Saturday, September 29, 2012

Links of the Week

America for Jesus rally in Philadelphia.  Don't these bullies realize they have to travel to heathen cities to connect with the founders?  Hmmmmm  I wonder if any of them will notice that.  Here's some fun:  "Attendees will be asked to start 40 days of prayer and fasting, through the Nov. 6, election, to help turn the nation toward God"  Well wouldn't that decrease voter turnout just a wee bit?  if they're too weak to show up at the polls?

In Indiana religious bullies are trying to redefine abortion out of existence at one clinic, anyway.  Meanwhile,  Uruguay takes a step toward decriminalizing abortion.  In Kansas, the office of the doctor murdered in his own church by a so-called "Christian" has been bought by an abortion rights group.  Very brave of them.

Okay, not specifically religous (usually) but eunuchs live longer, at least in Korea.  And in other news, male scientists are scrambling to find evidence that counters this finding.

My local newspaper is covering a dramatic dispute over whether the right to be a pastor depends on 1) being the son of the former pastor or 2) knowing something about religion, like maybe having gone to seminary.

The new charter schools in New York are supposedly causing the collapse of parochial, especially Catholic schools.   The many proven allegations of pedophilia within the Catholic church couldn't possibly have contributed, no no no...

Donald Trump waived his speaker's fee to give a convocation speech at Liberty University, with Michele Bachmann on stage.  I thought he was just a loose cannon crackpot, but apparently he's one of them.  That explains a lot.

The fourth Wednesday of September is See You at the Pole Day, when Christian students confuse worship of a dead guy on a tree with worship of a secular symbol.  Well, the flag is prettier, but  peer pressure to worship is still creepy.

An ancient Buddhist statue (with a swastika) stolen by the Nazis is truly otherworldly - it's made from a metorite!

Muslims want everyone else to suppress freedom of speech in rules against "religious hatred."  They don't seem to be interested in laws suppressing the freedom to stage violent murderous riots when their feelings get hurt, though.

Meanwhile, Muslims in India seem to be able to handle a comedy about an atheist who meets God.  The plot sounds convoluted but interesting, even if the moral of the story is hackneyed pro-religious nonsense.

Catholics, however, are "up in arms" over the way they've been portrayed in a movie that's not getting good reviews anyway.  Muslims could learn a lesson from the Catholics here.  "Up in arms" for Catholics means being whiny babies, which is enough to threaten release of a film.  No murder or arson so far reported.

Hindus, in return, are whining about yoga being disallowed in a Catholic church in England.  And in other news, the National Turk gets people to read this boring story by hiring a porn star to pose in a braless yoga getup at the top of the article.

...and since most of my readers are heterosexual males, there's probably no point in posting anything after that.




Thursday, September 27, 2012

Skepticism: A Key to Accuracy

I stumbled upon this interesting article about the persistence of untruth.  Much of it was a repeat of information I've read elsewhere, such as the fact that people more readily accept a statement as true if it agrees with their prior worldview and opinion.

As I kept reading I got more and more depressed, having all this evidence for the persistence of false memory but then I saw this section header:  "Skepticism: A Key to Accuracy."  It seems that people who have developed a skeptical approach to information tend not to be as easily fooled.

I remember during the run-up to the Iraq war invasion that I was the only one amongst my friends who saw through the lie about Hussein being connected to Al Qaeda.  I (heatedly) pointed out that Al Qaeda is a fundamentalist movement while Iraq is secular under Hussein.  But... I was living in D.C. and my friends had all been traumatized by 9/11 so they were predisposed to accept any idea if it seemed to mean added protection for themselves.  (I suspect Cheney had PTSD too)  I was living in Texas on 9/11/2001, so I had a little more distance from it.

