Sunday, August 31, 2008

Islam, free speech, understanding and bewilderment

Recently, the blogger Question Everything asked what religion is the biggest threat to the secular world? Most of us answered Islam. This is a tough one (even after 9/11) for many American freethinkers to wrap our heads around. We see our freedoms constantly encroached upon, primarily by various Christian cults of the bloody sacrifice. It's quite natural to fend off the hornet buzzing around your face, even while a malignant tumor insensibly grows in your abdomen.

Pat Condell, as a Brit, has had a lot to say about "The Religion of Peace". Here's his most recent:

Our friend Lynet over at Elliptica believes we should have a bit more compassion about what might be going on in the heads of theists and others. She argues that we can be as bad as them when we fail to understand the commonalities we all share that can lead to seeing the world differently. But how can we, when you have things like this in the world? It's very, very difficult.

I'm not sure which religion we Yanks should be most focused on. I do believe that, ultimately, Islam is the much greater threat to a humanist society. Let's not miss an opportunity to point it out.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

More cool science

Not that I "have a life" but, as much as I enjoy science, I have a hard time listening to NPR on Friday nights so that I can catch "Science Friday" with Ira Flatow (pronounced "phlato"). I was out and about last night and caught the show. It was immensely entertaining and they clued me in to this video from their website. Watch it and understand what makes science so interesting to me.

"Imagine everything you see in those videos being controlled by a computer that could fit inside a poppy seed"

Friday, August 29, 2008

Brilliant Palin Analysis

I'm not a huge fan of Steny Hoyer but, boy, does he nail it on McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. This is short but very sweet. When comparing the "temperament and judgment" of McCain and Obama, start by looking at the first decision each made.

Senator Joe Biden vs. Sarah Palin

Is this the biggest mismatch in the history of presidential elections? Not really. We have Senator Lloyd Benson's towering figure over the pathetic Dan Quayle. Here's how I imagine the debate between Biden and... what was her name again?

She’s making vacuous comments about the rights of the unborn trumping a woman’s right to control her reproductive organs but, on the other hand, we should be able to execute criminals. Camera shots shows Biden with a look of distaste and disdain on his face while she’s talking. She reiterates her position that gays and lesbians shouldn’t have legal partnerships. Biden talks about the importance of giving children the best science education possible. She repeats the inane "we must teach the controversy".

She finally invokes the names of Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton, at which point Biden says,

“Have you ever even met Senator Clinton? I don’t believe you have. Of course you’ve only been the Governor of Alaska for 2 years, so you probably haven’t even had the opportunity yet. I can tell you that she has never been under investigation for trying to get a former in-law fired from a government job. You certainly don’t share any of her values. Governor, I've known Senator Clinton since you were in junior high and have worked closely with her for over 20 years. I know her very, very well. And Governor, you are no Hillary Clinton"

All of my characterizations of Palin are dead-on. Does it really even matter how the rest of the debate goes?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Question for Tim Kaine

The Governor of Virginia just finished up his speech at the Democratic National Convention. You may remember that he was one of the "finalists" as Obama was vetting potential V.P. candidates.

My question to Tim is - do you think you could try to use the word "faith" just a bit more? Really, I didn't fully get the feeling of being at a wild west revival meeting when you only mention faith 50 times. I was moved by the whole "move mountains" metaphor but it just wasn't quite enough. Consider ending your next speech with a prayer.

Now my question to you folks - how happy are you that Obama ended up taking Biden instead of this clown. My greatest fear in the last couple of weeks was what Obama might do with this pick. Good job, Barack. At least now, should they kill you, we'll be left with a real President, and not a wannabe priest.

Holy shit...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Faith and God at the Democratic Convention

This subject is being more than adequately covered all over the Atheosphere so I won't say too much. I just want to point out that nearly every speech I've heard weaves "faith" and/or "god" into its fabric. If you are watching, look for this and if you notice anyone who fails to uphold the party line, please report their heathen ass in a comment here.

Here's my question - did the Obama campaign make a conscious effort to ask all speakers to try to do this, or is it just that they are all basically religious people and it comes natural? Or is it a little of both?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Please join me in honoring Senator John McCain and his service to our country as a PRISONER OF WAR!

Did you know that John McCain served as a fighter pilot during the Viet Nam War? I believe few know he was shot down. Most importantly, he was held in a POW camp for 5 ½ years! Well Yeah, he was, and the Democrats better keep their mouths shut because, I’m telling you, the guy is an American Hero. These facts are little known right now. But I’m pretty sure the McCain campaign will get around to mentioning it even though the Great Man himself is very, very reluctant to rely on playing the POW card.

