January 31, 2006

I Almost Want to Shout "AMEN"

From Pharyngula comes this stirring and delicious article that makes this confirmed cynic want to shout with glee.

Someone gets it! There are still functioning brains out there!

Idiot America

January 27, 2006

I am Betty Page

You are Bettie Page

Girl next door with a wild streak
You're a famous beauty - with unique look
And the people like you are cultish about it

Thanks to my new favorite webapge- Dlisted

January 26, 2006

Hit Counter = 10,000!

10,000 hits on this site. My goodness. Who knew that many people came here to read my complaining. ;)


January 23, 2006

The Ooze

Once again the glorious StatCounter comes in real handy. My "waste of time?" post was picked up by an xian board called TheOoze (a rather odd name for a religious site, don't you think? If someone from there reads this, can you tell me why that name?) Given the spirit of the original experiment I gave it a look.

And I came across this : A RANT ON CHRISTIAN EXODUS INSPIRED BY GQ MAGAZINE (Aside from repeating the "US is a Christian Nation" fallacy, a backhanded insult towards people with tattoos, and the normal "we're nothing w/o Christ" stuff, this is an awesome article.)

I damn near cried with joy. Where are the xians like THESE in the public sphere? If ever there were allies among them for us, these are it.

A taste:

What have we become? As a believer I am embarrassed to read this kind of stuff. We whine because the Ten Commandments aren’t prominently displayed in some courthouse, cry about the lack of prayer in schools, and beat our chests about abortion while our "Christian" clicks are riddled with the exact problems that the world faces everyday.

Divorce rates in churches are on par with the national average. Infidelity, while not scientific, seems to be rampant. Psychological issues run the gamut, and yet we are some how more moral and God fearing because we call ourselves Christians. While we are at it we should institute an IQ test to determine who the real Christians are. Then everybody who exceeds 90 points can automatically become an agnostic. Can’t we get a little smarter? Why does Bubba have to represent me, a Christian, to the rest of society?

Maybe a little less righteous indignation and a whole lot more Bible study will help. This is a trap people. You have lost your first love. Christ did not call us to go out and make Christian nations. He could have done that when He walked among us. He called us to go out and reach individuals, as individuals, where they were at!

Instead of targeting abortion doctors, how about creating real awareness and support for teens who are in trouble. When my 16 year old girlfriend told me she was pregnant, and I, the 17 year old sought someone I could talk to, did I think about contacting a local church? No, and I probably still wouldn’t due to the scarlet letter approach we have taken inside the church.

Instead of preaching rampant homophobia, how about creating medical centers for AIDS patients. What if we reached out to this group of people in love rather then some mis-directed reference to the Old Testament. If we really want to follow all the rules in Leviticus we better throw away all references to the Messiah beginning in Matthew and ending in Revelation. Oh and by the way, stop eating pork, and don’t ever go back to the Red Lobster. Shell fish is impure and not to be consumed by God’s chosen people.

Creating a nation of Christians was already done folks. It is called the United States of America. And all the Christians who were there in 1776 throughout the ages till now are responsible for the moral decline. We the Christians, are the people, and last I checked at least 80% of this nation considers themselves Christians. So who are we throwing stones at? Is the 20% so powerful that we cannot overcome them? Are we that helpless? Maybe acting out your faith is the Christian kryptonite."

Now, I didn't investigate the whole site, and I didn't engage them in the forums (while meaning no disrespect to the members of that forum, I simply don't have the energy for that anymore),
so it's entirely possible my joy is premature. But, so far, so good.

January 20, 2006

The One Holdover

Yesterday, when I got home to my apartment I found that a window in the living room had fallen out of the casement, knocked over a shelf full of stuff and shattered across the floor. As this is January in Buffalo, it was snowing with 50 mph winds so everything, and I do mean everything, was scattered all over the apartment soaking wet and freezing cold. (luckily my bunny was hiding behind the stove- warm and safe).

I called the super and he came up to put in a temporary replacement while I cleaned up my trashed living room. At some point during our polite small talk he said to me. "You’re surprisingly calm. I’d be flipping out right now. What’s your secret?"

I gave some flip answer, but once he was gone, thought about it. Why wasn’t I flipping out? After working all I came home laden with heavy groceries, exhausted and looking to veg out on the couch watching Red Dwarf dvds until Lost came on. And instead, I spent three hours throwing away a bunch of my ruined possessions and hoping that the temporary window would hold against the wind. Why wasn’t I flipping out?

In all honesty, I have only a theory.

As I've said 8 million times - I've studied religion. Seven years total from the inside and now from the outside. Half of that time was with a priest and a bible fellowship that met on my campus. The second half (several years later) was with a Rabbi for my intent to convert. (Obviously that didn't happen.)

I can honestly say I don't think I took anything away from my study of Christianity, other than a study friendship with the priest who helped me and a better understanding of the religion. There is nothing to show for this time of study in my daily life. (this is not meant to be an insult, it’s just the truth)

However, from Judaism I took something that puts me at peace and keeps me sane.
Sabbath. (Shabbat for my kosher friends ;) )

It's a sublime concept. For a period of 24 hours, you relax - REALLY relax. It's sounds crazy in this fast-paced, gadget-laden world - but I have found I can't do without it. The Jews are really onto something here.

The actual religious ritual and customs that surround this weekly holiday vary according to the level of observance, natch.

For starters, there are 39 forbidden things on Shabbat, all of which ultimately prohibit any kind of work:

Sowing, Plowing, Reaping, Binding sheaves, Threshing, Winnowing, Selecting, Grinding, Sifting, Kneading, Baking, Shearing wool, Washing wool, Beating wool, Dyeing wool, Spinning, Weaving, Making two loops, Weaving two threads, Separating two threads, Tying, Untying, Sewing two stitches, Tearing, Trapping, Slaughtering, Flaying, Salting meat, Curing hide, Scraping hide, Cutting hide up, Writing two letters, Erasing two letters, Building, Tearing a building down, Extinguishing a fire, Kindling a fire, Hitting with a hammer, Taking an object from the private domain to the public, or transporting an object in the public domain.

To quote Judaism 101:
All of these tasks are prohibited, as well as any task that operates by the same principle or has the same purpose. In addition, the rabbis have prohibited handling any implement that is intended to perform one of the above purposes (for example, a hammer, a pencil or a match) unless the tool is needed for a permitted purpose (using a hammer to crack nuts when nothing else is available) or needs to be moved to do something permitted (moving a pencil that is sitting on a prayer book), or in certain other limited circumstances. Objects that may not be handled on Shabbat are referred to as "muktzeh," which means, "that which is set aside," because you set it aside (and don't use it unnecessarily) on Shabbat.

The rabbis have also prohibited travel, buying and selling, and other weekday tasks that would interfere with the spirit of Shabbat. The use of electricity is prohibited because it serves the same function as fire or some of the other prohibitions, or because it is technically considered to be "fire."

The issue of the use of an automobile on Shabbat, so often argued by non-observant Jews, is not really an issue at all for observant Jews. The automobile is powered by an internal combustion engine, which operates by burning gasoline and oil, a clear violation of the Torah prohibition against kindling a fire. In addition, the movement of the car would constitute transporting an object in the public domain, another violation of a Torah prohibition, and in all likelihood the car would be used to travel a distance greater than that permitted by rabbinical prohibitions. For all these reasons, and many more, the use of an automobile on Shabbat is clearly not permitted.
As with almost all of the commandments, all of these Shabbat restrictions can be violated if necessary to save a life.



Judaism 101)

All of this is the religious Sabbath. Why is a self-prescribed "hardcore atheist" doing this?

Modern life is a flurry of distractions, obligations and stresses. There rarely seems to be any peace - there's always something that needs to be handled fixed or accomplished. This wears on me.

But, for 24 hours every weekend there is peace. There's no t.v. babbling away in the background, there's no computer to distract me. There's nowhere to go, there's nothing pressing to do. There is only peace and quiet and me.

This gives me time to enjoy the things that are usually so easily set aside in favor of getting our responsibilities taken care of. The errands are taken care of during the week so I can spend my weekends working on hobbies, spending time with family, friends and my man, and doing the volunteer work I love to do. This means that for a little while, there's peace and quiet, no distractions, and I can get to the things on my "To do before I'm 30" list. So that, during the rest of the week there is always something to look forward to, and a nice sense of calm at the fact that my entire life isn't running errands and doing "chores".

Most people tell me that they couldn't do this. That they couldn't step away from the computer/ipod/cellphone/etc for 24 hours. And I say those are exactly the people who should give it a try.

January 19, 2006

Waste of Time Fallout

So to speak.

I am very surprised at the amount of responses I've gotten to the Waste of Time post - here I thought I was writing an article for the GifS crowd and now even Anthropology.net mentioned this article. And Malaspina University College Liberal Studies Forum .Goodness. (and I have to give special mention to Prosthesis for the funniest mention of all). Had I known it would garner this much attention I would have kept better records of the outcomes. Oh well - live and learn.

However, this post has also resulted in an avalanche of e-mails - mostly positive, some not. So, in an attempt to in response the most common questions (and accusations) posed to me there are a few things I’d like to clarify:

1. My intent was not to attempt at deconverting theists. I have no desire to make windows into theist "souls" - I’m not trying to deconvert anyone. I simply wanted to see how they treat civil and respectful atheist guests to their sites since theists seem to have a hard time lasting on atheist forums. (this was covered in the post)

2. As the post clearly states, I made no claims as to the infallibility of the experiment. So no, I am not trying to manufacture propaganda against theists, or trying to suggest that atheist forums are superior.

3. And, for my science-minded critics, of course I don't claim it was a scientific experiment. It was just my own research. Do you own and we'll confer.

4. Yes, I have "looked for god", "asked god to come" to me, and "prayed for signs" that a deity exists. Clearly, nothing happened or I would not be an atheist.

5. I don’t even remotely care if some now think I’m evil or a satanist or an infant barbequer - all these things are ridiculous and already covered.

6. Yes, I do think it’s hilarious that even after these errors are pointed out to theists, they continue to make them. Do you have any idea how many of the negative (and some of the positive ones from theists) included Pascal’s Wager, or stories about someone’s sister’s boyfriend’s grandmother’s neighbor who was cured of cancer once they prayed.

7. No, I don’t hate anyone. I don’t care what someone believes insofar as they do not harm anyone else, or attempt at forcing me to live their way. So I don’t care if someone is a racist (or any other kind of bigot), a theist, an atheist, or whatever. As stated, I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind. It’s just a (perhaps naive) attempt at toning down some of the vitriol between atheists and theists.

8. As stated in the post I chose Xianity because I’m American and that’s the big religion here. Plus, I’ve never come across a member of another religion who actively tried to convert me.
And, the atheist forums I frequent rarely see any other kind of theist. It was not a backhanded attempt at demonizing xians. They are simply who I have the most contact with.

9. No, the use of "xian" or "xianity" is not an insult. See here: Second paragraph

10. No, there are not pictures of me anywhere. I am not an "out" atheist, irl.

Anything else? E-mail me.

January 09, 2006

A Waste of Time? You Decide.

For the past few months (ending at the end of December) I've been conducting a little experiment. I went to multiple xtian boards trying to see if discussion between the two camps produces anything of value. In this case, by 'value' I mean an understanding can be reached, ideas exchanged and preconceived notions validated or annihilated.

I started this because I've noticed that on atheist forums theists can get run off fairly quickly. This is mostly due to their own behavior, but they claim victim status. I have seen countless accusations from theists that atheists just hate god/religion/believers. Also, countless pleas for us to "consider the evidence" or to "take an honest look at faith."

So, I gave them a chance.
Why did I stop at two months? Well, answering the same questions over and over again can wear on one's nerves.

35 forums later all I have to say is: Oy. (now, 35 boards is by no means a fair crossection of xtian boards out there. However, I am only one person with a job, a boyfriend and a life so shut-up ;) ).

Disclaimer: This is clearly an informal experiment, and I make no claims to its
infallibility. This is just what happened to me. I encourage other atheists - with knowledge of the common fallacies and apologetics used, and plenty of patience - to try it themselves. Maybe bridges can be built.

A few notes:
-As I've said before I chose Xtian boards because I'm American and that is the prevalent religion here.
-Initially, it was my intention to post links to all the boards I visited - however, this was before I knew the outcome of this experiment. At that time I was expecting to find many good discussions out there in cyberland. After two months, I'd had very few. Now those of you that know me know that I can get fairly abrasive so you may be thinking that I was mean so they were mean to me. Not so. I made it a point to be as friendly, respectful and patient as I think guests should be. So, in hopes of sparing my fellow atheists from being subjected to this I will only post those forums which were good or not so bad. The
Progressive Christians at Beliefnet.com, & Xnforums.com (a few flatout whackadoo posters, but the board has a rocking Moderator).

What I found:

The 11 most common misconceptions about atheists:

1. Atheists hate god/are jealous of theists
2. Atheists are arrogant and don't want anything "superior" to them
3. Atheists have never experience religion
4. Atheists have never read/don't understand the bible
5. Atheists just don't want to receive the truth
6. Atheists are bitter/angry
7. Atheists just don't want to admit they sin
8. All atheists support abortion/evolution/liberal politics/communism/fascism/etc
9. Atheists are gay
10. Atheists want to destroy/limit religion
11. Atheists think they know everything

The 5 most common excuses for having no evidence of the existence of god:

1. god doesn't need to prove himself to his creations
2. the bible says {insert nonsense here}
3. the evidence is all around us - (meaning existence is proof of god)
4. Faith is all we need
5. Pascal's Wager

The 14 most commonly used fallacies:

1. No True Scotsman fallacy - "That person/group isn't a True Christian(tm) person/group."
2. Appeal to ignorance as evidence for something - "We have no evidence that God doesn't exist, therefore, he must exist."
3. Argument from omniscience - "All people believe in something." or "All people have faith in something."
4. Appeal to faith - "if you have no faith, you cannot learn" or "You must have faith to understand."
5. Appeal to tradition - "People have believed in gods for thousands of years."
6. Argument from authority - "Professor so-and-so believes in creation-science." or "A lot of prominent scientists believe in god."
7. Argument from adverse consequences (also known as the Pat Robertson special) - "Disasters occur because God punishes non-believers/sinners"
8. Appeal to fear or threat - "If you don't believe in God, you'll burn in hell"
9. Begging the question (or assuming the answer) - "We must encourage our youth to worship God to instill moral behavior"
10. Circular reasoning - "God exists because the Bible says so; the Bible exists because God influenced it"
11. Confirmation bias - "I prayed for X to happen and it did, therefore God exists." (nevermind the countless unanswered prayers)
12. Proving non-existence - "Prove God doesn't exist"
13. Special pleading
- Question: How can God create so much suffering in the world?
Answer: You have to understand that God moves in mysterious ways

and we have no privilege to this knowledge.
14. Straw man: creating a false scenario and then attacking it. - "Atheists just want to be promiscuous/steal/do drugs/etc without consequences so they reject god."

The 4 most commonly used bits of known hoaxes/forgeries:

1. The Lady Hope story (Darwin converted on his deathbed)
2. Josephus (see next link)
3. Anything used to "prove" Jesus really existed (this
Link is a fabulous resource for debunking "proof" of Jesus's existence)
4. Various stories that the poster failed to provide backup for - Bit of the true cross being validated, bits of Noah's ark found on a mountaintop, aparititions of the Virgin Mary, multiple faith healing stories, prayers being answered

Some notable outcomes:
1. Seven forums banned me outright after I said I am an atheist
2. One moderator accused me of trying to corrupt the young
3. I was asked "If you don't believe in god, why care about anything" a total of 17 times.
4. On the flip side, I was welcomed (after outing myself as a non-believer) at the other 28 forums
6. Moderate and Progressive/Liberal Xtians are just as worried about the separation of Church and State as we are
7. Most Xtians I had contact with do not support Bush or the war

The entire experience can be summed up fairly easily. Generally speaking, they know next to nothing about atheists, they are extremely emotionally attached to their deities, and they are just people looking for truth as we are. The animosity that sparks between atheists and theists seems to stem from the two camps speaking two different languages - atheists speak in terms of empirical evidence and logic; theists speak in terms of faith, emotion, and the unknown. An atheist expects proof before acceptance, a theists sees acceptance as proof.

Do I see it as a waste of time? On some of the boards (*cough*HolyCultureRadio*cough*) it was a waste of time. On boards frequented by a large teenage population or a way-out-there new-agey element, it was a waste of time. But this is not the case overall -surprisingly some of the more useful conversations happened on some fairly conservative forums.

Lastly, I think there are some allies to be made out there in the fight against an impending American Theocracy (okay, that's a little dramatic), women's rights and anti-war activism. There are plenty of good, decent xtians out there. However, we are never going to understand each other. We speak different languages.

January 06, 2006

People are ENTIRELY too Sensitive

What happened to the world? When did we all become a bunch of cry baby softies with paper thin skin?

How did simply disagreeing with someone - sans insults - become "disrespectful".