Saturday, May 28, 2011

Shared Insanity Kills a Toddler

Sanity debated in deadly exorcism
Rebecca S. Green
The Journal Gazette

Latisha Lawson rocked slightly in her chair throughout much of her second interview with Fort Wayne police detectives as they questioned her about the death of her toddler.

And as they repeatedly pressed her on the details of how he died, her statements kept going back again and again to her belief that 2-year-old Jezaih King’s body and soul had been completely taken over by a demon named “Marzon.”

It was Marzon that made the baby act out in a way Lawson thought was uncharacteristic for his age, such as making a clicking noise with his mouth, and causing his physical appearance to change, which she compared with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.

And when she poured the mixture of “blessed” olive oil and vinegar down his throat in November 2009, it was Marzon that struggled to spit it out and fought against her, not Jezaih.

But it was Jezaih who died, and Lawson, 31, stands accused of murder, battery causing death and neglect of a dependent causing death concerning her son, as well as neglect of a dependent causing injury, neglect of a dependent and battery for allegedly beating and neglecting her 10-year-old daughter.

Police found the little boy’s body stuffed in a storage tote being used as a bedside nightstand in a south-side home in late December, more than a year after his death.


Lawson told detectives it was her roommate, Natasha Hawkins, who told her that the Lord wanted her to get rid of the demon. Hawkins has also been charged in connection with Jezaih’s death. ...
All those in the home – Lawson, Hawkins, Lawson’s two children and Hawkins’ three children – were all suffering from demonic influences, Lawson told police.

At one point, a detective asked her whether she’d consulted with a religious authority, such as her pastor or a church, about what she thought was going on.

“No,” Lawson said. “It was clear to me.”

So she and Hawkins decided to drive the demons out, making all the children drink the concoction. The older children vomited and then sat there while the two women held Jezaih down and tried to get him to drink it, according to testimony.

Lawson told police about the toddler’s reaction, which she attributed to the demon.

“A 2-year-old cannot speak tongues,” she said, which she described as a spiritual gift. “He was speaking tongues. I could not interpret it because it wasn’t of God. … I know this sounds insane, but his voice, his behavior was not a 2-year-old baby.”

As he fought, Lawson covered his mouth and nose with her hand, what she told police was an effort to keep “Marzon” from spitting the liquid back into her face.

But after a few minutes, the baby was still.

His death was ruled a homicide, caused by asphyxia due to neck compression and suffocation, according to testimony.

During her interview with police, Lawson said the demon Marzon told her that he was the leader of the group of demons.

When Lawson and Hawkins were exorcising the demons that November night, Lawson said she heard them talking.

“The spirits were chatting amongst themselves,” she said.
She said she believed that Marzon had completely taken over Jezaih, that the little boy no longer existed in his own body.

“At that time, I felt that we were saving Jezaih from Marzon,” she said.

A detective asked her what she would say when she stood before God and he asked her what happened to her little boy.

Lawson broke down into huge sobs.

The trial is scheduled to end today.
Remember, folks, exorcism is best left to the experts.

Friday, May 27, 2011

You do *not* have a personal relationship with Christ!

This "personal relationship" crap irks me probably more than any other variety of Christian bullshit.  It's like having a "personal relationship" with Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny  or the Tooth Fairy.

But what it's really like, to someone like me who has known schizophrenics, is schizophrenia. It's like those crackpot schizophrenics who believe they have a personal relationship with a celebrity, and wind up in jail for stalking them (or killing them). There's no relationship at all.

That guy who shot Gabrielle Giffords and a bunch of other people is considered "incompetent to stand trial." His schizophrenia renders him incapable of making sound decisions. Granted, he didn't believe Giffords was his girlfriend, but his personal grievance with her was, well, personal, making him like most other shooters of famous people.

This makes me wonder if Christians who believe they have a "personal" relationship with someone they've never met are the same ones who accuse atheists of having a personal grudge against this same non-entity. Projection is rampant in Christian attacks on atheists, though it's often masked as a tu quoque argument ("atheism is a religion too").  FYI, to any Christian lurking, no I'm not angry with your god.  I do get angry with your god's believers at times, but you can't be angry with someone that doesn't exist.  Nor do I have a personal relationship wtih Darwin.  That would be silly.

