A Suicide Note I Empathize With

Today, a man flew a small plane into a building in Austin. It’s captured our attention for most of the day. It turns out that the pilot was very frustrated and did what is effectively a suicide attack on an IRS office. He also torched his own house with his wife and child in it. It appears that one of his intents was to get the world to read his suicide note. His drastic measures have proven successful.

Although I can’t understand or endorse what he did, I found a lot in his note that I agreed with. The main theme was about how so much of American life is gamed by the big guys and how little power the little guy has to stop it. He railed against tax codes that exploited his profession, health care, the legal code, the political system that fails to represent the people, and the Catholic church. He called the church “vulgar” and “corrupt” and bemoaned the fact that they have received tax exemptions that helped make them wealthy. I agree completely with the spirit of his complaints, even though I don’t understand the details of his situation.

I’m a reasonably intelligent guy and I cannot for the life of me figure out why the United States gives a tax exemption to the Catholic Church. The Church seems to exemplify the rigged system that we labor under. They have run a pedophile ring for decades in multiple countries and done everything in their power to evade responsibility. I’ve written about this before. Yes, some priests have received the justice they deserved, but to date none of the scheming hierarchy has seen the inside of a court, let alone a jail. The Catholic Church is a criminal organization that should have its assets seized under the RICO (racketeering) law until a full investigation can be performed. The assets of the church should be used to benefit its victims. I simply cannot fathom why they are still receiving a tax exemption.

To add insult to injury, the Pope has evaded a law suit in the pedophile scandal by claiming diplomatic immunity. Some people think he’s the head of some state. Ok. If they want to play that card, then let’s make all of the Catholic hierarchy Vatican citizens and revoke their US passports. They clearly have little respect for US law and they’re only following orders, like good little immoral soldiers they are. If they are convicted of a crime, they can be convicted or deported like any other badly-behaving alien. They want to have their cake and eat it too. When they can evade laws or screw with other countries, they’re a foreign country. When they want to make money, they’re a charity. So far, they’ve been very successful at the game.

I will continue to remind people of the corruption of the Catholic Church, but I don’t see them being treated any differently in the foreseeable future. Catholic laity are still deeply loyal to the Church. They appear to be happy to support the pedophilia and corruption because the value their magic crackers and ticket to perpetual orgasm over any sort of human moral virtue. Either that, or they’re hopelessly mindlessly ignorant. If a Catholic reader has a more generous interpretation, I’d like to hear it. Perhaps that reader can also explain why anyone should trust them on their woo-woo unverifiable supernatural claims when they spend so much time lying about real-world claims. They’re really good at lying, as near as I can tell.

The Catholic Church doesn’t run the US legal system. (At least I hope not.) They clearly seem to have help from outside their church. It appears that the majority of Christians value “religious tolerance”. What this has come to mean is a situational moral blind spot when the perpetrators of some atrocity happen to be fellow Christians. You also hear it as “Thou Shalt Not Judge”. In practice, it’s an agreement among thugs: “You don’t draw attention to my sociopathic Rapture snuff porn business and I won’t draw attention to your pedophile ring.” “You let me pray my sick child to death and I won’t call you on your faith-healing con game.” The list goes on. In the end, practical Christianity is about screwing someone and inhibiting anyone from doing something about it. It’s worked well for Christian leaders so far, why would they want to change it? Why would believers risk their ticket to nirvana actually doing something when they can take comfort in prayer (which has the same practical effect as masturbation)?

Lest you think I’m making this up, I have gotten a number of e-mails from Christians who seem to be shocked that I’m rattling the skeleton’s in Christianity’s closet. (I’m not party to the agreement between thugs.) Their biggest desire seems to be to shut me up. They seem to know what I’m saying is true, but they don’t want to hear it. One correspondent actually wanted me to enter a deal where if I lost, I would never say anything bad about a Christian again (even if it was true). That alone speaks volumes about Christianity to me. The moral failings of Christianity are a big part of my motivation to be an outspoken advocate for atheism. They should be a reason why we deny tax exemptions to such blatantly corrupt religious organizations.

Sadly, Christianity’s corruption is only part of the overall screwed up situation we’re in. I’m doing what I can with the tools I have. I would encourage all of you to do what you can to get us out of the myriad messes we’re all in.

Atheist Experience on February 21st

Our regular time slot for The Atheist Experience for February 21st was taken by a class in the same studio. The crew has worked their magic and got us the slot from 8-9:30 pm that day (3.5 hours later). It looks like the show will go on. Please watch the stream and participate as you normally would.

Matt and Martin will be on and they will have a special guest, Darrell Ray, author of The God Virus: How Religion Infects our Lives and Culture.

Science Works, Albeit Slowly

This month, the British medical journal Lancet retracted a peer-reviewed study done by Andrew Wakefield. The paper was retracted because Wakefield apparently provided false information in the study and perhaps tried to cook the numbers to promote his cause and his career. He’s also under investigation for serious professional misconduct.

Who is Andrew Wakefield and why was this paper important? He claimed that there was a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. This paper served as the cornerstone of an anti-vaccination movement here and in Briton that has caused many parents to not vaccinate their children, leaving them vulnerable to a host of serious, but easily preventable diseases. The harm he has done is immeasurable.

On the plus side, science is working. His study drew skepticism and further scrutiny. His co-authors asked to have their names removed from the paper as a means of protecting their reputations. His results could not be replicated and they were refuted. The editors of the journal made a difficult decision to retract the paper, thus keeping their integrity from being taken down with the junk science paper. Retractions like this are rare, fortunately, but they serve as a housecleaning mechanism to purge the literature of truly bad publications. The machinery of science got the right answer. It’s a shame that the machinations took 12 years.

The popular press is still full of anti-vaccination material and the harm won’t be fully addressed for years, but the process has finally got moving. Meanwhile, true scientists can get back to the serious business of understanding and someday preventing or curing autism.

BTW, Andrew Wakefield now lives in Austin Texas where he runs a clinic called the “Thoughtful House Center for Children.” I wouldn’t recommend taking your children there.

NY Times Magazine covers the Texas SBOE

The New York Times Magazine published a very good piece this weekend on the Texas State Board of Education, it’s Christian exceptionalist members and their motivations. The piece is called “How Christian were the Founders?“. It’s long, but thourough and fair. I recommend it.

One of the last points Russell Shorto makes at the end of the article is that a few of the SBOE members are vulnerable or not seeking reelection (Cynthia Dunbar). We Texans have a chance to correct some of these problems in the upcoming March primaries and in the general election in November. If you live in Texas, we urge you to pick candidates who will truly improve education in Texas.

Global Warming Denial and God Belief

I’ve often wondered why the religious nuts are most often the most vocal against global warming. On the surface, it seems incongruous. When the topic is God, they prop up the flimsiest evidence and put their fingers in their ears, yelling “la la la” when there is solid evidence against supernatural belief. When the topic is global warming, however, these same people ignore the evidence and claim to be highly educated skeptics.

Rush Limbaugh has explained the connection. After identifying himself as a creationist he said, “I simply cannot accept the fact that we would be created to do things that would destroy our environment…” Sadly, such a person would never ponder the possibility that they might be wrong. Or that their own denial is part of the problem.

On both topics of God and global warming, their minds are made up.

Fred Edwords: Sailing the Rising Tide of Reason

Since some people may be missing The Atheist Experience this week, I’m posting the video from a recent ACA Lecture Series lecture.

Fred Edwords from the United Coalition of Reason on “Sailing the Rising Tide of Reason”.

Over the past few years, with the rise of the “New Atheism,” interest in Freethought and humanism is growing. And the more recent billboard and bus campaigns have stoked the fires of enthusiasm. How can Freethought and humanist groups benefit from this secular “coming out”? How can they capture this interest to help their memberships grow? Fred Edwords, a former executive director of the American Humanist Association, is now the national director of the United Coalition of Reason. Over his thirty-year career as a humanist leader he has lectured, debated, and taught on humanist philosophical issues and effective outreach techniques. He has appeared on national and local television in the United States and Canada, has been interviewed on radio and for newspapers around the world, and has lectured in North America, Europe, and India.

“Sailing the Rising Tide of Reason”

Mp3 audio is available here.

Cal-irony-fication

The California Supreme US District Court is currently hearing a case over whether 2008 Proposition 8 (which bans same-sex marriage in the California State Constitution) is itself constitutional. If the court rules that it is not constitutional (by the state’s US constitution), then same-sex marriage would revert to being allowed in the state. This is a pretty important case as many people feel that California is a cultural leader for the entire US–not to mention its sheer size.

There has been a recent side-show as to whether the hearing would be (video) broadcast to the public. One can make an argument that public interest is served by transparency, especially in such an important case. This little debate went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States that decided today that there should be no such coverage. The 5-4 decision (with the conservative Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and Alito in the majority) was ostensibly decided on a technicality. Not too interesting so far; but let’s look under the hood, shall we?

The very fact that SCOTUS even heard the case and issued a decision was based on an urgent claim of “irreparable harm” to someone. According to one source, “The Court also found that the high-profile nature of the trial might intimidate witnesses and cause irreparable harm if the rule were not stayed.” However, the dissenting justice wrote (page 24-25): “I can find no basis for the Court’s conclusion that, were the transmissions to other courtrooms to take place, the applicants would suffer irreparable harm. Certainly there is no evidence that such harm could arise in this nonjury civil case from the simple fact of transmission itself.” (This article has a good analysis.) Perhaps a broadcast on YouTube would cause irreparable harm to their cause.

So what’s going on? The religious supporters of Proposition 8 are wanting have their free speech rights to make false and emotionally manipulative claims, but they are crying persecution when it comes to taking responsibility for them. Consider defendant Hak-Shing William Tam, who wrote, “On their agenda list is: legalize having sex with children,” and that, “other states would fall into Satan’s hands,” if gays weren’t stopped from marrying in California. A successful advertising campaign during the Proposition 8 election claimed that homosexuality would be taught in public schools. They want to perpetrate thuggery on gays, but they’re playing the persecution card when it comes to taking responsibility for their lies–and the conservatives on the Supreme Court are backing them up. Apparently, taking responsibility is irreparably harmful to the religious.

The irony is so thick here you could build a church with it. Some supporters of Proposition 8 have gotten harassing phone calls and e-mail messages. I can’t say I feel any pity for these people. They are being subject to much milder versions of the same tactics they have done to gays and others over the years. (Religious readers are referred to Exodus 21:22-25 and Matthew 7:12 for a little morality lesson and some tasty just desserts. I long for the day when the majority of gays vote on the Christians’ right to marriage, just as the Christians have done to gays.) Christian death threats are a common intimidation tactic and the religion has plenty of people who are willing to carry them out. Gays have been subject to (real) hate crimes for years, most of which have been religiously motivated. Christians have made a big business out of persecuting gays. Proposition 8 itself is just part of that business. If same-sex marriage becomes normalized, they will have a much harder time vilifying gays and their red-meat lovin’ constituency will turn to other pursuits and take their tithes with them.

Same-sex marriage in the US will happen eventually, but we can count on the religious fighting unfairly every step of the way.

Propagandists to the Rescue!

The Texas State Board of Education has been a constant source of annoyance and frustration for people like me, who value church-state separation. The current board is packed with creationists and religious ideologues who have lost touch with reality, not to mention their mission as educators. Here’s a sampling: Board member Cynthia Dunbar has called public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion” and unconstitutional. Not surprisingly, she’s a graduate of Pat Robertson’s would-be law school. Another board member, Don McLeroy, has consistently promoted Christianity in his previous role as chair of the board. He is quite convinced his training as a dentist makes him better suited to judge scientific material than the true experts whom he holds in contempt. He has called evolution “hooey” (as it conflicts with his Christian belief). Board member Terri Leo has argued for all language in textbooks to refer to opposite-sex couples exclusively (with no neutral language) when referring to marriage. She advocated that middle school textbooks emphasize that gay teens commit suicides at a higher rate. (It couldn’t have anything to do with Christian persecution, propaganda, and suggestion, could it, Terri?) If this is our best and brightest on the SBOE, Texas is pretty screwed up on the education front. Unfortunately, Texas’ textbook decision impact broad swaths of the United States. Many states simply buy the textbooks that have gone through the Texas review process.

The latest episode in this freak show is the current review of the history textbooks. Various dubiously qualified “experts” have been brought in to spin the textbooks with ideological agendas. Of particular interest is pseudo-historian David Barton and minister Peter Marshall who were both called by board members to lend a hand in reviewing history textbooks. Neither have credentials to be called experts. Barton is a well-known propagandist. He makes his living promoting a pro-Christian version of American history with lies and half-truths. Not surprisingly, he’s up to his usual tricks. The minister’s agenda is far more obvious. The only bright light in this whole sordid mess is the fact that Texas Freedom Network is doing a great job of covering the mess and helping to keep us informed. With luck, we can get more sane people on the board in the upcoming election. For now, we can really only watch the train wreck and hope for the best. (Yes, there’s a public hearing this week, but I don’t think it will have an impact.)

While I have certainly felt a lot of frustration and anger at the Texas SBOE over the years, today I’m feeling kind of sorry for Christianity. I feel pity. If the facts about Christianity were actually taught in schools… the Crusades, Salem Witch Trials, systematic persecution of Jews, the burning of the Library of Alexandria, the Spanish Inquisition, the corruption of the Popes, the sabotage of medical advances, the marketing of rapture snuff porn, and the link between belief and so many social ills… if all of the facts were taught in schools, in an unbiased way, it would inoculate kids in the US against the disease of Christianity. That’s what they’ve done it in Europe and the level of belief has plummeted.

Christian leaders here know of this danger, so they’ve packed the board with ideologues and sent in their crack team of propagandists to make Texas children’s minds safe for a false religion. They know they have to lie to the children because the truth is not on their side. It’s a pitiful attempt to save the falsehoods they hold so dear. Even in its sickly state, however, Christianity is still doing great harm.

Thugs without Borders

Christians are having a big impact in Africa, it seems–especially those from the US.

In recent memory, we have:

Now, we have Christians spreading their bullshit theories on homosexuality in Uganda. Selling hatred of gays has been a big moneymaker for the religious right. They have lost quite a bit of momentum, in the US though. They have having more and more trouble painting gays as evil child molesters, given that so many real child molesters are religious leaders. (Can you say “projection“? I knew you could!) People just aren’t afraid anymore of same-sex couples that keep their yards a bit too neat and just want to get married. Perhaps the religious thugs thought they’d get more mileage out of their campaign in another country.

Apparently, their campaign was a bit too successful. Uganda is considering implementing what Christians here in the US have always wanted: laws that punish homosexuality with death–just like the BUYBULL sayz (Lev. 2o:13). We all know conservative Christians want to inflict Leviticus on their enemies, but ignore it otherwise.

But wait. Now US Christian groups are saying that they don’t think Uganda is doing a good thing by following the US Christians’ advice. Even some of the hard core homo haters like Rick Warren have had to backpedal. Apparently, God’s universal and absolute morality changes minute by minute depending on the financial needs of Christian groups and their ability to spin to the morons that fund them. We supposedly immoral atheists can see through your con and call you on it.

The constant in this equation is the religious exploitation of the poor and ignorant in whatever continent. …Just as they’ve always done. We could make the world a better place by separating the US government from these exploitative efforts. Let the Vatican and US Christian groups stand alone without sullying the US’s reputation on these efforts. Let’s call the exploitation of Africa a Christian initiative when it is, as in these cases. Let’s stop giving government subsidies and tax breaks to religious groups that promote hate and exploit people–even if that’s all of them. Finally, let’s put some of these people on trial for their crimes against humanity.

Vic Stenger visited Austin at the end of October

Dr. Victor J. Stenger, author of the New York Times best seller, “God: The Failed Hypothesis” was in Austin at the end of October promoting his new book, “The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason“. He gave a lecture and did an interview with me. For various reasons, we have not publicized these until now.

Since the Atheist Experience is on break, it seems like a good time to unveil them.

“A Conversation with Vic Stenger”

Mp3 audio is available here.

“The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason”

Mp3 audio is available here.