June 02, 2009
Anyway, this week, I went to the clinic for more tests and part of it was a mental health survey or something and this lady had to ask me a bunch of questions.
The questions were obviously screening for various mental problems like schizophrenia and paranoid delusions.
"Do you hear people saying your name when no one is around?"
"Do you receive secret messages telling you how things will be arranged in your life?"
Actually, I don't know if I was asked that second question because the lady was not a native English speaker and her accent was very thick. Her proficiency in English actually led to a problem later in the survey.
She asked me, "Do you have any beliefs that others regard as strange or false?"
I laughed because as an Objectivist, I am perfectly aware of the fact that much of what I believe is regarded as extreme, strange, false, and even evil. So, I said, "Yes."
So, she asked me to provide an example. I said, "Well, I'm an atheist, for instance. I don't believe in any magic or ghosts or anything, but I see people on television who do believe those things. I'm sure they think I'm strange or false for not believing that."
But she didn't understand the term "atheist" and so she started scribbling notes, I assume about ghosts and magic and people in the television.
She asked, "What do you think about that?"
"About what other people think about what I think?" I laughed again, "I think they're wrong, but I don't understand why that's important."
Something about what I said struck her as odd, so she backtracked.
"Can you tell me more about this, ayteeism?"
"What do you mean? There's not much to tell."
"I don't know. I've just never heard the word. Can you spell it?"
"Sure. A-T-H-E-I-S-M. I don't believe in god. In fact, I think faith is wrong. I think science is the appropriate method for people in life. So, I don't believe in magic or ghosts or anything like that. But there are a lot of people who disagree."
That made it clear for her and she started furiously crossing out her notes.
Apparently, it is perfectly and equally sane to believe that there are invisible spirits and forces beyond your perception and understanding affecting your life as it is to reject such foolishness out of hand.
I would like to suggest that mental health professionals screen for people of faith and dig into thata bit more extensively. After all, the difference between sane and insane in matters of faith doesn't seem to be the content or even the extent to which the individual applies these ideas to their life, but the number of people who agree to be the same brand of crazy.
April 21, 2009
John David sent this to me and bet that I would blog it. I guess I'm showing him!
April 13, 2009
Telegraph UK: Religious Right Concedes Defeat
Read the whole article.
Leading evangelicals have admitted that their association with George W. Bush has not only hurt the cause of social conservatives but contributed to the failure of the key objectives of their 30-year struggle.
James Dobson, 72, who resigned recently as head of Focus on the Family - one of the largest Christian groups in the country - and once denounced the Harry Potter books as witchcraft, acknowledged the dramatic reverse for the religious Right in a farewell speech to staff.
In an online article in the Christian Science Monitor that has became a touchstone for disaffected conservatives, Mr Spencer forecast a major collapse in evangelical Christianity within ten years.
“Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake,” he wrote.
While I am pleased to read the litany of failures on the Christian right, I think it would be a mistake to count them down for the count at present.
I think the Christian response to news like this will likely be something along the lines of, "We're used to being the underdog. We're used to being persecuted. But we don't stop because we have sky daddies and zombies on our side!"
So, I believe that the next 8 years will be particularly revealing as we watch to see how much influence the religious right has in elections.
April 07, 2009
It's a little frightening that I know more about pleasuring a woman than this heterosexual man.
A friend of mine sent these to me by way of a link to the Daily Dish.
March 10, 2009
Joe's right: apparently some of those mouth-breathing, window-licking booger brains on YouTube couldn't make it to the 15 second mark and determine that it's satire. And that is why I have to turn comments off on my videos when I post them.
January 07, 2009
New York Times: Atheists Send a Message, on 800 Buses
An interesting element of the bus slogan is the word “probably,” which would seem to be more suited to an Agnostic Bus Campaign than to an atheist one. Mr. Dawkins, for one, argued that the word should not be there at all.Either there is a god or not.
But the element of doubt was necessary to meet British advertising guidelines, said Tim Bleakley, managing director for sales and marketing at CBS Outdoor in London, which handles advertising for the bus system.For religious people, advertisements saying there is no God “would have been misleading,” Mr. Bleakley said.
To claim that god probably does or does not is to suggest that some evidence has been presented that points to the existence of god. No such evidence has been provided as god is an article of faith.
So, the word "probably" is really more "misleading" than anything whether you're religious or not.
But even assuming agnosticism, the use of the word "probably" errs on the side of the mystic, rather than on the side of reason. But this ad code fellow thinks that such topics are up to your personal opinion. Given that definitive statements in either direction "mislead" people who've formed the contrary opinion, and agnostic statements offend people who have any opinions at all, the more consistent practice would be to disallow any statements about items of faith at all.
Of course, expecting consistency from a subjectivist is as much wishful thinking as those who believe in god.
December 09, 2008
Fox News: Bush Says Creation 'Not Incompatible' With Evolution
WASHINGTON -- President George W. Bush said his belief that God created the world is not incompatible with the scientific theory of evolution.Why can't this man just say what he means instead of constantly interrupting himself and using all these double negatives? When I first read the headline, I was proud of him because I thought he said "not compatible" and then I had to re-read to find out that he said "not incompatible." Reading what he says is even more painful that hearing him say it!
