Watch episode 11 of Louis C. K.'s show Louie on Hulu, or through Netflix instant watch if you have it. The show is normally a comedy, but this episode isn't.

You know, I could write several pages about it. But I'll give my blood pressure a rest.
I mentioned this essay on The Sci Phi Show and said that I'd put it back at the top of the site when the episode aired so the listeners could see the illustration, so here it is.

Imagine if transportation was defined as a device that uses horses or sails-- automobile drivers would be accused of denying the existence of transportation.

We're genetically programmed to see an Alpha Male in our primate pack as the source of truth and moral law. This explains the difficulty I have in communicating alternative models of truth and moral law to bible believers. It's not that they reject the model I present, it's that they literally don't know what I'm saying. It's a mental block. We take away the concept of the Alpha Male Monkey in the sky, and they think we've declared truth and morality to be nonexistent, because to them, "right" is defined as: "whatever the Alpha Male Monkey says." By definition. I put the discussion behind this link ...with drawings. ) Morality doesn't look like this:

It looks like this:
Read more... )
The phrase "the Alpha Male Monkey" may be the most useful new explanatory tool I've encountered in years. [livejournal.com profile] paranthropus gave it to me in a recent LJ post about primate group psychology. It was an inspirational and motivational insight into the evolutionary biology of my psychology which has kept me up at night thinking of the implications. I wrote about it in this subsequent LJ post, but it occurred to me that this is valuable for explaining myself to bible-believing Christians.

We're genetically programmed to see an Alpha Male in our primate pack as the source of truth and moral law. This explains the difficulty I have in communicating alternative models of truth and moral law to bible believers. It's not that they reject the model I present, it's that they literally don't know what I'm saying. It's a mental block. We take away the concept of the Alpha Male Monkey in the sky, and they think we've declared truth and morality to be nonexistent, because to them, "right" is defined as: "whatever the Alpha Male Monkey says." By definition. I put the discussion behind this link ...with drawings. ) Morality doesn't look like this:

It looks like this:
Read more... )
Why do I keep reading PCCBoard*? I'm the board's resident infidel. I don't post all that much anymore, but when someone started a thread (click here) to wish me a happy birthday, and dozens of members chimed in, I felt like it would almost be rude not to participate.

Eventually, the results became predictably uncivil. Several people baited me, and I finally responded to one of them in a manner which I felt was non-inflammatory. This one was a suggestion that I should thank God for the good circumstances 2006 has brought me. It was thought-provoking to realize how many of the things I now enjoy are in direct contradiction to their teachings; even if their deity really existed, it would seem odd to thank him for things he prohibits. In fact, scripture states that divine punishment is reserved only to improve the character of the devout, serving as evidence that I will not be in heaven. If I were to accept that teaching, that's an incongruous thing to thank God for. The thread immediately descended into claims that I am incapable of logic, I receive my life's guidance from video games, I need to repent before I'm destroyed, and I should tell Spock hello.

Fortunately there are many on PCCBoard who sincerely wish me well and even like me; but given that so many fundamentalist churches teach that a funeral is a good time and place to point out that the deceased is in hell, it seems inevitable for the virtual birthday party to be crashed.

When people sincerely believe that your eternal destiny is at stake, it's reasonable, necessary, or even unavoidable to prioritize addressing that problem above all other concerns, given their views. I thought I was participating in a classy and pleasant discussion, but they don't perceive any such discussion in those terms. This is because they consider spiritual talk a "serious" topic, and I consider it no more of a downer than debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The social customs are completely different than those in the reality-based community.


* PCCBoard.com is the unofficial messageboard of my wacky fundamentalist alma mater, Pensacola Christian College, which I have posted about many times.
nemorathwald: (I'm losin' it)
The village of Hell, Michigan threw a party yesterday because the date was 06/06/06. My friends and I visited, and found it to be strangely worthwhile.

It's a large clearing in a forest. I had to drive all over Hell's half acre to get there. The road to Hell is hemmed in on both sides with trees, and on 6/6/6, it was also lined with cars on either side for a couple of miles. The townsfolk clearly were insufficiently prepared; they did not expect tens of thousands of people to break Hell wide open. They had good intentions-- but they paved the road to Hell with asphalt.

The three buildings were the general store, the "Screams" ice cream shop where Hell freezes over, and the Dam Site Inn. Behind this restaurant I visited a river with a dam across it. This town is where Hell Creek is dammed.

It's said that "wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereby," but that was not the case. Other than the scattering of homes, the only three buildings in Hell had lines stretching out in which one could wait for an hour, more reminiscent of the line for Peter's pearly gates. Hell is long lines.

There were a lot of signs to stick your head through and take pictures with; hearses painted with macabre and beautiful illustrations; a bell with a huge wooden gong; souveneirs for $6.66; people wearing elaborate monster costumes and handbaskets; and a singing, guitar-strumming vampire from whom we bought CDs. And yet despite the quick depletion of everything to see in Hell, and almost nothing to do, the occupants of Hell had no fury like a woman scorned. Instead there were smiles everywhere. It was the typical fairgoing crowd, made up of hundreds of curiosity seekers from most walks of life, plus massive quantities of bikers and several extremely visible police. I expected to say "never was there a more wretched hive of scum and villiany" but ... no. Not so much.

I arrived too late to see the main attraction, which was a street preacher. He warned the revelers of impending catastrophe and offered salvation, until the bikers blew an enormous cloud of tire-smoke on him. (Image from the Detroit Free Press is here.) And the street preachers walked away; that means on 6/6/6 the bikers made the lame to walk. But they were still lame.

I'm kind of upset that I missed it because that's really what 6/6/6 in Hell Michigan is all about. We were there to celebrate that man's insane mythology just like we celebrate a TV show or a comic book. These tales would not have come down to us through the centuries without people who took them seriously. He was like that lady I met at a Star Trek convention who said that one day, after she fell down the stairs and hit her head, she started picking up transmissions from the Pliades constellation, and forgot 200 words of Klingon vocabulary.

The original author of the book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Christian Bible didn't take 6-6-6 seriously, and might be amused by the Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia of those who do. The attributes of the Beast, such as this number, were a set of euphemisms he used to represent Emperor Nero, who was persecuting Christians at the time. He couldn't come out and name the things he was talking about because he would get in trouble, so the entire book is full of satirical symbolism. Our own editorial cartoons will probably make no sense 2000 years from now, but I hope they don't become the source of a superstition.

Images behind this link. )
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)

Click here
to read a story titled "The Purpose-Driven Life-Takers". It's on Talk To Action, a site about resisting religious Dominionism. This is their synopsis of the new video game based on the Left Behind books:

Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice.

This game immerses children in present-day New York City -- 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes (who taste a lot like Christian).

Is this paramilitary mission simulator for children anything other than prejudice and bigotry using religion as an organizing tool to get people in a violent frame of mind? The dialogue includes people saying, "Praise the Lord," as they blow infidels away.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
And so concludes another discussion, this time with someone who says he is "completely objective now as faer [sic] as is humanly possible". According to him, the way to become objective is to stop hardening your heart against Christ, and instead harden your heart against anything other than Christ. I particularly love how he prefaces a statement by saying "LOGIC:" Isn't that cute?

On the one hand he is proud of his higher education and expects me to take his word for it because of this; and on the other hand he simultaneously considers universities to be in the business of deceiving people. He is really impressed with pseudoscientist Creationists who have not published any papers through peer-reviewed journals. In those rare moments where he stops telling me what my motives are and attempts to put together an argument, this is the main thrust. He eventually concludes our exchange with a frustrated series of insults couched in love and friendship. He specifically denies that I got to him, but obviously I did. Poor guy.

Not trusting e-mail alone to keep my records, I am archiving it here even though it will be of limited interest to you. I am also removing the name of my correspondent.
Read more... )
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
Followers of Christ did not get the label "Christian" until several decades after Christ. The term was coined by non-Christians in Asia Minor as a derisive term, meaning "little Christ ones." In a stroke of genius, the followers of Christ adopted the term as their name and it came to mean something good. I saw a similar opportunity in a newspaper editorial by Orson Scott Card. Mr. Card refers to the non-Heartland derisively as "Smartland." Don't you love that name? America's Smartland. Let's start using it. In fact, let's think of ways to spread it as a meme. I think I'll make a banner for people to post on their sites and blogs. Perhaps it will feature an image of Mr. Card with a word balloon saying, "This site a proud resident of America's Smartland."

The problem is that there is seriously a non-Smartland in America. Sane, responsible Christians and religious people who are members of Smartland are much better than American Christians and religious people who are not. This is often used as an excuse to not try to reach out to insane and irresponsible forms of religion in non-Smartland, and cut off one of its major weapons by proving God doesn't exist. For instance, Marshall Brain, who runs HowStuffWorks.com, recently put out a gentle and incisive online book that intends to help with that goal, and John Scalzi (an agnostic) wrote a blog post to lambaste it as a waste of time because we're hurting the feelings of Brother Guy Consolmagno and other religious residents of Smartland. Never mind that the book is not aimed at religous residents of Smartland. We are taking weapons out of the hands of those who abuse them. That's what matters.

John is correct when he says there is just as much of a problem with 20th-century secular dictators as there had been with the Inquisition, Crusades, and witch trials of earlier centuries. But nobody who thinks faith-based cultures are more virtuous and socially stable than secular cultures knows about the comparison with Sweden.

Sweden is the most atheistic country per-capita in the world, and yet somehow not only don't they descend into genocide, they have better rates on just about everything than do highly religious nations. More to the point, according to this article (which reports a systematic study that found current global statistics the exact opposite of religious assumptions), this and countless other recent comprehensive studies show dramatically that the less religious a nation is, the more virtuously its citizens act. The article says, Read more... )
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
Remember the woman in Atlanta who was held hostage in March by a courtroom shooter, and said she convinced him to turn himself in by "witnessing" to him out of the Christian book The Purpose-Driven Life?

Record Online News Wire reports her new revelations that he asked her for pot, and not having any pot, she gave him some of her illegal stash of crystal methamphetamine instead. It wasn't supernatural intervention that got the fugitive to relent; it was the gunman snorting the happy-drugs to which Ashley Smith was addicted. But the "life-changing power" of a Godly testimony was given the credit anyway, and Smith started raking in money from church-related marketing. From the article:

"Since Nichols' arrest, Smith has received $70,000 in rewards and has been bombarded with offers for books, movies and speaking engagements. Her ordeal has been held up as an example of the redemptive power of faith."
I should have included this in my recent list of ways Linux is like theology. You can't criticize Linux because somebody somewhere made their own version of Linux yesterday morning before breakfast which is intended to not have that problem; and they think you're criticizing them. But when I mean Linux, I mean the mainstream. I mean the thousands and thousands of open-source OS devotees and all the things that they really do have in common. Yes, there's variety, but they really do have certain things overwhelmingly in common. So do people of faith, from the Ayatollah to a little old lady down the street. More about that in a moment.

There are a lot of people telling me Linux is ready for everyone to use as a desktop system. But when I describe the experience I end up having which is not ready for the non-expert, and complain that the situation has been misrepresented, some other open-source OS advocates will stand up and say "hey, where are you getting that? Nobody's saying that. I never said that. I never heard any Linux supporter tell you that. Nobody said it was ready for you."

Well here's a link to another one.

Read more... )Similarly, a secularist can't criticize faith without immediately being pounced on by religious progressives who made up a new-and-improved religion yesterday before breakfast and now consider it normal. "Hold on," they say, "who said god was authoritarian, or faith and reason aren't compatible? What? When? Huh? What? Nobody said that." Um, how about this: how about almost everybody ever. That's like inventing a new operating system yesterday before breakfast that nobody heard of, and isn't compatible with Debian or RedHat or anything, and makes you start over from scratch.

"I came up with a totally new mental practice and I'm calling it faith. So, don't criticize the mental practices referred to by Christian Supremacists and Iranian clerics as faith! That word is off-limits, or else I couldn't have my own faith! Just oppose their mean and irrational actions!" Where do you think actions come from? Beliefs. If beliefs can't be criticized and weighed and judged, you're fighting the symptoms instead of the disease.

Imagine that I am -- metaphorically -- in armed combat with the Family Research Council or somebody like that. I will never hassle you about your religion or even mention it to you until you run up and pull my weapon out of my hands. If you do that, you know what? If you stand between me and the theocrats, fuck your precious faith. Fuck it in and around the ass region and that vicinity. Do religious progressives have any idea what price they're asking us to pay? Whatever benefit is gained from progressive religion isn't worth leaving unopposed the problems that mainstream religions tend to have in common. That would be a horrific cost. We're playing with grown-ups and the stakes are higher than the games you're playing. When I say "faith" I mean the awful mental sleight of hand and self-delusion that is actually practiced every day by the six billion people who never heard of the progressive religion you made up yesterday. I complain about the shit I have to put up with. If you're not going to help fight that fight, so that you can go on smoking your spiritual weed, at least stop trying to disarm us of the most important weapon: I raise my hand and say "excuse me abortion clinic bombers and terrorists and legislators, faith is make believe."
At one time or another I've faced down most of the arguments listed on this site: Over 300 Proofs of God's Existence collected from discussions with religious people on the Internet Infidels forums. It just keeps getting funnier and funnier.

17. ARGUMENT FROM INTIMIDATION
(1) See this bonfire?
(2) Therefore, God exists.
Read more... )
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
Last year, a United Church of Christ TV ad was rejected by CBS and NBC for being too controversial. It depicts bouncers of the sort that stand guard over the doors of popular nightclubs. But these are granting and withholding admission to a non-Church-of-Christ church service. The commercial then says that Jesus never turned anyone away. It's a good commercial, and it's true that people should accept all the groups the commercial identifies. I only bring it up because the campaign slogan is "God is still speaking." That sentence is either confused or scary. It's bad enough for the United Church of Christ to have a set of doctrines that you and I are not allowed to deny. It's worse if they get to change what we are not allowed to contradict, from year to year. People ignore progressive churches for the same reason they ignore the latest findings about cholesterol as the conclusions flip flop. If God's not even better than science, that's not very godlike.

Religions up until recently have emphasized faith in what one is told to believe, but they don't ignore personal observation and reason. That is, they don't ignore rationality with new recruits, but only with the most advanced followers. They employ personal observation and reason only far enough to discredit personal observation and reason in favor of believing whatever one is told. That's the way they maintain power over their congregations. Their God or holy book has already done all their important thinking for them, and yet they manage to convince their congregations that they have only given up thinking for themselves because this was the logical outcome of thinking. This is a nod to the value of somebody somewhere doing some thinking, but it remains only for them to learn it by rote. One can't have a message from Perfection Personified and simultaneously have room for improvement. That wouldn't be Perfection Personified. That's why dropping the "G" bomb is so final and absolutist. The concept of "god" can only be used as a sanction that asserts perfection and puts ideas outside of the realm of discourse.

Since "god" has no meaning without absolutism, "God is still speaking" is a nerve-wracking pronouncement because it means "absolutist from minute to minute." "Sources of infallible censorship can flip flop without any notice." An image comes to mind of one of the pigs from George Orwell's Animal Farm up on a ladder with a bucket of paint, editing the farm's constitution in the middle of the night. The nice thing is that the gods of progressive churches flop their followers around in the breeze so much that they undermine their confidence and they won't bother the rest of us with knocking on our doors on weekend mornings! I'm appreciative of that.
nemorathwald: (Matt 3)
From The Onion:

EVANGELICAL SCIENTISTS REFUTE GRAVITY WITH NEW 'INTELLIGENT FALLING' THEORY

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

Read more... )
"Televangelist Benny Hinn is threatening to sue the religious satire magazine The Door for the video clip it is distributing that shows Hinn's wife, Suzanne, preaching at their former church in Orlando, Florida. She says if you're a lifeless, blackslidden Christian, you need a "Holy Ghost enema... right up your rear end."

Because, according to Mz. Hinn, "God won't tolerate" you not getting a Holy Ghost enema. She paces back and forth on the stage like a drunken caged tiger, raves against "butt-kissers," loses her shoes and goes on some obscure tangent about high-heels, blames her sense of humor on being British, and collapses on the stage at the end of her lunatic breakdown, which is typical of "spirit-filled" services. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, it's just difficult to take as seriously as the crowd obviously wants to take it. I laughed so hard I nearly fell down, so perhaps that means I'm filled with the spirit!

If anyone is filled with the spirit, it's Robert Tilton, isn't it? And in this hilarious video, the spirit just won't stop coming out of him. I got that from PCCboard. Some of my favorite comments there were, "The man is full of prophetic utterances," and "It's like a mightly rushing wind!"
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
Did you really think that every modern bible believer accepts the findings of Copernicus? Witness so-called Creation Science in its purest and least hypocritical form. Geocentricity.com is the homepage of the Biblical Astronomy Association. They attempt to prove the existence of "the firmament" using sophistries and fallacious reasoning clothed in scientific language. All that serves as a good education in how to detect their type of pseudoscience through its comparison with other pseudosciences like Creationism, but when you get to their Credo they unclothe their dishonesty in plain sight:

"...All scientific endeavor which does not accept this revelation from on high without any reservations, literary, philosophical or whatever, we reject as already condemned in its unfounded first assumptions.

We believe that the creation was completed in six twenty-four hour days and that the world is not older than about six thousand years. We maintain that the Bible teaches us of an earth that neither rotates daily nor revolves yearly about the sun; that it is at rest with respect to the throne of him who called it into existence; and that hence it is absolutely at rest in the universe. ..."


{blah blah blah salvation}

" Lastly, the reason why we deem a return to a geocentric astronomy a first apologetic necessity is that its rejection at the beginning of our Modern Age constitutes one very important, if not the most important, cause of the historical development of Bible criticism, now resulting in an increasingly anti-Christian world in which atheistic existentialism is preaching a life that is really meaningless."

So there they blow it by showing their hand and revealing what's really at stake is that they can't mature emotionally and accept the cosmos as it is. As soon as they remove such passages (the same way Creationism was dressed up as Intelligent Design) watch out Kansas school boards. What is really most important about this website is that they acknowledge, and effectively demonstrate with specific passages and arguments about them, that the Christian bible teaches geocentrism and cannot be accepted literally without it. The bible must be taken figuratively.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
A web page titled Quotes from the American Taliban. I'm not going to let myself comment. Just read it.
CHARLESTON, West Virginia (AP) -- Even Jesus Christ can't circumvent the rules for getting a driver's license in West Virginia.

Attempts to prove his name really is Christ have led the man born as Peter Robert Phillips Jr. through a lengthy legal battle and a recent victory in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.Read more... )Any comment from the man in the middle of this legal tussle?

"Christ is not speaking to the press at this time," Pishevar said.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
In a recent reply on this blog to [livejournal.com profile] rikhei's question
I get the impression that you feel our political system should reflect Christian morality - if that's so, may I ask how you feel about the doctrine of separation of church and state?
[livejournal.com profile] sibbidy said:
This country was founded on Christian morality. The seperation of church and state was created so the government would not interfere with the church, not vice versa.

What this fails to take into account is that the involvement of your church in the state is state involvement in church-- just interfering with somebody else's church. If it was Islamic involvement in our government, [livejournal.com profile] sibbidy would quickly see a demonstration of this.

The view she expresses is Christian Supremacism, an interpretation of religious freedom identical to that of Islamic Supremacists. The shared idea of these movements is that since their nations have traditions from one particular religion, "freedom of religion" means that other religions are free to practice in privacy as tolerated guests. In this interpretation, the public sphere is a place on which a majority religion can plant a flag as the sole basis for legitimate authority, as Judge Moore did in Alabama, and which currently also exists in Iran.

I'm not sure which I would rather have: a nation under attack by Islamic violence because we hold fast to a principle of separation between church and state, or to defeat Al Quaeda abroad while succumbing to Dr. James Dobson's American Taliban in our laws. But it's clear that the threat from Christian political supremacists will be, and already has been, a greater threat to the personal first-hand experience of you and me than the threat of violence from Muslim political supremacists.
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
There is an interesting conversation on [livejournal.com profile] saramichigan's blog between those who discard Jesus of Nazareth and those who prefer to salvage the good parts of his teachings. But how can you be a Christian who says Jesus is sometimes wrong? Isn't that a contradiction in terms when it comes to a man who demands nothing less than your complete and utter subjugation? Describing the level of sacrifice that he requires, he compares it to your horrific death by torture: Matthew 10:38; Matthew 10:37-39 Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34: Mark 8:33-35: Luke 9:23; Luke 9:22-24 You have to brainwash and enslave your mind so that truths contradicting what you are taught can never even be considered: 2 Corinthians 10:5. He doesn't say "follow my ideas," he doesn't say "love is the way," he says "I AM THE WAY. I AM LOVE. I AM PERFECTION PERSONIFIED." The guy is a megalomaniac cult leader.

This is more like the Flaming Eye of Mordor than the cute and harmless depiction so often presented, but even if that were not the case, why should I call myself by the name of a person? Buddhist, Christian, Krishna, or what have you. When you do that, you're attaching yourself to everything about that person, both pro and con, and suddenly you can not admit to any imperfection in that person. It's not enough to appreciate some of their ideas, or you'd name yourself after the ideas, wouldn't you?

For example, there is a good reason that I call myself a libertarian and not a "Randist." Despite her valuable contributions to libertarianism, Ayn Rand was a nasty and unpleasant person who I would not even want to have lunch with. The rightness or wrongness of a message is not dependent on the likeability of the messenger. This is why it's never right to exalt any guru or teacher by labeling one's self by attachment to that person. Even if you can't find a flaw in them, it's a limitation on further impovement. If you glue your feet to the shoulders of the giants on which you stand, you can never get higher. [livejournal.com profile] cosette_valjean ultimately decided for this reason to drop the label "Christian" and call herself a "love-ist."

So back to the question for the nice, non-cultist Christians out there: If you call yourself a Christian, but acknowledge that part of Christ's teaching and example is morally wrong, often harmful, and deserves to be rejected, what use is there in keeping the name?

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