Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Friday, 18 April 2014

Yes, I Get "Good" Friday Off

Something rather strange dawned on my today. Around noon, I checked my phone only to find several urgent emails from some of my business associated in the United States. It seems like they had forgotten that Good Friday -- the Christians call getting nailed to a tree Good, apparently -- is a holiday up here in Canada. My Australian associates remembered of course, they get Friday and Monday off too.

And so, it's true. I checked it. Americans -- the most religious people in the developed world -- don't get today off. Yet I, living in this bastion of secularity, Montréal, Québec of all places, do. As I mentioned above, extremely secular Australia seems to get both today and Monday off.

Actually last week one business contact informed me he would be attending mass and would pray for me. I've run into this flaunting business before and I've written about the extremely religious e-mail signatures I occasion upon in business emails. It all seems rather odd and shocking to this secular Canadian. Up here, one simply does not mix religion with business -- it might prove to be an unwanted obstacle to getting the contract signed.

Honestly, sometimes I'm baffled at how Americans could even have a godless constitution and an Establishment Clause. When one looks at the way things are down there, how could this have ever happened? Did it ever happen? Well, they have the documents to prove it, I suppose. Looking at the culture itself versus the documents of their Founding Fathers, I wonder if it wasn't some freak accident.

Well, I know I'm not expressing my thoughts clearly. Sue me, it's a holiday.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Saudi Arabia Facing Increase In Witchcraft!

It's tough times in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). An Arab News report just came out reporting that
KSA facing increased cases of witchcraft
It's hard to know exactly what caused this sorcerer infestation. I would guess it was something to do with rampant state-encouraged superstition and opportunists who wish to con gullible people out of money. It also so happens to work out that the majority of these evil witches are foreigners.
More than 85 percent of witchcraft-related cases registered in Makkah’s courts involve expats, according to statistics issued by the Ministry of Justice.
The Orwellian Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice started a special training program for would be witch fighters. They have brought online certain procedures and systems to deal with cases pertaining to sorcery. Dowsing rods? Spinning pendulums? Being on the lookout for candles, incense... 20-sided dice?

Well it turns out this creepy state body has gone to the Internets to fight spiritual war with witches and devils. Which just goes to show how people can embrace 21st century technology but have ideas from the middle ages.
The increase in the number of witchcraft-related cases has prompted authorities at the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (known in Arabic as the “Haia“) to use social networking sites to spread awareness and close in on sorcerers. In fact, the Haia has an exclusive section on its web site that addresses cases related to witchcraft.
They recently caught someone on Twitter trying to sell a magical stone. Now, I'm all for fraudsters being brought to justice but it's a tad creepy when the authorities wholeheartedly believe this is all true. Is this what happens when religion so completely permeates the state that it becomes a monarchical theocracy?

The story goes to on mention haunted houses and how small children seem to see the jinn (demons).

One child apparently didn't want to leave his room and would be talking and laughing to himself. The parents consulted a sheikh (meaning an always male elder) who advised them to move house rather than consult a childhood psychologist.

Speaking of sheikhs, like witches and their crazy spells, these wise men also charge hefty fees for their supernatural services.
Ahlam Hafez from Riyadh said she paid a sheikh more than SR10,000 to get rid of jinn in a neighboring flat. 
“There are believers and non-believers among jinn,” said Mohammed Mukhtar, a sheikh. “Preachers who earn their living by exorcizing spirits should charge affordable fees.”
How are we to distinguish the witches who charge people for their spells from sheikhs who run around charging SR10,000 (~$3,000) to expulse demons from people's houses? Religion, I suppose? And yes, preachers should charge affordable fees. As should the witches, I suppose.

My favourite part is the statement there are believers and non-believers among the jinn. I wonder if the believers give the non-believers a hard time and try to convert them.

In Saudi Arabia it must be Halloween everyday.

What could be causing this? I'm sure we all know the answer to that question.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

"The Public God" Forum Tonight In Toronto

So Michael Enright is at it again. You might remember him by his hysterical screed advising atheists to stop whining or by the dull conversation he had with Bishop Oulton which only got interesting when the two stopped conversing and people in the audience asked them direct questions.

Well, now he's back and he wants to talk about The Public God - tonight.
On Tuesday, April 8th, The Sunday Edition will host a forum titled The Public God. This promises to be a provocative conversation about the role of faith in government, in public policies and in our culture.   
Host Michael Enright will guide the discussion with a panel of distinguished guests; then he will invite questions and comments from the audience. The forum will air on The Sunday Edition on CBC Radio One on April 13th.
Interesting isn't it how the panel seems a tiny bit lopsided.  And two of the panelists: Janet Epp Buckingham and Raymond de Souza are contributors to the Cardus right wing Christian think tank which, in my opinion, is all about affecting public policy in the name of Christianity.

However, there is indeed one non-believer. Rev. Gretta Vosper - who is an atheist and has appeared on the Freedom From Religion Foundation radio program Freethought Radio.

Even so, I wonder if it might have been better to find someone who is not a minister of a church! Why not add someone who is an atheist and completely outside the entire structure of church into this discussion?

Anyway, if you're in the area why not drop in? It's free.

Tuesday, April 8th at 7 p.m.
Doors open at 6:30

Fleck Atrium, Rotman School of Management
The University of Toronto, 105 St. George Street

Monday, 7 April 2014

It's Election Day In Quebec

Assemblée nationale du Québec (source)
After an unending winter full of mudslinging nauseating politics, the election is finally here. It looks like Pauline Marois's Parti Québecois may not win after being so far ahead over the past few months. Indeed, I have heard they called the election early specifically so they could pull out ahead of their minority into majority territory.

Canadian readers might have detected a distinct quiet on this blog about the Secular Charter (much much much more properly the Charter of Quebec Values) given I'm living in Quebec and my initial cautious enthusiasm about the bill in the beginning.

To be honest, it's been a combination of being too close to home to think about and an acute confusion - a sort of sickening dissonance - surrounding my position concerning the Charter. I would like to support it and I do mostly but it has some flaws that seem fatal to me. It's failings seem unforgivable to me and for me it has lost its redemption.

