Military Missionaries

16 12 2008

Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?

This is stupid in so many ways that I’m really at a loss here. Even if we set aside the flagrant constitutional violation here, this is just dumb. The absolute last thing we want is to be perceived as some sort of Christian crusade. Few things could be worse for our position. That just serves to inflame sentiment against America even further than we’ve already managed. How many soldiers will get killed because extremists are getting more support as a result of this sort of thing? Even beyond the ethical, this is downright stupid.

And then there’s that piece of paper, the Constitution of the United States of America. There’s this thing, right, called the first amendment, and it says that the government isn’t allowed anywhere near religion. This wall of separation is all encompassing. Nothing religious is supposed to be supported by the government directly or indirectly. And we’re embedding missionaries with our troops? Are you serious? This isn’t even a grey area. This is blatant, I-spit-on-the-bill-of-rights stuff. Who the hell green lighted this? They need to be removed immediately, because there’s no way they didn’t know what they were doing, or how very illegal it is. What on earth is going on in the military that they thought they could get away with it, and that they’ve actually done so up to now?

And of course this isn’t getting reported on by any big papers/TV stations as far as I can tell. Do most people not care that our military is fast becoming a bunch of crusaders? Why are the religious not more scared by this? Do this many people condone the crusades? Because if not, they should be as afraid of this sort of thing happening to their religion and their country as we are.


“Are you a hardcore atheist”

16 12 2008

So, Hemant made The List. Let’s see how I fare…

  1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge.
  2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person.
  3. Created an atheist blog.
  4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone.
  5. Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic.
  6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron.
  7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know.
  8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc.
  9. Have come out as an atheist to your family.
  10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering.
  11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization.
  12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony.
  13. Donated money to an atheist organization.
  14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins.
  15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism.
  16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize.
  17. Hid your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away.
  18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc).
  19. Attended a protest that involved religion.
  20. Attended an atheist conference.
  21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel.
  22. Started an atheist group in your area or school.
  23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism.
  24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die.
  25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction.
  26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place.
  27. Lost a job because of your atheism.
  28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count).
  29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills.
  30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
  31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!”
  32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying.
  33. Have turned on Christian TV because you need something entertaining to watch.
  34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist.
  35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant.
  36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service).
  37. Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic)
  38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism.
  39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God.
  40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift.
  41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public.
  42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them.
  43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God.
  44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants).
  45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it.
  46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.”
  47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all.
  48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to…
  49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray.
  50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you.

Only 11?! I guess I’m not going to cut it =( Damn you Elles!

Santa Claus is coming to town!

5 12 2008

So much to do. Get stuff for friends and family, wage a war on all that is decent, get time off of school, and generally have a good time. Yes, it is that time again. It is the holiday season! Time of good cheer, lights, trees, incoherent news anchors, and general merriment!

You know, I can’t help but think that the holidays are more humanist than religious (shh, don’t tell Bill). They are, at least in theory, much more focused on people than religion. Religious themes generally include the supernatural, whereas the holiday season is about enjoying yourself, spending time with your family, and making others happy too. And for all the religious right’s ranting, the holidays have been thoroughly secularized, not by our dark conspiracy, but by the average Christian’s decency and good will.

Sure, there’s Christmas mass and so on, but I think that most people think more about the rest of the month of December than a few hours spent in church on Christmas. Plus, people spend the rest of the season trying to be a bit more humanist without even thinking about it. I think that’s the point, isn’t it?

Beyond the heathen nature of the holiday spirit, there’re the heathens happily keeping it at work! Doubt not, ye atheists, this is our time to enjoy ourselves too! We can have fun and enjoy the fact that, for a while, everyone’s a bit like us! It doesn’t matter if Christmas has Christian roots (it doesn’t), it’s not just a Christian holiday anymore. It’s just a holiday that actually brings out the good side of people for weeks at a time, and that lets us enjoy ourselves. So don’t worry about whether this is a holiday we can celebrate. We can celebrate  any holiday we want, whether the religious think it’s theirs or not!

Billo strikes back!

4 12 2008

Billo has struck another triumphant blow in the war to save Christmas! Unfortunately for him, he appears to have struck it in the wrong direction. Someone should let him know that you’re supposed to make the other side look stupid.

Beyond that, what can I say that can add to the man himself? His words stand in their own terrible glory.

In fact, I’ll borrow some of them. Fox Noise is ground zero for just about every nutty right wing cause, but this time it has embarrassed the industry, and the nation. Again.


27 11 2008

So, I’m just a little confused here. Why is whether Thanksgiving is a holiday that atheists can celebrate even in question? It’s not like it’s a holiday derived from a religious text. It’s about being grateful. It works exactly the same way for us, except we don’t say a prayer over our meal. Are there really people who think this poorly of us? Well, I guess I’m not surprised, but I’m a little sad that there are people like that.

Afterlife Myths (3)

17 11 2008

(Afterlife Myths 2)

So, I’ve talked about what the myths tend to be like, both the heaven side of them and the hell side. I was actually going somewhere with my ramblings this time, so here’s the conclusion post. (Sorry it’s so focused on Christianity again =\ )

Hell myths are obviously bad. Many who believed strongly in Hell say that it has terrified them for much of their life. Hell espouses an idea of justice that is distorted to the point of meaninglessness. It declares God’s absolute power over us and his right to that power. It’s authoritarian and hate filled, and it’s absolute crap.

Heaven myths are less clear cut. They give people a reason to live good lives, after all, without terrifying them (yes, it’s cynical, but if it works…), and they provide comfort for people about death. What’s wrong with that?

Well, I left out a few important things that heaven myths do. For instance, they interfere with the grieving process. People continue to believe that in some sense, their loved one is still there. They can’t completely get over the death because, to them, the death is caught forever half way done. Can you imagine what it would make you feel like if your mother, your brother, your child were permanently almost dead?

It leaves us with a ghost of that family member forever haunting us, because we never give up on their being there. We cling to that because it comforts us that they aren’t really gone, but that’s just denial. Denial is unhealthy at best, and incredibly destructive at worst, yet it is enshrined in almost all religions because it makes us think we feel better.

On top of that, it erases the idea of morality, or at the very least the idea of “Christian morality.” I’ll tackle the very liberal view of heave first,  liberal view of heaven next (I don’t mind those two so much, because they’re welcoming and accepting to other people as well), then last the more “traditional” view of Heaven.

If we say that everyone goes to heaven, well, that means that no matter what we do, we recieve eternal happiness. The likes of Hitler would thus arrive in Heaven completely unpunished, because this view of heaven is so tolerant. So much for God caring about morality. Of course, I think this still leaves room for morality. It just means you do good because it should be done, and because it helps other people. However, if you believe in eternal heaven, you don’t think that life on Earth matters so much, so why worry about it? I realize that many very liberal Christians work to help others. I’m just saying that their beliefs somewhat devalue that action.

If we say that everyone receives their just punishment and then goes to Heaven, you have a reason to be good, but not too much reason. After all, no matter how long your punishment, you’re in Heaven forever, right? There’s also the same problem of devaluing life on Earth as in the first view, since Heaven is still eternal. And finally, this starts to overlap with the traditional view, where you do good because you get something out of it.

Finally, there is the traditional Heaven. This, of course, is paired with Hell. That right there is enough against it, I think, because Hell is bull, but I’ll address the Heaven side, too. This is the ultimate “do good or else” situation. You don’t do good because it’s the right thing to do, you do good because it gets you into heaven. It’s as cynical and amoral as it comes, but it’s embraced by a horrifying number of people.

I’m not of the PZ Myers school of thought. I don’t think religion is completely evil. I’m not of the Dawkins school of thought, either. I don’t think it’s fairly evil. I think that the more liberal versions of Heaven really aren’t too bad. If the comfort they provide outweighs the interruption of the grieving process, then I have no problem with them. But sadly, I think that for many people that’s not the case. Even the liberal view of Heaven can cause harm. That’s why I argue against it. Not because I hate religion, not because I eat babies (ok, maybe one or two), but because I feel that I have to oppose that which causes needless harm.

First post, and skepticism

15 10 2008

How do you start a blog? Well, I have no idea, so I guess I’ll have to make up my own way!

I’m hoping to start using this blog to write about science, skepticism, atheism, etc from a high schooler’s perspective. If no one ever reads the blog, well, I get to vent frustrations and maybe think through my ideas more often, and if people do read it, cool! I guess this first post should have a topic, so on to the inaugural topic.

Skepticism isn’t a dogma, a body of knowledge, or even a system. It’s a way of thinking. Skepticism doesn’t mean that you reach a certain conclusion, it means that you arrive at that conclusion a certain way. Most skeptics agree on issues relating to pseudoscience because pseudoscience is about facts, not about values. Skeptics disagree on politics, sometimes religion, and often on how to spread skepticism because those are not based on skeptical thinking, although they can use it. Those are based on your underlying values. Conservatives and liberals arrive at different conclusions not just through different types of thinking, but through disagreeing about what matters most.

The point of skepticism, however, is that if you are shown that your reasoning or evidence are wrong, you will change your position. Christopher Hitchens, for instance, after having himself waterboarded, changed his position and decided that waterboarding was in fact torture. He still has the same political orientation, but he has changed his view on a specific aspect of it based on evidence.

That is why skepticism is important. It allows us to realize when we are wrong. If we accept claims uncritically, we won’t find problems with their evidence or holes in their reasoning. Without skepticism we accept falsehoods not through any willful bias, but simply through lack of the tools to tell the difference between truth and falsehood.

Skepticism is about analyzing our own ideas with the light of reason. It is about identifying our subtle biases and avoiding them. It is about finding the little tricks we play on ourselves so that we don’t see when our logic breaks down, or when our evidence is insufficient. It is not about atheism or theism, it is about how you arrive at atheism or why you believe in a god.

A process relies on its input for its output. Skepticism is only the process. If two people have different values or premises, they will arrive at different conclusions. And part of skepticism recognizing when this happens and just agreeing to disagree.