Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Atheist Charity in India

I'm traveling in India at the moment and have an anecdote I'd like to share.

I often get religious visitors on this site asking sarcastically where all of the "atheist charities" are.  I try to explain to them that it seems silly to me to start an explicitly atheist charity, as I cannot see the purpose.  Besides alienating a good deal of the population, there is as much reason to start an atheist charity as there is to start a charity for people who don't believe in the Loch Ness Monster.  I then try to explain that there are many non-religious charities in the world, which we refer to as secular charities.  Some of the world's biggest and most well-known charities belong to this category, such as the Red Cross, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, the World Wildlife Fund, etc.  It's also worth noting that the largest giving team on Kiva.org is the Atheist team, with the Christian team a distant second place.  I've written about this topic of charities before.

So I just met an Indian lady who runs a charity which is doing work that I feel is critical to the future of India both economically and environmentally.  I won't explicitly identify the charity or its work, in order to protect the innocent.  She is a lady who volunteers her time selflessly and who is passionate about the work she is doing to help improve and preserve her country.  She confessed to me that she is an atheist, and her two partners in running the charity are also atheists.  I was immediately intrigued by this admission of atheism by members of a society which I had considered to be one of the most religious on the planet.  I asked her if she was able to freely express this to her own society, and she said she could not.  She told me that Indian people don't like people who don't pray, and her two partners fake religious belief in public by participating in prayers.  She told me that it could be dangerous both to herself and to her work if she was identified publicly as a non-believer.

Another interesting point is that despite being non-religious, this lady uses religion to further the goals of her charity.  She works with some of the most uneducated people in the world.  I'm talking about the kind of people who have no schools in their villages and who know very little of the world outside of those villages.  So she uses one thing these people do know, their religious myths, to relate to them and to put the charity's work into terms that they can understand.  She pretends to share their beliefs in order for her charity to function.

One can never tell just how many atheists there are in a society which will punish lack of belief.  And those atheists are capable of doing good work just because they care.  I care too, and I have just become a significant donor to this particular charity.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A test of your faith

A new campaign in the United States is predicting that the biblical rapture will take place on May 21st, 2011.  They're beginning to put up billboards in various parts of the country.

I'd like to propose a test of faith for any Christian (or anybody else, really) who believes this is true.  Will you sign over all of your possessions to me?  Will you enter into a legally-binding contract that says that I become the owner of everything you own on the date of May 22nd, 2011?  You will have already been taken up in the rapture, so you will have no need for them.  I could probably use them to barter with the remaining unsaved masses for things like food and basic protection.

I'm serious here.  Will you do it?  If not, then you really don't have faith in this, do you?  Deep down, you know it's total bullshit and are only pretending to believe in order to cover your own ass, hoping that the omniscient god of the bible will not see through your pathetic ruse, if the events do take place.  If yes, please contact me using the link in the left sidebar and we'll make arrangements to have the legal paperwork done.  Serious offers only, please.  Don't waste my time.  Also, the contract must not contain any conditional statements such as, "If the rapture has already occurred....."  This is unconditional.  I become the owner of everything you own on the date of May 22nd, 2011, regardless of what may or may not have occurred previously.  Period.

**I should add that I do not want your debts, or any live creature that requires care, such as a pet or child.  On the plus side for you, I may donate some of your assets to the very same charities that will be helping your foolish ass when you're left penniless and without a home.  I may even allow you to remain in your home, if you can find a way to pay me my monthly rent.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You think you're some kind of genius or something?

I was watching this live via the web broadcast and was waiting for somebody to post it to YouTube.  It had to go on my site immediately.  It's one of the most amusing and one-sided demolitions of a moron that I've ever encountered.

Listen to what happens when a Christian calls The Atheist Experience show and tries to argue about the immorality of lustful thoughts, why atheists don't run around with guns raping people, Christian punishment, and then asks the hosts if everybody else is too dumb to figure out that Christianity is bullshit.  Fun stuff!

Christians, if you don't want to get laughed at so much, stop being so incredibly stupid!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Top Evidences for Creation!

A reader sent me a link to this site and asked me to address it.  It's some moron's list of what he believes are pieces of evidence for biblical creationism.  Let's get started by addressing the 13th and final 'evidence', which should establish the intellectual dishonesty of the author immediately.

13.  The Bible is true. The history of the Bible is true. The words of the Bible concerning our origins were given to men to write down, by God, who was the only living being present. We were not there! God said He created the universe. God said He created all living things. We know that life is much more than chemicals. God put His life into Adam and that life has been transferred from generation to generation all the way down to us!

Well then, that settles it!  The Bible says creationism is true, so there you go!  We don't need no fucking evidence!  That was the site's big finale.

1. The instructions for how to build, operate, and repair living cells represent a vast amount of information (estimated at 12 billion bits). Information is a mental, non-material concept. It can never arise from a natural process and is always the result of an intelligence..... Modifying the DNA via mutation can never produce new genetic information to drive upward evolution, just as spilling coffee on the newspaper, thereby modifying the distribution of the ink, will never improve the story.

Ah, the Atheist's Riddle.  I just happen to be the author and host of Google's top-ranked page when somebody searches for "atheist's riddle", ranking even above the riddle's actual website, so why don't I just link to that?  Also, the last claim about mutations not being able to create beneficial mutations is false.  I know one example off the top of my head, despite not being a biologist, and that is the upgrade from 2-colour vision to 3-colour vision among old-world primates (including us).  I'd also like to reference the TalkOrigins.org - An Index to Creationist Claims.  Check out here and here if you want some actual examples of beneficial mutations, backed by scientific papers.  The author of the creationist website is ignorant and/or lying.

2. Non-living chemicals cannot become alive on their own..... The “Law of Biogenesis” states that life comes only from prior life.

Luckily for me, I just did a post on this.  So exactly which kind of biological entity is your god?  Also, check the TalkOrigins site here.  The creationist author does not know what the Law of Biogenesis is or when it applies.

I'm starting to get bored now.  The next 2 items in the list are basically "design is apparent" and "irreducible complexity".  Both arguments have already lost in science's court and lost in the court of law in the Dover trial.  I'm wondering at this point if anybody else has noticed what I've noticed, which is that none of these claims, except for the ridiculous #13, are actually evidences for creationism, let alone the creationism proposed by the Bible, even if they are completely true.  They are attempting to use an argument from ignorance and false dichotomy to avoid proving their case.  If evidence for evolution collapses tomorrow, that is not evidence for creationism, biblical or otherwise.  Prove that YOUR story is true, you fucking cowards!

Want to see another example of an argument from ignorance?

12. Many creatures reproduce asexually. Why would animals abandon simpler asexual reproduction in favor of more costly and inefficient sexual reproduction? Sexual reproduction is a very complex process that is only useful if fully in place. For sexual reproduction to have evolved complimentary male and female sex organs, sperm and eggs, and all the associated machinery in tandem defies the imagination.

Gee, I can't imagine how this could have happened, therefore rather than trying to figure it out, I'm going to claim "goddidit".  That's good enough for me and my intellect.

Let's close with,

11. Language separates man from the animals. No animal is capable of achieving anything like human speech, and all attempts to teach chimpanzees to talk have failed. Evolutionists have no explanation for the origin of human language.

See this post.  The author is also equating language and speech, which is bullshit, as any sign-language 'speaker' will tell you.  Animals may not be able to speak like humans (or maybe they can, in their own way, such as dolphins), but they can use language.  This is a proven fact.  They're not as good at it as we are, but they can do it.  The foundation for future development is there.  The creationist author is again lying and/or ignorant.  Also, the last assertion about no explanation for human language, even if it is true, is an argument from ignorance, an intellectual lie, and does not support creationism, biblical or otherwise, in any way.

Monday, November 29, 2010

YouTube videos - A world with no gods and breastfeeding adult men

I'd like to use a post to spotlight 2 recent videos by YouTube users.  The first is by Pat Condell.  I'm going to link to the video itself, rather than embed the video here, because you really need to check out some of the links that he uses to support the video, which are below it on the page.  There's some pretty crazy stuff in there, including Islamic women breastfeeding other adults to make them part of their family, and Google searches for animal sex in Pakistan.  What makes Catholicism look like San Francisco in the 1960's?  Watch the video here.

