What a Sick, Twisted Little Worldview They’ve Got

One of the greatest pleasures I take in being an atheist is not having to really dig for evidence that God’s pissed off and not slacking off in the smiting department.

Fundamentalist Christians have this desperate – actually, pathological – need to believe that humanity’s nothing but worthless pieces of shit deserving of God’s wrath. Disasters don’t just happen in their world. It’s got to be God, using natural processes to bitch-slap people for straying from the straight-and-narrow. Floods in the Midwest? Smiting the sinners! Fires in California? It’s all about teh gays! Something awful happened to you? What did you do to get up God’s nose? It’s your own damned fault!

That’s more destructive than the floods, fires and other assorted castastrophes. Folks like to claim religion’s a wonderful and positive thing in one breath and then claim God’s an indiscriminate, hateful bastard in the next. And it warps people badly.

I’ve known deeply religious people who use every little setback to flay themselves with. You couldn’t fill a pea with the self-esteem they’ve got left. They spend all of their time obsessing over every tiny detail, every infintesimal misstep, bewailing their badness. “I have a hangnail – it must be God punishing me for looking at nudie pictures!” “I slipped on a wet sidewalk in a rainstorm and twisted my ankle – it’s my fault for not going to church last Sunday!” The slightest mistake followed by the teeniest misfortune is proof positive God’s mad at them and they’ve got atoning to do.

Some of my friends were almost destroyed by that mentality. They’re paralyzed, terrified of getting the slightest detail wrong and bringing down the wrath. God’s not so much loving father as evil control freak – and yet they claim He loves them.

If it was really God punishing them all out of proportion to their supposed sins, we’d have a word for it: abuse.

The truly God-fearing are a sad bunch. But the self-righteous fuckwits who love to point to every disaster and crow about God’s vengeance against [insert fundie bugaboo here] are just downright evil.

How shrivelled a conscience do you have to have to respond to other people’s suffering not with sympathy and a desire to help, but smugness? “You brought it on yourselves,” fundie fucktards like Ray Comfort announce. “God’s getting you back for not toeing his impossible line.”

Never mind that Christians are suffering right along with the sinners. That doesn’t matter to despicable religious frothers like Comfort (a misnomer if there ever was one). No, to prove that their God’s the biggest, baddest, toughest, and smitiest god evah, they’ve got to explain every misfortune as his punishment for transgressions, and if the innocent suffer alongside the guilty, well, it just shows how powerful and angry God is, right? The energy these people expend in finding the reason God’s so pissed at places like Iowa is remarkable. Comfort actually had to go and search for some natural disasters in California to explain that no, really, God’s not letting that gay marriage thing go without pointed comment. How fucking pathological do you have to be to believe that this is a) a useful thing to do and b) that it proves God exists and is worthy of worship?

A religion based on fear and guilt isn’t moral, or just, or worth having: it’s a mental illness.

It leads to fear, and hate, and self-righteous fuckwits like Ray Comfort.

So I just have one question for these masochists: if your God is so all-knowing and all-powerful, exactly why is it that the assclown needs to resort to indiscriminate arson and flooding to get his point across? Doesn’t he have the knowledge to sort out the real sinners from the decent folk, and the power to smite selectively? Wouldn’t it make more sense, wouldn’t it be a more potent example, to single out those who’ve given him the one-finger salute and strike them down in a fashion that can be explained by nothing else than a seriously outraged deity?

The religious frothers will try to answer that. They’ll torture logic beyond recognition to try to prove just how mysterious and awesome God is, and all they can prove to an atheist like me is that they’re nuts. Every time they try to point to some natural catastrophe and twist definitions to prove Goddidit, they’re showing how weak their argument really is. They dump more proof that God doesn’t exist right in my lap, which is already overflowing with proof aplenty.

And they’re showing how fucked-up and sad their little worlds are.

That’s why I have to say, “Thank you.” Thank you, Ray Comfort, and Jerry Falwell, and Jason Lerner, and all your ilk, for reinforcing my happy atheism. People like you prove to godless sorts like me every day that we’re not missing a damned thing by dismissing the God delusion.

What Kind of Atheist Are You?

I’m in way too mellow a mood tonight to be laying the smackdown, and I think we’re all tired from a weekend of insane politics (and beating up Ken Ham, which was just more cathartic than I can describe), so let’s do something fun together.

No, not that. Mind out of the gutter, you! Yes, you – I see you smirking there in the back.


So here’s the bone (shadupshadupshadup!) I want to throw you:

I’ve been doing a fair bit of hanging about with various and sundry atheists in non-cyberspace lately, and I’ve noticed a spectrum. I’ve not done enough hanging about with atheists to really get a clear perspective, but I’m seeing some broad categories:

The militant atheists who’d love nothing more than to stamp out the last bit of religion – verily see it as their duty to do so;

The newly-arrived atheists who’ve just come out of the soul-shredding experience of rudely losing their faith and who are starving for confirmation that there really is life after religion;

The long-term atheists who’re tremendously comfortable with their godlessness and truly enjoy poking sticks at fundies just to watch ’em howl;

The easy-going atheists who think just about everything’s a bit of a lark, especially the silly things religious people do, and love nothing more than having a good-natured laugh over it all;

The live-and-let-live atheists who have no problem with believers who aren’t viciously trying to force their belief on others;

The who-the-fuck-cares atheists who are too busy caring about other things to give religion much thought at all, despite being surrounded by frothing fuckwits like Ken Ham (yes, I just couldn’t resist another poke – he’s such an easy target);

…and many more, I’m sure.

The point is, just like you can’t label a religious person a definite way just by virtue of them being religious, you can’t know everything about an atheist just because they’re an atheist. “Atheist” is just the big-tent label that contains a huge variety of folks. I’ve even heard of conservative atheists, although how someone can be rational enough to abandon religion and yet still buy into conservative philosophy in the current climate, I still haven’t figured out. Maybe there’s a conservative atheist around here who could enlighten me.

I wish I could tell you where I fall on the atheist spectrum. Honestly, I’m still not sure. I know I’m not militant, although there are days when I just want to take every believer in the universe by the scruff of the neck and shake the faith right out of them – we all have those days, especially after dealing with Ken Ham. But religious moderates don’t actually bother me, when I stop to think about it. After all, there’s the good believers at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, who fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the secular folk in a valiant effort to keep religious fuckery out of the public sphere. There’s my many faithful friends, who believe in a wide range of God, gods, goddesses, and other assorted supernatural beings, most of whom are rational enough not to fall for woo despite the religious streak. Their faith makes them happy, it’s not something they force on a single other soul, and there’s no way I could bring myself to take it from them. So, militant I am not, despite the fed-up days.

And who the fuck needs a label, anyway? We are who we are: complicated human beings, too complex for labels to fit most of us neatly. So let’s consider it a banquet. Which atheist dishes do you heap on your plate? Do you take a heaping helping of militancy with a side of fundie-poking? Do you load up on there’s-room-for-everybody, but pick out the Ken Ham because that just ruins the flavor? Are you newly arrived and scarfing up a bit of everything while you figure out what’s most to your taste?

And how do we show the world that there’s not a single entity behind this term “atheist,” but a whole smorgasboard of godless goodness?

So That’s Where My Smack-o-Matic Went!

Paul at Cafe Philos gives John Freshwater a sound spanking, thus saving me the necessity:

There are a lot of John Freshwater’s out there. And, intentionally or not, they are doing their best to undermine the nation’s science education.

I pity the kids who because of some fool teacher will grow up without an understanding of evolution.

I’ve given you a mere sip of the nectar. If you haven’t had time to read the full report of Freshwater’s fuckery, you owe it to yourself to get on over to Cafe Philos and see the whole saga laid out in unrelenting detail. Paul puts many of our nation’s journalists to shame.

While you’re over there, if you’re one of those who hasn’t sampled Paul’s delights, you really must. Go on. Indulge.

Then head on over to Going Down Bitter in the Hinterlands for a post on the march to war with Iran that’s guaranteed to curl your hair – and have you screaming mad. It’s one of the best examples of using others’ words against them I’ve seen in a long while. Bitter lays out each quote in chronological order like a carpenter hammering nails into a coffin – that coffin being the final resting place of any doubt that the Bush regime has been steadily driving this country to the brink of war with Iran. We’re being played like they played us into Iraq. Well, Bitter deals back.

After your blood pressure’s calmed a mite, you can troop over to Decrepit Old Fool for a sharp-eyed look at suicide and religion:

Christianity starts with the premise that we’re all unworthy sinners, who deserve to burn in hell unless we’re redeemed by the sacrificial blood of Jesus. That’s a recipe for depression, not a cure. You can’t tout salvation from guilt manufactured by your religion itself and then try to claim the high road.

I’ll give you a hint: religion doesn’t fare well. George, you see, is a kind and gentle man, but he’s the kind of critical thinker that should have fuckwits like Ken Ham shaking in their shoes. The fact that people like Ken Ham are too willfully stupid to realize their being torn to shreds is beside the point.

Finally, by way of a palatte cleanser, you’ll be delighted by what John Pieret’s brought us by way of the latest on Expelled. Yes, there’s more!

Lucky Canadians are getting a chance to see what happens to IQs when subjected to certain versions of religious belief that require that brains be put on hold so as to not get in the way. Peter McKnight of the Vancouver Sun, who I’ve found to be a reliably intelligent and sensible voice on the topic of science and religion, has a look into Stein’s misshapen stepchild and turns up some interesting — and highly amusing — tidbits.

Trust me when I say that even after all this time, there’s still supreme fucktardeness to be mined from Expelled. Oh, yes. Yes, indeedy.

For bonus fun, go enjoy yourself John’s wonderful smackdown of Ken Ham. It’s amazing what this man can do without wielding a single expletive.

Dear Ken Ham: You Suck Leper Donkey Dick

This requires escalation.

Dear Ken Ham:

You are the boil on the ass of humanity. You’re an infantile fuckwit whose insistence on the truth of fairy tales promotes nothing but ignorance and hate. I’ve known syphillitic penises smarter than you (and this is after the disease has progressed to general paresis). You, sir, suck leper donkey dick, and moreover I believe you swallow.

America has imported some shoddy products, but even the melamine-tainted pet food was of more benefit to this country than you. At least the pets who survived the onslaught retained their brain function and had full tummies. The poison you spew is far more dangerous than any amount of lead-based paint or corrupted cat chow: at least those things are not pushed upon the population under the guise of “religion.” If ever a case could be made for screening and rejecting immigrants based on general stupidity, you would be Exhibit A.

