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.

Hitchens briefly on the immorality of Christianity

Let’s say that the consensus is that our species, being the higher primates, Homo Sapiens, has been on the planet for at least 100,000 years, maybe more. Francis Collins says maybe 100,000. Richard Dawkins thinks maybe a quarter-of-a-million. I’ll take 100,000. In order to be a Christian, you have to believe that for 98,000 years, our species suffered and died, most of its children dying in childbirth, most other people having a life expectancy of about 25 years, dying of their teeth.

Famine, struggle, bitterness, war, suffering, misery, all of that for 98,000 years. Heaven watches this with complete indifference. And then 2,000 years ago, thinks “That’s enough of that. It’s time to intervene,” and the best way to do this would be by condemning someone to a human sacrifice somewhere in the less literate parts of the Middle East.

Don’t let’s appeal to the Chinese, for example, where people can read and study evidence and have a civilization. Let’s go to the desert and have another revelation there. This is nonsense. It can’t be believed by a thinking person.

Why am I glad this is the case? To get to the point of the wrongness of Christianity, because I think the teachings of Christianity are immoral. The central one is the most immoral of all, and that is the one of vicarious redemption. You can throw your sins onto somebody else, vulgarly known as scapegoating. In fact, originating as scapegoating in the same area, the same desert.

I can pay your debt if I love you. I can serve your term in prison if I love you very much. I can volunteer to do that. I can’t take your sins away, because I can’t abolish your responsibility, and I shouldn’t offer to do so. Your responsibility has to stay with you. There’s no vicarious redemption.

There very probably, in fact, is no redemption at all. It’s just a part of wish-thinking, and I don’t think wish-thinking is good for people either. It even manages to pollute the central question, the word I just employed, the most important word of all: the word love, by making love compulsory, by saying you must love. You must love your neighbor as yourself, something you can’t actually do. You’ll always fall short, so you can always be found guilty.

By saying you must love someone who you also must fear. That’s to say a supreme being, an eternal father, someone of whom you must be afraid, but you must love him, too. If you fail in this duty, you’re again a wretched sinner. This is not mentally or morally or intellectually healthy.

And that brings me to the final objection – I’ll condense it, Dr. Olafsky – which is, this is a totalitarian system. If there was a God who could do these things and demand these things of us, and he was eternal and unchanging, we’d be living under a dictatorship from which there is no appeal, and one that can never change and one that knows our thoughts and can convict us of thought crime, and condemn us to eternal punishment for actions that we are condemned in advance to be taking.

All this in the round, and I could say more, it’s an excellent thing that we have absolutely no reason to believe any of it to be true.

50 Book Challenge: 41-45

5 Books left!

It is the end of week 37, and I have just finished book 45.  I feel like I should continue reviewing books I finish after the fifty, keep counting to see how many I finish, because 50 is now basically inevitable.  Maybe my challenge for next year will be to try to finish more than this year, rather than 50.

41. The Atheist’s Introduction to the New Testament – Mike Davis

Asimov’s New Testament book sits heavily on my shelf, waiting impatiently for me to rally the nerve to throw myself into reading it.  I find the Old Testament a lot more interesting than the New Testament, mostly because it’s way more mythological and hardcore, and it’s more a history of an entire people than just like this one guy.

As a kid, I always thought Jesus was both kinda creepy and really boring — like Ned Flanders.  There was just something about the image of this weird hippie guy with long hair always hanging out with kids and lambs that I found unsettling in a “don’t get in the van” sort of way.  And the New Testament, when I read it, never made that feeling go away.  So I’m just sort of predisposed not to be terribly interested in the NT, but I feel like I should be, since I dislike Christianity so much.  It just gives me the heebie jeebies.

All of this being my way of saying that I read this because it was way shorter than Asimov’s book and I hoped it would make me more interested.  It did and it didn’t.  I find the story of how the NT came to be (eg Bart Ehrman’s work) a lot more interesting than anything in the NT, and this book certainly feeds into some of that.  It’s a very very interesting read, and I’d obviously recommend it to any curious believer.  I think this book is a slightly easier read that Bart Ehrman, but not nearly as exhaustively well-informed.

42. Lyra’s Oxford – Philip Pullman

This was a short book that was not nearly as good as the books it is a sequel to, His Dark Materials.  Basically, it was just way too short and tacked on, very little there.

43. LSAT Logic Games Bible – David Killoran

I really like logic and logic games so I did actually enjoy reading this book and solving the problems in it.  But I’m a huge nerd, so I’m not sure that you should just accept that.  Unless you’re taking the LSAT, obviously, in which case you should like this too.

44. The Truth – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs

Not to be confused with The Truth (with Jokes) by Al Franken, of course.  I enjoyed this book, it’s basically about the invention of/introduction of newspapers to Ankh Morpork, but it was hardly anything to write home about.  A solid B.  It’s basically a stand alone novel, with only bit parts for characters in the city that have featured in other Discworld novels.  I didn’t particularly care for any of the main characters, which sort of made the whole thing less interesting.

45. Thief of Time – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs

I enjoyed this quite a bit.  It has one of my favorite Discworld characters, Susan, and touches on some of the same apocalyptic themes as Good Omens.  I think this will end up being one of my favorites, one that I may try to read some time again in the future.  It involved chocolate saving the day by blowing people up because it was so delicious.

Even with nougat you can have a perfect moment.

Extra: I tried to read Freethinkers by Susan Jacoby and I got about 200 pages into it before being too bored to continue.  When faced with the dilemma of finishing it before I had to return it to the library or not… I chose not.  My intense disinterest in the history of America after 1865 probably didn’t help.

Richard Dawkins Welcomes Ratzinger

Joseph Ratzinger is an enemy of humanity.

He’s an enemy of children, whose bodies he’s allowed to be raped and whose minds he’s encouraged to be infected with guilt. It’s embarrassingly clear that the church is less concerned with saving child bodies from rapists than with saving priestly souls from hell. And most concerned with saving the longterm reputation of the church itself.

He’s an enemy of gay people. Bestowing on them the sort of bigotry that his church used to reserve for Jews before 1962.

He’s an enemy of women, barring them from the priesthood as though a penis were an essential tool for pastoral duties.

He’s an enemy of truth, promoting barefaced lies about condoms not protecting against AIDS, especially in Africa.

He’s an enemy of the poorest people on the planet, condemning them to inflated families they cannot feed and so keeping them in the bondage of perpetual poverty. A poverty which sits ill beside the obscene wealth of the Vatican.

He’s an enemy of science. Obstructing vital stem cell research on grounds, not of true morality, but on pre-scientific superstition.

Ratzinger is even an enemy of the Queen’s own church, arrogantly dissing Anglican orders as “absolutely null and utterly void,” while at the same time shamelessly trying to poach Anglican vicars to shore up his own pitifully declining priesthood.

Finally, perhaps of most personal concern to me, Ratzinger is an enemy of education. Quite apart from the lifelong psychological damage caused by the guilt and fear that have made Catholic education infamous throughout the world, he and his church foster the educationally pernicious doctrine that evidence is a less reliable basis for belief than faith, tradition, revelation, and authority. His authority.

The South and God

I had forgotten how religious this place is.  I can’t tell if people here are genuinely more into religion or if they just like to talk about it more.  I have had religiousish conversations with far too many people today.  I will say this though, none of them have been at all horrible to me when I am outed as an atheist, so I feel like that’s good.

I went to an atheist meetup group here and I have learned that there are several atheists who go to the Unitarian Universalist church in town.  Now, I appreciate the need for community, and being someone just moving to a new place where I don’t really know anyone, I can see the appeal.  I am however completely wary of any place that’s churchy and it seems like the UUs are really open-minded to the point that their brains will fall out.  I’m not good about not being critical of beliefs I find… we’ll go with wacky at best.

I did listen to the most recent sermon of the guy who is the head priest thing at the local UU and it was about Religious Humanism, which is sort of like a slightly less interesting Secular Humanism.  Why can’t someone be both religious and a Secular Humanist?  (Aside from the fact that most religions have tenets that are cruel).  I am intrigued, I plan on going some time with my mom, since she’s also curious, though she’s coming at it from the opposite (ie already religious) perspective.

I realized today that one of my biggest problems with Christianity is the fact that it takes away the morality of your choices.  Your beliefs all come from somewhere else, you never have to think about what is or isn’t moral.  Gay people are awful because the bible says so, and you never ever have to question that belief because if you questioned it, your entire belief structure would come crashing down on you and it’s just so much easier to not confront the idea. Women can’t be pastors because the Bible is pretty clear on the fact that women just aren’t as good as men.  Slavery is OK, but let’s not talk about that.

People talk about how difficult it is to be an atheist, to be an outcast and different and not have the consolation of knowing that you go to heaven when you die, but the part that’s the hardest work is probably having to think through your own morality.  It’s also the best part.  My morality comes from trying to do right by other people, not from fear of hellfire.  I find letting god shoulder all the responsibility of your morality to be lazy and more than a little immoral.  “Because the bible says so” seems to me to be the most morally bankrupt and intellectually lazy thing someone could possibly believe.

Why do atheists always have to mock religion?

I was asked this question, sincerely, by a relatively new convert to fundie christianity who had been, throughout the evening, talking an awful lot about church and god and such.  I had gotten bored of that and, over the course of about 10 seconds, referred to the xtian god as an invisible friend, sky daddy, and had finally gone too far by calling Mohammed “Mo”.

He lashed out, very frustrated that I didn’t take the religion thing very seriously, after all I took atheism seriously, right?

I mock religion for the same reason I mock Twilight, though at least Twilight fans generally have the good sense to realize that the book they obsess over is fiction.  It’s very difficult not to make fun of someone with bad taste or who believes something that is obviously very silly, especially when the undertone of your every day life is that there’s something wrong with you for not believing.  And sometimes it’s just fun to make fun of something that is a sacred cow, because why on earth should I have to respect your sacred cows?  I just don’t see why I have to respect your belief that you’re better than everyone else because an invisible man in the sky wrote it down in a self-contradicting book.

I said it was the same as making fun of an adult who still believed in Santa Claus, but he claimed he wouldn’t do that.  I don’t really think the average believer wouldn’t mock someone who believed in Santa at the age of 30, and as believers don’t refrain from mocking other belief systems, I’m going to feel pretty safe in that assumption.

Religion makes factual claims about the physical world, and to be a fundamentalist of any stripe requires ceding your thought process over to something that is demonstrably false.  If you’re going to be a touchy-feely deistic type of believer who doesn’t fund the evil things religion does, then fine, but don’t ask me to respect you for brainwashing children, destroying civil rights, and being responsible for the creation of Christian Rock.

I’m not sure to what degree the average religious believer is willing to “take responsibility” for the religious doctrines they believe, the religious institutions they are members of and support financially, or the religious leaders they follow and thereby give power and authority to. I can’t begin to count how often I’ve seen religious believers disparage civil rights protections for gays on the argument that homosexuality is “chosen” without recognizing that religion is far more like a “chosen” set of behaviors than it is like an inherent characteristic like race or sex.

People say they adopt certain moral positions because it’s what their god wants and thus disclaim any responsibility for either the moral position or any of its consequences. People vote in certain ways because of what religious leaders tell them about the meaning of scripture and/or the will of their god and thus try to avoid personal responsibility for what the government does in their name.

Homophobia Round 2

Interesting.  I just got this e-mail about the girl in Augusta who is suing her school for making her attend diversity workshops.

Hi Ashley,

I just saw your short post on Jennifer Keeton, the Augusta State University student who is suing the school for her right to be homophobic and not attend diversity workshops. Keeton, who wants to be a counselor, has received both quite a bit of criticism and some praise for her unyielding position. Many are claiming she has no right disturbing students with these beliefs at school and is certainly not tolerant enough to be a counselor. I think you will find the following video interesting:

http://www.newsy.com/videos/student-sues-for-right-to-be-homophobic

The video gives some background into this controversial power of the wills between Keeton and Augusta. It includes a number of different opinions on Keeton’s stance itself, how the school is handling the situation, and whether it is her right to be openly homophobic around campus or not. I hope you will consider embedding this video to your site.

Newsy.com videos analyze and synthesize news coverage from multiple sources. Its unique method of showing how different media cover the news helps viewers better understand complex stories.

Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions on either the video or Newsy.com.

For instructions on how to embed videos, read #3 on this page:

http://www.newsy.com/faq/3

Thanks,

Katie
[email protected]
Newsy Community Team

I didn’t get anything new from it, except it’s even more obvious that this girl refuses to take sensitivity training and wants to do a job that is essentially all about sensitivity.  Fail.

In other incredibly fucked up news, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News is now to the left of President Obama on Gay Rights. Seriously.

President Obama has the power to stop this ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ business. Just sign an executive order. I don’t know why it’s taking so long—it’s not fair. We should stop this nonsense.

Well said Bill O, as freaked out as I am to agree with you, well said.

Jesus on Fire

Not normally one to repost things I find on the interwebs without having something to add, but this is just… hilarious.

The large Jesus statue iconic to Interstate 75 in Monroe was destroyed following an apparent lightning strike during a thunderstorm.

Motorists were stopped along the highway and around the Monroe area to watch the 62-foot King of Kings statue burn.

Before you protest, I’m allowed to say it’s hilarious for three reasons.

1. It was hideous
2. It was a waste of a lot of money ($500k!)
3. No one was hurt

Hideous

Pretty

So we’ve learned that either there is no godly protection for “holy” sites and 60 foot statues made of steel and flammable materials are a bad idea or that god has taste and is willing to use his magic finger pointing powers for some exterior decorating.

P.S. If he comes back in three days, I’m going to be pissed if that means I miss the rest of the World Cup.

50 Book Challenge: 21-25

21. Godless – Dan Barker
I thought his personal journey from being an Evangelical preacher to being an atheist was really interesting and compelling, but the second half of the book focused on arguments for why he was atheist that were very familiar to me. I think this would be a great book to give to someone who was interested and knew nothing about atheism, particularly because Barker is very sensitive to the Christian mindset.

22. Men at Arms – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
I like the Guards a fair amount, so I enjoyed this story. Not as much as the witch stories, but I love Carrot and Vimes and the Patrician, and they all featured pretty heavily. I was less interested in the parts that were about the impact of a gun on the society. I also love Detritus the Troll. And how British people say Troll.

23. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – Laurie R. King
I had listened the BBC Radio adaptation of this and was really interested in reading the whole book. It’s about a girl who becomes Sherlock Holmes apprentice, but it’s a fairly adult sort of story. I’ve only ever read one or two of the Holmes tales, so I don’t know how faithful it is, but I enjoyed it enough to finish in a night and start the next one the next day.

24. A Monstrous Regiment of Women – Laurie R. King
I think the first one is a little more compelling than this tale was, but then I’m not really interested in Christian Feminist movements and find them weird. The developing relationship between Russell and Holmes was handled very deftly and quite enjoyable.

25. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ – Philip Pullman
This book was a very quick read and I can’t say I honestly recommend it. Maybe it’d be more interesting to people who aren’t familiar with any biblical scholarship. The premise being that Jesus and Christ were twins, Jesus being the radical and Christ being the realist. It’s no Dark Materials.

It’s week 22, so I’m ahead of the game. So maybe I’ll actually finish the Asimov book. Or I’ll do what I did yesterday, and buy another 12 books because now I’m interested in Sherlock Holmes…

Oh, and also halfway there.

On the wtf is up with Damon Linker?

This is the article: http://www.tnr.com/blog/damon-linker/another-kind-atheism

A) I’m not sure why one wouldn’t conflate truth and goodness

B) Atheism is a neutral, it’s morality that is positive or negative, and atheism doesn’t create a set of moral values

C) I still haven’t heard a cogent definition for what a “New Atheist” is as compared to a plain old normal atheist

D) What exactly is there to be sad about not being religious, what do you lose that you’d want to keep?

E) I’m not sure why someone needs to deeply try to understand Christianity in order to reject it outright.  I don’t need to understand Greek mythology all that well to ignore it

F) Why is it the atheist’s job to disprove a religion and not their job to prove it?

G) There are many examples of the struggle to get out of their faith by so-called new atheists.  They all address how difficult it is to leave, they just all think it is better to not be religious

H) Do they think that someone born and raised atheist feels a profound lack in their life?

I) There is a difference between allowing people to be free and allowing people to take advantage of, abuse, mislead, lie and steal from people.  Simply exposing ideas for what they are and providing information isn’t illiberal it’s common decency