A heat map of religiousity and social ills

This nifty graphic is pretty cool, even if you’re not a biology dork who sees it and thinks “Ooooh, it’s like a heat map for gene expression! Yay!” …Or something along those lines. (Click image for larger, readable version) While nifty, remember this type of visual shows correlation, not causation. Religiosity doesn’t necessarily cause poverty, lower IQ, and increase crime. If I had to make a hypothesis, I would say it’s likely that education or the lack thereof is the real driving force behind these things, including religious belief.

Regardless, this does nicely illustrate one thing: Religious belief doesn’t necessarily lead to a better, safer, happier world. The next time someone claims that theists are morally superior and that all of our societal ills are caused by godless heathens, show them this nice little chart.

Church is too girly, and this article is too sexist

Rarely a day goes by that I don’t find something on the internet that makes my head explode. Seriously, this blog is starting to get so negative. I get linked to so much mind boggling garbage; you guys need to start sending me happy awesome stuff to renew my faith in humanity.

But until then, here’s more stupid shit:

Real men don’t like going to church because they don’t want to “sing love songs to a man”, because the “vicar wears a dress”, because they feel like “mongrels on parade at Crufts” and because they want to be waited on by women rather than queue for coffee after the service.

Okay, that’s an interesting hypothesis. It would annoy me if this was the case, but I’m being realistic. I’m sure there are plenty of guys out there who like to make ludicrous gender stereotypes. What exactly should churches do about this? The charity Christian Vision for Men has some suggestions:

These include redesigning the interiors of church buildings to make men feel more at home. Instead of the usual flowers and statues of the Virgin Mary, they suggest, “How would it go down to decorate with swords, or pictures of knights, or flaming torches?”

Because I know all men decorate their abodes with swords and knights and torches. Well, at least the ones into Dungeons & Dragons.

The charity continues: “Maybe it’s not ‘politically correct’, but men quite like the attention of women! They also like to be waited on – so long as they are not made to feel guilty. Instead of having to queue for coffee, why not ask some of the women to go round with trays of coffee and biscuits or chocky bars? Coupled with a charming smile, many men would find that very attractive!”

…So let me get this straight. Christianity, which is notorious for its patriarchy and oppression of women, is still not manly enough? We need to go back to the 1950s and have women do their duties of serving men? I’m surprised they didn’t suggest the women make them a sandwich while they’re at it.

“Jesus, I am so in love with you,” or “Beautiful one I love, beautiful one I adore,” – many men wouldn’t sing that to their wives, let alone another man, the charity advises. …

Men don’t want to feel brainwashed by reciting words that they don’t believe: “The language can be offputting, even the word ‘love’ has undertones of the love of a man for his woman – they’d rather ‘admire’ or ‘respect’ another man. Think how they will respond if called to be Jesus’s lover, or to be ‘intimate’ with him. Don’t play into Satan’s hands by using language that he has corrupted.”

So not only is it unmanly to love your wife, it’s kind of gay to love Jesus, because Satan changed love to include icky homosexuality.

I was going to make an “I love Jesus! No homo” joke, but the internet beat me to it.

Oh, and the brainwashing part? Yeah, I think that’s always been a bit of a problem, girly decor or not. Kind of may explain why so many people are becoming atheists. But apparently women love being “brainwashed by words they don’t believe,” because we’re just mindless coffee-serving baby machines, after all.

Other suggestions to attract more men:

  • Don’t talk about “Jesus’ love, compassion and grace” because they’re “not male concepts.” Men are all robots and leave all that silly worrying to the little ladies.
  • “Men want to know about his great decision making and leadership,” because men have to be the head of the house, you know!
  • When holding men’s group discussions, pick topics like “pornography,” which men obviously love and women have no interest in talking about (lest we offend their fragile sensibilities).
  • Play the World Cup during services. Because all men love sports, and much rather watch them in church than in the comfort of their own home or a pub.
  • To correct for the previous point, start holding church services in a pub! The only downside to offering free beer is that you’ll likely attract a bunch of godless heathens who are just using you.

You know what? I kind of like this marketing idea. Yeah, it’s horrendously ignorant, offensive, and constructed on both male and female gender stereotypes. But it’s going to attract manly testosterone filled douchebags who are too homophobic to sing songs and expect women to wait on them. Religion can have those assholes. Atheism will gladly take all the thoughtful, open-minded, non-douchebag men that you scare away.

Though the one flaw in that plan is all the religious women who will have to deal with being transported back in time 60 years. We’ll take them too, once they realize they need to escape.

Ask President Obama to support Darwin Day

DarwinDay.org has a petition online asking President Obama to issue a proclamation recognizing Darwin Day.

Dear President Obama,

As an American who values scientific inquiry and integrity, I urge you to issue a presidential proclamation recognizing Darwin Day on February 12. Darwin Day is celebrated every year on the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday in 1809, and is a day in which people gather together to commemorate his life and work. Charles Darwin was the first to propose the groundbreaking scientific theory of evolution by natural selection—a theory that has done more to unify and bring understanding to the life sciences than any other—and Darwin Day is a celebration of this discovery and of scientific progress.

I believe that issuing this proclamation will send a powerful message that scientific discovery and integrity in our society are top priorities—priorities that are needed now more than ever as extremists with narrow ideological agendas are attempting to undermine science in our schools.

Please stand with me and countless others who value science and discovery by issuing the following or a similar proclamation on Darwin Day.

As an evolutionary biologist and a big Darwin Day fan, I urge you to go sign it. I’m not sure what the odds are that Obama would want to go pissing off a significant amount of creationist Americans, but might as well try.

Why do people forced to convert keep that religion?

Forced conversion and religious warfare is common throughout history. Millions of Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam from 1000 to 1500 AD, conquistadors forced Christianity on indigenous people in America, African slaves in the Americas were forcibly converted to Christianity by their white masters…and of course, let’s not forgot the Spanish Inquisition and Crusades.

I don’t blame people for converting when faced with death and destruction. If my life or my friends and family were on the line, I would be speaking in tongues and praising Jesus in a heartbeat.

But why do people keep believing long after the threat is gone? This question baffles me, especially with more recent converts like those with indigenous or slave ancestry. I hear so much about retaining culture, not succumbing to white influences, being proud of your heritage…but this is hardly ever applied to religion. So many Hispanic people have some indigenous heritage, yet Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion. African Americans are known for their lively, charismatic churches that are a large part of their culture. Why would you want to hang on to something that was forced on you by oppressive, murderous people? How can such cruelty convince someone that that religion is worth joining? Is it just that religious belief is so powerful that you can trick yourself into genuinely believing something for your own well being?

This is just an honest question I’ve thought about occasionally, and was currently prompted by a post over at Womanist Musings about retaining African American heritage. I’m not trying to troll or be culturally/racially insensitive – I freely admit that I’m ignorant about this issue, which is why I’m asking. I’d especially like to hear from minorities whose ancestors were affected by this sort of thing, or people with background in sociology/psychology/history/etc.

Friday Feminist Roundup

No, I don’t plan on making this a weekly tradition – I’m not organized enough to have required themes for certain days. I just have a bunch of feminism related articles that I’ve accumulated throughout a busy week, and I figure I’d dump them all at once.

  • Australia bans porn containing female ejaculation and small breasts. Why? Apparently they think female ejaculation is just urination and fake body fluids. Yeah, not sure how it can be both. And the small boobies? Apparently if you’re an A cup, that’s too close to pedophilia. Thank you Australia, as if women weren’t insecure enough about their bust size, now a huge group is too creepy to think about sexually because they’re not womanly enough. Awesome.
  • School district pulls Diary of Anne Frank because Anne, a developing young woman, dared to talk about vaginas. Apparently female genitalia is the most horrifying aspect of the book, not the fact that she was forced to live in hiding from fear of death and then later died in a concentration camp. Overprotective parents are awesome.
  • In case games for girls weren’t mollifying enough, you can now get a Ouija board in pink! Because apparently the gender neutral versions don’t channel ghosts who can answer girl specific questions like “Who will call you next?” and “Will you be famous?” Come on, we all know girls only care about talking on the phone, becoming the next Paris Hilton, and pink woo bullshit.
  • Being attractive and feminine in the sciences isn’t easy. Go read about this chemist who also happened to be an NFL cheerleader, and the stereotypes she faced along the way. I actually think being more of a tomboy has helped me avoid negative stereotypes – which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

The creationist persecution complex continues

My friend Mike, who blogs over at Politics and Pucks, recently posted a little rant on the conservative and religious environment around Cincinnati, OH. Such a rant cannot be complete without mentioning the Creation Museum, which he did several times. Apparently the Creation Museum is a lot like Beetlejuice – say its name too many times, and one of their representatives will pop up crying “Persecution!” Mike, feel honored that you hurt their feelings enough to get a comment from Mark Looy, co-founder of the Creation Museum:

So the implication is that Bill Cunningham is also a bigot because he supported the Creation Museum after the Cincinnat Zoo — during the Christmas season — stopped its promotional package that offered families a discount to visit both attractions. The zoo yielded to the pressure of dozens of intolerant (often hateful) people who demanded that the zoo stop its ticket partnership with us. And somehow Mr. Cunningham is a bigot for exposing this intolerance and hate? Mark Looy, CCO, Creation Museum, Petersburg, Kentucky

Dear Mark Looy and other Creationists who Just Don’t Get It,

I am tolerant of your outright lies and delusions in the sense that I will never threaten you or your families and I support your right to freedom of speech. Shame on anyone who has done so, atheist or not. However, tolerance does not equal respect or support, which you have to earn.

Your museum (which I had the misfortune of visiting) is a complete sham and an insult to human intelligence, reason, and curiosity. Having a place that supports learning and scientific inquiry even associate itself with you is totally inappropriate. The Cincinnati Zoo should not support the Creation Museum, a World War II museum should not support Holocaust deniers, and an Astronomical Observatory should not support flat Earthers. You are absolutely no different from these wacky fringe groups. Freedom of religion does not mean we have to think you’re awesome and suck up to you.

Until you realize this, I have every right to point and laugh at you, just as you have every right to put dinosaurs munching alongside Adam and Eve. Crying about how you’re a victim and those godless scientists are the real meanies is only going to continue making you the laughing stock of America.


Godless Scientist Meanie

Fatwa demands isolation and 101 lashings for 16 year old rape victim

There are times to be eloquent, level headed, and respectful in our discussion of other cultures and religions. This is not one of those times. What the flying fuck?

Rape victim receives 101 lashes for becoming pregnant

A 16-year-old girl who was raped in Bangladesh has been given 101 lashes for conceiving during the assault. The girl’s father was also fined and warned the family would be branded outcasts from their village if he did not pay.

According to human rights activists, the girl, who was quickly married after the attack, was divorced weeks later after medical tests revealed she was pregnant. The girl was raped by a 20-year-old villager in Brahmanbaria district in April last year.

Bangladesh’s Daily Star newspaper reported that she was so ashamed following the attack that she did not lodge a complaint. Her rape emerged after her pregnancy test and Muslim elders in the village issued a fatwa insisting that the girl be kept in isolation until her family agreed to corporal punishment.

Her rapist was pardoned by the elders. She told the newspaper the rapist had “spoiled” her life.

“I want justice,” she said.

I don’t need to point out how disgusting this is, but it’s something that needs to be shared. People need to know that misogyny and down right insanity is still alive and well in our world. We can argue back and forth if this is the fault of Islam, culture, or some mix of the two. There are those that will argue that religion isn’t the problem, it’s simply people using religion as an excuse for their horrible actions.

But you know what? Religion isn’t exactly helping the situation, is it? A religious ruling to isolate and whip your daughter because she’s a rape victim is just a tad bit scarier to disobey than a law or social stigma. You may still face legal ramifications or ostracism, but you get the added bonus of God’s disdain, eternal damnation, and all sorts of legitimately horrifying things to a believer. It’s a bit harder to institute social change when you’re being told it’s a divine commandment.

Not all Muslims are women-hating extremists. Let’s hope the moderates continue speak out against these sorts of immoral acts.

Over 100 Russians hospitalized after drinking holy water

This is yet another example of what can happen when people ignore scientific facts for superstitions. The Orthodox Christian holiday of Epiphany was January 19, and the Russian Orthodox have an interesting superstition that goes along with it:

The Holy Spirit, coming down upon the water, changes its natural properties. It becomes incorrupt, that is, it does not spoil, remains transparent and fresh for many years, receives the grace to heal illnesses, to drive away demons and every evil power, to preserve people and their dwellings from every danger, to sanctify various objects whether for church or home use.

Yep, God is apparently so good at water purification, he changes its natural properties…whatever that means. The Russian Orthodox take this very seriously:

People line up in churches to fill their bottles with the holy water which is believed to have a curative effect. Many defy sub-zero temperatures and take a dip in an ice hole to cleanse themselves of sins and take advantage of the heath-giving properties of Epiphany water as it is thought that any water on this day, be it tapped water or a pond, becomes baptismal. The number of “walruses” increases by the year. In Moscow, some 60,000 people are expected to enjoy Epiphany bathing. The holy water doesn’t spoil and therefore needn’t be kept in a fridge.

And what’s the result?

More than 100 Russian Orthodox believers have been hospitalized after drinking holy water during Epiphany celebrations in the eastern city of Irkutsk, an official said Monday.

