Archive for February, 2008

Meme

Because my friends Rebecca and Nate asked nicely, I am helping to spread a ‘truthiness meme’.

Thank you Firefox spell check, but meme is a word…

Anyway, said meme is “fbnl” – funny but not laughing. The reason for this being that it’s dishonest to say “lol” – laughing out loud – if you’re not really laughing, as most of the time (at least for me and them) you’re not really laughing out loud.

Alright. Go out into the world and spread the meme. Yay.

I Accidentally Went to a Bible Study Group

Yes, I know. How do you accidentally go to a Bible study group?

Well, I suppose I was kind of unintentionally forced… er… that sounds even more oxymoronic, but bear with me. Last night, my mum forced me to go see a movie they were showing on campus. What she didn’t know was that it was put on by one of the Christian organization. The movie in question was Amazing Grace (the title couldn’t have given her any clue as to the nature of the organization!), which was about the abolitionist movement in Britain and it’s religious motivations.

Although it had religious overtones, it was still a good movie, though the chair I was sitting in was a bit uncomfortable…

Anyway, afterwards, they divided us into little groups to discuss the movie. They printed out a sheet of movie questions, reminiscent of the movie questions teachers give to the class to make sure that they were paying attention.

At one point, they asked the question “If your society supports slavery, how can you change it?”

I said the secular thing to say. “Tell your society why they are wrong.”

“But why is slavery wrong?” they replied, in an attempt to force the discussion in a religious direction.

“You’re obviously causing needless suffering on to human beings which should be stopped.” An obvious answer, but unsatisfactory. The answer they were looking for was…

People should not belong to people. People should belong to God.”

“I just think that people should belong to themselves” I retorted, and there were some awkward laughs as they took the discussion back in a secular direction.

But honestly, if they have to say that people belong to God, or that God created all men equal to prove that slavery is wrong, Christians have got some pretty lame morals. Slavery is wrong because nobody should belong to anybody. Slavery is wrong because nobody should be forced to work for other people. Slavery is wrong because it’s torturous. Slavery is wrong because it causes terrible suffering. Anybody who’s studied it and has any form of decent moral values should know that it’s wrong.

Why Christians are so desperate to make it seem like they have the best reasons why slavery is of interest to me. Perhaps it’s simply another “religious values are better than secular values” thing… but maybe there’s also a bit of guilt in the fact that the only restrictions the Bible places on slave ownership is that you can’t damage their eyes or their teeth.

Sorry to burst your sanctimonious-secularism-sucks bubble.

I Ask Jesus to Come to Me

“Please Prove Me Wrong” says “Dawkinswatch“.

So far, Dawkinswatch has been demonstrating ignorance of evolution, and claiming that Richard Dawkins is a communist (I don’t know if he ever backed up this claim) and a closeted New Ager.

I reckon that most of these claims don’t really need refutation, but the invitation to ask God to come to me was tempting. I don’t have loads of friends, and I do imagine it would be very comforting. Most importantly, I wouldn’t mind being immortal and having eternal life.

So…

And I didn’t achieve squat. Not a voice, not a feeling of love, not even a presence. Maybe I’m just not as likely to have the psychological conditions for a revelation? Perhaps I’m not sleep deprived enough?

Doubt that Dawkinswatch will be satisfied…

And sorry if the Tchaikovsky wasn’t loud enough to hear…

Happy Darwin Day!

Just wishing a splendid Darwin Day to my two regular viewers, and anybody who happens to come across this blog.

Enjoy the celebration of one of our greatest intellectual liberators!

Radical Atheism (An Open Letter to My Chemistry Teacher)

This is sort of an open letter to Mr. Rast. I had a conversation with him during 7th period last Thursday which I did not feel I was able to completely have my say in.

Douglas Adams used to call himself a ‘radical atheist’ just to distinguish himself from the agnostics or Atheists without testicals (scientific term, eh). I don’t often go about using the term to describe myself, but I think it would be fitting.

You (Mr. Rast) said that I’m an ‘extremist’ or ‘Fundamentalist Atheist(!)’ for being an activist for Atheism.

First off, I question what exactly constitutes a ‘Fundamentalist Atheist’. A Fundamentalist Christian would be a Christian who believes that every single part of the Bible is true (and I don’t want to make it sound like I’m agreeing with them or anything, but if anybody has the correct interpretation of the Bible it’s them). That’s why they love the death penalty, assasinating abortion doctors, making life difficult for homosexuals, and trying to bring on the Rapture (literally) beyond all reason.

Obviously, Atheists have no real holy book, so what do we have to take literally? Even if you argue that the recent stream of Atheism books counts, I’d like to see someone point me to one that suggests that it would be OK for us to stone people who don’t agree with us.

I do not believe in killing people for believing in God, nor do I believe they should have their right to belief taken away.

I believe, however, that they should question their blind faith.

You do realise that these people often devote their entire lives (Fundie or not) to their blind faith in Mr. Skyfairy, spending hours on street corners holding up ‘Jesus Saves’ signs, lobbying to get the government to meddle in the sex lives of teenagers (I quote Mitt Romney, “And we start by teaching our kids that if they want to have kids of their own, they better get married first!”), trying to convert other countries to bring God’s Kingdom to Earth (if you really want an example of extremism: http://www.skepdic.com/dominionism.html), etc.

And of course, there are the moderates who don’t take the Bible literally. They modify their faith to fit with modern standards, as opposed to 2,000 to 5,000 year old ones. I have a relatively high tolerance for them. But the reason why the Bible isn’t treated like any other work of literature (as it should be) is that it is supposed to be the word of God. If they decide that one part isn’t true, how do they decide that any part of it is true? They haven’t got a leg to stand on, and they know it. To quote Thomas Huxley, “it’s like punching pudding.”

But they have their blind faith.

It’s blind faith that I really take issue with. It’s blind faith that puts people in denial about the reality of science. It’s blind faith that convinces people to waste their lives trying to convert others on street corners. It’s blind faith that convinces people to get the government to control other people’s sex lives. It’s blind faith that propelled the ‘Manifest Destiny’ ideology, causing the genocides and displacement of the Native Americans. It’s blind faith that convinces people that if they go flying airplanes into buildings, they get a guaranteed ticket to paradise. It’s blind faith that convinces world leaders that God told them to invade foreign countries. To quote Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene, “Blind faith can justify anything.”

Maybe this is a thin-edge-of-the-wedge argument, maybe it’s a slippery slope argument, I don’t really know.

But think about it.

Celebrity News Isn’t

When I wake up in the morning, my brain is like Spirit or Opportunity landing on Mars. Once the airbags of sleep deflate, my brain has to slowly, and mechanically unpack itself. Gears grind and motors run as panels open, things unfold, communications are attempted with the control center…

And so a few days ago, as my brain was going through this slow proccess, I stared blankly at a wall and listened passively to the television that was on in mum’s room which happened to have the morning news. I vaguely remember hearing something about Clinton and Obama, and I vaguely remember hearing about other stuff… But I am ashamed to admit that what I remember most from that morning broadcast was that… Brittany Spears was in the hospital again. Suddenly, I straightened my back and perked up.

Why was this on my local news? Haven’t they got better things to report on other than the personal problems of fallen pop stars?

I don’t even know if her name is spelled with an E… or two T’s… and I don’t care. I don’t want to know that she’s losing her mind, and I don’t see why anybody else would.

It’s not that I don’t care. Well, like I said, I don’t want to know, but I do feel an extreme, profound pity for Ms. Spears. I am embarassed to say that I know what I’m about to say, but she’s obviously had a viscious break up with this Kevin Federline guy (I’m proud to say that I don’t know what he’s done to become so famous), she’s lost her popularity, she’s lost her kids… and she’s losing her mind.

I don’t actively seek this information. I just know it because our society is so obsessed with celebrities, that even intellectual news organizations like NPR mentioned it (though in their defense, that’s because they were talking about a ballet that opened up in London about her life).

If this were happening to me, the least I would want would be some privacy. If I couldn’t have that I would want some sympathy… but we don’t even give that to her. Oh no…

Brittany Spears’ very name is a joke in itself now.

So why can’t we lay the hell off her personal problems? Why do we even give a damn?

