Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Dones" are the new "Nones"

According to this Huffington Post article, people who used to be active members of their churches are now leaving and not coming back -- they are done with it!

This should come as no surprise to atheists who have followed the blogs, vlogs, podcasts and other media sources in the atheist community (such as we have).  Consider how many formerly devout people in the public eye are done with it:

  • Jerry DeWitt:  former pastor, now director of The Clergy Project
  • John Loftus:  former pastor, now author and blogger
  • Seth Andrews: former Christian radio broadcaster, now atheist podcaster & author
  • Dan Barker:  former evangelical musician, now co-director of Freedom from Religion Foundation
  • Michael Shermer:  former evangelical Christian, now skeptic and author

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Another Faith-Healing Outrage

Check out Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True site today.  He describes two court cases:  one guilty verdict for faith-"healing" parents whose child died, and a Canadian decision to allow parents to force  "traditional" on their sick child.

Note: "The Albatross" is Jerry's forthcoming book about the incompatibility of faith and science.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Near-Death Experiences: What are they?

The brain is a marvelous thing, and it's way smarter than our mind is.  It can imagine things we never thought of, and it can continue coming up with random stuff while we're asleep and even while we're dying.

Obviously, the strings must be pulled by some external force because our willpower has been turned off, right?

Oh wait.... are our thoughts really under our control while we're awake?   What makes us notice extraneous noises while we're trying to read?  What makes us think "nice ass" when we see a good-looking person of our favored sexual desires walk past us?    The same people who think the Devil would make us lust after a nice piece of ass don't bother to assign blame for the more mundane things.  Or do they think they really have control over all their thoughts until the piece of ass walks by?

Then what about dreaming?  If we have no control over those dreams, who does?  Why do I dream about bears so often?  Is that Agreius looking for Oreius?  Or is it just my dream-brain hearing my dog snoring nearby and turning that sound into a bear?  No, it's prophetic.  I'm going to be attacked by a bear.   In my sleep.

If we dream about something seemingly prophetic, that seems magical to us.  But 99.99% or so of our dream never have any relation to subsequent events.  If anything they rehash our recent past in metaphor.  Is it a failed prophesy when the bus that crashes right in front of us and makes us wake from our highway dream doesn't correlate to any actual bus crash?

"Careful.  There's bears around here"
Is there one powerful being that gives us prescient dreams but another one who gives us stupid dreams?   Or if it's just one powerful being, why do we have so few prescient dreams?  Why waste important dream time on purple kangaroos when we could see where the next terrorist attack will be or a short in an airplane's cockpit?

And then when we die, the brain carries on after we stop controlling it.  (*wink*)   It just does whatever it wants, and it conjures up our dead relatives, light bulbs, our doctors, or whatever it wants.   I hope that as I'm dying from a bear attack I won't "see" bears in my altered state of consciousness.  I should see bunnies or something to make up for all the bears in my dreams.

So what inspired these musings?  (Besides staying up past my bedtime?)

I searched for NDE's on Pubmed and found this free article which cites this non-free article.  The abstract is free, however:
Approximately 3% of Americans declare to have had a near-death experience. These experiences classically involve the feeling that one's soul has left the body, approaches a bright light and goes to another reality, where love and bliss are all encompassing. Contrary to popular belief, research suggests that there is nothing paranormal about these experiences. Instead, near-death experiences are the manifestation of normal brain function gone awry, during a traumatic, and sometimes harmless, event.
I feel a bit better now.  I will feel bliss as the bear attacks me, and not the fear or puzzlement I feel when I encounter it in my dreams.

Or perhaps instead of waiting for an NDE, I could get worked up in a Pentecostal altar call.   Or I could take heroin, which from all accounts gives you that love and all-encompassing bliss feeling.

"Heaven is Real" arguments from NDEs always make me think of heroin.  I think of Heaven as a bunch of people nodding off to psychedelic choirs of LSD tripped-out angels.

I want to see a movie called "Reality is Real."  Perhaps with bears in it.  That would be much more interesting.

And now I'm going to bed.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Long & Thoughtful Deconversion Story

A parent follows a child into atheism despite both being victims of Liberty "University."

I took many of the same steps in much the same way, but without any particular incentive.  "Logan" started his deconversion by trying to come up with ways to reason his son back to Christianity.

It didn't work.

Here's a link to the first of this 7-part story:

My deconversion went something like this:  1) the Bible's O.T. is repulsive, 2) The N.T. is contradictory, 3) Everybody else thinks their religion is right, 4) Other supernatural claims are bunk so why not religious ones?

I did indeed try to listen to churchy people along the way.  Apologists just aren't very convincing, and the people they pray for die every day.  "Feeling" the spirit just didn't cut it for me, either, as it sounded a lot like being drunk or stoned on heroin.  And then there are the disembodied voices telling people strange things.  Who believes those voices today?  Only psychotic people.