In an interview with ABC's "Nightline" on Monday, the president also said he probably is not a literalist when reading the Bible although an individual can learn a great deal from it, including the New Testament teaching that God sent his only son.
Asked about creation and evolution, Bush said: "I think you can have both. I think evolution can -- you're getting me way out of my lane here. I'm just a simple president. But it's, I think that God created the earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty and I don't think it's incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution."
He added, "I happen to believe that evolution doesn't fully explain the mystery of life."
I am also tired of people suggesting that evolution even attempts to explain the origin of life. It doesn't. Evolution attempts to explain the progression of life forms from simpler to more complex organisms via mechanisms like natural selection. Evolution is NOT a theory about cosmology.
August 16, 2008
"And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him." Mark 12:17
Since neither Caesar nor God does a thing for anyone, it really is no wonder people marveled at the remark. The audacity and repugnance of the idea to anyone who defends individual rights is obvious: Jesus advocated allowing the government whatever its form to do as it pleases to its citizens and it is the Christian's duty to submit.
Fortunately, that commenter admitted readily that his position was irrational and the discussion seems to have slowed.
June 18, 2008
Fact 1: God hates the gays.
Fact 2: Activist Judges in California have forced the hot, wet, throbbing unpleasantness of gay marriage down the throats of good Californians everywhere (in California) and now homos are flocking like so many pink flamingos to the Golden State just to piss off the Almighty.
Fact 3: Hell is raining down on the midwest.
Now, given these facts, some of which are more clear to you than me, can we not all just agree that for an ineffable, omnipotent, mysteriously motivated, and imponderably omnipondering being his aim is really unacceptably bad?
I mean, I blaspheme all the time and I have yet to have lightning strike anywhere near me. (Although, by some people's logic, but not that of any readers of MY blog no matter how faithful because if they were that dumb they wouldn't be here, the mere existence of lightning on this planet is sufficient to have delivered the message. After all, God is really just aiming at a very small speck in a very large universe. Hitting planet Earth is pretty remarkable if you think about that and not about electrons.)
But to miss that many gays with a FLOOD in a state with a huge tectonic scar and a vast coastline? I want to see Jesus ready to go by the dart board in the bar downstairs in five minutes with as much money as he can carry. I'm about to bank, for reals, yo.
May 09, 2008
According to Christian mythology, after Jesus was crucified and the disciples set out to create the first post-Christ Christian church, they gave this big sermon which is referred to as the Pentecost and during this event, the Holy Ghost came down from heaven, manifested itself in the form of little bits of fire floating over their heads, and gave them command of several supernatural powers including the power to cast out demons, speak in the tongues of man, speak in the tongues of angels, prophesy, and other things. (I believe all of this is described in the Book of Acts of the Apostles in your New Testament. I'm too lazy to go look that up for you right now.)
When a person speaks "in the tongues of man" it means they talk and everyone understands what they say no matter what their native tongue. So, like, if there were people who only spoke Chinese at this sermon, they would have understood it as well as the people who spoke Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic.
The Tongues of Angels is gibberish and by all appearances is absolutely useless. According to people who experience that, it is more of a communion with God, a personal experience whose outward manifestation is entirely incidental. Gibberish.
Pentecostalism is a huge movement worldwide these days and people often mistake them for the Charismatics who handle snakes and drink poison.
Anyway, when I try to explain what it was like to go to church as a child, it's difficult to explain. Well, a coworkers sent me a video of a service that is very much like what it was like for me as a child:
There are differences, of course.
For instance, a woman wearing pants in church would have been a scandal. Similarly, a woman wearing all that make-up or having short hair would have been considered crass as well. (I never knew my paternal grandmother to cut her hair. I only saw it down once or twice in my life and it was well past her waist. She kept it in a bun most of the time.)
And men were expected to maintain neat, modest dress with short, groomed hair. You would not have seen men with shirts untucked and unbuttoned like that.
Many of these things changed at my family's church as we got a younger pastor and people grew more modern.
So, anyway, if ever you wondered... it was very like that.
Update: It was NOT like this:
The difference between these two groups of writhing, contorting people is that in this video, people are dancing. Music is an essential part of the act here whereas in our church dancing was frowned on even outside of church and while music would be used to work up a holy froth, so to speak, it wasn't an essential element.
April 12, 2008
Davis: I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy -- it’s tragic -- when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school.The Davis above is Illinois State Representative and Democrat Monica Davis and Sherman is Robert Sherman, an atheist activist who appeared before a committee of the Illinois Congress.Want to listen to the audio of the exchange? Go for it. She starts out condescending and by the end of it she is yelling and he is cut off from responding to her outrageous remarks.
I don’t see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school. You know?
I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children.… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous--
Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?
Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!
Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court---
Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.
The citizens of Illinois should be embarrassed by this and her constituents should vote her out of office at their earliest opportunity.
I haven't seen much commentary defending her idiocy, but I am sure it's available.
What I have seen are "moderate" religionists lamenting her behavior saying she gives the faithful a bad name. They don't oppose faith as such, they oppose this specific instance of poor manners. What they fail to recognize is that Rep. Davis's behavior is precisely the sort of manners that faith enjoins us to apply to heretics and nonbelievers.
