Showing posts with label christianity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label christianity. Show all posts

Friday, 18 April 2014

Keep Nigerian Child Witch Hunter Out: Human Rights Groups Petition UK Home Office

For Helen Ukpabio Spiritual Attacks can come from innocent little babies or mermaids.

I've written about her before and now I'll write about her again. The fact that witch hunter Helen Ukpabio is a menace to her fellow Nigerians is well-known, but now she's travelled to London to spread her vile and harmful superstitions into the United Kingdom.

Nigerian 'witch-hunter' who claims any child who cries is a 'servant of Satan' could be banned from the UK over fears she is a risk to youngsters

Britain has every right to keep out dangerous criminals who incite fear of children which undeniably leads to child abuse.
She uses her sermons to incite hatred, intolerance and persecution of alleged witches and wizards. 
Her supporters, of which there are many in West Africa, believe she is a servant of God who has helped eradicate spiritual ailments from humankind. 
Her beliefs – promoted through her publications (Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft), films (End of the Wicked) and sermons - fuel witchcraft accusations against children in the region.
Leo Igwe has written about her dreadful shenanigans.  She has literally convinced parents that the cause of their earthly misfortunes are their own children - who are witches and working for the devil. This has lead to the horrendous abuse and abandonment portrayed in Channel 4's Saving Africa's Witch Children.
The documentary will feature shocking stories of torture inflicted on children, including a 13-year-old who was tied up with chicken wire and starved and beaten for two weeks, and a 14-year-old girl who was burned with acid before her mother attempted to bury her alive. 
One 17-year-old was left brain-damaged after having a three-inch nail driven into her skull.
Don't think Ukpabio is part of the problem? Here's what Wikipedia has to say.
Ukpabio has published her views in several books. An example is 'Unveiling The Mysteries of Witchcraft', in which she states that: 
'If a child under the age of two screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health he or she is a servant of Satan.' 
A fact not mentioned in the book is that these symptoms are common in young children, especially in areas like Nigeria with poor health and high levels of malaria. 
She also produces a number of films to spread the view that children can become possessed by evil spirits through her film production company, Liberty Films, part of the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries franchise. The most famous of these is End of The Wicked in which child actors are shown to eat human flesh and murder their parents.
Oh, and she also believes mermaids are a real problem as well!

The Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN), which I have written about in the past, is one of the groups demanding that she be banned from ever reentering the country - which I wholeheartedly support. They are petitioning Home Secretary Theresa May to deny entry into the UK based on the very sensible argument that it is not conductive for the common good. You know, because she makes films demonizing little children and claims Satan infects babies with fevers.

They mentioned something rather interesting as well:
In a letter to Ms May, the campaigners warn: ‘Whilst the Government has moved swiftly to block entry to the UK for Islamic preachers whose presence is considered as harmful to the public good, there have been no cases of Christian pastors facing such measures.’
That's interesting, too.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

MUSIC VIDEO: Everything You Need To Know About "The Holy Trinity"

Holy Trinity according to The Axis of Awesome
So Australian comedy group The Axis of Awesome came out with this easy to understand instructional video explaining something I've never been able to figure out - even when I was a Catholic: The Holy Trinity.

Watch and learn!


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

More On "Bring Back The Blasphemy Laws" Tristan Emmanuel

(source)
A few days ago, I think I could have been responsible for exposing a good chunk of Reddit to Tristan Emmanuel and a ridiculous video he made demanding that the United States bring back blasphemy laws because a comedian was making jokes at the expense of his god.

No, no, Emmanuel isn't from Saudi Arabia, Iran or Yemen. He's actually Canadian. Sorry, America.


Now that I've had a little time to digest Mr. Emmanuel's screed, I'd like to break it down a bit.

Here, apparently, are a couple of things that Maher said that were so utterly offensive to Emmanuel.
“… the thing that’s really disturbing about Noah isn’t that it is silly, it’s that it’s immoral. It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God… What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he’s mad at? I mean, besides Chris Christie.” — Bill Maher
And...
“Hey, God, you know, you’re kind of a dick when you’re in a movie with Russell Crowe and you’re the one with anger issues.” — Bill Maher.
Bill Maher speaks the truth.

Apparently, a father who murders every living thing on the planet - including little babies and all animal life - isn't a psychopathic murdering dick so long as he's God. I think that Maher brings up some very good points which deserve proper addressing. Instead though we get this response.
Bill Maher is known for being an offensive anti-Christian bigot. It’s his trademark. But this time he’s gone too far. ...
There is nothing bigoted about referring to heinous acts which are attributed to the Christian god in the Bible. Apparently, though, Emmanuel doesn't see these actions of his God as being any problem at all.

The video Emmanuel is referencing, in its entirety:


I'm not usually a Maher fan, but I'll have to admit this is a pretty excellent commentary. Compared to Emmanuel's response it's like night and day.

Part of Emmanuel's analysis of people like Maher - e.g. atheists who speak their minds:
The problem with people like Maher — and rabble like Richard Dawkins and the late burning-in-hell Christopher Hitchens — is their lack of moral character. They are what Psalm 14 says, corrupt. That is to say they are morally bankrupt men who refuse to be honest with the evidence all around them.
It's statements like this that still make me stop and question whether this is just an elaborate prank. How could anyone be so incredibly childish and flippant when it comes to people burning in hell? Is this no more than link bait?

It makes me wonder if Emmanuel's mouth is at all interfaced with his brain or if there is some sort of sociopathy going on here. This is not meant to be a slander in any way to Emmanuel. It just makes me wonder if he is even taking his own message seriously.

As for hating God, sure, I have an intense dislike of the God painted in the Bible and a wide range of feelings towards the various personal gods that Christians and spiritual people have described to me - because, in my experience, the vast majority of Christians out there have to dampen or blur the Biblical image of God in order to even tolerate the idea of worshipping such a fiend.

In the end though, due to lack of any evidence, my dislike is focused upon a fictional character the idea of which has lead society to many bad things in days past and present.

In case you missed it though, Emmanuel does give us a response to Maher's charge. Too bad it makes no sense whatsoever. Someone, if you can please decipher what Emmanuel means by this incoherent rant, let me know.
That’s what they have in common with the Devil. He hates God too. He’s so blinded by this hatred he’s convinced himself — and a legion of other fools — that there is no God and, if there is one, He is evil because everything he does is twisted and egotistical.  That is basically what Maher was saying when he accused God of being immoral by punishing the people of the world with the flood.
What? Syntax Error. Does not compute.

What we do know it that Emmanuel knows God, personally and no matter what the Bible might say he is here to defend his good buddy.
I don’t know Maher. And I have no reason to hate him. But I do know God. And Maher’s public vilification of God is the most offensive and slanderous thing I have ever heard.  Frankly, if a Christian doesn’t have a gut wrenching reaction about this, I’ve really got to question him.
And Emmanuel, in his dislike of Obama, tries to offer this winning logic.
Which raises a question: If it is acceptable to slander and profane the name of God then why not publicly vilify and slander President Barack Obama?  I, for one, don’t believe in his presidency, like Maher doesn’t believe in God. And, I also think Obama is immoral, perhaps even a lunatic???
First off, Emmanuel is a Canadian citizen, so I am unaware anything negative would come of him doing this. People would merely think he's badly deluded.