Ever since I discovered that the crucifix would remain in the National Assembly and that government workers would be allowed to wear non ostentatious symbols of their faith -- like the small crosses that Christians already wear -- I began to smell a rat. It seemed to me like the law targeted some religious groups unfairly - les minorités. Why not forbid all religious symbols? No... really... why not?

So here's what makes me sick to my stomach. I agree with the majority of what's in the Bill and I sympathize with feminist groups in the province who are pushing for it. But I cannot understand why such a bill would not revoke tax exemption from religious institutions. Think of the impact this would have on our ailing economy revenue-wise?

I guess my question is: why go into a shooting match over what people are wearing? Why spend our capital on wardrobe when we could be shooting at the biggest religious intrusion in the province: the Catholic Church?

On principle, I agree that religious symbols have no place on government workers while they are performing government funded work.  But this must mean all symbols and any size.  How can I see the government as anything less than hypocritical? How can religious minorities ever hope to take this in good faith?

And why strip the private religious expression of some when government buildings in towns across Quebec - even courthouses - have statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary which are obvious government endorsements? Why can't we all agree to begin with this?

Yes, wardrobe - I feel that this fly in the soup, no matter how small, is poison to this Bill. In the end, it is a tragedy that it's the religions themselves that attach such importance to pieces of cloth. I certainly do not see them as important. However, perhaps like Voltaire, I see fairness as important and this Charter's demarcations concerning visible religious symbols are conveniently arbitrary.

Now, I am a fan of the French laïcité, don't get me wrong. But this Charter fails this test. I would champion a full ban on all religious paraphernalia - Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu etc. but I cannot defend this half-way approach that defends our National cultural heritage. 

It's even possible that some religious secularists (yes they do exist) could possibly come on board with such a proposal but the PQ have burned this bridge.

Finally, I must ask what the perceived threat is of people's chosen wardrobe? How does this stack up with religious symbols adorning government buildings; churches that pay no taxes; clergy that get their lodging tax-exempted; publicly-funded private Catholic schools that refuse to teach basic ethics courses in a non-biased way? Are we being thrown scraps here?

This morning I was working at a cafe - a perk of being in the information technology field - and a man of Middle Eastern descent sat down at a table near an older white gentleman. The next thing I heard, the older man yelled "Les Arabes sont des animaux!", picked up his newspaper and left. Yes, that really happened. Although the Charter is 95% in line with my own beliefs, it's the strategic alignment of the remaining 5% that connects me with this incident in my mind somehow. I could be wrong, but it nags me.

So I don't mean to upset anyone. You are all welcome to support or oppose this Bill and I will not respect you any less. It has many good points. The most of it is sweet but there is bitterness in it which I personally am unable to wash from my mouth.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Pastors Persuing Pseudo-Prostitutes & Satanic Starbucks Symbols

Okay, I have zero time right now - well, I guess I have enough to dump a couple of links on you that you may find sort of interesting, maybe. I must admit that it's rather National Enquirer-esque. I promise the caliber of news story or post will get better tomorrow.

Pastor Says 'Devil' Motivated Him to Ask a Woman for Sex at Super 8 Hotel; Threw $20, Said 'There Is More Where That Came From'

The Christian Post gets extra points for amazing click-bait titles, let me tell you.
"(He) tried to push himself in on me. Threw me a $20 bill and said, 'There is more where that came from. Just let me in for a few minutes,' knowing my 12-month-old daughter was right there with me," the woman said. 
Harris' vulgar requests was heard by the police officer on the phone. 
He later told Channel 9 that he was wrong and would seek God about his actions. 
"I should never have been in that place, period," said Harris, who mentioned that the woman was a complete stranger to him.
Classy. I suppose he's never heard of Craigslist?

Here's another bizarre one.

Starbucks apologizes to Louisiana woman for Satanic symbols in coffee foam

Apparently, an unidentified Baton Rouge Barista was drawing pentacles and 666 with caramel onto the creamy tops of people's fancy coffee. One Megan Pinion, a Catholic public school teacher was not impressed by this.
Megan Pinion posted the complaint and a photo of her two beverages. One had a star drawn in the foam, which she conceded could simply be a star like the one in Starbucks logo rather than Lucifer’s pentagram. The other beverage had a 666 drawn in the foam. It is a number the Book of Revelations links to the Antichrist.
Of course, she's wrong to associate occult symbols like this with an atheist, necessarily. Unless she means atheist Satanists - which are reasonably common. I personally believe that the barista was much more likely to simply be bored out of his gourd.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Poll: Brazilian Women In Revealing Clothes "Deserve Rape"

Brazil Carnival 2008 (source)
So the Brazil government sponsored a poll where 65% of respondents justified rape of women who wear too revealing clothing. In case you are confused, there is no excuse for rape - ever.

Brazilians say women in revealing clothes deserve rape – poll

Oh, and 66.5% of the respondents are women.
And 58.5 percent of respondents also agreed that “if women knew how to behave, there would be fewer rapes.”
What could possibly create a climate where women are apparently 100% responsible for their own rapes and men have little to no responsibility. What could possibly contribute to this idea that rape is to be expected by men who cannot control their penises? A patriarchal religion of course.
“The most surprising thing is that it is permissible to walk naked in the Carnival, but not in real life,” Queiroz told AFP. 
The study revealed a well-known Brazilian paradox in which a cult-like obsession with the body and sensuality clashes with the society’s dominant conservative Catholicism.
And what happened when the government attempted to create new laws to protect victimized women?
Last year, Rousseff signed a law aimed at protecting victims of sexual violence. 
The Catholic Church criticized the law, saying it marked a first step toward broader legalization of abortion in the country with the world’s biggest Catholic population, at 123 million.
You would think that the Catholic Church would do the good thing and would try to protect women.  You would think this would be a no brainer! But then, since when has the Catholic Church had the interests of women at heart - especially when women and their sexual autonomy is involved?

I don't think it's just a Catholic thing - this desire to cover women up (under implicit threat of rape) seems prevalent in many religions. I also think that there is an underlying patriarchy that infuses many religions and is promoted by them. This patriarchy also runs through our culture as well in ways people do not see - just like religion itself.

Nana Queiroz, a 28 year old journalist, launched an online protest inviting women to post selfies of themselves topless (covering their breasts) with the phrase: I don't deserve to be raped. Over 20,000 women stood up and participated.

