Friday, July 29, 2011

Thanks to San Diego Humanist Book Club!

Thanks to the San Diego Humanist Book club for a very pleasant evening last night discussing The Religion Virus. It was a real pleasure to hear everyone's thoughts on such a wide-ranging set of topics.

It's always surprising to me which chapters and stories in the book appeal to different people. A number of people really liked the story of "William and Ruth." Several people mentioned how much the story of my father's motorcycle accident affected them. And I had the pleasure of retelling the story of Aunt Carolyn's "unbaptism" to the whole group in greater detail.

But the best part of the evening was the wide-ranging discussion about religion, its peculiar history and how it's still affecting us today. I spend far too much time reading the dogma and irrational faith-based arguments from "the other side," and sometimes I feel submerged. Last night was a refreshing change. It renewed my hope that humanism and rational thinking will prevail some day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dollywood Asks Lesbian to Change Shirt

Would you be offended by this T-shirt?
marriage is so gay
Well, probably not, because you're reading my blog.

I'm not a huge country-music fan, but I've always liked Dolly Parton. Her commonsense no-nonsense philosophy and self-deprecating humor are wonderful. She mostly keeps her politics and religion to herself because she believes an entertainer should entertain. (Imagine that ... an entertainer who doesn't think her fame makes her an instant expert on religion, politics or relationships! It's refreshing.)

So I was surprised to read this headline:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Amy Winehouse: Rabbi Raises Ugly AA Claims

The tragic death of Amy Winehouse has once made the Alcoholics Anonymous you-need-God myth raise its ugly head once again. It's like a monster that won't die.

You know the myth I'm talking about: the only way to recover from addiction is to turn yourself over to a "higher power." Unfortunately for addicts everywhere, study after study has shown that AA doesn't work, and actually hinders recovery for most people. (I've written about AA before; see Christian Shocker: God-Based AA Program Harms Alcoholics.)

Here's what Rabbi Shais Taub had to say over at Huffington Post:
"In a grim sort of way, the only "news" to me about Amy's death is the date. After all, what really could have stopped this from happening? The only time I have ever seen recovery in a case like Amy's is by an act of God. ... One of the axioms of recovery is that the addict is beyond human aide and that's why addicts need a "higher power" to live. You can call that hocus-pocus. I call it an everyday reality. There is no fact more real to me than the idea that no human power can stand up against the power of addiction."
Except for one thing: Rabbi Taub, you are wrong. Dead wrong. It is not an "axiom." It's a myth that's been

Norway Terrorist was NOT a Christian, and don't say he was

The bullets in the tragic massacre in Norway had barely stopped flying before the words "Christian terrorist" started spreading in news reports and the blogosphere.And the Christians were equally quick to disown the murderer:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Atheists and Christians Agree: The Internet is Killing Religion

For once I completely agree with a leading Christian apologist.

Christian minister and apologist Josh McDowell recently spoke at the International Christian Retail Show, where he told attendees that the Internet is the greatest threat to Christianity.
"The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have... whether you like it or not."
He goes on to cite many statistics showing just how influential the Internet has become. According to McDowell:
  • The number of evangelical Christians who don't believe in absolute truth has jumped from 51 percent to 62 percent in 1994, then to 78 percent in 1999 and it now hovers at around 91 percent.
  • Back in the good old (pre-Internet) days, if an agnostic or atheist wrote a book nobody would read it. But now the Internet has given atheist authors (that would be me...) access to these kids' minds.
  • Ninety percent of sixteen-year-olds have viewed pornography. Among fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds, 59 percent of girls and 69 percent of boys say pornography is acceptable.
One of my favorite blog topics is why children have to be indoctrinated (infected) with religion at

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Crazy Christian Preacher: Oprah is a Preacher for the AntiChrist! A Harlot Babylon!

I am speechless ... but this guy isn't!

Candidate Cain: Constitution Allows Anti-Islam Discrimination!

I've seen politicians twist the Constitution before, but this one takes the cake:
"Our Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state. Islam combines church and state. They're using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community ... [The communities] objected to the fact that Islam is both a religion and a set of laws. ... They have a right to [ban a Mosque]"
Wow. Mr. Cain says we all have a constitutional right to free speech, freedom of assembly and the freedom to worship as we please ... but all these rights evaporate if our religion tries to inject its beliefs into government!

Mr. Cain has conveniently forgotten that this is exactly the same thing that America's evangelical Christians believe.

Let's start with Cain's opponent, Mitt Romney, who said:
"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom... Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."
Hmmm, that sounds like combining church and state to me, Mr. Cain. So Romney's out. What about Mike Huckabee, another front runner?
"[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it's a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards."
Gosh, we're not getting anywhere, are we Mr. Cain? It seems those darned Christians are no better than the Muslims you despise!

What about Michele Bachmann, another Republican candidate? Oh yeah, she's the one whose family runs a "clinic" that "cures" gays of their homosexuality using prayer and Christian practices. And she also

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bill Maher on Bachmann and Palin: Crazy

Bill Maher's latest video pretty much nails Bachmann and Palin. Why don't liberals like Bachmann and Palin? "Because they're crazy people!" And that's just the beginning. As with most of Maher's videos, it's NSFW (not safe for work).

I think I would have skipped the "boobs" remark, but basically he says what everyone is thinking. These two presidential candidates are grossly and obviously unqualified for the job.

I particularly like his analysis of Bachmann's husband's role: we'd have a president (the one we elected) who believes God told her to follow her husband's orders. So who is the real president? This is a man who is homophobic and runs a faux clinic that purports to "cure" homosexuals. And according to news reports, he's been caught lying about it to government officials about his business. So we'd have an unelected man who is a liar and a homophobe running the country.

Why aren't conservatives embarrassed by this? Why is Bachmann getting any attention at all? She has more baggage than a moving truck.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Refuting the Atheist Professor vs the Christian Student

There's an embarrassing essay circulating around the Christian/theist world that claims to show a simple Christian student gets the better of an atheist professor of philosophy by turning the professor's own logic against him. I'm subscribed to a fairly popular Christian Facebook group (no, I didn't subscribe myself, but it is interesting), and someone posted this. I thought it was laughable, but sadly most of the members of this Christian discussion group seemed to think it was brilliant. I briefly refuted the essay and got lots of arguments, so I told them I'd do a whole blog showing how ridiculous the essay is.

It's a bit long, but it's important to read it because it illustrates what the secular/humanist/rational-thought community is up against when it comes to faith versus reason. (I fixed some typographical errors that were in the original so that it didn't distract from the main point). Here it is with my refutation. My first comment is

Friday, July 15, 2011

Austrian Pastafarian Wears Spaghetti Strainer in License Photo

I'm in Florida for my daughter's wedding, so I'll just leave you with this great story from the BBC:
Austrian driver allowed 'pastafarian' headgear photo
I have to say though, I'm a bit miffed that the BBC didn't capitalize "Pastafarian." Have a little respect!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Global Warming Skeptic's Money from Big Oil - Why no Scandal?

Who is surprised to find out that global-warming skeptic Willie Soon was taking money, lots of it, from Big Oil? Not me.

And why isn't this another "climategate" scandal making headlines in every newspaper? Why is it that when a scientist is caught showing a little bias in his personal, private email to a colleague, the sky falls, but when a climate skeptic is caught violating one of the most fundamental rules of scientific enquiry, it's just a third-page article in a few newspapers and web sites?

I'll tell you why: nobody ever thought Willie Soon was a real scientist to begin with.

We're all surprised and dismayed when a real, honest scientist is caught in a minor infraction. Good science is supposed to be beyond reproach, and good scientists are supposed to be unbiased and honest, even when they don't like their own results. "Climategate" showed us that the scientists who are warning about the dangers of human-caused global warming are actually respected.

But when Willie Soon got caught taking over $1,000,000 from oil companies, it was mostly a yawn from the press. He had no reputation to begin with.

I guess that's good news. Unfortunately, the damage done by his work will continue for years and decades.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Is Christianity Dying? ... and Ninety-Nine Other Best Blogs

I have a new book available on Kindle!
Only 99 cents!
How can you go wrong? From the preface:
"Who would have guessed back in June of 2008 that I'd be writing my five hundredth blog with no end in sight? And I never expected The Religion Virus to be in the top ten religion books on's Kindle bestsellers list, as well as bouncing around between first and fifth in agnosticism and religious history. (Religious history? That's unexpected!)

"So why should you buy a collection of ninety-nine blogs that you can get for free on my web site? Because it's just a penny per blog, and we sorted the wheat from the chaff for you. You get to read the good stuff without having to wade through the blogs that should have been used to wrap fish. How can you beat that? (And there is actually one original never-before-published blog in here!)

"Like most bloggers, I don't hit one out of the park every day. But every now and then I write something pretty good. Some of these became very popular and pegged my traffic meter. Those were fun. But the ones I like best are the ones that evoked thoughtful responses, rebuttals and questions from my readers. When someone takes the time to argue with me, I know I'm making a difference."
New readers will find this a handy way to read the best of these blogs. Or if you're one of my faithful loyalists,

Monday, July 11, 2011

Woman Kuwaiti Politician: Legalize Sex Slaves

This almost needs no comment. It's Salwa Al-Mutairi, a former candidate for the Kuwaiti Parliament.

I asked (a Saudi mufti): What is the law with regard to slave girls?

The mufti told me that this law requires there to a Muslim country raiding a Christian country - sorry, a non-Muslim country - and taking PoWs. I asked him whether it was forbidden (to turn them into slaves), and he said that Islam does not prohibit having slave girls. On the contrary.

The law pertaining to slave girls is not the same as for free women. Free women must cover their bodies, except for their hands and faces. The slave girl must cover up from the bellybutton down. There is a big difference between slave girls and free women. With a free woman, the man must make a marriage contract, but with a slave girl - all he has to do is buy her. It's as if he married her. So there's a difference between slave girls and free women.

Here in Kuwait too, I asked religious scholars and experts about this, and they said that for the average, good religious man, the only way to avoid forbidden relations with women is to purchase slave girls.

I very much hope that such a law is legislated. Just like they allow servants, they should allow slave girls, and legislate a proper law in this regard. We don't want our children to fall into the abyss of fornication and similar filth, God forbid. Allah willing, things will work out.

There are countries like Chechnya, which are at war with another country. In such a case, there must be PoWs, so why not go and buy those prisoners? Is it better for them to be slaughtered over there? Go and buy them, and sell them to traders here in Kuwait.
One has to wonder: what goes on in this woman's house and in her mosque? What have the men in her life done to her? Does she really think that men are such animals that they need a stable of

Friday, July 8, 2011

Piss off the Christians: Live Forever

What's the best way to cure the world of religion? Cure it of death first!

Have you ever considered what would happen to religion if death was no longer a certainty? Or if death became unusual? There are many reasons people believe in gods and an afterlife, but death is by far the most powerful. The thought that you cease to exist is unsettling to most people, and religions have provided an alternative.

So what will happen to all of those fire-and-brimstone preachers when death is defeated?

According to Aubrey de Grey, the first person to live to 150 is probably already alive today ... and it could be you or me. And according to Dr. de Grey, the children being born today may live to be 1000 years old or more ... possibly forever.

The Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence Foundation (SENS), where de Grey is the chief science officer, is dedicated to "curing" aging. Scientists originally hoped to find an "aging gene" that could be turned off. That would have been simple given our modern understanding of genetics. But it turns out that aging has many components, each of which has to be independently solved. The initial optimism for a quick solution has turned into a long-term research effort.

But now there is real progress. With the incredible recent advances in genetics, drug design, biology, chemistry, computers and diagnostic instruments, hope is growing rapidly. Immortality is within reach.

The only question remaining is, "When?" Will I live to 150 or even longer? Or will it be my

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Holy Desperation! Christian Book on Homosexuality!

Holy Desperation Batman! The Gays are taking over America, and Christians are fighting back!

Or maybe it's just hate speech wrapped up in the mantle of religion. Take a look and see what you think.

As for me, I suspect these right-wing Christians are getting desperate. They just figured out that they're losing the battle. So in spite of the obnoxiousness of this advertisement, I think we can take it as a good sign.

(Thanks to M.I. for the link on San Diego New Atheists and Agnostics.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Richard Dawkins (and the Creepy Elevator Guy) should watch MadTV

I'd somehow missed the whole "Creepy Elevator Guy" story, but my son called yesterday to bring me up to date. For those of you who don't know, women are badly underrepresented in atheist groups, and the few who do attend meetings sometimes get unwanted sexual attention, which occasionally turns into harassment. In this instance, Rebecca Watson got on the elevator headed for her hotel room at 4 AM and was propositioned by one of the male attendees. Hemant Mehta has an excellent summary of the details so I won't repeat it here.

I don't have a lot to add to what's already been said. Blag Hag had a good blog about it. PZ Myers blogged about it and got a rather disturbing letter from Richard Dawkins, and Hemant Mehta wrote a second blog that was very thoughtful (he has links).

A while ago I wrote a blog that's very relevant: Mormons and Animals: Denying our Deepest Instincts. Men can be total jerks and worse. But atheists have a huge advantage over religious people

Friday, July 1, 2011

Drug Legalization versus American Idol

Professor Peter Stromberg over at Psychology Today wrote a great piece yesterday: Is it Time to End the War on Drugs? He makes an interesting claim: our modern society is based on artificial entertainment. Whether it is movies, video games or legal and illegal drugs, we find ways to stimulate our brains, and as a society we place high value on those things that do it the best. Honor, piety and moderation have been replaced by the latest blockbuster movie.

I've always thought that drugs should be decriminalized. During my three-year residence in New Orleans, I witnessed the terrible price of the war on drugs first hand. Virtually everyone I knew was affected by a drug-related crime, usually a theft. My neighbor, a sixty-seven-year-old retired civil engineer and recent widow, was murdered by an addict when he came home during a burglary in progress. My route to work went through "The Projects" where schoolchildren had to dodge bullets on their way to their elementary schools.

If drugs were decriminalized, a huge fraction of the crimes in America would simply cease. Drug addicts need their drugs every single day, and for many or most of them, theft and prostitution are the only way to feed their addiction. Each person addicted to an illegal substance affects hundreds or thousands of innocent victims every year.

Stromberg suggests that if we do decriminalize or legalize drugs, there will be an inevitable rise in drug use. This is hardly news. But Stromberg points out that where this might have been a modest problem in the past, our new culture that worships artificial stimuli will probably embrace drugs if they're legalized.

I decided to write to Professor Stromberg with a question: