Category : religion

Every now and then I come across a bad science article. And I come across badly done science with disturbing regularity — but today I found both in an article at NewScience.com.

It’s a “study” about why people believe “crazy” things like creationism and intelligent design. The authors of both the article and the study have barely bothered to mask their contempt and disdain for those who believe in anything other than cold, hard science.

But the science and written logic they bring to the table can be described as mushy branflakes at best. Check out the article and see if you can taste the bias. Here’s a sampler:

People continued to agree with false teleological statements, particularly those that endorsed an Earth intended for life.

I was not aware the debate over the beginning of our world was settled. Good to know you can administer a simple true/false test and call people who believe the earth was made for life “wrong”.

This is supposed to be science? It seems to be based on more assumptions than religion! [new readers: I don't believe in religion, but I don't believe evolution's reality settles the debate over our origins -v]

Either they’re trying to use trick questions or they don’t understand the nuance of language. This, for instance, is one of their “false” statements:

Mites live on skin to consume dead skin cells

Well… don’t they? The mites are better off living there than anywhere else. Where else would mites rather be?

The supposed scientists may have been grasping for “Mites exist only to remove our dead skin cells” but they utterly failed. And these people are claiming to be able to accurately and fairly judge me, my logical abilities and the validity of my beliefs??!!

Reminds me of this, more accurate, study.

This is also shoddy, biased journalism. I expect more from a mainstream publication like NewScience. Pro-atheism cheerleading is fine and good, but there’s a time and a place, just like we expect reporters to keep their Christian, Hindu or whatever views out of newscasts, we should expect the journalists over at NewScience and other consumer science outlets to do the same.

This is not an article so much as an attack on teleological thought, a legitimate philosophy of thought. Here’s what Wikipedia currently says about teleology:

A teleological school of thought is one that holds all things to be designed for or directed toward a final result, that there is an inherent purpose or final cause for all that exists.

As a school of thought it can be contrasted with metaphysical naturalism, which views nature as having no design or purpose. Teleology would say that a person has eyes because he has the need of eyesight (form following function), while naturalism would say that a person has sight because he has eyes (function following form).

A classic debate. Y vs. X and yet these supposed scientists are ready to throw telelogical thought under the bus without even investigating whether it might be right. Instead they’ve decided to do a sort of test to see if you think like a commie–..uh, er… “teleologist” in the hopes of one day “curing” it.

A first round of experiments suggested that adults make more teleological mistakes when pressed for time than when not. Yet Kelemen and Rosset also noticed that no matter how much time they had, test subjects tended to endorse false statements implying that the Earth is designed and maintained for life. [emphasis mine]

This is some of the most biased reporting I’ve ever seen, but it could be Ewen Callaway is just regurgitating what he was told. Then it would piss-poor reporting. But even more offensive to me as a rational person is the implicit goal laid bare in this study, which is clearly to find a way to eradicate teleological thought.

That’s the same kind of thinking that led to the Spanish Inquisition. We don’t need any more of that crap. These “scientists” need to learn how to take on their ideological opponents in an intellectual field of battle and quit trying to find ways to cow the populace into submission. If they have proof that the teleological school of thought is wrong, then they should firstly present it, then defend it.

Instead they use mouthpieces like NewScience, which I thought was a reputable publication, but now seems to be nothing more than a bloodbath battlefield between believers and nonbelievers. Here are some recent articles (among the most popular):

I guess it’s all about the page-views and contentious article bring in visitors galore. But then why not try and keep an editorially even hand and write balanced articles? There’s a good reason spiritually-minded folks often sound defensive in those forums. They know they’re being taunted — or else they wouldn’t be there, trying to explain deeply held beliefs to this generation’s most vicious nihilists.

What’s even more disturbing is that the atheists rarely stand up and say, “Hey, I agree, but let’s keep things respectful and balanced here.” Opinion Editor Amanda Gefter is particularly over-the-top. Here’s a typical passage:

Misguided interpretations of quantum physics are a classic hallmark of pseudoscience, usually of the New Age variety, but some religious groups are now appealing to aspects of quantum weirdness to account for free will. Beware: this is nonsense.

Free will has been debated for many millennia, but dear old Amanda won’t let us even consider the possibility that… what, quantum physics might be involved somehow? How the hell does she know? She clearly doesn’t because she chose ridicule over reason and neglected to back up her claims. If I print out the Wikipedia article on Free Will, it’s over 20 pages, but Ms. Gefter dismisses it with a warning: Beware!! Don’t read any further or you might turn into a commi- er, I mean “creationist!”

This is all about attacking the philosophical underpinnings of the opponents of strong-atheism, whom include religious folks, anti-religion/pro-metaphysics people like me, and many agnostics and weak-atheists.

It’s sad that people can’t find any common ground on this issue. It’s one of the most pressing of our times, especially with the growt
h of atheism in the young and urban. But it’s still a religious discussion and I remain somewhat aghast that a publication like NewScience would stoop to taking sides in the culture wars. Are they about to fold and need every page-view they can get?

I’d be more likely to read them in the future if they displayed a little more objectivity.

As for the “scientists” who are out to “cure” creationists or anybody who entertains metaphysical thoughts, well, I guess we’d better keep our eyes on them before they try to beat Religion’s high score in the killing game. Studying ways to eradicate thought that doesn’t conform with the scientific establishment’s is really beyond the pale.