Anywho, this ruling made me think (again) about insanity and religion. Someone would be considered delusional if he believes he is Jesus Christ, but not if he believes he has a "relationship" with him. Kind of wacky in my opinion. Not to mention, if a Biblical character did the exact same thing on the basis of what God said in his head, he'd be a hero.  Actually, some Biblical characters did act on delusions and hallucinations.  That's what happens when you have a "personal" relationship with a deity -- you get permission and/or instructions to do practically anything.
Thanks to the internet, I know I'm not the only one with the opinion that the "personal relationship" crap is crap.   Check out these videos:

Dusty says it as only Dusty can:

And Nonstampcollector covered it too:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Doomsday," by Rebecca Black :-p

I'd comment but I think the video speaks for itself!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pointing and Laughing at Christians

I think after all the hype and the stupid billboards and the self-promotion that garnered millions for Camping, we deserve a day to point and laugh at his expense.  He's a foolish old man if he thought he could predict the "End-Times."

Of course, he wins either way.  He has a gajillion dollars sent in by his followers.  He's a Christian version of L.Ron Hubbard.  He created a brilliant strategy to use  religion to separate people from their money.

I feel sorry for the people who believed him and sent in their money, but I'm tempted to point and laugh at them too.  Unless they have a diagnosable psychosis, they should have seen through this nonsense.  It's not even Biblical.

If they had cracked open their own Bibles they'd have seen 1) that Christ was supposed to come before the deaths of his apostles and 2) nobody knows the date.

The people I won't point and laugh at are the children of these idiots, who are the real victims.  Like the children of parents who are deluded about other things, these kids aren't getting the parental guidance they need, and it will be very difficult for them to handle the fall-out from the failed prediction.

One of my friends is a Christian but she thought Camping was a crackpot.  Still, she had to deal with four little children who were scared to bits yesterday.  Camping wanted to scare people, but did he think about how little kids would feel after seeing billboards and news accounts threatening them with death?

After our day of pointing and laughing, Camping should be thrown into jail for child abuse, not to mention fraud.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Sacred Way of Conscious Evolution" WTF????

The original title of this post was Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid, but then considering how close it is to Rapture Day, you might be expecting a post about Harold Camping. 

Noooo, this post is dedicated to a whole nother form of stupidity.  There are money-grubbing opportunists who are taking advantage of people who are disillusioned with traditional religion but still want something traditional and religious, or at least spiritual.  These people become victims of New Age prophets who mix everything good and wholesome and easily digestible into one flavorless yet satisfying stew that doesn't come cheaply despite not having any substance.

I have known many New Agers, and I dabbled myself (but not in witchcraft!!!) so I am not so much surprised that such baloney exists, or that people pay for it, or that it's not illegal.  I'm just surpised at the use of the sacred  and evolution togetherIt HURTS!!

New Age nonsense used to be so much simpler.  They picked out one random ancient practice, threw around words like "chi" and "energy," sold you a gizmo, and then told you how centered you were.  there are many disparate threads of stupidity interwoven to create a patchwork (pardon the mixed metaphor) ideology to bilk their marks with.

This post is dedicated to the idiocy that is (or are) the Sacred Way of Conscious Evolution
Okay, let's start with the title:
  • "Sacred" ohhhh this is a religious thing
  • "Way"  ohhhh this is a Taoist thing how Eastern and cool!
  • "Conscious"  ohhhh this is a psychological thing
  • "Evolution"  ohhhh this is a sciencey thing
*facepalm*  Well that says it all, doesn't it?  Oh wait the presenter's bio might help clarify things:

She is a Fellow of The Club of Budapest, and has received an honorary PhD in Conscious Evolution from the Giordano Bruno GlobalShift University. She has established a Chair in Conscious Evolution at Wisdom University and is a co-founder of many progressive organizations, including Global New Thought (AGNT), as well as The World Future Society. 

She is currently the producer and narrator of an award-winning, on-going DVD series entitled “Humanity Ascending: A New Way through Together.” Part One: Our Story, translated into seven languages, has been selected for the prestigious Spiritual Cinema Circle. Part Two: Visions of a Universal Humanity, now brings together cutting-edge scientific, social and spiritual visionaries to create a positive vision of our future equal to our new capacities.
Ohhhh okay.   She has an honorary Ph.D. from Globalshift University.  That means she's smart!

