Saturday, March 31, 2007
In my February episode, I started what I intended to be a series on evolution. The February episode was about the reasons why evolution and atheism are so often linked. This episode will be mostly about incredibly lame anti-evolution arguments, many of them advanced by young earthers, that are even discredited by the saner creationists.
First I'll be covering the generic "argument from incredulity" that is the cornerstone of many anti-evolution arguments. We'll talk about evolution being only a theory, and being a theory of chance, Then I'll briefly go over the motivation behind young earth beliefs, and some other arguments such as Lord Kelvin's mistaken estimate of the age of the universe, the moon dust argument, and probably the Paluxy dinosaur tracks. If there's time, I'll wrap up by talking a little about the overall problem with the creationist approach, where they mistakenly believe that a solidly established scientific theory can be instantly dismissed with a single "magic bullet" argument.
If I don't have time to do all this, the subject may continue into next month; I'm in no big hurry. Otherwise, next month Matt suggests that I temporarily turn away from creationism and go after the positive evidence in favor of evolution. This is assuming that I have time to appear, since I have to study for spring final next month. In any event, after that episode I'll do one on intelligent design, likely recapping my review of Darwin's Black Box and either my experiences at the Texas school board hearings or a recap of the Dover trial, which I know Matt has followed a lot.
If you have any additional suggestions regarding tomorrow's show, leave it in comments.
Well, blustery Catholic League bigmouth Bill Donohue has made it clear now. It's not that there's a statue of Jesus made of chocolate that's sent him into apoplexy. It's that you can see the Son of Man's sainted peter.
"They wouldn't show a depiction of Martin Luther King Jr. with genitals exposed on Martin Luther King Day, and they wouldn't show Mohammed depicted this way during Ramadan. It's always Christians, and the timing is deliberate."
Can someone please explain to me Christians' pathological fear of human genitalia? I mean, it's like, the mere sight of a dick or a pair of boobs, and they run screaming into the hills, where they're soon to be found shivering under a tree trunk and eating grass and bugs to stay alive.
Historically, if Jesus had been executed by the Romans by crucifixion, then it's practically certain he'd have been stripped butt naked. It's not as if the Romans had such tender sensibilities that they'd respect the dignity of someone they'd declared an enemy of the state and sentenced to death by covering him up with a loincloth. Good grief.
Donohue's right that you wouldn't create a statue of MLK on MLK Day showing him nude, because there's no valid historical context for showing him nude. Duh.
Now we have this gallery director looking like he's going to resign over this preposterous flap. Good grief.
Seriously, Christians. What is it with you and naked bodies? What's the big deal? Grow up already.
"Religious belief of all kinds shares the same intellectual respectability, evidential base, and rationality as belief in the existence of fairies."
A fine quote from this most worthwhile essay by A.C. Grayling, criticizing religious belief as a practice and analyzing the roots of the "quarrel" between believers and atheists. Grayling, along with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, argued for the atheists' side in a debate in England on March 27, which ended in a decisive victory for non-belief. The premise of the debate was "We'd be better off without religion." And it carried by audience vote, 1205 to 778. Arguers for theism Rabbi Julia Neuberger, Roger Scruton and Nigel Spivey found themselves thoroughly pwned. Seriously, America is slipping into becoming an intellectual third-world country compared to the UK and Europe.
One common whine of theocratic Christians is that mean ol' atheists "took God out of the schools" with the 1962 Murray v. Curlett decision, and that America has been going to hell in a handbasket ever since. The omnipresence of 24-hour media makes rare, isolated crimes like Columbine stand out, creating a sufficient atmosphere of fear that people ignore the fact that overall, things like violent youth crime and teen pregnancy rates have been trending downwards steadily over the last few decades. (Unlike the Christians, I am not arguing a direct causal link here; only that the argument that crime increases if people aren't having Christianity shoved down their throats is demonstrably false.)
Christians respond to the lack of state-mandated religion for students by complaining that this is anti-Christian presecution in action. And yet, a scan of the real world whenever religion rears its ugly, pock-marked head in a scholastic environment very often shows that the reverse is true. Christians take on a mob mentality and mercilessly harass and intimidate anyone who even suggests that open, unconstitutional religious activity in public schools might be inappropriate.
When a teacher in a Florida school complained that the principal was inappropriately placing Christian paraphernalia around the flagpole, she found herself suspended on trumped-up charges of helping a student cheat on a test, and has been blackballed in the rest of her community. A more open-and-shut case of religious harrassment you couldn't find.
It's entirely legal for students to do the babble-to-your-invisible-friend-around-the-flagpole-after-school thing, just as it's entirely legal for them to take their Bibles to school, for them to pray on their own when they get a free moment, or whatever. The only thing the Constitution prohibits is the school itself, as a government-run institution, either making religious exercises mandatory, or creating an atmosphere in which students and faculty who choose not to partake in these primitive rituals feel shunned or threatened.
For the principal and other school administrators to participate in the after-school flagpole prayers created a legally questionable situation. And that is all this teacher did: raise questions. For this, she finds herself victimized, threatened with her livelihood, and defamed. Even some parents who are supportive of the teacher have been threatened.
Several parents would not comment on the record, and one mother asked that her name not be used because she "was threatened to not be allowed back on campus if I say anything about it."
Threatened by the very same "loving," "moral" God-botherers who think that their brand of righteousness is what is needed in our schools and workplaces hell, just about any public venue they can grab if the horrors of the secular, liberal world aren't to destroy the fine fabric of our godly civilization. And if you disagree, don't show your faces around here, bitches. It'd be a shame if somethin' was to happen to ya.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Man, and I thought Piss Christ was funny! A Manhattan art gallery has begun displaying a life-sized statue of a nude, crucified Jesus made entirely out of 200 pounds of chocolate! Hey, chocolate, Easter the connection makes sense to me.
Predictably, Catholic League blowhard Bill Donohue has blown a gasket. Thing is, I'm not entirely clear what he's offended by that Jesus is made out of chocolate, or that he's in the nude (which he most likely would have been had he really been a victim of crucifixion). I know there's a scriptural ban on graven images, but the Catholic church has ignored that one for centuries. So what's a little chocolate hurt?
