Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Atheists Actually Believe

In response to this comment on what Christians believe:

I present what Atheists actually believe.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Evolution Has Made Me More Moral

During a year I spent interviewing local religious leaders, perhaps the one thing I hear more than anything else went something like this:

Minister: Evolution isn't true, and even more, its immoral.

Me: Why is it immoral?

Minister: Because it convinces people that there's no purpose to life. If we're not here for a reason, and if there's no Hell, then people will just rape and murder and steal and not be afraid when they go to the electric chair because there's nothing for them to be afraid of after they die.

Now, there are a number of fallacies here that are easy to prove. I could state that the simple existence of myself as a person who a) believes in Evolution and b) does not believe in Yahweh or Allah or any number divine beings, yet c) is a law abiding father and husband with a steady job would seem to disprove the notion. Or the number of people in prison who are atheist versus Christian in the United States (hint: atheists make up a small minority). Or that whether one is an atheist or a Christian or otherwise, that people have an instinctive drive to survive which is why threatening someone with death is usually a pretty good incentive to make them act a certain way.

But I want to object to this notion that "belief in evolution", or, to be specific, "Believe that natural selection best explains how evolution works" makes anyone immoral.

If anything, it makes me more so.

Look at the creation myth surrounding Judaism and Christianity: Yahweh creates the world, and after all of the plants and animals and starts, creates Man from dust. Separate from everything else that has come before, and then gives dominion to his latest creation over all other life.

In this scenario, humanity is something "different". The process that make a whale was "POOF" and there's a whale, the process that creates a plant was "POOF" here's a plant, and the process to make people was "POOF" here's a person, separate and distinct and not in any way connected with the other creatures that roam the planet, save for how they benefit humankind. In fact, all other life is there to be used and whose value is derived based on how humanity can use them.

Now, take the alternate story provided by natural selection. Some billions of years ago, something happened that started life. This life competed, adapted, died, adapted, died some more, adapted even more, competed against other forms of adapting life, and after billions of years of struggle and strife - there was me.

I'm not separate from this planet. I am tied to it by processes billions of years in the making, and the DNA that makes up my being is the same DNA inside my neighbor, the dog I throw a Frisbee to, the same DNA inside a tribesman from Africa or the Queen of England. Even the trees and the very microbes of the soil share a link back to me.

I am not apart from this world, and my being on the Earth is no more important than my dog or the Queen or the microbe in the soil. And while I have my own needs of hunger and thirst and companionship I want to fill, to disregard the needs and wants of everything else is irresponsible.

This world was not made for me. I am simply the byproduct of the struggles of life that came before me, save for one difference between me and my dog and the tree in my back yard:

I can choose better.

I don't have to claim every resource on the planet to serve my wants. I can choose to fulfill my needs with as little impact to the planet as possible, so that my children and my children's children and my children's children's children may someday inherit an even better world. I can willfully and consciously make the decision to do more than just struggle for life and cling to life at the expense of everything around me, or use the Earth as if it was handed for my own personal use, because I know that isn't the case.

I'm a part of the world. I'm a tiny branch in this amazing thing called life that has spent 4.5 billion years just to get to this point, and I can help preserve it and make something even more amazing. And the more I understand about what life and reality are, the more I'll see how to cherish and humbly stand in awe of just what it is to live. I can make the world a slightly better place than how I left it, in honor of the billions of generations that came before me, and in the hopes that there may be billions after I'm gone even wiser and better than I.

It is a morality that sees myself and every person on Earth around me as something small, but no less precious just because my ancestors came from a pool of mud. If anything, the very fact that we've come this far is far more amazing than any religion has ever offered me. It tells me that the solutions to the world's problems will not come via magic or wishful thinking, but by actively working to preserve life where I find it because once it is gone - then I'll have lost a part of my family.

That is my morality, as I learn it from Natural Selection.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You can read any book in prison - as long as its the Bible

I could make a joke here about how the Bible is full of stories of sexual assault, violence, and genocide - but it's too easy.

Instead, let's focus on the policy from a South Carolina jail that only allowed inmates to read the Bible.

Sure - they could have helped the inmates get an education by letting them read about history, or how to be an accountant so they could get a better paying job, or any number of things.

But why do that - when you can force your beliefs on people? Separation of church and state - who needs it?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just What Is “The Gay Agenda”?

Let me start with this: the term “The Gay Agenda” is refers to what is probably one of the dumbest ideas that has ever crossed the man of mankind. It is an idea based on a false premise, followed up by a complete lack of evidence, and topped with a big of old fashioned religious war nonsense.

First, a history: gay people have always been among us. Whether it’s Alexander the Great, or Socrates, or Alan Turing – homosexuals have been a part of society. Sometimes out in the open, sometimes in hiding, especially when Judaic based religions (such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc) are in control of societies. (By the way – anyone else notice that when Christianity or Islam completely dominates a society, such as in the European Dark Ages or about 900 CE for the Middle East, that scientific and cultural progress grounds to a stop? But I digress.)

In the United States, homosexual culture (as part of that Christian majority) was pretty much underground, especially during the majority of the 20th century, when gay people could be arrested and put in jail for being gay. Alan Turing, who’s work in establishing what would later become Computer Science and who’s mathematical abilities assisted England in breaking the German encryption codes that lead to the Allies winning World War II, was later convicted of indecency and went through chemical castration as part of his sentence for being homosexual. That’s right – the man who’s efforts may have saved the free world was later chemically castrated because he loved other men who loved him back. In the United States, public service announcements were made that equated homosexuality with pedophilia, warning teenage boys that homosexuals were sick.

But, during the 1970’s, the gay community started to come out of the closet. Lead by people such as Harvey Milk, the community realized that most of the stigma was centered around people’s ignorance. Come out and say “Yes, I’m gay – and as you can see, I don’t rape boys, I’m a good person, and the only difference between you and me is we love different people in different ways” reduced the ignorance. During the 1980’s the homosexual community was starting to become more accepted. Granted, you could still get beat up in school just for the hint you might be gay. Heck, my last name of “Hummel” was often just used as “Homo-el” by people who wanted to be insulting.

Naturally, the last thing that people who peddled in fear, racism and bigotry such as Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” (which was neither) couldn’t stand for people actually being left alone when Yahweh was out the condemning shellfish, pork – oh, and gay people, but they only pay attention to the last one.

In 1992, the term “The Gay Agenda” was invented. This is the important point: the term “The Gay Agenda” or “The Homosexual Agenda” was not in any way shape or form invented by gay or homosexual people . It was made by some pretty awful people who wanted to invent a really, really stupid idea.

In 1992, the Family Research Council came out with a video titled The Gay Agenda, followed up with other publications. The points of what they claim “The Gay Agenda” can be described in the book Redeeming The Rainbow:

The “gay” goal for society is to replace Judeo-Christian sexual morality (monogamous

heterosexual marriage and the natural family) with an alternative moral system that embraces “sexual freedom.” They know they can have no real acceptance in a society which restricts sex to authentic marriage, so “gay” activists have worked, literally for generations, to destroy marriage-based culture -- by aggressively promoting heterosexual promiscuity and fostering hostility against the chief opponent of promiscuity, the Christian church. As respect for family values and Christianity has declined, their own political power, as champions of “sexual freedom,” has increased proportionally.

So there you have it in a nutshell – gay people want to destroy marriage based culture in the name of “sexual freedom.” Evidently, these crazy gay people are 1) in a conspiracy, and b) actually think that consenting adults should be allowed to engage each other without the government interfering.

What a crazy notion. Next thing you know, we’ll be telling interracial couples that they should be allowed to get married. Or older couples who won't have more children. Or young people who are infertile.

So basically, that is “The Gay Agenda” according to groups like World News Daily, Focus on the Family, so on and so forth: homosexuals want to craft an America where traditional marriage and families are destroyed and gay people are the norm.

The question is: why do these groups feel that gay people want to do this?

The simple answer: reproduction.

In tract after tract of “Watch out for the Gay Agenda!’ that I’ve discovered, the stories go like this:

1. Gay people really aren’t gay because it’s a choice and not something people are born with.
3. Gay people become so because older gay people seduce younger gay people and molest them when they’re children and teenagers.
5. When these molested children/teenagers grow up, they now think they’re gay and that’s how gay people reproduce – by molesting children so they grow up thinking that sex with their own gender is the way it works for them.
Granted, this whole line of thinking is full of incorrect assumptions. Research and actual scientific organizations such as psychologists long ago removed homosexuality as a “mental disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and more and more research into genetics shows that homosexuality is genetic in nature – and may even have an evolutionary role in species survival.

The second part is a load of nonsense that groups like the Catholic Church have used, as in “Yes, we have tons of men that are raping boys – but it’s because of the evil gay people who keep entering our organizations!” When instead, pedophilia is commonly less about gender and more about power: the power of the abuser over their victims. This explains why Catholic priests and nuns (as depicted in The Ryan Report showed not just rampant raping of alter boys by men, but nuns abusing children, priests impregnating girls, and all sorts of other terrible things. Studies into a link into homosexuality and child molestation has failed to turn up any evidence:

Are homosexual adults in general sexually attracted to children and are preadolescent children at greater risk of molestation from homosexual adults than from heterosexual adults? There is no reason to believe so. The research to date all points to there being no significant relationship between a homosexual lifestyle and child molestation. There appears to be practically no reportage of sexual molestation of girls by lesbian adults, and the adult male who sexually molests young boys is not likely to be homosexual(Groth & Gary, 1982, p. 147).

But hey – let’s not let facts get in the way of religious bigotry and hatred.

Let’s lay it out on the table: there is a homosexual agenda, and it’s the same agenda that pretty much everyone else has: to be left the hell alone with the people who love and care for them. If consenting adults want to get together and do things that don’t hurt anyone else, more power to them. If a loving couple raise children in a house of love and support and encouragement, I don’t care if they’re straight or gay as long as they let the child grow up to the best of their abilities. There’s a shortage of love and kindness in the world, and I’m not going to stop anyone from increasing those two most rare of resources.

While the voices in the Christianist groups grow more and more shrill the small their numbers grow, gay people have spent decades simply saying “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” Soon they’ll have the right to marry, serve in the military, serve for children the way other countries have for years and decades with no more incident save the slow extinction of the ignorant and the evil that hates someone because they feel Yahweh ordered them to.

Which is one agenda I’ll be very happy to see expire from the world.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Speech I'd Have Given to Pope Benedict XVI

The following is the speech I would have given in response to Pope Benedict the XVI's that he gave at Holyroodhouse here

Mr. Benedict,

Thank you very much for your visit to the British Isle. While some may complain about the massive amounts of money - some $30 million dollars - that the British taxpayers will pay so you may visit. I consider this to be money rather well spent.

Mainly so they can look right into the face of hypocrisy and lies and learn to recognize it.

I noticed that you mentioned the Nazi's and atheists in the same breath, saying as you did:

we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29).

I realize it may be rude to remind people of your own dealings with the Nazi Youth Movement, Mr. Benedict. But I don't think I stand silent to that spew of lies and complete disregard for the truth that dribble from your mouth like the santorum that drips from a raped alter boy.

The Nazi's saught to "eradicate God from society" you say? Then it must have been the Catholic church that also wanted to eradicate the voice of Yahweh from discussion, since there was the treaty between Hiter's Germany and the Catholic church that set out to protect the Church's interests in that land.

But that can't be, you say? The Nazi's enforced an "atheist regime" - such as having their soldiers wear belt buckles bearing Gott Mit Uns - God With Us, the same type of battle cry that lead the Crusades out to kill Muslims in another land (another venture supported by the earlier Catholic church), or perhaps words like these were on the lips of those surely "atheist" Catholic priests who tortured Jews during the Spanish Inquisition?

I shouldn't be surprised that the Catholic Church or "your Holiness" even seeks to disregard the statements of Hitler himself, who's religiou statements are fairly well known, including from Mein Kampf:

Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.

As far as the "evils of atheism" yo allude to when you say "...let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society." If only the evidence bore this out! Which is the better society - ones such as the Netherlands where religious belief drops while they increase their efforts to care and nurture for each other? Or Britain herself, who enjoys greater and greater numbers of non-believers in the supernatural, the "divine", the teachings of sheepherders from some 10,000 years ago - and during the Enlightenment threw off the ideas of old outdated beliefs and embraced rationality.

Shall we compare the records of when Religion ruled and when Secularism started to hold sway? The "Dark Ages" lead to the shutdown of all increase of knowledge - if anything, the discoveries of the ancient Greeks in mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, biology were all but lost during the time when the Catholic Church held Europe within its grasp. It wasn't until humanity stopped looking to the clergy and the Bible for truth and actually opened their eyes again we found we were not at the center of the universe - for all of the punishments inflicted upon thinkers such as Galileo - I'm sure he appreciates finally being "pardoned" by the Church for the sin of having been right all along.

Or perhaps you speak of the technological advancements the world has made, such as treating the sick and freeing people of pain even against the Catholic church's early prohibitions against dissection and research. Or is the ability for men to search the Heavens not for invisible being who sit silent and mute so against your senses?

And yet- for all of the technology that moving to a more secular, a more scientific, a more "atheistic" world where we embrace reality and probe at it instead of hiding in the shadows and pointing to the words of men long dead like you and your clergy - all of this advancement hasn't seem to help your organization become more moral.

It wasn't atheism that when disease rears its head around the world seeks to spread disinformation regarding the prevention by using condoms or even educating people about sex. The Catholic church wants to keep millions ignorant and makes up blatant falsehoods that allows a terrible disease to go on inflicting millions more.

It wasn't atheism that sought and seeks still to keep women as powerless as possible, who denies them full membership and even leadership. It is instead the Catholic church that even now seeks to roll back the clock on women's control over their bodies and force them to bear the babies of their rapists or fathers, and excommunicates the doctors who give life saving treatments while pardoning the rapist of children.

It wasn't atheism that allowed the raping of children and their cries for help to go unheeded over the majority of the 20th century, but your own actions in hiding such offenses from the eyes of the secular law that would have seen such evil men punished for their crimes. It wasn't atheism that had the Catholic church move pedophile priests from one parish to the next so they could victimize more weeping children - and then terrify them into silence with tales of a burning afterlife that met them if they dared speak out. An organization that even now is more intent on blaming children for being abused than for the adults who actually violated the innocents.

So again, thank you Mr. Benedict for coming to this location. So people can look upon a lying, uncaring, criminal and child rapist protecting man who claims to speak for Yahweh - and know evil the next time they hear it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bob Jones Press: Working to make you dumber

Sometimes, in order for things to make sense, you have to start with the basics and go from there.

Yesterday I found a link to this book Science 4 Student Text, ISBN Number 978-1-59166-423-9. The book is published by Bob Jones University Press, which bills itself as "Christ-centered resources for education, edification, & evangelism.

I'll be honest, I'm not sure whom this book is for. College students? Based on the writing, I'd say maybe 4th graders. But let's take a sample page:

For a moment, I wasn't sure where to begin. The top quote? OK - that's correct, the book in the Bible called Genesis does say that. The first paragraph after "The Moon's Beginning"? That's factually accurate if simplistic - science is about information gathered by our senses, though there's more to it than that. And that's about a good a definition of "faith" as I've heard.

Then, the next paragraph launches into the silly. It's correct, there were no people there to witness the Moon being made, whether you go by the scientific theories or the Christian mythology. Then enter the stupid:

"What anyone believes about the beginning of things rests on faith, not science."

Let me translate what they're saying:

"Was there anybody there to see the Moon being made? No. Therefore, whatever you believe about the origins of the Moon is based on faith. If you didn't directly observe it, then whatever you believe about the origins are taken off of faith, not science."

Which is such a gross misunderstanding about science, and observation in general, the it's an embarrassment that this concept was even proposed.

So like I said: let's take it down to the simple level.

Mr. Faith walks into the kitchen and finds Faith Junior sitting on the floor. There is a broken cookie jar nearby, and it once held 10 chocolate chip cookies. It now looks like there a 4 left.

Faith Junior has smears of chocolate on his face and fingers, and little cookie crumbs around his mouth.

It is at this point that Mr. Faith, of course, does nothing. He can not punish Faith Junior because they didn't observe what had happened, and clearly any indication that Faith Junior got into the cookie jar and ate the cookies would be based on faith, not evidence.

But that would likely mean that Mr. Faith is an idiot.

Why? Because he is *observing* right there with his eyes. He observes that earlier, there were 10 cookies and not 4. He observes that Faith Junior has chocolate around his mouth and fingers.

From previous encounters with chocolate chip cookies, Mr. Faith would be able to say "It is common that when someone has been eating chocolate chip cookies, they tend to have chocolate on their fingers and their mouth. Also, they have crumbs around their lip."

Mr. Faith can make that decision because he has used previous observations and experiences, and then used the current observations to make a decision based on past performance.

It's how we get through our lives. Science is observation of the evidence at hand, then using that information from other observations in the past.

It's how a murder is solved. People have observed that when you touch a gun, you leave an imprint of your fingerprints upon the material. And other observations have been made that, so far, people's fingerprints are unique from person to person. Combining those two piece of information, and you have a method of catching a killer without anyone having to have seen the original crime.

Let's go back to the moon. How do scientists know it was formed? They don't - they don't pretend to. But what they do say is "We observe the rocks to look like this. So far, all rocks that look like this were formed in this manner. We observe the pattern of craters upon the surface of the moon, and we have some tests we can perform that show us how often craters occur and how they look over time. Based on these things that we have observed, and our current observations of the moon, we put forward that the Moon is about 4.5 billion years old. Give or take. And if we hear better explanations for the observations we can make now, we'll gladly evaluate them to see if they hold up."

I'm not going to get into the whole process of how you determine the age of old things, because I'm neither an astronomer or a geologist. But I do know they just because they weren't there millions of years ago to observe it that their conclusions are based off of "faith" any more than Mr. Faith grounding Faith Junior for cookie snatching is.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Saying I Don't Know Doesn't Make You Right

There has been a murder.

And, of course, everybody knows that Jim did it.

Granted, the answer is always "Jim did it." Who robbed the bank? Jim. Who pushed over Old Lady McGregor? Jim.

Or, at least, that's always the answer at first. At least until we discover otherwise. Using cameras inside the bank we know that Jim didn't rob the bank, it what Mark and the Pennywise Gang. And the person who pushed over Old Lady McGregor was that scamp Biff - there were 5 people who saw that one.

And nobody's ever even seen Jim, but we all know he's always the cause of everything. So whenever something happens, first you start with "Jim did it." Later on, after the testing and questioning and everything is done, we might find Jim didn't do anything. Didn't cause the diseases, or the earthquakes -

But until you know otherwise, you always start with Jim.

So that's why when Bill Buck was murdered, we all knew it was Jim. Now, the townspeople tell me I'm a right idiot for saying "I don't think Jim did it. And really, we shouldn't assume Jim does anything-"

"Do you know who *did* do it, then?" Officer Gagger snapped at me.

"Well, no," I said. "I don't know."

"That's what I thought," Office Gagger smirked. And went about taking pictures of Bill Buck's dead body. "Obviously, Jim did it then."

"Why does me not knowing mean it was Jim?"

"Because Jim is always the answer," Officer Gagger told me while the other townspeople clucked and shook their heads at stupid, stupid me.

Maybe someday I'll understand and be like everybody else. And I'll start by saying the answer is Jim until people who actually ask questions and look at information tell me otherwise.

I guess it make life easier that way.