Friday, June 27, 2008

The Atheist Thirteen

The Atheist Thirteen is a meme spreading throughout the blogosphere that I saw here and here... and I thought, "Sounds like fun, I'll play!" The idea is for us to find out at least a little bit more about each other in the atheist blogging community.

If you’d like to take part, copy these questions, and answer them in your own words on your own blog (or in a comment on this blog):

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?

The lack of a belief in a god or gods. That's all there is to it.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?

Yes, my Mom is Catholic and she raised me and my brother that way. My Dad was completely and totally a-religious, but I don't think he was an atheist. He just never participated in any church activities and never talked about god(s) at all.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?


Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?

They all do!

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?

I'm not really sure there is an "atheist community." There are atheists who blog and there are organizations like FFRF, but there isn't a lot to engender community amongst atheists because only trait we are sure to share is the lack of a belief.

That said, I wish more atheists, agnostics, and non-religious folks identified themselves as such more publicly (and could do so without fear of recrimination, but that would require a change to society in general).

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?

I don't have children, but I would encourage him (or her in such cases where women are accepted into the clergy) not to waste their life on the worship of an imaginary being.

Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

I have no favorite... they are all ridiculous.

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?

Oh, I'm probably more of a curmudgeon than most atheists... one of my positions that generated some friction is that we should NOT be encouraging everyone to vote. All that does is bring more uninformed voters into the process. We should be encouraging people to become informed and only then to vote!

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?

I like Dawkins for his completeness, Hitchens for his writing style, and Harris for his ability to write concisely and briefly... I find Dennett almost unreadable.

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?

I don't want to convince anyone to abandon their "beliefs" (belief is a word I have no use for). Instead, I would want to convince all theists to abandon trying to push their beliefs into the political process and onto others who want no part of them!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

No Privacy Online

Hidden deep in Senator Christopher Dodd's 630-page Senate housing legislation is a sweeping provision that affects the privacy and operation of nearly all of America's small businesses. The provision, which was added by the bill's managers without debate this week, would require the nation's payment systems to track, aggregate, and report information on nearly every electronic transaction to the federal government.

Well, that really sucks. Here's another huge bite being taken out of our privacy. I might just go on-line and buy dildos, tapioca pudding, and diapers... that'll make 'em wonder what I'm up to and why the hell they're tracking me...

...or they'll show up to put my ass in an institution somewhere.

What a Strange Survey on Religion

A major survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that most Americans have a non-dogmatic approach to faith. A majority of those who are affiliated with a religion, for instance, do not believe their religion is the only way to salvation. And almost the same number believes that there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their religion.

OK, so far, so good. But there are some strange results in this survey. Pew reports that 21 percent of atheists said they believed in God or a universal spirit, six percent considered it a personal god, and 40 percent of agnostics feel certain that God exists. Conversely, among respondents who say they are affiliated with a religious tradition (Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim, etc.), a surprising number said they actually do not believe in a god or universal spirit.

So what does this mean, other than that many folks are seriously fucked up when it comes to atheism, god, and religion? I mean, how can an agnostic be certain that god exists (or does not exist)? Uncertainty about it all is sorta definitional to the term, isn't it?

Other interesting statistics according to the Pew survey: there are more than twice as many atheists and agnostics (a combined 4.0 percent of all respondents) as there are Jews (1.7 percent), and about four times as many as there are Muslims (0.6 percent). These types of numbers need to be widely reported so that non-religious/non-believers can "come out of the closet" and demand the respect and consideration we deserve.

I found this illuminating, too: Most Americans agree with the statement that many religions – not just their own – can lead to eternal life. Among those who are affiliated with a religious tradition, seven-in-ten say many religions can lead to eternal life. This view is shared by a majority of adherents in nearly all religious traditions, including more than half of members of evangelical Protestant churches (57%). Only among Mormons (57%) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (80%) do majorities say that their own religion is the one true faith leading to eternal life.

I guess Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses adhere more closely to what their holy books say about "eternal life" and "salvation." I don't know whether to admire them for not being hypocrites or despise them for being stupid. Can I do both?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Republicans Are Desperate

If you don't think that Republicans are getting desperate given Obama's rising popularity coupled with McCain's embrace of George W Bush, then here is something to consider.

US Senator Gordon Smith, an anti-Iraq war Republican running for a third term in the liberal state of Oregon, has a new campaign ad out that implies he has the backing of the Democratic White House hopeful.

This ad caused the Obama camp to release a statement in response: Obama spokesman Bill Burton said: "Barack Obama has a long record of bipartisan accomplishment and we appreciate that it is respected by his Democratic and Republican colleagues in the Senate. But in this race, Oregonians should know that Barack Obama supports (Democratic challenger) Jeff Merkley for Senate. Merkley will help Obama bring about the fundamental change we need in Washington," he said.

Has anybody seen a Democrat in a conservative state trying to couple their fate to McCain?

I thought not.

Scripture Candy?

Hey you Christians out there. Got a sweet tooth but afraid that candy might be the work of the devil?

Well, fear not.

Here is some God Candy that comes wrapped in biblical verses or shaped like a fish... so God's just gotta approve!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Experience Lie

One of the seemingly enduring lies circulating "out there" is that Barack Obama lacks the experience to be president. This is complete horse shit.

Alan Ehrenhalt, writing as a special guest columnist for Newsweek, argues that we
shouldn't dismiss or denigrate the most important piece of Sen. Barack Obama’s political resume, his considerable time in the Illinois state legislature. While not refuting that Sen. John McCain has more experience, Ehrenhalt writes: "But here’s something I bet you didn’t know: If Obama becomes president, he will have spent more time serving as a state legislator (eight years) than anyone who has occupied the White House since Abraham Lincoln."

And that counts for something: "During the years that Obama served in Springfield, 1997-2005, he was forced to wrestle with the minutiae of health-care policy, utility deregulation, transportation funding, school aid, and a host of other issues that are vitally important to America’s coming years, but that U.S. senators are usually able to dispose of with a quick once-over…. And perhaps most important, there is simply more personal contact across the aisle than there is in Congress. Legislatures have grown more partisan in the past decade, as all of American politics has. But in most state capitols, the wall of partisan separation is nowhere near as high as it is in Washington."

Given his public service prior to serving in the IL legislature and his service in the Senate, Barack Obama is eminently qualified and more than sufficiently experienced to become commander in chief.

Monday, June 23, 2008

McCain Advisor Wants a Terrorist Attack on US Soil

Charlie Black, a top adviser to John McCain, said another terrorist attack on U.S. soil would be a "big advantage" for the Republican presidential candidate. Already in the spotlight for his past lobbying work, Black is quoted in the upcoming July 7 edition of Fortune magazine as saying such an attack "certainly would be a big advantage to him."

Now that is the kind of bat shit crazy remark that should get Black fired if McCain has any balls left. Oh, the right can condemn Obama for things his ex-pastor said, but here we have someone on McCain's payroll saying even crazier and more damaging things... it should cause Black to be fired. And McCain should be called on the carpet about it every bit as much, if not more, than Obama was/is for Jeremiah Wright.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Is This Really What the Right is so Afraid of?

Congratulations to Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who were finally able to marry in California on Tuesday after over 50 years together. It was a happy and historic day -- a huge victory in same-sex couples' fight to be recognized as equal under California's state Constitution.