And here's some happy news! You can learn this crap through self-study (for a price).  You don't get an honorary Ph.D. from working through these workbooks and DVDs but you'll be so blissfully happy you won't care.  Or maybe you'll make up your own crackpot uni and give her an honorary Ph.D.  So here are the details:  Normally this crap is $265 but you can get it for the special price of $199.  Wheeeeeee  You get a workbook and four DVDs.  That's worth what?  $60.00 max?  But wait!  You also get "Online access to Recorded Gateway Calls featuring Barbara Marx Hubbard and Teresa Collins."  You can listen to a podcast!  That's worth what?  uhhh nothing?

So what exactly is conscious evolution and why is there a sacred way?  If we can will ourselves to evolve (*brain explodes*  sorry for the blood and brains and gore on your computer screen, I had to type that) then why do we need a sacred way?  Why not a scientific way?

Oh yeah, nevermind.  As an example of their approach to "science," I offer the "NOW" watch: 

Our answer is right here on "Node 8:"
In simple terms Conscious Evolution takes place when we intend to grow in consciousness and use our increasing awareness to guide our actions and achieve a positive future.

I'm not sure that "simple" would be the correct word to describe these "terms."  The sad thing is, there are probably noble ideas here that are being swallowed up by the jargon and the nonsense of New Agery. 

Bela H. Banathy, author of Guided Evolution of Society, offers this additional understanding of Conscious Evolution:It is a process by which we can individually and collectively take responsibility for our future.It is a process of giving direction to the evolution of human systems by purposeful action.

So basically it's teaching people not to be douchebags.  A noble goal.  Taking responsibility for our future is a great idea for everyone, and it would be especially appealing to atheists but then we get to this:

Conscious Evolution is at the core a spiritually-motivated endeavor. Its precepts reside at the heart of every great faith, affirming that humans have the potential of being cocreators with Spirit, with the deeper patterns of nature and universal design.

Okay, so is it "evolution" or isn't it?  Is it a natural process or a supernatural one?  And which "Spirit" is this, anyway?  Is this a Deist thing?  Taoist?  Christian?  What?

The promise of Conscious Evolution is nothing less than the emergence of a universal humanity capable of its guiding its own evolution into a future of unimaginable cocreativity

Well isn't this just ducky?  Universal humanity.  I'm guessing this woman doesn't watch The News.  Capable of guiding its own evolution?  Assuming such a thing were possible, shouldn't she start by convincing humanity that evolution is a scientific fact?  How can you get people to evolve when they don't believe evolution ever happened?  "Unimaginable cocreativity"  Maybe I shouldn't blog late at night, but this sounds positively orgasmic.  Who would turn down the chance to experience this for only $199 plus whatever it costs to buy all the other crap this site sells and go to workshops?

Oh and the cost of renting a woodchipper to toss your brain into, because that's the only way this stuff could possibly sound like a good idea.

Now, here's the kicker.  They sell all this crap and do workshops all over the country, and then they have the nerve to have a donations page.  And instead of having paypal like every other clever con artist, they set it up as part of their "store" and basically sell you NOTHING... and you're supposed to do this willingly!!!! in conclusion, the STUPID WON'T GO AWAY!!!!  How could people who promote "self-evolution" be such morons?  *cries*  oh wait...


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Should Christians be trusted?

Okay, so now that we've established that Christians don't trust atheists, is there any reason why anyone should trust Christians?

Let's look at the evidence:
They believe their book is true because their book says it's true.  This means they'll believe almost anything they are told, so you can't trust anything they say.  Not only are they repeating something that might be untrue, they are so nonchalant about the truth that they may be making up their own lies.

They believe all their sins (including telling lies) have been forgiven by someone else's sacrifice for them.  This means that they can do whatever they want and it's been forgiven.  Some might say that Christians need to behave themselves after being saved, but we all know there's no limit to the number of times a Christian can "find Christ."  Just ask Jimmy Swaggart or any of the many philandering preachers who have repented and been welcomed back to the church.  Sure, the Catholics look at things differently but they still have a way of erasing their sins.  Protestant or Catholic, they believe they will or have been forgiven.  No personal accountability at all.

They believe their God loves them... and presumably hates everyone else.  That's a recipe for creating a bully if ever there was one!

They believe that Heaven or Hell are eternal destinations based solely on belief.  Sure, the Catholics have "mortal sins" in theory, but how many of them really believe they'll go to Hell for the lies they forgot to confess about?

They shop around for belief systems if they don't like the one they grew up in.  They don't usually travel far, like going to a more or less strict Protestant denomination or switching from Catholicism to Orthodox or Episcopalian.  If they can't be trusted to stick with one moral code what's to say they're not really making up their own moral code before they've switched?

They forgive the most outlandish garbage their "leaders" have perpetrated.  They say it's because forgiveness is a Christian thing to do, but it's really because they respect authority figures.  Even in the case of pedophile church leaders, probably 90% of the victims keep mum.  So you can bet that when they achieve some measure of authority they will feel the rules don't apply to them.  Everyone else who achieves authority does this too, of course.  Christianity does virtually nothing to stop misbehavior.  Look at the "C Street" politicians.

They don't trust atheists, so they may proactively screw us.  They probably do the same to members of other religions or denominations.  Jesus said turn the other cheek, but not getting slapped in the first place obviates all that feel-good lovey crap.  Screw others before they screw you.

They have a very short list of things that are "wrong."  They threw out over 600 rules because they felt like it (Christ didn't tell them to), and they picked out a few that fit with their prejudices, like men not screwing men.  Anything goes otherwise.

They are an overwhelming majority in the U.S.  This means they lack any perspective of what constitutes trampling on the rights of others, if they even imagine such a thing could be wrong.

They believe their god provides for them.  The most delusional are the "C Street" types who also believe that if they got elected it must have been God's will (not deceptive negative advertising paid for by corrupt lobbyists)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review, Part Deux: The Belief Instinct

More on Jesse Bering's book on the psychology of belief . "The Belief Instinct" continues harping on the issue of "theory of mind" throughout, but the points are interesting if not valid (I'm not one to judge).

Whenever I encounter a reference to the naturalness of belief, or basically any claim to the universality of some religious virtue, I want to hear about the unnatural examples.  This book delivers.
Toward the end of the particularly delightful chapter titled, "When God Throws People Off of Bridges," Bering refers to studies of autistics and aspies, and how their reactions differ from those of "normal" people. There are also studies of atheist reactions to "coincidences."  I found both of these particularly validating, as they prove my suspicion that though religious sentiment (or instinct) may be natural, it is not necessarily an accurate portrayal of or reaction to reality.

The surprising and uncomfortable result of studying atheist reaction to coincidences and unfortunate events is that we, too, want to believe in Fate or some guiding hand making things go the way they're supposed to.  He relates this to his pet theory (Theory of Mind) of course, but the very fact that atheists, myself included, feel a kneejerk reaction to these events says to me that 1) religious stories are the window dressing of human thought processes, not the other way around and 2) wishful thinking in atheists is the result of human psychology, not a suppressed belief in the supernatural.  This speaks to the "no true atheist" and "there are no atheists in foxholes" cannards.  Unlike less developed species and less-developed humans (i.e. autistics), most healthy humans not only survive by relating to the minds of other, but by hoping to find comfort and answers by reaching out to those minds.

Research has shown humans to be more susceptible to religious sentiment during trying times.  These are times when our usual social network has let us down somehow.  If you depend on your family for comfort and you get lost in a snowstorm, a fantasy creature that can hear your thoughts will make a fine substitute.  If your spouse has died, the person you would still feel an impulse to turn to is that same person whose death has distressed you.  Believing that your ancestors are watching out for that person will be a comfort both to you and to the spouse you assume will be equally as distressed.  If a tornado roars through town, everyone else feels the same way and they are dealing with their own traumatic stresses.  Enter the all-loving "Creator" (who allowed the destruction) they can gather together to pray to.

And speaking of Death... this is another feature of the Theory of Mind.  Bering cites studies showing that people have a very difficult time handling the idea that their mind will not continue after their body dies, a kind of theory of one's own mind.  He extrapolates this to the death of others, but I think that's the reverse.  We are utterly dependent on other people from our first breath to our last.  Christianity plays up the personal, but Eastern religious play to the theory of mind of others much more.  Ancestor worship and shrines to them play a role in some religions.  I think the difficulty of letting go of the individuals that have made our individual lives possible explains the belief in an afterlife much better.

Even Christians, who supposedly believe that souls go to Heaven or Hell, often want to believe their loved ones are waiting for them or watching over them.  My grandmother used to talk to my grandfather about the events of the day, even decades after his death.  I have heard people talk much more about their loved ones' afterlives than their fears or hopes for their own.  Angels take little children to God because he loves them.  (that one always makes me gag)   And then there's the Rainbow Bridge story, which has taken hold in a surprisingly short time.

