left biblioblography: June 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Atheism And The Value Of Life

Cross posted @ God Is For Suckers!The-Atheist-e

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts - for support rather than illumination.” - Lang.

Fresh off a discussion at the NoGodBlog about the value of life and atheism (starts right about...here), I engaged (and still am) a theist who made an incredibly brave statement: that secular countries have a HIGHER suicide rate, based on a study here, carried a little further here - which I think I dissected properly.

(I really wonder though - how many suicide notes were collected that stated that "There is no God! I can't live without Him!")

I think said fellow derived this nonsense from Andy Gadfly's errant idiocy - Conservapedia!

Ah yes, the bane of our existence! The most ill-informed source on the web, more like.

 I can name one prominent atheist who committed suicide - Ernest Hemingway. But one pea does not a pod make.

I will make a bold statement here - that the afterlife cheapens this life, rather than enriching it. It sure beats the epistemology of 'gee, it makes people HAPPY!'

For the most part, I'm fairly tolerant for a 'militant atheist'. If it helps you sleep at night, I'm down with that. But, as many of you know, I tend to crook a critical eyebrow at such pronouncements, and usually five minutes is all it takes to gnaw the bones of said philosophy, and find little marrow in them.

And really - if you're working towards a reward AFTER this life, then you're essentially working at nothing. The root source of your efforts to aid others is the result of a complex Pavlovian conditioning. A religious person is seeking a reward, after all. Brownie points. A pat on the head from on high. Call it what you will.

 And, on a serious note (and a bit different one, but not by much), there's this 'minor' caveat:

I find it terribly sobering that of all the countries, there's only two of them that are atheist on the list - Russia and China. For the most part, the Russian religious engagements aren't between atheists and theists, but between theist and theist. The Chinese government - they tend to be a bit fucked up in re: their human rights record. A lie that costs upwards of millions of lives, in the divisiveness it creates?

So, to nutshell:

Suicide is a serious issue. But to conclude that it's preventable by accepting some foolish anachronistic codex from the Bronze Age is...well, the philosophical question then becomes this: is it preferable to save a life with a lie? Is reality that insurmountable for some?

Food for thought.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Suffering Children - How Religion Is NOT A Force Of Good In This World...

Cross posted @ God Is For Suckers!



Your unflappable conceptions
Moralistic views
Never open to criticism
Your overpowering ruse
Promises of sanctuary
In eternal bliss
With starry eyes and cash in hand
Pledge all to the master plan
Just face the truth or fund the farce
At one with your god
Your sole intent
Your treasured place assured
For a substantial rent
Global lunacy
Death threats for supposed blasphemy
No room for free thought
All non believers pushed to the floor
Aggressive tyrants
Supposed saints for the cause
Judgement through force
Faith a fuel for pointless wars
When all is done
Who shall benefit? who is the one?
Not to those who pass on
But those dictators divine waving their deceitful wands.
- Napalm Death, Suffer The Children

It was Stardust's recent post that prompted this: while the three Abrahamanic religions forbid infanticide, there are far-reaching ramifications of this morbid meme we call religion.

'Religious freedom' allowed these particular fucktards to let their children die. As well as these morons.

And then we have so many superlative examples to draw upon: the case of the crazy ass fairy beggar grandpa and the naked, blood-draped mother exorcising a 2 year old who had 'demons' in her.

Arvin Shreeve, who had patriarchal control issues that extended to 'educating' female children in ways both dietary and carnal.

There are these mental midgets, who 'used a Ouija board', and somehow, 'demons' caused the child to burn their house down.

Then there's this bit of terror from London, where children are being abused in exorcism rituals in African churches.

(And the Christian religion is not the only culprit: Islam has a great deal to answer for, as well.)

We also have such princes among men like Ervil LeBaron, Jim Jones, Joseph Kibwetere, Marcus D. Wesson,  a lineage of religious madness that dates back to Gilles de Rais and Countess Bathory.

The track record is clear, the patterns obvious: superstition is a reversed Occam's Razor, that slices psyches as it multiplies needless supernatural entities. It cloaks the mentally ill from treatment: it not only vindicates night terrors, it gives them shapes and names, rather than banishing them to the imagined shadows from whence they came.

And in the long run, seeing as the religious are as fertile as rabbits, it is the child who suffers from medieval terrors and bronze-age boogeymen, those shadows of the night that never laid foot (nor ever will) on this earth.

So, if you are religious, and you are reading this, put aside your outrage for a moment, look in a mirror, and ask yourself: Is your fantasy a substantial substitute for reality? If so, can you really truly 'believe' that these fantasies provide a safe, viable alternative to doing actual parenting, that any Bronze Age tome of dubious anachronistic epistemology has any value at all in the 21st century?

In short, religion is a dead metaphor, best consigned to the scrapbooks of history, an albatross to be shed, as auguries and omens are patchwork memes from days past.

It is no longer 'Suffer the children', but that the children are suffering, and for the most part of that is religion.

Till the next post then.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Sharing - How Does The Atheist Viewpoint Influences How You Play With Others

I've pointed out how atheism is a world view here, and I've asked for some stories from my readers - so now I'm curious: am I the more bombastic amid my brethren?

Okay, here's a few more (mumble, grumble, sassafras...):

I sport two bumper stickers and a decal on my '91 Acura (which I'm not driving any more, having inherited my deceased mother's 98 Corolla). One reads "Freedom From Religion", the other, "Church Of Reality". The Procreation Car Emblem, which looks like this:

I find it pretty funny.

So, one day I'm in Castro Valley (I was getting a window screen repaired, because nice guy that I am, I refused to kill the wasp that found its way into the house - it went free, but it cost me $20), when some fellow my own age came up and asked about the 'Church' bumper sticker. I told him it was an atheist organization. Gratifying, it was, that he reached in and shook my hand. "Hey, you got some guts, having that on your car!" I shrugged, told him it was my First Amendment right (what I'd have said if some fundie fucktard had faced off on me, truth be told).

Last year, early morning, I'm driving (the Acura) through San Leandro. I come up on a beat up pick-up with a ratty shell, and two bumper stickers. One announced support for Answers In Genesis, another proclaimed "We're Taking Dinosaurs Back!" I began cursing under my breath, when I recalled that I had that emblem (featured above) on the back of my car. So I sped up, and made a point of getting in front of this mook. One signal, he/she was behind me, and then?

The truck slowed down to about half the speed limit, giving me a LOT of space. Cackling evilly, I went to work.

Okay, there's two more. C'mon, people! Share already, wouldja? (Please? Pretty please, with sugar on top?)

Be loud and proud, baby!


Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Feather Weighed Against A Heart - More Borrowings Of The Old Testament

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

maatwings I have long maintained that the Old Testament (and by extension, the Talmud/Torah) are a compilation of borrowed myths and stories as the Israelites moved from one culture to another.

To be honest, though, I much prefer the Greek and Egyptian mythologies. Their deities tend to be richer (or darker) in character, more interesting by far than the drab micro-managing psychopathic one-note weirdo named YHVH.

And those Egyptians! Whew! While the Greek godset was content to be changing back and forth from animals (or varied other shapes) to their original humanoid forms, the Egyptian godset were patchwork creatures both animal and human.

One such was Ma'at:

Ma'at, to have been pronounced as *Muʔʕat (Muh-aht), was the Ancient Egyptian concept of order—law, morality, and justice which was deified as a goddess. Ma'at was seen as being charged with regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, after she had set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation.

Later, as a goddess in other traditions of the Egyptian pantheon, where most goddesses were paired with a male aspect, her masculine counterpart was Thoth and their attributes are the same.Like Thoth, she was seen to represent the Logos of Plato. After the rise of Ra they were depicted as guiding his boat, one on either side.

After her role in creation and continuously preventing the universe from returning to chaos, her primary role in Egyptian mythology dealt with the weighing of souls that took place in the underworld, Duat. Her feather was the measure that determined whether the souls (considered to reside in the heart) of the departed would reach the paradise of afterlife successfully.


In Duat, the Egyptian underworld, the hearts of the dead were said to be weighed against her single Shu feather, symbolically representing the concept of Ma'at, in the Hall of Two Truths. A heart which was unworthy was devoured by the goddess Ammit and its owner condemned to remain in Duat. The heart was considered the location of the soul by ancient Egyptians. Those people with good, (and pure), hearts were sent on to Aaru. Osiris came to be seen as the guardian of the gates of Aaru after he became part of the Egyptian pantheon and displaced Anubis in the Ogdoad tradition.

(End snip)

The ancient Egyptians had some weird aspects in their deities - Atum-Ra created himself, they had death gods galore (hearts and skulls, hmmm...), and trying to keep track of who was father/mother to whom becomes a chore best relegated to Egyptologists.

The reason I even bring this up, is the interesting 42 Negative Confessions:

1. I have not committed sin.

2. I have not committed robbery with violence.

3. I have not stolen.

4. I have not slain men or women

5. I have not stolen food.

6. I have not swindled offerings.

7. I have not stolen from God/Goddess.

8. I have not told lies.

9. I have not carried away food.

10. I have not cursed.

11. I have not closed my ears to truth

12. I have not committed adultery.

13. I have not made anyone cry.

14. I have not felt sorrow without reason

15. I have not assaulted anyone

16. I am not deceitful.

17. I have not stolen anyone’s land

18. I have not been an eavesdropper

19. I have not falsely accused anyone.

20. I have not been angry without reason.

21. I have not seduced anyone’s wife.

22. I have not polluted myself.

23. I have not terrorized anyone.

24. I have not disobeyed the Law.

25. I have not been exclusively angry.

26. I have not cursed God/Goddess.

27. I have not behaved with violence.

28. I have not caused disruption of peace.

29. I have not acted hastily or without thought.

30. I have not overstepped my boundaries of concern.

31. I have not exaggerated my words when speaking.

32. I have not worked evil.

33. I have not used evil thoughts, words or deeds.

34. I have not polluted the water

35. I have not spoken angrily or arrogantly.

36. I have not cursed anyone in thought, word or deeds.

37. I have not placed myself on a Pedestal.

38. I have not stolen what belongs to God/Goddess.

39. I have not stolen from or disrespected the deceased.

40. I have not taken food from a child.

41. I have not acted with insolence.

42. I have not destroyed property belonging to God/Goddess.

My point being, is that many of these seem...eerily familiar. Or is it just me?

(The one about 'not eating my own heart' is just weird, but then, it probably has some esoteric meaning that escapes me.)

So, when the Hyksos were forcibly evicted from Egypt (obviously the only real 'exodus'  that occurred), they obviously borrowed the minimalist version that suited their nomadic lifestyle.

Obviously, they didn't much appreciate the hybridization concept the Egyptians bestowed on their make-believe friends.

Along with the obvious issues that Judaism has always had with the opposite gender, I might add.

This has been the Apostate, reporting from the dust bins of history, signing off.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Let's Share - Glimpses Into The Moments In The Life Of An Atheist

There are indeed those moments in real time, when you are confronted/accosted/approached by the religiously inclined. I tend to be an open-minded (as well as open-mouthed) individual - I was raised honest, and I'll go to my grave that way (reason willing).

In January, I was in the Hayward Safeway parking lot, when a thin older black fellow (he'd nearly gone altogether white up top) approached me. "Excuse me sir, can I talk to you about something?"

I said, "No thanks, not interested." Didn't even look at him.

"Sir, I'm a good Christian..."

"I'm an atheist." Still no eye contact.

"You don't believe in God?" Incredulity creeping into his voice.


"Don't believe in God?!?!? I don't like that!" I kept locking up my car, not really paying any attention.

He went from pleasant to shrill in less than a minute. "Who do you think created you? God, that's who!"

I turned, looked him dead in the eye, and said, "Nope."

And I left him there as I went into the store, as he delivered a stormy tirade at my back. I overheard him hollering about, "Who you going to ask for help, then? Huh? What you gonna do when you get sick?"

I was half tempted to go back and crack him one in the mouth. My ma (as I've said before) had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

I came out, he was gone. Good thing, too.

I'll always vaguely wonder why he approached me. Witnessing? Wanting a hand-out? Maybe up for a 'theological' discussion?

I've been in Mountain View for a few months now, and thus far nobody's braced me for the 'good news'. I've gotten into it with some co-workers, more of an open forum thing. (I had one co-worker try to tell me at lunch that 'every man has a god'. I chirped up that I sure didn't have one.)

I wear three T-shirts that I ordered from Cafe Press. One is Friedrich Nietsche: "A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything." (I get the occasional odd or dirty look at the Googleplex at lunch time, nobody jacks me up.) The second is "Intelligent Design is NOT science" with a circle and a red slash through the initials ID, and the third is a tasteful rendering of Russell's teapot.

I have an eraserboard next to my desk, and I try to write at least one thought for the week on it. One week, I wrote 'Turtles all the way down!" I was asked about it a few times: when I relate the story, I get the oddest looks. Except for my buddy Kyle, who understood it immediately, and found it hilarious.

So come tell your tales. I'll try to trot out a few more incidents, bon mots, mot justes, etc.

Come share.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Allegories Gone Wild - The Doctor Is Out...Permanently

Cross posted @ God Is For Suckers!

reason "I see faith in your eyes
"Never you hear the discouraging lies
"I hear faith in your cries
"Broken is the promise, betrayal
"The healing hand held back by deepened nail" - Metallica

It's a small cult: I speak of the Christian Science movement;

Today it is estimated that there are about 400,000 students of Christian Science in over 60 countries worldwide. There are approximately 1,850 to 2,000 branch congregations in the Christian Science church.

Here is the problem I have with these people (as I have issues with anyone who espouses prayer as a substitute for actual 'science') - prayer doesn't work. At all. Otherwise, we'd be using it in labs, in hospitals, use it as a substitute for pruning our gardens, getting our automobiles to work (who to have faith in? The human mechanic, or the divine touch that never comes?) - I could go on, but you ken me drift I think.

I was watching that great HBO show, Curb Your Enthusiasm (season 3), and there was this hilarious segue. Richard Lewis is dating a Christian Scientist (fairly oxymoronic, I might add) who has an allergy to peanuts, and his friend Larry David (who the show is about, by the way), just fired his 'television repairman' (apparently in LA, you can be kept on retainer for this). So Lewis' girlfriend accidentally eats brownies that have peanuts in them (and, you guessed it, has swollen up). So Lewis and David get the idea to bake brownies peppered with anti-allergy formula (benadryl, I think), since his beau steadfastly refuses to take any medicine. As they go into the house for a visit with brownies in hand, David notices that they have a television repairman working on a TV.

An argument ensues with her and David, and Larry says, "Why don't you pray for the TV to get fixed?" He points out (quite accurately) that it's about the same thing - you want something fixed, you find a repairman, you don't 'pray' for it to work. So why take chances with your own body? When you get sick, you go to a doctor, not a priest (a 'calling', I'd like to add, is parasitic in the extreme: next time I have any sort of discussion with these people, I'll advocate them getting a real job). Anyways, onwards.

It's fairly impossible to get reliable statistics from these people. Yep, you guessed it. All their 'witnesses' are actually members of their crutch (oops! I meant church).

From here:

According to the study, "All testimonies are submitted on the initiative of the respective testifiers…" The study admits, "These testimonies are manifestly religious rather than medical documents…" Moreover, "The medical specificity of the testimonies also varies greatly…a large number of testifiers refer to healings of diseases or conditions that are not medically named." Further, "Some have questioned the reliability of details reported in the testimonies, since most, like the example just given, are by persons who are not medically trained…Even in diagnosed cases, testifiers are often reporting in their own words what physicians have said to them. The possibility that in some cases individuals have misinterpreted, misremembered or otherwise inaccurately reported the remark of doctors cannot be ruled out any more than the possibility in some cases of medical misdiagnosis." Finally, "Cases listed as medically diagnosed, for example, include only those where a diagnosis was specifically mentioned or reasonably indicated by the testimony."

Here's a (non) newsflash, to those of you familiar with religious rationalizations:

In the study's section, "Healings of Children," the church summarizes the results of its compilation of 640 healings (which occurred between 1969-1988) which it claims were medically diagnosed. Of these 640 healings or conditions, 88 are claimed to have been pronounced, by a physician, to have been life-threatening. Of the remaining non-life-threatening illnesses, the study provides no breakdown as to which illnesses were self-limiting (illnesses from which a person will normally recover, with or without treatment), such as colds, headaches, small cuts, etc. Christian Science cannot claim that its methods of prayer are effective in healing all childhood illnesses based on recoveries from non-serious, self-limiting illnesses.

And, of course, the sour icing on the cake:

Next, the study summarizes the healing of 88 "life-threatening" illnesses:

...at least two of spinal meningitis…five of pneumonia or double pneumonia, one of food poisoning, one of diphtheria, one of wet lung, one of brain fever and chorea, two of heart disorders…one of stomach obstruction…Two healings of ruptured appendix involved teenagers.

Although these illnesses can be life-threatening, some are not necessarily fatal if left untreated. As in the illnesses classified as serious (above), it is impossible to know if Christian Science prayer was actually responsible for the healings or whether the children would have recovered anyway, without prayer treatment. Particularly, given the small number of cases in each diagnostic category (five cases of pneumonia, three of spinal meningitis, etc.) it is quite possible that the recoveries are not to be attributed to Christian Science but to the natural resistance of the children involved.

Sadly, the link provided does provide a nod to religion, claiming that just maybe a combination of prayer and medicine might prove effective.

And from this portion, a snippet that illustrates quite accurately how fucked up our culture is in re: 'faith':

Forty-four states have had religious exemption laws in force since the mid-1970's. (In 1990 South Dakota became the first state to repeal its religious exemptions from health care requirements for sick children.) Furthermore, the above deaths are only those that have come to public attention. Certainly there are other known and unknown cases of death, injury, prolonged suffering, and permanent disability of children whose parents have refused effective medical treatment.

In 1988, the national office of the American Civil Liberties Union made the following statement regarding state religious exemption laws:

Children have rights too, and parents have certain rights which end when they intrude too far into a child's right to live…the parent's right to bring up the child in the way the parent thinks best-an important right…ends at the point at which the parents' actions endanger the lives of kids…there cannot be in our view a religious exemption no matter how sincere a parent's belief…

Prior to 1982, "For nearly seven years after religious immunity was put under federal mandate, no charges of child abuse, neglect, or manslaughter were filed in any cases of religiously-based medical neglect. Beginning in 1982, though, prosecutors filed charges in some deaths of children due to religious beliefs against medical care. From 1982 through 1989, criminal charges were filed in 29 such cases. To date there have been 21 convictions, 5 acquittals… of the 29 cases, 7 involved Christian Scientists, with a result of 5 convictions for manslaughter and child endangerment." (Swan, The Law's Response When Religious Beliefs Against Medical Care Impact on Children, 1990).

How is it that parents can be prosecuted in the deaths of their children when states have legislated religious exemption? Prosecutors and courts have determined that the state religious exemption laws do not necessarily exempt parents from responsibility from obtaining medical care if a child is seriously ill or if the illness results in the child's death. In 1988, the California Supreme Court (People v. Walker) determined that the state's religious exemption law applies only to the neglect statute and does not carry over to the state's manslaughter statute. The Twitchells in Boston were convicted under a similar interpretation of the Massachusetts religious exemption law.

Not only do the religious exemption laws leave children vulnerable to death and disability, the laws can mislead (and be used by their churches to mislead) parents into believing that the state allows the substitution of prayer for medical care. Only when it is too late, after the agony of a child's death, do parents come to realize they are accountable under the law. In effect, religious exemption laws are punitive rather then preventative.

So much for 'no child left behind'. There are children who have been left behind to die, due to some anachronistic Iron Age diatribe that was big on poetic license and short on reality.

While they do espouse SOCAS, women's rights, insist on obedience to state laws, and are ambiguous on their stand on the homosexual lifestyle, I think that the position on medicine in relation to their own treatment of children is by and large monstrous in the extreme.

Prayer: it's never worked, and it never will.

Till the next post then.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Atheism As Worldview? All Signs Point To...

who's on first

Cross posted @ God Is For Suckers!

Abbott: I say Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know's on third

It's time for reflection. We often hear these pungent canards, enough so that we let courtesy lapse and start going for the jugular.

First, a definition of terms:

  1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
  2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.

So it seems that we as atheists, use a filter that screens out the supernatural. One of my favorite sayings (which, being a brash, outspoken, 'militant' atheist, I use a lot) is, "There's ALWAYS a rational explanation!"

And yes, there always is.

For a large segment of the population (whether they be agnostic, lukewarm or cafe Christian, or what-not), most folks use what I'll refer to as 'general knowledge'. That is to say, that there's no supernatural hand at the wheel. For the most part, this applies to items that we take for granted. Gravity, physics, indigestion, telling little kids not to open jars (best way to get them open!), dogs piddling on hydrants, all those mundane little things that are what they are.

So it's when we get to what some folks regard as the BIG questions, WWWHW (Who, What, Where, How and Why?), is the point where viewpoints diverge.

As Richard Carrier points out in his book Sense & Goodness Without God, theists and atheists agree on common points: the universe exists, it began somewhere/sometime/somewhen/somehow, humanity exists (and we began somewhere), but the details are fodder for multiple arguments on the Interweb or in realtime (and judging from a large part of the 'logic' employed by the other side, obviously natural selection doesn't select via intelligence).

Once you subtract a Who? from the equation, is when there are howls of protest from the peanut gallery. Being as we're such a self-involved, introversive species (and what species isn't? A question that opens yet another can of worms), it's difficult for most to understand that there isn't a Who? involved. Thereby reducing it to WWHW.

For my own part, yes, atheism is a substantial filter. So much so, that when I overhear some theological rubbish, it takes a bit of restraint not to pop in and poke holes in the rationale of the relusional. Gone are the days when some anecdotal 'spooky' story would raise gooseflesh on my arm hairs. Goodbye to the silliness  like "Oh, hey, I was reading a letter from my deceased dad when the LIGHTS FLICKERED!" (Yeah, we don't hear about the millions of times that didn't happen when someone read a note by a deceased relative - yes, because A. it's been done that many times, and B. nothing happened). Adios to the idiocy of "I've been blessed!" Ta-ta to the teleological argument. Hasta la bye-bye to the on high, baby.

So it's difficult to remain polite when someone declares there has to be a who behind the scenes, manipulating us like marionettes with invisible strings. And those people who absolutely insist that there's an invisible hand guiding us along (kinda scary, considering there are actual television shows that uphold this flim-flammery, dren like Touched By An Angel, Saving Grace, or the grand hoax of TV, Medium), then courtesy be damned. More so, when they can't provide a lick of evidence except that they "have a feeling it's so." Yeah, humanity's had a great track record when epistemology's based on that, let me tell ya.

So who was first?

Apparently, no one.

Still waiting for someone to come up with any kind of evidence there's an Almighty Alchemist mixing potions up, working behind the scenes. And yes, I'm open to evidence.

In the meantime, yes, atheism is a worldview.

Till the next post, then.