But... I am also skeptical by nature and then developed my skepticism further after waking up to the ridiculousness of religious claims.  (Of course I believe what they say about skepticism because it agrees with me about skepticism being a good thing, but I have also never seen anything to disabuse me of that, and I have seen many attempts)

The article:
http://psi.sagepub.com/content/13/3/106.full?ijkey=FNCpLYuivUOHE&keytype=ref&siteid=sppsi
(pdf version:  http://psi.sagepub.com/content/13/3/106.full.pdf+html)
in Psychological Science in the Public Interest December 2012 vol. 13 no. 3 106-131

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

International Hatred Day

Hate someone today because you'll restore the balance of the universe! The more people you hate the more you'll tip the balance toward world peace! (or something)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Euthanasia

I've been on an emotional roller coaster all week, culminating with the euthanasia of a beloved pet.  Sometimes I wish I could fantasize life "on the other side" for loved ones, but this dog was a real momma's boy.  Non-existence is by far preferable to waiting decades for me to find him on the other side of the "Rainbow Bridge."  Not to mention, he'd have to compete with my other lost pets for my attention.  Tough on me, though.

Because I've been involved in pet rescue and I'm a big fan of one special breed, I have a lot of internet buddies and real-life friends who share my love for the breed and for rescue.  We often don't share much else, though.  So...  I just say "thank you" when they invoke the Rainbow Bridge or tell me they'll pray for me.

Making the decision to euthanize is one of those tough times when being a rationalist is really inconvenient.  As much as I admire the scientific method and need to know the whole truth of my pet's medical condition, I don't want to let go. If you've followed this blog you know that I've been reading books about decisions and beliefs (just started reading yet another one!).  So besides feeling this pull I have the self-awareness of the reasons for my conflicting feelings. 

Fortunately the specialist vet I eventually went to (at 1:00 a.m.!) gave me the whole ugly truth, more than the other two vets I'd seen in the previous two days.  We could do the procedure, which was expensive but affordable for me, but it probably wouldn't make much of a difference and there were specific reasons why it might not even be possible to do it successfully.  The gambler in me wanted to try anyway.  The amygdala is in control of that part and said "DO ANYTHING TO SAVE HIM EVEN IF THERE'S A 5% CHANCE!"  Then the prefrontal cortex stepped in and said "Save the money and use it to rescue the next one.  You've done all you can reasonably do for this dog and it's his time."

Fortunately at that hour the vet hospital didn't need the exam room I was in so I had plenty of time to think it through.  Or feel it through, as the case may be.  When I put him up on his feet and let him walk around for awhile I could tell that he was suffering even though he still had that *spark* of life and his mind was still with me.  An he still wanted to be with me, but I hated that he was suffering, and I couldn't bear to give him only temporary relief only to feel the same way or worse later.  After all the tug-of-war between dreading his loss and knowing the "science" of why it was necessary, in the end compassion took over.

So I called the vet on the intercom and told her I was ready to let him go.  We talked about euthanasia in general and I told her I've met people who became vet techs (veterinary nurses) because they didn't want to do euthanasias.  She responded that she believes she's doing a service, and I had to agree.  Then I blurted out "I wish we could do this for people" while she was giving my dog his first injection.

I have said this a few times before in random places and it generally makes people queasy.  This is the first time someone agreed with me.  She gave me a hug when it was over and told me she understood.  I kind of wonder if she also understood how hard it is to believe in euthanasia for people in our society.  We allow doctors to withhold food or remove "life support" or obey Do Not Resucitate orders and religious objections to life-saving care, but we don't allow them to "humanely" euthanize people.

For a time the Hemlock Society got a lot of attention, but all the right-to-die debates of the last century seem to have been quashed by the religious right.  No more "Doctor Death" debates since Kevorkian went to prison.  The question seems to have been settled. Mass murderers get euthanized by injection because it's "humane" but someone who's never harmed anyone has to suffer in agony until "nature takes its course."

As a society we need to consult all the parts of our collective conscious: our knee-jerk but ultimately selfish "NO!" response to the prospect of losing loved ones, the "death panel" in our collective subconscious that decides when additional intervention would be fruitless, and the compassionate part, which worries more about how the dying person feels than about how we would feel about letting them go.

Christians and other believers ask how we atheists can know what's right without an "objective morality" to consult.  In some cases there is indeed an objective morality:  ask yourself what is the objective of each possible course?  Is it selfish or compassionate?