Anywho, give the story a read.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Why are Atheists so "Militant?" Because Believers are so Militant, That's Why!

In the news today, shortly after Oklahoma experienced the horror of an Islamist beheading, they are now the proud home of the first Christian beheading:


The local news has more details here.

STILLWATER, Okla. – A 21-year-old Stillwater man has been charged with first-degree murder in connection to the death of an area college student who, according to police, was nearly decapitated....
Crockett’s brother, Jesse, told police Marin is a “heavy drug user” and “religious zealot,” according to the affidavit.
Marin’s brother, Samuel Marin, told police he and Isaiah were playing a card game and the victim was in the room with them.
The report says Samuel stated Isaiah had been watching YouTube videos related to his Christian beliefs.
During the card game, the affidavit claims Isaiah picked up a large black sword and began swinging it.

Christians will no doubt claim that it was the meth and not his religion that motivated the crime, but without religion this guy wouldn't have committed this particular crime, and may not have committed it at all.  Meth does make people do crazy things, but crazy is a symptom of the same mind that decides whether to believe cultural fairy tales.

If they try to distance themselves from this guy, they will also have to distance themselves from Alton Nolan, an Oklahoman who beheaded a coworker after converting to Islam.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Irrational Atheism?

The Atlantic has an article called Irrational Atheism by someone called Crispin Sartwell.  It sounds like a tasteless British cracker, but this is a real person -- a philosophy professor.  Not that I don't love philosophy (*snicker*) but I would have expected better from someone with a Ph.D. who speaks to a captive audience a few hours per week.

His forthcoming book is a collection of essays, many of which are about music.  Yes, music.  Not philosophy.  Not atheism, either, though the title "How to Escape" sounds promising.  I'll give him aesthetics as a philosophical pursuit, but only because musicians will ignore him.  Unfortunately, we atheists just can't ignore stupid atheists.  They make us look bad.

Believers are not irrational in the sense of being crazy (usually), but in the sense of not using reason to make decisions.  They go with their feelings, which is why feel-good rock concerts and peer pressure are so effective with them.

Then they accuse us in tu quoque attacks of being equally irrational in our atheism: we are angry at god; we are disappointed by prayers that weren't answered; we are as rabid in our atheism as they are in their theism; and so on and so on and so on...

And now in this article we have an atheist saying some of the same stuff!
Religious beliefs are remarkably various. But sometimes it can seem that there is only one way to be an atheist: asserting, on the basis of reasoned argument, that belief in God is irrational.
... It can seem that way if you refuse to check out people who don't fit your prejudiced view.  The word "irrational" is on the continuum of Dawkins's "God Delusion."   Unfortunately, Dawkins and the other horsemen of "New Atheism" have attracted a lot of attention.  They do it by using loaded language like "delusion."
The aging "new atheists"—Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett, for example—pit reason against faith, science against superstition, and declare for reason and science.
Considering that the Christian Right and Islam have been attacking science, this is not without basis!
atheism embodies a whole picture of the world, offering explanations about its most general organization to the character of individual events.
Whoa Nelly!  I thought it was science that did that! Since when did non-belief in a deity equal science?  What about atheists who believe in UFO visitations, or Buddhist atheists?
Ironically, this is similar to the totalizing worldview of religion—neither can be shown to be true or false by science, or indeed by any rational technique.
*Facepalm*  The scientific method is a rational technique, so if you draw a false equivalence between science and atheism, you have to admit that it is RATIONAL!

Then he repeats the canard that atheism is a matter of faith.  In his case, he grew up atheistic, so perhaps it's a matter of believing what your parents believe... faith in parents.  But he goes beyond his limited experience (his words) and slams Dawkins and Hitchens:

 Their line of thinking often takes the form of disqualifying others on the grounds that they are irrational. But the atheist too, is deciding to believe in conditions of irremediable uncertainty, not merely following out a proof.
Not following out a proof?  Neither Dawkins nor Hitchens could be called a "philosopher," and only philosophers would say something this inane.  "Irremediable uncertainty" would seem to be the logical inability to prove a negative.  We all know that the non-existence of a deity can't be proven with 100% certainty, and if he'd bothered to read or listen to Dawkins or Hitchens he'd know that they have said that.  But....  the relative odds of there being a deity vs there not being a deity favor there being no deity by an enormous margin -- a margin that can be deduced.... rationally!