Fitna highlighted Islam's several invitations to kill and slaughter apostates and nonbelievers, but Christianity and Judaism are not without similar injunctions against the faithless and faithful of other brands.
And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.Deuteronomy 13: 6 -10
If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which [is] as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;Moderate religionists will naturally protest saying they do not support killing heathens like me or Madonna, but that's what the holy text of their religion preaches. And maybe they don't believe everything in the Bible, but it's scary to think they're picking and choosing from something so riddled with horrible things to say about pretty much everything. And if they make it up on their own, why shouldn't we just think they're crazy?
[Namely], of the gods of the people which [are] round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the [one] end of the earth even unto the [other] end of the earth;
Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
Judging by Representative Davis's behavior, crazy ain't far off from the truth.
February 17, 2008
I really enjoy Harris's uncompromising thesis, which is that faith in itself is dangerous and should be treated with unrestrained contempt, not tolerance. That's what the book is about and he goes on to document various contradictions and historical failures of religion.
He focuses heavily on violence and destruction wrought by faith. In fact, a lot of time is spent discussing Islam and the violence that religion exhorts its adherents to commit on a daily basis.
The part that bothers me the most is the focus on Islam, actually. Sam Harris kicks off the book telling us that he wants to show us why moderates are aiding and abetting the extremists, but little time is spent on demonstrating that fact. I think most people agree that suicide bombers are a terrible thing, but how does the average person here in America suffer for their faith? That's the case I wanted to see him make and I think the average reader who tolerates religion will read his book missing that point.
The last few chapters of the book are really strange. Therein Harris focuses on spirituality. He briefly touches on the neurological phenomenon of religious/meditative ecstasy and discusses various ideas about existential awareness. I think that Buddhists will probably really enjoy the last part of the book just because the language there is familiar to that line of thinking. I, for one, found it difficult to follow due to the inherent vagueness of the concepts used there.
I had to make a strong effort not to rankle at the implied anti-western implications of his remarks here, but it helped to keep in mind that his underlying argument is that a conscious, rational approach is necessary.
Nevertheless, I am inclined to agree with him about the benefit of a rational approach to neurological health and I think that topic needs be explored more thoroughly by scientists. I would have appreciated a more scientific approach to the language and analysis in this section. As it stands, it's too vague to be very helpful at illuminating the topic itself, but the thesis remains.
Overall, I found the book to be far more enjoyable than either Dawkins's or Dennett's books. I'm very sympathetic to his unrestrained criticism of the unreason that is religion and his writing style is dynamic and engaging. Of the atheist books I've read recently, I recommend this one most highly.
Update: Per the recommendation in comments, I checked out Gus van Horn's review of the book and it is definitely worth reading. So, head over there and read his discussion, too!
February 13, 2008
There are a whole host of things that would satisfy me:
- 1 + 1 = 84.3
- An acorn that grows into a flying super computer that will do my taxes free of charge.
- A round square
- an electron with a positive charge and a position in the nucleus of an atom.
- A hydrogen atom with 17 protons 42 neutrons and a billion electrons.
- A cow that produces gold bricks when milked.
- A living human being (Homo sapiens) with 64 chromosomes consisting of 8 base pairs.
Basically, it would require a situation where non-existence exists, where identity ceases to be non-contradictory.
The very idea of the supernatural places the supernatural beyond existence, which is to say that it is non-existent. And only by the existence of the non-existent (a contradiction) would I be persuaded that such things are real.
Sounds like a mess, right? That's because it is. There is no such thing as the supernatural
Update: After re-reading my post, I feel like I need to add something: as amusing as it may be there is no place for the supernatural in intellectual discussions. It should not even be considered as a reasonable proposition. There is simply no possible evidence that can support the existence of the supernatural. Period. And although we can play cute little games like this on our blogs, were it that we were writing a serious treatise on religion, faith, and all that, we ought not pretend like the supernatural is real or even possible.
I direct these comments specifically to atheists like Richard Dawkins who refuse to state definitively with no doubt at all that there is no god.
January 27, 2008
The book is interesting because it's about religion, shockingly, as a natural phenomenon, something people invented. While written by an atheist, it doesn't really bother with whether or not the claims made by religion are true. It really just explores the development and progression of religion as an aspect of human development.
At the same time, that makes it very, very dull. It took me a very long to read it.
The numerous and lengthy speculations in the book were interesting, thought-provoking, and frustrating.
Even more frustrating than that is the way the book carefully skirts around making any sort clear moral evaluations about religion. I believe there are a couple of reasons for this.
First, it's a book that assumes atheism is correct (I found this a particularly refreshing aspect of the book) and seeks to encourage a dispassionate analysis of religion.
Second, Dennet states clearly that it is his hope that supporters of religion will read his book and think about what he argues, so he has to walk a thin line and be careful not to turn them away straight away.
This is one of those books that paints in very broad strokes the arguments and evidence for what is clearly a large body of study and research exists on a topic for which a vast amount of study and research remains. If you're interested in that sort of thing.
Overall, I probably wouldn't recommend this book to casual readers about atheism or religion. It's not as titillating as Sam Harris's books or Richard Dawkins books, no, it's considerably more dull. But if you're impressed by a studied thesis and a carefully measured discussion of the question, it might be a book for you.
January 17, 2008
See, it's like this: God is all perfect and stuff, but reality clearly is not what with all the dirt and hurricanes and chimpanzees other such unpleasant things around. God is also without physical constraints or characteristics like size, shape, duration or even change. God also doesn't change. But things that we see all around us do change and they do have size and shape and duration.
At the same time, reality is very complex and also very elegant and that is supposed to be a reflection of how smart God is. (I maintain that if God really were as clever as the tabloids would have him be, then I would have magical powers, a jet pack, and a pet T-Rex already.) In this way, nature provides us with a focus for meditation and a concrete manifestation of his uber-goodness.
Moreover, and this view is slightly more rarefied among Christians, nature also functions as a mechanism or medium for the manifestation of God's will. For example, when Katrina destroyed a huge chunk of the southern US, New Orleans in particular, that was God telling us again how much he hates fags like me. (God's aim is notoriously bad in this world of global media. A while back he tried to get me with a tsunami and I was on the other side of the globe at the time. Though it tuckered out by the time it reached north Georgia, Katrina was a much better effort that that giant wave that killed a bazillion innocent, non-faggy people.)
Granted, the view that natural disasters are a manifestation of God's displeasure with any person or country is regarded as extreme among the majority of Christians. An arguably more common view, however, is that AIDS is a gay disease and God's punishment for homosexuals. (I don't have any real numbers to support this; it's just my perception of the Christian milieu)
And, no, I do not know why God is more preoccupied with gay sex than even I am, but I think that being timeless, omniscient, and omnipotent grants one certain luxuries like having the leeway to spend one's day surfing porn and peeping into people's bedrooms.
I bring all of this up because it seems that some Christians have found even more evidence of God's deep, all-consuming hatred for hot, sweaty, muscle-pumping man-on-man sodomy in the form of MRSA.
MRSA is the new disease du jour. Remember Avian Flu? Remember West Nile Virus? Remember SARS? Remember e Coli? Remember e Coli coming back? Remember e Bola Zaire? MRSA is the new all of that.
MRSA stands for Methicillan Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus and it's a bacteria that has developed a strong resistance to various antibiotics.
Basic Staph is a fairly common little bug occurring in about 30% of the general population and causes a wide range of problems. It's particularly prevalent in hospitals.
MRSA was discovered back in 1961 and, as I understand it, was named because methicillin was the first antibiotic to which it developed resistance. Today, there is a new breed, called USA300 of the bacteria that is resistant to 6 different major antibiotics and it is very, very readily spread through skin-to-skin contact.
Recent studies such as the one conducted at San Francisco General have shown that the prevalence of the USA300 strain is higher in gay communities and some are referring to it at the new HIV.
SF Gate.com: S.F. General researchers follow strain of drug-resistant bacteria
San Francisco General Hospital researchers have been chasing the rogue strain of drug-resistant staph called USA300 since they first isolated it from a patient specimen seven years ago.MRSA Watch: New USA300 strain the New HIV
With every turn, the aggressive and persistent bug keeps getting worse.
Now, a new variant of that strain, resistant to six major kinds of antibiotics, is spreading among gay men in San Francisco, Boston, New York and Los Angeles.
City doctors first spotted the original USA300 during tests for patients treated at a walk-in clinic for skin infections in 2001. Since then, they have watched it morph from laboratory curiosity into the dominant form of staph infection in much of the United States.
Professor Mark Enright, from Imperial College and St Mary's Hospital, London, Britain's leading authority on MRSA, said: "It's quite surprising that the figures are so high. "We do know that the USA300 strain is extremely good at spreading between people through skin-to-skin contact. "The main reservoir for this infection is gay men, drug users, and those involved in contact sports, like wrestling. Having lots of sexual partners and making skin contact with a large number of different people helps the infection to spread. "In the US it is already moving into the wider community." Roger Pebody, of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "This is not the new HIV. "What we are seeing is the emergence of an infection that can be passed on through close skin to skin contact, including sex. "It is worrying that one in ten of the American cases are resistant to antibiotics, but most cases are treatable."It seems likely that this Mr. Pebody was responding directly to the idea that MRSA USA300 is the new HIV with his comment and I have no idea what his qualifications are to make that declaration, but I would like to submit a few basic facts to support that case:
- It's not an STD per se
- It's a bacteria, not a virus
- It's a bacteria whose resistance to antibiotics has been tracked and documented.
- Its recent dominance in the gay community is actually a recent trend that has distantly followed the advent of the bug itself.
I heard that syphilis infections were on the rise last year. I guess I missed when that became the new HIV and it's already out of style now.
But never fear! Christians are here to rescue us from our misapprehensions about MRSA and God's previously mentioned view of gay sex, which, if we believe is reflected by the fixation his followers have on the matter, can only be described non-ironically as pornographic.
Earned Media: Epidemic Feared - 'Gays' May Spread Deadly Staph Infection to General Population
According to the study, at this point, homosexual men are 13 times more likely to contract the potentially deadly, drug-resistant strain of staph infection, but the fear is that, because the infection is spread via skin-to-skin contact, homosexual men may soon spread it to the general population.I found that link on Joe.My.God. and there are so many things wrong with it that I have a hard time remembering where I was going with all of this, so you're just going to have to bear with me as I go on a rant.
