Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Good News for Atheists: We're Worse than Muslims

Is this a milestone for secularism? A new Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey asked evangelical leaders what worried them the most. If you guessed Islam, you guessed wrong. It's secularism!

When asked about major threats to Evangelical Christianity, secularism topped the list at 71%, followed by consumerism (67%), and sex and violence in pop culture (59%). Islam came in a distant fourth at 47%.

(I was amused that the "influence of Catholicism" is also on the list at 10%. I guess these evangelical Christians don't count Catholics among their brethren.)

This is really good news. It means secularism and atheism are making genuine progress around the world. You know you're making a difference when the opposition can't ignore you any more. And when you're their top concern worldwide, it means whatever you're doing is working.

The Pew survey had a few other fascinating

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Best Christian Quote of the Year: Preacher Fail

This has to be the best Christian quote of the year:
"... [If] God doesn't destroy America pretty soon, He’s gonna have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."
– John MacArthur, Christian evangelical author and preacher
One of the biggest problems facing America today is that preachers like John MacArthur are diverting us from the real problems.

MacArthur is one of those doom-and-gloom preachers who love to preach darkness and damnation. He must be pretty famous because he's authored or edited something like 150 books. (One has to suspect there's a certain amount of redundancy in his writing after the fortieth or fiftieth book.)

His big show involves the classic Christian recipe:
  • Convince his audience that everything pleasurable is actually a vile sin that's damned by God.
  • Point out that everyone likes fun stuff, so we're all vile sinners.
  • Connect this to confusing prophecies and irrelevant myths that were written by stone-age farmers two to three thousand years ago.
  • The sky is falling! God is going to get us, and boy are you sinners going to be sorry!
Here are a couple samples:
“Materialism, drunkard pleasure seeking, arrogant conceit, defiant sinfulness, moral perversion, and corrupt leadership… Do you not see [them] in America?”

"What do we have here? We have here, folks, Anthony Weiner type people…corrupt leaders. Is there ever any end to this corruption... ?"
But the real danger from preachers like MacArthur is that they want to take over America and turn it into a theocracy
"No other nation has literally been born out of a desire to be faithful and obedient to the living and abiding Word of God. America is the first nation that separated Church and State."
It's sad how many people fall for this brand of doom-and-gloom speech. There are certainly problems in America and around the world, but not the ones MacArthur is talking about.

Did you see drug users causing the subprime mortgage crisis? No, it was bankers and

Monday, June 27, 2011

America Hates Gays, but Hates Atheists Even More!

Last week's victory legalizing gay marriage in New York was a huge step forward. Although the pace of the civil rights campaign for gays is far too slow, it's great to see steady progress.

But now there's a new cause for celebration! A new Gallup poll shows that gays have achieved another huge victory: they're far more popular than atheists! When one oppressed minority gains ground on another, isn't that cause for celebration?

No, I'm just kidding (in case anyone misses the humor). I'm really pleased that America is slowly overcoming the religion-inspired discrimination and hatred against the LGBT community. But it's rather alarming that atheists are still so widely reviled. It's a testament to the power of religious discrimination that the Christian dogma machine has managed to instill such fear and loathing of America's most law-abiding group.

For your amusement, here is the Gallup breakdown of the most-reviled minorities in America. We atheists take the prize at

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Muslims Lose in Dutch Free Speech Case

There's some good news from Amsterdam: Muslims lost in a bid to censor an obnoxious right-wing politician, Geert Wilders, who is known for his harsh criticism of Islam.

But under this small victory is something much more sinister: a new trick that makes censorship seem OK.

Geert Wilder's case was dismissed on a highly-technical "escape clause" in the law. The judge ruled that Wilders' remarks were directed at Islam (the religion), not at Muslims (the people). That meant his remarks didn't constitute hate speech. Apparently in The Netherlands you can hate a thing but not a person. It's disturbing that the case was thrown out on such a thin technical issue.

This is a small victory for free speech in a modern country where free speech shouldn't even be a question. I'm frankly shocked by this case. Is it really possible that free speech is disappearing in a modern democracy?

Apparently so. Consider this story from Denmark:
Lars Hedegaard, Islamic expert and president of the International Free Press Society, was found guilty of racism today by Denmark’s Eastern High Court. He was fined about $1,000. He will appeal.

The charges stemmed from what Hedegaard says were factual statements made about the higher-than-average incidence of family rape in the Muslim world.

But under Denmark's racism law, Article 266b, it doesn't matter if what you said was true. It only matters that a group was insulted.
Got that? Telling the truth can be illegal.

European Muslims have discovered a very clever Orwellian trick. Instead of being for censorship,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Miss USA 2011: Evolution Answers a Disgrace to Women

The Miss USA competition claims to judge women based on more than just how they look in swimsuits. But the video below is a rather shocking illustration that the competitors are scientifically illiterate. I'll issue the same challenge as my fellow blogger Hemant over at Friendly Atheist: Can you watch the whole thing, or will you turn it off in disgust before it's done?

The young women were asked, "Should evolution be taught in schools?"

I did a quick count. Something like thirty six contestants said or implied "Teach both sides." About a half dozen said that evolution shouldn't be taught at all. Only three (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Mexico) said "yes" without waffling. But even those three gave weak answers.

But not one gave the right answer. The right answer to this question is, "Yes, evolution should be taught because it's solid, proven science and is the foundation of all biological sciences. If we don't teach evolution, our students will be second-class citizens in the modern scientific world."

This leaves us with two choices. It could be that the Miss USA contest has

Monday, June 20, 2011

How Memes Die: Southern Baptists Confirm Hell is Real

Well, the Southern Baptists have confirmed that they still believe in Hell. And it's still the horrible place where a sadistic God sends most of us to be cruelly tortured forever, merely because we don't fall for that whole strange story about Jesus.

Their declaration was a rebuttal to the immensely popular Pastor Ron Bell's new book, Love Wins, in which Bell questions the traditional view of Hell. Bell, like most thoughtful Christians, rejects the outdated eternal-torture idea of Hell. He sees Hell as grossly immoral and a misinterpretation of gospel.

I love this sort of infighting. It's like watching evolution in real time, something we don't get to do very often in the biological world. When we view religions (and all of human culture) as a vast set of interacting and competing memes, we become detached from the details of the you're-right-I'm-wrong battles. Instead of caring about the fine points of the competing theologies, we can be objective observers who record the outcome of an evolutionary struggle. We actually get to see the survival-of-the-fittest battle of religion memes in their ecology, the collective brains of humanity.

In this case, we get to see the Baptist memeplex losing territory because

Fantastic Bible Quiz

Here's a fun and fascinating Bible quiz. It's long, but if you don't have the patience to take the whole quiz, you can skip to the answer sheet. Just scroll to the bottom and click on "Bible Quiz Answers."
It's from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the same courageous group that is fighting for the rights of all atheists, agnostics, humanists, and even theists who believe in the wisdom of the Separation Clause of our Constitution.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Love and Weddings: A Beautiful Day in Southern California

To all my faithful readers,

I've been neglecting my blogging this week due to happy events in my life. My youngest son is getting married today, and things have been hectic with visitors and preparations.

This is going to be an interesting event because my family and my soon-to-be daughter-in-law's family have diametrically opposed religious views. On their side of the aisle there's a strong dose of evangelical Christianity, and on my side we're mostly atheists, agnostics, deists and a few liberal theists. My son's bride, in this regard, fits more on our side of the aisle.

The great thing about this is that we all seem to be respectful of one another's views. We had a pleasant rehearsal dinner last night, had a nice time meeting new people, and some great conversation.

Weddings are a wonderful time when we can all put aside our differences and celebrate the love of two young people. It's a beautiful, sunny day here in Southern California, with a light breeze and mid-seventies temperatures. The Jacaranda trees are blooming, the grass is green, there are oranges hanging in the trees from the orchard behind the wedding platform, the bride is absolutely beautiful, and the groom is handsome and managing to stay composed.

It's going to be a great day. See you next week!

Your dutiful blogger...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Great Legislative News: 7 Anti-Evolution Bills Dead, 2 Shelved

There's great news from the National Center for Science Education: Creationists are losing! Here's the Creationist scorecard for the first half of 2011 for their anti-evolution legislation:
TennesseePostponed (2 bills)
OklahomaDead (2 bills)
New MexicoDead
This doesn't happen by chance. The people who fight these battles rely on you and me to support their efforts. If you haven't already, I hope you'll consider supporting the NCSE.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Laurel's Wager

Today's blog is by guest blogger Laurel. It's a tribute to her younger brother who died two weeks ago. This is dedicated to all the young people in our lives.
I recently read about an interesting philosophical position called Pascal's Wager. Basically, it says that reason dictates that you should live your life as if God exists, whether you believe in Him or not. It's kind of on a par with the “chicken soup” theory, i.e. it can't hurt, and it might very well help, so go ahead and hedge your bet in this Grand Game of Life by either believing in Him, or at least acting like you do.

Well, here's “Laurel's Wager”....

Live every single minute of your life as if there is no God, whether you believe in him or not. Live it as if you do not get another chance at it. Live it as if you have to leave this earth a better place than what you found it because your kids and grand kids and moms and dads and sisters and brothers and friends and loved ones have to stay in it after you are gone.

Live it as if you need to savor every single drop of it... the joy, grief, laughter, tears, work, failures, successes...all of it...because you may not be reincarnated after you throw this one away, and there may not be either a heaven or a hell or a big loving Daddy Person in the sky passing out the warm fuzzies you just couldn't find a way to get while you were here.

Fight just as hard as you can to stay healthy; don't do drugs or abuse booze or fill your veins with fat and salt and sugar and nicotine. What if your body isn't just a temporary vessel to hold your spirit until it gets to go some place more fun? What if it happens to be the only medium by which you get to stay here for as long as possible, and when it's broken and battered so badly it no longer works, you end...forever...?

Hold those you love close to you now, and don't count on being able to smile down on

Friday, June 10, 2011

Faith Healer Parents Guilty of Criminal Mistreatment - Daughter Saved

I usually try to write with a bit of humor, but the latest case of faith healing in the news is just disgusting. There's no humor in it.

Timothy and Rebecca Wyland's infant girl was born with a large birthmark near one eye that turned into an abnormal growth of blood vessels. It swelled and grew into a huge hemangioma that covered her eye completely. Without treatment, it was certain that their baby would lose her eye, and she would have been disfigured.

Normal parents, that is to say parents not infected with crazy and immoral religious ideas, would have taken their beautiful little girl to a doctor and had the hemangioma fixed. But the Wylands are members of the Followers of Christ church, a radical sect that believes in faith healing. Their idea of medical treatment is prayer, anointment with oil and laying on of hands. They believe that if you seek medical treatment, you are rejecting faith.

In spite of their daughter's huge hemangioma that continued to grow and produce a nasty discharge, the Wylands chose faith healing over proper medical care. They put their faith in God. (Wasn't that the same God who disfigured their daughter in the first place?)

Luckily, the State of Oregon has a law protecting children from this sort of neglect. A jury took only one hour to

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Christians Hire Airplane to Warn of Disney Gay Day

This is really disgusting. Florida Family Association (FFA), an anti-gay Christian group, hired an airplane to circle Disney World for two days in Florida with a sign warning families to stay away because of Gay Pride Days. And they're proud of their bigotry:
“I think it was a brilliant thing. It has never been done before and I think it’s very appropriate in light of the very inappropriate nature that was going on at the time,” said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, to The Christian Post on Monday.
They go on to cite bogus statistics crowing about their success with the dubious claim that attendance was down fifty to sixty percent. (Disney World hasn't released attendance figures, so this Christian hate group is basically making up self-congratulatory lies.)

But forget about bragging or rhetoric. What did FFA think Disney was supposed to do about Gay Pride Day? Ban the gays? Break the law?

Assume for a minute that FFA's immoral boycott worked. That means FFA basically punished Disney for being a law-abiding company. Was Disney supposed to

Obama Should Read Ezekiel, Start Nuclear War in Middle East

President Obama finally made his first really serious attempt to restart the Middle East peace process. And he didn't pull any punches. After what must have been months of hard work and dozens of meetings with the best and brightest scholars and politicians in America, Obama laid out a new plan.

But uber-conservative Christian radio commentator Michael Savage has a better strategy for setting U.S. foreign policy: read Ezekiel, then start a nuclear war!

Everything you need to know about Middle East diplomacy is right there in the Bible. Savage tells us how God is on Israel's side. All of Israel's neighbors are "despicable nations" in God's eyes. "There will be a nuclear war in the Middle East, according to [Ezekiel]," says Savage. He goes on to point out that by associating with Israel's enemies, President Obama is an enemy of Israel, and therefore an enemy of God.

Not only that, but Savage seems to say that there is only one solution in the Middle East: the inevitable war that will destroy Israel's enemies. Ezekiel says it will happen, so it must be true, so bring it on! Anyone who is working toward peace in the Middle East is violating the prophecies in Ezekiel.

Let's be sure we understand Savage's theory. Ezekiel was written over 2500 years ago by a Jewish priest who almost certainly had some sort of epilepsy or other mental illness. He knew nothing of the lands beyond Israel and its neighbors. The armies of Ezekiel's time fought with swords and spears, not missiles, jet fighters, tanks and nuclear weapons. Ezekiel could no more predict what's going on today than I can predict what will happen in the year 5,000 AD.

And yet Savage believes Ezekiel's predictions are about the Middle East of 2011. And if I understand Savage's logic, Ezekiel was not writing about 2001 or 2021. Ezekiel was talking about 2011.

If Savage were in charge, he would immediately engage in a massive war. All of the nations surrounding Israel would be the enemy, and the war would only end when the enemy was completely destroyed. Yeah, that's the Bible for you. All the knowledge we'll ever need. Completely 100% moral in every regard.

It would be funny except that millions of people listen to this whack job, and those people are allowed to vote.

Maybe the reason so many Christians believe Armageddon is coming is because they would create it if they were in charge.

Monday, June 6, 2011

AA Is a Religion: Atheists Kicked Out

The core mission of Alcoholics Anonymous is to help addicts stay sober, right?

Wrong. Atheist alcoholics aren't welcome. Even agnostics are personae non gratae.

Everyone knows that the core twelve-step program of AA rests on a belief in a higher power. Its core tenets came from the evangelical religious beliefs of founders Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith and were based on Biblical principles.

But in spite of this Christian foundation, I always thought that AA was supposed to be nondenominational. I thought AA put the welfare of its members above proselytizing. Even though its founders were Christian, AA's "higher power" is very generic, something that could appeal to Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Jains and even Native American spiritual beliefs. AA tries to help everyone ... except atheists.

On Tuesday of last week, Toronto's two atheists AA groups were

Friday, June 3, 2011

Woman Gave Inheritance to Doomsday Prophet, Died Before Doomsday

If you're going to give all your wealth to a doomsday prophet, you should be sure to put a money-back guarantee in your will!

Doris Schmitt loved Harold Camping and his "Family Radio" broadcasts. In case you don't remember, Camping was the doomsday prophet who claimed that the Rapture was coming on May 21st of this year. He has now revised his theory and says it's coming later ("Pay no attention to the man behind that curtain!").

So Doris left almost all of her money, several hundred thousand dollars, to Camping's Family Radio network. Unfortunately, Doris died just before the Rapture was supposed to happen. She never learned that Camping was either an idiot or a fraud.

So here's some advice for the unwary. If you decide to leave your money to an end-of-the-world prophet, talk to your lawyer about

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Muslim Mothers Help Each Other Kill Daughters for Marrying Hindus

It's so nice when neighbors in need can help each other. Especially when the task at hand is something really unpleasant ... like helping each other murder their daughters.

Two Muslim mothers, Khatun and Subrato, discovered that their daughters had eloped with two Hindu men. Apparently that's just about the most shameful thing a girl could do – so shameful that the mothers decided they had to kill their own daughters.

So Khatun and Subrato tied the two young brides, Zahida, 19, and Husna, 26, to their cots with ropes, threw nooses around their necks and