Posts Tagged ‘religion’

How to Counter the Phelps Clan and the Westboro “Baptist” “Church”

March 3, 2011

As I’m sure you all have heard by now, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Phelps and his Minions regarding freedom of speech. And while I don’t ultimately disagree with their ruling, it frustrates me that there isn’t a way to punish these monstrous, vile, sub-human pieces of filth (Edited to clarify: I don’t actually advocate punishing them, but I wish I could frustrate them as they do me). But we have no right to legislate against idiocy. I’m paraphrasing a paraphrase of Thomas Jefferson through Mark Crislip that the only remedy for nonsense is ridicule, and I whole-heartedly agree. I want to get to a point where they’re beyond ridicule.

I hear and read all the time that if only “the media” would let go of it, if we all just ignore them, they’ll go away. I think we all know that and agree deep down, but I don’t think shouting “just ignore them” is going to change a damn thing. It’s like gawking at a traffic accident. While we’re in the back of the traffic jam, we curse those in front who gawk, but when we get up there, we can’t help but do it ourselves. Same thing with WBC. “Ignore the wreck and just keep going” aint ever gonna happen.

So, the question then is, What Next?

Below, about a year ago, I highlighted a roaring success of a counter-protest launched against the Westboro goons. The fact that they did fundraising for local gays and lesbians was AWESOME, and that they seized the opportunity to turn a hateful event into a positive and uplifting one with positive or funny signs, people giving out hugs, etc. was EVEN AWESOMER.

While I agree with those aspects (of positive messages and raising money), I think we need to do more. Standing around and holding signs? Kinda cool. Holding up bigger objects in front of them to block them from view? Eh, I guess kinda better. C’mon, I think we could do WAY BETTER THAN THAT – do more with this passion and this energy, more with the anger and frustration that we may have regarding this ruling, the restlessness and helplessness that some of us may feel.

So, here’s my proposal:

The only way to ever get the Phelpses to stop is to go after what they’re going after – to ensure that their goals are countered at every stop, so that it no longer is worth their effort, no longer worth their time, no longer worth their money, and no longer an effective means to spread their childish, hateful message. (Again edited to clarify: I am not proposing that we stop them from exercising their right to free speech. What I am proposing though is that we show through our action that the content of their speech is crazy on its face, because right next to the people saying gays are the cause of all the problems in the world, all the gays and atheists and christians and whatever are coming out and working together to actually make it a better place.)

Their whole schtick, in a nutshell, is that the death of soldiers, national tragedies, and other random disasters is the pouring of their god’s wrath upon America for being more accepting of homosexuals (and I think we still have a long way to go in that regard, but that’s a topic for another post). So, their goal is to have people be less accepting, more hating, more afraid of homosexuals, right?

So then our goal should be to turn each of their “protests” into events that directly benefit homosexuals: their communities, their educational opportunities, their career advancement, their reputation in the eyes of ignorant haters. Instead of just standing around with posters, and in addition to doing fundraising to benefit to local LGBTQ community group, local counter-protesters should do public – and publicizable – acts of charity and good works. We should all get together and do a street clean-up. Set up a mobile soup kitchen down the road from the wackos with the dayglo signs. Bake sales and sexy sexy car washes with proceeds benefiting local groups. Let’s get creative, people!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the funny and poignant and love-filled signs, but it just strikes me as not enough. It’s not enough just to mimic them, to copy their method. We’re reacting with the same action when we need to meet their action with an equal and opposite reaction.

As recent events have shown, social media are powerful mechanisms for effecting change. The Dub-Bub-Chubs announce where they’ll be and when, and so I encourage anyone and everyone who reads this to spread the word, organize, get out there, and turn it into a positive event. Positive for the ones they target, positive for the community, positive for the human race. And again, to emphasize, I laud those who have guarded mourning families with their wings, their flags, their bodies, their signs. And certainly the existing mechanisms for countering the “church” should continue. I just don’t think it’s enough. I want to see a future where wherever they go, there’s something better going on to report on, where their only mention is brief and cursory – as “those wackaloons again”- and then move on to the real story of how we raised 20K for scholarships to high school gays. How we cleaned up the park and beaches. How we raised enough money to renovate a youth center. How we made sandwiches and soup and gave it out to the homeless. How we made lemonade, literally and figuratively.

So – University unity groups, church groups, atheist groups, any loners out there who’ve always wanted to help counter the Phelpses’ message, let’s get out there! Find out when they’re coming to your area, organize a positive event based on your community needs, and let’s all be the ones to take advantage of them for a change!

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Creation “Museum” — Also Ugly

January 22, 2010

You might as well put a saddle on old Ken Ham these days. That poor old dinosaur is getting ridden constantly. Every time someone bothers to write about his Creation “Museum,” they come away with the same basic reaction: “Oh, the Creation … ‘Museum.'” It is important to make a full, and distinct, “airquotes” motion with your hands, because someday in the future, it will be the gold standard for denoting sarcasm.

This time, it is A.A. Gil from Vanity Fair who gets the sour taste of Ken Ham’s “museum” (Ken Ham will be alright though, most of his audience isn’t allowed to read a sinful thing like Vanity Affair).

What is truly awe-inspiring about the museum is the task it sets itself: to rationalize a story, written 3,000 years ago, without allowing for any metaphoric or symbolic wiggle room. There’s no poetic license. This is a no-parable zone. It starts with the definitive answer, and all the questions have to be made to fit under it. That’s tough.

Ahh, so true. It reminds me again of what Fred Clark has pointed out — these people are living with a serious false dichotomy. It is a sad thing to have people living with rigid minded thinking taken to its very limit — the impossible is true, or nothing is true. After writing my previous post on Ken Ham, I poked around Answers in Genesis a little, and came across this gem. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Dr. Jason Lisle:

Materialistic atheism is one of the easiest worldviews to refute. A materialistic atheist believes that nature is all that there is. He believes that there is no transcendent God who oversees and maintains creation. Many atheists believe that their worldview is rational—and scientific. However, by embracing materialism, the atheist has destroyed the possibility of knowledge, as well as science and technology. In other words, if atheism were true, it would be impossible to prove anything!

Oh snap! I was about to get popcorn but it looks like my frail worldview is about to get face-fucked by god again! Alright, I can take it, whip it out Jason!

Laws of logic are God’s standard for thinking. Since God is an unchanging, sovereign, immaterial Being, the laws of logic are abstract, universal, invariant entities. In other words, they are not made of matter—they apply everywhere and at all times. Laws of logic are contingent upon God’s unchanging nature. And they are necessary for logical reasoning. Thus, rational reasoning would be impossible without the biblical God.

The materialistic atheist can’t have laws of logic. He believes that everything that exists is material—part of the physical world. But laws of logic are not physical. You can’t stub your toe on a law of logic. Laws of logic cannot exist in the atheist’s world, yet he uses them to try to reason. This is inconsistent. He is borrowing from the Christian worldview to argue against the Christian worldview. The atheist’s view cannot be rational because he uses things (laws of logic) that cannot exist according to his profession.

Boom! GG fellow atheists, the jig is up. We cannot be rational because you can’t stub your toe on logic. With logic like that, who needs faith? The good doctor has just explained to us, (in so many words) that the god of the bible is literally true, or else there could be no such thing as ideas. And you certainly don’t think that there aren’t no ideas right? So God exists! GG again, thieving atheists. And to think all this time I thought logic proved god wrong, I was just proving *I* was wrong, because logic proves god! Bam! Dr. Jason Lisle continues on like this, even bringing up the smelly old arguing about the existence of air bit. Such thin gas, but so foul. QualiaSoup (from youtube) has several excellent videos that discuss this kind of flawed thinking quite well.

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It is a bad place for a person to be. Unfortunately, this is the place that millions of Americans are, and where people like Ken Ham are trying to keep them. Getting them to move away from that place is going to be a lot harder than it is to make fun of Ken Ham.

Ricky Gervais answers: How Did You Lose Your Religion?

January 16, 2010

Ricky Gervais @ Big Think. •  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dknumOcNVcU

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The only part that slightly irks me is there at the end when he says “by accident,” — but I understand the colloquial shorthand used by a comedian. He’s probably more concerned with effect than precision of meaning.

Still, it’s a great to be able to distill “losing your religion” down to a precise moment like that!

Can Ken Ham can ham?

January 15, 2010

Around the World with Ken Ham. A, round world, Ken Ham? Where in the bible, does it say the world is round? I wouldn’t mind being literally shown, where someone literally explains, (or, this being religion, baldly asserts) that the earth is round. There is probably some apologetics for that somewhere, though. More importantly, Ken Ham comes from Australia. Atheists are having a big convention in Melbourne, and he does not approve.

Imagine—listening to a meaningless talk at a meaningless conference held on a meaningless planet in a meaningless universe! Now, that would be an uplifting conference

Alright Ken, I’ll play your game. Meaningless talk…got it….meaningless conference…ok….planet….universe….alright I’m set. So something like…..

The next generation is calling it quits when it comes to traditional church attendance, and it’s not just happening on the fringe—it’s occurring in main-line denominations as well, says a local church, pointing to national studies.

St. Luke Church in Haslett is holding an open discussion on how the church, Sunday School and families can more effectively pass on the faith to coming generations.

This 90-minute workshop will be facilitated by Nate Burmeister, director of Fellowship and Youth at St. Luke, on Thursday evening, Jan. 14 from 7–8:30 p.m., in classroom 203.

The general public is invited to attend this free forum.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! So empty, so void of life! Oh why, WHY did I chose to be on the wrong side of history?!!

Anyway, Ken Ham is obviously struggling with a bit of cognative dissonance here. I mean, he’s from Australia, and he’s a young-earth creationist.

Let those things sink in for a second.

As Fred Clark from slacktivist has pointed out, that is impressively absurd. Ken Ham is from a place with punchlines older than he claims for, say, all the existence of the universe. There are Kangaroo shits that have been around longer than Ken Ham gives for all of time.

I first was going to post about Ken Ham when the Secular Student Alliance, along with PZ Myers, went to Ham’s wretched Creation “Museum.”  Looking at various posts and videos that came out of that trip, I realized that the Creation “Museum” is really more like “The Creationist Hospital.” It is a tiny oasis in an otherwise relentless erosion of their beliefs, faith, entire world view.

Quoting Fred Clark again from the same post linked above,

The real problem with Answers in Genesis can’t be found in Genesis, or in their tortured reading of it. The real problem is that they’ve somehow become convinced that there exist two and only two possibilities. Either their particular, smallish reading of Genesis is “literally” true and the world was created in six, 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago by their particular, smallish notion of god, or else the universe and human existence within it are meaningless, a realm violence and death in which kindness, goodness, justice and beauty are nothing more than illusion. They believe that either the history of the universe is a brutally short 6,000 years, or else life in that universe is nasty, brutish and short and nothing but. They prefer the former, understandably. And any challenge to it — by argument or by exposure to science or reality — is thus interpreted as an affirmation of the latter view

This brings us back to the tragic figure of Ken Ham. The bitter apostate calling herself an atheist simply isn’t capable of organizing an international conference of like minded people. Or even imagining the point of going to such a thing.  How could she, devoting all her time to hating something she only pretends to even exists?

Ken Ham is not capable of engaging, or even honestly admitting the existence of, the people who make up the vast majority of atheists. That is a huge swath of a group that is otherwise quite diverse and fragmented.  But after the meat grinder that is Ham’s mind, it all looks the same.

We either all hate god, or all believe in nothing.  The rest is simply unthinkable.

The Hovind Hundred (and one)!

December 10, 2009

Oh no! “Dr” Kent Hovind “Ph.D” is probably too busy (in prison for tax evasion and fraud) to do much about his crappy dissertation entering public domain. In the spirit of the great Fred Clark at slacktivist, I think it may be worth checking out the rocket that launched “Dr” Kent Hovind to his intellectual orbit.

Fred Clark has been wading though the “Left Behind” rapture novels, taking his time to unpack the awfulness page by page, and I want to give Kent’s dissertation a similar airing-out with this series of posts. His “Dissertation for Doctor of Philosophy in Christian Education — A Project Submitted to Dr. Wayne Knight” (nice title) is a hardly comparable to the quivering theological madness that animates LeHaye and Jenkins in their awful books, but it is still worth taking a good long skeptical look at.

Both Hovind and L&J are chock full of strange, American-grown evangelical Christian fundamentalism, but Hovind is no premillennial dispensationalist. Hovind didn’t write an 11 novel fiction series to “prove” his wacky beliefs right, but at least LeHaye and Jenkins don’t try to pass their “literal” reading of the bible off as science in the classroom.

In any case, the exercise of slowly pulling apart something terrible should (might) be worth the effort for three reasons. One, to show what can pass for scholarship at unaccredited diploma mills. I have heard Hovind make a fuss over people calling out his “Ph.D”. “So what if its an unaccredited college?”, he says. Well, Hovind can now serve as his own refutation to that question.

Second, this is a chance to get a first-hand glimpse of the mind of someone dedicated to young-earth creationism. In amidst the paragraphs of endlessly repeated assertions, there may well be a few interesting and revealing thoughts, intentional or not, as to how he thinks. Even if turns out to be all dreck, its dreck straight from the source, and I like to sample my bullshit pure when possible.

Third, it will be pretty funny. Not so much for his kooky, young-earth creationist beliefs, out there they may be. Hovind, like most creationists, is piously unoriginal. It is often a point of pride to toe that young-earth line, no matter how much intellectual artillery is shelling it. But when Hovind plays the part of the apologist, or says almost anything about science — that’ll have some funny shit. I wonder how many factual errors he can pack into 101 pages? Can he keep up with the likes of Deepak Chopra for gibbering nonsense aped as science? I’ll try to compile a list and keep track as I go, so some kind of lies errors/page ratio can be found.

To give a small idea of where this Doctorate of Philosophy in Christian Education will be taking us, I will quote the last four sentences of this 101 page document. The last paragraph is five sentences, so this is our closing gesture, the final flourish. I don’t want to take Hovind out of context, the first sentence of the closing paragraph is “These honest questions deserve an honest answer.” He is referring to a raft of questions about evidence for a young earth that preceedes it. But here it is, Hovind’s parting shot:

I believe we have been lied to about the age of the earth. Satan, the father of all lies, has come up with this one to make a fool of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 19:4 that the creation of Adam and Eve was the beginning. I believe Jesus was right.

See? Look at how tight, how concentrated, how streamlined those last 4 sentences are. Nonsense, religious nonsense, bible quote, affirmation of faith, DONE.  Now for the rest of it.

Ruse the day

November 11, 2009

Philosopher Michael Ruse has recently put up an essay about the newest new atheism news: The Schism. Or as PZ Myers has described it Deep Rifts, DEEP RIFTS! that are rending the frail alliance of non-accomodationalist new atheists and the old republic of old accomdationalist atheist vangaurd! The drama! I can’t wait to hear of the latest encyclical from the pope his most rationalist Dawkins Darwin the Fifth on the dogmatic neccesity of philosophical naturalism and its twin sister the materialist evolutionism-ist neodawinianism-ist humanist secularism.

Anyway, Ruse says,

As a professional philosopher my first question naturally is: “What or who is an atheist?” If you mean someone who absolutely and utterly does not believe there is any God or meaning then I doubt there are many in this group. Richard Dawkins denies being such a person. If you mean someone who agrees that logically there could be a god, but who doesn’t think that the logical possibility is terribly likely, or at least not something that should keep us awake at night, then I guess a lot of us are atheists.

Seriously? His first question as a professional philosopher naturally is about who counts as an atheist? What a waste. Maybe he just means on this particular topic. Sure, in a certain sense, you can only be agnostic as to whether gods exist because, Jesus Christ could come back tomorrow (or some Other , Thing…)
and strike all his believers dead rapture them to heaven, forcing a reconsideration of a few points of view.

Atheists are even more complex than a these-and-those situation. “We”, as Ruse doesn’t seem to realize, form a continuum of different beliefs, just like any other group of people you might care to imagine in your granfalloon.

Moving on,

But there is certainly a split, a schism, in our ranks. I am not whining (in fact I am rather proud) when I point out that a rather loud group of my fellow atheists, generally today known as the “new atheists”, loathe and detest my thinking. …

and then he goes on to detail all the proud detestation he has earned, at length. Its a shame all Ruse got out of PZ’s response was “clueless and gobshite“.

I have had first hand experience with Michael Ruse. Both I and slightlyharmless were at the CFI World Congress in Bethesda, MD, where Ruse made the argument that, as he later states in this essay,

If, as the new atheists think, Darwinian evolutionary biology is incompatible with Christianity, then will they give me a good argument as to why the science should be taught in schools if it implies the falsity of religion? The first amendment to the constitution of the United States of America separates church and state. Why are their beliefs exempt?

Really. He makes this argument (At Bethesda it was phrased a bit different, the content was the same). As if somehow beliefs derived from the bible are on par with hard earned science. So apparently, if a well meaning parent feeds a child bullshit, we “atheists” are to blame for science teachers contradicting the bullshit put there. This IS America, after all. Just because it’s factually wrong doesn’t mean you can’t make your kids believe it. Ruse treats creationism leading to kids being christians, and evolution leading kids to being atheists sitting on exactly the same grounds.

Its insane. Even putting aside whatever crap someone put in a child’s mind, shouldn’t any kind of real education change a child’s beliefs about the world? Any deep understanding of the sciences (or history, languages, art, literature, etc) *should* change how you view the world, because it makes you think in new, different ways.

Ruse does have the drop on me though. I didn’t know that, as a “new” atheist, “that all religion is necessarily evil and corrupting”. I had previously thought that religions in general were full of good people because churches attracted a certain kind of them, but now I will dogmatically adopt the latest decree from the lords of new atheism. I hope they tell me to think for myself soon.

Ruse asks “us”, “how dare we be so condescending?” Oh, “we” new atheists, if we could just stop being such jerks! How dare we talk about the cause or contributing factor to many problems. Tough questions! The hard, varsity level ones like “should people be treated equally under the law?”. I’d say yes, but as Maine shows, religions can be part of the problem.

I’ve started re-reading Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and this part

But to tear down a factory of revolt against a government … because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. pg 88

The “new” atheist movement has a lot to do with religion. Mostly, against it. Some people just want religiously motived (or funded) groups to stop attacking the separation of state and church, and keep the god nonsense away from politics. Others would arrest all clergy for fraud. If the approach Ruse favors could work, it would have by now, and there would be no need for the entire “movement”, because we would all have moved on to moon bases, and free oral sex for everyone, and ending hunger and disease and overpopulation and all those other real problems, real people have, in this world, now.

It seems to come down to one main point Ruse seems to have for us: just shut up already.

Atheism with Stealth, part 2

November 4, 2009

In the second part of Atheism as a Stealth religion, Johnson takes up the unfortunate task of responding to the many wildly off-base comments that pop up, on most all lively internet discussions. Most of it is entirely beside the point, or re-explaining things for people who have trouble reading.

There are a few things worth commenting on, though:

Is the New Atheism a movement? Some readers objected to having atheism called a movement with designated leaders. For them, atheism is just a bunch of independent thinkers who refuse to be herded. That might be true for atheism as a whole, but can there be any doubt that authors such as Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, and Sam Harris are trying to start a movement?

If New Atheism a movement, its a granfalloon. The only thing that seems separates “new” atheists from the “old” atheists is the gall some have to actually say something once in a while. The horror.

I am sometimes chided for criticizing the books of the New Atheists as if they were scientific tomes, when in fact they are designed to attract the attention of the general public in the crowded cultural marketplace. … If the new atheists are not basing their claims about religion on the best that science has to offer, then they are part of the problem. My complaint about the New Atheism is that it is based on bad science

Criticism is a good thing, especially when it is pointed and insightful, or points out a weakness in an argument. Shitty criticism earns replies of its own. I’ll have to look up Johnson’s reviews of the books of “new” atheists, but I’m gonna stop if I read the word “shrill” about the God Delusion.

But new atheists not basing their claims of religion on the best science has to offer? Say what now? Isn’t it alright to criticize religion whenever it sucks? Hardly week goes by without me coming across some terrible story popping up which was enabled, fueled by, the product of, made much worse by, or could only arise in conditions created by — religion. You don’t need top science to point that out.

Atheism based on bad science? This is a strange idea. Not a whole lot actually flows from not believing in god, except that there….aren’t gods (Penn Jilette does a “This I Believe” that has a good take on moving past that simple fact). You don’t need science for that. It does help that, whenever religion has made claims about the universe, science eventually proves it wrong.

So atheism, that is new atheism, is based on bad science, which makes it a bad kind of atheism – atheism that is a religion (of loudly criticizing religions….) based on bad science. Well then. At least if that was true, new atheism would still be ahead of the old desert dogmas, which aren’t based on science at all.

It seems like Johnson’s definition of “stealth religion” is simply too broad (even though Johnson does explain that the definition was clear, because it’s written right there. See it? Clearly says, it clearly says clearly).

stealth religion as any belief system that distorts the facts of the real world … for the purpose of motivating a given suite of behaviors

This definition is given for the purpose of including all belief systems that distort reality in the discussion. But then are we going to say all belief systems that distort reality are religions? Does that mean religion is essentially distortion?

This definition could include so many non-supernatural twistings of reality. Is White Supremacy a stealth religion? What about plain ole sexism? Some people have elaborately constructed systems of the many ways women are inferior to, and less valuable than, men. Does that count? What about people who think gays are inhuman? Both these things are often given the full backing of supernatural belief systems, but they are only divine fuel to the fire. A “new” atheist can still be a sexist, racist, homophobic asshole, and none of those stealth religions will conflict with his or her disbelief in the supernatural.

This brings me back to the whole “new” atheism problem. You can call the writers of a few books that struck a chord with people a few years back as the leaders of movement, but it seems like an attempt to dismiss the unexpected response they got. Books about god not existing? You don’t say! At least no one will read them, pray tell.

I could be wrong, but much of the criticism of “new” atheists seems to be saying, one way or another, to shut up. I hope this is all not some long winded way of doing that.

But! All that said, there are still five parts to go, so hopefully there is some good stuff ahead, now that some of the stupidity has been addressed.