British satirist/comedian Marcus Brigstocke tells it like it is!
December 25, 2007
"God" by John Lennon:
God is a concept,
By which we can measure,
I'll say it again,
God is a concept,
By which we can measure,
I don't believe in magic,
I don't believe in I-ching,
I don't believe in bible,
I don't believe in tarot,
I don't believe in Hitler,
I don't believe in Jesus,
I don't believe in Kennedy,
I don't believe in Buddha,
I don't believe in mantra,
I don't believe in Gita,
I don't believe in yoga,
I don't believe in kings,
I don't believe in Elvis,
I don't believe in Zimmerman,
I don't believe in Beatles,
I just believe in me,
Yoko and me,
And that's reality.
The dream is over,
What can I say?
The dream is over,
I was dreamweaver,
But now I'm reborn,
I was the walrus,
But now I'm John,
And so dear friends,
You just have to carry on,
The dream is over.
December 23, 2007
If we look back at the begining we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that fancy, enthusiasm, or deceit adorned or disfigured them; that weakness worships them; that credulity preserves them; and that custom, respect and tyranny support them, in order to make the blindness of man serve their own interest. If the ignorance of nature gave birth to Gods, the knowledge of nature is calculated to destroy them.
December 21, 2007
Natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents and tribal elders tell them. Such trusting obedience is valuable for survival: the analogue of steering by the moon for a moth. But the flip side of trusting obedience is slavish gullibility. The inevitable by-product is vulnerability to infection by mind viruses.
December 18, 2007
Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian
10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.
December 17, 2007
December 14, 2007
Don't do stuff like this. When Bill O'Reilly and the other self-absorbed blow hards on Faux News rail against the War On Christmas, don't give them fodder. Bill O'Reilly is a bigot, a racist, an ignorant, pompous, jingoistic, pig-headed, conceited, sexual deviant who shouts much but says little; in his dogmatic little brain anything that dares to impose upon the sanctity of his precious holiday is automatically going to be suspect of nefarious intent to disrupt, deprive, destroy, rape and pillage the very spirit of Christmas. A holiday of which he does not know or understand its history (I know this because I have watched the man many, many times, and have noticed his insistence on not acknowledging anything remotely resembling that which we call reality, so far as it it contradicts what he already believes...)
These a-holes in Vermont thought it would be funny to piss off every civil minded person by posting this sign in the city park near the traditional nativity scene. Well, congrats. You took a perfectly good holiday tradition and turned it to crap. For us. What does the sign (depicting an image of the burning World Trade Center Towers accompanied by the words "Imagine no religion" from John Lennon's song) tell people about Atheists? Well, my interpretation of the sign is, "Hey, we're Atheist's, and we're assholes too, so fuck you and your family, and enjoy your holiday, but, while you do, don't forget about the horrible atrocities that people doped up on your stupidity have committed!" I'm an Atheist, and that's what I take from that image. Guess what every Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, Hindi, etc. is going to think? Wow, Atheists really are assholes!
We are the least trusted minority group in America. This is because people do not understand us. They are told things about Atheists that are at best untrue, and at worst hateful, fear inspired, and ignorant. So, when we are given a chance to express our beliefs, at a time of the year when everyone is frustrated from shopping and stressed out by their travels, just wanting to make it home, bake their cookies with the kids, put on a movie and drift asleep in the warm comfort of tradition; they see that sign and think, "Wow, whoever put that there really is an asshole." They go home, forget about the sign as soon as the dog tracks muddy paw prints into the kitchen, but the damage is done. Things like that stay in our minds. A powerful image like 9/11, a well known lyric of John Lennon's, seen while already annoyed with people you don't know, against a background of the birth of the savior of man in many minds; that is precisely the type of meme we must never imbue upon the consciousness of our society.
You want to put something up this Christmas? How about something we value? Something we love? That's what they do. That's the whole point behind this commercialized, politicized aberration of a holiday season we celebrate. Its about unity, about love, compassion, about celebrating what we have accomplished and what we have to look forward to. Do you know why we put up the gaudy decorations, spend billions and travel vast distances to be with the ones we love? Because 11 months of the year life is violent, difficult, stressful, strenuous, demeaning, demoralizing, demanding, painful and bitter; for a month we try to let go of everything, embrace the merriment and cheer, revel in what we have achieved, rejoice in each others company. We enjoy ourselves, shake off the stress of the year, and prime ourselves for a new one.
On Christmas Day, 1914, the western front fell silent for the day, as the Germans stopped fighting and shared food and goods with their British enemies. It happened the next year with the French, all in spite of orders from higher up. The reason they did it is simple. They had had enough of killing and living in squalid conditions; they wanted to regain some of their humanity.
I think this is why we all like this time of year (even though we say we hate it). It gives us a chance to let go of things, to ease our burdens, to forget about our troubles for a while. Sure, its hectic, and sometimes can be a pain in the ass; but I feel that we all recognize that we need some time in our lives to let go of things. The coming of winter is the perfect opportunity for this. The pagans recognized this; so did the early Christians; so should we. I think that it is foolish to abandon such a terrific time of year over such a petty difference as faith. I say, Happy Holidays everyone. Just enjoy it. Don't be selfish and demand the day all to yourself (War on Christmas), or mock it (Festivus), or rub peoples faces in the bad things (Imagine no Religion). Just enjoy the season, and save the hate and spite for after new years.
Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure.
December 13, 2007
December 11, 2007
This image might look like a painting or a digital graphic, but it's not...
So... is the existence of life common in the Universe? Can an assertion that life probably does exist elsewhere be construed as a valid scientific theory, or can it be viewed as an assumption only?
The answers seem to be: probably; and such an assertion might be viewed as a valid, but borderline scientific theory- based on probability, which in turn may be based on observational evidence.
Anyone reading this post knows that our Earth is a mere speck in the vastness of the known universe. The Sun is a very average yellow dwarf star. According to the latest estimates, there are between 200 and 400 billion stars in the galaxy we reside in (the exact number will most likely never be known because of the gargantuan amount of gas and dust obscuring our view). How many of these stars have planetary companions? It's safe to say that a large percentage of them do.
How many galaxies are in the known universe? Recent estimates are as high as 500 billion. The Hubble Deep-Sky camera photographed a small area of the sky a few years back- an area 1/150th the apparent size of the moon. 3,000 galaxies were counted in that small area alone!
As far as we know, the universe elsewhere is composed of the same elements that we, our Earth, our sun, and our galaxy are composed of. The physical laws of nature, as we know them, seem to apply everywhere in the observable universe, as far as we have seen.
It happened here... why not elsewhere? It doesn't even have to be carbon-based... but we'll save that for a future post.
And what about the probability that some "supreme being" created the whole universe just for us? One can't help but be purely subjective on this, but I say... ZERO.
December 9, 2007
In honor of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's grade "D-minus" speech on religious freedom (12/6/07)...
Here's a cartoon made by a mainstream Christian sect in denunciation of the Mormon faith. It must have been produced sometime circa the early '70s- it has that "Scooby-Doo-ish" sort of feel.
While I'm sure that the Church of Latter-Day Saints' detractors went a TAD overboard with this, most of the cartoon seems to follow the church's teachings, which current LDS adherents seem to be squirming to whitewash.
Apparently, this cartoon was indeed banned by the Mormons- there is at least one major jaw-dropper in it... enjoy!
November 21, 2007
Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Intelligent design, while real in the history of science, while real in the presence of sort of philosophical drivers, is none the less a philosophy of ignorance. And so, regardless of what our political agenda is, all you have to say is, science is a philosophy of discovery, intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance.
November 19, 2007
The difference between left and right of center...originated in the French parliament. The people left of center were liberals; the people right of center were conservatives. Broadly speaking. And generally speaking, people on...the right of center, are interested in property values, property, property rights. The rights and the rights of property. And generally speaking again – it's all generalized – the left-of-center people are more concerned with humans and human beings and human concerns; to the care of humans, not the care and worry about property rights. That's generally been true. And Bush is pushing this country farther down the hill, faster than anyone has before.
To be a freethinker, one must be open to new ideas. Ideas that can be both exciting and terrifying, ideas that are unpleasant, unwanted, and downright ghastly to behold, albeit necessary. To be a freethinker is to accept that there is no black and white, nothing concrete, nothing to be broken down into this or that. Black and white are merely extremes of color; we do not live in a world that is black and white. Besides, reducing existence into such simplistic terms neglects the broad spectrum that we deal with every second of every day.
Freethought crushes dogma, undermines prejudice, vanquishes ignorance. There is no absolute to a freethinker. Any assertion is analyzed, interpreted, it's background checked, it's genesis traced, it's theory tested and, if found to be be true, accepted for what it is and no more. A lightning bolt is an atmospheric discharge of built up electricity, not a weapon thrown by a god, not an alien inspecting a new planet, not a direct consequence of global warming. Freethinkers do not assume the cheap and easy explanation for things.
Religion is an empire built by people who have had fear instilled upon them; the rulers live well, fed by the generosity exploited from below. Ignorance holds this institution together; dogma plays the role of sentinel. Religion opposes education and reason for the same reasons slave owners opposed education and healthcare for their "flock"; give the oppressed the instruments they need to break free, and they will. The religious fight science, reason, education, solely because they know that freethought will be the end of their reign.
The mind is the key. Control how people think, and you control how they behave. Religion has used this idea for millenia; I for one will say that much good has come from this. There has also been much evil. We no longer have any need or use for religion. There is so much more to be found in the world when you break yourself free of the mental restraints religion impresses upon us. Freethinking is freedom to see the world as it is; not as someone else tells you.
November 18, 2007
We alone can be wracked with doubt, and we alone have been provoked by that epistemic itch to seek a remedy: better truth-seeking methods. Wanting to keep better track of our food supplies, our territories, our families, our enemies, we discovered the benefits of talking it over with others, asking questions, passing on lore. We invented culture. Then we invented measuring, and arithmetic, and maps, and writing. These communicative and recording innovations come with a built-in ideal: truth. The point of asking questions is to find true answers; the point of measuring is to measure accurately; the point of making maps is to find your way to your destination. ... In short, the goal of truth goes without saying, in every human culture.
November 17, 2007
Don't you believe in flying saucers, they ask me? Don't you believe in telepathy? — in ancient astronauts? — in the Bermuda triangle? — in life after death?
No, I reply. No, no, no, no, and again no.
One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out "Don't you believe in anything?"
"Yes", I said. "I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be."
November 16, 2007
--How did Jesus become pro-war, pro-American and pro-rich?
That's what novelist, journalist and screenwriter Dan Wakefield wanted to know when he began his newest book, "The Hijacking of Jesus."
"The Jesus of the Gospels ministered to the poor and to the outcasts, had no property or possessions, and famously told a wealthy young man that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven," the popular writer told members of the Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace July 7 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.
Curious about this drastic shift, Wakefield began researching the troubling query and was surprised at how far back the religious right's roots went.
The search led him to Senator Barry Goldwater's defeat for the presidency in 1964. Realizing they needed a wider base, he said Republican strategists saw that fundamentalists and evangelicals were a "virgin timber" voting block.
And soon a partnership was forged. "The religious right started with the Republican right," Wakefield reported, adding that along with this partnership, religious conservatives also forged a media empire, which today adds up to some 1,600 TV stations. Just one, "Focus on the Family," has 200 million watchers in 99 countries.
"One of the marks of the religious right I find is a kind of real nastiness," the former staff writer at The Nation said. "Pat Robertson asked, 'Why do I have to be nice to Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists? They are the Antichrist.' So tolerance has become a bad word on the religious right."
An official from the Christian Coalition told him that they were only intolerant of sinners, said Wakefield. But the author observed that it seemed a "very odd creed" for the group to call itself Christian, when it was Jesus who told a crowd that he who was without sin should cast the first stone.
He also talked about the divisiveness of the movement, whose faithful often attempt --- and succeed --- at driving deeper religious and political wedges between themselves and mainline Protestant congregations.
And he pointed out that religious right rhetoric is often filled with statements about war. It was no accident, he said, that born-again President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq and his administration's entire Middle East policy "smells of Christian Jihad."
"That pro-war message hardly seems to fit with Jesus' teaching to love your enemy, bless them that curse you and be good to them who hate you, and pray for them who persecute you," he observed.--
November 12, 2007
The liar is a person who uses the valid designations, the words, in order to make something which is unreal appear to be real. He says, for example, "I am rich," when the proper designation for his condition would be "poor." He misuses fixed conventions by means of arbitrary substitutions or even reversals of names. If he does this in a selfish and moreover harmful manner, society will cease to trust him and will thereby exclude him. What men avoid by excluding the liar is not so much being defrauded as it is being harmed by means of fraud. Thus, even at this stage, what they hate is basically not deception itself, but rather the unpleasant, hated consequences of certain sorts of deception. It is in a similarly restricted sense that man now wants nothing but truth: he desires the pleasant, life-preserving consequences of truth. He is indifferent toward pure knowledge which has no consequences; toward those truths which are possibly harmful and destructive he is even hostilely inclined.