Well, it could have been worse. Think how livid Donohue would be if the artist had had colored eggs falling out of Jesus's...uh...
Okay, okay, I'll stop. This is a family blog.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Right on cue, Dan Marvin has tried to respond to my last couple of posts about the Problem of Evil. Here's one typical passage.
We wouldn’t know how God is righteous as he is, everlastingly, and give him glory for it if it hadn’t had of been for unrighteousness, we wouldn’t know he’s loving as he is if it hadn’t been for sin, we wouldn’t know he’s holy if it weren’t for judgment.
Sharp-eyed readers will note this is the very point I addressed and destroyed in my original post. Dan does not recognize that he has in no way refuted me. As usual, he's simply dodged the issue. If God were omnipotent, he could have given us a full understanding of sin, unrighteousness, and evil and still created a world in which no children ever get raped. That's why omnipotence is, like, way kewl. You can do anything, right?
Dan also seems to think my solution simply that God could have created no human beings with a propensity for pedophilia constitutes the complete removal of free will and establishment of a "dictatorship." Yes, Dan is exactly this stupid. Creating no humans who can rape a child is no more an imposition on free will than to have created no humans who could fly by flapping their arms or breathe underwater or teleport from one side of the planet to another. I desperately want to be able to teleport. Think of all the time saved sitting in traffic. But I can't! Oh no! There's no free will!
(For those in the crowd working at Dan's level of understanding, that last bit was snark.)
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The irrepressible (I'm sure people around here have other adjectives they'd prefer) Dan Marvin keeps on keepin' on in the comments. This time, he thinks he's come up with a real stump-the-atheist slamdunk. Behold.
So I pose to you “You are God” how would you do thing different then him to solve the issues that he has? Remember you have an entire race to deal with. Millions of variables how would you solve his issues? Play God for a day and set the world strait. Pick a subject of your choice and solve it better then him.
Ooo. Gee. If I were God. Wow. I have enough time trying to control my two dogs and my one-eyed cat. Don't lay a whole God trip on me, man!
Dan here is basically saying, "Look, guys, don't you understand that being God is hard work? I mean, he has an entire race to deal with! And having to choose between all the millions of variables, just think how hard it must be for him to solve all his issues! Could you do better? Cut the Guy some slack already!"
To which we calmly reply, Dan, you dink, your God is supposed to be omnipotent (no limits to his abilities), omniscient (no limits to his knowledge past, present, or future), and omnibenevolent (no limits to his goodwill towards humanity). Suddenly, we pesky atheists bring up things like war, pestilence, and child rape, and the only way you can defend your God's inaction on these horrors is to transform him from the transcendent, supernatural, all-powerful deity you insist we must worship to save ourselves, into some pitiful, overworked middle-management schmoe who's doing the best he can under really tough, trying conditions. And anyway, could we presume to do better?
Of course, any omniscient, omnipotent being who really wanted to sort out the millions of issues plaguing a whole race (I assume Dan means species; of course, there's more than one of those around) could do so without lifting a finger, by an act of pure will alone. That's the whole benefit of being, you know, omni-everything!
Dan really needs to understand what he's defending before he tries to defend it. But it's not as if I'm surprised his attempts at theodicy are as pitiful as every other argument he's tried to present us over the past month.
Here's a brief and sad little article. Country star Wynonna Judd is divorcing her estranged husband because he had sex with a minor under 13. In her public statement, she makes the kind of casually thoughtless religious remark that believers make which demonstrates how little they care actually to examine what they've been taught to believe. (Emphasis added.)
"Our family will pull together, begin the healing process and hopefully by the Grace of God become stronger. We will move forward with our faith, family and our friends to find resolution to this difficult situation."
Cue automatic atheist response: If you're so confident your God will help you overcome this "difficult situation," where was He when your ex-husband was putting a tweener through the "difficult situation" of statutory rape? I guess God likes you better, eh?
Christians reflexively fall back on the Appeal to Free Will whenever the Problem of Evil always illustrated to maximum effectiveness when a child is harmed pops up to inconvenience their God's best selling points, e.g., his omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence. The idea is that God cannot ever interfere with our most precious gift, our free will, because to do so would make us "robots," and God doesn't want to be worshipped by mindless robots who don't do anything that isn't pre-programmed. No, He wants us to come to him by our own free choice and love.
What Christians don't recognize is that the mere claim their God is omniscient negates the notion of free will. If God is omniscient, then he knows every choice you're going to make from cradle to grave. Even if he doesn't directly influence it, the mere fact he knows it calls into question that the choice is entirely yours. I've heard Christians engage in all kinds of rhetorical contortionism to squirm out of this one. My ex-wife tried to tell me that God "swears off knowing" certain things to allow for true free will. But you cannot "swear off knowing" something you already know. I cannot wake up in the morning and decide that I don't know my address or my own birthday. I've heard that God's omniscience means he actually knows all possible choices you might make. But this still means that in the end he knows which one you will make.
So either God is omniscient or He isn't. If He is, human free will cannot exist. QED.
Another intractable problem plagues Christians who try to use the Appeal to Free Will to justify God's allowing crimes like genocide, mass murder, or the rape of children. I've heard so many excuses here I cannot catalog them all. One of the few that has any persuasive power at all is that God must allow evil in order that people may have standards of nobility, courage, and goodness to which to aspire. Without Hitler, would those of us who opposed him have had the opportunity to present the world with a glorious moment of triumph for the concepts of justice, morality, freedom, equality, hope and heroism? If no one ever did wrong, how would you know the difference between right or wrong in order to choose the right?
Persuasive until, perhaps, you consider that such concepts were not necessarily alien to the world at large before the rise of Hitler or any other tyrant you might care to name. It's not as if there was anyone sitting around in 1938 other than the racist, lunatic demagogues (and no, they weren't atheist) who planned the Final Solution, that is thinking to themselves, "Gee whiz, I just can't figure out if it's right or wrong to murder millions of innocent people in converted gas chambers and dispose of their bodies in industrial ovens."
