Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Atheist Books Suitable for Gift-Giving (Part I)

It’s about that time when we perpetual procrastinators begin to feel each grain of sand dropping through the narrow bit of the glass, innit? If you’ve left gift-buying a bit late, never fear! Books are easy, Amazon and other online retailers are quick, the local bookstore may even be stocked, and you can get someone in your life a gift that will give them more than a moment’s pleasure.

I’m here to help you pick just the right one. Many of these, I’ve read. Some, I’ve only read bits of, but heard much about from other sources and thus feel comfortable recommending. I’ve split things into categories, so you can more quickly make a match between gift recipient’s interests and the right book. And, of course, these will also give you ideas as to how to spend those nifty gift cards you might end up with.

If I’ve reviewed the book, I provide a link to said review. If I haven’t, I’ve provided a brief synopsis to assist you. As always, feel free to add any favorites of your own in the comments – the more, the merrier!

Let’s go!

Photo of a cat lying atop books on a shelf, biting one. Caption says, "I am looking for a book I can REALLY sink my teeth into."Religion

In this section, you’ll find books on religion, wherein religion decidedly does not come out on top.

An American Fraud by Kay Burningham.

Anyone interested in Mormonism, and wanting to know if there’s a legal case for it being a big fat fraud, will love this book. You’ll also love giving it to Mormons.

Not the Impossible Faith by Richard Carrier.

I read the online version, and it was fascinating. In this book, Richard takes on and crushes the “common apologetic argument for the truth of [Christianity] that its origins were too improbable to be false.” This is a thing amongst some fundies. One of them is J.P. Holding, who pretty much recited All the Tropes having to do with this argument, thus painting Richard a maclargehuge target. By the end of this book, everyone will know why Christianity could succeed despite being utter bullshit. If fundie Christians could feel this particular type o’ shame, they’d be ashamed to try these arguments ever again. And the book not only crushes their pathetic apologetics with relentless precision, it also introduces the reader to amazing bits of ancient history, religion, society, and culture, which is an added bonus and great for history addicts.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

Suitable for gifting to those who want a no-holds-barred look at what religion really is. A book that has made many an atheist.

Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett.

If you need to give someone a book that gives religion no quarter, and yet doesn’t seem like one of those merciless New Atheist books, this is an excellent start, especially if the recipient likes philosophy.

The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion: the Mormons by David Fitzgerald.

An excellent introductory guide to Mormonism for those who don’t actually know that much about it.

50 Simple Questions for Every Christian by Guy P. Harrison.

Ha ha ha, simple. Also a good book to innocently slip your religious relations. Tell them you thought it would help them argue with atheists. Heh.

The Skeptics Annotated Bible by Steve Wells.

The only Bible that has ever made me want to go to church as an atheist, this is a fantastic gift for atheists and believers alike. Give one to your fundie friends and relations! They can’t complain – you are, after all, giving them a nice King James edition. With, um, some extra footnotes…

 

Leaving Religion

Here we have books that are mostly about getting the fuck out of faith.

Godless by Dan Barker.

Fascinating tome by a man who used to be a born-again evangelist who was really on fire for the Lord, and is now an atheist champion.

Why I Believed by Kenneth W. Daniels.

So this is a book by a former missionary that is extraordinary in its ability to really get to the nuts-and-bolts of believing, and then losing that belief. Suitable for gifting to friends and family members who just can’t understand your atheism in the least.

 

Atheism

Here’s the meaty atheist goodness! Not that the above wasn’t, this stuff has just got more atheism in it.

The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas edited by Robin Harvie and Stephanie Meyers.

This book is snarky as hell, and I fell in love with it instantly. That was while I read the table of contents. It’s an excellent resource for atheists at Christmas, and safe for leaving near religious grandmothers. It includes all you need to know, really: the history, philosophy, science, and how-to of Christmas. Royalties from its sales go to charity, and our own Jen McCreight is in it, so if any atheists out there need some help with the holiday, give ‘em this.

The Portable Atheist edited by Christopher Hitchens.

This is a smorgasbord of freethought readings that includes many you’d never have considered freethought. I mean, The Rubáiyát? But yes, a lot of atheism and freethinking existed even during times that were deeply religious. This book covers ancient to modern times, includes a lot of different folks, and is a great place for a new (whether New, Gnu or not) atheist to begin.

Why I Am Not a Muslim by ibn Warraq.

This is rather like what Bertrand Russell did to Christianity, only aimed squarely at Islam. It’s also harsher and more thorough. It absolutely destroys the myth of the divine origins of the Koran, explores the horrifying political implications of fundie Islam, and rather murders that “Islam loved People of the Book!” trope. There are informative and infuriating sections on Women in Islam, taboos, heretics, Islamic skeptics, and more. For those leaving Islam, those of us wanting to critique Islam without sounding like raving right-wing assholes, and those of us who are terminally curious about being apostates from a religion other than Christianity, this is a fantastic book.

The Atheist’s Bible edited by Joan Konner.

A book full o’ freethinking quotes, arranged somewhat like a bible (beginning with Genesis, even), and eminently suitable for leaving lying innocently about where a non-atheist may encounter it, such as on a coffee table or in a bathroom. Perhaps they will pick it up out of idle curiosity, horrified fascination, or sheer desperation for reading material. Two things, if the moment is just right, may happen as a result:

1. They will learn that someone they admire and respect was, quite possibly, an atheist.

2. They will be prompted to think thoughts they haven’t before thunk.

And these are outcomes greatly to be desired.

Nothing: Something to Believe In by Nica Lalli.

I love how, in the intro, Nica says that she chooses “nothing” because it cuts out the god root (theos). She’s right: nothing can stand on its own. This is a journey of discovery about what it means to be nothing in a world swimming in religion. She spent most of her life “frightened or upset by religion,” and realized that not having a religious identity meant having no ammo when the religious freaks came gunning for her soul. She eventually learned to defend her beliefs, and also learned that being despised by the majority of the country is not equal to being despised by your own family, as she discovered when faced with an uber-religious sister-in-law. But there’s comfort to be found in “nothing,” and possibly some decent coexistence, too.

Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell.

This is one of the original New Atheist tomes, really. It’s a classic by a no-holds-barred philosopher, and while it’s a tiny little book, it contains pretty much everything you need to get started on a career of unapologetic atheism. Make sure all the new (and possibly New) atheists you know have got a copy. It wouldn’t hurt to slip one in the stockings of believers, either, should you feel the need to counter their typical religious gift schlock.

Here endeth Part I. Part II coming as soon as I can manage it.

In Solidarity With Students, I Present Jesus -n- Mo

The following photo would be enough to get me kicked out of just about any freshers’ fair in Britain:

Jesus -n- Mo

Jesus -n- Mo

So these are two lovely rocks from the Skykomish River, and I’ve named them Jesus and Mo because it seems many religious people have not yet learned to be reasonable adults. I know, I know, this comes as quite the shock to those of us in countries where the religious majorities are oh so sensible. But for those who have not yet learned that one group’s sacred thingies are other groups’ not-at-all sacred thingies, it seems random things will need to have the names of mythological folks plastered to them until the dumbfuckery stops.