November 10, 2007
November 6, 2007
God threw a snowball at us, but he missed! Or it ricocheted off an asteroid.
--KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A comet that unexpectedly brightened in the last couple of weeks and is now visible to the naked eye is attracting professional and amateur interest.
Paul Lewis, director of astronomy outreach at the University of Tennessee, is drawing students to the roof of the Nielsen Physics Building for special viewings of Comet 17P/Holmes. The comet is exploding and its coma, a cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the sun, has grown to be bigger than the planet Jupiter. The comet lacks the tail usually associated with such celestial bodies but can be seen in the northern sky, in the constellation Perseus, as a fuzzy spot of light about as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper. "This is truly a celestial surprise," Lewis said. "Absolutely amazing."
Until Oct. 23, the comet had been visible to modern astronomers only with a telescope, but that night it suddenly erupted and expanded. A similar burst in 1892 led to the comet's discovery by Edwin Holmes. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event to witness, along the lines of when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 smashed into Jupiter back in 1994," Lewis said.
Scientists speculate the comet has exploded because there are sinkholes in its nucleus, giving it a honeycomb-like structure. The collapse exposed comet ice to the sun, which transformed the ice into gas."What comets do when they are near the sun is very unpredictable," Lewis said. "We expect to see a coma cloud and a tail, but this is more like an explosion, and we are seeing the bubble of gas and dust as it expands away from the center of the blast."
Experts aren't sure how long the comet's show will last but estimate it could be weeks if not months. Using a telescope or binoculars help bring the comet's details into view, they said.--
It is interesting to note that the presence of organic matter has been confirmed both in comets and in carbonaceous chondrite meteorites!
November 4, 2007
October 27, 2007
"America was founded by men of the Enlightenment: a movement which emphasized reason, rationality, liberalism, anti-authoritarianism and political equality. The founders were revolutionary liberals who believed strongly in secular government. This is nowhere near "right of center" or indicative of a Judeo-Christian Nation.
Many of the founding fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson, while claiming to believe in God, were deists and didn't believe in the resurrection or the divinity of Jesus Christ; they didn't believe in Christ's miracles or the holy trinity. Bill O'Reilly would've poked their eyes out with his pointy fingers.
Thomas Paine, whose writing inspired the Declaration of Independence, rejected all religions: "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church." (The Age of Reason, 1794)
John Adams, as president, signed a treaty in 1796 which stated unequivocally: "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." There's no gray area there.
And, naturally, we have the First Amendment which includes that pesky Establishment Clause which separates church and state. That, and Article VI which forbids a religious test for holding public office. Clearly a section of the Constitution the Republican candidates have overlooked.
Make no mistake, the founders absolutely believed in the existence of a God or a Creator. George Washington often spoke of "Providence." But they were fighting and dying to escape the tyranny of a theocratic government. Why would they risk everything only to establish -- hell, to establish exactly what today's Republican Party wants: an imperial, conquering superpower fronted by a strong executive who legislates Judeo-Christian dogma?
The founders knew that theocracy and authoritarianism were the weapons of tyrants. Likewise, in establishing a constitutional democracy, they knew that if they sanctioned a national religion, then government would be able to tax and regulate religion -- suppressing religious expression. So the founders created a secular nation in which any and all religions would be free to prosper without government intrusion -- and vice versa.
As for the political and ideological views of the founders, you can't get much more liberal than instigating a rebellion and engaging in revolutionary warfare against a standing imperial army, a monarch (unitary executive) and a monopolistic mega-corporation (the East India Company, which received the most infamous corporate tax cut of all time -- triggering the Boston Tea Party). Sorry Republicans. The founding fathers were secular liberals. And so are a majority of Americans right here and now."
October 23, 2007
One of the best passages from one of the best books ever written, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. (A Babel fish is a small fish one puts in their ear that translates any language in the galaxy for the user.)
"Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this:
"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D."
"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.
Most leading theologians claim that this argument isn't worth a pair of fetid dingo's kidneys, but that didn't stop Oolon Celluphid from making a fortune with his book Who is this God Person Anyway?"
October 21, 2007
October 20, 2007
October 19, 2007
A Bill Maher trifecta today.
Let's make a law that gay people can have birthdays, but straight people get more cake — you know, to send the right message to kids.
Well, the American public always wanted to vote for a guy — and Bush was the perfect guy — who they'd want to have over for pot-roast. And George Bush is that guy. He does that well. You'd like to have him over for pot-roast. He reminds you of yourself. Okay. Well, now he's been over, he's had the pot-roast. But he's getting drunk and now he's talking about stem cells and Terri Schiavo and gay marriage. And now he's the guest that won't leave.
Now if you're just out of the mainstream, if you don't have blind Bush love, you are somehow suspect. Don't ever let them tell you that. Be out of the mainstream. I'm out of the mainstream. I enjoy it, who wants to be in the mainstream? When Ronald Reagan was running, he would always say 'it's morning in America' and everybody would smile and I would think 'yeah but, I'm not a morning person'. I'm the guy who thinks religion is bad and drugs are good. I think children aren't innocent, god doesn't write books, and Jesus wasn't a republican. I think girls hate each other, no doesn't mean no and drunk is funny. I'm for mad cow disease, how am I gonna win that? I'm against suing tobacco companies. I think abstinence is a perversion. I think Bush's lies are worse than Clinton's. I think Vegas was better when it was run by the mob. I think men are only as loyal as their options. I think stereotypes are true and rehab is for quitters.
October 18, 2007
Question Of The Week (this one is a two-parter): What issue gets you most interested this primary season? Is it education, the environment, the war, taxes, civil rights, gay right? (If you were to vote in the primaries, what issue would you consider most when choosing a candidate?) My second question goes a bit deeper. Is there any single item, however small, that gets you the most worked up, the most vociferous, and the most eager to see something done about it?
My answers: My personal issue is education. I have a number of reasons and thoughts on this issue, but my main reason is my personal conviction that an improved, efficient, effective, and religion-free education will lead to the elimination of a great number of the problems we face today. Ignorance is the great demon of civilization; reason is the great liberator of the oppressed and restrained mind.
My one item I want to see changed more than anything? ANWR. I will not vote for any single candidate who will not commit to pulling those drills out as early into their administration as they can.
1:26... "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."
1:28... "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
These are two of the biggest "Bible Boogers". They have directly or indirectly contributed to some of Humankind's worst attitudes.
Worst of all is the attitude that we humans are somehow above and beyond the rest of nature.
I believe this assumption to be very false. It is true that we have the most advanced brains of all the Earth's beings, with the possible exception of Cetaceans. Humans also possess superlative dexterity and mobility. Beyond this, all the tangible evidence points to Homo Sapiens being nothing more than an advanced mammal.
We are conceived as all mammals are, through the union of egg & sperm (except for J.C.!) We develop as all mammals do, in our Mother's wombs. I could go on & on... but the point is, one of the most simple forms of life on Earth, the bacterium, can kill us all! The mere fact that we humans have to poo & pee is enough to prove that we, too, are what we'd call 'animals'.
Genesis 1:26 and 1:28 have made it easy to justify despicable human behavior- they're ONLY animals, right? I have heard these words far too often; "God put the animals here to use as we see fit." How vain.
We all know about things like loss of habitat due to Humankind's "progress"... and the deplorable treatment of animals on our "factory" farms... or the raising of birds & mammals for the sole purpose of being shot by some "mighty outdoorsman" on a "canned" hunting reserve... or the millions of dogs & cats that have to be destroyed each year, because the animal shelters cannot shelter them all... not to mention the despicable fur trade, Canada being a huge offender with their baby seal slaughter (they allow up to 300,000 pelts to be "harvested"). Sad to say, these are all a given. For the most part, they are accepted by mainstream society.
There has been some good news in recent years- like the re-emergence of the Bald Eagle in the lower 48. Organizations such as The Nature Conservancy are doing their share by helping to preserve "wild" land for habitat. Local animal organizations such as P.A.W.S. are trying their best to help stray & abandoned dogs & cats. And the number of people who are Vegetarians and Vegans has been steadily increasing.
Many conservation efforts are too little, too late. A particularly sad example is the plight of the Bengal Tiger. Just 5 years ago, they numbered about 3,500- in 2007 there are estimated to be only 1,500 individuals left, despite the luke-warm efforts of the Indian government to save them. The primary cause has been (of course) habitat loss. Damned "progress"...