A total of 117 people, including 48 children, were in the hospital complaining of acute intestinal pain after drinking water from wells in and around a local church last week, said Vladimir Salovarov, a spokesman for the Irkutsk Investigative Committee.

Salovarov said 204 people required some medical treatment after consuming the water, the source of which was a stagnant lake. He said, however, that it was too early to say what caused the illness.

You know what? I have a feeling they’ll discover that it’s caused by some sort of bacteria or parasite in the stagnant lake, not by the priest praying incorrectly.

While these sorts of studies are fun for giggling at people who hold ludicrous beliefs, they’re also useful. People often argue that religion and science occupy different realms of knowledge, and that science cannot test religious claims. That is totally false when religion claims to affect the natural world. Here’s a simple test:

1. Get water from a pond on January 18th (this is your control)
2. Let priest pray on it for Epiphany.
3. Collect water from the same pond on January 19th.
4. Make observations:

  • Have all (or any) of the microbes in the water been destroyed?
  • Has the concentration of harmful chemicals decreased?
  • When left out, does the control water spoil and the holy water not?
  • When administered to ill patients in a double blind study, does the holy water significantly increase their health? (Okay, maybe giving pond water to sick people isn’t ethical…)

5. Repeat at multiple water sources.

If my hypothesis that Science Wins is supported, that falsifies their religious claims. They are outright wrong. It’s not a matter of opinion, it’s not a separate magisterium, and it’s not something we should respect. It’s a false claim with consequences. How many adults and children need to get sick with scientific explanations before people give up their superstitions? How is it ethical for churches to be telling all of these people that it’s safe to drink from this water when it’s not?

School bans the dictionary because it’s too sexual

We can stop worrying about Harry Potter, Catcher in the Rye, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower when it comes to banning books. Folks, we have bigger fish to fry: Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.

After a parent complained about an elementary school student stumbling across “oral sex” in a classroom dictionary, Menifee Union School District officials decided to pull Merriam Webster’s 10th edition from all school shelves earlier this week.

School officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the “sexually graphic” entry, said district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus. The dictionaries were initially purchased a few years ago for fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms districtwide, according to a memo to the superintendent.

“It’s just not age appropriate,” said Cadmus, adding that this is the first time a book has been removed from classrooms throughout the district.

…Really? The dictionary is now corrupting our youth? Give me a break. First of all, how many kids sit down with the goal of reading the entire dictionary and will accidentally stumble upon a naughty word? Or more importantly, who fucking cares if they do? Heaven forbid if parents have to explain things to their children. Are we going to require gender specific dictionaries now, so little girls can’t accidentally find the word “penis”?

There are already plenty of fifth graders who know stuff about sex. The dictionary seems like a fairly benign source of information when you consider where else they’re hearing things from – or not hearing things from, which is often the most dangerous scenario. I was in 5th grade during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, so I quickly learned what oral sex was. Did I immediately run out and start sucking dick? Of course not.

Thankfully some of the parents in that town are rational human beings, so hopefully the dictionary won’t remain banned:

“Censorship in the schools, really? Pretty soon the only dictionary in the school library will be the Bert and Ernie dictionary,” said Emanuel Chavez, the parent of second- and sixth-grade students. “If the kids are exposed to it, it’s up to the parents to explain it to them at their level.”

I dunno. Bert and Ernie are two dudes living together. That may be a bit to homoerotic for small children to handle.

Scientologists “heal” Haiti victims by touching them

“Volunteer ministers” from the Church of Scientology are descending upon Haiti to help quake victims. That’s great! Oh, wait, how are they helping them? By using magical touching powers to reconnect nervous systems:

“We’re trained as volunteer ministers, we use a process called ‘assist’ to follow the nervous system to reconnect the main points, to bring back communication,” she said.

“When you get a sudden shock to a part of your body the energy gets stuck, so we re-establish communication within the body by touching people through their clothes, and asking people to feel the touch.”

Thank you, Scientology, for being completely worthless and insane. People are injured and dying, and you’re going around poking people. You’re doing more harm then good by making people think that they’ve actually received some sort of medical care, when you haven’t done diddly squat.

I love the skeptical quote from the doctor, which sums up things quite nicely:

Some doctors at the hospital are skeptical. One US doctor, who asked not to be named, snorted: “I didn’t know touching could heal gangrene.”

Indeed. Maybe the Scientologists could enlighten us on this wonderful healing power? It would certainly make universal health care more viable, if all we had to do was touch people.