I don’t think most atheists think this way. Certainly there is some bitterness about Christianity, the dominant religion in my culture, but few would actually seek to destroy it. They just don’t want fundamentalist Christians (like those that infested the Bush administration) enforcing prayer in schools, Intelligent Design in schools (ID should be in schools — the Philosophy Department) and various faith-based activities.

Totally understandable. But let’s make sure that we don’t end up with the mirror image as humanity gives up its superstitious beliefs. We don’t need fundamentalist atheists running amok any more than we need fundamentalist Muslims or Christians in charge. The extremists are the problem, and they hurt whichever side they are arguing for. Please, people, look for common ground in the culture wars!

Go in peace / Science be praised

This is some fucked up shit right here:

“It’s not a compound.”
“It’s a ranch. It’s our home.”
“We’re the most free women in the whole world!”

I’m gonna have nightmares.

The intellectual cowards over at the head office of the St. Thomas University adminstration should be ashamed. They have shown themselves to be contemptible weaklings without the guts or the will to hear viewpoints they may disagree with. And this institution is supposed to be a vanguard of academic freedom? For shame.

What am I talking about? I’m referring to St. Thomas’ recent decision to withhold an invitation to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

St. Thomas never invited Tutu to speak, but declined to approve an invitation as part of the PeaceJam, an event the school has hosted for the past four years. PeaceJam officials have now arranged to have the South African archbishop and activist speak at its April event, which will be held at Metropolitan State University.

St. Thomas officials said that local Jewish leaders they consulted felt that Tutu had made remarks offensive to the Jewish people in a 2002 speech about Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

Columbia University just made St. Thomas look like a bunch of backwater bush-league pussies. Nobody likes Ahmadinejad; that’s not the point. The point is the free exchange of ideas. If you don’t like what somebody says you don’t try to censor them, you use your freedom of speech to elucidate your opposition to said ideas. The president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, may have been a dick to Ahmadinejad, but at least he let the motherfucker speak. St. Thomas’ president, the Rev. Dennis Dease, won’t even let a fellow man of the cloth on campus. What a fucking pussy.

His lame-ass excuse “Teh Joos don’t like one speech he made dis one time!” is full of shit. What he means is “Some extreme-rightwing Zionist oppressor Jews don’t want nobody talking shit about the way they fuck over A-rabs in Palestine.” There, fixed it for you, Dease. (You can suck dees nuts)

In fact, Dease has been getting a lot of mail from Jewish groups saying, “Let this guy speak! We’re not anti-free speech! Why’d you listen to those assholes?!” [[ I'm paraphrasing in case you haven't noticed ]]

So, you might be wondering what crazy-ass shit this Tutu guy was spewing that pissed off the hard-right fascist/zionist types. Well, he said the most offensive thing you can possibly say to a warmonger: “Peace is possible.”

Israeli Jew, Palestinian Arab can live amicably side by side in a secure peace. And, as Cannon Ateek kept underscoring, a secure peace built on justice and equity. These two peoples are God’s chosen and beloved, looking in their face back to a common ancestor Abraham and confessing belief in the one creator God of salaam and shalom.

Oh man, that is some whack shit! Who let this guy in here?

Then he reveals his true hatred for teh Joos:

I give thanks for all that I have received as a Christian from the teachings of God’s people the Jews. When we were opposing the vicious system of apartheid, which claimed that what invested people with worth was a biological irrelevance – skin color – we turned to the Jewish Torah, which asserted that what gave people their infinite worth was the fact that they were created in the image of God.

He calls teh Joos “God’s people.” We’re clearly dealing with a loose cannon here, folks.

Seriously, that’s what the whole speech is like. He criticizes the occupation of Palestinian lands, but he clearly has problems with the Israeli government, not the Jewish people.

I with many other Nobel Peace Laureates. I, after taking counsel with the then Bishop of Jerusalem, am a member of the Board of the Shimon Peres peace center in Tel Aviv. I am a patron of the Holocaust center in Capetown. I believe that Israel has a right to secure borders, internationally recognized, in a land assured of territorial integrity and with acknowledged sovereignty as an independent country. That the Arab nations made a bad mistake in refusing to recognize the existence of sovereign and in pledging to work for her destruction. It was a short sighted policy that led to Israel’s nervousness, her high state of alert and military preparedness to guarantee her continued existence. This was understandable. What was no so understandable, what was not justifiable was what Israel did to another people to guarantee her existence. I have been very deeply distressed in all my visits to the Holy Land, how so much of what was taking place there reminded me so much of what used to happen to us Blacks in Apartheid South Africa.

This guy sees echoes of Apartheid in Israel. He was there. He expresses viewpoints not too far from middle-of-the-road Democrats in America. When did expressing disagreement with a foreign government become a censorable offense? Oh that’s right; when you’re a boot-licking fascist who wants to kiss the ass of future dictator George Bush. I guess Dease thinks he can become the Tsar of Education under a future King George. (Or whatever. Maybe he’s just a fucking idiot, I don’t know.)

The scary thing here is not the shoddy treatment of a Nobel laureate. He’ll speak on another campus, one not controlled by Nazis. He’ll be fine. No, the scary thing here is how incredibly fucking normal, sane and mainstream his ideas are. If this is how a Nobel laureate is treated by The Powers That Be, how are the rest of the us going to be treated when the other jackboot falls and we’re under martial law? Tutu’s beliefs are almost exactly in line with mainstream Democrats, Independents and even many Republicans. The main difference is that he’s an archbishop, an Apatheid survivor and a international icon.

Where the fuck does that leave the rest of us?

Say… you’re not feeling paranoid are you?

Feeling like somebody’s out to get you? Set you up?

Maybe you pissed off the wrong people. If you know anything about the Church of Scientology’s connections to the CIA maybe you should be afraid. They might want to freak you out.

Operation Freakout was a CoS plan designed to get journalist Paulette Cooper “incarcerated in a mental institution or jail.” The Scientologists drew up detailed plans for freaking her out, ruining her reputation and getting her arrested for bomb threats.

When she has been found alone, telephone ( during the work week ) 2 Arab Consulates in NYC, from telephone booth nearest PC’s place. Telephoner should be a girl that sounds like PC and the call should be fast,to the point, and impinge. It should go as follows: from a totally trusted non staff member.

“I just came back from Isreal ( pronounces the way it is pronounced in Isreal ) I’ve seen what you fucking bastards do. At least youre not going to kill my sister. I can get away with anything. I’m going to bomb you basterds. Say something in Jewish/swear or mumble something jewish.

While the spelling and grammar reveals their ignorance, their gall no doubt counted for a lot. Scientology put many of these crazy schemes into action and eventually got Cooper arrested.

Part of the plan consisted of a Scientology volunteer impersonating Cooper and making verbal threats towards the President and Henry Kissinger, and a second volunteer reporting them. Another named Jerry Levin moved into Cooper’s building and befriended her during her darkest months, and reported back to the Church such things as “She can’t sleep again…she’s talking suicide. Wouldn’t this be great for Scientology!”

Her crime? Writing a book critical of Scientology. Shades of Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake.

Beware of pissing off somebody with more resources than you. You might find your world turned upside down by people who can afford to play with you as if you were a mouse and they were bored housecats.

The American conceit that we’re all created equal is charming and amusing. In reality those born into the corridors of power need not worry about paying the rent or keeping food on the table… and that tends to free up time for certain impulses better left hidden.

A shocking KSLA news report has confirmed the story we first broke last year, that Clergy Response Teams are being trained by the federal government to “quell dissent” and pacify citizens to obey the government in the event of a declaration of martial law. Economic Collapse? Another mass-casualty, false-flag attack? [/digg]

This is incredibly disturbing. Here’s the news clip for those who doubt:

Am I cynical to believe that something terrible will happen either right before or right after the elections (before inauguration)?

If it does, we’ve gotta stick together, organize and resist. This can’t happen to America. It’s like a nightmare you can’t wake up from.

Wow, okay, my last post went over like a lead balloon on Reddit. I thought it was fair and coherent, but apparently people disagreed with my conclusions and downmodded it as a result.

However, one guy (it could be a girl. Perhaps I assume too much) was rational, calm and intelligent enough to discuss it with me without a flamewar erupting. He’s known as Strontium90 in the comments of that last post. He continued the discussion over on reddit but I want to make sure y’all read this because I think his points are good, even though I’ve refuted most of them. Here’s what he had to say:

I commented on your blog as Strontium90. Unfortunately, you seem to be confused about what a null hypothesis is, the concept of the burden of proof, and the nature of positive/negative claims. You also dismiss the subtle differences between agnosticism and atheism as mere semantics, while insisting that something as innocuous as a water-like substance could be discovered, which we would call god. This is a double standard.

You also seem to be under the impression that atheists do not believe in gods because they do not like them, which is why you brought up several examples of gods that atheists would likely find favorable (such as the love-goddess) as a counter-example. Unfortunately, the repulsiveness of deities is not what causes atheism; their implausibility does.

You also seem to be unable to grasp bobbincygna’s analogy. I will attempt to elucidate.

[[[For readers: When I implied atheism is a religion someone responded: "If Atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby." And then bobbincygna attempted to defend the analogy. -Vemrion]]]

On bobbincygna’s analogy:

Take the set of all hobbies out there. H = [hobbies]. This includes everything you would call a hobby, from collecting stamps to messing with telemarketers. Now, let us suppose that we take the (rather passive) activity of not collecting stamps. Is it reasonable to place it in that set? No, of course not. Someone who has no hobbies can call called an a [without] hobbyist [person who has a hobby or hobbies].

Now, take the set of all religions, from Buddhism to Scientology, call it R. All items in set R are characterized by various elements: the lionization of faith, the existence of holy books or scripture, the presence of some sort of supernatural elements, etc. Does a belief which simply consists of “I do not believe in the supernatural, I do not believe that books are holy, and I do not take extraordinary claims on faith” belong there? I don’t think so. It, like the lack of stamp collecting, is a lack of theistic belief. This is what atheism means – a [without] theism [belief in god].

Atheism, the most oft-displayed example of metaphysical naturalism, can be termed as a philosophy, or perhaps a meta-religious view (view about religion), but it certainly is not a religion. There are no holy texts, only books which effectively sum up the philosophical arguments against theism. There is no dogma among atheists, unless you count a lack of belief in gods. This does not really count though, because it is necessarily true that an atheist lacks belief in gods. And he certainly will not be excommunicated or disowned by his parents if he later professes theism. Faith is not celebrated, instead it is essentially abandoned in favor of reason. Leaders and followers do not exist: Richard Dawkins might be influencial, but I don’t consider his words to be gospel, and neither do most atheists. They happen to share a lot of his beliefs, though. There is no formalized ritual such as prayer, sacrifice, etc, which is another thing that sets atheists apart from theists.

Pretty well-reasoned, I thought. But I definitely want to challenge some of his assertions. Here is my response:

My apologies for the confusion over the water-diety. I didn’t make it clear, but I was referring to something similar to a water elemental — basically a spirit that is infused with one of the four elements (water is a compound, of course, but it’s also one of the classical elements), Fire, Earth, Air and Water (the Chinese add a 5th: Metal). It’s probably not a very good analogy since it’s completely hypothetical and imaginary, at least as far as science is concerned.

I grasp the stamp hobby analogy just fine. It’s a poor analogy, though, which you seem unable to grasp. Here’s why:

Collecting is an activity. Philately is a hobby. However, you could still be a philatelist and not actually collect anything. How? By knowing a heck of a lot about stamps, that’s how. Philately is the study of stamps, not the act of collecting them. You could be an expert in stamp lore without actually having a collection or wanting one.

Actually, maybe the analogy is not so poor, since once you learn how faulty it is you might be able to understand how atheism could be considered a religion. Of course, this does depend on semantics to an extent.

An extremely simple definition of religion is this: “A religion is a set of common beliefs and practices generally held by a group of people.” Boom. You hold beliefs in common with other atheists (you refuse to worship “known” gods) and your practices are also similar in that you refuse to attend worship services (I assume. Personally, I make exceptions for weddings and funerals, but I don’t “worship”). It may be negative, but that doesn’t mean you can’t group it under religion.

For example, you’ve already admitted that atheism is a philosophy. Would you also consider it a theological perception? Just because the content of your theological perception attacks the underlying structure of most other theologies and even theism itself, that does not stop it from being classified as some form of theological outlook. Do they study atheism in theology classes? In many cases, yes (there might be some bias in many of them, of course).

As for dogma, yes I consider the lack of belief in gods to be a dogma among atheists. If someone claimed to be atheist, but continually made shrines to Buddha would you consider him a “real” atheist?

To take it even further, have you ever heard “The first rule is that there are no rules.” Is that a rule? Sure seems like it to me, even though its singular act is to bar all other rules. It may be recursive, negative and contradictory… But it’s still a rule.

Also, if you knew more about theology you’d know that there are several religions that are nontheist. They generally don’t deny the existence of gods, they just aren’t concerned with them, and don’t take a stance on them either way. Confucianism and other eastern religions are a perfect example. For this reason, many people like to call them philosophies rather than faiths or religions, but this is another semantic argument, one that is caused by the overwhelming prevalence of Christianity in the weltanschauung of westerners.

If you consider ritual a necessary part of the definition of religion, consider the scientific method. It’s also a dogma of sorts, and it prescribes a methodology for discovering and verifying knowledge in such a way as it will be acceptable to others in the sci
entific community. In much the same way that a priest prepares to consecrate bread and wine, a dutiful scientist will prepare for an experiment by controlling for variables and making predictions (hypotheses) before the experiment-ritual itself is performed.

As for proceeding from the assumption of the null hypothesis, that’s your business. It’s certainly a good idea in science, but in matters of faith things are not so cut and dried.

Also, please note that I am not calling you a religious person by stating atheism could be considered a religion. I’m just pointing out that atheism is quite similar to other religions, and as it grows there is a risk that it could be seized and exploited by charlatans. I believe there was a South Park episode about this. I am also sure you would see through the bullshit and hopefully refrain from any atheistic fundamentalism, but just remember that there are a lot of stupid people out there. In fact, some people are dumb as fuck!

Even as I’m drawing religion and science together, surely you’ll concede there is much that separates them. The problem is that the scientific method is not known to work for the business of discovering gods. I believe Scott Adams once compared this folly to using a metal detector to check for unicorns in one’s sock drawer. The fact of the matter is, we haven’t discovered a “god” (definitively, based on the scientific method) so how can we say we’re using the best tools for the job?

Perhaps a new method is called for. Of course, if I knew that method I’d present you with solid proof of the existence of god(s). But you could easily reject it by saying my method does not adhere to the principles of the scientific method. But what if my method was better, at least for discovering and identifying divine beings?

A question to ponder: Have your placed your faith in the scientific method?

Batting Around the Mouse
I’ve always liked Scott Adams and Dilbert. He’s actually got a pretty good blog, too, and it’s a surprisingly combative one. You might expect that his blog is a lovefest if you’ve never been there: “omg Scot i totully luved dilbertt today! dogbert is my hero!’

Nope, Adams goes for the throat and his (many) commenters do too. It’s an intellectual and incendiary blog, and sort of a kindered blog to this one in many respects (I gotta recognize that he’s been doin’ it longer — he’s the Dogfather).

Speaking of the dyslexic agnostic (he stayed up all night wondering if dog exists) — Scott has gone after atheists in a big way lately, and caught plenty of reddit-hell for it. Good. He’s right: Full-on atheism is just as intellectually indefensible as religion.

This brings me to atheists. In order to be certain that God doesn’t exist, you have to possess a godlike mental capacity – the ability to be 100% certain. A human can’t be 100% certain about anything. Our brains aren’t that reliable. Therefore, to be a true atheist, you have to believe you are the very thing that you argue doesn’t exist: God.

I don’t particularly like the way he frames his argument as a percentage; it seems too much like gambling on Heaven (but that’s what it is, at least according to western religion). This is known as Pascal’s Wager:

Chief among the alleged flaws in Pascal’s argument is that you still have to pick the correct religion among many, or else you go to Hell anyway.Sure. But picking any religion that promises salvation slightly improves your odds over picking an option that doesn’t. You’re still probably doomed, given your bad religion-picking skills, but a one-in-a-million chance of reducing the risk of eternal Hell is a move worth taking, mathmatically speaking.

I don’t subscribe to this theory since I’m an asshole — an asshole who thinks it’s more important to find out the truth than to assure yourself a slot in heaven at the good table. In that respect I have a lot in common with the atheists who are eviscerating Scott all over the internet.

But why should they care?

If they were so secure in their position they wouldn’t be calling for his head, would they?

Many atheists claimed to be “weak atheists”, which is sort of like saying you prefer a shade of whitish-black. Just say “gray”, okay? The word “agnostic” already exists; use it.

So, much of the argument is semantics-based bickering. Tiring of this, Scott moved in for the kill — or so it seems. Like a cat batting around a mouse he’s just torturing these people and mocking their cognitive dissonance (ah… a man after my own heart).

The phrase “weak atheist” is apparently nothing but a weasel self-label for agnostics who have picked a side and don’t want to be seen as giving any opening to religion. It is politics disguised as philosophy.

As Scott pointed out, we can know a priori that atheism is not logical: If you admit you are not omniscient or omnipotent how can you claim to know whether or not an omnipotent or omniscient being exists? Or put more simply: how can atheism be proven true when you can’t prove a negative? Doesn’t that make it a faith, a religion?!

Cult of Nothingness
Oh man, nothing gets atheists more pissed off then calling their movement a religion. First they get angry, then they gather in communities like chatrooms and reinforce each others’ beliefs, hand out matching T-shirts and start setting up temples dedicated to their faith.

Oops.

They even have their high priests and holy writ. I guess atheism is big business — if you can get enough people to buy into it.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Aren’t most of us fed up with organized religion and all the attendant bullshit? No offense to the believers out there, but much of what is known about early Christianity, for example, reveals its modern branches as spawned from hoaxes, lies and ignorance. The Bible was not written by “God.” It was written by men, who say that it was written by God. Big difference, that.

Semantic Saṃsāra
Well, the natural reaction to the bullshit of Christianity is atheism. But wait a minute; how do you know atheism is any better? Well for all the reasons above, you don’t. Furthermore, you’re following an “-ism” — a meme, a movement, a faith, an order. And isn’t that what got you neck deep in Popeshit in the first place?

So what’s the answer?

Well, look at the atheist Scott got all riled up:

Perhaps if he had spent even a small amount of time researching the matter, he’d have learned what the difference between weak atheism and agnosticism is — and at the same time, he might have even learned how and why everything he wrote in his post was either factually incorrect or logically incoherent.

He makes a fair point in his link about atheists merely denying belief in a god rather than asserting gods don’t exist. Fair enough, but it’s a semantics game, buddy! Agnosticism staked out that turf long ago.

His rejoinder:

Agnosticism is not about belief in god but about knowledge — it was coined originally to describe the position of a person who could not claim to know for sure if any gods exist or not.

Splitting hairs! None of us can claim to know for certain, except for the specious claims of religious zealots… and a few atheist zealots in the other direction as well. If we accept his argument that:

An agnostic atheist won’t claim to know for sure that nothing warranting the label “god” exists or that such cannot exist, but they also don’t actively believe that such an entity does indeed exist.

How is such a belief different from just saying “I’m agnostic”? It’s 6 of one, half a dozen of the other. His semantic games probably help to win arguments, but his tactic of dividing people up into lots of different sects sounds a lot like religion to me. It’s the natural recourse of a zealot who’s experiencing cognitive dissonance.

It’s also a way of dissociating yourself from the truly nutball atheists — the “strong atheists” or whatever he would call’em. Fair enough, those people are stupid. But it seems to me like a lot of atheists are actually agnostics who have taken an atheistic stance until such a time as god is proved one way or another.

Why not just call’em what they are: fence-sitters. Agnostics. Agnosticism, by the way, generally outweighs belief, at least among the logical. Most of us are not ready to believe in a god we
don’t know. How can you tell it’s a good god if you don’t know its properties? Saying you don’t worship something you don’t know seems redundant, but I’ll grant that there are probably crazy people out there who worship gigantic invisible hammers or something.

The Stain of Christianity

To me, saying you’re an agnostic is sensible, but taking it one step further and saying you’re an agnostic atheist is presumptuous. Given that, to date, humanity has proven the existence of exactly zero gods, doesn’t it seem like putting the cart before the horse to say you don’t honor any of the thousands of gods that may or may not be out there? If, for example, humans knew of the existence of 1, 2, 10 or 2000 gods, then fine. You can say, “All of these gods suck. I’m an atheist.” That would be logical, but dismissing the panoply of possible gods beforehand is a logical leap that rigorous thinkers should not make. Perhaps there’s a big-tittied goddess out there who has no worship requirement, but has lots of great advice for lovemaking, thoughtful advice for living happily and the promise of eternal life. Many of the greco-roman gods were totally horny, and pretty tolerant, too. Don’t forget those Vedic gods who were into tantric sex rites. Are you gonna pass that shit up?

Atheists are, ironically, letting the blinders of Judeo-Christian tradition blind them and limit their imagination. I, for instance, don’t accept the notion that there can only be one god and he must be male (…somehow), omnipotent and omniscient. One can be extremely powerful without being all-powerful. Atheists are too concerned with the Christian conception of god and are letting those assumptions fuck with their logic. I would encourage so called atheists to explore eastern religions, many of which are more properly called “philosophies”, to get a good feel for belief outside of the Judeo-Christian deathgrip. Some suggestions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Confucianism.

Subdivisions
There’s that “-ism” suffix again. Atheists are as guilty of it as anybody. Isn’t that a lot of busywork, subdividing yourself down to a certain sect, all so you can feel some sense of belonging, of having that “god” thing squared away? Done. Full stop. Finished. Problem solved.

But it isn’t quite that easy, isn’t it? Atheism is making alliances with other groups, such as hardcore fans of evolution and science in general. It’s growing and becoming a money-making venture and it’s increasingly gaining clout, especially on the internet. Atheism, in its way, affects all of us, and will do so even more in the future. In time it could become a political force and when that happens atheism will become just as corrupt and controlling as Christianity.

Atheists have a stigma — right or wrong — of being close-minded, of having decided something. That, to me, is the most dangerous part. Faith, god, reality, truth — these things are too important to just put in some box. Then again, maybe I’m just a contrarian or a purist because I wouldn’t call myself a Christian simply because some fellow ‘Christians’ would include Hitler and G.W. Bush.

Seeker of Truth
So now that I’ve criticized everybody else, what do I think? Fair question. I think that what’s important is not who or what you believe in, but that you try to find some truth. Life is a quest, and as long as you keep searching for truth or a clue or whatever, you’ll be okay. I believe that ‘seekers’ are safe in the eyes of any benevolent god.

Given a malevolent one, you’re fucked either way.

If there’s no god, oh well, at least you looked. If you’re not going to search how can you really mock the religious folks? Shit, that’s every atheists’ hobby, isn’t it? Their true tenet, their sacrament, I think, is to mock religious dumbshits. And god bless’em for that. I enjoy doing the same. But if you’re gonna talk the talk, you should walk the walk.

Ultimately, it about responsibility. If you’re labeling yourself with a convenient “-ism” you’re not really thinking. Take responsibility for your own faith or lack thereof and try to improve your level of knowledge. Lumping yourself in with a group is too easy. Everybody has different beliefs, so why do we gotta keep making these walls, these sects and strictly delineated sets of believers?

It just makes it easier for people to manipulate us, and isn’t that what atheists, agnostics and free-thinkers have tried to escape for centuries?

What I think we need is 6.5 billion people courageous enough to believe in 6.5 billion personal religions without killing each other, or amassing followers. … Yeah right. A guy can dream.

In the meantime, I guess we’ll have to get used to atheism as a legitimate “faith” in this country. There’s just one problem: I don’t believe atheism really exists! Haha, okay, I’m joking, but the point is that most so-called atheists are actually more agnostic when you come right down to it. But who knows, I could be wrong and as such I’m keeping my options open.

The only thing I know for sure is that people who claim they know “The One True Path” are full of shit. Fuck them. Find your own path.

RigInt has scared me shitless once again with the terrifying story of what happens when you cross the wrong (ultraconservative, rich, powerful) people.

Writer/filmmaker Theresa Duncan mysteriously “killed herself” earlier this month. I’ve rarely seen a person who looks less like a candidate for suicide. She was madly in love with her boyfriend, ran a successful blog and was dedicated to social justice and progressive causes. Nevertheless:

Later that day, Theresa’s boyfriend of 12 years, Jeremy Blake, discovered her body in their East Village apartment, an evident suicide. (“A bottle of pills and alcohol were found near Duncan’s body [and] she left a suicide note saying that she was at peace with her decision and loved Blake and her family deeply.”) A week later, a man was seen walking into the ocean at Rockaway Park, and not walking out. Blake’s wallet and clothing, and his suicide note, were found beneath the boardwalk.

Blake’s suicide, while suspicious, could be a response to Duncan’s. However, I find Theresa’s supposed suicide totally unconvincing. This was murder.

Am I paranoid? I suppose most people reading this will probably think I am. In turn, I think they’re fucking sheep. Paranoia is a natural defense mechanism and it’s kept us alive this long as a species.

I guess I’m just pissed after reading some of the comments here and here. Are people so numb and stupid that they don’t see something suspicious when two deeply paranoid people die mysteriously within a few days of each other, shortly after posting paranoid rants about MKULTRA like this one?

Paranoia is meant to keep you alive, people! If you’re suicidal, you’re not very paranoid, are you? The emotions are pretty much mutually exclusive.

Maybe this is hitting too close to home for me, so let me make this abso-fucking-lutely clear: I am a paranoid nut, but I am as far away from suicide as I could possibly get! I intend to live to be 120 years old, and nothing’s going to stop me. If you find me dead mysteriously one day, and there’s a suicide note and thirteen people saying I was depressed: It’s a lie! I was fucking murdered!