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 11 Remembrance Video

The music and photos of this school project really go together and convey the events of the day very well. I give the student an "A" I give the extremists who did this an "F" for thinking they could advance their warped theology's cause this way, but an A+ for inspiring the growth of atheism in the U.S.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Getcher links right here!

Some interesting news this week:

The South Korean government comes out against creationists.

Jen McCreight quits blogging.  She was part of the "A+" movement for nicer atheism (or something), and also part of Freethought Blogs, which had some drama recently when PZ Myers kicked Thunderf00t off the Freethought Blogs site.  I didn't follow her blog closely but it's distressing to see her go.  Nobody should have to deal with sexist crap, though the cretins kind of proved her point about the way women are treated by male atheists.  Plasma Engineer summarizes the history of Atheism+ and the fallout on his Something Surprising blog.  In part two he links the commentaries of several male bloggers/vloggers.

Crazyass super-extremist fundamentalist Christian visited my campus this week.  I was going to post the local paper's description but it can't top this blog post by the Ohio University Skeptic Society after the nutter visited Ohio U. in 2009.  It's encouraging to see that he is apparently 100% unsuccessful in getting anyone to take his nutty theology seriously.

A lucky 13 kids were molested (allegedly) by a 25-year-old music "minister."  His father, the former pastor, embezzled from the church before taking a powder.  Lovely people, these Christians.

Mentally disabled Christian teen accused of blasphemy in Pakistan is released on bail.  This Islamic example of letting religion rule the state should give some dominionist Christians pause... we can hope.  The cleric who first accused the girl is now in trouble himself. (if you can trust Fox News)

Rather nice coexistence piece by a Christian (who also blogs for Patheos)

In Egypt, women and girls are being harrassed and some aren't putting up with it.

How to tell if your religious liberty is at risk.  Something to share with believers.

Fiji is still a Christian nation, at least until the military who took over the government in a coup finish writing a new constitution.

Jesuit Catholic instruction at Georgetown University includes a biased course in Hinduism.  Hindus are surprised.  I'm not.  But all is not lost.  McDonald's is opening vegetarian fast-food restaurants for them.  No cows sacrificed for a sandwich, but will that matter to Hindus?

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom reprinted an op-ed about Burmese prejudice against muslims from an unlikely source:  The Indianapolis Star

The Catholic church is still reluctant to deal with perverts.  How can they object to a priest doing a reading at a gay marriage and then rationalize pedophilia?

Meanwhile, the Episcopal diocese is cooperating on an investigation of one of its priests.



Friday, September 7, 2012

An ordinary woman can be an atheist

Browsing through other blogs I see a lot of "creds," including women who blog as "polemicists" or "feminists."

eh, I'm an feminist in the sense that I want to do what I want to do and I don't want men, especially men who don't know me, telling me what to do.  I don't want women to tell me what to do, either, so that really makes me a free thinker.  (One exception: my boss can tell me what to do but only for 40 hours per week and she can't tell me who to fuck or who not to fuck or how to do it when I do it, which she fortunately isn't nosy enough to be tempted to do even if she was a fundamentalist nutter)

Some lady bloggers began their blog "careers" as ordinary people then got creds by being bigger-than-life bloggers.  Jen McCreight became famous for "Boobquake," which was a "movement" (heh, couldn't resist) objecting to some fundy muslim cleric's claim that earthquakes were due to women being boobish... or something.  I wasn't paying attention then and only found her blog later.  At the time she was an undergrad at Purdue.  Now she's a graduate student and has flown around going to conferences speaking on student activism.  She did a good thing, but her "creds" were really just having a point of view and being willing to speak out, then encouraging other students to make a point (or two.. haha couldn't resist that one).  She didn't write her blog as a scientist, just as a person who believes in the right to be an atheist in the U.S.

The thing about ordinary women, who aren't ex-pastors or philosophers or PhDs in one of the "hard" sciences or evolutionary biology, is that ordinary women in Christianity are often the invisible glue holding together passé religions (i.e., all religions).  They are the "church ladies" and the moms and wives who make it possible for crazyass men to take crazyass positions.

