Monday, December 20, 2010

Tree of Knowledge

Another Christmas season another Tree of Knowledge. The Seattle Atheists have erected a Tree of Knowledge on their state capitol grounds. You see these kinds of displays across the country and my general feelings towards them have not changed since I wrote about them last year. Although I have to admit the message they placed next to the tree is really not bad (especially when compared with that drivel the FFRF puts up). I would even find myself agreeing with their message if I was not so jaded due to just about everything that comes from atheist groups is meant with some kind of anti-religious slant. But that is not why this Tree of Knowledge is different. When these kinds of displays are put up they are in response to an accompanying religious display, such as a nativity scene. However, there is no accompanying religious display for this Tree of Knowledge! I cannot count the number of times I have seen various atheist groups/bloggers throw complete hissy fits over religious displays on state grounds. Yet here they are, doing the exact thing which they constantly scream and rave against, which seems to be a common theme lately.

Religious displays on state grounds, BIG NO NO!
Atheist displays on state grounds, perfectly ok.

On a serious note, would any atheists care to give their feelings on this display and if they think it should remain?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Response to Ignorant Atheist Bull Shit

This is in response to a comment made on my previous post, Ignorant Atheist Bull Shit, made by a poster going by the screen name skeptic7. Due to the nature of his comment and the length of my response I thought it deserved its own post. You will want to read my previous post and his comment before reading this post (I will assume skeptic7 is a he for the time being to make things easier).

Let’s start with skeptic7’s first statement:
Jake The Angry Snake claims that 'the biggest thing in an atheist's life is that they don't believe in something'.
The article that I quoted said this. But nowhere in my post did I support, agree with, or even discuss this statement. Did he even read what I wrote? His statement is a flat out lie.
that is a rather broad stroke of the stereotypical brush.
I made no such “stereotypical brush” stroke. Skekptic7 made up a claim I never made and then labeled it a stereotype. I believe this is also known as a straw man. I have seen anti-theists do this more times than I like to count. And not to say theists are not guilty of this as well, they are, but two wrongs do not make a right. Let’s move on to the next part of his statement that started with the lie about something I never claimed.
From a lifetime of experience, not believing in something that doesn't exist is actually of very little concern. i don't waste my time on the nonexistent. I don't accept lots of extraordinary supernatural claims as fact or truth, such as The Tooth Fairy, Bigfoot, alien abductions, Santa Claus...nor a dog that speaks perfect English out of his ass, which by the way has a better chance of existing than an invisible, mute, all-knowing, all-powerful, egomaniacal baby sitter who cannot even be defined, so much as seen. We KNOW dogs exist and we KNOW they all have assholes, which is infinitely more than we know about any gods, not to mention more than you or any other theist can tell me about any god.
The existence or non-existence of a god had absolutely nothing to do with what I wrote about in my previous post. This is also something I see anti-theists do all the time. They switch away from the current topic of discussion and revert to making a laundry list of reasons they say god does not exist. I think, and this is my opinion, many of them use this tactic to try and go for a cheap and easy “win” when continuing with the current topic would require too much effort. They throw out all these reasons why they claim god does not exist knowing theists will be unable to prove otherwise. They then dance in circles acting like they just won the entire debate. However, they usually ignore the inconvenient fact that many theists are not trying to prove (a) god(s) existence and will willingly admit that they cannot do so 100%. They, anti-theists, also tend to sprinkle a generous helping of insults on top of this tactic as well. As if being derogatory somehow makes their claims more “right”. I also talked about this in my post on Accommodation and Confrontation about a post from PZ Meyers:
PZ Meyers: Religion isn't the problem, they claim, it's only the extremists and zealots and weirdos. The majority of believers are moderates and even share some values with us.
"But is a moderate superstition true?", we repeat, and "How can a myth be made more true if its proponents are simply calmer in stating it?"
Me: Since when was this about whether or not our religious beliefs were true? We believe them to be, atheists do not. The real issue here is the extremists and more importantly their actions of attempting to undermine things such as public education. It is not about if their beliefs are true or not, but how they are attempting to force their beliefs upon others.
For the anti-theists who always insist on reverting to the existence of a god in discussions/arguments with theists, let me help you out here. Theists believe in a god/higher power, atheists do not. Problem solved. You can move on now.
2. Jake The Angry Snake's analogy about basketball, while amusing, needs to be carried a bit further. Of course Jake the Snake keeps his dislike of basketball to himself. He has no reason not to. No one is trying to force him or his friends and loved ones to play the game. Neither he, nor his loved ones are being threatened, fined, incarcerated, killed or losing any liberties because they don't participate in, or at least enjoy, the game. Jake The Snake would probably feel a bit differently if this were happening. This IS what happens with religion.
Actually no, the analogy does not need to be taken further. If anti-theists were to restrict their attacks to only those groups of people who actually were attempting to force their religious beliefs upon others than skeptic7 would be correct. However, since anti-theists do not restrict their attacks but instead choose to target all of religion, my analogy works just fine with no need to take it further. This is made clear from Hemant Mehta’s comment:
We can’t “live and let live” when we see how much damage these beliefs — as silly as some might seem — have inflicted on people we love, and how much pain these beliefs have caused by people who took them too seriously.
By stating anti-theists cannot “live and let live” he is saying it does not matter if you actively push your beliefs upon others or not. If you are religious, you will be targeted regardless. This is extremely ironic considering that by taking this stance anti-theists are, in turn, forcing their (lack of) beliefs upon others. This is fairly hypocritical coming from a group who constantly decries this same behavior in the religious right.
3. I don't ever worry about being bilked out of money by superstitious claims. It has never been my money and it never will be. However, it could be my mother's money or a good friend's and i find fraud repugnant regardless of the flavor. In my humble opinion, religion sells empty promises which it never has to pay out and is impossible to collect on, so it is fraud. REMEMBER, i said MY opinion. If this faulty, fly-by-night insurance policy makes people feel better, then good for them. Drugs, alcohol, dreams and certain cranial trauma also create deluded states that make people feel better, but ultimately one usually has to deal with reality.
Let’s actually define fraud here.
Fraud: In the broadest sense, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual – From Wikipedia.
Notice the part where it states “intentional deception” (emphasis mine). That alone disqualifies nearly every donation/tithe to a church as being fraud. And I think we can agree that the ones it does not disqualify are fairly rare as they would also be very illegal. Just because you think someone’s religious beliefs are false does not automatically make their donations on behalf of those beliefs fraud. Skeptic7 also ignored my statement about charities. Studies have shown the religious far out give to charities than non-religious. This is a fact. Many of those donations, which he and other anti-theists label “fraud”, go to these charities. And I think anti-theists are not even willing to go so far as to say giving to charities is bad.
4. Instilling the fear of Hell and eternal torture in children and/or on their loved ones is CRUEL. It is indoctrination (brainwashing) of a very loathsome kind.
Not all religions believe in Hell and eternal torture. Heck, not even all of Christianity believes in Hell or eternal torture. Again, criticizing all of religion for something not all religions do is faulting reasoning. Get your facts straight. I do not even believe in a Hell or eternal torture. So go bug someone else who actually does believe in it with that one.
My opinion, most atheists don't give a rat's ass about your silly, childish superstitions and imaginary friends. We DO care about keeping their subjective, regressive and oppressive nature from impeding our liberties and advancements in science, medicine and technology.
Your, anti-theists, actions and words, such as being unable to “live and let live”, scream differently.
KEEP STATE AND CHURCH SEPARATE. The Founding Fathers, even those who were religious and even Christian, saw the folly of allowing subjective superstition into lawmaking, politics and government. The USA is a secular democratic republic...NOT a theocracy.
Where did I even mention the separation of Church and State in my previous post? Skeptic7 is correct in that the USA is not a theocracy, but it has absolutely nothing to do with what I said. Skeptic7, please try to put a little more effort in staying on topic in the future.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ignorant Atheist Bull Shit

Pardon my tone in this post but I am really beginning to get pissed off. I hear atheists railing about ignorant theist bull shit all the time. But how about some ignorant atheist bull shit, which seems to be all I have been reading lately on various atheist blogs. And the latest example comes to us from Friendly Atheist (which now is a misnomer due to his switch to confrontationalist, i.e. all religion is bad and theists should be treated with contempt).
CFI Canada is running a campaign that states “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence”. They then have a laundry list of items they classify as “extraordinary”. A columnist responded to CFI’s campaign stating the following:

So why does he care if people believe in God, Allah or the tooth fairy? Atheists are defined by their disbelief. i.e. the biggest thing in their life is that they don’t believe in something. But rather than just go around quietly, not believing, Trottier and his pals feel compelled to make other people not believe either. Their only faith is in the rightness of not having faith.

Isn’t that just a bit strange? I don’t happen to believe basketball is that interesting. Sorry, just don’t. I tried, but it bores me. Mainly I just keep it to myself. But if I was Justin Trottier, I’d be out there raising money to run ads in subways and streetcars, trying to convince other people that basketball is boring. The ads would say: “If you think basketball isn’t boring, you have to prove it. Just like Bigfoot.”

Would that make sense? (Answer: No). And to what end, exactly? If five more people suddenly realize they also don’t care about basketball, have I achieved anything? 
Hemant Mehta, the not-so-friendly Friendly Atheist, responded to the columnist’s comments and it is his response that is part of the ever growing amount of BS spewing out of anti-theists mouths that is driving me up the wall.
We actively fight against extraordinary claims like the ones in the poster because those claims cause harm.
Those claims do not inherently cause harm! They have the potential to cause harm, but so does every single other claim/thing/belief/idea ever conceived or used by mankind. There is no reason to single out all of religion because of its extremists. Every group has extremists or the potential for extremists. Although what he says next is really what falls under the ignorant atheist BS.
They can drain your wallet.
So what! Is it your wallet? No! Was the money given willingly? Most of the time, yes! And in the times where religious believers are scammed out of their money laws are usually broken and the perpetrator can be taken to court. And the vast majority of money given to Churches will also go towards some kind of charity work instead of just going into the preacher’s pocket. Oh, and did I ask if it was your money? If it is not yours, why do you care? Getting rid of religion is not going to stop people from scamming others out of their money. Those who end up scammed probably should have seen the warning signs. As for rest of the people, those in the vast majority, they generally do not miss the small amount they tithe to their church which helps keep their church, and various charities, running.
They will waste your time.
According to who? Anti-theists who are hell bent on making others think, act, and believe like they do? This is an opinion, not a fact! For a group whose favorite buzzwords include “rational thinking” you would think they could recognize when they are giving a personal opinion as fact. I think watching sports on TV is a waste of time. But you will not see me going around telling everyone who enjoys it to stop.
They can become the basis for irrational, unnecessary, and dangerous laws.
And what cannot? This goes back to what I said earlier, any kind of idea, claim, belief, you name it, when it is taken to an extreme it can become the basis for irrational, unnecessary, and dangerous laws. Just because you happen to have an irrational hatred of all things religious does not make religion more of a catalyst for this kind of behavior.
They offer false hope that will never come to fruition.
Again with the personal opinion. When will atheists learn that just because it comes out of their mouths, it does not make it a fact? Also, in some cases the hope they offer does come to fruition. For example, there are cases where families becoming religious together have made them stronger and closer as a family. Or a person struggling with drug addiction who, through religion, cleans their life up. Could this happen in other circumstances as well? Yes. But does that make it any less valid? No. There are also the studies that have shown being religious will make you a happier person. That sure seems to be an example of hope coming to fruition.
They can make you kill or hate or injure others.
More taking the extremes and applying it to the whole. Politics can do the same thing. Should we get rid of it? In some areas of Europe wearing the wrong soccer jersey in public can get you killed. Should we ban soccer? How about we focus on the people who are actually doing the killing and the specific beliefs that are causing that behavior instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Last time I checked, religion has not made me, or any religious person I have ever known, fly a plane into a building. That kind of behavior seems to be limited to a small group with very specific types of thinking.
They make you believe in fiction.
Again, according to who? Oh yeah, anti-theists hell bent on making others think/act/believe like they do.
They make you fight against reality.
See previous comment.
They brainwash children and adults alike.
This argument has been refuted so many times it is no longer funny. Oh, and see previous comment.
We can’t “live and let live” when we see how much damage these beliefs — as silly as some might seem — have inflicted on people we love, and how much pain these beliefs have caused by people who took them too seriously.
I think one of the commenters responded best to this little bit:
Fundie Troll
Hemant, you can’t “live and let live”? Then you are guilty of the very thing that you accuse the religious of on a daily basis – forcing your system of beliefs on others.
The road that you are travelling down – and I will admit that the religious right in this country is guilty of the same thing – leads to tyranny. You MUST live and let live, because the only alternative is a society where freedom does not exist.
Fundie Troll makes a good point. The atheists who share the same mindset of this post are guilty of the same intolerance and bigotry the constantly decry in believers.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Unlikely Disciple

I saw this video of the author of The Unlikely Disciple giving a talk about his experiences at Liberty University. After watching it I think I am going to pick up his book and give it a read. He makes several points through his talk that I though were very good. One is that when groups of people from the same spectrum of belief get together, such as a group of moderate liberals or conservatives, they will end up moving towards their respective extremes. This is one of the causes of the drastic polarization we are seeing in our culture today. He also talked about how bringing in other people of differing belief that you disagree with can be a positive experience. That is actually why I started getting into religious discussions and debates online and I strongly agree with him. The video is embedded below. It may be cut off depending upon your browser settings so you may need to click the link.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Don't Be A Dick

I have mentioned the Don't Be A Dick talk from Phil Plait before. I thought I would post the video of his talk in case some have not seen it. I highly recommend it, it is a great talk.

Phil Plait - Don't Be A Dick from JREF on Vimeo.

Also, it seems the idea that confrontation is best as opposed to accommodation is not getting as much support as I thought.  Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist said this about PZ Meyer's recent post Confrontation all the way,
I used to think it was ok to be religious as long as you were in support of things like social justice, good science, and church/state separation.
Anyone who’s read this site for a while knows I don’t really feel that way anymore.
I don’t “attack” people who are religious, but I don’t see a need to let that slide anymore even when they agree with me everywhere else.
It is disappointing that Hemant Mehta's position on this matter has changed for the worse, and it seems quite a few of his commentators think the same. I would have thought a lot more of them would have agreed with Hemant and PZ than actually did. Here are a few of their responses to his (Hemant Mehta's) post.
 R9 Says:
“And even if the religious moderates don’t vote against gay rights and are vocal about getting rid of bad science, they’re still wrong about the god thing. That means we must keep speaking out on that issue.”
“Must” to improve the world? Or their lives? Or for our sense of self-satisfaction?

CP Says:
How nice to know that atheists function under the same rules as fundamentalist Christians. Evangelical atheists are some of the most annoying people if only because they deny that they are evangelical.

Guy G Says:
A general maxim which works for me is “If it’s not doing any harm, then really it’s none of your business”
I’ve been visiting here for a fair while, and my view on it is that your change in stance has been a negative thing. Your posts are increasingly more mocking and derisory to the religious, which is a shame, IMO.

 This one is rather long but well worth reading.
muggle Says:
There’s no need to be hostile. If their stupid imaginary friend is doing no harm and they’re not bringing it up, why do we need to? If they bring it up politely, we should just as politely disagree. If they’re hostile, fight fire with fire and tell them they’re being a dickweed and an idiot.
But — as you used to notice — there’s simply no argument when they’re not using their religion to harm. Why do you assume the ones who are open and accepting to gays are sneaking quietly off to vote against gay marriage in the voting booth? Sure the ones who say they hate the sin love the sinner are but I’ve known many Christians who are openly accepting of gays without that qualifier and I’m sure they’re not doing so. To assume they are is, frankly, prejudicial. There are denominations who want to marry gays and are prevented to by law. They are most likely voting for gay marriage. While I think evolution pretty much debunks the creation myth of the buybull, I’ve known many Christians who politely disagree with that and are outspoken against creationism in the schools. Do you really think Atheists are in the majority in Dover, PA? Naw, I don’t either. Far as I know, we’re not in the majority anywhere.
Let me stress, not antagonizing unnecessarily does not mean to actually support religion by giving to their charities, etc. You know my view on that. It does, however, extend to protecting their civil rights. Hell with them, protecting their civil rights is important because it protects ours.
I’ve got to say, Hemant, I’m really disappointed in this new bitter tone. I’m patient because I realize that you’re in a public position and, hence, more of a target for the nasty type of believer. It’s got to be harder to keep your perspective in that situation. But I’d really hate to see you come what you hate and that’s always what it seems to me when Atheists like Dawkins start with bigoted crap like they’re all delusional and Atheists are smarter, etc. They are every bit as bad as theists who say you’re amoral without gawd. Every fucking bit. There’s a reason why I read your blog every day and not PK’s.
Let’s not fall into the trap that we condemn so many theists of falling into: that’s it’s okay to follow the leaders into hateful, viral over-genralizations of people who are not like us.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Accommodation And Confrontation

*Imagine a pastor preaching to his congregation on a Sunday morning:
There is an answer, and it's on display right here in this room. The solution, the only longterm solution, is the sanity of God’s Word. The lesser struggles to keep silly skepticism out off our textbooks or to keep pseudoscientific nonsense like evolution out of our classrooms are important, but they are endless chores -- at some point we just have to stop pandering to the ideological noise that spawns these unending tasks and cut right to the source: science.
We must confront untruths; letting them lie unquestioned is simply a way to allow them to fester and grow.
No, the words above are not the latest rant from Pat Robertson nor are they from your local fundie preacher. They are not even from a Christian, but a well known militant-atheist, PZ Meyers. With just a couple key changes (shown above in italics) his statement, originally about the elimination of religion, becomes indistinguishable from statements by extremists on the extreme opposite side of the belief spectrum. This goes to show the line of thinking in both cases, fundie Christian and militant-atheist, are not far removed from one another. And it looks like it is getting worse. The Don’t Be A Dick idea is losing ground and in its place is the idea that anti-accommodation (anti-theism), expressed in the original quote above, is best.

More and more people are coming out and stating their anti-theism and they are proud of it. They are proud of the exact behavior they so radically oppose in extremists theists. It should not be all that surprising that this idea of opposing religion regardless if it is harmful or not should come from Pharyngula. You can read the blog post that is making its way through the blogosphere, from which I took the passage I quoted at the beginning of this post, here. It is your general “religion in any form is evil and must be eradicated” polemic. You can also read about it on sites such as Friendly Atheist and Blag Hag.

The post by PZ Meyers is his talk he gave to a group about accommodation and confrontation. In it he talks about the “real battle” going on today with extremists trying to undermine education and science. He has a point about this and I see no real problem with his style of confronting these types of people who wish to deny scientific fact. He then goes on to explain that this battle has been going on for a very long time and that those who oppose the extremists trying to undermine science (I assume he is only including fellow atheists here, he makes the reason why clear latter) have not been making any real success.
We have been treading water for 50 years. In one sense, that's a very good thing: better to stay afloat in one place than to sink…
It is about time, he says, that they began to make some kind of progress.
But isn't it also about time we learned a new stroke and actually made some progress towards the shore?
Okay, nothing wrong with trying to do better and actually achieve your goals.
Shouldn't we move beyond just reacting to every assault by Idiot America on science education, and honestly look at the root causes of this chronic malignancy and do something about it?
The “root causes”? Hmm, I have a bad feeling I, along with every other theist/Christian, are about to get thrown under a bus…
The sea our country is drowning in is a raging religiosity… We keep hearing that the answer is to find the still waters of a more moderate faith, but I'm sorry, I don't feel like drowning there either.
At some point we just have to stop pandering to the ideological noise that spawns these unending tasks and cut right to the source: religion.
Yup, I knew it. The rest of his post goes on to try and cast all religious as essentially evil as far as science and evolution are concerned. He tries to say that simply because atheists do not believe in religion (thus it must be false) the simple act of believing in a God somehow makes us part of a “disease”.
Religion isn't the problem, they claim, it's only the extremists and zealots and weirdos. The majority of believers are moderates and even share some values with us.
"But is a moderate superstition true?", we repeat, and "How can a myth be made more true if its proponents are simply calmer in stating it?"
Since when was this about whether or not our religious beliefs were true? We believe them to be, atheists do not. The real issue here is the extremists and more importantly their actions of attempting to undermine things such as public education. It is not about if their beliefs are true or not, but how they are attempting to force their beliefs upon others.
I mean, it's nice and all that most Christians aren't out chanting "God Hates Fags" and are a little embarrassed when some yokel whines that he didn't come from no monkey, but they still go out and quietly vote against gay and lesbian rights, and they still sit at home while their school boards set fire to good science.
No, they do not all go out and vote against gay marriage, nor do they all stand by when their children’s education is at risk. Some do, some do not. The same is true of atheists. Not all atheists go out to vote for gay marriage, some sit at their homes and could not care less. Some even vote against it (yes, there are atheists who think homosexuality is wrong). Nor do all atheists stand up when their children’s education is at risk. Some do nothing, heck, some are even bad parents and probably don’t even know their child is about to be taught evolution is false, just like some Christians.
It's all about the truth, people.
I think he really means it is all about “truth” as seen through the eyes of an anti-theist.
I have been told that I must think promoting atheism is more important than promoting good science education;
Sounds about right to me.
I've been told to hush, there are good Christians who support science, and a vocal atheism will scare them away...and I have to ask, you question my support for science education, when you pander to people who you admit will put their superstitions above science if someone says a harsh word about Jesus?
Now he is just setting up a straw man. I highly doubt those atheists who see accommodation as the best approach would agree that this is a rational framing of their reasoning.

Half of PZ Meyer’s reasoning in his post is good. The intentional undermining of things such as education by religious extremists needs to be confronted head on. However, the other half of his reasoning is nothing but an attempt to spread the blame to all those of religious belief in an attempt to throw them under the bus of ridicule and hatred thinly disguised as “criticism” and “truth”. It is nothing more than an attempt to rationalize his bigotry. And it is beginning to catch on with other militant-atheists.

To those militant-atheists who wish to condemn or ignore we theists in the middle, who believe in evolution, who do not take the Bible to be infallible and completely literal, who believe that BLGT’s should be allowed to marry, who do not condemn others to hell fire and brimstone for believing differently, who condemn the radical extremists who bomb buildings, who do not support the likes of Pat Robertson or the Westboro Baptist Church, who do not spread hatred or fear, we are here and we exist. We do not have a skewed view of reality and our beliefs do not impair our reasoning skills or our ability to function in society. To quote Christopher Titus, “now take down that cross from your back, use the wood to build a bridge, and get over it!”.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Final Videos of Jed's Visit

I got the video I took from Jed's Friday visit to Purdue up now. Here are the links to all the videos:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Parts 1-3 are from Wednesday, 4-7 are the new ones from Friday.

And again, Jed has a post on facebook about his visit to Purdue from Friday.

As I sat waiting for the class break, I notice students were milling around waiting for me to start.  When I began preaching, a male student got beside me and started reading at the top of his voice from Nietzsche.  This was distracting tactic.  But I am always able to outlast these kind hecklers.  Usually, I just go on automatic pilot in these circumstances and preach.  After 15 minutes the heckler switched to reading from Kant.  I would have been glad to debate with him concerning philosophy but he was only interested in disturbing my preaching, not in pursuing truth.  After about 30 minutes he had to go unto class.  By then 50-75 students gathered which is the size of crowd we maintained for most of the afternoon, sometimes building to over 100.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Article From Jed's First Day at Purdue

Found this article written by Brother Jed recapping the first day at Purdue. Apparently the Force is strong with our lesbians on campus.

Sister Cindy, who is in top form, drew a crowd, which built up to one hundred by crying out against the lusts of the flesh.  Lust was the main issue of the day, especially when it is expressed in the “gay” way.  The lesbians were out in force.  They were going out of their way to be generally respectful.  I did not deal with that many male homosexuals, but the female ones were very vocal.  At one point a man held a derogatory sign behind me, but the students shamed him into putting it down.

Rest is here.

Brother Jed @ Purdue Videos

The videos I took of Brother Jed yesterday are up.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Brother Jed

Brother Jed is on Purdue's campus through Friday. You can read about him here if you have never heard of him. I watched him today for about an hour and a half and recorded most of it. I will be putting it on YouTube sometime Thursday or Friday as I will be going back to watch him talk and, more importantly, watch the crowd tear him to pieces. That is literally what they did today. I was happy that many of the people there who said they did not believe in God, or any religion, made it very clear that their hostility towards Brother Jed and his group did not come from their disagreement with Christianity but with his method of presenting it. I think the best part was when a girl who was passing by shouted "Sit on this!" and flashed Brother Jed as he was speaking. Too bad I had my camera turned off as it happened.

The more you know about religion the more likely you are an atheist…

Or Mormon.

The Pew Forum released a new study on Americas’ knowledge of religion. Of the nine different groups surveyed atheists, Jews, and Mormons scored the highest with an average of 20 correct answers out of 32 questions. This survey has been making the rounds on the various atheist blogs and religious debate forums with non-theists shouting its results from the rooftops that atheists know more about religion than theists. However, almost all of them neglect to mention that Jews and Mormons are practically tied with them. It also seems they neglect to mention that it is knowledge of non-Christian religions that they score the highest in while on Christian topics, such as the Bible, Mormons score the highest.

Frankly the results of the survey should not be all that surprising. Most self proclaimed atheists have generally studied various religions to see if they believe them. Hence it is not surprising they would be fairly knowledgeable on this topic. It is also not surprising that Jews and Mormons are at the top as well. Jews tend to a highly educated group along with Mormons. It has even been shown that the more educated a Mormon is the more likely they are to be more involved in their Church.

US Religious Knowledge Survey
Survey: Americans don't know much about religion

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wanting to come back to posting

I have not posted anything in quite a while here. Over the past several months my motivation for continuing in religious debate and discussion has been waning. Not because of lost of interest, but because of my coming to believe that it is rather pointless. This same thing occurred when I first started studying and debating religion as a hobby in high school. Originally I participated on a forum where the discussion/debate was between LDS and Mainstream-Christians. Eventually I got tired of constantly bashing my head against the wall there so I switched to a different forum where the discussion/debate was largely between theists and non-theists. Now, again, I am getting tired of bashing my head against the proverbial wall. So, again, I am losing my motivation. Now, I know I am not going to change the minds of those (mainly) non-theists I debate/discuss with. That was never my intention. What I wanted to do was get the point across that religion can and does have a place in the world and trying to cast it, and its adherents, as evil, delusional, handicapped, irrational, and the list goes on, is not the most efficient way to go about criticizing it. Such a method only results in alienating those you wish to reach.
I haven’t based my decision solely on my participation on a single forum. I also read quite a few big name atheist blogs (if you say my Google Reader you would think I was an atheist) and the general feeling of the posts I go through each day has also played a part. Frankly, with how many of them describe religious beliefs, I should be thankful I have the mental capacity to get out of bed in the morning or tie my shoes. I am hoping that the “Don’t be a dick” type atheists start getting a little more support but I doubt that will happen. A lot of blogs have been talking about needing the aggressive, dickish types in the atheist community. I cannot really wrap my mind around why they would think that as it is the same thing as me saying Christians need people like Pat Robertson or the Westboro Baptist Church.
Anyway, I would like to start posting again but I will have to wait and see if some topic comes up that I think is truly worth posting about.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The God Virus at Purdue

Thursday the local Non-Theists Society here at Purdue sponsored a lecture by Dr. Darrel Ray, author of The God Virus. He is also the founder of Recovering from Religion. The lecture was a condensed summary of the ideas he puts forth in his book. Those ideas being that religion is comparable to a virus in how it spreads through a society and how it causes people to react to it.

Dr. Ray used many different examples throughout his talk such as comparing viral vectors to how different religions spread or how people easily get sick when their immune system is low is comparable to how some people “get religion” when their “rational immune system” is low. It was clear he has put a lot of work into this hypothesis that religion can be metaphorically compared to a virus. But I left with the feeling of “So What?”, but I will come back to this later.

He began his talk with one of things that atheists do that really annoys me, he implied “atheism” = “free thinking” when he mentioned bringing theists into the freethinking community.* Nothing like going to a talk to only have the first thing said imply your reasoning skills are handicapped. In fact, he implied theists are stupid quite a bit (at least in comparison to atheists, yes he whipped out the “atheists have higher IQs than theists” mantra). He also brought up that a person’s intelligence is negatively related to their religiosity. This one especially amused me as the exact opposite is true for LDS members. It has been shown that Mormons tend to be more highly educated than other Christians. It has also been shown that the more highly educated LDS members are, the more likely they are involved in Church.

He was also fond of talking about theist’s “invisible friends”. I generally will instantly tune out an atheist talking about religion when they bring up this phrase or any of its variations (e.g. Pink Unicorn, or FSM). But since I knew this talk was geared towards atheists, and not theists, I kept listening. Although I did not miss the irony in how he kept insisting that his fellow atheists not intentionally piss off theists when talking to one.

With a little audience participation Dr. Ray gave us an experiment to try on someone (or I should say he gave the atheists an experiment to try on theists as he claims it will not work on atheists). He told them that should they randomly meet a religious person, such as on a plane, this is something they should try. It is supposed to illuminate the inner “demon” that is caused by religion within a religious person. First, you talk with them about something they like and pay attention to how they physically respond. They will most likely make lots of eye contact and have generally relaxed posture. Then you bring up their faith. They should instantly tense up as they are unsure if you are a friend or enemy. Then, after getting a confirmation of their faith, bring up one challenge to it. The person should get defensive. Then go back to talking about something they like. This should cause the person to go back to a relaxed state. Now, I do not doubt that the reactions that Dr. Ray described in the person who is unknowingly undergoing a physiological experiment are true. I am believed him that what he described is most likely what would happen. What I do doubt, however, are the reasons for the reactions he gives, and his claim that the more secular a person is, the less this experiment will work.

He claims that the change in demeanor in the person when their faith is brought up is due to some kind of religious demon, he compared it to the demon that possessed the girl in The Exorcism, that the person has been conditioned to respond this way by religion. I think there is a much simpler and much more logical explanation; people are sensitive about things which others may have a tendency to ridicule. It is not because of some kind of complex conditioning, the person is just not sure if they are going to be made fun of or attacked. I bet if you were to tell that person you shared their faith they would instantly go back to their relaxed state. And this is not something that is unique to theists; atheists would react in the same way to this experiment. I have read comments from many different atheists talking about how they are hesitant to share their atheism for fear of ridicule.

A persons “rational immune system” is another thing he kept hitting on. He claimed that when under stress a person is more likely to “get religion” because their “rational immune system” is lowered. He compared it to when a person is more likely to get sick under stress because of a lowered immune system. I noticed how he was implying that the choice to become religious is a negative one by setting up the initial condition to be negative. Negative cause A will lead to a negative choice B. But he gave no actual evidence that the cause he gave, lowered “rational immune system”, is true. All he did was compare it to someone getting physically sick which he himself claimed was metaphorical only. He also said nothing of religious people who lose their religion during times of stress. Are their choices to become atheists also negative and a result of a lowered “rational immune system”? Somehow I think he would try and cast their choice to lose religion as somehow positive despite the fact that it occurred in identical conditions.

He also brought up Mormonism several times throughout his talk. One thing he brought up was something called the “Fear of Mormonism” being used to keep people in the Church. Unfortunately, being Mormon, I have no clue what he was talking about. Yes, we would like to have people stay in our Church but I have yet to hear of anything called the “Fear of Mormonism”. Such a thing is especially strange when you consider that the LDS faith is one of the most, if not the most, universal faiths in Christendom when it comes to salvation. We do not believe in Hell. According to us, nearly everyone will end up in Heaven regardless of their religion or lack thereof. Now, he did bring up another point about Mormonism that I have heard and do know about. He claimed drinking caffeine is considered a sin. It is not. It is true some Mormons will abstain from all caffeinated drinks but that is a personal choice. Just about every Church function I have gone to has had Mountain Dew.

Another point he mentioned was about Catholic priests and their choice to become celibate and never have children. He compared this to a kind of genetic suicide. He then said that should we ever have a disease spread through America making people infertile we would attempt to eradicate it. This struck me as very strange considering I have been reading several atheist blogs lately talking about their choice to become childless and how it is a good thing.

Now back to my reaction to his talk that I mentioned earlier. Near the end of the lecture I was thinking “So what?”. Yes, religion may be comparable to a virus in a metaphorical sense but what is the point of the comparison? It cannot be that it somehow proves religion false for that would need to assume that anything that can be explained cannot be religious, which is false in and of itself (Read Finding Darwin’s God for more on that). It was at this point that I thought he was trying to take this metaphor of religion being comparable to a virus farther than it should be. In fact, if you think about it, religion having similar characteristics to viral behavior should not be all that surprising. Just apply a little logic to the situation. Nearly all religions believe there is a genuine reason for a person to hold their beliefs, whether it is to get to Heaven or something else. So if a person truly believes in their religion then they should truly wish for others to join them. In doing so the techniques that religions come up with would logically have become perfectly suited for this purpose over time. A virus’ goal is to spread itself as well. Over time its techniques should, logically, also become perfectly suited for this purpose. Thus, it is not religion having something in common with a virus, but religion and the virus having the same underlying goal.

There are several more points I would want to address about his talk but I think this post is getting long enough already. Overall I did enjoy Dr. Ray’s talk and he did seem like a genuinely nice guy. He also had a very good point at the end of his talk, “don’t confuse the personal with the political”. I just think his metaphor of the God Virus, while having some points, tries to take things farther than there is reason to.

* I have talked about the issue of atheists implying that to be a “free thinker” or “skeptic” one must reject religion before.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Purdue Students Going to Titan

A quick little plug for my senior design class. Me and about 40 other astronautical engineering students have spent the past semester designing a mission to Saturn's moon Titan. If you are unfamiliar with Titan it is one of the most unique planets/moons in our solar system. It is the only moon with an atmosphere and has liquid methane flowing in lakes and rivers on it's surface. One of our vehicles will be a lake lander which will explore a lake of liquid methane twice the size of lake Superior! There are also thought to be cryovolcanoes on the surface. Instead of spewing molten rock, they spew liquid water. Because of the severe cold on the surface (-300F) chemical reactions occur much slower than on Earth. Because of this Titan's environment is thought to possibly represent a snap shot of what it may have been like on Earth just before the formation of life.

We will be giving our presentation next Tuesday, April 20th, at 10:30 am in STEW 214CD. Refreshments (FREE FOOD) will be available at 10am. And do not worry about the material being over your head. We have tailored our presentation specifically so that no matter what your background you will know what is going on.

So if you have ever wanted to know what Rocket Scientists do for a living, now is your chance.

Here is the facebook event page,

You can view our website here including our final paper, all 1000+ pages of it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Non-Thesits and LDS

The local Society of Non-Theists got an article in the Exponent today. The article was written by the group’s founder, Jennifer McCreight, who you can find over at Blag Hag. In the article she describes her experiences being an atheist and some of the things she has had to deal with when other people found this out.

She talks about how she grew up in a town in Indiana that was very tolerant of differing beliefs. Upon arriving at Purdue she began to have people express surprise and disbelief upon learning she was an atheist. She even quotes a person who upon learning about her atheism asked her, “But how will you ever find a husband?”.

After feeling like she was the only atheist around, along with seeing the innumerable number of religious student groups including the one or two preachers we get each year who stand on the mall and yell everyone is going to hell, she started the Society of Non-Theists back in 2007. She explains that many of the club members are afraid to “come out” as atheists and many share stories about being stereotyped or shunned from their families.

As I was reading this I was surprised at how similar these experiences from being an atheist were to my own experiences being a Mormon. I lived in Utah till I was 15. The majority of the population (~65%) is Mormon. All my friends were Mormon. Most (not all) of my family are Mormon. Because nearly everyone shared the same belief system religion was never really a topic that came up outside of Church in any serious manner. Also, no one really treated those who were not Mormon any differently (at least not that I witnessed). So I mainly grew up thinking that while religion is important in your private life, it really never comes up in public. And then the summer before my freshmen year I moved to Tennessee.

Tennessee was definitely a culture shock in the beginning. I had to grow accustomed many new things such as being instantly soaked in sweat when I step outside in summer (I hate humidity with a passion), learning to decipher southern accents, realizing rain truly can fall in sheets, and going from being in the majority (Mormon in Utah) to being in the extreme minority (Mormon in the Bible Belt).

When I lived in Utah most of the kids in school where Mormon. In Tennessee I could count the number of LDS students on one hand, two of them being myself and my sister, out of a student population of about 2000. And with Utah’s reputation of being “Mormon country” whenever someone learned where I was from the conversation would usually go something like this:

Person: “Where are you from?”
Me: “Utah”
Person: “Are you Mormon?”
Me: “Yes”
Person: (In disbelief and with a serious tone) “Are you going to have 10 wives when you get older?”

And the multiple wives question was usually just the tip of the ice berg. I could not believe how many strange outlandish questions I got asked about being LDS. It got to the point where I almost dreaded telling someone else I was LDS because of the various stereotypes and nonsense people would then assume about me. This was also when I began to meet LDS members who have had their families and friends shut them out of their lives because they became Mormon. I also met a girl here at Purdue who told us of her conversion and how her parents had cut off all contact with her because of her decision to become LDS.

So after reading Jennifer's article I began to relate to what she was talking about. I could even relate to the preachers who stand out on the mall preaching hellfire and damnation on all those they disagree with because, surprise, they think Mormons are going to hell as well. Whenever you see one of the street preachers holding a sign with a list of “damned” groups of people, look at the names and you will see Mormons listed along with atheists, pedophiles, democrats, and homosexuals.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Humans vs. Zombies

I thought I would post something a little different from the usual. As the majority of the traffic to my blog comes from Purdue (thank you Google Analytics) I wanted to post about the current Humans vs. Zombies game that is currently going on. Me and my friends played last semester and absolutely loved it so we are doing it again this semester. If you are unfamiliar with the game it is essentially a large game of tag with two opposing groups, humans and zombies, who wear different forms of identification. The game starts with a couple original zombies who are unmarked the first day and they tag as many humans as possible. The humans can stop the zombies by shooting them with Nerf guns or throwing socks.

I wanted to share my friends video chronicles of the game. He has been taking video with his iPhone during the missions and then posting it online. You can view all of them here:
Tankus001's Youtube Channel

 The game also got covered in yesterdays Journal, Zombie tag proves infectious. Also, the official site for Purdue's chapter can be found at

Monday, March 15, 2010

Something Interesting

 I came across something that was very interesting on Saturday while out running. Across from my apartment complex, Crestview, there is a pathway that runs along the river which I run on almost daily. It starts just across the street from our lower parking lot and runs along a small pond connected to the river before going under a bridge. It was under this bridge I saw something sitting right in the center of the path, a Bible that had been set on fire. I am not sure why someone did it but they made it fairly obvious they wanted it to be found. The book had been opened to a picture of Jesus on one side, and a poem on the other, in such a way that the book would not close on itself. It was also placed exactly in the center of the path as if to ensure no one passing by could miss it. The majority of the book was covered in char marks from being burned but it was still fairly easy to tell what it was. Now before someone decides to accuse me of insinuating this is somehow connected to atheists, I have, and will not, make any such claim. There is no way to know the intentions of whoever did this. I just thought it was strange and worth mentioning.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Smut for Smut

 A few years ago I heard about an event that a student atheist group was holding at a particular university. It was titled “Smut for Smut”. If you gave them a copy of some religious work, such as a Bible or Quran, they would give you a pornographic magazine in return. I cannot remember exactly what school this was at but I am fairly certain it is the University of Texas at San Antonio, because they are running the event again. The Atheist Agenda group is holding their “Smut for Smut” event from March 1st through the 3rd. And to no one’s surprise they have been met with opposition, from both theists and atheists.

I heard about this year’s event over at Friendly Atheist where Hemant Mehta said he considers the event to be a bad idea, and I can’t say I disagree. The whole thing is nothing but a bad publicity stunt that is going to do no favors to the public’s perception of atheists as a whole. But what I am interested in discussing is the exact reasoning for holding the event from one of the officers of the Atheist Agenda who submitted a guest post at Friendly Atheist.
When I read Hemant’s article, I wasn’t too surprised to see an atheist disagreeing with our campaign. We have found through doing this event that not everyone agrees with us, obviously. But to see atheists not agree with us does get our minds thinking. Many claim that they are ashamed to be affiliated as an atheist because of our campaign, and to that I must say that those people are damn cowards.

It may sound harsh, but if you are not ready to stand up for what YOU believe in, and defend yourself, then you are a coward and may as well go sit in a prayer circle with all the protesters.
The first thing I noticed was the immediate set up of a “you are either with us, or against us” mentality in an attempt to polarize the issue. Joe E., the author of the guest post, tries to give his group’s event legitimacy by trying to claim that all those atheists who disagree with it are, in reality, not standing up for what they believe in. Since when does standing up for what you believe in include running PR stunts intentionally meant to insult? I would hope his statement will cause other atheists to call out his “either or” fallacy. His next paragraph about standing up for what they believe in just further adds to the illogical reasoning.
How is Smut for Smut standing up for what we believe in? It’s simple. Attention. On the surface that may not sound like a good intention, but let me explain. Without the attention of the campaign, there is no way we could have had the opportunity for people to see that we do exist. We would not have the opportunity to have discussions about not only our beliefs but other people’s beliefs also.
So they believe in attention? It seems Joe E. is mixing the purpose of the event, getting attention in any way possible, with “standing up for what you believe in” to further try and give the event legitimacy by claiming the moral high ground. He continues with trying to legitimate their actions with a claim that is completely counter to the purpose of the event.
We are not here to disestablish any religion, and we are not here to tell someone that we are right and you are wrong and that’s the way it’s going to be. We are here to simply say, “Here’s what we have to say. I respect your opinion. I don’t believe it, but I hope you respect mine.”
This statement is hypocritical to the point of being inane. Where have they given any inkling to respecting those of differing belief? Joe already made it clear the group considers atheists who disagreed with the event to be “damn cowards”, what should make us believe their opinion of theists is going to be any better? He even gives a hint that it is not better when he said the “damn cowards” should go “join the prayer circle”.
The turnout of people from our Smut for Smut campaign only proves it’s working. Never have we had a response from the student body like this before. While it may seem like a lot of negative flack, sitting at the table I have talked to TONS of open minded people who are willing to listen if I’m ready to listen. And I’ve had EXTREMELY intelligent conversations with some. Now of course you get those people that first start off like they’re gonna be intelligent about it and then end up bible thumping you in the face. But it’s through Smut for Smut that we have had the opportunity to have our voices HEARD.
It is unclear exactly what he is referring to that is working. If he is referring to the idea of mutual respect he alluded to previously, then he is just delusional. Masses of people showing up to something proves nothing except they are good at media-whoring, which appears to be their real goal. All of the “standing up for what you believe in” seems to only be an afterthought as an attempt at legitimation.

If they think this is a good way to get their voices heard I think they really need ask themselves if this is exactly how they want to be heard. They are only further enforcing the negative stereotype of atheists and are now tying porn into it.
Too often are we as the minority overshadowed and undermined by the religious majority. Too often are we subjected to just listen to what the religious try to tell us is right without having a word to say back. Too often are we judged as immoral people because we don’t have faith in some God.
Is this supposed to make others pity them? The last line is especially ironic considering this event will only further cause the extreme Christians to consider atheists to be immoral while at the same time pushing away most of the moderate Christians who would otherwise be willing to listen.
I say to those against the campaign, you try finding a way to get HUNDREDS, possibly THOUSANDS of students to be willing to actually DISCUSS with you, in a way that isn’t going to offend someone.
Well this is not to difficult. I would hope just about any college student would be able to come up with an event that is not going to purposefully offend as many of the people they wish to discuss with as possible. I will admit that you will most likely always offend someone, but that is a far cry from attempting to offend everyone as the Atheist Agenda did.
We’ve tried. We’ve tried showing “The God Who Wasn’t There” with an open panel discussion. Again religious organizations tried to get us shut down because they were “offended.” But they can turn around and have bible study and show their religious stuff with no flack? No one showed up to the panel because we flaked out and hid our tails between our legs.
Sounds like the reason they failed was because they “flaked out”. Holding discussion such as the one they attempted is nearly always going to be met by opposition from certain extremist factions. Just push by it and continue with the event. What you should not do is just give up and instead decide to come up with the most controversial event you can think of just to grab the spotlight.
This time we stand strong in our mission statement. We stand as free thinking individuals with a mindset to listen and to express. We stand not to offend or change people’s minds (although we hope in the process they are able to question possibilities).
He never actually did make clear just exactly what their mission statement is. He also did not clarify exactly where “free thinking” had anything to do with this PR stunt, aside from the reasoning that if you do not think like they do you are a “damn coward”. He did, however, make it very clear that offense was meant to be given in the hopes that they could hog the spotlight.
We are here to tell the world that we are tired of being treated like misfits, and worthless humans with no sense of right or wrong.
And they do this by acting like a bunch of misfits, wonderful logic there.

It seems the Atheist Agenda, of the University of Texas at San Antonio, is just a group of people who lack the creativity to get their ideas out there in a legitimate and respectful manner. Thus, their only recourse is to revert to a childish attempt to piss off as many people as possible all at once in the hopes that they can somehow exploit the attention they receive from it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ten Shocking Mormon Beliefs

That are not really true.

I stumbled across this list of “Top 10 Most Weird Mormon Beliefs – Shocking Revelations” a few days ago on the Atheist Adam blog. As I am a Mormon I thought I would see just exactly what was so shocking. I have been participating in religious dialogue and debate online since I was in High School. I have come across all kinds of claims about what Mormons “believe”. So I am not unaccustomed to seeing outrageous claims about what I believe. This time it was no different, I was not surprised. The supposed “beliefs” were all either blown out of proportion/taken out of context, or just plain false. Here are few of the “shocking revelations”:
10. The earth is 7,000 years old. There is no official statement by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints about the age of the earth, but many Mormons (and many Christians of some sects) believe that the age of the earth is on the order of thousands of years rather than billions calculated by widely accepted scientific methods.
I love how they introduce this one, “Here is the weird belief, but it isn’t really an official belief. But I bet a lot of them believe in it!”. Like the article says, there is no official doctrine about the age of the Earth. The Church is also neutral on the issue of evolution. Members may make up their own minds on issues like this. I accept evolution along with many other Mormons I know personally. I fail to see how letting people make up their own mind is a “weird belief”.
9. Mars and Venus have dry rivers. The dry rivers on Mars and Venus were the source of the flowing rivers on earth. The theory is that the dry rivers on Mars and Venus \”match\” the rivers on Earth and that proves that all three planets were organized from the same source.

8. Dinosaur bones come from other planets. LDS Church Institute instructors teach that fossilized dinosaur bones are from creatures that lived on other worlds that were destroyed in the creation of the earth.
Ok, I will admit it, they got me on these two. By that I mean I have no fracking clue where they came from! I thought I had seen all of the off the wall, ridiculous, and blatantly false claims of what we, Mormons, believed. Seriously, I may have to shake this authors hand for coming up with some supposed beliefs held by Mormons that I have yet to come across. At least the guy is not lacking in the imagination department.
4. Also on the subject of Native Americans, the preface to the Book of Mormon from 1981 indicates that descendents of Lehi are a \”remnant of the House of Israel\” and were ancestors to American Indians. However, the DNA of Native Americans indicates an Asian origin.
This is one of the claims that is taken out of context and out of proportion. It is true that LDS believe that a group of Israelites came to the Americas before the time of Christ and that they interbred among the local population, hence the reference to ancestors. But it is not official that they were the primary ancestors and the majority of LDS scholars believe they were not. The issue of DNA is one that has been debated a lot. There have been numerous responses to the claims that DNA evidence proves the Book of Mormon wrong. Going into any kind of detail here would take way too much time but anyone interested in reading more about it can look here, DNA and the Book of Mormon.
2. Mormons believe that after the resurrection, Jesus visited America and there he performed miracles and taught.
Well, he actually got something right. We do believe this. Unfortunately, I fail to see what is so weird about it when looked at from a religious point of view. The only way I think someone could find it strange is from an atheist point of view where all religion is viewed as strange.
1. Kolub is a star mentioned in the Book of Abraham as being closest to the throne of God. The Book of Abraham is canonized by the LDS church, Mormon fundamentalist organizations, and other LDS sects. Kolub inspired \”Kobol\” in Mormon Glen A. Larson\’s Battlestar Galactica universe.
First of all, it is “Kolob”, not “Kolub”. If you are going to publish of list of “supposed weird beliefs” some group holds, at least get your spelling right! Oh well, at least he got the Battlestar Galactica reference correct. Now to put this belief in context, usually Kolob is twisted to make the claim “Mormons believe God lives on a planet called Kolob”. Too bad Kolob is not referenced as a planet, but a star.
"Kolob" is the name given to the star closest to the throne of God in Abra. 3:3. It is introduced in an effort to teach Abraham that there is a hierarchy in all things. There are many stars, and one star is "closest" to God. In a similar way, there are many intelligences, or moral agents, some greater than others. The greatest of these is God.
Thus, "Kolob" is introduced in a rather peripheral way in an effort to teach about the supremacy of God:
Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other...And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all. (Abra. 3:18-19, italics added)
In an effort to make the Church look bizarre, many critics mock the idea of "God living on the planet Kolob." This is false as God does not live on Kolob. Kolob plays no real role in LDS doctrine or discourse. The only other mention comes from a 19th century hymn, which uses Kolob in its first line to describe the glorious life of those who return to God:[1]

It seems the person who posted this got the entire article from another website as this same post has turned up in Google at multiple sites all linking back to the same location, a site called The Secrets of Mormons. I assume who ever took the article and reposted it on the blog I found did so because of confirmation bias. If you wish to criticize a set of religious beliefs, this is the worst way to go about it. One look at the source site, The Secrets of Mormons, should have been the first clue that the information is most likely faulty. The site reads like a bad infomercial. Nearly every other line is in a different font size, random sections are bolded and underlined while others are in random colors, even the cliché “But Wait! There’s Even More…” phrase appears.
If you want a good laugh, go check out that site. If you want to know what we, Mormons, actually do believe then just ask us. If you fall for the scam of The Secrets of Mormons, then not only will you be out 37 dollars, but you will be laughed out of the room the first time you confront a Mormon about their “weird beliefs”.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

God Botherers

I thought this little piece was funny and worth sharing. It is by a stand-up comedian in the UK.
There's "probably no God", apparently. I read it on the back of a bus last year, courtesy of an advertisement paid for by the British Humanist Association. Mind you, then the Christian Party countered with its own series of ads claiming: "There definitely is a God." For a period last year, in fact, all my spiritual guidance came from slogans painted on buses. If confronted with an ethical dilemma, I'd stroll down the high street and wait for the number 42 to trundle past with "Morality itself being a construct, only your conscience can be your guide" written along the side.
But now that the bus wars have died down, the consensus seems to be that it's unlikely there's a God. Ever since Richard Dawkins wrote his book on the "delusion" a few years ago, the anti-God industry has enjoyed a boom period. The shelves have been crammed with titles such as God Is Not Great, 2,000 Years of Disbelief, 1,000 Tiresomely Reiterated Anti-Church Arguments, and so on.
An atheist Christmas service at London's Bloomsbury Theatre was a box-office smash. Dawkins is now the most popular God-basher since the days when Christians used to be fed to lions. You can hardly have a nativity play without the bespectacled bogeyman storming the stage, scattering the little shepherds and angels with a cry of "Where is the proof of this?!"
In short, atheists are becoming as annoying as believers used to be. 
Read the whole thing here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Is God just a delusion? First Meeting Notes

The notes from the first meeting of the Purdue Reading Group discussion on The God Delusion are up. You can read the section of the book that was discussed here for free. It seems at the beginning of the meeting they went over the differences between the words Theist, Deist, Pantheist, and Atheist.
Differences between Theist, Deist, Pantheist, Atheist:
- A theist believes in an intelligent god who cares about the created world.
- A deist believes in an intelligent god who created the world, but doesn't care about it.
- A pantheist (like Einstein) doesn't believe in a creative god, but rather believes in a set of rules that the universe follows. In this sense, god is the universe.
- An atheist doesn't believe in any sort of god (or doesn't care).
On to the section from Dawkins book about Undeserved Respect, here are the notes from the meeting.
Does religion get undeserved respect?
1. It's not a question of respect, it's a question of power.
2. The government can't control religious groups
3. Thus it's pragmatic to not fight against religion
4. The example of the cartoons printed in Danish newspapers isn't about privileging religion, but rather it's about fear.
5. "...the restraint of British newspapers derived less from sensitivity to Muslim discontent than it did from a desire not to have their windows broken." (p. 48)
6. It was brought up that the examples that Dawkins uses aren't normal, and are even in some cases "weird," so the conclusions aren't logically valid. In order for the conclusion to hold, it has to hold in all cases, not just in some special cases.
7. Why is it bad to use Freedom of Religion as an argument, yet it's okay to rely on Freedom of Speech? The founding fathers didn't differentiate between the two; they are both part of the first amendment.
8. The term "Ethnic Cleansing" may not be used to give religion special respect, but might just be a form of political correctness.
9. In the Irish civil war, calling them "Catholics" and "Protestants" would force people worldwide to take sides in the conflict, and it would escalate the conflict.
10. Following in the political correctness vein, religion gets respect from the media. This encourages the public perception that religion is set apart, and should be treated with care.
11. Last point, people tend to hold their own beliefs (be they religious or otherwise) with a special reverence. This means that they would feel personally attacked when other people talk negatively about their beliefs.
I really wish I could attend these meetings as I would then know the context of these notes a little better, as of right now I just have to guess the best I can by correlating it to the reading wherever possible. My overall response to the reading was that many of the examples were too extreme (i.e. not common enough) to be taken seriously or are taken to try and show a problem with religion when, in fact, they demonstrate a problem with something else, such as the laws in the US dealing with illegal drugs. I also found the example Dawkins gives that is addressed in point #7 above to be very weird. Dawkins seems to argue that basing something on Freedom of Religion is flawed while basing it on Freedom of Speech is not, yet they are both in the First Amendment.

Everyone is going to want, and generally deserves, at least a little respect for their personal beliefs. This does not mean their beliefs should be above reproach or worth of special protection, or that they would think such. Just that they will probably want anyone who criticizes them to do so with some kind of decency. Ultimately, I can see Dawkins point about religion receiving a lot of respect, but I think he has blown it way out of proportion.

Send an Atheist to Church (Part II)

 The Send an Atheist to Church charity event I mentioned in a previous post has been going on since yesterday. You can read a thorough update on it over at Blag Hag. So far is seems the Baptists (due to someone donating $40) and the LDS are in the lead. I stopped by and donated $10 to the LDS cup before my class today (I am glad the Union has an ATM as I never carry cash with me). I look forward to reading the responses from everyone attending the different church services.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Is God just a delusion?

 There is a new book discussion being held by the Purdue Reading Group. They will be discussing The God Delusion.
Is God just a delusion? Is it the duty of "enlightened" minds to deny
any existence of a heavenly being? Are you lost in the desert, looking
for answers? Then meet us across from Oasis in the Union to discuss
Dawkins' book "The God Delusion."

When: Noon on Tuesday, February 16
Where: Study room across from Oasis in the Purdue Memorial Union
What: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Who: Anybody who has an open mind and is searching for answers.
The discussion group has a website and a facebook page. On the facebook page the major points will be posted after each meeting to allow those of us who cannot attend to participate in the discussion. The readings for each meeting will also be posted on the website. I wish I could attend this one but I am in class from 9:30-2:45 straight (no breaks) on Tuesdays. However, I will most likely still follow along on the facebook page and post about it here. I guess I will finally have to break down and buy the book as I cannot stand reading books online and I insist on owning every book I read, which drives my wife crazy. Too bad atheist groups do not give away free copies of The God Delusion like churches give away copies of the Bible.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Send an Atheist to Church

The local Non-Theists Society is doing a charity event called “Send an Atheist to Church”. On Feb. 18 and 19 they will be in the Union with some different Christian denominations (I do not know which ones). They will be taking donations that will go towards the Food Finders Food Bank of Tippecanoe County. With each donation they will ask to which denomination the donation should be associated with. This is to figure out how many non-theists will be attending each church, the more money that is donated on behalf of a specific church, the more non-theists who will attend that church’s services. Afterwards each person who attended a particular church service will write a short piece on their experience. I look forward to reading them. I will most likely stop by and donate on behalf of the LDS Church to see if anyone will attend our services.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pat Robertson is a True Christian: So saith Dawkins

By now everyone has heard about the earthquake in Haiti. Some are estimating that the death toll may reach 200,000. Whenever a natural disaster of this magnitude occurs one can always count on Pat Robertson to give his, usually illogical, opinion as to why the event occurred. By now his comments on the earthquake in Haiti have been heard by most everyone as they made national news. In case you have not heard exactly what he said, here it is in all its inane glory.
They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal [...] ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.
His comments have drawn well deserved criticism and condemnation from many groups and people, including other Christians. But, it seems, those Christians condemning Robertson’s bigotry are not in fact “true” Christians, at least according to Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins is not really the friendliest person when it comes to interactions with religion and religious believers. His work on religion generally follows the pattern of painting with the widest brush available and can be insulting even at the best of times (except when it comes to Biology which he is surprisingly good at). But this time his attempt at criticizing religion (and I emphasize attempt) has crossed from the realm of “Extremist Overgeneralization”, to the point where his criticisms become useless, to being “So Stupid, It’s Funny” in his most recent article, Haiti and the hypocrisy of Christian theology.
Needless to say, milder-mannered faith-heads* are falling over themselves to disown Pat Robertson, just as they disowned those other pastors, evangelists, missionaries and mullahs at the time of the earlier disasters.
What hypocrisy.
Loathsome as Robertson's views undoubtedly are, he is the Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition.
It is the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here.
According to Dawkins, Pat Robertson’s recent comments represent someone who is a “true Christian”. It is not the millions upon millions of people who claim the title of Christian and simply go about their lives trying to live them the best they can without interfering with other people’s lives, but the minority of extremists Christians who preach hatred and bigotry that are the “true Christians”. It is not the people who send thousands of pounds of needed supplies, teams of doctors, and provide much needed shelter, for Haitians who are currently suffering, but the people who claim Haiti somehow deserved the tragedy that befell the nation who are the “true Christians”.

I am not sure I have ever seen someone trying so hard to validate their bigotry. In his flailing Dawkins attempts to marginalize non-extremist Christians (you know, the majority of all Christians) in what I can only guess is an attempt to make his criticisms seem somehow valid as opposed to the overgeneralizations that they truly are the majority of the time. And his flailing does not stop there, it continues in the article.
Where was God in Noah's flood? He was systematically drowning the entire world, animal as well as human, as punishment for 'sin'. Where was God when Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed with fire and brimstone? He was deliberately barbecuing the citizenry, lock stock and barrel, as punishment for 'sin'.
I hope no one tells him about all us Christians who do not take the Bible to be infallible and completely literal. It may cause his little imaginary world he has built around Christians to come tumbling down. Although I find it hard to believe that Dawkins has yet to encounter non-literalists as they have existed for over a thousand years. Any serious study in Christian theology should reveal religious scholars have warned against interpreting scripture too literally since at least the time of Augustine of Hippo (4th Century)†. I realize this advice has not always been taken but trying to imply that it never existed is simply disingenuous.

*Faith-heads, seriously? Where did he pick this term up, an elementary school playground?
†De Genesi ad literam 1:19–20, Chapt. 19 [408] and 2:9

Saturday, January 23, 2010

St. Cloud Secular Student Alliance

The Secular Student Alliance is a student atheist group at St. Cloud University in Minnesota. They are a new chapter who is just getting started on their campus.
SSA’s goal is to work as an umbrella organization for students who are without religion. SSA works with atheists, agnostics, humanists and other non religious students.
“The official mission statement is to create a sense of community for every loosely related irreligious group,” Maddox said.
SSA is a non political group. Maddox said members included every aspect of the political spectrum including liberals and conservatives. SSA does take a political stance for separation of church and state, however.
SSA has been tabling in Atwood to promote their group. They have also sponsored a social event which included playing “Apples to Apples” with the Campus Crusade for Christ, ping pong and a movie night.
“The metaphor I would use is we’re trying to say hello to the campus,” Maddox said.
SSA has a committee that works with Campus Crusade for Christ.
What really struck me as interesting is the last bit about the group having a specific committee for working with Campus Crusade for Christ. I think that is a great idea to foster better communication and dialogue between the two groups. I wonder if our local Non-Theists Society has such a group. It would be neat if they did.

 Thanks to Friendly Atheist for original article.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Blog-whoring for Jesus

If you have not heard, the Thomas Society and the Students for Free Thought at Ohio State will be building houses in New Orleans this spring break. Naturally both the groups need to raise the funding required to pay for things such as gas, food, and various expenses. To help with this they decided to hold a live video blogging event which The Amazing Atheist agreed to host. They had quite a few guests including some big names from the atheist community.

What do we have planned for this event? Oh, all kinds of atheist/christian goodness. First, we will have the PZ/preacher event. Then, we will have giveaways such as a signed edition of Ray Comfort’s debacle and a promised signed copy of my novel. Not to mention the special guests like Hemant Mehta, atheist vidbloggers like ZOMgitscriss, and Keith Jensen, the atheist comedian from the Coexist comedy tour.*

Unfortunately I missed most of the live blogging but I did catch part of the discussion with Hemant Mehta. The parts I saw seemed to be a relaxed conversation between friends that was also kind of humorous at points. As for the part with PZ, Thomas gave a short description of how he was planning on the discussion to go and it sounds like it was supposed to be fairly similar. Basically, it was not structured to be some kind of heated debate or argument. This was supposed to be a discussion with the main intention of raising money for a humanitarian trip. I say this because apparently comments made by some Christians, in the chat room during the discussion, suggested some people expected differently.

So, I did this little interview with PZ Myers and I think people had unrealistic expectations. I think people wanted to see a knock down drag out fight.

First, that was never my plan. As this was an interview, I wasn’t out to lead PZ into a trap or make him look like an idiot. Some people even wrote that I should tell PZ he is going to hell.

Or, I got this comment a lot, “This preacher is a nice guy, but he obviously doesn’t know his faith.”

Rolling eyes.

Sometimes, I think people really do enjoy rolling in the crap.

However, it was not only Christians who expected a “knock down drag out fight”. It seems many atheists expected it as well, judging from the nearly 100 comments on PZ’s blog about the event. Here are a few examples:

· Yeah, PZ doesn't look as clear but he sure speaks more clearly. The pastor stutters and doesn't make any kind of sense. Another nice guy who doesn't know how to think straight. Sad really.

· The pastor certainly was fuzzy/fluffy in his thinking. And he has no idea of real evidence...

· "Theology is self-correcting, like science."- I hurt my side laughing at that statement.

· Couldn't watch all the way to the end. The pastor just keep ranting on and on. He said he didn't agree with the "God of the Gaps" idea, however, when PZ asked what compelled him to Christianity, he basically pulled out that argument and was ranting on about nothing.

· I really enjoyed the interview. The pastor seems like a nice guy, but never could give a passable defense of Christianity. His tap dancing around the obvious was amusing.

· Ah, after I left the tone concern strategy came into play !
That will soon be all that believers have left to defend their bigotry and superstitions.
So expect more of it...:-)

· Ugh, he was way more fuzzier than PZ despite the connection when it came to the discussions. I figured he would have to be for a guy that seems so understanding and accepting despite holding on to Christianity. It makes me tired just to think of the mental gymnastics going on in his head to make everything fit.

· I might have guessed - a glibertarian arsehole. Well fuck off then.
Posters were even asking for what would amount to a full defense of Christianity from Thomas. After declining to do so there, as the comment section on another person’s blog was hardly the place for such a discussion, he was ridiculed from people claiming he did not want to be “laughed out of the room” followed by claims of attempted “blogwhoring”.

The Thomas Society - blogwhoring for Jesus since 1994!

And those comments are not all. There are still more at PZ’s blog along with an equal amount at Thomas’ blog. All this over a discussion meant to generate funding for a charity trip. Here is a response from Thomas expressing his surprise over the veracity of the comments he received.

I’m trying hard not to post a blistering rant this morning. It seems like people are more pissed that I didn’t confirm their little fantasy that all Christians are people hating morons, so they have to find something wrong. What did they find wrong? That I actually agreed with PZ that some pastors are in it for the money and that science is a good thing. Horrors. Shrug. Oh well.

This whole fiasco made me wonder, we hear atheists ranting about the evils and bigotry of religious followers all the time. Now of those who do so, how many are actually interested in holding a friendly, two-way, discussion with believers? And I am not talking about the larger names in atheism, as it seems those who appeared in this event are, at the least, capable of doing so. I am talking about your every day atheist who participates in the religious debate dialogue. Just how many of them are willing to step back from the constant arguments and insult exchanging and have a relaxed discussion with someone of opposite belief? Perhaps both sides could then come to the realization that the other side is comprised of actual people.

*PZ and the Preacher: Saturday Night!!!