I have been accused, several times in my life, of caring more about animals than people. I'm sure my "accusers" never took it into account that people ARE animals- no matter what the "good" book says!
October 15, 2007
In 1992, at the age of twenty three, Ayaan found herself subject to an arranged marriage to a distant cousin living in Canada. Traveling to Germany initially to transfer flights, she applied for and was granted (although she had to falsely exaggerate her story) refugee status within the Netherlands. It was there that she found herself captivated by the freedom's and opportunities offered by the west, and where she began her transformation into a fully westernized feminist, an Atheist, and after obtaining her master's degree in political science, eventually an MP in the Tweede Kamer, the Dutch Lower House.
Her story is easily one of the most fascinating and insightful narratives on the subject of Islamic culture and the conflict between the west and Islam. Marked by tragedy at times (she was working with Theo van Gogh when he was brutally slain while filming a documentary on the abuses against Muslim women), by difficulty, and by hope; her story stands out in this time of great conflict as an example of how reason can and does prevail. I'm posting a two part video so you can hear her tell her story, and answer questions from the audience in part two. Watch it all the way through, it's really a fascinating experience.
October 11, 2007
Never one to minimize these thoughts, he graciously argues in the Humanistic value of religious tradition. While not making concessions, he does revel in the beauty of religious art and music; he stands in awe at the great monuments of religious architecture; embraces the richness of the religious community, and respects the value of religious traditions in our lives. I agree with him on all these points. I challenge anyone not to be soothed by the rhythmic and uplifting chants of medieval monks, or the divinely inspired masterpieces of greatest classical composers. There are few greater images of strength and beauty than the images of angels, clad in flowing white, wings stretched out, their swords and words serving to guide us out of danger and misery into the light of compassion, faith and love. What greater totem exists to embody all that is wrong with the world than Satan- a dark figure, who takes the form of our weakness to earn our trust, only to lead us to destruction in the end? Even the staunchest Atheists, such as myself, Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Samuel Clemens, Daniel Dennett, Stephen Hawkings, Albert Einstein, and Voltaire soundly reject everything that Satan represents, and with good reason. All people wish to be good. While the details of good are not always clear, evil is much easier to define. It is the reason why there is so vast a sea of difference between what the religions of man consider good, but so much in common when it comes to what we call bad. Our struggle to reach the heights of justice in our lives is a long and weary one, mired with pitfalls and temptations, figurative demons intending to lead us astray with offers of instant gratification and power.
What greater sin is there than the lust for power? Grey area permeates every action and choice we make, yet the consequences of our worst acts are noticeably clear. There is no good to be derived from rape, torture, murder, abuse, humiliation, degradation, wanton destruction, betrayal, greed, theft, pestilence, selfishness or slobishness. Even the most twisted, imbalanced mind must alter it's own definition of good just to cope with these atrocities. No lucid mind has ever looked at there sins with reason and concluded that they are right. There is, then, one universal in a world built without them; that there can be no good where there is evil, and there is no evil that can ever be good.
This brings me back to Hitchens and the point he makes early in his book. Paraphrasing it as best I can (I most certainly will succeed better in the future), I take his meaning as this; our society, and nearly every aspect of it owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to religion, both for better and for worse. There is not a single aspect of our lives that is not imbued with the ideas and acts of faith. It would be remiss of us to cast aside our torch when it has guided us this far. Our journey, both in our physical realm; but also in our spiritual realm, our scientific and cultural and artistic realms; indeed in every realm we have come across, and every realm we have yet to come across; our path is not fully illuminated and as we move on, as we examine our surroundings, as as we look nostalgically and mournfully back, our path can and should still be aided by religion. We do not need it as fully as we once did, but I can come to no other conclusion that we have much to gain through keeping religion in our lives in every place that it works. I am an Atheist, but I will celebrate Christmas and the holiday season as I once did; I will share our traditions with my children as my non-religious parents did with me. I will teach them to respect and embrace the traditions of others as readily as our own. I will revel in religion's language, art, culture, and wisdom as fully as I do that of my Atheistic beliefs. Taking the best of an imperfect entity is the best anyone can do. And I will strive to teach the religious to do the same, because it is the right thing to do. It is up to each of us whether we choose the path of righteousness and reason, aided by the trials and lessons of the past; or choose to fester in the imposturous mirth of religion and drive ourselves to the frigid depths of delusional, selfish sin.
October 10, 2007
What about the four great Americans pictured here? Were they adherents of the Christian faith?
The answer is... one of them was a true Christian- and a very reasonable Christian, at that.
Amid cries of "@!*# America-hating liberal liar!", we'll begin with George Washington:
"Sir, Washington was a Deist."-- (The Reverend Doctor James Abercrombie, rector of the church Washington had attended with his wife, to The Reverend Bird Wilson, an Episcopal minister in Albany, New York, upon Wilson's having inquired of Abercrombie regarding Washington's religious beliefs.)
"I have diligently perused every line that Washington ever gave to the public, and I do not find one expression in which he pledges, himself as a believer in Christianity. I think anyone who will candidly do as I have done, will come to the conclusion that he was a Deist and nothing more."-- (The Reverend Bird Wilson, an Episcopal minister in Albany, New York, in an interview with Mr. Robert Dale Owen written on November 13, 1831, which was publlshed in New York two weeks later)... Quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, pp. 27.
How about Thomas Jefferson? Hoo boy...
"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."-- (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp July 30, 1816, denouncing the doctrine of the Trinity and suggesting it to be so riddled in falsehood that only an authoritarian figure could decipher its meaning and, with a firm grip on people's spiritual and mental freedoms, thus convince the people of its truthfulness)
"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."-- (Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823)
What about Honest Abe? Well...
"My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them."-- (Abraham Lincoln, to Judge J S Wakefield, after Willie Lincoln's death (Willie died in 1862), quoted by Joseph Lewis in "Lincoln the Freethinker")
"Mr. Lincoln's maxim and philosophy were: 'What is to be, will be, and no prayers of ours can arrest the decree.' He never joined any Church. He was a religious man always, I think, but was not a technical Christian."-- (Mary Todd Lincoln, in William Herndon's "Religion of Lincoln", quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 118)
Of the "Big 4", only Teddy Roosevelt can be classified as a practicing Christian. His affiliations were 'Dutch Reformed', and later in life, Episcopalian. Here's what Teddy had to say:
"I hold that in this country there must be complete severance of Church and State; that public moneys shall not be used for the purpose of advancing any particular creed; and therefore that the public schools shall be nonsectarian and no public moneys appropriated for sectarian schools."-- (Theodore Roosevelt, address, Carnegie Hall, October 12, 1915, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, "The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom")
"To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any church, is an outrage against that liberty of conscience which is one of the foundations of American life."-- (Theodore Roosevelt, letter to J C Martin, November 9, 1908, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, "The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom")
Note the reference to Abraham Lincoln in the second quote!
October 9, 2007
Watching this video made me question Nancy Pelosi's judgment for the first time. If she was fully briefed on the interrogation methods the Bush Administration wanted to use, why did she vote to allow it? This is a serious issue; adherence to international law is something the Democratic party believes in, just as is it the morally right thing to do. We need to know if our leaders are making the right decisions on issues such as this. I hope that Speaker Pelosi is telling the truth when she says she was not given the information she needed.
Also, does anyone else feel as I do, that MSNBC is the best news channel for getting genuine information and providing articulate debate?
October 7, 2007
“To choose parents who will force a religious paradigm upon a soul often helps
the soul reject then release dogma, ultimately finding the true spiritual self
and one’s innate compassion.”
While choosing one's parents implies a sort of reincarnation, I am disregarding that part. And, I take the "soul" reference not in a religious sense at all but in the sense that a "soul" is the set of inherent characteristics and qualities of an individual's personality. So what do you all think?
A Nation Of Christians Is Not A Christian Nation- The New York Times
October 4, 2007
October 2, 2007
We are a group of Atheists, Agnostics, and a few freethinking theists. Our discussions encompass everything from religion to philosophy, science and culture, law and ethics. We are starting this blog in order to bring our discussions out to the public. We hope that by doing this, it will bring a greater awareness of our cause to the Greater Cleveland Area. We hope that the people who will find our blog will do so because they are looking for a place to speak where there has been none. We recognize that there is no forum for people like us to speak out, and we wish to change that. We believe that information is crucial to decision making, this blog and this group seeks to break the spell of ignorance that envelopes the Greater Cleveland Area.