Believers: I do know your prophets and messiahs are important to you. I remember a time, brief though it was, where seeing Jesus mocked was almost physically painful. But I knew I had no damned right to demand other people refrain from offending my religious sensibilities, just as I know now that I have no right to demand religious people refrain from criticizing my philosophies. You could pass out literature at a student fair saying that atheism is a terrible idea and name a kumquat Epicurus, if you like. That’s fine. You might annoy me, I might think you’re a douchebag, but while you’ve attacked ideas that have deep meaning for me, you haven’t attacked me. So it’s up to me to discuss these ideas with you, or avoid you, or counter your ideas with my own – but you’d howl if I got your ass removed from an open venue for being a shit, wouldn’t you?

You god-botherers are in the majority just now, and you’re able to play the thug, throwing out people who offend your sensibilities. But thuggish behavior won’t earn you any sympathy: it’ll just earn you a plethora of people finding ways around you, leaving you and your narrow world views behind.

And really, what weak-ass sort of god is threatened by having the name of one of their special favorites plastered to an inanimate object? Think about what you’re saying about your god/s when you pull shit like this.

All we’re hearing is that these beings, should they exist, aren’t in the least worthy of worship. Way to win converts.

 

For the background on this matter, see:

LSE pounces on non-existent “Islamophobia” again

Jesus and Mo respond

Chris and Abhishek report what happened at LSE yesterday

LSE Student Union gives its version

Act 2: what happened at LSE today

Reading University has banned its atheist society. Why? Because they named a pineapple Muhammad

Atheist society harassed by student union at LSE freshers’ fair

Guest Post: “I Am Tired of Being Treated as a Subhuman When I Get Angry Over Racism”

By now, those of you not spending your summer hiding under rocks will have heard about JT’s extraordinary arrogance. And his quadrupling down on that arrogance. And maybe it wouldn’t matter so much, except this shit is done by people who refuse to listen to the voices of the people this shit is done to all the damn time.

I’m going to say a few words to my fellow white people before turning the floor over to the person you should really be listening to. I’m saying these few introductory words so that you can take a moment to prepare yourself. If you do not need this lecture, skip to dezn_98′s words, where your focus should be. If you find yourself getting defensive, and wanting to lecture rather than shut the fuck up and keep listening, return back here and read from the beginning.

One of the hardest lessons I learned as I became interested in social justice issues was this: don’t speak, listen. Don’t lead, follow. We white middle class liberal sorts want to change the world for the better, and oh, do we have ideas. Problem was, many of my ideas were based in abject ignorance. I was hurting more than helping. I knew it all, but didn’t know a damned thing. That’s privilege. Makes you think you’re qualified to pontificate on any problem, despite the fact you haven’t a clue as to what the problem actually is, much less how to solve it.

And it’s hard to face that, hard to admit that you don’t know it all and can’t solve all the problems facing those who don’t share your advantages. Hard to admit you’re wrong.

Suck it up.

If you truly want to help, you must be strong enough to admit that you don’t have all the answers. Brave enough to admit when you’re wrong, when you’ve made a mistake, when you hurt someone. Wise enough to keep your mouth closed and your ears open. Strong enough to handle the rage and pain you’re going to hear. Have the integrity and humility to step back and let others lead.

If you can’t do that, walk the fuck away. You’re of no help. People need an ally, not a self-appointed savior. They need a genuine ally, not a self-declared ally who refuses to act as one.

Now. If you’re ready to become part of the solution rather than the problem, put your tongue in neutral, turn your defensiveness off and yours ears on, and just listen.

Listen. Image courtesy Ky via Flickr.

Listen. Image courtesy Ky via Flickr.

I cede the floor to Dezn_98.

I want to tell people something. The reason people of color are not into this brand of atheism right now is because of people like JT. It is not because there is this KKK element to it.. it is because of deniers and ignorant people like JT. I would never feel comfortable in a room filled with people like him. My views on social justice are my priority, not my atheism… and I won’t be a part of any crowd that lets people like JT fester and not have the ability to call him on on BS. The only reason, I have come out of lurking is because of people like crommunist and like yourself [Greta], because you guys really do get it… and I am so tired of making people understand that our plight is real.

I am tired of being treated as a subhuman when I get angry over racism. I am tired of society telling me that “this tone of voice” is the only acceptable form of expression for minorities talking about their pain… and anything short of that – you are not worth listening to. They really treat us like trash, and people do not know how incredibly traumatizing and devastating that sort of constant cultural racism can be.

It is so tiring… I saw JT’s treatise of racist white garbage tone policing…. and I can’t ignore it. I actually have to waste my day writing a reply to his garbage. Do people not get how exhausting this sht is? How likely it is that, because of people like JT, most minorities run out of steam on these issues? That most give up? That most just walk away? The only reason I am not ignoring it is because I am as stubborn and silly as PZ.. not matter how much personal pain JT’s ideas give me.. I still gatta say something.

[snip]

Lots of people in this culture just do not get how utterly dehumanizing and traumatizing it is to talk to people like JT when you are a person of color.. it is indescribable. Yet I have to put my humanity on the line everyFCKINGtime when I talk about racism… and everytime, I feel like a piece of my empathy is being taken away, being chipped at, making me “apathetic” to my own oppression… this type of sht drains people of color.. so they stay away from it as much as they can. Yet no matter how much they run away, now matter how much we already dictate our tone everyday to avoid conversation with white people like JT… it JT’s racist micro-aggression and HIS ILK always find us and smack us in the fcking mouth.

***

As a person of color who has to constantly deal with this type of rhetoric from well meaning white liberal allies… I am always shocked, even though I know it is terribly predictable, by the amount of ignorance coming from privileged people who seek to “instruct” minorities on proper ways to behave. It really is disturbing, this sht is not even about JT.. it is about white privilege in general. His response is sooooooooooo cliche to every fcking person of color, in that it functions in a racist way. His response is not unique, it is the same racist rhetoric we are constantly barraged with everyday. In fact, he ain’t even the only one.. if you follow crommunist on twitter, you can see how even Matt Dillihunty felt obligated to share his “enlightened” opinion on how to proceed. The conversation that I saw was not only condescending, passive aggressive, and stupid, but also reveal that yes, even people on FTB like matt dillihunty should STFU once in a while and understand that if your ignorant about a subject – do not argue your fcking case like you understand it. Fck Matt, Fck JT, and fck any white privileged dck who want to come and tell me or anyone how to act. (I recall that other arse from “cammels with hammers” doing something similar – oh and his ignorant arse is now at patheos too… good riddance. He had nothing of substance to say when he tone policed either.. jerk)

Man, I live through this sht… and I will tell any white person right up front any time we begin a conversation about race, that they can never say anything, anything that I have not heard before . Therefore their advice is not only unwarranted but useless. Not only that, I then have to explain to ignorant white folk how an amalgamation of these “bits of casual advice” over a lifetime of dealing with racism… is actually just a racist microagression. So when I reject that advice based on their ignorance, most then write entire treatise trying to defend themselves… and as “white allies” they somehow think I am obligated to go over ignorant BS everyday to “teach the white man how to be not racist.” When they are too lazy to pick up a fcking book and read for themselves about racism – which in about 5 fcking minutes would demolish any god damn “argument” they put up. What a waste of fcking space. Ignorant white folk, always stuck in racism 101…

Probably the only reason I stick around on FTB is because I found a few white folk here… who actually fcking get it – well not all of it, but get it to a degree where I do not feel the need to have to educate anyone on any racism 101 BS.

