Saturday, July 19, 2008

Abstinence only: Not teaching and calling it education

The Family Research Council trumpets abstinence only sex "education"

Promiscuity Leads the Pact

Despite the angst over fuel prices and the presidential race, rumors of a high school pregnancy pact are stealing headlines in America's largest newspapers

Yep! It's a major issue and should be treated with respect. For example, we probably shouldn't just sweep it under the rug and tell people "don't have sex, it's bad".

and prompting more parents to question what public education is teaching their children about sex.

Because we all know that the solution to any problem is ignorance!

During the 2007-08 school year, Joseph Sullivan, the principal of Massachusetts' Gloucester High School (GHS), noticed a serious spike in the number of girls who became pregnant during the school year. In an interview with Time, he admitted that the teen pregnancy rate had quadrupled at GHS, and he suspected that a group of sophomore girls agreed to "get pregnant and raise their babies together."

Interesting, if true. That would actually sound like a reasoned response to how to manage the pressures of being a parent - form a community and help each other. What would be wrong with that? Is helping each other a problem?

While the media is consumed with whether or not such a pact exists, the story raises far more troubling issues about the school's message on sexuality.

And now we get down to it! Yay!

If these students never struck an agreement, as Gloucester's Mayor Carolyn Kirk insists, we can presume at the very least that these 16-year-old girls thought it was acceptable to be sexually active and become pregnant.

God turned on the equipment to do so, right? Who are we to dispute His judgment?

And why wouldn't they? GHS's own policy encourages it.

If "encourage" means "doesn't vilify a teenager for not following bogus religious rules", then this is correct.

The school offers free on-site daycare for teen moms so that students can bring their babies to school.

As opposed to forcing the girls to drop out because they have to take care of their baby.

It also teaches "comprehensive" sex education to students in the ninth grade, just in time for high school.

So in the science classroom, we should give the kids all of the facts and let them decide. But in sex education, we should only teach them one thing and one thing only. And that thing should be the one thing that the entire species is hardwired not to do. Okay! Got it!

If the school is bending over backward to accommodate teen mothers and encouraging the promiscuity that leads to it,

Remember folks, "encourage" currently means "doesn't vilify a teenager for not following bogus religious rules". This recap courtesy of Webster! Rewriting the dictionary for over 200 years!

these girls would have no choice but to assume that premarital sex and motherhood are acceptable social norms.

Yep! No choice at all! No other places anywhere in the world that they could possibly get information about one of the largest life impacting choices they will ever make!

Parents? No way! They can't talk to them.

TV? Nope! Nothing about sex there!

Internet? Please! There's no sex on the internet! No chat rooms, no IMs, no blogs, no email, no text messages about it. Get serious!

Newspapers, magazines, libraries, et al? No way! These kids can barely read.

Friends? Yeesh! Who do you think is getting these girls pregnant?

Other family members? As if! They're all going to tell them just not to have sex!

There we go! We're fresh out of possibilities. Kids have no choice!

Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy said, "This is not a story about sex education." Of course it is! It just happens to be a story that liberals are trying to hide, as it confirms--once again--the failure of comprehensive sex education.

Yep! Complete failure! We didn't whip the pregnant girl down the middle of the street for the offense against God of having sex?!? We all fail! Our school had the audacity to teach teenagers about the very instincts that every single human being gets when they hit puberty?!? Clearly that's a horrible idea!

Planned Parenthood celebrated when Gov. Deval Patrick (D) refused the federal funds for abstinence programs in Massachusetts schools. Had he accepted the grant and encouraged schools like GHS to use it to teach sexual restraint, the storyline in this storied fishing village might have been different.

Certainly would have been different! They still would have had sex, but with abstinence only education they would have been branded evil, lying, stinking, traitors to their community as well!

Instead schools like Gloucester insist on promoting promiscuity over abstinence in direct contradiction of the wishes of 78 percent of parents (as expressed in a 2007 Zogby poll)

Note the lack of teenagers who were polled. It's pretty easy to say "no" when you're not the one giving anything up.

Like us, these parents don't understand what's wrong with telling kids to simply say "no." Isn't that the message we give them on other dangerous activities like drug and alcohol use?

So everyone is pre-programmed with a huge smoking drive and if we all didn't smoke the human race would end? Dude, your analogy needs some serious work. Try going after something that the human body really needs - like eating, for example.

We tell them not to smoke. And unlike sex education, we don't hand them filters and say "If you're going to light up, smoke safely."

Yeah, the smoking thing still isn't working. Did you get this one out of "Sucky Analogies to Use to Try to Confuse Idiots"? Or did it come from "1001 Lousy Analogies That Won't Work At All"?

Now that public schools are starting to reap what they've sown with the "just do it" mentality, states are scrambling to accommodate kids and their poor decision-making. On teen sex, it's time to stop treating the problem and start preventing it with the only birth control that is 100% effective--abstinence.

And we're finally to the crux of the issue. Abstaining from sex is 100% effective in avoiding sex. But Abstinence Only Sex Education is utterly proven to be a completely worthless pipe dream. It fails every study that it's been subjected to. More importantly it fails the basic precept of education: That we should be teaching the next generation what we know.

Abstinence Only education is, by definition, refusing to teach the subject that is claims to teach. That, my friends, is always going to be a bad idea.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Order of Canada

On July 1st, Canada Day by the way, Dr. Henry Morgentaler was inducted into the Order of Canada! Cause for celebration? Yep! Except for those that dislike freedom and choice and women controlling their own bodies.

See his induction cheapens Wayne Gretkzy's Dad's order, apparently. Read on!

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday he supports the decision to award abortion crusader Dr. Henry Morgentaler with the Order of Canada.

Dr. Henry Morgentaler was named a member of the Order of Canada on July 1.

McGuinty, himself a Catholic, appears to be the first premier to address the issue publicly. His stance opposes that of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has said he would have preferred to have seen the award bestowed on someone who unifies Canadians.

Fighting for freedom and personal liberties has never been a very Canadian thing, you see.

"I know that Dr. Morgentaler's been seen as a controversial figure, but I believe in a woman's right to make a very difficult decision," McGuinty said.

Yay McGuinty!

"And if she makes that difficult decision and chooses to have an abortion, I want her to be able to do that in a way that's safe, in a way that's publicly funded. So I know it's divisive, but I think it's important."

You rock, man! I'm going to move to Canada and become a citizen there just so I can start voting for you.

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean named Morgentaler as a member of the order on July 1 for his services to women and for leadership in the fields of humanism and civil liberties. The controversial appointment was made on the advice of the independent Order of Canada selection committee.

McGuinty's comments came the same day an Ontario Catholic organization returned an Order of Canada medal to the Governor General to protest the decision to give Morgentaler the honour.


No good deed goes unpunished.

Order 'devalued'

Members of the Madonna House took the medal, along with a letter of explanation, to Rideau Hall, the Governor General's official residence in Ottawa.

The medal had been awarded to the organization's late founder in 1976.

"It is only after much prayer and consultation with our community, as well as with heavy hearts, that we are undertaking this action," Rev. David May, one of the Madonna House directors, said in a news release.

So they took a long, long time to decide specifically to behave like petulant children. Got it!

Catherine Doherty, who died at the age of 89 in 1985, was named a member the Order of Canada for "a lifetime of devoted services to the underprivileged of many nationalities, both in Canada and abroad," according to the Governor General's website.

Sounds really good!

She and her husband started Madonna House in 1947 in Combermere, about 180 kilometres west of Ottawa. The organization now counts 200 members and operates soup kitchens and retreats in seven countries around the world. All involved have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

May said he believes Doherty would support the organization's decision to return her award.

He prayed to her today and the table lamp bumped just like it used to when she was alive! QED!

"The order has been devalued in recent days, and we are confident that Catherine is spiritually present with us, affirming this gesture of love for our country and for the values which alone can sustain it. Without absolute respect for the gift of life, no society can survive," he said.

Isn't that great, flowery language for forcing a woman to suffer through a pregnancy and bare a child that she doesn't want?

Madonna House's decision to return the award came five days after Rev. Lucien Larré, a B.C. priest, returned his Order of Canada medal to protest Morgentaler's appointment.

And the beat goes on.

Morgentaler fought to legalize abortion

Morgentaler, a Polish Holocaust survivor who immigrated to Montreal after the Second World War, struggled for decades to have abortion legalized in Canada.

Sounds like a scumbag, doesn't he? He really devalues the Order of Canada!

He opened his first illegal abortion clinic in Montreal in 1969 and performed thousands of procedures.

A family physician, Morgentaler argued that access to abortion was a basic human right and women should not have to risk death at the hands of an untrained professional in order to end their pregnancies.

The brute! Giving young women proper medical care?!? Yep, that has devalue written all over it!

His abortion clinics were constantly raided, and one in Toronto was firebombed.

I'm always amazed that anyone can justify murdering someone who has been born as a reasonable response to making safe abortions available. I'm just saying.

Morgentaler was arrested several times and spent months in jail as he fought his case at all court levels in Canada.