Do some research if you want to know what’s going on with this little talked about story.

Update: And this.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Strongest Challenge to my Views

Fist, take a look at this and then I’ll respond and I invite you to do so also.

OK. Good points, articulated with reason. I wouldn't expect a tough challenge to be presented from a theistic argument. It doesn’t anger me to have to deal with objections to my world-view raised in this manner. But deal with them, I shall.

I think it is quite possible that there are advantages to having a set of moral imperatives that everyone in society is expected to rally around. I can certainly see how, in the evolutionary environment, the laws "given by gods” and enforced by tribal leaders, obeyed and revered by members, led to a cohesiveness that would have been otherwise impossible.

But there are many things that we have evolved to “do” or “be” that we now discard. Other things we modify. But we are nothing special minus our intellect, with our ability to contemplate and conceptualize.

To say that we don’t accept many of our old gut-level instincts (usually reinforced by sacred beliefs) is not to say that we don’t have a set of values that we tentatively treat as absolute, even if we are now bright enough to know there is no such thing. As recently as 200 years ago, the Founders, acting within the higher principles of enlightenment, created a society that treated females as second-class citizens (based on the old morals). Happily, we didn’t hold that as an absolute. Many other moral codes are falling or changing.

If some members of our developing society become overwhelmed and desperate because the old “objective” (read: god given) morals are being pushed aside for new “subjective” (read: arrived at, tentatively, by reason) then those people must necessarily fall by the wayside. It’s either that, or a society, clinging to “objective” morals will defeat the forces of humanism and we will have a rebirth of the Dark Ages. A highly cohesive society, running under strict, god-given principles is an enemy of secularism that will not easily be defeated. They do have an advantage in unity of thought that we will never have.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Are Christians less intelligent?

We discussed this issue in depth on Another Goddamned Podcast in our 16th podcast (go to segment 3), and I don’t want to go over too much of the same ground. But I do want to say that it seems clear to me that, on average, Christians are less intelligent than atheists.

Can someone please do the following study?

3 groups of 500 people.

Group A – completely random sampling of U.S. adults: includes theists of many faiths, no religious affiliation, agnostics and atheists.

Group B – random sample of U.S. adults who are fundamentalist Christians.

Group C – random sample of U.S. adults who are atheists.

Administer the same intelligence test to all three groups and compare the findings. Does anyone seriously doubt that the test results would show Group C higher than Group A and significantly higher than Group B?

If I’m right, isn’t it fair to mention this? People should feel silly for participating in religious activities.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Horus the Christ and other ancient myths

I've seen and read any number of things showing the links between Christinsanity and other, older, myths of ancient peoples. But this is a concise, yet comprehensive gathering together of facts that all Christians should have to watch right before their final decision on baptism. But wait! It's not too late even after that to allow reason to reign supreme. Thanks to Andrea, The Nerd for posting these 3 videos (10 minutes each).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Long over due

Unlike the Chief over at You Made Me Say It or Spanish Inquisitor at, you guessed it, Spanish Inquisitor, I have been pretty bad at basic blog maintenance. I think it's been over six months since I added any blogs on my sidebar.

So, Saturday night upkeep. If you have, for some reason, missed any of these blogs then I recommend you stop by sometime and check them out. They are (in order I first visited them)

Sean at Sean the Blogonaut, CL Hansen at Letters from a Broad, Tommy at Exercise in Futility, Yunshui at Right To Think, DB at An Inevitable Conflict and Question Everything at None of the Above.

You can find the links on the sidebar.

This should insure each of you at least one extra hit in the next 12 months. Hey, you're good. You deserve it.

Additionally, you might have noticed another new link on the sidebar. It's to a site called the Atheist Nexus. I think Sean the Blogonaut is already a member. We should all join. They have over 3,000 atheists in the network now.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Pat Condell is at it again. Can we get this guy his own TV show?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Fables from facts

The first book we read for the Nonbelieving Literati was Julian, by Gore Vidal. In my essay I proposed that humanity needs a new mythology. Here’s some of what I said:

What will be the mythology that will replace Christianity, Islam and Judaism?

When the explanation isn’t working, we re-write (or re-tell), the mythological premise. This has happened time and again, since long before we had a written history.

Science is our story – our mythology. It seems that one of the greatest callings of religion has been as an explanation for everything, including what happens to us after death. While science does not explain everything, everything it does explain is elucidated more clearly and accurately than the teaching of any religion that ever existed.

