Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Are We Seriously Still Saying the Pledge?

I’ve come to be used to the daily morning announcements at my school that say “if you would like to stand for the pledge, please do so now…” and most mornings I don’t notice as I’m in the hallway walking to the piano rooms while they’re doing it, but yesterday it was brought to my attention yet again as they said it at a Diversity Conference I attended.

“If you so choose to we will now say the pledge” they went and I immediately thought “seriously?”

First of all, nationalism doesn’t really have much to do with diversity. Sure, I can buy the argument that it shows that there’s diversity within the nation, but since they never really state that was the intention you can’t expect that to be the message that comes across from saying it.

As we all know, the controversial bit of the pledge comes with the “One nation under God” part which indicates worship of a monotheistic deity. This would seemingly exclude all those who don’t worship a monotheisitic deity. Well, OMG, excluding diverse religions or irreligion would seem to actually hurt the whole diversity idea!

Admittedly, done more out of anger than reason, at the end of that sentence I was compelled to let out a blasphemous “boo” which prompted a circle of heads to turn in my direction with glares, an also-seated Wiccan kid to grab my mouth and prevent me from speaking, and a Hispanic girl in front of me to turn ’round and say “I respect your rights, but that was highly disrespectful, you’re at a diversity conference, you need to respect other people’s religion” to which I said “as an under-represented minority due to unbelief I find the Pledge highly disrespectful”.

So it came across more as an insult to Christianity than anything else and it wasn’t effective communication, etc. I admit all this but submit to you that if I were to express my discontent with their choice to exclude me it was going to be limited to sound-byte form.

Whatever. I’m making the point of my three-letter protest clear now since I didn’t have the luxury of a non-sound-byte response then. It’s the height of hypocrisy to say the pledge and claim diversity, even if you don’t make other people say it, because that line still affirms that it is one nation under a monotheistic deity. In fact, I think it’s worse to preface it with “if you wish to say the pledge” because you have acknowledged there are people that clause excludes and have chosen to say it anyway.

And for my own sake and credit, couldn’t they have paused to think for a second what I really meant by my protest rather than to have jumped to the conclusion I was intentionally trying to offend worshippers of the Abrahamic religions? I suppose stirring thought with a heat-of-the-moment sound-byte is just the best you can hope for.

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European History, Science, and Eternal Life

So I’m taking European history this year in school and I have this teacher whom I’m rather fond of. She’s not exactly a fundamentalist Christian, but she is at least moderately Christian. Today we mentioned the scientific revolution while studying about the witch trials and she goes on a small tangent that goes something along the lines of…

So are you going to put your faith in the scientific revolution? Tell that to a dying cancer patient! Science isn’t going to get you eternal anything.

So it’s not exactly standing up and preaching, but it is sort of clear that she’s trying to convince her audience (public school students) that they need to worry about how they’re getting eternal life and science is useless because of that.

Of course, I disagree with her argument. Epistemology does not get chucked out the window as soon as you’re uncomfortable with what it says because that would be beside the point of having an epistemology (unless you’re of the truth-is-whatever-makes-me-feel-comfortable-with-death-ists). I’m more concerned with how I live the life I know that I have than with another life which can be verified about as convincingly as Invisible Pink Unicorns.

But here’s the thing… for the most part this teacher does not talk about her personal dislike of science, but this is not an isolated incident. It’s happened once or twice before. Do I…

  1. Let it drop
  2. Just speak out in class the next time
  3. Start recording and call the ACLU (I list this in jest… sort of)
  4. Do something else?

Oh, and why the bloody hell do people like to bandy about the word “faith” to people who happen to like science and reason? The most faith involved in science is that this isn’t all some giant hallucination that we’re all sharing, or that we’re hallucinating that people are sharing the same reality. It’s a small amount of faith, yes, but I think of it more as agnostic disbelief. I can’t prove that I’m hallucinating and I can’t prove that I’m not… but if this is a hallucination, it sure is an elaborate one and no harm is done in carrying on with 99.9% certainty.

Where’s My Cookie Dough?

This is the sort of thing I do in history when we’re talking about people like Aquinas:

Given…

  1. I can conceive in my mind of the tastiest batch of cookie dough.
  2. Existence is tastier than non-existence.

Therefore, the Tastiest Batch of Cookie Dough must exist.

I think I’ve said that on Twitter in one form or another before, but I was just going over my notes and noticed it… along with some rant about Star Trek. I think that means I need to pay more attention in class?

The Campaign for Free Expression

Ideas don’t need rights. People do.

There are certain taboos that we coexist with in our society, constricting the wide range of things we could be talking about. Deviants of these taboos are often met with hostile reactions. If you’ve ever openly criticised, say… religion, but never heard somebody say something to the effect of “stop talking about religion! You offend me!” I’d love to move to your planet.

For those of us on Earth, however, there’s the Center for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression. Over the course of the year, CFI will be supporting free expression in taboo topics by holding contests, participating in International Blasphemy Day (September 30, 2009), and much much more. Check out their website at the sexy domain name, pleaseblock.us, as well as the video below. And, yes, they are trying to get blocked in Iran, China, Malaysia, Cuba, etc.

On a relevant side note, the last time I was in China I found that foreign news sources, Wikipedia, and many blogs (including all of WordPress and all of Blogspot) were blocked by the infamous Great Firewall (on an irrelevant side note, I once climbed the physical Great Wall in houseslippers ’cause my pair of shoes broke). I’ll be going again sometime in July. I don’t know about Teen Skepchick, but you can be assured that I’ll still find a way to keep blogging my dissenting and non-dissenting opinions for the three or so weeks. 😉

Vodpod videos no longer available.

What is the Meaning of SecondLife?

SecondLife is on the whole a boring game. Small modicums of entertainment can be gained by seeing people attachspiritualdarkness_001 couches to themselves as outfits. It is no wonder people are wondering “is there something more than this virtual 3D world?”

Out of boredom, and seeking answers to the great mysteries of SecondLife, I decided to attend a meeting on “spiritual darkness”. Surprisingly, the spiritual people seemed resistant towards me talking about silly scientific concepts like gravity.

Today I learned:

  1. We can’t explain consciousness, therefore atoms are conscious.
  2. Thinking scientifically = cynicism
  3. I am living in spiritual darkness because I’m too attached to intellectual enlightenment.
  4. “multi-dimensional realities make sense to me. this band of frequencies experiences a duality principle that is holographic to the rest of thee system” (see chat log below)
  5. Couch monsters are freaking hilarious.

A lengthy chat log follows. It can be seen either as depressing or entertaining, depending on the sort of person you are. Feel free to read it. Continue reading

Putting it Simply

Recently this article appeared in the Guardian which appears to be accusing Hitchens, Dawkins, etctera of wanting to take away the liberty of freedom of religion and, therefore, not being liberals.

Russell Blackford has a great response here but as it is something that people could potentially accuse the Atheist movement in general of, I thought I’d sum up Terry Eagleton’s error in one sentence:

In all his fancy wording about the “liberal state” he makes it clear that his flawed assumption is that Atheists want to make our beliefs about the harmfulness of religion public policy.

Well, he’s right insofar as we want a secular state in which religious beliefs which require “faith” don’t form public policy. This is for a good reason. We shape our morality around our perception of reality. If your morality is shaped around something that can’t be empirically demonstrated to people  who don’t share that faith (i.e. God told me that gay marriage is wrong), then you can’t expect them to form morality around your perception of reality.

Yeah, I’d like there to be more Atheists in the world (at least fewer fundamentalists), but I don’t plan on doing that by taking public office and banning religion (although I may tax churches). I plan on doing that by the less effective, but “liberally” permissible means of free speech through debating Christians, writing blog posts, while others add to Atheist literature.

That’s it. All we want. Tell me about how us Atheists are just-as-bad-as-fundies again? “Militant” rationalists? Western supremacists? kthx

God Tests Miss California’s Faith

In case you haven’t seen already…

Two things…

She did not actually answer the question. The question was: should states follow suit in allowing gay marriage? She said that we can choose between “same sex marriage” and “opposite” marriage, and then says that she believes that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s not clear whether she wants to impose her personal (bigotted) beliefs about it on other people through the government. It’s just vague.

My favourite bit, though, is where she says “that’s how I was raised and that’s how I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

I’m cynical about beauty queens, yes, but Americans do seem to care more about what a person says because they’re pretty than because they have fancy degrees and years of experience. Miss USA is also used as a spokesmodel for certain causes, although rarely political. Still, it’s slightly unsettling to see somebody essentially say “I don’t have any independent thinking skills, I just do what my parents told me, and I want to represent your country!”

I leave you with a quote from her interview with the most unbiased media source in all the world, Fox News.

This happened for a reason. By having to answer that question in front of a national audience, God was testing my character and faith. I’m glad I stayed true to myself.