Uninvited

http://www.star-telegram.com/804/story/1465651.html

Ugh. Because a church considered allowing same-sex couples to be photographed for the church directory (*considered*, didn’t even end up doing it), they were voted out of the Southern Baptist Convention. Teenagers on their way to a mission trip were “uninvited” because of a decision they probably didn’t even get to give input into.

Kudos to the Nashville pastor who invited the group to his city, where they will contribute to the community, despite their home church’s lukewarm acceptance of GBLT.

Profanity and Censorship

I am looking for feedback on this topic, because I really want to understand individual perspectives, not just society’s as a whole. Why is profanity so offensive? No, seriously. I’m going to give you my own personal take on it, but before reading on, please take a moment and consider why it offends you. Just you. Not your spouse, kids, boss, teachers or minister. For the purposes of this particular discussion, when I talk about profanity, I mean words that are considered vulgar. I suppose the same question could extend to obscene gestures as well, but I am just going to illustrate my point with words today.

I’ve not done any formal research into the psychology of profanity, or even necessearily the history of it. After chewing on tihs topic for a while this afternoon, I fully intend to, but for now, I just want to consider my own personal response. I am interested in any resources you may have to recommend in the comments, though.

So here’s the deal: I have been told that cussing is a sign of a lazy writer/speaker/whatever. It shows a lack of creativity and education. But the thing is – and this is really my whole argument – profanity, it’s just words. Is it more creative to call someone an idiot than a shit-for-brains? Well, Dostoevsky named an entire novel “The Idiot,” which is fairly well revered in the literature canon, so maybe so. But seriously, when I want to complain about my car, I could call it a clunker or a lemon, or just a fucking piece of shit car. You tell me – which of those three best communicate to the reader how I truly feel about the car? They’re just words – strings of characters with very specific meanings, which should be just as available in the arsenal of language as any other word. Yeah, they’re considered, base, classless, the stuff of low comedy. But it all comes back, again, to why?

So let’s think about some of the words that are most taboo (I’ll admit to a fair amount of naivete here, so my list may be a bit pedestrian): Fuck, shit, asshole, cock, pussy. Yes, that should be enough for now. On their own, every single one of these represent perfectly normal biological functions or parts. Ah, but they are functions/parts we don’t talk about. But why? Okay, don’t get me wrong. I don’t go outside naked, or have sex in the front yard. But they aren’t genuinely offensive, are they? They come up in non-dirty conversation. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have non-dirty words for them. We wouldn’t “make love” or “poop” or have “sphincters,” “penises” or “vaginas.” There wouldn’t be words that are acceptable in prime-time sitcoms, like “screw” or “crap.” Yeah, still seen as crass, but these get by the censors.

Another thought: does it have anything to do with the emotions that are being conveyed? If I say, “You fucking cocksucker,” instead of, “You jerk,” one would gather that I’m a lot angrier than if I’d just opted for the latter. Are we, as a society, afraid of these words because of the strength of [negative] emotions they convey? Can we agree that trying to reduce/eliminate the words that express these emotions does not make them go away?

The thing is, it really does seem to just come down to the words. Society has placed a distinction on these particular words for whatever reason. Then we go out and find new words, more acceptable-sounding words to replace them, because these distinctions have restricted our ability to effectively communicate. Frak, frig, darn, shoot, heck: these are understood to be the “nice” versions of the words they replace. So the question remains: why are the original words so bad?

Honestly, I’m not trying to belittle anyone who truly finds these words offensive. You’re entitled to that opinion. For reasons that are entirely my own, I find trench (and similarly styled) coats quite disturbing, and I doubt anyone will ever talk me out of that (although David Tennant’s giving it his best shot), so changing your mind is not my main purpose here. I really just want to understand why certain words hold such sway over so many people that, despite their commonality, they don’t even appear in today’s most common attempt to recreate life: family television.

Censorship really burns me

There are a lot of things in this world that frustrate me. Very near the top of the list is censorship. It really pisses me off that any one person or group believes they have the right to decide what I have access to read, watch or listen to. So when I read this story this morning about a group in Milwaukee seeking the right to “publicly burn or destroy by another means the library’s copy of Baby Be-Bop, I was angry.

