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?!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Spiritual, but not religious

I found an article on CNN.com today about the growing number of people who say they are "spiritual, but not religious".  For the purposes of the article, spiritual means that they have religious belief, but reject the organised religion that comes with it.  According to the article, a 2009 survey showed the 72% of 18 to 29-year-olds claimed to be more spiritual then religious.  It is therefore a fight for the very survival of these religious institutions.  If nobody belongs to them, if they can't collect the MONEY they need so badly, they'll die.

We have some great comments in this article from religious leaders:

"Being spiritual but not religious can lead to complacency and self-centeredness. If it's just you and God in your room, and a religious community makes no demands on you, why help the poor?"

"People seem not to have the time nor the energy or interest to delve deeply into any one faith or religious tradition. So they move through, collecting ideas and practices and tenets that most appeal to the self, but making no connections to groups or communities."

"Religion is hard.  Sometimes it's just too much work. People don't feel like it. I have better things to do with my time. It's plain old laziness."

I think there are some other questions they have, but they are not sharing them with us.  How will we molest your children if you don't come to church?  How will we get our feeling of power that we enjoy so much?  Who will pay for our palaces and all of our fine artwork in Italy?  Where will our political power come from?  How will we be able to embezzle money from the organisation?  How will we recruit warriors for jihad?  How will we teach you that science is wrong?  How will we crush independent thought and discourage people from making their own interpretation of the holy book?  How will we teach people to love their neighbours, except for the gays?

Then we have some comments from the other side:

"I don't need to define myself to any community by putting myself in a box labeled Baptist, or Catholic, or Muslim," she says. "When I die, I believe all my accounting will be done to God, and that when I enter the eternal realm, I will not walk though a door with a label on it."
(note that this girl has blended Buddhism with Judaism, etc.)

Gallagher says there's nothing wrong with people blending insights from different faith traditions to create what she calls a "Burger King Spirituality -- have it your way."

I think what she really means is:  I don't really know what's true, so I'm just going to choose whatever feels the best for me, then claim that is true and live my life by it.  Logically, whatever feels best to me is the truth, regardless of whether or not it feels the best to anybody else.  If somebody else has a different truth, then that's just great, because then we're all happy with our own truths.