Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thou Shalt Not Mock My God! (WTF?)

(This is in reference to a letter to the editor – Sarnia Observer, November 26, 2008)

Mr. Thompson,

Let me first say that I typically look to the cartoons for a giggle. I appreciate you sending in your letter to the editor to complement the cartoon with further opportunities to giggle.

You state “I am asking why the editor thinks that mockery of faith in God is ever appropriate. The best answer I have come up with is that the editor is afraid of this woman.” And that is truly worth laughing about.

If your god is all capable, all knowing and can do what you claim she has done, wouldn’t someone be more afraid of her than of the woman the “editor is afraid” of?

Let’s get serious. It’s time for us to give up our belief in bronze-age myths. Your god almost certainly does not exist and, as with any imaginary friends, we’re not hurting her feelings. Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

As PZ Myers once (or many times) said, Religion Ought to be Like Masturbation – It feels good and lots of people do it yet we all agree that public exhibitions are inappropriate. (He also adds that enthusiasm for the practice is not a qualification for high office!)

Right wingers/wingnuts will have you remember the “sanctity of life” when it comes to abortion but, generally, ask you to ignore it when it comes to capital punishment. They will also, claiming the moral high ground, forget that their god killed millions, their belief in god has killed millions more and their hopeless god has let millions of others die.

Either god is responsible for disease or he didn’t create us. Either god is responsible for natural disasters or he is incompetent. You can’t have it both ways.

Now Joseph, get back to stoning your children, selling your daughter to prostitution, beating your slaves (but not so severely that they die) and be a man of god like Elijah – burn 102 men to death!

While you pray for me, I’ll think for the both of us.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


ParaCon 2009 is Coming to Sarnia

Yes, ParaCon 2009 is coming to the big city of Sarnia. Kind of.

As “Para” means “near” or “beside”, ParaCon isn’t really coming to Sarnia – it is coming to a place “near” Sarnia – Point Edward. The usage of “para” in “ParaCon” is accurate in that sense. It isn’t accurate in the direct use of the combined words. It isn’t “near” a Con (scam), it is, itself a Con (scam). Maybe “FullCon 2009” would be more appropriate.

I’m a bit excited and it isn’t because I plan on attending the convention (which is a paranormal convention) but because I fear for the harm that belief in the paranormal can cause.

You can count on more information on FullCon2009 and psychic scams in future blogs. Just wanted to give everyone a "heads up".

From the mouth of Jay Leno - "How come you never see a headline like 'Psychic Wins Lottery'?"

If that isn't amusing enough - when Psychic Anthony Carr’s daughter went missing, Anthony was quoted in media accounts as saying he didn’t know where she was. Carr bills himself as the “world’s most documented psychic” and is often called “Canada’s leading seer”. (Police later found the child unharmed.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Merry Pagan Holiday (or Christmas, whichever you prefer) :)

Samantha Bee, on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, said “But really, let’s face it: all other days bow down to the 25th, Christmas. It’s the only religious holiday that’s also a federal holiday. That way, Christians can go to their services, and everyone else can sit at home and reflect on the true meaning of separation of church and state.”

I don’t know where I stand in the “Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas” debate. I can understand the frustration that some people have with the “pushing” of a “Christian holiday” on all of us but I am wildly (not mildly) amused at the same time.

What Is So Funny?

Come on, you’re on a blog that constantly talks about religion – it’s funny because Christians think it is their opportunity to take back their holiday – and it isn’t even THEIR holiday. Every time they say it (with the intention of letting people know that this is a Christian time of year.. or that they are true Christians celebrating a Christian holiday), they are admitting they are sheep. They talk about tradition and being the true religion yet they are celebrating the holiday of heathens!

I’m fine with the use of “Merry Christmas” because I see the hilarity in it. I’m not fine with people assuming that because “Christmas” is a federal holiday that a country is a “Christian Nation”. If a holiday determines the orientation of a country, we live in a Sun God Worshipping nation!

Call it what you want, December 25 is NOT the birth of Jesus (even if he happened to exist) and any celebration is adopted from ancient pagan festivals (festivals/celebrations that existed before the Abrahamic god created the earth! Now that is magic!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Small Town Part of Big Pond

Woohoo! I have been fortunate enough to be part of a group of bloggers who share a common belief in.. ummmm.. well, we don't necessarily share a common belief in anything.

I don't believe in sky fairies but there are some bloggers in this group that don't believe in sky unicorns either (I'm still skeptical about sky unicorns - just because they don't exist on earth - even though it says they do in the bible - they may still exist in the sky! Okay, now that I've thought about it, no sky unicorns either).

Small Town Skepticism has been added to The Atheist Blogroll (take a look in my sidebar!). The Atheist Blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world.

What that means is that if you've thrown out the bathwater and found that there was no baby (born of a non-consenting virgin who wasn't actually a virgin and who probably didn't give birth to a real baby and probably didn't even exist herself) and (this is the big condition) happen to be a blogger, you, too, can join the Atheist blogroll!

Special thanks to Mojoey at Deep Thoughts - he's the guy to contact for more information.

I'm still working on getting added to the following blogrolls:

AZeus Blogroll

ATeapot Blogroll

AUnicorn Blogroll

AFairy Blogroll

AAphrodite Blogroll

ANike Blogroll

AEris Blogroll

AIris Blogroll

ALeto Blogroll

AStyx Blogroll

AThemis Blogroll

And a few thousand others! I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Not Your God

Any time I reference an absurdity related to a god, I’m not talking about your god. That is disrespectful and wrong – I would do nothing of the sort.

That is as equally true as when Sam Harris doesn’t talk about your god. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers, Dan Barker, Penn Jillette, Daniel Dennett and others NEVER talk about your god. Luckily your god is fine with me and with all of them.

We know it is not your god that we are referring to because we know you don’t believe that a man lived in a giant fish for three days. You definitely don’t believe the earth is less than ten thousand years old and, just as assuredly, you don’t believe in a talking snake, the existence of unicorns, fiery serpents or in insects with 4 legs.

Your god would not claim to be all knowing and then, in his perfect book, say the earth is flat; it has 4 corners and is circled by the sun. Your god, with ultimate knowledge, would never state that the value of pi is simply 3. Never!

We aren’t talking about your god when we talk about a god that can do anything but never has or about an intelligent designer that has created some pretty silly things. It definitely isn’t your god we talk about when we talk about a shoddy moral code being the best he could come up with. When your god put stuff in stone, it was only the wisest and most important things. Your god condemns killing, slavery, polygamy and he condemns child abuse.

It is not your god we talk about because the story about your god is unique – the virgin birth, the death and the resurrection after 3 days. Your holy book was written by eyewitnesses with no contradictions and nothing left out. Your book has overwhelming support from other historical records and matches up perfectly with what happened when your god sent his only son. As we learn more about the universe, the more we realize that your book is accurate.

Your god is not the one that kills millions of people in tsunamis – your god is the one that saves the single surviving child. Your god isn’t the one that lets millions of people die because of drought – he is the one that brings the only rainfall those areas see in months. Your god doesn’t give people cancer or diseases but is the one that miraculously cures the odd person who has been afflicted.

You must be really proud that you were brought up in a specific location by parents who happened to suggest (your god would not rely on indoctrination) the right god to believe in. I’m willing to bet that god was looking out for you! Could you imagine having been born in a different location and brought up in the wrong religion and worshipping the wrong god?

There are actually people out there who believe in people walking on water, talking serpents, world-wide floods that killed everything but a couple (or 7) of each animal who had a map to a particular guy’s house. Some people even believe that a man lived in a fish for three days or that the world was created in six days with light before there were light emitting objects and plants before there was even sunlight.

You must be glad you’re not one of those deluded people!

In the words of Ricky Gervais – “I hope I haven’t offended anyone with this article. Okay, that’s a lie.”

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jenny McCarthy is My Hero

I recently attended a dinner with a group that is involved in recruiting MDs for our local community. At the dinner, one of the guests informed the prospective Doctor that she isn't going to/hasn't vaccinated their youngest child because the vaccine made their oldest child sick (I won't get into the specifics). She furthered that comment with something along the lines of "so I tell all my friends and associates not to vaccinate their children." (The Doctor was, as expected, shocked by the statements.)

Growing up, I've always asked a lot of questions (I encourage it - heck, that's a good part of skepticism) and I had asked my Doctor about whether vaccines were causing kids to get sick. My Doctor responded with a simple response to the correlation/causation fallacy - "When a parent says, 'my kid didn't have until they were vaccinated', I simply say 'your kid didn't have until they turned 60 days old but I hardly think that is the cause'". Surely there is more to that discussion but it is a great introduction to someone who would immediately imply such a relationship.

I'm Insensitive

When discussing the autism/vaccination link claims, people are quick to state that I am being insensitive and they may be right but only because I think the underlying concerns are greater than your feelings (or desire to place blame). When your child is faced with any sort of medical condition or special need, it can raise a lot of questions in your mind. I'm not dismissing the grief that a parent goes through when they are in this position. I am just concerned that their irrational thinking may further endanger their child/children/family or others.

You're Endangering the Rest of Us

Vaccinations have had such great benefit because of mass inoculation (herd immunity) - they do not eliminate the problem. The diseases that vaccinations protect against have not disappeared and are often still quite active in other areas. World travel could quickly change the rate of infection in a population of people who are not vaccinated.

People will often argue that "why do you care? If you want to get vaccinated, that is your choice and if you are vaccinated and the vaccines are 'so great', you don't have to worry" but that ignores a number of underlying facts:

1.) Not all vaccines are "life long" - it is possible that immunity in vaccinated people can diminish over time. Having herd immunity limits transmission in a group and ultimately protects those who may have a diminished immunity.
2.) Outbreaks of diseases can affect other susceptible people (those who can not be vaccinated or could not YET be vaccinated - age, current medical conditions - and those with suppressed immune systems) (Now who is being insensitive?)
3.) Diseases can/do mutate and where there is a greater opportunity to do so, these mutations may result in a strain that is not protected against by our current vaccines.

It is also important to consider the financial burden and the strain on our medical establishment when we are forced to deal with the (unneccessary) outbreaks.

Why Jenny is My Hero

Stupid question - she isn't. There are good reasons, however, for me to be appreciative of her and her publicity. Long before Jenny came out and started suggesting that vaccinations cause autism, there have been stories (anecdotes) about vaccine/illness correlations going around that have obviously changed the minds of people who otherwise trusted the science/medical community.

I often hear people say, "I never got the flu until I got the flu vaccine". There are people who do get sick after receiving the vaccine - that is not to say that they wouldn't have gotten sick without the vaccine. The time of year for the common cold and a number of other factors could have been what caused the individual to get sick. Those claims have discouraged some others from getting the flu vaccine. If a person, upon hearing these anecdotes, was driven to do some research (or even ask their physician), it would be quickly dealt with. That often isn't the case and the myth is perpetuated.

What Jenny is doing for the science/medical establishment is good and bad.

Encouraging people to not vaccinate their children is a deadly proposition... BUT...

Giving scientists the platform to present the data and inform the public enables another generation of people to be informed about the benefit (and need) of vaccination.

At least Jenny isn't someone that people give unquestioned respect to - and for that reason, I'm hopeful that people will listen to (or search out) the facts! We need not imagine what would happen if your bronze-age book suggested that you needn't be vaccinated!

Monday, November 3, 2008

I'm just wasting my (and your) time

I was listening to a recent Skepticality podcast on "Where do we go from here?" and an important point being stressed was activism - the need for people (of all backgrounds - not just in science) to get out and promote critical and rational thinking.

It moved me - as you can see - to start a blog. I will likely follow in the footsteps of (or assist) Tim Farley in the development of tools (skeptools) but, for now, you can count on me to waste your time with the occasional blog posting. (For the record, Tim has no idea who I am -- yet.)

Wasting time is something that is generally reserved for Sunday mornings (yep, I'm a 6 on the 1-7 scale of "god belief"(1)). I will look to spend that time, promoting skepticism (or, to ensure a greater waste of your time by posting to this blog). So when others are out being told not to think, I'll be out there (or in here) encouraging people to do the complete opposite.

The common disclaimer that most people will insert is: Skepticism does not mean atheism(2). The idea of "you can be a skeptic and a believer" is commonly dispensed.

That disclaimer, from my view, is wrong. Having been brought up Catholic (sorry, I wasn't abused or anything - I think I was too tall, even on my knees, for our priest), I think that skepticism is not widely encouraged or accepted in the church. I firmly believe that an honest skeptic will have a hard time hanging on to a belief in a supernatural being when they're questioning other firmly held (and often less absurd than a belief in a sky fairy) beliefs.

I am an atheist(2) because I am a skeptic. I like the idea of "playing nice" to draw in believers to the world of skepticism but I don't feel that there is any reason to imply that skepticism and god belief are not incompatible.

(1) Richard Dawkins' book, "The God Delusion" lays out a scale of 1-7 for belief in god. 1 - Certitude that god exists. 7 - Certitude that god does not exist.

(2) The term "atheist" (as you'll read on a great number of other websites) is not a title for a group with a common belief - it is simply a title for a person with a lack of belief in god. I'm not comfortable with the term atheist, in a lot of ways, but I'm less comfortable with being wishy-washy.