The second video is by GrapplingIgnorance.  Note that he had a different channel before, but he now hides his face because he was persecuted (including vandalism) at work for his lack of Christian belief, and was forced to take the channel down.  His video is about what the world would be like if there were no gods.  I'll embed it below, but if you can't view it or would prefer to see it at the YouTube site, click here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Unbreakable Law of Biogenesis

The site recently had a rambling, and possibly mentally-ill, religious visitor who posted probably a hundred comments or more on a single thread.  Many of those were long cut-and-paste jobs directly from another website.  One of the things he cited in his argument was the supposed Law of Biogenesis, meaning that all life must come from previous life.  This, he argued, was evidence for his god.  And by the way, his god and beliefs were not exactly mainstream.

I had never really given this much thought, but I want to credit Martin on yesterday's Atheist Experience show for changing my thoughts on this issue.  If a religious believer wants to argue that all life must come from previous life, and that this proves his god(s) exists, then not only is that an argument from ignorance, but it also suggests that the creature(s) he is referring to is biological in nature.  It implies that his god(s) is alive and physical in the same sense that we are alive and physical.  As this definition of a god would contradict what most of them believe, I think it's fair to say that the argument would be rejected.  But isn't it valid?  If you want to cite a law that claims all life must come from previous life, then doesn't that make your god(s) biological?  Doesn't it also mean that your god(s) must have been created by another biological being?

This brings us into an infinite regress, which is not really an intellectually satisfying answer to any question.  So I assume they'd cave and admit that there was a time when life came from something other than life.  They would argue that this first cause of life was a magical man in the sky, using magical powers.  A scientifically-minded person would probably argue that the first cause of life was atoms and chemistry.  Which side can prove that its proposed first cause processes and materials actually exist?  Which side can show that it has made any progress at all in determining exactly how such a thing could have happened?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Omnipotent beings don't need your help!

This story was in the news last week, about a family in Pakistan waiting to see if their mother and wife will be executed for blasphemy.  The accusation is that this Christian woman insulted Islam, and therefore needs to be killed.

Let's see what the town's religious authority said about this:

The town cleric, who made the initial complaint against Bibi, called her death sentence one of the happiest moments of his life.
"Tears of joy poured from my eyes," Qari Salim told CNN.

Now that we've confirmed that religion is a force for death and destruction, religious believers should ask themselves a question.  Why does a being which you believe is the most powerful being in the Universe (wait, it's outside of the Universe, I forgot), this infinitely-powerful creature, require YOU to do anything at all for it?  Why can't it fight its own battle?  Why can't it strike this woman down itself if it feels so upset?  If you believe that an infinitely powerful being has asked you to help it in any way, you need to check your ego and your sanity.  Ask it for a demonstration of its own power, to smite this heathen in a way that could only be supernatural.  You know what kind of omnipotent being requires you to fight for it?  One that doesn't exist!  Omnipotent beings that really do exist (hypothetically) do not require your help in any way.  That's simply from the definition of omnipotent.  They don't need help.

And for those of you who want a theocracy in your own country, this is what you'd get.  Murder of blasphemers and non-believers (oh, and the gays).  I'll ask a question of my readers, because I don't know the answer.  Has there ever been a theocratic government in which non-believers and blasphemers were not threatened with any of fines, torture, imprisonment or death?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I've never seen air, but I know it exists (?)

I just ran into a pretty strange argument.  It is not the first time I have seen it, nor will it be the last.  The argument comes from a theist who argues that he knows his god exists even though it cannot be seen, much as he knows the air exists even though it cannot be seen.  This is a piss-poor argument.  Air can be detected in many ways, including visually, despite the claims of the theist.  Let me list some of the evidences that I have for the existence of air:

  1. I can feel air's warmth or chill on my body, and quantify it with an instrument called a thermometer
  2. I can measure air's pressure with an instrument called a barometer
  3. I can feel the force of air's push against my body when the wind blows
  4. I can see air pick up leaves and transport them to another location
  5. I can see air shimmering as it rises off of a hot road in summer
  6. I see how air causes the stars to twinkle in the night sky
  7. I can witness how air can be used to generate useful power using a windmill
  8. As a scuba diver, I can feel air compress inside my sinuses when I descend, and expand when I ascend
  9. As a scuba diver, I can watch the bubbles air forms as I exhale underwater
  10. As a scuba diver, I can feel air coming out of my tank when I turn on the valve
  11. As a scuba diver, I can measure air's pressure in my tank with my submersible pressure gauge
  12. As a scuba diver, I can see and feel air inflating my vest when I press the inflate button
  13. I can hear air's vibrations when my ears detect sound
  14. I can ride in an airplane which gets its lift from air interacting with the wings
  15. I can sometimes look out the airplane window and actually see air rushing over the wing
  16. I have ridden in a hot air balloon which generates its lift from the buoyancy of hot air over colder air
  17. I can see how air changes the colour of the Sun during sunrise and sunset
  18. I can see the effect air has on fire when I fan flames with my hands or an object
  19. I can see the northern lights, caused by the interaction of energetic particles with air molecules
  20. I can use my exhaled air to inflate a balloon 
  21. I can see air surrounding Earth in photographs taken from space
  22. As a skydiver, I can witness air slow my descent (vs. gravitational predictions) under a parachute
Can you think of more?  There are many, many pieces of objective* evidence, including visual evidence, for the existence of air.  What is the objective evidence for the existence of your god(s)?

*Despite many of these evidences being subjective to my senses, they are objective because almost all other people would agree with my experiences and describe them in the same way.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

De-conversion story 6

Here are 2 stories sent to me by readers:

1. I was 15 when I deconverted.

I had spent the past 10+ years of my life dutifully attending the Methodist church that my mother attended. I went to Preschool there, went to Sunday school, youth group, participated in various choirs and instrumental groups, attended church and served as an acolyte (person who lights candles on the altar) and crucifer (person who carries the cross down the aisle at the beginning of the service). Everyone knew me and I was close with many of the congregation. Thankfully my upbringing was liberal enough to allow for evolution and alternative theories (my dad only stepped foot in church once every few years when my mom guilted him into coming to church to watch me sing or play during the service.)

One day the regular teacher for our Sunday school class was absent and the associate pastor (a young female, recently out of divinity school) substituted. She began her lesson, and eventually she said something along the lines of "all those who don't accept Christ into their hearts will go to hell." That snapped me out of my lifelong daydream. I asked the question, "So does that mean that isolated tribes in Africa or Asia, who practice ancestor worship and never even got a chance to hear about Christianity because nobody ever visited them, they will all go to hell?"

When she said "that's right." I got out of my chair, left the classroom, and never came back. For once my mom didn't fight me about going to church or youth group. I haven't looked back since.


2. Becoming Free

Blame it on my parents.  They always told me to "think for yourself”.  I doubt they ever considered what would happen if I really did that. 

Now, I suspect what they meant was, "Think what we tell you but do it in your own words."  Too late.  When I was 13, I began to question everything and soon the total absurdity of religion became apparent. 

Because I have been “encouraged” (forced) to read the bible several times, it was easy for me to see the contradictions in the book, what christians professed to believe, and how they really lived.

When I refused to go with them to their church, they said they would "Make me go." 

I asked them, “How are you going to make me? How will forcing me to attend church change my mind?”  Already, their attitude was starting to harden me against everything else they would tell me.

Their next idea was to have their minister talk to me.  I told them it was a waste of everyone's time.  They persisted and had him come to the house to “Talk some sense into me.”  (as if they ever works for anyone)  After about 15 minutes, of him quoting the bible to me and me pointing out that he was either wrong in his quotes or showing him how it said something else in another place, he became very angry and told me I was going to hell.  I suspect it was because I knew the bible better than he did and was, at age 13, able to prove how ridiculous his arguments were.

I told him, “If there is a Hell I'll see you there.  Save me a nice place, OK?"  He said I was an impertinent, disrespectful child.  By then, I was angry myself and for the first time, I told a christian that he was a hypocrite, a liar, and a fool.  My parents insisted that I apologize.  I refused and left the room to a lot of yelling and threats.

For the next four years, I heard about this at least once a week.  So the night I graduated high school, I left my parent's home and didn't see them again for well over a year.  By then, with the credits I had accumulated in high school and summer school,  I had completed a couple of years of college.  Fortunately, I was able to pay for this myself.  I was entering the army and wanted to try to make peace with them, but had to listen to the same old recriminations and arguments again. 

