Monday, May 28, 2012

Religious Presumption

My family and I decided to visit one of our favorite barbecue restaurants for lunch yesterday.  As always, it was an extraordinarily yummy lunch - I had the brisket with a very cold Blue Moon - and the service in the restaurant was superb.  However, as we all started to peel ourselves out from behind the table, a very presumptuous fellow at the nearest table went out of his way to get my attention.  In fact, I'll just simply refer to him as Mr. Presumptuous.

"Excuse me," Mr. Presumptuous said.  "Excuse me, sir?"

"Yes," I said, turning toward his table.

"I was just wondering.  Does your family attend a church somewhere out here?"

"No sir, we don't,"  I answered, smiling and acknowledging his sudden interest in my family with a friendly hand wave.  Thinking that our lovely conversation with Mr. Presumptuous was over, we all started for the door.

Mr. Presumptuous decided to press.  "Then where do you go to church?  Irving?  Richardson?"

I turned back to him, having lost a bit of my patience, and said,  "Look, you're asking the wrong people.  Okay?"

Now here's when the conversation turned absolutely bizarre.  Mr. Presumptuous asked, "What, you guys from a different country?"  He looked about the table, seeking approval with a derisive chuckle.

I'm sure my face displayed my profound confusion when I answered Mr. Presumptuous with, "No sir...  We're from the United States."  But my wife and I knew this conversation was heading south quickly, so we wrapped our arms around our kids and calmly walked away.

Are you kidding me?  A different country?  REALLY?  Mr. Presumptuous studied my lovely family, as we happily discussed our upcoming vacation over lunch, and arrogantly assumed that he was watching another Christian family.  I admit that I am making a huge assumption by trying to guess what this man's original intentions were, but I can only conclude that he thought we were Christians.  Either that or he thought we needed saving - I mean, I was having a beer on the Sabbath.  Be that as it may, I'm inclined to believe he considered us fellow believers and wanted to know where we went to church.  When I didn't answer his question the way he liked, he became downright belligerent - with my kids standing right there.

First of all, I refuse to allow myself to be pulled into a religious conversation in a restaurant, especially when that conversation borders on the absurd.  And I certainly will not engage in this type of exchange when my children are present.  Second, is this what religious people have become?  Are the religious so arrogant in their beliefs, that the thought of bullying a perfectly happy family is appropriate?  Give me a break...

By the way, my wife wins the reaction of the month award with her quick thinking response to Mr. Presumptuous' question of our citizenship.  And I quote:

"HAAAA HAHAHAHAHAA!!!"

Classic.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Penitent Agnosticism

Conversations with other nonbelievers can sometimes leave me scratching my head in bewilderment.  So far, I've seen two types that consistently baffle me.  First, there are those that love to play devil's advocate just because they love to argue.  These are the people that would argue with a sign, even if they had painted it.  Then there are those nonbelievers that love to hear themselves talk (or write); as they go on and on and on and never really make a point.  Give the talkers a keyboard and you're sure to strain an eyeball as you struggle to find the point of their argument.

But the one conversation that completely baffles me - whether from a devil's advocate or a talker - is the argument of agnosticism.  If you have been a nonbeliever for a while, you probably already know what I mean. If not, here's an example of how these conversations tend to progress:

Agnostic: "Do you believe in god?"
Me: "No. I don't believe in god."
Agnostic: "Okay...  So you'd say you're an atheist?"
Me: "Yes."
Agnostic: "Well... I'm an agnostic, because I don't think we can ever prove there is no god."

Granted, I have heard variants of the argument.  Take, for example, the agnostic talker:

"A proper definition of what humanity considers a deity has evolved into systems of science and identity; where science itself has become the backbone of modern faith which requires the devotee to seek refuge in the community of human knowledge rather than the company of religious companions.  Human knowledge is demonstrably ineffectual when considering the quantum indeterminacy within our own cosmos, which by definition leaves the possibility of unknown states of reality.  Thus, the very existence of god is ultimately unknowable."

Phew!

Then there's the agnostic devil's advocate:

"God could easily live outside the measurable universe.  You can't prove that he can't."

Okay, I would like to offer a compromise to all the agnostics out there.  I will cede the point with all of you that I cannot prove that there is no god, so long as you agree that you cannot prove that there is no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, no Thor, no Zeus, and that I do not own an invisible, flying purple dragon in my garage.  If you're going to argue the possibility of existence for one mythical deity, you'd better be consistent in your acceptance of all possibilities of the unknowable.

