Well, it’s nice to know she’s not nuts or anything

By now this story, about some pathetic cult member who has pled guilty to the starvation death of her infant son provided the charges are dropped once he comes back to life (a condition I imagine the DA’s office gleefully agreed to), has made the rounds. It would be easily to laugh at this kind of arch-stupid irrationality if it weren’t for the fact it claims the lives of innocent victims. Here’s a poor little kid who died because the adult charged with his care was a deluded idiot, in the thrall of similar deluded idiots. The cult she belonged to was something called “One Mind Ministries”. Replace “One” with “No” and you’re a little closer to the mark.

It’s also tempting to comfort yourself with the reassurance that, at least, this is the sort of thing that takes place in lunatic fringe cults, and fortunately mainstream religion, risible as it is, doesn’t go around killing and hurting its kids as much. This is the point where it’s helpful to be reminded of the tens of thousands of kids sexually molested by benign, trusted, avuncular Catholic priests, and the numerous cases of parents, not belonging to some wacko church obviously on the farthest of far-out fringes, arrested and charged with killing their kids by refusing to take them to doctors for easily treatable illnesses, preferring “faith” healing and prayer instead.

Unreason kills. Period. That one form of unreason happens to gain mainstream acceptance over others makes it no less an example of unreason, and no less dangerous. It’s time to deprogram, not just extremist nutjobs like Ria Ramkissoon, but the whole frackin’ human race from this insidious thing called religious faith.


We had a caller on the March 22nd show who was hearing impaired and we attempted to interact with him via a TTY service. Unfortunately, we didn’t get very far with the caller as the interaction was so painful, but he did get out a rather strange phrase having to do with abortion. Matt and I didn’t get gist of the call, so we moved on.

Some of our sharper fans figured out what the caller was trying to say. He was quoting a rather amusing book title, “BIRTH CONTROL IS SINFUL IN THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES and also ROBBING GOD OF PRIESTHOOD CHILDREN!!”. It’s being sold on Amazon and it’s worth checking out if you’d like a chuckle. Especially check out the description (mostly capital letters), reviews of the book, and its price. If it weren’t so expensive, it might make a nice book for a devout family member.

So, thanks to our caller. The message finally got through.

Recent headline roundup

I’ve been away from the blog several days, but the slack has been more than capably taken up by the rest of the team. Thought I’d pop by with a quick post today with my observations on some recent events in the news and around the globe.

A: Nothing fails like prayer.

Just in is this report about the imprisonment of a Tunisian charter pilot in Italy. It seems that, instead of taking the proper emergency measures when his plane started going down, he chose to pray instead. Result: 16 dead. Now, Christians might gloat that this fellow was Muslim, and therefore this proves that Allah (who is just the Abrahamic God in a different outfit, but hey…) is a false God. And they would, of course, be ignoring all the times that their own prayers fail. But there’s an easy way to test this. The next time a Christian finds himself in an out-of-control aircraft plummeting towards a fiery doom, then he should simply pray. We’ll see how well he gets out of it.

B: He must be really counting on that “forgiveness” thing!

And here’s a hilarious piece about Baptist minister Henry L. Lyons, who is running for the presidency of a prominent organization of African-American Baptist churches. What’s the big deal? Well, only that ten years ago, he held that very position, only to be forced out of it when it was revealed he’d been embezzling millions from the org in order to support his luxury lifestyle, which included more than one mistress. Ah, that superior Christian morality! Can you get enough of it?

Anyway, it all went sour for Lyons when his wife twigged to his extramarital dalliances and burned down one of the homes he shared with a mistress. Go girl! Lyons was later convicted of racketeering and fraud and did some time. And now, he’s not only a pastor once again, he running for the same office he stole from! The man must need a wheelbarrow to carry around balls that big.

“I prefer building on the present and the future and being as positive as possible and really don’t want to go back to that era and talk about those negatives,” says Lyons. We’ll see if Baptist voters share his forward-looking positivity.

