Tuesday, December 26, 2006

In the New Year....

I'll get back to posting in the New Year... this week I'm on vacation, and I'm going to spend it relaxing!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

In their own world....

I don't deal with Christians on a daily basis. I mean, I'm sure a lot of the people I deal with daily are "Christian" but not to a pushy extent. I'm lucky in some sense that I live in a part of the country where it's normal to be different. I pass by churches and congregations as I drive through my community; but I don't really feel they make their presence known to me. I rarely get a knock on the door with an invitation to church.

But I think I would find it interesting to participate, as this man did, in uuber-Christian activities; to see what it is like.

The people (kids especially) he talks to who are very into their religion seem to have lived very sheltered lives. And they make a point of sheltering themselves; instead of making themselves stronger by facing the world, they just avoid the world.

4862 gods I don't believe in....

It's an interesting list of 4862 gods to not believe in, and while some of the names on the list are different names for the same god, a lot of the names are just gods nobody believes in any more.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Think about it....

What you believe really depends on where you were born... think about it.
The history of organized religion in just a few seconds.

We're Made out of Meat... think about it.

If you're in the mood for more thinking, here are some imponderables.

Or, if you're in the mood for some other fun stuff to watch, the Simpsons episode where Homer joins the Movementarians is always priceless.
Hopefully it'll stay up online.

Stewardess makes fuss: no bibles allowed on flight?

You'd think, as an international flight attendant, you'd get used to rules of different countries:

On its web site the Foreign Office says of Saudi Arabia: "The importation and use of narcotics, alcohol, pork products and religious books, apart from the Koran, and artifacts are forbidden."

But nooo... she's gotta make a fuss. If it was part of my religion to carry around a stick of dynamite, could I sue for not being allowed to take it on a plane? How about if I always carried around a bag of fruit or had a pet I wanted to take with me on the plane for religious reasons? (Note: often foods & animals are quarantined for health/environmental reasons... someone brought a bunny to Australia once, and that was a bad plan) How is this stewardess making such a fuss over something that isn't even the airline's rules?

Tell on thy neighbor.

Oh my gawd! There's gays everywhere! Flush them out!!! You remember the New Live Church in Colorado right? That's the one where they fired Ted Haggard for having had homosexual-relations. They're now trying to flush out more gays, with another one found already! The website for the New Life Church has the policy for reporting bad-behavior. How...errh...Christian of them...

I really don't understand why some people are so afraid of homosexuality. For all of the sins listed in the bible; why does this one threaten them so? If they found one amongst themselves to have committed murder, would the Christians shun them as well? I kinda remember somewhere in the bible Jesus saying "let he without sin cast the first stone," no?

And now that the gays want to get married, that's just an abomination! *sigh* I still stick by that marriage is a government contract; weddings are what people have in church. And while I think that some people are hung-up a bit too much on the vocabulary, (it must be called marriage instead of civil union) the people that think gay-marriage is gonna ruin the fabric of society are just delusional.

I have only one reason I'm against gay marriage; the straights will take advantage of it. Seriously, that's the only hang-up I can think of; Adam has good health care, his roommate Steve doesn't have any health-care, but if they get married, Steve will chip in more money towards rent and they can share Adam's health-care. They'll get a divorce when one of them finds a chick.

Aside from that, it's not like gay marriage could ruin an entire state or anything...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Commen questions to Atheists:

I wander around the web now & then and post comments on Christian blogs, and recently have been getting the same questions over again. I was wondering how to answer those questions best.

There's an interesting site, Digital Freethought.com, and they have a video series on answering questions commonly posted to Atheists. (I'm not the biggest fan of their website layout... it's kinda annoying.)

Anyhow, I've posted part 1 of 6 here:

And you can find the rest back at Digital Freethoughts video links, or at youtube.

Not that all of their answers pertain to my own personal beliefs, but it's a good place for me thinking about my own answers.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Teacher talks christianity in class; tells kids they're goin to hell.

This kid is brave. Matthew LaClair recorded his teacher's inappropriate teachings. Read about it at the NY-times, and do check out the audio as well.

While Matthew does seem like a bit of a "trouble maker" (previously he caused some stir because he wouldn't stand for the pledge), he has a valid point and shouldn't be threatened by other students & teachers for voicing it.

I don't know how anyone could defend this teacher. From the sound-clips of the teacher, it's obvious to me that the teacher is crossing a line. Even if he is being a bit "baited" he should know better than to continue to talk about his personal faith in scripture in class. It's just not the proper setting.

The question about teachers voicing their political/religious opinions was put to the person-on-the-street in the local paper. And I honestly think that a teacher could get away with voicing their opinion of they said "It is my opinion that... blah blah blah ... but there are cases against this. If you want to know more, ask me outside of school. Lets get back to the topic at hand." Some more opinions previously posted on the Observer are archived at Google.

