Archive for the 'Religion' Category

Now everyone’s been expelled from Expelled

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

The blogohedron was full of great vengeance and furious anger last week when PZ Myers, renowned atheist blogger, was expelled from a screening of the creationist propaganda movie Expelled. It was glaringly obvious that the movie’s promoters had pulled off a stunning act of shooting themselves in the foot for the ages, and then continued to make it worse by repeatedly changing their story about what had happened. Now they’re in full damage control mode, and it appears that they’ve shut down all upcoming screenings of the film.

I was going to go see a local screening of Expelled here in Maryland on April 1 (quite the fitting date, actually) with my friend Andrew, but it was canceled. Andrew registered his name to attend and everything, but now the screening has simply vanished. I think Andrew and I just have a certain effect on creationists. In 2005 we went to go see Kent Hovind rail against science at a local church, and not a year later, he was serving ten years in prison on federal tax evasion charges. Whoopsies. Guess the promoters of Expelled didn’t want to take a chance of something similar happening to them if we managed to attend a screening?

A very merry secular Easter

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

I just got back from my family’s annual Easter holiday meal at my aunt and uncle’s house. That in itself is very average, but the strictly secular nature of it isn’t. Allow me to explain.

As far back as I can remember, we’ve gone to my aunt and uncle’s house for Easter. My aunt is the only Christian in the family (and barely at that?), so this is one of the two times of the year she can relive the traditions from her youth. She rather likes having the family together and eating the classic Easter foods. Everyone else in the family is pretty much Jewish, lapsed Jewish, or full-on atheist. As such, it’s not exactly a very religious occasion. Yeah, we have all the usual Easter foods, including the smoked ham which everyone ate (so much for keeping kosher). And we used to do the Easter egg hunt thing every year, but we “kids” have grown out of it. We watched March Madness basketball games on the television before and after the meal instead.

But the religious nature of it was completely missing. I only heard one reference to God the whole time, and that was when my dad made one of his usual faux pas comments, asking “Nobody here really believes Jesus died for our sins, right?” I didn’t hear anyone with an affirmative answer. I suppose that could be incredibly offensive at other people’s Easter celebrations, but we just sort of groaned at him a bit and continued eating.

To all those out there who don’t believe but are saddled with a family who does, just know that there is hope. The religious aspects can be cleanly excised from traditional celebrations such as Christmas and Easter, leaving in all of the fun parts while losing nothing of worth. After all, those two are based on Pagan holidays anyway. You can have as many chocolate eggs and Easter rabbits as your heart desires without any of the Christ.

PZ Myers is expelled from Expelled

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Notable atheist blogger and professor PZ Myers was prohibited from attending a screening of the movie Expelled tonight. Expelled is a piece of abominable dishonest creationist propaganda dreck produced by Ben “Bueller” Stein that plays the “Ohh, big bad science is persecuting us poor little honest religious folk!” card. Naturally, they’ve been hypocritical about it at every turn, excluding people from commenting or seeing their work much like they accuse the scientific establishment of (really, it’s just a case of projection). They secured an interview with PZ Myers by completely lying about who they were and what the movie was about, then carefully edited what he said to put science in the most negative light possible. Yes, that’s right, they prohibited PZ Myers from attending a movie that he appears in! So much for creationist honesty.

Oh, but that’s not the best part of the tale, not by a long shot. You really have to read PZ’s account for the punchline. It had me laughing out loud. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot!

Scientology tries for restraining order against the anonymous multitude

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Oh, this is going to be so much fun! Scientology is giving free publicity to Anonymous in a meatspace variant of the Streisand Effect (whereby trying to prohibit or censor something brings a lot more attention to it instead). The Church of Scientology is seeking a restraining order against Anonymous (all of it?) to prevent the planned protests against Scientology centers on March 15 in honor of L Ron Hubbard’s birthday.

Man, where to begin. First of all, Anonymous is a Stand Alone Complex, so it has no real leaders. Its members are faceless and anonymous, as the name kind of implies. Who exactly would you sue? And how can you sue to prevent a peaceful public protest? That goes against the right to assembly and right to free speech parts of the First Amendment. I remarked previously on this blog that Scientology’s tried-and-true tactics of intimidation and lawsuits will find no purchase against a numerous and faceless foe. They’re about to find out how ineffectual they truly are against Anonymous.

