Archive for December, 2008

Mormons Celebrate Pastafarian Holiday

Look at this Facebook ad:

mormonholidaySo what? Anybody trying to sell stuff uses “for the holidays”. But what does LDS stand for?

Latter Day Saints.

The Latter Day Saints worship Pastafarian Holiday everybody!

Er… actually when you click on the ad they say “Merry Christmas” on their website. Still found the ad sort of amusing… kind of…

Carry on.

And the Founding Fathers Rolled in Their Graves…

After a brief hiatus, I returned to check back on the responses my schoolmates were giving me. By this time some of my other friends were also responding in support of me, when one of them gave a small criticism of one of the kid’s personal beliefs (I think it must have been his religion). The kid responded with…

Roy, how DARE you insult my personal beliefs? Where does this bitterness come from? If you believed in hell, I’d tell you to go to it. I’m sorry your life spent on this planet is devoted to bashing faith and being pessimistic. Go find faith in something, somewhere where we can’t hear you.

I can see why they don’t seem to give a damn about the Bill of Rights. That First Amendment is mighty inconvenient right now, what with free speech added to secularism.

But, do you see what I see?

Well, that kid just wished Hell upon my friend.

Hell? Really? Somebody criticises a view which you made publicly and which you even wanted the government to support, and you tell them to go through the worst kind of suffering for all eternity?

Do you understand what eternity is? Eternity. Eternal suffering. He just wished eternal, unending, infinite suffering upon a human being just for exercising his right to criticise a view which you made public.

Even Hitler’s victims only had to live so long.

Let’s say you spent a decade being tortured in a POW camp or something.

Imagine not just the constant pain, but also the humility. Imagine being robbed of whatever dignity you had.

Now multiply that by ten and you’ll get a more than decent human life span. Multiply that by ten and it will take you back to the Dark Ages. Multiply that by ten and you’re beginning to reach the dawn of civilization. That’s an infinitesimal amount of time compared to the time our species has been around, about two million years. The time our species has been around is infinitesimal compared to the age of the Earth, 4.6 billion years. That’s still only a fraction of the time the universe has been around, about 13.8 billion years. And that’s still nothing compared to eternity.

Eternity NEVER ends. It goes on longer than the rise and fall of empires, longer than the birth and death of stars, longer than the collision of galaxies, longer than any cosmic event known to humanity, longer than the universe itself.

So I ask, where does that sort of bitterness come from? Just from a debate sparked by little old me trying to uphold secularism? Can you even be human and give that sort of wish? And, then, why should we listen when somebody that twisted tells me that I should have faith in something? It obviously has done that kid no good if he’s wishing that sort of rotten thing upon people.

I now feel quite sick to my stomach, thank you very much.

Of course, he must have said it without thinking… right?

But, then, that’s the problem I have with faith in the first place.

Unthinking acceptance of fairy tales is one thing. Unthinking belief that people deserve to burn eternally if they don’t have faith, or if they criticise it when you bring it to the public square is an entirely different thing. Unthinking belief that God is going to save you from eternal punishment and give you x number of virgins if you fly an airplane into a building based on what was said in a collection of those fairy tales is definitely a problem.

Am I saying that people who believe in those fairy tales are necessarily going to start killing people? No. That’s completely absurd.

But, if you’re going to say that we should unthinkingly accept something what’s to say we won’t unthinkingly accept racism? There are a lot of beliefs which could lead us to act in ways that won’t make the world a better place. Would you really want me to randomly choose something to have faith in?

We most certainly should not encourage unthought at any level.

Faith is anti-intellectualism in its purest form and the more we’re taught to value it, the worse we react when a belief of ours that ought to be criticised gets criticised. It’s the ultimate dam to a flowing river of ideas. It seals minds shut to exterior influences, yet still allows them to spout out their bollocks, even as it rots from lack of exposure to the changing world.

When a widely held belief needs criticism, it deserves to be criticised. Even if you have faith in it. So do I dare criticise your faith?

I dare. I dare bring reason and enlightenment to the mind of man. So burn me at stake.

I’m sorry, but I don’t need that. I’ve got no faith. I might have once held faith in humanity, but that went hurtling out the window just now at escape velocity and is orbitting the Earth somewhere beyond my reach. Yet, I’m perfectly fine. As shattered as my brain feels after reading all that, I still wouldn’t wish harm upon somebody solely for their beliefs as they would wish harm upon those who would simply support the healthy criticism of their beliefs… much less eternal harm.

Everything I’ve Ever Wanted to Say About Pseudoscience

Except I didn’t say it…

Via Skepchick, which was via Pharyngula

Update: Nevermind. Video got removed for whatever reason. I’ll try to poke around and see if I can find another video.

Update: I’ve replaced it with something that works!