I suppose these constitute what apologists like William Lane Craig call "properly basic beliefs."  He even cites the belief in the presence of other minds as a properly basic belief.  Craig tries to argue that some things are just so obvious that they can be treated as givens in philosophical debate, not debatable points themselves.  Alvin Plantinga makes this claim too (interesting video, even though he's full of crap).  Of course I find that idea that you can extrapolate from other humans existing to a supernatural god-human existing laughable, but with this Theory of Mind in mind (so to speak) it's a little easier to understand how Craig and thousands of years of religious thinkers have rationalized seriously irrational beliefs.

As an evolutionary psychologist, Bering believes this theory of mind is part of what gives humans a leg up in the survival of the species.  I can go along with that, and I appreciate the work of psychologists to study the phenomenon scientifically.

In order to appreciate the ease with which the people like Craig and Plantinga can convince people (and themselves) with such slim arguments I think we have only to look at a few logical fallacies.  The main problem with believing that belief in god is correct because it's part of human psychology (properly basic) is the fallacy called an appeal to nature or naturalistic fallacy.  The difference from the classic examples of natural = good is that it associates natural with correct, or justified.

We do unnatural things every day in modern society.  We fly in planes rather than walk barefoot to our destination.  We crap into the toilet rather than in the woods or over a hole in the ground.  We live into our eighties thanks to vaccinations, water sanitation, and antibiotics, among other things.  We wear glasses.  We eat Twinkies.  We blog on the internet.   Even the Amish will get into their horse and buggy and go into town on paved roads. 

None of us lives a truly "natural" life and we don't question it.  But yet when it comes to letting go of our cherished Sky Daddy and imagining our loved ones and ourselves truly becoming "dust into dust," then suddenly we (I mean "they") cry "properly basic" and "oh yeah? then where do you go when you die?"

Atheism is unnatural and difficult to get used to, but once you've freed yourself from the fairy tales, you find yourself wondering "Could I really have believed that?  How could I have tried so hard to believe something so false?"  This book gave me some answers to those questions.

And just as people are sometimes tempted to wizz by the side of the road or crap in the woods, we will sometimes revert to nature and wish a Sky Daddy or our grandparents were watching over us.  That's only natural.

Don't forget to check out The author's site, or read the book yourself.  I've probably garbled his message by putting in my own two cents. It's definitely a mind-changer, and I can imagine some minds being changed because I have a theory that other minds do indeed exist.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bible verses make bad songs good... uhhh sure

"Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning" by Alan Jackson was sung on American Idol tonight. I'd never heard it before, and I'd never heard of him before, and I'm very very glad of that. What a stupid stupid song.

Stupid stupid stupid

The lyrics of the verses are tear-jerking remembrances of what "you" might have been doing (assuming you were a man) when you heard about the Twin Towers. So far so good. Everyday life grinds to a halt when something unthinkable happens. So far so good. Get out the hanky and prepare for a sappy chorus.

But wait.. what is this? The chorus is an uplifting Biblical non-sequitur. WTF?

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

So this song is really a celebration of religion-induced ignorance?  As long as you remember a few words from the Bible it doesn't matter if you're ignorant of foreign affairs?  And what did that have to do with September 11?
The song was premiered in November of 2001, so I guess it can be forgiven for being stupid in the heat of the mass stupidity gripping the nation at the time.  I found a lot of the "patriotism" post -9/11 really shallow and cheap and bordering on jingoism. Just wave a flag and put a pin on your collar and you're a good Amurkin. The same people who hated Washington & New York suddenly said "we" had been attacked. I was living in Texas at the time and it was sickening. This song reminds me of that, but there's something really sinister about throwing a bible verse into a song about a national tragedy without connecting the dots.

I was living in Fundyville, TX in 2001.  Until then, I got the impression that Texas was a whole 'nother country and they had no use at all for New Yorkers and anything in DC.  Then on 9/11 everyone's a New Yorker. I was devastated because I'd lived in both cities, and I was homesick for my friends.  Not to mention, I used to see the WTC from my bedroom window, so it was the first and last thing I saw every day as I opened and shut the blinds.  And I knew people who worked in the Pentagon. 

So I can definitely relate to the other parts of the song -- I remember where I was when I heard about the attacks.  But I don't get how you can say it follows from being shocked and sad that being ignorant and knowing a minimal amount of Biblical theology.