On Jan. 28, 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada's abortion law. That law, which required a woman who wanted an abortion to appeal to a three-doctor hospital abortion committee, was declared unconstitutional.

Canada now has no federal laws governing abortion, and leaves regulation of the procedure up to individual provinces.

So the man who put his life on the line, risked being murdered, firebombed, and raided, went toe to toe with the federal government, spent time in jail because of it, and in the end won for the rights of freedom and privacy everywhere is given the highest honor Canada can bestow. Bravo!

Anyone who thinks that this man devalues anything needs a remedial course in the Inigo Montoya School for Terminally Dictatorially Clueless.

Congratulations, Dr. Morgentaler!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mutant mice!

Our friend, Brian Thomas at the ICR, makes another ignorant stab at evolution.

Human Stem Cells Cure Mutated Mice
by Brian Thomas, M.S.*

Researchers are intelligently designing techniques to combat mutations that cause neurological disorders.

Excellent! And here we were worried that they were wasting their time eating caviar and salsa dancing.

If evolution works according to the standard neo-Darwinian model of time + selection + mutation, then why are we interfering with the process?

Is this a trick question? Because we have particular goals in mind that we want to accomplish. That would be the same answer as to why we clean the house instead of just letting nature eventually clean it for us.

Shouldn’t we let evolution run its course?

That would depend on what course nature is running and what we want to achieve.

Perhaps these diseased individuals would grow a new organ or something, and become the next step in our naturally upward progression from hydrogen to human and beyond.

I'm betting not. And I think you agree.

It seems that such evolutionary philosophy becomes practically unlivable.

Your bizarro world evolutionary philosophy is, I agree!

Rather than let ”evolution” take its course, researchers are thankfully taking steps to remedy mutations’ harmful effects.

Woot! Yay for the researchers!

Nature News reported on June 41 the successful treatment of mice that are born with a mutation that prevents myelin from forming around their nerve cells. Without myelin, the mice live tortured, short lives. Myelin-related disorders in humans include multiple sclerosis and adrenoleukodystrophy. The lead researcher of the study, Stephen Goldman from the University of Rochester in New York, described these as “awful, awful diseases.”

Very nasty! Ouch!

His treatment involved injecting human nervous tissue stem cells into the spinal cords of newborn mice. Untreated mice with this mutation typically died young, but some of the treated mice grew myelin and were normalizing as they developed. The successful stem cells were harvested not from human embryos, but from human adults.
As always, the mutation in these mice represents a loss of valuable genetic information. It is this very loss that these researchers are seeking to restore with stem cell treatments.

Very reasonable.

Does anybody else find it ironic that biomedical researchers are pouring their lives into reversing the effects of mutations, after having been taught in our universities and medical schools that mutations are the essential engines of evolution? Perhaps time + selection + mutation isn’t such a good formula after all.

Nope, not in the slightest. The reason why is that those scientists are not stopping evolution, they're stopping that undesirable mutation in mice. Evolution can and will continue on. Rather than challenging the formula above, they're demonstrating that it's true. And then going forward and using that knowledge to help mice and perhaps someday help humans in much the same way.

It is ironic that a group that prides itself on easing human suffering does it's level best to prevent the people who are actually doing real work to help ease suffering.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More marriage lunacy!

More twisted fairy tales from our good friends at Protect Marriage.

In this section learn more about the legal and legislative issues surrounding the Amendment, review frequently asked questions (FAQs) and read articles related to protecting marriage.

Why It’s Needed

1. Children need the love of both a father and a mother.

Which, of course, means that anything other than the love of both a mother and a father is full blown torturing the child. We're talking the equivalent of putting the tyke into a room with Sayid Jarrah from Lost and telling Sayid to use "any means necessary" here. Clearly no child raised with out the love of both a mother and a father (and I'm talking about a female parent and a male parent here) has been anything but a traumatized, homicidal drain on our society.

The body of research-proof is overwhelming and consistent. (Read Glenn Stanton’s writings on the Focus on the Family Web site for more information.)

By all means consult a conservative Christian corporation for all of your research! That's a great idea! Oh....wait a's not.

2. Traditional marriage deserves protection because of its contributions to societal well-being. The historic purpose for governmental recognition of marriage has been about children and society, not the relationship of two adults. (For more information, consult the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.)

Yep, no need to give good, loving, caring, hardworking adults those governmental protections! Why would we do a silly thing like that?!?

3. Expanding the definition of marriage by including homosexual relationships adds to the continued disregard for marriage’s ultimate purpose.

No. It would continue to disregard what marriage means to you and your religion. There's a difference! The really neat part is that we have religious freedom in the USA so we don't have to pay attention to what a particular religion thinks about a secular, legal condition. And that protection is what keeps the government from stomping on your religion!

Where it has been legalized, same-sex marriage decreases the total number of marriages while increasing illegitimacy. Nine European nations have had same-sex marriage since the early 90s—and just 2 percent of same-sex couples in these countries ever bother to marry, while there has been a 46 percent increase in out-of-wedlock births. (Read more)

Okay, I'm just confused. If the argument is that gay couples won't get married anyway, then that's an argument to go ahead and save your money on the campaign. If they aren't going to take advantage of getting married after all, there's no reason to try to stop them from doing so. Really, get your arguments straight here!

4. Expanding the definition of marriage begs the question: Why stop at same-sex couples? What legal basis would remain to limit the number of partners in marriage?

Common sense comes to mind.

5. Legalizing same-sex marriage necessarily mandates changes to all California public-school curriculum. Children will be subjected to a mandatory acceptance of homosexuality and all of its practices. Public school curriculum will actively discriminate against the values of the majority of its community’s families.

Schools teaching tolerance is a good thing. Really! It is!

6. Religious freedom has been the cornerstone of success for the United States of America. It is naïve to believe that when acceptance of same-sex marriage is legislatively or judicially forced upon citizens via employment law, education, or other government mandates, rights of religious liberty won’t decrease.

I hope you're not saying that you think that you have the right to descriminate against others. We were having such a good conversation up until this point! * sigh *

Did you know…?

…that just eight years ago, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 22, by 61.4% of the vote, to keep marriage only between a man and a woman.

You don't say!

So why do we now need to amend the state constitution?

Because you just found out that it supersedes statewide propositions!

On May 15, the California Supreme Court ruled that the statutory changes made by Propositoin 22 were invalid. The only way to overturn this is decision is with a Constitutional Amendment. See our news release on this decision. (Read the decision.) The Court declared a right to “same-sex marriage” in direct opposition to the definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman, established by Proposition 22.

Not to point out the obvious here, but usually when a court strikes down a law, it does so in direct opposition to that law. I'm just saying.

In the majority decision authored by Chief Justice Ronald George, he wrote “an individual’s sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”

Yay for equality!

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Marvin Baxter stated, “…marriage is, as it always has been, the right of a woman and an unrelated man to marry each other.” Baxter added “…there is no deeply rooted tradition of same-sex marriage, in the nation or in this state.”


Prop 22 added a regular statute to the California Family Code (not the state constitution) to keep marriage between a man and a woman and prevent the state Legislature from redefining marriage without a vote of the people. Since then however, politicians and judges have chipped away at Prop 22 and ignored the will of the voters. For example:

• In 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom thumbed his nose at California voters by issuing marriage licenses to thousands of homosexual couples in open defiance of Proposition 22. Ultimately, the courts declared those so-called “marriages” to be invalid, but left the door open to a future constitutional challenge against traditional marriage.

An elected representative did what he felt was the right thing?!? Now I've seen it all!

• Additionally, the courts have undermined Proposition 22 and marriage by upholding an act of the Legislature that gave homosexual “domestic partners” the full legal status of married spouses. A San Francisco judge ruled that Proposition 22, a regular statute, violates the California Constitution and ordered the licensing of same-sex “marriages.” On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court overruled Proposition 22 and declared that homosexuals have a constitutional right to marry.

Wow...a court overturned an unconstitutional law. Who do they think they are? A judge or something?!?

Seriously, this one is really simple. There are people who love and care for each other who just happen to be the same gender. The purpose of life is happiness: we should just let them be happy with each other. If allowing them to get married helps them on the universal path to their own happiness, it should be our pleasure to open that door for them.

The greatest damage religion can do is to make good people do bad things. These couples are not encroaching on anyone else's life by asking to get married. Standing in the way of their happiness is bad.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Conservapedia on Creation Science

Conservapedia on Creation Science! Woot!

Creation science

Creation science is science free from atheist and evolutionist bias, which shows that supernatural creation of the material universe by God is consistent and compatible with scientific evidence.

That's an encyclopedic definition?!?

So if we had a scientific theory that was free of "evolutionist bias", showed the universe was made by God in a supernatural event, but had "atheist bias", that isn't creation science, right?

How about we have "atheist bias" and "evolutionist bias" but the universe was created by some competing god down the street? Would that be creation science?

And lest we forget, here is the list of the creaionist theories that are free of "atheist and evolutionist bias", show God to have created the universe, and are compatible with all scientific evidence:


Yep! That's right! Throw in the "all" clause - meaning that the theory has to meet all evidence, not just a few pieces here and there and the entire subject washes away with the tide.