That one needs a God to first draw of the list of what's right or wrong before we can comprehend morality was handily disposed of by the Euthyphro Dilemma. Is a certain act right or wrong because God says so? Then what is His basis for characterizing them as such? Is an act even one like child rape morally neutral until God slaps the label "wrong" on it? Then His decision would appear to be entirely arbitrary, and God could just as easily have labeled it "right." On the other hand, if God has reasons for labeling acts as right or wrong, then those reasons necessarily exist independently of God and are rooted in the observable, tangible consequences of the acts. Any thinking being can draw the same conclusions, and God becomes irrelevant to moral development.
Two more problems demolish the Appeal to Free Will as a rebuttal to the PoE.
- Christians seem to forget that innocent victims have free will too. So in the spectacle of child rape, let us say we have three actors. 1) The rapist, whose free will is dictating, "I intend to rape this child." 2) The victim, whose free will is screaming out, "Help, I don't want to be raped." 3) God, standing on the sidelines whistling and buffing His nails, saying, "Sorry, I simply cannot interfere. Free will, don't you know." Whose free will? Well, in this case, it can only be the rapist's. God is in essence favoring the free will of the rapist over that of the innocent victim, rendering Him no less evil than the rapist himself. Thus Christians are put in the embarrassing position of realizing they have spent the last 2000 years worshipping the patron God of child molesters.
- Free will only refers to the ability to want to do something. It refers to a mental process only. To interfere with an actual act in no way impedes the exercise of free will. The FBI might get a tip and thwart a terrorist attack before it occurs. Has the terrorists' free will been violated? Not at all. Even as they're being led away in cuffs, they still have every bit as strong a desire to inflict terror and violence. They simply cannot act upon that desire. A crippled man may want to walk, a person with cancer may want to walk out of the hospital in perfect health to enjoy a long life. They cannot do those things, but that will never stop them wanting it.
So the Appeal to Free Will is thus refuted. As long as there are innocent victims of evil, then the Problem of Evil will continue. And while the PoE does not necessarily prove that no God of any kind exists (the indifferent god of deism is utterly untouched by it), it does prove that no God that could possibly matter that no God anyone would have any reason to worship and court favors from through prayer (and isn't the act of prayer itself a denial of the Christian claim that God cannot intervene directly in human affairs, since prayers themselves are requests for God to do exactly that?) exists.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Often, the hidden messages of a phrase carry more weight than its literal interpretation. The phrase “Thou shalt not judge,” is a fine example. It’s an adaptation from a quote attributed to Jesus, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged” (Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37). Although the Bible has other passages encouraging judging, the phrase in question has far more currency today, especially among liberal Christians. I believe its lasting popularity is due to a rather dark mind game that it carries with it. The mind game has several components.
First, the phrase is most often used in a context where some obvious wrong has been committed, but is being excused by the speaker. It’s one thing to acknowledge a mistake, learn from it, and make amends. It’s another thing entirely to sweep it under the rug. The hidden message is that you, too, have skeletons in your closet, so don’t draw attention to this one. Such a message is simply an abdication of responsibility.
The phrase is also often used between believers as a kind of collusion between thugs in the name of the thug boss, God. To use it is to say, “Keep your nose out of my business with the mafia boss, and I’ll stay out of your business. Otherwise, the boss will rub you out.” It is a kind of promise that if you excuse the speaker’s act of thuggery he’ll look the other way when you later commit yours. Occasionally, it’s used as a kind of religious tolerance mechanism to deal with the fact that there are thousands of sects of Christianity, each with their own unique and contradictory interpretation of the Bible. As long as the harm in question is directed against non-Christians, it should be excused in the name of ecumenicism.
At another level, using the phrase is admission that there is no solid morality on which to decide moral issues. With a lack of any sort of absolute morality from God, the speaker is left to create a smoke screen that distracts from this uncomfortable fact. The notion of an absolute morality from God is perhaps one of the most pernicious myths of the western religions.
Biblical passage is really a prohibition against being a hypocrite. That contextualized meaning has long since vanished, apparently. The hidden messages of the shorter phrase have far more utility. In the future, listen closely in the situations when “thou shalt not judge” is used. See if you can find someone avoiding responsibility for their actions or beliefs; looking to make a shady deal to downplay an act of thuggery; or hiding the fact that they don’t have a sound basis to tell right from wrong. When you catch someone using the phrase in this manner, call them on the carpet. Judge.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
You don't see too many well, I can't think of any so far posts about the ongoing abortion/choice wars here. Mainly, I see that as more of a political issue than an atheist issue, though it's true that most anti-abortion agitators are right-wing Christians, and many atheists tend to be liberals who come down on the side of choice. (Though certainly not all; there is an organization called the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League.)
I myself am no great fan of abortion; I think it's a sad and tragic decision for any woman to have to make, and it cannot come easily. And I think that's actually a view held by almost all pro-choicers, too. No one supports abortion rights because they think it's way cool to vacuum a fetus out of a woman's womb. The issue is that the choice to have any medical procedure performed ought not to be taken out of the hands of private citizens and put into the oh-so-reliable hands of the government. Especially when that government is overrun by religious demagogues who think the "right to life" of a blastocyst takes precedence over that of an actual living breathing woman.
Texas, being the kind of big Bible Belt stronghold where you can actually drive down highways and see "pro-life" billboards as well as those trying to make virginity look like the most bitchen thing ever, has come up with a new weird twist in the ongoing wars over who gets to say what happens with women's bodies. State senator Dan Patrick has just introduced a bill that would pay women $500 for choosing adoption over abortion.
There are so many things weird and wrong with this it's hard to know where to begin. First off, it's rooted on the assumption that only broke, unmarried women get abortions. It assumes that women are so shallow that they can be bought off making a difficult and morally troubling decision simply with a little money. In the case of abortions undertaken following rape, it instantly transforms the woman from unwitting mother-to-be to unwitting state-sponsored prostitute. (What's next, I wonder? Offer underage rape victims an iPod?) And, as some people have already pointed out, it comes creepily close to the illegal act of baby-selling.
I can think of other reasons to object to the bill. If one were a conservative, you'd think this bill would look remarkably like, you know, welfare. After all, aren't conservatives the ones who complain about a welfare system that tosses loads of taxpayers' money at low-income families who keep having kids they can't afford? So how is Senator Patrick's bill any different? After all, it's not his $500 he's offering to ambivalent moms-to-be, it's ours. It looks like you're just giving women a nine-month headstart on the whole welfare process. So why would a conservative be anti-welfare yet pro-let's-give-a-bounty-to-pregnant-women?