What bothers me so much about the modern agnostic argument for the possibility of a god is that there seems to me to be this self-declared intellectual high ground that agnostics just love to hoist their victory flag upon.  Hogwash!  Proclaiming yourself as holding the more intellectual position simply because you're uncomfortable with the notion of disbelief is vain and hollow.  Not to mention the fact that this position is one of modern Christian subservience.  Don't believe me?  Then ask yourselves how many times you've had to stand firm on your agnosticism of Brahma, or your agnosticism on reincarnation?  I've even had one agnostic recently assert that the term "atheism" just sounds too antagonistic...

Are you kidding me?  First of all, I will grant that I have heard that there are some atheists who will state that they know for a fact that there is no god.  But these are few and far between, as most atheists that I know would say that based on the evidence at hand, they do not believe there is a god.  In other words, we are willing to accept new evidence so long as it can pass the rigors of the scientific method.  Second, and most importantly, who do you think it is that has you convinced that the term, "atheist" is antagonistic?  I would never presume to speak for the entire atheist community, but for me, I'm quite sure it wasn't from us.

My point here is this:  If you're going to argue for the possibility of a deity, you'd better be consistent on your intellectual high ground - lest be labeled an apologetic.

DISCLAIMER:  All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In Faith, Lies a Prison

I told myself I wasn't going to get into how monumentally stupid Pastor Charles Worley's May 13th sermon was, especially the whole idea of using genocide to get rid of everyone he doesn't like.  (Think about it, Chuck.  Heteros are the ones having all the gay babies.)  But then Anderson Cooper had to interview Stacey Pritchard, one of the alleged 1200 church members from the Providence Road Baptist Church:




I'm always amazed at the mental gymnastics that religious people are willing to perform when they know they've been cornered with a contradiction.  But what this woman does borders on a comic book style superpower.  When Cooper politely tried over and over again to point out that her answers were woefully inconsistent and downright crazy, her position became even more steadfast.  It didn't matter to her in the least that she recognized that Cooper's questions sounded reasonable.

You can actually see her give up about a minute and a half into the video, as she rolled her eyes in defiance of his point.  The religious brainwashing will simply not allow her to concede that her pastor is perverse, he is barbaric, he is bloodthirsty, and he is psychotic.  Just watching her body language, you can see that she knows it.  Does that matter to her?  Not in the slightest.

Look, I appreciate that this puffed up, narrow-minded, bitter example of a woman had the courage to step onto a national stage to defend Mr. Worley.  And judging by all that pretentious eye-rolling and bizarre overuse of punctuated syllables, I'm sure she walked away from the interview with the impression that she eloquently defended that pathetic excuse of a human being.  But when a person refuses to stand up against the idea of genocide, no matter how close they may be to the psychopath that suggested it, then that person's mind should be considered to be broken.

The irony here is that fundamentalist Christians like her often quote John 8:32, where Jesus asserts that the truth of his teachings will set them free.  But ask yourself, does this video look like a woman who's mind is set free?  Or does this sound more like a woman who is so close-minded, so locked in her belief, that she won't even consider acknowledging that she couldn't answer Anderson Cooper's questions, much less admit that she knew he was right?

What these victims of modern religion will never see is that, while they seek to push the people they don't like into a prison of electrified fences, they proudly and habitually march into their own psychological prisons.  The walls of their prisons aren't electrified or topped with razor wire; theirs are topped with a cross.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It's Time to Pay Up

A few days ago, I watched a video that was recorded on May 13th, 2012, with Pastor Charles L. Worley giving his "sermon" to the parishioners of the Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, NC.  I found myself horrified by the end, because this disturbing video overflows with hate, bigotry, and even a deranged plan for genocide - all from a local religious leader.  Lovely.

This rabid old fool is precisely what's wrong with Southern Baptists; but that's way too obvious a point to waste on a blog post.  So, try to keep your food down as you listen through all the, "again' it" and, "I'mma tell yeh right now," because there's something this idiot says that drew my attention.



Let's move straight into my favorite quote from his sermon.  Mr. Worley states:
"Somebody said, Who you gonna vote for?  I ain't gonna vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover!  You say, 'Did you mean to say that?'  You better believe I did!"
There it is!  Mr. Worley has officially announced his political campaign against the President of the United States.  I just love how dramatic and flamboyant he is, too - with a sassy little hand beside his mouth for effect!  TWICE!!!  Go tell it on the mountain, Pastor!  Over the hills and... so on and so forth.

Now that Mr. Worley is using the Providence Road Baptist Church pulpit to preach his politics, I think it is only fitting that church loses its exempt status and starts paying taxes to the Federal government.  You see, since Mr. Worley made the conscious decision to use his religious, tax exempt pulpit to persuade his parishioners to vote against the President, even going so far as to emphasize his political views (remember that sassy little hand gesture) by rhetorically asking himself if he really meant to say it, then he's made a conscious decision to solicit votes against the President.  This should be a slam dunk for the IRS to revoke the tax exempt status of this church.  Time to pay up, Providence!

