Falwell found unconscious in office, rushed to hospital

An alert on CNN has just mentioned this. Yeah, we hate this guy. He’s an anti-Semitic, homophobic scumbag who blamed Americans he didn’t like for “allowing” 9/11 to happen. But we don’t gloat over people who might be passing out and dying. I’ll leave that to the Coulters and Phelpses of the world; they do it so well. Every time someone dies there are friends and families involved, and we hope they are spared any tragedy.

But this event does bring up an interesting point in regards to fundamentalism in America: the old guard is getting old indeed. Falwell, Robertson (who’s had prostate cancer), D. James Kennedy (who’s been hospitalized lately), Paul Crouch and Tim LaHaye are all well past that three-score and ten. When they’re gone, what will the next generation look like? Harsher and more openly theocratic, subtler, or just more of the same?

Somehow, this completely escaped our notice

Christopher Hitchens debated Marvin Olasky in Austin last night, and for some reason, no one in the local atheist community — neither in the ACA nor in the CFI-Austin group — seems to have known it was going to happen at all. According to the brief and rather shallow article in the Statesman, it sounds like it was one of those “lots of heat but little light” affairs, with Hitchens deilvering his usual acid-tongued snark (which can be quite entertaining in its way; I’m about three chapters into God Is Not Great and am enjoying it much more than I anticipated), and Olasky whining about what a big meanie Hitchens is. If anyone reading this actually did manage to go see them, we’d love a detailed report.

A right way, and a wrong way, to protest Ken Ham’s fantasy “museum”

On the one hand, I fully believe that Answers in Genesis’ new “museum” of creationist quackery in Kentucky (as if the south didn’t have to deal with enough ignorant-hick stereotypes) ought to go down in flames as any monument to folly and ignorance should.

But I worry about the effect a formal protest will have, which, I think, will be next to none at all in terms of letting the public know about real science, and instead give Ham and his other little Hamsters plenty of material to work with in order to mount one of their famous “Oooo, the godless Nazi evilutionists don’t want us around because they know we’re telling the truth” lines of nonsense. Anyone who has ever dealt with creationists will know that they lie and lie and lie again, as if they are drawing from a bottomless well of rank dishonesty which is entirely justified, to them, by the belief they’re saving people from their God’s hell. Lies are to creationists as water is to fish. Even a court of law will not stem the tidal wave of their falsehoods, as the Dover trial proved.

Ham and his ilk have a common ancestor: P.T. Barnum. And this “museum” is little more than the present-day equivalent of the Cardiff Giant rolling tent show. Not only are there thousands of uneducated people who will lap up Ham’s nonsense as eagerly as people lapped up the Giant hoax back in the 1800’s, but they’ll be all too eager to buy the conspiracy/persecution theories offered by Ham once supporters of real science allow themselves to be made angry and come out with signs. All Ham has to do is tell the flock that the protestors hate Jesus and are out to take away everybody’s Bibles and turn their children gay, and the airlocks will slam shut on everyone’s ears and minds.

I say if we’re going to do this, is ought to be with mockery. (And maybe that’s the protest’s real plan.) Don’t just stand around holding a sign. Go into the “museum,” tour it, and ask the tour guides (if they have those) pointed scientific questions they won’t be able to answer. Challenge them on their knowledge. Every time a creationist used to call the TV show when I was host, and claim to be very knowledgable about evolution, I’d ask him a simple Biology 101 question: what’s the difference between a genotype and a phenotype? I never got a correct answer, and mostly got indignant huffing and puffing. (This isn’t to say that no creationists know the answer, only the ones who called us.) The point is to let these people know that evolutionary biology is a vast field of science they just don’t know. And that actually knowing facts should not be a scary thing. Remember the myth of Eden: the tree Eve ate the fruit from was — all together now — the Tree of Knowledge. That myth is at the root of all fundamentalist antiscience right down to the present day. Reality must be denied in favor of “faith,” because that’s what keeps the sheep in line and the collection plates full. Knowledge = bad = going to hell, Belief = virtue = going to Heaven.

That’s a seriously emotionally powerful meme to have to overcome with, you know, boring stuff like evidence.

I think it’d be a good exercise to come up with funny ways to demolish the “museum” with satire, and then submit those ideas to people actually planning to attend the protest. If our side is shown to be confident in the facts, rather than being scared of a potential threat to “Darwinist dogma” (because remember, that’s always how the creationists frame it), then a good dose of sarcasm and wit will go much further than you’d think. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and South Park hit bullseyes as often as they do for a reason. Their way of treating things that are stupid really works. We ought to model after their example.

Carnival of the Godless #66

Welcome to The Atheist Experience, and the 66th Carnival of the Godless. We are proud to be hosting this installment, which I confess I wish had an extra digit in its issue number.

If you’ve never read our blog before, or seen the Atheist Experience TV show, or listened to the Non-Prophets podcast, or read the Iron Chariots wiki, I think your visit here will add quite a lot to your online atheism activities. I hope that you will excuse the liberal dose of self-pimpage, but below is a quick “best-of” compendium of AE blog entries from the last few months, which I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading and will perhaps persuade you to bookmark us. As one person of discriminating taste to another, I’m sure you will!