I was expected to be one of these religious women, because church theology (doesn't matter which denomination) is so insane that it needs a translator who will put it into everyday parlance. 

Some of my facebook friends are just such people.  They "praise god" for a good outcome after an illness or scary event that god didn't apparently forsee so they had to praise him after he figured out how to fix his oversight.  If they didn't pray for the happy ending, they credit god with being magical beneficial, but if they did pray for it, they thank him.  Granted, more of my FB friends are women and my women friends are chattier on FB, but I think they kind of represent what happens in families and social circles in general. 

Today I was emotionally blackmailed with typical FB crap again:
To all my friends (including me) who are going through some issues right now--Let's start an intention avalanche. We all need positive intentions right now. If I don't see your name, I'll understand. May I ask my friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy, paste, and share this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems; health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my friends just for moral support. I know some will!! I did it for a friend and you can too. You have to copy & paste this one, no share button

Amen! Love you guys!

uhhhh what?  Do guys post this kind of thing?  I've never seen a guy post something that useless, but it's commonplace amongst my Christian friends.  Another one posted this gem today:

Today in my devotional, "Jesus Calling," there was a word "abhor." It said that "Jesus abhors the use of guilt as a means of motivation." Abhor means to "loathe or hate." Strong word. You shouldnt be pressured into serving Jesus
First of all, why do they have devotionals?  A: because reading the Bible will turn them into atheists!  It makes no fucking sense if you read the whole thing.  And not feeling pressured into serving Jesus?  The post itself is peer pressure to make you want to serve Jesus, and who wouldn't want to?  Oh you don't?  Well that's just not acceptable.  You should feel guilty for not feeling non-guilt for not doing what you don't want to do, .... or something.  You can't say "Jesus doesn't want to guilt me into serving him. *whew*  Let's party!"

Or this, which speaks to the social needs of women.  We want to talk about our problems, but you know what?  Even our best friends get sick of us.  But Jesus, our invisible friend, doesn't get sick of us (that we know):

(random friends' group photo grabbed from the web - lots of these out there, but few of men in such groupings, FYI)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

These are the links that was, erm... were

Romney says releasing his tax returns would violate his religious privacy (even though he's released two years).  Fellow Mormon politician John Huntsman calls bullshit, sort of.

TV station owned by Mormons refuses to air "The New Normal."  I wonder how they'd feel about "Sister Wives."

Another child-raping closet homosexual Bible-thumping evangelical anti-gay spokesperson for purity gets arrested.

Prostitute asks God for forgiveness and winds up being raped and set on fire.  Good going, God.  I guess they needed more prostitutes in Heaven.

Washington state Catholic church ignores state election law unless you count their rationalizations.

Baptists are distressed by the Clergy Project (despite what they say at the end of this article) and they stick with Todd Akin

Pentecostal teen fired by Burger King for wearing a skirt instead of slacks.  She claims she can't wear "men's clothes" but she can work at a job?  What a ridiculous religion.

Boko Haram sect of Islam wreaks havoc on Nigeria.  Now Nigeria wants to "talk" with them.  Does that mean they win?

Obama's delegate to special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation gives an interview.  It's rather impressive that the OIC is addressing the problems caused by some of the crazier Muslims.  Teh cRaZy runs so deep there that I wonder what can be done.  At least the U.S. has someone who can speak their language instead of crazy cowboy talk of the previous generation.  Quotable quote quotes the Quran:

We have made it clear, since President Obama took office, that what terrorists are doing contradicts the teaching of Islam. However there are limits to what the US can do. This requires the attention of the Islamic world, and we have no problem to say that this is not consistent with the teachings of Islam. The Quran states: “God does not change the condition of people until they change what is in themselves.” We support all constructive attempts to change in the Muslim world.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney needs an evangelical embassador to relate to people in his own country.  The guy's mentor and second father was Jerry Falwell.  *shudders*