And wouldn't you know it, just as I was writing this post, I received a notification that the Freedom From Religion Foundation came to the same conclusion.  Today, they have dispatched a letter to alert the IRS Exempt Organizations Office, right here in Dallas, of illegal campaign intervention activities at Mr. Worley's church.

The tax man cometh, Mr. Worley...  Is your church ready to take responsibility for your willingness to campaign against President Barack Obama or are you already trying to figure out a way to weasel out of paying your taxes?  I'm betting on the latter.

One last thing, because I just can't help myself.  I'll quote Mr. Worley one more time.
"I don't even know if you ought to say this in the pulpit or not...  Can you imagine kissing some man?"
My, my... Pastor Worley.  You go, girl!  I would say that by your words and your actions, you CAN and probably DO imagine yourself kissing another man.  Frequently.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Self Promotion: Deux

It's time for the second post in the two part series on bullying to be published on the Parenting Beyond Belief blog!

Again, I'd like to thank Rebekah Bennetch and Dale McGowan for allowing me the use of their blog space.


From the Parents Beyond Belief website:
Parents Beyond Belief is a blog by, for, and about secular parents. It’s a place to exchange ideas, to learn what has and hasn’t worked elsewhere, to discover how best to get a new secular parenting group airborne, and to realize you’re not remotely alone.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Solar Eclipse 2012

As the sun was setting, I decided to snap a few pictures of the solar eclipse.  It's not much, but it was all I could get from my North Texas backyard.  Enjoy!




Friday, May 18, 2012

Like It or Not, We ARE Related

There appears to be yet another absolutely ignorant and outright dishonest claim making its way around the Creationist circle-jerk on Facebook; all wrapped in an easily understood one-liner that gets all of them into a frothy delirium.  Seriously, if it's made it to my news feed, then I know it must be making the rounds everywhere else:


We Are Not Related


First of all, not only are we related to other apes, it goes much, much deeper than that.  We are apes!!!  I cannot stress this enough!  I am not going to flood this post with the mountain of information that science has collected covering the evolution of human beings, nor will I post the massive amount of evidence to show exactly how very close our genetic relationship is to other apes - especially chimpanzees.  (We are the most studied animal on the planet!)  I won't do that because first of all, other people have already done that far better than I could and second, anyone that cares to know how wrong this picture is can do a simple search and find some answers.  Even so...

WE ARE APES!!!

Look, it doesn't matter how uncomfortable the genetic "family tree" of our species makes you or your fellow religious fanatics, you just simply can't say or write something to make this fact go away.  Surely you realize you have to back up your claim with some evidence, not hide behind a stupid, one-line caricature.

So, after I calmed down and stopped yelling at the LCD on my laptop, I had to know where this brainless thing originated.  I decided to ask Dr. Google, and I stumbled upon this t-shirt:


Stop Following Me


I suppose this shouldn't surprise me.  I should have already guessed that these bonehead Creationists can't make up their own jokes.  At least the original actually is funny, and sure as hell isn't making some moronic and completely asinine claim about Evolution.

Now comes the truly sad part of this story.  The person that so happily shared that silly picture on Facebook is... a schoolteacher.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bullying and Harassment at a Christian School

This morning I became aware of yet another story about a child being bullied at her school.  The reddit user, heiressapparent, wrote an essay that details the bullying and sexual harassment rampant at her Christian school.  I can't say that I'm all that shocked at the abuse going on in a private Christian school, but then again, it shouldn't matter what type of school it is when we're talking about bullying, should it?

She posted the entire essay on imgur.com after taking screen captures of what appears to be her Facebook page.  I found it a little difficult to read, so instead I decided to save the screen captures and post them on my blog as well.  Her story speaks for itself, and is definitely worth the read.

Keep in mind that we are talking about a 14 year old here.

This disgusts me, plain and simple.  No child should be subjected to this kind of abuse.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Self Promotion: Parents Beyond Belief!

About two weeks ago, I contacted Dale McGowan and Rebekah Bennetch of the Parents Beyond Belief blog, to ask if they would consider allowing me to write a blog post about bullying in the name of religion.  After writing my own series on the subject, and all the positive feedback I received, I thought it might be a really good idea to bring this topic to a much wider audience.

Well, wouldn't you know it?  They were very, very gracious and accepted two of my posts, the first of which was published last night!  I am sincerely grateful to both Dale and Rebekah for allowing me to be a part of their community of secular parents.  And I very much appreciate Rebekah for all her help in preparing my posts for their blog.  Thank you so much, Rebekah!

From the Parents Beyond Belief website:
Parents Beyond Belief is a blog by, for, and about secular parents. It’s a place to exchange ideas, to learn what has and hasn’t worked elsewhere, to discover how best to get a new secular parenting group airborne, and to realize you’re not remotely alone.
Sure, I'm promoting my own blog post, but when you get a chance, go spend some time reading through what other parents have posted.  I can't tell you how much I've learned from all of the people that have participated in this blog.  If you're a secular parent and you find you need a little guidance on a particular subject, more than likely you'll find some help there.  If not, who knows?  I'm quite sure Dale and Rebekah would love you share your thoughts as well!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Obama: Here I Was, All Excited, Then...

I read this:
"At a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
Thanks... I guess?

This issue is so important for the President of the United States that, golly gosh darn he's going to go ahead and affirm that people that love one another deserve to get married???  Sure, I think he's finally "come out" on our side, but good grief, does anyone else think he sounds like Lumbergh from "Office Space"?

All joking aside, this is typical of modern politicians.  And I'm really, really trying to see this from his perspective.  No matter what the man says on the issue, it'll be used against him one way or another in the next election.  But come ON!  The LBGT community, as well as most liberals, have been waiting for well over 20 years for a high-profile figure from the Democratic party to stand up against a very vocal, and very well funded conservative political machine.  Yet an affirmation is all we get.

I think we've reached a point in our history where liberals have to stop being polite.  We have to begin to ask ourselves, at what point will we finally band together to combat the people that are so willing to take away the rights of others?  When will our society reach the point where bigots no longer get to dictate public policy, no matter how vast their number?

Do you still not understand my point?  Okay.  Let's try an experiment.  How about I rephrase the President's remarks like this:

"At a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think women should be able to vote."

Or how about this:

"At a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think black people should have the same rights as white people."

Got it?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Call to Prayer for Terry McDonald

The Metroplex Atheists have issued a statement today, calling for a local church to, "publicly demonstrate what Christians often refer to as the 'power of prayer'."  The scenario is this: the Metroplex Atheists and the prospective church will agree upon a start date and an end date for the church congregation to pray for one of the atheists to become a Christian.

The volunteer that the Metroplex Atheists have chosen is one of their high profile members, Mr. Terry McDonald.  I really like Terry and have met him a couple of times (once at a MA business meeting.)  But I have to say something here that some fellow atheists aren't going to like.

To me, this tactic doesn't seem like the right approach to further the cause of atheism.  This little press release seems more like a childish gimmick rather than a means to get religious people to really think critically about their own religious beliefs.

We, as atheists, have to realize that we cannot openly setup this kind of senseless, emotional circus because it only gives the religious a chance to point condescending fingers at us, and shout, "See?  You see how they are??!?"

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for confronting the religious and pushing back against their dogma.  Anyone that's asked me about my feelings toward religion or religious leaders will hear as much.  But I want to be the group that's acting like adults, not callow toddlers trying to setup another person (or group in this case) for failure.  Let's be the group that remembers that there have already been studies attempting to prove the power of prayer.  Let's be the group that reminds religious people that  recent studies have shown that prayer has no statistical significance whatsoever.  As a matter of fact, for a religious patient, the thought of others praying for them can cause undo pressure as they wonder why God has forsaken them.

I don't know, maybe it's just me...  But doesn't this call for proof of the power of prayer seem a little... immature and silly?

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*** UPDATE:
The local CBS affiliate picked up the statement from the Metroplex Atheists and ran a story on their 10 o'clock news last night.  As usual, the religious leaders got the last word, claiming that, "The bible promises that God will answer every prayer that is within his will."  Well, that's what I was afraid of.

The message that the Metroplex Atheists were trying to send to the religious community got lost in the hype of the story itself.  I completely agree that we are constantly bombarded with messages from Christians claiming, "the power of prayer."  Yet when openly and properly tested, god can always count on its Christian (or any religion for that matter) followers to have an excuse at the ready when the prayers consistently fail.

I believe that this is the real message that the Metroplex Atheists were trying to communicate to the public.  I just think they may have gone about this the wrong way.  They gave the local churches a way to set themselves up as the more mature group.  And what a shock, that's exactly what the church leaders did in their interviews.  Furthermore, the Metroplex Atheists gave the reporter an opportunity to dictate what message they were sending to the public, so they shouldn't be surprised that their message got lost in the hype.

Here's the video, in case you're interested:


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