Friday, February 27, 2009

Okay, Okay, Okay, Okay

For those of you who have emailed me or responded on the other forums regarding my post about Religulous, I thank you for your feedback (I'd much appreciate it as comments on my blog but I understand how hard it is to speak out as an atheist).

I'll admit, Religulous is REALLY REALLY funny. I just don't want people to leave the movie thinking that it was only funny. It has a serious point and even liberals and moderates (yes, Jim, people can be moderately deluded ;-) ) should learn from the message. Unless you are going to speak out against the fundamentalists*, you are going to be grouped (and mocked) with them.

Whatever you believe (or disbelieve), it's time to get your friends together and watch Religulous.

*Have you ever noticed that fundamentalist is an anagram for "Defiant Man Slut"? No, me either.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's not funny - but laugh anyway

There was a documentary produced by the same guy who produced "Borat" that recently went to DVD.

For people in Sarnia, you probably didn't hear much about it because it never got to play in our local theatre. For those of you visiting from outside of Sarnia, you, too, may live in a sheltered community where picking apart irrational beliefs is not allowed or encouraged. The rest of you were lucky enough to have had the opportunity to see it in a theatre (I must admit, I did see it in Toronto in a real theatre and Jesus was larger than life - as is every character that is displayed on a HUGE screen).

The movie I'm talking about is Religulous featuring Bill Maher. Let me first say that Bill Maher isn't funny*. I have seen many of his stand-up routines, watched his two critically-acclaimed shows and seen him on numerous talk shows. What he has to say isn't funny (but laugh anyway!).

This seems like an odd way to start a blog posting that suggests that EVERYONE should watch Religulous but I can explain.

Throughout the movie, Bill Maher interviews a number of believers about their beliefs but adds to the movie some monologues. You will laugh - there are extremely funny parts in the movie (no matter what you believe or don't believe) - but it isn't funny. This isn't a "people laugh at sexist jokes but they aren't funny" kind of not funniness that still gets laughs.

The point that Bill is making in the movie is that we can't simply be laughing - what we are facing is something serious. (I'm not going to give the movie away but I think it is safe to say that it was Jesus in the Library with the candlestick.)

Okay, who am I kidding? The movie is hilarious but the underlying message isn't.

Get to your local movie store and BUY - don't just rent - Religulous today.

(*Let me restate, too, what I said about Bill Maher - he is intelligent and his comedy reflects that. It is funny (and he is funny) but it has a point to it and sometimes the point is not all that funny. I think it is important, however, to use humour in situations as these - at least as a beginning. Then let the discussion begin!)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Debating Dishonesty & Why Lying for Jesus is Profitable

For those of you who keep up on Pharyngula and, you are probably well aware of the proposed debate between Richard Dawkins and a brain-dead idiot. I don't wish to publicize the idiot (as that is all he is looking for) but I do have an opinion on what should/shouldn't be done in response.

As much as I would love to see someone school the faithhead with such skill that Richard Dawkins could, I think the bigger picture needs to be considered, I would strongly recommend that Richard (and the rest of us) ignore the tool and not have the debate occur. This will be (wrongfully) taken as intellectuals being too afraid to debate creationists but I doubt much would be changed if the other approach was taken - short of publicizing the creationist.

The reality is that people who believe in creationism aren't interested in the truth and they won't spend the time looking up the facts of the story. If we can't trust them to see why it is that Richard won't debate creationists, can we trust them to source/fact check debate points? If they won't do the easier of the two, they're almost certainly not going to do the more difficult one!

Considering the debating tactics of Creationists, it is clear that they have no problem lying for jesus. Believers want nothing more than to believe and will take anything that supports their belief (even lies). Believers have been cherry-picking the bible and real evidence for thousands of years - selecting the parts they agree with and explaining away (or ignoring) the parts they disagree with or can't quite stomach believing.

The real problem with debating creationists is that they aren't interested in a debate. There is a famous, but unattributed, quote - "You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into." You can't, honestly, debate someone who doesn't wish to reciprocate with honesty. As I mentioned earlier, people seldom check sources and facts and, for this reason, a person that is willing to lie is able to win a debate.

The reason people are willing to lie for jesus is simple economics - a response to demand. Books by apologetics and attacks on atheistic literature sell like hot cakes. With hundreds of millions of people wanting to have support for their beliefs, the market is ripe with people willing to throw their money away (need I explain that?).

Unfortunately for people who wish to write books on the intellectually sound position of atheism, most people who have come to the conclusion by logic and reason don't need someone to do the thinking for them. We hardly need to look to books for support of our lack of beliefs in a god.

I will admit that I, too, add to the commercial success of people willing to lie for jesus - I regularly purchase their books in hopes of learning more about their arguments (or lack of) and am in hope that someday one will present some convincing evidence (or, at least, a new argument). Even though it is highly unlikely, it is not impossible. As Bill Maher says, we're about selling doubt, not certainty.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's not just wrong, it's really wrong

For those who have read through my blog postings, you probably understand that I have a strong desire to tackle the myths and lies that are put forward by the individuals, media and organizations (including churches/religions). This often results in me addressing their claims or points - and, obviously, with no effect as B.S. continues to pile at our door.

Other bloggers take different and equally (if not more) important approaches to the troubles that false beliefs can bring us. One particular blogger, with his new "series" of posts on Christians Behaving Badly, C Woods ( touches on how the "more moral" Christians show their "morality".

Take a moment and stop by his blog - it isn't religion bashing but intelligent discussion.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Darwin

In the 21st century, we should be celebrating the sheer genius of possibly one of humanity's all-time greatest thinkers, the author of such a great hypothesis (now theory) - Charles Darwin. His theory was so simple that we now look back, with all of the (since discovered) evidence and wonder how (and why) it took so long for such a theory to be presented.

The reality is that Charles Darwin is reviled by a vast number of people because of the implications they see that it has on their dogmatic beliefs.

Today we stand defending the evidence and re-explaining the theory rather than giving credit to this amazing man. Evolution is not contested in the scientific world - the discussion over minor details show that the theory is correct and that it is on firm ground.

If Darwin were alive today, he'd be celebrating his 200th birthday (and shaking his head in disbelief). Happy Birthday Charles.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I'm Sorry, Alicia, But You've Been Lied To

A recent letter to the editor by Alicia Arseneault proves that some people truly believe that blind faith is a virtue. Unlike previous letters to the editor, I MUST address the points of this one specifically. Alicia is misrepresenting (lying about) evolution/natural selection. (The bold/italicized text is the original as COPIED from

Sir:I would like to comment of Mr. McKeown's letter to the editor about Churches and Darwinism co-existing and his implied suggestion that Bible-believing Christians cannot have a "deep appreciation" of the world around us because of our faith.

I'm not sure what "Mr. McKeown"'s letter actually said but if that is what he implied, I don't think he is far off.

Mr. McKeown does not understand that the Bible and science can, in fact, co-exist, so long as science does not contradict what the Bible says -- and often it doesn't.

True enough. The bible and science can co-exist. Simply having science contradict what the bible says does not make the bible no longer exist. But, seriously, that's not what Alicia is saying and I'll address what she means to say (heck, if she can interpret the bible, I can interpret her, as the bible's, human-made musings). Science does contradict the bible (often) - people who think the bible is the inerrant word of god and believe that it holds "truths" have failed to read their own book.

Not only does science contradict much of what the bible states as facts but the bible, itself, is full of contradictions.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is completely contrary to the Biblical description of creation. Therefore they can never co-exist. So when churches embrace the theory of evolution, they are compromising the word of God and therefore are saying that the Bible is inaccurate.

I couldn't agree more. The bible is inaccurate. Evolution is a fact. Darwin's theory is the "greatest game in town" in explaining how evolution occurs. And I will agree, too, that Darwin's theory is completely contrary to the biblical descriptions of creation. (Alicia, read the bible, there are two stories of creation and they are contradictory!)

The Bible says "God made man," not "God made monkey which then subsequently turned into a man through the development of highly unlikely and impossible circumstances." We need to understand the theory of evolution is not only that man evolved from apes but that we, and every other living thing, evolved from every other living thing.

This must truly be a parody. Evolution doesn't say "god made monkey". Evolution says that the need for a "god" is not necessary. Humans did not evolve from monkeys, we evolved from common ancestors. We did not evolve from every other living thing, we share common ancestry.

According to Darwin, all living things have a common origin, so essentially saying that we evolved from mushrooms at some point would also be a correct statement to make. Darwin himself admitted that "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."

The first line started well (and contradicted the paragraph that preceded it) and then went awry. It may be demonstrated that humans evolved with one of our ancestors being a "mushroom" but to simply state that you could pick any living thing and say that we evolved from that is not accurate.

As for Darwin explaining what would negate his theory, that's the strength of science - the understanding that we do not, yet, have all the answers and it is possible, with new evidence, that the theory may need to be replaced/updated. It's not a dogmatic belief in some bronze-aged myths or human-made book. Darwin's theory, however, has been subjected to serious scientific study and the new evidence is proving, more and more, Darwin to be one of the greatest thinkers in all of history.

Darwin, in his day, was not able to examine life at the single cell level or cell structures themselves. If he were alive today, he would have to admit that the building blocks of life are far too complex for his theory to be true.

Wrong. (For those who don't know the argument, Behe is who Alicia would refer to on this one.) Alicia has probably heard about (she hasn't read her bible so I suggest she hasn't read other books very thoroughly either) Darwin's Black Box (Irreducible Complexity) where Behe claims that the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex - meaning that if any part was removed, it would not function. His argument, however, is one from personal incredulity (or he is a blatant liar). Numerous scientists have shown how this structure could have (and likely had) evolved.
Darwin, if he were alive today, would probably be amazed at how right he was.

As a Christian who believes the Bible literally, without modernization or with an eraser for the parts I don't like, I am very much able to have a vast appreciation for the world around me.

Really? You have a vast appreciation for woman being made out of a man's rib on an earth that is the center of the universe with two light emitting objects that revolve around it? (Science proves that woman didn't come from a man's rib, the earth is not the center of the universe, the sun does not revolve around the earth and the moon does not emit light.) And those absurd claims (along with a talking snake) are given in the first two chapters of the book you claim contains the inerrant word of god.

Science has played a major role in much of that appreciation because it has explained the tremendous purpose and vast differences in all the living creatures. And I believe my faith gives me the right basis to understand this universe and correctly interpret the facts around me. I simply see things from a different point of view. I see God's incredible power and His meticulous hand in all creation; evolutionists see it as something that just came to be out of the sludge of the earth.

I can clearly picture Alicia sitting in her pew listening to her pastor/priest telling her that these are the things that science claims. What did "god" create the earth out of? Doesn't the bible say that man was made out of dust? What/who created "god"? You really shouldn’t just believe everything you hear.

Science always has to change its theories based on new data discovered.

Science is about what is true - the more we learn, the more accurately we can explain things. Theories change, yes. Unlike the bible, science does not holdfast to things that we know are not true.

The Darwin theory has probably disproved itself more times in the last 200 years than proving it.

I shouldn't pick apart the obvious mistake(?) here because Alicia isn't all that keen on numbers, probability or statistics (as you've seen and will see more of) but Darwin's theory is not 200 years old. If Darwin were alive, he'd be celebrating his 200th birthday on February 12, 2009.

Last I checked, his mother didn't deliver him along with a copy of On the Origin of Species but, really, would that we less believable than a virgin birth? On The Origin of Species was released in 1859 – 150 years ago.

Theories don't disprove themselves and the theory of evolution by means of natural selection has only been strengthened with new discoveries. Darwin was, substantially, right.

This is why it continues to remain a theory and not fact.

Stop playing with words (save that for your bible interpretations and other nonsense). Evolution, like gravity, is a theory and a FACT. Theories don't become facts - they explain them. The scientific use of the word "theory" is not the same as the common use.

A lot of these changes have come to further support creationism ("Intelligent Design" is what scientists call it).

Creationism and Intelligent Design are two different things (when argued in court) and the VAST majority of scientists dispute Intelligent Design (including believers like Kenneth Miller).

However, there has been one rock that has never moved -- the Bible. It has always remained the same, it has never changed.

Huh? There are MANY versions of the bible (and they are different).

We all have faith, but in what, is the important question. In the God of the Universe or humans who think they were once mushrooms?

Famous, famous, famous. This is not an either/or proposition. Simply not believing in "the god of the universe" does not mean that a person thinks they were once a mushroom. That's absurd. Supporters of Intelligent Design suggest that if the theory of evolution is proven wrong, that Intelligent Design must be right (which is not true, a theory rests on its own ability to explain the facts/evidence and ID has not put forth a testable theory - not 1.)

Alicia Arseneault Sarnia

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It's All Natural, It Must Be Safe!

This post is rather short and came about because of a recent wave of "all natural colon cleanse" products being pushed. This isn't about colon cleansing or the like - the experts can talk specifically about them - it is about a lack of critical thinking.

With a serious push on "saving the environment" and limiting the effects of global climate change, marketers have further increased their promotion of "natural" products.

It makes sense that one would assume that something that is "natural" is safe and good for the environment.

That isn't, however, the case. It is not my intention to pick apart claims or to tell you what to think, I hope you'll think for yourself (think critically) and be skeptical.

The easiest way to dismantle the "natural" argument is to simply name other chemicals/products that occur naturally. Would you consider ingesting the following?


Consider also the number of poisonous plants, fungi and bacteria and the numerous fish, insects and reptiles that would kill you if enough is ingested.

Simply being "natural" does not make it safe. The next time someone says "it's natural", let's hope it isn't anthrax they're offering you.

I'm Damned for Eternity

Fortunately for those who follow religions, their teachings and views are clear, concise and consistent. They are lucky to have such a moral guide that us atheists do not have. The absolute truths provided by their faith with unquestioned support from their bible are something non-believers (like me) long for.

The bible and all followers of it are clear about what their stance is on everything in this world, for example:
  • Gay marriage
  • Incest
  • Child abuse
  • Oppression
  • Racism
  • Misogyny (okay, okay, so this is one thing that might not be consistent in the bible)
  • Abortion
  • Stem cell research
  • Accumulation of money
  • Development of churches
  • Virgin birth/Resurrection/Ascension
  • Beginning of the earth (order of creation)
Now that we're clear that the bible is free of ambiguity and contradictions, I'll explain why it is that I will be damned for eternity.

I was a member of the Catholic Answers forum (I still receive the SPAM, even) and engaged in deep discussions with people there - for example, "Is Jonah and the Whale a fictitious story?" (apparently that's the one thing that people are undecided on), "Should I fix having been "fixed"?" (Oops, maybe there are two things) and, most importantly, "Is it okay for dads to be the stay at home parent?" (Damn, three for three.)

I had to start the last paragraph with "I was" because, you see, my weekly invites from the Catholic Answers forums aren't really invites. When I attempt to return, St. Peter tells me that I'm damned for eternity.

(In case you can't read the text, it says "Your account has been locked for the following reason: Contempt for Catholicisim, refused moderator direction
This change will be lifted: Never")

Now, I agree, "Contempt for Catholicism" is a serious crime and refusing a moderator's direction comes with a mandatory sentence. Surely my contempt for Catholicism was bad enough that they didn't need to add in that second charge.

As I plead "guilty" to the charges, a statement of agreed facts was read to the courts including my original post that was contemptuous.

First was the question that I responded to:
Is it Criminal to Rely on Faith, not Medical Help?
“WESTON, Wis. — Kara
Neumann, 11, had grown so weak that she could not walk or speak. Her parents, who believe that God alone has the ability to heal the sick, prayed for her recovery but did not take her to a doctor.After an aunt from California called the sheriff’s department here, frantically pleading that the sick child be rescued, an ambulance arrived at the Neumann’s rural home on the outskirts of Wausau and rushed Kara to the hospital. She was pronounced dead on arrival. The county coroner ruled that she had died from diabetic ketoacidosis resulting from undiagnosed and untreated juvenile diabetes. The condition occurs when the body fails to produce insulin, which leads to severe dehydration and impairment of muscle, lung and heart function.“

And my response:

No, allowing the child to die a tortuous death isn't criminal but harvesting stem cells from an embryo that has no feelings and senses no pain should be.

I think that's the right position to take as a good Catholic.

And that, my friend, is contempt for Catholicism. I can't think of anything better to encourage others to do more often and with more vigor.