Most advocates of creation science believe the earth is approximately 6,000 years old

This isn't even true if we just talk about creation scientists. It's only the bible literalists that hold to the Y6K motif like a drowning man clutches to a life preserver.

In addition, scientists in the discipline of creation science state that the first law of thermodynamics and second law of thermodynamics argue against an eternal universe.

That would be the same ones that state the Earth is 6,000 years old.

They also claim that these laws point to the universe being created by God.

Great hypothesis! Too bad it failed the testing protocols. Bummer.

Creation scientists also assert that naturalistic processes alone cannot account for the origin of life and that the theory of evolution cannot account for the various kinds of animals and plants.

Can I be a creation scientist, too? Making stuff up and just stating it or asserting it sounds way easier than what real scientists do!

Both evolutionary scientists and young earth creation scientists believe that speciation occurs;

So they don't just state that speciation occurs? How quaint!

however, young earth creation scientists state that speciation generally occurs at a much faster rate than evolutionists believe is the case. Many scientists in the field of creation science, such as the scientists at Creation Ministries International and Answers in Genesis, assert that the Bible contains an understanding of scientific knowledge beyond that believed to exist at the time the Bible was composed.

Ah, back to the assertions. And here I thought we were moving forward!

In addition, Christianity profoundly influenced the development of modern science.

For example, torturing Galileo did, in fact, have a profound influence on him.

Creation Science and Genetic Programs and Biological Information

Scientists in the area of creation science and intelligent design advocates state the genetic code, genetic programs, and biological information argue for an intelligent cause in regards to the origins question.

Broken record time, here, but really just stating stuff isn't science any more than holding your hand over the bible is theology.

Dr. Werner Gitt, former director and Professor of Information Systems at the prestigious German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt), wrote that human beings are the most complex information processing systems on earth. Dr. Gitt estimated that the human body processes thousands of times more information than all the world's libraries contain.

This part might be true. We'd need to see his evidence, but the fact is the human brain is an amazing information processing organ.

Dr. Gitt has written several points regarding the origin of biological information:

It's story time!

1. In his work In the Beginning Was Information Dr. Gitt stated that “There is no known law of nature, no known process and no known sequence of events which can cause information to originate by itself in matter.”

He might want to read Dawkins, sometime. He has a book or two on this subject. I'm sure it's just an oversight on Dr. Gitt's part to not know of a 159 year old theory.

2. Dr. Gitt argued that the density and complexity of DNA information is millions of times larger than mankind's current technology

Might be true!

and this means a supremely intelligent being was the author of this information

Completely false!

What it really means is that there has to be some mechanism to create this complexity. It's completely false to say that only a god could do that, especially since there are other alternatives.

Similarly, Dr. Stephen C. Meyer in his 1996 essay The Origin of Life and the Death of Materialism, wrote that "the information storage density of DNA, thanks in part to nucleosome spooling, is several trillion times that of our most advanced computer chips.

We're amazingly complex, yep!

3. Gitt stated that the author of the information encoded into the DNA molecule, who constructed the molecular biomachines to encode, decode and run the cells was supremely intelligent.

So another axiom that we either believe or don't. Here a hint, scientists, the ones that actually follow the scientific method and test their theories and other weird stuff that you haven't heard of - like independent reviews - don't believe this axiom. They've even come up with other ways that this could happen. And then tested those ways and found that they work!

Isn't real science fun?!? Yeah!

4. Dr. Gitt asserted that because information is a nonmaterial entity and does not originate from matter, the author of biological information must be nonmaterial (spirit).

And is spooky!

Dr. Walt Brown concurs in regards to the supernatural origin of biological information and states that the genetic material that controls the biological processes of life is coded information and that human experience tells us that codes are created only by the result of intelligence and not merely by processes of nature.

Evidence! *whistles like whistling for a dog* Where are you evidence! Come on over, Evidence! Show yourself...someday!

Dr. Brown also asserts that the "information stored in the genetic material of all life is a complex program. Therefore, it appears that an unfathomable intelligence created these genetic programs."

Appears? Perhaps. Did? No.

It really doesn't matter how many times you state or assert something. Until you show evidence of that something you've got nothing more than a bunch of unsupported hopes and wishes.

To support his creation science view regarding the divine origin of genetic programs,

Look, ma! They might get around to showing us some evidence!

Dr. Walt Brown cites the work of David Abel and Professor Jack Trevors who wrote the following:
“No matter how many "bits" of possible combinations it has, there is no reason to call it "information" if it doesn't at least have the potential of producing something useful. What kind of information produces function? In computer science, we call it a "program." Another name for computer software is an "algorithm." No man-made program comes close to the technical brilliance of even Mycoplasmal genetic algorithms. Mycoplasmas are the simplest known organism with the smallest known genome, to date. How was its genome and other living organisms' genomes programmed? - David L. Abel and Jack T. Trevors, “Three Subsets of Sequence Complexity and Their Relevance to Biopolymeric Information,” Theoretical Biology & Medical Modelling, Vol. 2, 11 August 2005, page 8"
Creation Science and the Evolutionary Science Community

Nope. No evidence here. Just an unanswered question. Bummer!

Creation science is not accepted by most scientists either in terms of its claims or as a science, on the pretext that it cannot be disproved and therefore cannot be considered "science".

Yep, that's really, really important.

However, Dr. Walt Brown argues that the field of creation science is scientific.

Okay! State your evidence of this.

Also, creation scientists state the evolutionists' objections to creation science are due to the worldviews and preconceptions of the scientists, rather than on the basis of scientific evidence or the scientific validity of the idea.

Oh, of course. You're not going to give any evidence. How silly of me!

Also, Karl Popper, a leading philosopher of science and originator of falsifiability as a criterion of demarcation of science from nonscience, stated that Darwinism is "not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme." Michael Ruse, a leading Darwinist and philosopher of science, conditionally acknowledged Popper's statement: "Since making this claim, Popper himself has modified his position somewhat; but, disclaimers aside, I suspect that even now he does not really believe that Darwinism in its modern form is genuinely falsifiable."

Here's another quote from Karl Popper: “I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation”. You see, Karl found out that he was wrong and so, like a good scientific mind, when he was presented with new data, he changed his mind.

Although a belief in God does not automatically imply a belief in creation science, it is interesting to note that a poll among United States scientists showed that approximately 40% of scientists believed there is a God, while a similar survey found that 93% of members of the United States National Academy of Sciences do not believe there is a God.

And thank you, Conservapedia, for staying on topic!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hagee on cremation

John Hagee's comedy FAQ show continues on. This time with cremation!

Q. Is it wrong for a Christian to choose to be cremated?

A. Burial and cremation are personal choices;

So we’re done. The answer is “No.”

the Bible does not prescribe a particular method for disposing of bodies after death.

Still “No.”

However, Christians have historically followed the Jewish custom of burial, for several reasons.

So “Yes”, then?

First, it shows respect for our physical bodies, which are the creation of God. We are "fearfully and wonderfully made," the Bible says (Ps. 139:14).

Fear, a wonderful trait for any religion.

Jesus Himself chose to come to earth in a physical body just like ours, and He was resurrected in that same body.

As told in the clear contemporary documentation of…I’m sure it’s around here somewhere…

Lets see, Jesus was a big, important figure in first century religion. I’m sure there are lots of people who wrote about him at the time…


No worries. I’ll keep looking!

Our bodies are also destined for resurrection;

Really?!? I thought that was reserved for “the Family”

our "natural" bodies will be gloriously transformed into "spiritual" bodies when the dead in Christ are raised (1 Cor. 15).

Sounds great!

At that time, when we receive our glorified bodies, it will not matter whether we were buried or cremated at death.

So we’re back to “No.” Your concision is amazing!

Many Christians who have perished in fires have been involuntarily cremated.

Clearly “No.”

Think of those believers who lost their lives in the collapse of the World Trade Center, for example.

“Randolph Scott!”

Most of the bodies were not recovered; the victims' remains were obliterated and their ashes scattered in the massive pile of rubble. It was humanly impossible to identify the dead, yet the God who created them can identify their bodies down to the last atom.

Cool! Just a side question – for the guy who had just clipped his fingernails before the planes hit, do those atoms count as still his? At what point do the atoms of someone’s spit stop being part of him and start being not his atoms anymore? I’m just asking.

And He will resurrect them "in the twinkling of an eye," exactly as He will those Christians whose bodies were buried and decomposed naturally.

So we’re back to “No.”. It seems odd to use 262 words just to say “No.”

Burial or cremation is a very personal choice.

Ah! A time honored tradition of school kids reaching a word requirement – repeat yourself unnecessarily.

You should discuss it with your closest family members before making a decision, so they will be comfortable in carrying out your decision and living with the memories.

Very good advice! It got really wordy in the middle and never really said “No, it’s not wrong”, so Johhny, you get a C+.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

God hates bison

From the same loony bin that brought you creationism as viewed from a banana (but only the selectively bred bananas, of course) we now bring you the bison!

Buffalo easy to kill, but a real nightmare for evolutionists to explain.
E. Norbert Smith, Ph.D.

It is difficult to imagine an indigenous people any place in the world more closely connected to an animal than were the various Native American plains tribes to the American Bison or buffalo. Indeed, even today tribal leaders refer to the time before the disappearance of the buffalo. Their disappearance marked the end of a way of life that had been in harmony with nature for thousands of years.

With the notable exception of not really being in harmony with the bison. I'm just saying.

They depended on the unlimited bison for food, clothes, tools, medicine, ornaments and shelter. Have you marveled at the success of Native Americans in killing bison survival? Their success plagued me until graduate school. Let me explain.

Please do! That sounds like fun!

Historically there were actually three ways bison were killed by Native Americans. Some were stampeded over cliffs or trapped in box canyons. This can only occur in a limited number of places and could surely not support a vast plains people for centuries. A second way was running down a single animal by horse. Often it took as many as 5 or more fresh horses to finally fatigue the bison. This would only work after Europeans introduced horses and even then could only provide a few animals so the question remains.

Inefficiencies galore.

The third method and the one most often seen on TV involves a horse back rider shooting a running bison with a bow and arrow. This is the one that bothered me for years. I am not a bow hunter, but the idea of hitting the heart of a running bison from a galloping horse seems difficult if not impossible. This problem was uniquely solved by the Creator of man and bison.

God hates bison?

With the notable exception of the American Bison most mammals have two separate pleural or lung cavities. As we all know, one side of our chest can be penetrated collapsing that lung, but the other side remains intact and the remaining lung can support life. The bison has what is called an incomplete mediastinum, that is there is but one pleural cavity containing both lungs. Thus the problem for the Native bow hunter with or without a horse is solved. An arrow must only penetrate the chest at any point and both lungs collapse. The fatally wounded animal would only continue a few yards providing unlimited food, clothing and tools.

Perhaps not unlimited food, but the basic point is valid: The bison has an Achilles heel and the native tribes milked that weakness for everything it was worth. Pretty reasonable of them, really, especially since running out of bison wasn't even a consideration for them.

Before the availability of horses bison could be shot by stealth from a blind or other hiding place. One problem is solved yet another serious comes to mind...a problem seldom mentioned, yet demanding an answer.

There's more?!? Cool!

The problem is for the evolutionist.

Excellent! Scientists love mysteries. What is it?

Other than providing food for hungry people, of what selective advantage is an incompletely divided mediastinum?

Not much of one, which is why a divided mediastinum is an evolutionary advantage.

From an evolutionary sense this makes absolutely no sense.

It makes no sense that there would be creatures in various stages of evolutionary advantages? No, that makes perfect sense actually. And that is exactly what you'd expect to see if evolution is correct.

Indeed conventional wisdom would argue for its elimination from the gene pool.

Which the natives happily provided!

Yet it did remain and fed a continent of Native American for centuries.

There were a lot of them to mow through.

It must indeed require faith and dedication to remain an evolutionist. I am glad I know the Creator of Bison and Native Americans. You can know Him too.

Okay, lets just get down to brass tax here. There's no particular evolutionary advantage to the incompletely divided mediastinum compared to a completely divided mediastinum. But there's no particular disadvantage to it until you start facing a predator armed with projectile weaponry. Then that basic problem of getting pierced once in the chest becomes a really, really big deal.

So what does evolution say will happen for the bison? It says that absent a predator that can take advantage of this weakness, it'll thrive. It's big, bad, and has massive endurance. Evolution further says that once it faces a predator that can take advantage of that weakness, the bison is in a world of hurt. Both of these match up exactly with what actually happened.

It must indeed require faith and dedication to remain a creationist!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The bible is true because we said so!

Our friend, the Yominator, at the Canada Free Press tells us that the bible is true because...the bible says so!


One cannot conclude a column like this without mentioning philosophical and logical proofs of the Divinity of the Bible, the Torah. To begin with, the Bible is the only book in the history of mankind to make the claim that part of it was given by the Creator in front of an entire nation (of 600,000 families, totaling a few million people).

Wow. That claim is so completely not impressing me in the slightest. You see a claim like that would naturally generate a ton of collaborating evidence from those millions of people. So to verify the claim that it was presented to millions of people – which wouldn’t cover the Creator part, of course – we’d just have to check for effects on those millions.

And that’s where the trial runs rather cold.

If someone were to come along today with a book, claiming that its Divine transmission had been witnessed by millions of people, they'd be laughed out of the room.

There’s a reason for that

One cannot convince an entire nation, including its greatest analytical thinkers and its most ardent skeptics, that such a transmission occurred and had been witnessed by them when it hadn't.

Yep. Keep going with this thought. You’re really getting somewhere!

To those who would counter "What if the Bible came along a few hundred years later?" (claiming to have been witnessed a few hundred years back), such a claim would have been met with equal ridicule, just as a book claiming to have been given by the Creator, as witnessed by millions in the 1700s would be met with ridicule today. There would have been a well known history of such a happening. Simply put, a book that claims to have been Divinely given to millions cannot take hold on a widespread level if it is not true. That's a basic philosophical case.

So it’s true because enough people believe it’s true. Let’s check a few ideas that are true by that standard:

The sun revolving around the earth
The earth is flat
Milli Vanilli sang their own songs

This “basic philosophical case” isn’t holding up very well. How about we go with “it’s true when its claims are self consistent with itself and the empirical evidence”? It’s a pain, of course, since your claims are neither, but that definition has the added bonus of being actually useful and connected to reality.

There are also more hard physical reasons that point to the Bible's Divinity.

Do tell!

The Bible states in Genesis and in Jeremiah that the stars of the heaven cannot be counted. Scientists believed that the number of stars were only 1,100, those which could readily be seen. The Bible was way ahead of the time it was given and showed knowledge of that which could not have been known or seen by man.

It’s too bad that God didn’t let us know exactly how many stars he created and a timetable for the generation of new ones by the methods that He set in motion to do so. That would be much better evidence than the rather vague statement that they “cannot be counted”.

The Bible also attested to the laws of thermodynamics, a field that science only hammered out thousands of years later. The first law of thermodynamics is that the total sum of matter and energy in the universe can never change. Energy can change into matter and vice versa, but their combined sum is always constant. Until this discovery, the Bible's statement that "there is nothing new under sun" seemed like a statement that was ready to be disproven. Reasoning went that somewhere in the universe there must be new energy or matter developing. But there wasn't. Universally accepted science showed us that less than 200 years ago. The Bible told us that about 3,000 years before.

Or perhaps we could take the context of which that statement was written and not apply it willy nilly to a completely different context. I’m just saying.

More compelling is the Bible's clear attestation to the second law of thermodynamics (which was originally the first principle of this field, formulated by Sadi Carnot in 1824). This is that physicality becomes increasingly random and broken apart. Psalm 102 speaks of the heavens and the earth perishing and clearly implies a gradual decay, telling us this law well before it was discovered.

Another vague, ambiguous statement from the ancient goat herders. Sigh.

It should be noted here, at least for the sake of accuracy,

Accuracy is now important? Cool!

that the Bible also speaks of a new heaven and earth, meaning a newly fortified one, after the Divine presence is revealed. Such a heaven and earth will exist continuously according to most Biblical commentary, but will reveal their Divine Creator within them.

Be still my beating heart.

Eventual perfection of the world, after we've been given a chance to do our part, is a key tenet of most religion and is the only logical explanation for the Creation of a world in need of perfection.

Yeah…the only logical explanation…

Okay, let’s take a stab at another one. How about that the world was formed via natural forces over billions of years and not created by an invisible fantasy man who has never shown a single piece of verifiable evidence.

That sounds like another logical explanation. I’m just saying.

Such an advent also seems closer than ever according to any study of what the Bible says about its occurrence, especially in view of the rapid and radical changes the world has undergone in the last few decades alone.

And how about what things other than the Bible say? You’re about to get right on that, correct?

However, the physical universe as it stands now is in a slow state of decay (before it is refortified), a fact that only the Bible knew for thousands of years.

Your evidence that the Bible knew this is irretrievably weak. Do you actually have any evidence that no one else wrote comparable things or is this statement completely made up?

It should be noted that although this column is comparatively lengthy, it is still only a column and barely scratches the surface of the clear proofs that evidence the existence of the Divine and the Divine nature of the Bible, the Torah. The reader is encouraged to study further and to ask questions.

That’s so nice of you! And I’m sure that someday you might write something that doesn’t rely on the bible as your primary source about the veracity of the claims in the bible. Here’s looking forward to that day!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Moral panic surrounds religion - Part 3

Moral panic surrounds religion!

And now the end of our 3 part series on the moral panic surrounding religion. Enjoy! And if you missed part 1 and part 2, I'd suggest you read them first!

One does not want to deny anyone the consolations of a faith, but it is obvious that the idea of progress in history is a myth created by the need for meaning.

Or it’s just an observed fact that we’ve progressed by building on the accomplishments of our forefathers. Take your pick!

The problem with the secular narrative is not that it assumes progress is inevitable (in many versions, it does not).

Really? I thought it assumed that we have to work really, really hard to make progress.

It is the belief that the sort of advance that has been achieved in science can be reproduced in ethics and politics.

That’s possible. We haven’t tried yet so it’s just a belief so far.

In fact, while scientific knowledge increases cumulatively, nothing of the kind happens in society.

Society is a bit slow that way. It might have something to do with all the religious nutjobs holding onto Bronze Age thinking.

Slavery was abolished in much of the world during the 19th century, but it returned on a vast scale in nazism and communism, and still exists today. Torture was prohibited in international conventions after the second world war, only to be adopted as an instrument of policy by the world's pre-eminent liberal regime at the beginning of the 21st century. Wealth has increased, but it has been repeatedly destroyed in wars and revolutions. People live longer and kill one another in larger numbers. Knowledge grows, but human beings remain much the same.

Sounds like it’s time for a change then! I can think of one thing that’s been really consistent during the course of man’s recorded history, has produced nothing good that can’t be produced without its overhead and requires people to go out and kill in it’s name.

I’ll even give you a hint – it starts with an R!

Belief in progress is a relic of the Christian view of history as a universal narrative, and an intellectually rigorous atheism would start by questioning it.

An intellectually rigorous scientist would start by questioning your claim that belief in progress is a relic of the Christian view of history. So I will. Evidence please!

This is what Nietzsche did when he developed his critique of Christianity in the late 19th century, but almost none of today's secular missionaries have followed his example. One need not be a great fan of Nietzsche to wonder why this is so. The reason, no doubt, is that he did not assume any connection between atheism and liberal values - on the contrary, he viewed liberal values as an offspring of Christianity and condemned them partly for that reason. In contrast, evangelical atheists

Back to describing atheism as a religion again. Atheism is a religion just like bald is a hair color.

have positioned themselves as defenders of liberal freedoms - rarely inquiring where these freedoms have come from, and never allowing that religion may have had a part in creating them.

Among contemporary anti-religious polemicists, only the French writer Michel Onfray has taken Nietzsche as his point of departure. In some ways, Onfray's In Defence of Atheism is superior to anything English-speaking writers have published on the subject. Refreshingly, Onfray recognises that evangelical atheism

That he recognizes “evangelical atheism” is disturbing.

is an unwitting imitation of traditional religion: "Many militants of the secular cause look astonishingly like clergy. Worse: like caricatures of clergy." More clearly than his Anglo-Saxon counterparts, Onfray understands the formative influence of religion on secular thinking. Yet he seems not to notice that the liberal values he takes for granted were partly shaped by Christianity and Judaism. The key liberal theorists of toleration are John Locke, who defended religious freedom in explicitly Christian terms, and Benedict Spinoza, a Jewish rationalist who was also a mystic. Yet Onfray has nothing but contempt for the traditions from which these thinkers emerged - particularly Jewish monotheism: "We do not possess an official certificate of birth for worship of one God," he writes. "But the family line is clear: the Jews invented it to endure the coherence, cohesion and existence of their small, threatened people." Here Onfray passes over an important distinction. It may be true that Jews first developed monotheism, but Judaism has never been a missionary faith. In seeking universal conversion, evangelical atheism belongs with Christianity and Islam.

That makes perfect sense! Since atheists send out hordes of missionaries to foreign lands to convert the heathens to their creed and atheistic leaders tell their flocks that they’ll be rewarded after death if they convert everyone to atheism, they’re just like Christianity and Islam!

Except for the missionaries, converting the heathens, getting instructions from atheistic leaders, or any reward after death. But other than that it makes perfect sense!

In today's anxiety about religion, it has been forgotten that most of the faith-based violence of the past century was secular in nature.

Wouldn’t that make that violence not “faith-based”? I’ve really got to get a dictionary for this.

To some extent, this is also true of the current wave of terrorism. Islamism is a patchwork of movements, not all violently jihadist and some strongly opposed to al-Qaida, most of them partly fundamentalist and aiming to recover the lost purity of Islamic traditions, while at the same time taking some of their guiding ideas from radical secular ideology. There is a deal of fashionable talk of Islamo-fascism, and Islamist parties have some features in common with interwar fascist movements, including antisemitism. But Islamists owe as much, if not more, to the far left, and it would be more accurate to describe many of them as Islamo-Leninists. Islamist techniques of terror also have a pedigree in secular revolutionary movements. The executions of hostages in Iraq are copied in exact theatrical detail from European "revolutionary tribunals" in the 1970s, such as that staged by the Red Brigades when they murdered the former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978.

So the guys who were recruited by religious means, promised a religious reward in a religious afterlife and willingly killed themselves and murdered others specifically for their God…were doing this for secular reasons?

What are you smoking, man?!?

Are you even reading the fruitcake, bizarro world, grasping at straws, insane-o comments coming out of your keyboard now?

The influence of secular revolutionary movements on terrorism extends well beyond Islamists. In God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens notes that, long before Hizbullah and al-Qaida, the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka pioneered what he rightly calls "the disgusting tactic of suicide murder". He omits to mention that the Tigers are Marxist-Leninists who, while recruiting mainly from the island's Hindu population, reject religion in all its varieties. Tiger suicide bombers do not go to certain death in the belief that they will be rewarded in any postmortem paradise. Nor did the suicide bombers who drove American and French forces out of Lebanon in the 80s, most of whom belonged to organisations of the left such as the Lebanese communist party. These secular terrorists believed they were expediting a historical process from which will come a world better than any that has ever existed. It is a view of things more remote from human realities, and more reliably lethal in its consequences, than most religious myths.

Great theory! Now start demonstrating some evidence to back it up, please.

It is not necessary to believe in any narrative of progress to think liberal societies are worth resolutely defending. No one can doubt that they are superior to the tyranny imposed by the Taliban on Afghanistan, for example.

Backhanded compliments-R-Us.

The issue is one of proportion. Ridden with conflicts and lacking the industrial base of communism and nazism, Islamism is nowhere near a danger of the magnitude of those that were faced down in the 20th century. A greater menace is posed by North Korea, which far surpasses any Islamist regime in its record of repression and clearly does possess some kind of nuclear capability. Evangelical atheists rarely mention it. Hitchens is an exception, but when he describes his visit to the country, it is only to conclude that the regime embodies "a debased yet refined form of Confucianism and ancestor worship". As in Russia and China, the noble humanist philosophy of Marxist-Leninism is innocent of any responsibility.

And this connects to religion being in a state of moral panic…how?

Writing of the Trotskyite-Luxemburgist sect to which he once belonged, Hitchens confesses sadly: "There are days when I miss my old convictions as if they were an amputated limb." He need not worry. His record on Iraq shows he has not lost the will to believe. The effect of the American-led invasion has been to deliver most of the country outside the Kurdish zone into the hands of an Islamist elective theocracy, in which women, gays and religious minorities are more oppressed than at any time in Iraq's history. The idea that Iraq could become a secular democracy - which Hitchens ardently promoted - was possible only as an act of faith.

Yeah, Iraq ditching religion won’t happen anytime soon. What a pity. That reality is squarely on religion’s shoulders and the penchant it has for brainwashing people into believing all sorts of outlandish things.

In The Second Plane, Martin Amis writes: "Opposition to religion already occupies the high ground, intellectually and morally." Amis is sure religion is a bad thing, and that it has no future in the west.

Sounds good to me!

In the author of Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million - a forensic examination of self-delusion in the pro-Soviet western intelligentsia - such confidence is surprising. The intellectuals whose folly Amis dissects turned to communism in some sense as a surrogate for religion, and ended up making excuses for Stalin. Are there really no comparable follies today? Some neocons - such as Tony Blair, who will soon be teaching religion and politics at Yale - combine their belligerent progressivism with religious belief, though of a kind Augustine and Pascal might find hard to recognise. Most are secular utopians, who justify pre-emptive war and excuse torture as leading to a radiant future in which democracy will be adopted universally. Even on the high ground of the west, messianic politics has not lost its dangerous appeal.

Religion has not gone away.


Repressing it is like repressing sex, a self-defeating enterprise.

Which is why no one is repressing it. They’re arguing against it and trying to convince people to abandon it. And that’s working well!

In the 20th century, when it commanded powerful states and mass movements, it helped engender totalitarianism.

Unlike religion which…helped engender totalitarianism by convincing people that Kings ruled by divine right. How exactly did atheism help engender totalitarianism again?

Today, the result is a climate of hysteria.

For religious people. For the atheists, we’re throwing a party celebrating all those best sellers!

Not everything in religion is precious or deserving of reverence.

Correct! Did you mean to say that nothing in religion is precious or deserving in reverence? That would be true, too!

There is an inheritance of anthropocentrism, the ugly fantasy that the Earth exists to serve humans, which most secular humanists share.

Isn’t it great when someone claims that his opposition believes something and then knocks down that something? I think there’s even a debating term for it!

