Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Debate on Morality I did on ReapSowRadio.

So a few weeks ago I did a spot on the angry atheist podcast and I mentioned a few discussions I had had on the blog with Vocab Malone. Reap from angry atheist suggested we do a debate on his other show ReapSow Radio and Vocab heard the show and accepted.

It took a couple of weeks to get everything together, but this last Saturday Reap moderated a debate between Vocab and I over Skype. It was just put up so you can take a listen here.

Anyway, take a listen and let me know how I did.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pussy Riot's closing statement.

The band Pussy Riot offered a closing statement at their trial in Russia recently.  A translated version is offered here, and I thought I'd re-post it.  I found it well thought out and logical.  This trial appears to be a total farce.

During the closing statement, the defendant is expected to repent or express regret for her deeds, or to enumerate attenuating circumstances. In my case, as in the case of my colleagues in the group, this is completely unnecessary. Instead, I want to express my views about the causes of what has happened with us.
The fact that Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of our powers that be was already clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyaev took over as head of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be used openly as a flashy setting for the politics of the security services, which are the main source of power [in Russia].
Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetics? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, national corporations, or his menacing police system, or his own obedient judiciary system. It may be that the tough, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, the bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more convincing, transcendental guarantees of his long tenure at the helm. It was here that the need arose to make use of the aesthetics of the Orthodox religion, historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.
How did he succeed in doing this? After all, we still have a secular state, and shouldn’t any intersection of the religious and political spheres be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of Orthodox aesthetics in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had the aura of a lost history, of something crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present their new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project which has little to do with a genuine concern for preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.
It was also fairly logical that the Russian Orthodox Church, which has long had a mystical connection with power, emerged as this project’s principal executor in the media. Moreover, it was also agreed that the Russian Orthodox Church, unlike the Soviet era, when the church opposed, above all, the crudeness of the authorities towards history itself, should also confront all baleful manifestations of contemporary mass culture, with its concept of diversity and tolerance.
Implementing this thoroughly interesting political project has required considerable quantities of professional lighting and video equipment, air time on national TV channels for hours-long live broadcasts, and numerous background shoots for morally and ethically edifying news stories, where in fact the Patriarch’s well-constructed speeches would be pronounced, helping the faithful make the right political choice during the election campaign, a difficult time for Putin. Moreover, all shooting has to take place continuously; the necessary images must sink into the memory and be constantly updated, to create the impression of something natural, constant and compulsory.
Our sudden musical appearance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior with the song “Mother of God, Drive Putin Out” violated the integrity of this media image, generated and maintained by the authorities for so long, and revealed its falsity. In our performance we dared, without the Patriarch’s blessing, to combine the visual image of Orthodox culture and protest culture, suggesting to smart people that Orthodox culture belongs not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch and Putin, that it might also take the side of civic rebellion and protest in Russia.
Perhaps such an unpleasant large-scale effect from our media intrusion into the cathedral was a surprise to the authorities themselves. First they tried to present our performance as the prank of heartless militant atheists. But they made a huge blunder, since by this time we were already known as an anti-Putin feminist punk band that carried out their media raids on the country’s major political symbols.  In the end, considering all the irreversible political and symbolic losses caused by our innocent creativity, the authorities decided to protect the public from us and our nonconformist thinking. Thus ended our complicated punk adventure in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
I now have mixed feelings about this trial. On the one hand, we now expect a guilty verdict. Compared to the judicial machine, we are nobodies, and we have lost. On the other hand, we have won. Now the whole world sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated. The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial. Once again, Russia looks different in the eyes of the world from the way Putin tries to present it at daily international meetings. All the steps toward a state governed by the rule of law that he promised have obviously not been made. And his statement that the court in our case will be objective and make a fair decision is another deception of the entire country and the international community. That is all. Thank you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tea Party and Religion.

I often hear from Tea Party fans who like to say that their concerns are only fiscal and they are not concerned with social conservative or religious issues.  Now I have my disagreements with some of their fiscal ideas but I am more concerned with the question of their position on church state separation issues.  It turns out the official tea party website actually published a statement on religious liberty.  Statement on Religious Freedom.
At the risk of offending anyone I am going to make the following statement.   The United States of America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and is indeed a Christian nation.
This statement is not intended to imply that other religions are not welcome to worship freely in this country but when those who worship any non-Christian religion do so with
a) the intent to attack those of other faiths or
b) when their intent is to deprive those of other faiths their right to worship as they please or
c) when they form in communities with the express intent to not assimilate and
d) when they demand exceptions to state or local laws that would allow them to deny freedoms to their own community that are contrary to our Constitutional protections
we must consider whether their place of worship should be allowed to remain. 
So this is the first part of the statement, you can follow the link to read the rest.   So the first thing we notice is that they explicitly state that this is a Christian country in direct contradiction to the actual history, so not off to a good start.  However to be fair his next line does say that other religions are welcome to worship freely here so that is good.  I also agree with all of the bullet points he lays out save C, which seems a bit Jingoistic in my opinion.  The main problem is the section in-between the two.  Namely, this point:
those who worship any non-Christian religion do so with
See, when they puts these bullet points forward they specify religions that are non-Christian.  This is an odd choice, it begs the question why they didn't think Christianity needed to be included.  Do they believe that Christians never violate these rules, or do that think these rules don't apply to Christians?  They don't specify, but I'm less concerned with their intent and more with the realty we would end up living with if this was actually the way our government ran.

The last line here asks if we should allow non-Christians to remain if they violate the previous rules, and while I agree that people who violate other peoples personal liberty should be punished to the extent the law allows, we need to make sure that:
  1. We don't persecute an entire group simply because the person who broke the law happens to be part of that group.
  2. The group that enforces those rights remains neutral on the topic of which religion is correct.
In my opinion this article fails both of these tests.  It fails the first one because they suggest that the government should prevent certain religious groups from freely operating in the U.S.  Of course they aren't speaking about atheists here, the rest of the article makes it clear they are mostly referring to Muslims.  Now I think I have always been clear on my stance towards all religions including Islam, but I would never prevent anyone from practicing their religion and I would never assume that all Muslims are terrorists.

They also fail on the second point since by their initial statement they believe that the government is a Christian one, making it no longer impartial.  Further, as the government is the one making the decisions about whether "their place of worship should be allowed to remain."  The rights of non-Christians become nothing but a privilege we are allowed because we haven't done anything to make the Christians perceive us as a threat, because, as they said, it's a christian country, they are the ones in charge.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Meat does not work that way.

I was on Google+ earlier today and this photo was posted under the Did you Know page:

With it was the following statement:
The watermelon is easily digestible, and will be excavated much faster than the burger and fries below. If the burger and fries remain in tact for 180 days, imagine how it must look inside your intestines! That stuff clogs you up, prevents the villi in the intestine from functioning properly, and results in malabsorption issues and GI tract problems. Not to mention a variety of other bodily effects that I could list for days on end.
The suggestion seems to be that because the burger did not decay in the same way it is unsafe to eat, they also seem to suggest that the burger will still remain in a persons intestines for 180 days.   Neither claim is accurate.  Now, I'm not suggesting that everyone should eat a huge pile of fast food burgers.  The stuff tends to be too salty and high in fat so there are health problems that can result from eating too much, I'm not debating that point.  However fruit and meat both decay very differently.  Bacteria need water to grow in, a watermelon, just as the name suggests, is mostly water, giving it a perfect place to grow a bacteria culture.  Any cooked meat, even not bought at a fast food restaurant, will not decay or mold if stored in a dry area, bread also drys quickly and fries would have most of the water cooked out of it.

Believe it or not this has been tested already.  Why Those Burgers Don't Rot, Decompose, or Molder Away.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Apparently Russia hasn't learned their lesson.

You would think Russia would have learned a lesson about the need for free speech after the whole communism thing, but apparently they have not.

They have a humorous name, but what is happening to them is not so funny.  According to the article:
They were charged with "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" after Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill denounced them as an affront to all religious Russians and demanded the most severe punishment possible under the law.
The band has made a name protesting both the government and the Russian Orthodox Church and they took over a church pulpit with a protest.

Found a video of it here:

A little silly perhaps, but they don't deserve years in prison over this.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Alexander Aan imprisoned for 30 months.

Alexander Aan has been imprisoned for 30 months in Indonesia for posting "God doesn't exist" on his Facebook page.  Amnesty international describes this as a serious setback for freedom of expression and I agree.  No one should be imprisoned for an idea that they have, nor for speaking that idea in a public forum.

Irregardless of our religious or political affiliations we should all be able to agree on this.  This is a petition at to ask the president to put pressure on the Indonesian government to release Alexander Aan.

Call upon the Indonesian government to respect the freedom and dignity of all its citizens and to free Alexander Aan.