This Weeks Reader January 19, 2008  

Saturday, January 19, 2008


My book…
I want born-again Christians to see that I have not backslidden; that is, I have not gone backwards or fallen away from a higher plane where I once lived, but I continued to develop spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually so that I outgrew the faith of my youth. I did not fall into sin; I did not get mad at God; I did not become jaded because I witnessed hypocrisy. Nothing bad happened to me to instigate this journey. Yet I now have more peace and joy than I ever had as a Christian, and I give more of my time and money to charitable causes. The day I realized I no longer believed that God exists, a huge weight fell off my shoulders and I felt like I was set free from a lifetime of bondage.

Civil Anti-Libertarians
If President Ryan actually believes what this code implies -- that students should be taught that all political ideologies, creeds and “lifestyle orientations” are equal, and demand equal respect – then his “vision” of higher education is stupefying. Students are supposed to be taught that all ideas are not equal; they’re supposed to learn how to judge the merits of different and conflicting ideas and how to back up their judgments with reason. Mindless respect for all points of view is not an element of critical thinking.

Conservative writer bashes Mass Effect for being "filth"
Even in the face of criticism, McCullough has remained firm in his argument. To say that McCullough is a little off the mark would be polite. His descriptions of his 15-year-old son playing such vile filth first and foremost neglects the fact that the game is clearly rated M for Mature: a rating which dictates that the game is for players over the age of 17.

Rock Band sells 2.5 million songs online
Is wrapping a game around songs the secret to increasing interest in purchasing music? It could be. The wide demographic reach of Rock Band may be giving existing music a new audience: younger gamers are finding they like Molly Hatchet, and older gamers may find that Queens of the Stone Age are worth a second listen.

John Adams on the Unalienable Right to Commit Blasphemy
Adams is quite clear that the unalienable right to liberty of conscience means the right to blaspheme or in particular to doubt the truth of the divine inspiration of the Bible, which Adams himself personally did. When Adams stated the Christian religion “has been mixed with extraneous ingredients, which, I think, will not bear examination, and they ought to be separated,” an evangelical Protestant might hope he were referring only to Roman Catholicism. But this is wrong. Adams, himself a lifelong, committed theological unitarian believed the entire institution of orthodox Trinitarian Christianity was corrupted. And those “corruptions of Christianity” were defined by Adams’ and Jefferson’s spiritual mentor, Joseph Priestley, as the Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement, and plenary inspiration of scripture. The Bible itself was “corrupted” and Adams believed man had an unalienable right to use his reason to edit what he saw as “error” from the Bible exactly as Jefferson did.

profiles in humanism: clarence darrow
Rather, I bring this up, because Clarence Darrow should remind us (at least he reminds me) that we are all human beings with the same frailties as everyone else. We have strengths, yes, but many more weaknesses. Therefore, we should judge each human being and their life on its own merits rather than through the narrow prism of our own often limited and sometimes privileged experience. Otherwise we run the grave risk of grinding up the lives of undeserving people in the cruel machinations of own ignorance for the selfish comfort of sleeping a little more soundly at night.

Mob rule of the terrorist kind
There was another incident in the same area some months ago when a group of ten youths on bikes attacked a retired Brigadier (S C Sharma) in Navi Mumbai just because they were “angered at being ticked off by the victim’s wife for speeding’. Incidentally, after these bikers were arrested, hundreds of villagers gathered in support of the youths! I do know what has happened to the case now, but why should hundreds of people support those who assault a senior citizen? It’s scary!

Dragon Wars
Worse, they discover that they are the reincarnations of some sort of Korean spirit or whatever, and that the dragons are after them, and a whole bunch of other mystical mumbo jumbo, and never ONCE do they question it! If Robert Forster sat down next to me and told me that I had to meet a girl named Sarah and keep her from the evil Baraki and Yoo Gi Ho so that she could become the Good Moogi before she turned 20, I’d punch him right in the fucking face. Mainly for being in Rise: Blood Hunter, but also because what he just told me made no sense whatsoever. But yet, everyone buys it, no questions asked. Even Roswell guy’s friend, who is played by Darryl from The Office; the character you would expect to be like “you’re crazy!” is totally fine with all this nonsense. In fact, he’s more incredulous to Roswell’s request to simply find the girl than he is to all the stuff involving dragons and the like. Also, his character disappears from the film TWICE and no one seems to care either time.

Nonbelieving Literati
Exterminator, we have a pest problem
The Sparrow is about a Jesuit who goes on a journey to Alpha Centauri with some friends after music is broadcast from the area, and comes back, alone, broken physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and any other way a person can be broken. I was really disappointed by this book, because it was a great idea with a great lead ("They meant no harm").

Huckabee: Amend Constitution to be in 'God's standards'
"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution," Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. "But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

The layers of politics
The double standards are for all to see. A tearing-up man is sensitive; a tearing-up woman is playing for sympathy or is evidently too weak for office. A man with rhetoric is a leader, a visionary; a woman with vision and steely determination is a bitch. A man, who had no control over who sired him, and therefore his race, is somehow superior to a woman, who had no control over the same factors. How long, I wonder, before someone defocuses from the Mormon-Evangelical-Catholic divide and notices that Barack’s middle name is Hussein?

FSTDT Top 100
Technology and science are often lumped together, but are totally separate and unrelated things.

Technology makes peoples lives easier. Technology is the product of inventive geniuses who were inspired by God. Inventions and innovations improve life.

Science causes confustion and makes things complicated. Everytime there is a new discovery the old discoveries and old wisdom are discarded! And theories get more and more complex. Science makes people confused and complicates things. Who is the author of confusion? Satan of course. The bible it the opposite of science. Biblical wisdom NEVER CHANGES, and anyone can get it. Scientific wisdom is always changing and contradicting itself, and really nobody gets it.

Please don't insult our intelligence by lumping science and technology together. They are as different at night and day.

How to Read the Bible Like a Fundie
Take the subject of morality. Fundamentalists like to claim that morality is impossible without the words of the bible to guide us. Before god showed up on the mountain and told Moses all about it nobody knew that lying, cheating, stealing and killing people were wrong. And if it wasn't written down in the pages of the Pentateuch we'd be a loss to know how to act today. Yet, they themselves do not follow all of the intense moral code found within the pages of holy scripture. In the book of Numbers the people of god are told to put to death a man who was accused of gathering firewood on the Sabbath. I did the same thing this fall, on both a Saturday and a Sunday, and not a single fundie was screaming for my execution.

My Religion Involves Screaming Gibberish
The point is that my freedom to practice my religion is not absolute. In fact, there are many limitations on what I will be able to do in the name of my religion. Christians, you are no different. When an atheist questions your intrusive proselytizing, gay bashing, or your insistence in training your children to preach biblical nonsense at me in the store because you think its cute, you do not get to cry persecution. This is not persecution. Your religious freedom has limits. Instead of whining about Christmas wars because you overheard me complain about not wanting to listen to your Jesus-crap when I'm shopping, you should ask yourself what you would do if you had to listen to Satanic death metal every time you went to the grocery store.

Is Religion More Than an Enabler?
For instance, it seems some religious people in the States, who are otherwise fair minded and decent, oppose gay rights and are unwilling to treat gays fairly precisely for religious reasons. If that’s the case, then religion appears to be more than a mere facilitator, more than a mere enabler — it seems to actually change people’s practical morals from fair minded and decent behavior to behavior that is neither fair minded nor decent.

The Point of Religion?
Humans evolved as a social animal living in small groups. Most of us need little prompting to treat the members of our group with respect, compassion, kindness — even love. After all, we evolved to do that. It’s to a large extent instinctual. We’re almost always ready to “better mankind” so long as “mankind” is the group of people we hang out with.

On the other hand, there are very few Gandhis, very few Martin Luther Kings, very few people like Jesus — very few people who somehow realize in practice the notion the whole world should be treated with kindness, compassion, respect, and love. To most of us, such a notion is “wild”, suspect, perhaps even immoral.

Quazy Quistian Question # 4
Anyway, you've read the result. Now I'm beginning to think that some Christians disdain all evidence about everything, not only religious matters. This might be a clever ploy, because if they admit that they accept evidence for anything, they'd have to at least wonder why there's none to support their silly beliefs. On the other hand, it might not be a clever ploy; it might just be stupidity.

Are converts accepted in Hinduism?
In other words, those who are not born Hindus would (by being re-born) eventually become Hindus (provided they live right.) A cool idea for any religion, as it presumes that a Hindu (caste also comes into this as being just a Hindu isn’t enough) is at the top of re-incarnation heap. If one went by this, everyone is already on their way to become a Hindu, even those from outside the belief system…they just haven’t got there yet. And those who haven’t got there yet aren’t Hindus…they aren’t ready to be Hindus.

Progressive Christians Finally Opposing Christian Extremists
He's right that a non-Christian group opposing Christian extremism will be demonized as a persecutor. We atheists know all about that! Personally, I would welcome a well-organized and vocal coalition of progressive Christians willing to oppose extremism. They could be powerful allies in protecting church-state separation and other shared goals.

FDA says food from cloned animals safe
“Both the animals and any food produced from those animals is indistinguishable from any other food source,” Sundloff said. “There’s no technological way of distinguishing a food that’s come from an animal that had a clone in its ancestry. It’s not possible.”

Green light for hybrid research
Scientists want to create hybrid embryos by merging human cells with animal eggs in a bid to extract stem cells. The embryos would then be destroyed within 14 days.

The Mind-Brain Problem - A Creationist Rebuttal
The biggest problem with dualism is that the materialist neuroscience model explains all observed phenomena - there is nothing left for the dualists to explain. They are clinging to the notion of “qualia”, that subjectivity itself needs a separate explanation, but they have not made this case. Often they use mere semantics to make it seem as if something more is needed, but there isn’t. Further, the dualist hypothesis does not generate any hypotheses or predictions that distinguish it from the materialist hypothesis. Every prediction points to materialism as the answer.

MESSENGER Passes Mercury

Is information essential for life? No.
As for Turing machines - there's what I would call a simple test (the Turing machine test): If you can use the system to compute, then it's a computer. Since computability is well-defined as what can be done on some Turing machine, this makes concrete any claim that "Nature" is or uses a computer. To avoid Matrix style speculations, which are themselves only Pythagoras revivified, let's say that a physical system is an IPS in the Turing sense if it can be used to compute something. Hence, a human-abacus system is an IPS (and indeed, human-most thing systems can be, potentially, because of the ways humans can act as Turing machines), while a set of beads on strings in a frame on its own is not. My Mac is an IPS to a high degree of approximation, ignoring the possibility of power or component failure, which doesn't happen to pure Turing machines. It's damned good at computation, and if I set up the right programs, it can compute without my intervention.

As skeptics, we encounter dissonance reduction on a regular basis. Why do ‘true believers’ refuse to listen to reason, even when the facts are piled in front of them? Because they are invested in their ideas so strongly that they will do anything to continue to justify them. Geology shows that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old, not 6000? The young-Earth creationist contends that geology is wrong. Rupert Sheldrake and Dean Radin (remember them?) get asked difficult questions by skeptics? They turn around and criticize skepticism itself. The list goes on and on.

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18 comments: to “ This Weeks Reader January 19, 2008

  • John Evo
    Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 1:44:00 AM CST  

    Oh my... I guess I'll be spending most of my weekend blogging right here. It's bedtime and I just decided to stop by and have a nightcap with you - not stay UP all night. I'll be back tomorrow. :)

  • Venjanz
    Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 3:59:00 AM CST  

    That broad in the first video is smokin'!

    However, her sad story of the berated 'brewista,' smacks of contrived BS.

    The plaid shirt and pleated slacked Christian buying a frappuccino (which is a Starbucks drink), at Barnes and Noble while questioning her religious beliefs...*sigh* Come on.

    Also, there is never, ever, and will never be, a "line of people" waiting to drink that sewage they pass off as "coffee" at B&N.

    Watch her eyes, she's reading a script.

    I don't care though. She's hot.


  • The Exterminator
    Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 12:05:00 PM CST  

    Barnes & Noble serve Starbucks, which may be overpriced, but definitely not sewage. At my local B&N there's often a very long line for coffee. (On the other hand, there's never a long line to buy books.)

  • laviequotidienne
    Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 12:43:00 PM CST  

    OrdinaryGirl: I had no idea you read my blog! Thanks for your support and the link love. :-)

  • John Evo
    Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 1:58:00 PM CST  

    To follow up on what Ex said, I got the feeling it was a true story. The Barnes and Noble here in West L.A. is EXACTLY like she described. For chrissakes, she's a smart kid (besides "smokin'. why couldn't I have met a girl like THAT when I was a 19 year old atheist?) and could certainly have invented a more incredible story than that. Sure she wrote it down and was referring to her notes - a lot of people do that on You Tube. Most aren't professional speakers. She just wants to share a story that she thinks is quite amazing. one that to most of us is just another day in paradise. And she'll soon find out that those type of encounters, for atheists, are just part of the daily show.

  • ordinary girl
    Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 3:46:00 PM CST  

    V, you were probably thinking about Borders, which did have bad coffee for a long time. Recently they changed to Seattle's Best and I've heard it's better, but I haven't gone there in a long time.

    Laviequotidienne, just recently through a link via Paul.

  • the chaplain
    Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 4:33:00 PM CST  

    I go to bookstores to buy books, not to eat or drink. I also never buy Italian food or a steak at IHOP, nor will I eat pancakes at Outback or Da Domenico. Why would anyone expect to get good food or drink at a bookstore?

  • John Evo
    Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 7:48:00 PM CST  

    Chappy, I can't speak for all B&N stores, but ours is a really nice 3 level store with lots of comfortable, overstuffed chairs to lounge in, as well as table and chairs like a library. It's kind of nice to go there just to browse and read a book for an hour. Sometimes, I've noticed, a nice hot cup of coffee goes rather well with it. But that's just me. I don't disagree with you about Italian at IHOP.

  • Venjanz
    Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 4:41:00 AM CST  

    Uhhg! You people's taste in coffee is awful. I was not thinking of Borders BTW, where the staff consists of Downs Syndrome kids that were rejected for employment by McDonald's. However, I will say the swill at Border's is like a cold bottle of San Pellegrino to a man dying of thirst in the desert compared to the vile pungent sludge they serve at B&N.

    I only drink 100% "Jammie" Blue. I believe that God himself personally oversees the operation down in the Caribbean, because certainly no mortal could be trusted with such an important task. And woe to those that blend pure Jamaican Blue with anything other than hot water.

    It would be slightly less silly for me to suggest that the #4 meal at Long John Silver's was on par with Gordon Ramsay's Fillet of Royal daurade with artichokes barigoule.

    My humble opinion.


  • EnoNomi
    Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 12:24:00 PM CST  

    Excellent list, though not helping me shorten the blog backlog that I'm trying to wade through. I've never been to Fundies Say the Darndest Things before and I may require therapy after reading the Top 100 list. Horrors!

  • the chaplain
    Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 1:08:00 PM CST  

    EnoNomi said, I've never been to Fundies Say the Darndest Things before and I may require therapy after reading the Top 100 list.

    Perhaps OG should have attached a warning label to her link, or at least a recommendation that one should either don a gas mask or bring along a barf bag before entering . I've been there a couple of times, but their stuff is far too toxic for even an experienced evangelical like me.

  • John Evo
    Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 1:41:00 PM CST  

    Venjanz said: I only drink 100% "Jammie" Blue.

    I know how you feel. I am a bit of a connoisseur myself and have a personal favorite, with one back-up. Folgers and Yuban.

  • PhillyChief
    Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 2:05:00 PM CST  

    My friend and his father in law have a coffee roasting business, so I'm hooked up and of course, a coffee snob.

    Amazon gets my book money pretty much these days, although this time of year is great for visiting book stores if you're an artist. Now and February are the best months for picking up visual references. First, calendars. They're all marked down now. Second, coffee table books. They always make these coffee table books for the holidays but most don't sell. Now what? Mark 'em down and blow 'em out! Gotta love it.

    Oh wait, you people actually read books. I forgot. Nevermind.

  • aprilbapryll
    Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 8:37:00 PM CST  

    Hey darling! Just letting my old blogger friends know that I'm still alive! :)

    And I usually don't bother with buying coffee at bookstores, but occasionally I'll buy a foo-foo drink while I'm out.

  • Nita
    Monday, January 21, 2008 at 2:24:00 AM CST  

    Thanks for mentioning my post OG. :)

  • ordinary girl
    Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 3:27:00 PM CST  

    Posting this response I received via email:

    Your blog didn't have a post comment option so I figured I'd send an email. (maybe you can post my comment?)