I just want to say this is just a trend to a larger problem, and it is tiring… How many hours do I have to spend educating some white privileged buffoon, only to have another one come in 5 minutes later and almost demand I educate him as well on the same exact sht? I mean, the responses are always the same cliche BS… and even if by some luck I manage to get someone to turn around… that don’t mean sht to a lot of white folk. All they seem to care about is making themselves be less racist… not actually concerned about ending racism by actually doing something about it. Most white folk only enter the issue when tone policing… then they leave, no matter if they were finally convinced that they are wrong, or ignorantly insisted they are right till the end… they always leave and then never actually do anything about it. So crommunist was right… man don’t give me that BS that you care.. cause a lot of you don’t and that shows through actions.

Let me explain this one, cause this is a stumbling block for a lot of white folk. Most white folk “care” as much about racism as I, and most of us “care about starving children in Africa.” This is a normal everyday human flaw. We care about things that effect us, and hit home with us, more than we care about things that do not effect us and are far away.

I “care” about starving children in Africa as in… if told about the issue I say it is wrong, then I go spend absurd amounts of money on food and throw half of it out. I just go about my day, making no effort whatsoever to help starving children. I feel sorry for them, I think it is a shame, I think they deserve help… and I do nothing about it. Even when I am part of a system that works to oppress people like that.

Most people are exactly like this, otherwise there would be more Aid going to solve the world hunger problem. So when anyone says they “care” about world hunger…. it is this shallow from of caring. A caring that is only committed to words, and not actions – a caring that absolutely does nothing for people who are starving but makes us feel like we are “oh so good people cause we care.”

Note* Before someone comes with with the silly point of “that means we can’t talk about any issue then?” No, it does not mean that. It means that, as you will read below, because of the nature of things this kind of apathy is, terribly normal – and no one can truly care about all causes… which is why you have to pick the ones you care most about. This would suggest that, if you want to talk about an issue you are not effected by directly, and are not involved in, in some way shape of form… then you probably got no business “giving instructions or advice” the ones who actually care. You should instead ask questions and attempt to educate yourself, rather than argue any point of give advice.

Basically…. lots of white privileged people pay lip-service to being anti-racist but when asked to commit any action.. most of them not only decline, but out of ignorance, like JT and Matt, usually function in a racist manner. The only ones who are actually qualified to say they care about racism are the ones effected by it, and the ones working in some fashion to end it. All the rest… “care” in a sense that is not practical to solving the problem.

Now, this is not a crime… and, even though it is fairly normal, that is not to say it is not an issue either. Apathy like this is an issue, it is an issue the people in the movement have to fight against. They have to make people care more than they do, care enough to commit to some action, no matter how small. People are also “too busy to care” and that is not a crime either, but it is an issue that needs attention. This stuff is relatively OK, I am ok with a white person fighting for a social issue that hits close to home… good for that person.. what I do not care for is people insisting they care, when really…. they don’t care all that much. Then what really pisses me off is how “offended” they get at a minority who rejects their shallow opinions… and how they try to victimize themselves by saying “I was your ally!” and such nonsense. That is crap.

The degree in which you are measured to care about an issue, the degree in which you gain credibility as an ally, is not through fiat or announcement.. it is seen through what you do. Those who spend no time educating themselves about an issue before they speak about it and hurt people; those who commit to no action ending a social issue, those who frequently land on the side of “telling a minority how to act” in unsolicited advice…. those people who say they “care”…. well that, that is BS. Take that sht out of here. I tire of it. When you start railroading people who are doing something about it, when you are constantly in the way of minorities speaking out… then, no you don’t fcking care. Whatever your intentions are, whatever warm fuzzy feeling you might want to pull out a conversation, or whatever intellectual point you want to raise out of curiosity about issues that actually hurt people…. that does not count as caring, so fck off.

With that… Lets look at JT’s and Matt’s “actions”…

1) JT and Matt almost never talks about racism, and are, to my knowledge, not involved in any anti-racist movement in any meaningful way. (This shows how much they care about it) This means neither of them has credibility if any of them claim they “care about racism.” No one is inclined to believe that sht, and no the benefit of the doubt is not a given.

2) The one time I see JT and Matt talk about racism… they are either trying to tell a minority “you are doing it wrong” (JT) or trying to argue some stupid insipid intellectual point (MD). Aint that funny… they never talk about racism, and when they finally do, instead of talking about how bad and racist that question was, instead of educating people why this question is racist, instead of using the minorities anger to show how deeply racism effects us emotionally… they argue that minorities need to behave in this “balanced” way when confronting racism. JT insisting he knows better if someone is acting racist with intent, and Matt insisting that he does not berate people in the same fashion… what fcking laughable points.

That speaks… and it speaks of them not as allies, but as fools. White privileged fools who need to STFU. Now, the exchange with crommunist and matt was not that long, so I am done with Matt… let me dig in deeper with JT.

3) JT said he walked out because he did not like the tone of what that POC was saying in her defense against racism. WOW. So you never talk about racism, and when you get the opportunity to learn something from someone who suffers from it you “walk out” in protest of the tone? Then you berate the person for not having a more sympathetic reaction to white racism? You go off the walls, writing pages and pages of intellectual racist garbage practically defending the “right” of white people to say whatever racist garbage they want, while telling minorities that they are only allowed to use their anger about racism in a specific way (a way you get to define as “productive”, and a way where that productivity centers the conversations primary objective on making the white person less racist (why should that be?).. instead of just… talking about how bad racism is and how it effects minorities). FFS…

This guy by fcking definition of anti-racist ally… just functioned in a way that would categorize him not as one, but also probably acting like a racist himself. He “exited the room in protest?” Are you fcking serious? Someone should tell him that there is this racism against strong black women, and that type of racist bias.. tends to make lots of white men not only not listen to strong black women, but also try to make them out of “irrational” or “berating”.. and guess what this mther fcker just did? If that is not a racist microagression, and no one better fcking tell me any different, then I don’t know what is.

I have like loads more to say…. but… whatever, I got more sht to do in meatspace rather than specifically outline how lots of white liberals betray minorities at every turn.

 

Thank you, dezn_98.

I encourage those of you who are prepared to keep listening to read the linked threads, and definitely read our own Black Skeptics, and Crommunist’s archives. None of us who have not directly experienced racism will ever know on a visceral level what it’s like, but by listening to those who have, we can at least gain some comprehension, and understand what we need to do to help end this shit.

Those of you not prepared to listen… please just walk away until you are. And for fuck’s sake, at the very least, refrain from lecturing oppressed people on how to react to oppression.

[notice] Hola, new commenters! Please do peruse the comment policy thoroughly before you expend valuable time sharing your thoughts. Or tl;dr: I reserve the right to drop asshats in the trash without a second glance. Bad behavior elsewhere will also get you instabanned here. Not an asshat or someone who’s been kicked out of other places for bad behavior? Then you’re probably cool. Thanks for reading![/notice]

Some Essential Reading on the Sexism in Skepticism Debacle

I’ll tell you something, when I haven’t been wrapped up in my geology research, I’ve been on a roaring boil. I’m fed up with this shit. I’m through with people who think women are objects to do with as they will, and people who think inability to consent is consent (pro tip: it is not, and if you have sex with someone who is unable to consent, you’re a rapist). I’m done with people who think preventing rape and sexual assault is a woman’s job rather than placing the burden and blame where they belong: on the people who assault. I’m tired of the little shitstains who think this is all a bunch of silly drama and do their level best to shut the victims up. I want these disgusting fucks out of my community. They don’t belong in civilized spaces.

No one should have to put up with this outrageous fuckery. And I’m appalled that self-declared rational thinkers are so very terrible at thinking through something as simple as this, and coming to the conclusion that hey, you know, this shit has to stop.

I’m so damned grateful to the women who have come forward and the bloggers who refuse to relinquish the atheism and skepticism communities to the predators.

There’ve been some blog posts over the last few days I want to draw your attention to, in case you missed them. They’re necessary.

In no particular order, then:

Greta Christina’s Blog: Harassment, Rape, and the Difference Between Skepticism and Denialism – UPDATED and  Why We Need to Keep Fighting.

The Digital Cuttlefish: Feelings And Actions.

Pharyngula: I think the SFWA might just be awesome and What? Responsible, intelligent youtubers? INCONCEIVABLE!

Almost Diamonds: What Is Not in Dispute and How Many Do We Lose?

Butterflies and Wheels: Your various cleverations and No, the system does not work.

Lousy Canuck: Sexual harassment accusations in the skeptical and secular communities: a timeline of major events.

Black Skeptics: Predators Beyond Belief.

Skepchick: If you don’t like rape, don’t get raped DUH, The Good Old Days, and Atheism, Sexism and Harassment. The Price of Speaking Up.

Daylight Atheism: Disillusionment and That Was the Wrong Answer, CFI.

 

I’m sure there are many more, but these are most of the posts that have helped clarify my thinking. Hopefully they will be of some use to you as well.

I’ve not yet finished exploding. Stay tuned if you like watching Dana unleash the Smack-o-Matic SuperDeluxe 9000. I’m polishing it as we speak.

Perhaps Because It’s Horrific Bullshit?

All right, I’m appalled. I had a friend whose gradual slide deeper and deeper into Christian faith (Baptist, I believe) meant we gradually drifted apart. We’re still Facebook friends, and occasionally I see his updates. He’s got two young beautiful children – and is doing his best to raise them in the faith.

I don’t think he realizes how horrific that is, even though he just linked to an article explaining why.

The author dismisses the heroic Bible stories taught in Sunday School. All those messages of loyalty and goodness, he sez, are just awful. Total lies! Jesus is only a postscript! Of course it’s causing kids to leave the faith! Because what they need to hear, apparently, what’ll keep their butts glued to the pews, is this:

The message of the gospel—the entire storyline of scripture—is God’s loving pursuit of people who run from him as fast as they can and who live lives unworthy of his love.

Wow. Okay. Instead of teaching kids to strive to be the best they can be, teach them they’re worthless. Fantastic. You know what, I can’t even link to the number of people bullshit like this has damaged – they’re all over the place, people who spend their lives believing they’re disgusting sinners who deserve to be destroyed by God, who loves them anyway – even while hurling hurricanes and earthquakes and floods and fires at them for pissing Him off. Oh, and he’s a stalker.

I can tell you the story of my very conservative Christian best friend, who grew up destroyed. It took falling in with a bunch of atheists and pagans and agnostics and occultists before he finally discovered his own worth. Before that, he wallowed in self-recrimination. His church had taught him he’s fundamentally awful. One tiny fuck-up would leave him devastated, convinced no one could love someone as worthless as him. He never could admit he was actually a fun and funny and smart and all-around good sort while he was fully Christian. Took us over a decade to undo that damage, and then after a few years of near-freedom, he slipped back into the church, never having quite achieved escape velocity. I’m sure his mother counts it a victory. Better to have a son that’s saved than a son who has enough confidence in his potential that he can live up to it, eh?

My Baptist friend, is this was you want your beautiful babies to become? Cringing, terrified, damaged people who say they know Jesus died for their sins, but flay themselves alive with every tiny slip, and who secretly believe they’re condemned to Hell?

Let’s teach the wonder of the gospel. Let’s show our kids that God loves us … simply because he loves us. In our beastliness. That he loves us before we are good.

Yup. Let’s teach precious young children that they are beastly, horrible people, just like the Beast in Beauty and the Beast (seriously, that’s the analogy author Sam uses). You know what the kids know? That the townspeople wanted the Beast dead. That he was horrid and mean and kept a young girl prisoner until she gave in. Sam wants kids to model their relationship with the Divine on abuse. Yep. Wonderful. As in, I’m full of wonder that anyone can be so twisted as to consider this a better thing to teach the kiddies.

My dear Baptist friend: do you really want to batter this message into your childrens’ skulls? Do you want them to grow up believing they’re beastly and horrible? So much so that they caused a god to die?

That [God's] love isn’t vague sentimentality, but it cost him his most precious treasure to turn us into his prized possession; that the storyline of the Bible is God’s Search and Rescue mission to find the dying Beast and kiss him into joyous life.

That’s disgusting. You can’t see it with your faith spectacles on, but this is utterly horrid. People are so evil that God had to kill his innocent son to save us. And you shame Aztecs over human sacrifice? Hypocritical much? And how do you think kids feel about that? Kids who are a little more literal-minded than adults, and probably feel pretty awful that they’re such horrible people that Jesus had to get tortured to death because of them. Jesus died, and it’s all their fault.

Also, they’re mere objects. Things to be owned. God and Satan, tallying up the souls like people comparing their baseball card collections, and all your kids can do is hope they get bought by the right master. Hoping for the love of a capricious tyrant, all the while believing that they don’t deserve that love, since Jesus had to die for their sins.

That’s if your kids believe this bullshit, and it’s terrible if they do. But your religious compatriots have been wringing their hands over the present crop of kids who’ve grown up and slammed the church doors behind them, never looking back. Why oh why have they been leaving? the faithful cry. And a lot of answers are shoved forward, like the fact that kids these days just aren’t as much in to the gay-bashing and misogyny and disregard for social justice and suchlike things as their parents were. But for all that, so few of you are willing to admit that the reason a lot of kids don’t accept your brainwashing – excuse me, Biblical teaching – is because they know it’s bullshit.

I mean, seriously. Look at that line again:

That [God's] love isn’t vague sentimentality, but it cost him his most precious treasure to turn us into his prized possession; that the storyline of the Bible is God’s Search and Rescue mission to find the dying Beast and kiss him into joyous life.

Cost him his most precious treasure, did it? You mean the Son who didn’t stay dead? The one who’s actually God hisownself? The one you say is ruling up in heaven and will return to Earth in glory? That “most precious treasure”?

God sacrificed himself to himself to save us from himself. Totally believable.

Those of us who escaped Christianity completely did it because we realized its inherent absurdity.

christianitymakessense

(If anyone knows who first came up with either of those descriptions, let me know so I can give them my sincerest thanks.)

I’m told by religious folk that God wants a personal relationship with me, and wants me to adore his son (who is really himself). In the next breath, I’m told we’re born sinners who deserve hellfire and damnation, and that if I do not fall down and worship this sick, twisted fuck, he’s going to burn me forever and ever and ever. Oh, and he loves me. Lots.

You ask why people are leaving Christianity, as if you can come up with the perfect formula to make them stay. You’re searching for the perfect ways to brainwash your kids. Aside from the fact that’s utterly wrong and something you shouldn’t do, you’re sunk. There’s too much information freely available. Too many contradictions between what reality is and what Christianity claims it is. Too many things wrong with the Bible, and too many people ready to point that out. You can try to shelter your kids. You may even manage to convince them to disregard every bit of outside information they stumble across. But chances are, they’re going to encounter the world, and come to their own conclusions.

Let them do it.

Let them make up their own minds. Let them learn and explore and think. Let them be who they’ll be. It’s wrongheaded and dangerous to attempt to force them to fit your faith. Libby Anne has it right: Your Children Are Not Programmable Robots.

Do you love your kids? Will you stop loving them if they stop loving your God? If the answer to both questions is yes, you’ve got some soul-searching to do, my friend. And if you’d cut your kids off or guilt-trip them or threaten them with hellfire and damnation for straying from the path you’ve made for them, if you think your god will torture and burn them for eternity for following their conscience, then it’s time for you to re-examine that god, and decide if it’s worthy of your worship.

And if you’re terrified your children will be condemned to hell if you don’t frog-march them down the straight and narrow, consider this (since you haven’t come to the realization you’re terrified of a myth): would a heavenly Father that truly loves his children really torture them forever for following their own conscience? Could infinite love be such infinite hate? Would you order someone to strip off your children’s skin, burn them, beat them, subject them to unimaginable pain, and do this for eternity, for not loving you enough?

I may be an atheist, but I can assure you of two things: if incontrovertible evidence were presented tomorrow that proved the existence of the god of the Bible, I’d no longer be an atheist, and I sure as shit wouldn’t be worshiping that monstrosity. It doesn’t deserve love and admiration. Any being that sadistic deserves condemnation. That sick, twisted “love” is no love at all.

Is that really the love you want to teach your kids?

One of the Most Beautiful, Courageous People I Know

I wept reading my heart-sister’s response to yesterday’s post. Happy tears, and sad tears, and hopeful tears, and so-damned-proud-of-you tears.

She’s had a long, hard journey to get here. But I know she’ll find plenty of loving arms to hug her tight.

I love you, my sister. No matter where your path takes you, I always will.

“Child’s Hands Holding White Rose for Peace” by D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr.

Why God? Why?

Smart people I know and love frequently pop out with some sort of “I believe in God” statement. If it’s not God, it’s some other gods or goddesses or numinous something-or-other(s), or an unspecified spiritual component to the universe. It’s like people can’t conceive of an existence without the supernatural.

I used to be that way. I have distant memories of that desire to find the entity behind it all, to relate to something far larger and smarter than me. I remember thinking I’d never want to live in a world without magic. I wanted to believe. Needed to. Desperately.

And then… I didn’t.

It just went away. It gradually faded out. I got busy with other things, set the existential angst aside, stopped seeking the Divine so ardently and then not at all. And my need to believe, my certainty that some divine intelligence created this universe, vanished without me noticing. I had to have my attention drawn to the fact I’d become an atheist when I wasn’t looking. And I laughed, and shrugged, and went on with my life.

That need for the divine, for magic and mystery, has more than been fulfilled by reality. Nothing has been as phenomenal, nothing has given me a greater sense of awe, than this universe – and the fact that we tiny, insignificant products of mindless evolution are smart enough to figure it out. Sense of wonder: in hyperdrive. Mind: permanently blown. I can’t even imagine ever wanting, much less needing, religion or what most people mean by spirituality ever again.

Carl Sagan on the wonder of the universe, via Atheist Memebase.

Carl Sagan on the wonder of the universe, via Atheist Memebase.

 

 “Life is but a momentary glimpse of the wonder of this astonishing univers, and it is sad to see so many dreaming it away on spiritual fantasy.” – Carl Sagan

I know that people who tell me there must be something more to the universe feel compelled to believe it, but I can’t feel their compulsion anymore. It’s so distant I can only empathize on an intellectual level, relating to this as a fact, but part of me is continually astonished by that need. It doesn’t matter that I felt it once. It’s like thinking store-bought strawberries are delicious, and then tasting a luscious, sun-warmed, vine-ripened, hand-grown and carefully selected strawberry straight out of the garden: those store-bought strawberries will never taste so good again. Then someone tells me how much they long for good strawberries, looking on their smart phone to see if there’s a grocery store anywhere in the area, while we’re standing in a field full of the best strawberries ever grown. And they admit these are pretty good strawberries, but one of the stores must have better ones. I’m just boggled.

George Perkins Marsh, via Thinking, Questioning, Seeking.

George Perkins Marsh, via Thinking, Questioning, Seeking.

 Wherever modern Science has exploded a superstitious fable or even a picturesque error, she has replaced it with a grander and even more poetical truth. – George Perkins Marsh.

All of these concepts of the divine are so impoverished compared to reality. The gods are cheap trinkets, glass bead goddesses and tinfoil creators. When you approach myth and legend as stories people tell, they can sometimes be fun and inspiring and thought-provoking, even life-changing – but to claim them as capital-T truth destroys their value. This universe is so much more immense than any god could be. It doesn’t need magic, or a spirit force, or anything other than its blind, unthinking self to be magnificent. And those who think natural processes are worth less than a so-called intelligent designer haven’t given any thought to how much more awesome it is to realize that plain ol’ physical processes did all of this on their own. Every jaw-dropping thing you see needed no help from a deity. That, my friends, is the true magic.

Lynne Kelly via Science Memebase.

Lynne Kelly via Science Memebase.

Some believers accuse skeptics of having nothing left but a dull, cold, scientific world. I am left only with art, music, literature, theater, the magnificence of nature, mathematics, the human spirit, sex, the cosmos, friendship, history, science, imagination, dreams, oceans, mountains, love, and the wonder of birth. That’ll do for me. – Lynne Kelly

And once I realized that, the need for deities or any divinity vanished. Gone. Finished. Surplus to requirements and dumped like the dead weight it was. Contrary to previous concerns, the universe didn’t shrink when that happened. It expanded. It increases exponentially virtually every day.

I went from Why, God, why? to Why God? Why would we need such a thing? What good does it do? Why bother, when the universe doesn’t need it and we’re better off without it?

Realizing this set me free of the fear of God. Once that bond was loosened, the others unraveled.

Realizing this set me free of the fear of God. Once that bond was loosened, the others unraveled.

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

-The Epicurean Paradox

Your turn, my darlings. If you feel so inclined, share your stories about leaving the supernatural behind for the natural. Tell us what filled that void so many are afraid will never be filled when one tips deities into the rubbish bin. What’s life like, now that you’re not convinced you’re missing the Divine?

Summer Reading That Will Give You the Secrets to Conquering Missionaries

I can’t wait for the Mormon missionaries to show up at my door again. Usually, I don’t have the patience to deal with people trying to sell me religion – I’ve got kittehs to play with, rocks to pound, posts to write, food to savor… Who wants to spend a glorious summer afternoon arguing religion with two scrubbed (in mind and body) young people when you could be lounging on the patio with book, cat, and drink?

Me!

After two books and a website, I’m eagerly scanning the horizon for those poor innocent folks. I might even invest in two extra patio chairs so we can lounge outside with the Book of Mormon, the cat (granted neither are allergic), and drinks (non-alcoholic, of course. See – I can be accommodationist, too!).

