Creationists are typically pretty wriggly and hard to pin down. So when I argue with them, I don’t often get the ‘corner-and-kill’ moment. I usually can’t get them into that position where it becomes obvious to all listeners that the quarry knows he was caught in a lie. It’s always interesting when your opponent realizes that he can’t defend his position, and is forbidden to concede some academic point that was clearly lost, but escape isn’t possible either because you won’t let him change the subject. If you can get him there, and press him to hold him accountable, you’ll either witness a psychotic episode, or a lie so blatant that it counts as an admission of defeat. That’s what I got last night on the Dogma Debate podcast with creationist rapper, ‘Destiny Lab’.
May 09 2013
May 08 2013
I’m just relaying a tragic story. Hundreds of thousands of activists gathered in Dhaka Bangladesh last Friday, protesting against blasphemy laws and the severe penalty associated with them.
“Atheists must be hanged” shouted scores of armed Islamists who descended on the demonstration, assisted by local police. Violence erupted with cudgel canes and rubber bullets. Dozens of people were killed or maimed in an attack by the religion of peace. Ironically the activists were only protesting religion’s long-standing practice of inhuman oppression of dissent, and the Islamists reacted the way religion has always reacted, the only way it knows how -senselessly and without reason.
May 07 2013
Ken Ham was asked by the Texas Home School Coalition, the most prominent home school lobby in Texas, to speak at their convention on Aug 1 through 3. While I agree with the right to home school, if it is done by parents, who are educated in the subject they are teaching, or if they aren’t, have access to certified teachers through online public schools or home school co-ops. I don’t agree with homeschooling being abused to mislead children about the science behind evolution.
I am not exactly sure why the THSC, whose stated mission is to support parental home-schooling rights, would want to invite Ham to speak at their convention. The thought of children at the mercy of outdated pseudoscience makes me ill. This organization must know AIG’s mission…
“to train others to develop a biblical worldview” and “to expose the bankruptcy of evolutionary ideas, and its bedfellow, a ‘millions of years old earth’ (and even older universe).”
My more cynical side thinks they do know AIG’s mission and agree with it, or he wouldn’t have been invited. My personal experience growing up as an old earth creationist in the city where this convention is being held tells me that many of THSC members most likely support him speaking there. This part of Texas once had the Revisionist Terri Leo at the helm of the State School Board.
The Texas GOP has such contorted districts that they are being disputed in the Supreme Court. It is part of a Republican effort here to gerrymander conservative districts around Houston in a desperate attempt to keep the state Red. The growing minority population is predicted to shift the state at least to purple in as little as 6 years.
*Edit for comparison look at this map…
In fact Obama carried those cities in 2012.
Politics may seem mostly unrelated to Ken Ham’s appearance to speak to avid, creationist home-schoolers in one of the most religious parts of the state. However, it does gives you a snapshot of why there is a demand for young earth creationism.
In any case, I think this is a good opportunity to protest children being indoctrinated with young earth creationism. The family is seriously considering making a trip down there to say no to ignorance. The date is really close to Camp Quest Texas sleepover camp starting on August 4th.
*PS If you aren’t already aware Aron is trying to raise 5,000 dollars for Camp Quest Texas before two other certain known atheists. He has 24 days left, and at this time he has 1270.00 raised. His most dastardly rival is at 2810.10 raised as of now. If he defeats this guy, he will dress up like a nun and recite the Lord’s Prayer. He won’t even need to shave off his beard for realism. Everybody wins no matter, who you donate to, because Camp Quest Texas educates children in science and critical thinking.
May 05 2013
Why do atheists have to be so mean? Podcast Today 5/5 with Actress Hayley Myers, Tom Melchiore, and NAP’s Flash Kellish and Sheila Blackadder
Specifically why doesn’t anyone want to ally with us, even other secularists sometimes? We’re like red headed stepchildren; we can’t do anything right for a lot of people. We will also be discussing atheist vitriol to each other on The Nones . It is approaching toxic levels on the topic of feminism. Hayley wants to be a more vocal atheist, and she will be sharing her experiences growing up as an atheist in the Midwest. She ‘s an actress who appeared in The Ides of March. Shayrah, Aron, and myself are hardened atheists from living in atheist Hell here in the South. Flash and Sheila have the East Coast covered, but somehow they don’t sound as if they have the street cred in comparison. But they do! They are out there trying to organize atheists politically. Politics are the other fighting words with a lot of atheists. Flash is on the Executive Board of the National Atheist Party; soon to be the American Secular Party. Sheila blogs for NAP on Daily Kos also has the Feminatheist discussion group on Facebook. A lot of people know Tom Melchiorre, writer and editor of Secular Nation the voice of Atheist Alliance International. They brought us that lovely Atheist Census. Over 200,000 atheists have been counted; have you? Numbers Matter.
Anyways, I also wanted to thank everyone that supported the first 2 podcasts even though Shayrah and I are trying to figure out the technology thing. A lot of great atheists are supporting us by coming on the show. They are going to start messing with our mean image. Plus added on us pressure to not let them down.
*Update link to the video of the show…
May 03 2013
Iceland was under the Norwegian and then the Danish crown from 1262. Its first step towards independence was in 1874 when the Danish king handed the nation its first constitution. In it the freedom to choose one’s religion or life stance was secured for the first time since the Christian (Catholic) takeover in the year 1000. There had been a few attempts by individuals to acquire another belief before that but at the time around 99% of Icelanders were registered Christian. Slowly other congregations formed, at first mainly some free Evangelical Lutheran splits from the main Evangelical Lutheran church which is known as the National Church. Its official name is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland or ELCI. Also the Catholic Church sprung up again with the help of nuns and priests sent from Europe. Mormons and others followed suit.
Now there are 39 religious groups registered at the National Registry, 29 thereof are Christian. A new law was ratified on January 30, 2013 in the Icelandic Parliament (Althing), granting non-religious life stance groups almost an equal legal status and funding with religions. Soon the 23 year old Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association, which is called Siðmennt in Icelandic, will be granted registration. Still the ELCI has deeply rooted special privileges in financial, legal and social matters.
THE STRUGGLE FOR SEPARATION
At the turn of the 20th century there was an unsuccessful struggle for total separation of church and state, but in Iceland, the left wing politicians and workers unions (which favored separation) didn’t have enough power. The country was governed by right wing conservatives, business owners and other powerful classes which strongly supported the clerical system. So unlike Central, Western Europe, and the United States separation of church and state didn’t have strong support here. Politics evolved in many ways towards a secular democracy, but a theocratic leech was allowed to be attached to it. In 1907 (and well before that) it was apparent that the ELCI could not be sustained financially by its huge ownership of farm land because the country was changing rapidly from being mainly agricultural into being urban and depending on fisheries. The ELCI, due to its stronghold within the political sector and its special protection clause in the constitution, was able to make a very comfortable deal with the state back then which was repeated and secured in a law passed in 1997. It ensured the ELCI a handsome salary for all its priests, bishops, and office staff, for an unlimited amount of time into the future, in return for all the land previously owned by the ELCI except the land that churches were built on.
By 1987 the ELCI had run into difficulties collecting its member fees and got another good deal with the authorities, namely that members’ dues were turned into a form of tax that ensured the ELCI and other registered religious groups their monthly fee, irrespective of their members’ ability to pay it. Additionally the ELCI got an exclusive 30% extra for special funds to cover costs of housing, teaching theology, holding administrative conferences, and much more. For this system to work the registration of all Icelanders at the National Registry into either a religious organization or not had to be used.
That registration began earlier and at the start of it the default registration was the ELCI and all newborn babies were automatically registered into their mother’s church without asking the mother or the father. This was partly changed with the new law from January 30th so that the automatic registration of babies only applies if both parents are members of the same church. This is to ensure equal rights of the sexes but does not protect the rights of the child to stay out of a life stance organization (religious or secular) in order for it to decide for itself when it has reached the age of legal and financial independence. This church tax is collected for every
member aged 16 and older but children are not legally adults in Iceland until the age of 18. The new law is a step in the right direction but still contains many inconsistencies.
SOCIAL AWARENESS KEPT LOW
After the mid-20th century the issue of separation of church and state disappeared from political discussion and was never an issue in any election. The ELCI cleverly made sure that politicians believed that any movement for separation would cost them votes. Until the late 20th century religious education in elementary schools was only about Christianity and totally without any critical element in it. Some prominent thinkers and writers such as the Nobel prize winner in literature Halldór K. Laxness praised humanism and criticized the anachronistic church in the 1960’s. Well educated people were aware of the huge impact the Age of Enlightenment had had on our culture but philosophy, ethics, secularism and humanism were carefully excluded from the curriculum. Instead a lot of Icelanders are convinced that Christianity was the sine qua non for the rise of democracy and all good things acquired in society. The strategy of the ELCI of giving generations of Icelanders only a tunnel vision look of the wide variety of life stances and philosophies of life, succeeded in most cases and the result is a population largely ignorant of what a secular society is and what it is worth. Icelanders are rather naïve in discussing life stances, religion, and philosophical issues. This is also reflected in the relative scientific illiteracy and gullibility of Icelanders regarding health hoaxes, supernatural phenomena, and spiritual mediums.
Over the past 15 years or so this has begun to change for the better because of the efforts of organizations like Vantrú (Disbelief) and Siðmennt (Iceland Ethical Humanist Association). The younger generation is now much more atheistic and almost half of people under 40 years old say that they are not religious compared to only around 15% of those over 60 years old.
IN FAVOR OF SEPARATION BUT REFERENDUM RESULTS AT ODDS
In polls taken over the last 16 years there has been almost consistent support by 60-75% of the population for separation of church and state. Still, in October 2012, when the only national referendum since the ratification of the current constitution in 1944 took place, 59% of the voters voted “yes” on the question of whether the ELCI should be mentioned in a new constitution or not. The question did not state directly that the ELCI should continue as a state church and some people who favor separation accidentally voted “yes”. In the run-up campaign before the national referendum, the ELCI used all its superior resources and access to state radio and several newspapers to justify their position. They inspired fear that if the ELCI lost its constitutionally protected status people living out in the countryside would not get burial services because the state church is irreplaceable for all kinds of social assistance. The ELCI suggested that all other religions and life stance organizations should also be mentioned in the constitution and be granted similar rights as itself. It presented a soft front and its position gained momentum because of the new and popular first female bishop. After its victory that positive suggestion was forgotten and never mentioned by them again. The ELCI suggestion of more equality was a campaign strategy rather than a genuine push for equality.
The only time that the media asked the members of government whether we should continue having a state church was in 2010 when a sexual misconduct charge against a former bishop of the ELCI reached its height and the bishop at the time (Karl Sigurbjörnsson) said that it was up to God to judge his predecessor. The question of separation seemed to be raised more as a punishment for the ELCI than a true interest in separation. The politicians did not follow up on it.
OUR CURRENT POSITION
As medieval as it may sound, today all tax payers still pay a church tax. In 2012 93.6% (3.67 billion Icelandic crowns) of it went to the ELCI although its members are 76.2% of the nation and decreasing each year. Its priests are government employees and have around 40% higher salaries than unspecialized physicians and
around 70% more than psychologists. They have all kinds of financial and status privileges beyond that of the leaders of other life stance organizations and are alone enjoying the spoils of 874 years of religious monopoly and religious taxation (10% of income since the year 1067) for which the whole nation had to pay dearly. With the law from 1997 the state church was given autonomy over its internal affairs so government authorities no longer have a say in how the ELCI spends its billions. That has given many of the ELCI spokespersons a reason to have the audacity to say that the ELCI is in fact separated from the state! With that twisted view they try to invalidate the demand for separation.
A few years ago, the Ásatrúarfélag, pagan society of Iceland, sued the state for discrimination and asked for their share of one of the funds that only the state church has access to, but the Supreme Court of Iceland ruled that although they had logical grounds for their claim, the ELCI was given the right for special handling according to the constitution. This was allowed even though it is also stated in the constitution that no citizen should be discriminated against on religious grounds. Another justification was that the ELCI provides its service to all Icelanders irrespective of their life stance. The ELCI states on its web page that “all are welcome to its service and no questions are asked of people´s religion”. On the other hand it is stated in its internal bylaws that their housing cannot be used to service other than Christians and in order for their priests to perform a wedding service at least one of the to-be-wed has to be a Christian. The ELCI is then only for Christians, not the whole nation.
What the future holds is unclear but there are some signs of improvement in understanding the nature of this issue and its importance. Humanists, Pagans, Soka Gakkai Buddhists and various atheists individually or in groups are joining forces in continuing the struggle and they are optimistic that a secular society can be achieved in Iceland.
-Svanur Sigurbjörnsson. Thanks to Hope Knútsson and Svavar Kjarrval for their proofreading, input and corrections.
Apr 30 2013
A couple months ago, I got an invitation to participate in what would have been my first ever face-to-face moderated debate before a live audience. I didn’t get all the details, so I’m speculating a bit. I think the idea started with a high school debate team wanting to pit theism vs atheism, and someone decided to tap me. Rather than pressing me for pointers, they decided to have me come on down and do it myself. That’s how I think this got started.
Well if I’m coming to their school to debate my position, they can’t have a student debate me; they’d have to get another adult. I was told they’d selected a minister who wanted the topic to be “the source of morality”. Matt Dillahunty told me once that no matter what the topics of his debates are advertised to be, they always turn into that one. My wife told me not to do it because that subject is where theists always feel at their strongest. I didn’t care, didn’t matter. I was all over it. I was already salivating. I accepted the challenge as-stated, and the more I thought about it, the more I was fired up and anxious to jump into it.
The thing is, this high school was located in a little town in rural east Texas, triangulated between Dallas, Houston, and Shreveport Louisiana, equidistant from anywhere big enough to show up on my map. I’ve never been that way, but I’ve heard reports that there are churches out there who teach that dinosaurs never existed, and to rely on prayers rather than medicine. Whenever I told other Texans where this debate was going to be, they said encouraging things like, “Dude, you’re gonna get yourself shot“. Just think about the scene in Easyriders where Jack Nicholson got clubbed to death in his sleep. It’s pretty close to there.
The next report I got was that there were three ministers competing to be the one to take me on. I was flattered. By then they had decided the debate couldn’t be during school hours anymore; it had to be an after school event, because so many parents wanted to be involved, and a lot of other citizens too. There was reportedly so much interest, they might even have to move the venue to an off-site location like one of the larger churches. I was told the local media might be there too. I was glad to hear it, and determined to give ‘em a good show.
A week or so later, the story changed. Once my three ministers looked me up online, they all backed out immediately. They said they needed to get a professional apologist. I was tickled at that. A few days later, I heard they found one. But then he checked out one of my videos, and he backed out too.
So we had the venue secured and the date was already set, but suddenly there was no one willing to debate me even on their topic of choice. Would I win by default? Where is the fun in that?
Eventually they did find someone, and I have to say, I was impressed by their choice, even a little intimidated. I was of course going to have all this recorded for my YouTube channel, and I expected to debate some bombastic evangelical idiot with a thick hick accent and colloquialisms denoting both his ignorance and bigotry. Just imagine every stupid lying bastard who was famous in the GOP last year, and any of them would have fit my bill. But that’s not who they found. They couldn’t get any of the locals to debate me, so they brought in an import. They found a 70 year-old international missionary with an eloquent English accent. He was gorgeous. No doubt he would show up with an elegant ascot to off-set his thick waves of silvery hair. Compared to him, I would be the one with the red-neck Texas accent, dang it. How would that look? A sophisticated aristocratic gentleman against a seemingly satanic southern rocker. That wouldn’t play well for me down in Mayberry.
I’ve always said that it does not matter who they pit against me, and that is still true, but what little I saw of this guy make me think he was about the best choice they could have made. I’m convinced he still couldn’t win even with an audience already in his pocket, and his demise wouldn’t have been pretty, but at least they didn’t pick someone who would have been too easy.
Today I wrote to the organizers of this event because it’s only a couple weeks away, and I haven’t seen any promotions yet. The response was another surprise. The debate is off. I don’t know why, but the high school that was so ready to roll initially have since withdrawn, reportedly afraid of political backlash. How? I have no idea. The church that was once available is now restricted. Now all the churches in town have refused to host this debate, if they responded at all. The reason that was explained to me was that this town isn’t interested in being involved in any event that promotes or permits looking at multiple sides of any issue relevant to religion. So in a sense it seems that the town shut down that debate. And it’s too bad, because I was really looking forward to this.
Apr 27 2013
“The average Christian can’t stand on a soapbox at a university and preach, but he or she can now engage the unsaved and have their comment read by multiple people, all from the comfort of their own home. It means that a stay-at-home mom can reach out to the lost during a break from the kids. It means that those who are busy at work can reach the unsaved during their lunch breaks.”
Here are a few nuggets from his page to tempt atheists to believe…
That which is considered by those who are anti-God to be hateful threats of torture, are loving warnings of justice.
He isn’t so much threatening you with eternal torture; he is simply lovingly warning you about justice. And just for fun another nugget…
Your casket isn’t the end. Think outside the box
So far, I am not convinced. May be other atheists just groan when they hear about Ray Comfort’s antics because they are passe. Have you ever groaned when he gets a nonbeliever on the street, and they can’t answer him especially when it is well known science?
Like Ryan the agnostic in this video…
Comfort starts off with the question, “Why do you believe in evolution.” Ryan flounders a bit about logic and finally adds that there is a similarity between chimp and human DNA. Comfort comes back with no that is actually evidence for a common designer, who used DNA to create life. Let’s be fair to Ryan, he is on the spot and Comfort is interrupting and shouting at him. Ryan still fumbles the ball though.
Let’s ask Aron…
This unsupported hypothetical magical designer put into our DNA genetic markers, dysfunctional genes, ERVs, sequential mutations indicating our ancestry with other apes and confirming our classification as primates?!
May be you are at a level where that is low hanging fruit for you too. Perhaps, you’ve run across a person who has been taken in by more advanced pseudoscience.
For a lot of evolution supporters there can be different reasons why you can’t answer pseudoscience swiftly and adeptly. You may know it sounds wrong but you can’t articulate why. Sort of like how I grew up around the Vietnamese language, but I speak barely any of it. So if someone jokingly makes fun of an Asian accent; they have a chance of getting a laugh. I can’t joke like that because it sounds wrong to me, because I’ve heard a genuine Asian accent. It just doesn’t sound right, but I can’t articulate why it is incorrect. Similarly, evolution supporters often want to defend evolution against annoying pseudoscience especially from family members and authorities, but can’t articulate why the pseudoscience isn’t correct science.
When it comes to evolution, we all have different starting points. Growing up in the South, I was almost completely ignorant of my own biological origins, when I met Aron in the Crevo forum of Christian Forums. I still have complete noob posts that embarrass me to this day. The point is everybody is at different levels, which is something you have to bear in mind when you try to convince people about evolution.
Anyways, Aron often gets emails from people, who are really interested in how to answer a question about evolution that is stumping them from a believer. Obviously, he can’t come in and debate everyone, and in a lot of cases the person is better off doing their own research because they will learn better what to say to people.
However this weekend, he has graciously in his own surly way agreed to give tips to people to help them be better defenders of anti-faith. You can post questions here on his blog or join us in a Google Hangout this Sunday at 12:00 PM. Event location: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cmgcc50rv9t5ae884sv3eh6286k
It will be my second podcast of the n0nes.
Send us your google hangout information to [email protected] if you would like to join in the discussion.
Apr 20 2013
A few weeks ago, me and several other atheists attended a meeting of the Rowlett Texas City Council. They decided they were going to hold a public display of their Christian religious beliefs at the commencement of every meeting, posted on their agenda, and that they weren’t going to correct this practice regardless of the law or community response. That night the community’s response was exclusively secular, and representative of at least 1/3 of their constituency.
We tried to reason with them. We tried to explain why secular government is necessary. We offered a compromise explaining that a ‘moment of silence’ would be inclusive rather than deliberately divisive. Some of the testimony was heartfelt emotion. But despite the accusations of several of the city council members, we were respectful and conducted ourselves accordingly.
I pointed out how intentionally exclusionary their invocation is. I also explained how it is unconstitutional both at the state and federal level, and that it is inappropriate conduct for a few other reasons. Their response was inappropriate too. In the image above, some of them were -at that moment- facebooking derisive comments against us, calling us ‘children’ and saying ‘piss on us’, comments like that, things no elected representative should be saying at all, but especially not on social networks, and certainly not when sitting on the bench while testimony is still being delivered.
I should add that the mayor made no attempt to control the vitriol against us on his own facebook. All he did do was to warn his associates to be careful what they said publicly. So he was aware what was being said and could tell what was being implied.
Just to be clear, regardless how justified your political views may or may not be, the secular perspective is one which does not evoke or involve religion. Religious views are often asserted as fact, but -make no mistake- religious views are NOT evidently true, and cannot be verified to be accurate. Historically they’re usually wrong on many other levels too. That’s just how religion is and has always been. This is just one of many reasons why religion should not be regarded nor encouraged in the rulings of any governmental body.
I believe in posting appropriate responses. I also believe people in representative positions should show responsible conduct too. But then I also believe in accuracy and accountability and a number of other ethics not apparently shared by this not-really representative body. Perhaps I’m more of a ‘believer’ than they are.
Apr 19 2013
On 2013/04/11, I gave a lecture to the Secular Student Alliance of UNT Denton. It focused on certain details in Biblical fables and how they were apparently inspired by similar elements in previous polytheism.
Forgive the camera angle. There was nowhere else to set the camera in that crowded classroom, and I used what may have been the only available outlet in the room.
Apr 17 2013
I have been crazy busy lately, but I can’t put this off any longer. How can I possibly compete with David Smalley of Dogma Debate and Matt Dillahunty of the Atheist Experience? One guy is a publisher with a professional podcast, and the other guy is a leader in the atheist community with his own TV show. I’m just this guy, you know. So what can I do?
OK, so we’re all trying to win this race to raise $5,000.00 for Camp Quest Texas, to give secular kids a fun science exploration summer camp without all the mumbo jumbo of those Jesus camps. We do this every year, and everyone’s always happy. It a great activity to be involved with.
Anyway Dillahunty said that if he wins, he’ll dye his facial hair pink. Eh, big deal. We’ve already seen him in a dress. How much more Matt Dennis Rodman-ahunty do we need to see?
Smalley said if he wins, he’ll get a tattoo the gay equality symbol. He doesn’t have any tattoos, and he thinks that should be significant. If he were to get it as a tramp stamp, that at least would be funny. But otherwise, it’s time he had a tattoo anyway, and what’s wrong with that one?
I have already shaved off one eyebrow and one half of my mustache on the opposite side all for the sake of charity, and my wife found that very disturbing. So I’m not going to do anything like that again. She suggests that if I win, I should make a video where I recite the Lord’s prayer dressed as a nun. As a nod to Cal Worthington, I would also be willing to “eat a bug” in the same video. Over the next few days, I’ll probably throw in a few more stunts too. While I can see those as amusing, and I will do that, let me also offer something that will hopefully be more substantive.
Click the link to donate to my portion of this competition -if you can. If I win, and yours was the highest donation, then I will debate the theist of your choice. It doesn’t matter who that is, and it doesn’t matter who you are either. If you’re the highest donor, then I’ll debate whomever you chose -so long as they’re willing to do it. We’ll schedule a one-hour (maximum) debate on Skype recorded for posterity, with one copy uploaded to my channel -whether I win or lose . We’ll have opening remarks, rebuttals, closing remarks, etc. Provided we can agree on a mutually acceptable moderator, the question being debated will by my opponent’s choice. Who my opponent is will be your choice. So click the link please.