Queiroz has received several threats of rape online.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Crazy Church Posts Sign Saying Jesus Would Stone "Homos" - A Brave Lesbian Calls Their Bluff

(source: Jennifer Lopez's Instagram)
So awhile ago, I noticed the stories around this crazy church in Harlem that keeps on putting up extremely homophobic signs. Their last read: "Obama has released the homo demons on the black man. Look out black woman. A white homo may take your man"

Well, just recently they put up another batshit nuts sign, pictured above: "Jesus would stone homos... (bunch of Bible quotes) ... Harlem is a homo free zone."

Well, one Harlem resident wasn't going to stand for this crap. So she called their bluff.

Jennifer Louise Lopez Asks Anti-Gay Harlem Church To Stone Her

This week Jennifer Lopez presented herself to the church, informed them she is a lesbian and requested her stoning from the bewildered man who answered the door. That's pretty awesome in my book!

The guy didn't know what to do, so he told her to come back the next day for her stoning! I mean, what?!

Jennifer explains her amazing action:
"I hope that by going up to the door and presenting myself as the human and the product of [Goddess’] creation, churches can begin to understand that us lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are the very same creations that they are," Lopez told The Huffington Post. "My [Goddess] is one of peace, love and inclusion for everyone. As a United Methodist Christian I would love to see that one day soon all of our churches, including any religion, are able to finally stop the discrimination toward LGBT people."
Churches like this are going to go the way of the dodos.  It's only a matter of time, thankfully.

UPDATE: (2014-03-21) Someone has defaced the sign.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

What Andrei Linde's Reaction Tells Me About Science vs Religious "Faith"

So, in a recent set of very short essays, Why Have You Forsaken Me? Five Theses on Faith and Atheism, Templeton Prize winning Czech priest Tomáš Halík writes about the Mystery that is God and how the faithful have the ability to dive right in while those atheists and agnostics cannot follow into belief about the unknown. Oddly, he sees this as a defect with atheists and agnostics. I, of course, believe it's the other way around.
But people of mature faith, when they come to this crossroads, are able to move forward. They move forward as believers, in spite of their doubts. Their main trait is the courage to enter into the mystery of God, into unknown territory, and not become exasperated. They can withstand the mystery of the unknown and they can withstand their own uncertainties. In this life, as St. Paul told us, "we see though a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12). It is only in the final eschaton that we shall see God face to face.
Right, so you could take the plunge inspite of your doubts... faith...

Or you could propose a hypothesis and then suspend your belief for thirty years until science is able to find solid evidence for it. This is what Stanford Professor - and probably Nobel Prize Winner - Andrei Linde did.

Linde recently got news that strong new evidence has been found supporting his cosmic inflation theory. Gravity waves are the smoking gun pointing to a violently fast initial expansion at the Big Bang event. (Or so I, non-physicist me understand it.)

Do you see a difference? It has to do with not falling in love with beautiful ideas and then having faith in them because they are so nice. It involves staying strong and searching or waiting until evidence comes along.
It has to do with not surrendering oneself to mystery but rather using all of one's critical and rational resources to shine light onto the mystery and learn more. One approach can lead to true achievement, the other is a kind of resignation. 

Linde's response to this news is telling:
Let's just hope that it's not a trick. I always leave with this feeling, "What if I'm tricked? What if I believe in this just because it's beautiful?"
Beautiful ideas do have a certain lure to them. They have something that draws minds into them and compels many to set aside their skepticism and surrender themselves so that their hearts might be happy. Linde did not do this and he still is not doing this.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

British Columbia Pastor Advises Congregation To Not Vaccinate During Measles Outbreak

So there is an alarming return of measles in Canada.

Measles outbreak prompts officials to issue national plea for vaccination
The return of the disease in Canada has health-care officials preparing for the worst. They’re convinced the virus has been imported by those who have visited measles-infected countries such as the Philippines and Netherlands, and then returned to Canadian communities where immunization rates are low.
Guess where the epicentres of these new outbreaks are, in BC at least?
The Fraser Valley outbreak is a prime example of how the virus gains a foothold and circulates. Two students from the Mount Cheam Christian School in Chilliwack contracted the disease and were sent home – but not before exposing others. More than 100 students are suspected of having the disease. School officials shut the school a week early for March break. Chilliwack is located in the “Bible belt” of the valley, where members of the Reformed Congregation of North America do not believe in vaccinations.
And ...
That same response was heard in Coaldale, the epicentre of the southern Alberta outbreak. A student at the Coaldale Christian School brought the virus home after visiting the Netherlands. Many in the area near Lethbridge went to the mobile vaccination stations to get immunized; others were afraid of the vaccine’s side effects or declined because of religious convictions.
Notice a common thread here?

The members of the first above congregation do not believe that vaccines are safe, but on the plus side, at least they realise they are not always effective. What they do not get is, that's the whole point of getting as many people vaccinated as possible. Once the percentage of those vaccinated falls too low, herd immunity is compromised. Although the national average is still a healthy 95%, in some regions it has fallen below 50%.

These children of these religious parents, are completely vulnerable to the virus. This is just as bad as faith-healer parents who withhold needed medical treatment from their children. However, the strongly held religious beliefs of these parents are also putting other children and elderly people at risk.
Unfortunately for those living in the Fraser Valley, this much is beyond debate: The virus has jumped from the religious community to Chilliwack’s general population and to the nearby municipality of Agassiz. 
Stories like this make me really angry and they go a long way to confirm my suspicions that religion is a net harmful force.

So, here's another article about what a Chilliwack pastor has to say. Apparently, conventional, science-based medicine is interfering with God's care. What kind of feeble deity is this?

Chilliwack pastor tells congregation vaccines interfere with God’s care
“We leave it in (God’s) hands. If it is in his will that somehow we get a contagious disease, like in this case the measles, there are other ways, of course, to avoid this. If (we get sick), he can also heal us from it,” he said in an interview Friday.
You know, their crazy beliefs are putting their children at risk and my son as well. He got the vaccine but who's to say whether or not it really took?
Geuze counters that there is no need to make a healthy “God-given” body “a little bit sick” through vaccination. 
He does not oppose other means of boosting immunity, such as rest, healthy living and eating well. Nor does the church oppose medical treatment when a person is already sick, he added.
Rest and healthy living will not prevent the virus from entering your system and what about those who are chronically ill coming into contact with healthy carriers? And why bother a healthy lifestyle at all if it's all up to God anyway? Isn't preventative medicine healthy living?!?

When people - particularly children - get sick with measles it's often too late. That's the whole point of a vaccine!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Christians Are Willing To Raise The Dead. People Just Won't Let Them!

Okay, so this is just going to be a short one about Christians who think they can raise people from the dead.

Raising The Dead: Evangelical Christians Want To Practice Resurrections
Leppitt says that when her brother died, she and her husband prayed over his body for nearly an hour and believe that he moved at one point, and that if they gain access to more bodies, they can deliver better results. 
"Practice makes perfect," she was quoted as saying.
The Leppitts are part of Global Awakening fellowship (UK Branch). They seem to believe that they could deal with this whole death thing once and for all if more people would only let them lay hands on dead people.

But that's not the pièce de résistance. There's this hilarious group, The Dead Raising Team(tm), who are like some kind of elite resurrection rapid response squad. They swoop in - upon request from the friends or family of the deceased - to pray for resurrection. They are going to be featured in their own documentary - in which they are apparently unable to raise any dead people. Jesus Christ, performance anxiety affects us all.
Tyler Johnson runs a ministry called the Dead Raising Team in the US. He claims to have brought several people back to life. He says he even persuaded the authorities in his state to issue him with an official photocard which lets him through police lines at car accident sites. 
Johnson appears in a new documentary film called Deadraisers, which follows enthusiasts as they trail round hospitals and mortuaries trying to bring people back to life. Sadly, those they pray for in the film remain resolutely dead.
Oh, and this group even offers training!

And here's the trailer for their raisin' the dead movie, which can apparently be rented on Vimeo for 10 bucks. That's not cheap... but possibly good watching at your next Skeptics event?

DEADRAISER - Trailer from Mountain Light Cinema on Vimeo.

Back to the Leppitts, who, as far as I know, do not have their own documentary film. They're still praying for the dead to come back. They're still a-pluggin'.
Alun and Donna have not had any success with dead raising either. Last year, Donna's brother died of a heart attack. By the time they got to the mortuary, he had been dead for eight hours. They prayed over him for nearly an hour, and although at one stage they thought they saw him move, that was as good as it got.
Of course, this sort of thing can be extremely harmful for those vulnerable ones who are in the process of grieving. I cannot help thinking about this while at the same time finding the whole thing amusing and hilarious. If it were a relative of mine or a good friend employing these people - even for free - I would probably be quite upset.

Vjack over at Atheist Revolution made a much more thoughtful analysis of all this: Raising the Dead.

For hours of entertainment, check out the BBC article above, or read about it in The Freethinker.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Watch American Pastor Behind Uganda Anti-Gay Law Spread Anti-Gay Misinformation And Hate

Pastor Scott Lively (source)
Mother Jones has a good article on arch-homophobe Scott Lively. He is one of the primary US pastors who more or less engineered the new Uganda Anti-Homosexual law passed only a few weeks ago that would see people thrown in jail for being gay or sheltering someone who is gay. The article contains a good deal of background information and includes some of his talks that ought to make any decent person's stomach turn.

Meet the American Pastor Behind Uganda's Anti-Gay Crackdown
But, according to Ugandan gay rights activists, Lively has played an unparalleled role in fostering the climate of hate that gave rise to Uganda's anti-gay law. "The bill is essentially his creation," says Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a coalition of gay rights organizations. Mugisha's group has filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit in US federal court, accusing Lively of international crimes against humanity on the grounds that he and his Ugandan allies allegedly conspired to deprive gay Ugandans of basic human rights.
Although the law itself doesn't mention God or religion and the president consulted his "scientists", these are all masks for the real motivation for the law - bigotry inspired and backed up by certain fundamentalist Christian religious beliefs.

The festering ball of hate that is this new bill, which will destroy countless lives, is Lively's baby. If you click on the above link, you can see him in action. If you have the stomach for it.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Stop Banging On At Me With Your Science!

Sometimes I read an article and just end up sitting there with my mouth hanging open wondering to myself how I'm supposed to react to it, what does it mean, do the tubes is my brainbox have enough capacity to process it?

It’s no good, Dawkins. No one’s going to abandon religion because some atheist is banging on at them about science
There’s a religious slot broadcast every morning on the radio, called Thought for the Day, and it’s marvellous. Because it usually involves some bishop telling you what he did the day before, and shovelling Jesus into it somehow. So it will go: “Last night I was watching an episode of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, in which a poor hapless restaurateur once again found himself on the wrong end of Gordon’s somewhat ribald invective. And I began to think to myself ‘Isn’t this a bit like Jesus’? Because Jesus too went out for supper one night, and that turned into a bit of a nightmare. Good morning.” 
The fact that this quaint tradition endures with few complaints, despite a campaign led by the National Secular Society, suggests that the modern atheists are losing. So does the popularity of The Book of Mormon, the gloriously blasphemous musical I’ve finally seen, which, despite a swearing, camp Jesus and a plot revolving around religion being made-up nonsense, is strangely affectionate towards religion. You’re invited to judge the evangelists on what they do, rather than on what they believe, and that may be a vital part of its success, compared with the modern atheists whose attitude is: “Of COURSE Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, you idiots.”
So religion, the once all-pervading ruler of kings, emperors and countries has been reduced to a morning radio segment about how Jesus helped the line cook get through Gordon Ramsay's potty mouth. This is somehow a sign that religion's still doing just fine? Checkmate, atheists!

The broadway musical Book of Mormon, written by two atheists and sure to have been banned only a century ago and to have led to the burning of said atheists a couple of centuries before; how is this not a sign of religion losing its relevance and grip on our culture? A song and dance routine that affectionately undermines the primary claim of religion by pointing out it is merely a made up human artifice is not indicative of a weakening of the religious resolve? Really?

What could author Mark Steel be talking about? It's hard to say because then he goes on a well-worn attack against those nasty New Atheists who dare to question, ridicule or mock those who believe myths for which there is no credible evidence.
Richard Dawkins, for example, complained that a Muslim political writer wasn’t a “serious journalist” because he “believes Mohamed flew to heaven on a winged horse”. I suppose if Dawkins had been in Washington when Martin Luther King made his famous speech, he’d have shouted: “Never mind your dream, how can Jonah have lived in a whale, you silly Christian knob?”
I still don't see what the big fuss is with Richard Dawkins' comment. For me, the job of a serious journalist is to be skeptical and to dig for the facts. They should be as close to reality as possible. A journalist who seriously believes someone flew into heaven on a winged horse doesn't strike me as someone who has done all of his homework. In principle it's no different from a journalist who believes Obama is a shape-shifting lizard; John Smith found gold tablets in his backyard and translated them with a magical hat; or Thetans are the ghostly remains of a civilization that was blown to smithereens inside of a volcano with nukes billions of years ago.

Of course, this is all technical. I'm absolutely certain one could be a Muslim in name but not believe such fairy stories - a secular Muslim. And even if this were not the case, humans are gifted with a well-developed ability to compartmentalize competing beliefs. So the same mind could hold everything else up to a strong and rational critical eye and still believe in the most insane mythologies simultaneously. The journalist could be an excellent one, just don't trust him with any stories about religion that intersect this compartmentalized woo. Dawkins has every right to call him out on the Pegasus myth.

As for the comparison between Martin Luther King and journalist Mehdi Hasan, it is a false equivalence. It's Hasan's job to report on facts and communicate them to his readers. It was King's 'job' to stir the hearts and inspire America to rise up and fight for civil rights. Steele should be aware that facts are seldom required to arouse the passions of one's readership.

Steele seems to go on to say that folks like Dawkins are vile for judging the religious based on what they believe.
It’s almost as if the modern atheist is in agreement with the religious fundamentalist that a person’s attitude towards God is the most important aspect of their character.
As a modern atheist, I cannot help but feel rather sorry for those who believe in God, but this is their right. However, the real problem is those who let their religious beliefs affect their actions in ways that affect others in negative ways. Do not limit my rights based off some bronze age myth that would fail any modern day ethical sniff test.

I too am happy to judge anyone based on their actions but I'm also aware that one's beliefs inform their actions and that ridiculous beliefs are not above ridicule.

And when it comes to banging on about science: It has been an effective approach. Scientists and science popularizers have been doing this for years. Carl Sagan's Cosmos had a profound effect on me and many others and no doubt the modern Fox reboot will too. The only way to convince others their points of view are delusional is to expose them to as much reality as possible.

Okay, this is getting rambly. There seem to be four points here, I think.

First, religion is doing just fine thanks regardless of what the atheists are doing.
Religion is certainly losing a grip on power and influence in our society but I suppose many people still have warm fuzzy spiritual feelings? It remains to be seen whether this is directly due to the atheists, I would suspect it's a combination of things. I know I get warm and fuzzy spiritual-like feelings while watching Cosmos. I wonder if that's the direction things will go?

Second, mean atheists like Dawkins aren't helping to convert people to atheists:
Certainly, when I was on the fence atheist, The God Delusion helped push me over the edge and gave me the courage to tell myself for the first time that I was atheist. I would imagine it had the same affect on others.

Third, pushing science (e.g. reality) onto deluded religious folk is just not going to work. 
People leave religion for different reasons. However, from my personal experience at least, an increase in scientific literacy did weaken my belief in religious fairy tales.

Fourth, one should not judge people based on their religion but on their actions.
The modern atheist often points to atrocities carried out by religious institutions, such as the tyranny of the Taliban or the child abuse of the Catholic Church, but isn’t it the actions of these people that are vile, not the religion itself?
I've never been able to grasp this logic and this is why I cannot imagine how decent people can keep calling themselves Catholic and keep paying lip service to the Pope.

If mail carriers were found to quite frequently rob homeowners while delivering the mail, one would blame the postal service and demand a criminal investigation. The executives at the top would be severely punished if it was shown they knew this was going on. Well, the Catholic Church claims that the being ultimately at the top is God and God Knows.

I wonder if Steele has ever actually picked up a Bible or a Koran and read it. I would say that it's often the actions of the religious that are good in spite of their religions either being seriously flawed or vile - or at least large parts of their holy books. This is why the really nasty pieces of work are often the most religiously literate when it comes to knowing - nay, memorizing - the holy books upon which the religions are supposed to be based.

There is so much here to address that I hardly believe I was even able to begin.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

How Dare Mean Atheists Disrespect Everyone Elses Beliefs! Fundamentalists!

So, Diane Bederman, who has in the past come to Rex Murphy's defence against those whiny atheists and then sounded a tad whiny herself when she accused atheists of ruining Christmas (with all their poo-pooing of Christians for believing what an old book told them), is back again.

This time, she's talking about how mean atheists are always making fun of religious beliefs and challenging them. She also covers how people who actually believe they are right and question the beliefs of others are uncouth fundamentalists. Challenging the beliefs of others disrupts social cohesion and is totally not cool when everyone's got their own truths and they're all good.

She also talks about how all this ridiculing can lead to persecution, USSR, Communism and how all this God unbelief leads to much death. Because it was the atheism that lead to those disasters, not rampant corruption, obsession with power and religious devotion to The Party.

Oh let's not forget Mr Putin and his chumminess with the Russian Orthodox Church that has led to all manner of human rights violations. Or Nigeria. Or Uganda. Truly, those must be exceptions to the rule.

Incidentally, to illustrate her point on this, she provides a link to a definition of  militant atheists from Conservapedia. Conservapedia is the Trustworthy Encyclopedia that has a fascinating and oh so scientific article linking obesity to atheism.

The One Thing Atheists and Fundamentalists Have in Common

Let's just cut to the conclusion for now.
... It's the idea that it's considered acceptable, even fashionable to attack people who believe in God because in the eyes of atheists, there's something wrong with us. It's just as objectionable as proselytizing a particular religious belief. 
Let's all agree to respect the beliefs (theist, deist, atheist, agnostic) of others, as long as those beliefs are compatible with Western Culture.
In general,  New Atheists are not attacking people who believe in God. However, I've seen it happen here and there. It depends on the particular manifestation of religion in question and what Bederman means by attack.

If someone believes crazy things for which there is no evidence whatsoever, it's possible there is something wrong with the person. Much of religion is completely irrational and ridiculous so this makes sense. However, I believe that the majority of cases are simply a lack of knowledge of metaphysical positions outside of their own. This ignorance could be unintentional or deliberately nurtured from a desire to cloister oneself away and blot out anything having to do with the secular world. 

One thing's for sure. It is wrong to confuse questioning and ridiculing of one's unfounded beliefs and theories with an attack on the person - no matter how deeply held these beliefs are. At some level, we all likely believe some amount of whacky stuff. The trick is to get over the fear and defensiveness associated with open questioning and examination of your beliefs so you can cut out the crap.

Furthermore, whether it's considered acceptable or fashionable is purely secondary in this matter. One's rights are not curtailed by whether what they're saying is in some religious person's realm of good taste.

And look, who says there is anything objectionable with people proselytizing their beliefs? If one really believes that I am hell-bound for my lack of belief, is it not reasonable for them to do everything in their power to save me? I would expect nothing less. The same could be said for atheists who see religious people as utterly deluded. Who wants people living their lives and affecting other people's lives based on lies?

That said, because of competing views, a functional society must set limits. The Mormon at my door has the right to knock on it and annoy me and I have the right to send him away or lock the gate.

At base, a healthy public square is a space where ideas and arguments are free to be expressed and criticized with other ideas and arguments. No idea should be elevated above others artificially. Those who subscribe to a particular idea do not have the right to suppress others who question or ridicule them.

People have rights. Ideas do not.
Let's all agree to respect the beliefs (theist, deist, atheist, agnostic) of others, as long as those beliefs are compatible with Western Culture.
No, let's not. Beliefs - as truth claims - are either true or false and aesthetically they can come in various shades that have no impact on their truth.

I have little respect for the beliefs of parents, for example, that use their religious beliefs to withhold life saving medical treatment for their children. I have no respect for their beliefs nor do I have any respect for them:
Telling another or even suggesting that their way of believing is wrong is to attack their identity, their very essence.
Which makes placing your very identity into a belief that's patently wrong or ridiculous even more tragic.

By the way, I also have no respect for the belief that a man rose from the dead and is now sitting at his own right hand.

Finally, what is this Western Culture litmus test and where do we draw the line? Like the Bible, Western Culture contains a broad spectrum of beliefs that can be picked from at will. It's really a rather meaningless statement.

Speaking of meaningless statements, after quoting Bill Maher, who said that people who believe in a magic spaceman have a neurological disorder and need help, she responds.
I'm looking forward to Maher's retort to Matthew McConaughey's Best Actor Oscar acceptance speech: 
"First off, I want to thank God, 'cause that's who I look up to. He's graced my life with opportunities that I know is not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it's a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates."
What does this even mean? So, Matthew McConaughey also believes in a magical spaceman. Yes, people who are religious are able to succeed and thrive. So? He's still wrong and his belief is still ridiculous. 

Is it because he's an actor? Tom Cruise is a very successful actor and he believes in Thetans, e-meters and ancient atomic bombs blowing up volcanoes. What is the point here?

She goes on to speak about Dawkins.
He encourages people to not only challenge religious people but to "ridicule and show contempt" for their doctrines and sacraments. 
How liberal, how open-minded of him.
Notice how he's advising to ridicule the doctrines and sacraments who feel no pain. 

So what could be more liberal and open-minded than this? Imagine a world where no idea is too sacred or taboo not to be challenged; a world where people cannot be silenced by threat of breaking the feelings of those who are not themselves strong or brave enough to critically examine their beliefs.

In the end, what's more important? Finding out the truth and making decisions based on scientific facts or keeping our warm and fuzzy feelings?

I respect your right to express your beliefs and you should respect mine, no matter how sad it makes you when I disagree or laugh out loud.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

"A Cockpit of An Airliner Is No Place For A Woman" Because: Bible

Carey Steacy, airline pilot for over 17 years. (source)
Okay... because: Jerk using Bible as an excuse.

On a routine flight from Calgary to Victoria, a passenger - who calls himself "David" heard seventeen-year veteran captain Carey Steacy - a woman pilot! - on the cabin speaker, presumably during or just after takeoff.

Although it is quite illegal to fly any plane in Canada - especially a commercial passenger jet - without hundreds of hours of flight time, David knew something was up because the pilot was a fair lady. License or no license, the idea of a double-X chromosome pilot concerned him deeply. So after he heard the announcement, he started asking around the cabin if the pilot had obtained enough flight hours beforehand.

Then, after deplaning -- alive even! -- he left a profoundly sexist note.

'No place for a woman': Sexist note left for female pilot of WestJet flight



Here's how I translate the scribbles on the napkin.
To Capt./Westjet 
The cockpit of an airliner is no place for a woman. A woman being a mother is the most honor (sic). Not as "captain" 
Proverbs 31 
(Sorry not PC) 
Were (sic) short mothers, not pilots, Westjet. 
PS I wish Westjet could tell me a fair Lady is at the helm so I can book another Flight!
In the end this is all mere vanity... 
Not impressed  
respectfully in Love, 
Stacey responded to his note on a Facebook post. Lauren Strapagiel quoted it in full on her post about this: Sexist jerk allowed on WestJet flight
To @David in 12E on my flight #463 from Calgary to Victoria today. It was my pleasure flying you safely to your destination. Thank you for the note you discreetly left me on your seat. You made sure to ask the flight attendants before we left if I had enough hours to be the Captain so safety is important to you, too. I respectfully disagree with your opinion that the “cockpit” (we now call it the flight deck as no cocks are required) is no place for a lady. In fact, there are no places that are not for ladies anymore. I have heard many comments from people throughout my 17 year career as a pilot. Most of them positive. Your note is, without a doubt, the funniest. It was a joke, right? RIGHT?? I thought, not. You were more than welcome to deplane when you heard I was a “fair lady.” You have that right. Funny, we all, us humans, have the same rights in this great free country of ours. Now, back to my most important role, being a mother.

Anyway, back to douche's original note.  As you can see, he bases his apprehension on rational thought and scientific evidence.

No, of course not! That would be crazy talk. He tries to excuse his own sexist-I-come-from-some-alternate-universe with a bronze age sexist holy book!

He also absolves himself of any responsibility by adding that he's real sorry that it's not PC but, hey, the Bible says so. So it's not his fault. His hands are tied. Who can argue with logic like this?

You want the proof?  Proverbs 31:10 doesn't mention airline pilot anywhere! Take that! Any woman who does not wish to stay at home and hold a spindle, is just brimming with mere vanity.

Once again, we see the Bible coming to the rescue of backward-thinking people.

Perhaps David thinks things were better when he was younger and women toiled in the home and vineyard and got strong arms... or something. Back in the all-American family 1950s perhaps?

Yes, those were the days... in David's alternate universe...

Group of Women Airforce Service Pilots and B-17 Flying Fortress "Pistol-Packin' Mama" (c. 1940) (source)

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Atheists Shouldn't Call Religion A Mental Illness: Chris Stedman

"Well, you're cray cray!" (source)

Chris Stedman has published a thought-provoking and no doubt controversial post in the Religious News Service.

5 reasons atheists shouldn’t call religion a mental illness
It seems clear to me that religion isn’t a form of mental illness, and that calling it one reflects a shallow understanding of both mental illness and religion—or, worse still, a knowing attempt to use mental illness as an insult.
Go read it, a couple of times. Like me, you could very well get annoyed at it. Now read it again.

I cannot say I agree with all of it, but I am still thinking it over. It's quite thought-provoking.

Anyway, my first reaction -- like most atheists, I think -- was to angrily dismiss all this as some kind of underhanded attempt to shield religion. When I see people behaving in a completely crazy irrational way, my brain often reaches for the C-word. That's just what it is. It's cray, okay?

I also felt like a very solid rhetorical tool was being threatened; that perhaps we were being asked to banish the obvious in some act of political correctness. 

The article referred to a Facebook post by American Atheists president David Silverman, whom I greatly admire. He is talking about a recent horrible act of religiously-motivated criminal negligence by Christian faith-healer parents that left their second child dead.
We must recognize religion as brainwashing. We must recognize the (hyper) religious as mentally damaged. We must take responsibility as a society, because we permit this to happen as a society. 
I completely agree with David and, if I hadn't read Stedman's article, the assignment of mentally damaged to the parents as being somehow inaccurate or even harmful to others with legitimate mental illness would have never even crossed my mind.

I thought about it though. Do mentally ill people out there deserve to be lumped in with people who are so deluded that they believe a magical man in the sky will come down and save their children from illness? Don't they have a hard enough time already without extra stigma?

Now take this excellent point by Sam Harris:
If you think that saying a few Latin words over your pancakes is going to turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, you have lost you mind, but you think more or less the same thing about a cracker and the body of Jesus, you are just a Catholic.
You see, I agree with this and I think it's a powerful demonstration of the sort of blind pass faith and religion get in our society.

Now, I don't think Chris Stedman is saying we should dispose of such arguments. You can take that last argument and substitute been deluded.

It all comes down to how accurate we wish to be when we throw around terms like crazy or mentally ill and I would be the first to admit that I sling these around like a pro. Basically, it means we should always do our best to think before we speak.

I'll cut to the point. I know people who suffer or have suffered with mental illness. I think it's much more common than people realize and I believe there is still a stigma associated with it. Some of these people do not believe in God or religion.

Furthermore, I myself believed in this religion stuff. Was I mentally ill? I would answer no (well at least not for that reason!). I was deluded, brain-washed and indoctrinated.

Now, some strong religious beliefs might cause enough trauma to result in some mental illness - PTSD for example. However, these are not the result of all religious beliefs. They can flow out of religious beliefs.

Don't get me wrong, please. This doesn't get religion off the hook. I still think it's dreadful and virus-like, impedes progress and, when implemented, can cause great harm. I just find myself agreeing with Chris here. It's not a mental illness (although it can trigger mental illness). And faith in particular, when understood as believing something for which there is no evidence, is delusional and can be dangerous, but it is not an illness.

After I thought about this, I came to this compromise when it comes to what I say or write. I will not use terms like mentally ill or mentally damaged unless I really mean it in the clinical sense of the word.

When it comes to terms like crazy or cray cray or insane or nutty or fruit-loops, I think these have enough grounding in colloquial speech that they can be kept. I am not diagnosing someone with a medical condition. I'll have no problem calling inanimate objects these things but will still think twice before using the terms to describe individuals or a group of people. If at all possible, I'll reserve these terms for the beliefs or ideas these people may have - their delusions.

The same goes for terms like lost your mind.  It's not in the same league as armchair diagnosing someone as mentally ill.

I'm not getting all preachy here. This is just for me. It's a little editorial meta.

What did you think of this article?

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, 24 February 2014

The Ever-Shrinking Christian God

"Tell me if you see God." (source)
Mitchell Stephens' short piece in the Washington Post rather concisely sums up what we've known for quite some time now: (Judeo-Christian) God seems to be on the decline; ever-shrinking into the narrowest gaps beyond our reach. It seems as if he's been demoted from being supreme doer of everything to company mascot.

COMMENTARY: The rise of the diminished, ordinary God
However, religion has been growing much less important. God once was seen as commanding the entire universe and supervising all of its inhabitants — inflicting tragedies, bestowing triumphs, enforcing morality. But now, outside of some lingering loud pockets of orthodoxy, we have witnessed the arrival of a less mighty, increasingly inconsequential version of God.
In some places among some people. The article does admit that there is the rather gargantuan exception which is Islam. And the word ordinary doesn't mean much on its own. I believe mundane or even irrelevant is more apt.
And while survivors of tragedies may still reflexively thank God, the days have passed when even thinkers like Voltaire would credit God with earthquakes or other natural disasters.  
I think that, in parts of North America and Europe at least, this is becoming more and more the case. So, as atheists, we need to realize that this new diminished God is no longer the creature we see in the Bible. He is rather a fuzzy sort of idea or concept that flits away whenever you try to shine a light on him.

