Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means"

Inigo Montoya said that to Vizzini after Vizzini's repeated (mis)use of the word "inconceivable".  I think that quote is just as appropriate for the catholic church and their use of the word "celibate" (or "celibacy").

For years we have heard of child sex abuse by catholic priests in the United States.  A priest would abuse kids.  If he was caught, or is suspicion became too great, the church would move the priest to another city/diocese.  And as the commercial goes - lather... rinse... repeat.  The church hierarchy was complicit in allowing these pedophiles to continue raping young boys.

Celibacy is "abstention from sexual relations".  Some would argue that "sexual relations" means the act of intercourse.  Common sense has a more liberal view of sex - if genitals are involved in an act of pleasure, it is sexual in nature.  (We'll ignore the non-sexual contact with genitals when one washes oneself, unless, as Stewie Griffin said to Brian: "You were clean fifteen minutes ago. Now you're just on vacation.")

Celibacy for priests should effectively ban their coming in contact with another's genitals, or others coming in contact with the priests' genitals.  Yet many priests have been accused of sexually abusing children.... Priests being celibate?  "(They) keep using that word.  I do not think it means what (they) think is means."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Did I Go Too Far?

There are a couple dozen folks I went to high school with that, after no contact for 25 years, I now communicate with via Facebook.  As mentioned in an earlier entry, most seem to have fallen in with the very christian groups.  One's comments I even had to hide due to the incessant "oh my, ain't that J a great guy" right after her husband died of cancer.

Health care reform passed the House this past Sunday, so yesterday (Monday) there were a LOT of comments on the bill passing.  Way too many were decrying America's downward spiral into socialism/nazism/communism/obamaism (choose one or all - the folks making the claims did not seem to have a clue).  Here are some:
"Everybody sing - 'Welcome to the USSA...'"
"Home of the fee and land of the caved..."
"Well, we now took a step farther towards loosing our freedom last evening. We are well on our way to a Socialist country."
"Sorry guys...my freakin husband had said it passed...going to have to go and hurt someone now..."

All but the last were from ex-classmates.  Then I read another comment.

"Okay its time to put the coffee cup away and get motivated. I am so glad that the state of our country is not my savior. Jesus is and he never changes and provides in all situation",

I responded

"Here here! Why grant 32 million people affordable health care when you can simply slap a bible down in front of them! How about alternative medicine - you know, stuff like the torah, quran, or dianetics?
I am curious - what verse do you use to cure tonsillitis, and which verse is best for appendicitis?" 

To say the resulted in a firestorm ("fire" was not the 4-letter word I was thinking) would be an understatement.  Folks I did not know were berating me for being mean and uncaring.  I even had folks say they would pray for me.

One of her friends claimed that the writer was simply stating "time to get going and do the housework", but I did not read it that way.  I did offer to apologize to the writer if, as her friend stated, her comment was that innocent.  I sent the writer's friend, whom I do respect to a certain degree, the following note:

So where did my response come from?

I read (a comment) that I interpreted as "time to get off our butts, the country is going to pot, only the big J-man can save us now". Legislation is well on its way to helping 30 million people, and the response is "the country is going to hell - let Jesus help them"? Last I checked, a bearded and robed figure was not walking around emergency rooms curing folks (at least not for a couple of millennia) - that is being done by doctors and nurses. So when I read a note that says "let Jesus do it", that had to be straightened out.

I did not write what I wrote to be mean. Straight-forward (based on how I read her note), yes. Mean? No. (Mean would have been making my last sentence "I am curious - what verse do you use to cure tonsillitis, and which verse is best for appendicitis?... know any that cure Cancer???") I am aware of the hell she and her family has gone through. It was horrible reading about it, let alone living through it. I've lost two brothers already (sitting in a hospital next to my mother, siblings, and my brother's wife and kids waiting for one's body to die), so I don't screw with people about that sort of thing.

So, the question of the day is - Did I Go Too Far?

I may be biased, but my answer is "no".  (Would have been a "yes" had I included that cancer shot.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Affirmative Atheism"

In my first post for this blog (In The Beginning....) I stated:

"I am not a "militant atheist" - last I checked, I had not firebombed a church, nor shot any doctors, flown any planes into any buildings, etc., nor are those actions part of any plan I have. I've never tried to convert somebody from belief in a god to atheism, nor do I think I ever will. I will debate beliefs with somebody if they bring it up, but pox on me if I ever go door to door to instruct people about the lack of god (and pox on those that do go door to door to instruct people about their god)."

Based on that statement, it's pretty clear that I can add "fundamentalist atheist" and "evangelical atheist" to the list of things I am not.  I used to joke about being a "devout atheist", but that just fed into the ignorance of those who feel atheism is simply another religion.  John Wilkins, who writes Evolving Thoughts, has come up with the label "Affirmative Atheist", which seems to fit the bill nicely.  (h/t PZ Myers)

As John Wilkins wrote:  "I have often said that I want atheism to become a normalised aspect of modern society (and of course that implies also that I want religious belief and agnosticism, but not religious exclusivism, to be normalised)."  That pretty much covers what I would like, too.  I can deal with the stupidity of folks who call atheists "satanic" (how can one be satanic when one does not believe in Satan?), but I am distressed by the ignorant view of atheists.

I like that label, Affirmative Atheist.  

Saturday, March 20, 2010

More Insight from Liam Fox

Liam Fox looks into Scientology.

Expect Tom Cruise to have a tantrum and start jumping on Oprah's couch again.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Another Nice Christian Organization

By now, we are all sickeningly aware of the various sex abuse cases involving priests in the catholic church - here in the U.S., over in Ireland, and now in Germany.  Apparently, there is another nice christian organization that has a history of having officials abuse little boys while their "superiors" cover up that sexual abuse.

BSA - Boy Scouts of America.  That oh-so-holy organization that has booted out top ranking Eagle Scouts because they were gay or atheists, may have been covering up sex abuse for decades.  My only involvement with scouts was as a Webelo, although I never really belonged  - I did not submit the sign-up papers. Ironically, the one thing I remember from the handbook is that Webelo stands for "We'll Be Loyal Scouts".  (Wikipedia has a nice tidbit about the Webelo Scout badge requiring the demonstration of "religiosity"...)  I guess that loyalty only encompassed the BSA, not the boys...

I don't get it... I really don't.  Boy Scouts are supposed to be trustworthy.  Boy Scouts are supposed to be valiant.  When I grew up the BSA PR machine made it seem that Boy Scouts were the crem-de-la-crem of fine young men.  I do not doubt that most Boy Scouts, past and present, are darn fine people.  So how can these men attend these meetings, claim to be doing everything they can to make these boys better people, then rape them.  Worse yet, how can the leadership of the BSA then HIDE it, yet claim to be leading a good christian organization?

(more here)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Catholicism, and My Embarrassing Connection to It

I grew up Catholic.  My father was born into a Catholic family, and my mother converted to Catholicism so that she and my father could get married in a Catholic church.  My three oldest siblings attended Catholic schools for years (they graduated from public schools), and each of us (there are 8) spent some time in some sort of religious class, either after school or during the summer.  I even remember making macaroni art on paper plates (so take that, Kyle... Jews aren't the only ones who emote artistically with pasta!).

As a Catholic child, I went to church most Sundays.  I faintly remember and have heard stories of the whole family piling into the station wagon and going to church Sundays, but that kind of fell apart.  By the time I was 6 or 7 we were Good Catholics, helping create the overflow crowds in church on Easter and Christmas as a family.   Other than those two Sundays, Dad would declare "you kids need to go to church today", although he would only go infrequently.  I also remember going to the church on Sunday morning with a couple of older siblings and not going in - just hanging out in the parking lot until the masses were let go, then we would head home.  Mom and Dad must not have been fooled, because they became less insistent on our going over time.

All 8 kids went through First Communion, and the religious instruction that preceded. it.  I recall coming up with some bogus "sins" ("I fibbed to my mother", etc) when in Confession, and the yucky wafer that we had to eat for communion.  It was disgusting (and that was even without considering that I was being a cannibal by accepting it), and would paste itself onto the roof of my mouth, guaranteeing that I would be tasting it for the next half hour.  I believe my 6 oldest siblings made it through Confirmation, but my closest brother (2 years older than me - I am the youngest) and I never took that step.

Because I never was Confirmed, I guess I was never truly a member of the Catholic church.  As I understand the ritual, Confirmation is where a young adult swears fealty to Jesus and the Church.  Until Confirmed, young folks are simply attending with their family - they need to take that final step as an adult (or at least not as an infant - Confirmation seems to be around the ages of 13-14).  It seems to me that 13-14 is a bit young for somebody to be committing to something for life.  Shoot - the Wikipedia article in the above link notes that some consider the age for Confirmation to be as low as 7.  (I guess the priests wanted to ensure they only raped true Catholic alter boys...)

I really had nothing to say about any of the above.  Kids very rarely have any say about their religious upbringing.  Even so, as shown above I identify myself as having been raised a Catholic.  I have never taken the steps some folks have taken to distance themselves from the religion they grew up in, such as unbaptisms or decertification of their baptism.  I am torn about those actions.  Since I have done nothing as an adult to imply that I belong to the Catholic church, taking such an action would essentially give credence to the idea that my baptism and first communion actually mean something to me now - which they don't.  On the other hand, the symbolism of actively breaking away can't be discounted.

I will not bother with the decertification/unbaptism.  I may still write the diocese where my parents had me baptized to request they remove all records of my belonging to the church.  Since I had no decision in that membership, it is not unreasonable to correct the error my parents made.  But I am not sure.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Respect Needs to be Earned

Want some respect for your beliefs?  Then maybe you should believe something that is not so laughable...

Why do people laugh at creationists? (part 1)
Why do people laugh at creationists? (part 2)
Why do people laugh at creationists? (part 3)

For more educational and entertaining videos, check out the Thunderf00t YouTube channel.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

So Much For 'Separation..."

Two troubling items from this week concerning the deterioration of the Separation of Church and State.

Number One:
In California, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional.  This is the same Circuit Court that ruled it unconstitutional in 2002.  Writing for CrooksAndLiars.com, Nichole Belle states one of the troubling aspects (for the record, I do not agree with her first statement about even saying "under god"):

The ruling itself is not so much an issue with me; I don't have a problem with saying "under God". But I do have an issue with Judge Carlos Bea's reasoning in his decision:
Bea wrote that the pledge is indeed a patriotic exercise, and the words "under God" must be viewed in that context.
"The pledge reflects many beliefs held by the founding fathers of this country -- the same men who authored the Establishment Clause -- including the belief that it is the people who should and do hold the power, not the government," Bea wrote. "They believed that the people derive their most important rights, not from the government, but from God."
At the risk of being crude - bullshit.  That is pure, unadulterated bullshit.  God granted me the rights I have in this country as much as the Trix Rabbit,  Harry Potter, and Captain Ahab granted me those rights.  PEOPLE granted me those rights - intelligent, caring people.  Some of those people worked on the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, others worked on later Amendments, and others worked through the Court system (sadly, it appears no system is infallible).  And, of course, the armed forces personnel who have fought to keep this country free.

The other aspect of this ruling is that, should the courts here in my home state of North Carolina decide to follow the Ninth Circuit Court's ruling, children in public schools will be directed to state a belief in a god every school day.  (Circuits outside of the 9th are not obligated by this ruling as nothing done in the Ninth Circuit sets a direct precedence in other Circuits, although it is not uncommon for one Circuit Court to lean on other Circuits' prior decisions.)  A few years back, the State of North Carolina passed a law that stated that the Pledge MUST be said in class every day.  Children do have the option of sitting out the Pledge, but how many 6, 7, or 8 year olds could contradict their teachers and the pressure laid on them by their peers to do this?

I have a niece that felt the U.S. was not worthy of her pledge due to the treatment of the Indians and other injustices.  In junior high decided she would not say it with her class.  Her teacher tried to force her to say it, sending her to the Principal when she continued to refuse.  The Principal was prepared to punish her for not stating the Pledge.  Fortunately, her parents were intelligent folks and were able to talk some sense into the school officials.  How many parents would go to bat with a school like that for their kids?

Basically, a state law requiring that children state a Pledge with "under god" in it grants state sanction to the existence of a god - which is clearly against Separation of Church and State.

Number Two:
Feel for the children of Texas, for they (in the words of the BadAstronomer) are DOOMED.

The Texas "Education" Board has just approved guidelines for textbooks to be used in the next 10 years.  If you were to name the five people most influential in the American Revolution and our system of government, Thomas Jefferson would HAVE to be on that list.  What did they do with Jefferson?  They removed one of the major basis of his actions - Jefferson's impact in the Enlightenment will no longer be taught.  John Calvin's religious viewpoint?  Yep - that's been added.  Jefferson and the idea of Separation of Church and State?  Nahhh.

Per a live blog during the dreadful meeting when that was decided (h/t The Loom and Carl Zimmer):

Here’s the amendment Dunbar changed: “explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.” Here’s Dunbar’s replacement standard, which passed: “explain the impact of the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau,  Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Sir William Blackstone.” Not only does Dunbar’s amendment completely change the thrust of the standard. It also appalling drops one of the most influential political philosophers in American history — Thomas Jefferson.

A majority of that Board considers themselves religious fundamentalists.  Their ultimate guide is not the Constitution, but their bible.  Their leader is so out of touch with even his Texas constituents that he just lost his bid for reelection - but that will not keep him from taking one last shot at true liberty and the ideas that lead to it. "We are adding balance," said Dr. Don McLeroy, the leader of the conservative faction on the board, after the vote. "History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left."  His solution to that "skew"?  "They added apologetics for the McCarthy hearings.  Yes, you read that right. They added to the standards that America was being infiltrated by Communists, and therefore McCarthy was right."  (again, courtesy of Phil Plait of BadAstronomy)

Textbook publishers tend to give more weight to desires of big states when it comes to the content of their textbooks.  Large states such as Texas (as well as California, NY and Florida) have a huge impact on textbook content, so what those states demand the other states will get.  I just have to hope that most of the other states have sense enough to force the textbook publishers to create two sets of textbooks:
For Texas - "US History - GOD and country" (with a forward by Edith Hamilton)
For the rest of us - "US History - Mythology Free Version"

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Holy Bacon, Batman!

Feed a man a fish, and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.  Teach a man to fry bacon, and JESUS CHRIST!!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jeeze - Do You Think???

I was watching ABC News tonight, and up popped a story on the gay-hatred that is going on in Uganda now.  This is all being led by assorted religious leaders, who claim (similar to Christianist Lauren Ashley) that homosexuality is evil and subject to death per their bible.  One of the questions Diane Sawyer posed prior to doing a lead-in to Nightline (which also carried the story) was "could visits by conservative American christian leaders recently have encouraged the Ugandan hatred of gays?"  As the title states... jeeze - do you think that might have had an effect?!?

An American christian leader writes a book stating homosexuals will rape children, turn those children into homosexuals, and destroy society  That same leader then visits Uganda with other christian leaders and speaks with many Ugandan religious and government leaders.  Shortly after they leave, bills are being passed stating that gays can be put to death for being gay, jailed for being gay, and their family and friends jailed for not narcing on them.  Yeah - our own American Taliban / christianists helped push their hatred into Uganda, leading to the terrorism of an entire group of people there.

I just hope Nightline gives credit where credit is due, and does not let the American religious leaders who spurred the Ugandans to action off easy.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Here's to Liam Fox

I have a growing respect for Liam Fox, whose writings can be found at his own site as well as Paliban Daily.  His latest post on intolerance is very, very well thought out and written.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

These are the Fools Andrew Sullivan Refers to as "Christianists"

Courtesy of Pharyngula, a scary description of some folks who take themselves way too seriously.  Why are they scary instead of just funny?  They are armed, and believe they truly are an army of their god.

The Dangers of Superstition

I remember back when I was in grade school the teacher showed a short film on superstitions.  This film showed "bad things" that can happen when people take foolish actions based on those superstitions.  The one "bad thing" I remember (there were quite a few, but this is dredging up a 40 year old memory) concerned a middle-aged guy avoiding cracks in the sidewalk.  He could not "step on a crack or he'd break his momma's back", so he was not watching where HE was going, only where his feet were stepping.  Two workers carrying a 2x4 across the sidewalk clotheslined the guy, much to the comic delight of the children watching.

Other superstitions growing up were the traditional ones:  The number 13 is bad, and Friday the 13th is REALLY bad (well, I guess if you are a Templar knight, it is really bad);  If you spill salt, toss some over your left (right?) shoulder or you will get bad luck;  You must give somebody who sneezes good wishes so that their soul will not leave their body with the sneeze (or to prevent the devil from entering the body);  Cross your fingers to bring on good luck!

Think about those superstitions...
13:  It is 1 greater than 12 and a baker's dozen is better than a regular dozen.
Friday the 13th:  Some folks think that since one bad event happened on a Friday the 13th over 700 years ago, all subsequent Fridays the 13th should be feared.  In 700 years there have been approximately 1,200 Fridays that fell on the 13th.  Many of them have been perfectly fine days, and can even mean MONEY!  (When I was paid weekly or biweekly on Friday, the date did not matter - I got paid.  Now I get paid semi-monthly, on the 15th and 30th/31st.  If the 15th is a Sunday, I get my money on Friday the 13th.).
Spilled Salt:  I think throwing away more of an item you just spilled and wasted is just silly, regardless of which shoulder you toss it over.
Sneezing:  Your soul leaves your body when you sneeze?  If it does that, then can you imagine what it does when you fart?  But nobody ever says "gesundheit" when you fart.
Step on a crack...:  Sorry, mom - I've never paid this one much attention.  Of course, you've never had back problems, either.

Superstitions are created when we give individual events or small sequences of events too much weight.  It's part of being human to find patterns wherever we look, so if we wore our red t-shirt while watching our football team beat the hated rival, then we will find a connection, a pattern.  A superstitious person will wear that same red shirt during the next game.  This will continue until: the wearer finds something with MORE connection to 22 men playing in a stadium 1,200 miles away; or the t-shirt falls apart; or the wearer realizes that nothing he does in his living room can affect the success or failure of 22 men playing in that stadium 1,200 miles away.

I was listening to the BBC Newshour on the way to work the other day.  One of the reports they aired concerned children, I believe in Africa, being beaten and threatened for being witches.  Witches.  Yeah, let's beat the children because they might just be witches.  What is the thought process behind these beatings?  Well, when something happens, there has to be a reason.  When a farmer's animal dies, there has to be a reason for that death.  If one of the local kids happened to be hanging around near the animals the day before, doing something the farmer could not see.... WITCH!

So these folks accuse kids (and each other, I imagine) of being witches.  When the accusation is made, others in the village gather around to beat the witch into submission.  What evidence do they have?  Sadly, the question becomes "what evidence do they need?"  Even more sad, that answer is "none".  One of the people interviewed stated that the government officially does not recognize the existence of witchcraft, but that a friend of his, a lawyer and official in that same government, has accused his own children of witchcraft.

But what is superstition except faith in something that has no basis in reality?  I've known folks from all walks of life laughing at other's superstitious acts, such as crossing fingers, wearing hats inside out (rally caps), or the wearing of that red t-shirt.  But those same folks have no problems making crossing themselves when walking by a cemetery, or wearing a piece of jewelry in the shape of a cross, or stopping the constructive activity they were involved in 5 times a day to kneel towards a place across the globe.  Religions are simply organized groupings of superstitions.  Watch a superstitious person with OCD for a while ("Monk"), then watch a "holy person" perform his or her duties.  Then tell me what the difference is.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Atheist Eve

The only problem with Atheist Eve is that it only comes out once a month.  So, enjoy today's (well, March's) comic, and spend the next 30 days reading the archives (conveniently linked to on each page).