Friday, December 30, 2005

The ACLU Freedom Files

    The ACLU has a video series online called The ACLU Freedom Files. As of now they have four 30-minute videos on the topics of the Patriot Act, the Supreme Court, racial profiling, and dissent. I haven't had time to watch them all yet, but I did see the one on dissent and thought it was very well made. In one part of the show they showed some footage of police in Oakland shooting some peaceful protesters with wooden bullets. Now I always thought that the non-lethal bullets such as this and rubber bullets would simply hurt like a really bad paintball or something of that nature, but if you look at the crater-like marks that they leave on the victims it seems clear that they would hurt a hell of a lot more than that. These videos might be a really good introduction to these issues to family members and coworkers who haven't put much critical thought into one of these issues. The video format makes the material quickly accessible and interesting to even the most busy and apathetic of people.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Nobel Prize Winner Criticizes U.S.

    Harold Pinter, who recently won a Nobel Prize in literature, gave an award lecture in which he very openly attacked the US foreign policy, not simply the recent "oh of course we're war criminals" stuff, but as well as the stuff from the last half of the 20th century, the stuff that is rarely reported on. It's a very good speech and I hope it causes people around the world, if not in the United States, to think about what he said. You can see his speech here. He gets political at about the 10 minute mark.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Reason for the Season

    Despite what we atheists think about the ridiculousness of religious claims, we must recognize that December 25th is an important date and we should not simply brush aside the reason for why we get this time off. Even if we don't believe the religous aspects of his existence, we should at least give him pause and thanks for letting us have the time off. So in this spirit, I deeply thank Deus Sol Invictus, the unconquerable sun god, whose Roman followers likely started the religous celebrations on December 25th. We must all be careful of those will try to distort this holiday for their own religious ends, and in particular Christians, who have somewhat recently tried to claim the holiday as the supposed birthday of their "savior". Churches in Ireland let the pagans have December 25th all to themselves until the 5th century, churches in Jerusalem until the 7th century, and those in Slavic lands until the 10th century. Listen Christians, how would you feel if people didn't celebrate your birthday for almost 1000 years and then said "ahh shit, we don't know when this happened" and then decided that your birthday should be on the same day as a sun god, so that they don't have to throw two parties in a year? The giving of presents, mistletoe, even the christmas tree are all traditions that were stolen from the pagans. I say get your own holiday and traditions and let other people have theirs.

    On a different note, those of you who didn't see The Daily Show last night should watch this. O'Reilly tried to make it appear that Jon Stewart's show was part of the horrible "War on Christmas" and used a year-old clip as if it had happened the day before. Bill O'Reilly also called Comedy Central "Secular Central", to which Jon responded that he preferred "Godless Central". A truly great segment.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Great Trading Spouses Video

    I know I've seen part of this video from Trading Spouses on someone's blog before but I didn't see a clip that was this long. Video courtesy of Crooks and Liars, a great site if you're looking for relevant video clips on politics and the media. Anyway, while this video paints a picture of a very extreme christian, it's nice that it was aired. Who knows, maybe it will make christians who watched it rethink their position or might at least drive them away from fundamentalism. Who wants to bet that this lady would burn us at the stake if she had the opportunity?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Giving My Thanks

    While I may not have any sky daddy to give credit to, the Thanksgiving season gives me an opportunity to pause and reflect on those who have and continue to make a positive impact on my life. My family, my friends, my fellow bloggers and readers, and my beautiful fiancee, just to name a few. But also, I feel very grateful for those who are politically active and fight against the injustice in this world. People who spend a good portion of their limited free time organizing, protesting, and attending rallies. Those who are out in the streets resisting, educating, and fighting for the issues that I tell myself I am "too busy for this week". Those who speak out and end up getting tear gas in the face while I'm simply relaxing on my weekend. Watching videos like this give me some of my rare moments of pride about being American, and give me hope that we will change as a country. And not simply go back to the way we used to be (we've never been all that great) but that we will live up to the ideals that almost all Americans have grown up believing in.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fox News Sets Up Enemy In Order to Rally Its Base

    Some of you may watch Fox News, but I hope you do it only for comedy. I generally check out their website on a daily basis and find out what they're up to, although it usually just makes me upset. But hey, anger inspires action sometimes. Lately Fox News has done a ton of segments about a supposed "War on Christmas". This war isn't just about making the holiday more secular, but they actually claim that secular progressives want to eliminate Santa and the like. The situation actually reminds me of UTI's What It Feels Like to be an Atheist article in the sense that we actually have people that are arguing viciously for other people to acknowledge and welcome Santa in their holiday season. Fox News' anchor Gibson has even wrote a book on the supposed war, and he comments on it practically everyday on his Fox News segment. He was recently invited to talk to O'Reilly so that they could mislead the public together. Here's the video, courtesy of Media Matters. O'Reilly made a list of the retailers that were using Merry Christmas as their greeting as opposed to those who simply use Happy Holidays in an attempt to scare these companies into saying the christian phrase. I have to admit that it's a good way to try to distract the people from a real war where men, women, and children are dying by inventing another war where the biggest atrocity is someone not saying 'Merry Christmas' and saying 'Happy Holidays' instead. Fox News will really save some money though by keeping its sound bytes and graphics from the War on Christmas for when the real war breaks out. Haven't heard about it? I heard about it from my GOP newsletter. If you make a contribution, you get a newsletter and each month it includes another classified government secret. Pretty cool if you ask me. But anyway, surely you've heard about the administration opening up oil drilling in Alaska. Haha, but everyone knows there is no oil in Alaska! But there is TONS of it at the North Pole. Our Dear Leader simply wants to get our troops some experience in drilling for oil while fighting in Arctic weather before combat operations begin. Personally I'm really looking forward to that war, some great photos should come out of it.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Repost: God Damn Get Off My Money

       I posted this article a few months back and thought it would appropriate today with Newdow's lawsuit against the motto "In God We Trust". For those of you who don't stamp out or cross out the motto on the currency, I encourage you to do so. If you are looking for a good place online to purchase a cheap, simple stamp you can find a place here.

       The motto "In God We Trust" that is on our currency seems to have been there forever. Even most atheists probably look at it and don't think much of it. They probably think that it has been there forever and isn't likely to change. Well, at least the former isn't anywhere near true.

      The truth is that "In God We Trust" wasn't a motto of the United States until an act of Congress in 1956 made it so. This was primarily in opposition to the atheistic Soviet Union. "In God We Trust" didn't appear on paper money until 1957. And the first time it appeared on any piece of American currency was in 1864. Guess who's idea it was....yeah, the church. Let's take a look at that letter.

Letter by Rev. Watkinson written to the Secretary of the Treasury.

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.

To you first I address a subject that must be agitated.

      Yeah, so we've got that fucking motto on our money because of some damn minister. Separation of church and state my ass. This has been argued in the courts a few times, but the judges often say that "In God We Trust" is not a religious statement, but a secular one. I don't think I need to explain why that is completely ridiculous.

      If we did get rid of this motto, what could we use? Well, currently the U.S. actually has two official mottos. One is this religious-based one, which was added just recently. The other, if you remember it (you definitely don't see it as much) is "E pluribus unum" or "Out of many, one". Now which one of these mottos is constitutional? Which one of these mottos does a better job of uniting the country?

      And now, what can we do? Well, the first thing is to vote out the Republicans in 2006. If the conservative republicans have power much longer they will have completely filled the judicial benches with religious zealots and then we'll be lucky not to have "In God We Trust" tattooed on our foreheads. Meanwhile, you can simply write over the motto on the currency. You can cross out the motto or write "Keep Church and State Separate" or "E pluribus unum" there. Other people have bought stamps to make it look more professional, and to steamline the process. You can typically buy these stamps online for under $5. Check out this website for legality and other ideas- Godoffmoney. This will at least bring attention to the issue, and the more attention it gets the more likely we'll be able to do something. I think most reasonable Americans take pride in our separation of church and state idea, having learned about its importance even in middle school. Maybe another individual will see your message and decide to do it as well, multiplying your efforts. And at the very least, it feels good.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Sunday, November 06, 2005

United States asks "Is Torture Wrong?"

    You might have seen that in the news recently that the United States is debating whether or not it should allow torture of prisoners or not. Here is a CNN story about it. Before I continue, I'd just like to point out that the title of the article is "White House Pressures Congress to reject Torture Amendment". Well hey, that's sounds great, you even have 'reject torture' in the title! Most Americans who skim the top stories will see this and think "damn I knew that George fella was a good american". Now for the small percentage of people who actually read the articles you'll see that the 'torture amendment' that the White House wants rejected is a ban on torture amendment. In my opinion they could have put the world ban in the title, but I digress...

    So what's going on here is that the White House, specifically Dick Cheney, wants an exemption of CIA agents from the policy restricting them from torturing detainees. You might recall that in 2002 a Justice Department memo declared that the U.S. was not bound by many of the provisions of the Geneva Convention when dealing with "enemy combatants". But what's the scariest part about the U.S. wanting to use torture? I think this can be seen by a quick look at what Attorney General Alberton Gonzales said about torture in that 2002 memo. He said that the interrogation must entail "injury such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions — in order to constitute torture". So it looks like the White House wants the ability to murder detainees. Organ failure and serious impairment of body functions sounds like it would lead to death to me as well.

    Look at what we've become. Look at what we debate about now. There was a CNN poll on this earlier, I'm just waiting for the next poll saying "Would you be upset if a concentration camp was set up in your town?" And another thing, I'm afraid that the overuse of Nazi comparisons over the years has desensitized Americans to that comparision, when today it may be very appropriate to compare the current administration to the Nazi regime, or at least to fascism. Watch this animation and tell me what you think.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

To the Christian Left

    There has been much discussion recently on atheist blogs regarding the need for progressive christians and atheists to work together and put aside our differences in order to stop the dangerous path that we are now following as a country because of right-wing "compassionate" "conservatism".

     Can this be done, or are we too divided to really work together? In my opinion I think it's the former. So what exactly are our differences? Let's're a Christian and I'm an atheist. You believe in God, Jesus, and the gang, and I think they are simply fables invented by men to control the people. So that's one difference, but I don't know of many more. It seems as though we have many more things in common than we do that are different. We both despise bigotry, unfairness, corruption, war, lies, the assault on intellectualism and science, and policies that benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. We probably like the same foods, enjoy watching the same TV shows, enjoy being with family and friends, and want the same basic things for our life, namely happiness and a sense of accomplishment when we die. We're both humans who are concerned about the direction that we are heading, and I think that our ideas of the best direction are more similar than they are different.

    And besides, why should we be at each other's throats? Neither of us are in power and are making any decisions at the moment.

    So how can we work together? Well, I think we need a good discussion on this, how we can take back America. For one, I think it's important for us both to not let the hot-button issues control our voting patterns, which is exactly what the right wants us to do. But to be honest, I don't think we'd be all too different on these hot-button issues. Most progressive christians I know approve of gay marriage, separation of church and state, and many are pro-choice. Like I said before, I don't think we're that different politically. But I think that we need to downplay the one difference that we have that could make it difficult for us to work together, and this means to be watchful of what we say. Negative comments about each other will not help us steer this country in the right direction. An example of this on the christian side is an article that I saw today called Is President Bush an Atheist?. I actually have mixed feelings about this article. I like the fact that it's a powerful message that might sway christians on the right, but it does so at the expense of atheists. If there were some justification for calling Bush an atheist, that'd be one thing. All atheists aren't good of course, but to identify someone as an atheist because you think they are selfish and whatnot is grossly unfair. Bush is still christian, he just has a different interpretation of what the bible says. I didn't look for an unfair christian characterization by an atheist, but I'm sure they happen, and atheists should be careful of this as well.

     For atheists who read this and want to check out the progressive christian camp, you could go check out Crossleft, whose founder recently posted on vjack's blog Atheist Revolution. She's a christian but her fiance is an atheist, so I figure a group led by someone like her is most likely to be able to bring us together. There may be other great christian left groups out there as well that we should look into.

    For the christians out there, who do you think makes the most sense for you to be allied with? Someone who professes to be a christian but doesn't appear to care at all about your interpretation of what the bible teaches, or someone who simply doesn't believe in jesus but otherwise has the same views that you have. And again for the atheists, I think that we can agree that religion is what the believers make it. Those who are intolerant of homosexuals will find anti-homosexual lessons in the bible (which there definitely are) while those who were raised better will focus on the lessons of tolerance. People who are intelligent and are, for lack of a better term, "good people", will find lessons in the bible to match what they believe. As George Bernard Shaw once said,"No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means". So I think that we can definitely find much common ground with the christian left.

     In any case, I think it's time we both put aside our differences, celebrate our common humanity, and work together to make this world a better place.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

It Ain't Necessarily So...

Probably one of the blogosphere's best kept secrets is Sportin' Life's blog It Ain't Necessarily So.... It's become one of the blogs that I read most often, and for three reasons:

  • Freshness of topics
  • I never feel like he's beating a dead horse. The topics generally all involve religion somehow, but are often looking at religion from different angles such as the Bible in schools, a comparision with christianity to the message of the KKK, religion in U.S. politics, and something that isn't reported on as much-religion in foreign politics.

  • Conciseness
  • As a graduate student I'm finding myself having less and less time to read blogs. His articles are long enough to give me interesting information yet still give me time to finish reading the article so that I can formulate a worthwhile comment before I finish my morning coffee.

  • Frequently updated
  • Probably the most frequently updated blog that I read. It's not unusual at all for him to have two posts in a single day.

    But don't take my word for it, check it out yourself.

    Friday, October 21, 2005

    Become a Republican

         This is kind of cute. They make quite a few jabs at religion and today's christians.

    Saturday, October 08, 2005

    Movie Review: OUTFOXED-Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism

        Last week I watched a documentary about the Fox News Channel. Now as you may know, I believe all major corporate media to be propaganda for the wealthy, controlling members of society. However, I generally view this to be a result of market forces, rather than some overt political conspiracy. I thought that Fox News, or Faux News as it's often called, was simply a very conservative, right-wing news group because there was a lot of money to be made by being biased, but that the people who ran Fox News had no specific political goal in mind. This documentary changed that. It made a very good case for Fox News, having as its main goal, the misrepresentation and distortion of the news. It featured interviews with former Fox producers and anchors who speak about the intense pressure on them for supporting the Republicans and making the Democrats look as bad as possible. Hell, Roger Ailes, a former media advisor to Nixon, Reagan, and George Bush, Sr. is the CEO and President of Fox News. The documentary also featured internal memos that were obtained from Fox News which show a concious effort by Fox to make its shows and its affiliates give the same spin on a particular issue. Now maybe this wouldn't be a big deal if it were just Fox, but Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News, owns A LOT of media around the world. Hundreds of newspapers and magazines, and TV news that reaches billions of people worldwide. And he is a VERY big conservative. In 1988, he made the remark on Pat Robertson's bid for president that Pat Robertson was "right on all the issues." You can watch a trailer of the video here but it really doesn't do the film justice.

        The media, being the main way that most people learn about what goes on in the world, is being centralized and controlled by corporations that guess what, have very conservative views. Fiscally of course they're conservative, they want huge profits. But they will also cater to conservative religious views, since religion keeps the people in check and makes it trivial to control them. Without independent media or at least the understanding that the mass media is worthelss, we will never be free from religious bullshit and we will never have a true democracy where ideas are freely debated. I encourage you to buy the DVD here. It's $9.95, only twice the price of what you would pay if you rented it (assuming that option is available in your area).

        Also, unrelated to the DVD, the House passed an energy bill recently 212-210 which is essentially a giveaway to energy companies. It was intended to be a 5-minute vote, but when the Republicans saw that they were losing 209-212 they held out for almost an hour as Tom Delay and others got a few more Republicans in the boat. The Democrats spoke out against the corruption and shouted "shame shame" as the vote finally ended. You can watch this video here.

    Friday, September 30, 2005

    Alabama State Senator Explains God's Wrath

        You've got to watch this. I've never seen a senator say something as stupid as this on a major news station. Some religious fanatic sure, but a senator? It's interesting how the smile on his face doesn't seem to go away very quickly even when Scarborough is describing suffering children. With senators and other government officials believing stuff like this, it's perfectly logical for them to think that we're going to ward off future natural disasters by spending public tax dollars to build churches rather than levees. This is just absolutely sickening.

    Sunday, September 25, 2005

    Thoughts on Yesterday

        So the anti-war rally was very interesting yesterday. I have to say that it's the first time that I was ever involved in any sort of protest and I came away viewing it as a very positive experience and it made me think about some stuff that hadn't thought about before. So let me break down my thoughts in a few categories for organizational clarity.

  • General Overview

  •     Like I said yesterday, the anti-war rallies took place in Washington D.C., San Francisco, London, Vancouver, L.A., Seattle, and there were other smaller demonstrations going on in other cities. The rally in San Francisco that I attended gathered a total of 50,000 people (by estimates from organizers) that marched through the streets. It should be said that the police estimated the total gathered to be 20,000 people, so even though they may be biased or have poor estimation abilities, they did have helicopters so I think their estimate may be more likely. The amount that gathered in Washington D.C. was reported to be 100,000 people (by the police). There were people from all walks of life there, from anarchists to religious groups. Ages varied throughout the entire range. When the front of the march reached its destination point an hour or so after the start the tail of the march hadn't even started to move yet. At the park I happened to run into the founder of Choose Reality who was passing out bumper stickers, so that was pretty neat to meet someone who was another active online atheist in the real world.

  • On the Perception of Being A Powerless Minority

  •     We often talk in the atheist community about how we are very small minority and so the prospects for us getting a rational worldview being endorsed by our government to be something of an unlikely dream. I think this is incorrect and only plays into the hands of those who wish to control our government for their own purposes because for many of us, if we don't think we can win we're not likely to try very hard. Yesterday I saw many people who could see through the bullshit that not only the adminstration puts out, but also the bullshit the media puts out. And many of these people were not atheists. And I identified with these people and felt like we were a group of thinking, concerned citizens even though I knew they probably believed in a magical sky daddy or two. See, what I've come to realize is that there are many aspects of having a realistic outlook of the world. Some of us see through the religious bullshit very easily, but then we are still fooled by the non-religious crap that we were indoctrinated with at the beginning of our lives. These things, I believe, include strong feelings of jingoism, a strong commitment to free market capitalism and the associated economic belief that both the rich and the poor "earn what they get", as well as the inability to see that the corporate-owned media is, without exaggeration, essentially propaganda. However, there are some people who see the latter stuff very early in life but still believe in the ridiculous religious stuff. And I believe that which path you take depends on a variety of factors, from different experiences in life, stronger interest in either religious or political/economic/information reality, or a stronger indoctrination in the other category. Now there may be more categories of realistic outlook that I haven't listed here, and that's because it's very possible that I still have beliefs that don't reflect the truth and so I don't recognize it as such.

        Now personally, I came to the religious reality part very early in my life. It was what I was interested in thinking about. However, in the other sense I believe I was a total fool up to even 6 months ago. I was extremely patriotic, a fervent believer in capitalism and that freedom was incompatible with anything else, and guess what, I even voted for Bush--twice. I watched the mainstream news very often, and a year ago I even watched O'Reilly thinking that I was in the No-Spin zone and that he was "looking out for me". Luckily for me O'Reilly made a very negative comment about atheists one day on his program, and so I was able to use my liberation from the religious aspect of reality to free myself from his crap, and so I started watching CNN (whoop de fucking doop). Thinking back to how fooled I was so recently embarresses the hell out of me not only when I say it, but just thinking about it.

        So attempting to get back on topic. I am going to start evalutating people's grip on reality not merely as whether they are a theist or an atheist, but also to the extent that they believe in the other types of dogma that exist out there. And I really like it, because it gives me new hope when I think about whether or not positive changes can occur in the world. I know that there is a much larger percentage of the population which has at least a partial grip on reality, and hopefully I can help them come to grips with both that I've found. Of course, hopefully they will help me out in eliminating crap that I believe as well.

  • The Media's Coverage of The Rally

  •     Was actually much, much worse than even I thought it would be. I thought I would be able to see uses of words and emphasis that showed a clear bias, but I didn't even have to look that far. The coverage was pathetic, and I talked a little about it in the last post. That article that I linked to yesterday morning was the article that they ran on cnn, msnbc, and fox news. They gave most of the voice to the pro-war people, despite it being coverage of an anti-war rally. The voices of the rally that they did give voice to they felt compelled to mention that they were still Bush supporters and that they didn't think immediate withdrawal of troops was a good idea, but that we should do it gradually. So they effectively portrayed the anti-war position as being the same position that the president has. Fantastic. The news media will give a front-page story when a dog rescues someone but they can't give a voice to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who spent most of their Saturday protesting. Looking at the "Coverage" today upsets me also. They cover a tiny rally by "defenders of Iraq war" (which was chosen despite the much more brief term "pro-war", but whatever, the rally yesterday was "anti-" instead of "defenders of peace" or something like that). In the article today they give the police estimate for the D.C rally yesterday instead of using the organizers's estimate of 300,000. But for the pro-war rally they quote one of the organizers for the number they are preparing for, "just to be on the safe side". The article also makes sure to include a statement that the war supporters are "the silent majority" while having a photo from the anti-war rally showing young people with painted faces going crazy. Oh my, what a dream world this anti-war advocates live in...

    Update: Today I found reported that the pro-war rally had a total of 500 people in attendance, just a smidge lower than the 25,000 that CNN led us to believe would be there. Yet they still got equal media time with the hundreds of thousands who demonstrated across the U.S. on Saturday.

    Saturday, September 24, 2005

    Attending the Anti-War Rally Tomorrow

         Many of you may have heard about the massive demonstrations that will be taking place tomorrow in places across the country to protest the Iraq war and everything else that people are sick of. Rallies will take place in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, in addition to others that I didn't take the time to look up. Some have said that it may be the largest protest in America since the Vietnam War. I intend to go to SF tomorrow and take place in the festivities and will let you all know what it was like on Sunday. For those of you that attended or saw one of the rallies yourself I'd be interested in knowing what you thought, and I'd also be curious to get an idea to the extent that the media covered these events in your area. Saturday night I'll be in San Francisco playing a drinking game at a collection of bars with friends so let's just hope I remember what happened myself come Sunday morning....

    The SF demonstration starts in an hour, but looking at CNN so far, the coverage is worse than expected. Note how half the article is dedicated to talking to people who are for the war, despite the fact that they are vastly outnumbered. Also notice that a man they interviewed who is against the war, still supports the president on other issues. Another man against the war, is quoted as saying that the removal of troops needs to happen but that it needs to be slow. Well fucking great, that's the president's position as well. I really hope they do a better job as the other demonstrations get going.

    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    I'll have an actual post tomorrow hopefully, it's been a long week...

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    The Daily Show and the Evolution-I D "debate"

        For those of you that don't know, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart is having a week-long special discussing the debate between evolution and intelligent design. The special hopes to shed some light on the following questions

  • What other theories are out there?

  • Who's on the frontlines of this debate?

  • Should your child's curriculum really be decided by experts in their respective fields?

  •     Last night's show was hilarious. This morning one of the videos was up on the web here. Just click on "History of Evolution" and enjoy. I'd also expect the special report by Ed Helms to be online sometime soon (maybe today?) which was even more funny than the one I linked to. Last night they also had Chris Mooney on as a guest to talk about his book The Republican War on Science. Tonight's guest will be Kurt Vonnegut. Last night's show will also run today around 7c/8p with the new show coming on tonight at 10c/11p.

    UPDATE: Ed Helms' report is up now as well. It's titled "Evolution Tour:Scopes Trial". I recommend you check it out.

    Monday, September 12, 2005

    Saturday, September 10, 2005

    Support Fact-Based Initiatives

        So I was over at Evangelical Atheist and made a comment about how a leader of the Family Research Council was trying to use the Katrina disaster to justify why we should divert resources to faith-based initiatives. Anyway, I wrote that the government should only be focused on fact-based initiatives, especially while we're running a deficit. Someone besides me thought it was a cool phrase so I made this banner to put on my blog. I googled the phrase and apparently it's been used before so I'm not the first to use it. Feel free to use the banner if you like.

    Sunday, September 04, 2005

    This is really starting to piss me off

         I have to admit that the first day that the hurricane hit I didn't really care too much about it. I figured it was going to be pretty much like all the other hurricanes. Sure, maybe a few people would die from being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but once put into context of all the death and destruction around the world, it would be insignificant. Well I was wrong. This truly is a horrible disaster and the way that the government has responded has been criminal in my opinion. And now there is no doubt in my mind that we are absolutely unprepared for any terrorist attack. They knew the hurricane was coming and look at the situation. Terrorists usually don't let you track them coming in through the Gulf.

        Here's a heartbreaking video from the President of Jefferson parish, Louisiana.

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    The Best Video Clip I've Ever Seen

         I don't know if you all saw this, but last night NBC and other networks aired a Concert for Hurricane Relief which was hosted by Mike Myers and Kanye West. Kanye West took advantage of the event being live and spoke out against the response to Hurricane Katrina by the Bush administration and by the media, even saying that "George Bush doesn't care about black people". The reactions by Mike Myers are hilarious as well as the contrast you see between Myer's empty, politically correct statements and West's unscripted, candid views about the situation. This segment was censored however for those of us on the West Coast, so we didn't get the chance to see it. But the video is here.

    Saturday, August 27, 2005

         There's been a lot of negative media attention given to Pat Robertson over the past few days. Hopefully some of it will increase the separation of some moderate Christians from their fundamentalist counterparts.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    Pat Robertson Calls for the Murder of President Chavez

        In a statement that has been all over the news today, Pat Robertson has called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He accused Chavez of turning Venezuela into "a launching pad for Communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent". Communist infiltration? C'mon, the Cold War is over, and the changes that Chavez has made in the country have increased the education level and health of Venezuela's citizens. His changes are for the benefit of Venezuela and I can't really imagine him using resources to "infiltrate America", whatever that would mean. But what about a launching pad for muslim extremism? Hmm, I didn't know that Venezuela was such a haven for Muslim extremism considering the country is 96% Roman Catholic. But let's pretend that it isn't. Robertson is making the argument that supporting Muslim fundamentalists is cause to assassinate someone. But surely religious fundamentalists of all types are just as dangerous, including Christian fundamentalists like Pat Robertson.

        It's also interesting to look at another justification for why he thinks we should assassinate President Chavez. He says that "we don't need another $200 billion war" and that "it's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war". Now I agree that if a single man is the problem, it is, of course, cheaper to kill the leader and not go to war with the country. But as a spokesperson and icon of Christianity, shouldn't Roberton's first reason for avoiding war be to save the lives of soldiers and innocents of both countries rather than simply worry about the financial cost? When discussing the atomic bombing of Japan, the common justification is that it would have been too much of a loss of life, on both sides, if the war was ended conventionally. However, I suppose the justification by Pat Roberts would have been that two bombs are simply cheaper.

        This is simply another example of the danger of Christianity and the threat that it poses. Killing is bad, unless it's convenient. The Bible says "Thou Shall Not Kill", but I suppose I didn't get the memo from God saying that murder was okay if the target, as Robertson said, controls "a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us badly."

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    The Media-A Tool of Propaganda?

        Today I watched a very thought-provoking documentary called Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, which is based on Chomsky's book . In the documentary the argument is put forth that the media serve and further the goals of the dominant groups in society, namely the wealthy and powerful. But this is not presented as some giant, secret conspiracy, but as naturally following due to the fact that the media is a business whose goal is to make a profit. This profit-incentive, as well as other factors, drive the media to form public ideas and present issues in such a manner as to serve the interests of the powerful. These biases are explained by what Chomsky and Edward Herman call the Propaganda Model. The theory explains that there are five "filters" which the news must pass through in order to "become news", and these filters select only information that is not at odds with the well-being of those in power.

    These five filters are, courtesy of wikipedia,

    • Ownership-Herman and Chomsky argue that since all mainstream media outlets are large corporations which are themselves part of bigger conglomerates, e.g. Westinghouse or General Electric, which extend beyond traditional media fields, these companies have powerful interests that may be affected when certain information is publicized. According to this reasoning, bias against that news which conflicts with the interests of those who own the media is to be expected.

      The authors claim that the importance of ownership filter is the fact that corporations are subject to shareholder control in the context of a profit-oriented market economy. The theory then argues that maximizing profit means sacrificing news objectivity, and news sources that ultimately survive must be fundamentally biased, with regard to news in which they have a conflict of interest.

    • Funding-The authors also argue that the mainstream media depends heavily on advertising revenues to survive. A newspaper like the New York Times, for example, derives 75% of its revenues from advertisements.

      The authors suggest that this filter is best seen by adopting a traditional business framework. They argue that a newspaper, like any other company, has a product which it offers to its audience (or customer base). In this case, however, the product is composed of the affluent readers who buy the newspaper — who also comprise the educated decision-making sector of the population — while the audience includes the businesses that pay to advertise their goods. According to this "filter", the news itself is nothing more than "filler" to get privileged readers to see the advertisements which makes up the real content, and will thus take whatever form is most conducive to attracting educated decision-makers. Stories that conflict with their "buying mood", it is argued, will tend to be marginalized or excluded, as will information that presents a picture of the world that collides with advertisers' interests.

      The theory argues that the people buying the newspaper are themselves the product which is sold to the businesses that buy advertising space; the newspaper itself has only a marginal role as the product.

    • Sourcing-The third filter argues that the mass media need a constant flow of information to supply their daily news demands. In an industrialized economy where consumers demand information about multiple global events, they argue that this task can only be filled by the business and government sectors which have the necessary material resources. This includes mainly The Pentagon and other governmental bodies. Chomsky and Herman then argue that a "symbiotic relationship" arises between the media and parts of government which is sustained by economic necessity and reciprocity of interest. On the one hand, government and news-promoters strive to make it easier for news organizations to buy their services; according to the authors, they

      * provide them with facilities in which to gather
      * give journalists advance copies of speeches and forthcoming reports
      * schedule press conferences at hours well-geared to news deadlines
      * write press releases in usable language
      * carefully organize their press conferences and "photo opportunity" sessions

      On the other hand, the media becomes reluctant to run articles that will harm the corporate interests that provide them with the resources that the media depends upon.

      These last two filters are those which are presumed to be of lesser importance

    • Flak-The term "flak" has been used to describe what the authors see as targeted efforts to discredit organizations or individuals who disagree with or cast doubt on the prevailing assumptions which Chomsky and Herman view as favorable to established power. Unlike the first three "filtering" factors, which are derived from analysis of market mechanisms, flak is characterized by concerted and intentional efforts to manage public information. Flak from the powerful can be either direct or indirect. The direct would include letters or phone calls from the White House to Dan Rather or William Paley, or from the FCC to the television networks asking for documents used in putting together a program, or from irate officials of ad agencies or corporate sponsors to media officials asking for reply time or threatening retaliation. The powerful can also work on the media indirectly by complaining to their own constituencies (stockholders, employees) about the media, by generating institutional advertising that does the same, and by funding monitoring or think-tank operations designed to attack the media. They may also fund political campaigns and help put into power politicians who will more directly serve the interests of private power in curbing any deviationism in the media.

    • Anti-ideologies-A final filter is anti-ideology. Anti-ideologies exploit public fear and hatred of groups that pose a potential threat, either real or imagined. Communism once posed the primary threat according to the model. Communism was seen by its detractors as threatening freedom of speech, movement, press etc. and that this was often used as an excuse to silence voices critical of power. With the destruction of the Soviet Union, proponents of the propaganda model have argued that the main emphasis of anti-communism, has been lost. New anathemas soon appeared. Chomsky and Herman argue that a possible replacement for anti-communism seems to have emerged in the form of "anti-terrorism".

        So that's essentially the theory behind it, and in my opinion it is pretty straight-forward. Chomsky points to some examples in this documentary and there are also some great examples on another documentary called The Corporation . I think you'd be surprised as to what extent the media collaborates with its advertisers when their advertisers have something they don't want published. An example from The Corporation is rather poorly described here.

        Anyhow, I highly recommend both of the documentaries. You might be able to rent them at your local video store (as I did with The Corporation) or view them at a university library (Manufacturing Consent). I think too often we, as atheists, think that we've seen through all the bullshit and aren't being misled anymore. I'm starting to think that perhaps that view is incorrect.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Kissing Hank's Ass

        For those of you who are fans of the Kissing Hank's Ass story, I found a video version of the story. I've been busy this past week, but I'll have a post with more substance in a day or so.

    Tuesday, August 09, 2005

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    What is happiness?

        Well when I think of happiness I think it would be a psychological condition that could be brought on by a number of things: love, friendship, fulfillment of one's plans, good food, comedy, sex, pride, etc. But would it make sense to define happiness as one of these things, as if it were the only thing that mattered? Would I say Happiness is: People posting tremendous praise on my blog or Happiness is: A nice cup of coffee on a quiet morning? No, probably not, that would seem much too exclusionary. Or so you think. Actually, we're wrong, happiness can definitely be defined in terms of one objective

        Oh, so that's what it is! This is actually a bumper sticker that I saw two weeks ago when I was driving around Texas. While I'm definitely used to the fish, "worship god", and "real men love jesus" stickers, this particular bumper sticker really caught my eye. It's extremely frightening that someone would define happiness as the rest of the world being under so-called "god's" laws. Turns out it is made by a group called Kingdom Identity Ministries. They are an extremely racist, fundamentalist group from Arkansas. They also had the following attractive bumper stickers for sale


         Uh huh, sure they're not.

    Monday, July 25, 2005

    Saturday, July 23, 2005

    A Conversation with My Mother

        This morning, while I was over at Atheist Exposed reading about Shirley's conversations with her coworkers about her coming out as an atheist, I realized that the out of all the posts that I read on atheist blogs, I enjoy the accounts of religious discussions the most of all. In that spirit, I'd like to tell you about a phone conversation I had with my mother on Wednesday.

        She called me in the middle of the week to discuss my plans for the weekend and also about my plans for moving out to California next week. We talked about that a little bit and then she began talking about how she might start to read the Harry Potter books. While I definitely haven't read them, I told her that people of all ages seem to enjoy them and if that's what she wants to do, then she should. Her tone of voice then drastically changed to a much more soft, I guess comforting tone, and she said "have you read the book The Five People You Meet in Heaven?". I thought to myself "oh shit, not again". I've talked to her about my atheism before, and without attacking her beliefs directly, just told her that I can't believe in something that doesn't have evidence for it. I didn't feel the need to crush her religiousness. In fact, in many respects I don't want to. She's not a fundamentalist, my parents don't go to church and throw their money away, and they voted Democrat in the last election. They aren't part of the Christian Right mob. In addition, my mom lost her mother when she was in her early 20s and from what she's told me, it means a lot for her to be able to see her mom in heaven again. Even if it would be better for her in the long run, it would hurt me too much to effectively "kill" her mother in her mind all over again. But on the other side of the argument, I can't support religion when it has really put mankind's future in jeopardy. Back to Wednesday. I hoped to simply dismiss this conversation by simply saying "oh no, I think that'd be a bit too much for me", hoping she'd understand and we could just move on to something else. But I think she wanted to talk about it, so she continued:

    Mom: What do you mean, too much?
    Me: Just too religious. Would you read a book called The Five People You Meet on the River of Styx?
    Mom: *slight laughter* So you're a complete atheist?
    Me: Well yeah mom, I don't know how I could only partly one.
    Mom: Well I think, someday, when you get older perhaps, you'll change your mind.
    Me: No no, I really don't think so. When I lose someone that I love very closely, it's going to hurt like hell, but I really don't think I could ever fall back to religion again.
    Mom: It's not just loss that could prompt it, sometimes we just need to believe in something greater than ourselves.

        Now I kind of lost it here. That saying is probably the thing that makes me the most mad when I hear Christians talk, as if atheists are purely egotistical, self-centered maniacs. What's more egotistical than believing that the creator of the entire universe cares about your petty, personal problems, loves you, and wants to talk to you personally. I guess I was a little too rattled to say this, so I just started talking steam of consciousness like.

    Me: Oh my god, I hate when people say that. Atheists are such more likely to care about other human beings and their happiness in life because we realize that we only have one life, and we want everyone to be able to enjoy that life. Christians often say that you can't be moral if you don't believe in God. But I think if you do what's "right" because you want to receive eternal pleasures and avoid eternal punishment, you are being bribed and are not truly being a good person. Tom (as I'll call him, a young, extremely spoiled cousin of mine) gets video games if he listens to his mom and takes his daily shower. Do we think that he's a "good boy" because of this, or do we realize that he's only doing what his mother says because he's acting in his own self-interest. It's the same with religion.

    Mom: *again a little laughter* (I knew she would like my reference to my cousin). Well yeah, but people do what's right because they know that it's right, not because of religious reasons I think.

    Me: (satisfied with this answer, I tried to give her an "out" in the conversation so it could end, or the best "out" I could muster, which wasn't very good) I'm glad you realize that. I guess if you don't let religion affect your life too much and don't get too crazy with it, it doesn't hurt you much.

        She then started talking about some other religious thing, and clearly it wasn't too memorable. She then started talking about what God "wanted", and how "He felt". Now, it might be due to a lack of maturity on my part, maybe it's just I have so much despise for religion built up in me, or maybe it's because I'm discussing it with family and not simply with friends, but I wasn't able to let this simply go without saying something.

    Me: Please mom, don't talk to me about that kind of stuff. It's so strange for me when I don't even believe a god exists for someone to tell me that they know he exists, how he feels about things, which mortals he's slept with, who his son, etc. Furthermore, (she used a lot of references to "He") I don't see why god would be masculine. What purpose does it serve him to be a male? Are there female gods that he needs to attract? (some laughter here) If not, wouldn't he be completely confused about his anatomy which apparently serves no purpose? Gender seems to only play a role in reproduction, so unless he reproduces, I don't think it makes sense for him to be a male. Except for that fact that he was created by a male-dominant society.

         Anyway, she then seemed to be a little desperate and was grabbing at stuff, saying things like "well we know a lot about him when he lived here on the earth". I was dumbfounded, and made some sort of comment about how there's just as much proof for that as there is for unicorns.

        Now during this whole conversation, I noticed that my voice was kind of shaky. I felt that I was torn between attacking something that I hate and protecting my mother. I wanted to explain why I was an atheist, and make her understand that I had good reasons to be one. But after every comment I was afraid that I would make her very sad, and I really didn't want to do that. So I was incredibly happy to end the conversation with her saying "well, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree". I said "yep" and we changed the subject. The rest of the conversation went on normal as always, with really no indication that we had just had a deep argument. I was happy that it ended seemingly well, but later that night I felt bad for losing my cool. I'm pretty good at discussing religion with people that I'm not especially close to, but when I'm talking to someone whose feelings I care about and I'm worried about hurting them, I'm clearly not as good. I hope that, if I do have to talk to her about it again, I act with a little bit better composure.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2005

    Is Socialism Superior to Capitalism?

    The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil... I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy
                                                                   Albert Einstein (1949)

        Today I wanted to talk about some issues that I have been thinking about over the past week. While not having a very direct relation to religion or atheism, I thought it would be best to introduce it here rather than another blog or forum because I would like to get your views about it. Most of you being atheists, I feel that I can safely say that your beliefs and arguments will be more based in reason than those of another audience.

        What I've been wondering recently is whether capitalism is truly the best economic system in terms of supplying the goods that we need to live and be happy and in providing a stable future for humanity. To many of you, as it did to me a short while ago, this idea probably seems blasphemous and ridiculous. Throughout middle and high school education in America, we are constantly told that capitalism is the best system and that it is the only economic system compatible with freedom. I even felt guilty when I began to doubt capitalism, as if I had done something wrong. The feeling was similar to how I remember feeling when I first started to doubt the existence of god. But I've been thinking recently, is it really such a surprise that in a society like ours where the wealthy effectively rule the country that our society would also value the system that serves as the source of their power?

        I should note that I am by no means an economics professor. In addition to that, I've only been thinking about this for a short while, and because of this I intend for this post to be more of a call for opinions rather than a statement of which is best. Because I honestly don't think I've thought about it enough to make statements like that yet.

        My education is, however, in physics and math. My first doubt of capitalism resulted from an idea of thinking that we employ a lot in physics to test solutions. We often test the viability of a solution to a problem by "taking limits". For example, if I'm calculating an electric field and I get an answer I can test my answer by taking certain limits on it to see if it is consistent with what I know to be true. If I know that the electric field must go to zero when the observation point is far away from the source, I can evaluate my answer in that limit and see if it exhibits the correct behavior. If it does, then perhaps I have the correct solution. If it doesn't, I better try something else. It is an argument of this sort which stimulated my first doubts in capitalism.

        Let us flash forward to the (potentially) not-so-distant future. I think it is easily arguable that robots and machines will do a great deal of our physical labor. In fact, I would expect robots to do all jobs that didn't require human creativity (art, science, engineering, writing, etc). The robots themselves could even be built by other robots. Machines will fly our planes, till our land, clean our floors, prepare our food, serve in the military, etc. Because of this there would be massive unemployment I believe, probably over 90%. How would a capitalist economy manage this? Would it allow 90% of the population to starve? Shouldn't technology like robotics make life easier for all rather than deprive many of jobs while enhancing the profits of a few? I am not sure that I can see how any economic system besides socialism could provide for a future like this. So if capitalism fails in this limit, perhaps it is not the correct solution. To be fair, it could be true that different economic systems are better suited for different stages of human development. I have not had much time to put much thought into this.

        Now, like I said, this isn't supposed to be an argument for socialism per se, simply an asking of a question. I haven't even defined socialism. I'm not really interested in posting arguments for socialism or against capitalism because they tend to be long and complicated if you want to be complete, but I would like to clarify one thing so that any discussion will be more fruitful. The collapse of the Soviet Union is not a blow to the promise of socialism. Socialism entails control of society's resources by the people and in order for this to happen, it must also be able to democratically elect its government and the citizens must have personal freedom. The USSR was not socialist and although it doesn't really matter for this argument, neither was it communist (as envisioned by Marx). North Korea then, is also neither of these. The wealth of North Korea is not for its people, but for Kim Jong-il and his military. From what I've learned thus far we've never had a true socialist nation on earth to use as an example.

        So please, discuss! I'd like to hear your thoughts. Here's another resource if you'd like it.

    Saturday, July 16, 2005

    Country Song Suggests that Atheists are Bad Parents/Druggies/Murderers

        Driving home from the last leg of my summer vacation, scanning through the radio stations, I heard a country song that I had never heard before. The song is called The Little Girl by John Michael Montgomery. It turns out that it was released in 2000 and was a #1 country hit but I'm not a big fan of country music so I guess it flew under my radar. Anyhow, here are the lyrics.

    Her parents never took the young girl to church...
    Never spoke of His name...
    Never read her His word...
    Two non-believers walking lost in this world...
    Took their baby with them, what a sad little girl...

    Her daddy drank all day and mommy did drugs...
    Never wanted to play or give kisses and hugs...
    She'd watch the tv and sit there on the couch...
    While her mom fell asleep and her daddy went out...

    And the drinking and the fighting...
    Just got worse every night...
    Behind their couch she'd be hiding...
    Oh what a sad little life...

    And like it always does, the bad just got worse...
    With every slap and every curse...
    Until her daddy in a drunk rage one night...
    Used a gun on her mom and then took his life...

    And some people from the city took the girl far away...
    To a new mom and a new dad, kisses and hugs everyday...

    Her first day of Sunday School...
    Her teacher walked in...
    And a small little girl starred at a picture of Him...
    She said I know that man up there on that cross...
    I don’t know His name but I know he got off...
    Cause he was there in my old house...
    And held me close to his side...
    As I hid there behind our couch...
    The night that my parents died.

        Now if Montgomery wants to tell a story about how Jesus rides in on his unicorn and takes care of a young girl who has bad parents that's perfectly fine with me. But he specified that these parents were nonbelievers and didn't go to church and so suggests that their behavior is a result of them not believing in magical beings. Montgomery would have never been able to say two blacks, two Jews, or two muslims. This of course is because you can't make hateful remarks about a minority unless they are such a small group that you really don't have to worry about reprisals. It's unacceptable to bash someone's religious views in this country unless you are bashing the views of an atheist.

        These views are dangerous because if christians truly believe that nonbelievers make bad parents, do drugs, and murder then it's rational to restrict them from parenting if possible. This could include not allowing atheists to adopt children, similar to what they are doing to homosexuals now. If they are druggies and murderers than naturally they should be made outcasts of society.

        But apparently despite the intolerant message, the song is still popular. I am going to write my local country radio station and express concern that it is intolerant of other's views and that I, as a listener of their station, would not like it to be played. Hell, I'd even be up for a compromise and they could play the song, but then also play a sequel in which the new christian parents stone their adopted child because God told them to.

    Thursday, June 23, 2005

    Burn Our Flag, Not Our Freedoms

        On Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives approved a constitutional amendment that, if approved by the Senate, would make desecration of the American flag illegal.

        Republican representative Randy Cunningham of California used the tragedy of 9/11 (is there really any other way?) to explain his support for the amendment saying,"Ask the men and women who stood on top of the Trade Center. Ask them and they will tell you: pass this amendment." Mr. Cunningham failed to provide any contact information however.

        The Democratic representative Jerrold Nadler replied,"If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents." Nadler is, semi-ironically, a representative from New York. But what do New Yorkers know about 9/11 anyway?

        The fact of the matter is that the passage of the amendment sets a very dangerous precedent in the war against our freedoms of free speech. It sends the message that some forms of peaceful protest against the government are not allowed. It says that because some things are revered regardless of circumstance by part of the population that it is illegal for others to criticize it. It comes as no surprise that this idea would be held by so many in a religious society where criticism of other's irrational beliefs is characterized as being intolerant. If the flag is a symbol of our freedom and democracy and that is why we cannot desecrate it, how much different is it to say that our elected President is a symbol of freedom and democracy and thus should not be criticized?

        Besides sending the message that you are limited in the way that you may criticize the government, what else does the amendment accomplish? Not much. Are we going to stem the widespread phenomenon of flag-burning in America? Have you ever seen an American flag being burned (besides TV footage from foreign countries)? Unless you lived during the Vietnam War, probably not.

        But why burn a flag to protest? There are other legal means of showing your dissatisfaction. Well, just because there are other avenues does not mean that we shouldn't be free to decide. If you think about it, flag burning can attract attention to a cause that other forms of peaceful protest, like posters and fliers, can't. If I'm driving down the road and I see this out of the corner of my eye

            I'll probably think that it's this

        However a burning flag is more likely to get attention and people will understand how troubling you believe a part of U.S. policy to be. As it was during the Vietnam War, when you have friends and family who are dying for a war that you believe we shouldn't be fighting, is it that extreme for you to burn a mass-produced polyester flag? Would people take your problems as seriously if you made some stupid poster? Probably not.

        Is it not strange to say that we are not free to burn the flag because it's a symbol of our freedom?

    Wednesday, June 22, 2005

    The Crusades Part Deux?

        If there is anything more scary than a soldier "doing the Lord's work," I'd like to know what it is.

    Thursday, June 16, 2005

    Is Religion Responsible for Our Nation's Political Polarization?

        Okay, now before you say "of course it is,", let me explain a little. I'm not talking about the current problems of separation of church and state, abortion, stem cell research, and gay marriage that are brought upon by religious activists. I'm talking about the fact that even passive religious views affect the country in the sense that they make believing whatever the fuck you want okay, regardless of what evidence there is to support it.

        Now generally I believe that if intelligent people are provided with the same information and try to minimize their personal bias, they can come to more or less an agreement after discussing an issue. But if you look at our country, we are more polarized politically than we probably have been since the Civil War. Why can't we discuss things rationally? Why can't Republicans and Democrats come together, have a good debate, and decide what's best for the country? Well, I would argue that religion is the primary obstacle in having a society where compromise and intellectual discourse takes place.

        Religion gives people an excuse for not having reasons for what they believe. The Republican or Democratic pundit can sit on their "debate" show and just ramble off the party position while demonizing his opponent. Rambling on about your dogma while you try to make out the person who disagrees with you as being evil...hmmm.....where have I seen this tactic before? Instead of using reason to find out the best solution for our country's problems, they can simply passionately defend the beliefs that they were raised with. Truth and evidence take a backseat. How can we expect them to use reason to form their beliefs when religion makes it perfectly okay, even honorable, to believe things purely on faith? What kind of an example is that?

        In a society where religion has a big effect it is difficult to have an intelligent debate with someone and come to a reasonable solution. For example, I often have discussions on various topics with my friends. We'll be moving along nicely for about 10-20 minutes. We'll see what each other believes and then we discuss things and try to come to a consensus. Sometimes though, my friend responds with "well, I see your point, but I see it more along this christian argument...". Well shit, I guess I get off the train here. The debate is over. I can't see his position because I refuse to take Jesus as my "savior" by faith, and he doesn't want to give up his afterlife.

         As nuclear weapons become easier to get, it is critical that we can discuss things rationally with the rest of mankind so that we can come to reasonable solutions that save us from going to war. But if so many people believe things with no justification, how could we ever come to agreement?

    Tuesday, June 14, 2005

    Funny Anti-Fundie Video

         I just saw this tonight for the first time, I'm not sure how long it's been out, but it's pretty entertaining. It's a video called Keep Your Jesus off My Penis by Eric Schwartz. He's also got a website.

    Monday, June 13, 2005

    The Launching of Atheism Online

            There are many atheist blogs and sites online that, despite being very interesting and well-written, lack exposure to the atheist community and thereby do not get the readership and appreciation that they deserve. On the other side of the token, there are plenty of atheists and freethinkers who are looking for fresh blogs to read and do not want to spend a great deal of time looking for them. Hopefully, both of these problems will be alleviated by the launching of a new site called Atheism Online.

            The concept of Atheism Online was originally conceived by the owner of Atheist Revolution and was added to by both the creator of The Evangelical Atheist and I. At the moment there are three primary features on the website. The first and most important is the list of atheist blogs, resources, and miscellaneous websites online. I think one of the useful things about it is that the blogs are separated between atheist blogs and off-topic blogs by atheists. In my opinion this is nice because sometimes I want to read about something other than religion or atheism, but want to hear it from someone who has a healthy, rational viewpoint on life. Also, all sites in the directory are checked by us to ensure that they are in the correct category so that you will not be wasting your time by clicking on bad links or websites that misrepresent their content. There is also a forum on the website for discussions on atheism-related topics ranging from arguments for/against the existence of gods, politics, science, current events, and morality. As the website gains popularity, the third feature, the chat rooms, will also be an interesting place to discuss things with both theists and nontheists alike.

            I encourage all of you to check it out, participate in the forums, and if you have a site or blog relating to atheism, submit it so that we can better serve as a sort of "main train station" for atheism on the web.

    Sunday, June 12, 2005

    Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God"

         Julia Sweeney is a former cast member of Saturday Night Live and last week was featured on WBEZ radio on a show called This American Life, in a segment titled Godless America describing her transition from Christianity to atheism. This is an excerpt from her monologue Letting Go of God which has received great reviews from the L.A. Times. The part of the show that she is featured on starts at about the 29 minute mark in case you don't want to listen to the whole thing. She talks about how she lost faith from reading the stories and atrocities that are in the Bible. She also has a fairly interesting website in which she has a regularly updated blog, bio, and plans for her monologue's debut in CD and DVD form. She has a book coming out next Spring which is based on the material from her monologue titled My Beautiful Loss of Faith Story.
        I think this is great because it's just one more instance of positive publicity for atheists who are generally stereotyped as being anything but what they truly are. Also, I think her book could appeal to a different sort of audience than most atheist media can usually reach. For example, I can't imagine the average stay-at-home mom reading Why I'm Not A Christian by the philosopher Bertrand Russell but I could imagine her reading a book like Julia is writing.

    Thursday, June 09, 2005

    Creationists Attack Zoo With Bullshit

            You would think that a zoo would be a place where children could get basic, unbiased information on the cute, little animals that they hold so dear. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, the creationists have gotten out of their cage and have started to fuck up the childrens' minds.

             The Tulsa Zoo will soon have a display which depicts the creationist account of the origin of life, specifically a display of how God created life in 6 days and then rested on the 7th. Religious idiots "argued" that this display would counterbalance the other religious icons which are already present in the zoo. This is a reference to a statue of the Hindu elephant god Ganesh, which is located in front of the elephant exhibit.


             Now maybe it's just me, but I don't think that children even realize that that's a religious symbol. And even if they did, I don't really think they'd feel inclined to worship an elephant god when in the background they can see an elephant shitting on his own food. Zoo employees said that the zoo is not in the business of advocating religion and explained that the displays like the elephant display are to teach children about how other cultures view the animals. Sadly though, the Tulsa Park and Recreation Board makes these decisions, and sided 3-1 with the ridiculous creationist shit. Hey, at least it's a children's story at a children's attraction.

            This story actually hits a little close to home for me. While I don't live in Oklahoma anymore, I was born and raised about 30 minutes from this zoo. The Tulsa zoo was a frequent destination for field trips and the like, and I'm disappointed to see creationists put their crap into something as innocent as a zoo.

            For those who haven't noticed, the religious fundamentalists are on the march. They will not give up and they will not give in. They are in direct opposition to things that have made America great, such as reason, debate, science, separation of church and state, freedom of speech, and equality for all citizens. It is important for us to get off our lazy asses and do something about it. Let your opinions be heard by your communities and convince your family and friends of the danger that these people pose to the American way of life, and due to the America's place in the world, also to freedom abroad.

         "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"
                                                                Edmund Burke

    Sunday, June 05, 2005

    Freethought Movie On Sale Now

          As some of you may well know, there is a documentary called The God Who Wasn't There that has been in the making which critically examines Christianity, including whether or not Jesus ever existed as a historical figure (check out the trailer here ). Well, the wait is over, we can now order the DVD!
          It is a rare occasion that any sort of mass media, specifically a movie or documentary, strays from the basic idea that religion is true, and if not that, at least good for society. I believe it is important for all freethinkers to help support this movie for the following four reasons:

    1). The selling of this DVD will help Brian Flemming (the creator) in his next movie which takes a stab at religous fundamentalism.

    2). The selling of this DVD will show that there is a market for this kind of thing amongst the freethinking community. This will likely result in other creative, freethinking people to produce more media that examines modern religion in a skeptical nature, not because they know it can be done, but because they know they can make a profit. Oh yes, the almightly dollar.

    3). This DVD will be, I suspect, damn entertaining. I've heard a couple of reviews so far and all of them have been great.

    4). You could show this DVD to friends and family. Arguments that the average person sees on TV are generally considered by them to be more persuasive than those put forth by someone they know. They assume there is more authority behind it, more research, and less subjectivity. This provides for an excellent starting point to help a friend or family member break free from the clutches of religion and live their lives to their full potential.

          I plan to purchase my copy later today. For those of you who would also like to you may do it here .

    Friday, June 03, 2005

    The Need for an Honest Discussion between Liberals and Fiscal Conservatives

          Today the biggest source of political tension is, I believe, the clash between liberalism and fiscal conservatism. Living in Texas, I know a very large number of Republicans. Many of them don't want prayer in school, don't want the so-called 10 Commandments displayed on public buildings, wouldn't mind if gays got married, and would actually support stem cell research. They only care about the fiscal matters and they don't want their money going to people that they stereotype as being lazy and unappreciative. Fiscal conservatives often feel so strongly about this that they overlook what the Christian extremists are doing in our country. Because of this, the fundamentalists are getting their agendas fulfilled and so I think an honest discussion about the need for compromise between liberals and fiscal conservatives must be reached so that we can both take back fundamental American ideas such as the separation of church and state, the need for scientific research, and liberty for all people (regardless of sexual orientation) from the drooling mouth of the Christian Right.

          Some liberals might imagine the following when dealing when issues relating money transfer from the rich to the poor. They might imagine that a rich, spoiled-brat who's never worked a day in his life, who got his money from his rich parents being taxes so that his money will go to a poor, hardworking, studious, and (insert more positive characteristics here) child so that he can attend school and have the basic necessities of life such as food and medical care. Fiscal conservatives, on the other hand, view the situation much differently. They see a educated, rags-to-riches kind of businessman, who is taxed unnecessarily so that his money can go to some pathetic, lazy bum who runs off and goes to buy liquor as soon as he cashes his check. This view wasn't always so popular among conservatives, as Robert Reich explains in his book Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America . He discusses how the new stereotype of the recipient changed the feeling among many Americans for these social programs.
       Still, these programs marked a whole new way of thinking about the role of government, and they were enormously popular.
       They were created for Americans as a system of insurance, not welfare. The basic idea was that we are all in the same boat together. Misfortune can happpen to anyone. The result was a giant sytem of retribution-mostly from young to old, but also from healthy to sick, employed to unemployed, people who didn't suffer a natural disaster to people who did. But it didn't feel like redistribution because the money didn't go from "us" to "them". It went from us to us.
       Over time, though, some programs became less popular because their beneficiaries started to look and seem different from the rest of us. One such program was part of the original Social Securities Act, designed to help mothers whose husbands or partners died or abandoned them. Increasingly, the women who collected what came to be known as welfare checks were black or brown. "Why should my hard-earned tax dollars go to them?" became a common refrain among white working- and middle-class households.

          The thing is, if the first stereotype was the true one, then sure, let's rob the rich and give it all to the poor. If the second stereotype is true, then let the lazy bums fend for themselves. But the key thing is that the truth is actually a combination of these two cases. Some recipients of proposed social programs might be lazy, but some might just need a helping hand to get back on their feet. Some of the rich may have worked damn hard for their money, and then some might have just inherited it and have never worked a job in their life.Since it is a combination of these stereotypes which is actually the truth, it is important to have a compromise between liberalism and fiscal conservatism. It's important to realize that some poor people want to make their life and their childrens' lives better, if only they had the money to go to school and put food on the table. However, you can't just blindly throw money at the problem, and it's important to make sure that the recipients are using the help so that they can soon help themselves, not to make them dependent on the aid.
          I believe most liberals have already realized this to be the case. I welcome the libertarians and other fiscal conservatives to join us, so that we can fight the groups who are threatening the core of what makes America great.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2005

    To Those Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research

        To those who argue against embryonic stem cell research because they feel that it destroys a human life in order to save one and because they believe that it is not our place to determine which is more worthy of life, I submit the following hypothetical question.
        Imagine that you are behind a two-way mirror looking in to a room where there is a furnace, a 5-year old girl, and a 5-day old human embryo in a test tube. In 1 hour one of the two will be thrown into the furnace. You decide which one it is. The girl cannot see you through the two-way mirror so you have no feelings of guilt associated with her looking at you and begging for her life. The embryo doesn't even know where the fuck it is, so don't worry about it. Which would you chose? I'm assuming you'd say the girl, and that makes sense. You believe that they are both worth the same, but you have to chose, and you decide to chose the girl. Great.
        Now let's change it up a bit. Now there's 2 embryos in the test tube. Which would you save now? If you would save the embryos (because of reasoning outlined in the first paragraph) then we are indeed very different people. But I'm guessing that almost everyone, in their heart, would chose to save the girl. But what about 3 embryos? 4? 5? How many would it take to make you decide to kill the girl? What if just one test tube full of embryos would be killed to save the little girl? If that seems like a good deal to you, you'll need to justify how you decided that that one girl's life was worth more than the 500 million embryos that were in that test tube (yeah I did the math, I feel soo clever now I probably won't sleep tonight). I believe that most people would save the girl, despite whatever "moral" arguments have been pounded into their heads.
        But this doesn't apply to the real debate you say. In the real world we can save both you say. However, that is incorrect. We do have a furnace in real life. It is called disease. It not only destroys little girls, but boys, women, men, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, best friends, husbands, wives, etc. By fighting against embryonic stem cell research you are effectively throwing the little girl into the fire.
         As for me, I'd destroy all the 5-day old embryos I needed to save someone's loved one.