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Showing posts from June, 2012

The truth about income inequality

"And the biggest nonsense of all, he says, "is the idea that because the rich are the smartest, and because we're the job creators, the richer we get, the better it is for everyone. So taxes on the rich should be very, very low because we're essentially the center of the economic universe, the font of productivity." Nick pauses. "If there were a shred of truth to the claim that the rich are our nation's job creators, then given how rich the rich have gotten, America should be drowning in jobs!"


http://www.gq.com/news-politics/big-issues/201207/amber-waves-of-green-jon-ronson-gq-july-2012

Tulsa faith leaders are divided on the court's health care decision

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An article from the Tulsa World provides some interesting insight into how local faith leaders are viewing the court's decision. It's worth perusing the whole thing, but here are some choice quotes:

"I'm thrilled," said Drew Diamond, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Tulsa.

"We spend a lot of our social services resources and energy helping people in our community who are either uninsured or underinsured medically," he said.

"Anything that helps people on the margins get access to medical care is both necessary and important. This was a major move to help people who seriously need help in this area. And...
The Rev. Bill Crowell, president of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, said: "We were very much in favor of it. We think it was necessary to help more uninsured people in the country." And...
Kathryn M. Lohre, president of the National Council of Churches, said that organization's members have "supported re…

Obamacare upheld, Fox News implodes

THIS JUST IN....

The Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, begrudgingly decides poor people are also kinda people too. Wealthy conservatives outraged; many threaten to leave country, but can't find a wealthy Western democracy without universal health care.




(stolen from Facebook...)


Can you have a meaningful life without the afterlife?

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Great video from The Thinking Atheist (Seth Andrews) that debuted over the weekend at FreeOK. A number of well-known atheist vloggers contributed including Laci Green, Thunderf00t, Evid3nce, and the aptly named Cristina Rad.

FreeOK quick thoughts

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Well, I'm back. And no, I'm not headed to the afterparty, although I'm sure that would be a grand time. But here's my initial report. As I said yesterday, I didn't attend the whole thing. Partly because I didn't know who most of the speakers were, but also because I really just didn't want to sit on my ass for eight hours (at least, not without a guitar and a glass of Scotch). So my friend Sherrie and I got there around 1:30, in time for the afternoon speakers. Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, was supposed to speak at 9:00 that morning but it was announced yesterday that he'd been bumped to the afternoon because of a flight delay. He had to be bumped again, so we saw him last (there was one more speaker, but we weren't interested... and we were hungry).

So we saw Hemant Mehta, Abbie Smith and Dave Silverman. All three put on great talks. Hemant talked about the obstacles facing young non-believers and how we can develop avenues to hel…

FreeOK is tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the largest gathering of atheists and agnostics in Oklahoma history. It's also going to be the hottest day of the year so far. Coincidence?

Either way, I'll be blogging about it this Sunday. I won't be attending in the morning, but I should manage to see all the afternoon speakers. If you're local, get your ass out there! It's only ten freaking bucks! I'm hard to miss (I have garishly pale skin, a purple mohawk and lots of tattoos), so say hi! Seriously, if anyone approaches me and says they're a fan of The A-Unicornist, I will quite literally swoon.

Anyway, it should be a good time. More to come over the weekend.

Yahweh's perfect justice

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NonStampCollector returns with another great satire. This seems pretty fitting given my last couple of posts.




From the description:

"This is actually a re-make of one of my first videos, from 2008. The original video had, at the end, footage of an actual stoning that had taken place somewhere in the Islamic world, taken on a camera phone. The video was banned and taken down in 2009, and I didn't dispute the ban. I could never get around to drawing a stoning scene that I thought would have the same impact. A few months back I came up with the idea of seeing if people would like to draw cartoon pictures of a stoning that I could include in this remake. I made a quick video calling for submissions, and you can see the results here."

Does God have to obey his own commands?

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I've talked a lot about the flimsy basis of "objective morality" that Christians claim for themselves; they waffle between various definitions of what constitutes object morality, trying say that certain acts are 'just wrong' while claiming they're okay if God says so. If an act can be moral in a certain context – like, if it's moral to stone people to death for working on the Sabbath, as commanded by God in Old Testament law – then no act in particular is either moral or immoral; instead, the morality of the act is determined (obviously) contextually. So if God's commandment to stone people to death made it moral back in olden times, but it's immoral now, then the basis for determining the im/morality of an act lies not with the act itself but with obedience to God's commandments at the time. And if God's commandments can change, then so can the im/morality of any particular act.

This "divine command theory" is what many self-s…

Old Testament loopholes

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I think Deuteronomy is simultaneously the most comedic and the most disgusting book in the Bible. In it, our Perfect Benevolent Creator commands some pretty atrociously cruel stuff. But the real eye-opener is in chapter 22:

13 If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her , dislikes her14 and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,”15 then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin.16 Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her.17 Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town,18 and the elders shall take the man and punish him.19 They shall fine him a hundred shekels[b] of silver and give them to the yo…

Churches: reaming your tax dollars

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Hemant Mehta has a great post up today about the cost of churches not paying taxes. I have no idea why churches get tax-exempt status, but it's always seemed absurd. Given the whole "congress shall make no law" thing, it seems like obvious unconstitutional favoritism to allow churches to reside on often huge properties and even hand out conservative-leaning 'voting guides' without paying a nickel.

Anyway, so how much is this tax exemption costing us? Brace yourself:
While some people may be bothered by the fact that there are pastors who live in multimillion dollar homes, this is old news to most. But here is what should bother you about these expensive homes: You are helping to pay for them! You pay for them indirectly, the same way local, state, and federal governments in the United States subsidize religion — to the tune of about $71 billion every year. I'll leave it to you to peruse the rest of the article. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the da…

Tulsa gets sex ed

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Finally, some good news: Tulsa public schools are getting sex ed.

This is kind of a big deal, because Tulsa is both religious and conservative – it's known for its innumerable historic and modern churches, and it's home to Oral Roberts University and Rhema Bible College; Oklahoma is also the only state in the union in which every county voted for John McCain in 2008.

Surely all this religion and conservatism would produce a veritable utopia, right? Errr....
According to recent statistics, Oklahoma has the fifth-highest rate of teen births in the nation among 15- to 19-year-olds and the second-highest rate in births to teens ages 18-19.

Another report determined that the 7,581 births to Oklahoma teens in 2008 cost state taxpayers an estimated $190 million. About a third of those births were to teens ages 17 or younger while 89 were to girls ages 10 to 14. Thus far, Oklahoma's sex ed has looked something like this:


So here it is in 2012, and some of these people are…

7 Myths About New Atheists: Myth #5 – Atheists have just as much faith as believers

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I don't know why, but for some reason last night I found myself watching an old clip from Hardball with Christopher Hitchens and Bill Donahue. In case you're not familiar with Bill Donahue, he's one of those people who constantly talks in a half-yell and has said, among many other dumb things, that that child-molesting priests weren't pedophiles because "The vast majority of the victims are post pubescent. That’s not pedophilia buddy. That’s homosexuality." 

Anyway, he frequently used the term "dogmatic atheist" to denigrate Hitch, and I was really curious about what exactly he meant. Being an atheist means you don't believe in any God or gods. That's it. There aren't any holy books, no doctrines, nadda. So, what do we have to be "dogmatic" about?


Then there's that book, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek. Oh, and Ray Comfort's book, God Doesn't Believe in Atheists: Proof …

Dumb 'science' reporting: what's a cheater look like?

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I spied a link in my Facebook feed last night from Huffpo in which they were reporting on a survey from the website AshleyMadison.com, which is designed to help married people have affairs. The link was titled, "Revealed: the type of man most likely to cheat", but upon visiting the page itself, it says (similarly) "AshleyMadison.com reveals the typical cheating husband".

A couple of blurbs:
What does a cheating husband look like? According to a new survey by AshleyMadison.com -- a dating site for married people looking to have affairs -- he's likely in his 40s, been married for over 10 years and has two children over 10 years old. And....
What about cheating wives? In May, the site polled 2,865 of their married female members and found that the typical cheating married woman was in her 30s, married for five years or less and had a daughter under three years old. She is also likely to be a teacher, a stay-at-home mom or work in the medical industry
Why this…

Free will, God style

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An oldie but goodie, spurred by a conversation earlier today....

The church is digging its own grave

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How is that title? Hyperbolic enough for you? I know, I know.

I watched a great discussion the other day between Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett (posted over at Friendly Atheist), in which they bashed religion and incessantly mocked believers talked about a range of topics including language, evolution, atheism, and the church. They talked about Dennett's interviews with closet atheists in the clergy, which he had discussed back at AAI 2009. That research project spun into a website called The Clergy Project, which is an anonymous, invitation-only forum for current and former preachers who are non-believers. It's now sitting just shy of 300 members.

Dan Dennett made some interesting comments about just how forceful we need to be as atheists, in the sense of trying to persuade others to our perspective. He contends that religion is "unraveling itself", and he's right. The change is happening, but not in the most obvious ways. If we're hoping for some mass exo…

Prometheus and 'big questions'

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So in case you missed my post the other day, I saw Prometheus Thursday night, and I'll probably be seeing it again once or twice this week. Yes, it's that good. Well... at least I think it's that good. It's interesting to watch how critics are divided; the reaction is positive overall, but there are some big contrasts too – the critic for Forbes utterly trashed the film as worthless and forgettable, while Roger Ebert called it "magnificent" and gave it four stars. For those who didn't like the movie, one of the criticisms seems to be that it doesn't answer all its own questions. Which is odd, because I generally prefer movies that provoke thought rather than lay all their cards on the table. This is one of Ridley Scott's most ambitious films, and that's bound to produce a more complex reaction from audiences than a straightfoward crowd pleaser like The Avengers. For me, its ideas have been intriguing and complex.

There are some minor spoilers…

William Lane Craig tries to be a physicist... again

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Morbid curiosity, as it sometimes does, led me over to the ironically named website of William Lane Craig Reasonablefaith.org. I noticed he had a podcast about the recent PBS series with Brian Greene called The Fabric of the Cosmos (no doubt pulled from Greene's book of the same name). I decided, hey, what the hell, I'm just sitting here doing drills on my guitar... I can listen to it. So I did.

I expected that Craig would, as he usually does, say plenty of things that are true... and then mix in plenty of pure, unadulterated bullshit. I expected that he would distort the science to fit his religious agenda. And I was right on both counts.

It's a fairly long (3-part) podcast, and I'm not going to go through every little point, but I want to touch on some broader concepts where Craig really lights up the crack pipe.


Theories of time

Craig likes to contend that physicists are really out of their league when asking "big questions". He thinks that's a domain b…

No two religions alike

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I'm working my way through Star Trek: Enterprise, and one of the concepts I think is interesting about the Star Trek universe is that we imagine many aliens as developing technology very similar to ours. That's because, as far as we know, the laws of physics work the same on the far side of the known universe as they do right here on Earth. Any alien civilization that developed spacefaring ships with warp drives would first develop particle colliders, fusion reactors, etc. etc.

Flash back to 14 years ago (or so)... one of the reasons that I deconverted from Christianity was because I noticed something very peculiar about religion: no two cultures on Earth, who are geographically isolated and have no contact with each other, will ever develop the same religion. And it's not just that they call "God" by some other name, or they have a different "solution" to humanity's problems – it's that they have completely different concepts of what God or god…

Prometheus

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I saw Prometheus last night, at the midnight IMax premier (complete with limited edition poster, thankyouverymuch). I'm a huge fan of the Alien movies, and (mostly) of Ridley Scott, so I've been excited about this for a while. Now that I've seen it, I can honestly say that for me, it was totally worth the wait. It's a modern sci-fi masterpiece that's visually unprecedented, narratively ambitious, and full of outstanding performances from the entire cast. It fits perfectly into the Alien canon, while not drowning itself in excessive exposition. There are plenty of unanswered questions and new narratives to explore (rumor is that a sequel is already being written). I could nitpick a few things, but that's all I'd be doing. Bottom line: See it for yourself.






WARNING: SPOILERS AHOY


Seriously, do not freaking read this if you plan on seeing the movie. There's a lot to spoil too. But here are a few thoughts:


Michael Fassbender almost steals the show as David. I …

The round table... of creationists

Hemant Mehta posted this over at Friendly Atheist, and I thought I'd share. It's sort of like the fundie creationist version of the Four Horsemen DVD. I'd propose a drinking game for every fallacy, but somebody would end up getting their stomach pumped.

It almost plays like a collection of every half-baked apologetics canard every devised, with some new ones just for good measure. Dark matter is evidence of the supernatural, atheists secretly believe in God but hate him, atheists think no one can no anything (or, we think we know everything), science has to fit the Bible (or, more accurately, each person's interpretation thereof), science should be changed to allow for supernatural explanations, etc. etc. Anyway, watch it if you dare....

Internal consistency, coherentism, the Bible, and Star Wars

As has happened several times in the past, a conversation/debate with our friend/adversary Jack Hudson got me thinking about a particular topic: in this case, the idea of "internal consistency" as a measure of reliability. Jack wrote a post in which he, citing a graph, claimed that the Bible is "reliable" because it has many more preserved copies closer to antiquity than other famous works. Tristan did a bang-up job of shooting that down, so I won't parrot him here. Instead, I want to focus specifically on something Jack said in his post (emphasis mine):
The New Testament has many more existing copies from antiquity which are closer to the the writing of the original text than any other well known ancient text we have – which would be expected for a document understood by believers as being Divinely inspired. In a subsequent comment, responding to some of my objections, he said:
Consistency is merely the necessary condition of the truth of any argument. For…

7 Myths About New Atheists: Myth #4 – Atheists ignore the atrocities of "atheistic societies"

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I briefly touched on this in the previous post in this series, but I want to expand on it a bit more, because it comes up fairly often. While Christianity is spread by peace and love these days, historically it's been spread primarily by tyranny, conquest and coercion. Were it not for the conquest and forced conversions of the Germanic peoples during the Saxon Wars, much of Europe would still be celebrating "Eostre" instead of "Easter". Were it not for Encomienda – the enslavement and conversion under threat of torture or death of Native Americans by the Spanish empire – Mexico wouldn't be a Spanish-speaking, primarily Catholic nation. Were it not for the Crusades, much of the West might be Muslim. Then there's stuff Christians did that was just senseless and cruel, like witch huntings and the Inquisition.

We tend to point out these things as examples of what happens in theocratic societies. When religion has free reign untempered by secular democracy, …