That said, I welcome him to go ahead and vilify, slander and profane someone of some really high standing with lots of money and legal recourse. As far as I am concerned, it's then up to the person who is being vilified to press charges against the person who is spreading lies and slander about him. The same could be said for God - who I'm sure could press charges and afford the very best lawyers.

I think Emmanuel may discover a critical difference in consequences between slandering God and slandering a living person: the latter will likely sue him while the first - barring some amazing miracle - will do no such thing. His god has to rely on lackeys like Emmanuel to defend his name on account of not existing.

Anyway, it's at this point that Emmanuel goes into a sort of enthusiastic description of all the sorts of barbarous and tortuous penalties that the United States and many other civilized countries have left behind in their dark pasts. Some countries, like Saudi Arabia or Iran still have brutal penalties for blasphemy - the crime against no one (real at least). Perhaps Emmanuel would feel more comfortable in one of these places. He certainly seems to be pining for those lost days.

After all this disturbing frothy-mouthed torture porn, he drags out the requisite threats of divine retribution and prophesizes that the end is near and that America is hanging on by a thin thread of long-suffering divine justice. 
If we are unwilling to hold blasphemers accountable, the almighty judge of the world will.
Good! Finally something sensible. If he is so certain of this then why not let his god do his job and stop his meddling? Or does he, at some level have some lingering doubts about whether his god is up to task to defend himself? How embarrassing for him if this god should prove impotent or - even worse - non existent.

Shortly after his video started receiving attention from Reddit and other outlets, Emmanuel deleted and disabled all comments and commenting and disabled ratings. He then left this silly comment in the description box to all of us atheists who were critical of the video.
NOTE: To all you "courteous" atheists and your allies who claim to be "Christian," I have suspended comments for this video not because I fear debate - OH PLEASE?!?! You think your brand of hate-mail intimidates me? I gave everyone two days to actually make a reasonable point but instead the host of you proved over and over that you are not interested in debate. And that led me to conclude you are not capable of civil discourse. You assert that I'm ignorant and filled with hate...LOL!!! Wow, you should read how hate filled most of you are. I wonder if any of you have the guts to face the flurry of insults I've received and still live to talk about it??? You have demonstrated no real conviction. No courage. No genuine interest in discussion over differences. Just your ignorance, insults and hate. Say what you want about my opinion, but most of you didn't even listen to the point I was making. Instead you jumped to conclusions because of the headline. No, I won't give any of you a platform on my channel to showcase your ignorance of the Bible or your fowl mouth and your lack of comprehension skills. Besides which, for those of you who say, "God can defend himself... he doesn't need Tristan..." Well doesn't the same go for Bill Maher?? He doesn't need your brand of ignorance... coupled with your fowl mouth. He is totally capable of doing that all on his own!!! As for the rest of you, leave your insults in someone else's inbox. In fact, send your complaints to Obama... see if he'll intervene as your messiah.
I think it's pretty rich to post something like this after putting out his video. How else would he expect people to react?

I also wonder what his god would think - if he existed - about being compared to Bill Maher! One would not expect the creator of the Universe to require anything at all - especially not this sort of defense.

As for Bill Maher, I'm certain that a great deal of the respondents fall into the same camp as myself. I'm no huge fan of Maher but Tristan Emmanuel's video wasn't suggesting the law be changed to exclude Maher's right to free speech (which would be wrong anyway). The video was suggesting a return to laws the would muzzle the free speech of everyone who dares to criticize, question or ridicule Emmanuel's idea of God.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Canadian Conservative Activist Wants Atheists Like Bill Maher Punished For Blasphemy

Tristan Emmanuel (source)

The intensely irritating Tristan Emmanuel - who I am ashamed to say is also Canadian - has released what appears to be none other than a kind of fatwa against comedian Bill Maher - and by extension, any atheists out there who wish to challenge or ridicule his god.

Like some religious fanatics in places like Iran or Yemen, Mr Emmanuel wants the US to bring back strong anti-blasphemy laws to protect his apparently feeble vulnerable god from criticism and mockery from a mere television comedian. Seeing his all powerful deity being mocked upsets Emmanuel and rather than turning the channel, he feels the need to demand that everyone stops making fun of Him.

Rather than let his god fight his own battles, Emmanuel feels the need to call for a return to the Middle Ages when questioning or ridiculing deities was met with imprisonment and perhaps also torture or death - if you read into his words the right way.

I'm absolutely livid right now - both at Emmanuel and at his sweater. I can only guess that as the leader of the loony Freedom Press Canada, he's trolling for attention.  I'll likely respond more rationally when I've had time to calm down a bit.
Listen, Maher is no favourite to everyone. Even Christopher Hitchens didn't appear to like him or his style, but wanting to bring back blasphemy laws to protect your imaginary sky daddy? Really?
 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Game Developers Believe Satan Himself Is Undermining Their Project


So... Satan, otherwise known as Lucifer - who rebelled against God and did battle with immortals - has taken time out of his busy schedule to declare unholy war on a small software company in California. This is a significant step up from possessing someone's thrift shop sweater.

Abraham game makers believe they are in a fight with Satan

The title, of course, is yet another example of the distorting effect of our devil-backed secular media. There is no believe here. It must be true. How else could you explain Phoenix Interactive's $100,000 Kickstarter campaign ending up with only $19,000? Checkmate, skeptics.

The game is described like this on the Kickstarter page.
The Call of Abraham is a single player, third person role playing video game which follows the story of Abraham in the Bible. The player takes on the role of a fictional Elamite outcast who is hired onto Abraham's caravan before departing Haran.   This character was formerly a soldier of Elam and has skills that are very important for a perilous journey into unknown lands.
It's nice that they point out that your character is the fictional one. We need to keep the historical separate from the fictional here.

Of course, this funding shortfall is some demonic work. What else could explain why they've had a hard time getting their project off the ground. It's, of course, highly unlikely it has anything to do with not enough people wanting to support the project. No, that's too obvious.  I'd support it myself but... the devil's in the details.