As an adopted child myself, I'm all for adoption. But the way to reduce unwanted pregnancies is not simply to buy women off. It's to provide fact-based, comprehensive sex education in the schools, in a program that provides students with all available information about the consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior including not only abstinence, but info about STD's and the proper use of contraceptives. Never underestimate the power of education. I attribute the fact I'm a non-smoker today largely to the ghastly photos of diseased lungs I was shown in health class in my impressionable youth.
Alas, with religious demagogues, irony is never too far away. And as we all know, the same people who oppose a woman's right to control her own reproductive organs are the same people who want to inhibit the kind of proper sex education that young people need, replacing it with an abstinence-only mantra that has already been shown, time and again, not to work. It'll take a lot more than 500 bucks a head to undo the damage done by ignorance.
John Romero can sleep more easily now. Romero's infamous Daikatana is no longer the most notorious flop in video game history. That dubious honor now belongs to Left Behind: Eternal Forces. (See our first post about it here.) Universally panned by the gaming community for its laughable bugginess and spyware, and boycotted by its Christian target audience for its emphasis on violence (though the game itself is nowhere near as violent as the books it's based on), the game has resulted in a $31 million loss for its parent company, which is seeing its stock trading at a humiliating 31¢ a share.
If you click on the link to our own previous post there, you'll see an amusing comment from someone claiming to be an employee of Left Behind Games (and hey, they probably are, or were I suspect a bit of downsizing has been done), defending the game from its critics and offering examples of "credible" reviews from "unbiased experts". It's a sign of how badly the criticism was stinging LBG, Inc. that they felt the need to come to a little blog like ours much less trafficked at the time of that post than it is now to defend it. Still, if lives were being changed because of this game, you'd think it would have sold a little better, you know? (And one of the "credible" reviews they link to is one on IGN.com that only gives the game a "5.9 - Mediocre" rating.)
Clearly God just wasn't backing this little venture, was he? Maybe He was off playing Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Today's post about Matt in the paper reminded me I haven't kept up posting videos of the show as I'd been promising. Here's the most recent one posted to Google, episode #489 from February 25. Don Baker talks about Martin Luther's influence on the Nazis and answers evolution deniers' claims that Hitler's anti-Semitism was inspired by Darwin. Airing of this show cut off early.
As he's entirely too modest to tell you so himself, I'm happy to announce our own Matt Dillahunty got profiled in the local paper, which is probably the most publicity the Atheist Experience TV show has gotten in its entire 10-year history. (You're going to be intercepted by "Register now!" crap when you click the link. Just log in with username firstname.lastname@example.org, password dwandwan.)
They kind of make it sound like The Matt Show, not mentioning the fact that it's been on ten years and has inspired numerous atheist groups around the country to start their own similar access shows during all that time. But I like that the Statesman, which has never exactly had a very kind disposition towards the nonreligious, could manage such a fair article. Hopefully it will bring a lot of attention. Congratulations, Matt!
Saturday, March 17, 2007
I gotta admit, as much as all atheists are routinely bullied by the religious, still, nobody gets the abuse as badly as gays. And as some of the kindest and most good-hearted people I've known in my life have been either gay or lesbian (much moreso than any Christian I've ever known), I'm as offended by such attacks on people who are good friends as I am by garden-variety bigotry such as racism, and its effect on my nonwhite friends.
Albert Mohler is a Southern Baptist preacher who recently caused a bit of a furore when he posted an article to his blog suggesting that there may well be a biological origin for homosexuality, and if so, it might be possible to "cure" teh gayz while the fetus is still in utero.
Mohler caught flak from both sides from fundie bigots who want to think that being gay is all a choice based on spectacular moral failing, thus justifying their continuing hatred and prejudice, and from gay activists, who think of the idea of being able to detect a "gay gene" in a fetus and give the mother some kind of patch to wear to correct the condition to be frankenscience.
Mohler backpedals like mad in his most recent blog entry, naturally catering to the bigots, and in so doing he makes a bizarre statement in which he unwittingly confirms the evil of the god he worships. Mohler states that in the eventuality science does confirm a genetic basis for homosexuality, this would simply be confirmation of the Fall (darn that stupid Eve!) and "God's judgment upon sin," and that...
Such a discovery, if it were to be accepted, would not change God's condemnation of all forms of homosexual behavior, nor would it mean that this represents the inviolable "identity" of any individual. As I argued previously, moral responsibility does not require absolute moral choice. A soldier in battle may not have chosen to be in a situation of moral anguish, but he is still absolutely responsible for his decisions and actions. Those who commit homosexual acts, whoever they are and whatever their biological profile, are absolutely responsible for their sin. Regardless of any actual or hypothetical orientation, those who commit same-sex acts are responsible for the choice to commit the sinful act.
Mohler is breathtakingly full of it here. The soldier analogy is entirely inappropriate, because killing people in war is not based upon biological imperatives, or at least it hasn't been since we lived in caves as hunter/gatherers. These days wars are fought for religious or political ideologies, and not to fulfill a genetic predisposition. And admitting people might have a biological imperative to do a thing, then claim they have a choice anyway and condemn them for choosing to do a thing that you've just stated they can't help, is simply dealing from the bottom of the deck. You might as well come up with an arbitrary theological justification for calling the wearing of clothing or the eating of food a "sin," and then say, "Regardless of whether or not people are biologically predisposed to wear clothing for warmth or eat food, they are still responsible for the choice to do so."
But more amusing is what this implies for Mohler's God. If homosexuality is genetically based, then according to Mohler, God has essentially created thousands of generations of people with a deliberate flaw that will inevitably lead to their condemnation. God has, in effect, made unsavable sinners, and their status as unsavable sinners is already locked down while they are still in the womb, presenting us with the ahem morally dubious spectacle of a smiling, giggling baby who is irretreivably doomed to eternal Hell. God is making millions of people simply to populate Hell with. This is another predistination argument, and if predestination is true, then the entire act of Christian evangelism is a sham even if God does exist, because God has intentionally made people with a condition that will prevent their ever being saved.
Again, Christian belief reveals its intellectual and moral bankruptcy. While there may be no way to cure homosexuality and lesbianism, there is a way to cure hate, and it's in letting go of ancient superstitions that divide the human race into Us and Them.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
On Monday, the Secular Coalition announced that Rep. Pete Stark (D. Calif.) is, according to their research, the first open nontheist in the history of Congress. This announcement came as the result of a the Secular Coalition's "Find an Atheist, Humanist, Freethinker Elected Official" contest.
Wasting very little time, the Christian Seniors Association(a division of Traditional Values Coalition) released a statement which clearly demonstrates the anti-atheist biogtry and ignorance that made this search for nontheists both necessary and overdue.
CSA ASKS MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO SPEAK UP AS CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMAN STARK DENIES GOD’S EXISTENCE
A Sad First in the History of the Congress
Washington, DC – The Christian Seniors Association (CSA) today encouraged members of the Congress to speak of their belief in God on the floor of the House after a liberal California Congressman made history by denying God.
Katy, bar the door! There's a Congressman who doesn't believe in God, so we're gonna have us some "chuhch". Why would it be necessary (or appropriate) for Congress to stop doing business in order to give their personal testimonies? Did Rep. Pete Stark's announcement tie up any Congressional time?
“It is sad but not surprising that the current Congress has produced this historic first – one of its members has denied God,” said CSA Executive Director James Lafferty.
So, this is clearly a demonstration of the evils of "the current Congress"? Nevermind the fact that Rep. Stark has been a member of Congress since 1973, we need to spin this so that the Democratic takeover looks bad. Seriously though, how bad could it really be? Isn't he just one man that flew under the religious radar? Is this really a sign of the apocalypse?
“The liberals in Congress want to throttle any school child who bows his or her head in prayer, but they want to establish a right for liberals to bash Christians and berate God around the clock.
Oh no! They're coming for our kids and bad mouthing our god!
Ok, enough sarcasm...now I'm pissed. I suppose I should be grateful that the CSA has clearly demonstrated the very problems we've been pointing out. This ignorant, misdirected bigotry is the result of a very narrow mindset that has no understanding of what true religious freedom is.
They began with "there's an atheist in Congress", moved to "well, that's no surprise, I've read Ann Coulter's book...this is just part of the godless liberal agenda" and then graduate to blatant lies and sensationalist attacks about how we're coming after the children.
“It is time for religious members of Congress to push back."
Sure it is. One of hundreds of Congressmen is a heathen, so we need everyone to organize in opposition to this travesty. Evidently Rep. Stark is a huge threat to the fabric of the delusional universe these folks call home.
“We have long recognized that all of this hot air about ‘separation of church and state’ has been a veiled effort to intimidate and silence religious voices in public policy matters.
And we, the godless, have long recognized that you have no understanding of 'separation of church and state' and no interest in exercising tolerance toward those who hold beliefs which differ from yours. In your ignorant little minds, religious freedom only applies to those who share your fondness for fairytales.
The First Amendment is now "hot air". Thanks.
Please explain how Pete Stark's beliefs "intimidate and silence religious voices". Could someone silence those crickets, please? I'm having a hard time hearing their response.
“Congressman Stark’s statement is a very sad benchmark for America. It could be the moment which defines the decline of our country or it could be the spark which marks an important day.
It certainly could and its clear which direction you're encouraging - decline. How quickly we forget that this nation was founded by people trying to avoid the exact mindset you're promoting.
“This is a fight which is destined to be fought in America and we think it should begin today.”
Clearly fighting is all you understand. Rational discourse is beyond you.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Dan's latest expression of his martyr mantra included this pitiful little aside, which I found comical enough to comment upon.
Martin is a bitter man but I still love him enough to say “Stop, you will get burned” (because I was burned myself and I know the outcome). I have been called an a-hole and a Jesus freak and all sorts of profane things even here but that never stopped me from getting the word out. This group here is counter productive and hate filled and that is just fine with me, I understand it isn’t a pretty picture to those on the other side.
Dan lives in his own little world, where messages are allowed to go out but none are allowed to come in. He says as much here. He broadcasts but does not receive. When he snivels that he has been called nasty names by people he's approached, he doesn't take that as a sign he's doing a bad job of witnessing for his lord, but that he's doing a great job. In his skewed way of looking at reality, being a deliverer of the word who constantly fails and antagonizes the very people he's trying to reach is, paradoxically, a sign of success, because to him, success as a witness is not in how many souls you save, but in how much "persecution" you endure while doing it.
I suspect Dan puts a lot of stock in John 15:18. The price of dedicating your life to some illusive ideal, to the extent of alienating people with whom you could very easily get along if you were smart, civil, and knew how to hold your own in a discussion of even the most controversial topics, is clearly something that a person of Dan's pathology is willing to pay. Every time we reply to one of his posts either with strong rebuttal, direct questions, pointing out inconsistencies, or demanding clarifications it's easier and preferable to him to think he's simply dealing with a bunch of angry haters. It lets him feel closer to his bleeding Jesus on the cross. Which kind of indicates that, for all his talk of God and love and messages, it's all about him in the end, isn't it?
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
And to think that for a brief moment I was actually inclined to feel sorry for Dan Marvin. After all, he turns up here, offers a host of increasingly absurd and ignorant non-arguments, and is refuted every time. Rather than evaluate his arguments in the light of the refutations he's gotten, and attempt honest rebuttals, he's shown himself to be to be a pathological, self-deluded liar, projecting all of his greatest faults on all of us.
He has been answered in the comments by myself, Stephen, Tracie and others with utmost clarity and directness, yet he whines that he has been "misinterpreted, misrepresented, and misquoted," clearly not comprehending that if we're literally copying and pasting the words he's actually written while responding to him, we're in fact taking utmost care not to do any of those things. He accuses me of "deceitfulness in so called 'welcoming' me to discuss only attempt to belittle and degrade me." In Dan's world, if you invite him to your home, then you get angry because he pees on the rug, you've deceived him. Dan is completely ignoring that...
