Praise the water!

It’s strange how the people who most advocate sympathy and rapprochement with religion are blind to what religious people really think. Here’s another case where Josh Rosenau complains that I misunderstand what the faithful were trying to do with their prayers for the Gulf…and then goes on to do exactly as I said the apologists should stop doing. He ignores the religious part of these prayer events. He says, as if it is refuting anything I say, that prayer reduces stress, has positive physiological effects, brings communities together, etc., etc., etc. It’s utterly clueless, and in a bizarre, twisted way, thoroughly disrespectful of religious thought, which I kind of admire, but doesn’t fit well with his message.

You know why people go off in groups and pray to God to stop the oil spill? Because they really hope that God will miraculously stop the oil spill.

Is that so hard to understand?

Josh babbles on about how people go to church for the daycare or the socializing or the activities, and that their “gatherings are about how the community will survive the crisis they’re facing more than they’re about prayer”. Condescending much, Josh? Do you ever talk to religious people? Because no, many of them are quite sincere in their faith and actually do believe their God does something. If I walked down to the local fundie church and suggested to members of the congregation that they were really there just for the coffee and cake, they’d give me that pitying look and tell me I really don’t understand church.

And do you imagine that atheists don’t believe that community is important? We know it is. We’d like to build communities that don’t rely on superstition and lies to function, though. We’re also honest enough to state that we think believers are wrong without trying to pretend that they don’t really believe.

My detestation of that patronizing attitude was prompted by a link I was sent to another appeal for prayer to help the Gulf. This one is more Newagey than Christian, but it’s the same sentiment: Magic incantations to a supernatural entity will fix everything.

A way for us to help heal the Gulf
Yesterday we received a letter from Dr. Masaru Emoto, who many of you will recognize as the scientist from Japan who has done research and publications about the characteristics of water. Among other things, his research reveals that water physically responds to emotions.

Right now, most of us have the predominantly angry emotion when we consider what is happening in the Gulf. And while certainly we are justified in that emotion, we may be of greater assistance to our planet and its life forms, if we sincerely, powerfully and humbly pray the prayer that Dr. Emoto himself has proposed.

“I send the energy of love and gratitude to the water and all the living creatures in the Gulf of Mexico and its surroundings. To the whales, dolphins, pelicans, fish, shellfish, plankton, coral, algae, and all living creatures . . . I am sorry. Please forgive us. Thank you. I love you. “

We are passing this request to people who we believe might be willing to participate in this prayer, to set an intention of love and healing that is so large, so overwhelming that we can perform a miracle in the Gulf of Mexico.

We are not powerless. We are powerful. Our united energy, speaking this prayer daily … multiple times daily … can literally shift the balance of destruction that is happening. We don’t have to know how, we just have to recognize that the power of love is greater than any power active in the Universe today.

Please join us in often repeating this healing prayer of Dr. Emoto’s. And feel free to copy and send it around the planet. Let’s take charge, and do our own clean up!

David Anselmo

Glenwood Springs

Love is greater than any other power? I don’t think love is even stronger than gravity, which is the weakest of the four fundamental forces. If Mr Anselmo trips, all his love won’t keep him from falling flat on his face.

But, you know, I’m still pretty sure that he earnestly believes the fol-de-rol he’s written down, and that he’s not just scribbling up such absurdities because it helps with his blood pressure. I’ll grant him that much.

Just in case, next time I flush, I’ll have a little chat with the toilet bowl and let the water know I’m rooting for it, before I flush and send it off to the Mississippi and down to the Gulf. It’ll ease my stress even if the waste water is otherwise inattentive. That should make Josh happy.

Julia Gillard inspires a lot of polls

The godless Australian PM, Julia Gillard, has sure riled up the pollsters. Here’s three polls at once to slam. Start clicking!

Do you care at all about Julia Gillard’s lack of religious faith?

* Yes 33.71%
* No 66.29%

Hey, what’s the difference between “No” and “Don’t care” in this poll? And what does it mean that it will affect their vote? This is a remarkably meaningless and uninterpretable poll.

Will your vote be swayed by Julia Gillard’s stance on religion?

* Yes, it will affect my vote 29.35%
* No, I’ll still vote the same 45.21%
* Don’t care 25.45%

This one is the only interesting one — does godlessness influence you in a positive way? Too bad it’s an internet poll, because we can’t tell from these kind of data.

Are you more or less likely to vote for Julia Gillard given she is an atheist?

More likely 39%
Less likely 34%
It’s not important 27%

The Woman Problem

It’s an odd way to put it, I know, but it gets your attention. I could have called this the Atheist and Skeptic Problem, which is more accurate, but leads people to start listing all of our problems, starting with how annoying we are, and just for once I’d rather not go down that road. So here’s the Woman Problem, and it’s not a problem with women: it’s a problem with atheist and skeptic groups looking awfully testosteroney. And you all know it’s true, every time I post a photo of some sampling of the audience at an atheist meeting, it is guaranteed that someone will count the contribution of each sex and it will be consistently skewed Y-ward.

