass was okay, but miracles are cooler, so get on that too. Please. I mean, if you feel like it and were gonna do it anyway. Why am I asking?

And for all of the above, the password is "Billy Crystal sent me". Giggity.

Mal: (kneeling at altar, in disguise) "Dear Buddha: please bring me a pony, and a plastic rocket-"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

River was Right: Wisdom from "Firefly"

[River sits at the dining table. Book's bible is open in front of her, and she scribbles furiously into it, crossing out words, writing in the margins. Book walks in, speaks from across the room.]

Book: What are we up to, sweetheart?

River: Fixing your bible.

Book: I - uh - What?

River: Bible's broken. Contradictions, faulty logistics - it doesn't make sense...

[Now Book sees what she's doing. His bible's all fucked up, and there's a small stack of torn-out pages next to it.]

Book: No, no, you can't...

[River's still scribbling away as she chatters manically.]

River: So we'll integrate non-progressional evolution theory with God's creation of Eden - eleven inherent metaphoric parallels already there...Eleven, important number, prime number, one goes into the house of eleven eleven times but aways comes out one -

Book: River, just take it easy. You shouldn't -

River: Noah's Ark is a problem -

[She flips a page back and forth, frowning at it.]

Book: Really.

River: (rapid nod) We'll have to call it early quantum state phenomenon - only way to fit five-thousand species of mammal on the same boat.

[She tears the page out of the book.]

Book: Gimme that!

[Book snatches the bible up, somewhat possessively.]

Book: River! You don't need to fix the bible!

[River looks up at him, sweet, sincere, deadpan:]

River: (holds up torn-out pages) It's broken. It doesn't make sense.

Book: It's not about making sense. It's about believing in something, and letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It's about "faith". (gets up) You don't fix faith, River. It fixes you.

[He smiles, trying to gently take the crumpled, torn-out pages from her hand. She tugs back. They have a short tug-of-war then Book relents.]

Book: Why don't you, ah, you hang on to those then.

From "Firefly: The Official Companion, volume two", published by Titan Books

Monday, July 7, 2008

Video: An Atheist Meets God

Oh yeah, and THIS is awesome:

Thanks again, Atheist Blogger

Dawkins' The God Delusion, and Why We Lost the Big Game

In the chapter titled "The Roots of Religion" Dawkins discusses different ways we think of things, in progressive order. We think of a thing in terms of physics, because a thing pretty much always follows the laws of physics. But that can be a bit time consuming in the thinking process, so we may use the design stance: A thing (say, an alarm clock) was designed for a purpose, so we can assume it will work in such-and-such a way, without having to know the inner workings. The alarm will ring at 6, and who cares if it runs off a battery. We can use the design stance for things even if they weren't necessarily designed

The next shortcut in thinking is the intentional stance, or "what does this thing want to do?" This makes decision making even quicker, which is useful if we're faced with, say, the danger of an attacking tiger. Who cares about the molecules of the tiger, or the "design" of the claws...we know it intends to eat us.

So we are sort of predisposed to think about things with intent, and children even more so. I was relating to this as I read...I've found it's easier to explain things to my three year old sometimes if I personify whatever it is. And sometimes he does it on his own. Tadpole used to get mad while riding in the car, because the sun shone on her and made her hot. "The sun is BAD, it needs a TIME OUT," she'd say. Easy enough for a kid to think about something in terms of what it wants to do. Come to think of it, she kind of does that even now. But I digress.

"Justin Barrett coined the acronym HADD, for hyperactive agent detection device. We hyperactively detect agents where there are none, and this makes us suspect malice or benignity where, in fact, nature is only indifferent. I catch myself momentarily harboring savage resentment against some blameless inanimate such as my bicycle chain."

But it's also a very good explanation for why we are prone to superstition and religion. The world around us is, to us, completely filled with purpose and intent. "That traffic light changed JUST TO PISS ME OFF!"

I'd been thinking about this again very recently...there was a Deadliest Catch marathon on Discovery Channel, and in one part one of the crew members "jinxed" the haul by speculating on how full the pots would be. You never count your money while you're sitting at the table, son. And we talked briefly about how SUPERSTITIOUS people are (me included). Here, I say again, is a pretty good explanation. HADD.

"Yeah, we were winning...until Jesus made me fumble!"

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Abuse of Humans

I have this thought from time to time that god is mostly like a really abusive parent. And in this situation there's nothing we can do but to honor him and praise him for fear of destruction.