How many ways can the prediction of a deity fail before it has to be declared 100% false?  An infinite number, apparently.  How many ways can it fail before we can say it's 99% unlikely?  Let's count:  prayer doesn't work; deities don't appear to anyone but people who are primed by mental illness or Pentecostalism, and even then they only see their own deities; holy books are written in exactly the way one would expect if only human hands were at work; prophesies that are specific enough to be useful have been unmitigated failures; leaders who are supposed to be "men of God" lie, rape, steal, and in general do badly things despite their godly dispositions; any scientific "facts" of holy books have turned out to be false, as have many of their historical "facts" and they all disagree in the specifics within their own pages and they disagree with each other.

That one percent?  It's hope, not faith.
Religion at its best treats belief as a resolution in the face of doubt. I want an atheism that does the same, that displays epistemological courage.
If he's been paying attention to atheist writers, and not just the sciency ones, he'd see courage and rigorous honesty at every turn.  He criticizes atheists for "making a bold intellectual commitment about the nature of the universe, and making it with utterly insufficient data."

What does this really mean?  It means the rest of us aren't as knowledgeable as he is.  Coincidentally, he then drops Kierkegaard's name.  Take THAT, sciency atheist fanboys!

Kierkegaard defined faith as "an objective uncertainty held fast in passionate inwardness.”
... explaining that Christianity was the best thing to believe "because it was the hardest thing to believe."

Kierkegaard may have been an astute philosopher, but he couldn't have been aware of all the choices that could be harder to believe.  Personally, the world balancing on the back of a turtle seems harder to believe than a dying and rising god.  I don't see a leap here from Christianity being good because it's bad to atheism being good because it's bad.... or something.  I'm not sure what the point of that excursion was, unless it was to hit sciency types on the head with a name they didn't recognize.

Having started off with Kierkegaard, he drops a few more names, and then he gets into personal confession.  His "faith" in the universe's uncaring nature got him through some tough times.  He claims his personal experience trumps the personal experience of believers who find comfort in their beliefs. hmmm  ... Somehow he learned a lot of names but didn't learn what the "Problem of Evil" is.  Is that what it comes down to for him?  That atheism offers a solution for the "Problem of Evil" by making it a non-problem and a non-evil?  Well.... duh.  Does a person really have to be a philosopher to find comfort in the idea that one's suffering is the result of random chance and not punishment for thought crimes or being the descendent of fairy-tale apple eaters?

And is that irrational?  It's very rational to look at personal disasters as the result of random chance.  So... he wants Dawkins - Hitchens fanboys and fangirls to be more like him?  He's just admitted to being rational.  Or perhaps he wants to take Hitchens's place in the pantheon of atheist thinkers.

I suddenly feel the urge to get back to the book on narcissism that I've recently started reading.  But first, I'd like to share some philosophizing by some of the best:  Monty Python's Flying Circus's Australian Philosophers sketch and the Philosophers Song for good measure.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Christian "Love" for Children & Teens

You don't have to go far or wait for long to hear of abuse and abusive practices being perpetrated against children in the name of Jebus.  After being reminded of the hurtful "theology" of nutty Christians in my area, I went looking for examples of abuse and I probalby only scratched the surface.  I only found abuse in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest of the U.S., London in England, South America, and several places in Australia.  These "isolated instances" sure seem widespread:

This week, thousands of teens in Indiana attended Fields of Faith, where they were shamed for feeling lust, then told God loves them anyway. psssst... kids....  that's called puberty!

Then in Virginia, a Christian boarding school for troubled teens is being investigated for abuse.  Four employees beat a 14-year-old because the kid talked to a girl.  This reminds me of the horrible Hebzibah House in Northern Indiana that was investigated by CNN in "Ungodly Discipline."

In Vermont, Jehovah's Witnesses (allegedly) allowed children to be sexually abused by an authority figure.

In Missouri, a Seventh-Day adventist is challenging his guilty verdict for locking school children in church bathrooms for days at a time and ostracizing "bad" children within their schoolroom.

In London, African immigrants have been abusing children they believe are possessed by evil spirits.

In Australia, a late Pentecostal leader's sex abuse charges were covered up by his son.  It's coming to light now.

Also in Australia, a Christian group that ran homes for aboriginal children can't afford to pay restitution to child sex abuse victims because that would hurt their missionary work.  Uhhh..... does a group like that really need to continue?  Pan-Am went bankrupt because of a terrorist attack.  These creeps should go bankrupt, too.

And an Anglican school in Australia is being investigated for child sex abuse.

The bright spots:

A New York Times op-ed on African-American child abuse by a baptist minister.  The "rod" in Spare the Rod is the same as "thy rod and staff comfort me."   Sparing the rod means not offering guidance.  Using the rod doesn't mean giving your brat a "whooping."

The pope removed a bishop from office because he had protected a pedophile priest.

* * * * *
edited to add
An Illinois mother tries to kill daughters after receiving and end-times message from her estranged pastor husband.

Sure, this seems "crazy" to most Christians, but it's a logical crazy.  If you think the end-times are near, why not kill your family?