- he came to us, we never sought him out (his first comment came out of the blue in this thread)
- when I welcomed him here, I also set out a detailed list of bullet points advising him on good vs. bad arguing techniques, and making him aware of certain facts about atheists he should take into consideration before talking to us, all of which he categorically ignored
- the "belittling" he thinks he's received has been mostly due to the poor quality of the posts he's made here, all of which have consisted of logical fallacies, misunderstandings of his own precious Scripture, outright lies about science and gratuitous insults, and simple stupidity (as in his consistent failure to comprehend that he's been asked many times for a good proof of God, only to continue asserting this being's existence without support)
- that any other belittling and degradation he's gotten here has been, again, entirely his fault for shoring up his ignorance with unmerited cockiness and arrogance (such as responding to fellow Christian Chris W, who warned him that he was simply sowing more confusion and senselessness, by dismissing Chris as a "false convert")
In short, Dan has been a complete disgrace. I was going to make this second post a lengthy exegesis on correcting the scientific inaccuracies in his first battery of comments, but I no longer see the point, as anyone here who's properly educated will know what the right answers are, and Dan is incapable of learning.
So Dan can be summed up as follows. He does not how to debate. He does not understand that his views on the Bible will not be shared by everyone else. He does not accept that anyone else could know more about the Bible and Christianity than he does. He does not know how to listen to others. He does not know how to respond to being welcomed with respectful behavior. He does not know how to distinguish truths from falsehoods. He does not know how to answer direct questions, and does not seem to know even how to understand them when they are asked. He does not comprehend the concept of evidence. He does not know how to accept responsibility for his own words and deeds. He does not know how to lose graciously. He does not know how to tell the truth. He does not know how to behave like an adult.
This is a pretty comprehensive catalog of character failings. The guy is a simple fanatic, his mind locked into a religious ideology so hermetically sealed from critical inquiry that even air doesn't get in. His behavior up to now has been more than enough to get him banned from any number of other blogs. But we don't do that here. I'm happy to have him keep turning up, digging himself deeper into the quagmire he has created for himself, and dealing with the responses he gets. But in the interest of honesty, I am going to retract one statement about him that I made previously: he is a troll, or more commonly what's called a "concern troll". And the fact that all of the above will merely convince Dan all the more that he's the one being picked on, belittled, and maligned, when all he's trying to do is "love" us and look out for us, is just another sad indicator of his disconnection from reality.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Well well well. I go away for a week, and look what happens. I know, I said I'd be back to deal with the nonsensical disquisitions of Dan Marvin. But I wasn't expecting an 80+ comment-long thread in which I'd be treated to some of the most flagrant displays of ignorance and dishonesty I've seen from an evangelical in a long time complete with gloriously unflinching rebuttals to same.
This is, of course, what having an atheist blog is all about, and I'm utterly delighted. I've had nothing but pleasure in observing the punishment Dan has been dealt at the hands of Stephen, Tracie, and other commenters here.
However, lest any of you think there is no more to be said, rest assured, I have plenty to say. And as I'm not limited to replying to just one or two posts from Dan, I can over the course of the entire comments thread make an assessment of his overall pattern of arguing. Hopefully, this will prove both a convenience to readers here who don't wish to devote an afternoon to reading over 85 comments, and instructive in helping other atheist arguers out there try to comprehend and navigate the whirlpool of confusion that is the mind of the fundamentalist.
I suppose it should have come as a kind of bleak foreshadowing when Dan confessed to being an admirer of Ray "Banana Boy" Comfort, evangelism's greatest unintentional comedian, that we weren't going to be dealing with a guy who was firing on all five cylinders here. But Dan exhibits all of Comfort's least admirable character flaws, a selective reading (informed by flat ignorance) of the contents of his own beloved Scripture, married to a form of scientific illiteracy that is made doubly infuriating by an undeserved smug confidence. There's probably nothing more exasperating than a scientifically illiterate person attempting to lecture scientifically literate people on science, and in the second part of these posts, I'll supply the corrective Dan needs to remedy this little error.
While it's nice of Dan to think he needs to use "kid gloves" in his own posts, here the gloves come off. Dan, welcome to school.
In his first of many posts, Dan attempts to respond to my bullet points in a manner that starts poorly and gets increasingly inept as the comment rebuttals come in. He first tries to whitewash the Doctrine of Hell in a way that indicates he completely skimmed over the very first of those bullet points: remember, most of us here used to be Christian and have read Scripture. Indeed, it's because we read it and understood its implications that is a large part of why we left the Christian fold. Dan writes:
Hell was not created to punish the ones that “doubted” God; it was created to punish the morally evil people.
Stephen immediately heads this one off at the pass, pointing out that there are many passages in scripture that make it abundantly clear that mere disbelief is all that is necessary for condemnation to the lake o' fire. Dan's reply to this:
When Martin said ”chooses to punish people with an eternity of torture “for” doubting his existence” I was under the impression that he meant just because you doubt you go to hell, which is not the case, our sins is what we are judged by, as well as doubting, not just doubting.
Okay, class, it's Reading Comprehension 101 time. Let's look specifically at each of the preceding passages I referenced.
Mark 6:16: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
John 3:18: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
John 3:36: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.
If anything in the hopeless literary mishmash that is the Bible seems unambiguously clear, it's this. Nowhere in any of these scriptures does it say that that disbelief-plus-sinful behavior is the required combination for being hellbound. Nowhere in any of them does it say that an unbeliever who nonetheless lives his life virtuously will get a pass to Heaven on general principles. Instead, it's quite simple: Don't believe? Go directly to hell.
Dan and other Christians might try to worm out of this one by saying it's all a moot point, that we're all born into sin and are thus condemned merely for being alive in the first place a position of sheer misanthropy so sickening I'm really at a loss for words to condemn it adequately. But that would not change the reality that there are those passages in scripture stating without equivocation that disbelief alone will earn you lunch-special placement on Satan's Barbecue of Souls.
Dan has ignored another of my bullet points. Don't make logical fallacies. The fallacy Dan is flailing in here is called shifting the goalposts, in which one attempts to change one's views, or at least the premise of their argument, in mid-argument. Dan starts by saying, "No no, God won't condemn you for not believing in him, only for your sinful ways," then, when shown scriptures saying that's exactly what God will do, he waves his hands and says "No no, what I meant was that God will condemn you for not believing in him as well as for your sinful ways." The pitiful thing is that Dan thinks we won't notice this. Once more with feeling: what's the hallmark of an amateur arguer? Yup. The open employment of logical fallacies.
