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.

The “Thou Shalt Not Judge” Mind Game

Often, the hidden messages of a phrase carry more weight than its literal interpretation. The phrase “Thou shalt not judge,” is a fine example. It’s an adaptation from a quote attributed to Jesus, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged” (Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37). Although the Bible has other passages encouraging judging, the phrase in question has far more currency today, especially among liberal Christians. I believe its lasting popularity is due to a rather dark mind game that it carries with it. The mind game has several components.

First, the phrase is most often used in a context where some obvious wrong has been committed, but is being excused by the speaker. It’s one thing to acknowledge a mistake, learn from it, and make amends. It’s another thing entirely to sweep it under the rug. The hidden message is that you, too, have skeletons in your closet, so don’t draw attention to this one. Such a message is simply an abdication of responsibility.

The phrase is also often used between believers as a kind of collusion between thugs in the name of the thug boss, God. To use it is to say, “Keep your nose out of my business with the mafia boss, and I’ll stay out of your business. Otherwise, the boss will rub you out.” It is a kind of promise that if you excuse the speaker’s act of thuggery he’ll look the other way when you later commit yours. Occasionally, it’s used as a kind of religious tolerance mechanism to deal with the fact that there are thousands of sects of Christianity, each with their own unique and contradictory interpretation of the Bible. As long as the harm in question is directed against non-Christians, it should be excused in the name of ecumenicism.

At another level, using the phrase is admission that there is no solid morality on which to decide moral issues. With a lack of any sort of absolute morality from God, the speaker is left to create a smoke screen that distracts from this uncomfortable fact. The notion of an absolute morality from God is perhaps one of the most pernicious myths of the western religions.

Biblical passage is really a prohibition against being a hypocrite. That contextualized meaning has long since vanished, apparently. The hidden messages of the shorter phrase have far more utility. In the future, listen closely in the situations when “thou shalt not judge” is used. See if you can find someone avoiding responsibility for their actions or beliefs; looking to make a shady deal to downplay an act of thuggery; or hiding the fact that they don’t have a sound basis to tell right from wrong. When you catch someone using the phrase in this manner, call them on the carpet. Judge.

The fundies’ continued obsession with fudge-packin’ and rug-munchin’!

Fundamentalist Christians’ obsession with homosexuality baffles me. That anyone at all would care what two consenting adults do in the bedroom points, I humbly submit, to an unhealthy psychology. I can’t say I have much reason to give gay people and their private lives a moment’s thought, and my best friend in the world is a femme lesbian who makes most Hollywood actresses look like five miles of bad road. The homophobia of the Christian Right has been a long-established reality, but it takes on a whole new character when they start having conferences and symposia on the subject.

The Exodus Freedom Conference has been running for 31 years now, teaching gay people that they have to deny their identities and hate themselves if they want to achieve “Christ-likeness”. It’s a practice we saw work so very well in the case of Ted Haggard. Anything at all is better than catchin’ teh gay, and the Exodus people are there to help!

Just looking through the list of seminar topics, we see just how much these folks’ views on every area of human sexuality that doesn’t fall under the rubric “straight married Christians makin’ a baby Christian” is informed by fear, confusion, guilt, and mistrust of one’s own body and biological urges. Here we see the Christian mantra of “sin” driven in with a sledgehammer; these tingly feelings you have are evil, you’re evil for having them, and you need to get right with God pronto if you have a hope of entering dem pearly gates.

The Sin Cycle: Breaking the Cycle of Repetitive Sin and Moving Forward
Sometimes it is hard to see the possibility for change when our lives seem dominated by repeated and cyclical destructive behavior. But Change does happen and the cycle of sin can be broken. This workshop will explore an amazing picture of how we get stuck in cycles of sin and, most importantly, how to open your self to change and how to move forward in freedom.

Cyclical destructive behavior is quite an ugly reality when it comes to things like drug abuse, violence, or criminal activity. But remember, the Exodus folks are using this label to guilt people of a Particular Sexual Preference, and that’s pretty ugly too.

Things get weirder further on. Just who the fark would get up in front of a roomful of people and identify themselves as a “chronic masturbator”? You might as well guiltily confess, “I’m a former bag-a-day chocolate chip cookie eater,” with the only difference being that masturbation doesn’t have all the saturated fat.

Finding Freedom From Masturbation
Often in our recovery we trade one vice for another in an effort to medicate from our pain. Many have given up sex with others in exchange for self-sex, considering it the lesser of two evils. A former chronic masturbator shares her struggle to overcome her habit and the shame, guilt, and contempt that accompanied. This class will explore whether masturbation is sin, are there special circumstances when it is not, tips and techniques to increase self-control, the importance of accountability, and the role of thought life.

I’d love to have a transcript of this one; I’m sure it’s at least as delightful as the legendary Mormon Guide to Self-Control.

Now with this one, things get both hilarious and surreal.

Escaping the Gaytrix
In the blockbuster trilogy, The Matrix, moviegoers are challenged to explore a fundamental theme we can all relate too: what is the truth underlying reality? This workshop will challenge and explore how gay defined reality is a complete system of beliefs, moral code and philosophy presented as imposed reality on all those who have same sex attraction. Christ presents a complete paradigm shift that initially feels like Morpheus’ statement “Welcome to the desert of the real,” but in reality, while Truth may be initially foreign and difficult, Jesus leads us to the abundant Life found in contentment in Christ. This workshop will help us all view life with same sex attraction in the Light of Truth instead of imposed gay ideology.

You think these wackjobs are projecting just a wee bit when they go on about “imposed ideologies”?

Here’s a fascinating article on just how wrong-headed and simplistic the Exodus folks are in their attempts to examine human sexuality and “cure” gays, and the way in which these “ex-gay” ministries are actually, repellently, exploiting emotional vulnerabilities in order to inculcate more guilt and rake in a whole new flock of dependent followers.

“Sure, there are some people out there who say that they’ve been cured,” he says. “Either they’re greatly in denial and they are living a life to satisfy the perceived demands of a harsh God or they are bisexual, which is a rare possibility, or that they were really never gay in the first place. There are a lot of people in ex-gay groups who were molested and therefore think they’re gay.”

Again, one only needs to go back to The Wonderful Week of Haggard to contrast the shame and scandal surrounding his outing — loaded down as it was with the baggage of Christian anger, fear, and loathing — with the very positive, happy and healthy vibes radiating from celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris and Lance Bass, who were coming out around the same time. Being gay is just a reality for some people. Deal with it. Attaching self-loathing and guilt to it is abominably abusive, especially when it’s a guilt tied to fear of the wrath of a nonexistent deity.

Atheism is responsible for mass murder?

Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history” is the title of a recent opinion piece posted at the Christian Science Monitor. The author, Dinesh D’Souza, feels that the recent books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and others exaggerate…

“the crimes attributed to religion, while ignoring the greater crimes of secular fanaticism.”

After making that accusation, the author goes on to down-play religious atrocities while making the unsupported assertion that many more people have died in “the name of atheism”. This sort of character assassination is a prime example of why I openly identify myself as an atheist and why I feel that it’s important for us to vigilantly rebut the lies and misinformation spread by fearful zealots. They attempt to prop up their beliefs with fallacious appeals to the dire consequences they’re certain will occur if we reject fanciful claims about gods. Consequences which every bit of evidence continues to refute.

Let’s dig in and expose the lies and fallacies for what they are…

The first major claim is that atheists (specifically Harris and Dawkins) are exaggerating the crimes attributed to religion. In response to this, the author claims that fewer than 25 people were killed in the Salem witch trials and that 10-110,000 died in the Spanish inquisition. If we assume that those numbers are correct, how does that prove his assertion that these atheist authors are exaggerating? Did they use different numbers? Of course not. If they had, the author surely would have provided those numbers to show how exaggerated their claims were.

There were only 12 killed in the Columbine school shooting. Does that mean it wasn’t a tragedy? Is the death toll more critical than the circumstances surrounding the incident? Why does D’Souza think his low-20’s number should diminish, in any way, the nature of the vile injustice committed in Salem?

D’Souza is dangling a red herring in front of us, hoping that we’ll be so distracted by the facts that he’s presented that we’ll completely forget what he’s actually claiming – that atheists misrepresented these facts. Instead of making his case that these atheists are lying, he’s completely missed all the relevant points and opted to simply down-play these injustices as “not so bad” and expands this misdirection with the tired old appeal that these incidents occurred long ago.

I’m not sure why, but when faced with undeniable evidence of the harm caused by religion one common response is that religion “isn’t all bad”. Neither is heroin, but we generally discourage people from becoming regular users who allow it to influence or define the decisions they make. If your most salient defense of your beliefs is that they “aren’t so bad”, you’ve already sold out. You’re either a junky or supporting the dealers who supply junkies.

Does Dinesh sincerely believe that Dawkins, Harris and others are actively complaining about the Salem witch trials or Spanish inquisition? I doubt it. It’s more likely that he’s aware of the great social injustices and atrocities that are the direct result of religious belief and has wisely opted not to attempt to defend them. These atheist authors aren’t outraged over centuries-old murders, they’re railing against modern injustices which are the direct result of religious belief. They’re attempting to point out the divisive, destructive and delusional mentality that religion fosters.

