No news, still, about would-be clinic bomber

We’re still having to wait a bit longer for anything tangible to be reported on the motives and desires of would-be Austin abortion clinic bomber Paul Ross Evans.

In the meantime, the Statesman has done one of those filler stories to whet the public appetite for information that actually contains no information, beyond the boilerplate interviews with people who knew him back in his hometown, who are, naturally, shocked by Ross’s arrest and describe him — as most crazies tend to be described — as “pleasant and polite.”

Fascinating how some of the worst crimes we see are committed by people who were just nice, quiet, ordinary guys who never seemed like they’d hurt a fly. You never hear them described thus: “Yeah, I always knew that son of a bitch was headed for trouble. The day he burned my house down and shot me in the stomach six times, I just had a feeling he’d get himself in serious trouble one day!”

So, nothing to see here, folks, except for this ironic and amusing comment from a Lufkin police sergeant: “We don’t really have extremist groups here. This is the heart of the Bible belt.” Ah yes, right you are.

We are hosting Carnival of the Godless on 5/13

Carnival of the Godless #66 will be hosted right here on May 13, and submissions have already started coming in. Atheist bloggers make your submissions here.

For those not in the know, blog carnivals are ways in which similarly themed blogs connect with and promote one another’s existence through collecting a “best of” list of posts, which all appear at one specific host blog for each “issue” of the carnival published. The hosts change out each time.

Isn’t it high time we had one of these in America?

From the news desk comes this remarkable story about 300,000 Turks rallying in that country in favor of secularism, in opposition to Islamist elements in the government who want to undo all the work of Ataturk and drag Turkey kicking and screaming back into medievalism. Three hundred thousand! About the only thing you can get Americans to do in those numbers are watch American Idol, or attend a megachurch.

Turkey is a borderline case. Its government is ostensibly secular, and yet radicalized religion is becoming more and more prominent. Turkey ranks as the only country to score lower than America when it comes to acceptance of evolution. Not long ago there was the disgraceful news that three employees of a Christian publishing company had been tied up and murdered by Islamists who didn’t want them in the neighborhood. My gift for stating the obvious reminds me that people killing other people over differences in belief in an imaginary being is not a recipe for a healthy society.

The citizens of Turkey are getting fed up, and are fighting back. In the words of one brave woman, “We don’t want a covered woman in Ataturk’s presidential palace. We want civilized, modern people there.” It’s a quote she’d doubtless be imprisoned or killed for if the country’s Islamist Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul ascends to the presidency. And unlike guys like Donald Wildmon or James Dobson in this country, the Turks seem to have twigged to the fact that democracy has much stronger ties to secularist societies than theocratic ones.

A rally for secularism. The very notion brings a tear to the eye. Isn’t it high time we had one here? I know a few years back, American Atheists sponsored the surprisingly successful Godless Americans March on Washington, which a contingent of folks from the ACA attended. But while a PAC grew out of that, there really ought to be another follow-up public event, doncha think? With Bush’s poll numbers down around 28, and the rest of the nation slowly waking up to the folly of the war, the corruption of the administration’s most avowedly “moral” members, the demise of the Intelligent Design movement in Dover, and other changes happening in America’s political landscape, a second GAMOW ought to really take off in the way the first one never dreamed of.

Church of the Obnoxious Cretins

Hit tip to Susan on the ACA list: Here’s an amusing story about an Ohio church that has brought its neighborhood together — in a flurry of noise complaints. Apparently they utilize a sound system cranked so loud that the windows in nearby houses rattle every Sunday morning. The reaction of the church to the notion that they’re disturbing the peace? Why, it’s the usual Christian dual-whine of “We’re being persecuted/Rules don’t apply to us!” Sayeth the Rev. Troy Sowell, “I’m not going to tell this congregation, ‘You’re being too loud.'” No, dude. It’s your sound system that’s too loud. But that’s okay. If you don’t want to tell your congregation there’s a problem, I’m sure the police will be happy to every time they write you up a citation. When most of what’s going into your collection plates is being sucked away by fines, maybe then you’ll get the message.

What creeps me out most, though, is the name of this church. “Christ the Warrior King”? And here I thought he was the Prince of Peace. The way religion fetishises war language, and just the very idea of war itself, is especially disturbing in light of the fact that every once in a while a member of the flock is entirely too happy to follow through on the concept, whether by crashing airplanes into buildings, or by simply leaving unexploded homemade bombs outside women’s clinics, some of which do explode.

So I’d say the noise isn’t the worst of it. It’s the usual barrage of sick brainwashing that’s going on inside, and the amplification is only making a blight on the community more apparent.

Bomb suspect popped, but who is he?

Austin police have arrested an ex-con named Paul Ross Evans for leaving the explosive device outside the women’s clinic. As a person, he seems to be a bit of a cipher. No one’s been able to determine if he belongs to, or has ties to, any of the well-known, violence-advocating anti-abortion groups (like Operation Rescue). His prior convictions, for which he was paroled in 2003, were for burglary and armed robbery. Clearly, this is a bad dude, and I really don’t like that our system allows them to be paroled so easily. If you’re convicted of violent crimes, as his were, you should at leave have to serve half to two-thirds of your prison time, instead of one year, before you get let back out on the streets to wreak more havoc.