The most proper approach when dealing with this abstract, non-committal, vague idea of a God is to just stand back and force the believer to describe him to us in detail, please. After about an hour it's possible that everyone listening, including perhaps the speaker, might realise how vague and undefined it is. Well, an atheist can dream.

Stephens ends his piece with wise words from Shelley.
In 1820, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, himself a committed atheist, predicted that religion would not be “o’erthrown” but simply become “unregarded.” Despite all the noise and news made in recent decades by beleaguered adherents of one or another supernaturally inspired orthodoxy, that is the direction in which we are headed.
And not a century too soon.

Stephens never goes into why this is occurring, which would be interesting. But this doesn't make the article any less pleasant for this godless heathen to read.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Kenyan Preacher Charges "Processing Fee" to Know If You Will Go to Heaven

Helicopter of Christ Ministry in Kenya (source)
Yesterday, I waited in line with over 30 other people for one hour outside the local branch of the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec, which is our equivalent to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Finally, the doors opened and I got to be one of the first to the wicket. What did I get in addition to the charge to renew my license? A nice processing fee.

Processing fees are a way of life, so I suppose it shouldn't come as a big surprise that a Kenyan preacher is now charging people around $13 Canadian to check up on their records in the Book of Life.

Only Sh1,000 'to know if you will go to heaven'
Pastor Thomas Wahome of Helicopter of Christ Church is charging his congregation Sh1,000 each to check whether anyone’s name is in the book of life. The pastor has for the past two weeks been charging the amount as thousands of followers flock to him to know if they will enter heaven.
I guess it's no worse than Church Indulgences. By which I mean, the Church was just as despicable as this.

I wonder if these results come with guarantees? I suppose you would have to check back with him periodically to make sure you're still in good standing?
“Send the money to this number, 07XX032000 (number concealed) and then come tomorrow at around 10 in the morning. The bishop will then tell you if your name is in the Book of Life,” she said.
Pastor Wahome is quite the spiritual entrepreneur who seems to believe he's the Second Coming. Last year, he charged people Sh1,200 to touch his clothing. He claimed this would heal people of their ailments.

Well, it will relieve people of their money.

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, 13 February 2014

"Atheism Is Irrational"... And The Explanation Why Breaks My Brain.

Poor Alice seems to be coping... just.

Have you ever read or heard an argument and were at a complete loss as to how anyone could even begin to take it seriously? Actually, you don't even understand the problem, or the argument. The words all seem to make some kind of syntactical sense but to squeeze any coherent meaning out of them is like trying to get blood from a stone.

And so you wonder if maybe your very grip on reality is in jeopardy. That's how I feel whenever I've read anything by Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga.

Or maybe you're not smart enough to understand it. Maybe you're too dumb or ignorant.

Or maybe it either doesn't make any sense or rests on some assumption that is completely unfounded...
I should make clear first that I don’t think arguments are needed for rational belief in God. In this regard belief in God is like belief in other minds, or belief in the past. Belief in God is grounded in experience, or in the sensus divinitatis, John Calvin’s term for an inborn inclination to form beliefs about God in a wide variety of circumstances.
See, magic! Don't see? Well, I suppose there must be something wrong with you.

Many people on the web and in several podcasts I listen to have commented on this. But in case you've missed it:

Is Atheism Irrational?
So if you’re an atheist simply because you accept materialism, maintaining your atheism means you have to give up your belief that evolution is true. Another way to put it: The belief that both materialism and evolution are true is self-refuting. It shoots itself in the foot. Therefore it can’t rationally be held.
That's just the Q.E.D. of a mind-bending voyage through the looking-glass into the depths brought to us by Notre Dame professor Gary Gutting. (Gutting isn't the source of all this. He's the conduit through which the words of Plantinga made their way to New York Times print.)

Maybe you understand this. And if you do, I tip my hat to you; but begin to wonder whether I should be calling the padded wagon for you or for myself.  This conclusion didn't make sense to me, so I read backward.

Sometimes, I like to start at the conclusions of an article at the end and work my way backward. It's like I'm checking for evidence for each conclusion each step of the way.

So, apparently, this idea that evolution and materialism cannot co-exist rests on the notion that any belief is just as likely to be true as false, which seems pretty ridiculous to me. Yes, a belief can be true or not true or mostly true or not even close to being true and the probability of a belief being correct is not 50-50 like the toss of a coin; it relies on what that belief is stating -- it's content!

But it turns out Plantinga seems to agree this is silly. Apparently it's some kind of necessary result of materialism. Okay, let's go backward even more.

So evolution would have resulted in us having beliefs that are adaptive -- that cause adaptive actions. And he gives his reasoning about why if materialism is true everything else has a 50% chance of being true, or something.
But as we’ve seen, if materialism is true, the belief does not cause the adaptive action by way of its content: It causes that action by way of its neurophysiological properties. Hence it doesn’t matter what the content of the belief is, and it doesn’t matter whether that content is true or false. All that’s required is that the belief have the right neurophysiological properties. If it’s also true, that’s fine; but if false, that’s equally fine.
Okay, is he talking about memes here? It's true that an idea need not be true to adapt via mutation and selection (evolution). Many completely bonkers religious ideas have propagated due to having the right neurophysiological properties -- whatever that means. Does this make them equally likely to be right or wrong? Absolutely not! Again, think about religion and if you don't like that analogy, think about other people's religions.

This all may have some grounding but I'm not sure if it's what Plantinga is talking about. It's been observed that our brains often, if not always, send signals out to our bodies to do physical tasks before they've registered the meaning or that we've had the idea. Or so I have heard. So perhaps on some level, this is being triggered by the structure of the belief or idea and perhaps emotion is also somehow triggered by the structure.

But what does this have to do with evolution? I'm still at a loss.
Evolution will select for belief-producing processes that produce beliefs with adaptive neurophysiological properties, but not for belief-producing processes that produce true beliefs. Given materialism and evolution, any particular belief is as likely to be false as true.
Okay, uhm. Evolution doesn't do anything, but let's say some beliefs are selected for based on criteria other than their truth. Like they are pleasing religious thoughts. Or they explain something. So what? Please, someone, help me with this.

One thing's for sure, this stuff is not intended to convert a poor irrational atheist like me to theism.