Matt Barber, Policy Director for Cultural issues with Concerned Women for America (CWA), said, "The medical community has known for years that homosexual conduct, especially among males, creates a breeding ground for often deadly disease. In recent years we have seen a profound resurgence in cases of HIV/AIDS, syphilis, rectal gonorrhea and many other STDs among those who call themselves 'gay.'
"The human body is quite callous in how it handles mistreatment and the perversion of its natural functions. When two men mimic the act of heterosexual intercourse with one another, they create an environment, a biological counterfeit, wherein disease can thrive. Unnatural behaviors beget natural consequences.
"In recent years our culture has adopted a laissez faire attitude toward sexual deviancy. Television shows like Will and Grace glorify the homosexual lifestyle while our children are taught in schools that homosexuality is a perfectly healthy, alternative sexual 'orientation.' 'Stay out of our bedrooms!' we're often commanded by militant 'gay' activists.
"Well, now the dangerous and possibly deadly consequence of what occurs in those bedrooms is spilling over into the general population. It's not only frightening, it's infuriating.
"Citizens, especially parents, need to stand up and say, 'No More! We will no longer sit idly by while politically correct cultural elites endanger our children and larger communities through propagandist promotion of this demonstrably deadly lifestyle.'
"Why does it take a potentially deadly staph epidemic for people to acknowledge reality? Will that even do it? Enough is enough!" concluded Barber.
Suddenly, this does remind me of the early years of HIV, just like Chip says. He and I were discussing this yesterday via email and it sounds a lot like there are going to be Christians, fueled by this stupidity, who will come to think MRSA is a "gay" disease. Here's what Chip says
The headline on the article is a joke in itself. First, gay people are among the general population. We are not segregated away from straight people. I promise that there are already straight people infected with the USA300 strain of MRSA. Second, gay people didn't invent this disease. MRSA existed and there are several strains of the disease which have evolved independently of gay people. It is utterly ridiculous to even suggest that this is a gay disease, and yet there they go!
It’s like the early years of AIDS all over again.
MRSA is the result of attacking bacteria with antibiotics. Through the natural process of evolution and natural selection, the bacteria mutates into new antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. But since Christians for the most part reject evolution, even when evidence for it is happening right in front of their eyes, they blame gays.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria are the price we pay for antibiotics which are an exceptionally valuable tool in fighting disease, just as drug-resistant HIV is the price we pay for drug cocktails.
Christians held up AIDS research for years by claiming that it was God’s punishment for homosexuality even though the vast majority of cases have always been in the heterosexual population.
Let me be blunt about this: Millions of people, including millions of children, have died because of the ignorance and anti-science views of Christians in the arena of HIV/AIDS, not to mention other diseases at other times in history. Must we new endure the same nonsense when it comes to MRSA?
How many millions will they kill this time?
Further, I have yet to hear any mention from Christians about how this affects their view of evolution. MRSA evolved from regular Staph and developed stronger and stronger resistance.The abandonment of reason and abuse of language in that man's statement is mind-boggling. This part really gets me:
"The human body is quite callous in how it handles mistreatment and the perversion of its natural functions. ... Unnatural behaviors beget natural consequences."
It's clear here that he knows there are at least two different meanings for the word "natural" because he's using at least two meanings, but he doesn't seem to be aware of how nonsensical it is to do so. On one hand, "natural" seems to mean "biological" in which case homosexuality is acceptable; an individual's biology is agnostic to homosexual activity. On the other hand, "natural" seems to mean "statistically prevalent." So, I take his remarks to mean that he believes that unless you submit to the morality of his particular mob, then your body will revolt against you and even kill you.
I should not have to point out that his particular interpretation of a link between biology and morality is not based on anything remotely like rational thought.
There's also an implication that disease is the result of sin. I suppose if he means it in the sense that it refers to the curse God put on Adam and Eve, then it is at least consistent with the broader Christian doctrine, but by any perspective the idea that sin causes disease is utter nonsense.
What I wanted to highlight for you, though, is this strange intersection of the holy and the mundane in this Christian view of the world. While God is so perfect as to be utterly unlike (ineffable) anything we've ever seen or experienced, God is also infused in the whole of existence.
It surprises me a little bit that more Christians aren't raving paranoiacs at this thought, but I know that most Christians probably don't stop to think about these things.
The strangest part about this view, though, is less the notion of God infusing the whole of nature is that oddball exclusion they place on people, the idea that God is in everything, but not people. If God were a part of everything and everything is a conduit for exacting his will, then the existence of free will is a completely illusion played on us by a deceiver or God's "omni" qualities don't extend to the parts of God that we can actually interact with. That's particularly troublesome, I'd think, because it would mean that either God doesn't exist or God is the one who is having all this gay sex after all and MRSA is sort of self-flagellation.
I know, I'm being silly. Christians don't actually think God is a part of reality in that way, but if God -- now fully natural and fully super -- is punishing gays with MRSA, we find ourselves completely at a loss to understand what they mean by that.
I re-iterate that what I've described does not seem to be a dominant view among Christians, if only because of the problems I've cited here. But my point is that in order for God to interfere with our lives through natural processes such as a bodily response to perversion in the form of HIV or MRSA, Christians are obliged to face these challenges.