I get this thought mainly from watching how children react to their abusive parents. I've done a little work with abused kids and the surveys done of them ferret out some very interesting data. The most interesting is that when kids who had been severely and habitually abused by their parents (and subsequently taken away) were asked what they wanted more than anything, they answered that they wanted to spend time with their parents. I personally find that not only amazing, but also a bit telling, right? Here are these kids who have been abused their whole lives and the one thing they wanted most was to spend more time with their abusers. That's just amazing to me.

Now, if we bring that same conclusion to god it's no wonder that we can't break free of his hold. Because on his best day, god is an extremely abusive parent. And as a society, we want nothing more than to spend more time with him. Not only that, but we feel the need to defend him at every turn for fear of some kind punishment. I recently saw this materialize in my own father. To make a long story short and to not burden you with too many details, I haven't seen my father since I was 13 and he's extremely abusive to say the least. Well, I've recently been in contact with that side of the family again including the kids he raised from his new marriage. And all of them claim that he's a great guy and that he would never hurt anyone and he's certainly never hurt any of them. Now, I personally know this to be complete bullshit because I've seen it and I know how he was with me and my sister. And there's NO WAY someone like that can change overnight. It's just not possible. And what's going on here is very clear. The fear of any kind of blowback is keeping them from talking... even to each other. Even though all of those kids are out of the house and they've all got families of their own now, they're still afraid to speak out against the old man.

This is very typical and it shows directly one of the ways that religion has gone unquestioned by the masses for so long. Well, that and the church killed anyone who voiced an opinion against them, but that's another story now isn't it? Anyway... it was this new contact with the other side of my family that sparked all this again.

If god were an actual parent he would've had his kids taken away from him a long time ago. Even by the worst standards on the planet, there's not an agency or government in history that would let someone like him keep their kids. So the analogy of god as a parent here is valid in the abstract because all of us who came up in church; all of us who looked to god for help and guidance; all of us who prayed for good things; all of us who just needed god to give us a break and let us know that someone was actually out there to ease our lonliness; to let us know there's someone out there to give us a reason to not commit suicide when the rest of the world is after us, or to give us a true companion, or to stop the molestor from raping our children; all of us who have wanted, no, NEEDED these things have been met with nothing but neglect and abuse to the point where we have nothing left to lose. So we emancipate ourselves and speak out against the tyrant who raised us. We are no longer afraid of his wrath because we've hit rock bottom with him and he can't hurt us any more than he already has.

It must be a terrible feeling to feel like the entire world is against you and to have no way out but to turn to god and hear nothing. No matter how hard you beg, how hard you plead, no matter how much you need it for your very survival, you get nothing from god... nothing real anyway. All you get is vague signs that have to be interpreted through your most extreme desires. It's kinda like finding shapes in the clouds. The clouds form whatever shapes you're able to associate them with, but that doesn't make it any kind of consciously significant effort on the clouds' part. Nor does it mean that by wishing it you made the shape appear.

AOTD: Jesus' teachings, "some fucked-up shit right here."

Here's a lovely blog on The Messed-up Teachings of Jesus that I pulled from The Carnival of the Godless #95. Me likey.

If you believe that it's normal and healthy to think about things that you would never actually do; that expressing anger is often useful and healthy; that good people should resist evil and oppression; that people's sexual and marital lives are nobody's business but their own; that people of different faiths, perhaps even of no faith at all, can still be good people; that you shouldn't just believe what you're told; that women and men should have equal marital rights; that actions speak louder than words and beliefs; that religion shouldn't divide people; that fact-checking is a valuable skill; and that it's more important to treat each other well than to have the exact right religious doctrine... then good for you. I think so, too. But if you believe that the Gospels reflect the reality of his life and teachings, then apparently Jesus didn't.

Atheist Blogger's 101 Atheist Quotes

Here's the link to the full list, but just to get you started:

The following 101 quotes are some that I have stumbled upon on the web, or seen in books / popular culture. Each quote was either written by an atheist, or is about atheism in general.

1. The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality. - George Bernard Shaw

2. Faith means not wanting to know what is true. - Friedrich Nietzsche

3. I believe in God, only I spell it Nature. - Frank Lloyd Wright

4. We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes. - Gene Roddenberry

5. To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today. - Isaac Asimov

6. A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows. - Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

7. Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. - Seneca the Younger

8. Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned. - Anonymous

9. Not only is there no god, but try getting a plumber on weekends. - Woody Allen

10. If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul. - Isaac Asimov

11. Belief in the supernatural reflects a failure of the imagination. - Edward Abbey

The Christian Experiment

This is a great story. It's things like this that come along now and then that make me really glad I have a blog.

I was talking to my mother the other day and she was telling me about her health problems. She was saying that she believed that the root of most of her problems was that she isn't getting enough blood to her brain.

So that led me to the most natural place in this conversation. Here's how the conversation went:

OK, mom, we have the beginnings of a nice scientific study here. We have our control subject who doesn't believe in God, or pretty much anything religion teaches, and he gets plenty of blood to his brain. And we have another subject who not only believes in God, but also swallows almost everything the bible says. So therefore, We can make the hypothesis that christians aren't getting enough blood to their brains.

And her reply was...

Are you ready for this...

That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Why in the hell would believing in God cut off the circulation to your brain?!?

This story stands on its own. I have no further comment.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Drawing Board: Secular House Of Science

It was SurferJesus who suggested to me that buildings used as churches now would be better used as neighborhood science centers. I immediately thought it a fantastic idea, and the idea keeps coming back to me, although I really have no idea how it could or would be brought about. Where to start?

Well, perhaps I'll start by trying to list what might need to be done and what activities might be arranged. Surely as time goes by some ideas will seem better and others unworkable.

Offhand, some basic needs are venue, funding, staffing, visitors and activities. The following is just some very preliminary thoughts that are subject to much extension, revision and refinement.


The original idea was science centers instead of churches, but unless and until the centers as an institution are established I expect temporary venues such as meeting rooms, community centers (YMCA, municipal center, hotels), parks and, yes, churches. (I expect Unitarian churches to be universally receptive.) I am having flashbacks to Cub Scouts when I was a kid. We did activities in the Den Mothers' living rooms, and occasionally there were multi-troop gatherings at schools or neighborhood community centers (I lived in a cool neighborhood as a kid). Come to think of it, the Scout orginaztion model may be one to study and emulate, except for the parts about requiring a belief in (a) god and prohibiting homosexuality. (You might be surprised, but the World Organization of the Scout Movement--of which Boy Scouts of America is a member--doesn't specify a particular god, just the requirement of a belief in a god.)

Afterthought: did I really leave out schools? Private, public, primary, secondary, postsecondary: it's all good.


I was going to leave this mostly blank as I figure it's way too early to consider funding, but the Cub Scout memories are on my mind now. I think parents of the Cub Scouts and/or the Den Mothers paid for supplies for the crafts we did, and the BSA as a whole provides funding for some events. Again, it is a model to study for funding.

Other thoughts were perhaps sponsorships by science supply retailers or manufacturers, or perhaps even an educational grant from a government entity or university board of regents.


At first--and for a long time--probably all volunteer. Again, the Scouts model is worth investigating as it can handle parents and kids joining and leaving the troop without disbanding the whole group.


Children certainly. But I can see adults participating, too. Come to think of it, I haven't done a simple science experiment in years but have some neat memories of physics and chemistry labs that can safely be duplicated. And the original vision for me included amateur adult scientists experimenting, reaffirming results and communicating between science houses and nationwide.

While the idea was spawned from resentment of organized religion there is no need to exclude the faithful from learning science, and there is no need for the debunking of religion or pseudoscience to be a core goal or even a supplementary goal to the organization. You can believe what you want, but the purpose of the activities is to learn natural laws via observable and measurable results of controlled experiments.


Just a brain dump:
Precipitate chemistry
polymers (plastic strings from liquids)
sugar crystals
"invisible ink"
catapults/trebuchets (physics, simple machines, trigonometry)
mousetrap-powered cars (simple machines, physics)
chemistry as applied in household cooking and cleaning
astronomy - observed and modeled -- a planetarium is always cool
analog circuits - amplifiers, switches, lights, batteries motors, etc
digital circuits - logic gates and simple applications thereof
model boat building/racing (fluid dynamics and the hull shapes)
airfoils (model plane wings, kites)
perception experiments - demonstrations of the fallibility of witnesses
social behavior - experiments on peer pressure and group think
biology - plant growing, hydroponics/aeroponics

Well, there's a start. In typing I added and solidified a few concepts that weren't there in my head, and stumbling on the Scouting Movement as a model just happened as I was typing, and although the idea is very new it seems like a great way to start.

Some further thoughts: I am imagining something akin to a library or book store where people come to browse for all sorts of topics, but there are organized story readings and authors speaking or signing books. I mean there may be an activity planned, but that shouldn't preclude somebody or a small group working on a different project in the same activity center, and it would be great to have guest speakers from other locales or institutional science centers. And ideally the center would be there and available all the time for a casual drop-in to toy with digital circuitry, wind-test an airfoil model or fluid-test a hull model or what not. At least I'm imagining that for the full-blown Science House. Perhaps as in the Den / Cub Scout model there can be distributed activity groups but a central hall to house labs and host larger meetups.

Thoughts (re-)Inspired by Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World

I am reading The Demon-Haunted World. It's really enjoyable and is inspiring me to think about some things.

One is my attitude towards religious and other nonscientific belief systems.

Before starting this blog with (SJ and F) I noticed an increasing anger in me; in a way I can't state succinctly I was angry at Christianity as a whole and organized religion in general. In realizing I am atheist instead of agnostic and starting this blog I noticed a release of hostility. I don't consider myself a hostile person, and I didn't intend this blog to be an attack on religion so much as to have an oasis where religious dogma is absent (held back by the God Dam). It is still more common than not for me to spew a bit of anger at Christianity with a blog entry here.

Perhaps I am coloring Sagan's opinions with my own, but he seems to slyly attack religion but pleasantly and without malice. He is open to anything with observable, repeatable and critique-able evidence. Without directly debating religion he points out that science has a much, much better track record than religion and pseudoscience of predicting the future (such as weather forecasting, forecasting planetary arrangements and eclipses, etc.). I would like to adopt this kind and unemotional approach to debunking some religious claims.

I'm not quite sure yet how to adopt that as I still have some built-up anger.

The book also is reinspiring my interest in having community science centers as analogs to churches. The following paragraph really got me going. It follows a discussion of declining student science knowledge in comparison to America's past and other nations' present:

Most adults who wrote thought there's a substantial problem. I received letters from parents about inquisitive children willing to work hard, passionate about science but with no adeqate community or school resources to satisfy their interests. Other letters told of parents who knew nothing about science sacrificing their own comfort so their children could have science books, microscopes, telescopes, computers, or chemistry sets; of parents teaching their children that hard work will get them out of poverty; of a grandmother bringing tea to a student up late at night still doing homework; of peer pressure not to do well in school because "it makes the other kids look bad."

In retrospect I suppose my scientific education may have been above average. My parents had answers for questions such as "why is the sky blue" and "why is the grass green" that were not stories of God and Jesus and angels; I had access to toys and materials related to physics and sometimes other sciences; I had a computer in 1979 which was fairly early; judging by how my science classes got several times easier when I moved from state to state in grade 9 my early science classes were superior; and although I only have an Associate's Degree I have several undergraduate engineering courses in Chemistry, Physics and Calculus since I started college intending to get an engineering degree.

Judging by the surveys mentioned in the book, anecdotal comments about relatives' children's schools and the growing antiscientific sentiment in America--particularly on the subject of evolution--I surmise that scientific education is not up to the standards I received.

The vision of community science gatherings is fairly powerful to me right now. Simple fun projects like building mini catapults, fun chemistry mixtures, duplicating simple experiments to demonstrate evidence of basic laws of nature like conservation of energy can give kids (and adults) a fun activity while teaching some basic scientific principles and set an example of being able to verify conclusions.

A refinement to the idea--in my mind at least--is that the science centers wouldn't be replacing all the aspects of church. I now think many people are unable or unwilling to see that there is no observable, repeatable, measurable evidence for a soul, an afterlife or god. Atheism and science don't offer comfort and consolation for the fear of death or the mourning of those who die. (Well, maybe some, like the identification of the stages of grief, and reproducible effective ways of coping with it.) And personally I don't necessarily want everyone else to not believe in god(s); I just don't want them using that belief to interfere with others' lives.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Appeal of Church: Being Wanted

I have a family. Husband, kids, parents, brothers. They like me well enough...we even hang out.

I have friends. They like me. We hang out sometimes. But I'm noticing more and more that I do nearly all the calling, all the planning and inviting. It gets me really down sometimes. And then I read Atheist Girl's post about community. So I'm thinking about the times in my life when I felt really liked, and included. When they really wanted me around, and showed it. One of the major times that comes up is when I was a churchgoer.

All churches aren't like this, and I'm sure individuals' experiences within a single church are different too. But there were many times when individuals in a church made sure to make ME feel welcome. "Hey, are you coming to voleyball tonight?" "Will we see you at service Sunday?" "See if you can make it to camp this'd be great to have you there!" And see, they were sincere. They really did want me there. Depending on the instance, the tone of the invites ranged from come one come all, to a sort of generally speaking it'd be nice if you came, to We'd like to see You, Faithinate, at XYZ gathering, because we like YOU.

Apart from my small gang of friends in high school, no other group has ever made me feel more wanted and more a part of things. I'm even in a mommy group in my area who are perfectly welcoming, but it's all very general. I very rarely get toward the end of the scale labeled "Faithinate, we want you there!"

Which is not to say that I'm considering joining a church, heavens no. But if I - who have a loving family, slighly neglectful friends, a social club, interests, etc. - am able to feel lonely and unwanted on a semi-regular basis, imagine the appeal even a halfway friendly church has to anyone lonlier than I am.

This, then, is one of the major success factors of organized religion. Instant access to a fun club.