Archive for the ‘Gawd Is Bad Mmmkay’ Category

Best Sentence XCVII

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

Ann Coulter snags the 97th award for BSIHORL (Best Sentence I’ve Heard Or Read Lately).

Short but sweet:

In the druidical religion of liberalism, not separating your recyclables is a sin, but abortion is just a medical procedure.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and at Washington Rebel.

“All Belief is a Cover-Up for Insecurity”

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Hat tip to Rick again.

“Leaving Islam?”

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Fox News:

The questions on the ads aren’t subtle: Leaving Islam? Fatwa on your head? Is your family threatening you?

A conservative activist and the organizations she leads have paid several thousand dollars for the ads to run on at least 30 city buses for a month. The ads point to a website called, which offers information to those wishing to leave Islam, but some Muslims are calling the ads a smoke screen for an anti-Muslim agenda.

Pamela Geller, who leads an organization called Stop Islamization of America, said the ads were meant to help provide resources for Muslims who are fearful of leaving the faith.

“It’s not offensive to Muslims, it’s religious freedom,” she said. “It’s not targeted at practicing Muslims. It doesn’t say ‘leave,’ it says ‘leaving’ with a question mark.”

Geller said the ad buy cost about $8,000, contributed by the readers of her blog, Atlas Shrugs, and other websites. Similar ads have run on buses in Miami, and she said ad buys were planned for other cities.

Atlas Shrugs is here.

I hope it doesn’t cause too much of a fuss. After all, I recall barely a ripple of discontent a couple years ago when Richard Dawkins launched his “There Is Probably No God” campaign.

Sauce? Goose? Gander?

Mississippi ACLU Returns $20,000 for Alternate Prom

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

NY Times:

To avoid further controversy, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi has rejected a $20,000 gift intended to underwrite an alternate prom replacing one canceled by a local school district after a lesbian student demanded that she be allowed to attend with her girlfriend.

The gift, to sponsor one of several privately sponsored alternate events, came from the American Humanist Association, an advocacy group whose mission is to promote “good without God.”

“Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist,’ ” Jennifer Carr, the fund-raiser for the A.C.L.U of Mississippi, wrote in an e-mail message to Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the humanist group.
Regarding the A.C.L.U. move, Ms. Carr wrote to Mr. Speckhardt: “Our staff has been talking a lot about your donation offer and have found ourselves in a bit of a conflict. We have fears that your organization sponsoring the prom could stir up even more controversy.”

Duh. Of course it’s supposed to stir up controversy. Everyone involved wants controversy. That’s why the girl wanted to wear a tuxedo.

Trouble with just about everything coming off the rails today — everything non-money-related, anyway — is that the people making the most noise, have it exactly bass-ackward who’s trying to grab headlines and who “just wants to be left alone to live their lives as they see fit.” Just about everywhere you look, someone somewhere is claiming to want to be left alone, to just live out their existence peacefully and quietly…and it’s absolutely bullshit. You can’t swing a dead cat around without slapping someone who’s trying to fundamentally re-order and re-organize the protocols under which the rest of us live. To force perfect strangers he or she will never meet, ever, to live under a certain set of new codes. And then hypocritically claiming to want to be left alone to live life their own way, that they don’t really care what everyone else does.

We’re way too tolerant of this. Once it crosses into out-and-out lying, it’s no longer virtuous to be tolerant of it. And I’m sorry, once you’re protesting for your right to wear a tuxedo to the prom when you’re a girl, that’s not about being left alone to live your own life in a manner of your choosing. That’s about being a walking fucking billboard.

The FARK kids, seldom correct but never in doubt, are outraged. Something about constitutional protections. We-ell…back in the day, I didn’t go. Couldn’t get a date. Not hip, with-it, handsome, rich enough…so no prom for Morgie. The cool kids got to go, and hey, that’s life.

Actually, the atheists ought to just love that arrangement. That’s a microcosm of how evolution is supposed to work, isn’t it? The non-social, anti-social, strange weak specimens fail to breed, die off, and strengthen the gene pool by removing themselves from it…right?

Naturally it comes as a bit of a surprise to me that we have a constitutional right to go to a gay atheist prom.

I can’t wait to find out how, when and where Ms. Carr found time to go door-to-door throughout all of Mississippi, yell the word “atheist” at them, and then watch a majority of them tremble in terror. Wonder what kind of majority it was that trembled, just a bare 51% majority, or a huge two-thirds supermajority.

Something tells me someone’s been ignorantly talking out of their own ass about southerners — AGAIN. Could someone get the word out that Lee surrendered at Appomattox and it’s okay to stop shooting?

“Darker Side of Mother Teresa”

Monday, February 1st, 2010

The atheists who purport to speak for all other atheists, absolutely, positively, do not want her on a stamp. It trashes our freedoms or something.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is urging its supporters to boycott the stamp — and also to engage in a letter-writing campaign to spread the word about what it calls the “darker side” of Mother Teresa.
“Mother Teresa is principally known as a religious figure who ran a religious institution. You can’t really separate her being a nun and being a Roman Catholic from everything she did,” Gaylor told

But…but…but Rev. Martin Luther King got a stamp. And Malcom X got a stamp. And Father Flanagan got a stamp. And Fox put up a whole slide show of other religious/controversial persons & events that were stamp-worthy. What about them?

Gaylor said the atheist group opposed Father Flanagan’s stamp but not those for King and Malcolm X, because she said they were known for their civil rights activities, not for their religion.

Martin Luther King “just happened to be a minister,” and “Malcolm X was not principally known for being a religious figure,” she said.

“And he’s not called Father Malcolm X like Mother Teresa. I mean, even her name is a Roman Catholic honorific.”

Accepting their arguments most charitably, one must conclude the urge to protest comes not quite so much from the prospect of establishment of a government-sponsored religion, quite so much as the prospect of diminishing the probability that the typical child might grow up to become an atheist. And that, of course, is a subtly different motivation.