What impressed me most in the article were the investigative techniques used to nail Evans, involving tracing the purchase of the materials found at the crime scene. Note to redneck would-be terrorists: don’t buy all your shit at the same Wal-Mart the day before undertaking your courageous, lonely mission against the forces of darkness. And if you pay with a debit card instead of cash, you’re a tool who frankly deserves to be Darwinized right out of the gene pool for sheer idiocy.

Religion is the answer (they’re selling)

Did you ever notice that whatever the problem, religion is plugged as the answer? Case in point: last week’s Virginia Tech shootings. A student goes haywire and kills a bunch of people–not good. Religious leaders then get asked by the faithful, “Where was God during all of this?” It seems like a reasonable question to ask of someone who believes in an omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent god.

Atheists would answer it simply that God is a figment of people’s imagination. Such things more often cause killings than prevent them. For example, 9/11, Andrea Yates, stem cell research bans, Branch Davidians, Jim Jones, Inquisition, Gott Mit Uns, Heaven’s Gate, etc., etc., etc. In this particular case, figments of your imagination are irrelevant to the reality of the shooter, so it’s obvious that your God can’t intervene. Next question?

Religious leaders know that if you’re asking such questions, you’re thinking. And if you’re thinking, you’re not blindly believing, which is bad for their business. So religious leaders shut down the line of questioning and instead promote their magic cure-all elixir: religion.

For James Kennedy, the answer to “where was God?”, is “He was hanging on the cross. (Just passing time flapping away, apparently.) “The cross is God’s ultimate solution to sorrow and suffering.” Pay attention grieving Virginia Tech students: you are vile wretches that deserve to be tortured for all eternity for your lack of faith. Kennedy will gladly sell you the cure, though, the smilin’ bleedin’ Jesus for the bargain price of a tithe. Ah, that Christian love is in the springtime air.

Ken Ham, the Answers in Genesis creationist used-religion salesman, used the tragedy to point out that if you think the answer to the tragedy has anything to do with sin, you damn well better believe in that 6-day creation he’s been flogging. The Bible is literally true, don’t you know. To translate his point, if you don’t believe in that 6-day creation crap, why should you believe anything about the concept of sin. Atheists would certainly agree with this line of reasoning. Perhaps this is why his posting was removed from the AiG web site. (Oh, and by the way, he says, isn’t it great that creationism was launched at Virginia Tech by a civil engineering instructor? Let’s pour a little embarrassment into the wound.)

For gall, Franklin Graham is hard to beat. Out of the goodness of his heart, he’s ready to send hundreds of “grief counselors” trained to convert to Christianity those who are emotionally vulnerable, “as we have done in many situations since 9/11 in New York City.” He’s even got some VT students on his web site helping to promote his extreme generosity with strings attached. I wonder if those “grief counselors” think that converting people to Christianity helps their chances of going to heaven. Franklin Graham also runs one of the groups distributing federal faith-based AIDS relief in Africa where they can get their “good news” across because their victims know that they need the provided medicine to live. Charity, indeed.

Does religion have anything to offer in the VT shooting? No. Does religion have anything to offer in any situation? No. These people are plugging religion because they make money from it. It’s all just self-serving promotion at the expense of others, just as Martin predicted last week.

4 billion years of evolution beats $1 billion in abstinence-only sex ed

Big surprise! Abstinence-only sex ed doesn’t work.

Big surprise! It’s a huge waste of money.

Big surprise! 4 billion years of evolution in making every living thing on this plant successful because of our collective ability to procreate beats out religiously motivated wishful thinking. Who could have possibly known? (Certainly not anyone who thinks that Jesus solves all your problems.)

Big surprise! It was all just a way for the religious right to get money from its shills in the government. Sadly, this blatant and obvious corruption at the expense of our youth will likely never be punished. I, for one, would like my tax money back on this one.

We’ve been saying this stuff all along, but nobody listens to us atheists. We’re immoral.

Yet another lie of the Christian Right shot down by science

This one has to do with the common claim of the anti-abortion crowd that abortion adds to a woman’s breast cancer risk. It doesn’t. At all. Full stop.

If there are ethical and medical objections to make to the practice of abortion, then by all means, those ought to be argued and assessed on their merits. But it’s clear that the anti-abortion movement has always been about religious ideology first, with scientific facts a distant second. And they’ve been perfectly happy to tell women pernicious lies about their health risks in order to further inculcate them with fear and guilt over what is already a sad and difficult decision.

I’ve always said that proper sex education is the key to reducing unwanted pregnancies and, by extension, abortion. Education, of course, must deal in information and not disinformation. Why isn’t it surprising that religious extremists who are all too willing to attack others for their “moral relativism” are perfectly happy to engage in such themselves, if doing so helps to further a particular social agenda?