When asked by the author of this article Colin Campbell if they really do believe that Satan is literally working to confound their plans to release the game; that the Devil is really scheming against them, they were certain.
"I believe that, 100 percent," replies Richard Gaeta, a co-founder of Phoenix Interactive. He argues that since the launch of the Kickstarter for Bible Chronicles: The Call of Abraham, trouble has come into all their lives. 
"It's very tangible," adds his business partner Martin Bertram. "From projects falling through and people that were lined up to help us make this a success falling through. Lots of factors raining down on us like fire and brimstone."
Yup, the trouble all started when they decided to launch this project. But it's not the project because Bible and God. It's got to be the Devil because their decision to begin this new venture was based off sound market research.
Both men speak of coming to business decisions through prayer. They regularly gather in a local diner, along with a panel of religious advisers (all men, all middle-aged). As they wait for their pancakes and fried potatoes, they hold hands and pray for guidance. This, they say, helped them decide to make their game about Abraham, rather than other options, like Moses or Jesus. They want to tackle those other Biblical stories at a later time. God, they say, will help them choose when and how.
And if the Ruler of Hades is personally waging war on this project - like he obviously is - then it must be pretty damn important and a big threat to him and all his little demons.
"If Satan is rallying some of his resources to forestall, delay, or kill this project, I think, this must be a perceived threat to his kingdom," adds Ken Frech, a religious mentor to the project. "I fully would expect something like this to have spiritual warfare. Look at the gospel accounts of demons and so forth. That's reality. Many Americans don't believe it anymore. That doesn't change reality."
Their grip on reality is unshakable. Not even scientists can threaten it.
Phoenix Interactive's executives are Biblical literalists. Gaeta scoffs at the wishy-washy notion that Bible stories are allegories. Bertram dismisses the theory of evolution as "wrong." I ask them if they believe the world was created 6,000 years ago. "Yes," they both say, without the faintest hint of prevarication. They also believe that the extraordinary stories surrounding Abraham all happened, just as they are described in the Book of Genesis.
... Or maybe interest is just not that high in playing this game.

In the end though, I hold no ill will to them and I do hope they get the game made. I'd happily review it for them - I run a Mac.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Canadian Senator and Three MPs Used Taxpayer Money For Trip to Washington "Prayer Breakfast"

Senator from Toronto and Pentacostal Pastor Don Meredith (source)
How's anyone supposed to get a decent breakfast here in Canada; what with all this bacon, potatoes and fresh maple syrup all over the place? There just isn't enough prayer or evangelical Tea Party politicians or Barack Obamas like there probably is down south in D.C.

Well, actually we do have a God-filled breakfast up here in Canada, but we don't have Barack Obama, I guess.

So what's a god-fearing, sexual-orientation-is-just-a-choice, Senator supposed to do when his own party tells him he cannot expense a trip to the 2014 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington to the public coffers? Ignore them! Because as if he can ever get fired. He's in the senate. He'll just get dropped off a few committees or something.

Canadian senator’s travel expense claim for prayer meeting in Washington under scrutiny
Sen. Don Meredith, a pastor from Toronto, spent five days in Washington for the National Prayer Breakfast, a gathering of some 3,000 international politicians and diplomats that included U.S. President Barack Obama and members of the United States Congress.
Senate sources say Conservative whip Sen. Beth Marshall didn’t approve the trip, yet Meredith still went.
Yes, he's also Pastor. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised with him expensing business class airline tickets to taxpayers so he can schmooze.

Along with the business class tickets, he expensed $1,294 on hotel, taxis and meals.

Then there are three MPs who went ahead and expensed the trip as well.
Three MPs went on the same trip as Meredith, and charged the House of Commons for flights, hotels and meals. Conservative MPs Steven Fletcher and Harold Albrecht went to the prayer breakfast, along with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. Albrecht’s office confirmed he expensed more than $1,000 for the three-day trip, while May’s office said she expensed $980 for an economy, round-trip flight, and two days of per diems for food and taxis, but didn’t expense a hotel as she stayed with a friend.
I admire their attempts - unlike the Senator - to economize. Yet, I am still not a big fan of them spending my money to attend a breakfast that the FFRF have denounced year after year as a gross violation of state-church separation.

The story goes on to say that this is an excellent schmooze fest for politicians who want access to the president and other US leaders. As a secularist, I don't quite know what's worse: them expensing this trip to a prayer breakfast on my dime or the fact that this prayer breakfast is obviously the place to be for networking in Washington.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

How a Templeton Prize Winner Sees Atheism: Essay One

(source)
Last week, I read a short series of very small essays by the latest Templeton Prize winner, Tomáš Halík. I find it fascinating to read pieces like this, they give me an insight on how even very intelligent Christians misunderstand atheism.

Why Have You Forsaken Me? Five Theses on Faith and Atheism

Halík has been praised for his soft, gentle touch - much like Pope Francis. He's also rather wily.

Since time is a rare commodity for me these days, I'll start out here with a couple comments about his first essay. I'll follow up with more if the Muse moves me.

He begins the first essay by pointing out a curious commonality between Abrahamic religions and atheism - they are both not polytheisms. Isn't that sort of clever?

Although, I might raise my eyebrow at such a statement when considering the fervent Catholic devotion to Mary and the Saints, I do admit that monotheism in general has nicely consolidated the multiple gods of antiquity into a single godhead. It's just that atheists like me go one step further and abandon belief in this single god.

Yes, we both do not believe in the real existence of multiple gods but atheists do not believe in the Christian god for the very same reasons. There is no special pleading there.

Which brings me back to Halík who makes it clear that his god is, of course, nothing like some uber version of the gods of pantheist faiths - ancient of modern.
It is very important to recognize that our God is not merely one exemplar of a group of beings called "gods." ...
Sounds good! Whereas Minerva or Durga may be discrete expressions of some kind of numenus out there, this Christian god is much more. So what is it?
He is a great Mystery. Sometimes I find myself agreeing with atheists when they say there is no God, if by that they mean there is not a God who is "a thing among other things." In this they are correct.
Or, in other words, he is even less well-described then these gods of old. Halík's god is not a thing, which makes it pretty damn hard to defined, describe, investigate or prove. Upon reading this, I was pretty let down.
That is why I like to begin my dialogues with atheists with the question, "What does this God, in whom you do not believe, look like?" ...
Do you see what happened here? Halík just ducked any responsibility to define the God he believes in by waiving his hand about and calling it a Mystery - which is no description at all! It is not my job as an atheist to define God, it is up to the theist to describe his god so that he may prove it to me - or at least persuade me.
... and sometimes, after my partner in dialogue tells me about his image of God - as a heavenly policeman or a big daddy behind the scenes of our world - I say, "Thank God you do not believe in such a God! I don't believe in such a God either."
Hey, wait a minute! Isn't that my job as the atheist?

I find this so hilarious. Haliík's amazing schtick  - within the confines of this article at least- is to admit he has no idea about God and that he cannot describe him and so asks the atheist to define God for him; which he admits, more or less, is an impossible task.

Brilliant! No wonder he won the prize.

He then brings out the common religionist definition of materialism: a souless, vaccuous, empty world with no meaning. How could it have any meaning without God? Halík's imagined dialogue partner calls this the something beyond us.
People believe that there must be something, even though they will not call it "God." And this is a challenge for the theologian, to continue this dialogue and to interpret this "something."
Many atheists would tell you need not mean a god or anything supernatural at all. It can mean the humanity in humanism - the energy a group makes in song and dance at a Sunday Assembly or even working at a soup kitchen.

Then there is the thrill that runs down the spine when one contemplates their ultimate smallness compared to the Cosmos.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

"Jesus Would Stone 'Homos'" Church Sign Defaced With "God is Gay" Message

Graffiti on church sign (source: Jennifer Louise Lopez's Facebook)
Earlier today I reported about Jennifer Louise Lopez's brave act of presenting her at a Harlem church, which had a habit of putting very anti-gay messages on its front sign, to be stoned Bible-style.

Well, just in the past couple of hours, she's updated her Facebook with some bad news along with some pictures. Someone appears to have defaced the sign by removing the message and marking graffiti that appears to say: Godd is Gay (sic).

Jennifer has responded to this with a plea for peace.
Good afternoon everyone. While the stoning incident was fun and games, I am about peaceful protesting. I recently within the last hour walked past the church. The signs have been taken down and replaced with graffiti. I do not support vandalism and violating a persons or organizations right to freedom of speech. I figured eventually through peaceful actions, the church would willingly take down the signs and possibly replace them with positive messages.
It's never cool to deface private property - even if it is a church with a hateful message.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Count Words! Make Graphs!


A couple of weeks ago, I read Douglas Todd's short post about a new linguistic analysis study. It compared the frequency of certainty words in New Atheist books versus fundamentalist Christian books (read: religious extremists).

I sat on this for awhile. It was one of those posts that started a lot of conversation in my head but I didn't really quite know how to react to it.

Famous atheists more ‘certain’ than religious extremists: Study

So I guess that's sort of interesting. It reminds me a bit of the Twitter study that was done awhile back that seemed to show that Christians were happier than atheists (or at least pretended to be so on Twitter). I remain dubious about how useful a statistical survey is when determining the degree of certainty in one's language.

Douglas Todd, on the other hand, is all for this. He even calls the researcher a wise American psychologist. This surprises me coming from a man who writes for a living. Surely he must realise the nuances of language which make it a challenge to write and be properly understood. Imagine a computer program being able to understand the written word properly? What a challenge that must be.

As far as I can tell, a certain Prof. Jonathan Haidt at NYU-Stern School of Business used a linguistics computer program, Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), to analyse the frequency of phrases that convey certainty in books by both religious extremists (e.g. Glenn Beck) and non-religious extremists (e.g. Sam Harris). He apparently did this because New Atheist books sounded angry and their level of certainty seemed higher than within scientific writing (which is not surprising)
I analyzed Glenn Beck’s Common Sense, Sean Hannity’s Deliver Us from Evil, and Anne Coulter’s Treason. (I chose the book for each author that had received the most comments on Amazon.) 
As you can see in the graph, the New Atheists win the “certainty” competition.
Of the 75,000 words in The End of Faith, 2.24% of them connote or are associated with certainty. (I also analyzed The Moral Landscape—it came out at 2.34%.)
Graph from Haidt's article here.

Also note that it's probably not such a good idea to choose the books with the most Amazon comments for each author. It's possible these might be the most charged up out of all of their books. A better approach would be to select several or all books from each author.

Anyway, all this is quite interesting in its own way. From my Computer Science background, it seems to me like this program is just trying to pluck out common phrases from a dictionary from the texts. I just don't see how this can bring our meaning or context. I guess the writing style can bring forth personality traits from the author - or writing style but who's to say that what's in the books isn't affected by how they codify their meaning in print or what the publishers encouraged them to modify their language to?

This same text with a high degree of certainty could also very well be the most understandable and economical fashion to convey the point. This is how textbooks work - they are laced with certainty. What a bunch of dogma and fundamentalism.

Also, from a publisher/editorial point of view, I may be more likely to promote crisp, confident and certain sounding language than weasely doubtful language. If these books are meant to arouse passions of activism (eg. Greta Christina's Why Are You Atheists So Angry?) or stir emotions of wonder or awe at the universe or science, words of doubt or concession are hardly apt.

Furthermore, it is ultimately up to the reader to analyse what the author believes and decide for themselves.

So, what am I supposed to do with this information? What is Todd trying to say here? What's he trying to prove with all this? Going back to the beginning:
Who is more rigid in their thinking — atheists or religious fundamentalists? 
It’s often said that Christian, Muslim and other religious fundamentalists are very “certain” in their beliefs. Another term for this is  dogmatic.
Has some kind of point been horribly missed here? Who cares which group is very certain? How does this relate at all to the validity of the truth claims? Not one jot, that's what.

Facts and reality is not a popularity contest. You could be the world's most obnoxiously certain person and still be 100% correct. You could be a Dr. House or a Sherlock Holmes. You could also have an open mind but lot leave it so open your brain falls out!

Look, nothing is 100% certain, but once something reaches a threshold level, you can begin to use the certain language. Questions like does a narrowly defined fundamentalist Christian god exist? or is evolution true? are certain nos. In fact, the sillier the religious belief, the higher the degree of certainty it's false and the stronger the language admonishing the ridiculousness is appropriate.

Todd ends his work by letting us know that not all atheists are so closed minded. He links to his piece on Albert Camus, where he sings praises for the 20th century existentialist who could accept very little as true. You'll find my response to that here.

Todd wrote:
For me, Camus stood out from more celebrated atheists, including Jean-Paul Sartre. And, in his humility, Camus remains in a different class entirely from today’s know-it-all atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.
Now I know why Todd called Haidt a wise American psychologist. He was looking for someone to confirm his personal bias against know-it-all atheists.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A Striking Similarity?

Scene from George Orwell's 1984 (1956 film adaptation - source)

So I was watching one of Jaclyn Glenn's recent videos, From Atheism To Creationism where she included a clip from the HBO series Questioning Darwin. The way the twisted up logic forced Jaclyn's mind to surrender utterly and give up, along with one clip featuring a pastor who said he was willing to believe 2+2=5 if the Bible said so, struck me as so Orwellian in nature that I had to make this short video.



Let me just say right now that I'm not accusing all Christians of being totalitarian torturers. However, to this atheist at least, I can't help but see some loose similarities -- even more so for literalist Christians.

And I cannot help but see 2+2=4.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Pastors Can Be "Pretty Interesting People"

Price Allen, "The Peanut Man", preaches to his customers while selling them salted peanuts in Chicago. (source)

You know, preachers can be pretty interesting people. I mean, it seems like every second preacher I hear about on the news is surrounded by deep bubbling pools of utter mayhem. It must be all that God.

In fact, sometimes I think these men of God must be having all the fun around here - or rather, recently in parts of Africa.

Cuckold demands $10,000 from randy pastor
Appearing before magistrate Sibonginkosi Mkandla, Mukobvu claimed the two lovers would engage in sex romps in the Reverend's bedroom, as well as at his office and lodges in the city. 
He told the court that his wife admitted having an affair with the pastor which started in 2008 when she was given a job as a maid.
Mukobvu is the husband. He's demanding that the pastor compensate him for the loss of his marriage and the pain of being refused sex by his wife over the years. Incidentally, the pastor was slapped with the lawsuit. I think someone had fun writing this.

The original title - according to the link at least - was probably Man sues pastor for impregnating wife, but I'm sure you can probably agree that this new title is a teensy bit more catchy.

Then there is this poetic, if not somewhat incomprehensible story out of Kenya.

Why the cheating Embu pastor is howling the last laugh
Anthony Maina is a very brave man. The Embu pastor exposed for preying on his own faithful – the woman and her husband had sought his counsel after they experienced domestic strife – thanked journalists who busted him for saving him from committing “worse things”
Well then, what a relief!



The journalist described the situation further with some extremely colourful and somewhat cryptic prose.
For a man of unbridled passions, the love rat was extremely patient; he was fully dressed when the cuckolded man arrived at his doorstep. It is the unfaithful wife who was in a state of undress, and so must have been grateful for the scuffle that followed, allowing her a window of opportunity to put her clothes back on.
Love rat, indeed. Well at least it was two consenting adults, right?

Apparently, in Nairobi, all these sexy shenanigans have reached such a level that the bishop has had to step in.

Bishop reads adulterous pastors ‘The riot act'
The church has to say the truth, but first, we have to stop lying to our flock that we are as white as snow, when we are shameless adulterers. How do you, randy bishops and pastors expect to enter heaven? 
Either that or send in the video cameras and market this stuff on adult sites across the Internet.
I warned him, and I loudly proclaim now: All you pastors and bishops who spend time in beds that aren’t yours, and with women who aren’t your wives, the Lord will strike you hard. And He will do it in full view of everybody. Maingi’s death has painted Redeemed Gospel Church in the worst possible light. I am so sad he has left his wife and children with shame hovering over their heads. 
I have on several occasions witnessed fellow bishops sleep around with women, yet they have the audacity to step on the pulpit and preach righteousness.
One bishop (name withheld) slept with his sister-in-law, and impregnated her. He then asked her to abort.
Pastor Geoffrey Maingi was found dead in a woman's house. He died there in mysterious circumstances.  Apparently, while praying, he passed out.
The body of pastor Geoffrey Maingi of Redeemed Gospel church’s New Life Temple Church in Nairobi was found in the woman’s bedroom after he had died from unknown reasons on Tuesday afternoon, police and witnesses said.
The same media outlet, Standard Media in Kenya, ran a story asking why women are so gullible before pastors.

Why women are gullible before pastors 
When they are not using the name of Jesus to enrich themselves, they are involved in all sorts of immoral activities such as stage managing miracles and sleeping around. Pastors sleeping with other men’s wives has become commonplace. Differently put, pastors have turned churches from praying grounds to preying grounds.
The paper seems to be a little on the salacious side. Humourously, the story links to How to seduce different types of women, which just might come in handy if you are a new pastor looking for tips on how to sleep with various types of congregants.

Just so the blame isn't squarely on the pastors, they also ran a story about women who tempt pastors.
He recounted how an incident where newly married woman came to his office and brazenly told him: “ I am not wearing panties” The Bishop in his 50s said he ran out of the office and sought refuge in the car park where other visitors were waiting to see him. 
Absolutely terrifying.

Notice how the husband is never to blame.

Speaking of husbands, there's this.

Clergy’s wife and daughter caught night-running at a school
Villagers in Keroka, Kisii County were shell-shocked a fortnight ago after they caught a wife and daughter to a pastor dancing naked in the dead of the night at a school compound.
Apparently, it's peak witch season there so they couldn't help themselves.

What is with pastors? They sure can be an interesting lot, can't they?

Monday, 17 February 2014

Religious People And Their Porn Problems


Porn is pretty popular stuff and this has always been the case; even before the Internet. I've got no problems with porn. Well, whatever you may personally think of porn, there is a write up on a scientific study recently done that shows what I've suspected for a long time.

Religious People More Likely To Feel They're Addicted To Porn, New Study Shows
Compared with their less spiritual peers, people who identified as very religious were more likely to have a perceived Internet pornography addiction, no matter how much porn they actually consumed, according to a new study.
Yup, I can see where this is coming from. I can remember when I was a kid and after a confession, where the priest took a rather perverse interest in how many times I touched myself and where and let me know just how wrong it was, I began to feel very guilty about masturbation. It turned into a cyclical thing. There was so much guilt I didn't dare, but the longer this went, the more obsessed I became with it.

The Christian War On Getting Yourself Off is so crazy that there are even Internet porno monitoring services that will e-mail detailed reports of what you did online to your spouse or a trusted friend. To this heathen, the whole thing sounds like it may have some kinky potential, but it's a serious deal for these people and can even lead to divorce.

Way to make a good thing suck (in a bad way), religion. And it can get downright creepy.


And why is it always about war with these people?

Anyway, it turns out that the more religious you are the same average amount of porn you watch -- which is good, sorta, I guess. I mean, at least they're getting themselves off, right?
There was no connection between the religious devotion of the participants and how much porn they actually viewed, the studies showed. However, stronger religious faith was linked with more negative moral attitudes about pornography, which in turn was associated with greater perceived addiction, the study found. [8 Ways Religion Impacts Your Life]
However, it turns out that the more religious you are, the more you are likely to beat the crap out of yourself (not in a good way) mentally each time you succumb to the impure thoughts.


Grubbs and his co-authors speculate that feelings of addiction could be seen as "the religious individual's pathological interpretation of a behavior deemed a transgression or a desecration of sexual purity." The findings could help therapists understand that the perception of addiction might have more to do with religious beliefs than actual porn-watching habits, the researchers said.
Or in other words, the problem with porn is all in their heads (the ones on-top).

Of course, us folk in the religion-free community have had a pretty good idea about the negative effects of religion on people's sexuality and sex lives. Whether it comes to slamming someone for being gay or just wanting to come while watching porn.

Darrel Ray goes into this in his book Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Yes, We Can Be Frustrated by Theism Without Believing in God!

(source)

So John Pearrell, pastor at the Gateway Community Church, recently wrote a small essay in several online publications about how Christians shouldn't just pray to god when things get tough but rather every day. God is sort of like your mom, if you're not going to give her a call at least once or twice a month, don't go calling her when you need rent money! Things could get icy.

JOHN PEARRELL: Don't save God for emergencies; call on Him daily
One does not have to be incarcerated to experience one of these jailhouse conversions; one needs only to find themselves in some difficult situation and suddenly they are bargaining with God, who otherwise they totally ignore, making Him all sorts of promises, that as soon as the trouble is past, the promise will be forgotten.
Here he's talking about those religious who find themselves in grave situations, such as in a US prison, and suddenly find themselves bargaining with god. The same might be said for some situationally religious folk stuck in foxholes or adrift at sea for 13 months. When the going gets tough, those who do not regularly pray might make calls to God. I wonder what that says about their relationship with God? I mean really, people.

When I started reading this article, it looked like the usual sermon to the faithful about the utility and necessity of prayer and I wondered how it fell into my Google traps. Then I came across some rather profound misunderstandings about the atheist. I just know that when a broad diversity of people are reduced down to a single word that I should swallow my coffee before proceeding.
Then, there’s the atheist. Many atheists I know are a walking contradictions in terms. They claim they don’t believe in God, but as soon as something bad happens they spew venom about how a good God could allow such a thing. More often than not, it is this anger that has caused them to turn away from any belief in God.
This all boils down to that classic chestnut, how can you be angry at a being you say doesn't exist? Clever isn't it? Well, Pearrell anticipates some of the atheist responses to his silly question.
In fairness, I am sure my atheistic friends would respond to that by saying, “We’re not angry at a being, we’re angry that people like you promote such a being in the face of the pain and suffering that happens in this world!”
I like how he says atheistic friends. If he has such friends, then I suggest he ask them and get back to us about what they responded with. Because in general I'm not angry with people who promote a God who not only allows suffering via natural disasters and humans hurting other beings but also promotes suffering himself (e.g. hell).  I'm rather confused and frustrated that anyone could ever see such a god as worth worshipping.

But there's more than this. It's also perfectly plausible for a person to despise a non-existent god and be completely justified in doing so. This is because, much like fascism, racism, or self-loathing, god is, in essence, nothing more than a bad idea. It's a theory that, in the case of its Christian incarnation, self-contradicts and has been used to fuel a great deal of harm throughout history. It's perfectly right to be angry with such an idea as god and to be frustrated and, in some cases, angry with those who wish to foist this idea onto others.
Funny thing is I have never heard an atheist complain after a natural disaster that this just proves natural law does not exist. Furthermore, I have never heard anyone raise even a hint of complaint against Mother Nature after a natural disaster; the complaint is always leveled at God.
I have no idea what this means. No natural event has ever been demonstrated to disprove natural law. And by natural law I take it to mean non-supernatural events. In fact, scientists make their living at observing how the world works and so far not even a pinky finger of a supernatural god has been observed to interrupt all this Mother Nature business.

And I think we're mixing up different meanings of complain here. An atheist may complain that it's a very hot day or the flood just washed away his car, but he's not complaining to the weather or to the flood in any way where he expects it to hear or understand him. He may just be complaining to other humans. I'm Canadian and complain about the weather pretty much every day.

But it's also perfectly reasonable for an atheist to be saddened and feel negative emotion against the typhoon that killed a half million people or the twister that levelled his house. This is no different in kind to me bashing the (CRT) monitor on my computer when my program freezes up - although obviously more serious a problem. In the big picture, it's not very productive to yell at your car that refuses to start, but on some emotional level it could be cathartic and is a very human response.

In short, it's pretty normal to be upset with a lightning bolt for burning down you shed, but it's ridiculous to hold it responsible because there's simply not a brain there to be held accountable.

As for ragging on (the idea of) God rather than natural events. Think of it this way. If you were on a cruise ship and the toilets never worked, the food was awful, there were cannibal rats and you ended up adrift going to the wrong destination, who would you blame? Would you blame the boat itself? Would you blame the ocean? How about the laws of physics? Would you blame gravity or the biochemical reactions that caused the food to go rancid?

Of course not, you would blame the captain or even the cruise company. 

Of course, atheists see no proof of a universal captain so they don't blame him. But Christians claim that such a captain does exist in some capacity. They even claim to know how to communicate with him. 

Atheists like me find it frustrating that this belief could even exist given the obvious contradictions and wonder how anyone could ever be satisfied with the idea of such a being who apparently either causes suffering or stands idly by and lets it happen - human caused or naturally caused (acts of God, shall we say?).

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Disturbing Messages From Creationists Who Attended the Debate

Wut? (source)
Okay, I usually don't just dump a link without some sort of analysis of my own, but I think you really need to take a look at this. Now we know what Bill Nye is really up against.

22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution
I asked 22 self-identifying creationists at the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate to write a message/question/note to the other side. Here’s what they wrote.
Buzzfeed's Matt Stopera made a major win with this story where 22 pictures really tell the whole tragic story.

It's amazing how completely these people seem to misunderstand what science is and how it works - along with the proper use of the word their. I can only guess they've picked up this nonsense in their churches.

Before the debate, I wondered if Bill Nye was really the right guy to go up against the likes of Ken Ham. After seeing the debate and who's in the audience -- at the museum and in thousands of homes and churches -- I think Bill is the best man for the job. Him teaching the facts and calmly addressing nonsense may not have made for an entertaining battle at some moments, but it will have the greatest impact on the ongoing war against ignorance.

Go and see for yourself. I chuckled, I shook my head, I cried inside.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Christian Love...

An update is upcoming on how construction is rapidly progressing at the new permanent home for the Kasese Humanist Primary School. Meanwhile, here's a small post about some reaction to a Facebook ad I put up to try to reach more supporters.

Here's the ad.


(Facebook sent me a $50 credit to entice me to use their service, so I'm putting their money to good use. If you find yourself in a similar position, why not put up an ad promoting the fundraiser? You can cap off your total expenses to the same amount for the campaign, so it should be free. Just link to http://tinyurl.com/humanistschool.)

Anyway, I'm not used to a negative response for the fundraiser. In fact, I only got just one back in August from someone inside Uganda. 

This time, I tried to narrow the audience down by inserting these required likes into the ad criteria for choosing target audience.
#Secularism, #Secularity, #Antitheism, #Skepticism, #Atheist Bus Campaign, #Freedom From Religion Foundation, #Secular humanism, #Secular Student Alliance, #Freethought, #Rationalism, #Atheist Alliance International, #Atheism, #Agnosticism, #Atheist Ireland, #Center for Inquiry, #American Atheists or #The Atheist Experience
Do you see Christian or Christ or even Religion there? No, neither do I.

Well, after less than 48 hours of having the ad up, I get these enlightened responses both on the fundraiser and on this blog's Facebook Page.

I believe Ryan is based in the UK and he thinks that something is BULLSHIT.


It's unclear to me exactly which part of the ad he has the problem with. Suffice it to say, he has a rather low view of humanity, which I guess might explain his problems with a Humanist school.

Jeff Harron, who's icon is a giant eyeball that reminds me a little of an invasive deity calmly reminds us that we will not escape our day of judgement. One other person thought this was a pretty good reminder... er, threat.


Finally, a certain Gloria Konger, hailing from Uganda and who's profile picture features lovely caring hearts, was very  upset by the notion of building a secular school in her country.

She posts this onto this blog's Facebook Page.


That sounds like a threat. She feels the need to continue with the penetration theme and add a little information about herself.


Not to be outdone by any other comments. She posts the following onto one of the ads.


Sorry Gloria, previous and ongoing attempts are doing just fine, thank you. But then again, she has spoken.

So, I've removed Uganda from the list of countries to target. I had hoped that with the above keywords I'd limit myself to people who were more receptive to the idea -- and, indeed, I did get contacted by a couple of atheists in Uganda who wish to help out the school.

Anyway, I guess some religious people must read and perhaps troll these groups. I would blame them, but then I'd be a hypocrite because I love reading crazy religious sites.

