Saturday, April 26, 2008

Don't Ask, Don't Tell for Atheism?

When Spc. Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Hall and another soldier about atheism, Hall wrote in a sworn statement. "People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!" Welborn said, according to the statement.

Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them, according to the statement.

Last month, Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Hall's right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. In November, he was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.
Eileen Lainez, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, declined to comment on the case.

Hall's lawsuit is the latest incident to raise questions about the military's religion guidelines. In 2005, the Air Force issued new regulations in response to complaints from cadets at the Air Force Academy that evangelical Christian officers used their positions to proselytize. In general, the armed forces have regulations, Lainez said, that respect "the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs."

At the July meeting, Welborn told the soldiers they had disgraced those who had died for the Constitution, Hall said. When he finished, Welborn said, according to the statement: "I love you guys; I just want the best for you."

Welborn declined to comment beyond saying, "I'd love to tell my side of the story because it's such a false story."

But Timothy Feary, a soldier who attended the meeting, said in an e-mail message: "Jeremy is telling the truth. I was there and witnessed everything."

This is another case showing the bias "religious" people have against atheists. Many so-called religious folk have no problems trampling the rights of atheists. It'd be interesting to hear Welborn's "side of the story" though you have to wonder why he'd have "no comment" if he has a "side" to tell...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sanity Prevails in Texas

Saying that a belief in creationism — the theory that God created the Earth in six literal days, as recounted in the Bible — falls outside the realm of science, the state's commissioner for higher education has recommended that a Dallas-based organization not be authorized to offer a master's degree in science education.

A committee of the Higher Education Coordinating Board unanimously backed the recommendation by Commissioner Raymund Paredes on Wednesday. The full board votes today.

Paredes said his decision wasn't an attack on creationism or religion, but an attempt to defend science education.

"Religious belief is not science," he said. "Science and religious belief are surely reconcilable, but they are not the same thing."

Henry Morris III, CEO of the Institute for Creation Research, said the program teaches creationism and evolution. But he and others at the institute believe creationism is the correct explanation. He said there is no proof for evolution.

If the full board agrees with Paredes, Morris said, the institute may appeal or file a new proposal, perhaps changing the proposed master's degree from science education to a more general "teaching" degree. It could also file a lawsuit, he said.

Without the approval, the institute can offer only an unaccredited degree.


Morris and other representatives of the institute, which moved to Dallas from California last year, said they simply hold a minority view in a scientific world dominated by followers of "naturalism," which espouses a belief in evolution.

The institute's lawyer, James Johnson, told the committee that the issue was one of free speech and academic freedom.

Free speech, huh? I guess this bozo thinks that any word vomit he spews should be a candidate for a master's degree? OK, then I think we need a divinity doctoral degree on the homosexuality of Jesus and its lingering anti-gay impact on christianity... or something equally as ridiculous.

A Corpse is a Corpse, Of Course, Of Course

The exhumed body of Padre Pio, a saint considered a miracle worker by his devotees, attracted thousands of pilgrims on Thursday when it went on display 40 years after his death.

Padre Pio is one of the Catholic Church's most popular saints and during his lifetime the Italian monk was said to have had the stigmata, the bleeding wounds of Jesus' crucifixion on his hands and feet.

The economy of this southern town revolves around the cult of Padre Pio and heaving crowds waited to see his body, displayed in a crystal, marble and silver sepulcher in the crypt of the monastery where he spent most of his life.

His face was reconstructed with a lifelike silicone mask of the type used in wax museums because it was apparently too decomposed to show when the body was exhumed.
"He seems like he is sleeping. Even if they had to re-do the face, its better remembering him this way than looking at a slab of cold marble," said Domenico Masone, deputy mayor of Pietralcina, the town where Padre Pio was born.

Some 15,000 devotees attended a Mass said by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican department that oversees the Catholic Church's saint-making process, before the body went on display in the afternoon.

"He knows what I want from him," said Antonio Zimbaldi, 19, who attended Mass with his face, except for his lips, covered with white gauze.

"I have been devoted to him for as long as I can remember." Zimbaldi's entire body was burned in a fire caused by a gas explosion two years ago.

A corpse knows what some poor burn victim wants? Hell, everyone probably knows what he wants! But it is rather sad that he thinks a medically-restored corpse will help him... sad indeed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Pope is an Asshole

The Vatican's transcript of Pope Benedict XVI's second encyclical, a letter to the church's bishops, reads: "The atheism of the 19th and 20th centuries is - in its origins and aims - a type of moralism. ... It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice."

Oh, yeah? Well fuck him and his legions of brainwashed stooges.

The Humongle Dongle (what?) blog states it nicely, saying: I hold that the Catholic Church is the most evil organization on Earth. I have yet to observe any institution so consistently opposed to human progress and happiness. All of the Catholics I know suffer from the same mental illness: neurotic guilt. And it is an illness, albeit a self-imposed one.

What makes us human is the faculty of reason. It is our means of survival. Without survival, no value is possible. It follows that the exercise of reason is a precondition of value, and is thus the basic virtue of humanity. What does Catholicism have to say about this? Let's turn to the story of Adam and Eve. Before their encounter with the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve are blissful and happy, but live as animals. They have no knowledge of good and evil, no knowledge even that they are naked. God forbids them to eat the fruit that grows on the Tree of Knowledge, but the serpent entices them to do the opposite, and they gain knowledge (i.e. the faculty of reason). It is this that Catholicism (and all other Judao-Christian philosophies) place as original sin. According to this belief, our very means of survival, that which makes us human, is also that which makes us evil. According to this belief, humanity is evil at it's core. And this is what 1/3 of the world accepts as right and proper!

In the absence of reason as a virtue, Catholocism sets up a philosophical system we are told to accept on faith, for no other reason than that the Bible says it's true. If reason is our means of survival, and faith is the opposite of reason, then faith is our means of death.Catholicism also states that this is man's original sin, and that we are all in need of forgiveness because Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge. What would you say if someone suggested you be sent to jail because your great-grandfather murdered someone? In our society, we reject the idea of ancestral guilt. Why should we accept it in regard to religious sin?

Catholicism places is system of ethics in consistent opposition to the requirements of man's happiness here on Earth. For instance: sex for pleasure is bad, pride is bad, sacrificing your own happiness for the benefit of someone else is good. It's no wonder that the conclusion drawn from the practice of this moral code is that happiness is unachievable to us here in this world.

Catholicism promises that happiness is to be achieved in some supernatural heaven. Tell me, where is the evidence that heaven even exists? If a man accepts this moral code and practices it, he finds himself leading an unsastisfying life. If a man accepts this moral code and doesn't practice it, he achieves all of the values he would need to be happy, but instead experiences guilt. It's a brilliant catch-22 they've set up for us. Follow your religion consistently, and your screwed; follow it inconsistently and your screwed as well.

"Thou shalt honor thy mother and father." Suppose one's parents don't deserve honor? According to this commandment, we should love, respect and obey our parents, without regard to their character. Is Hitler deserving of such love we usually reserve for parents? How about Charles Manson?

The Catholic Church consistently opposes all advances we make to improve human life. Catholics speak out against birth control, which enables us to experience sexual pleasure without the risk of creating a life which we are unprepared to care for. At one time, Catholics spoke out against vaccinations, open heart surgery, pacemakers, and many other ingenious advancements that have prolonged and enriched human life. And yet, this is the institution that many of us use as the barometer for virtue and good.

I reject Catholicism in its entirety. I hold that reason is not my original sin, but my original virtue. I hold that pride is not a sin, but the virtue that tells me my life is good and worth preserving. I hold that my life is to be lived for the achievement of my own values, and no portion of it is to be sacrificed to anyone else's wants, whether they be the wants of God, or of other men. I hold that Catholicism is evil at it's root, and all throughout. This doesn't mean that all Catholics are evil (although the high-ranking members of clergy certainly are). What it does mean is that many, many otherwise good people have been outwitted by the most horrendous impedement to their own happiness that has ever been devised: bad philosophy.

The Negligent Religious?

From The Guardian:

If religion isn't the greatest threat to rationality and scientific progress, what is? Perhaps alcohol, or television, or addictive video games. But although each of these scourges - mixed blessings, in fact - has the power to overwhelm our best judgment and cloud our critical faculties, religion has a feature of that none of them can boast: it doesn't just disable, it honours the disability. People are revered for their capacity to live in a dream world, to shield their minds from factual knowledge and make the major decisions of their lives by consulting voices in their heads that they call forth by rituals designed to intoxicate them.

It used to be the case that we tended to excuse drunk drivers when they crashed because they weren't entirely in control of their faculties at the time, but now we have wisely inverted that judgment, holding drunk drivers doubly culpable for putting themselves in that irresponsible position in the first place. It is high time we inverted the public attitude about religion as well, finding all socially destructive acts of religious passion shameful, not honourable, and holding those who abet them - the preachers and other apologists for religious zeal - as culpable as the bartenders and negligent hosts who usher dangerous drivers on to the highways. Our motto should be: Friends don't let friends steer their lives by religion.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Obama is Frustrated... Rightly So.

Barack Obama said he is frustrated by questions about his religious beliefs and patriotism, particularly because his presidential rivals are not questioned in the same way.

“It frustrates me that people would even have a question about something like that because they don’t ask the same questions of some of the other candidates and that concerns me,” Obama said here Monday night.

I can understand his frustration. But until religion becomes a non-issue in political campaigns in the USA (OK, that'll never happen), this type of bullshit will continue to happen.

In an age where journalism is dead and the truth is irrelevant, any old lie will do, as long as it is entertaining and stirs the masses. Did you see The Daily Show yesterday evening (4/21)? They actually had a clip from MSNCB (I think) where pundits watched Obama briefly scratch his face with his middle finger and they actually debated whether he was flipping Hillary off? Is this what "news" has come to?

I'm afraid it is.

For the record, Obama is not a Muslim, wearing a flag pin says absolutely NOTHING about your patriotism, and I need a fresh cup of coffee...

Monday, April 21, 2008

UK Says: Faith is Evil

A CHARITY set up by an ardent Christian to fight slavery and the opium trade has identified a new social evil of the 21st century - religion.

A poll by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation uncovered a widespread belief that faith - not just in its extreme form - was intolerant, irrational and used to justify persecution.

Pollsters asked 3,500 people what they considered to be the worst blights on modern society, updating a list drawn up by Rowntree, a Quaker, 104 years ago.

The responses may well have dismayed him. The researchers found that the “dominant opinion” was that religion was a “social evil”.

Many participants said religion divided society, fuelled intolerance and spawned “irrational” educational and other policies.

One said: “Faith in supernatural phenomena inspires hatred and prejudice throughout the world, and is commonly used as justification for persecution of women, gays and people who do not have faith.”

Many respondents called for state funding of church schools to be ended.

The findings contrast with Rowntree’s “scourges of humanity”, which included poverty, war, slavery, intemperance, the opium trade, impurity and gambling.

Poverty and drugs remain, but are joined by issues such as family breakdown, young people’s behaviour and fears over immigration.

Tom Butler, the Bishop of Southwark, rejected the indictment of faith. He said: “People meeting together, week after week, for worship, support and education in church, synagogue, temple, gurdwara and mosque can not only help people build local community but can teach children to become good citizens.”

However, Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said he was “extremely pleased”.

“Britain has had it with religion,” he said.

I always liked the Brits!