Update: Apparently that has been removed as well. *sigh*

Spread the Truth!!!11ONE111!!!!!

If Atheists sunk the Titanic, then I’m totally dropping my faith in Atheism.

Norwegian-Philologist-man

The smoking gun? Take the word Titanic, drop the T, I, and T, and C, O, S, P, R, Y, and you get CONSPIRACY!

Word count: 42.

COINCIDENCE?

Just Read and Weep

*sigh*

So I send out the FFRF lawsuit thing to my friends in the school district. Here are the responses I’ve been getting. I’m not going to bother giving any further responses to the latest two as easily as I could pwn them.

Kid:

this is disgusting
i fail to see whats wrong with an environment that teaches children basic morals and values

Me:

I fail to see why you need to violate the secular values this country was founded on to teach morals.

While I’m at it, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Therefore your argument is invalid.

Kid:

im not christian so i dont follow your argument

besides, said sign is encouraging freedom of religion cuz it encourages religion in general which could range from budhism to atheism
the ffrf is just trying to restrict religion or in other words, violating the 1st secular value this country was founded

and

how is teaching kids values such as the ten commandments not morrally right
or do you have issue with not stealing or being respectful to parental figures

i guess their perfect world would be one in which their is one philisophical belief: nothing
and in this world their would be no guidlines to living a fullfilling and ethical life and any attempt to disrupt this eutopia would result in a lawsuit that helps no one

Me:

You’re all over the place.

First of all, the FFRF isn’t saying you can’t practice your religion. It’s saying you have a right to not practice religion if you don’t want to.

Speaking of the 1st secular value this country was founded on…

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In other words, there shall be no state endorsement of religion.

The Ten Commandments do say a few agreeable things. Don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t be mean to your parents, etc. Let’s ignore for a moment that they recommend the death penalty for all of them (and even if you support capital punishment as I do in some cases, we can surely agree that you shouldn’t be killed for not helping your mum do the dishes cause you have homework), and look at the first four of them.

1. I am the Lord your God
2. You shall have no other gods before me
3. You shall not make for yourself an idol
4. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God

Not much room for polytheists, eh?

Now, if the state were to endorse these four commandments there would be no freedom of religion. That’s why we also need freedom from religion.

I also reject your suggestion that Atheists have no philosophical beliefs about morality, and that we can have a fulfilling life. What have I ever done to you, hm? Are you really going to insinuate that I’m a murdering, raping, pillaging, disrespectful twat based on my lack of belief in a supreme deity alone? What makes you think that kind of sick prejudice is morally justifiable?

I volunteer every weekend in a museum, I give money to charities, I’m polite, and, God damn it, I enjoy life. I think that the universe is an awesome place and I have some wonderful friends, teachers, and family. I’m no less happy than the next person.

Kid:

first of all
you are focusing in to much on specifics zoom out a bit
the ffrf is sueing because a sign was posted by a school district saying that kids can find support in a religious community

if you have ever been to a sunday school type program they dont actually force religious beliefs upon the kids, but teach them essential values such as not to steal and to do right by your mom and dad, not the gory details, so that one day they will be able to make an educated decision on what beliefs to follow

advocating for that isnt a breach of church and state
so if they were forced to take that sign down it would be interfering with their free speach rights

im sure this wouldnt be a problem if their was an established religion called atheism
but since there isnt they can still stand and openly oppose all religion and sucessfully combat moral values

you are twisting my words
i am saying that by the forceful taking down of this sign is setting a precedent by which any good that could come to children by means of religious establishment can not be advocated by a school district, or basically any secular force in society henceforth placing personal beliefs over the common good

also i never said anything about classifying atheist as possesing no morals
i respect all religions, and more importantly the support and good that can come from religious institutions, which is why im advocating the side of what is most likely the lutheran church even though i desagree wholeheartedly with many of their views

i dont respect the general denouncement of religion, which is the problem i have with most atheists
i dont have a problem with people saying they dont believe in a higher power or any of the other beliefs held by atheist, but when they go on to criticize established religion and say that it holds no validity i have a problem

Me:

I have been to a Sunday school program. They told me a story about a guy who got eaten by a big fish and stayed in its stomach for three days, and was told that he was punished for not following the Judeo-Christian god. They then essentially told me I was a sinner and that I was going to Hell if I didn’t keep coming to their church.

Do I necessarily object just because it’s religious values being advocated? No.

I do, by the way, go to a Unitarian Universalist church. I do enjoy the sense of community, and being taught values like being nice to each other without having them invoke their particular brand of god.

Yes, they teach you values, but what makes you think you have to go to a CHURCH to learn those values? What you get support from is having a community and there are other ways to find a strong community without being told you should participate in religion every week. If I don’t want to participate in a religious thingy to learn my values, I shouldn’t be told to.