“Dana!” I hear you cry in my vivid imagination, “what can possibly lead to such a dramatic change?!”

I shall tell you. What’s more, I shall arm you with fascinating, often funny, reading, and questions guaranteed to make missionaries sweat more than the weather warrants.

Dwindling in Unbelief masthead, via the DiU blog.

Dwindling in Unbelief masthead, via the DiU blog.

It began because Steve and Phillip Wells are Blogging the Book of Mormon. They’re brave people. I haven’t attempted to read the BOM since our badass cat – you know, the one who could catch jackrabbits twice her size on the hop – took a serious dislike to it.* Look, when my mama cat tells me not to do something, you think I’m gonna argue? Kitteh knows best!

Besides, as the Doctor would say, it’s not holy writ – it’s atrociously writ. The ingredients list on a shampoo bottle is better than that book: it’s (probably) non-fiction and teaches me interesting words, plus some chemistry. The BOM causes my Inner Editor to have a complete nervous collapse, which process is painful to witness. Who wants to suffer all this? So I’m grateful to Steve and Phillip, who are sparing us much agony.

Thanks to them, I can now have a somewhat in-depth discussion of the BOM up through most of Mosiah. I can ask questions about things like how fast ancient Hebrews can walk**, and why God likes the phrase “and it came to pass” so much. I can explain that one of the reasons I’m having a hard time abandoning my atheism is that I can’t believe any god could be such an awful writer. And I can give them a handy URL (http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com/2010/07/blogging-book-of-mormon.html) to visit showing them how their holy book appears to skeptics. Heck, if I’m feeling really ambitious, I can direct them to the Skeptics Annotated Book of Mormon, lovingly edited by two brave blokes blogging the BOM.

It’s kind of like if MST3K did holy books. Hilarious!

But that’s pretty skeptical stuff, and only super-useful if a) the missionaries are already wavering in their faith and just need a loving push off the fence, or b) I want to see how long it takes to make the pair of them run away screaming. It’s a great way to read a really fucking stupid religious screech screed, but doesn’t give me the real dirt. You know, the stuff you can only learn by investigating the “making of” a religion.

The Mormons book cover via Goodreads.

The Mormons book cover via Goodreads.

Enter The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion: the Mormons, by David Fitzgerald. ZOMG, you guys! Now, mind you, I’ve been subjected to an hours-long rant about the fraudulicious origins of Mormonism by an enraged ex-Mormon who’d become ex by engaging his brain, and I’d picked up more bits and pieces hither and yon, but this book packages the juicy bits with premium snark. Like so:

So despite all FAIR’s [Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research] smug assertations, it would appear the Book of Mormon’s ancient Nephites had, in fact, not a barley-based, but bullshit-based economy.

Oh, snap. (By the way, barley didn’t show up in the New World pre-Columbus. You might want to ask your anxious young religious salespeople what God did with all the archaeological evidence of these ancient civilizations. Then, after they’ve stumbled through an answer on that, ask ‘em why God mucked up all the Native American DNA.***)

David’s book was as informative as it was entertaining. He’s got great useful factoids like the weight of the mysterious “Golden Plates.” Joseph Smith’s first wife Emma must have been superpowered, because she could lift the box they were in with one hand whilst dusting. Thing is, the buggers weighed more than 198 pounds (50, if God was a cheap-arsed barstard and let his scribes use mere gold-plated plates). I can’t wait to ask about things like that. And the discrepancies in Mormonism’s foundational stories (Jo Smith couldn’t keep his lies straight, poor bugger). And I’ll want to know why there’s so many corrections to “the most correct book on Earth” (62,000 words added or deleted, for instance). And so much more!

The whole book is a rollicking good read, but the most valuable chapter of all is Chapter 14: Talking to the Ex-Mormons of the Future – Today! This was like getting special Mormon-spectacles. They and their bizarre belief system had been sort of fuzzy and out of focus, despite growing up with Mormon friends. Now they’re in better focus. I never quite knew quite how sheltered, terrorized, and lied to, not to mention programmed and brainwashed, the poor things were. Chapter 14 gives excellent advice on how to talk to missionaries. That was worth the price of the book right there. And it quotes our own Greta Christina‘s fabulous Why Are You Atheists So Angry? Awesomesauce! There’s a whole list of things that will help you effectively talk to Mormons – and plant the skeptical seeds that may eventually help them grow out of a very destructive faith. Priceless!

But don’t stop there. Not when you can get Kay Burningham’s An American Fraud: One Lawyer’s Case Against Mormonism. Guilty!

 An American Fraud: One Lawyer's Case Against Mormonism cover art via Barnes and Noble.

An American Fraud: One Lawyer’s Case Against Mormonism cover art via Barnes and Noble.

Before I sing the book’s praises, a caveat: Kay’s a lawyer, not a writer. You will have to gird your loins (or thwack your Inner Editor over the head, slap some duct tape on their limbs and mouth, and bundle them into a closet for the duration). The first portion of the book, her autobiographical bit, does, shall we say, reveal that the author is not a polished prose professional. The flashbacks are more like switchbacks that include several detours, a blizzard, and an impaired driver. Throughout, there are spelling and grammatical errors that demonstrate that a) no professional editor got so much as a glimpse of the book or b) if one did, they were also grievously impaired. The violence done to the common comma will make you weep and perhaps start a charity fund. In other words: this book will win no awards for its literary perfection.

And that doesn’t matter at all.

A flawed gem is still a gem, and a gripping story can survive an amateur storyteller. Kay gives you a raw, honest look at what it means to grow up Mormon: how even an intelligent and skeptical person can fall for a pious fraud. She kept me up all damned night – twice. And just about did for me the rest of the nights. It took a lot of self-control to keep from trying to finish in one marathon session.

Through Kay, you’ll get an inside look at super-sekrit Temple ceremonies (newsflash: they suck).You’ll see how the Church’s misogyny destroys women. You’ll learn why Utah is among the psychiatric medicine industry’s best customers. You’ll learn what it takes to break free of a lifetime of indoctrination. It’s harrowing.

I love the two-thirds of the book devoted to a lawyer’s assessment of the evidence against the Mormon church. You’ll discover the lengths the Mormon church’s elders have gone to in order to keep the flock ignorant. You’ll see the devastating effect the internet’s had on America’s second dumbest religion (you know what the first is). And you’ll learn how the Church could be prosecuted, without disturbing the First Amendment a bit.

This is the kind of book you mark pages in and keep by the door, ready for the missionaries’ next visit. It’s the one you go through, quoting original source material fatal to their religion, until they flee. And the beauty of it is, nearly every primary source Kay cites is or once was a devout Mormon. These are people who were privy to the secrets at the top, people who were there at the beginning, people who did their homework, desperate to restore their faith – and ended up killing it dead. These are people who are still trapped inside. All folks these poor missionary kids will find impossible to impeach. Learning this stuff may free them before they’re in far too deep to rescue themselves. And it’s certainly a book you should give to anyone in your life who’s considering converting.

So there you are. All you’ll need for a rollicking good time the next time the kids in white shirts and dark ties appear at your door. You’ll probably end up on the Church’s do-not-visit-this-house-under-any-circumstances list, but hopefully not before you’ve made inroads on church membership.