Now how can that be, if the objective is to preserve our freedoms, and not to indoctrinate the next generation into a secularist worldview? Is it really quite so illegitimate to portend that the no-mention-of-God-anywhere crowd, in fact, is the one trying to establish an “official” religion? Is “Atheism Is A Religion Like Bald Is A Hair Color” really a valid argument?

Maybe I’m reading too much into this. I just fail to see how the blockade against Mother Teresa’s face being on a stamp, enhances or preserves our religious freedoms. I can’t help but pick up a whiff of “All you folks doing something wonderful, you’d better not be religious or you can fucking forget about ever being immortalized on a stamp.” It looks like intimidation, it walks like intimidation, it quacks like intimidation…and you know what that means.

Hat tip to Cassy Fiano.

Star Trek IV: Save the Whales

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Back on Christmas Day I wondered openly whether Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was not the most preachy lib-fest guilt-trip movie ever slapped on the big screen.

Well, we just picked up my kid from Nevada…who, as I mentioned before, shares my fascination with cheeseball 80’s dreck. So we watched it again, and I noticed something new: The repeated guilt-slams that occur throughout the last hour or so are all just dessert. The establishment of the plot line is the main course.

A malevolent entity — the “whale probe” — begins carving a destructive swath through our beloved planet, threatening its destruction. The response is to ponder what we did to piss it off. Not a single instant of footage manifests any curiosity from anyone regarding its origin. With V’Ger, our intrepid crew pondered both of these things…why are you so mean, and from whence did you come. I guess between ST:I and ST:IV a twenty-third-century Obama must have been elected. V’Ger should have been so lucky.

Shouldn’t Star Trek V should have been titled “Find Out What Sonofabitch Sent This Thing To Us And Make Them Into A Glass Parking Lot” or something? That might have worked a lot better than deliberately pissing off Christians yet one more time.

That Jackhole Harlan Ellison

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Might as well link to this tempest-in-a-teapot we had last week over at Daphne’s place about Harlan Ellison, brilliant science fiction writer, creator of such fine classics as Demon With a Glass Hand, which I consider to be among the finest Outer Limits episodes ever made.

Commenter Gordon nails it:

Harlan Ellison is an asshole. Just ask him.

Could be. I certainly think those who are defending Mr. Ellison, trying to take issue with the fact that he’s an asshole, therefore asserting he is somehow not an asshole, are short-changing the curmudgeon and handicapping his effort. Yes, effort. This is what is so right about what Gordon’s saying. Ellson is not an accidental asshole. He’s on a mission to be one.

He finds the faith others place in God, to be “ridiculous and annoying.”

As President Obama might say — Let me be clear. I don’t think this makes him an asshole because I happen to believe in God. What I think makes him an asshole, is finding such private matters to be ridiculous and annoying. Yes, you could say the football player is making it a public matter by saying it out loud. But it’s still the relationship the football player has to the Almighty, which remains a private thing. It certainly isn’t being offered up for discussion or debate.

I’m not Jewish. But if someone else finds Jewish people to be ridiculous or annoying, this is not alright with me. I don’t want to be around this guy, I look on him contemptuously, I don’t want him making decisions about anything. Ditto for the Catholic who finds Protestants to be ridiculous/annoying…or vice-versa. We, as a civilized society, to our credit, do not put up with this. It doesn’t matter what religion you have, or what the other guy has.

Well, atheism is a religion. Maybe it isn’t as long as it remains pure agnosticism. But ask an atheist to explain how everything got here, he’ll have an explanation ready to go — and by the time he’s laid it out on the table, what you’ve got there is a religion, no two ways about it.

How come they get a pass on this? They got a nose-flattening coming just as surely as any Jew-hating gentile, Muslim-hating Jew, atheist-hating Christian, Shi’ite-hating Sunni…et cetera.

I’m sorry, there’s “eccentricity,” as in “oh, you lovable whackadoodle, you just keep cranking out those wonderful stories and I don’t care about the other stuff!” And then there is pure bile. This is the latter. Harlan Ellison is an asshole.

Update: Once again, from the quill pen of Gerard Van der Leun as he comments at Daphne’s spot…to my scrapbook…

Another author of mine who was a sciencefiction writer once told me about a convention of SF writers and fans.

At a reception, a group of old SF hands were standing about and watching a younger writer regal[e] a chunk of enthralled fans with this or that bit of boasting and self-aggrandizement. One writer said, “You know, that guy reminds me of a young Harlan.”

Another looked for a moment and said, “You’re right. Let’s kill him now.”

Best Sentence LXVI

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

The sixty-sixth award for the Best Sentence I’ve Heard Or Read Lately (BSIHORL) is hereby presented to John Hawkins, who is ruminating on the Mark Sanford scandal.

What is impressive is not a single sentence, but a passage that consists of three of the best.

Christians fall short of perfection on a regular basis. The Netroots alternative to that seems to be, “You should be completely and utterly without morals and then you’ll never be a hypocrite.” Of course, if you come back and say, “So, you’re admitting that you’re not as good a person as a Christian,” they’ll get offended.

This is an important point. It’s one of the most potent ways that people who don’t care about politics, become liberals, often without realizing what is taking place. Many a soul apathetic to both ideology and religion has muttered those fateful words, “I do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because I believe fairy tales about a Flying Spaghetti Monster looking over my shoulder.” Using this Spaghetti logic they come to believe what they have long wanted to believe: That a denominational identity injures your character.

But it’s really all about not trying. Just plain laziness. And whether they wish to believe it or not, living life just for yourself inclines one, once one has caught oneself performing below par, to make a habit out of it. Rather than striving to do better next time.

That is it in a single word, right there — strive. That is all imperfect beings can do. And that’s not to say Mark Sanford was striving, or that should his marriage somehow work out the kinks he will strive from that point forward. I don’t know the man. All any of the rest of us can do is mind our own garden, and strive.


Sunday, January 11th, 2009

: characterized by harsh, insistent, and discordant sound ; also : commanding attention by a loud or obtrusive quality

Famous atheist Richard Dawkins objects to being called “strident”; that’s supposed to be an unfair stereotype.

And yet he also objected, at first, to the word “probably” inserted into the slogan “There’s Probably No God, Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life,” complaining that it was a bit too soft.

Hmm. I realize he’s “come around” since then, but how else would you characterize that?

In fact, the act of raising a large amount of money to try to make people stop believing in something. Surely, an articulate and intelligent fellow like Dawkins should be able to explain to me what exactly is the point there? I mean, while putting it in terms that aren’t strident. Looks to me, to my untrained, knuckle-dragging, rock-banging-together, mud-hut-living-in God-believing mind, like that’s an exercise in sacrificing material wealth to try to make complete strangers engage in your own belief system. If that isn’t strident then I don’t know what is. It also bears some telltale signs of being a kind of — GASP! — Religion! All the ones that matter, anyway.

And please walk me through the logic — the secular mind is supposed to be obviously logical, but this doesn’t look logical to me, and if it is, it’s anything but obvious. As I pointed out at Rick’s place when guest blogger Big-Tee Tim Chesterton dredged up this gem…if you do believe there’s a God and we’re all going to be judged by Him after shucking the mortal coil, it makes complete sense to sacrifice your material possessions to get the word out to total strangers. Absolute, total, complete sense…not only to sacrifice some of your material goods, but perhaps all of them.

Now doing the same thing if you don’t believe — that’s just nuts. Sorry, but if this is all about equalizing both sides and achieving some kind of symmetry, this is taking it into the realm of lunacy. And I’m not saying that to be judgmental, I mean that really is the case. There’s no way to explain this in a sensible way. I mean, why stop there? Quick, I need to log in and check my bank balance, I’ve got a lot of money to spend on things because there are many things in which I don’t believe. Got to make sure nobody else believes in ’em either! How many days ’til payday?

How do we sum up this special kind of thinking in one or two sentences? I got an idea. Wait for it…wait for it…here it comes…

“I’m not strident. I just don’t believe in some things, and I’ll never rest until I make sure you don’t either.” That just about covers it, right?

Yeah Doctor Dawkins, I have no idea why people think you’re strident. I really don’t know where you picked up that rep. Honestly, I have no idea.


The God Debate

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Twits on Twitter twit it out. Clouthier points to it.

My thoughts:

Belief in nothing is belief in something: Yes, of course it is. This poor fellow who likens it to a non-sports fan being a sports fan, has missed the point. There is stuff. It is here. If you choose not to believe in a deity, you have to explain how all the stuff got here…unless, of course, you don’t. In which case you’re just being incurious, which pretty much renders your beliefs or lack thereof entirely irrelevant.

Founding fathers were (mostly) deist: I doubt it. I doubt it not because I have evidence they were not, but because I hear so much that “most” or “all” of them were, and when it comes time to make a list I hear the same small handful of names recycled over and over again. With lots of passion, and personal ego investment. These are red flags for me, when they arrive without too much hard data. Another thing — this was pre-Darwin, and the term “deist” had a far different meaning from what it has now. That’s a point that doesn’t get mentioned very much at all, and it really should, especially if you buy into the (not articulated outright) idea that all the gentlemen who signed the Declaration of Independence were deists.

“In order for someone to discover they must first be open to discovery.” Beautiful. Says it all. And you’ll never convince me otherwise.

Best Sentence XVIII

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Last month I shamelessly plugged this blog’s pages in a thread over on Pajamas Media, under a point/counterpoint article saying that an abortion was no more destructive to the rights of any other being, than ordering a cheeseburger with fries. My point was that this mindset was applicable in some way to just about every issue we’re arguing about now. There’s always a perspective someone wants to take on things, that starts with a premise that we are not glorious beings put in a glorious environment to fulfill a glorious purpose.

And the mindset slithers around and knots itself up into a messy ball of faux-logic, arriving at a conclusion having to do with “rights.” Well before ‘fessing up to this jaundiced view of our higher existential purpose, or lack thereof. And by the way, “every issue” means pretty much that. Abortion: We aren’t here to do much of anything, and so the mother has a right to terminate her pregnancy. All who dare to assert something else, or even to question this, must be shouted down. God in schools: We’ve got to get Him out of there. Intelligent Design must be pulled out of the science course, and put in the philosophy course, if it is to be put anywhere at all. Minimum wage: Nobody’s work is really that much more important than anybody else’s, so the services least in economic demand must be forced up to a certain level. Gun rights: You do not have a right or responsibility to protect your own family, that’s what 911 is for, and so you must surrender your guns, or at least register them so they can be taken away later. Torture: If the CIA is indeed protecting us from anyone, and this must be doubted everlastingly without any resolution one way or t’other, they must not resort to torture in what they do. No matter what. Death penalty: We must not do it, end of story. As for the guy who killed someone and the specific act that ended up putting him on that gurney, well, that’ll happen from time to time; but the important thing is the state must not kill to show that killing is wrong, even though it is.

All these people start from the axiom that no Higher Power put us here to accomplish anything more important than ourselves. Which must result in, in fact I would argue is a consequence of, the idea that life has but one purpose, and that is to be happy. They start out from that philosophical landmark, and trudge along a well-worn path to some magical valley filled to the brim with all these must‘s. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. They strive for a life with fewer rules in it — they end up just like Gulliver tethered down to the sandy beach by all those Lilliputians. The conundrum of self-contradiction is obvious.

I’ve expressed this over and over again, to the point where I’m like a broken record. I’ve just not been able to find a way to do it in a single sentence.

But someone named “James” did. On September 26 at 8:52 PM. Using the rhetorical question, thereby pulling down the latest Best Sentence I’ve Heard Or Read Lately (BSIHORL) award.

As an atheist who lives an evidence- and reason-based life, would you be kind enough to give me the scientific proof for the existence of human rights?

Ding ding ding. Certificate, trophy, medallion…coupon for dinner-for-two at Black Angus…whatever. You covered everything, before you reached the first dot. WELL done.

Meanwhile, let us inspect the monotheists like me who believe in a “sky fairy” toiling away with our silly taboos. Somehow, we seem to be the only ones left with the ability to truly intellectually open a “must” to question and scrutiny. And this is a very surprising thing. To doubt the existence of God or any other deity, is supposed to be a precursor of reasoned thinking. In fact, it is supposed to be a result of that. It’s supposed to lead to a “free” life, with fewer rules in it. How can it not? Here’s this entity constructed for the purpose of telling people what to do, with omnipotent authority, and you just got rid of it. And you’d think that’s exactly the way it works.

Here’s the rub, though. In real life, it’s completely opposite from that. Atheists cannot question the must, anymore than you can bend your elbow backward, touching your middle finger to the tip of your shoulder blade. The parts just don’t bend that way. Us sky-fairy-believers have our set of “musts”…all the atheists can do, is dismiss those outright, and maybe go to some length to be seen dismissing, so they can chalk up some kind of atheist-brownie-points. As for the atheists’ own “musts” — and they do seem to have a whole wheelbarrow full of them, compared to us — those pretty much just stand, self-evident. There’s no ensuing debate about them. The atheist will not, and cannot, participate in an exploration of where they lead…or from where they came. They simply are. It is an astoundingly anti-intellectual mental state to assume, for one that is supposed to be derived purely of reason and fact. Think, again, about Gulliver staked down on the beach.

If I choose not to believe in the atheist’s “must,” it’s just further evidence that I’m intellectually underpowered. These are really genuinely oppressive “musts” because they test the intellect, rather than the other way around. Gulliver can’t squirm, Gulliver can’t wriggle.

This is the paradox. We have the instinct to live free lives. But we can only do this by being religious. Which means, ultimately, that we have been tasked to achieve something glorious, of such a great magnitude that we can’t comprehend what it is, by a consciousness with greater authority and importance than what we possess ourselves.

To repudiate that, is to repudiate freedom.

Creationist Scandals

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

Panda’s Thumb has an interesting theory for which support has been gleaned from the Larry Craig mess: that scandals disproportionately afflict creationists. Into the supporting data sets waltzes Sen. Craig, who in 1989

…co-sponsored a constitutional amendment, the “Community Life Amendment,” to authorize teaching “the creation of the earth as accepted in Judeo-Christian tradition.”

I think Panda’s Thumb’s theory might have been in better shape if Sen. Craig’s name had been left unmentioned. It’s not too extravagant to suppose the Senator is innocent of the charges. True, he did plead guilty to a lesser charge, and there are other problems with the supposition — who the hell picks up toilet paper on the floor of bathroom stalls, how can you take it so calmly when a cop calls you a liar, and so forth — but it’s a little strange that so much legal hot water can be churned up out of so little evidence. This is bothersome to quite a few folks, some of whom hate Sen. Craig’s guts and think he’s guilty as hell. A prostitution sting can’t work this way. A lot of other things can’t work this way. A cop can’t bust you for fidgeting, making gestures, gesturing in manners anecdotally associated with…ripping off a stereo system out of a jeep. Pressing chewing gum against a bus seat. Jaywalking. Tearing the tag off a mattress.

And then there’s the thing loyal gentlemen Craig-haters club members refuse to discuss: Do you want to take a crap in a stall next to a cop? A cop who can’t leave his own crapper until he busts someone? Are you in control of where your feet are going and how they’re moving? Really?

So to include Sen. Craig, strikes me as a little bit of a grasping-at-straws exercise. If we’re counting scandals, and measuring them on any sort of a scientific basis, the Craig thing hardly emerges as a creme de la creme specimen, does it? No, if the Craig mess is statistically representative of any phenomenon, it is a phenomenon of people talking about things, and officials being forced to resign over those things — but not of those things actually being done.

And in this respect, Panda is quite correct. Just not in the way Panda thinks.

At this point, we have to confess to an ugly truth about religion. It is more than a belief in one or several deities. It always has been much more than that. It is a system which empowers the few to dictate behavior to many, and avoid any intra-societal debate about whether such behavior would be beneficial or not, or whether there might be alternatives. This is the stigma the secularists continue to slap on religion, and they are quite correct about this. Religion is an ancient method of keeping the riff-raff in line. This is what has kept it around for so long, at least throughout the middle ages. It’s undeniable.

Saying so doesn’t make you a godless heathen. You can admit this truism and still have a healthy belief in and respect for God. This confession has to do with the affairs of men, which is an enclave altogether separate from the dominion of God.

The thing is, though, religion works best when people struggle away in substandard lifestyles. Actually, when people have no lifestyles. This is easy to substantiate. Here we are in 2007, we have an unprecedented surge of atheism…oh, look how popular it is! Can’t swing a dead cat around without hitting an atheist, haughtily lecturing at you that the cat evolved from a ladybug, now there is no cat, and you’re such a drooling idiot if you dare to question his wisdom. Atheist book after atheist book after atheist book hits the best-seller list — there are even “A for Atheism” tee shirts. It’s a big business, one that looks more and more, ironically enough, like evangelism.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s going on here. People, we see fairly easily once we really start to pay attention to them and how they do things, aren’t so ready, willing and able to soar above the level of an easily-led zombie as they prefer to believe they are. They like someone else telling them what to do. They might not like the idea of it, and sometimes they’re less welcoming of it than other times. But over the long haul, they certainly can’t be counted on to nurse a viscerally-independent rebellious acrimony toward arbitrary and excessive authority.

Over the long haul, they’ll always make a place for it. For the “natural-born leader” who steps in and starts slinging around commandments…benevolent commandments, malicious ones, duplicitous ones, or just-plain poorly-thought-out ones.

And you can take it to the bank that someone will always be willing to step up and do exactly that. Blame God or blame Darwin — somehow, we have been hard-wired to live in tribes. Tribes with hierarchical command structures. Leaders…followers…neither class with a monopoly on survival-related genetic attributes, since after hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, both classes are still here. Goin’ STRONG. No end in sight. Anyone who seeks to assert leading-and-following is learned behavior, only has to hang around groups of people while they do the leading-and-following for awhile. Watch the group put someone in charge. See how much sense it makes. Repeat the experiment a few times…the “learned behavior” theory will be quietly withdrawn in sheepish disgrace. It isn’t learned behavior. It’s genetic coding.

The methodology of communication between these two classes, the “network topology,” if you will, by which the leaders tell the followers what to do — this is the only thing that changes. It changes with technology. In an agricultural society, religion just seems like a natural fit. Try living as a farmer for a year without praying. Try doing it when you have fifteen kids, fifteen kids you need in order to get enough help with the spring planting or the fall harvest. Try it when, at best, you might be able to hope for ten of those fifteen to live long enough to have kids of their own, and only five of the fifteen to live to bury you.

Just try not praying then.

Once you realize that, you realize how cowardly atheism is. There is the factual cowardice of it; it is “right,” because and only because God is an entity whose existence cannot be proven. This means atheism cannot be debunked, and since it cannot be debunked it insists on being awarded the status of “proven,” when all it has achieved is non-debunkery, and a logical assurance of everlasting non-debunkery. No further proof than that. “I must be right, for you cannot say that I am wrong,” is what it tells us.

But there is also the fair-weather cowardice. Atheism pops up to accept accolades and embraces from our society, when it can. Once the starvation and pestilence and Great Depressions and Nazis and under-electrified rural areas and racial oppression have been relegated to the dustbin of history, with the lid of the dustbin riveted and welded in place — up pops atheism! We can afford to be atheists now, although our grandparents could not have. Nevermind that, we can be atheists now, so let’s have at it.

In the end, Panda’s Thumb’s error is to associate the word “scandal” with some kind of honest and even-handed delivery of hard fact. This is why I think so little of Panda’s example, since the Craig Scandal is based on postulation and not fact.

The Thumb has accidentally proven something problematic to the theory it intends to promote; it has stuck a rake handle into it’s own bicycle spokes. Scandals, as we know them today, are not about guilt. They are about control. They are about telling the “little people” what to think and what to do…exactly the task religion was achieving for the powerful, hundreds of years ago.

This is a process that has been repeated countless times in human history, each time a new sovereign has displaced an old one through a revolution. The difference now is that the new emperor, and the former one, are harder to identify. Neither one wore a crown, neither one was an individual, but rather they were & are aggregates of individuals. But now, as in revolutions past, our new ruler has to sweep away the remnants of government wielded by the old one. This is an essential last-phase of any successful revolution — the parliament and the councils and the census-taking establishments of the displaced king, must be broken down, then rooted out, then swept away, and the residue sterilized.

That’s what the new ruler is doing now, and that’s what atheism is all about. Godless people are much easier to control. They don’t think they were put here by a Higher Power for any glorious purpose…of necessity, they must think the whole point to their existence is to eat and poop and inhale and exhale, plus whatever ancillary purpose some employer somewhere might see fit for them to do. An employer which, of further necessity, they must think of as some kind of fool, or a big meanie, or both.

This is why atheists don’t often have too many nice things to say about other people, unless those other people are also atheists. I can pretty much promise you if an atheist happens to trip across this post, he or she will prove this point nicely. Better than even odds the adjective “stupid” will be embedded somewhere in the response, and will compliment yours truly.

Anyway, that’s what scandals are now. Pretty much. They are drummed up artificially, tossed out to us like T-bone steaks to hungry tigers, at times deemed convenient to interested parties. This is not to say everyone afflicted with scandal is innocent. But we might as well admit that scandals are being used as devices, since they doubtlessly are. The scandal is a new Layer 2 network topology — it displaces religion exactly the same way Ethernet displaced Token-Ring. It is a new mechanism to keep the proles and plebes in line, now that the technology is available to sustain a communication medium that relies on rhythm, and there is a pressing need for such a medium that does what the old one did, while eschewing any notion of a deity. Demand…supply.

So I think Panda’s Thumb is right: Scandals disproportionately afflict those failing to demonstrate an inimicable attitude toward religion, failing to embrace secularism. Scandals will continue to be pointed in that direction, toward those targets. The theory is correct, just not for the reasons thought.

Thing I Know #85. As the standard of living improves, people slowly lose their need for a Supreme Being, while their need for a spiritual leader remains.

Thing I Know #175. Atheists are supposed to value their independence, and be determined to live out their lives to appeal to no one, and at the pleasure of no one. But when they’re around other atheists they don’t act like this.

Hitchens’ Challenge

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Michael Gerson takes note of our heavily-publicized unholy triumvirate, which has been selling books like hotcakes lately (link requires registration):

British author G.K. Chesterton argued that every act of blasphemy is a kind of tribute to God, because it is based on belief. “If anyone doubts this,” he wrote, “let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor.”

By the evidence of the New York Times bestseller list, God has recently been bathed in such tributes. An irreverent trinity — Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins — has sold a lot of books accusing theism of fostering hatred, repressing sexuality and mutilating children (Hitchens doesn’t approve of male circumcision). Every miracle is a fraud. Every mystic is a madman. And this atheism is presented as a war of liberation against centuries of spiritual tyranny.

Funny thing about atheists. Having a blog that nobody actually reads, I’m in a position to know certain things because it can be a highly educational experience. What I’ve learned, is this: Atheists are brittle. They make the most irrational and neurotic man-bashing feminist look like a sturdy, flexible oak tree by comparison. TRUST me. I can sit here and type in some nonsense to the effect of “there’s no way childbirth can possibly hurt as much as a kick in the nuts,” and I’ll never hear a peep about it. Say that out loud on a crowded city bus, next to a chubby goth chick with eyebrow piercings and a whale tail…you’ll probably hear a “peep.”

But if I type in “the trouble with those atheists, is they don’t know the difference between right and wrong” — my mailbox is full within a day or two.

See, it isn’t just that atheists must always get the last word, even on some blog nobody ever reads…although that is true. No, the situation is that atheists are “on patrol.” They look for stuff like this. At least that’s been my experience. Let it never be said that you need God to construct a priesthood, for they surely have one, and the priesthood has commanded them to jump on this stuff. To protest, night and day, that atheists have just as much a moral code as anybody else. They do! They do! They do!

They’ve sailed straight past the Shakespearean buoy at which too much has been protested. They’re past that point…and gaining speed.

Case in point, Hitchens waited only hours to — yeah, you got it. Make sure he got in the last word about morality. Well, I can be Johnny-on-the-spot picking things up, too. So quote I shall. And, since he’s requesting me to do so, I’ll also reply.

It’s uncommonly generous of Michael Gerson to refer to me as “intellectually courageous and unfailingly kind”…However, it is his own supposedly kindly religion that prevents him from seeing how insulting is the latent suggestion of his position: the appalling insinuation that I would not know right from wrong if I was not supernaturally guided by a celestial dictatorship, which could read and condemn my thoughts and which could also consign me to eternal worshipful bliss (a somewhat hellish idea) or to an actual hell.
Here is my challenge. Let Gerson name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever. And here is my second challenge. Can any reader of this column think of a wicked statement made, or an evil action performed, precisely because of religious faith? The second question is easy to answer, is it not? The first — I have been asking it for some time — awaits a convincing reply.

Hitch, I’ll field that one. But I’m pretty far from an authority on history, philosophy, theology or anthropology. I know my answer satisfies your criteria, so there must have been some sleight-of-hand going on here if your challenge has really survived “some time” without being met. The answer is pretty obvious.

A believer can define and promulgate a moral code without imposing his personal system of beliefs on his peers. Atheists are incapable of doing this, and it is impossible to construct a free society without doing this.

Let’s take an example, Hitch. You and I live in a wild frontier, in which there is no society, free or otherwise. There are no laws. We come across a really big man kicking the crap out of an old lady who is rolling around helplessly on the ground. You and I agree on a great deal in the Iraq issue, and so we probably agree it is wrong for the man to kick the old lady. We don’t need laws to tell us this is wrong, it simply is; you know it, and I know it. It is so wrong that, having an opportunity to stop it, should we fail to do so, we’ll be accessories to the crime. The crime that isn’t actually a crime, since the land is lawless.

But my point isn’t that there are merits to kicking little old ladies. My point is — this wrongness, this “ought not be done”-ness, is a matter of opinion. You and I share the opinion, true. But it’s still opinion. In fact, searching for someone who would contest it, we probably need look no further than the guy doing the kicking. We are going to stop him — the question is, by what authority do we do this?

As a believer, I can answer this. I take it as simply an article of faith, that we all were put here by someone or something more important than ourselves. I can’t prove it; I’ve simply made a personal decision that this is the case, and I only have so much to say to someone who wishes to assert the opposite. Contrary to popular belief, that’s a valid tactic of limited debate. It’s right in our Declaration of Independence, in a passage I’m positive has been paraded under your skeptical eyes many times before: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” [emphasis mine] Holding truths to be self-evident. That’s quite alright, you know…as long as there are no empirically-observed facts directly contradicting these truths you hold to be self-evident.

Atheists like yourself do that all the time. It’s the very essence of atheism. “Can’t prove there’s a God, can’t prove there isn’t one, so it’s up to my personal preferences, and my personal preference is that there is none.” You could be right, no proof existing to the contrary…so you simply decide that you are.

So I do that. I say, we were put here…by a Higher Power who watches over us, expecting us to do things that keep the whole experiment from collapsing into a jumbled heap of silliness and futility. You say — we weren’t put here, which must mean we grew here. Nobody watching us. All our zoological features, we acquired through a prolonged process of natural selection and survival of the fittest.

The problem that comes up, is this: The guy kicking the old woman, is more “fit” than the old woman. In joining me as I stop him from kicking her, you are therefore interfering with an atrocity that, from your perspective, is not an atrocity at all. Quite to the contrary: It is the very building block of the world and the creatures in it — as you see it. It is far more innocent than a lioness chasing down a gazelle, and stripping the flesh from his ribs while he’s still alive. At least, that’s my idea. It could be argued that I’m wrong…the lioness is feeding her cubs, the brute kicking the woman is in it — well, just for kicks.

And so it is “wrong”…

…but in the mind of whom? This stuff is all negotiable. Who gets the deciding vote?

Well, there’s just no getting around this point. You have manufactured a moral absolute where one previously did not exist. Your explanation for how we got here, has to be painstakingly erected without any regard for any moral code at all other than “might makes right” — a dictum you are about to violate, by helping me to thwart the will of the mighty.

You may say “there was no law that said this was wrong a minute ago, but Morgan Freeberg and I are about to make one because there are two of us and one of him.” You would be using democracy, then, to declare us correct and derive the moral authority needed to stop the brute from kicking the old woman. Fair enough. But that’s still imposing our ethics on someone else who doesn’t subscribe to them. We’re just using votes instead of force. The goal is the same.

At this point, you’re out of options. You can walk on without interfering; you can impose your beliefs through violence; you can impose them through a ballot box. There is no fourth option.

But I can do something you can’t. I can say — in the classic spirit of 1776 — I hold the truth to be self-evident that we are all endowed by our Creator with a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Because if I’m the Creator, logically, it would be awfully silly of me to create living things like these and not so endow them, right? That would be…constructing an ant farm. An ant farm with carnivorous ants.

I’m holding the truth to be self-evident that we were put here, and we weren’t put here to just run around and bump into each other. There is a certain logic to this. Homo Sapiens is a relatively young species, and there have been other things that can run around and bump into each other, long before we got here. Salmon being put here to feed bears, I can see; it’s ridiculous to think little old ladies were put here so ruffians can knock them down and kick them.

So, in harmony with the moral sensibilities of my “sky fairy” as you atheists sometimes like to call Him — His system of values, which He logically must have, and not yours or mine — we stop the ruffian. We save the little old lady. We will probably go pretty far in this. We will probably take the extraordinary step of saying “If we are all meant to be free, this guy must be the exception, since while he has freedom, others do not.” And we deprive him of what we contend the Creator intended for the species as a whole. But unlike you, once that’s done, I can cease and desist from imposing my own personal system of beliefs in other situations…since, unlike you, I never got started in that.

The following day, for example, I meet the guy who invented “Shopper in Training” grocery carts. I let him live. If I were in the habit of carrying out my personal sense of ethics wherever I could, this would not be the case.

I trust this answers your challenge. A believer can stand up for what is ethical, according to a system of beliefs that was not cooked up by him personally. I said you can’t construct a free society without this. The operative word is “free.” You can construct societies all day and night, allowing man & man alone to run around declaring this thing to be ethical, and that thing to be not. But the question you run into, is — which man?

And so, as a consequence of man intruding into a domain that is not his, those societies never end up free. Even if they have something to do with democracy. Because then, as questions arise that are much more complicated than “is it alright to kick old women in the gut,” what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” ends up being defined according to who stands to profit & who stands to suffer, according to tomorrow’s definition of right and wrong.

Freedom ends up in a healthier state if we just assume we were put here, and we’re supposed to be better than a pack of wild dogs. It’s an unprovable axiom. But we end up being better people, and freer people, if we just assume it to be true.

And that’s why the founders of my nation, they day they extracted themselves from yours, made it their first order of business to assume exactly that.

You’re welcome.

Thing I Know #174. Being an atheist; maintaining a distinction between right and wrong; respecting the viewpoints of others. You may have two of those. Max.

On Atheism

Friday, May 25th, 2007

I’m not exactly brimming with skill when it comes to figuring out what a bunch of people are thinking. I’m usually among the last to do that within any given setting, and when I arrive at a conclusion about this I’m very often wrong. But there is a great deal of hard evidence around us, it seems to me, that atheism is popular lately. Hugely popular. Either that, or our atheists are getting much louder about their atheism. One way or t’other, the atheistic noise is hitting a crescendo.

Well, that’s quite alright with me. I’ve got a blog, which has my opinions about things written in it, and I’m certainly not about to upbraid someone else for coming to a conclusion about something and then voicing that conclusion. It’s exactly what I do. Should there somehow be an urgent need to condemn this by itself, I’ll take one step backward with everybody else, and let someone else volunteer to do the condemning. I’m unfit.

Having said that, though, I can’t help noticing something. The atheists I have seen lately, don’t behave the way I do. I may believe in God, but there are other things in which I don’t believe. Some of which I don’t discuss often at all.

Let’s come up with an example…the lottery. The lottery, to me, is the very embodiment of issues that are 1) decided by individuals according to their personal values, and 2) relatively insignificant, insofar as the necessity they present for winning converts. In other words, if I were to recognize a compelling need to get as many people as possible to look at the lottery the way I look at the lottery — why, I would have to get cracking. Goodness gracious. What a lot of work I’d have ahead of me. Everyone I know, I daresay, plays that damned lottery.

And I do have my little monologues to deliver on such a thing. There’s not much point to them, though, because the judgment to be made from their content, is limited to things I shall or shall not do by myself. So…I have a blog with a zillion posts in it about this-or-that, and my beliefs about the lottery don’t end up anywhere in it. Not very often, anyway.

Other people want to do something different from what I would do, because they get fun out of it. I respect that. Others really and truly think this might be the one…and I don’t see much point in trying to talk sense into them. When the office collects for the pool on Fridays, I decline politely, and quietly. Pressed for a reason, occasionally I will make up something silly about a made-up religious denomination frowning on lotteries. Anything to be left-alone on the matter. The monologues stay under wraps, until such time as someone indicates they want to hear them. And then after I recite them, the usual outcome is I’m heckled in some good-natured roasting horseshoe arrangement.

Think of Reservoir Dogs: Mister Pink doesn’t believe in tipping. It’s like that. Except I don’t talk as loud about lotteries as Steve Buscemi does about tipping.

This is not how our atheists talk about God, I notice.

Simply put, they don’t treat it as a personal decision. They treat it as a community policy decision. I mean, the loudest ones treat it that way. Consider the case of Intelligent Design from two summers ago, when President Bush went on record to say both sides should be taught in school. Both sides, meaning…evolution, and the hated Intelligent Design.

This touched off a firestorm.

Why? I dunno.

I don’t believe in the lottery, but if someone else does, fine. If they wanna teach their little sweetums’ that no weekend is complete without the purchase of one or several lottery tickets, that’s just great. Teach them in the public schools…I’m down with that, too. It wouldn’t be in the curriculum I’d put together. But hey. Takes all kinds.

See, I just don’t like to play it. I don’t think it works out in the long term. I think it’s entertainment…people should be willing to admit that’s what it is. That is all it is.

Now if I’m right about that…and the little crumb-crunchers have been taught how to think — not what to think, but how to think — eventually, they’ll come ’round to my way of thinking. If I’m wrong, well, I’m still just on the heavy side of forty. There’s still time, maybe I’ll come ’round to theirs.

But I don’t care if, in their elementary-school years, the little curtain-climbers are given a good intellectual shove off in my direction. It doesn’t matter to me one little bit.

Our atheists, laying their naturally-selected eyeballs upon an instance they might, by some stretch, be able to call “Creationism,” see a threat. Oh horrors, the next generation might not believe as we do. They act like this is some form of genocide. Simply to allow both sides.

And then they uphold themselves as the guardians of logic, while inflicting incendiary broadside attacks upon that logic. Case in point is Jerry Coyne’s essay from that tumultuous time, The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name. The point to this is that Intelligent Design is simply Creationism masquerading under a different label. And as Intelligent Design went on trial subsequently, there was ironclad evidence that this is indeed the case. Someone tried to get Creationism into the classrooms, they were struck down, and they tried again by turning Creationism into Intelligent Design.

Mmmkay. So the material was rejected because it was too Judeo-Christian, so someone made it less denominationally-flavorful and gave ‘er another go. Seems sensible to me. But Coyne’s argument is essentially that these insidious forces should be silenced forever because their intent remains the same.

Okay. But with a little bit of innocent scope creep, Coyne meanders from his mainstream argument of pure paranoia, down a bunny-trail of reason and logic and relatively solid common sense. And in crafting the argument about why we should all be so enlightened as to not hear any of this, he presents a few tidbits I personally find fascinating:

Consider the eye. Creationists have long maintained that it could not have resulted from natural selection, citing a sentence from On the Origin of Species: “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” But in the next passage, invariably omitted by creationists, Darwin ingeniously answers his own objection:

Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.

Thus our eyes did not suddenly appear as full-fledged camera eyes, but evolved from simpler eyes, having fewer components, in ancestral species. Darwin brilliantly addressed this argument by surveying existing species to see if one could find functional but less complex eyes that not only were useful, but also could be strung together into a hypothetical sequence showing how a camera eye might evolve. If this could be done – and it can – then the argument for irreducible complexity vanishes, for the eyes of existing species are obviously useful, and each step in the hypothetical sequence could thus evolve by natural selection.

See, we’ve lost track of what the argument is about, and both sides are much better off for it. It turns out — questions about how we got here, and what the evidence has to say about how we got here and how we didn’t, are all fascinating, and endlessly complicated and involved. I think Coyne has done everybody a wonderful service by inspecting, at least at a cursory level, something about which so many other authorities would just as soon keep their silence.

Well, I’d rather know about it. And if the argument is about whether the childrunz ought to be taught all this stuff or not, I’m sold. They’ll learn not only about eyeballs and nerves, they’ll learn about people. I don’t see the downside. I know Coyne wants me to see one. But he’s made a compelling, bulletproof case that President Bush was right. If the proposal were not on the table for both sides to be taught, I wouldn’t have learned this fascinating stuff.

One thing though. “If this could be done – and it can – then the argument for irreducible complexity vanishes…” This is a mishandling of logic, and it’s kind of disturbing that a University of Chicago professor would indulge in it. Although I suppose we all are human and we all have our prejudices.

Prof. Coyne, here, is transgressing against Blogger friend Phil’s Thing I Know #6: “The mere fact that plausible argument can be made does not mean that its conclusion is valid.” Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say, if Intelligent Design were an ineluctable conclusion prior to the investigation of these variations-of-eyeballs, then after such investigations, it no longer is.

That would be a clumsy wording. But it would be accurate. Prof. Coyne will have none of it, though. In his world, the argument has vanished. Should an argument be friendly to his side of things, once such an argument is shown to be plausible, this is as good as proof.

It’s simply not a healthy way to noodle things out. And in Ann Coulter’s book from a year ago, Godless, this is the chink in the Darwin armor that she exploits mercilessly throughout the final third of it.

But if a lot of people want to run around, coloring outside the lines of Phil’s Thing I Know #6, I think we can survive that. To rigidly pursue the finer rules of logic to the extent you can learn about why we’re here and how the world works, that is a completely different thing from figuring out how to put your pants on one leg at a time. Scientists should follow science. Non-scientists can do what they want.

But the other trend is mighty disturbing. People who do not believe in God…lately…have begun to apply intelligence tests to strangers. Pass-fail intelligence tests. You are a blithering idiot if you believe in the “Sky Fairies.” And if you’re a good, righteous, straight and true atheists — one must restrain onesself from tossing in “God-fearing” — then maybe you have something working between your ears.

It is a breathtakingly simple illustration of circular reasoning, with a little bit of third-grade playground name-calling thrown in. There can be no God, because everyone who believes in Him is a stupid chucklehead. And I know they are stupid chuckleheads, because they believe in God.

Based on what I’ve seen, even that summation goes beyond the “logic” atheists have been using to arrive at their atheism. I have to confess, I nurse strong doubts about logic having anything to do with it.

If I were pressed to comment on a cause for this widespread atheism, I blame video games.

I think the atheists were once children, and their childhoods were filled with Sundays. It was time to go to church, they had to put down the controller and go to church, and they just didn’t wanna. Conflict arose. And they became atheists.

That’s as complicated as it gets. I can’t prove it. But I’m convinced.

If, when video games were starting to hit their stride in the early nineties…back then, you were about thirteen years old — you are twenty-seven or twenty-eight now. This is the face of the twenty-first century atheist. He’s a grown-up child who didn’t want to hit “save” and stop playing Super Mario 64 long enough to go to church for an hour or two. And this has molded and shaped his perception of whether there is a God or not. Eyeballs and finch beaks have nothing to do with it. Coyne, preaching to his choir, might have saved himself the trouble and avoided all that hard science; they don’t care.

They want what they want when they want it. They like beer, Cheese-Whiz straight outta the can, Gears Of War, and as much sex as they can get.

Simply put, God hasn’t seen fit to show what He can bring to the table in bringing them all that stuff.

Which is perfectly okay by me. I just wish our video-game atheists would abstain from believing in God — quietly — just as I abstain from buying lottery tickets. Because if I understand the overall argument correctly…it has something to do with everyone living their lives as they see fit, without interference from others. Right?

Why Atheists Feel Abused

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

Poor little atheists. Rare is the atheist I met who didn’t have that “I’m so put-upon” attitude, and maybe this explains it. Mama calling their “rights” to their Christmas presents into question.

For the record, I’m voting “fake.”