First of all, taking the sign down is not criticising established religion. It’s just saying that the government can’t endorse an establishment of religion. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech, but everything to do with the first amendment.

Second of all, why shouldn’t we be allowed to criticise establishments of religion? I have no problem with people practicing what they want. No problem with freedom of religion at all. The problem is sometimes those practices include actively screwing with government and taking away other people’s civil rights. There are people just two and a half hours south of Denver who would stone people for privately, in their own home, committing a consensual act of love with a person of the same sex. Would you hesitate to criticise a piece of legislation that advocated that?

The rest was just me pointing out again that I have no problem with community, but you don’t need a religious community to get a feeling of community.

Other kid:

Hey, why dont we go ahead and take more money away from our already poorly funded school systems with a lawsuit. Our state is only 48th in the nation in school funding. So yes, lets take money away, lay off teachers, increase classroom sizes, and neglect building maintenance and upgrading. Heaven forbid the ONE plaintif be offended.
Ive been in this school district for almost 11 years, and not once have those 40 assets had any impact upon my education or the way i live. I have known that they exist for a long time, but hardly any students take the time to read them. Our constitution was also loosely based on teachings from relligion. In god we trust is written on every piece of our monetary system. Why dont you sue the entire government. See how far that gets you.
I am christian, and i dont care if the quaran is referenced in one of those assets, or nothing is referenced at all. Good can be derived from almost any religious text or not from one at all. Borden your horizon

As far as I’m aware the lawsuit has nothing to do with money and I’m not sure where she got that from. I’ll look into whether or not money’s involved anyway, but I’m pretty sure it’s class-action cause that’d make the most sense.

Other other kid:

Sorry, quick question. What are the other 39 “Developmental Assets” implemented by this program?

Also, I fail to see the harm in recommending that a child adopt a religious lifestyle. Please, before you all bitch me out-
All that this program does is RECOMMEND that a child adopt a religious lifestyle, which means that the child gets a choice. By simply recommending that a child make that choice, there isn’t technically any ammendment “breakage” here. If the document flat out said “you must worship this particular god or you will burn in hell,” then there would be an issue. This document doesn’t seem to be laying down a certain set of rules and regulations for a child to follow, just suggestions. It isn’t actively forcing anything on children here. But then again, I can see how that poster could be considered propoganda. In which case, it becomes a matter of what’s legal and what’s right.

For all you students out there who went through the first year of US History with me and forgot the first amendment, here’s the text:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And in case you missed that, I think I’ll make it clearer. The government can’t endorse religion. My school paid for a subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary, but endorse means to support.

If they still fail to see what the problem is… to Hell with it. Edumacation has failed us. This post has a word count of 1776.

FFRF to Sue Cherry Creek School District

I just got this e-mail through COCORE:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has a very important challenge regarding the separation of church and state in the Cherry Creek School District in Denver. The lawsuit challenges the District adoption of the “40 Developmental Assets,” of which number 19 is a recommendation of a “religious community” for children. The school district is recommending that children spend at least an hour a week in a church or other religious setting.

In a document specifically written for children, the endorsement reads: “I spend time with my religion.” A poster of a praying child next to this wording is displayed in various ways. The asset appears on a master calendar at the District website and various District documents.

FFRF has uncovered a religious agenda of the “40 Developmental Assets” program (in which the Lutheran Brotherhood, which developed it, cites bible verses which inspire each “asset,” even the secular-sounding assets).

Due to a child of a plaintiff graduating, FFRF is down to a single plaintiff. We are requesting anyone having a child in the school system who supports the separation of church and state to join the suit.

If you have a child in the Cherry Creek School system (or sympathetic friends or relatives with children in the District) and you might be interested in joining our action against this establishment of religion by the school district, then please let me know. Plaintiffs must have children who use the Cherry Creek public schools.

If we are to add additional plaintiffs, they need to be added before 2009. There is no cost involved and very little time required, and you would be helping to ensure we can challenge a violation that is occurring nationwide. The Court has a protective order which keeps parent (and child) names out of the court documents and newspapers. If interested contact me ASAP

Tim Bailey 303.921.0641
Tcsgrv@mindspring.com
Humanists of Colorado

So, yeah. If any of you know people in the Colorado who might be in the Cherry Creek School District, please pass the information along to them.

Random Picture

I don’t think I’ve ever posted this before. I should do that.

Robert M. Price (left) takes a nap and Elles (right) just happens to be standing there.

Robert M. Price (left) take a nap and Elles (right) just happens to be standing there.

Before anybody wonders if it was cruel of Roy and I to use Bob Price’s nap-taking as an opportunity to take a picture, I assure you that Bob Price has seen it and commented on it.

That settles it… I’m definitely adopting you, no matter what your mother says!

That is all. Have a good Sunday morning.

Interesting Invention

I just stumbled across AlphaInventions.com. It’s a good way of helpign lesser-known bloggers get more traffic and making the blogosophere more interconnected.

Go and watch blogs flash across your screen for a while. You might come across something that you’ve never come across before.

Tea-Dieting vs. Basic Scientific Method

Today I was hanging out at the mall with one of my friends, and we were just wandering aimlessly when I saw out of the corner of my eye a kiosk that was claiming that green tea could help you lose weight.

Naturally I just had to stop and ask more. The kiosk was manned by a young woman, and she offered to let me try some of the miracle diet tea for free.

While she was shaking some sort of powder into a bottle of water, I started asking if there had been any studies done on the miracle diet tea. “Oh yes, and they found that it helps you lose weight if you do it along with exercise.”

Uh huh… I thought. After all, people can’t possibly lose weight with exercise alone if they don’t have green tea!

When somebody does a scientific study you expect them to have something called a “control” so that they’ll have something to compare their product to to see if it has any actual efficacy.

In this case, you’d expect to have a group of people who were exercising but not drinking tea to see if the tea-drinkers had a significantly larger amount of weight loss. Thus, I assumed I could ask an innocent little question like “how big was your control group?”

She had no idea what a control was. And how am I supposed to know that I can get more benefit from drinking this tea than I can from just working out a few hours each week?

Well, then, perhaps it would be sensical to ask her where if this study was published in a peer reviewed journal.

The woman told me that she didn’t know but that in terms of publications she knew that Oprah had supported them.

[sarcasm]And an appeal to authority like that made me feel oh so very convinced![/sarcasm]

Even if this weren’t from the same woman who said that positive thinking would cause the quantum vibrations of the universe to give you everything you desired, I’m also non-plused by the fact that there are astronauts who believe that UFOs are alien beings visiting the Earth.

The woman then told me that the tea was better for my health because they used a powder instead of any chemicals.

*sigh*

When will people learn that the word chemical doesn’t just mean something that’s bad for you? Ever heard of something called dihydrogen monoxide (two hydrogens, one oxygen, aka H2O)? That’s right… water is a chemical. If it’s made of atoms, it’s a chemical and if you don’t think your special powder is a chemical what do you think it’s made out of? Pixie dust?

Is it wrong of me to pick on this woman for her ignorance of basic science?

Well, I’m not one to claim that I’m not ignorant of a lot of things that I wish I weren’t ignorant of. But, if I were to be selling something and claiming it would have any sort of positive effect on your health I’d like to be well-versed in the scientific studies behind it so I could help people make good decisions about it.

If I were to deceive people about how well something worked whether consciously, or just telling them that I knew that the studies were accurate without even seeing if they followed basic scientific method, I’d be a snake oil salesman, a quack, a charlatan, and a jerk.

I’m not actually that mad at this woman, however. She’s just doing her job, and she doesn’t know any better (although she ought to if she has ever taken a single science class in here life). I am however sort of upset that she doesn’t seem to get confronted with questions like “was there a control group?” often enough to actually look at these studies she’s telling people have been done.

In school they taught us how to use search engines like Google, and to double check things on Wikipedia (which people should do more often). I submit that asking “was there a control group, and how large was it?” should be considered just as basic a skill. There’s going to be a lot of youths out there concerned about their body image and they’re going to easily fall prey to a lot of gimmicks, but not if they ask the right questions.

Call me crazy, but if you come out of high school without a desire to be informed about the scientific facts before making a decision, or the skills you need to become infomed about said scientific facts then I think that the school system has failed you.

This really ought to be a common sense thing! Doesn’t anybody ever think out loud “well, how do you know drinking the tea makes you lose weight better than exercise if you have to exercise while drinking the tea?” I think that asking if a study follows proper scientific method should be just as normal as using Google (which, again, people obviously don’t use often enough).

To make a well-informed decision you need to be, well, well-informed. Science isn’t just identifying the stages of mitosis, playing with the bunsen burner, or memorizing the names of all your carpals. Science is a method for finding truth. Use it.

*sigh*

Well…

I’m disappointed. So, I’ll have somebody else say what Obama has been saying for me with more snark.

I’m f*cking hardcore about gay rights – except for that marriage equality/civil rights thing. I totally believe that marriage is a man and a woman because the bible told me so. I’m totally fierce about it too, that’s why I am inviting Warren on stage; when it comes to gay marriage we’re in fierce agreement.

Uh, except that I totally agree with Rick Warren that marriage is between a man and a woman, so uh I don’t really disagree with Warren on the issue of the day. But hey, I support legal buttsecks, so chill out, go have some buttsecks.

The rest, and the original quotes, here. Completely well-worth the read.