I didn’t have Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino in mind. But it’s a start. It’s certainly great writing – much better than the trash they call The Holy Comics Bible. When it comes to pure prose, I want someone to show me a book of that bible that is better written.

But more importantly, he makes fables out of scientific facts. Bear with me!

Calvino takes facts about the universe – the Big Bang, formulation of the elements, evolution, dinosaurs, etc. and wraps them in various “fables”. The character who just happens to exist prior to and during all of these things is there to reveal universal truths, without claiming to have actually “caused” any of it. You get the science and you get a myth. Again, it’s not exactly what I was talking about in my other essay, but it’s one way of doing it – and a very fun and insightful way to boot!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Pledge of Allegiance news

A new documentary has been completed on the Michael Newdow case in which he challenged the words “under God” being in the Pledge of Allegiance. The documentary follows Newdow, starting after he won in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It also touches on other recent cases concerning the separation of church and state.

Pledge of Allegiance Blues is the filmmaking effort of writer/producer/director Lisa Seidenberg. Her non-confrontational style is perfect for getting her subjects to simply be themselves and give her statements from the heart, rather than the political talking points you might expect with such controversial material.

This is a movie that any atheist or secularist will probably be glad they saw, though it leaves one with a distinct sense of the enormity of trying to push America back towards the more secular beginnings that the Founders had envisioned. Clearly the vast majority favors keeping their Lord close to their politics. One thing is quite obvious – those who want America to become the secular nation it was meant to be are completely at the mercy of the Supreme Court, as the will of the popular majority is impossible to overcome in the near future.

Michael Newdow comes off as a bit of a narcissist, but in an endearing sense. He has the requisite self deprecation to pull it off. And there is no question that he is a deeply intelligent man, even while clowning for the camera. The title of the movie comes from one of the many songs Newdow wrote and sings. Questioned on his motivations, he wonders – who cares? The issue is clear, whatever anyone wants to think of his personal agenda. Having the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance is contrary to the Constitution.

Interviews with Alan Dershowitz, Larry Flynt, Sandy Rios, Rob Schenck and many others give insights to the thoughts of all sides. It’s difficult to watch Seidenberg’s documentary without concluding that Newdow is right, even if he went about it the wrong way. Ultimately, the Supreme Court left the case without a ruling. They determined that as the non-custodial parent of the daughter who Newdow filed suit on behalf of, he lacked legal standing. It’s curious that the Court allowed the case to go as far as it did before annulling standing for Newdow. If there was lack of standing, couldn’t this have been determined prior to arguments? In any case, this leaves the issue to be revisited in the future. The news is that the future is upon us, as Newdow is now representing several parents in a similar suit and they do indeed have standing.

(Distributed by Alive Minds Media)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Movies for atheists - #3

I hope you enjoy foreign films. I do and I’m going to recommend quite a few of them, simply because they consistently come up with more interesting human stories than American producers. I mean, in this culture of consumerism, who can blame the Americans? Hell, we are all about making a buck – not a thought-provoking movie.

But this one is definitely of the intellectual variety, even though it is a very personal and emotional tale. It’s called The Sea Inside and stars one of my new favorite actors – Javier Bardem. If the name is vaguely familiar, he was the psycho-killer in last year’s Best Picture “No Country For Old Men”. Bardem won Best Supporting Actor for the role. Make no mistake, this is such a wholly different role that I could only acknowledge that he seemed very familiar. I could never have placed him as being the same guy.

On to the "based on fact" film. Bardem plays the part of a middle-aged quadriplegic man who just wants to be free to die – his way, and not illegally. Spain, like most “secular” countries holds to the legal tradition that assisted suicide is a crime. This is an interesting position for a government to take, considering that the only possible way to defend the illegality is when examining it through religious glasses.

As usual, I will say no more other than “rent it”. I can assure any self-respecting intellectual secularist (you really need not be an atheist) that they will love the story and the acting and, most of all, the underlying message.

This is the Netflix synopsis:

Based on a true story, this moving film centers on a Spaniard, Ramon Sampedro (Javier Bardem), who's condemned to life as a quadriplegic. Determined to die with dignity, Sampedro leads a 30-year campaign to win the right to end his life. An extraordinary man, Sampedro inspires his lawyer, Julia (Belen Rueda), and a local woman (Lola Duenas) to reach for the stars, and through his inspiration, the women achieve far beyond their wildest dreams.