This Week In God 8.10.11

August 10, 2011

1. Three great blogs moving – PZ Myers’ blog, Pharyngula, has moved from Scienceblogs to freethoughtblogs. Though he still posts some of his material at the old site, I’m not crazy about this move because because freethoughtblogs seems more atheist-focused whereas scienceblogs at least gives the impression of Pharyngula being more science-focused, regardless of whether the actual emphasis changes or not. Hermant Mehta has also moved his Friendly Atheist blog to Patheos, a site hosting blogs from many different religious and spiritual perspectives. I think this one was a good move because it gives Mehta’s atheist blog a great opportunity to gain readers among the religious, and this could possibly change some people’s views about atheism. And lastly, blogger Greta Christina will be soon moving her blog to freethoughtblogs. I’m fairly neutral about this because she’s already got a strong atheist readership, so I don’t expect much change one way or the other in terms of her readership.

2. Speaking of PZ Myers, he too has now publicly taken a position on the American Atheists’ lawsuit over the “9/11 Cross.” It seems that even that nasty militant atheist that Jeff Wagg today (I think quite unfairly) called the “FoxNews of atheism” in a tweet agrees with me that it’s just not worth the effort and that we’ve got bigger fish to fry:

I can understand that in principle it’s promoting religion, and I look at that random chunk of steel that forms a crude cross and can see that it is abysmally stupid to consider it a holy relic, but man, if atheists have to police every single act of stupidity committed by the human race, we’re going to get very, very tired. We need to pick our battles better, and this one is just plain pointless.

3. Stephen Hawking’s Curiosity refutes god on Discover Channel – You can watch the whole first installment at the link above…at least for now.

4. Jonathan T. Pararajasingham follows up his videos of 100 academics explaining their atheism with a 25-minute video of 20 academics and theologians explaining why they believe in god. The former is a wonderful collection of brilliant thinkers making intelligent arguments in favor of atheism while the latter is a depressing example of how motivated reasoning can poison the minds of otherwise intelligent people, causing them to make the most asinine and incoherent arguments to defend their indefensible faith.

5. Evolution wins out in Texas – Okay, I’m very late on this story. So sue me. The Texas Board of Education has unanimously come down on the side of evolution in a 14-0 vote, approving scientifically accurate high school biology textbook supplements from established mainstream publishers, rejecting the creationist-backed supplements from International Databases, LLC.

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30 years later, we still miss ya, John

December 8, 2010

Sam Harris & Michael Shermer crush Deepak Chopra & Jean Houston on Nightline

March 23, 2010

Although PZ Myers thinks watching the latest Nightline debate is a waste of time, I highly recommend it, particularly because Sam Harris in particular simply demolishes Deepak Chopra and the other woman. Actually, aside from a few needlessly drawn out stories that go nowhere, Jean Houston was almost nonexistent in this debate and I almost even liked her.

The real debate though was between Sam Harris and Michael Shermer against Deepak Chopra, who couldn’t have made more of a fool of himself. Even a guy in the audience during the Q & A session exposed Chopra’s ignorance.

The common theme in the debate seemed to be exposing Deepak as hack who incorrectly co-opts terminology from both science and religion in order to formulate his own brand of meaningless New Age gibberish. The debate was about whether or not the god concept has a future and Deepak refused to actually address the very topic he was invited to discuss, ignoring the god concept that 99.999999% of the world means when they talk about god in order to promote his own “god” in name only that has no resemblance to what almost everyone on the planet would consider “god.” So then why did you agree to the debate in the first place, Deepak?

This is like if I were invited to debate free will versus determinism and instead demanded that we discuss homeopathy, which I renamed “determinism.”

Deepak was also frequently corrected on his constant misuse of quantum physics as a justification for his incoherent magical claims.

Anyway, it’s a fun debate to watch, so check it out. Here’s the first part:

Oh, and check out Shermer’s post-debate debate with Chopra here. No, I didn’t accidentally type “debate” twice. Chopra and Shermer have continued debating a particularly idiotic claim Chopra made on their blogs.


The crazy in Haiti

January 17, 2010

In aftermath of this devastating act of god in Haiti, who are the Haitians praising? The hard-working people offering aid and relief to them in this time of need? No. The devil, as Pat Robertson says they turned to once before [true story]? No. If you said the very same god that they believe caused the earthquake in the first place, then congratulations cause you’re absolutely correct.

Prayers of thanksgiving and cries for help rose from Haiti’s huddled homeless Sunday, the sixth day of an epic humanitarian crisis that was straining the world’s ability to respond and igniting flare-ups of violence amid the rubble of Port-au-Prince.

Yeah, thanks god for giving us this earthquake. We would have preferred you’d given us a stable government and economy, but this is good too. Does the phrase Battered Wife Syndrome mean anything to anybody?

Beside the ruins of the Port-Au-Prince cathedral, where the sun streamed through the shattered stained glass, the priest told his flock at their first Sunday Mass since Tuesday’s earthquake, “We are in the hands of God now.”

That’s funny, cause I thought you were in “God’s” hands six days ago.

Sadly though, that’s not the only crazy going on in Haiti. There’s also voodoo. But as silly as voodoo is, even sillier is the fact that in the wake of this disaster, mainstream religious leaders in Haiti fear “the fatalism inspired by the voodoo religion would militate against recovery.” Am I the only one who thinks this sounds like Brit Hume’s fear that Buddhism doesn’t offer the kind of forgiveness necessary for Tiger Woods.

The death of the Catholic archbishop along with the destruction of the cathedrals will be seen as potent symbols of the failure of those religions to withstand an act of God, he warned.

Ever think that maybe “God” is trying to tell you something?

Fortunately, not everyone in Haiti is crazy as Richard Dawkins announced Unbelievers Giving Aid, a site devoted to raising money for charitable causes like Doctors without Borders and the Red Cross.


News From Around The Blogosphere 12.27.09

December 27, 2009

1. Indian couple raise controversy by not giving baby religious identityAalif Surti and Aditi Shedde refuse to label their baby with a religion for the birth certificate, as is required in India. It’s also required on other legal documents.

It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. “A few months into my pregnancy, we had decided that we would not give our child any religious identity,” says Aditi. “We are not against religion, but who are we to choose a religion on our baby’s behalf? We will expose him to the values of different faiths and cultures, and when he grows up he will be free to follow any faith — or none if he wishes.”

. . .

The couple had almost hit a dead end. There were four choices on the form — Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Others. Aditi says she did not want any of them for her child, as even Others required them to identify the sect or community. She argued with the officer some more and finally agreed on Others, but without any identification. “Others is just to facilitate the generation of the certificate. We know our child has no religion,” she says.

2. New Gallop poll says 29% of Americans say religion is out of date –  God is so yesterday. It’s all about sparkly vampires now.

3. Church of England’s new campaign to convert 2-year-olds

Children as young as two are to be targeted as part of a new campaign to recruit young people back to the church, the Guardian has learned.

The Church of England is planning its first concerted drive to engage under- 18s after admitting that it is comprehensively failing to connect with children and teenagers.

Wow, they’re going for older kids than usual.

5. Women sucked in by yoga cult

Say the word cult and many people think of Waco’s Branch Davidians or the horrific mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. It hardly seems likely that the term would apply to a chain of clean, airy yoga studios—a brand hyped on some local TV news shows, no less. Yet noted cult experts such as Steven Hassan, Cathleen Mann, Ph.D., and Joseph Szimhart say that Dahn fits the profile. “It’s very aggressive,” says Szimhart, an author of numerous studies on cults. “There’s an indoctrination process that quickly undermines free will.” Adds Hassan, author of Combatting Cult Mind Control, who’s talked to 85 former Dahn devotees: “Dahn has been flying under the radar. But it is one of the more destructive and harmful cults out there.” Hassan also believes that, because Dahn uses yoga to attract members, it has been successful at recruiting young women. “Many women use Dahn centers like regular yoga studios and go home to their normal lives when class is over,” Hassan says. But “a small portion become enmeshed like Lucie did. Of those true believers, many are young, bright, upper-middle-class women looking for their place in the world.”

I love child rapists

4. Fifth Catholic Bishop/child rapist protector refuses to resign – Bishop Martin Drennan’s got some balls! He is personally responsible for possibly hundreds of children being raped, somehow isnt’ going to jail for life, and has the audacity to deny any responsibility for his actions. It’s people like this who make me almost wish there were a Hell.


Creating God in your image

December 1, 2009

A new study on religious Americans by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago suggests that the will of God bares remarkable similarity to one’s own personal beliefs. It’s almost like a person is taking their own biases and projecting them onto some imaginary ultimate authority in order to justify their positions. I know. Shocking. Steve Novella also wrote a great blog on this as well.

This brings a few videos to mind:


Star Trek made him an atheist

July 3, 2009

I came across this great article that was linked to by Friendly Atheist and thought it was worth sharing. The writer discusses the atheist and humanist messages that have almost always been a huge part of Star Trek, and how Star Trek influenced his own atheism. In the article, he largely focuses on the common Star Trek theme of gods turning out to be just deeply flawed aliens. Two particular TNG episodes that I think were left out of the article were “Who Watches The Watchers” and “Devil’s Due.”

I do disagree on a few points. Namely, I think Voyager sucked, that DS9 wasn’t always easy on religion, and I can’t believe there was no mention of Star Trek V, which is CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED, especially within the context of a discussion about Star Trek and religion.

Let me take a moment to defend Deep Space 9. First of all, the main religious leader of the Bajoran people (basically their pope) was almost always treated as an opportunistic villain throughout the series. Second, like with the “gods” of previous Star Trek series, the Bajoran Prophets were nothing but an advanced alien race. And in the first season finale of that series, religious fanatics blew up a school because they thought their beliefs were being threatened when the teacher taught the secular, scientific interpretation that “The Prophets” were just “warm hole aliens.”

And with regards to Star Trek V, I frequently cite 3 quotes when debating with the religious. The first is:

“What does God need with a starship?”

Though I usually replace the word “starship” with something more appropriate to the discussion like, “What does God need with a blood sacrifice, etc?” Borrowing from IMDB, here’s the entire context of the excerpt, which concludes with my second favorite quote from the movie, uttered by Dr. McCoy:

Kirk: What does God need with a starship?
McCoy: Jim, what are you doing?
Kirk: I’m asking a question.
“God”: Who is this creature?
Kirk: Who am I? Don’t you know? Aren’t you God?
Sybok: He has his doubts.
“God”: You doubt me?
Kirk: I seek proof.
McCoy: Jim! You don’t ask the Almighty for his ID!
“God”: Then here is the proof you seek.
[Hits Kirk with lightning]
Kirk: Why is God angry?
Sybok: Why? Why have you done this to my friend?
“God”: He doubts me.
Spock: You have not answered his question. What does God need with a starship?
“God”: [hits Spock with lightning; then addresses McCoy] Do you doubt me?
McCoy: I doubt any God who inflicts pain for his own pleasure.

And the last quote I often use from this film is uttered by Captain Kirk within this exchange:

McCoy: We were speculating. Is God really out there?
Kirk: Maybe he’s not out there, Bones. Maybe he’s right here.
[points to his heart]
Kirk: Human heart.

It’s also worth noting that in addition to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry being an atheist (or humanist), William Shatner shared story credit on Star Trek V. And Shatner too is an atheist:

“I’ve always had sort of an ironic view of life,” the 75-year-old Shatner said. “My belief system is that when this is over, it’s over. That you don’t look down from heaven and wait for your loved ones to join you. There may be some soul activity, but I’m not sure about that. But what I am sure about is that your molecules continue and in due time become something else. That’s science.”