Stephen follows up with the correct assessment that in a world where everyone sins, "the only differentiating factor is belief." He then ambushes Dan with a fantastic pop quiz of the sort that makes Christians utterly livid when arguing with atheists, the kind designed to get straight "no spin zone" answers about exactly what it is they believe. I don't think I could've done better than this if I'd tried.
True or false: A horrible, genocidal monster who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and accepts him into his heart on his death bed goes to Heaven.
True or false: A sweet, loving little girl who dishonored her mother once by crying when she was hungry, dies without accepting Jesus into her heart, so she burns in Hell for all eternity.
A sinner accepts Jesus into his heart at age six, and is therefore forgiven for all sins, past, present and future. Later, one of those sins is doubt that God exists after all.
a) Will he go to Heaven because, once saved, he was always saved?
b) Will he go to Hell for being born a sinner, by no fault of his own?
c) Will he go to Hell for discontinuing belief?
Caught like a deer in the headlights by this direct confrontation, Dan resorts to an Olympic-quality feat of rhetorical calisthenics to avoid anything like a direct answer. Replying to the first of the three, Dan squirms as follows:
Not sure by that example. I don’t know the level of righteousness and only God can judge that. BTW No where in the bible does it say accept Jesus in your heart to be saved. That is quite an insult.
Who knew that bullshit was such a compressible solid? Dan's packed more of it in those few sentences than can be dealt with using anything short of a high-pressure hose. First, what has the "level of righteousness" got to do with a damn thing? I suspect that the point Dan is making here is that if someone makes a dishonest or false conversion, then God will see through their dishonesty, being such a smart guy, after all, and promptly eject them into hell anyway.
But so what? That little detail is irrelevant to Stephen's question. Stephen posed a hypothetical scenario, so let's assume that, for the sake of argument, Dan is being asked to consider that the genocidal killer's deathbed confession is truthfully 100% sincere. What then is Dan's answer? If Dan wanted to follow scripture, the only correct answer could be "yes," as Christian teaching makes it clear that all one's sins can be forgiven and washed away in the blood of the lamb, and all that. But Dan has at least enough synapses firing to recognize that Stephen has laid a trap for him to get him to state outright that there are ways for the world's Adolfs to get into Heaven while more virtuous people perhaps not sinless in Christianity's ugly worldview, but at least not monstrous, genocidal killers may find themselves thrown in hell for far less heinous offenses.
So the best Dan can offer is a mealy-mouthed "I dunno," followed by an attempt at distraction by huffing and puffing over Stephen's use of the phrase "accept Jesus in your heart." Coming from a guy who has himself already rather blatantly claimed the Bible says things it doesn't say, and doesn't say things it actually says, this is about as hilarious a scene of getting caught with his pants down as Dan could suffer. Stephen, being no slouch, recognizes Dan's dodge for what it is and calls him on it front and center.
Dan fares no better in his reply to the second scenario.
...you are not dishonoring your mother by crying “I’m hungry, mumsy”. You dishonor your mom for example by arguing with her because you want to stay out until 3am instead of the 10pm rule and you stay out until 3am anyway.
Wow. Does Dan really believe a kid deserves eternity in hellfire just because she stays out past curfew? The guy's not exactly making a very appealing argument for his god's loving, fatherly nature, is he?
Dan, again, resents being trapped into saying the Bible advocates certain things, like ghastly eternal punishments for children. Here his reply is even more brazen. The guy who just attacked Stephen for using a phrase that isn't in the Bible (despite the fact Stephen never claimed he got it from the Bible in the first place) now just plain makes up a position for the Bible on a subject that troubles him morally.
YES the bible is clear of that, “FOR ADULTS” but I believe all children go to heaven it is just logical.
Logical? Maybe. Biblical? Not at all. Again, take a quick scriptural read-through and you'll see God making no distinction whatsoever between adult and child when he orders those who don't worship him and oppress his chosen people put to the sword. (Okay, maybe I could understand ordering those who enslave your chosen people to be taught a nasty lesson, but what did their kids ever do?) Try Exodus 11:4-6, 1 Samuel 15:3, Hosea 13:16; and Psalm 137:8-9 for starters. Now, is Dan going to suggest that when God ordered the massacre of the Amalekites, the Midianites, and the Egyptian first-born, he went ahead and sent the adults' souls to hell but gave those of the children to Heaven, on account of his being such a swell guy? And if so, what scripture would Dan get that from?
With Dan's answer to this, we have a shining example of why I and many other Atheist Experience alums often refer to the Bible as Christianity's Big Book of Multiple Choice. Point out something in their Bible that is undeniably morally reprehensible, and Christians will either tap dance around it all day, or "interpret" it out of all recognition anything to avoid having to face the clear moral atrocities condoned and even ordered by God in its pages, and the quandary that puts Christians in when having to deal with the Doctrine of Hell and Problem of Evil. Pick 'n' choose, pick 'n' choose. In the end, the Bible is the Divine Word of God, and yet it somehow always says what they wish it to say.
Now, Stephen responds to Dan's waffling with Mark 10:15, which is probably not the best choice since it can be interpreted to mean that one must experience conversion with the wide-eyed, unquestioning mental state of a trusting child, not necessarily that they must convert while still a child in age. But there we go again with the "interpretation" business (something Christians like to call hermeneutics, which, though it might sound all scholarly and stuff, still amounts to "let's make sure the Bible says what we want it to say"). I think it would have been much more to the point to go back to John 3:18 and 3:36 and note that, just as there is no qualifier about sinful behavior, neither is there an exception made for youth. Dan's "logical" belief that all children go to Heaven by default is just something he made up to counter an aspect of his religion he finds morally troubling another hint, if one were needed, that perhaps Christians don't get all their morals from their Bible the way they think they do.
Finally, Dan squeezes out a popcorn fart of a nonanswer in reply to the multiple-choice scenario, mumbling something about real belief versus "going through the motions" that addresses nothing in particular. With this, Dan ends, not with a bang, but a whimper. Stephen administers the coup de grace with a nice little summing up that I could not improve upon. (Stephen is really good at that sort of thing.)