You have infected this country like ebola. Answers in Genesis was foul enough, but at least school children weren’t likely to have their young brains mashed into pious pulp by the rampant fuckwittery there. But you had to open your Creation Museum, the most disgraceful building ever to squat on American soil, in order to indoctrinate innocent children with your Young Earth Creationist crap. For this, sir, you can never be forgiven. There is at present no cure for infections like you, but isolation and containment can still be employed, and I believe the bleach of extra-strong ridicule may be beneficial. Judging from the way you howl when it’s applied, it does appear to have some effect, a fact for which I am grateful.

We should have applied these emergency measures before you got your pestilenial hands all over the Pentagon. This country has already suffered a long and devastating illness imposed by a born-again fucktard with God delusions galore. Our military is already sick with the disease of Christian proselytizing. It hardly needed a psychotic, lame-brained, willfully ignorant, incessant God-botherer such as yourself oozing his way into the highest military circles. But fanatics like you get aroused by others’ pain, don’t you? If your insanity infects the men with the missles and causes a global catastrophe, you’ll believe it’s “God’s plan.” You not only believe the Earth is young, you’d like to see it die that way.

Well, you lackwit, fantasy-prone, bonkers bonehead, I hope that if your supreme idiocy leads the boys with the bombs to make a spectacular mistake, you survive the ensuing fallout. I hope you’re one of the sorry-ass motherfuckers who has to shamefacedly come up with yet more lame excuses as to why Jesus is late.

I’d tell you to get your despicable ass out of my country, but I wouldn’t wish you on the rest of the world. May I just suggest, however, that you take your good news about Jesus to Saudi Arabia? I hear they’re very eager to have Christian missionaries come visit. Put your money where your bloody mouth is, you insane son of a bitch, and try to impose your religion on the infidels. Go on. I double-dog dare you.

But you’d never do that. You’re a pure fucking coward. You can’t even face the evidence of evolution, for fuck’s sake. You’re nothing but a one-bit con man. You’re just a sad little shyster who’s unfortunately found a pool of willing victims, and you’d never do anything half so courageous as actually risk your pathetic life for your faith.

I have things growing in my toilet that are more of a boon to humanity than you. After all, science may someday be able to isolate a new antibiotic from those growths. No such luck with an infestation such as you.

Have I offended you? Good. The offense is mutual. Just ask Answers in Creation, Creation Ministries International, and all of the other Christians you’ve managed to piss off. They’re just as annoyed as the scientists, atheists, and other rational human beings who have had to put up with your rancid stench.

Now fuck off.

Dana Hunter

Morals Come From Plenty of Places Other Than God

In Summerian mythology, the gods sent a flood to wipe out humanity because humans were too noisy. Enlil didn’t appreciate being kept up at night. Seems it never occurred to him to just ask the silly buggers to keep it down.

I can sympathize. My neighbors threw a party tonight, and it was like pulling teeth to get them to understand that some folks around here don’t appreciate noise after midnight. They got it on the third try. Note to Enlil: you don’t always need a flood.

Now, a Christian might ask me, without God to point the way, what kept this atheist from trooping down there with a shotgun and playing Enlil? Morals, you see, can only come from God, in their worldview. An atheist, having no god, has nothing to keep them moral, or so the muddled thinking goes.

I’ve been reading Hitch’s The Portable Atheist, and there’s some deep philosophical musings in there trying to demonstrate that one can have a solid foundation for morals without God. They all overshoot the mark. They get all hard-core logical and miss the simple truths: empathy and rationality are all you need.

Atheists, you see, have no trouble thinking things through, and seeing it from the other bloke’s perspective.

So here’s what stopped me from ending the noise pollution in the most final way possible:

First, I know the poor buggers were just unwinding after a long week, probably had a few in them, and weren’t really aware of just how much they were irritating the poor bugger above them who was trying to relax after a long, hard day of watching the House sell the Fourth Amendment down the river.

Second, I would greatly appreciate it if my neighbors registered their displeasure at any noise I created with something other than a weapon. A simple “knock it the hell off” will do.

Thirdly, even if it were somehow permissible to end someone’s life over something as petty as excessive noise, there’s the family and friends to think about. I may not love these noisy buggers right now, but someone does, and it would make me feel a right bastard to cause them no end of pain and grief simply because I can’t put up with temporary discomfort.

There are of course ten dozen other reasons I can think of for not offing my neighbors, but I don’t think I need to belabor them. In a civilized society, you don’t go all amoral and start the indiscriminate killing just because you don’t have a god to tell you not to. You leave the other bugger alive because you have empathy, and because you know that society would soon cease to function if everybody had a license to kill.

I’d even go so far as to say that it’s easier to be moral without God. Let’s play a hypothetical game. Let’s say it’s perfectly legal to off your neighbor for disturbing you. Let’s say there’s no law against it. What’s to keep me from trooping downstairs with murderous intent, then?

A Christian might say, “Nothing, if you don’t believe in God.”

To which I say, “Bunk.”

And let me further state this: absent any law forbidding me to murder my neighbor, I’d still have a hard time killing him over a temporary irritation, and indeed a harder time than a Christian might have. You see, I don’t believe there’s life after death. I wouldn’t be able to tell myself, “I’m sending him to a better place anyway.” I’d have nothing to salve my conscience with. What’s the loss of a few hours’ worth of peace and quiet for me, set against the loss of everything for him, forever?

There’s that empathy, again. Because what comes to mind when I think of this is the pain and fear of his last few seconds of life, followed by the pain and grief of his family and friends as they face the rest of their lives knowing there will never be another moment together. Not here, and not hereafter. How could I possibly bring myself to be the cause of that?

God doesn’t have to tell me, “Thou shalt not kill.” My humanity, which evolved as part of this extraordinary brain of ours, tells me that just fine.

I’ll go further: I think that morals arising from us rather than God have greater authority. If we achieve those morals based on common humanity rather than common belief, they’re far more inclusive. I can’t exempt anyone based on ethnicity or creed, you see, because we’re all human. I can’t deny a moral arising from common humanity the way I could deny one coming from the wrong god.

I could go on. There are morals, and then there are mores. Someday, possibly, I’ll discuss the difference between the big, sweeping moral pronouncements (don’t kill each other over petty bullshit) and the morals that are more guidelines than rules (don’t fuck in public). But I think this is enough to get us started. It’s enough to present a simple answer to an inane question: “How can you be moral without God?”

I have empathy and rationality. It’s really all I need.

The Consolation of Faithlessness

PZ Myers recently posted an email on Pharyngula that reminded me of all I left behind:

I’m tormented.

I appreciate the struggle many creationists are having about evolutionary science. I find myself tormented as I observe the world around me.

Quite the cri de coeur, isn’t it? I recognize it well. Now mind you, I was never tormented over evolutionary biology – even in my very brief period of true belief, evolution didn’t bother me overmuch. Thought God was great, didn’t I? Clever enough bugger to have used evolution to create lil ol’ us. My problem with evolution was exactly the same as it is now – I don’t know half as much about it as I’d like.

But trust me when I say I was tormented.

Hard not to be, really, when you’re a thinking person. I observed the world around me, and found a lot of fuckery that tended to disprove the notion of a loving, personal God. Awful lot of killing, raping, stealing, and so forth going on. Too many Christian sects fighting each other tooth and nail over ridiculous bits of doctrine. Too many other religions out there that had good ideas and good people believing in them. Too many contradictions between the evidence of the Bible and the evidence of my eyes.

Those pat answers about things all being part of God’s plan, sometimes the answer to a prayer is “no,” bad things happening because of some kind of sin, none of that sat well with me. I couldn’t swallow it.

One of the reasons was that my paternal grandmother died in terrible pain. And the more religious I got, the more it didn’t make sense. Live a good life and you’ll be rewarded. God will take care of you if you only believe. Well, she lived a good life. Never smoked, never drank, never blasphemed. A kind, generous Christian woman got eaten alive by breast cancer. I remember one of her arms swelled up to grotesque proportions because her cancer had metasticized. I remember her pain and hot flashes. And yet she bore it all, and as far as I know never wavered in her faith. How to reconcile that with a God who can perform miracles? I know others manage to explain it away as part of a mysterious Plan, but when I thought about it, I couldn’t put my faith in a God who would allow a good woman to die hard.

It wasn’t just her.

I had Hindu friends. Fantastic people whom I loved very much. And according to my church, God would condemn them to everlasting torment for worshipping the wrong gods.

My life was suddenly constricted to a list of outmoded moral prohibitions that made about as much sense as putting child rapists in a position of authority over alter boys. Set a foot wrong, and I’d piss off God. And really, who knew what pissed God off? It seemed God was awfully fickle in what was allowed and what wasn’t.

We’re told to pray about things, and God will provide. Let go and let God. Put your trust in the Lord. Well, that works better if you’re getting unequivocal answers. Was it coincidence or God’s will that what I prayed for happened? Was it God’s will or just the way of things that what I prayed for didn’t happen? How the fuck was I supposed to know when the bastard didn’t have the decency to tell me outright? Why speak to some people, but not all of us?

I could go on, but any of you who’ve ever flirted with being a true believer knows exactly what happened. It was probably my writing that saved me from years of torment and cognitive dissonance. You see, I had to study up on science for the worldbuilding, and the more science I read, the more rational my thinking became. Answers I couldn’t find through prayer, I could find through science.

It wasn’t just science. I wasn’t writing a Christian series, and it wasn’t like aliens were likely to have heard the gospel of Christ anyway, so I had to study comparative religion to get an idea of what their faith might look like. And a lot of those religions made more sense to me than Christianity. Many didn’t claim an omnipotent Creator who liked to poke his nose in and occasionally cock the finger to smite. The Divine suddenly seemed a lot bigger than expected, a lot more remote, and a lot more comfortable.

So some of the torment vanished when I became agnostic. It still didn’t go completely away. All religions make claims that you can’t prove, many of which don’t make any sense. And the more science I read, the more I started seeing that every religion was a set of human ideas. Neurobiology explained a fuck of a lot about why we believe what we do. And that prepared me to finally let go of the need for the Divine.

It’s amazing what happened next.

When I lost my faith completely, when I stopped looking for something supernatural behind the curtain, I stopped feeling tormented. The faint worry that I’d earned myself a ticket to a place hotter than Phoenix went away. The conflict between a benevolent Divinity and a harsh world vanished. When there was nothing in my world that wasn’t natural, when there wasn’t a single thing people did that couldn’t be explained by how the brain functions (or doesn’t, depending on who you’re talking about), things were suddenly easier to take. The evil of the world isn’t down to an angry deity or some variety of sin, but is simply a result of humans being humans. And if it’s humans, not demons, not Satan, doing the evil, it’s humans that can stop it.

We don’t have to rely on a deity. We can rely on ourselves.

Some people find that terrifying. They can’t take responsibility. But I’m not one of them. I’m fine with it all being down to our own choices. I think we’ll do a hell of a lot better doing for ourselves rather than expecting God to do for us. It’s too easy to give up when you have a god to rely on. It’s too easy to act the child and expect your deity to take care of you when you should be taking care of yourself.

I got to grow up when I accepted the fact that not once scintilla of evidence proved that some sort of Divine Presence existed. I got to take responsibility. It doesn’t always work out, but at least I have only myself to blame. It’s far, far easier than trying not to blame God.

Not relying on magical thinking gets me to solutions a lot faster. I could do a ritual something to ensure the result I want, or I could take the concrete steps to make it possible. Concrete steps, it turns out, work a fuck of a lot better than magical thinking.

I’ve discovered a confidence I’ve never had before, being an atheist. I’m not constantly pestered by a niggling fear that God doesn’t want me to know, do or understand something. The limits are gone. Since I no longer believe anything’s possible as long as my faith is strong enough, I don’t end up doubting myself half as much. Some things aren’t possible. Some things are vaguely possible. And some things are probable, especially if I take steps to make them so. If something doesn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, I’m not doubting the strength of my faith: I’m
laughing at the ineptness of my planning, or the way that life throws up variables that you never even considered, but which turned out to be rather important. There’s no faith to be shaken, so I’m not asking “Why?” There’s no angry god behind the whys and wherefores, just the vagaries of life.

You can get irritated and angered by, but not at, vagaries of life. Makes it a lot less personal and a lot easier to let go of, that. “I’ll know better next time” has become something of a mantra. There’s a lot more laughter involved with that way of thinking. A lot more confidence that what fucked up my cunning scheme this time won’t happen the next.

There’s no more torment. I’m not locked in to a single path with no alternative routes if something goes wrong. That’s liberating, that is. And that’s why I laugh when people try to tell me I have to have faith.

What possible reason would I have to give up the consolation of my faithlessness? I haven’t found one yet. I doubt I ever will.

Pathetic “Proofs” God Exists

PZ Myers gets some truly ridiculous email. He’s got one now from a woman with 50 “proofs” of God’s existence. A few hours on Talk Origins and other assorted sites would allow me to answer all 50 in great, exact and obliterating detail, but what with the potential FISA compromise bill, McCain’s constant fuckery, a new Carnival of the Elitist Bastards I’m trying to man the June helm for, and research to do on more than one book, I haven’t got time to answer such pathetic drivel. I’m just going to hit the highlights. If any of you are bored enough to take on the full list, by all means, have away.

And head on over to Pharyngula to see PZ’s short, sharp retort to this mountain of drivel.

Right. Let’s amuse ourselves a wee bit, shall we?

1. Whilst agreeing that random patterns occur naturally by chance, DNA however, consists of code, which requires a designer.

Here we go with another one confusing biology with computer science. That’s the problem with metaphors and analogies: there’s always someone who thinks that because a word like “code” is used, that means there’s a computer code in a cell. What else can we expect from Biblical literalists, though, eh?

3. Try praying. What good is it when a mind is set to coincidence & disbelief regarding the positive outcome?

None. All you’re talking about with prayer is pattern recognition, selective attention, and wishful thinking.

10. Why do many atheists shake their fists & spend so much time ranting & raving about something they don’t believe in? If they are no more than a fizzled out battery at the end of the day, then why don’t they spend their lives partying, or getting a hobby?! Why don’t they leave this ‘God nonsense’ alone?

Nothing would make us happier if people like you would just shut the fuck up and stop trying to impose your magic sky daddy on the real world. We spend so much time “ranting and raving” about this bullshit because of you God-botherers.

25. Where do our moral values held within our conscience come from? If the atheist is right, why then would we care about what we did?! If there is no God, then we’ve no-one to be accountable to.

Why are you so morally bankrupt that you have to have a god to hold you accountable?

29. Look at the date/year on our calender – 2000 years ago since what? Our historical records (other than the Bible) record evidence of Jesus’ existence.

The calendar is a social convention, you silly bitch. Ask the Jews or the Muslims what year it is, why don’t you? I’d say ask the Mayans, but the Christians murdered their civilization.

30. Many people have died for their faith. Would they be prepared to do this for a lie?!

Many have. Lessee, off the top of my head: Jonestown, Heaven’s Gate, Branch Davidians…

34. The evidence from liturature & historical studies claim that Biblical statements are reliable details of genuine events.

I suppose someone who can’t spell “literature” also hasn’t read many novels that base the story around real, verifiable places and events. If we went by your standards of proof, nearly every book I’ve read is literally true. Hooray, there really is a Lord Morpheus!

42. Albert Einstein said; “A legitimate conflict between science & religion cannot exist. Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind”.

And someone needs to go look up what Einstein meant by “religion.” Hint: it wasn’t anything that had a personal god in it.

50. Jesus Christ is either who he says he is, or he is the biggest con man history has ever known.

Or he didn’t exist except as an embellished figure. Or he was mentally ill. Or you’re absolutely right: he’s a con. Be careful with your either/or statements: there are people who happily believe the “or.”

The only thing this list convinced me of was it’s better to be an atheist. I’m too old for the mental gymnastics one has to engage in to make God work. What’s sad about this is, even the supposedly “sophisticated” arguments for God don’t rise much above the intellectual level of this tripe.

And people wonder why I don’t believe…

Update: Cousinavi has an eye-popping post up exploring yet more McCain fuckery. If this useless assclown gets elected, I am so leaving the United States.

“Letting Go of God” – A Ramble About An Excellent Film

I’ve only just come back from seeing Julia Sweeney’s film “Letting Go of God.” It’s one of those rare non-fiction films that’s going to make itself a happy home on my DVD rack. The woman is side-splittingly funny, and she’s a godsend to the godless. If it swings by your town, I highly recommend it – unless you’re a Christian who wants to hold on to your faith.

This is the film version of her monologue of the same title. It’s filmed as a stand-up, basically: she’s on stage with a set, there’s an audience, and aside from a few entertaining tricks with the lighting, it’s no different from what you’d see on Comedy Central – except for the subject matter. For those of you who, like myself, just crawled out from under a rock this morning and had no effing clue what this was all about, I’ll do my best to give you a decent recap.

Julia’s one of those rare few who invited the Mormon missionaries in when they came a-knocking. What they shared regarding their faith was so bizarre that it led her to question her own. And yes, hearing the Mormon church history boiled down into a few wickedly-funny lines by a comedienne certainly brings out the ridiculous nature of the whole thing. Angels lead a couple of Israelites to America? In 600 BC, no less. And said Israelites breed like bunnies, one side is good and the other evil, evil triumphs (and becomes the Native American tribes – xenophobic much?), the lone survivor of the good tribe buries golden tablets written in Egyptian hieroglyphics in a New York back yard, which are found thousands of years later by Joseph Smith, who gets high to read them… yeah. What the fuck ever. That mythology deserved the sound spanking it got at Julia’s hands.

At least now I have a weapon the next time the missionaries come calling: Sure, I’ll want to hear their message – if they watch the first ten minutes of Julia’s film with me.

(Heh. Yes, I am evil, why do you ask?)

Julia relates how this incident led her to question her Catholic faith, which led her to attempt to understand it better and answer the question, “Do I believe God loves me with all his heart?” This inspires her to read the Bible. Cover-to-cover. Which…. well, let’s just say the results aren’t pretty. Anyone who has two rational cells to rub together and actually thinks about what they read is going to have a hard time holding on to faith after reading that mess of genocide, rape, slavery, and smiting. Oh, and Jesus annihilating a menopausal fig tree.

Jesus really wanted a fig that day. Damned tree.

She shares Bible stories I’d never even heard of: one in particular is a man who promises to make a burnt offering of the first person he sees upon returning home. That person is his daughter. He burns her alive, and God is pleased. Story after story is related that is like this, and she isn’t gentle with what Jesus said about abandoning family either. The question is raised, and it’s an important one: where do Christian morals come from, when the bulk of the Bible is filled with questionable morality or outright evil? She dug up old memories for me – I remember reading the New Testament many years ago, and realizing the same thing. All that emphasis on marriage and family is in complete opposition to what Christ taught. Seriously. There are verses where he urges people to abandon their families. If this sort of shit came out in an atheist’s book, it would be condemned. Somehow, because it’s in the Bible, it goes through a magic lens that turns it into something pure and good.

That lens stopped working for Julia.

When Christianity proved too contradictory and ridiculous, she launched a search for God in Eastern religions, nature, and various and sundry other places. Where she ended up was atheism. It’s a familiar journey to many who have deconverted – it’s hard to just let go of God without looking for the bastard in plenty of other places first. I found myself treading a familiar path, thinking, “Oh, hey – never realized that was you up ahead of me there, Julia! No wonder you look so familiar.” Only I didn’t have the money or the inclination to go as far as she did – all over Asia and on to the Galapagos, finding nothing but fuckwittery all the way.

Until she encountered Darwin. And those islands that led him to the theory of evolution.

I found that fascinating. You see, I hadn’t needed Darwin or evolution to become an atheist myself, and I don’t know of all that many people who can point to Darwin as the catalyst for their atheism. I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there in the world like Julia, for whom Darwin’s wonderful little book was the final nail in religion’s coffin. But I hadn’t met them. And she said something about it that I found utterly riveting.

It wasn’t just the fact of evolution. Is was that this book was so easy to read and understand, not at all like she’d expected science to be. It wasn’t an impenetrable mystery. She didn’t have to be an expert to get it. And she sure as fuck didn’t have to pull the mental contortionist routine with it – everything in Darwin’s Origin of Species follows a neat, logical path, without glaring contradictions. That, from how she described the reading of it, is what impacted her most. Science wasn’t something only a chosen few could access. Science didn’t deal in absolutes. Science, she said at one point, deals far better with uncertainty than Christianity does, and that was a revelation to her.

There is a hysterically funny moment when she’s talking about dating an Intelligent Design believer, who tells her the eye is far to complex for evolution to have created – it must have been designed. So she read up on the evolution of the eye, and discovered the truth: evolution can, too, create something that complex in increments.

She faces tough questions head-on, and admits that yes, in some places, the atheist’s worldview is less rosy. You have to face death without the comfort of an afterlife. You have to face awful happenings without the comfort of thinking they’re happening for a reason. Now, that last is true for her – not for me. I tend to look at the lousy goings-on in my life through the filter of “It’s happening to me because this shit happens to everyone, and I’m not that fucking special. I can let it kill me or make me stronger. Hmmm, no afterlife – I’ll take the “make me stronger” option, thankees.” But I suppose what she means is a sort of meta-reason, a Divine Purpose, and if that’s the case, then yes, that comfort isn’t there. But wasn’t it always a cold comfort anyway? I feel much better about the lousy bullshit in my life knowing it just happens rather than it happened because God has hisself a Plan for me.

And she makes a huge case for an atheist’s morality being stronger than a Christian’s.

There’s an evolutionary basis for cooperation, altruism, and prohibitions against murder. She lays the case out in a few simple sentences: we have moral rules about not doing bad things because we’re social animals who evolved that way, and codified what evolution had already proved. Social animals that deal well with each other reproduce more successfully. That simple. So morality isn’t something strictly limited to the religious. But beyond that, there’s the fact that we’re forced to act.

God isn’t going to save the world. We have to.

God isn’t going to comfort this distressed person. It’s up to us.

The absence of God forces us to take responsibility, to do something rather than nothing (and praying is nothing – there are few things more useless than prayer, although people like to believe it gets something accomplished). Letting go of God forces us to grow up.

She doesn’t ever state this directly, but the end of the movie talks about her daughter reaching for magical explanations when Julia’s trying to explai
n things like death in rational, material terms. And that struck me: religion is never growing up. What her daughter invented to make herself feel better about things she didn’t understand sounded exactly like the answers most human religions invent.

We as a species have never seemed to mature past the age of four.

And that’s dangerous.

Much food for thought in this movie, to be sure. But it’s not heavy fare. It’s too damned funny to weigh on you. No blog post, especially not one written at three a.m. after a long day’s drinking, is going to do her justice. When you get the chance, see the film. Even if she causes you to let go of God, you’ll likely be very glad you did.

Justice Scalia is Batshit Insane

The single best reason to vote for Barack Obama this November is that he won’t be looking to populate the Supreme Court with Antonin Scalia clones.

McCain, on the other hand, would like nothing better.

Now, 28% of Americans are probably delusional enough to think more Scalias on the Supreme Court would be just nifty. They’re too far gone to convince otherwise. But for anyone sitting on the fence, torn between the pastures of progress Obama represents and the wasteland of Bush-era bullshit McCain represents, I hope the idea of more Scalias infesting the Supreme Court is enough to send you screaming for the Democratic ticket this fall.

Allow me to take you on a romp through the twisted pathways of the “mind” of Scalia.

This post started as a simple concept. “You know, I haven’t mined FindLaw lately,” I said to myself. “Might as well have a gander and see what legal lunacy I can amuse folks with.” And lo! there was material: a column entitled “Does the Constitution Permit Government to Favor Religion over Nonreligion? Justice Scalia Says Yes” by Michael C. Dorf.

Scalia always has the most interesting interpretations of what the Constitution allows. This one is just more batshit insane than most:

Speaking over the past weekend at the annual dinner of an Orthodox Jewish group, Agudath Israel of America, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia claimed that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment should not be construed to forbid government from favoring “religion over nonreligion.” Justice Scalia has made this point before, both on and off the bench, and he may be correct when he says, as he did before Agudath Israel, that such a prohibition “does not . . . represent the American tradition,” but only if one excludes from that tradition the last forty years of Supreme Court jurisprudence.

The proposition that government may not favor religion over nonreligion does, however, represent the current doctrine of the Supreme Court, albeit with a few exceptions. And of course, Justice Scalia acknowledges as much. He offers his view as a challenge to the modern case law—not a characterization of it.

That Antonin – always swimming against the stream of progress, determined to not only return this country to the bad old days when rights weren’t so solidly held by blacks, minorities, and other assorted undesirables, but bump us right back to the Middle Ages. Apparently, he thinks we missed out on some good times.

He has an interesting way of reading the Constitution, considering he bills himself as a “textualist.” Mr. Dorf couldn’t find anything in the text of the Constitution that would support a textualist interpretation that government can favor religion.

At the very least, we should demand strong evidence in the Constitution’s text before accepting the notion that the Establishment Clause only forbids government favoritism of any particular religious sect, but permits government favoritism of monotheism in general. In fact, the text strongly suggests nearly the exact opposite.

The Establishment Clause itself forbids any “law respecting an establishment of religion,” but does not say exactly what counts as an establishment, or as a law respecting one. Still, there is no basis in the text for distinguishing between monotheistic and other religions. The prohibition—whatever its precise scope—applies to “religion” in general.

Two other provisions of the Constitution are especially instructive. The last clause of Article VI provides that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The text does not say that “any monotheist may hold Office” or any such thing, even though the Founding generation was aware of non-monotheistic religions in Asia, not to mention among those native Americans and enslaved Africans who had not been converted to Christianity. To be sure, few if any of the late Eighteenth Century political elite would have imagined that persons of Asian, African, or indigenous descent would hold office, regardless of religion, but the language is striking nonetheless. Even professed atheists and agnostics—also known to the Framers—are eligible for public office, under the plain language of the Religious Tests Clause.