The next time I saw them was two years later when I was getting married.  After several years of an on-again, off-again relationship they finally agreed to just not discuss it any more.  I'd like to say that worked, but  subtle hints slowly became outright condemnation.  Then I took a job transfer from Ohio to Arizona, so family meetings were rare enough to become occasions for something other than contention.

What did I learn?  Even your family can turn against you if you refuse to share in their illusions.  There are times if you are to become your own person you must stand firm in what you know to be true.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Your god is a master abortionist

I have found out over the last year or so that at least 3 of my friends have had miscarriages.  Why did your god give my friends abortions against their will?  Why is your god the world's busiest abortion doctor?  Is that morally correct?  Should you blow up his clinic?

An answer containing the phrase, "mysterious ways", will not be acceptable.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More American ignorance, score another point for atheists

Fresh on the heels of being chewed out by an ignorant American for not knowing how to spell (I often use proper English spelling, ie. the British spelling, in my posts), I have more to post about American ignorance.

I've been sitting on this post for nearly a month.  Two readers each sent it in to me, which was actually the first time I had seen it.  Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

In a nutshell, the topic is a survey done of Americans containing basic questions about the Christian religion, and some VERY basic questions about other major world religions.  They did pretty poorly in general.  I want to tackle this topic from a few different angles:

1.  The highest average score in the survey was from atheists and 'agnostics' (whatever that means)!  Burn!  Another thing many Americans are also ignorant about is atheists and how we become atheists.  As demonstrated by the survey on religion, we are not unaware of religion and its beliefs.  On the contrary, we are the MOST well-educated about religion in general.  This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, as other surveys have shown that atheism increases with the highest level of education received, and people who are highly-educated in one area are often pretty smart and educated in other areas, too.  In fact, it was exactly BECAUSE I became educated about other religions that I had to drop my own when I realised it was no different from the others.  See my de-conversion story. So you religious fucktards, again I'll explain that many of us are atheists precisely because we have examined the faiths, we have examined the evidence, found none, and rejected them all.

2.  The questions that these Yanks failed to answer correctly about other world religions were EXTREMELY basic.  What religion is the Dalai Lama?  Which religion celebrates Ramadan?  Which religion do Vishnu and Shiva belong to?  Come on!  How fucking ignorant about the world do you have to be to not know the answers to these?  Even if you've never studied world religions, you should know these answers just by reading news and following world events!  Oh right, the Americans don't do much of that, either.  They can't even find the countries they invade on a map.

3.  The questions were all multiple choice, so the percentages who answered correctly need to be more closely examined.  For example, the survey found that 45% of Roman Catholics did not know that the communion and wine are believed to actually become the body and blood of Jesus after being blessed by the priest.  In other words, they don't know that they are participating in (what is believed to be) a cannibalistic ritual.  But take a closer look at that number of 45%.  The question only had 2 choices!  So if people were just flat-out guessing, you'd expect a 50-50 distribution.  Very few of those people 'switched' from the wrong answer to the right answer, making a 55-45 distribution.  After you do the math, it could really be argued that only 10% of Roman Catholics truly KNEW the answer, and the others were guessing.  If it was true that 50% of Catholics KNEW the answer, with the other 50% guessing, you'd expect a distribution of 75-25 in favour of the correct answer.  Note that there was an option for "I don't know", but few people chose it.  It therefore doesn't affect my point much, even though it would have a small effect on the actual numbers.

4.  Mormons scored highest on questions about Christianity.  That should piss off all of those mainstream Christians who bad-mouth Mormonism.

5.  Most people do not know about these other religions because they have never explored them.  They just blindly follow whatever religion they were born into.  There are very large percentages of Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims in the world, but very little movement between them.  It shows a lack of critical thinking ability if people don't even question their own religion enough to explore it and to explore the alternatives.  People are sheep, who need to be lead.  Only a small percentage are leaders.  Check out this guy.  When he thought he was 'regular' Polish, he was a neo-Nazi, running around literally beating up Jews.  Then he finds out he IS a Jew, and converts to Orthodox Judaism.  This is a guy who is clearly just looking for other people to lead him.  I doubt he's given any critical thought at all to his belief.

There are 2 news articles about the survey here and here (thanks to my readers).  You can sample some of the survey questions for yourself here (I scored 14 out of 15).  A total summary including exact wording and results can be found here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

She had it coming, as much as I love her

So I beat the shit of my girlfriend last night.  And it was a pretty good beating, too.  It lasted for a long time.  Don't get me wrong, I love her and have nothing but love for her, but she deserved it.  She simply failed to live up to the standard that I set for my own behaviour, so I was forced to do it.  And now that she has been deemed beneath me and my standards, I think I'll continue to beat her regularly, and I don't think there's anything she could ever do to make me stop or to get a second chance.  She had her one chance.  As for all of you, you should agree with my actions, congratulate me and tell me what a good job I did.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"What's the harm in superstition?", you ask

I'm a bit slow posting this story, but it pretty thoroughly disgusted me.  It's about an American couple who moved to Belize to try to do some good for crocodiles by running a sanctuary.  When two local children went missing, the Americans became targets after a psychic told the locals that the missing children had been taken by them and fed to their crocodiles.  So what do the locals do?  They show up with guns and machetes to the Americans' crocodile centre.  Not finding the people they were looking for, they burned the place to the ground instead, while screaming that they were going to find and kill the Americans, then feed them to the crocodiles whose sanctuary they had just destroyed.

I cannot put into words the level of disgust and hatred I feel for these locals, but I'm going to try.  I'll inevitably fail.  People such as this, who are this stupid and willing to act on their idiotic beliefs, do not deserve to live amongst the rest of us.  These people are useless in our age.  They're stupid, moronic, gullible, ignorant bastards who deserve nothing better in life because they will not use reason.  We emerged from our own dark ages by the light of reason, and here we are in the 21st century, and these people are still visiting psychics and acting on what the psychic says, even when murderous violence is "called for".  Lock these ignorant fucktards up and throw away the key.  Unfortunately, a very large portion of the world hold similar beliefs, and what I'd like to do about it at the moment would be considered genocidal.  Must calm down.

If you want to know what is the harm in superstition, believing in psychics, etc, here it is.  The harm is that some people are willing to ACT on their superstition.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My son for a photo, straight-up? Deal! Thank you, sir.

I won't allow anybody to tell me that I'm insensitive to the events that took place in the United States 9 years ago today.  I was living in the U.S. at the time, and remember it fairly well.  I hurt side-by-side with the Americans that day.  I went with my girlfriend at the time to the local blood donation clinic to do what I could, only to find a 6-hour line had already formed.  Even so, we began to wait in the line until we were told by a clinic staffer that my girlfriend was disqualified from giving blood because she had tattoos and a body piercing.  We left the line and I tried again to do what I could.  My uncle was a volunteer firefighter, and I felt terrible about what happened to all of those brave men and women who ran into the towers, rather than away from them.  I donated money to the memorial fund for the New York Fire Department, and I also sold some of my personal possessions on eBay during the Auction for America, in which all proceeds went to the relief effort for the victims.

So today I saw this article on CNN, what was supposed to be a feel-good article, but left me shaking my head.  It's about a man whose son was a NY firefighter, and died that day.  His body was never found, and the man has been wondering about the exact circumstances of his son's death.  After quite a lengthy search of photo archives, he found one of his son, decked out in his firefighter gear, walking/running (hard to tell) along stopped cars in a tunnel, towards the scene.  The man was very emotional about this photo, which is understandable.  I'm glad he was able to find what was almost definitely the last photo ever taken of his son, alive or dead (as his body has not been recovered).  And I'm proud of the bravery of his son on that day.

But now comes the head-scratching part.  The man made two comments for the article that I find strange:

"I was out of out control, emotionally (after finding the photo)," Box said. "Thanking God, being so happy that I had something to see."

"I wish everybody could get what I got."

It seems that the proposition is as follows.  This guy (presumably) believes in the Christian god, which is supposed to control everything.  This god either took away his son, or allowed him to be taken away on that day, in what was ultimately a fruitless and useless rescue operation that would have been better off having never even been attempted.  What this god gave him, in return for giving up his son, was a blurry photo.

Now I don't know about you, but that seems like a pretty shitty deal to me.  Anybody who tries to take one of my loved ones and give me a photo in return is going to be on the receiving end of a baseball bat to the head, or worse.  But this putz is literally on his knees, literally thanking, literally praising and literally worshiping this thing that he believes forced this trade upon him (even if he would never put it into words that way).

Why is it that this man gives his god credit for the tiny little good thing that happened, an insignificant thing which had he known about it in advance would have seemed so worthless a trade that he'd never in a trillion years agree to it, yet gives no blame to his god for the bad thing that happened?   A poster in the comment section of the article wrote that (her) god answers prayers, so this photo thing happened.  But of course, that same god didn't answer any prayers for protection of the country and its people on that day.  I guess to her, her god answers prayers in a random fashion that makes it appear almost as if the god isn't there.  People, this is your brain on religion.

This all reminded me of a YouTube video by Edward Current:

Religious rebuttals to Stephen Hawking

Famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently made news for his comments about the existence of gods being unnecessary in order for the Universe to exist.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

In his new book "The Grand Design," Britain's most famous scientist says that given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing," according to an excerpt published in The Times of London.
"Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," he wrote.
"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going."

Of course, this drew immediate responses from the theological community, none citing any evidence, some even quite baffling:

But the head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, told the Times that "physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing."

It might or it might not. We don't know for sure yet. But one thing I know is that you have not settled anything either, "doctor", *cough*. You provide answers, but have no interest in verifying whether or not they are the correct and true answers. You also cannot even support any claims that your ideas are better than the ideas of any of the other religions' on the planet. I don't think any religion has ever, in the history of humanity, settled anything at all.

Writing in the Times, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said: "Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation ... The Bible simply isn't interested in how the Universe came into being."

It's not interested in how the Universe came into being?  It's not?!  Are you sure?  Then why are so many (biblically) religious people (a majority?), running around saying that the Bible tells us EXACTLY how the Universe was made?  Why does it say that it was created by a god?  Is the existence or lack of existence of a god merely an interpretation of reality?  No, if a god exists or doesn't exist, then that IS reality.  It is not an interpretation.  And I'd argue that as religion is completely unable to back-up any of its interpretations, that it is merely about allowing people to interpret reality in a way that makes them feel good, regardless of the actual truth of it.  Sacks, you win the dumbass comment of week award.

Ibrahim Mogra, an imam and committee chairman at the Muslim Council of Britain, was also quoted by the Times as saying: "If we look at the Universe and all that has been created, it indicates that somebody has been here to bring it into existence. That somebody is the almighty conqueror."

Really?  It indicates it?  How?  Evidence?  Even a little?  Guess that would be too much for you, wouldn't it?  I suppose your faith is all the evidence we need, is that correct?  It's also interesting that you called your god a conqueror.  It hasn't conquered me, yet.  Am I too strong for it?  I thought your religion was peaceful.

"The 'god' that Stephen Hawking is trying to debunk is not the creator God of the Abrahamic faiths who really is the ultimate explanation for why there is something rather than nothing," said Denis Alexander, director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion.

Evidence?  No, it only provides an ultimate explanation for somebody who doesn't care whether or not the explanation is true, and who has no interest in exploring any further or asking further questions on the matter.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Oh no, we can't talk about religion!

I was recently visiting my home country and was at dinner at my brother's house with his wife, our mother and grandmother.  My grandmother told me to pray for something or other (I forget what).  I told her that I don't pray.  She told me that I should, because it gets results, then told my brother's wife that she and other people were praying for a successful birth of their baby (they're expecting).
On the way home in the car, I told my grandmother that I am an atheist and asked her to not tell me to pray anymore.  She said that she already knew I was atheist.  I didn't know for sure if she knew or not.  The conversation escalated a little until I started challenging some of her beliefs.  It was then that both my grandmother and mother told me to stop, and that religion was something that shouldn't be discussed, for fear of making people angry.

What the fuck?!

So it's OK for them to send me to Catholic schools to be indoctrinated into their superstition, it's OK to give me a rosary and Bible, to baptise me, send me to first communion, first reconciliation and confirmation?  It's also OK to tell me to pray and to discuss their religion with others right in front of me, on the very same night of this incident?  But when that little boy is grown up and can think for himself, and wants to challenge it, it's off-limits?  When he gets tired of listening to you talk about it, when he gets tired of being told to follow it, we shouldn't talk about religion in front of others?

I at first thought what they really meant is that religion shouldn't be discussed unless everybody was more-or-less agreed, but then I remembered that they both already knew that I am an atheist.  So what they were really hoping for is that the atheist would keep his mouth shut.  My mother even told me so, asking why I just couldn't have left it alone and not said anything.

I think they're just intellectual cowards, with no argument that could be put forward.  They can only hide in their faith, hoping nobody ever challenges them on it, and also hoping they never have to answer or take responsibility for a failed attempt to indoctrinate a family member.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Comments on gay marriage ruling in California

I've been reading a lot of Christian responses to the gay marriage ruling in California, and have a few points I'd like to make.  For anybody who doesn't know, a judge recently ruled to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage that the voters of California narrowly approved in the 2008 election.  The Christians are screaming about it.  Here are my comments:

1. The US has never been at the leading edge of civil rights.  They were not leaders in getting rid of slavery, not leaders in allowing women to vote, not leaders in eliminating segregation, etc.  They are, once again, not leaders on the gay marriage issue.

2.  American Christians want you to believe that gay marriage will be the downfall of society.  There are several countries where gay marriage has been legal for a while, and nothing bad has happened yet.  They ignore this fact as easily as they ignore scientific facts.

3.  There are those who are arguing that because the people voted 52% in favour of the ban, that it should stand, regardless of what a judge thinks.  I'd say they should be careful of what they say now because the trend is changing rapidly.  What do you think the results of a similar referendum would have been 30 years ago?   Does anybody think that 48% of voters would have voted to allow gay marriage at that time?  I think not.  Young people are more tolerant, and older generations are dying off.  It's only a matter of a little time, maybe as little as 5 years, before the results would swing the other way.  If it's then put to another referendum and gay marriage is legalised, would the Christians then scream that the voice of the people matters the most?  Again, I think not.  Their agenda is not about any kind of democratic ideal, it's about their ancient book.  Also, it's strange that all of the negative TV coverage I've seen makes a really strong point about the 7 million voters who voted for the ban, but not a single one made even a single mention of the 6.4 million people who voted against it.  They want to subtly make ignorant people think that the vote was overwhelming, or that very few people voted against the ban.

4.  A lot of Americans are really bad at civics.  The US is not a democracy, it is a constitutional democratic republic.  They have no idea how their laws or government work.  What are they teaching in American schools?  These people are uneducated.  I'm not American, but even I understand this much better than they do.  You cannot override the US constitution with a simple majority vote of the population.  I've seen a lot of angry people accusing the judge of thinking he's more important than the 7 MILLION people (see point #3) who voted for the ban.  No, the judge doesn't think that.  But he is smarter than them, and does understand more about law than they do.  They were voting on a measure which, in the judge's ruling, was determined to be against the constitution.  It doesn't matter how many people voted against it.  There is a very different process for amending the constitution, and California Proposition 8 was not it.  There will come a time, I predict, when the majority in the US are not Christian, maybe not even religious at all.  If that majority were to vote to ban religion and/or Christianity, you'd better believe the Christians would be crying about their constitutional rights!  Here is a video of a 'conservative' lawyer making a Fox News anchor look dumb.  Notice that the anchor doesn't mention the 6.4 million who voted against the ban, but mentions the 7 million multiple times.  The lawyer does an incredibly good job here, very intelligent, very articulate.  But that doesn't excuse him for fighting for Bush in the 2000 election court cases. ;-)    (more commentary below the video)



5.  I saw a response from a black preacher, who made the points in #2, #3 and #4 before I stopped reading.  But the irony was not lost on me.  Hey you, black preacher!  Should we vote to move your black ass back to the back of the bus?  Should we ban you from our country clubs, schools and even water fountains?  What if we can get a majority vote on that?  Was it OK to keep blacks segregated when the majority thought it was OK?  Or was it always a violation of their civil rights?  Should we make it illegal for a white girl to marry you, like the laws of many states dictated in the 1960's?  Wait, don't answer that!  You'll talk when I tell you you can talk, boy!  Shut up and listen or go back to work on my cotton farm!  You're an ungrateful bastard who, once granted his civil rights, bails on everybody else who still doesn't have theirs.