I noticed that each of your answers to my quiz questions was a noncommittal "I don't know." That's a fine answer for a scientist to offer, but someone who claims to have special knowledge from an all-knowing God really ought to have a better idea of what it takes to get into the club. Why hasn't God made the correct answers to these important doctrinal questions more clear?
As we've seen, Dan Marvin is a rank amateur. It's taken a lot of guts for him to drop by and take on the old pros. But I promised that we wouldn't allow bad arguments to slide, and the commenters here have lived up to that promise admirably. I don't suspect Dan has learned anything; the depth of his fundamentalist indoctrination appears to have rendered him ineducable, and though he claims to appreciate Stephen's getting him to think, a real resentment does seem to seep through. Nevertheless, it's the duty of smart and honest people not to give foolishness and dishonesty a pass, and here at The Atheist Experience, you can rely on us to be on the job.
Next: Dan's scientific illiteracy earns him a knuckle-rapping with the big wooden ruler, and he's sent to the corner with the pointy hat.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
For those of you wondering why I've been AWOL from the blog and its comments threads lately, rest assured I am planning a lengthy and detailed post addressing the remarks of Dan Marvin (which a number of folks have been addressing nicely themselves in said comments) but I will not be able to get around to it until the weekend at the earliest. This is good news, of course; a very busy week is what anyone working in the nebulous world of the Austin film community wants to have. So look for the next big post from me Saturday or Sunday at the earliest. Perhaps in the interim, some of the other guys on the team here this is a team blog, guys, right? will find time in their own schedules to toss up a post or two.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Saturday, March 03, 2007
If you've been paying attention to this comments thread, you'll have noticed that we've been paid a visit by an evangelical Christian blogger named Dan Marvin. Dan isn't trolling, but is a sincere guy who doesn't want us all to go to hell. I'm happy to have Dan visiting us, but there are a few helpful ground rules that Christians ought to be aware of before coming to atheist sites to save our souls. This will help make the experience less unpleasant for them and less of a nuisance for us.
- Be aware that most atheists have come from religious upbringings. This means that your arguments and appeals have most likely been heard by us before.
- Be aware of logical fallacies so that you do not make them. Atheist bloggers tend to be reasonably well educated folks, with backgrounds either professionally, academically, or as involved laypeople in religion, science, philosophy, and forensic debate. Nothing marks a person as a bad arguer quite like the clueless delivery of logical fallacies. From Dan we've already had appeals to belief and popularity (millions of people believe Christianity so it must be true), and these amateurish debating mistakes can be easily corrected simply by studying what they are. Just Google "logical fallacies" and you'll be okay.
- Don't mock guys like Charles Darwin or Richard Dawkins if you've never read a word they've written. Ignorance alone is annoying; ignorance coupled with undeserved cockiness is just offensive and arrogant. And before you remind me that this kind of thing swings both ways, be aware that most of us here have, in fact, read the Bible.
- Don't make foolish assertions that your religious belief is on the same footing as science. We've already had this silliness from Dan, and nothing catches a believer with his rhetorical pants down more embarrassingly. Faith-based belief in an ancient holy book full of angels, devils, and talking donkeys is not even close to being in the same intellectual ballpark as the scientific method, which entails drawing conclusions about the natural world through experimentation and observation. Science is a rigorous exercise, ruthlessly vetted through a process of peer review to weed out and correct mistakes. There is no analogue in religious practice. To say, as Dan did, that to disbelieve the Bible one must also disbelieve every work of science ever written, well, that's the kind of thing that'll get you sent to the corner with a dunce cap on your head.
- We are aware that to Christians, atheists can often sound brusque, condescending, and downright pissy. Chalk this up to frustration. Our position, by and large, is this. We're just normal folks, trying to live our lives and get by as peaceably and decently as we can. And because we don't share the belief in sky gods held by others, we are condemned as the worst kinds of people in society. We are told we are deserving of eternal torture for not sharing your beliefs, and we are fed the same bogus arguments most of which are emotional appeals and exercises in loopy illogic in your attempts to make us see the error of our ways. Mainly, we just want to be left alone. But in a religion-addicted world, this is impossible. So the next time you wonder, "Why are atheists so angry?" think about how religionists routinely behave towards us. I certainly will do my best to be polite and cordial to guys like Dan as long as they are polite and cordial and not trolling.
- Be aware that the minute you fall back on "You just have to have faith," you've lost. If atheists differ from believers in one area more than any other, it's that believers think that "faith" belief in the supernatural claims of the Bible without evidence is an acceptible means of cognition. We know it isn't. There is no religious belief not yours, not anybody's so innately special that it gets to bypass the same criteria that human beings use for any other decision-making they do in life. If I wouldn't do faith-based used-car shopping, or allow someone to perform faith-based surgery upon me, I see no reason to accept a faith-based belief about questions regarding the nature of the universe and my own fate. If you're going to tell me flat out that I'm eternally doomed for not believing as you believe, then you'd better make with the most incontrovertible evidence anyone has ever produced for anything. Otherwise, you're just insulting and threatening me, and that not only reflects poorly upon your arguing skills but upon your personal morality.
There. That should help our evangelical visitors understand the boxing ring they have chosen to step into. We're all for being nice folks and carrying the torch of positive atheism. But if you make bad or hackneyed arguments that we've heard before, we'll call you on them. Atheists, contrary to preconceptions, can usually be counted on for honesty.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Kent Hovind convicted, disgraced, pathetic and forgotten continues to fight the
good fight against the penal system. He's got his attorney (presumably the same incompetent no-hoper who couldn't even get his paperwork organized in court and thus earned a rebuke from the judge for wasting everybody's time with his incessant shuffling) asking for an acquittal on the grounds that the Hovinds didn't mean to defraud the government. This is a bit of a step down from the tough-talking "they're the ones breaking the law, not me!" bluster Hovind puffed himself up with on his recorded prison phone calls.
You know, if you shoot a guy in the face, and then tell the judge you didn't mean to kill him, you just might still find yourself sent up the river for murder. Crimes don't become not-crimes when the perp commits them by accident. I mention this only by way of making a point. Kent Hovind, in fact, meant to do every sleazy thing he did, and with his lawyer, he's now lying once again, as he's lied all his life about things like evolution.
So long, Kent. You're as irrelevant as the creationist twaddle you peddle to the uneducated and gullible. No one but you believes your delusions any more.