If you would like to see what all the fuss is about, learn about the construction project here:



Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Guardian Writer Thinks Atheists Need More Theology To Attack The "Right" God

The Guardian writer Oliver Burkeman thinks that atheists really need to beef up their theological skills if they want to be taken seriously by serious theists.

The one theology book all atheists really should read

Where to begin with this one other than the beginning?

One reason that modern-day debates between atheists and religious believers are so bad-tempered, tedious and infuriating is that neither side invests much effort in figuring out what the other actually means when they use the word 'God'. This is an embarrassing oversight, especially for the atheist side (on which my sympathies generally lie). After all, scientific rationalists are supposed to care deeply about evidence. So you might imagine they'd want to be sure that the God they're denying is the one in which most believers really believe. No 'case against God', however watertight, means much if it's directed at the wrong target. 

What Burkeman should realize is that it's often not through a lack of trying that atheist end up attacking the wrong god. If theists could actually come up with some kind of coherent definition of what God is supposed to be, and agree on it, it's then up to them to provide evidence for the existence of their god. Actually, I'll even take several competing theories for God if we can try to narrow it down to less than one God per theist.

I mean, who would expect any other outcome if theists are unable to first agree and then define the meaning of this God thing they posit? We are left only able to question and attack what few scraps of reasonably articulated sense happen to fall out of any theistic belief after deep prodding. We can only test testable claims and point out those that are not testable. Any other items are the burden of the believer to properly formulate as their case.

As a scientific rationalist, I do care deeply about evidence. Theists are making a claim that their god exists. Please, show me the evidence!
So you might imagine they'd want to be sure that the God they're denying is the one in which most believers really believe. No 'case against God', however watertight, means much if it's directed at the wrong target. 
This is so backwards I suspect it must be some kind of joke. If someone claims to be in touch with his wonderful wampersneezle, is it my duty to fully understand it before disbelieving him? What if his explanations are no more than an emphatic feeling or emotional story? What if his beliefs are internally inconsistent? Do I need to make a watertight case against his wampersneezle? I mean, really now.

He goes on to throw a little scorn on Christian and Muslim "fundamentalists" by saying they support a kind of superhero god that can do anything he likes to the universe, including creating it to begin with. Well, Burkeman will have none of this simpleton pablum - that's for babies and shame on atheists like Dawkins for attacking this incorrect view of God!

Most theists may not believe in a superhero god. No, wait, I would say that many theists believe in this to some degree or why would they pray? Why would they take any of the Bible seriously? Why would they believe in a god-man resurrection?

And so, thank you, Oliver. By dismissing the most common view of God, you're essentially doing my job for me. I mean, aren't I the one who's supposed to mock these beliefs?

Now Burkeman posits a much better definition of God, which we should at least consider attacking instead. Finally, some clarity, because, God knows, we haven't seen anything but moving targets when it comes to God anywhere else. Let's get down to the brass tacks!
"'… according to the classical metaphysical traditions of both the East and West, God is the unconditioned cause of reality – of absolutely everything that is – from the beginning to the end of time. Understood in this way, one can’t even say that God "exists" in the sense that my car or Mount Everest or electrons exist. God is what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality. God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.'" 
God, in short, isn't one very impressive thing among many things that might or might not exist; "not just some especially resplendent object among all the objects illuminated by the light of being," as Hart puts it. Rather, God is "the light of being itself", the answer to the question of why there's existence to begin with. In other words, that wisecrack about how atheists merely believe in one less god than atheists do, though it makes a funny line in a Tim Minchin song, is just a category error. Monotheism's God isn't like one of the Greek gods, except that he happens to have no god friends. It's an utterly different kind of concept.
Right. This doesn't seem clear to me. It reminds me of the sort of view of God I had shortly before I became an atheist. Ever dwindling, safely reduced to a few words tied to nothing really tangible. Vaporware.

So am I to understand that God has been reduced down to not an object at all - you know, nothing?

Has God been reduced down to a condition? What the fuck is "the light of being itself?" This is supposed to be philosophy, not a greeting card.

This is hard to attack because there's nothing there at all!

Burkeman correctly predicts my reaction and gives this interesting challenge.
If you think this God-as-the-condition-of-existence argument is rubbish, you need to say why. And unlike for the superhero version, scientific evidence won't clinch the deal. The question isn't a scientific one, about which things exist. It's a philosophical one, about what existence is and on what it depends.
Because God is no longer an object it is beyond the touch of science. This safety puts God aloof of all reality to the point of it being impossible for it to have any interaction with it at all. How do we even know anything about such a God if it's not a thing?

Well, some kind of logical or mathematical proof would be required, I guess. So what are the parameters? Apparently, existence must depend on something. I leave it to Burkeman to provide the proof for how existence is anything but a description of an object or concept and not really anything at all in itself. I also leave him to demonstrate to me why this mythical object-thing called existence must depend on some other (non) thing?

Or are we just throwing around words? Because I'm certain that my wampersneezle ate his God and is now the condition of existence because it has very large non-object-teeth.

I leave you with this nugget and my response.
... even if you could show that most believers believe in a superhero God, would that mean it's the only kind with which atheists need engage? If a committed creationist wrote a book called The Evolution Delusion, but only attacked the general public's understanding of evolution, we'd naturally dismiss them as disingenuous. We'd demand, instead, that they seek out what the best and most acclaimed minds in the field had concluded about evolution, then try dismantling that.
If some atheists want to spend their time attacking these acclaimed minds in theology, then they are welcome to. But in the big picture, it is most important to address what those mere spiritual hoi polloi believe. Otherwise, atheists like Dawkins would be no more relevant than those very few spiritually enlightened who seem to believe in hardly any god at all.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

New "Documentary" Shows How We Can Protect US Soldiers From "Spiritual Warfare"

Video-capture from below Youtube video.
I have a migraine and thinking is just out of the question. That's why I think I can handle writing about this new movie.

A group that calls themselves the Strasson Group is making a "documentary" about how all those (brown) people in other (godless) countries are using SPIRITUAL WARFARE to compel American GIs towards suicide.
... but due to globalization, multiculturalism and new immigrants, bringing their beliefs with them, is it possible we get affected by these unseen forces every day? 
Statistics show that there are more active duty US military suicides than actual combat zone deaths. What makes these soldiers commit suicide? Perhaps it's a spiritual warfare. Maybe ghostly and spiritual attacks are directed to US soldiers to retaliate and make them commit suicide or even make them look crazy!
Sounds nutty enough to absolutely hilarious? Here's the latest trailer.


Wow, what can I say? Notice how the threat is coming from bad (brown) outside countries and (brown) Obama is part of the problem?

Notice how they mention Atheists? You might have missed it - they seem to lump us in with the bad guys.

Of course, the suicide rate being higher than the casualty rate could be a testament to America's well-equipped and highly trained military and perhaps lacking services to help soldiers suffering from conditions like PTSD when they get back. Or... spirits!