The second major claim is that Harris and Dawkins have ignored crimes of secular fanaticism. Based on the points that Mr. D’Souza makes on this issue, I have to conclude that he’s completely in error. Both of those authors have spoken about the sort of crimes he’s referring to and provided clear responses to silly accusations like the following:

“In the name of creating their version of a religion-free utopia, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong produced the kind of mass slaughter that no Inquisitor could possibly match. Collectively these atheist tyrants murdered more than 100 million people.”

Whether or not Hitler was an atheist is a subject of much debate. He repeatedly identified himself as a Catholic both publicly and privately. He was supported by the Catholic church and the Pope described Hitler’s opposition to Russia as “highminded gallantry in defense of the foundations of Christian culture.”

Even if the author is correct about Hitler (a point we have no reason to concede) he lists those men as “atheist tyrants”. Was atheism the justification for their actions? Were these murders done “in the name of atheism”, as the author claims? Absolutely not.

At the beginning of his article, he blamed these murders on “secular fanaticism” and now he’s blaming atheism. What is “secular fanaticism”? I’m not completely sure, but D’Souza does nothing to justify the bait-and-switch he performs by equating “atheism” with “secular fanaticism”. Should we equate “religious extremist” with “Christian” or “Muslim”? As a thinking person, I certainly see a much stronger tie between the two (as I see no way to justify fanatic actions from non-belief), but I don’t think it’s fair to portray them as equivalent.

Atheism is, simply, the lack of belief in a god. There are no tenets, no dogma, no rituals, no common socio-political beliefs, no agendas, no ethical code, no “holier than…” or “better than” — there’s nothing within atheism that could support the claims he’s making. Those tyrants and murderers didn’t kill people “in the name of atheism” and atheism wasn’t the cause of their actions.

Without a causal link between atheism and the evil actions of these men, what we really have is coincidental correlation. The author could have labeled them “male tyrants” and come closer to a causal link than his preferred label of “atheist tyrants”. The actions of those men weren’t carried out on behalf of atheism or caused by atheism – they were carried out for reasons that transcend atheism.

D’Souza has done nothing to support his notion that atheism is responsible for great evil – he’s simply asserted that it is true and tap-danced his way around the issue.

In the case of the Salem witch trials, the cause of the action was religious beliefs. The Bible says ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ and the people persecuting witches used that verse as a justification for their action — that is a causal relationship. Whether they killed 1, 25 or 25,000 hardly matters. The same holds true for other religious atrocities including the faith-based initiative we commonly refer to as 9-11.

D’Souza fails to support his accusations about Harris and Dawkins as well as the claim made in the title of his article: that atheism is the real force behind historical mass murders. Given the actual state of affairs it’s clear that a much stronger case can be made for the claim that the only people who have been killed “in the name of atheism” are those people who were killed, by religious zealots, for being atheists.

Where are the atheist suicide bombers? Where is the low-quality video of a beheading carried out by an atheist activist? Where are the atheists who string up non-atheists and burn large ‘A’-frames on the lawns of Christians? Where are the budget cuts and gag rules that prohibit funding to clinics that mention abstinence?

Whenever we see a prominent religious figure publicly disgraced or read about women who slaughter their children for their god, the most common excuse is that those people weren’t “real” believers. In the case of Christianity, the Big Book of Multiple Choice (also known as The Bible) includes verses that serve as warnings about false believers which are conveniently tossed around on these occasions.

What we’ve learned is simple: If someone does something that makes a given religion look bad – they weren’t a “true believer”. Until they do, they’re probably a true believer, but there’s no way to tell. Hopefully, more people will realize this and we’ll finally have a majority that stops thinking in terms of “what you claim to believe” and focuses on what we do, what is true, and what is most beneficial for the survival of our species.

This sort of ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ mentality is rampant among believers. It’s a coping mechanism that prevents them from ever having to deal with the harsh truths of reality. Their general misconceptions about atheism are the result of a desperate need to personify evil and shift blame. Kent Hovind, in his creationist propaganda includes an entire lecture which hangs the responsibility for all of the evil in the world around the neck of Charles Darwin. Evolutionary theory is, in his mind, the root of all evil.

Dinesh D’Souza is attempting something similar here. He’s desperately attempting to focus our attention on anything other than the man behind the curtain. While his attempts are as laughable and feeble as the great and powerful Oz, they’re hardly as endearing. While his prose may be better, he’s no different from the Internet forum troll who calls atheists evil and compares them to Hitler. His article, and the articles of those who echo his claims, may be the best evidence against his claims.