Yessss…come over to the Dark Side!

One of us! John Cole has seen the light…err, dark?

But from where I stand these days, the only thing I see religion doing in the public sector is gay bashing and telling women, mostly poor and desperate and in deplorable financial and personal situations, what to do with their bodies. I see busybodies deciding what drugs they can dispense to which customers, or deciding that they don’t have to issue a marriage license because of some petty deity that I don’t believe in told them to hate their fellow citizens and ignore the law. In a country in dire financial straits but still spending billions and billions of dollars on education, I see religious folks actively and openly working to make our schoolkids dumber. I see them shooting people who provided a medical procedure, and I see others rummaging through people’s personal lives to find out who hasn’t lived up the word of God. I see glassy-eyed fools running for President claiming that vaccines that save lives actually cause cancer, or that if you get raped and are pregnant, you should just lie back and think of Jeebus and make the best of a bad situation. In fact, everywhere you look these days, if Christianity or religion is getting a mention, it means something ugly is happening and someone somewhere is being victimized, marginalized, or otherwise abused. Go read some of the arguments against integration and you’ll see the same bible verses used today against homosexuals. Fifty years from now, they’ll be recycling them again to trash someone else they don’t like or who isn’t good enough for them.

Spanking Scofield

Oh, this just made my meeting-attending, class-preparing, paper-grading afternoon to see Be Scofield scorned on the Black Skeptics.

When the Scofields and Karen Armstrongs of the world talk about how the new atheists just aren’t aware of the liberal, tolerant, sativa smoking, feminist, genderqueer god concept, my response is “I don’t believe in that motherfucker, either.” She’s just as poorly evidenced as the old fashioned patriarchal god. She’s also not the predominant god concept impacting the African American community.

That felt soooo gooooood.

But now, back to the papers…


I’m a fan of Yo, Is This Racist? even if the answer is almost always “YES”. This particular Q&A seemed particularly appropriate.

Anonymous asked: Is it racist that my science teacher sucks balls?

Yo, science education in the US is a fucking political mess of a tragedy, but it’s worth sticking around and at least trying to learn how to apply evidence and logic, because bastardizations of science are basically the favorite tool of the modern racist.

(Wait, is my choice of a common black american slang term for the title of this post racist? Dammit, it is, isn’t it?)


The latest edition of Randy Milholland’s Super Stupor mocks the ridiculous poses comic book artists contort their heroines into — you know the ones I’m talking about, the strange postures in which they simultanously thrust their breasts upwards and forwards, while thrusting their buttocks backwards and upwards, with their impossibly slender waists slung spinelessly between them (he also summarizes Liefeld Syndrome, a very scary disease).

But I questioned his accuracy. Panel 8 is freakishly bizarre; no one could possibly actually draw a woman in that pose, could they? And then, coincidentally, I was also sent a link to The 5 Most Ridiculously Sexist Superhero Costumes, and there, in the very first illustration for the article, is a super-heroine doing precisely the same weird spinal twist to face the reader and swivel her ass to face him, too, with one one leg splayed wildly in the air.

I’m sorry, Mr Milholland. I will never doubt you again. I guess there’s a reason I haven’t read any mainstream comics in 30 years, too.

(Jhonen Vasquez also has a marvelous send-up of the balloon-breasted, soda-straw waisted comic book stereotype, but I cannot show it here because it is totally obscene. Oh, all right, if you insist, I found a poor copy here.)

Turnabout is fair play, unless you’re a Republican

I’m glad someone is finding clever ways to point out the hypocrisy of Republican efforts to invade the privacy of women.

To protest a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) on Monday attached an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.

What? No lecture about their manly responsibilities, no waiting period, no efforts to redirect these men looking for Viagra towards ineffective treatments? This is hardly fair. But it is a good first step.

Unfortunately, that first step ended in a Republican pratfall.

The Republican-controlled senate narrowly rejected the amendment Monday by a vote of 21 to 19, but passed the mandatory ultrasound bill in a voice vote. A similar bill in Texas, which physicians say has caused a "bureaucratic nightmare," is currently being challenged in court.

Darn. Did no one think to mention to the Republicans that this bill would support the life-styles of a multitude of cardiologists and proctologists? It’s also morally right: every artificial erection should be complemented by an anal injection.

Hungary joins the United States in pandering to the wingnut brigade

I was feeling lonely. The daily spectacle of the Republican presidential candidates prancing their “family values” about the stage had me wondering…is there any other country in the world that would give such idiots such prominence?

And yes there is. Hungary. They just passed a new law that sounds so…American.

The new law says the family, based upon marriage of a man and a woman whose mission is fulfilled by raising children, is an "autonomous community…established before the emergence of law and the State" and that the State must respect it as a matter of national survival. It says "Embryonic and foetal life shall be entitled to protection and respect from the moment of conception," and the state should encourage "homely circumstances" for child care. It obliges the media to respect marriage and parenting and assigns parents, rather than the State, primary responsibility for protecting the rights of the child. The law enumerates responsibilities for minors, including respect and care for elderly parents.

Hungary also has a new constitution, with some good points mingled among the bad.

The constitution calls for the protection of life from conception and bans torture, human trafficking, eugenics, and human cloning. It recognizes marriage as the “conjugal union of a man and a woman.”

Something about their obsessions suggests the grasping hand of the Catholic Church in all this.

Why I am an atheist – mandrellian

Why am I not an atheist …

… and why I am.

I am not an atheist because:

  • I hate God
  • I prayed to God and my prayers weren’t answered
  • Militant/fundamentalist atheists converted me away from God
  • I worship science and the works of man instead of God
  • I’m rebelling against God like I rebelled against my parents & teachers in high school
  • I think I’m better than God
  • I had a bad experience with a priest or church or religious person
  • I can’t decide which religion to subscribe to
  • atheism is my religion
  • I think religious people are idiots
  • I worship Batman
  • I worship Satan
  • I’m immoral/amoral and would rather do what I want
  • I want to destroy religion

I distrust and criticise certain organised religions because:

  • they are human inventions and many seem to be more preoccupied with obsessively controlling aspects of peoples’ private lives than improving them
  • many Christian churches are primarily concerned with attracting money and then keeping it rather than using it charitably
  • many holy books get descriptions of the world & nature completely wrong, which you would not expect had they been dictated by the omnipotent creator of the universe
  • many holy books contain descriptions of human events that cannot be historically verified and in all likelihood never happened (eg. Exodus)
  • many holy books contain numerous laws, acts & stories of a morality that modern, free societies find repugnant; these societies have passed many of their own laws contradicting them
  • there are so many separate & often violently opposed sects of each religion that it is more likely that none of them are correct than just one of them being so
  • many religious groups demand special treatment such as the right not to be offended by statements, artworks, songs or anything else that may criticise or disagree with their dogma
  • religious groups frequently try to have laws passed which unfairly impose their narrow standards of behaviour, based on interpretations of specific holy commands, onto the rest of society
  • religious people often tend to pick & choose from, or “interpret” their holy texts, discarding what does not conform to modern standards of morality, law & political freedom; they then imply that modern morality, law and political freedom rests on the foundations of their particular religion
  • there is such a wide spectrum of religious belief & adherence to dogma, ranging from light, barely-existent deism to the kind of rigid fundamentalism that oppresses and kills many, many people in its name, that it leads me to conclude that either God wasn’t clear enough with his message, didn’t spread it to enough people or that humans have basically made their religions and associated rules up as they went along and have been in conflict with each other about them ever since
  • many religious people & groups wilfully mis-characterise atheists as immoral, empty beings with no appreciation for beauty or mystery simply because we prefer natural explanations for the universe’s phenomena rather than defaulting to “God did it”; they believe that any explanation, even a wrong one or one which explains nothing, is better than “we just don’t know yet”
  • many religious groups continue to deny long-accepted scientific facts such as the divergence of species through evolution and the verified age of the Earth; some wish their particular mythology taught as fact in science classes and go to extraordinary lengths to accomplish it; some even insist there’s a huge, dark Scientist conspiracy quashing “academic freedom”
  • some religious people & groups attempt to cherry-pick science (as they do their scriptures) for those parts which conform to their belief system while actively denying others, e.g. agreeing with “microevolution” while denying “macroevolution” or attempting to use the Second Law of Thermodynamics to debunk evolution
  • some religious groups deny the efficacy of modern medicine in favour of treating an ill person with prayer, a practice which has led to many preventable deaths, often of children
  • they all make extraordinary claims based on their scriptures, provide no evidence beyond referring to their self-confirming scriptures and then insist that the onus is on atheists to disprove their claims
  • many religions have become inextricably intertwined with the laws of the patriarchal cultures which spawned or adopted them, leading to divine justifications for such horrors as female circumcision and “honour killings”, which more often than not punish women, already under the thumbs of domineering males, for seemingly minute transgressions of law
  • when it comes to the hot-button issue of sexual abuse by priests, many religions seem more concerned with good public relations, shielding themselves from culpability and keeping numbers in churches than with compensating victims and being active about preventing further abuse

I am an atheist because:

  • any & all claims of and explanations for the existence of God or any other gods have thus far fallen far short of my standards of evidence
  • my understanding of the natural universe is that it functions in such a way that doesn’t require (or indicate) the presence of any supernatural entity intervening in either the laws of nature or selected peoples’ lives
  • That’s it. They are the only two things that I can say I absolutely have in common with any other atheist. In matters of sex, politics, architecture, gaming, interior design, pets, music, clothing, hobbies, language, philosophy, education, sports, typing speed, preferred drugs, affinity with beagles & frogs and any number of other categories I may be diametrically opposite to any other atheist in the world. To label one atheist with the same attributes you label another atheist is ignorant at best, flat-out dishonest at worst. But all of us, if “atheist” is to mean anything at all, do not accept theistic claims.

But what could steer me in the opposite direction? Probably the same things that could steer any atheist…

I could be converted to theism if:

  • God, or a god, showed himself or performed an act that unambiguously proved both his existence and his attributes as an immortal, omnipotent being. As to what that proof would constitute: that god himself, if omnipotent, would be the perfect arbiter of what would conclusively prove to six billion people that he existed.

Such things as tortillas depicting blurred silhouettes of Mary (or any other second-tier deity) do not count. If you’re there, God, you’re on notice! Any time is fine. No tricks – and come alone (if indeed there’s only one of you, otherwise, bring the whole parthenon).


True Science for Boys

Ah, the 19th century…when mad scientists were really mad, and not only that, they were popular at parties. In 1818, Dr Ure and Professor Jeffray obtained the freshly killed corpse of Matthew Clydesdale, only an hour from the hangman’s noose, and proceeded to experiment on it with a battery in the Glasgow University anatomy theater before a crowd of spectators. In my youth, I had to settle for recent roadkill, a 9 volt battery, and a dark basement, all by my lonesome — my jealousy is acute.

Here is a small portion of the account of that day’s fun.

The supra-orbital nerve was laid bare in the forehead, as it issues through the supraciliary foramen in the eyebrow: the one conducting rod being applied to it, and the other to the heel, most extraordinary grimaces were exhibited every time that electrical discharges were made, by running the wire in my hand along the edges of the last trough, from the 220th, to the 270th pair of plates: thus fifty shocks, each greater than the preceding one, were given in two seconds. Every muscle in his countenance was simultaneously thrown into fearful action: rage, horror, despair, anguish, and ghastly smile united their hideous expression in the murderer’s face; surpassing far the wildest representation of a Fuseli or a Kean. At this period several of the spectators were forced to leave the apartment from terror or sickness, and one gentleman fainted.

The account of galvanic experiments on dead bodies is taken from The Young Man’s Book of Amusement, which on the cover promises to teach card tricks and how to make fireworks. You’d think an amusement in which the first step is to obtain a dead body would be listed a little more prominently, but I guess playing with cadavers was just commonplace in the year before Queen Vickie was born.

(Also on FtB)

Tentacular erotica for a good cause

Here’s a call for submissions for an anthology of erotic stories featuring tentacles. The deadline is 30 June, so get writing — I want some hot summer time reading. I’d send in something myself, but I’m afraid it would be so weirdly specific and technical that no one else in the world would want to read it.

Also, as a most excellent bonus, this is a charity anthology, and all proceeds go straight to Oceana, a cause I can definitely support.