  • First, you can read all my coverage of this year’s The Amaz!ng Meeting 5, hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation in Las Vegas back in January, by clicking here.
  • You can also watch several video files of Atheist Experience TV episodes by choosing this tag.
  • Pat Robertson predicted the US would fall victim to a nuclear — or is that “nucular”? &#151 terrorist strike this year, and I had, shall we say, a little fun with it. Previously appeared in COTG #57.
  • TV show host Matt Dillahunty has a word or two in response to the hysterical overreaction by some Christian groups upon the discovery of — gasp! — an actual real-live atheist holding public office! Clearly the fall of the republic is at hand, and the barbarians are at the gates!
  • Stephen Rogers crucifies the Crucifixion.
  • In our most linked-to and highly-trafficked post (over 1000 hits from Pharyngula alone), we present a series of YouTube clips revealing Kent Hovind’s phone calls from jail. They display the infamous YEC’s delusions and disconnection from reality to a truly sad degree. A number of comments have also been left by Hovind defenders, some earnest, some sad, most just as deluded as Hovind’s own ravings. As PZ Myers described them, these tapes are a real window into fundamentalist creationist pathology.
  • Stephen again, presenting an example of what he calls “half-hearted evangelism.”
  • I walk all over a popular Christian retort, that there are no such things as atheists, or that atheism presupposes theism, here. Ray Comfort likes to use this one a lot. It’s as dumb as most of what usually comes out of his mouth.
  • Don Baker examines The “Thou Shalt Not Judge” Mind Game.
  • And last but not least, me again, refuting the “appeal to free will” rebuttal to the Problem of Evil.

Now onto this edition’s submissions. Thanks to all the fine godless bloggers who’ve participated. And yes, I actually read all of these before adding them to the list below, because, hey, blog carnivals are all about reading great stuff! Please note these are in no particular order. Just peruse at will. There’s a load of stuff here to choose from, and it’s full of awesome!

And that’s a wrap for this edition! Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of the Godless, which will be hosted on May 27 by Letters from a Broad, using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found at the blog carnival index page. Thanks again to all the participants this time, and we’ll see you readers back here again very soon.

I understand it’s a “religion of peace”

Check this out. Pakistan, I am told, is our friend in the War on Terror. That’s what they say. Bush says it, and we know what a stand-up guy he is, so it must be true. And we know the Bush administration takes a hard line against those Islamofascists, too, because they’re always saying so on Fox News. And we know how fair and balanced they are, so it must be true. I mean, the Islamofascists are why we can’t leave Iraq, right? Because that’s where they all are, and so if we leave, well then, they’re just going to swarm the globe in their millions, and it’ll be Islamofascism here, Islamofascism there, Islamofascism everywhere!

So I wonder just how our fine, courageous, standing-up-to-the-terrorists president is going to react if our good fellow-Islamofascist-terrorist-fighting friends in Pakistan pass this bill that would make it a capital crime for a Muslim man to decide he wanted to leave the faith. Hey, at least they’re going easy on women, who would only get life in prison. I suppose this is what passes for “progressive” in an Islamic country. After all, Islamofascists aren’t known for making women’s lives very pleasant. I mean, for real. Like, if you’re a woman, and you live in an Islamic country, it pretty much sucks to be you. So for women who want to leave Islam to get off so lightly with a mere life sentence seems to indicate that Islam has made a bold step forward into the 17th century, at least.

But come on. Really. To pass a law saying that we’ll fucking kill you if you don’t want to belong to our religion any more is pretty barbaric even for Islam, which is already just about the most barbaric belief system any bunch of barbarians ever practiced barbarism under. And I say this as someone who has lived in the Middle East, known plenty of the “good” Muslims, knows what good and kind people they can be, and remains utterly nonplussed that decent folks can continue to live under the yoke of such a totalitarian, anti-human, tyrannical religion. Hell, maybe that’s the problem that has motivated Pakistan’s desire to draft this law. You wouldn’t think they’d need it if there weren’t the real threat of mass defections by good Muslims who have concluded they simply cannot stand by and be part of something so evil any more.

Well, I’m sure Bush’ll give ol’ Musharraf what-for over this. Won’t he? He will, won’t he? Sure he will.

A good excuse not to swallow!

A study that will no doubt transform some religious fundamentalists into ardent supporters of scientific research overnight finds that oral sex puts people at high risk of throat cancer. HPV infection seems to be the big culprit, again, lending more support to the vaccine that fundies have vocally opposed. So expect a renewed vigor to be applied to opposition to the HPV vaccine. The Landover Baptist Church could very well do good business in these. If good Christians don’t want their little girls to grow up to be fluffers, then by all that’s good and holy, keep them away from modern medicine!

In the meantime, I’m sure all socially conscious women out there will rush to get the vaccine as soon as possible — for the pubic, erm, the public good, don’t you know. After all, a humming society is a happy society! Or something like that.

Abortion still condemned by head of church that enabled rapist pedophiles

Yes, I suppose if you abort them now, it makes it hard to sodomize them later.