The funniest part of the St. Petersburg Times article was this snippet: “Representatives of Anonymous could not be reached for comment.” Indeed, St. Petersburg Times, indeed. That’s kind of the point. At least you can say you tried.

You can’t rest in my Jesus, it’s full

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

I was talking with a friend recently and she brought up the concept of resting in Jesus, which has something to do with easing your troubles by taking comfort in knowing that Jesus will take care of them for you. It’s a perfectly vacuous concept, of course, except I had never heard it called by that name. So my first response when I heard her say “resting in Jesus” was, and I kid you not:

“Oh, you mean like a tauntaun?”

I am:

  • A. Incredibly glad she’s not religious, because:
  • B. She got the Star Wars reference

I’m hard-pressed to conjure up another spur of the moment thought that’s quite as offensive as the thought of slitting open the belly of the Christ and resting inside his corpse.

Latest Anonymous video

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Anonymous has released another video. This one includes a photo montage of the February 10 protests as well as an announcement of planned protests on March 15. And it even references one of my blog posts; woot! Although I didn’t end up attending the February 10 protests, I think these upcoming ones will prove too irresistible to miss.

Treating sewage before dumping it is against my religion

Friday, February 15th, 2008

You can’t go a day without reading more news about religiously inspired idiocy. Today, it’s the Amish’s turn (go Amish!). Members of an Amish community in Pennsylvania are facing fines and possible jail time because they don’t want to use 20th-century innovations in sanitation — which have long since been mandated by law, seeing as how it’s in the public good and all. Normally I don’t mind silly religious beliefs so long as they aren’t causing harm to anyone, but when we’re talking about exposure to raw sewage, then yeah, I mind.

The Amish abhor technology (though only the technology that’s been invented since the Amish sect formed; anything from before then, including remarkably sophisticated building construction using wood, is okay somehow). So it should come as no surprise when they refuse to use technology like sanitary plumbing or septic tanks. No, this group of Amish is just dumping the contents of their outhouses directly onto their land. This is understandably worrying to their neighbors, most of whom draw their water from groundwater wells. The dangers of spreading diseases through fecal contamination of drinking water are well established and have been mitigated for over a century now through proper sanitation. The Amish don’t deserve a free pass on this one just because of their nonsensical religious beliefs. My empathies are entirely with the neighbors dealing with piles of untreated sewage sitting atop adjacent land (and I suspect yours are too).

Now the vast majority of the people reading this blog are going to agree with me here, and say that it is perfectly acceptable for Pennsylvania (like all other states, I would imagine) to have a law prohibiting the discharge of raw sewage onto land and requiring the use of either sanitary plumbing or containing devices such as septic tanks. But some idiots who are so enamored of religion and silly beliefs might try to claim that this law is unconstitutional, that it violates the First Amendment by persecuting religious beliefs. Not so. Let’s analyze the legislation using the Lemon Test, a three-pronged approach to determining if a law is constitutional within the framework of the First Amendment:

      The government’s action must have a legitimate secular purpose. I would argue that prohibiting the discharge of raw sewage unquestionably serves a secular purpose, and it serves the benefit of the public good more strongly than at least 99.9% of all laws. This law is a model law, the kind of law you can point to and say unequivocally that the government is, at least in this instance, doing a good job, and that there is some rationale to justify that having a government is a good idea.
      The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion. Seeing as how the law references only the treatment of sewage and has nothing to do with religion whatsoever, it trivially passes this prong of the Lemon Test. In other words, it’s the religions fault for requiring something conflicting the law, not the law’s fault for inhibiting religion.
      The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion. There is no entanglement here whatsoever. The law requires of everyone equally that they properly handle their sewage, no matter what religion they happen to be. The two issues are orthogonal.

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Draw a cartoon? That’s a slayin’

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Hey look, cartoons are apparently worth killing over. Of course, it’s not so much the cartoons themselves, but rather the culture of fear that the Islamists want to spread amongst the western world. The message is clear: do or say anything critical of Islam and we will kill you. And unfortunately, too many people are turning belly-up to this terrorism rather than fighting back. In response, I humbly submit this video, which sums up my thoughts on the issue more eloquently than I could ever do in spoken language:

Just to be perfectly clear, this is the cartoon that some deranged fanatical religious wackos think is worth murdering over:

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You’ve got the Devil in ya

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Does anyone else find it absurd that exorcism is making a comeback? Is there anything more useless? Humankind realized centuries ago that science and medicine could explain (and cure) more ailments than superstitious religious voodoo ever dreamed of. So why do we still have idiots practicing exorcism? And why do we still have idiots who go to get exorcised? That’s the problem with religion. Its emphasis on faith over reason and empiricism leads to ludicrous, lala-land thinking.

The most dangerous part of a resurgence of exorcism is all of the real treatment that sufferers won’t be getting because they’re wasting time narfing off with an exorcist. Is someone suffering from epilepsy, depression, or a mental illness? They don’t need medicine! What they need is to be told that the devil is inhabiting them, and for a “paltry” fee, he can be driven out! That’ll do the trick! And even better, think of all the children who will have the fear of God put into them when they’re told their body is inhabited by the beast himself! That won’t traumatize them in the least.

Exorcism is little different from Scientology in this regard. Maybe once Anonymous is done with Scientology, they can take on the sham of exorcism next? I’ll be cheering them on!

Who speaks for Anonymous?

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Traffic to this blog has exploded in the past day thanks to my post suggesting that the anti-Scientology organization Anonymous is a Stand Alone Complex. Being a Stand Alone Complex, there are no leaders, no chain of command, no orders, little cohesive organization, and the meaning of Anonymous is pretty much open to interpretation to each stand alone individual (within the overall bounds of anti-Scientology, which defines the overarching movement). Yet there are people commenting on this blog who insist that I don’t have the meaning right, that the Anonymous movement is tackling the organization and practices of the Church of Scientology itself, but not any of its attendant beliefs. Is that really a meaningful distinction though?

The church and the beliefs it exists to espouse are one and the same. The church only exists as a result of the beliefs. If nobody held the beliefs that being a Scientologist entails, then there would be no Church of Scientology, and thus none of the evils that Anonymous exists to fight against. This curious habit of semantic nitpicking amongst the anti-Scientologists speaks to a complex dance of mental contortion caused more by attempted rationalization than logical consistency. After all, isn’t it hypocritical to attack someone else’s beliefs when your own are no less believable? I’m looking at you, mainstream religions. Is Xenu blowing up a bunch of aliens with atomic bombs any more believable than creating the universe in seven days, with the light from the Sun created two days before the Sun itself? At least the Xenu story is possible, though unlikely. The desire to avoid tackling these issues of indefensible taking things on faith is the reason for the weird parsing of exactly what is under attack, as seen in this comment left on this blog:

Anonymous does not protest Scientology. Scientology is at its core perfectly valid belief; if someone wants to believe this Xenu stuff, he’s certainly free to do so. Anonymous protests the Church and its actions rather than the movement itself; it considers other independent Scientologists, such as the Free Zoners, to be its friends and allies even though those groups may not be participating directly in the movement against the church.

Is Scientology really at its core a perfectly valid belief? No, of course not. Some of the evils Anonymous is attacking Scientology for are caused by its deranged belief that psychiatry is dangerous, that psychiatric drugs cause harm rather than do good. Scientology’s beliefs have directly been responsible for murders and suicides when bipolar and schizophrenic individuals who needed serious medication were instead told that auditing could solve their problems, with deadly results. It’s no less acceptable of a belief than that of the Jehovah’s witnesses who rather would let their children die than receive a life-saving blood transfusion or organ transplant. These beliefs deserve condemnation because they are wrong and harmful, not respect because they are “sincerely held”. After all, you know who else had sincerely held beliefs?

I should carefully point out here that I am not advocating fascism; I am not advocating that we make people give up their silly beliefs by force. But I do think it is entirely acceptable to argue against the beliefs, to present reasons why they are flawed and dangerous, and to attempt as fervently as possible to get the adherents to cast them aside. Thus, attacking the beliefs of Scientology really is within the bounds of the Anonymous movement. And if it wasn’t, how can you explain all of those protest banners I’ve seen in pictures from the February 10 raids that directly and openly mock Scientology beliefs? By the very nature of a Stand Alone Complex, if a lot of the members of a movement think something is in bounds as part of the movement, then it is!

So keep making fun of Xenu all you want. I know I will be.