Just wanted to make that crystal clear.

Anyway, there are a lot signs pointing back to Jim Cownie, a powerful Des Moines businessman that Theresa recently attacked on her blog as the source of harassment she and Blake were receiving. Interestingly, a man named Frank Cownie is the mayor of Des Moines. What a coincidence.

This is not the first strange thing to happen in Des Moines. Kidnapped child Johnny Gosch hailed from there. That wouldn’t be so odd if Jim Cownie hadn’t spoken of molesting children to achieve total obedience, like is required for Project MKULTRA to work:

To add the final dessert topping to this apocalyptic art world sundae, Mr. Wit says that normally dour Cownie frequently made jokes about child molestation as a “training” tool.

And of course, the Church of Scientology is involved. Since cults are already masters of mind-control it only makes sense that the CIA would turn to them for clues.

Much of the harassment of me and Mr. Wit was also conducted by the Church Of Scientology in L. A., who Cownie also no doubt also “does business with.” U.S. Intelligence “black ops” and “psy ops” have long relied on (or just outright invented) religious cults (including the Manson Family–Charles Manson received 150 hours of in-prison Scientology “auditing”), biker gangs, and the like in Federal Counterintelligence prorgrams in order to disrupt the counterculture since the 1960s. Read more about the CIA and cults here and couch jumping, Katie kidnapping mind controlled [sic] movie star Tom Crusie’s meeting with Scooter Libby and State Department head Richard Armitage here.

Here I am quoting a dead woman’s blog to prove my point that paranoia is not a mental illness. Paranoia keeps you alive, it lets you see the awful truth that the sheep can’t see. The price is heavy, but it’s not a curse. Instead, “Paranoia seems to us an absolute patriotic duty at the moment.”

Damn right, Theresa. May you and Jeremy rest in peace.

Pope Dumbshit made another lame proclamation recently:

Pope Benedict XVI reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.

This is the theological equivalent of saying “My dad can beat up your dad!” Part of the reason the Catholics like to give the finger to other Christian churches is because the other churches don’t accept the Pope as the Vicar of Christ on Earth (’cause, ya know.. he’s not. He’s just some fucking pederast in a funny hat).

So basically, Bennie the great is asserting the primacy of his dick. “WORSHIP ME, mortals!! Bow before the mighty Benedict!!!”

You know what, Ratzinger, you creepy-looking megalomaniac? Go fuck yourself.

This is an Electric Monkey Pants Intergalactic News Network special report!

Porn-star Ron Jeremy has confessed to masterminding the attacks of September 11, 2001 along with his long-lost brother Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. “We did it,” Ron Jeremy wrote in his confession, calling the mysterious collapse of the towers “the money shot.”

Also confessing was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (or “KSM” as he is known to lazy Americans). KSM had long eluded capture by the Americans by disguising himself as a grizzly bear. Later it was revealed that it wasn’t a disguise; he is just really, really hairy. He twice escaped captivity by pretending to be a dog with rabies, but was recaptured while picking nits and lice out of his fur.

Calling themselves the Hairy Brothers of Destruction, Mr. Jeremy and KSM confessed to a long list of crimes against humanity.

Authorities also seized a hard drive containing details of several assassination plots (including attempts to kill the Pope, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter’s gardener), and hundreds of gigs of midget porn, bestiality porn, and pictures of Ron Jeremy rubbing KSM with sandpaper in what appears to be an attempt at hair removal.

The deranged duo admitted to being tortured by federal agents, and hinted at Abu Ghraib-style torture involving being stacked in a pile of naked men and being led around on a leash. They also indicated that they kind of liked it.

While enjoying a breakfast of bacon and eggs the confessed masterminds of 9/11 assured their interrogators that they were devout Muslims and that their confession was not coerced: “Karl Rove didn’t call me and ask for a confession in exchange for 30 Brazilian hookers. Nothing like that happened, at all” Mr. Jeremy assured his captors, who then fed the revelations to several unquestioning, servile reporters, including this one.

KSM supplied a type-written note that listed all of the crimes the duo is responsible for masterminding. The list includes:

  • the bombing of U.S. Cole
  • the decapitation of Daniel Pearl
  • the planting of explosives that brought down WTC 7
  • farting in the interrogation room — twice
  • the bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia
  • jump-starting Paris Hilton’s career
  • the Democrats’ strong showing in the November elections
  • happy-slapping
  • Abu-Ghraib (specifically: getting the Americans caught)
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • eye-boogers
  • killing Anna Nicole Smith
  • causing President Bush to appear stupid and clueless on TV
  • the Hindenburg disaster
  • pimples
  • the estate tax
  • the illusion of global warming (to scare hippies)
  • the Oklahoma City bombing
  • Watergate
  • killing Jesus Christ (and Old Yeller)

Ron Jeremy supplied an identical list, but he crossed out “Paris Hilton” and wrote “virneeral dizees”, then crossed that out and wrote “VD.”

The above information was provided to reporters on the condition that we not mention Alberto Gonzales, the word “impeachment” or the many inconsistencies in the official 9/11 story for 3 weeks. Naturally, we agreed because we just repeat whatever they say anyway.

[ed.: wait... were we supposed to repeat that last part?... i'd better call karl. hold till then]

This has been an Electric Monkey Pants Intergalactic News Network (EMPINN) special report!