Is it just this whole idea of hierarchy? I’m up here, Brittany’s down at the bottom, so that I can feel better about my shortcomings. All that Brittany Spears should really be known for is her music, but we know her for going mad… and I think, that to quite a great extent, it’s our fault that she’s losing her mind. Us and our oh-so-high expectations and constant attempts to erode away her privacy. Fame just wears people out.

But still… why?

Brittany is just a pop star… a fallen pop star… who has had some bad issues with her personal life.

Celebrity news isn’t.

Mitt Romney: Secularist… Kind of.

Er… not really. But I think he has realised that there are Atheists in this country since he gave that ever so popular faith speech in which he called secularism a religion.

See, I ditched two periods of school and I went to see him speak today. Not that I really support him, I just wanted to go see him speak because the election is this year, I’m interested in who will be the next leader of the United States, and I want to know who the greater of whatever evils the Republican side and/or the Democrat side will turn out so that I know who I should vehemently campaign against.

So, I piled into an SUV with three other students, and we drove to Freeway Ford where he was holding his political rally.

The mother of one of the students, who was driving us, commented on how Obama and Clinton had gotten an entire auditorium at University of Denver, but Romney had to have his rally in a car dealership. She put forward the theory that the University of Denver was too Liberal to let Romney speak there, but it became clear when Romney began his speech by thanking the owner of the car dealership and talking about how he drives a Ford. It’s a conservative thing to drive American-made cars as opposed to imports, in case you haven’t already noticed.

But, I said I was going to comment on Romney’s interestingly secular(ish) aspects of his speech, so I’m going to cut some of the stuff about the economy which he seems to believe is very important, and just focus on a few sentences which I found interesting.

Of course, my heart sank a little when I saw a sign reading “Mitt is focused on the family”. In case you didn’t get the allusion, there’s a Fundamentalist Christian organisation in Colorado Springs called “Focus on the Family” which lobbies against abortion, and for all sorts of fun, fun, fun Evangelical values.

Indeed, family values did pop up in Mitt Romney’s speech. For the record, I’m not quoting him verbatim here, but he went off on a chain about how the American people are what make this country great, and how the American people must have great family values and…

“We need to teach our kids that if they want to have kids of their own, they need to get married first!”

My heart sank a little lower. I don’t think that he meant that he thought preventing pre-marital sex was the foundation of family values, which were the foundation of the country (though he seems to think that family values are part of the foundation of the country along with the economy), but he seemed to think that preventing pre-marital sex was very important. This begs the question…

Why do politicians care about the sex lives of teenagers?

Furthermore, aren’t families values about more than making your kids uphold 5,000 year old (or 2,000 year old… or in the case of the Book of Mormon 150 year old) religious values?

Right then, now that I’ve gotten the extremely unsecular thing that ticked me off out of the way… on to the stuff that kind of makes Romney secular… kind of.

He’s definitely going for the evangelical vote… likes to talk about values a lot. He shared an anecdote about how when he went down to Memphis, Tennessee, he saw some T-shirts that said “Yankee Governor… Southern Values”. He said that he asked the wearers of the T-shirts what was meant by southern values. I’ve got a cold and my brain has been moving so slow that I can’t remember a single one of them, but as you can imagine, the first southern value I could think of was faith in God. Tennessee is in Bible Belt after all… couldn’t help it. Curiously, he must have listed nine values, but faith was not one of them. One can only wonder if he didn’t purposefully omit it…

Earlier on in the speech (alright, yeah, this is not in chronological order…), he said another very curious thing.

Again, I’m not quoting verbatim here, but…

“The people in this country believe in something. For some people that’s faith. For those who don’t have faith, that’s their ethnicity or their communities…”

Again, I don’t really support Mitt Romney, but I was very surprised to hear him say that. When the secularists got outraged by his faith speech, I think he learned a lesson, and for once, politicians seem to be acknowledging that there are non-believers in this country.

Granted, I didn’t pay much attention to how secular presidential candidates were in the past, and I haven’t heard in full any of the other candidate’s speeches, but after hearing all the Republicans and Democrats take so many opportunities to talk about their faith, it was a (refreshing) surprise to hear one mention that there are people who don’t have faith.

So, I justify the following statement.

Atheism in America=Epic Win