Showing posts from 2009

Christianity, child murder and witch hunts in Africa

I was perusing John Loftus' blog Debunking Christianity today, where I saw this disturbing post about witch hunts in Kenya. Readers mentioned an article published in October over at The Huffington Post that discussed the rise in evangelical Christianity and its connection to the rise in accusations of witchcraft. It's a disturbing look at what happens with the spread of religion in developing nations. While Christianity is growing the world over, it is on the decline in developed nations such as the United States and Britain. It is growing the most rapidly in developing nations like Nigeria and Kenya, and the consequences of converting ignorant, superstitious people to a new religion can be dire. I can already hear the chorus of Christians claiming that the Christian pastors who murder (or sanction the murder of) children aren't "true" Christians. This is the classic " No True Scotsman " fallacy. Of course they are Christians. That does not mean that

The Stenger/Craig debate

Well, ol' William Lane Craig is at it again, this time debating famed nonbelieving physicist Victor Stenger, author of God: The Failed Hypothesis , among others. Craig basically trotted out the exact same arguments he's been trotting out for years, in every single debate he's ever had. He follows the predictable pattern of arguing for god's existence with the cosmological argument, the argument from design, the moral argument, and person experience. It was nice to see Craig debate a physicist, for one reason: Stenger demolished Craig's abuse of the Big Bang as a support for his theological conclusions, as well as his false dichotomy of the universe either having a beginning or being infinite – an assertion no one who has so much as perused Hawking's A Brief History of Time would make. It's about freaking time. Overall, I thought Stenger presented far better arguments, and as usual was much more pleasant to listen to. I can't stand Craig's smarm

Shifting the goalpost

When researching Intelligent Design and evolutionary biology for my recent post on the subject, I came across a tactic that I'm increasingly discovering is ubiquitous in the theological community. When your argument is thoroughly demolished, don't admit it or try to learn from your mistake; instead, just claim that your original argument wasn't really that important, and it's some other argument that is really the issue. This is called shifting the goalpost , and it's pretty damning evidence that when their beliefs are held up to critical scrutiny, theists simply don't know what they're talking about. Francis Collins shifting the goalpost Morality is one of those big issues that theists like to hang their hats on. It's the old, "without God, everything is permissible" nonsense. Francis Collins is, in some ways, a really nice asset for the scientific community because he's both a devout Christian and a guy who knows a lot about evoluti

The importance of critical thinking

I've been an atheist for a while now. After rejecting the Christian faith in my teens, I spent many years as a "theistic agnostic" – I believed that some kind of higher power probably existed, to explain things like morality, the complexity of life and the origin of the universe. As I studied the sciences and became more learned in philosophy, I realized that those things did not require supernatural explanations, and I became an atheist. But even though I'm still an atheist, I don't just read atheist or secular literature. Far from it. I regularly watch debates between theists and atheists, read articles by theists, and read books on the subject. This year, I've read The Language of God by Francis Collins, and The Reason for God by Tim Keller. I don't like to spend a lot of time reading that stuff; I prefer to read up on science literature rather than polemics for either side. I'd much rather read something like The Greatest Show on Earth than The

Chicken teeth: Why we know evolution by natural selection is true, and Intelligent Design is hooey

Preface: I am not an evolutionary biologist. There are innumerable people who have doctoral degrees and such in this field of study, all of whom are better qualified to expound on the details of this subject than I. For those looking for evolutionary biology from the perspective of an actual biologist, there are innumerable resources out there, not the least of which is the new tome by famed Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth. Of course, I haven't seen any ID advocates who are evolutionary biologists either, so at the very least I'm as qualified as many of them to discuss the topic. Whenever I'm studying a science, I strive to understand its core concepts in their simplest terms. With this humble little essay, I hope to be able to give you, the reader, that same understanding. Intelligent design is still at it I would have thought that the Dover trial would have dealt a serious blow to Intelligent Design (ID), but it seems to have done so o

The religious right holds a "prayercast" to stop health care reform

There are simply not enough facepalms in the world to do justice to the lunacy of the religious right and the circus act it has become. Last night, republicans hosted a "prayercast" sponsored by James Dobson's group Focus on Family to protest the health care reform legislation currently working its way through the senate. "Life and death hinges on the Senate health care bill. We face significant threats to the God-given right to human life through government funding of abortions, our health from rationing, our family finances from higher taxes, and our general freedoms posed by the government plan to take over health care. There have been a number of critical hours in American history. Our nation has struggled mightily and, under God, always risen to the challenges before us. Tonight, we will face this moral crisis by taking action and obeying the Biblical mandate to pray for our nation and its leaders." There are two disturbing trends here, which mirror th

The Pseudoscience of the Supplement Industry

One would think that, being that we no longer live in the 1800s, we'd be past words like "tonic" and "elixir", products that claim to cure all that ails you. But thanks to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, the entire supplement industry is almost completely unregulated. And while supplement manufacturers are prohibited from making claims about diagnosing, preventing or treating any known diseases, there are innumerable other bogus claims they can make, and they can do so without the pesky burden of proving that their products actually do what they're supposed to, and do so safely. $40 fruit juice and "muscle builders" The berry concoction Mona Vie is, without question, one of the finest examples of a massive supplement scam. Yes, you are paying $40 a bottle for fruit juice. Unless, of course, you become a "distributor", in which case you might pay "only" $20 a bottle. (You'll have to forgive

The Religious Right's Paranoia Over Obama: Christmas Edition

I remember when Barack Obama was running for office, and there were emails circulating "warning" people that he was, among other things, a Muslim and the Antichrist. Despite the fact that Obama is a practicing Christian, the fact that he doesn't go trumpeting it around – coupled with the fact that, unlike George W. Bush, he doesn't claim that God speaks to him to guide his public policy – makes him a target for paranoid religiots (I claim copyright on that word!) on the political right. Actually, what really makes him a target for these nutcases is simply that he's not a right-wing nutcase. He's a democrat, and according to the Almighty Doctrine of Neocons, democrat = Satan. The old " No True Scotsman " fallacy can be seen in full effect, with innumerable religiots claiming that he's not a "real" Christian. What they mean, of course, is that of all the thousands (millions?) of religions in the world, and of all the major branches of C

On the Death of Oral Roberts

Oral Roberts' death today wasn't, by any stretch, a time of mourning for me. This was a man who preached the dangerous nonsense of miracle healing, Zionism, and creationism, and whose spiritual delusions duped people out of millions of dollars. For me, it was a chance to marvel at just how tall a mountain we have yet to climb to eradicate, or at least render inert, this kind of dangerous, foolish nonsense. While a wave of best-selling books, websites and grassroots campaigns have helped erode religion's foothold on millions of people, there are many challenges still ahead. Oral Roberts reached millions and millions of people through his ministry – people who bought into not only the delusion of religion itself, but to even more bizarre and absurd behaviors and beliefs. This is not something to be celebrated. Oral Roberts' life was a triumph of ignorance and delusion, and the many followers he has left behind reminds us only that despite the immense progress we have ma


My previous blog, The Apostasy, focused exclusively on religion – namely, philosophical and scientific argumentation on the fallacies of religious belief. That's still a topic of great interest to me, and I don't intend to abandon it. However, I realized that it was just too narrow a topic for me to release substantive posts on a regular basis. I believe in quality over quantity, but I'm realistic enough to know that without a steady stream of content, my blog will never reach the kind of audience I hope for. So with this blog, my aim is to broaden my horizons – to discuss science and pseudoscience, religion, philosophy, current events, media, recipes for cake, and whatever else tickles my fancy. By discussing a wider variety of topics that are of interest to me, I can update the blog much more frequently and, with any luck, get an audience. If you made it this far, thanks for reading. There's much to come.