I order you to buy this amazing CD

For years now, Negativland have been a collective of audio pranksters whose electronic, sample-laden musical constructs have taken the notion of satire into heretofore unexplored realms. Occasionally they’ve even gotten into legal hot water, at one point being sued by no less than U2. Among atheists, they may best be known for the outrageous “Christianity Is Stupid,” which centers on a looped sample of a fundamentalist pastor blathering the song’s title (taken, of course, shamelessly out of context from the sermon it was part of, but when you’re a satirist, you get to be shameless).

Now Negativland have upped the anti-religion ante from that track on It’s All in Your Head FM, a double live CD taken from two public performances of their weekly radio show Over the Edge. This is hilarious and yet strangely compelling stuff, and sharp listeners might spot similarities to some of Frank Zappa’s work. But Negativland have a transgressive quality all their own.

This clip only barely scratches the surface of what’s on this set. It really is required listening for atheists, so be like the cool kids and buy now. Hell, you could even pick one up for a Christmas present to a Christian friend of yours, depending on how badly you want them to hate you.

(PS: If the track doesn’t play, odds are my daily bandwidth allotment has been exceeded. Just come back another time.)

Another day, another gay evangelical

First Haggard, now Paul Barnes, until yesterday pastor of the 2100-member Grace Chapel in Denver. Barnes confessed to fundagelical fudge-packin’ and resigned his post, after — get this —

an anonymous phone call from a person who heard someone was threatening to go public with the names of Barnes and other evangelical leaders who engaged in homosexual behavior…

Yoiks! So there are more Colorado pastors infected with teh gay! Astounding. In my mind I see them dropping like ninepins in the biggest scandal since the Catholic Church Pedo Party of several years back.

Of course, there’s a significant difference here, in that pedophilia is a vile crime, while there’s nothing at all wrong with normal adult homosexuality. But the latter is very much the kind of activity that destroys the life of the average fundie, who has been indoctrinated by his religion to hate gays. And if the gay person in question happens to be oneself, then, well, one simply must hate oneself, mustn’t one? What a lovely thing religion is. What joy and light in brings into people’s lives.

I wonder how much more humiliation the Christian Right in this country can take. Let’s hope it’s lots and lots!

Film producers the Weinsteins bring a dirty bomb to the War on Christmas

Over at my film blog, Mr. Wagner’s Final Cut, I have a snarky little post in which I express much amusement at the way Bob and Harvey Weinstein, the moguls formerly of Miramax and now releasing as The Weinstein Group, announced they were launching a new company to distribute “faith-based” films, only to follow it up by slating the stupid splatter horror movie Black Christmas for release on Christmas Day itself. At least one right-wing blogger has gone completely apeshit. One wonders, though — is this such a bad release strategy? And why, if Christians are really so offended by Hollywood’s predilection for exploitive trash, aren’t any them going to see The Nativity Story?

Enjoy the snark in full at the link.

Today on the show

It’s my turn to co-host this afternoon, but I just clawed my way out of my first year of grad school, and as a result I’m in no mood to research an entire new topic today. I want to throw out a brief complaint about how boring the new Catholic radio station in town is, and I think I might throw out a little discussion on Theomatics, one of the first topics I ever did on the show six years ago. This subject popped up again because I got in a brief edit war about Theomatics with some apologist on Wikipedia.

Butterflies, science, and ID

There’s an interesting post over at The Scientist in which Jack Woodall, billed as “director of the Nucleus for the Investigation of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Institute of Medical Biochemistry at Brazil’s Federal University of Rio de Janeiro,” (pause for breath) uses the example of butterfly development and human-caused extinction patterns to poke holes in ID. The comments are about evenly distributed between evolution supporters, and ID supporters trotting out the usual argument-from-incredulity fallacies. I’ve chimed in, and am reproducing here a comment I posted in reply to another commenter, Jim Lord, who replied to my initial comment. Go have a look at the article and thread yourself, and if you can think of anything I missed, pitch in. They need more intelligent voices over there.

Jim Lord’s comments are italicized, and we pick up our conversation already in progress. Many IDers in the comment thread attacked Woodall for making what they call straw man arguments against ID; they claim that just because design in nature may be, you know, horribly flawed, doesn’t mean it isn’t design. (Shades of Casey Luskin’s immortal Ford Pinto analogy from a few days ago.) I pointed out this little detail:

On the face of it, this would seem a valid point. Until one butts up against the fact that Dembski and virtually every other ID proponent I’ve ever encountered is either Christian, Muslim, or some believer in a monotheistic god from the Abrahamic tradition. This God is said to be perfect in every way. So whence could come imperfect design?….

So I must now ask everyone slamming the article as attacking a “straw man” of ID because of the “imperfect design” approach: Are you people religious (whether Christian, Jew, or Muslim), and if so, do you believe your God is omniscient and omnipotent? If you answered “yes” to both those questions, and still think that ID isn’t refuted by pointing out poor examples of design, then how do you reconcile imperfect design with a perfect designer? Or are you suggesting that God is, after all, imperfect? Or are you going WAY out on a limb and suggesting some designing agent OTHER than the God of your religion actually did all the designing (which would make you a polytheist)? And if so, how do you reconcile THAT with your religion?

Jim replies:

Therefore, true/inspired or not, religious texts such as the Bible and Qu’ran provide explanations for man’s imperfection. (Else, why preach a need for a relationship with God?) The Bible describes man’s fall and separation from God in Genesis.

Jim, what you call explanations I think can more accurately be termed rationalizations or justifications. It is a real problem for Christianity that it proposes, on the one hand, a perfect god, then must turn around and resort to all manner of tortuous rhetoric to explain how a perfect creator makes an imperfect creation. If God were truly omniscient, he’d have foreseen the imperfections in his creation and either rectified them or chosen not to make those mistakes at all. That he didn’t either indicates this deity either isn’t so perfect after all (then why worship it?), or, meant for all of life’s imperfections, including evil (there goes omnibenevolence), to be part of the Grand Plan, or whatever.

This is the crux of the Problem of Evil that demolishes Christianity’s O3G (omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent) concept of God. Despite two millennia of highly motivated theodicy, this dilemma has never been successfully addressed. And its ramifications do impact the validity of intelligent design as both a scientific and theological concept.

In the famous opening passage of the Gospel of John, the Bible makes an ontological argument for the existence of God, which is supported by other passages. “In the beginning was the ‘Word'”, the logos, the reason of itself.

The opening of John isn’t an argument at all, but a series of tautological assertions that are hermetically sealed against rational inquiry. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Does that apply to God himself? If God belongs to the information set labeled “all things,” then did God make himself? Or did something else make God? Or is God “unmade”? If so, whence came God, and what was he doing for the infinite span of time before he decided to create a universe? And, knowing via his omniscience he was going to create a universe someday, why not do so before he eventually did so? And if you are willing to accept the existence of at least one unmade thing, why stop at one?

You see how God fails scientifically as any kind of concept with explanatory power. The unanswerable questions are endless. Invoking God as the explanation for our universe is simply an act of trying to solve a mystery with an infinitely greater mystery.

Ancient holy books that attempt to define their deities into existence by rhetorical fiat do not exactly qualify as scientific treatises on the nature of life and the universe. After all, how does one look at the claims made in John 1 and decide they are any more or less valid a creation story as, say, this one?

Unfortunately, just as religious leaders turn to science to prove their faith, scientists often resort to half-baked theological arguments.

I actually tend to see more apologists using half-baked theological arguments than scientists, frankly. Not to mention holy books themselves — see John 1.

Faith cannot be fostered with fact, but just because it is faith does not necessarily mean it isn’t true.

Maybe, but that is not a scientific statement. If ID supporters wish their alternative “theory” to be taken seriously by the scientific community, they’re going to have to do better than “just because it’s faith based doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” They’re going to have to make with the evidence for the Designer, and it is going to have to be evidence every bit as detailed as what science currently has for evolution across multiple disciplines. What nature of being is this designer? Is it bigger than a breadbox? Is it alive, in the sense we understand an organism to be alive? Does it have metabolic processes? Where does it live, if not in this universe? What exact mechanisms does it employ when it creates universes, and how does it employ them? Constantly attacking scientists for making alleged “straw man” criticisms of ID is pretty dishonest of the ID camp, when they aren’t even beginning to try to address these questions and explain their designer in an intelligible way (except to say it isn’t “necessarily” the Biblical God whenever they find themselves addressing a judge or school board).

Science, by definition, is a process of empirical study that can only draw conclusions based on observation of evidence. Faith is fine for religionists, but it just has no place in the scientific method. If you admit that “faith cannot be fostered with fact,” which I take to mean that religion’s claims cannot be examined scientifically, then you must agree that faith-based concepts like ID simply don’t get to join the scientific fraternity…at least until some fostering facts come along to give it actual substance.

We’re the U2 of atheism!

In addition to Mojoey’s big ol’ atheist blogroll, we are proud to be added to The Best of Net Atheism, one of those Top-10 or Top-20 or Top-50 type sites where the more click-throughs you send them, the higher you jump on the charts, and the more people click back to you to check you out. Today we’re at #12, which I may proudly boast makes us the U2 of atheism! For you see, U2’s new CD compilation U218: Singles is the #12 album this week, hence the chartish kinship. “In God’s Country” indeed!

So what that means, gang, is that whenever you visit us, do take a moment to click on the link in the sidebar under Blogrolls. Only with your help can we step up from being atheism’s U2 to being its — erm — Jay-Z.

On second thought…

Wait…he’s bangin’ Beyonce.

Yeah, screw it. Go ahead and click.

Snake oil on a plane! Hinn sleaze flying higher than ever.

Benny’s just bought God a new Gulfstream jet, and he wants his flock of dupes to pay for it. Ay-mayzing. Check the transparently manipulative language in the sales pitch here and boggle that anyone’s brain could be so calcified as to buy it.

…Now we must pay the remainder of the down payment, and I am asking the Lord Jesus to speak to 6,000 of my precious partners to sow a seed of $1,000 in the next ninety days. And I am praying, even as I write this letter, that you will be one of them!

I know that as you obey the Lord, He will open heaven wide and cause a mighty harvest of blessings to descend upon your life and all that you do!

Take special note of the phrasing, “I know that as you obey the Lord…” This bit of smarm is very much in keeping with the language of something called NLP, or neuro-linguistic programming, which is all about how to phrase sales pitches to rubes using careful turns of phrase that make them think they’re doing something other than what you’re really trying to get them to do (buy your product, have sex with you), and that the decision to do it is their idea, that they arrived at all on their own because it was really the only sensible thing to do, and why would they even consider not doing it? He wants his “precious” partners — the ones who are already forking over loads of cash they can probably barely spare in the first place, so that Benny can live it up in places like this — to “sow a seed” of six million dollars for his fancy jet, and he’s equating doing this with “obeying the Lord”. Confronted with meretriciousness and hubris of this degree, I don’t know whether to tip my hat in grudging respect, or buy an ad banner on the Al Jazeera website seeking shoe bombers.

That last bit was a joke.

Another note to new visitors

If you’ve never seen this blog or other projects by the Atheist Community of Austin, please take a moment to drop by Iron Chariots and see if it’s something you’d be interested in participating with.

Iron Chariots is a counter-apologetics wiki, aiming to be the definitive collection of arguments used by atheists. If you’re inclined to contribute, then please feel free to create an account. If you simply find some pages useful, help promote IC by posting links to argumentation pages in your own online discussions.

How do you spell “scumsucking filth”? B-E-N-N-Y H-I-N-N.

Yes, yes, we all know what a vile charlatan this clownish “faith healer” is. But to see what this son of a bitch does with your own eyes, to see how cold-bloodedly he exploits the hope of the truly desperate and pathetic while whooping it up in $10 million mansions and $4000-a-night hotel suites, just makes you sick to your stomach. This kind of hard-hitting exposé, from the CBC news program The Fifth Estate, is the kind of badass investigative journalism America hasn’t seen since the Watergate scandal, and which we’re not likely to see in this day and age, when conservative mouthpieces own the U.S. airwaves and they’re only too willing to pander to the most egregious forms of religious lunacy. This runs 42 minutes but it’s worth every one. Bask in how low one man can go. All in the name of Jesus.