Let me put it a little more clearly: the notion that God punishes people in non-miraculous, through utterly natural means challenges the existence of God in itself. There just isn't a way for the supernatural to meet the natural without becoming natural itself.
Perhaps this is why so many Christians eschew the notion of "naturalism" even though comments like those from Mr.Barber clearly indicate the opposite.
January 15, 2008
And, of course, The Church of Scientology is trying to get it removed, but Gawker is currently staunch in maintaining it.
December 17, 2007
But I was thinking about how Christians are all aflutter about these books and the movie because they feel that it is an affront to their deeply held values.
I've heard a couple of people mention protesting the Chronicles of Narnia but I've not heard of them coming to any thing. I suspect that this is because most people probably regard such protests as a bit silly and I can't really complain because the atheists aren't as well organized as the Christians.
Christians may do as they please with these sorts of protests. No one need listen nor need anyone keep silent if they wish to mock, deride, criticize such protests.
I do think it's all a bit silly. The Christians protest this, the Atheists protest that, the Zoarastrians are constantly in a tizzy because no one but Sanjaya is paying any attention to them.
And the whole time it's for the children.
I don't know what people think children are, but it takes quite a bit more than a CGI talking polar bears and lions to brainwash them.
Regardless of your position on these things, if you have babies, you need to understand that in our "pluralistic" society your children will encounter all sorts of ideas. I would prefer to keep them away from Sanjaya, but that's next to impossible.
As a parent, it's your job to teach children how to sort through all of this stuff and you can't do that by isolating them from it.
The part that I think may be most difficult for parents to accept is that even if a child is taught all the right ideas, it's up to the child to follow them. Children are ultimately responsible for their own minds and decisions.
December 16, 2007
You can read some of my pre-emptive remarks on the book in earlier posts:
- Mere Presumption
- Probability and Why Christians Really Shouldn't Gamble
- Dinesh D'Souza Has Gone Mad. MAD, I Tell You!
The book is well composed to its ends and employs rhetorical devices cleverly and to their greatest effect. I would like to try and insult the author by saying no intelligent person would believe the things he's written here, but that would be untrue.
D'Souza has here composed a book that will aid many Christians in the current struggle against the New Atheists. He presents them with historical perspectives (not always accurate or well-grounded in historical context, but still persuasive to people who aren't inclined to research such things), philosophical arguments from big names in philosophy like Kant, Hume, Plato, Russell and more. (It will surprise no one that D'Souza is a platonist.) And he presents many twisted practical arguments for Christianity and against atheism.
Among his many specious claims and arguments are that:
- Western civilization as a whole and America, specifically, came about not merely because of Christianity but exist only because of Christianity, that "rationalistic" thought nor any other religion could have birthed these things.
- Not only that, but science and rational thought in itself is an extension of Christian theology.
- History shows that atheists and atheist philosophy are responsible for greater suffering, death, and destruction than religion.
- He argues that atheists are moral degenerates who close their eyes to the truth of Christianity out of a desire to satisfy perverse sexual urges and live a life of hedonism.
The weakest chapters in the book are the parts dealing with his arguments for the existence of God. There he presents many of the standard theist arguments that have been slain numerous times.
(pp xvi - xvii)
- Christianity is the main foundation of Western Civilization, and the root of our most cherished values.
- The latest discoveries of modern science support the Christian claim that there is a divine being who created the universe.
- Darwin's theory of evolution, far from undermining the evidence for supernatural design, actually strengthens it.
- There is nothing in science that makes miracles impossible.
- It is reasonable to have faith.
- Atheism, not religion, is responsible for the mass murders of history.
- Atheism is motivated not by reason but by a kind of cowardly moral escapism.
For instance, D'Souza argues that the design of the universe reveals that there is a creator, but he fails to comprehend the axiomatic nature of identity and posits the existence of a Creator that lives outside of existence in a realm where identity, non-contradiction, causality and all other necessary aspects of reason and existence apply. And he says it with a straight face.
I also found his argument for the rational underpinnings of faith to be very weak as well. He basically rehashes Pascal's wager and asks his readers to accept his assertion that having faith in real life won't hurt much.
On similar grounds, his defense of the possibility for miracles is just bizarre to me. It goes like this:
The insertion of the word "known" in his first premise is the key to this whole thing. Basically, if you don't know how something works, and it does something you don't expect, then that is what D'Souza calls a miracle. The argument has a lot in common with Clark's Third Law, which I've discussed before. Given that no one really accepts that definition of a miracle and that honestly conducted science does not turn away evidence based on the conclusions they draw, I doubt that Christians will even present those arguments for debate.
- A miracle is a violation of the known laws of nature.
- Scientific laws are on Hume's own account empirically unverifiable.
- Thus, violations of the known laws of nature are quite possible.
- Therefore, miracles are possible.
I had to say "honestly conducted science" above because D'Souza casts aspersions on the the character of atheists all the world over saying they are dishonest moral relativists and suggests that atheist scientists would reject evidence that runs counter to an established law.
And I don't even want to get into the revisionist perspective on history D'Souza presents throughout.
The irony is that he actually mentions Ayn Rand at one point in the book, but he doesn't seem to consider her arguments at any point. The way he describes atheists as an undifferentiated whole is the same thing he complains about when atheists refer to Christianity as just another religion.
But I didn't start writing this post to do a complete and thorough listing of all the logical fallacies and errors in the book. That would take another whole book in itself.
This book is persuasive. The book does have certain authorities on its side, particularly in the realm of philosophy where heavy-weights like Plato and Kant do make arguments that support Christianity. These are the philosophical forefathers of mainstream thinking in both secular and religious circles. And that is what makes this book particularly dangerous. D'Souza has performed a bit of philosophical judo here, using the weight of many of the New Atheists arguments against them.
I recommend it for atheists only and not Christians. Not because I can't dispel any of the foolish arguments in the book, but because Christians can't and so this will just add to the growing momentum religion has in our culture today and the New Atheists do need to see where they're going wrong.
December 11, 2007
H. Res. 847: Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith
Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.Who out there still doubts that there are people who wish the United States to be a "Christian nation" in custom, name, and law?
Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;
Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;
Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;
Whereas Christians identify themselves as those who believe in the salvation from sin offered to them through the sacrifice of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible;
Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;
Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its roots in Christianity;
Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;
Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace; and
Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;
(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;
(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;
(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;
(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and
(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.
I realize that a resolution is not a law and that this does nothing to pro- or pre-scribe the behavior of American citizens, and resolutions like this have probably been introduced from time to time, but that doesn't make it any less absurd and wrong. It is still an act of Congress that stands as an official recognition of a religion -- something you would think would be forbidden by even the shallowest reading of the Bill of Rights.
This is outrageous.
If you're one of these people who still refuses to recognize the growing influence of religion in American politics, you are evading reality in the worst way. Not only will your evasion cost you your liberty, freedom, and happiness, you are abetting the criminals who would do the same to us all. You are complicit in this treason. Take heed.
December 08, 2007
This represents a very fundamental misunderstanding about what probability actually means.
Dinesh D'Souza makes his ignorance of probability even more obvious by presenting us with a similar example:
Imagine if I find a coun and begin flipping it and every time, it comes up heads. I try this ten thousand times, and it never fails to show me heads. There are two possibilities. The first and obvious one is that the coin is rigged in some way; somebody "fixed" it to come up heads every time. There is also a second possibility. Perhaps there are an infinite number of coins in circulation, and given infinite tossing and infinite time one set of tosses was bound to show this result. Now which of these two explanations should a rational person choose? Occam's razor says choose the first one.Actually, there is a third possibility that D'Souza hasn't mentioned here: coincidence. (He discusses it indirectly in an earlier chapter because he is more satisfied with miracles than simple statistics.) If the coin is not "fixed" then the explanation for it continually coming up heads is the fact that every toss has the exact same odds of coming up heads: 50%.
I am NOT suggesting that there is a 50/50 chance of ten thousand coin tosses coming up heads is the same as the odds that someone has rigged the coin tosses. I'm saying that each individual toss as a 50% chance of coming up heads, so just because you've tossed the coin 9,999 times does not mean that it is less likely to come up heads on the ten thousandth toss.
I don't know enough about string theory to say whether or not there is any evidence to support it, so for the sake of this discussion I agree that parallel universe theory is little more than an arbitrary assertion.
But if we're applying Occam's Razor to coin tossing in the strictest sense, then we would lean toward the coincidence theory over the rigged coin theory because a coincidence requires no further explanation than the simple fact that it is entirely within the realm of possibility that tossing a coin ten thousand times will come up heads every time. The rigged coin theory requires that and a person leaving their rigged coin around for someone to find and you not having observational powers strong enough to observe the discrepancy and no curiosity to cause you to attempt to thwart the trend yourself even after 9,999 tosses. I mean, what kind of thick-headed idjit are you, tossing a coin around like that so much?
Furthermore, Occam's razor isn't actually a proof of anything. It's just a rule of thumb that advises us when all the evidence supports two hypotheses equally, we should accept the hypotheses that requires the least number of "moving parts," if you will. It does not exclude the alternative hypothesis as a possibility.
So, let's say that you go into a lab with your coin and you weigh it and test its balance and find that it is a perfectly balanced coin. You eliminate the possibility that it is rigged. To paraphrase Mr. Spock, when you've eliminated all other possibilities, the remaining explanation -- no matter how improbable -- is the truth. So, you'd say it's a coincidence, you would not leap headlong into a hypothesis about an invisible, intangible, immeasurable, ineffable, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, supremely benevolent, perfectly good entity of origins as unknown as its exact nature who likes to cheat at coin tossing. That hypothesis makes even less sense than the parallel universe thing, I think.
But explaining a coin toss is not the same as explaining how existence came to be in its present state. Coins exist in a context where a person could rig them to always come up heads, but they might also just come up heads ten thousand times in a row. The universe does not exist in an analogous context.
As improbable as it may seem that the current state of the universe is perfect for life, improbability is not precisely the same thing as impossibility. Infinitely small odds are still infinitely better than no odds at all.
Once in an appearance on Donahue, I think, Ayn Rand was asked about the apparent orderliness of the universe, to which she responded by asking what a disorderly universe would look like. I find myself asking a similiar question here and someone actually wrote a book about that. Martin Rees wrote Just Six Numbers. If certain aspects of our universe were not the way they are, then life would not exist in the universe.
Such a silly way to spend time, I think. If I hadn't put my shoes on this morning, then my feet would have been very cold on the way to the subway station. It's AMAZING! If things weren't the way they are, things would be completely different. The philosophical atmosphere of our culture is such that it takes advanced degrees in physics and astronomy to make that observation. Someone bring me my resume!
We should not be surprised that D'Souza would spend so much time on such simple concepts, though. That man cannot even grasp the axiomatic quality of identity.
Moreover, the atheist viewpoint cannot explain the profound lawfulness of nature itself.Apparently, he is mystified by the fact that electrons behave like electrons. We shouldn't be surprised that he is mystified by how a tossed coin might come up heads.
December 04, 2007
My favorite line is, "You'll eat your children." And the little girl at the end is the best. She looks so cute while singing that horrible song and then she smiles and her face smooshes into a demonic little grin.
I occurs to me that I should point out that these are not the people we need to worry about.
I wish all Christians, Muslims, Pagans, Buddhists, Hindus, whatevers were the most extreme form of their religion they could be. If they were, then religion would not be very popular. There would be little worry that you're going to meet one of these lunatics on the street. We wouldn't have to worry about "faith based initiatives" in Washington.
The dangerous form of religion is the moderate, middling form of religion that anesthetizes people's minds to the idiocy of faith. It's that pattern of thinking that leads us into theocracy, not the crazies singing "God Hates the World."
December 02, 2007
If I may address unbelievers directly for a moment, I hope that you will not read this book merely as an intellectual exercise. It seeks to address practical problems that we all face in life. You, like many Christians, live in a split-screen world. You are, I suspect, a Darwinian in your science and an anti-Darwinian in your morals. You revere science and reason but wonder if they give you a full grasp of the world. You are a rationalist at work and a romantic in your personal life. You have been engaged in the pursuit of happiness for a fairly long time; ever wonder why you haven't found it? How long do you intend to continue this joyless search for joy? Older societies had much less and felt abundant; why do you, in the midst of plenty, continue to feel scarcity pressing down upon you? No doubt you, like the believer, know that every breath you take fends off death. Clearly this is something for which you should prepare, but have you? Death forces upon you a choice that you cannot escape. You must choose God or reject Him, because when you die all abstentions are counted as "no" votes. So if you are wondering if this book is an invitation to convert, it is. I hope you will read it as if your life depended on it, because, in a way, it might.Obviously, he's never met an Objectivist.
I can't help but laugh at the absurdity of that passage.
At first, I was indignant. I mean, how dare he impugn his readers' integrity like that? What's worse, he goes on to presume a bit psychologizing. But I recognized immediately after that he was merely baiting challengers.
And I don't know about you, but I prepare for my next breath by not putting plastic bags over my head. I mean, we've all seen the warnings. Plastic bags over the head is bad.
I mean, he couldn't possibly be talking about death. That would be morbid and would make this book a very long and tortured advertisement for life insurance.
I just saved a ton of money... but not SO much money, cuz instead of just going to Geico, you have to spend $30 on this book.
I'm struck, though, by the implied agnosticism at the end of the passage, though. My life MIGHT depend on it? Well, then it also might not, right?
I happen to know that my life does, in fact, depend upon rejecting all silly ideas including that of god, miracles, and the supernatural.
Joking aside, I am expecting a lot out of this book. Unlike the other Jesus books I've been reading, I expect this one to be written more clearly, more aggressively, and with better arguments. We'll see!
November 26, 2007
I'm little worried because I have several pro-god books on my reading list still and these are becoming very, very tiresome. On the bright side, most of those remaining books were written before the present spate of atheist books, so my hope is that they're slightly less tiresome.
This book is very much like the rest of those books I've read. It is a direct rebuttal to an atheist book, this one is directed at Richard Dawkins' God Delusion. You can read my brief review of that book here.
This book was written by Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath whom I assume is that first guy's wife. Alister is apparently someone who studied molecular biology and then theology.
This book doesn't say anything I haven't already heard from the Christians. The McGrath's accuse Dawkins of playing fast and loose with the facts of science and history. And lays out a host of arguments that basically amount to saying that Dawkins doesn't know Christianity from a hole in the ground.
My favorite argument from Christians I've read recently that is reprized in this tiny, little book is that people who don't agree with the author aren't really Christians.
The book is full of back-handed, front-handed, bald-faced, understated, and every other sort of insult that you can think of shy of just cursing Dawkins' name and praying to God for a hefty dose of hellfire for whatever corner of creation Dawkins has holed himself up into in order to escape the mobs of Christians he has offended.
Again, I find the best aspect of this book is its short length. So far, I would recommend reading CS Lewis' Mere Christianity before reading any of these pro-god books I've been reading lately, and that book is a huge mess.
That's right. These are people who believe that the earth does not spin or orbit. Instead, everything flies around the earth.
It's like Copernicus never happened to these people.
But I don't think they're joking because they're citing scripture about it, not fiction or primitive mythology or crazy texts written over 150 years ago by some maniac.
The website is a total mess, but if you're up for a laugh, it's worth skimming through, like the page on "ineffable design." I don't even know what that means. "Ineffable design" reminds me of the "disorderly universe."
I found this link in that series of posts over at Slacktivist that I cited below.
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