C: Reeeding iz hawrd!

In Dallas last weekend, an ambitious Christian Book Expo was held, with the goal of connecting “publishers and authors directly with readers in the evangelical Christian market.” I expect they overestimated the actual existence of readers in said market, because the expo was a dismal flop, drawing only 1,500 attendees. The hoped-for numbers were in the 15-20,000 range.

Well, is this such a surprise? After all, how many different updated Bible translations does one need? After all, the damn thing’s been translated into everything from hip-hop slang to LOLcat, so where else can you go after that? Klingon? And since everyone there has probably already slogged their way through the Left Behind saga, what’s the big draw? Oh well. Maybe they just weren’t promoting Ray Comfort’s new book enough?

D: Uh-oh! Is atheism vanquished?

It looks as if we have ironclad proof of God’s existence after all! I mean, I don’t what else you could possibly call this!

And a quick PS: Only 16 more T-shirt orders needed to get the second print run going. Thanks to all!

When Does Ignorance Become an “Answer”?

As you likely know, Texas recently has become the new Kansas as unabashed YEC and school board member Don McElroy pushes for new education standards in Texas science classrooms. The Austin American-Statesman editorial section has become a really interesting read for any interested atheist. An idea was expressed this morning in the letters to the editor by one citizen, and I wanted to add some input. Unfortunately, my response would be longer than the letters section would allow, so, I am adding my input here:

Claim 1: Each spring supernatural garden fairies make my garden grow using magical techniques that are a mystery to my limited human mind. I know this is true, because I have seen my garden grow each spring. And I can demonstrate to others that my garden grows each spring; so, my garden fairy belief is not based on ignorant faith, because I have demonstrable evidence to support it.

Claim 2: In the beginning, a supernatural being made the whole universe exist using magical techniques that are a mystery to limited human minds. A letter-writer knows this is true, I am guessing, because he/she can see the universe exists. And he/she can demonstrate to others that the universe exists; so, his/her god belief is not based on ignorant faith, since he/she has evidence to support it.

In a letter to the editor in this morning’s Austin American-Statesman, Pat H. noted that science has no answers, but “God does.”

The difference between my fairy claim and Pat’s god claim is that more people believe Pat’s claim, and Pat’s claim (assuming Pat is basing this claim on the Bible—and statically speaking, here in Austin—there are pretty good odds of that) comes with a few thousand pages of pretty much irrelevant window dressing to distract adherents from the fact that the claim is nothing more than a promotion of willful human ignorance.

I’m thinking Pat would likely reject my fairy claim.

So, my question is this: How many distracting details and adherents do I need to add to my fairy story before it stops being a promotion of willful human ignorance and becomes an “answer”?

Shameless self-promotion

The exceptionally intelligent and discerning students that comprise the Penn State Non-Theists have, as a demonstration of their great wisdom, arranged to fly me to their fine University to address an audience of however-many-show-up.

They’ve setup a Facebook page for the event and I’ve decided that I’d rather not speak to an empty room when there are hundreds of seats that we could fill with people of varying beliefs. So, if you’re in the area, or can be in the area, you’re invited as well. If you want to invite some theist friends, feel free.

When: Tuesday, March 31st, 6:30pm-9:00pm.
Where: 101 Chambers, State College, PA

Not coincidentally, March 31st will be my 40th birthday. On the list of ‘Great Ways To Spend My 40th Birthday’…this was very near the top. It’ll be much better, though, if we fill the room and I get to spend nearly the entire time answering questions and having interesting discussions.

Since mentioning this on my Facebook page, the two questions I’ve been asked most often are:

1. Will this be recorded?
2. When will you come to [insert city/university here]?

The answer to #1 is: I don’t know, but I hope so.
The answer to #2 is: As soon as someone makes the arrangements.