6. One Christian said that the judge is forcing gay marriage on them.  I'm sorry, but I didn't see anybody forcing you to have a gay marriage.  It won't make even one bit of difference in the way you live your life.  Maybe if your dumb ass wasn't so concerned with what other people are doing in their personal lives, it wouldn't matter to you as much?

7.  Marriage died a long time ago, and has become virtually meaningless.  It is no longer a permanent thing, just something people try for a few years.  A lot of my friends and family members are at the age where they're getting married, and I've got to admit that when they tell me about it, I almost immediately think, "I wonder how long they'll last."  That's how dead marriage is.

8.  Christians are arguing that this ruling will eventually lead to polygamy.  Do they mean polygamy like in the Bible?  From the America's Best Christian, Betty Bowers, website:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My boss at work may or may not exist

I received this comment from a guy named Blake on this thread. First I'm going to let you read the comment.  You might be tempted to think he's joking in the first part, but it seems that he's serious.

"Think about it Admin, If God were actually real, and he wanted people to follow righteous ways and believe in his existence how else would he do it? The only way to keep religious faith alive is to provide no worldly evidence for it. The only way for people to believe in something is to place creative stories of supernatural miracles in peoples minds over time and have it put into literature(Bible, Qur'an, etc). Not to always be taken literally, but as an inspiration.

If everyone knew one true God and whatever the finite definition is you are looking for, we wouldn't have the power of choice to believe what we want? If one true god created the universe, wouldn't it be smart of him to create a world where over time there developed a debate between many different religions that all pretty much followed the same theme? All religions help people believe that they have a sense of being. That mass sense of being, purpose and moral grounding is what keeps the world moving forward. Do you think we would've made it this far in science or technology if everyone always believed there was no God? It is essential to human evolution that a majority of people on earth believe in a sense of purpose and afterlife. If there were anything that either proved God or disproved God, What kind of world would that be? There would be chaos. And as for the argument, "if God is so good why does he allow so much suffering?" I say this...we wouldn't have evolved into humans if there weren't finite physical laws that can't be broken or if there were no consequences for actions. Car accidents happen, lethal illnesses exist. They are all forms of population control that are necessary to human existence. We would not be able to operate as a society if we had finite laws of the afterlife or why we are here."

At first I laughed at you Blake, but now I see how right you are.  After all, my boss at work is a little like this.  He doesn't provide any evidence at all for his existence, for the good of the company.  Let me show you how similar our situations are, with your comment in blue and mine in black.

Think about it Admin, If God were actually real, and he wanted people to follow righteous ways and believe in his existence how else would he do it? The only way to keep religious faith alive is to provide no worldly evidence for it.

Think about it Blake, if my boss at work were actually real, and he wanted employees to follow his orders and believe in his existence, how else would he do it?  The only way to keep the employees' belief in his existence real is to provide no evidence for it.

The only way for people to believe in something is to place creative stories of supernatural miracles in peoples minds over time and have it put into literature(Bible, Qur'an, etc). Not to always be taken literally, but as an inspiration.

The only way for employees to believe in something is to place creative stories of discipline, promotions and firings into people's minds over time and have it put into literature (the company newsletter, press releases, etc). Not always to be taken literally, but as an inspiration.

If everyone knew one true God and whatever the finite definition is you are looking for, we wouldn't have the power of choice to believe what we want?

If everyone knew there was one true boss and whatever the finite definition is you are looking for, we wouldn't have the power of choice to obey or disobey his instructions.

If one true god created the universe, wouldn't it be smart of him to create a world where over time there developed a debate between many different religions that all pretty much followed the same theme?

If one true boss created the company, wouldn't it be smart of him to create an office where over time there developed a debate between many different departments that all pretty much followed the same theme?

All religions help people believe that they have a sense of being. That mass sense of being, purpose and moral grounding is what keeps the world moving forward. Do you think we would've made it this far in science or technology if everyone always believed there was no God?

All departments help employees believe they have a sense of responsibility. That sense of responsibility, purpose and company policies is what keeps the company moving forward. Do you think we'd have made it this far in business if everyone always believed there was no boss?

It is essential to human evolution that a majority of people on earth believe in a sense of purpose and afterlife. If there were anything that either proved God or disproved God, What kind of world would that be? There would be chaos.

It is essential for company growth that a majority of employees in the office believe that there are responsibilities and promotions. If there were anything that either proved or disproved the existence of the boss, what kind of office would that be? There would be chaos.

And as for the argument, "if God is so good why does he allow so much suffering?" I say this...we wouldn't have evolved into humans if there weren't finite physical laws that can't be broken or if there were no consequences for actions. Car accidents happen, lethal illnesses exist. They are all forms of population control that are necessary to human existence. We would not be able to operate as a society if we had finite laws of the afterlife or why we are here.

As for the argument, "If the boss is so good why does he fire people?", I say this... we wouldn't have grown into such a big company if there weren't finite company policies that can't be broken or if there were no consequences for actions. Customer service faux-pas happen, people get busted screwing in the copy room. They are all forms of employee management that are necessary to employee existence. We would not be able to operate as a company if we had finite rules of promotions or reasons why we have jobs.


Blake, I've heard a lot of dumb arguments on this site, and this is one of the absolute dumbest.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Just because they can't speak, doesn't mean they can't use language

A short video about a reporter's visit to a bonobo that has been trained to use language, including abstract conceptual language and grammar structures. The reason it's on this site is that it further narrows the perceived gap between humans and animals, and I know many religious people would claim that we were the only species designed to use language. Well guess what.... just because they can't speak, doesn't mean they can't use language.  (Interestingly, bonobos are one of the most homosexual/bisexual species on Earth, and one of our closest relatives)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Everybody else believes, why not you?

I recently came across an argument on the net that went something like this:

"If atheism is correct, don't you think more people would agree with it?"

As you can easily guess, I have a few problems with this argument, not even including the horrible way in which it is worded.

1.  It's a logical fallacy, equating the likely truth of an argument with the number of people who believe it.  It's called Argumentum ad populum, and does nothing to show the correctness of an argument.  In the same way, the number of people who do not believe a certain position is true is no measure of the incorrectness of that position.  History and science are full of countless examples of things that were popularly believed to be true but were not, so I really don't think I need to go into that any further.


2.  The person who posed this question is considering only 2 sides of the argument, those sides being that gods exist or that they don't exist.  He claims all theists as members of his side, making one big team.  But I don't think this is a good way to look at it.  He should not be allowed to claim a person for his side if they have radically different views of basic characteristics of these gods, or even how many there are.  Pretty much the only thing Hindus and Muslims agree on is that there is such a thing as a supernatural being.  Everything else is in conflict.  Doesn't this person think that if supernatural beings were actually real and communicated with us, that people should be able to agree on its characteristics?  The largest religion on Earth is Roman Catholicism, which the vast majority of humans disagree with.  Even if you expand it to all of Christianity, still a large majority of humans disagree with it.  Would the person who asked the question accept this as evidence that their religion is incorrect?  Don't you think if Christianity were correct, that nearly all people would believe it?  Looked at in this way, atheism would be a major religious worldview, if it were a religion in the first place.  There are hundreds of millions of atheists on the planet, making us a pretty large group.  But this proves nothing, as explained in point #1.


3.  This is going to be the most sensitive point.  The argument, as posed by the person who asked the question, assumes that all people are intelligent enough to figure these things out, especially through a wall of culture and parental upbringing.  How many people on Earth do not understand even high-school level math?  Does the fact that so many people don't understand it negate it?   How many got above C in science in school?  How many tens of millions of people in the USA alone cannot even handle their basic household finances well enough to stay out of crushing debt caused by their own stupidity?   How many people stick cigarettes in their mouths, despite all we know about their addictive and destructive properties?  How many tens (hundreds?) of millions of people have mental illnesses?  How many people in India run and hide from a solar eclipse?  How many people terminate their own lives every year, because their brains cannot even handle being alive?  I could ask a lot of questions like this.  Not all people are smart.  And of the ones you might call smart, some are smarter than others.  The fact that the people who understand science best are least likely to believe in gods is interesting.  People with advanced university degrees are some of the smartest people on the planet.  The fact that more of them are atheists than in the general population, is also interesting.

     We also should note that people will generally follow whichever religion they are born into.  If their parents are a certain religion and the culture around them also follows that religion, they'll rarely change*.  Most people cannot bring themselves to consider other possibilities, or to question what they are told, which demonstrates a lack of critical thinking ability.  Perhaps they are just ignorant of what other possibilities are out there, but then we get into arguments from ignorance, which is another logical fallacy.  Even in the absence of an alternate explanation, a truly intelligent being would not accept an explanation with no evidence and dogmatically assert that it is true.  (*I realise that studies show that people often change denominations within a faith, but the vast, vast majority of people on Earth will never switch from Islam to Christianity, Buddhism to Native American beliefs, etc.)

     Evolution has given us an intelligence level above other animals, but we are not as intelligent as many people believe we are.  The human brain is not some grand masterpiece, perfect in its ability to reason and answer questions (at least not the brains inside the general population).  The culture doesn't help much when it encourages things like faith, which is defined as believing in something despite not having any reason to, and discouraging lack of faith through the use of fear, intimidation and even death for those who don't have it.  I hope our intelligence level is a work in progress, but the evidence suggests that it may not be.  The fact that most people can't figure something out, or believe in a certain way, is not anything we should be using as a guide to truth.

4.  Considering how many billions of people currently believe in gods, and how many billions of people have believed throughout human history, it's amazing that they have still been unable to prove their case.

(My) god said it, I believe it, that settles it!

I really like Pat Condell's newest tirade about the stupidity of 'faith'.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How much interest does one charge their god?

So some church-goers in Montreal, Canada are all upset because they loaned their pastor well over $100,000 because he said their god needed it to build a new church, but the pastor has repaid nothing.  At least two particularly stupid followers even re-mortgaged their homes to loan him tens of thousands of dollars each.  Others went into credit card debt to finance their loan.  You can read the full article here.

To the ladies who re-mortgaged their homes, there are some problems with the thinking process that you went through, which make me think you largely deserve what you got (ie. nothing):

1.  You re-mortgaged your house.

2.  You gave the money to somebody else.

3.  You gave it to him because he said he had an imaginary friend that needed it.

4.  You failed to properly examine how the money would be recovered and repaid.

5.  You believe in an all-powerful god, but you still think it needs money from you.


Honestly, it's the same scam over and over and over again, for thousands of years, and some people are just too stupid to recognise it or even to see the obvious logical flaw with it, as in point #5.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

You were sent by a god and the best you can do is THAT?!

There's a post that I really like on The Atheist Experience blog today.  It does a good job of pointing out the obvious flaw in the reasoning of anybody who claims they have been sent by an all-knowing and all-powerful god to demonstrate its existence to me, or just to convert me to their faith.  They inevitably fail with some horribly flawed argument.  They need to really consider why that is.  It means that either they're wrong, or their god is incompetent.  The fact that they can't see this is another reason why I often look down on their intellects.  I have had the same thoughts myself, but here it is, well-written and already complete.

"I get e-mails from Christians on a regular basis. Many of them are convinced that the Holy Spirit has instructed them to contact me and give me valuable evidence that will change my mind. These people believe that their god is real, that he wants me to know that he's real and that he's charged them with providing me with the evidence.

We can, via reducto ad absurdum, demonstrate that these people are simply wrong:

If their god exists, then it knows precisely what information they'll need to convey to convince me and it would communicate this information to a person who is capable of accurately presenting it in a way that achieves the stated goal. (I'm not going to draw out a syllogism for this...it's all from the definition of the god that they believe is real.)

Why then do these people consistently present the most obviously flawed arguments and absurd anecdotal evidence? Why then do these people often say the very thing that *confirms* that they have no clue what they're talking about?

Are they just inept at communicating the needed information? Then their god has made a terribly stupid mistake, inconsistent with the character of the god they believe in.

Is their god incapable of accurate communication? Not according to their beliefs. Their god is perfectly (or nearly) wise, intelligent, capable, powerful, etc...and clearly directed them to present the information.

No matter how you break this down, the god they believe in simply doesn't exist. There may be a god, and it might even be the one that they're trying to represent, but they're clearly wrong about its desire and ability to demonstrate its existence. At best we're left with something that is, to a third party, indistinguishable from delusion."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Torture of child witches in Africa

UNICEF (a secular charity by the way) has published a report about accusations of witchcraft against children in Africa.  Some passages from the article:

A wide spectrum of children are at risk, including orphans, street-children, albinos, those with physical disabilities or abnormalities such as autism, those with aggressive or solitary temperaments, children who are unusually gifted; those who were born prematurely or in unusual positions, and twins.

....

Most of the accused are boys and most aged 8-14.

....

Accused children end up being attacked, burned, beaten, and sometimes killed, according to the researchers. Exorcisms can include forcing children to fast; pouring petrol into children’s eyes or ears, beatings and being forced to swallow various substances. Many confessions are extracted under duress or violence, says the report.

....

Rather than legislation to protect children, in Cameroon, CAR, Chad and Gabon practicing witchcraft is outlawed, leading, in CAR’s case, to a large number of child witchcraft cases being brought to the family courts. Many of the children end up in prison.

This is the harm of religion.  This is what religious people keep asking for, concrete examples of how religion hurts.  Well, here it is.  This is what happens when people believe in magic, spirits, and other supernatural bullshit for which there is no evidence.  As long as people continue to do stuff like this because of unproven and ridiculous supernatural beliefs, I'm going to continue to call them stupid fuckers who the planet would be better off without.  And I'm going to continue to insult the childish beliefs which they hold, as they continue to lead to this sort of shit.  And if they don't like it, or want some civility from me, they should stop acting like fucking retarded thugs.

And meanwhile, the vast majority of people in the 'civilised world' don't even have the common sense to stand up and tell these people that there are no such things as witches, witchcraft, black magic, etc.  They're too fucking dumb.

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." - Exodus 22:18

Won't somebody please think of the children?!

My girlfriend told me a funny story.  Her parents are not religious, and her grandmother is a Christian.  When she and her sister were very young, the parents left the girls with their grandmother while they went and did whatever they needed to do.  The grandmother used the chance to rush the girls over to the church to get them baptised, without the parents' knowledge.

There are 2 points I want to make here:

1.  I'd be pretty pissed off if my parents ignored my wishes and took my children off to some religious ceremony to go through a ritual with men in silly robes.

2.  What kind of fucked-up thinking is this?  You know she went to get them baptised because she thought they couldn't go to heaven if they weren't.  Is that really how just and good her god is?  The bastard would actually disallow two young girls from entering heaven because their parents were atheists and never got them baptised?  And she worships this fucking thug?  While claiming it's completely good and loving?  Anybody who believes anything like that is pretty screwed in the head.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Don't give my credit to your god!

I'm currently visiting my family in my home country, staying at my mother's house.  My brother, who lives with her, told me a few months ago that he was having a problem with one of his teeth.  He has a general neglect for his body (see previous posts in this category), and told me he has not been to the dentist for about 6 years.  So when I got here, I told my mother about it and we pushed him to go.  The dentist worked on him yesterday, and said that he was only a few weeks away from having a much more serious problem, which would have required much more serious care and expense.  So he said my brother was very lucky that he came in when he did.  My mother, a Christian, told my brother that "somebody was watching over you".

Now what should I think about that?  I did something that she had failed to do, yet again.  Last time I was home, I forced my brother to confront his cocaine addiction, something which my mother hadn't done in all the years she had known about it.  She hadn't even told me about it.  And now I return 2 years later and force him to take another step to take care of himself, something which once again she had not done in all of the years she had known about it.  But just who is that "somebody" that she was referring to?  Knowing Christians, it was her god.  Yet shouldn't I get some of the credit for constantly bringing up these issues and forcing action?  I'm mildly pissed off that she'd try to give my credit to her imaginary friend.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Where is the on-ramp for the Highway to Hell?

So I've been threatened with hell by yet another reader of the site.  He/She used Pascal's Wager as a reason to compel me to believe, which I've already addressed here.

Let's just grant for the purposes of this post that Hell is a real place.  I won't even make anybody prove that it exists.  I'll also grant that it is possible for people to go to Hell for any length of time.  And let's also grant that terrible things happen in Hell, and that it's a place I don't want to go.  Even under these circumstances, should I be repenting to the Christian god to save myself from Hell?  I don't think so.  Why?  Because they still haven't demonstrated HOW a person gets to Hell.  Even Christians can't agree amongst themselves on how one gets to Hell.  Some say it's for not accepting Jesus.  Others say that it's based on the sins a person commits in their lifetime.  I'm sure there are other beliefs as well, but it's not important.

The point is that unless they can provide some evidence that their claim about how to get to Hell is correct, I have no reason to believe it.  There is exactly the same evidence that I get to Hell by not accepting Jesus as there is evidence that I get to Hell by not eating my vegetables.  Or by eating them.  Or by believing in gods.  Or by not believing in gods.  Or by not blowing myself up for Allah.  Or by turning the lights off when I go to sleep.  Or by wearing red shoes.  Every option you can possibly think of for how to get to Hell has exactly the same objective evidence to back it up.  Zero.

So how should one handle this?  How do I know that by accepting Pascal's Wager, that I'm not actually sentencing myself to go to Hell?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pray for Christopher Hitchens?

A blog article appeared on CNN.com about Christopher Hitchens' cancer diagnosis, and arguing why Christians should pray for him.  Naturally, I have some problems with parts of the article.  Would you expect any different?

"I realize that certain believers couldn’t resist the temptation to see in this misfortune the avenging hand of God: the one who for so long blasphemed God was now getting his just reward.
But it’s always a very tricky business to interpret the purpose of the divine providence. After all, plenty of good, even saintly, people die prematurely from terrible diseases all the time, and lots of atheists and vile sinners live long prosperous lives before dying peacefully in their beds."

Right, meaning that the religious can make no predictions, give no answers about why things happen, and anything at all that happens to anybody doesn't conflict with the idea of a god controlling everything.  What good is that?  You know what another explanation for this is?  That there aren't any gods.  Why are religious claims always consistent with there being no gods?

"Hitchens’ disease is indeed ingredient in God’s providence, since at the very least it was permitted by the one whose wisdom “stretches from end to end mightily."

Ah yes, the same god that allows child rape, genocide, starvation, immense suffering, torture, misinterpretation of its commands, etc., has the power to stop all of it but doesn't, yet really is perfectly good.  The only way religions have survived this long is by making no falsifiable claims at all.

"But what it means and why it was allowed remain essentially opaque to us. Might it be an occasion for the famous atheist to reconsider his position? Perhaps. Might it be the means by which Hitchens comes to think more deeply about the ultimate meaning of things? Could be. Might it bring others to faith? Maybe. Might it have a significance that no one on the scene today could even in principle grasp? Probably."

Gotta love the last one.  It's covering their asses.  They're all eagerly waiting for Hitchens to convert to Christianity literally on his deathbed.  If he doesn't, that doesn't mean anything in their religion is invalidated, or that their god had nothing to do with his illness, it just means it has a significance that nobody can grasp.  We can't grasp it, don't try to question it or figure it out, just move along now, and keep putting your money in the offering plate.  Fools.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Italy and crucifixes in schools

This news story is 10 days old now, as I've been lazy about putting it on the site.  It's about Italy challenging a court ruling that decided they can't display crucifixes in the nation's classrooms.  You can read the full article here, but I want to focus on one part in particular:

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re told the leading Italian daily La Repubblica he could not understand it, and that no one with common sense could have expected it.  "When I think that we are talking about a symbol, the crucifix, an image that cannot but be the emblem of a universally shared humanity, I not only feel disappointed but also sadness and grief," he said.  "The crucifix is the sign of a God that loves man to the point of giving up his life for him. It is a God that teaches us to learn to love, to pay attention to each man ... and to respect the others, even those who belong to a different culture or religion.  "How could someone not share such a symbol?"

I think the cardinal is just showing off how naive he is.  Well 'Cardinal', here are some answers.  No, the crucifix is not an emblem of shared humanity.  It has been the emblem of hatred and murder, of ignorance and organised efforts to keep populations ignorant, of genocide, etc.  I reject it.  Also, if there are 2 billion Christians in the world, that means there are roughly 4.5 billion people who do not believe that the crucifix is a symbol of anything useful.  Even among Christians, many believe that it is a false idol, and that putting Jesus on the crucifix in a classroom is against the 2nd commandment of the book you profess to believe.

Next, we have the argument that it is a symbol of a god's love for us.  Well, the god in question has not been proven to exist, so there's problem #1.  Problem #2 is that you claim this god loves us so much, yet hides from us and doesn't provide evidence for its existence, when the consequence of not believing is to go to the hell that it allowed to be created, forever to be tortured, when it could have prevented the whole thing with minimal effort.  There is nothing just or loving about that.  And it did not give up its life for us.  Is your claim that an immortal god gave up a life, which is meaningless for something immortal, for us?  What the fuck does that even mean?

As for the love and respect for other people, yes, see above about the genocide, murder, hatred, forced enslavement, ignorance, etc, that the cross has been, and is currently, being used as a symbol of.  How could somebody not share such a symbol?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Prayer to stop oil spill

The Louisiana government has designated Sunday, June 20th as a day of prayer to end the Gulf of Mexico oil spill:

"Thus far efforts made by mortals to try to solve the crisis have been to no avail," state Sen. Robert Adley said in a statement released after last week's unanimous vote for the day of prayer. "It is clearly time for a miracle for us."

Yeah, good luck with that.  Actually, they don't need luck.  Eventually the spill will be stopped by humans, at which stage the Louisiana government, and American fundies in general, will declare that it wasn't humans who did it, but their god.  That's the way it always works with these people, crediting the results of the hard work of humans to their imaginary friend of choice.  In my view, nothing short of an instantaneous stop to the spill, for no obvious reason initiated by humans, will be acceptable to be declared a success of this initiative.  This god creature should be able to stop it instantaneously, so why won't it?

When it doesn't stop, will they acknowledge that their god doesn't answer prayers, or that their god doesn't care to stop the environmental destruction?

You can read the full article on CNN.com.

Theist says pain/suffering/defects = good. Praise Allah!

The new Ask An Atheist TV show received a call last week which I think is a perfect example of just how incredibly fucked-up religious people can be.

The caller was a Muslim female named Layla.  Layla was arguing that her god, Allah, is completely good.  When the hosts challenged her to reconcile this belief she has about her god with the existence of birth defects in innocent babies, Layla explained that it is the "that's the power that he has ... he's showing you the power that he has ... it's his creation and he can do whatever" he wants.

When the host challenged her to explain how that makes her god good, Layla responded that it's because (her) god IS good.  That didn't answer a whole lot, but what do you expect from the religious?

Layla, the problem here is that you're a stupid bitch!  Not only are you a stupid bitch, but you're a pretty fucked-up and twisted human being, too!  How can you assert that it's a good thing that babies are born with terrible birth defects?  How can you claim that an all-good god would show us its power in such a disgracefully mean and cruel way?  Layla, if your stupid inbred baby was born with a terrible birth defect, would you claim it was a good thing?  What the fuck is wrong with you?  Why don't you think that an all-good god would show us its power in only good ways, like by stopping a war or saving a little girl from getting kidnapped and raped (in a manner that would be clear that it was divine intervention and not a case of 'shit happens')?  The hosts asked you just such a question, but you dismissed it by strangely claiming that it's only the host's opinion, whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean.  You think that your god is all-good, yet it chooses to show us its power in disgusting ways such as birth defects?

So Layla, does that mean that when human doctors fight to correct the birth defect, that they are defying your god's will?  Does it mean that these doctors are doing evil, because they are trying to undo the all-good work that your god did?  Does it mean that humans have the same power as your god, because we find ways to unravel the awesome power that your god is choosing to display to us?  Does it mean that humans are naturally born without defects, and only the work of an all-good god can create horrible defects in these innocent babies?

People, this is what happens to your brain when religion is introduced.

I also notice that her god's display of power is indistinguishable from the case that the god doesn't exist and natural birth defects occur.

The video of her call is below.



Sunday, June 13, 2010

Atheism, Religion and Genocide - Part 3 - Rwanda

As we all know by now, religious people like to point out that the greatest genocides of the 20th century were committed by atheist regimes, even if those regimes were lead by self-professed Christians, or by radical communists which demanded religious-like devotion from their people.  That is a problem in itself, yet perhaps a bigger problem is that, as in most aspects of life, they completely ignore Africa.

Africa had genocides in the 20th century, too.  The worst was in Rwanda, a country which I visited last summer.  Rwanda is a very religious country, predominantly Christian, with a few Muslims and very few atheists.  Yet in this highly-Christian country of less than 8 million people, one of the worst genocides in the history of humanity took place.

The death toll of the violence is estimated at about 800,000 people, or about 10% of the population at the time.  It lasted a mere 100 days, making an average of 8,000 murders per day.  It has therefore been called the most efficient mass-killing since the loving, Christian Americans nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and firebombed the shit out of Tokyo.  I guess nobody knows how to kill quite as efficiently as devout Christians.  The Nazis, by comparison, were incompetent pussies (despite their Christian leader).  Six million killed over roughly 6 years amounts to a mere 2,700 or so murders per day, on average.

What was especially disturbing about genocide in Rwanda is that it was not merely an organised military committing the violence.  Ordinary people, including children, picked up machetes and hacked their neighbours, children included, to death.  Basic statistics will tell us that the majority of those murderers were Christian.

If you go to the genocide museum in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, you'll find some stories of the great love of Christian priests during all of this violence.  When thousands of people fled to churches for what they thought was safety, some priests, perhaps scared for their own lives, or perhaps just hateful monsters, locked the people inside and called in the militia.  Up to thousands of people were slaughtered per church, with the priests either actively participating, or just providing guidance to the militias.  There are photos in the museum of churches with hundreds of dead bodies visible on the floors and pews.

The next time a religious person tries to argue that the 20th century's greatest genocides were committed by atheists, remind them of Rwanda and the uncanny knack that the religious have for highly-efficient mass-murder.

New blog, TV show

Some readers will know that I'm a big fan of The Atheist Experience, a weekly call-in atheism program run out of Austin, Texas.  For any readers who are in Washington state, there is a brand-new, similar program in their area.  It's also available online for anybody who isn't in the area.  It's called Ask an Atheist.  Unlike the 90-minute The Atheist Experience, this show is 60 minutes long.  They just did their first episode last week, which you can find online here.  They also have a *very* unfinished website here.  Hopefully after they get some more episodes under their belts, they can gain the kind of success and following that The Atheist Experience has in the online atheism community.  And hopefully there will eventually be a mainstream network brave enough to broadcast an atheism show.

There is also a new blog that I think is worth pointing out, as it is somewhat atheism-related.  It's run by a reader of this site, who sent me the link to his first posts.  The purpose of the site is to try to answer science questions in easy-to-understand terms.  So if any readers have a science question, send him an email.  The website is called The Essence of Everything.  Hopefully it can be a place for the religious to go to ask questions about their perceived inadequacies of science, while ignoring the answers as only a religious person can.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What would I expect from a divine book?

There is currently a debate going on in another thread on the site in which a Muslim visitor is attempting to convince one of our regular posters about the divinity of the Koran.  He's arguing that it's beautifully written, which makes it a miracle, or some other garbage like that.  Our atheist regular is asking for proof, of which he is getting none.  The question is being asked what we'd accept as proof that the Koran (or any holy book of any religion, I suppose) was the word of gods.

I thought about this for a while, and came up with a list:

1.  First, the idea of spreading the message of a god through a book brought to me by incompetents, liars, frauds, murderers and pedophile sex predators, is stupid.  An omnipotent god described by the world's biggest religions could easily tell me its message itself, without relying on these monsters and fools to do its work for it.  So the first thing I'd expect is for there to not be a book at all, but a direct message from the god to me.

2.  If there is a book, I'd expect it to contain some useful knowledge which could be used in foresight, not just hindsight.  Rather than obscure and relatively useless information about the jet streams, or esoteric information about embryology, as our Muslim guest is claiming, I'd expect something along the lines of, "Make sure to wash your hands before eating or conducting a medical procedure, because there are tiny little creatures which can make you sick."  Or how about instructions for making fusion energy work?  See, what's going to happen is that after we do get it to work, some putz is going to interpret a passage of the Bible/Koran to claim that it was there all along.  But if it isn't clear enough to be used in foresight, not hindsight, what good is it?

3.  I'd expect the book to be error-free and to correspond to reality.  The Bible fails miserably at this, as its stories of creation do not match what we observe in reality.  If we're supposed to take such things as myths or stories or whatever, then I'd expect the book to contain a guide as to which of its stories are to be taken literally, and which are not.  I wouldn't expect the book to force me and everybody else to decide for ourselves.

4.  I'd expect to know the book was holy as soon as I read its words.  This shouldn't need faith or convincing.  An omnipotent god should be able to create a book such that the moment any person looks at it, they know it is divine and correct truth, impossible to deny.  Here the religious will argue that this would take away our precious free will, but no it wouldn't.  We'd still have the choice whether or not to worship, but we'd just know that the book is divine.

5.  I'd expect the DVD and Blu-ray versions to have been released by now, not with actors, but with the actual people and the actual events.  Why can't we see it with video?  The argument that there were no video cameras at the time is invalid if you're arguing for an omnipotent god.

6.  I'd expect to be born with the text of the book already imprinted in my brain.  That way if I'm a poor Hindu kid living in a Hindu area, I wouldn't have to wait for a Koran-bearing messenger of the gods to come to my house/shack with a copy of it.  How many Hindus have died without ever having been told about the truth of the Koran?

7.  I'd expect the book to be much shorter, and possibly even just a single image.  An omnipotent god shouldn't need so much verbosity to get its message across.  It must, by definition of 'omnipotence', be able to create just a single image to convey its entire message, including all of the knowledge we need about it and this world.  That would allow the illiterate and young children to understand it, save on translation and printing costs, and make it easier to distribute the truth to non-believers.  We could airdrop leaflets (on biodegradable paper, of course) into those poor Hindu areas.  Dropping Korans from planes on them would not only be more expensive, but also much less humane.

8.  I'd expect that if nobody had shown me the Koran in my life, that I'd have this yearning for it.  That the book wouldn't seek me out, but that I'D be seeking IT out.  That I would know from the time I was a small child that I must find this book as soon as possible, irresistibly drawn to it, like the guy in Close Encounters of the Third Kind is drawn to that mountain/rock.

These are the biggest things I'd expect of an omnipotent god with a very important message for me.  The fact that not a single one of them is the case in real life is a big red flag for me that none of these monstrous jackasses has any idea what they're talking about, that the books were written solely by men with no divine inspiration, and that they contain no useful information at all.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Christianity and extraordinary rendition

I don't know why I never thought of this before, but there is a rather close connection between Christianity and the practice of extraordinary rendition practiced by the United States in the last 10 years.  In case you're not familiar with it, the US has had a program to capture terrorists/insurgents, and send them on secret flights to other countries for interrogation.  That doesn't seem so bad, but when you learn that some of those countries torture the prisoners to make them talk, it becomes known as 'torture by proxy'.  The United States is not supposed to torture prisoners (even though it seems they do anyway), so this is a convenient way of cheating the system.  NATO countries in Afghanistan have also been accused of turning their heads away from torture committed by the Afghan police.

I've always found this pretty terrible, but many Americans do not.  This was surprising to me, considering how very and truly Christian the vast, vast majority of them claim to be.  They use the excuse that it's OK to torture if it might improve their own safety, but I think there might be another reason.  That reason is that it's exactly what they believe their god does!  The Christian god is supposedly all-loving, and Jesus said love thy neighbour and all that nice stuff, but they believe that their god also sends people to a demon for eternal torture for crimes as minor as not believing in it.  That way they can claim their god is good and doesn't torture, just like George W. can try to argue that he did not order torture.

If a Christian disagrees with the extraordinary rendition program, perhaps we should be reminding them that their god is the Universe's biggest organiser of torture by proxy.  That should make them think!  Or maybe not.  They don't seem to care that their god is also the Universe's busiest abortion doctor.  How sad is that?!