Why? And what are we going to do about it?

Obviously, the way for us to answer these questions is for me, the loud and assertive male, to pontificate on the issues and tell the women what’s wrong here and how they can fix it. That would be the manly thing to do, after all — let’s take charge and tell the little ladies what to do so we don’t look quite so sexist when the all-male review prances about on the stage. More tokens, please, join us up here! Make us look good!

But no. I think the right answer is for us males to shut up now and then and listen. It’s not for us men to tell women how to fix our (both men and women) problems, but if we’re to have a lasting and equitable representation at the tables of atheism and skepticism, the guys who currently dominate need to step back and stop pushing.

I was thinking about this because I was reading Skeptifem’s take on the absence of female skeptics, and my first reaction was that it was pretty good, but I had some little disagreements here and there where I thought I could put together a quick blog post with plusses and minuses listed…but then I realized that these are the problems she honestly sees. These are real obstacles in both perception and reality, not an academic exercise. Shut up and listen, I told myself.

So I’m going to try something a little different. Instead of telling you my opinion, I’m going to forgo the essential principle of blogging (which is “Me! Me!”) and just ask people, especially women, to leave links to their godless/skeptical feminist blog or make suggestions or gripe or tell me what these stupid male-dominated conventions have to do to correct the imbalance. I know there are some great blogs out there run by women — Skepchicks and Greta and Ophelia and more — so share more wealth. Skepchicon 2010 is happening this weekend, so people can nag me there, too. I shall be a passive receptacle for your ideas.

I do have to make one suggestion (the testosterone compels me) for something I’d really like to see happen. Skepchicon 2010 is terrific, but it’s fairly small in scale. Meanwhile, Atheist Alliance International is sponsoring all these big noisy conferences, and lately they’ve been themed: Copenhagen was Gods and Politics, Montreal will be Atheists Without Borders. I think what we really need is a Women and Secularism conference, organized by women and for both male and female freethinkers, where the women call all the shots and bring together all these great homogametic speakers — while the women are always the minority at these conferences, there’s still always great talent, and looking over the lists of past speakers it would be easy to put together a stellar female cast. All we need is some uppity women with ambition to make it happen, and the application of a little pressure to the staff at AAI.

Oh, and guys: in this thread, unless you’re sincerely trying to be fem-friendly and make positive suggestions and ask for more information and read attentively, take a back seat for a bit, OK? It’s not that hard to do.

The Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life

One of the outcomes of the Copenhagen gathering of atheists was the formulation of a set of principles. It has now been posted on the web, so it’s time for everyone to discuss, comment, and criticize…have at it!

The recent Gods and Politics conference in Copenhagen adopted the following Declaration on Religion in Public Life. The conference was the first European event of Atheist Alliance International, and was co-hosted by AAI and the Danish Atheist Society.

We, at the World Atheist Conference: “Gods and Politics”, held in Copenhagen from 18 to 20 June 2010, hereby declare as follows:

  • We recognize the unlimited right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief, and that freedom to practice one’s religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.
  • We submit that public policy should be informed by evidence and reason, not by dogma.
  • We assert the need for a society based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. History has shown that the most successful societies are the most secular.
  • We assert that the only equitable system of government in a democratic society is based on secularism: state neutrality in matters of religion or belief, favoring none and discriminating against none.
  • We assert that private conduct, which respects the rights of others should not be the subject of legal sanction or government concern.
  • We affirm the right of believers and non-believers alike to participate in public life and their right to equality of treatment in the democratic process.
  • We affirm the right to freedom of expression for all, subject to limitations only as prescribed in international law – laws which all governments should respect and enforce. We reject all blasphemy laws and restrictions on the right to criticize religion or nonreligious life stances.
  • We assert the principle of one law for all, with no special treatment for minority communities, and no jurisdiction for religious courts for the settlement of civil matters or family disputes.
  • We reject all discrimination in employment (other than for religious leaders) and the provision of social services on the grounds of race, religion or belief, gender, class, caste or sexual orientation.
  • We reject any special consideration for religion in politics and public life, and oppose charitable, tax-free status and state grants for the promotion of any religion as inimical to the interests of non-believers and those of other faiths. We oppose state funding for faith schools.
  • We support the right to secular education, and assert the need for education in critical thinking and the distinction between faith and reason as a guide to knowledge, and in the diversity of religious beliefs. We support the spirit of free inquiry and the teaching of science free from religious interference, and are opposed to indoctrination, religious or otherwise.

Adopted by the conference, Copenhagen, 20 June 2010.

Please circulate this as widely as you can among people and groups who advocate a secular society.

I would also add — use it. It’s the result of a formal consensus by a large group of atheists, so even if you disagree with bits and pieces, it’s at least a clear statement of principles that you can use in discussions with public officials. Ask your local politicians if they agree with it, and if not, why. Try to get it read into the public record, too.