Joseph Ratzinger, known to millions of Catholics around the world as “the Pope,” has immediately touched off what melodramatic journalists love to call “a firestorm of controversy” over his condemnation of politicians upholding reproductive rights. He has said in effect that Catholic politicians who do not take a stand against abortion have basically excommunicated themselves and should not receive communion, a mad creepy ritual in which believers drink wine and eat little crackers and imagine themselves to be eating Jesus’s flesh and sipping his blood. Again, the moral confusion of the Vatican is enough to make your head reel. What possible system can condemn abortion but sweep pedophilia under the rug and hold entire services for people to perform pretend-cannibalism? (Yes yes, I know they don’t see it that way, but that doesn’t lessen the bizarreness quotient.) And they call us “moral relativists.”

Ratzinger’s remarks were occasioned by his first visit to Latin America, an area populated by almost half the world’s Catholics, and yet one which is undergoing a sea change where women’s rights are concerned. In Mexico, they’ve just legalized abortion. The Vatican is losing followers to Protestantism, particularly this fad called “liberation theology“. (Would that they were losing more to rationalism, but hey, you know, baby steps.) Liberation theology in particular drives Ratzo crazy. Part of what he is trying to do in his Latin tour is jerk a few million leashes and scare all the backsliders back into line.

Amusingly, the response from other prominent Catholics is to scramble to “clarify” Ratzinger’s remarks. This is funny, as I always thought it was part of the Catholic rulebook that their “Pope” is supposed to be God’s mouthpiece and thus infallible. But Papal infallibility doesn’t exactly seem to be in vogue in a part of the world where hardline adherence to the most intractible and medieval Catholic doctrines about sexuality could prompt even more mass walkouts then the Church has already suffered there.

This pope’s apparent candor can get him in trouble, said John L. Allen Jr., a reporter with the National Catholic Reporter. “Benedict doesn’t seem to distinguish when he is speaking as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and when he is speaking as the head of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Oh, there’s a difference? I thought that once Ratzinger got Popified, he wasn’t a mere cardinal any longer. But what does a heathen like me know about it? I must confess I have little interest in the carryings-on of a gang of medievalists who like to dress up in funny robes, give themselves pompous titles, and declaim as if they had any authority over anyone or any expertise to speak on any subject other than their storybook. I might as well take an interest in what a bunch of LARPers tra-la-la-ing about the woods in tights and chain mail and frilly blouses pretending to be Robin Hood and His Band of Merry Men have to say about abortion or human rights or geopolitics, for all that’s worth.

Another humorous comment from Ratzo: God, unlike what most Christians have been led to believe, is not in fact omnipotent.

“In all parts of the world, there are those who don’t want to hear,” Benedict said on the plane. “Naturally, even our Lord did not manage to make everyone hear.”

Naturally? Naturally. So there you have it, from his Infallible Mouthpieceness Himself: there’s something God cannot do. Ta-ta, omnipotence.

It would appear that, while most of Central and South America remain devoutly Catholic, there is growing courage amongst those who would stand against the policies and practices of an oppressive Church, that, ever since the pedophilia scandal of a few years ago, has as far as I’m concerned lost any moral authority it ever had to lecture anybody on anything. As Mexican legislator Leticia Quezada, herself one of Ratzo’s self-excommunicating Catholics, and one of the sponsors of Mexico’s new abortion law, has said, “I voted to address a crisis of public health…. I will continue to be a believer. The church has no right to interfere in my conscience.” Go, girl! It’s high time — centuries overdue, in fact — for the Vatican and its gang of thugs to be handed their walking papers by the human race. Let’s sweep the bums out, turn the Sistine Chapel into an art museum, and move forward with education and humanitarian aid efforts for delevoping countries that aren’t based on scaring them into submission to men in robes and their invisible magic capo in the sky.

Hovind in the hole

Word is getting around the blogosphere that creationist Kent Hovind, currently doing time for violating numerous tax laws, has been thrown into solitary confinement, though reasons for this are obscure. One explanation is that Hovind has been trying to run his own prison ministry without approval, though to what degree that is true is up in the air.

Given Hovind’s penchant for portraying himself as an innocent martyr to the faith who’s being victimized by an evil government trying to silence him for preaching “the truth” about evolution, and the brainless eagerness of Hovind’s wide-eyed followers to parrot this self-serving delusion (seriously, check the comments in the link above, as well as some of those that have turned up even here), it’s likely any story that comes along as to why Hovind has been so incarcerated — if he even has — will have been thoroughly run through CSE’s distortion machine.

Naturally, I feel about as much sympathy for Hovind, let alone his claims of martyrdom, as I do for Paris Hilton. Neither an imaginary deity nor spoiled-brat celebutard status puts anyone above the law.

Atheist Experience #495-496 double feature

In the interests of catching up, two more shows for your pleasure.

Atheist Experience #495: 4/8/07. Ashley Perrien talks about god & evolution polls and the local $500 non-abortion incentive.

Atheist Experience #496: 4/15/07. Deconversion II. Tracie Harris continues to discuss the process through which believers become non-believers.