Can we please stop having religion, people?

So this idiot punk-ass Somali kid decides he wants to be a big jihad hero and set off a bomb in Portland, and is exactly dumb enough to walk right into a sting. I imagine the FBI was having a hard time not laughing as they handed him the cell phone he thought would trigger a massive explosion. “Dude, it’ll be just like on 24, except this time you’re the good guy!”

On Sunday some clodhoppers decide to retaliate by burning down the Islamic Center the kid attended, though they only managed to scorch part of it a little bit and cause some smoke damage.

In the midst of all this, we have the unsurprising spectacle of Christopher Hitchens turning Tony Blair into thin strips of beef tripe in a debate over whether religion is a “force for good” in the world. The only debate there is whether anyone who would answer yes to that question is merely deluded or maliciously ignorant.

Religion, more and more, is being revealed as a haven for lunatics willing to commit all manner of lunacy to curry the favor of an imaginary father figure. I see precious few good guys, only idiots with competing holy books trying to outdo one another’s monumental acts of barbarism. Whatever good “faith” may be doing anyone is well hidden from view, at best. Can everybody please just let it go already?

…Sorry. Slipped into a little reverie there. Back to bad old reality yet again.

Open Thread – AE #685: The Leavers

The information I presented on tonight’s show came, in part, from an article published in Christianity Today. You can find that article at this link.

One thing I didn’t mention on the show was Drew Dyck’s comment on the last page of the article that most young adults who leave Christianity do so because of moral compromise. What he means by this is that they’re doing something that is inconsistent with Christian values, and they drop their faith as a means of resolving the internal conflict. He then goes on to imply that those who don’t admit that this is why they’ve left Christianity are not being honest. Is it just me or does this sound like the “you just wanna sin” pronouncement we hear from Christians sometimes?

Anyway – open thread on the show topic and callers. Have at it.

More Secular Morality videos: the follow-up panel

At last, we now have the videos (thanks to Catherine Blackwell and the Secular Student Alliance) of the follow-up panel on secular morality that followed Matt’s debate with Hans Jacobse. Abridged from the SSA’s write-up, the panelists include:

  • Gregory S. Paul: Labeled religion’s “public enemy #1″ by MSNBC, Greg Paul is a freelance author and researcher about the effect of religion on society, and vice versa. His work has been featured in Newsweek, Science magazine, Evolutionary Psychology, Philosophy and Theology, and numerous other journals and publications. Paul’s theory centers around the thesis that there is no “God gene” that gives people an inherent propensity for religion, and that “prosperous modernity is proving to be the nemesis of religion.” Greg is a Baltimore native and active in the Baltimore Ethical Society. Find out more about his “science of religion” writings at www.gspaulscienceofreligion.com.
  • John Shook, Ph.D. [debate moderator]: Dr. Shook is a scholar and professor living in Washington, D.C. He is Director of Education and Senior Research Fellow of the Center for Inquiry, and also is Visiting Assistant Professor of Science Education at the University at Buffalo, teaching for its online program in Science and the Public. From 2000 to 2006 he was a professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University. Shook publishes on philosophical topics about science, the mind, humanist ethics, democracy, secularism, and religion, and he has debated the existence of God with leading theologians including William Lane Craig. He has authored and edited more than a dozen books, including the new The God Debates: A 21st Century Guide for Atheists and Believers (and Everyone in Between). [Shook is the fellow I took to task on NPR 9.9 for a recent HuffPo article chastising his fellow atheists with a variant of the Courtier’s Reply.]
  • Matt Dillahunty [debater]: Known for his extensive private collection of meerschaum pipes and inflatable sheep, Matt Dillahunty plays a mean Jew’s harp and once shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
  • Robert Anderson, Ph.D: Dr Anderson is a UMBC psychology professor and student advisor. He teaches a number of courses, including aggression and antisocial behavior, abnormal psychology, personality study, human sexuality and clinical psychology.

Enjoy. There will be other parts. I understand you need to turn the sound up.

Media fawning over Papal claptrap

Is is just me, or does pretty much every news story about the Pope’s latest emanations annoy you, too? No matter what he has to say, the media is there like hungry puppies eager to lap it up and puke it out in your local newspaper or TV news program. There’s usually a whole series of puff pieces trying to add drama to his latest moral pronouncement. Rarely is there any real balance to the stories and the Pope is held up as some great expert on whatever he chooses to blather about.

This week, the media was all about the Pope’s latest message about condoms being ok sometimes, but not others. Two stories have run in the Austin American Statesman about this “burning” issue.

Here are my list of gripes:

  1. The media consistently fails to point out that whatever the Pope/Vatican has to say is self-serving. In this case. using condoms to stem AIDS infections would certainly take a little heat off the Vatican from health experts who have rightly pointed out that its policies are tantamount to murder. Condoms also have the very helpful benefit of not leaving DNA behind in the behinds of boys molested by priests. Furthermore the Pope still frowns on any contraceptive usage that might reduce the number of potential future tithers. Self-serving “moral” pronouncements are nothing more than propaganda and they should not be repeated in the media.
  2. Neither the Pope nor anyone at the Vatican is qualified to speak on health issues. They just have nothing valid to say and health advice from anyone so blatantly unqualified should not be repeated in the media. To make matters worse, it’s rare to see any news piece that will add at least a little balance by quoting a health expert. Even a junior trainee at a family planning clinic would be far more qualified. I have yet to see an acknowledgment in most articles about Vatican pronouncements that the they are on the wrong side of this issue by consensus of 99% of the people who DO have qualifications.
  3. I personally think the Pope is unqualified to speak on moral issues. I’m sure most atheists would agree. His moral sensibilities are hopelessly broken by his indoctrination in to a church that has perpetrated some of the most ghastly horrors conceived. The Christian holy book is a genocide manual and loaded with atrocities and immoral teachings.
  4. The Vatican is a criminal enterprise. I can’t think of any reason why US media should serve as a mouthpiece for an organization that has systematically molested tens of thousands of children in dozens of countries over at least four decades. (This is just the tip of the criminal iceberg, but hopefully fresh enough for journalists to have some awareness.) The Pope himself authored some of the most odious policies and shuffled priests personally. Yes, the Vatican has yet to be brought to justice in the US. This is only because our “tough on crime” elected officials are whimpering pussies when it comes to the guys with the big hats and magic crackers. Even if you want to play the “guilty until proven innocent” card, there’s no reason to actively promote the Vatican until they are properly tried. Don’t hold your breath.
  5. The Vatican will never accept responsibility for its actions. The Pope’s pronouncements are considered “news” because there is an assumption that many people will follow his bad advice. Publishing Papal pronouncements is a tacit admission by the media that a sizable fraction of Catholics are unwilling or unable to reason for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions. The media then completely fails to hold the Pope/Vatican responsible for the impact of its policies on the world. Either Ratzinger’s opinion carries no weight and there’s no reason to print it, or it does carry weight and the Church is responsible for the effect of their dogma. I see plenty of puff pieces promoting Catholic dogma, but very very few investigative reports on how many people have been negatively impacted by Catholic dogma. I would love to see some real reporting on how many people have become infected with AIDS as a result of the Vatican’s condom policies, or the number of women who have become pregnant when they didn’t want a child but followed Catholic “moral” teaching for whatever reason. The Vatican is creating victims without any moral accountability. I would like to see the Vatican compensate these victims–especially anyone who may have been impacted who is not Catholic. I think that municipalities should be taxing Catholic charities to recoup the expenses related to Vatican contraceptive misinformation.

If you agree with my complaints, perhaps when you see one of these puff pieces you can write a letter to the editor or provide other feedback pointing out one or more of these problems and ask why the media is so consistently doing the wrong thing. Trust me, until we do, little will change.

The Source of Human Morality debate videos

Here are the first three (of nine) video installments of the debate between Matt and Fr. Hans Jacobse at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, yesterday. According to the writeup, Fr. Jacobse “views the current world as a battle between competing moral visions of the secular and the sacred, and hopes that Christianity can restore the moral tradition of the gospels.” Whether this involves angrily killing fig trees is, I suppose, left to be clarified. (Zing!) Anyway, enjoy. (Note: I’ll be embedding the rest of the vids as they are posted to YouTube, and will offer my assessments as I watch and absorb them.)

Final addendum, 9:30 PM 11/20: All 9 parts are now embedded, using the playlist embed code provided by the lovely and multitalented Catherine Blackwell. Thanks!

You knew this was coming, didn’t you?

So the Rethuglican Taliban are on the warpath, and once again they’re all about using the government to shove Jebus down all our throats (all the while pontificating that they got back into power because they’re all about “less government,” of course). So far, we have one gasbag here in Texas wasting no time in making sure that Ten Commandments slabs are erected in every school in the state. Just how many lawsuits over idiocy like that do we need before they figure it out? And the San Antonio paper has a poll, in which jackbooted theocratic thuggery is currently ahead by a two-thirds margin. We aren’t Pharyngula (I and several other folks I know have emails out to PZ at the moment), but perhaps we can “AXP” this poll just a tad in the direction of religious freedom and sanity.

Anyway, to those of you on the left who sat out the mid-terms because you were disappointed that Obama didn’t fix the world fast enough, welcome to your new Saudi America.


Addendum: PZ has now posted and the squid hordes have acted, and the poll is where it should be, at over 90% against.