Open thread for AETV #854: Unitarian Universalists

Russell Glasser and John Iacoletti talk about Unitarianism, in John’s first episode as regular cohost. Video should be up soon.

During the show, I mentioned to a caller that I had recently done a panel discussing Presuppositional Apologetics with Justin Schieber and Dan Linford. It seems that this video is not easy to search for, so here’s a direct link:

Christian Prick Bills

Just this week, the Arizona legislature passed a bill giving believers the right to discriminate against gays and others based on their religious belief. The bill has been touted for protecting “religious liberty”. And indeed, it allows people holding particular religious beliefs to run roughshod over the wishes, desires, and even religious liberty of their victims.

 “Except as provided in subsection C, OF THIS SECTION, STATE ACTION shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” (From the text of SB 1062)

 I say “particular religious beliefs” because we know that minority religious beliefs will never be upheld in Arizona or most Christian dominated communities. And let’s be clear: this is a Christian initiative and just another “Christian Prick Bill.”

The bill reminds me of other Christian initiatives in recent years. Christians have pushed for the “right” of pharmacists to not fill prescriptions for which they have a religious objection. Trans-vaginal probes lie in store for women seeking abortion in many states, thanks to the efforts of Christians. Gays in schools are more likely to be the victims of bullies, thanks again to Christianity. Of course, Christians have bullied gays for money for decades. These modern initiatives echo past Christian efforts to murder Jews, Muslims, Cathars, and infidels, the Inquisitions, the justification of slavery, and the subjugation of women.

Let’s pull out the common themes in these Christian Prick Bills:

  • There is usually a claim that Christians are suffering some sort of persecution, that their religious liberty is being compromised; they are the victim. And the only way to address this terrible situation is to enable them to victimize their chosen enemy. This is a huge lie, of course. Christians rarely suffer the persecution they would gladly inflict on others. Theirs is a position of privilege in terms of power, laws, and tax breaks.
  • They want immunity from the consequences of their actions. Rarely, is there a notion of tit-for-tat. They want to bully and persecute while simultaneously being protected from any retaliation for their bullying. I’ll guarantee the Arizona bill will not protect the “religious liberty” of a doctor who refuses IVF, say, to a Christian couple because of his sincere religious belief that there are too many Christians.
  • A related idea is that Christians want to wash their hands of any personal responsibility for these efforts. They want to be pricks to gays in their businesses but not have any financial fallout from being labeled bigots. They want unwanted children to be born, but they don’t want to provide for them. They want to control people’s medical decisions, but be immune from any harm that comes from that control. Remember: with great power comes great responsibility.
  • There is a strong undertone of vindictiveness. In reading the Bible, you’d get the impression that that the Christian god is a petulant, sadistic, murderer and thug. These initiatives honor that spirit. I’m actually OK with vindictiveness, but only to the extent that it becomes synonymous with the brand of Christianity. From a recent Pew poll, we see that young people are turned off by the judgmental attitudes and hypocrisy and are leaving the church. This can only be a good thing and it will be helped by making Christianity synonymous with thuggery in the popular culture.

“But wait,” I hear some Christians say, “that doesn’t represent my version of Christianity. You’re painting with too broad a brush.” I have a number of responses to this sort of complaint:

  • First, you don’t get to do action X and the opposite of action X and claim the backing of some sort of divine moral intelligence. That’s like circling all the answers on a multiple-choice test and claiming you aced it. If you guys can’t agree on your Creator’s absolute morality despite your claims of actively conversing with him every week, that’s evidence enough for me that the whole enterprise is just a fraud. The Bible a Rorschach test for the morally challenged – it supports pretty much all positions. Ministers are just working an invisible puppet who seems to always agree with their bigoted attitudes. Atheists can see through this con.
  • Next, what kind of Christian are you? So many Christians are content to go once or twice a week and get their shot of Jesus heroin, have a magic cracker, bask in the fantasy of perpetual orgasm, or being raptured up to watch Armageddon unfold and enjoy the torments of non-believers. These people count the days when they can be relieved from being in this world and regain their “true spiritual nature”. Such people are, by their own definition, useless to this world. You would think if they really believed that stuff, they would hurry on to their reward.
  • If instead you’re a genuinely decent person who wants to make the world a better place, why do you let such an evil institution trade on your good name? Why not distance yourself from the historical and current cesspool that is Christianity?
  • If you really want to hold onto the Christian label and you don’t like the Christian Pricks defining you, please consider taking up your complaint with them. I don’t consider this my problem. So often the idea is to shut down the person pointing out a problem with Christianity, rather than address the actual complaint.

Us atheists do owe the Christian Pricks a debt of gratitude. They make our points for us and they hasten the day when belief without sufficient evidence is just the hallmark of a powerless rube.

Apologetics baiting fail

Email from a fellow who calls himself “Destroyerof Atheists” [sic]:

this is for matt D
does he see these?
maybe you can pass it along
he seemed sincere so i wanted to ask him some questions

does he represent atheists?

has he ever debated/talked with/met a representative of the Creator?

is he sincerely looking to find the Truth?

does he know how to find his way to work from home and then back again?

does he know/accept that he needs food to eat and air to breathe?

does he know/accept that there are types of things?

this should spark enough curiosity, enough tug on the intellect
if not…
good luck

Actually, my curiosity is sparked. Lots of questions come to mind.

  • Was this type of thing inspired by seeing Buzzfeed and Upworthy headlines all the time? You know… “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT YOU READ when you ask me to send the rest of this message!”
  • Have you ever seen a comedian tell half a joke, then stop and ask the audience if he should deliver the punchline? I haven’t, but I would imagine this guy must think that’s an effective delivery style.
  • How is it possible that you could go out of your way to capitalize “Creator” and “Truth,” and yet not bother to capitalize sentences or proper names? Are you e.e. cummings?
  • In what society is “did you know that humans breathe air?” imagined to be something that tugs on the intellect?
  • Do people in category X often stop and chat with somebody whose nickname is a threat of violence to X?

Open (late) thread for episode #852

Many apologies for the delay in getting this up. The HD capture completely failed this week, for some reason. Not only did we only get a standard def capture, it wasn’t even properly formatted in 16:9. This one required extra work in post, especially to boost the sound, which still isn’t great. Anyway, talk amongst yourselves, as usual.

“Coincidence” is powerful “evidence” to many people

Observation:

I was closing a spreadsheet, and the moment I clicked on the “X” to close the window, a dialog box popped up on my other monitor, and I thought “Oh, what did I just do?”

The dialog box was simply an alert, letting me know that I have to attend a meeting in 15 minutes. And so I then thought “Oh, OK, it’s not connected to me closing the spreadsheet.” And I went on about my business.

But note what happened.

I saw two events close in time, that initially appeared to be related. Sometimes when you close windows you get a dialog saying “do you want to save?” or some other helpful suggestion related to what you just did, or are doing, with the window you’re working in.

In the background, my brain is aware that such things are sometimes related, and without conscious thought, I knee-jerked to check to see if there was a connection between the dialog box and closing the spreadsheet. My brain is used to this pattern. And it checks to see if this pattern is in play, when it recognizes something that resembles this pattern. If it recognizes no connection between the two events, it notes that they are just unrelated events occurring close in time. And I go on, and give it no relevance.

But sometimes the events are related. As noted—maybe I would click the “X” to close, and the dialog would come up saying “Do you want to save?” It’s a reminder that is triggered by me trying to close the spreadsheet. And I am consciously aware that such reminders occur—and I’m also aware of it in part of my brain that isn’t conscious. In fact, it’s the non-conscious neural map that informs “me” (the conscious aspect of the brain) that “Hey, these things may be related.”

But sometimes we have two events, closely related in time, that have no such trigger—no such causal connection—but our brains find a pattern, anyway. This is what we call “coincidence.” The difference between what happened to me this morning, and a coincidence, is that with a coincidence, the brain is able to identify a pattern—but it’s not a pattern based on causal link. The two events aren’t actually objectively related—they simply have related meaning in the brain of the person observing.

So, you are going home after your mother’s funeral, and you find yourself behind a car, and the numbers on the plate happen to match her birthday month and day—and your brain says “that’s related to mom—who just died.” On another day, you might see that same tag and assign nothing meaningful to it. But today, mom is on your mind, and so, these DMV assigned numbers are “mom’s birthday.” And to some people, additionally, “a message from mom.”

It’s stunning how powerful coincidental meaning can be in the minds of observers. I would say that it’s a pattern in TAE e-mail for people to describe a coincidence and ask us “how do you explain this?” Above, is how I explain it. But that’s not what they’re asking. What they honestly mean is “how did my mom’s birthday end up on this tag right after her funeral?” They want an explanation of the objective event–they want to know objectively how the events are related. The problem is that, objectively, there is no reason to think they are. They are connected in the subject’s mind. And that is all the connection anyone can reasonably derive from that observation. But some people simply cannot accept this. It’s a difficult thing for many people to accept.

Creationists say the cutest things

Guy P. Harrison sent me this:

22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution

Here are my answers.

  1. Of course.
  2. No.
  3. Almost completely.
  4. No.
  5. Rotation of the earth.
  6. They don’t.
  7. What about them?
  8. Deriving meaning is up to the individual.
  9. No: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis
  10. That’s pithy and dumb.
  11. Who embraces it?
  12. Wrong.
  13. Sure, but tangentially.
  14. Because it’s been observed.
  15. I don’t think that word means what you think it means.
  16. Genetic variability.
  17. See #8.
  18. Fossilization is rare.
  19. Yes.
  20. Easily.
  21. It wasn’t a star, but don’t have enough data.
  22. If Americans come from Europeans, why are there still Europeans?

You’re welcome, creationists!

FTBCon 2 round up

For those of you who weren’t able to watch the live panels this weekend, here are all those in which ACA members participated.

Beth Presswood and Martin Wagner joined in the “Artistic Secularism” panel, with Amy Davis Roth, Ryan Consell, Ashley Hamer, and Lauren Lane.

Jen Peeples and Russell Glasser did a parenting panel with Dale McGowan and Elyse Anders.

Russell and his son Ben, a three year veteran of Camp Quest, briefly dropped in on the Camp Quest panel with David Diskin, before it was cut short by technical difficulties.

Russell was in a “Counter-Apologetics” panel, with Justin Schieber of Reasonable Doubts, and Dan Linford.

A few other panels you might enjoy checking out:

There are plenty more, so please check out the full schedule for many other great videos.