Merry Mithras’ Day

We’re all familiar with the story of Mithras, right? He was born of a virgin on December 25th and lay in a manger where he was attended by shepherds who brought gifts. He took a last supper with his followers, died, and then rose to heaven. He was worshiped on Sunday and was often depicted with a halo around his head. You know this guy, right?

Mithraism precedes Christianity by as much as 1,400 years. Much of the myth of Christianity appears to have been grafted onto Mithraism in order to make it more palatable to the Roman Empire at large, which had adopted Mithraism as one of many state religions. Roman Emperor Constantine was a follower of Mithras before he added Christianity to the list of religions he ascribed to. It was Constantine who moved worship day of Christianity to Sunday (previously it was Saturday, springing from Christianity’s Jewish roots) and declared that Jesus’ real, official, because-I-said-so birthday was December 25th. Constantine decided this in 313 AD without any evidence. It was just more convenient to stick it on Mithras’ Day, which as already an important holiday in Rome because it corresponded to important days in Sol Invictus and Saturnalia. December 25th is important to pagans because it was clear that the sun was returning by then, after months of the days growing colder and shorter. By December 25th, court astrologers could assure the Emperor that yes, the sun had decided to return. The head priest of Mithras was called papa or pope.

So when you’re celebrating Christmas this holiday, don’t forget to sacrifice a bull for Mithras. After all, he is the true origin of many of the rituals that Christians celebrate every year. Jesus, it’s worth noting, venerated Saturday as his holy day. Jesus was probably born in February or September and he was not born of a virgin. But in order to compete in the crowded marketplace of faith in 300 AD you pretty much had to be born of a virgin. Oh, and Jesus was probably not very keen on the Romans since they had conquered his people and forced them to worship strange gods (like Mithras). In fact, the whole point of becoming a messiah was so he could throw off the yoke of Roman oppression. Something to think about for all the Roman Catholics out there.

Ah, I love little squabbles like this. They are such “teachable moments.” Not sure what they teach, exactly, except that Christian video games are pretty goofy.

Liberal and progressive Christian groups say a new computer game in which players must either convert or kill non-Christians is the wrong gift to give this holiday season and that Wal-Mart, a major video game retailer, should yank it off its shelves.

The Campaign to Defend the Constitution and the Christian Alliance for Progress, two online political groups, plan to demand today that Wal-Mart dump Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a PC game inspired by a series of Christian novels that are hugely popular, especially with teens.

The game has been getting abysmal reviews from gamers, but not because of the “convert or die” storyline (gamers are used to slaughtering electrons). It’s because the game has committed the worst sin: it is shitty quality and not fun to play.

Nobody has enough faith to endure a game with such a hokey story, terrible mission design, serious problems with the interface and graphics, and loads of crippling bugs.

Slashdot has additional discussion on the merits of the game and whether it should be pulled from shelves. Personally, do I think it should be pulled or banned? Hell no. Just because a game sucks doesn’t mean we should yank it. Yes, it’s intolerant, but as the GameSpot review makes clear, the game drops into self-parody at several points. I say let people make up their own minds.

The stupidest part about this game, IMO, is how rock musicians are portrayed. Maybe that’s because I’m a rock musician, but I think it’s so fucking lame that rock musicians are a sort of default bad guy. If this is how the Christian fundamentalists perceive us is it any wonder that we think they’re a bunch of intolerant dumbfucks?

Perhaps even more stupid (because it’s not as goofy and laughable) is how Muslims are portrayed in the game as followers of the Antichrist or neutral folks to be converted (or killed if they resist).

Players can choose to join the Antichrist’s team, but of course they can never win on Carpathia’s side. The enemy team includes fictional rock stars and folks with Muslim-sounding names, while the righteous include gospel singers, missionaries, healers and medics. Every character comes with a life story.

When asked about the Arab and Muslim-sounding names, Frichner said the game does not endorse prejudice. But “Muslims are not believers in Jesus Christ” — and thus can’t be on Christ’s side in the game.

“That is so obvious,” he said.

Oh really, Mr. Frichner? I guess he’s been too busy drinking the kool-aid (or “blood of Christ” in this case) to notice that Muslims recognize Jesus as a great prophet, teacher and holy man. They may not agree with the batshit notion that Jesus = God, but most rational people believe the same. (Jesus called himself “the Son of Man” not “I am God!!! Worship me, bitches!!”)

I wonder if Mr. Frichner would be interested to know how highly venerated Jesus is in the Qur’an/Koran?

Jesus is described as one who is min al-muqarrabin (among the nearest to God) and as min al-salihin (of the upright) and as wajih (eminent) [Surah 3:40-46]. Baidhawi amplifies this, saying that Jesus is illustrious in this world as a Prophet and in the next as an intercessor (Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, p.229.) Following the Qur’anic presentation of Jesus, he is known among Muslims as Kalimatullah (the word of God), and Ruh Allah (the spirit of God) [Surah 3:45; Surah 4:171]. No other prophets have been described in such terms. No other prophet nor Muhammad has ever been called the spirit of God.

Instead of fostering dialogue between religions Frichner is spouting ignorance and contributing to the baseless Christian hatred and persecution of Muslims, a people whose religion is actually founded on the tenets of Christianity. In essence, this game is a monument to the stupidity and intolerance of the religious right. Leave it on the shelves.