War on Christmas: Cue Hysteria

Why are atheists so angry!  Grr, they’re so mean and grinch-like and just plan Scrooge-tastic this time of year.  I mean, they’re always snotty jerkwads, but man oh man, at Christmas time, they are just insufferable.  With their constant demands to be… included at the very edges of society instead of just shoved off into an abyss.

I think probably the only thing that gets under my skin more than the country being overrun by religious stupidity (see: intelligent design, abstinence only education) is the persecution complex that so many Christians seem to have.  76% of American citizens are Christian, Christmas is a Federal Holiday, and there are hundreds of hours of Christmas programming on TV.  And yet, there is a war on Christmas because some people would rather not make a quarter of their potential buying market feel excluded.  The whole concept of “war on Christmas” is one of the most inane and fatuous beliefs I’ve ever come across.

What about the Christmas war on everybody else?  The constant bad music on the radio and in stores.  The overwrought shopping extravaganza that makes it impossible for godless assholes like me to drive anywhere near a place where goods are sold.

I don’t actually hate Christmas though.  I really like some of the songs, for example, this is the song that most accurately reflects my feelings towards Christmas:

And, I quite like some of the more tacky flamboyant Christmas decorations:

Sorry, I know, I’m being a bad atheist >_<

That incredibly long lead up is just sort of background noise for a different conversation entirely, one about billboards.

The evil, bad atheists have put up a billboard with a picture of a nativity scene with the caption “You know it’s a myth, this season celebrate reason.” Well, accommodationist atheists and uptight christians, neither of whom would I declare the majority voice, seem to be really upset with it because they think the intent of it is to insult Christians.

Message: The Nativity Story is a myth

Aside from the fact that a story of the birth of Jesus only appears in 2 gospels and they don’t even agree on many of the fine details, so calling the nativity as celebrated a myth isn’t even necessarily contradictory to Christianity, I don’t really see it as an insult to Christians.  It’s more like an encouragement for atheists to be more comfortable with acknowledging that they don’t believe in Christmas.  The winter holidays (yule, solstice, whatever tacky hippie name I’m too embarrassed to call it myself) aren’t just for Christians, so, if you don’t believe in Christmas, you don’t have to pretend you do.

And even if this was to be interpreted as an attack on Christianity, which I would be OK with, I’d like to just show you the kinds of billboards I have to look at all the time and then I’d like you to reconsider exactly how insensitive the atheist billboard is.

Message: Atheists are anti-American treasonous traitors who want war

Message: God is an asshole

Message: Atheists are anti-American treasonous traitors who want war

Message: Atheists are going to fucking shoot you, RUN!

Message: Jesus watches you masturbate

Right, so, at its worst, you could interpret the atheist billboard as saying “Christians believe myths are true”.  And what do the religious say about atheists?  “God is an asshole, Jesus is a pervert, and they think atheists are going to destroy America and kill us all.”  If I was a Christian, I’d be way more upset by the shit religious people said.

I did it! I’m a Winner!

Finished:
50137 words
12 chapters
252 pages

73% of the way through the month
100% of the way through the word count
0 words to 50k

Remaining to finish novel:
~41398 words
10 chapters
~205 pages

55% Complete to estimated length
Projected finish date: Dec 10

How Atheism helps Skepticism

I have heard from many people, and have been told what’s truly at the heart of the debate between Atheism and Skepticism is that talking about religion at skeptic conventions drives people away.  It drives religious people away, people who might otherwise have stayed, learned about skepticism, and then gone on to become non-believers.  The general point here is that if atheism will just back off of skepticism a little, skepticism will help fill the ranks of the atheist movement.

It’s a compelling argument, and I do think there should be skeptic forums for people who are religious.  I certainly know people who didn’t start skepticism as atheists and ended up there.  But they aren’t the majority of people that I know, by any stretch.

The other fear is that, not only do you drive away the religious, but you also marginalize the skeptic movement by letting it be too atheist.  The point here being, I guess, that atheism is such a toxic subject that no one wants to be associated with it.

I don’t think that skepticism marginalizes itself by associating with atheism, for a couple reasons. One, I think that skepticism and non-belief are too closely intertwined for skepticism to not be associated with atheism regardless. Two, I think that the recent increase in interest in skepticism and the swelling of numbers at places like TAM and Skepticon comes from a new interest from “new” atheists.

