Monday, February 27, 2012

Muslim Chokes Atheist, Judge dismisses case.

In case you haven't read about this case yet, the picture above is a picture of Ernest Perce dressed as Zombie Muhammad in a Halloween parade where he was attacked by a Muslim by the name of Talag Elbayomy.  

Talag admitted to police at the scene that he had assaulted Ernest Perce in order to remove the sign from Ernest's neck and defend Islam.

It seems like a fairly open and shut case.  One party exercising his free speech rights and another assaulting that party because he wanted to silence that.

However judge Mark Martin dismissed the charges against the Muslim and admonished the atheist that free speech didn't give him the right "to piss off other people and other cultures."

You can hear the entirety of the ruling here. 

The judge seems to admit that he is a Muslim himself while handing down the ruling, (something he has since denied) but irregardless he said several things which show that he does not understand the law nor should he be a judge.
Here in our society, we have a constitution that gives us many rights, specifically, First Amendment rights. It’s unfortunate that some people use the First Amendment to deliberately provoke others. I don’t think that’s what our forefathers really intended. I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak our mind, not to piss off other people and other cultures, which is what you did.
This statement in particular is rather absurd, free speech must necessarily protect speech that someone finds offensive.  If people only said things that never offended anyone then we would not need a first amendment.  To "speak our mind" can potentially piss someone off.

He goes on to say:
I don’t think you’re aware, sir, there’s a big difference between how Americans practice Christianity – uh, I understand you’re an atheist. But, see, Islam is not just a religion, it’s their culture, their culture. It’s their very essence, their very being. They pray five times a day towards Mecca. To be a good Muslim, before you die, you have to make a pilgrimage to Mecca unless you are otherwise told you cannot because you are too ill, too elderly, whatever. But you must make the attempt.
I think many atheists are well aware that Islam is joined at the hip with a lot of the cultures especially in the middle east, we just don't care.  Just like Christianity or any other religion one could name, Islam is simply unproven.  Beliefs, no matter how ardently believed, deserve no respect except that they can earn that respect through evidence, something that every religion I have ever investigated has lacked.  However, in this case it doesn't even matter, even if Islam had been proven to be the true religion it was still the right of Perce to criticize any view he wishes without fear of physical reprisal.  As a skeptic I find this right to be invaluable, how can find the truth of things if we censor peoples ideas?

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Conversation with Matt Dillahunty

Nothing major today, I did see a neat series of videos on YouTube that I thought I'd share.

This is a series of videos of Matt Dillahunty one of the hosts of the Atheist experience.  His discussion of his de-conversion resonates with my own experiences quite a bit.

A Conversation With Matt Dillahunty - Part 1: The Minister

A Conversation with Matt Dillahunty: Part 2 - Happiness


A Conversation with Matt Dillahunty: Part 3 - The Atheist Experience

Thursday, February 23, 2012

God damn it!!! How dare you make me defend Rick Santorum.

I don't think I should have to tell anyone who reads my blog how much I detest Rick Santorum.  His negative opinions of women, homosexuals, atheists, and pretty much everyone who isn't a fundamentalist Christian as well as his ignorance of science and even politics (the thing his actually does for a living) is pretty well documented so I don't think I should even have to rehash them. 

However, this glitter bombing thing really needs to stop.  First let me say when I heard about him being glitter bombed my first, visceral, reaction was to cheer on this action against him.  After all he says some pretty hateful things that make it rather difficult to like the man on any level.  

However, the more I thought about it the more I came to the realization that such actions could reasonably be deemed assault by the law. See, it seems to me our main issue with a man like Santorum is that he acts to assault other peoples personal freedom.  He doesn't want to let gay people marry, he wants to erode the foundations of church state separation, he wants to prevent access to birth control and would forbid abortions even in cases of rape or incest.  He clearly feels it his his right or even duty to invade other peoples personal space with his religious ideals.  

