Holy books for the UK government!

The British government has been getting a bit mother-henish lately, arresting people for cruelty to religious texts, and clearly has it in mind to provide special legal protection for a certain class of books. My first thought would be that that is insane, books are mere objects that are easily replicable, and providing for a special privilege that we don’t also grant doorknobs or transistor radios or light bulbs is absurd. But a man named Eugenio has a better idea: we need to leap on the sacred book bandwagon.

I am therefore writing to you today to request that legal protection be accorded to all copies of the three editions of J.D. Jackson’s “Classical Electrodynamics” (ISBN 978-0471431329, ISBN 978-0471309321, ISBN 047130932X).

I believe it ticks all the boxes for a sacred text: by making me understand for the first time in all their clarity and power both Maxwell’s equations, the first step towards a Grand Unification theory that would give a single explanation for all physical phenomena in the universe, and Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, which let me glimpse for the first time the true nature of space, time and causality, it changed my view of the universe and my concept of our place and role in it; it opened my eyes to the beauty and harmony and marvelous complexity of everything that exists; it gave me a clear and understandable explanation of complex and baffling phenomena; it requires lengthy and intensive study under the guidance of learned masters to truly grasp its significance; I tend to swear on it when I need to prove my absolute sincerity and my cat is not around; finally, seeing it defaced, burnt, thrown in a skip, pulped or in any way damaged causes me emotional pain and occasional mild irritation.

I realise it appears to fail the test in important areas – for example, it seems to contain far less made-up stuff than, say, the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon or Dianetics; but in fact, if you look at the exercises section, you’ll find plenty of perfect conductors, infinite planes, and continuous (in the mathematical sense) physical phenomena and bodies. All demonstrably imaginary, as any first-year physics student could easily prove. So in fact there is plenty of made-up stuff, it’s just well hidden, which should make it a better-than-average sacred text.

One thing though might be construed as a flaw – the fact that nowhere in the book, not even in the pre-New Age, 1962 first edition, there is a call to genocide, ethnic cleansing, war or mass rape. In spite of the fact that the title itself refers to classical electrodynamics, there isn’t even a call for the extermination of quantum physicists – something I tended to consider a major oversight in my last year at university, to be completely honest. I’m not sure this will be enough to disqualify it from the status of sacred text, if that should be the case perhaps we could add an appendix with Richard Feynman’s autobiography, which at least contains reference to a couple of punch-ups, as a sort of Saint Dick the Divine’s Apocalypse – although he wasn’t nearly high enough to be compared to the author of the original one, not even in the bit where he tells about Brazil and the bongos.

Although I blew up a considerable number of electrolytic capacitors during lab courses (I tended to get the polarities mixed up with annoying regularity) I haven’t caused any intentional explosive damage to anything/anyone since my mother threw away my chemistry set when I was 12 (and even then, the Kitchen Table Incident was at least partly an accident); therefore, alas, I cannot threaten you with an onslaught of terror, violence and murder in case you should not accede to my request, but I’ll be severely annoyed and possibly even a bit snappy if The Book does not receive the full protection of the law. After all, what matters is how I feel about it, not the actual fact that it is God-, Allah-, Xenu- or Flying Spaghetti Monster-inspired, and I feel very strongly about this.

I am not a physicist, but I’ve read enough of James Clerk Maxwell to be humbled before his obvious holiness, and agree that his works deserve the same or greater protection that we would give to frauds and poseurs like Jesus and Buddha and Mohammed. They never unified electromagnetism; they never even got off their butts long enough to ask the question, “Fuckin’ magnets, how do they work?”

Let’s not stop with Maxwell, either. Give me a minute, I’ll make a list.

Governor Beshear is willing to peddle lies for money. What does that make him?

If any of you are writing to Governor Beshear of Kentucky about the life-sized Noah’s Ark the state will be underwriting, don’t wait for a reply — he’s sending out a standardized form letter, which many people have been forwarding to me. Here it is, in case you haven’t got one.

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about proposed “Ark Encounter” tourist attraction. I appreciate knowing your views.

Bringing new jobs to Kentucky is my top priority, and I believe this project will be beneficial to our future, providing an estimated 900 jobs and $250 million in annual revenue for the regional economy. The theme park is expected to draw 1.6 million visitors in the first year alone. I am excited to have another unique, family-friendly tourist attraction for the state.

The theme park will be funded by private developers at a cost of $150 million. The for-profit developers are seeking state tax incentives under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act – the same program used to help bring the state’s first NASCAR race to the Kentucky Speedway. Any tax incentives the project may receive will come in the form of sales tax exemptions once the project is completed, and as long as it meets the guidelines under the Development Act.

The state has reviewed the project from a legal standpoint and, if the Noah’s Ark application meets our laws, finds nothing unconstitutional about a for-profit company investing $150 million in Kentucky to create jobs and bring tourism to our state. The tax incentive law does not discriminate among religions and was not created specifically to benefit the theme park. The Tourism Cabinet also is in the process of reviewing the park’s application for tax incentives to make sure the project can deliver on certain performance measures. This project is an investment in the future of the Commonwealth and is sure to bring people from across the country to Kentucky.

Again, thank you for sharing your views. As always, please feel free to contact me in the future whenever an issue is important to you.

Steven L. Beshear

I feel like I’ve been slimed reading that.

First of all, it’s not about jobs, and he knows it. That “900 job” estimate is, as near as anyone can tell, a fiction from a feasibility study cobbled together by one of Ken Ham’s cronies, and which no one else has actually seen. The state will be coughing up more money than they’re telling us, too: AiG is already asking for road expansion. What else can we expect them to ask for?

It’s never just about jobs. If it were, the state would be expanding investment in education and would be taxing the churches. There are always other motives behind exactly what the state government will and will not support.

Come on. This project the governor is supporting only reinforces the stereotype of Kentucky as a state full of ignorant hillbillies and gullible rednecks, making the place a laughing stock. Seriously. Fred Flintstone-style dioramas and exhibits of people working with dinosaurs? Dragons, unicorns, and the Loch Ness monster touted as evidence for the Bible? The whole notion of the Ark itself is ludicrous and untenable…and Beshear is simply dismissing reason and evidence to promote superstition and folly in his state. Because it will part the rubes from their cash. That’s cynical and contemptible.

If the governor were sincere in his desire to invest in the future of the state, he wouldn’t be supporting miseducation and lies and a low-class, rinky-tink gang of pseudoscientific poseurs and bible-thumping con artists.

Christmas is over…for good

Don’t ask me why, I just found this little story hilarious, and I didn’t want to wait until Christmas eve 2011 to post it.

While we’re throwing around Christmas hilarity, this story is so ironic it made me giggle: The Next Person Who Says Happy Holidays Shall Be Punched In The Throat. It’s not a humor piece, it’s from an angry Christian who has simply taken the irrational obsession with Christmas being Christian to the unsurprising conclusion that saying something nice that does not promote his sectarian faith warrants physical abuse. Merry Christmas, crazy Christian…and I say it not because I’m afraid of being punched, but because I’m happily stealing the holiday back for the heathens.

Grrrr, bad laptop. Bad!

I’m struggling with some annoying problems with my computer right now: every once in a while, it spontaneously dies without warning, and the system says there’s something wrong with the battery. It’s happened now several times today, always right when I’m in the middle of writing something. I’ve ordered a new battery, but until then, I may be spending some time getting apoplectic with the stupid friggin’ unreliable machine.

Do not be alarmed if updates are irregular, I’m busy punching the keyboard.

The Good Atheist

S.E. Cupp is a peculiar creature: she insists that she is an atheist, but I’ve never actually seen her defend or promote or even accept the idea of atheism. Instead, all she ever does is carp at atheists for being arrogant or smug or militant or whatever the current term of opprobrium might be. I don’t really understand her game, but then, I also don’t really care — she never says anything interesting, either.

But reading her latest column, I suddenly realized what she is: she’s the Good Atheist the believers want us all to be like. Good Atheists don’t criticize religion; they praise it and make excuses for it and pine away, wishin’ they had the faith themselves. Good Atheists do criticize atheism and atheists. They work hard to tell the Bad Atheists to shut up and stop making it hard for believers to be comfortable with their superstitions. Good Atheists love C.S. Lewis, and read theologians in their spare time, and marvel at their wonderful insights. Good Atheists follow right-wing politics diligently, and think theocracy might not be so bad, after all; at least the trains would all run on time, and the criminals and foreigners wouldn’t get so much slack, and church-goers are such good and upstanding members of society anyway — we should be encouraging them.

S.E. Cupp has found a profitable niche. She’s the Token Atheist, the Good Atheist, the Beloved Atheist who affirms religion. It’s sweet and creepy at the same time. I don’t know whether to say, “Poor girl — no principles and no mind, a sell-out to status quo” or “Lucky girl — the Christian majority loves her, and she’s going to be raking in the accolades”.

Personally, I’d rather be the Bad Atheist. At least I’ve got my self-respect.

Oh, and by the way, Cupp’s article has a poll attached to it. She’s pandering to the believers, all right.

Do you believe God exists?

Yes. 63%
No. 28%
I am undecided. 9%

Pretend the question is something a little more interesting and relevant, like, “Do you believe S.E. Cupp is sincere?” and have fun with it.

Dragons. And Unicorns. And God.

People don’t realize how insane the literal interpretation of the Bible can get. There is no room for ambiguity or error in the book of Genesis, so when God tells Noah to put at least a pair of every living thing on the big boat, he didn’t offer any exceptions — therefore, every living thing had a representative aboard.

And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.
Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.

What this means to the Ken Hams of the world is that they can definitively say that every ‘kind’ of creature was on the Ark, so if an animal exists or is mentioned in the Bible, it had an ancestor there. So yes, they claim that dinosaurs had to be on the Ark. The Bible says so!

Which leads to some interesting conclusions. You know what else had to be on the boat? Dragons and unicorns. We have it straight from Answers in Genesis.

Some people claim the Bible is a book of fairy tales because it mentions unicorns. However, the biblical unicorn was a real animal, not an imaginary creature.

Modern readers have trouble with the Bible’s unicorns because we forget that a single-horned feature is not uncommon on God’s menu for animal design. (Consider the rhinoceros and narwhal.) The Bible describes unicorns skipping like calves (Psalm 29:6), traveling like bullocks, and bleeding when they die (Isaiah 34:7). The presence of a very strong horn on this powerful, independent-minded creature is intended to make readers think of strength.

The absence of a unicorn in the modern world should not cause us to doubt its past existence. (Think of the dodo bird. It does not exist today, but we do not doubt that it existed in the past.). Eighteenth century reports from southern Africa described rock drawings and eyewitness accounts of fierce, single-horned, equine-like animals. One such report describes “a single horn, directly in front, about as long as one’s arm, and at the base about as thick . . . . [It] had a sharp point; it was not attached to the bone of the forehead, but fixed only in the skin.”

To think of the biblical unicorn as a fantasy animal is to demean God’s Word, which is true in every detail.

The Unicorn Museum was a joke idea, created to mock the Creation “Museum”, but, ha ha ha, it’s really hard to be more ridiculous than Ken Ham.

Oh, and yes, firebreathing dragons. In a “museum”. To do otherwise would be to demean God’s Word, don’t you know.

And the state of Kentucky is throwing away $40 million in tax breaks on this kitschy exercise in fantasy. Don’t forget the hidden costs, either, or the effect on the state’s reputation.