The group claims:

“the plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library,” specifically because Baby Be-Bop contains the “n” word and derogatory sexual and political epithets that can incite violence and “put one’s life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike.”

You know what else incites violence? The Bible. Yep, let’s throw out what is widely considered a great piece of literature (at best, it’s difficult to really understand great literature without a foundational knowledge of the Bible), because it calls for the murder of women, children, slaves, infidels, etc.

“Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.”
Isaiah 13:16

“For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death . . . ”
Leviticus 20:9

“. . . Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.”
Exodus 32:27

” . . . whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.”
Exodus 31:15

No, not really. Because getting rid of information is not the answer. Teaching peole how to use and filter information is the answer. The Christian Civil Liberties Union is offended that

library Director Michael Tyree has “publicly stated that it is not up to the library to tell the community what is appropriate.”

Actually, Michael Tyree has it exactly right. It is not up to the library, or the CCLU, or you, or me to decide what books should or shouldn’t be available to read. Parents should take on the [admittedly daunting] task of knowing what their kids are reading, and be willing to talk with the kids about difficult subject matters. Also, parents should have their fingers on the pulse of what their kids are and aren’t able to handle. Age-appropriate ratings are a good mechanism, but parents also need to know the maturity level of their own kids. The important thing here is that communiation is key.

Alternatively, adults, especially those who have been in the world for a long time (like the “elderly” involved in this complaint) should know that the world is not perfect, and pretending that it is does not make it so. We cannot address things which we don’t ackowledge. Although, my understanding of this book (which I haven’t read, but now, of course, plan to) is that it is essentially the story of a young gay boy. This induces an entirely different fit of anger for me – that of the bigotry of homophobia – about which I’ve blogged before and will therefore not dwell on it here.

Now, I know there are probably some of you sitting there, reading this tirade on censorship, and thinking, well, what about all you heathens trying to take creationism out of the classroom? Isn’t that censorship, too? Well, fine. I’ll tell you why I think the two scenarios are different. Not that I think I’ll change your mind, but because I may as well preempt the question I know will be coming:

Libraries and bookstores are resources for anyone who wants to use them. Schools, on the other hand, are educational facilities, designed to teach specific curriculum about the real world. Creationism (or ID, if you insist) does not belong where it is currently being taught – in science classrooms – because it is not science. It is an ideology that postulates no testable hypotheses, which are the basis for the scientific method. It belongs in an elective philosophy or Bible class, but it does not belong in the science classroom. And that is what the fight has been from the beginning. Not even to remove it entirely from schools, just from the science curriculum.

This is similar to what we do expect libraries and bookstores to do for us: categorize material by age and topic so that our decisions in choosing material appropriate for us is well-guided, and we find particular books where we expect to find them. Likewise, putting creationism in its appropriate place is not equivalent to censorship.

Where Science Meets Spirituality?

I love Twitter. It’s how I stay connected to the world and the people (famous or otherwise) whose activities I care about. I even got to have a brief conversation with Carl Zimmer (@carlzimmer) one day about the validity of semicolons. Now I double-guess my usage every time I try to join two related sentences/ideas thanks to him, but where else could I speak about something so mundane with someone so respectable?

But Twitter has its flaws, too. Well, Twitter users have their flaws, I suppose I should say, and they use the Twitter machine unfairly. Many spam artists rely on the twitters who, desperate for a veneer of popularity, play the “I’ll-follow-you-if-you-follow-me” game. So they follow a person, expecting reciprocation, and thus the ability to flood that person’s feed with commercials for their product.

I tend to block these types of followers rather quickly; their following me doesn’t mean I see anything they have to say (I’d have to follow them for that to happen), but I feel dirty just being associated with them. This morning, though, I got a follower who appears to be trying to hoodwink the PTB at the asylum to let him out. He has grossly underestimated them, but I’m sure many inmates will be convinced. Here’s what I saw in my followers list this morning:

Human Design book HumanDesignBook

So I click over to the profile, and see:

  • Human Design – where science meets spirituality about 13 hours ago from web (latest tweet)
  • Bio HUMAN DESIGN: Discover The Person You Were Born To Be, published by Harper Collins May 2009

So I click on the link provided. Here’s the synopsis of the book:

‘Forget your sign, what’s your design?’

Would you like to know whether you are on the right path in life?

Would you like to know how to attract the ideal people to you, both professionally and personally?

Would you like to know who you really are?

More accurate and detailed than astrology, Human Design is a revolutionary new system that is changing people’s lives around the world. Using the date, time and location of your birth it reveals the person you were born to be and life you were meant to lead.

Chetan Parkyn, a veteran practitioner of Human Design, has made it his mission to bring this remarkable system to the world. Here he presents the first book of its kind on Human Design. Along with the free software available on this website, this book gives you everything you need to map your own life — a ‘design for life’ as unique as your fingerprint.

In a simple-to-use guide, Human Design shows you how to:

• Understand your personality quirks and make better decisions in life

• Find out who you best interact with to help you find your ideal partner and succeed at work

• Identify the personal and professional environments in which you excel

• Discover your creative capabilities, talents and potential


With this book you can discover the true inner workings of your personality blueprint, and those of your friends and family.

Prepare to meet the REAL you … it will change your life for ever.

This appears to be self-help, astrology and reflexology all thrown into a pot and stirred into a steaming pile of three-shit soup. No thanks.

Where is the science? Just exactly how does the date/place/time of my birth have anything to do with how my body’s designed? Would it matter if I was born in the jungles of Africa, to parents from Moscow, and raised on a Canadian tundra? What drives the difference between the randomness of the Human Design Book’s system and astrology’s? No, I’m not going to buy the book to find the answers. I’m not sending good money to this person’s pockets. If this is real science, point me to the peer-reviewed journal where laboratory data is published.

And finally, I’m not sure the claim of attracting the ideal people to you is all that believable when you clearly need to refine the searches that are providing your to-follow lists on Twitter. I’d say I’m not so much an ideal person for you, professionaly or personally.

Block engaged.

That pesky context. Who needs it?

By virtue of choosing a husband who leans a bit (a lot) further to the right than I do, I have the boundless joy of listening to conservative talk radio when I am in the car with him. Today, I got to listen to Republicans becoming apoplectic (right before my very ears!) over the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice.

Now, I’ll admit – the whole arena of politics in general gives me the heebie-jeebies, so I’m admittedly not as informed as I should be. So as I listened to them (“them,” today, being Rush Limbaugh and JD Hayworth) rant about Sotomayor’s 2001 speech (in which she stated, “Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases…. I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”), I had to agree that this seemed a concerning statement, but also had to wonder at the context of it. Quote mining is too frequent among all parties, beliefs and other arguments to not be immediately considered when hearing something like this.

So I looked up .her entire speech (available at NYTimes.com) and read through it. The particular quote being bandied about has been interpreted to mean various things, but primarily, conservatives seem to be convinced this means that Judge Sotomayor believes in giving poor favor over the rich, or minorities favor over whites. I will admit, I flinch at her use of the word “better,” but given the context of the remainder of the speech, it seems clear that she is not advocating any partiality. Her speech, to me, is honest and realistic, and the example she uses to demonstrate her point, I think, is valid:

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group.

Without new attitudes and perceptions, obsolete and unfair laws have a chance to stand. New ideas have the potential to show us how old ideas might be too rigid or biased. Although I don’t think Sotomayor voiced the concept well in her introduction by making the wise old Latina woman “better” (she doesn’t strike me as a very comfortable or polished speaker), I think her support of the claim that different experiences and perspectives bring about new (and potentially) better ideas.

I still have to research her decisions (it seems some are quite controversial) to really know where I land on Sotomayor’s nomination. I am far from decided, because I need to educate myself so much more. It may very well turn out that she is too biased or too liberal. But I have to say, if this is the conservatives’ best argument in defense of that position, they are standing very shakily on a quote taken out of context and molded to meet their need.

National Day of Reason: Why it matters

Saw this in a friend’s status update on facebook this morning:

No Observance of National Day of Prayer in the White House today? Really?

I had forgotten today was the National Day of Prayer, but I like to observe its counterpart, the National Day of Reason. So I posted that as my own status update. It was not meant as a snarky response, but something I would have posted anyway had I remembered on my own:

…is observing the National Day of Reason.

And I posted this link: National Day of Reason Offers Inclusive and Constitutional Alternative to National Day of Prayer.

The next status update on this friend’s (the very same person who posted the first update) page read:

National Day of Reason? Wow! What is the big deal…Start you own day…lol. I choose to pray everyday so it really does not matter. It just seems silly to me. One Nation under God. Our Government could use a bit of prayer. God Bless our country.

So what’s the big deal? Why does it matter? Because in 1952, Congress passed into law this “National Day of Prayer,” despite the first amendment clause which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

I know, I know. The act establishing the National Day of Prayer doesn’t “establish” a new religion. But prayer is an establishment in a religious context, and it is not Congress’s place to pass into law any such support of religion.

The thing is, we are, indeed, one nation. That much is true. But we are one nation of many people, under many gods, and in a growing percentage of the population, under no god at all. So while this observance is certainly everyone’s right, it is exclusionary and improper for any branch of government to endorse it. I applaud the White House’s decision to not officially observe it, particularly considering the extremely evangelical emphasis the previous administration placed upon the day in years past.

The National Day of Reason is observed by people who believe that reason and rationality serve a greater purpose than prayer, and who believe that this country needs reason above prayer right now.

I don’t like being one of these people, but this is the only way I know how to say it right now. I’m offended. It is hypocritical to expect the White House – an administration leading a country of many cultures and ideas – to observe your particular culture’s values, but then to so flippantly dismiss another culture’s way of celebrating their own values. In no way in my update did I ask people to join me, although I would love it if they chose to do so. I simply and proudly stated what I would observe today.

Turns out, the American Civil Liberties Union is ANTI-AMERICAN!

The ACLU filed a complaint last month against an elementary school in Indianapolis because a student’s mother reported that the school is allowing religious education on school property, violating the constitutional separation of church and state. School officials claim the school does not support the religious education classes in any way other than allowing students time to attend. That’s the article in a nutshell. I don’t know all the facts, just what each party stipulates in the article, but if the ACLU’s facts are in order, I am in agreement with the complaint.

What I want to talk about are some of the comments in the article from narrow-minded people who believe that separation of church and state is actually some form of religious persecution. Some of the responses are dismissive of alternative beliefs; some are just plain hateful.

I’m going to cut & paste the most offensive/ignorant ones, without response to each one. My response to all of them can be summed up by saying that this is a country founded on religious freedom, which includes freedom from religion. A secular government impartial to each religion is the ideal, which is why public institutions should not support any one over the other. This is why the ten commandments should not be displayed in courtrooms – U.S. law should reign there, not some ancient text that isn’t even wholly reflected in contemporary law. Non-preferential treatment for any group creates (or rather, should create) equal civil liberties for all groups. The ACLU does not seek to eradicate Christianity or any other religion from America. It actually seeks to preserve the rights of all groups to have equal footing, even if they do not have equal numbers. That is why even allowing time for a religion class while a student is being educated with government dollars is unacceptable, and that’s not even the meat of what the ACLU is seeking to change in this case.

So please, before assuming that this is an attack on your god or your faith or whatever, consider that you are still free to practice in whatever mode you choose (as long as others and the rights of others are unharmed in the process). The ACLU is not looking to close down any churches. Open your mind and consider the needs/desires of everyone before stepping all over their rights.

Which is worse…Using taxpayer money to “advance religion” or tying up taxpayer supported courts with lawsuits?

It’s voluntary. If you don’t want your kid to hear it, DON’T SIGN THEM UP. It’s just like a TV program or a radio show, if you don’t want to see it or hear it, don’t watch or listen.

How stupid to send another lawsuit to an overcrowded court docket.

Problem is, the only kids that will get signed up are the ones who probably already go to church.

Could you cite for me in the Constitution “separation of church and state?”

The Constitution says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. That means the United States won’t have a National Church. It doesn’t say we can’t talk about it.

OK people, just because one doesn’t believe or wants to promote any religion doesn’t mean it is not necessary for those same people to understand what is expected from them to live in this country. Has this woman not looked at ALL of the constitution of the united states or its declaration of independence? The concepts for how our country is to work is framed in religious definitions – that work for everyone if everyone understands the concepts and or spirit of what those words mean. This country is constantly bogged down in litigation because everyone wants free speech – just to talk. Well, that free speech was given to you by individuals who started this country with the belief that we answer to a higher being – whatever higher being someone wants to believe in – not mankind (that means that if you don’t believe in a higher being that you are not the person to be answered to to feel comfortable). You can move to another country that OPERATES the same way that you feel.

Really, a lawsuit over God (religion class)? We wonder why our country is in such trouble, this is just rediculous. How could a person even think about a lawsuit against God (which is what this basically is)? Looks like someone is looking for their 15min of fame – hope it was worth it! GOD IS LOVE

I for one say that the ACLU is an anti american group of lawyers that are causing more problems in this great country than we need. If they don’t like what the majority of the people do or the religious actions and activities that they are involved in. Then its high time that the ACLU step back and let the majority rule. After all we are still (I think) a country founded on Democratic ideals.

Food for thought

“If the wonder’s gone when the truth is known, there never was any wonder.” — Dr. Gregory House

Them’s fightin’ words, Ray

I’ve been hearing about it for a long time, but only just found the energy to face it yesterday: Ray Comfort’s blog, “Atheist Central.” I’d seen the video with Kirk Cameron about the banana (which I can’t find on YouTube, but there are plenty of videos responding to it; here’s one), and that was enough to deter me. Until now.

So, the first few blog posts are enough to make one’s head explode. Not because it’s such amazing information that makes one completely rethink his or her entire world view, but because it is such willfully ignorant and malicious material, it actually hurts to read it.

Please know, I don’t use “willful” lightly. It takes some work to be willfully ignorant. Some people exist in a state of ignorance purely because they truly don’t know any better. “Willfully ignorant” people are such because they have access to a wealth of information and choose to ignore it. Comfort calls his blog “Atheist Central” because such a large portion of his readers (or his commenters, anyway) are atheists. I can’t speak for everyone, but my guess would be because the skeptical, freethinking community tends to use that as a frequent reminder that there is still much work to be done in combatting bad propagandistic information. Although, I suspect quite a few people really just need the daily laugh, and his idiocy comes in high doses.

So anyhow, I see this section on the right side of his page that is titled, “The Atheist Starter Kit.” I’m sure he’s very proud of himself for having come up with this. He says:

If you are a beginner atheist, there’s a belief system you should embrace and a language you should learn, or you will find yourself in trouble. Here are ten suggestions for the novice:

Okay, so at first, I let it slide, but it turns out I really can’t let it go. I feel I need to respond to this list of ten things, one by one, if for no other reason than to just get it off my chest. As I’ve mentioned, he’s very willfully ignorant, so I have no delusions of convincing him that his little satire is not clever. I doubt I’ll say anything here that hasn’t been said brilliantly by countless other people. But I’m going to say it anway.

So let’s start with this introduction. Atheism is not a “belief system.” There are no governing tenets, and atheists, in general, take great pride in thinking for themselves. The fact is simply that many of them agree because the evidence in matters they consider tends to point in the same direction for everyone. It is not because they’ve got some narrow-minded book or minister telling them what to think and believe.

Alright… let’s get going. His first suggestions:

1. Whenever you are presented with credible evidence for God’s existence, call it a “straw man argument,” or “circular reasoning.” If something is quoted from somewhere, label it “quote mining.”

Okay, well, since you brought it up, let’s talk about these very distinct logical fallacies. It’s important to avoid using them (and others) in debating a position, and it’s important to recognize when your opponent is using them. Many logical fallacies are so prevalent in today’s world that it’s hard to recognize them.

A straw man argument is probably one of the most commonly used on both sides of the religion/science debate. It is essentially a misrepresentation of an opponent’s argument, and it is done in such a way that the argument becomes easy to knock over (as a straw man, get it?). They may be accidental (because of lack of understanding of the opponent’s position), or they may be quite intentional. An extremely common example is:

“Do you really believe we are descended from apes? Then why do apes still exist after they supposedly evolved into a better (fitter) form?” The answer is, no, evolutionists do not believe we descended from apes. Someone who thinks they’ve knocked evolution on its ass with this brilliant reasoning either doesn’t understand the ideas of evolution, or assumes he will win over those people who don’t understand it through sneaky misrepresentation.

Circular reasoning is really pretty self-explanatory. It is an attempt at reason/logic that goes in a circle, and really concludes nothing. My favorite example:

“You don’t believe in God? Well, I know he exists because my bible tells me he does. How do I know I can trust the bible? Because God has told me so.” And now we’re back to the question of the reality of God. Your “evidence” has not answered the original question.

Quote mining is the use of a quote, often taken out of context, and often from a source used by opponents, to discredit or diminish a key element of an argument. Here’s an example, taken from The Living Store’s “The Atheist Test,” which Ray links to on his blog:

Charles Darwin said,

“To suppose that the eye could have been formed by natural selection, seems I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”

If man cannot begin to make a human eye, how could anyone in his right mind think that eyes formed by mere chance?

Except, what Charles Darwin really said, was this (emphasis is mine):

To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certain the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, should not be considered as subversive of the theory. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself originated; but I may remark that, as some of the lowest organisms in which nerves cannot be detected, are capable of perceiving light, it does not seem impossible that certain sensitive elements in their sarcode should become aggregated and developed into nerves, endowed with this special sensibility.

(Vox populi, vox dei translates from Latin to mean, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”) Darwin makes the regrettable mistake of introducing his argument for the possibility of the evolution of the eye by presupposing the argument against. This has allowed dissenters easy, surface quote mining.

So Ray, when your opponents respond by calling you out on your logical fallacies, they are actually calling you out on the lack of “credible evidence” you supposedly provide. It is not a tactic geared toward anything except the purpose of asking for a fair and evidence-based debate.

Whew. That one took a while. I hope the next nine aren’t so involved. Moving on:

2. When a Christian says that creation proves that there is a Creator, dismiss such common sense by saying “That’s just the old watchmaker argument.”

What the watchmaker argument states is that if you look at a watch (or in other forms, a building, a car, etc.), you can see the complex workings, and you know that it was designed, or created. Such a thing doesn’t come about because of random chance. Similarly, human beings (and most other life forms) are extremely complex, and must have a designer as well.

That’s all well and good, except no one has proposed any ideas that would suggest how a watch (building, car, etc.) could come to exist in the absence of a designer. In all honesty, no one has needed to, since watchmakers aren’t hiding out in some hole in the sky and creating unexplainable watches from heaven. We can prove that there are watch designers that exist.

Conversely, evolution presents a quite plausible concept of how life came to be so complex without any hand but time’s in the mixture. Evolution, incidentally, is hardly “pure chance.” In the simplest terms, it is the result of mutations that occur over generations. Species who are aided or unhindered by such mutations tend to survive. Species whose mutations present an obstacle to survival typically fail to do so. But I’m not here to argue for evolution. I’m here right now to argue Ray Comfort’s suggestions for novice atheists. So I suppose it’s time to move on.

3. When you hear that you have everything to gain and nothing to lose (the pleasures of Heaven, and the endurance of Hell) by obeying the Gospel, say “That’s just the old ‘Pascal wager.'”

Ray’s dismissal of this argument suggests that he really doesn’t understand Pascal’s wager, which is essentially the idea presented here. Even if God doesn’t exist, shouldn’t you lay the chips on God anyway, since doing so could win you a spot in heaven, and not doing so could see you ending up in Hell?

Great theory, except the God I was taught about growing up was smarter than that. He wanted followers – people who truly believed in their hearts, and lived to serve him. Simply saying you believe in him may have been sufficient to fool your fellow church members, but you’d still be bound for Hell. And there’s the catch: finding a way to truly believe enough to earn admission to heaven is extremely difficult in light of the evidence that convinced a person that there is no god in the first place.

Frankly, it truly surprises me that people who claim to know God so very well actually try to use this argument to convert people. You’d think they’d know better than to bring posers to bow at God’s feet.

Next:

4. You can also deal with the “whoever looks on a woman to lust for her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart,” by saying that there is no evidence that Jesus existed. None.

I’ll be honest. I don’t even know what he’s trying to say here. My best guess is that, since atheists don’t believe in Jesus, we are perfectly willing to let that adultery thing slide right on by. Which goes to the old, “if you don’t believe in god, where do your morals come from?” argument. I’ll respond briefly by referring you research the Ethic of Reciprocity, which is known to Christians as the Golden Rule, but actually shows up in many pre-Christian and pagan religions as well. In short, we don’t perform or overlook grievances to individuals or humanity as a whole because they are grievances we don’t want happening to us. Whether it’s a fear of retaliation or a sense of empathy (or a combination of both), it exists, and we don’t need a god to enforce it. It’s really pretty much a no-brainer.

5. Believe that the Bible is full of mistakes, and actually says things like the world is flat. Do not read it for yourself. That is a big mistake. Instead, read, believe, and imitate Richard Dawkins. Learn and practice the use of big words. “Megalo-maniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” is a good phrase to learn.

Hey, guess what? There are ignorant people everywhere. In this specific case, anyone who has argued that the bible actually says the world is flat. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I’m pretty sure I never saw that verse in any of my Sunday school classes. I have heard people talk about the bible coming from a time when folks believed the world was flat, suggesting that perhaps its science is a bit outdated. That comment I’ll stand behind. Since I can’t trust good old Ray not to twist someone’s words, I just wanted to make that qualification.

So, I’m all for understanding the tenets and texts of an opponent’s arguments. That’s really the best way to avoid slipping into logical fallacies and invalidating your arguments, and potentially, your credibility.

That said, there’s plenty of reason to suggest megalomaniacal (worship-demanding), sadomasochistic (flaying of skin), capriciously malevolent (child-sacrificing) qualities about the god of the bible. Sure, there’s stuff in there about how he’s loving, too, but his mood swings are worse than PMS without chocolate.

Just because religion holds deities and people on certain pedestals, doesn’t mean that atheists do as well. As I stated before, any similarities you find are not because of a demand of any person or text, Dawkins and/or his works included.

Halfway there! I’m starting to feel a little better already! Are you still with me? Take a breather – go get some nachos or something. I’ll still be here when you get back.

6. Say that you were once a genuine Christian, and that you found it to be false. (The cool thing about being an atheist is that you can lie through your teeth, because you believe that are no moral absolutes.) Additionally, if a Christian points out that this is impossible (simply due to the very definition of Christianity as one who knows the Lord), just reply “That’s the ‘no true Scotsman fallacy.'” PLEASE NOTE: It cannot be overly emphasized how learning and using these little phrases can help you feel secure in dismissing common sense.

You’re one to talk about being dismissive, Ray, seriously. I’ve discussed my journey from Christianity to atheism already, elsewhere on this blog. I won’t waste time here trying to convince anyone. But because I decided to stop fighting the cognitive dissonance, all of my years in the church amount to nothing more than a tactic to, what exactly?

The No True Scotsman fallacy is described as:

Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again.” Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing.” The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, “No true Scotsman would do such a thing.”

In other words, the boundary becomes blurred in order to maintain the Scotsman’s comfortable definition of a Scot. Or in Ray’s case, a Christian is not one who follows or is of Christ (as the name implicitly suggests), but instead one who knows the Lord. One who follows Christ can stop following at any time, an uncomfortable thought for Mr. Comfort. One who “knows the Lord” cannot continue to claim to have known someone/something which they now claim to not exist at all. So Ray sleeps better at night knowing that no true Christian could find the whole thing to be false.
7. Believe that nothing is 100% certain, except the theory of Darwinian evolution. Do not question it. Believe with all of your heart that there is credible scientific evidence for species-to-species transitional forms. When you make any argument, pat yourself on the back by concluding with “Man, are you busted!” That will make you feel good about yourself.
Well, you’ve got one thing right: “Believe that nothing is 100% certain.” Except then you keep writing and blow it all to hell. Atheists don’t accept anything, even evolution, as 100% certain. We have an open mind to the possibility of an answer, completely apart from the one we accept, to peek its head over the horizon and hit us in the face. The difference between skeptics, freethinkers, atheists, etc. and you is that we are excited by the possibility of learning something new and unexpected.
8. Deal with the threat of eternal punishment by saying that you don’t believe in the existence of Hell. Then convince yourself that because you don’t believe in something, it therefore doesn’t exist. Don’t follow that logic onto a railway line and an oncoming train.
Actually, I don’t believe it exists, because there is no evidence that it exists. That is the basis for my world view. I don’t choose a belief, then wish it into or out of existence. It really is that simple.
9. Blame Christianity for the atrocities of the Roman Catholic church–when it tortured Christians through the Spanish Inquisition, imprisoned Galileo for his beliefs, or when it murdered Moslems in the Crusades.
Wait, aren’t Catholics Christians, too? Oh, wait, there’s that No True Scotsman issue again…
Honestly, I don’t think it’s all that productive to argue the death toll for each side, as so many people are wont to do. Things like the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the Holocaust, and Stalin’s version of communism are the result of ignorance, pushes for power and/or fearmongering. Granted, there is some validity to the point of who is driving these factors, but doesn’t religion have enough atrocities to answer for in today’s world without having to argue over the past? People need to be accountable for their own actions today.
10. Finally, keep in fellowship with other like-minded atheists who believe as you believe, and encourage each other in your beliefs. Build up your faith. Never doubt for a moment. Remember, the key to atheism is to be unreasonable. Fall back on that when you feel threatened. Think shallow, and keep telling yourself that you are intelligent. Remember, an atheist is someone who pretends there is no God.
I’m so drained from the preceding nine arguments that it’s difficult to muster the words to express the disgust I feel when reading this statement.
Fellowship: Yes, important to most people. As atheists, it’s not necessarily about being around the same beliefs, but more about being around the same thought process.In a country where we are such a minority, it is helpful to see that I am not the only person who questions what others take for granted.
I shouldn’t be judged for using my brain, and I won’t apologize for it. Yes, I do remind myself often that I am intelligent. I think my inquiry into everything that isn’t supported by evidence is so far beyond shallow that I can’t even comprehend why Ray Comfort chose that particular word, except for its negative connotation in general. It is not unreasonable to demand truth and evidence. It is not unreasonable to decide not be a sheep who says “moo,” just because all the other sheep are doing it.
This set of ten “suggestions” are really just an amalgam of various logical fallacies, and as a whole, are a pretty offensive ad hominem attack. I suppose dismissing the atheist position can help him feel better about the arguments he’s encountered, but it doesn’t make those arguments invalid.
There you have it. Hope the nachos were good. Did you save any for me? I’m spent.

The Kindness of Strangers

I was on my way to take my dogs to the groomer this morning. I took our older car, which has been sitting in the driveway since my husband and I began carpooling a couple of months ago. We’re usually either going places together, or one of us is home while the other’s away. So while it’s sitting, the air in the tires apparently got very low. I had to stop for gas anyway, so I figured I’d fill up the air, too.

Well… one of them just wouldn’t fill. I don’t know where the hole was, or if maybe I just had some brain fart when it came to pumping air. It started getting flatter, and I finally conceded that I had to change the tire right there. Fortunately, the parking spot next to me was open, so I had some room to maneuver the jack.

Several people drove by. Many people looked my way. One guy even parked behind me to use the air pump, since I was taking up the spot next to it. When I opened the trunk to put some supplies in, I noticed him carefully avoiding my eye, much like people are wont to do with a man on a corner with a will-work-for-food sign.

The coup-de-gras, though, was the little blue Datsun pickup, whose driver tried to pull into the empty spot next to me, saw me, sat and waited a minute for me to move, then peeled away (seriously, peeled out – so presumably it was in frustration). As he turned around to park in the line of spots perpendicular to the one I was in, I noticed an ichthian decal on his tailgate. Nice.

Finally, just as I was taking the last lugnut off, and getting ready to take the flat tire down, a man asked me if I needed help. I accepted, and he was done in a flash. Wouldn’t even take the cash I tried to offer him and his wife for their kindness. I appreciate them both completely – they took time out of their day to help a stranger, with no reward but the satisfaction of their actions.

As you can probably see, I am definitely not against the whole help-a-woman-in-need thing. I don’t take an offer of help to mean that I (or women in general) am to weak to handle it. Rather, I appreciate it greatly, and am perfectly independent enough to tell someone I don’t need it if that’s the case. I’m human, and I’m okay with the fact that I could use a bit of help now and then. I’m even okay if you choose not to offer help, whatever your reasons. But I sure have a problem with being treated like an inconvenience while I struggle with an obstacle, especially by someone who so proudly displays a symbol that is supposed to represent kindness and love.

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