There is the claim of religious authorities, also made by atheist regimes, to decide how people can express their sexuality, control their fertility and end their lives, which should be rejected categorically. Nobody should be allowed to curtail freedom in these ways, and no religion has the right to break the peace.

Right-o! We’re on the same page here!

The attempt to eradicate religion, however, only leads to it reappearing in grotesque and degraded forms.

To attempt to force the eradication of religion would do so. That’s why no one is doing that. It would be silly!

A credulous belief in world revolution, universal democracy or the occult powers of mobile phones is more offensive to reason than the mysteries of religion, and less likely to survive in years to come.

Huh? You lost me totally there.

Victorian poet Matthew Arnold wrote of believers being left bereft as the tide of faith ebbs away. Today secular faith is ebbing, and it is the apostles of unbelief who are left stranded on the beach.

This might be true…if “secular faith” had any meaning whatsoever. Unfortunately for your arguments, but as a boon to clear thinking people everywhere, it means as much as “evangelical atheist”.

Thanks for sticking around, everyone, to the end of this three part series on moral panic! It's been fun!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Moral panic surrounds religion - Part 2

Moral panic surrounds religion!

Here's part 2! To catch up on what this is all about, check out part 1 from yesterday!

The growth of knowledge is a fact only postmodern relativists deny. Science is the best tool we have for forming reliable beliefs about the world, but it does not differ from religion by revealing a bare truth that religions veil in dreams. Both science and religion are systems of symbols that serve human needs - in the case of science, for prediction and control. Religions have served many purposes, but at bottom they answer to a need for meaning that is met by myth rather than explanation.

That’s weird. I’d have put “control” on the list of things that religion does really, really, really, really, really, REALLY well.

A great deal of modern thought consists of secular myths - hollowed-out religious narratives translated into pseudo-science.

It does? Really? I assume you’ll be backing up this whopper soon with some evidence.

Dennett's notion that new communications technologies will fundamentally alter the way human beings think is just such a myth.

Or perhaps you won’t.

In The God Delusion,

And off we go onto another tangent! Good thing I bought a program! I’d be lost without it.

Dawkins attempts to explain the appeal of religion in terms of the theory of memes, vaguely defined conceptual units that compete with one another in a parody of natural selection. He recognises that, because humans have a universal tendency to religious belief, it must have had some evolutionary advantage, but today, he argues, it is perpetuated mainly through bad education.

“Bad education” being the practice of indoctrinating religion into children who have no defenses against it, for those of you who haven’t read the book.

From a Darwinian standpoint, the crucial role Dawkins gives to education is puzzling. Human biology has not changed greatly over recorded history,

Recorded history: 6,000 years

Evolution of primates: 85,000,000 years

and if religion is hardwired in the species, it is difficult to see how a different kind of education could alter this.

We could stop brainwashing children. That might change things a little bit.

Yet Dawkins seems convinced that if it were not inculcated in schools and families, religion would die out. This is a view that has more in common with a certain type of fundamentalist theology than with Darwinian theory, and I cannot help being reminded of the evangelical Christian who assured me that children reared in a chaste environment would grow up without illicit sexual impulses.

I suggest that you call his bluff. Stop your church from teaching religion to the kids and watch them all flock to religion anyway. That’ll show Dawkins to be completely wrong!

Dawkins's "memetic theory of religion" is a classic example of the nonsense that is spawned when Darwinian thinking is applied outside its proper sphere. Along with Dennett, who also holds to a version of the theory, Dawkins maintains that religious ideas survive because they would be able to survive in any "meme pool", or else because they are part of a "memeplex" that includes similar memes, such as the idea that, if you die as a martyr, you will enjoy 72 virgins. Unfortunately, the theory of memes is science only in the sense that Intelligent Design is science. Strictly speaking, it is not even a theory. Talk of memes is just the latest in a succession of ill-judged Darwinian metaphors.

Bad debate style checklist - sound off!

Unexplained use of quotation marks to minimize the opposition – check

Name calling using words like nonsense, balderdash, ridiculous, etc. – check

Claims of misapplication of a theory – check

Comparison to something that is complete pseudoscience, in this case Intelligent Design – check

Vague use of “Darwinian” and an insult – check

Bravo! Well done!

Dawkins compares religion to a virus: religious ideas are memes that infect vulnerable minds, especially those of children.

It is tragic that so many people choose to brainwash those that have no chance of defending themselves against superstitious nonsense.

Biological metaphors may have their uses - the minds of evangelical atheists seem particularly prone to infection by religious memes, for example.

And the reasoning behind this statement is what, exactly?

At the same time, analogies of this kind are fraught with peril. Dawkins makes much of the oppression perpetrated by religion, which is real enough.

Thank you for admitting it! We’re getting somewhere! Yay!

He gives less attention to the fact that some of the worst atrocities of modern times were committed by regimes that claimed scientific sanction for their crimes. Nazi "scientific racism" and Soviet "dialectical materialism" reduced the unfathomable complexity of human lives to the deadly simplicity of a scientific formula. In each case, the science was bogus, but it was accepted as genuine at the time, and not only in the regimes in question. Science is as liable to be used for inhumane purposes as any other human institution. Indeed, given the enormous authority science enjoys, the risk of it being used in this way is greater.

Bad people can use science – a good thing – in an evil way. Yep, that’s right. Here’s another insight: Bad people can use religion – at best a neutral thing – in an evil way as well. What was the point here?

Contemporary opponents of religion display a marked lack of interest in the historical record of atheist regimes.

Perhaps stemming from the fact that no regime has slaughtered people in the name of atheism unlike the constant stream of leaders and common zealots who are more than happy to do exactly that in the name of religion.

In The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, the American writer Sam Harris argues that religion has been the chief source of violence and oppression in history. He recognises that secular despots such as Stalin and Mao inflicted terror on a grand scale, but maintains the oppression they practised had nothing to do with their ideology of "scientific atheism" - what was wrong with their regimes was that they were tyrannies.

Yep. Nothing in atheism – which is only the lack of believing in God and nothing else – gave any despot the idea that he should go kill, maim, or slaughter people. It’s really a shame that the same cannot be said about religion. The world would be a better place!

But might there not be a connection between the attempt to eradicate religion and the loss of freedom?

Nope. People having the freedom to believe what they want without other people trying to kill them for those beliefs just adds to everyone’s freedom.

It is unlikely that Mao, who launched his assault on the people and culture of Tibet with the slogan "Religion is poison", would have agreed that his atheist world-view had no bearing on his policies. It is true he was worshipped as a semi-divine figure - as Stalin was in the Soviet Union. But in developing these cults, communist Russia and China were not backsliding from atheism. They were demonstrating what happens when atheism becomes a political project. The invariable result is an ersatz religion that can only be maintained by tyrannical means.

And the lesson today, boys and girls, is that we should not have our government force our religious beliefs – or lack thereof – upon us. That’s what you’re getting to, right? Of course it is.

Something like this occurred in Nazi Germany. Dawkins dismisses any suggestion that the crimes of the Nazis could be linked with atheism. "What matters," he declares in The God Delusion, "is not whether Hitler and Stalin were atheists, but whether atheism systematically influences people to do bad things. There is not the smallest evidence that it does."

Perfectly reasonable thinking there. Since Atheism doesn’t tell us to go kill anyone – unlike every major religion on the planet – it’s not responsible for someone else using it to go kill people. Seems pretty straightforward to me. I’m sure you agree.

This is simple-minded reasoning.

I guess not.

Always a tremendous booster of science, Hitler was much impressed by vulgarised Darwinism and by theories of eugenics that had developed from Enlightenment philosophies of materialism. He used Christian antisemitic demonology in his persecution of Jews, and the churches collaborated with him to a horrifying degree. But it was the Nazi belief in race as a scientific category that opened the way to a crime without parallel in history. Hitler's world-view was that of many semi-literate people in interwar Europe, a hotchpotch of counterfeit science and animus towards religion. There can be no reasonable doubt that this was a type of atheism, or that it helped make Nazi crimes possible.

A madman using religious and scientific propaganda to kill millions of people is the fault of…atheism. Congratulations! That’s tortured logic at its finest!

Nowadays most atheists are avowed liberals. What they want - so they will tell you - is not an atheist regime, but a secular state in which religion has no role. They clearly believe that, in a state of this kind, religion will tend to decline. But America's secular constitution has not ensured a secular politics. Christian fundamentalism is more powerful in the US than in any other country, while it has very little influence in Britain, which has an established church. Contemporary critics of religion go much further than demanding disestablishment.

None of this will work until people stop wanting to have religions. But that does seem like the trend, doesn’t it?

It is clear that he wants to eliminate all traces of religion from public institutions. Awkwardly, many of the concepts he deploys - including the idea of religion itself - have been shaped by monotheism. Lying behind secular fundamentalism is a conception of history that derives from religion.

Huh? I thought we were talking about “most atheists”. Who is “he”? Did I miss an antecedent?

AC Grayling provides an example of the persistence of religious categories in secular thinking in his Towards the Light: The Story of the Struggles for Liberty and Rights That Made the Modern West. As the title indicates, Grayling's book is a type of sermon.