Neandertals were Nephilim

Hold onto your hats, don’t be too shocked, but a creationist has lied about science. I’m constantly getting email from fundagelical groups insisting that I must obey and join their One True Faith, and I got one from the Worldwide Church of God aka Radio Church of God aka Grace Communion International aka whatever the heck they’re calling themselves this week. They’re kind of a quirky, long-separated splinter group of the Seventh Day Adventists with their own idiosyncratic theology, but one thing they definitely are: stark raving mad young earth creationists. I was sent this bizarre article, “Cavemen are people, too!”, that grossly misrepresents the science of the recent neandertal genome sequencing. Here’s their summary of the work:

What did the scientists find? Simply put: Neanderthals are human. There was virtually no difference between the two codes. The few differences they did find were so slight that researchers say that they are functionally irrelevant–and that if more Neanderthal genomes could be compared there might be no differences at all!

But that is not all the scientists found. The data suggests Neanderthals are as closely related to humans as Chinese are to Germans, or French to Javanese. Furthermore, the genetic material analyzed indicated that Neanderthals and humans interbred and produced offspring that interbred–and regularly.

Uh, no. Did they even read the paper?

The work by Pääbo’s team found that Neandertal’s were distinct and different from modern humans in a small but significant number of ways; they were our close cousins, but they were also a separate and unique population. The differences were small — 78 genes were identified that were fixed to a different form in modern human populations — but they definitely weren’t irrelevant: everyone is rather excited about the genes associated with the development and function of the brain that differ between the two. The stuff about being related to Chinese, Germans, etc. is totally garbled. What the researchers found is that there was some transmission of Neandertal genes into human populations that were ancestral to Europeans and Asians, but not to Africans. They did not find evidence of regular interbreeding — they found that Neandertals made a small contribution to European and Asian DNA, on the order of 1-4%. And most of this was a result of a few early interbreeding events in the small but rapidly expanding population of modern humans expanding out of Africa.

They didn’t understand the paper at all, and got most of the conclusions completely wrong. You can guess what they conclude, though.

Did you get that? All those supposed pre-man, caveman bones are actually just plain old human skeletons.

It is a startling admission for evolutionists because it throws a monkey wrench into conventional evolutionary theory.

And then they’re off and running. All those prehuman fossils? Either man or monkey, nothing in between. Transitional fossils? If there aren’t any differences between man and ape-man, than there can’t be any. It’s all just “DNA passed down from generation to generation” (Yeah? So?).

The heart of their argument is that one class of ancient hominids had so few genetic differences from us that their differences are negligible, and therefore evolutionary theory is all wrong. It’s bizarre; don’t they realize that we expect that the genetic differences between sibling species recently separated will be much smaller than those between species separated by long periods of time? The discoveries in the Neandertal genome are what we expected, and fit just fine into evolutionary theory.

The author of this little piece instead decides that “science proves the Bible correct”, and that the Neandertals were actually the pre-Flood Nephilim, part of the mob of evil, warring bad guys who motivated God to kill everyone except Noah and his family. Same ol’, same ol’.

The shacking up poll

Julia Gillard, the new Prime Minister of Australia, is unmarried…but she has a boyfriend, a partner, a…a…paramour, which brings up the horrific possibility of a leader of the country living in sin in official accommodations. Oh, lord, I’m getting the vapors just thinking about it.

And now the Sydney Morning Herald is getting all fluttery over it, too. Why, what kind of role model can she be if she refuses to obey the strictures of Church and Convention? You can vote, as well, although the Australians are already looking pretty pragmatic about the whole silly commotion.

Do you agree that Julia Gillard’s de facto lifestyle is a bad influence for women?




Gillard was in a radio interview, and look at what she said:

This morning during a Melbourne radio interview, the new Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard was asked point blank:

“Do you believe in God?”

Her reply:

“No I don’t, John”

The Australian news media must be in a total meltdown right now. If a major American politician said something like that, Fox News would be howling about it 24/7. There’d be demonstrations on the mall in DC. Televangelists would be calling down hellfire. Good ol’ boys would be sighting in their rifles.

Say…I just checked the front pages of a couple of Australian news sites. This satanic revelation isn’t even mentioned. What’s wrong with Australia? And can we get the same infection?

Yay! We’re now free to join campus Christian hate groups!

This makes me so happy. I’ve long wanted to join those lovely conservative Christian groups on campus that have until now restricted membership to heterosexual believers, and now I can. The Supreme Court has ruled that universities may refuse to recognize campus groups that violate non-discrimination policies.

Hey, but I didn’t want to join them. I guess the good news is that any organization that tries to claim university affiliation while telling the gay kids at school that they’re hellbound will get slapped down hard and cut off from funding. That’s good news, too!

Oh, and that reminds me — we’re going to have to reboot the UMM campus atheist group again after a year of neglect, while I was on sabbatical. And my daughter, who was the head of it, has moved away to Madison, Wisconsin. So any UMM students who read this blog out there, who’d like to get involved in campus freethought? Email me.

And of course, Christians and heterosexuals are welcome, as are atheists, agnostics, deists, various philosophical weirdos, gay people, asexuals, zombies, and deities major and minor.