There is also a letter from Matthew's father posted on the Observer's editor's blog. His parents aren't suing; they just want acknowledgment. I have to respect that. If some teacher began discussing his sex life in class, and it was recorded, parents would definitely sue.

It's also interesting to note that the teacher in question, Paszkiewicz, has a poor opinion of public schools and home schools his own children. Why is he a public-school teacher then?
I was listening to NPR (like usual) this morning, and they had a new "This I Believe." Todays was a piece by Richard Rohr titled Utterly Humbled by Mystery.

I wasn't paying too much attention, I was weaving in/out of traffic at the time, but this was the part that my ears perked up at:

"My scientist friends have come up with things like "principles of uncertainty" and dark holes. They're willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of "faith"! How strange that the very word "faith" has come to mean its exact opposite."

While I'll freely admit to never being able to know if there is no god, I still believe there is no god. I often come into conflict with people of "faith" who say they KNOW there is a god, and claim they have seen his works. If someone has truly seen the works of god; do they still have faith? Isn't it then no longer faith since they feel they have proof?

On another note, if you haven't listened to the "This I Believe" essay by Penn Jillette, titled "I believe that there is no god," I recommend that as well.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I love PBS

I grew up attending church on a weekly basis, and attending catholic school as a child. My father was very into having me grow up a good catholic.

But my mother was a science teacher. Many nights, I would curl up beside her on the couch and watch PBS specials, Nova, Scientific American Frontiers, Nature, and the like. Our coffee table was piled high with Nature, Discover, National Geographic, and Scientific American.

With a foot in both the religious supernatural, and the scientific quest for the way the natural world works, it didn't take me long to internally question faith. I began to need to rationalize the Bible (the flood story was probably derived from Gilgamesh, Jesus probably didn't raise from the dead but most probably his body was stolen, etc.).

To this day, specials from the BBC & PBS fascinate me and spur on my desire to learn. And so, I present you with a wonderful special on M theory, as found on Youtube.

(ETA: Ooops... I posted #5 twice...)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Politics over Science....

On the Union of Concerned Scientists website, they have a list of scientific research that has been manipulated, suppressed, or distorted by the U.S. Government.

I'd actually recommend the alphabetical view.

Read them. Be concerned. If it's that easy to manipulate science, just imagine what else is being manipulated.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Why are we attracted to shiny objects?

Belief and expectations aren't always about god. Popular social opinion influences our lives to a larger degree than most of us would like to admit. And often enough, that opinion has been implanted in us by those seeking to make money off of us; corporations, churches, governments.
My analysis of the way we feel we are expected to live our lives doesn't always apply to just religion. Recently, probably because of the movie Blood Diamond, I've seen a lot of press on the diamond industry.

Diamonds are not that rare. And the reasons we value them are just as fabricated as reasons we buy Hallmark-cards. Read about the history of the diamond engagement ring, and why a diamond "is forever" in this article from 1982. These ideas, fabricated by DeBeers, are set in your mind so that you bury your mother with her jewelry, and buy new jewelry for your own bride. Today, many women EXPECT their fiancé to spend several month's salary on such a token of their love.

The latest attempt at selling more diamonds is in making right-hand-rings all the rage. Single girls should have their diamonds too!

How do we get diamonds? Here's a Photo-Essay by Time.com, and another from ForeignPolicy.com.

So, psychologically they've conditioned us that: 1) a diamond is a sign of love, 2) a diamond is a sign of wealth/power 3) a diamond is forever; you shouldn't buy them "used," and you shouldn't sell them.

The last part, selling a diamond, is quite difficult because individuals only want to buy diamonds "new" and from a jeweler who they trust will give them a quality and valuable rock. Jewelers don't want to buy diamonds back from the public, and often refuse instead of giving low-ball prices. Unless you are an expert with a magnifying glass, it is very hard to tell the quality of a diamond.

Being that carbon is one of the most plentiful elements on the planet, these days diamonds are easily made, and you can even have your cremated remains turned into a diamond. The man-made alternatives are diamonds in every sense of the word, but all man-made diamonds are laser-inscribed, so that at a glance a jeweler can tell. There are also differences in the way man-made diamonds refract u-v light, and DeBeers also uses this to it's advantage. (Thou I cannot really see the problem an individual would have with this, as it's not really like they could re-sell a natural stone either... but it's the psychological aspect, some people feel man-made diamonds aren't "real")

Still, they have accounted for women who object to the idea of diamonds:

Through a series of "projective" psychological questions, meant "to draw out a respondent's innermost feelings about diamond jewelry," the study attempted to examine further the semi-passive role played by women in receiving diamonds. The male-female roles seemed to resemble closely the sex relations in a Victorian novel. "Man plays the dominant, active role in the gift process. Woman's role is more subtle, more oblique, more enigmatic...." The woman seemed to believe there was something improper about receiving a diamond gift. Women spoke in interviews about large diamonds as "flashy, gaudy, overdone" and otherwise inappropriate. Yet the study found that "Buried in the negative attitudes ... lies what is probably the primary driving force for acquiring them. Diamonds are a traditional and conspicuous signal of achievement, status and success."

Being an atheist means I bow down to no god. But still, it's hard not to subject ourselves to the judgment of others. It amazes me how much industry, religion, and politics, is built on that concept. While the psychological impact of the diamond industry's advertisements bothers me, I still fall pray, feeling the need to explain my lack of desire for them and feeling a bit of inadequacy, as I know the expectations & assumptions others make about me by what kind of jewelry I may or may not be wearing.

More on the diamond industry at American Radio Works.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Be pissed off

Probably a bit unsuitable for work, but gotta love this rant by Rollins:

Get pissed off, because freedom is something we all should be entitled to in the U.S.A. If we let fear rule us, that just perpetuates the use of fear to control.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Jesus vs. Jesus

When I first saw ads for the new movie "The Nativity Story" I really did think to myself "Oh good! They're Middle Eastern!" And now Newsweek has an article on the history of the white-Jesus phenomenon.

Christians of all sorts build up a Jesus in their own image. The movie Dogma proclaims that Jesus was a brother, and I have seen all types of statues with Jesus on the crucifix.

A few years ago, Popular Mechanics had a good cover-story on the "real" face of Jesus. In reality, it was a reconstruction of a face from the the area and time of Jesus. I'm not sure how much I buy that either, because I am of the persuasion that, if there really was a Jesus, he may have been half-Roman.

I've always considered the crucifix & many images of Jesus idolatry. My one grandmother had a picture of Jesus in her house to watch over her, and that always struck me as odd; isn't Jesus supposed to be watching everybody anyhow? And in the Catholic Church people kneel before the host (the little piece of bread that is supposed to actually be a piece of Jesus' body) but the host is often in front of (or under) the crucifix. I wouldn't go as far as the Muslims that absolutely forbid any images portraying Mohamed, but I do think that many Christians look at the crucifix or picture of Jesus in their home and pray to that as an idol. I understand the origin of picture-stories in the Church, to teach the illiterate, but it can be misleading. There was a crucifix hung above the door in my house growing up, I always thought it was for luck, like a horseshoe.

I'm not sure what the fascination with the religious icons is. I was just wondering this weekend what a young Jewish couple from the middle east 2000 years ago would think about the lighted display that surrounds us these days in celebration of their son's birth. Apparently, since he was probably the first to re-create the scene, it's all due to St. Francis that so many lawns around my neighborhood have glowing crèche, or other assorted displays.

Evolution of lactose tolerance

It's now being found out when the genetic advantage to drinking milk evolved.

There are many, many web sites out there that will tell you not to drink Milk, for various reasons. If I think about it, yea, it is kinda weird to drink cow-juice... but any more weird than to eat any animal-product? I honestly think the vegans probably are eating closer to what humans historically evolved to eat, and are probably healthier for it, but I'm not vigilant enough (read: I'm lazy, I admit it) to watch my food intake in such a way.

Being of European decent, my mom & grandmom are both lactose-intolerant. My mom only became Lactose-intolerant after I was born. I'm not sure about myself, I haven't always had the happiest tummy, and I've mostly cut out drinking glasses of milk, but my stomach seems to handle milk-products (cheese, sour cream, ice-cream) just fine so far. I wonder if I'll stay that way.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Child's Mind

Reason magazine has two good clips I won't re-post here. The first is a little girl arguing that violence in this country isn't due to video games or rap music. She goes on, but it's not the best argument. It's really just not. I'm not sure if the parents fed it to her, which would seem most likely, or if some of what she's saying is what she's gathered from her education. If someone fed her the argument, then it really implies she herself doesn't have a formed opinion, hence we don't treat children like adults, so it's very self-contradictory. The Bastard Fairies aren't anything special, they've got scantily clad women & provocative songs, but that's not new, and the songs aren't anything that great in my opinion.

Anyhow, I think it's even more ridiculous that Riley responded to it, and called it child abuse at that. If that's child-abuse, EVERYONE abuses their child's mind. Everyone puts words into their kids mouths, either consciously or unconsciously. Children are taught what to believe by their parents, and I don't think this child's extreme views are any worse than those kids at Jesus Camp. I mean, she's kinda pissed off, but she's not preaching hate and she's not crying hysterically in the delusion that millions of people are going to hell because they aborted their babies. Or how about the christian kids being baited on the marriage issue.

Not that I'm all for abortion, if safe-sex was preached more, we'd need less of them. It's a pretty crappy procedure, and even without the whole god-involvement, I'd be concerned about it. I think any woman who's had sex has had the chance to consider it, even for just that 1 day their period is late. But seriously, when the options are to either have an abortion, or leave a newborn baby in a truck because you're too christian to have had unprotected sex.... I think the kid would have been better off never having been born. If not for the neighbors, it would have died really unpleasant death, and who knows how many babies do die like this but were never found?

Many tragedies are in the name of religion, and that's the sad truth at the end of the day, no matter who says it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

God bless those Pagans.

At a school in Va. the Churchies complained that they couldn't put their flyers in school-kids take-home "mail." So the school officials caved-in & said that fliers for religious events could be put in the kids take-home-mail as well. Then the Pagan Unitarians sent home a letter for a Yule celebration... oh, don't ya know the Churchies complained?

I originally found the story at the Americans United weblog.

Not that I totally agree with the NatureSpirit ideas, but heck, anything that makes the kids think about their religion is a starting point.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christian vs. Christ Follower?

These are pretty cute. It's a parody of Mac vs. PC, but it's Christian vs. Christ-Follower.
These videos really point out the most annoying traits of uuber-Christians.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

(Honestly, their other videos aren't that bad either. I had to laugh at the guy hanging out with Jesus for the day, when they're shopping for hats.)

I first saw these videos and thought they weren't that bad. Despite my belief that there is no god, there really aren't a lot of negative things I could say about the parables of Jesus. They are quality lessons, good to know. It's the Christian dogma that has built up around Jesus that really gets under my skin. I thought even I could be a Jesus follower without believing Jesus was anything divine, just as I could follow Buddha, or Sagan. As far as I always read the bible stories, Jesus himself didn't seem that big on the dogma.

So I looked them up, and I was disappointed to find out the people that made these videos are still typical Christians. I read up on their "what we believe" site & they still believe the same-old-same-old; "We believe the Bible is entirely accurate, complete, and reliable." And that just doesn't fly for me, no matter how cute their ad-campaign is.

It actually made me wonder what the point of their ad's are? They're alienating some Christians, while they won't really attract anyone who doesn't believe in the Bible. Are they just preaching to the choir?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ten Verses Never Preached On

1. Deuteronomy 25:11-12 NASB
If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity.

I never heard this in catholic school! Shit man, I'm not allowed to grab another mans 'gnads in order to keep him from beating the crap 'outta my husband? What other graphic details does this bible have? Oh. Not a kids book is it?

God is real. And he's unbelievable.



Is god unbelievable or what?

A Modest Proposal for a Truce on Religion

The original article is from the NY times: A Modest Proposal for a Truce on Religion

But you can read the whole article here.

And the responses are decent.

My own response is that Religion should not be above attack. The more people that belong to a religion, the less it is attacked, scrutinized, and analyzed. While there are many faith-based charities, there are plenty of non-religious charities as well (Off hand I think of amnesty international and the International red cross/red crescent).

I'd really like to see some examples of "the tone of this Charge of the Atheist Brigade is often just as intolerant — and mean." I would never think to personally attack someone based on their beliefs, thou I may attack their beliefs. And I'm not sure that calling an atheist "fundamentalist" is appropriate at all, due to the lack of set belief system. Atheism is a belief that there is no god. While religious fundamentalists have strict dogma they follow, atheists have only one common belief. When your one belief is their is no god, and you look to proven scientific evidence for everything else, how would you be able to compromise on that?

Shall we say 2+2=5? If we say 2+2=4 and we do not waver, are we fundamentalist? Or are we "intolerant & mean" for disregarding some peoples' belief in high values of 2?

"'Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.' The mind, of course, is not the individual mind, but the mind of the Party, 'which is collective and immortal.'"

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

South Park is such a great show

"The show is saying that there is a middle ground, that most of us actually live in this middle ground, and that all you extremists are the ones who have the microphones because you’re the most interesting to listen to, but actually this group isn’t evil, that group isn’t evil, and there’s something to be worked out here."

-From Interview with Reason Magazine.

I love South Park. They offend everyone and they make you think about it while they make you laugh about it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Scientology: Day 1 - 4th of July Event

In context with the last video on Scientology I posted a link to, this is a prime example of real-life use of the techniques they learn in those sessions. This isn't about communication; look how close into the face of the camera-man they get. And see how angry they get; that's not healthy. It's about intimidation & control. They keep asking the same questions; trying to "break" him. I only found interbulate in the urban dictionary.

For all they're against psychology, they sure as hell use a lot of psychological coercive-tactics.

Scientology held an open event on a street actually renamed "L. Ron Hubbard Way" by the city of Los Angeles. I tried to attend the event and was stopped from walking down a public street.

This video contains an excellent example of "bullbaiting" which is something Scientologists drill to do. The idea is to try to cave in the person who is being assaulted.