So I get it, I understand why the people who glitter bombed this man are so angry, and we have a right to be angry, and there is nothing wrong with that.  There is nothing wrong with protesting, there is nothing wrong with calling him a bigot, there is nothing wrong with pointing out his bad behavior.  Freedom of speech guarantees us these rights. 

I realize that glitter is fairly harmless, but I think this crosses a line..  If we complain about his violations of civil rights how does it look when we invade his personal space and throw something at him? (even glitter)  We don't make a good example for ourselves or our causes when we allow ourselves to become what we fight against, and the last thing we want to do is give people like Santorum ammunition to claim that Christians are being persecuted.  Lastly, we as skeptics need to be wary of letting bad behavior slide just because we happen to agree with the person who did it or because we dislike the victim.   

Now that I am done defending Santorum I am going to go shower....I feel dirty. 

James Robison's Declaration of War Against "Secular Theocracy"

This video made me laugh.  First he argues that freedom of speech would not exist without his religion.

Then he says he is not going to let people get away with criticizing the bible, which seems like the opposite of free speech to me.

Then he says "I'm not going let you literally take your secular theocracy and cram it down our throats."
Of course the use of the word "literally" when one actually means "figuratively" is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, but mostly I just wonder if he actually knows what the words "secular" and "theocracy" mean since they are a contradiction in terms, a theocracy requires that the government mandates belief in god and therefore is not secular by definition.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Further evidence against the anti-vaccination movement.

Study had managed to detect Autism development in children as young as 6 months old.  This could lead to early detection of Autism would be good news for treatment.  

It is also a blow to the anti-vaccination movement since detecting Autism at that early a stage is just another piece of proof that Autism is not being caused by vaccines. 

This fact did not stop the articles speaking about this from being peppered people ranting about big pharma conspiracies.
The vaccines were never ruled out as the cause of autism/neurological disorders, unless of course you use all the Big Pharma funded research as you evidence, all other independent research exclusively points to the vaccines and the toxins they contain, so it is no surprise that a child could be diagnosed early due to the massive amounts of toxins in their brain at that point.
The idea that the government and drug companies are intentionally poisoning people to make buck, and that scientists are actively trying to cover this up is fairly laughable, unfortunately the anti-vaccination movement has actually caused deaths by influencing people not to vaccinate so that makes it less funny.

An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi Story

Saw this over at the Friendly Atheist blog and thought I'd post it as well.  James Randi is an incredible person who has made this world a much better place by exposing frauds of every kind.  Video looks quite interesting.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

James Dobson and Daniel Lapin get together and say crazy things.

Rabbi Lapin
I ran across this article on earlier and saw something worth noting.  You can listen to Dobson's full program here if you can manage to make it through the whole thing.  Anyway I noted this particular quote from Rabbi Lapin with my own comments interspersed.
Once you remove the religious restraints to rampant sexuality, and all you got to do is relax those religious restraints and male nature will take care of the rest and bring about the decline of a civilization,
Fundamentalists no matter the religion have a big drive to control people's sexuality with fear tactics like this.  Of course he also makes a jab at men, who apparently are just beasts who can't keep in in their pants without the fear of god in them.
one of the mechanisms is of course as we’ve discussed economic because in a sense it requires the same kind of control and self-discipline to get up every single morning and go to work whether you like it or not as it takes to restrain various appetites.
Amazingly many cultures and people who have not restrained themselves sexually in the way Dobson or Lapin's religion requires have still been able to manage to go to work.  I wonder if Lapin has ever read a history book, no civilization in the history of the world, including Victorian era England has ever been as puritanical as Christianity or Judaism requires. 
So when you weaken one muscle you weaken everything else as well and not only do we have a tendency on the part of a society that has relaxed all form of sexual restraint to also go into free fall economically but what also happens is such a society tends towards becoming a more feminine society in a sense.
More feminine? I'm not exactly sure what he means here but no matter how you interpret this it sounds sexist.  It also seems to contradict what he said earlier about "male nature."
Islam, fundamentalist Islam, which is essentially a brutal and violent culture is seducing a somewhat effeminized American culture because there is no other way to explain the love affair that America’s leftwing and secularized elites have with Islam.
Yes because us liberals just LOVE us some fundamentalist religion, nothing we like better than to have our liberty taken away by some crazy religious zealot.  That was sarcasm in case you were wondering.

I really am not even sure where he is getting this from, he seems to believe that we, "secularists," who have fought tooth and nail to wrest our civil liberties from the hands of fundamentalist Christians in this country would just hand it over to another group who is even more extreme than they are.

Islam has at least as bad if not a worse track record on women's rights, sexuality, free speech, and many other issues.  Why would he think that secularists would just turn over our rights to them?  If there is anyone who would it is most certainly not me or any of the members of skeptical/atheist movement.  The idea that any of the feminists in our movement, the likes of Greta Christinea or Jen McCreight have some love affair with fundamentalist Islam is ridiculous.

It also strikes me a rather funny that he talks about Islam as being a "brutal and violent culture" when historically Judaism and Christianity have been very bad too.  Indeed the world Dobson and Lapin want to create in America doesn't look any better than the ones fundamentalist Muslims want to create.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

More brilliant morals from the god of the bible. Deuteronomy: 22:23-24

Back when I was a fundamentalist I carefully studied the bible quite a bit.  You see, back then I took very seriously the command in 1 Peter 3:15 that states:
But sanctify the Lord God in you hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
You see, I felt as if I needed to be able to offer justification for everything I believed.  I was, for most of my time as a Christian, a literalist, that is to say I believed that the entire bible was scientifically, historical, and ethically accurate.  This belief served to keep me well in the fold of Christianity during my high school days, but once I got to college and started taking my beliefs more seriously I began reading the bible every day.  I began evangelizing to people, leading bible studies, etc.

I found passages that troubled me often but I usually could find ways of rationalizing them.  However, now and then I found passages which seemed wrong in one of the three ways I mentioned with no good answer to them.  My inability to mesh my faith with reality or morality was one of the primary things that lead me away from Christianity. 

So with that in mind, for your viewing pleasure I would like to present one of the many passages I came across during that time of my life which I spent years in a vain attempt to find an explanation that didn't make my skin crawl.
Deuteronomy: 22:23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;  
22:24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
So, to be clear about what is going on here, we have a women who is engaged and she and another man have sex.  If she cries out the man gets stoned but if she doesn't cry out the she gets stoned too.  To be clear this is not the kind of stoned that leaves you with a desire for brownies, this is the getting your head bludgeoned in with large rocks until you die kind of stoned.

The explanation that is most often offered here is that the sex was consensual, otherwise she would have cried out.  I see two problems with this, one I can easily see a circumstance where a woman is raped and stays silent, drugged, knocked out, threatened with a weapon, or just plain scared, yet there is no consideration for those things in this law.

The second, much larger problem, is that this apologetic is basically arguing that it is reasonable to make consensual sex a capital crime.  Even when I was a Christian and thought premarital sex was wrong the notion that someone should be killed for it seemed incredibly offensive to me.

Just so no one can claim I am making up this apologetic I found a link to the section of the Matthew Henry Commentary that speaks about this.  Here is the pertinent section from the page in question:
And it shall be presumed that she consented if it were done in the city, or in any place where, had she cried out, help might speedily have come in to prevent the injury offered her. Qui tacet, consentire videtur--Silence implies consent.
If you think that is the worst of it, there are some extremely twisted attempt to justify this particular passage  It didn't take me long to find this one out there on the net which was very similar to things some Christians said to me years ago.
This law exists to protect everyone involved, and it actually demonstrates a rather impressive knowledge of human behavior and human nature. The key words here are "because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city," under the assumption that if she went along with it willingly, it wasn't actually rape. First, it protects the man from false accusations--if a malicious woman makes an accusation like that, she's on the hook too. And second, it protects the woman. If she knows that if she plays along, she's guilty under the law, then he can't use the best-known of intimidation tactics employed by rapists, "play along or I'll kill you!" It gives her a strong incentive to struggle, fight him off, and scream for help, which makes it less likely that she will actually end up being raped. All in all, this demonstrates the brilliance of God's law, not the cruelty and immorality of it.
First off, creating a situation where women are afraid to report rape does NOT qualify as brilliance, secondly setting up a situation where the woman has to fight back to have any chance of living no matter the circumstances of the assault is outright repugnant.  Rape is about control, setting up a situation where the victim has even less control is the exact opposite of brilliant thinking.  I have yet to hear an apologetic for this passage from a Christian that does not appeal to some kind of misogynistic or anti-sex nonsense.