I’ll speak pretty much anywhere I’m invited, as long as there’s no out-of-pocket expense to me and as long as we can work it around my schedule (I actually have a real job with limited vacation). Several other university groups have asked and I haven’t turned anyone down…but so far, only Penn State has managed to follow through.

You’re not really going to let your group be shown up by Penn State, are you? Is Penn State really the best university in the world? Are universities in the United States really superior to universities in Tahiti, Greece, Australia, Great Britain and Japan?(I’ve got a passport and I’m not afraid to use it!) Has Penn State managed to out-do the Atheist Longhorns at UT Austin? It seems they might have…

In all seriousness, if you’re able to come to the event, we’d love to have you there. The bigger the turnout, the less actual ‘lecture’ work I’ll be doing in order to accommodate as many questions as possible. I’m much better ‘under the gun’ (just don’t bring a real gun), so let’s put me to the test.

It’s one week from today. Start planning.

Survey research project

Reader Robert Eldredge sent me a request, and I’ve decided to post it here on the blog since I didn’t get around to mentioning it on the Non-Prophets this weekend:

I am in a research methods class for my graduate school program. Listening to several years of the atheist experience and non-prophets spawned my interest in my research topic: How does the threat or presence of hell effect the relationships and lives between religious and nonreligious people. Because we have no funding I will not actually be doing a full on research study, but merely, an in depth proposal. However, because little to no research has been done on my specific topic (that I have been able to find anyway) I will be doing a little pilot study, one directed at religious people, and one directed at atheists. It would be extremely helpful if you could mention this survey on the air, and/or put it up on the atheist experience blog. While all atheists who want are encouraged to answer, I am specifically looking for those that have religious family members or loved ones. I will be asking about their experiences coming out to those people, or, if they have not, why not. As this is a pilot study and I have nothing to offer the participants but my gratitude, I have worked real hard to keep the survey as short as I possibly can, and I think most will be able to complete it in about 10 to 20 minutes. I will be posting the results of the survey sometime in May at my blog importantandsmart.blogspot.com, or people who are interested can go to a website I set up specifically to publish results of the survey: religionpilotstudy.blogspot.com (I did this so I could direct fundie Christians to a website without the rantings of a liberal atheist). The survey is currently open, but will close Saturday April 4th at 11:45pm eastern time. This should give me about 3 weeks to study the results and put together my proposal to be graded for class.

My end goal is that hopefully more research (hopefully it will be me doing the research!) will be done on this topic. People have differences of opinion on religion, but hopefully, if we understand the emotions and attitudes that go along with the differing opinions, how people react when such things come up, and the reasons for conflict, strategies can be developed in dealing with these situations so that these issues need not tear loving families apart, and suffering over these issues can be minimized.

Go help out with the survey if you feel like it.

Don McLeroy’s idea of a real science book

The intrepid crew at the Texas Freedom Network inform us that the reliably moronic Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist who’s devoting his career to painting a bullseye on the educations of millions of Texas students, has found a worthy book on the subject of evolution. What might it be, you ask? The Ancestor’s Tale? Why Evolution Is True? Or Ken Miller’s perennially assigned Biology textbook?

Uh…no. How about: a book-length histrionic rant self-published by a frothing anti-evolution crank named Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr.

Johnson is a wackaloon’s wackaloon, a West Point graduate whose pet projects have included tortured reinterpretations of Greek mythology in an effort to show they’re simply variants of the Adam & Eve story. Yes, it’s bizarre to try to prove your myths have some veracity by referencing other myths; seriously, the guy’s position is that Athena is really Eve, therefore, the Bible is true! But that’s how nutcases like Johnson think. And nutcases like Johnson think the same way monkeys drive trucks.

Johnson’s “thinking” on evolution, which impressed that cretin McLeroy enough for him to refer to the book as “unique,” “insightful” and “important,” includes such gems as the following.

Creationists do not want to bring religion into the classroom… Creationists simply want the God hypothesis brought back into the science classroom, and recognized for what it is—a scientifically valid hypothesis.