I, for example, would never have heard of skepticism as a movement or known about things like homeopathy if I hadn’t first been an atheist.  Dawkins (and others) involvement on both fronts has, in my opinion, meant that a lot of people who just didn’t like religion have discovered this entire community centered around rational thought.  I wonder how many droves of people have found skepticism because they were confronting their religious beliefs.  And I wonder why welcoming these people into the skepticism fold is less important than making the religious comfortable.

Maybe atheism isn’t as popular as religion, but I think that there’s a huge groundswell of atheism and backlash against the religious right that skepticism would be well-served to be a part of.

F all this, I’m talking about Harry Potter

The best part of the the Harry Potter movie? Definitely the Death Eaters. The part where Voldemort breaks Snakey? OMG.

Also, while we’re referring to Makani, let’s do a link to this comic about Voldy staying at Malfoy Manor. And I’m gonna put another one in because it refers to both DH and Emperor’s New Groove.

OK enough of that. Let’s talk about Emmy.

Buahahahhaha. Oh, right the movie. Hmm.  It was pretty good.  I really admire Steve Kloves for making everything so funny.  Or maybe everything just seems funny to me.

Skeptiathiesm: The Solution

An internet poll is clearly the solution. The poll will figure out how much of a Skepticon is allowed to be about religion. It is a flawless solution.

Skepticism VS Atheism: The Stupid Fight

I’m not sure why this is, but there seems to be a faction of Skeptics, not all of whom are religious, who have a problem with Skeptics who like to talk about Atheism. They are concerned that people conflate Atheism and Skepticism. I’m not sure who these theoretical people are, but let’s assume that this is a real concern and not one just made up.

Skepticism is just a way of thinking, sort of a “Well, then prove it” attitude towards life and knowledge. There have been people who claimed to be skeptics who believed in God, and who believed that global warming wasn’t real for that matter, so there’s no litmus test for being a Skeptic, it’s a goal to strive for. Most people don’t actually achieve Skepticism towards everything in their lives.

Why, just the other day I refused to click on a link because it was going to disprove some something or other, some story that I preferred to believe was true because it was a really nice story. Now, I don’t remember what it even was, so undoubtedly I’ll continue believing it was true. That would be a SkepticFail on my part.

Some people will claim that God is not a testable hypothesis, and these people are sort of right. The deistic god that doesn’t do anything so might as well not be there, that god is an untestable claim — the Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Whatever Religion’s God is a testable claim because those religions claim that their God can *do* things. A skeptical approach to religion leads you directly to the conclusion that no religion has a god that exists as they describe it. This is agnosticism if not atheism.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be a skeptic and also believe in God, you absolutely can.  You can be a skeptic and believe in homeopathy, or UFOs, or be a Birther, or a 9/11 Truther, or any number of things.  It just means that you aren’t applying good thinking to one or another of your worldviews.  I believe people are fundamentally good, that’s probably also a testable claim that I’d just as soon not see the results on.

Here’s what I don’t understand: how is saying “skeptics should be skeptical of religion” is the same as saying “skepticism and atheism are the same thing”? Who are these mysterious people who assume that skepticism and atheism are the same thing?  It’s not the people who want to talk about atheism at skeptic conferences, they think that skepticism should lead to agnosticism.  In case that isn’t clear, that’s not the same as saying “Skeptic = Atheist”.

I don’t know that anyone is arguing that deism or agnosticism is a bad thing, but there are many bad things that religions do. Perhaps the thing that ought not be conflated is belief in a god and belief in a religion.  Atheists who speak at Skeptic conventions want to encourage Skeptical thought towards religion and towards religious beliefs that hurt people.  How many lives have been ruined by believers in UFOs?  How many lives have been ruined by believers in religion?  Or, to be even less confrontational, how many people believe in UFOs and how many believe in religion?  Is it really unreasonable to spend some time throwing Skeptical thinking at such a large and pervasive target?

If you had a skeptic conference that focused on disproving homeopathy rather than disproving religion, would calling it a “Skeptic Conference” be wrong? Are we only arguing about this because some people are afraid that offending the religious is going to scare people off? Are we so concerned with religious people’s sensitivities that we’d compromise our own willingness to tell the truth and ask questions?

I will say that I’m highly skeptical of this claim that Atheism is not an important part of the Skeptic movement.

NaNoWriMo Day 19: End in Sight

Finished:
41610 words
10 chapters
206 pages

63% of the way through the month
83% of the way through the word count
8390 words to 50k

Remaining to finish novel:
~50000 words
12 chapters
~250 pages

46% Complete to estimated length
Projected finish date: Dec 10

50 Book Challenge: 56-60

Week 45

56. Wintersmith – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs

This is a Tiffany Aching book. I didn’t care for this one as much as the previous Tiffany books, but I still really enjoyed it. I think the problem with the Tiffany series is that none of the Big Bads have been as compelling as the original big bad, though she’s gotten more compelling. It’s sort of like Buffy in that way. In fact, I think the Tiffany Aching series would make for good TV.

57. Making Money – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs

This is a Moist Von Lipwig book and I really do love Moist, so I enjoyed it. I think the first one was a little better, because there was a lot more conflict inherent in Moist vs. the Patrician. I think this one sort of fell apart towards the end, but it was still very enjoyable.

58. Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs

This is the last of the Pratchett Discworld audiobooks that I have available to me. There is, I think, one more Discworld book that I don’t have on audiobook, that is the next in the Tiffany Aching series. This one was fun and funny and it was nice to go back to the university, which I think hadn’t been the focus for a long while. I don’t think the wizards can really hold up a whole book, and I think Pratchett agrees with me because he focused just as much on a B plot about 4 young people who were all sort of outsiders. It was quite good. I think he’s gotten much better with plotting over the years — his characters have always been spot on, his humor is brilliant, and his writing style catchy and fun, but plot he can be a bit off on.

59. Coraline – Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman

I haven’t seen the movie yet. I was surprised by this book, it was somehow lighter than I thought it would be. Neil Gaiman’s books are often quite heavy on lore and complicated worlds, but this was very much a book for children with no need, I guess, for the explanations that often come with parallel universes. I didn’t honestly like this nearly as much as The Graveyard Book. I think it’s definitely suited to younger children, though.

60. Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, read by Martin Jarvis

I now own three copies of this book, the hardcover, the paperback, and the audiobook. I have owned two earlier copies of the book which disappeared into the ether when I loaned it out. And I always loan it out knowing it may never return. It’s like the Gideons, I kind of want people to keep passing it on because it’s such an awesome book. It was interesting listening to this after having listened to so many (37) of Terry Pratchett’s other books this year, as well as having read almost all of Neil Gaiman over the years. This book seems to have been entirely written by Terry Pratchett, and entirely plotted by Neil Gaiman. I say this based on the number of times the word “conspiratorially” is used. I have a bad habit of overusing this word so every time I hear it, it grates a little bit, and Sir Pratchett loves it. I wonder if I picked it up from reading this book. Point being, this is one of my favorite books of all time and it was pretty good on audiobook.

Blah

I haven’t been writing enough this week. I think only a couple thousand all week. I’ve been busy, is part of it, and I haven’t felt that well on top of it. I have a stomach ache that’s lasted since like Wednesday. This corresponds with my attempt to eat slightly better. Maybe my digestive tract is saying it cannot survive without daily candy intake.

Last night, I sat down to write, I was all ready, had busted out a couple hundred in like 10 minutes, and I got a phone call from my mother. She has taken my younger brother to Las Vegas for his birthday. My brother had managed to lose his wallet in the first, oh, hour or so that they’d been on the ground and I had to go get into my mother’s safe and see if I could find his passport and get it to someone else who was flying to Las Vegas. And to also scan and email it out to them.

So, that adventure rather prevented a lot of writing to happen. So I’m like 9000 words behind where I’d like to be.

I really want one of these stupid things:

Word processing with no distractions

Bishop Gene Robinson to Retire Early

Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly non-celibate gay bishop of the Episcopal Church is going to retire early because of the non-stop death threats he continues to get from Christians.

You know, there are always calls for Muslims to speak up against terrorism, but I’d like some Christians to publicly come out supporting the Bishop and denouncing the people sending him death threats. You want to complain that there aren’t enough moderate muslim voices? Then show me some moderate Christian ones.

Gene Robinson is an incredibly decent human being who is being terrorized because people who believe almost exactly the same thing he does, don’t like who he loves. Things like this make me find the appeal of Christianity completely incomprehensible.

And for those of you who say that that is not the behavior of a True Christian, I’d like to point you to the No True Scotsman fallacy as well as Leviticus. For those of you who think the appropriate way to deal with someone you don’t like is to threaten to murder them, you need help.

For the Christians who don’t particularly like the death threats but are glad that they’ve gotten this homosexual to step down, your tacit support is the moral equivalent of approving of Al Qaeda and Imams calling for death threats. You don’t have to agree with his lifestyle, but you should be at the front of the crowd denouncing the people using terrorism to get their(your) way.