If you watch the first video trailer -- if you can bear it -- they address the matter of PTSD like this:
Perhaps it's not just Post Traumatic Stress. Perhaps it's not a mental condition. But just maybe it's a spiritual condition. It's a type of spiritual warfare that is coming against our soldiers.
Here's part of a January 3rd press release off the movie's website:
The new documentary film, WARX2 (war times 2), will enlighten viewers about the possibility of spiritual warfare that may be causing US soldiers to commit suicides. Many Arab and African cultures use ghosts and spirits to attack, control and brainwash their enemies and other people. Shockingly high US military and veteran suicide rates have been reported. In 2011 and 2012 there were more suicide deaths among active duty US soldiers than total US military combat deaths. The documentary includes interviews with experts in the field and with those who have undergone spiritual attacks and brainwashing.
Experts? Well, then it must be true.

It's goofy. It's low budget. But I'm surprised at the popularity of this insanity. The first trailer has over 2 million views and the latest has nearly half a million view (and 2,000 likes) and was released in December. Their Facebook page has nearly 50,000 likes.

I mean, really? Really?  I hope they are just in it for the humour value like me -- but I have my doubts.

Edit 2014-01-09: After looking more closely at the comments section in the Facebook and the tweets on the twitter account I'm beginning to wonder if these numbers aren't artificially inflated. Also check out the graph of likes on the Facebook page. It juts up suddenly and the goes down almost as quickly - and the most popular city is Istanbul?!? Yeah...

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Is It Time For Atheist "Friendship Evangelism?"

I recently ran into this post by Catholic blogger Will Duquette over at Cry Wolf blog at Patheos.

Friendship Evangelism

The post is Duquette's reaction from a theist's perspective to Friendship Evangelism... Atheist-style which is described in this wiki howto: How to Persuade a Christian to Become Atheist

Duquette writes:
It explains how to befriend somehow with the express purpose of destroying their faith in God. Really, it’s kind of creepy: to befriend someone, and to try to become their close friend, not because of shared interests or mutual liking, but with the intention of changing them.
But hold on, wait a minute! I really don't think this is a perfect parallel situation as Duquette suggests. The wiki howto starts off with a friendship -- of some sort at least -- already in place.

This is not the sort of love bombing techniques seen practiced by some Christian groups. (I saw it being practiced first-hand back in my university days.) I just don't see it as someone just walking up to a stranger and trying to be their friend to show them God's love incarnate or something.
Think about your friendship. Are the two of you close? If not, try to increase your friendship before attempting to change their religious beliefs. Religious debate can be trying on even the best of friendships and a firm foundation to stand on could make all the difference if the outcome is not positive.
I honestly think the wiki is about trying to bring existing friends towards a more rational view of reality.

And listen, I don't mean to throw stones or anything, but there's even report of a Christian woman marrying her man with the sole intent of converting him to Christ. Now that's creepy! Friendship Evangelism is a thing, for sure, in Christianity.

Anyway, I must admit that this wiki describes a process I had not really considered much until quite recently. But if there is an existing friendship then I really don't see the problem. Now, if there is no existing friendship -- as Duquette suggests -- then I think it's just as creepy as he thinks it is. Befriending someone just because you want to change them and score points with someone is pretty dumb.

I think this is worth a conversation. What do you think?

(I haven't read Peter Boghossian's new book, A Manual for Creating Atheists yet. Does anyone know if there is anything resembling Friendship Evangelism in there?)

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Rebutting The "Can There Be Good Atheists" Meme

Ariane Sherine in front of an atheist-sign-signed bus
and next to Richard Dawkins.
I'll admit that I've been rather out of touch lately, so probably everyone else has noticed this but me. But it seems like December was Are There Any Good Atheists Month in the Christian media bubble -- and Huffington Post, but I also wonder about them sometimes.

So, I just posted my comments about pastor Rick Henderson's provocative little ditty Why There Is No Such Thing as a Good Atheist. That piece was written on the 18th of December. Well, it's actually part of a small meme going around lately questioning whether people need to believe in a maniacal magic man in the sky to be good.

This rambling essay appeared way back on the 11th of December in Christianity Today.

How plausible is a good atheist?

As infuriating the question is, I really cannot decide if this trend is a good one or a bad one. Perhaps I need the Jesus measurement rod to help me figure this one out.

But honestly, I suppose it's good they are even asking this question and not just falling back on the old atheists eat babies line anymore. On the other hand, why are they still asking this stupid question and do they really take it seriously?

The central thesis of this article is about Ariane Sherine (comedian, atheist bus activist) who wrote a book called Give: How to be Happy which she's giving away. This ought to make her feel extra happy. I know free things make me happy and I shall download the book.

The book recommends ways people can do good things and ultimately feel good about it. It sounds like an amazing idea and a possible threat to people who put their trust in another book that has been used rather frequently to make people feel unhappy. This other book is also given away for free and you may just run into it while frantically fumbling around for a condom in a hotel side dresser.

After admitting Ariane is a better person than him and that the book is full of potty words and he shouldn't throw stones in glass houses, the author goes all Hitler because Ariane doesn't use the Jesus ruler to measure all morality with, or something. I don't know, I can never understand.
But referring to Jesus perhaps brings us to a more substantive issue. For the first problem with an atheistic notion of kindness is that it is a human and hence variable construct. It lacks any absolute touchstone (such as Jesus) against which to evaluate it.
And that's an issue because, as Timothy Keller writes in The Reason for God, ethics without reference to God is both unsustainable in practice – and not in fact how most people live. He says: "Though we have been taught that all moral values are relative to individuals and cultures, we can't live like that. In actual practice we inevitably treat some principles as absolute standards... The Nazis who exterminated Jews may have claimed that they didn't feel it was immoral at all. [But] we don't care. We don't care if they sincerely felt they were doing a service to humanity. They ought not to have done it." 
No, it's not an issue and we have the vast majority of non-Nazi people living today to prove it. And was Germany not a Christian country when they carried all this out? I mean, they had God is With Us freaking labeled onto their belt buckles.

I could pull out some Gospel verses now, but what's the point? I'm sure you all know the story and are possibly wondering why people need to read this bronze-age storybook to know what being good is all about. I mean, why not just do good things?

Luckily, Ariane rebutted this very article, also in the Huffington Post, also on the 18th of December.

How Plausible Is a Good Person?

See? Even the title is clever and the actual article doesn't let down either.
Perplexingly, the piece goes on to state that "the first problem with an atheistic notion of kindness is that it is a human and hence variable construct. It lacks any absolute touchstone (such as Jesus) against which to evaluate it... ethics without reference to God [are] both unsustainable in practice - and not in fact how most people live". Given that only 1.27% of Britons go to church regularly on a Sunday, I would say that, contrary to this assertion, this is exactly how most people live.
And Britain doesn't look like a scene from Shaun of the Dead now does it?

Of course, Ariane should have predicted the next move when coming up with the title to her article. I'm sure that some Christians would counter that there is no such thing as a good person!