It's one thing for someone to be ignorant about foreign affairs and to have only a slim acquaintanceship with their own religion, but actually bragging about it in song is beyond me.  Bragging about it in the context of a national tragedy is downright insulting to the victims and to the rest of us who were equally touched despite not being ignorant Christian hicks.

p.s. it was a clever move on the part of the singer on American Idol, though.  Nobody's going to criticize his "song choice"

Monday, May 9, 2011

presenting christ to terminally ill atheist

"presenting christ to terminally ill atheist" was one of the search strings used to arrive at this blog recently. I tried that search, and it retrieves my post about prayer not being effective. So not really satisfying the searcher, and probably wasn't read....  but now I'm curious.  Why would someone want to do this?"

How many atheists in Europe or the Americas haven't heard of Christianity?

My mother was hospitalized in a religious hospital some time ago.  It's the only hospital around, and the one that her Medicare will allow her to go to.  (Is that Constitutional?)   They didn't push religion at all, until the resident social worker came by to talk about where mom would go after being released.  She offered to lead us in prayer.  My brother, mother, and I got very squeamish.   Even if we believed anymore, we wouldn't have appreciated an un-ordained random lay stranger making shit up for God's ears in our name.  We grew up Episcopalian.  It was a very awkward moment, and she took the hint. 

My town in Texas had only one hospital, a Seventh-Day Adventist one.  (They stayed open on Saturdays, though)  I went to the E.R. a couple of times and had to have an X-Ray once, so I was subjected to some bland Christian-themed posters.  I would never have denied myself health care because of where it was located, but it still pissed me off.  Hindus and Muslims are a real presence in our medical schools.  Atheists too, though not obviously so of course.  How many of these hospitals are losing out on the top talent because of their religious affiliation?  If I were a Hindu I wouldn't want to go to work every day in an institution that promoted Christianity.

Christians are proud of their history of having hospitals.  Should it really be a point of pride?  If they use them for conversion it's the lowest form of deception.  (a BIG complaint against Mother Teresa) And it's not like other religions haven't done the same.

This letter-to-the-editor brought this up for me. The title is "Christians build hospitals; why don't atheists?" but the writer is objecting to a lawsuit involving a church and the local school system.  In typical Christian fascism, oops fashion, the writer deflects from the legitimate issue of whether their local government was un-constitutionally promoting a single religion to whethr her religion had done good things.  Who could complain about forcing such a noble religion on children?  This ignorant writer probably has no idea what the Constitution says or how it's been applied over the past 200+ years.

She probably also doesn't consider the long history of Jewish hospitals or those of other religions, either. 

Of course, healing people is a good thing, so arguing against religious hospitals is a losing proposition.  "It might help, and couldn't hurt" is the default position on prayer.  Suggesting that prayer and religion could be harmful is politically incorrect.  Of course, by claiming innocuous motives and results, they defeat their own position.  If it's so innocuous isn't that the same was worthless?

Then there's the issue of quality control...   Just like pedophile priests, a religious organization controls decisions about incompetent or misbehaving believers.  They can address the problem, ignore it, hide it, and those are the same choices as non-religious organizations, of course.  The one choice they have and seem to use when it's convenient is that they can rationalize cruelty if conversion is the outcome.  Did Mother Teresa abuse her patients?    Who cares?  She's on her way to sainthood.

Proud to be an Atheist, by Dusty

He lives in Mississippi, and he's an "out" atheist. He lives his motto, "Be Brave, Bitches!"

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Questions for Christians

Christians ask themselves questions that conveniently have answers in Christianity.  Here are some questions that I'd like to see Christians ask themselves.

How many other religions have you studied?

Of all the world's possible religions, why do you think the stories of the Bible are more valid than the stories of the other religions?

If you were a Martian and landed on Earth having never heard of a concept of God, how would you decide which, if any, of the world's religions had merit?

If someday there would be definitive proof of the non-existence of God, would you still be a Christian?

Why do you believe what you believe?  (Favorite question on The Atheist Experience)

If you knew with 100% certainty that you would be going to Hell, would you still be a Christian?

Of all the denominations there are, why do you belong to the one you belong to? 

Have you read any of the scholarly theological literature of your denomination?

Have you read every word of The Bible?

How do you reconcile the inconsistencies of the Bible?  (There are many.  Refer to this list at the Secular Web if you have not realized the Bible is loaded with them)

How do you know which parts of the Old Testament can be disregarded by Christians?  If you don't know, then why not?