In concussion this passage is pretty damn immoral in my book.  I am always amazed at Christians who complain about the misogyny in the Koran and ignore all the stuff right in the middle of their own holy book.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Apparently violence is the "normal" response to an undesired sexual proposition.

Wooden & LaBarbera: Anti-LGBT Violence is "Normal" 
Peter LaBarbera


Patrick Wooden

For those of you who don't want to listen here is a transcript of the exchange with my own comments interspersed.

Wooden: My heart breaks and I literally mourn over what has happened to the NAACP. Ben Jealous says he has a brother who is transgendered in his family, the little boy grew up dressing like Diana Ross or somebody when he was a child, well I say his parents should’ve took the child and whooped the child’s behind and taught the child how to dress.
So being transgendered can be cured with a spanking?

Wooden: If you want to get knocked out just go into a male bathroom in the African American community or any community I would think and you’re standing there in a dress and many times the people are trying to hit on people, trying to make sexual responses, one man there, you know, you don’t want to be in there feeling like another man is trying to look at your penis. We’ve always had a hostile response, or a disrespect if you will, for that kind of behavior.
It is rather insulting to suggest that gay men think about sex any more often that straight men, why would they be looking at your penis just because they happen to be in the bathroom with you? 
LaBarbera: It used to be common of course, I’ve heard many stories. I remember a story from a military guy, saying a guy came and he was a sailor and they had some temporary little day off at port and some guy hit on him and he decked him.
Wooden: That’s normal.
That's normal? Its normal to hit someone because they propositioned you for sex?  Last time I checked just saying no thanks is usually sufficient.  Someone needs to teach you how modern society works, physical assault is not a normal reaction to anything.
LaBarbera: When you make a sexual advance against a man on man, that is a normal response, and yet I fear in the rise of political correctness what’s going to happen is, somebody is going to find out that there was a man in his wife’s—his wife was in the restroom when a transgendered man, a biological male, was in the female restroom and he’s gonna punch him, but then the man who punches him is gonna be charged with a hate crime, that’s what I’m afraid of.
Yes he would be charged with a crime, and for good reason.  Asking someone for sex is not a crime, going to the bathroom is not a crime, punching someone is a crime. 
Wooden: We’re not promoting, advocating violence here.
LaBarbera: Of course not!
Not promoting violence?  Give me a break.  Next he will tell us that some of his best friends are transgendered.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

An evening with Dawkins, Krauss, and a Christian who thought he could convert us with a bible verse.

So Richard Dawkins and Laurence Krauss visited Phoenix, AZ this week and had a lively discussion.  

For anyone who hasn't had a chance to see it there are videos YouTube.

Though I won't spend a lot of time speaking about the talk I did want to mention one thing that happened.  After the initial talk we had a brake and came back for a short Q.A. time.  The first person to ask a question turned out to be a Christian, I gather that he was a fundamentalist but that was not entirely made clear by what he said. 

In any case, this Christian started out by giving us a litany of his degrees in religion, which well all patiently listened too and then he proceeded to speak for well over a minute without asking a question, then he ended with an attempt to evangelize in the form of a thinly veiled question about proving god's non existence.

Up to this point Dawkins and Krauss as well as the crowd had been polite, then the Christian decided to up the ante by reading a bible verse.  I don't know which verse it was, beyond it coming from Hebrews because once he started he was quickly drowned out by the crowed booing him.  He also tried to interrupt Krauss at one point in the exchange while Kraus was answering the question he tried to add an addendum on to it and Krauss shut him down by explaining that the great thing about being on stage was when he is talking the audience has to listen.

The interesting thing to me about this exchange is that afterwards I could distinctly imagine this Christian going back to his fellow believers and talking to them about how he stood up to the evil atheists in the face of our persecution of him for his religion.  I can see him talking about how we wouldn't let him read a bible verse due to the fear of it touching our heart magically somehow.  I can also see his Christian friends agreeing with him without the slightest sense that maybe our problem was not that he was a Christian but that he behaved badly.

Of course none of this may have happened afterwards, but I can see it happening precisely because I spent years as a fundamentalist Christian and saw this same scenario play out many times.  Often it seems that the Christian's need to disseminate their view takes precedent over couth social behavior.  In this particular instance this was meant to be a chance to ask Dawkins or Krauss questions, but the Christian used that opportunity to essentially preach a small sermon at us and only barely disguise it as a question.  The booing started when we realized this was what he was doing.

I can't speak for every atheist there, of course, but I was not afraid of the bible or anything he might say.  I've read Hebrews and indeed the entire bible, and found it insulting to suggest that a simple quotation from the bible would make me or anyone else there question our thoughts on the matter. 

So, to the nameless Christian who stood up and asked that question, we weren't objecting to you being a Christian, we weren't objecting you asking a question, we were objecting to you being a jackass.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bring up birth control and the Catholic church admits church state separation was actually a thing all along.

Pure evil according the Catholic Church
Catholics and other Christian groups are up in arms about the government requiring the insurance companies provide to their employee's with FDA approved contraceptives.  They are angry because this law is extending to many church owned organizations such as private schools and hospitals.

For those of you not familiar with law here, churches are granted an exemption to a lot of rules that other business must follow.  Some of them make a lot of sense, for instance laws that prevent religious discrimination in hiring would not really work in a church, requiring a church not to consider the religious beliefs of their pastor in hiring him would not work very well.  I may consider all religious beliefs to be rather illogical but I can still understand the need for this kind of separation.  

Now when it comes to this particular law there is also an exception for employees of churches and and religious organizations, however the private schools and hospitals owned by the Catholic church do not fit into these exceptions, and in the case of hospitals generally receive public funding.  These organizations do not and, in fact, are not allowed to discriminate based upon religion.  The end result is that many of the people working for them are not Catholics.  The people being serviced there are also often not Catholics but this is not even relevant to the current issue since it affects employees.  

Catholics, being anti-contraception, have decided that they don't want to set up the insurance for their employees to cover such things.  A situation that has no doubt been the way they have done things for quite some time.  Now, the government is saying it can't be that way anymore, that women have a right to contraception and they have a right to expect their employer to offer insurance that covers it irregardless of how their employer may personally feel about contraception.  Make no mistake, this is a women's rights issue, since in order for women to maintain a equal place in society they must be able to choose when and if to get pregnant.

Now the Catholic church is threatening to simply shut down their services rather than comply with the law, just as they did when the government refused to hand out state funds to Catholic adoption agencies that refused to adopt to gay parents.  Make no mistake this is a clear case of bullying with a flimsy religious excuse on their part.  If the world won't play by their very silly and bigoted rules they will simply take their ball and go home.  

Part of me can't help but think this might be a good thing.  Do we really want the Catholic church running our hospitals and our schools when they care more about controlling the reproduction rights of women and obeying moral rules that are insulting to any thinking person than they care about doing the jobs they built those hospitals and schools for?  One wonders what they founded these hospitals and schools for; is it because they care about people or is it because it gives them an opportunity to force their moral ideals on to the general populace?  

Perhaps it would be a good thing if they shut down, other people would build hospitals after all.  People get sick and someone else would fill the need for hospitals, that's how free market economies work. 

Meanwhile, the height of irony in this is that many Conservative Christians like the Catholics Leagues Bill Donohue are claiming that this is a violation of "Church state separation."  You might remember that as the thing they have spent years claiming doesn't exist.  The fundamentalist interpretation of the establishment clause is that it does nothing more than prevent the establishment of a state religion.  This law in no way violates that interpretation, but I will go one step further.  The more encompassing interpretation of the clause offered by the courts is that no government organization can show favoritism to one religion over another because such actions would lead to an implication of an establishment of a state religion.  Nothing about this law comes anywhere close to a violation of church state separation.  However, it is ironic how quickly the establishment clause became important.

Personally I am a fan of the old saying, "your right to swing your arm ends at my nose."  Well the Catholic church has been swinging their proverbial arm into the bedrooms of American citizens for years and personally I have no problem with the government finally telling them to get the hell out.

Arms of Catholic priests not shown due to it being a metaphor

Friday, February 3, 2012

States making more laws against evolution.

I ran across this today and with Darwin's birthday coming soon I decided to share, it seems several different states are putting forward bills about evolution.

— The “Missouri Standard Science Act” would require the equal treatment of evolution and “intelligent design,” an idea that the universe was created by an unnamed “designer.” A second bill would require teachers to encourage students “to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution.”
Well parts of this don't sound to bad, who doesn't want students to develop "critical thinking skills," but evolution is not particularly controversial among scientists, its only controversial among people who know very little about science.  Why should science teacher have to walk on egg shells about an observable scientific fact because some of his students have religious beliefs that conflict with it?

— A bill in the Oklahoma Senate would require the state’s board of education to help teachers promote “critical thinking, logical analysis, open and objective discussion of scientific theories including, but not limited to, evolution, the origin of life, global warming, and human cloning” if a local school district makes that request.
This one mentions global warming too.  It seems the religious right is expanding their list of things in science that they hate.  I guess cloning made the list because of the fear that people are going to start cloning whole humans for organ harvesting or some bullshit.  I think fundamentalist Christians get all their science education from movies.

— A second bill in the New Hampshire House would require science teachers to instruct students that “proper scientific inquir(y) results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established.”
In a sense what is said in this bill is accurate.  However, there is a difference between the fact that evolution happens and the theory of evolution which explains how it happens.  Even if you disproved the theory it would just mean evolution happened a different way.  Also, while the theory is incomplete it is not likely to be proven entirely false. 

— A bill in Virginia would make it illegal for state colleges to require a class that conflicts with a student’s religious views. Critics say that would enable a student to receive a biology degree, for example, without studying evolution if he or she objected to it.
This is the most absurd of all of them.  I sometimes wonder if politician even think about the ramifications of bills they passed.  I couldn't find the exact wording of the bill on the internet, so if anyone has a link to it I would be interested, but if this works as I am reading it then anyone could refuse to learn something because of their religious affiliation.  Jehovah's witness, no problem you don't need to learn about transfusions to be a doctor.
— A second bill in Indiana would require the state board of education to draft rules about the teaching of ideas in science class that cannot be proven by evidence — a clear doorway for the teaching of creationism and intelligent design, critics say.
Why would we ever teach anything in a science class room that can't be supported by empirical evidence?  This practically screams Wedge document.  It is clear that the goal here is not to just undermine evolution but methodological naturalism as the basis for science.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Done moving.

Haven't been able to post for a couple of days, I've been busy moving to a new apt closer to work.

Well I am done moving...mostly anyway.  I still have a few boxes to unload.
I thought would post a spam email I got in my inbox while I was moving.  This persons grasp of English could use some improvement.

Hello! .
So, I found your photos on dating site .Use my sister’s account...
I'm looking for novelty in relations. I am Summer
reply me..
I would have to be really desperate to reply to this....