Archive for December 2008

On Woo

December 20, 2008

According to Beliefnet, more than one fifth of Americans self-identify with the label “spiritual but not religious.” Which I’ve always interpreted as “religious but lazy.” Stepping back and viewing the phrase in a slightly less judgmental tone, it is more than likely an attempt to distance themselves from the dreaded term “organized religion.” A personal declaration of “I’m not one of them.” But, as we atheists have long ago realized, it’s not the act of organizing that’s bad, it’s the unfounded beliefs. “Oh I’ll keep the irrationality, thank you. I just don’t want to be organized.”

As I’ve become aware of this mass diaspora of coordination, I began to realize than I’m, in fact, surrounded by people with completely undefinable beliefs. Many of them find it difficult to even verbalize things that they apparently feel very strongly about. The most entertaining way I’ve had someone describe their belief system to me was with a wrist twisting motion; as in, “I believe in (holds hand next to head, flicks wrist a bit)”. At first, I thought that he had become distracted by a fly, but once I realized that the little wrist twitch was intended as a description of his religious beliefs, my heart sank a bit.

In some ways I find this ambiguity of belief to be more irritating than fundamentalism. Just because it is so … well, ambiguous. Not being able to even state your beliefs in any meaningful way makes it utterly impossible question them. You could never find your beliefs to be either true of false. It makes intellectual honesty and self discovery an utter impossibility. And face it, if the only reason you don’t join up with Jim Jones and move on down to Guyana is because the trip itself seems a bit too organized for you, then you definitely need a little introspection.

I suppose this lack of demarcation shouldn’t really be surprising. There is a long history of abuse of definitions by spiritually minded people attempting to blur unflattering aspects of their religions. It seems that ignoring unsettling dogmas is far easier than reconciling them. Removing the definitions all together is just the next step in the process of cleansing your beliefs.

I’ve recently had a very frustrating conversation with a man who kept insisting that he was not religious. Religious people were “wacky” and “not to be trusted”. No, he wasn’t one of them. Though, Jesus Christ did speak to him (audibly – he could hear his voice) and tells him to do things (as sinister as it sounds, the things he was told to do were along the lines of fastening his seat belt). Whenever I questioned him on the voices he heard, he became quite irate. He wasn’t religious and he wasn’t crazy, he told me; and he knew that he wasn’t crazy, because when he answered Jesus, he didn’t move his lips. That, to him, was the dividing line between rationality and irrationality.

There’s a quote that I’ve often heard, but I’ve never really been sure if I agreed with: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” I think that I would like to alter this quote to make it a bit more poignant: “If you never question anything, you’re believe in anything.”

Research has shown that the largest religious group today is “no religion”. But, unfortunately, this may not mean that people are abandoning religion. They may just be abandoning organization.

Gov’t Building Nativities: Don’t These People Have A Church?

December 19, 2008

You know, there has been a lot of attention about the nativity scene/atheist signs on the lawns of government buildings lately. It starts with a religious group or person petitioning to put up a nativity, then the ffrf puts up an atheist sign in rebuttal.  But, what I don’t get is this: don’t these people have churches? Can’t they put up their nativity there? Of course, it would be even better if they put them in their own lawn, but that would be far too logical.

I drove around town today and looked for nativity scenes (or any religious display) on church grounds. Out of 14 churches, only 2 of them have displays. So, why would people demand that government buildings have nativity scenes if churches aren’t even putting them up?

Pastor Potty Mouth

December 18, 2008

Dr. T. Scott Christmas, pastor at the Grace Community Church in Jacksonville Florida is threatening to tell the entire congregation that Rebecca Hancock is having sex with her boyfriend. Shocking! Rebecca is 49 years old and is no longer a member of the church. The pastor has “threatened” to tell the congregation that she has nookie, unless she stops having nookie. Can somebody say, “mentally ill”? I can. This guy is fucked in the head. And her leaving this church is long overdue.
And, of course, the holy always have a quote to excuse their ass-hole-ery. According to a letter she received from the church:

In accordance with Matthew 18:17 we intend to ‘tell it to the church.'”

This passage starts in verse 15 with “If your brother sins against you” not with, if someone
sins and that sin doesn’t involve you in any way shape or form. But, I suppose it’s easy to mistake the two if you’re constantly horning into other people’s sex lives. If he was generally concerned about her, I would think a private conference would be the most prudent action. After that, there really isn’t really anything he can do, unless he believes himself to have the power to control other peoples lives (mini-god?).

Just out of fun, what does the Bible say about adultery? Or, more to the point, what does Paul say, since the quotes from the Bible about adultery are from him (I think it’s funny when people claim that the “bible” says it). These are the quotes that people seem to use.

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”—1 Corinthians 6:18.

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”? (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

As you many have guessed, Paul had issues with his sexuality. Personally, I think that he was gay. His quotes against sexuality, though most people take them as meaning adultery in general, I think point more toward a sexuality that “dare not speak it’s name”, particularity in the “good old days” of homophobia and irrational belief.

Harcore Atheist, or just a putz?

December 16, 2008

Found this at Tangled Up In Blue Guy.

Here is a checklist for you to see how much atheist cred you really have.

Copy and paste the list below on your own site, boldface the things you’ve done. (I’ve commented in parenthesis)

  1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge. (nope. Seems unnecessary to formally say you don’t believe in a myth)
  2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person. (Met Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennet)
  3. Created an atheist blog. (Got one right here)
  4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone. (Nope, they bring there own Flying Spaghetti Monster with them 🙂 … that would be god, in case you don’t get sarcasm)
  5. Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic. (never been called agnostic)
  6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron. (What! Kirk Cameron is the least offensive thing about that piece of crap)
  7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know.
  8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc. (I don’t write in books. I have the references to refer to)
  9. Have come out as an atheist to your family.
  10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering.
  11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization.
  12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony. (coming soon)
  13. Donated money to an atheist organization.
  14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins. (I don’t think he’s written enough to fill up a bookshelf. I have 3 books by him).
  15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism. (wouldn’t really call it a friend. More of the wife of a friend – and good riddance, really. Bit of a wack job).
  16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize.
  17. Hid your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away. (Nope. My fiance and I knew each other’s beliefs before the first date)
  18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc).
  19. Attended a protest that involved religion.
  20. Attended an atheist conference. (the most informative and entertaining conference I’ve ever been to)
  21. Subscribe to Pat Condell‘s YouTube channel. (just did it today)
  22. Started an atheist group in your area or school.
  23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism.
  24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die.
  25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction.
  26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place.
  27. Lost a job because of your atheism.
  28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count).
  29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of – or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on – dollar bills.
  30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
  31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!” ( Gesundheit is essentially a blessing in German, so I don’t say that. I usually don’t say anything since it seems beyond stupid to have to acknowledge a sneeze)
  32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying.
  33. Have turned on Christian TV because you need something entertaining to watch.
  34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist.
  35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile – and not a euphemistic variant. (it’s on my myspace page, and every other form/page/survey that asks religion)
  36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service).
  37. Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic)
  38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism.
  39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God.
  40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift. (just my fiance)
  41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public.
  42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them. (I don’t invite stranngers into my home. If a Mormon or Jehova’s Witness come into my home it’ll be because they’re my friend)
  43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God.
  44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants).
  45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it.
  46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.”
  47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all.
  48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to…
  49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray. (I don’t m ake a show of it.)
  50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you (I only go to churches if there is a reason to go there. I went to a U/U church a couple of weeks ago. Very nice people. I liked them).

Christmas In Heaven

December 16, 2008

Not much religious news to comment on today, so I will post a clip of a holiday classic. It’s a song that pretty much runs through my head every holiday season,  especially when I’m at the mall. It’s all I can do to keep from dancing in the aisles.

Sarcasm used to diagnose dementia

December 12, 2008

Well, this affirms some suspicions. The University of South Wales have found that patients with dementia are unable to detect sarcasm.

For a real life example of this, check out the Hate Mail section over at the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Talk about inability to detect sarcasm (of course there is some double layered sarcasm on there. For a fun game, try to spot the Poe).

“People with FTD become very gullible and they often part with large amounts of money,” he said, adding that one in 4000 people around the world are afflicted with the condition.

Mmm, I wonder how this coorelates with religious belief?

Vatican Says It’s Not a Crime to Love … Other Men

December 12, 2008

The Vatican has issued a statement that homosexuality should not be a crime. They added a big “but” to the statement, though: that the still aren’t equal, and that putting all forms of sexual orientation on the same level would be wrong. Personally, I think they added the last part just so you know don’t get the wrong idea and think the Vatican’s gay.

Almost every press release the Vatican puts out is depressing. They sometimes gets so close to being good people, but then they let the whole point just kind of slip through their fingers. It seems theirs intentions are well guided, though. Homosexuality is still a crime in many countries. Unfortunately, I don’t think that any of those countries are ones that would pay much attention to what the Catholic Church has to say about the matter.

Well, at least they used the scientifically backed word “sexual orientation” in their press release, instead of the old blame game word of “choice”.

And, who knows, perhaps they’re working in stages. They may have a master plan designed to slowly move people toward a more loving and tolerant attitude one decade at a time.