Friday, May 6, 2011

David Barton vs. Jon Stewart

That "Wallbuilders" creep who is rewriting history textbooks tried to convince Stewart that he's not really just promoting a revisionist history that supports his theocracy agenda.   uhhh yeah...  He brings up the old chestnut of States' Rights.... that State Constitutions were allowed to be religious at the start of the country, as if the Fourteenth Century never straightened this problem out. 

He claims to have thousands of documents to prove all this, yet somehow the National Archives isn't pounding down his door to get to them. 

Conspiracy, I guess.

I'd like to see these "documents" he has that supposedly disprove the Constitution, the amendments, and the case law that defined them.  I'd like to see where the 14th amendment doesn't guarantee that all people have the same rights in whatever state they live in.

I wish those theocrats would just go ahead and take over Mississippi and be done with ... oh wait... they're all lazy asses who wouldn't be able to tolerate cotton picking in the hot sun.  I wonder how they would solve that...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

An Atheist Catechism: Part One, The Questions Christians Ask

Christians who object to atheism usually demand that atheists answer the questions that they think their religion answers for them.  I imagine believers in other traditions do the same but I haven't had much experience with them.  Catholicism set the trend with the Catechism - questions and answers for young Catholics to learn. 

There are two problems with the dialogue between Christians and atheists.  The first is that Christians define the  terms and control the territory.  They have well-worn traditions behind them, but little experience asking the questions they should answer.  They only "answer" the questions they have been taught to ask.  There's also some psychological projection going on, in my opinion.  They have so little idea of how others think that they can't conceive of their preconceptions not being shared, only that the conclusions differ.  They seem very concerned about atheists' souls, as if they can conceive of not believing in a god but they can't imagine not believing in a soul.

They want us to have a list of answers that would be parallel to their Catechism (Even if they're not Catholic, they have one of sorts).  So I've decided to give them one.

I've come up with some answers to their (often stupid) questions.    Most of these are questions I've been asked, but I've also seen a lot of the same questions over and over on the interwebs. I think we've all been faced with most of these if we've been at all open about our atheism. My favorite online source for Christian stupidity is the archive of the Atheist Experience call-in cable access show.   (Check out the Atheist Experience blog too!) They get some loop-dee-loos, and they have great answers for the loonies that call in.  I bet there are plenty other zingers out there.  Feel free to add to my list in the comments section.   Part Two will be the questions I'd like to see Christians answer.

Q:  Where do you go when you die?
A:  When you're dead you cease to exist, so you don't go anywhere.

Q:  Aren't you worried that you might be wrong and you might go to hell?
A:  Everyone could be wrong, including Christians.  I don't find the Christian stories convincing, so no, I'm not worried about Hell.

Q:  How can you be moral without God?
A:  The same way that everyone else who isn't a Christian can be moral, and Christians too, for that matter.  Society dictates morals, not holy books, or else Christians would be stoning children that have been raped and giving all their money to the poor.

Q:  You're really just angry with God.
A:  You can't be angry at something you don't believe exists.  That's like being angry at the Easter Bunny.

Q:  You're really just angry at the abuses of the Church
A:  The church's behavior has sometimes been atrocious (so much for belief instilling morality) but whether the church is naughty or nice has no bearing on whether a supernatural deity actually exists.

Q:  The church has been responsible for great works of art.
A:  So has Greek mythology.  So have other religions.  So has opium.  Artists will be inspired by whatever stories they find in the culture around them.

Q:  How do you know the Bible isn't true?
A:  There's very little evidence to validate it, and what little there is merely validates a few names and places, not the presence of a supernatural deity.

Q:  Isn't it arrogant to presume you're right and all those Christians are wrong?
A:  Not any more arrogant than Christians believing they are right and all the people in the other 2/3 of the world are wrong.  And anyway, which is more arrogant?  Not believing in something unverified, or believing oneself capable of sorting out the truth from the non-truth of thousands of untestable claims?

Q:  You think you know everything, don't you?  (also: You think you have all the answers!)
A:  Atheism is defined as not believing in stories of deities.  It's not defined by what is known.  Some atheists are quite knowledgeable, which probably isn't a coincidence.  Many of us know the Bible better than Christians, and we know more about science than evolution deniers.  (Granted, that's not difficult to do)

Q:  Science can't answer everything.  What about love?
A:  Actually, neurosciences have established quite a bit of knowledge about love.  Like other emotions, love exists within the brain.

Q:  How do you explain the human need to believe in God?  God made humans different from the animals.
A:  While I agree that humans are different from other animals (humans are animals), the belie in god doesn't qualify as a sound reason for believing in the supernatural.  Evolution explains a lot of strange behaviors.  In the case of religion, there are several theories, mainly about social control and cohesion.  Check out this reading list or the books of Michael Shermer.

Q: What about the miracles of the Bible?
A: What about the miracles of all the other holy books of the world? They are myths, propaganda, lies, and even trickery. They are stories without confirming evidence.  Christians blithely dismiss the claims of other religions but are gullible regarding their own.

Q:  [insert seemingly miraculous prayer story here]  How do you explain that?
A:  Prayer has been proven not to work in medical settings, yet people continue to believe prayer can heal and protect.  Anecdotes about a person's prayers being answered are the result of the human tendency toward confirmation bias.  You will remember the "hits" and forget the "misses."  (or rationalize them away)  Not to mention, the people who were in life-threatening situations, prayed, and then died are not around to tell anyone that prayer didn't work for them, which creates a sampling bias.

Q:  Christianity has been around for 2,000 years.  How could it survive if it were false?
A:  The same way that Judaism can survive for 3,000 years and Hinduism can survive for 4,000 years.  It's a social system, with a lot of purposes besides telling the "truth."  Children are indoctrinated from a young age and the society is so steeped in the traditions of the religion that few people question the premises.

Q:  There are millions of Christians.  They can't all be wrong.
A:  Yes, they can.

Q:  Nothing can exist without a creator, so the fact that things exist proves there's a God.
A:  This is the "First Cause" argument.  Things come into being in nature without an intelligent being pulling the strings every day, so the premise is false.  Even if the premise were true, that would mean that there couldn't be a God because God would have to have had a creator.  And if God could exist without a creator, then so could the universe.

Q:  You can't prove that God doesn't exist.
A:  Of course you can't!  You can't prove a negative about anything.  So therefore, the burden of proof is on the theist to prove that there is a God.  What theists offer as "proof" is not very compelling:  heavily edited "holy" books, unverifiable personal experiences, and admiration for nature.  Atheists can feel confident that the odds of Christian claims being false are high enough to be virtual proof.

Q:  If you're an atheist doesn't that mean that you don't believe in anything?
A:  Not necessarily. First, do you mean "anything supernatural?"  It's possible to be an atheist and yet believe in a soul, or ESP, or some other supernatural idea.  Atheism is merely not believing in a god... any god.  Most atheists also happen to be non-believers about all claims of the superntural because those claims are as weak as religious claims, so you are partly right.  There are many natural things to believe in:  love, beauty, society, family, honesty, altruism, etc.  There's nothing supernatural about any of those.

Q:  If you don't believe in God, that means you want to be God.
A:  I don't believe in the Easter Bunny, and yet I don't want to be the Easter Bunny (at least not without collecting a fee from whoever wants me to wear a costume at the Mall).  You don't believe in Thor, and I bet you don't want to be Thor.  This is shorthand for the argument that you can't be moral without God the Big Brother eavesdropping on your thoughts and looking over your shoulder 24/7.  It's just plain false.

Q:  You just left the Church because you want to sin
A:  If I really believed in the concept of "sin" the last thing I would do is leave the Church!  Unless you're hinting that you can game the system and run around sinning until the very last moment then accept Christ as your Lord and Savior and have it all erased.  What has been considered a "sin" has changed so much over the history of the Church that almost anything a person does over the course of the day could have been considered a "sin" at some point in history by some religious group.

Q:  So then your life has no meaning
A:  Sure, it has meaning.  It has more meaning than yours, in fact, because the time I spend on Earth is all there is, so I want to make the most of it.  I value the people around me because we're all in this together.  I empathize with their suffering and I celebrate their accomplishments.  Those things have value in themselves without any kind of supernatural meaning attached to them.

Monday, May 2, 2011

R.I.P. Bin Laden, 5/1/11 ... or 2002?

Conspiracy theorists have been claiming for years that ObL died of natural causes in 2002.  I can't wait to see how Prison Planet and other nuttery sites spin the news about yesterday's attack.

They dumped the body into the sea... how convenient.  I hope he doesn't rise from the dead and show up on beaches around the world.  Or perhaps he'll mate with a shark and his evil spawn will terrorize America's beaches.

Is a burial at sea really a good idea?  He could wash ashore and become a trophy collector's wet dream.  His bones would be sold off on ebay one by one, except for a few that would be enshrined somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan.