Sunday, April 20, 2014

It's that time of year again!

He is risen!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Slipping Down the Slope

One of the worst assumptions a religious person can make is that anyone that does not believe their particular version of god doesn't really understand their religion or their god.  I could be making a huge generalization when I say this, but it does appear to me to be a wildly popular argument from middle-aged people toward young adults.  I would venture to say that this argument has become a half-hearted fallback position for religious people over 40.

For those of you in-and-around my generation that find yourselves falling back to this elitist position, let me make this point very clear.  More often than not, this argument is fallacious and could not be further from the truth.

The argument generally goes as follows:
  • Older religious person:  "We are living in the end-times!  Non-believers will mock me for saying this, but you cannot deny the predictions in the Bible.  The Bible even says non-believers will mock me!  SEE!?!?  Nobody could've predicted that."
  • Younger skeptic:  "I don't think end of the world predictions were new when that book of the Bible was written..."
  • Older religious person:  "So what?  All of these horrible things are happening just like what the Bible said would happen.  Jesus said that he would return and God gave us warning signs for his return.  Have you not noticed all these earthquakes and hurricanes and floods?"
  • Younger skeptic:  "Yeah, but with science we understand more now and with modern technology we're exposed to more news from around the world.  We know more than they ever could have.  And doesn't the Bible also says in Matthew 16 and 24 that Jesus would return within the lifetimes of his disciples?"
  • Older religious person:  "People are still ignorant of the coming of Christ.  I just care about all these people that will not accept Jesus by the rapture!  It is so sad to me that all of these people will spend an eternity in Hell!"
  • Younger skeptic:  "Wait, so you're saying that I'm going to burn in Hell forever?"
  • Older religious person:  "Once you completely understand Christianity, you'll understand my faith."
If you are arguing for the legitimacy of your religion, please... PLEASE don't do this.  All it takes is two sentences from someone like me to tear down your entire argument:
"When it comes to the Bible, I guarantee I know as much as or more than you do about it.  And it is because of that fact that I am an atheist."
 If you're old enough to make assumptions based solely on smugness, then you're old enough to know what happens when you assume...  Besides, don't let your complacency plug your ears.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kicking Demon-Butt for JESUS!

I can think of several things that are sure to make money in America:
  • Jesus
  • Crosses
  • Fighting skills
  • Demons
  • Attractive young women
But when you put them all together, you have the sure-fire, money-making combination of these young demon-fighters from Arizona!  In my best Michael Buffer voice - ahem...

"Ladies and gentlemen, raise your crosses as I introduce you to...  Brynne Larson...  Tess Scherkenback... and Savannah Scherkenback... LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!":

(image from the BBC article by Lucy Wallis)
I kid you not, these "freedom fighting teenagers" advertise the ability to exorcise demons and return those various maligned spirits straight back to Hell where they belong.  (I use quotes for the word teenagers since one of them - Savannah - is listed as being 21.)

It will come as no surprise to any legitimate, practicing Exorcist that the ass-kicking apple doesn't fall far from the tree with at least one of these three.  Sure, all three of them can already defend themselves, and others, by being black-belts in Karate.  But since most of us are not practicing Exorcists, you should know that the skills needed to combat demons doesn't come from Karate training.  No sir.  For exorcisms you see, you need a bona fide holy man, which they just so happen to have in Brynne's father, Reverend Bob Larson.  This modern religious hero and conqueror of rogue phantoms claims to have performed over 15,000 exorcisms himself.  15,000!!!  That's a lot of vanquished imps and succubi, my friends!

The services that these three are offering to mankind are not being performed just to make money.  Heavens no!  That is just ludicrous according to Reverend Larson.  He doesn't expect money for exorcising the unclean; but then again, these special skills do come at a price:
"He [Reverend Larson] asks for a voluntary donation of a couple of hundred dollars or pounds when he and the girls perform a one-to-one exorcism, and rejects the idea that spiritual services have to be free of charge."
I don't know where to stop laughing at these three and their silly parents.  But then again, I don't know what's worse; the fact that these families are outright lying just to put on some sort of sick religious theater or the fact that there are people that actually believe this nonsense.

They even go so far as to assert that the Harry Potter series actually has real spells from witchcraft books.  Of course, none of them bother to tell us how they know all of this.  They don't even bother to tell us which Harry Potter book they are referring to, nor do they give us the title of the specific witchcraft book where we can find these spells, nor do they explain how it was that J.K. Rowling sneaked all that evil past her publisher.  But who cares!  As long as people know the truth!  From the article, young Tess explains:
"The spells and things that you're reading in the Harry Potter books, those aren't just something that are made up, those are actual spells. Those are things that came from witchcraft books."
Yes, of course!  Because these young Christians are just trying to educate the ignorant masses, not trying at all to make a few extra dollars/pounds off of THAT money tree.  Am I right?

Harry Potter aside, the common theme to most of these young "Crusaders for Christ", or "Exorcism by Mortal Kombat", is to pull on the nostalgic strings of older generations.  Many older people wouldn't admit it, but they have nothing but contempt for most young people; consistently blaming younger generations for anything from rampant sex and immorality, to corruption and narcissism.  (I attribute it to some form of jealousy or regret for bygone opportunities, but I could be wrong.)  Thus, when they read stories about teenagers like these three, it sets off some fictitious memory of their younger, more idealized selves... and it makes them the perfect prospects to be played for fools.

Which means that these three are nothing more than showgirls, pandering to the incessant need for older people to feel superior.  And that cultural phenomenon is why these girls are not laughed off the stage.  For proof, one need only to read what is my favorite quote from the article:
"We think it's OK to train teenagers to get drunk and have sex, but to do moral things for God, oh let's not train them to do that," says [Reverend] Larson.
I see.  So that's what's going on with the crazy kids these days!  All this time, parents have been training their teens to break the law and sex each other up!  Why, all they need is to be trained to fight demons!

Now, I no longer live in Arizona, so someone that still lives there will have to explain to me exactly what the devil those people are teaching their kids in that state (pardon the pun).  I never thought I'd say this, but boy am I glad my wife and I moved our family to Texas.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Visual Compilation of Contradictions

There's not much to this post beyond showing you how wonderful the Information Age is:

The BibViz Project website offers a visual and interactive illustration of all of the Biblical contradictions collected from The Skeptic's Annotated Bible.  From BibViz web page, you can hover over a reference line and see the verses that represent the contradiction.  Spectacular!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Our Woeful Legacy

While reading this op-ed piece in the New York Times by Adam Frank, an Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Rochester, my state of mind began to slowly decline until I felt downright lousy.  By the end of his article, I had become so ashamed that it was as if I had knocked a 3 year-old child off his or her tricycle.  In more ways than I think he realizes, this professor has directed the uncomfortable spotlight of truth directly on me and my generation.  And I hate it.

Sure, there are far too many people in our country who actively combat the foundations of modern science, but that's not the problem.  The problem is the far greater number of people who impulsively believe these people simply because:
  1. They are excessively self-assured.
  2. They sound remarkably convincing (good salesmanship).
  3. They yell a lot.
  4. Wave an ancient book around.
The fact that so many people so blindly adopt these ancient explanations for the natural world is precisely the reason our society will be held accountable to future generations.  And we should be utterly embarrassed at ourselves for allowing this to happen.

History will look back upon the inquisitive generations before us, who dedicated themselves tirelessly to scientific discovery, as directly contributing to the growth of humanity.  However, I do not believe those same historians will be so kind to those in and around my generation.  When I consider all of the work that so many pioneers of scientific discovery have bestowed upon us, it honestly disappoints me that so much of this effort has been so flippantly discarded or just downright ignored by so many in this country.  As a glaring example, many Americans - 46% to be precise - have completely abandoned the vast mountain of evidence supporting modern biological science in lieu of mythical explanations of the natural world written well over 3000 years ago.

But why?  Is it easier for these people to hold onto their beliefs simply because they were born into them?  Is it more comfortable to believe that your existence is infinite (well, AFTER you're born that is.  Nobody seems to care about all that time before you were conceived by your parents - but I digress.)  Or is it this notion that ancient cultures were somehow more in tune with some universal consciousness and in turn possessed the ability to perform superhuman feats?

All of this gives me reason to be disappointed in my contemporaries.  Because this generation does not strive to understand the Universe as we have in the past, nor do we display the same fervor for discovery as our predecessors.  Instead, my generation has chosen:
  • Belief in ancient texts over the magnificence and wonder of the Universe.
  • To openly dismiss solid and heavily researched principles of science.
  • Bronze Age myths and deistic magic over the breadth of data in modern biology.
  • To put their children, and the rest of us for that matter, at risk of serious infection by abandoning modern medicine over unfounded belief and very dangerous lies.
  • To maintain a rigid stance of divine exceptionalism and extraordinary privilege, with no consideration of future generations (this includes our population explosion and anthropogenic climate change).
  • To ignorantly regurgitate misinformation, bumper-sticker platitudes, and political sound bites with absolutely no requisite proof of these claims.
  • To brazenly criticize "gaps" in scientific knowledge without the same demand for consistency in your religious text.
Our grandchildren deserved better from us, and we've already let them down.

*** Edit ***

Another example - North Texas has issued a measles alert after 9 people have been diagnosed with the infection.  And this outbreak has been linked to a vaccine-denying megachurch in Tarrant County.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cowboy Immunity

The most disturbing trend in the United States these days is the extent to which a, "Stand Your Ground" law is being exploited.  Take, for example, this story from South Carolina where a man named Shannon Scott and his lawyer, Tim Rutherford, are arguing that Scott should not be prosecuted for the murder of an  innocent, 17 year-old bystander, Darrell Niles.

Back in April of 2010, Shannon Scott's daughter called him as she and her friends were on their way home from clubbing.  His daughter claimed that they were being followed by another carload of teens, which Scott referred to as, "woman thugs."  Scott then met his daughter and her friends outside his home, where he told them to, "Go inside and lie down on the kitchen floor."  Armed with a .38 caliber pistol, Scott arbitrarily shot and killed Niles, who was sitting in his car across the street.

It has not been established if there was any other gunfire that night simply because there was so much conflicting testimony.  However, according to the police report, Scott fired first.

Too bad poor Darrell Niles can't tell his side of the story.  And to me, this story goes way beyond Trayvon Martin because we're not talking about some idiot picking a fight with the victim and then shooting the victim when the idiot is losing the fight.  We're talking about giving people like this gun nut** the capability of shooting first, and then hiding behind a defense like, "I was scared for my life!"  It is horrifying what this guy and his attorney are trying to do.  Because if they are successful in their argument, this case will broaden the, "Stand Your Ground" law to the point that anyone with a gun can fire without reasonable cause, with as many bullets as they want, without ever thinking twice about where and in whom those bullets might land.

Here's the part that mortifies me:
"When someone like Scott, in fear for his life, shoots his gun, '...they cannot be expected to shoot straight always because they are not supposed to have their life in jeopardy,' Rutherford said."
Excuse me???  You're damn right I expect someone who is taking the law into their own hands to shoot straight.  And furthermore, I don't care if you feel your life is in jeopardy.  If you take an innocent life simply because you're a trigger happy ego maniac, then your rights are forfeit.

Again, from the article:
"It’s terrible, but Darrell Niles, a 17-year-old innocent bystander, just got in the way, they said. 
'He simply ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time,' Rutherford said."
Got in the way?  Wrong place at the wrong time?  Boy, I'll say.  "Wrong time" takes on a whole new meaning: young Darrell was in the wrong state in a time where rampant fear and paranoia are coupled with a obsessive gun culture.

** Anyone that has a sign in his window that reads, "Fight Crime - Shoot First" qualifies as a gun nut.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Unclean beast! Get thee down!

*** PLEASE NOTE: This is not The Onion ***

Some things are just so ludicrous, they stand on their own merit and do not require any commentary whatsoever.  I give you, Creation Today:

That's right, dragons were real because if they weren't, well then god just compared our adversary to a make-believe creature that never existed.  He said it, not me.

This is just so stupid that I have absolutely nothing to add.  Heck, I'll just add one of my favorite lines from Dragonslayer:
"...if it weren't for sorcerers, there wouldn't be any dragons. Once, the skies were dotted with them. Magnificent horned backs, leathern wings... soaring... and their hot-breathed wind. Oh, I know this creature of yours... Vermithrax Pejorative. Look at these scales, these ridges. When a dragon gets this old, it knows nothing but pain, constant pain. It grows decrepit... crippled... pitiful. Spiteful!"
I take that back, I think this video seems appropriate, too: