February 17, 2008

Washin' Some Brain

Behold the genius of Kent Hovind!
In today's sermon, Kent "sheds some light" on Atheism/Agnosticism...

February 13, 2008

Nice Guys Finish First

This is a short film Richard Dawkins did for the BBC in 1987. Considering the era in which it was filmed, I find the argument he makes compelling.


February 5, 2008

Free Market Capitalism as Religion?

Every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of
the society as great as he can. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it... He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for society that it was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. - Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Okay, this passage from the founding father of Capitalism, Adam Smith, may be taken out of context. Smith's invisible hand is really a metaphor for his prediction that self-interest will drive the market to a relative balance. He admits later in his landmark work, The Wealth of Nations, that the system would not be perfect and would require some regulation to prevent corruption, collusion, and monopoly.

250 years later, the substance of Smith's work has been forgotten, and the invisible hand has suddenly become a god in itself. Many on the Christian right have taken the hand literally to mean that of their own god. Contemporarychristianity.org writes:

If one holds to a strong theology of Providence and common grace it is possible to believe that God uses the market mechanism (Smith’s “invisible hand”) to achieve “least worst outcomes” in a Fallen world.

But more so, even the non-religious have assumed the belief that the market will always just correct itself, and that any regulation or intervention is harmful. When a leading hedge fund lost billions and shocked the market, and people cried for regulation, former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan testified before congress that the market should stay self-regulated and that regulation would make things worse. Greenspan said this about the famous Sherman Anti-Trust Act passed to break up corrupt monopolies at the turn of the 20th century:

No one will ever know what new products, processes, machines, and cost-saving mergers failed to come into existence, killed by the Sherman Act before they were born. No one can ever compute the price that all of us have paid for that Act which, by inducing less effective use of capital, has kept our standard of living lower than would otherwise have been possible.

This kind of absolute faith is harmful whether in religion or economy. In the last decade, broadband internet in the US has slowly been falling behind Europe and Asia in speed and access. Just a few days ago, the Bush administration released it's strategy for pulling America back to the forefront. What was that plan? Do nothing. Rather than providing steps for better broadband, the report simply regurgitates the arguments that regulation is bad, government intervention is bad, and if we leave the market alone it will catch itself up. Here's a sample from the "plan" Network Nation: Broadband in America 2007:

Experience teaches that when government tries to substitute its
judgment for that of the free market, or otherwise anticipate consumer
demand by favoring one product or vendor over another, it can easily
distort the market place

The free market has many positives. It is fairly stable, it fosters innovation, and it allows a lot of personal freedom, but we would be no different from religious zealots if we believed absolutely that the market will perfect itself without human intervention. Smith's invisible hand was just a metaphor for people's tendency to make society better through self interest. People drive the market, and people need to fix it. There is no invisible hand. It's a shame Smith has been taken so out of context.

On a side note - interesting that those who believe in the invisible hand of god and those who believe in the invisible hand of the market both tend to be in the same political party...

February 2, 2008


This is something I have been thinking about quite a bit recently, and I am working on a essay I will post on our blog/forum, but first I wanted to see what the group as a whole has to say on this subject.

As someone who is very much interested in all things related to Human interaction, and as someone who invests a great deal of their time in politics and government, I have been considering the role and possible future evolution of Federalism within our society. To clarify the topic, I offer the initial paragraph from Wikipedia's entry on the subject: Political federalism is a political philosophy in which a group of members are bound together (Latin: foedus, covenant) with a governing representative head. The term federalism is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units (like states or provinces). Federalism is the system in which the power to govern is shared between the national & state governments, creating what is often called a federation. Proponents are often called federalists. The United States is the second largest and oldest Federation, with India being the most populous; Germany,Russia, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands,Switzerland, Bosnia and Herzegovina being European Federations; Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia being the only African Federations; Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico and Canada joining the U.S. in the New World; Australia, Malaysia, Iraq, Nepal, and the United Arab Emirates from Asia.

You can see the diversity here. It seems to me that Federalism is the governmental system of choice for nations with a tenacity for change. The African countries aside (as, sadly, they always seem to be), the countries that have adopted Federalism as their government structure appear to have three traits in common: they lack long-term historical and cultural independence, (in the way the French, Chinese, British, Iranians and Spanish have had, for example); they have all seen significant changes as far as their wealth and security are concerned; and, thanks to innumerable factors that cannot be listed here, have a great deal of exposure to outside influences that are reflected in their modern day culture.

So, my questions for you are: Do you feel, as I do, that the Federalist structure of Nation->State->Individual is effective and beneficial to our well being? What role should each element play within this system, and what power and rights should each posses? Where do corporations, churches, organizations (ours, the NRA, MADD, the many guilds and groups of Hollywood, etc.), hospitals, colleges and universities fit in, and how should they function within the Federal system, and what authority should each of them posses on their own?

I will post this on our blog, and in our forum, as well as with several other groups that I am a part of. My intent is to clarify for myself specifically, and those around me who are interested, just what direction our government should be heading in. I appreciate everyone's input, and look forward to reading what you have to say.



All right, you guys know the rest of the saying about absence: Does not make the heart grow fonder. And I'll bet you've already guessed that I'm not talking about intimate relationships. No, I'm referring to the lack of public presence for people who think freely outside the dictates of religion. Fox TV is a prime example. And where are the counterparts to Contemporary Christian radio? Even Sirius has a Catholic channel. Damn!

Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe there is something good and great and ungodly that I am not aware of. I hope so. But for now, my question is: Where are the Atheist radio stations? Where is the media that speaks for the atheist or skeptic or agnostic or freethinker?

It's no wonder people fear us. They don't know who the hell we are, so we trigger the ancient reptile section of the brain that says look out! There's a monster hiding under the bed. Hey, we know we're not monsters. We know we're nice, normal, law abiding people. We know we don't eat babies for brunch. The trouble is, they don't.

I used to be in radio (before engineering, before writing, before art) and had what most people would consider my own show. But it wasn't a show of my own choosing. I hosted a show based on the Program Director's ideas, and while I came up with my own interview questions, and chose who to invite to be on the air, the theme of the program was outside my control. OK then, not OK now.

How does a new show get started? How do people convince hostile or reluctant station owners to give them a chance? This is the great unknown, and I'm hoping someone out there will have answers. If I have faith in anything, it is the brilliance, resourcefulness, skill, and talent of the members of this group and similar groups.

So here's my thought for the day: We need to establish a media presence, in concert with the wonderful books being written by our atheist stars (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) and the sooner the better. Any ideas?

February 1, 2008

MySpace Atheists

Once again, Rupert Murdoch has unsheaved his claws, digging deep into our cultural wounds he has already drawn to rend yet another piece of flesh off our backs. He, and his conservative ilk, like hyenas, tore off another piece from the carcass that is the corporate-controlled internet; MySpace has deleted a group, the Atheist and Agnostic Group, a group 35,000 strong, doing no harm to anyone, for allegedly offending theists.

No specific offense, no particular event justified this act. Just the mere idea that a group of, *gasp*, ATHEISTS!, would attempt such a callous and undignified spectacle; to organize, communicate, and meet each other! Why, what must those scurrilous scoundrels be attempting? They want to meet each other? *Eeech* They want to talk, and discuss ideas? *Blech* They, for the love of god, want to help people improve their lives? *Retch* My god, they even want to consume FOOD while they commit such sins! *Turn it off! Turn it off! I cant take any more!*

What is this world coming to?