What are they doing coming into all of our elementary schools, all of our junior highs, and all of our high schools with a disguised demand that our children embrace their evoatheism? What are they doing teaching our children that they are descended from worms and reptiles? What are they doing imposing their atheistic religious faith on our children when we’re not around? What are they doing sowing atheism in our schools?

The obvious problem here is that it is simply not possible to be a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word, and at the same time, embrace the tenets of atheistic evolution.

What kind of monster parents teach their children that they’re descended from rodents and reptiles?

Come on in, everybody, especially you kids, and join the great evolutionary festivities! Learning about your descent by chance from worms and reptiles will strengthen your faith in “a creator,” with a small “c,” whoever he is.

So you see the kind of “science” textbook McLeroy thinks “deserves a hearing”: a bombastic, hysterical, spittle-flecked tirade by a throughly scientifically illiterate moron, who, like Ben Stein, bases his whole overwrought screed on selling the idea of “Big Science” as some monolithic entity with stormtrooper-like enforcers (the first chapter literally opens with an absurd men-in-black scenario) out to quash dissent.

The egregiousness of all this cannot be condemned forcefully enough, and I encourage everyone far and wide to shine as much light on McLeroy and his pet cockroach Johnson as possible. Bring the absurdity and emotionalism of the creationist anti-science crowd right out into the open, and correct their angry lies with calm, sober scientific facts (which, contrary to Johnson’s ravings, do exist to support evolutionary biology in its totality). Let ridicule and derision drive them back into the obscure darkness of their own superstitious fears, where they belong.

You can’t legislate reality away

While the creotards continue to try to push one anti-science, anti-evolution bill after another through their respective state legislatures, under the guise of “academic freedom,” the NCSE reports that another one of these has died in committee in Iowa. No one is fooled by their attempts to hide their true agendas — slipping Biblical creationism over the transom into classrooms — but that doesn’t seem to stop them. Poor benighted idiots.

Oh, we get email

Been too busy to blog this weekend, so I thought, just in the interest of moistening the drought around here a little bit, I’d offer up some amusement from the show’s inbox.

yup it’s hard to satisfy people that God really does exist.

i just wanna know if you believe in evil spirits??
if there are evil spirits, it somehow will state a fact
that there are more of them which the Bible stated
and it could be a link or can be a connection.

I would just want to know
if you guys have tried this ouja board?
it’s been known to contact spirits or something evil,
maybe if you could get contact with a spirit,
it would show you things in a different level.

scientists don’t believe spirits do exist,
I wonder if they’ve ever tried using materials people use
to contact spirits.

I want you people to try it,
conduct an experiment with it,
just to state a fact,
or may just it be a theory?

we believers of God can’t try it
since we are against to do so for it is a sin
as it was said on the Bible.

Hope i could get a reply once done,
thanks and peace be with you.

Okay, in fairness, I don’t think English is this fellow’s first language. Still, what he’s asking is deliriously fun, isn’t it? He seems to think ouija boards are real and not just a quaint parlor game for drunk people who like giving themselves a little scare. And he thinks the only reason scientists don’t believe in evil spirits is because they’ve never played with a ouija board themselves? That’s just…adorable! So now he wants us to play with a ouija board and contact an evil spirit, and then tell him what it says.

Sure, happy to help. Here’s what I wrote back.

After consulting my ouija board, here’s what my local evil spirit had to say: “Pick up bottle of milk, extra cat litter. Plus TiVO Galactica series finale. Peace out.”

Dress godless for teh comfy!

See? Here they are. Sweet, eh? Thing is, you can’t have one. All the shirts in that box there? They’re all sold. But I am willing to do one more print run. However, I need at least 49 more orders to do so. So flood ’em in, my heathen fashionistas! If you’ve got one of the RDF scarlet-letter Out Campaign T-shirts in your wardrobe, be assured these are every bit as soft, light and comfy. Rub them against your tender nipple buds. The ecstasy!