Freeing people of damaging dogma is one of the best things we can ever do. Take these keys and open some cages.

 

*One of my friends did give me the Book of Mormon once because she wanted me to understand her faith better. I tossed it on the couch and didn’t give it another thought until my big calico mama cat came in, looked at it, puffed up and hissed, walked waaaay way around it, and sat down staring me in the eye with a “What are you going to do about that evil thing?” look on her face. I trust my cats. I got rid of the book.

**The average human walking speed is roughly 5 kilometers per hour. Based on the length of time the BOM says Lehi and his family took to walk the 407km (straight line) from Jerusalem to the Red Sea, ancient Hebrew families could apparently hoof it at nearly 6 kilometers per hour, and never had to pause for food, water, restroom breaks, sleep, thorns in sandals, heatstroke, etc. for up to 72 hours. Now dat’s stamina!

***Mormons believe barley was introduced by Hebrew immigrants to the Americas long before Christ, and that Native Americans are descended from some of those immigrants. Alas for them, archaeological and biological evidence refuse to cooperate.

 

Someone’s Been Living in an Alternate Reality Again

Ho, hum, another day, another dumbfuck claiming atheists have no basis for morality. I see Avi’s given them a right proper fisking. Good thing he’s a good writer, because this shallow shite’s points look like they came off an apologetics-for-assclowns site. Oh, my heck, does our Avi have patience. I’d’ve chucked this garbage in the trash after the first paragraph. This is just so century before last – ooo, what’s this?

3. A Moral, Simple and Convincing Justification for moral compasses

But it may surprise the reader to learn that a universal and convincing justification does indeed exist. One that is grounded neither in the coercive power of fear of punishment in the hereafter (as offered by most religions), nor in man’s selfishness (as attempted by some secular ethicists). One that is already available to approximately a third of the world’s population. The secular inability to justify the various secular moral compasses is in stark contrast with this moral, simple and extremely convincing justification.

No hellfire-and-damnation? No eternal reward? But not secular? Omigosh, whatever could this magic justification be?!

im-intrigued-tell-me-more

Spill it!

What is this justification if not heaven or hell, you may ask?

I just did! What, you want it notarized? It’s already in writing. Sheesh.

What is able to thoroughly justify an unselfish moral message of neighbourly love? One that promises no selfish reward, yet seems capable of propelling many of its followers to selflessly disregard their own well-being in their efforts to improve the lives of the poor, the ill and the downtrodden in the most backward parts of the world?  What if not the fear of hell or the reward of heaven can propel one to act in this way? Why ever disregard your own wellbeing for the benefit of others?

What’s this reminding me of? Oh, right.

Heffer and Filburt encounter difficulties whilst dressing up as Mr. Bighead. Just one of the countless delights that awaits those who watch Nickelodeon's Rocko's Modern Life, now available on Amazon Instant Video! WOOT!

Heffer and Filburt encounter difficulties whilst dressing up as Mr. Bighead. Just one of the countless delights that awaits those who watch Nickelodeon’s Rocko’s Modern Life, now available on Amazon Instant Video! WOOT! Click the photo for the cartoon with a quote for every situation.

Heffer: This guy’s asking too many questions! What do I do?

Filburt: I don’t know… mmmmmm… Punch him!

Nah. Awesome episode, but one must not take (many) life lessons from cartoon shows, no matter how great. Violence isn’t the proper response to a pompous arsemunch. My moral compass is pointing due-Exit. These flip-flops are made for walkin’, which is what I’ll do if Doofus doesn’t get to the point soon.

This non-coercive, moral, simple and extremely convincing justification seems unique to none other than the Christian message and faith.

Bwah-ha-ha!

The primary justification of the moral compass from the Christian message seems neither to be fear of God nor that of hell.

Stahp! STAHP! Owowow my ribs!

*snifflesnortwheeze* Woah nellie, you sure are a hoot! That’s some premium comedy right there, I mean, wow, I can’t even – what, what, you’re serious?

This makes Christianity quite distinct from other religions that usually hold this coercive type of justification only.

Um.

skeptical cat

You know, that’s an interesting interpretation of the subject, but the founders of Christianity would like a word with you.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” - Matthew 3:11-12

 

“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” - Matthew 7:19

 

“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” - Matthew 10:28

 

“Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!” - Matthew 13:40-43

 

“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.” - Mark 9:43-48

 

The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. - Mark 16:16

That Jesus Christ fella was a real shit, always running around and threatening non-believers with eternal torture, and dangling a nice, shiny Heaven in front of the sheeple who’d swallow his shit whole. He’s clearly got nothing to do with Christiani – oh, dear. Apparently he does.

Also, too, and furthermore, it looks like a lotta Bible-believing churches didn’t get the memo about “grounded neither in the coercive power of fear of punishment in the hereafter… nor in man’s selfishness.”

Church sign: Where will you be sitting in eternity? Smoking or non-smoking

Image via Postkiwi.

Billboard: Without Jesus Christ (image of pitchfork) You'll spend eternity with Me! (image of Satan)

Image via Mindspring.

Church sign: I kissed a girl and I liked it. Then I went to Hell.

via Lucien Maverick’s Blog.

Church sign: Son screen prevents sin burn.

via Jonathan Sigmon

Billboard: It's your choice... heaven or Hell. Read John 3:36

via Friendly Atheist

Ah. Right. John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” Yes, very… “grounded neither in the coercive power of fear of punishment in the hereafter… nor in man’s selfishness,” that.

Gee. I wonder what Jesus would say about those signs?

Buddy Christ via eBaum's World.

Buddy Christ via eBaum’s World.

Considering the dude was always on about “fire” this and “wailing and gnashing of teeth” that, I don’t imagine he’d have any concerns.

Look, I could go on for the rest of the year with the awful Bible verses and shit Jesus spewed – believe me, it wouldn’t be difficult to find Christian after Christian who’s firmly convinced that we’ll get rewarded or punished by Big Skydaddy depending on whether we slobber on Junior’s sandals adequately or not. Plenty more who’ll tell you there’s a hell and a heaven, and your good and bad acts determine which you end up in. People have been converted to Christianity, kept trapped in it, by that particular carrot-stick combo. So don’t try to sell me this bullshit about Christianity having some amazing unique non-coercive moral rationale, because it’s coercive as shit. I can’t help it if you happen to be an assnugget with severe reading comprehension problems and a talent for convincing yourself that up is down and strong-arm is gentle persuasion. But don’t come around to atheists and try to sell that rancid pile of rotten fish, unless of course you like having your nose rubbed in it. Capisce?

Here endeth the lesson. Have a nice day.

Discoveries and Delights, Including Kitten

Yes, I’ve been rather scarce over the last several days – a sorry state of affairs that should soon be changing, now that I’ve made a slight adjustment to my meds that allows me to stay awake for more than an hour at a time. Huzzah!

I missed FtB Conscience this year, but should this network pull off that insanity next year, I intend to take the plunge. By then, I should have Flood “geology” to talk about, and hopefully shall split your sides with laughter whilst teaching you how to read rocks in the apoplectic face of a creationist. Hee.

Haven’t lain idle this weekend, my darlings, despite the lack of blogging. I’ve been occasionally applying nose to grindstone, gone out for an adventure, and exercised ye olde upper body by swinging toys for kittehs. Even whilst laying idle, I haven’t been idle! Allow me to report:

1. There are a lot of very interesting books on the fraud that is Mormonism out there. I shall have a full report on two of those soon – finishing the second one now. The first I read was David Fitzgerald’s The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion Book One: The Mormons. Oh, my heck, people – it was hilarious. Frequently infuriating – I mean, these are real people being suckered, and I know from experience many of them are nice folks and excellent neighbors. But still, funny. David’s a wonderful writer and I’m dying for the rest of his guides. You can catch a podcast with him from Sunday’s Atheists Talk. I’ll be tempting you into buying the book later on.

Interlude with Kitten:

Luna with one of her all-time favorite toys.

Luna with one of her all-time favorite toys.

2. I did science! Well, science research. And got stuck on radiocarbon dating – for some reason, my brain couldn’t process the fact that there are two dates: 14C yr BP and Cal yr BP. Brought me to a complete stand-still, that did, because I knew the second one was the adjusted date to match calendar years, but I had no idea why there were two dates to begin with. I mean, why not just put the corrected date in and be done with it? So I scrambled off for a quick lesson on Wikipedia, and discovered it’s a consistency thing. Now it makes sense! And I found a handy little calculator for dealing with uncalibrated 14C yr BP. Simple! This has all made me inordinately excited, but it’s nice to have that stuff click, and get past the block. Even easy-peasy stuff like this is harder to do when you’re teaching yourself, but with the internet, all things are possible, frequently in about ten minutes.

Interlude with kitten.

Luna's next-favorite new past-time is attacking boxes. She really gets in to it.

Luna’s next-favorite new past-time is attacking boxes. She really gets in to it.

3. I found a wealth of sources on the geology of Discovery Park, including (drumroll please) a paper by our own Donal Mullineaux! Yes, that’s right – the man who, with Rocky Crandall, scrambled to keep up with Mount St. Helens’s antics and keep folks safe during a major eruptive phase worked on Discovery Park, too. Woot! Tie-in! Really, this got started simply because I was trying to correct an old post for republication on Rosetta Stones. It was supposed to be quick and easy. But you know me: I start small and it builds. I start rolling a little ball for a diminutive snowperson, and the next thing I know, the ball’s at the bottom of the slope, is about a thousand feet in diameter, and I still have to do the torso and head, not to mention find the largest carrot on earth for the nose. Good thing I know where to find some extra-large coal for the eyes…

Interlude with kitten.

DIIIEEE BOX DIIIIEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DIIIEEE BOX DIIIIEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4. I took B out to Richmond Beach, home of some of my favorite boulders in the Seattle area. I have no idea where this red sandstone came from, but it has personality and I love it.

Mudcracks, people! Fossilized mudcracks! WOOT!

Mudcracks, people! Fossilized mudcracks! WOOT!

Puget Sound has apparently been thieving from the rip-rap along the railroad tracks, because this boulder belongs up by the tracks, not down on the beach. Lots of great boulders up there, with mudcracks and ripple marks galore. And there’s a spot where the wave energy is so low because of the boulders that there’s this little lens of very fine sand that was a delight to bare feet. And then the tide came roaring in, and I got to play with liquefaction as I walked through the waves. Poor B didn’t have his flip-flops, so he was stuck navigating driftwood to stay dry. Still. Outstanding outing.

Interlude with kitten.

Luna and Kirby out playing in the yard.

Luna and Kirby out playing in the yard.

5. We spent a lot of our time stuck beyond the kitteh event horizon. I gave one of Misha’s old feathers-onna-string-onna-stick toys to Kirby and Luna, seeing as how Misha hasn’t so much as looked at it in at least two years, and when we waggled it at her to ensure she hadn’t changed her mind, got very angry at it. In the above photo, Luna looks like she’s stalking her brother, but she’s really after the feather toy. They’d chase that, then each other, and leap and run and collide, and it is a gigantic time suck that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

6. Kick Ass. Seriously. ZOMG I bloody love this movie and can’t believe I haven’t seen it before now. After I’ve seen it again, I may put together a missive about girls and superheroes and role-reversals and about how people lose their shit over that sort o’ thing, but for now, I’m just – wow.

Interlude with kitteh.

Got Misha this thing called Pulp Friction. Catnip infused. She seemed briefly high, which is a change from her past.

Got Misha this thing called Pulp Friction. Catnip infused. She seemed briefly high, which is a change from her past.

7. MMA. Silva vs. Weidman. I’d been in Oregon, busily getting chased by yellowjackets and having the time of my young life with Anne, Chris and Lockwood, so I missed it. Luckily, B recorded it. We’ve been working our way through to the main event for the last few weeks, complicated by the fact that the kitten keeps pulling our attention away, and there was a Cards Against Humanity game, and… Let’s just say, though, it was bloody well worth the wait. BAM. Yes, I do love MMA, especially when unexpected things happen.

8. Quality time with kitteh. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Misha these last several days. She’s been very snuggly, wanting to curl up against my arm and occasionally have a tummy-rub, and getting mad if I have to get up. Needless to say, been doing lotsa reading. And dozing off. And dividing time between bed and porch. We had an excellent long lounge in the sunshine and shade today. Then she got offended when I decided I wanted to sketch some stratigraphy rather than snuggle some more. Silly beast.

Another with her fake log. She's actually hunkered down with it at least once a day for several days - a new record for a cat toy.

Another with her fake log. She’s actually hunkered down with it at least once a day for several days – a new record for a cat toy.

9. Speaking of stratigraphy… I’ve been staring at the Olympia Interglacial sediments, trying to make some sense of them. A soft-sediment deformation expert I am not. But I did some poking round the intertoobz, looking at various and sundry, studying some photos of similar bluffs which have had their soft sediments explained, and part of the structure clicked. Could they be… ripple marks? Later, when doing my stratigraphy sketch from a diagram in Mullineaux et al, and copying down his observations of the different layers, I came across his interpretation of just that bit of bluff: ripple marks.

People, I hope you’ve all experienced little moments of triumph like that, where you’ve scrambled to pull together enough knowledge to make a somewhat-educated assessment of something, not sure you’re really getting it, and then getting verification from an expert that yes, indeed, you got it right. It’s not a world-changing thing. It’s something that other people can tell at a glance. But getting it for the first time, that’s a huge moment. Knowing that you did this, that you can do this… that, to me, is why learning is its own reward.

So it’s been a weekend full of discoveries, and Discovery, and food and fun and friends and furry critters who make it nearly bloody impossible to get anything done, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Especially since I’ll soon be able to share my discoveries with you, which makes them all the more exciting. Also, there will be videos of kittehs playing. Coming soon!

Gotcher a nice sunset. Took lots of photos of this one. I'm collecting lots of really beautiful pictures from here and there, the kind of things you see on inspirational posters. I'm going to make my own inspirational posters, complete with Bible quotes. You know, quoting the worst, bloodiest, most intolerant or bizarre bits of the Bible. Heh.

Gotcher a nice sunset. Took lots of photos of this one. I’m collecting lots of really beautiful pictures from here and there, the kind of things you see on inspirational posters. I’m going to make my own inspirational posters, complete with Bible quotes. You know, quoting the worst, bloodiest, most intolerant or bizarre bits of the Bible. Heh.