Perhaps even more telling is the language of the Presidential oath set out at the end of Article II, Section 1. It gives the President the option to “swear (or affirm)” his or her intentions to carry out the duties of office. To “affirm” a proposition is the secular equivalent of swearing, and the fact that the document provides this option is a strong clue that the Constitution puts religion and non-religion on an equal footing.

But the fact that the Constitution basically states the precise opposite of Scalia’s belief doesn’t even make the stupid fucker bat an eyelash. He’s apparently reading the thing through neocon-colored glasses. We all know what those do to one’s reading comprehension skills.

Scalia has a history of making batshit-fucking insane, outrageous and generally noxious rulings and remarks. Just for fun, I took a trot through the Carpetbagger archives. I’m going to have to sum up, because ‘splaining would take waaaay too damned long. If anyone ever writes a book on the Madness of Justice Scalia, it’s going to run to ten volumes. In short form.

  • He thinks people who’re still upset with the nauseating Supreme Court decision that handed Bush the presidency back in 2000 should “get over it.” Well, fuck you, too, Antonin.
  • He likes to attend Red Mass, wherein batshit insane Catholic priests try to impose their political preferences on sitting Supreme Court justices. In Scalia’s case, they’re preaching to the choir.
  • He’s spat upon worker’s rights by deciding that employees who are victims of wage discrimination have only “180 days to challenge the initial discrimination in court” – meaning that if you found out only yesterday that your boss has been underpaying you for the past year, you’re shit out of luck. That’s Antonin, showing his love.
  • Jack Bauer is his role model and inspiration. I’m not shitting you. And he’s not afraid to embarrass the crap out of America by proclaiming this in front of senior judges from Europe and North America. As Carpetbagger observed, “Remember, in some legal circles, Scalia is considered one of the giants in conservative intellectual thought.”
  • He’s all for limiting abortion rights. He voted to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, which is just one among a long list of erosions to Roe vs. Wade. Red Mass must have been screaming with joy.
  • He dissented from the majority opinion that said the Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate emissions from cars. Apparently, he likes dirty air just as much as he likes torture, unwillingly pregnant women, and racial segregation.
  • He again dissented from the majority opinion in Hamden, because in his world, a “textualist” reading of the Constitution returns the result that the President should get everything his little heart desires, including the ability to make up his own kangaroo courts for “enemy combatants” and decide when the Geneva Conventions can be used like so much Charmin.
  • And speaking of Charmin, Scalia’s ensured that protections for whistleblowers don’t even achieve the strength of your cheapest off-brand two-ply. Apparently, it’s wrong for people to tattle on the government, corporations, or any other large enterprise that would of course never, ever, trample the rights and dignity of human beings into a bloody pulp underfoot, and then piss upon the remains. Who needs protection?
  • And then there’s this gem, which just has to be read to be believed.

    • I could have gone on. And on and on and on and on. But I stopped with a two-year period, because I think you’ve got enough evidence to base an opinion on by now. The pattern’s exquisitely clear: if a Supreme Court decision upheld the Constitution and protected the rights of ordinary people, Scalia could be counted on to be in the dissent. If a decision shat all over rights and freedoms and then used the Constitution to wipe up, Scalia could be found scrubbing his ass happily in the majority. He’s a noxious son-of-a-bitch. And did I mention he’s batshit insane?

      And did I mention McCain’s big dream is to appoint more justices exactly like him?

      Our stalwart progressive justices are getting too aged to make it through another four years. We can’t afford to elect a doddering old corporate leg-humper who’s going to ensure that our Supreme Court ends up solidly neo-theo-con. If you want to end up living under an American fundamentalist theocracy, fine, pull McCain’s lever. If not, I don’t care what you think of Obama: he’s still the only reasonable alternative.

      Just remember that the Justices who end up on the bench in the next four years will be there for bloody decades. America can’t survive a rabid bunch of Scalia clones for anywhere near that length of time.

      Wasn’t There Supposed to be a Rapture First?

      Damn. And to think I had plans to go to a Julia Sweeney movie with a bunch of skeptics on Friday. Looks like it’s the last thing I’ll ever do:

      An elusive group just outside of Abilene, Texas is claiming the end of the world is coming in less than a week.

      The House of Yahweh recently gave ABC reporter Brian Ross access to their west Texas compound. Yahweh leader Yisrayl Hawkins says a nuclear holocaust will come June 12th and only members of his group will be saved.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but this doesn’t quite follow the Bible’s version of events, does it? Everybody on earth dies tomorrow except for a handful of Texas twits? I seem to recall that we heathens would get to have our bit o’ fun, first.

      But that’s not the funniest part:

      Hawkins has predicted a doomsday twice before.

      A doomsday, you see, not the doomsday. The other two were just warm-ups. You know, the prophetic version of practice shots. It’s too bad the article doesn’t tell us what those doomsdays were – that could’ve provided us endless entertainment.

      Ed Brayton said it best when he said, “Here’s a simple rule I find useful: if you belong to a religious group that has a ‘compound,’ things are not going to end well.” Which may mean that poor ol’ Yisrayl Hawkins has it bass ackwards as far as who survives.

      Of course, this brings to mind two very appropriate songs. You know what’s coming, don’t you? Of course you do:

      Ooo, and a bonus Tom Lehrer I’ve never heard before!