    I think it's great that you've decided to find your own path in life. I find that the even harder thing to do is to walk your own path without judging others for walking a different path. It's so easy to get sucked into the mindset that my way is the right way. I've found that our world is filled with religion, even things you wouldn't normally associate with religion can get religious.

    I was raised atheist, but I've found that people have a need for religion. I think that Blaise Pascal was right when he said that there is a God shaped hole in the heart of every man. People will invent religions to fill that void. People will get religious over just about anything that they are passionate about. My field is software, I can give so many examples where people get religious over software. There are holy wars in software that have been ongoing for the last 30 years (a really long time considering how fast the world of software moves). The internet is filled with flame wars over Macs vs PCs, Unix vs Windows, Emacs vs Vi, GUI vs CLI, .NET vs Java, Lisp vs everything else (this one especially has a religious tone, since the devout consider Lisp to be the one computer language to rule them all).

    Apple is another cult in the world of computers. Steve Jobs is often compared to Christ (He founded Apple, got fired, then years later when Apple was on the verge of extinction he came back and brought salvation in the form of the iMac and OS X. His return in 1997 was called the second coming of Steve Jobs). Every year at WWDC (which I watch faithfully every year, since I haven't yet been able to attend, it's sort of a pilgrammage for some), Steve Jobs gets on stage and present some cool new product, people goes wild and start camping out in front of Apple stores to buy whatever Steve is selling. I got converted to macs my freshman year of college and then proceeded to convert one of my other friends. He converted his brother and a bunch of his other friends, and so on. At one point I was pretty smug about using a mac when some of my other friends used PCs since I didn't have to deal with all those computer viruses like they did and I had a bunch of cool features they didn't have. There is a reason why large software companies call their product marketing people Software Evangelists, and not marketers.

    Then I graduated college and bought my first car. Instead of a Honda Civic or some used car like my parents wanted me to buy, I bought a Toyota Prius. Of course the Prius isn't just a car, it's a cult, kind of like the mac. One of my friends made the observation that people don't actually buy Prius to save the environment, they buy it to feel smug about being a little more environmentally friendly than everyone else and to have bragging rights about their gas mileage. This was actually lampooned on South Park. I totally agreed with him, and I have to admit I felt sort of smug about driving a Prius when everyone else drove SUVs back in Oklahoma. Actually one of the first things I did when I talked to my neighbor's class in Oklahoma was brag about my gas mileage. (I hit 65 at one point, that made my day)

    College is also a cult. Parents nowadays are willing to spend up to $14,000 per person for college admission coaching. Basically hiring former admissions officers to coach their kids on how to optimize their college applications in order to get into elite colleges. Some people talk about getting into Harvard as if it's heaven. I've known people in high school whose goal since kindergarten was to get into Harvard.

    I just think that there's something fundamentally human about the need to feel holier than thou. I know it's not a good thing, but it's there. I don't know if you're ever read Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class but he talks about how people need to feel superior to their neighbors. In modern times people do it through conspicuous consumption (sometimes mixed with religious overtones). Among liberal circles, there is definitely some religious overtones with driving hybrids. SUVs are associated with the sin of pollution, and hybrids with the moral virtual of environmental conscientiousness. I think religion provides an outlet for the monotonous grind of daily life. It provides a value system, a way to rank everything in the universe from good to bad. It also provides hierarchy, drama, longing, salvation, and enlightenment. As a bonus, it provides a way for people to feel superior to their neighbors.

    P.S. None of the videos posted are of me... just in case anyone made that assumption.

  • ordinary girl
    Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 3:27:00 PM CST  

    I can't play most of the games I own on a Mac. End of story.

  • PhillyChief
    Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 3:46:00 PM CST  

    Yes, there is an irrational religious fervor associated with software and hardware. I've seen that. In the 90s they started calling PR guys "evangelists". Your choice of 3D software can actually get you in a fight at conventions and easily online. I've been forced to abandon software forums because I get attacked as an infidel for complaining about bugs or other problems.

    Mac users are cultish. I'm a Mac moderate (or is it liberal Mac user?). I don't care about which is better, I just want equal treatment and not to be discriminated against. Sound familiar?

    I disagree with the college analogy. Where you go to school has a very real effect on your chances for employment, the quality of that employment and salary.

    You can play your games on a Mac, but you either need to run Parallels or have a dual boot setup. Blech. I'll stick with PS3. ;)


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