Really, man, you’re never going to understand people who are not religious if you insist on using religious terms to describe them.

Its aim is to reaffirm what he calls "a Whig view of the history of the modern west", the core of which is that "the west displays progress". The Whigs were pious Christians, who believed divine providence arranged history to culminate in English institutions, and Grayling too believes history is "moving in the right direction". No doubt there have been setbacks - he mentions nazism and communism in passing, devoting a few sentences to them. But these disasters were peripheral. They do not reflect on the central tradition of the modern west, which has always been devoted to liberty, and which - Grayling asserts - is inherently antagonistic to religion. "The history of liberty," he writes, "is another chapter - and perhaps the most important of all - in the great quarrel between religion and secularism." The possibility that radical versions of secular thinking may have contributed to the development of nazism and communism is not mentioned. More even than the 18th-century Whigs, who were shaken by French Terror, Grayling has no doubt as to the direction of history.

But the belief that history is a directional process is as faith-based as anything in the Christian catechism.

Off you go again with sucking non-religious people into your rat hole. Really, man, think outside of the box here

Secular thinkers such as Grayling reject the idea of providence, but they continue to think humankind is moving towards a universal goal - a civilisation based on science that will eventually encompass the entire species.

It beats believing in fantasy creatures that never, ever show up. But we’re open to other options as long as they’re consistent with the observed facts. Try us out!

In pre-Christian Europe, human life was understood as a series of cycles; history was seen as tragic or comic rather than redemptive. With the arrival of Christianity, it came to be believed that history had a predetermined goal, which was human salvation. Though they suppress their religious content, secular humanists continue to cling to similar beliefs.

They do?!? Would you care to back this claim up with some facts?

We’ve got time. No rush. But please do go get some evidence for this.

I'll give you until tomorrow for part 3!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Moral panic surrounds religion - Part 1

Moral panic surrounds religion!

Yay! And it's not just me saying this, it's John Gray saying so!

This article was so long and has so much good stuff that I've broken it up into 3 parts. Today: Part 1!

An atmosphere of moral panic surrounds religion. Viewed not so long ago as a relic of superstition whose role in society was steadily declining, it is now demonised as the cause of many of the world's worst evils.

I’ve got an idea for these religions. Quit giving people reasons to be extremely crappy to other people all because someone once heard voices in his head.

Rather, there are some great guidelines that just about every religion claims to follow. Follow those and be sanguine when others follow your footsteps.

As a result, there has been a sudden explosion in the literature of proselytising atheism. A few years ago, it was difficult to persuade commercial publishers even to think of bringing out books on religion. Today, tracts against religion can be enormous money-spinners, with Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great selling in the hundreds of thousands.

Wow! That sounds like a lot of demand for those types of books.

For the first time in generations, scientists and philosophers, high-profile novelists and journalists are debating whether religion has a future.

It’ll have a future if it produces something that helps people. Lots of religions have done lots of good works, but it turns out that those good works can be done just as well – if not better – without the superstition attached. Food production, healing, education, they all work better when we devise better ways to make and distribute food, study medicine, and open minds to reach out for new and fresh conclusions.

Praying for bread, laying on hands, and telling kids that the answer is “Godidit” doesn’t have quite as good of a track record.

The intellectual traffic is not all one-way. There have been counterblasts for believers, such as The Dawkins Delusion? by the British theologian Alister McGrath and The Secular Age by the Canadian Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor. On the whole, however, the anti-God squad has dominated the sales charts, and it is worth asking why.

It might have something to do with their books holding to internally consistent truths. I'm just saying.

The abrupt shift in the perception of religion is only partly explained by terrorism. The 9/11 hijackers saw themselves as martyrs in a religious tradition, and western opinion has accepted their self-image. And there are some who view the rise of Islamic fundamentalism as a danger comparable with the worst that were faced by liberal societies in the 20th century.

Amazing how we all accepted the image that their religion brainwashed into them and that they murdered and died to uphold.

We’re all funny that way!

For Dawkins and Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Martin Amis, Michel Onfray, Philip Pullman and others, religion in general is a poison that has fuelled violence and oppression throughout history, right up to the present day.

I’m sure that you’ll clearly show where they’re all wrong.

The urgency with which they produce their anti-religious polemics suggests that a change has occurred as significant as the rise of terrorism: the tide of secularisation has turned. These writers come from a generation schooled to think of religion as a throwback to an earlier stage of human development, which is bound to dwindle away as knowledge continues to increase.

Or perhaps you’re going for showing how religion got to the sad state that it has found itself?

In the 19th century, when the scientific and industrial revolutions were changing society very quickly, this may not have been an unreasonable assumption. Dawkins, Hitchens and the rest may still believe that, over the long run, the advance of science will drive religion to the margins of human life, but this is now an article of faith rather than a theory based on evidence.

So religion isn’t in a sad state? I’m losing the thrust of this argument here. Throw me a freaking bone, please!

It is true that religion has declined sharply in a number of countries (Ireland is a recent example) and has not shaped everyday life for most people in Britain for many years. Much of Europe is clearly post-Christian.

So religion is in a sad state compared to the utter dominance it had over human affairs previously. Got it.

However, there is nothing that suggests the move away from religion is irreversible, or that it is potentially universal. The US is no more secular today than it was 150 years ago, when De Tocqueville was amazed and baffled by its all-pervading religiosity.

Nothing suggests that the move away is irreversible? How about Occam’s Razor and the lack of any need to have a god to explain anything? That seems like it kind of suggests that a move away from religion is irreversible.

The secular era was in any case partly illusory.

So religion is in moral panic and books about atheism being bestsellers are just illusions? What is the point of this article then? Color me confused here.

The mass political movements of the 20th century were vehicles for myths inherited from religion,

It’s nice when a religious person uses the word myth to describe his religion’s stories. It saves the rest of us time and effort.

and it is no accident that religion is reviving now that these movements have collapsed.

The movements that involve those best selling books, right? Those are the ones that have already collapsed?

The current hostility to religion is a reaction against this turnabout. Secularisation is in retreat,

But didn’t you start off this article saying…?

and the result is the appearance of an evangelical type of atheism not seen since Victorian times.

Evangelical atheism is bad. Got it. An atheist being like a religious person is bad. We agree! Yay!

As in the past, this is a type of atheism that mirrors the faith it rejects. Philip Pullman's Northern Lights - a subtly allusive, multilayered allegory, recently adapted into a Hollywood blockbuster, The Golden Compass - is a good example. Pullman's parable concerns far more than the dangers of authoritarianism. The issues it raises are essentially religious, and it is deeply indebted to the faith it attacks. Pullman has stated that his atheism was formed in the Anglican tradition, and there are many echoes of Milton and Blake in his work. His largest debt to this tradition is the notion of free will. The central thread of the story is the assertion of free will against faith. The young heroine Lyra Belacqua sets out to thwart the Magisterium - Pullman's metaphor for Christianity - because it aims to deprive humans of their ability to choose their own course in life, which she believes would destroy what is most human in them. But the idea of free will that informs liberal notions of personal autonomy is biblical in origin (think of the Genesis story). The belief that exercising free will is part of being human is a legacy of faith, and like most varieties of atheism today, Pullman's is a derivative of Christianity.

And has grossed $372 million worldwide!

Zealous atheism renews some of the worst features of Christianity and Islam. Just as much as these religions, it is a project of universal conversion. Evangelical atheists never doubt that human life can be transformed if everyone accepts their view of things, and they are certain that one way of living - their own, suitably embellished - is right for everybody.

Nah, they just don’t see a need for imaginary friends to be taken seriously by people over, say, the age of six.

To be sure, atheism need not be a missionary creed of this kind.

Which is good, since it isn’t.

It is entirely reasonable to have no religious beliefs, and yet be friendly to religion.

Yep! The hard part is that religious people tend to get all verklempt about making fun of people who believe in imaginary friends, fantasy stories, and drug induced visions supplanting measurable, testable results. It makes them not nearly as fun at parties!

It is a funny sort of humanism that condemns an impulse that is peculiarly human. Yet that is what evangelical atheists do when they demonise religion.

Either that or you have a very low bar for what constitutes demonizing religion. We really should publish a handbook on what atheists can and cannot say around people who believe in Bronze Age mysticism. It would help a lot!

A curious feature of this kind of atheism is that some of its most fervent missionaries are philosophers.

A curious feature of this article is that you keep referring to people who have no religion at all in religious terms.

Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon claims to sketch a general theory of religion. In fact, it is mostly a polemic against American Christianity. This parochial focus is reflected in Dennett's view of religion, which for him means the belief that some kind of supernatural agency (whose approval believers seek) is needed to explain the way things are in the world. For Dennett, religions are efforts at doing something science does better - they are rudimentary or abortive theories, or else nonsense.

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, someday, someone is going to refer to it as a duck. People are wacky that way!

"The proposition that God exists," he writes severely, "is not even a theory."

It’s a theory all right. It’s a bad one that has zero evidence to support it despite millennia of people trying desperately to gather such evidence. So maybe he’s just saying that it’s not a scientific theory. There’s a small issue of that word getting used differently by different people – especially scientists who are really specific about that particular term and non-scientists who regularly butcher it.

But religions do not consist of propositions struggling to become theories.

Very true! If they were we’d have thrown them out centuries ago.

The incomprehensibility of the divine is at the heart of Eastern Christianity, while in Orthodox Judaism practice tends to have priority over doctrine. Buddhism has always recognised that in spiritual matters truth is ineffable, as do Sufi traditions in Islam. Hinduism has never defined itself by anything as simplistic as a creed. It is only some western Christian traditions, under the influence of Greek philosophy, which have tried to turn religion into an explanatory theory.

This is a neat paragraph! Religious writers really can write well when they stick to talking about religion. Bravo!

The notion that religion is a primitive version of science was popularised in the late 19th century in JG Frazer's survey of the myths of primitive peoples, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion.

People might also have gotten the idea that religion gave answers when, I don’t know, it started giving answers. Despite not even understanding the questions. I’m just saying.

For Frazer, religion and magical thinking were closely linked. Rooted in fear and ignorance, they were vestiges of human infancy that would disappear with the advance of knowledge. Dennett's atheism is not much more than a revamped version of Frazer's positivism. The positivists believed that with the development of transport and communication - in their day, canals and the telegraph - irrational thinking would wither way, along with the religions of the past. Despite the history of the past century, Dennett believes much the same. In an interview that appears on the website of the Edge Foundation ( under the title "The Evaporation of the Powerful Mystique of Religion", he predicts that "in about 25 years almost all religions will have evolved into very different phenomena, so much so that in most quarters religion will no longer command the awe that it does today". He is confident that this will come about, he tells us, mainly because of "the worldwide spread of information technology (not just the internet, but cell phones and portable radios and television)". The philosopher has evidently not reflected on the ubiquity of mobile phones among the Taliban, or the emergence of a virtual al-Qaida on the web.

I’m thinking that it has more to do with the anonymity of the internet allowing people to express their real beliefs freely without fear of direct reprisals and discovering that there are many, many other people out there who also don’t believe in imaginary friends.

That's it for part 1! Stay tuned for part 2 coming up tomorrow!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Be careful out there

Let me take a quick break from the normal religious inanities to another way that religion gets used - this time against the faithful. The following chain letter appeared in my mailbox the other day.

From: Mrs. Monica Tema


The only place anyone can get my email address is from my blog, my writings in other forums, and from someone who has seen either of the two. I think it's really safe to say that I am not in the set of "Children of God"!

I am the above name person from Sierra-Leone.

Sure you are.

I am married to Dr Ebenezer Tema who worked with Sierra Leonian Embassy in South Africa for nine years before he died in the year 2001.

Right. Uh huh.

We were married for eleven years without a child.

Aww...that would be sad if it were true.

He died after a brief illness that lasted for only four days. Before his death we were both born again Christians and we lived happilly. Since his death, I decided not to re-marry.

When my late husband was alive he secured $15Million (Fifteen Million U.S. Dollars) with financial institution here in Cote D'Ivoire. Presently, this money is still with the financial institution.

I suggest investing. Even a simple CD at 2% would produce a $300,000 income for you on $15,000,000. That's more than enough for anyone to live comfortably.

Recently, my Doctor told me that from all the test conducted on my health, I am not going to last long, expecially, due to my cancer and stroke. But what disturbs me most now is stroke.

Quick death worries you more than slow, painful, lingering death? Okay. I'd choose differently, but that's me.

Having known my condition, I decided to donate this fund to churches or Christian individual that will utilize this money the way I am going to instruct. I want a church or individual that will use this money to fund churches, Orphanages and Widows. Also, the propagation of the work of God, building and maintaining the house of God through this money, is very important.

That would be why you sent this offer to a man who publishes commentary every day about how insane religions are. Got it!

The Bible made us to understand that Blessed is the hand that giveth. I took this decision because I don't have any child that will inherit this money and my husband relatives are not Christians.

Quick hint, because I'm sure that my previous writings haven't been clear on this point: I'm not a christian either.

I don't want my husband's hard earned money to be misused by unbelievers, for their own selfish interest and in an ungodly manner.

So you mailed me for what reason again?

I am not afraid of death hence I know where I am going. I know that I am going to be in the bossom of the Lord. Exodus 14 VS 14 says that the lord will fight my case and I shall hold my peace.

Awwww, that would be so sweet again...if it were true.

I don't need any telephone communication in this regard because of my health,

Now we get down to the brass tax of the scam. Don't call, because that would require a sick woman to talk on the phone. Every scam has ways of keeping the mark in a box and not checking the facts for himself. This is one.

and because of the presence of my husband's relatives around me sometimes. I don't want them to know about this development, but I know that With God all things are possible.

As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of the Financial institution in Ivory coast. I will also give you all information regarding the deposit of this money. I will also issue you a letter of authority that will empower you as the original- beneficiary of this fund.

And there won't be and delays, red tape, or issues to overcome! Honest!

Well, as honest as the rest of this tripe.

I want you and your church to always pray for me because God work in misterious ways. My happiness is that I lived a life of a worthy Christian. Who ever that wants to serve the Lord must serve him in spirit and truth. Please always be prayerful all through your life.

Any delay in your reply will give me room in sourcing for a church or christian individual for this same purpose. Please assure me that you will act accordingly as I stated herein. Hoping to hear from you soon.

Remain blessed in the name of the Lord.

Yours in Christ,
Mrs Monica Tema

I spend an inordinate amount of time laughing and poking fun at religious people, but for this moment I'm on your side, religious folks.

The above scam is directly preying on your religious beliefs. They are targeting you with flowery words of praise and religious homage. But the bottom line is that they'll want to either have you pay "fees to get past a bit of red tape" or access to your bank account so it can be the final destination of their check kiting scheme and you're stuck with the final bill.

Never, ever respond to these evil scumbags. Remember, they sent this garbage to me. My lack of Christian beliefs are published every day and are exceeded only - perhaps - by a Dawkins or a Harris.

I do want people to recognize what the fables of religion can do for you (make you feel warm and fuzzy) and what they should not do (be used to explain the real world or set public policy). But what I do not want to see is anyone scammed. Unfortunately the state of mind that the religious are put into make them very, very vulnerable to this indeed.

Be careful out there.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Who gets to define atheism?

It seems pretty obvious: atheists. Outside of theists, is there any other group out there that feels the right to define what their opposition believes? That really seems crazy.

Undeterred, our good and noble friends at Apologetics are busy defining atheism. Read on!

Presumption of Atheism or Agnosticism?

In some of the comments, a theme keeps showing up:

Wildly improbable claims from religious nutcases?

Theism (especially the Christian variety) seems guilty until proven innocent; while atheism seems innocent until proven guilty.

Oh. Okay, that too.

Why is this?

Because one makes wildly improbable claims only supported by general ignorance and weird, psudo-hippie posturing about the wonder of the world and the beauty of a sunset. The other one is exactly a lack of belief in a god or gods.

Lack of belief is something we’re all born with.

This is known as the “presumption of atheism.”

Or common sense. Or logic. Whichever.

But should Atheism be the default setting?

Because the burden of proof is always on the side that is making a claim.

One of the leading Philosophers of Religion of our day, William Lane Craig, shares why it should not be:

I can’t wait!

“….another philosophical relic is the much-vaunted presumption of atheism. At face value, this is the claim that in the absence of evidence for the existence of God, we should presume that God does not exist.

Very reasonable.

Atheism is a sort of default position,


and the theist bears a special burden of proof with regard to his belief that God exists.

Right again!

So understood, such an alleged presumption seems to conflate atheism with agnosticism.

You’re not about to swap around some definitions on us, are you?

For the assertion that “God does not exist” is just as much a claim to knowledge as is the assertion that “God exists,”

Ah, rats! And here we were having such a pleasant, polite conversation and you go an muck it up with a blatant misrepresentation of what an atheist claims.


Let’s say it together: Atheism is the lack of belief in a god or gods. No atheist has to disprove God exists because he’s not the one claiming that God exists in the first place. The burden of proof is on the claimant. Always.

Great! Now that we have that out of the way, we can go on with your argument. I’m sure you have many more brilliant points to make on this subject and not just a tired old falsification of what your opposition says.

and therefore the former requires justification just as the latter does. It is the agnostic who makes no knowledge claim at all with respect to God’s existence, confessing that he does not know whether God exists or does not exist, and so who requires no justification. (I speak here only of a “soft” agnosticism, which is really just a confession of ignorance, rather than of a “hard” agnosticism, which claims that it cannot be known whether or not God exists; such a positive assertion would, indeed, require justification.) If anything, then, one should speak at most of a presumption of agnosticism.”

Or not. Oh well. Sucks to be you.

If there is a default setting, it is agnosticism, not atheism. In that case, the atheist has just as much explaining to do as the theist.

Or slightly less since we can throw out this pathetic strawman and you now have to explain this article! Have fun with that!