Wounded, Old, and Dangerous

3 06 2012

I have a fundamental problem with the religiously deluded- far too many of them aren’t willing to leave me alone. It isn’t just me, you understand. There’s a minority among religious types in this country- almost exclusively some flavor of christian- which is incapable of keeping their puritan noses out of everyone else’s business.

I honestly don’t care much if you worship some god or -ess. Zeus, Yahweh, Buddha, Hubbard, Flying Spaghetti Monster- all of these are equally nonsensical in my eyes. You can worship any god or conglomeration of gods to your heart’s content until such time as that worship infringes on the rights of another person. You may deeply believe that everyone not belonging to your own special version of god-bothering is going to be devoured by the Great Green Arkelseizure at the end of time and be denied the companionship of the Winslow in the afterlife, and I will support your right to believe it- even if I think it’s a load of dingo’s kidneys. You can even feel smug and superior about the fact that you have a ticket to the forever beer party at the Pirate Volcano with the blessings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and all us lesser mortals will miss out. Your privilege. Where I draw the line is when you try to get your mythology codified into law, or force others to act and believe as you do. I am not willing to live in a theocracy, and I refuse to stand by while a bunch of fanatics do their utmost to turn my country into one.

The fanatics in question happen to be a particularly virulent strain of evangelical christianity which has been working for decades to get fellow-believers elected or appointed to positions of authority in hundreds of school districts, county commissions, and other local offices across the country. From these seemingly-minor vantage points, the neo-puritans have been carefully trying to make their mythology the law of the land. As small-time officials in various local political organizations, these pernicious god-botherers have been making policy for schools, city and county ordinances, and local election boards. As the numbers of fellow believers has grown in these seemingly minor positions, a host of deeply un-American legislative excesses have begun appearing in the national spotlight. One need only look at Super-Puritan Rick Santorum’s baffling rise to prominence to see how far their power goes. In a rational world, Santorum would have been laughed off the stage at the first political rally. The fact that he actually made it into the primary process is a demonstration of the power of the religiously deluded over our political processes.

But wait! There’s more.:

Oklahoma doctor refuses to provide rape victim with emergency contraception due to his religious beliefs.

Pregnancy Begins 2 Weeks Before Conception’ Now The Law In Arizona

Wisconsin State Senator wants to outlaw divorce

Kansas passes bill allowing doctors to lie about life-threatening conditions if it would prevent abortion

Indiana lawmaker claims Girl Scouts are a front organization for militant lesbians

New Hampshire lawmaker wants married couples to practice abstinence in lieu of using birth control

Tennessee wants to protect anti-gay bullies from “persecution”

And of course, there’s Kitzmiller v Dover

What do all of these documented examples of public idiocy have in common? The idiots pushing these agenda items are all firmly convinced that they have the moral authority and duty to force their version of their religion onto the rest of us. It’s telling that in Kitzmiller, the evangelical judge lambasted several members of the Dover school board for resorting to  misrepresentations and outright lies in their crass attempt to force every student in their district to submit to their mythology.

It’s always helpful to use their own words against them. Here is the source for this image.  Those quotes from Phillip Johnson, one of the founders of the so-called “intelligent design” movement, reveal the extent of the god-botherer’s willful refusal to allow anyone to have an opinion or belief contrary to his own. The unstated meaning of those quotes is that most of the US is not stupid enough to fall for their bullshit, so the fanatics have to sneak around and try to brainwash the children to perpetuate their religious delusions.

Allow me to repeat that: Fanatical christians are forced to resort to trying to subvert the children of America because the adults aren’t quite stupid enough to fall for it.

That brings me to the headline for this post. Every time the religious fanatics have tried to stand up in the public eye, they have been soundly smacked down by the courts. Even in Mississippi, where education is often more fundamental than scholarly, these pernicious fanatics failed to get a majority of voters to approve their bullshit legislation. Evangelical leaders have long been calling for increased recruiting, as the bulk of their followers are largely elderly, but traditional recruiting has not been keeping up with the number of fundamentalist loons who’ve been dying or otherwise losing their usefulness. They’re old, and getting older. The bulk of America’s youth don’t care about most of the evangelical core issues, and the leaders of the evangelical movement are starting to face the real possibility that their free ride at the expense of their gullible followers may be coming to an end.

The evangelical movement never did have a majority among American christianity. If you separated all the protestant denominations individually, the largest christian group in the US would be catholics. Even granting that most Americans self-identify as christian of some flavor or another, this means that the fundamentalist evangelical movement is- at best- a tiny minority of the US population. All of the major religious groups are shrinking, mostly due to a seemingly-endless string of scandals involving senior leaders of various denominations. There is also, of course, the fact that the core tenets of their mythology are often profoundly unpleasant to everyone except puritans.  By far the fastest-growing philosophical demographic in the US are agnostics and atheists. This does not bode well for the fundie-loonies.

Realizing that they’re on the wrong side of the demographic bulge, the fanatics are growing desperate. They’ve tried and failed to get their mythology turned into public policy, their membership is dwindling and/or growing less useful due to age, and the new generation of Americans think that they’re a bunch of hypocritical fuckwits. They’re like a wounded animal, and fanatics rarely just go quietly into the night. Perhaps that is why the recent flood of extremist legislation coming from various states has a feel of desperation to it. Instead of realizing their dreams of power to punish the unbelievers, the religiously deluded fanatics are starting to realize that they’ve only managed to piss off everyone outside their particular circle of fellow believers- specifically including the more tolerant christians who make up the overwhelming majority of American christianity.

What will these imbeciles do when their already-tenuous grip on authority is finally sundered? If we are all very lucky, they’ll slink back into the shadows and dream up some new long-term conspiracy to somehow convince and persuade the rest of the country to let them have the reins of power. We can deal with that pretty easily by bringing up their own statements and previous failures whenever one of these nutballs pokes his or her nose into public. Some of these fanatics have actually complained that they’re being “persecuted” whenever their own words are used against them, which ought to show you how divorced from reality they are.

What I worry about is the possibility that they’ll decide to go down fighting. Even thought they’re only a tiny minority of Americans, and only a fraction of those might be willing to use violence against their neighbors, this has a lot of recent precedent in other countries. Our version of religious fanatics are often referred to as “American Taliban” for a reason.

They wouldn’t win any such contest, of course, but they could do a lot of damage before we put the last one in prison. The best way to help prevent this troubling possibility is for the rest of the christians in America to deal with their fellow religionists. Cut them off from their support network- the mild sympathy one naturally feels for those who have something in common with you. Unless you are a rabid christian dominionist, it is highly unlikely that most christians share any philosophical traits with their fanatical brethren. When someone tries to use their understanding of scripture to justify atrocities (like the “Good News Clubs” teaching children why unbelievers should be exterminated), feel free to tell them to fuck off. Pay attention to what the fringe worshippers of your religion are saying and doing, and make it clear to the rest of the world that those violent shitheads don’t speak for you. Staying silent only creates the impression that you are fine with what the fanatics are doing. This distresses everyone with functional logic systems and encourages the fanatics.

My religious philosophy is pretty simple:

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: Some Nights by fun

Non-Momentary Lapse of Reason

12 04 2010

You have achieved discontinuity of meaning.”

I find myself shouting those words at my television a lot these days, along with a great deal of choice invective in a variety of languages. The sheer number of brain-dead, mouth-breathing wastes of genetic material who manage to get media coverage is literally staggering. Where do I begin?

How about the Hutaree- the apocalyptic fundamentalist christian doomsday cult militia who were so totally insane that other militias turned them in to the cops? It turns out that these stellar examples of the “master race” were collecting coffee cans to make explosively-formed projectiles. They discovered a hitch in their cunning plan when it turned out that the coffee cans in question did not- in fact- contain any metal. These people are stupid beyond belief- not merely because they are trained by their loathsome version of christianity to be credulous dolts and therefore have little idea of how science works, but because they believed that murdering a few dozen policemen and their mourning relatives would somehow bring about their apocalyptic war against the heathens.

Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter.” – Thomas Paine

Next we have a “retired” politician telling her fellow low foreheads that America doesn’t need “this snake-oil science stuff“. I have not yet made up my mind about anthropogenic climate change- largely because no follower of Saint AlGore has yet been able to explain the Medieval Warm Period in the context of their religion. That said, the rabid anti-intellectualism implicit in her comments ought to strike a chill in the heart of all Americans. For those of you who slept through their high-school science classes, here’s a couple of clue chits for you: The only field of endeavor in which the US is dominant today is science and research. The US has dominated the sciences and medicine for decades, and this pre-eminence attracts the best and brightest from around the world to our universities and research centers. Science is practically the only thing we can reliably claim to be the best at, but this political hack and her fundamentalist cronies seem to want to turn back the clock on science because they don’t like the answers science gives them.

Geology shows that fossils are of different ages. Paleontology shows a fossil sequence, the list of species represented changes through time. Taxonomy shows biological relationships among species. Evolution is the explanation that threads it all together. Creationism is the practice of squeezing one’s eyes shut and wailing “Does not!” – Author Unknown

Speaking of the American Taliban, the former head of the Texas school textbook commission is famously quoted as saying, “Someone has to stand up to the experts!” Sorry, sparky. Your personal relationship with a dead jewish guy does not trump the evidence easily available to anyone with an open mind. It ought to be enough to see that the garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies in the bottom of it, too (to paraphrase Douglas Adams). Why is it easier for these loons to believe easily-debunked fables when the truth is much more interesting? There’s an entire universe out there for us to learn about and explore, but these religious fuckwits insist on fixing their heads firmly inside their collective rectums because they like the view so much better. Worse, they insist that everyone else has to be limited to the same field of view.

I am treated as evil by people who claim that they are being oppressed because they are not allowed to force me to practice what they do. – D. Dale Gulledge

Lest I be accused of “bashing christianity”, let us examine another pack of rabidly batshit fundies. The Hasidic community in Brooklyn has their beards in a tangle over the fact that “scantily clad” females ride their bicycles down the public thoroughfares near their self-created ghetto.The Hasidim in question are the descendants of a large community which moved to Brooklyn in a body to get away from the persecution they experienced in Europe- just after the end of the second World War. The irony of the situation must be totally lost on these fundamentalist ass-hats: they came to Brooklyn because they wanted the freedom to practice their religion as they saw fit, but they now insist on denying those same freedoms to everyone around them. Unfortunately for the bearded ones, those public thoroughfares are public fucking thoroughfares. So long as the laws of the city, county, and state of New York are not broken, they’re just going to have to put up with it.

We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart. – H.L. Mencken

What do all of these episodes have in common? Fundamentalism. There is something terribly wrong in the way these people think and see the world. To the fundamentalists, perfection is just a round the last corner. They all want to live in a free society, but they only want those freedoms for themselves. Everyone else has to behave and believe exactly as they do, or else. Here is the core disconnect between the religious fundamentalist and any moron of average intelligence: Any mass-murderer can ask for forgiveness on his death bed and go to heaven, but Ghandi burns forever in hell because he was not christian. How about this- if God doesn’t like the way I live, let him tell me, not you.

Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense. – Chapman Cohen

These are not isolated incidents. They are all part of a growing trend toward fundamentalism here in this country that is by nature destructive to American ideals and individual liberties. The religious neo-barbarians are all intent on destroying the very core of our civilization. We, the People, need to exercise our own rights to free speech and free association to counter the religiously deluded at every turn. These creatures must be confronted with facts and logic whenever they spew their lies and innuendo in public. Their histrionics and stupidity must be countered with rational discourse and firm resolve. Those who refuse to submit to the religious thought police must stand united against the darkness those fanatics seek to draw across our country.

It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley, but to believe or not believe in God is not important at all.  – Denis Diderot

I will not submit to the will of any god- or the followers of any god. I will make my own way … and leave a trail for others to follow if they wish. I will not force my ideas upon any other, nor demand they believe as I do. All I ask in return is the same privilege.

I do not support religion because it demands that we give up our most important human asset, the ability to question. It demands that we simply believe. Isn’t that true of any dictator, of any totalitarian society? Insofar as social development is concerned, nothing is of greater importance than the human function of questioning. Questioning led to the development of civilization. – Vladimir Pozner

Current status: Profoundly irked

Current music: Free Will by Rush

Science- It works, bitches!

8 11 2009


Latest score: science- 4,391,084, religion- o.

Try as they might, the religious whackjobs just cannot catch a break. Reality has that well-known bias for the scientific method, after all.

You may remember the tale of a Minnesota family whose mentally-deficient 13 year old son was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. The doctors told the family that the child had a 95% chance of surviving with a regimen of chemo and radiation. The prognosis without the treatment was death. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

Sadly, “no brainer” describes the mental acuity level of this particular family of dipshits. The deeply religious family thought their kid was some sort of prophet, and refused to allow him to get treatment based upon their religious beliefs. The doctors told the state government, who promptly hauled the family into court. The court told the family that they must provide the required life-saving medical treatment, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Mom took the kid on the lam, making a run for Mexico with a side-trip into northern California. Those of you with any familiarity with the geography of North America may wonder about this- there is a fairly straight course from Minnesota to Mexico that doesn’t come within 500 miles of California. It turns out that mom wanted to take her “prophet” son to some woo-woo witch doctor type in northern California- hence the detour.

They got caught, and were duly hauled back home and forced to take the child in for his godless treatment. He had his last round of treatment on Friday, and the tentative prognosis is very good. The docs will do some follow-up tests in a few months to make sure the lymphoma is completely gone, but he appears to be cancer-free at the moment.

This is one of the rare success stories, when rationality wins out over woo. All too often, the victim of these outdated religious ideas will be discovered too late for survival. The parents are then hauled off to prison wailing that it was “god’s will”.


Sadly, those who would rather believe than know are still out there, many of them in positions of authority. Case in point: an Iraqi Major General in charge of security for Baghdad just loves his expensive woo-woo bomb detectors … which do not work. They have been proven to not work. With US military personnel no longer manning the checkpoints, the Iraqi troops have been using these ADE-651 devices in an attempt to keep bombs out of the streets. Security camera footage has shown that the recent bombings in Baghdad went right through the checkpoints “guarded” by troops using these devices, but the General in charge won’t budge.

The US has tested these things, and proven that they don’t work. James Randi has issued a one million dollar challenge to the British company that manufactures and sells these toys. If one ADE-651 successfully detects explosives in a scientific double-blind study, Randi’s foundation will give them a million dollars.

It must be noted that the company selling these ineffective, high-tech diving rods, ATSC(UK), is making money hand over fist selling their twaddle to third-world security forces. Iraq has ordered more than thirty-two million dollars worth of ADE-651s from ATSC, despite complaints from the US government and military.

I don’t care about Sandia or the Department of Justice or any of them,” General Jabiri said. “I know more about this issue than the Americans do. In fact, I know more about bombs than anyone in the world.”

Here we have a case where people’s lives are being put at risk by a belief in magic- or rather, a lack of belief in scientifically-proven evidence. In fact, 155 people lost their lives due to the faith placed in these “magic” devices.

If one were to be crude, one could wave aside General Jabiri’s foolish faith in the ADE-651 as the parochial stupidity of a third-world peasant. One would be wrong to do so. High-ranking officers in most Arab countries are generally highly-educated members of politically-powerful families with close ties to the government. General Jabiri is not an illiterate peasant, but he still has more faith in woo than in reproducible results and hard evidence.

General Jabiri and those American families who have permitted their children to die rather than get medical assistance because of their faith are evidence of a global gap in understanding of science. Even highly-educated people from well-to-do families and well-off middle class Americans are choosing to have faith in thousand-year-old religious texts or palm reading or dowsing or astrology or equally nonsensical ideas. Why?

I think mental laziness is to blame. Understanding modern science is hard work. It requires a willingness to read science articles and ask questions about what has been read. It requires the ability to unlearn old falsehoods. It requires being able to say, “I don’t get it”. These are all tough to do for many people. On the other hand, believing in a magic rock which protects you from getting eaten by a tiger is easy. Religion as a concept encourages its followers to blindly accept many things for which there is no evidence. People who can believe that a galactic overlord dropped the bodies of criminals into Hawaiian volcanoes several million years ago and then nuked them (for example) will probably have little difficulty believing six other impossible thongs before breakfast.

God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent—it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills. -RAH

Living in the real world is a lot of work. Living in a fantasy world is easy. I happen to think that the hard work we undertake in the real world has far greater payoffs than the false peace of a fantasy, but that’s just me.

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: I Will Not Bow by Breaking Benjamin

Mortal Danger

17 09 2009

The pernicious god-botherers are at it again. In the apparently never-ending quest by the religiously stupid to destroy our civilization, a new voice has appeared in the wilderness. Judging by this moron’s screed against curiosity (reported in the New York Times Opinion pages), one may safely assume Duke University qualifies as a wilderness.

According to Paul Griffiths, professor of Divinity at Duke University, curiosity is a vice. One is tempted to inquire as to how someone without curiosity was able to earn a PHD, but that would probably be unkind and unfair. It is profoundly unfair to make fun of the senile and incontinent dotards among us, or so I am assured by my supervisor at work and the empty suits spewing garbage disguised as journalism on television.

So let us leave aside questions about the Professor’s mental capacity and degree of hypocrisy and concentrate upon his message: curiosity is a mortal sin. A quick perusal of search engine results for “mortal sins” brought me to a website about Thomas Aquinas. Oddly enough, curiosity wasn’t mentioned, although the various “sins” listed in the linked page could probably be forced to fit.

Therein lies the problem with the god-deluded pinheads among us: They are willing- nay, eager- to warp and twist their own “sacred” texts in order to force others to stop doing something which which the religiously indignant disagree. They never cry out against their own failings. Rather than following the teachings of their founders, those afflicted with the religion virus are determined to root out the motes in our eyes while ignoring the twenty-story cathedrals constructed from the beams in their own.

Ignorance is not bliss. The ignorant religious individual may in fact be blissful, but their contentment comes at the price of being raging dickheads to everyone not willing or able to violently campaign against the recognition of the real world about them. Some of Professor Griffith’s fellow religionists claim religious discrimination when they are prevented from discriminating against those with other religions (“We must punish the heretics for their blasphemy!” “Sorry, bub. Can’t let you do that.” “Why are you oppressing me?”). Their blissful ignorance is a plague upon our technological civilization. The religious are content to say, “I do not understand this, therefore it must be the work of God.” Fair enough. If you don’t want to learn more about our universe, that’s your privilege.

Unfortunately, this is not good enough for the god-botherers. Since they are too intellectually lazy to actually think, they demand that no one else be permitted to think, either. Given the power to do so, far too many supposedly god-fearing men and women would happily return all of humanity to the golden age of religious barbarism from millennium ago. “How dare you say that the Earth revolves around the sun?” “Sorry, bub. The evidence we’ve gathered shows pretty clearly …” “Blasphemy! Evidence means nothing when in conflict with the word of God! Burn the heretic!” When these dolts are regularly (and properly) ridiculed and derided because their anachronistic and autocratic demands bear no relation to consensus reality, they all too often set about trying to force reality into the grim little mold of their paranoid and archaic fantasies. In doing so, the religiously deluded manage to cause a great deal of harm to the society in which they reside. Sometimes they cause harm by destroying public discourse with their shrill refusal to accept anything less than total subjugation of the laws of physics to their nonsensical whims. Sometimes they do harm by infecting the political process of their home countries. Worst of all, some resort to violent action to destroy anyone who denies their faith.

I propose we wall off a portion of the planet- some relatively small, dismal, and unpleasant land which nobody really wants. Set armed guards about the place, to prevent the inmates from escaping. Any True believer who so desires may choose to enter this Reservation at any time after reaching voting age to practice his or her religion to their hearts’ content, but they will never be permitted to leave. Crusades, pogroms, jihads, infanticide, whatever they want to do to one another in the Reservation will be no concern to anyone on the outside. The rest of the planet can continue learning and growing, while the deity-diddlers can either shut up and go along for the ride or go to the Reservation for life.

Note that no one would be forced into Coventry for their beliefs. Anyone who wants to believe in a god or gods without trying to foist their delusions upon their neighbors will be permitted to join the rest of the world as we develop a better understanding of the universe. Any religious ass-hats who insist on trying to force others to believe as they do will be given the choice of shutting their yaps or getting sent to the Reservation.

This is not discrimination. This is self-defense. The religious pinheads are actively trying to destroy our civilization in favor of their theocratic despotism, and they aren’t even trying to conceal this. One of the candidates in the last US Presidential election publicly said he wanted his holy book to be the supreme law of the land, for just one example. These people have made no secret of the fact that they want to force everyone in this country to believe as they do- in every repellent aspect, and are therefore committing treason. They are the enemies of freedom, and the enemies of anyone who wants to think freely. I, for one, refuse to submit to the supposed mercies of religious zealots. Anyone who wishes to believe in a deity is free to do so until they try to force their beliefs on me. At that point, the religious dickheads have made themselves my enemy, to be dealt with as wolves are.

Here’s a little light reading on how ridiculous the god-botherers can get:

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said “Stop! don’t do it!” “Why shouldn’t I?” he said. I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” He said, “Like what?” I said, “Well…are you religious or atheist?” He said, “Religious.” I said, “Me too! Are you christian or buddhist?” He said, “Christian.” I said, “Me too! Are you catholic or protestant?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me too! Are you episcopalian or baptist?” He said, “Baptist!” I said,”Wow! Me too! Are you baptist church of god or baptist church of the lord?” He said, “Baptist church of god!” I said, “Me too! Are you original baptist church of god, or are you reformed baptist church of god?” He said,”Reformed Baptist church of god!” I said, “Me too! Are you reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1879, or reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915?” He said, “Reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915!” I said, “Die, heretic scum“, and pushed him off.

To those words of wisdom from Emo Phillips I will add a few words on the subject from several more prominent personages:

The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history. –Robert Heinlein

At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols. -Aldous Huxley

When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow. -Anais Nin

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. -Blaise Pascal

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality. -George Bernard Shaw

We must respect the other fellow’s religion,but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart. -H.L. Mencken

Man is the religious animal. He is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion– several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat, if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven. -Mark Twain

The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself. -Richard Francis Burton

All religions are the same:  religion is basically guilt, with different holidays. -Cathy Ladman

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.  -Seneca the Younger

I contend that we are both atheists.  I just believe in one fewer god than you do.  When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. -Stephen Roberts

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics. -Robert Heinlein

As for me, I am a heretic. I am an infidel, a nonbeliever. I speak fluent blasphemy. But I make no attempt to force the rest of the world to believe as I do. This puts me in mortal danger from the followers of various deities.

Bring it on.

Current status: Enraged

Current music: Smaointe by Loreena McKennitt

Prayer is not a substitute for ability

17 05 2009

Some time back, I wrote an extended rant about a girl who was allowed to die of diabetes. Her parents believed that she was under some sort of “spiritual attack”, and therefore decided to cure her with prayer. I asked then why we allow such pernicious superstition to exist, especially given the general antipathy of religious fundamentalists toward the science and technology which makes our civilization possible. I’m still waiting for an answer.

The parents are now on trial for the murder of their daughter, which gives me a few shreds of hope for rational thought in this country.

American citizens are awash in a sea of information, all readily available through a variety of channels. Internet, television, radio, free public libraries, newspapers, and even word-of-mouth can (and do) convey enormous amounts of data on demand. With so much knowledge readily available, there is no excuse for allowing a child to die from an easily-preventable illness. Worse still, when told specifically that treatment is available for their daughter’s illness, the parents instead chose prayer. This sort of willful disregard of reality can have lethal consequences. In this case, a thirteen year old girl died from it.

If an adult chooses to believe that prayer is the only acceptable answer to illness, that’s his or her choice (so long as the illness would not endanger others). Children are a different story. We- as a society- have deemed children to be incapable of making informed decisions on such matters. We permit the parents great latitude in making choices on their children’s behalf, under the assumption that the parents will make such decisions with the child’s best interests in mind. Somebody please tell me how it could be in Madeline Neumann’s best interest to die at age thirteen?

Such willful stupdity in the face of objective reality is dangerous to everyone. What if one of these god-deluded ass-hats contracted TB? Would they go about their regular daily lives, exposing averyone with whom they come in contact in the smug belief that their imaginary friend will make it all better?

I believe in live and let live. You can believe in whatever you want, so long as your beliefs do not affect those around you. You can believe in the Invisible Pink Unicorn, God, Allah, Kali, Amaterasu, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Odin, Hercules, Perkunas, Quetzalcoatl, or the Giant Space Goat to your heart’s content … as long as you don’t try to make me believe the same thing. Believe what you want- even if you want to believe I am a heathen- so long as you grant everyone else the same privilege and do no harm.

That do no harm bit is most important. To the religious fundamentalist, what happens here on Earth is secondary to what happens after death. Any atrocity committed here can be forgiven if it was inspired by their imaginary friend. The Neumanns allowed their child to die because they believed their Angry Invisible Skyman and his Zombie Offspring would take care of her illness. Far too many religious apologists have said, “Madeline is in a better place, now.” Really? This stupid platitude is part of the wider problem- essentially buying into the delusions of the fundamentalists by rationalizing their murderous beliefs. She’s in a “better place”? I’m reasonably certain it would be better for Madeline Neumann if she were still alive.

history of religionFar too many atrocities and tragedies are allowed to occur as a result of pandering to the deluded religionists among us. Too many children are allowed to die from treatable illnesses because their parents buy into the idea that prayer can cure all ills.

Prayer is not an acceptable substitute for ability … or reality.

Current status: Peeved

Current music: Cygnus X1, Book II by Rush

Tangled webs, etc.

10 11 2008

Can anyone tell me what is so dangerous about allowing homosexuals to get married? Before you answer, I categorically reject any so-called “explanation” based on scriptures of any religion.

While I’m waiting for an answer, let us delve a bit deeper into the morass. Why does any government entity in this country have to get involved in a religious ritual such as marriage? I’m pretty sure that is a direct violation of the Constitutional prohibition on establishment of religion. If you want to legally formalize a relationship with another person, the most the State (however defined) should have any control over is the legal paperwork (assigning heirs, acknowledgement of shared property rights, etc). The actual joing of two people need not involve religion in any way, shape, or form. If a legally united couple wants a religious ceremony, that is a separate issue between them and the religious venue of their choice. As far as the State is concerned, the signing of the legal documents should be all that matters.

That alone would put “paid” to this nonsense playing out in California. A bunch of religious extremists managed to get a simple majority of voters to agree to deny basic civil rights to a minority segment of the population. Astonishingly, 70% of black voters in California voted in favor of this. Historical context seems to have eluded those folks. Try re-wording Prop 8 to read that marriage is defined as a union between a white man and a white woman, and perhaps those black voters would understand the problem.

To his credit, the Governator seems to be trying to get this bullshit tossed out. The newly-passed Proposition 8 seems unlikely to pass Consitutional scrutiny in any case. I’m pretty sure the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution applies Federal Constitutional restrictions to the States. In other words, the States cannot override the US Constitution- regardless of whether or not it might be the “Will of the People”. The phrase vox populi, vox dei doesn’t really mean, “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” It actually means, “My God! How did we get into THIS mess?”

One cannot help but wonder why the historically liberal Californians voted to deny civil rights to a minority group. This is the same state Will Rogers famously described as being like a bowl of granola (what ain’t fruits and nuts is flakes). The state where certain cities passed ordnances levying fines against whomever might set off a nuclear weapon within city limits. The only colors that seemed to matter to people in California are blue (the state registers overwhelmingly Democrat because of the large populations in the south of the state) and green (money or eco-friendliness, take your pick). Apparently, however, they have a problem with pink.

How about minding your own damned business, California? If you don’t want to be homosexual, that’s your business. If your neighbor does, that’s his business. The reverse of both statements also apply. The fact that church groups get their panties in a bunch over the subject should serve to remind people that the Government has no business legislating morality. Period. Full stop.

I have heard some people claim that the majority of voters chose to approve Prop 8, and therefore it should become Law. Here’s a clue for those who say such tripe: Tyranny of the majority. back in the 1800’s, a majority of voters decided that human beings with black skin only counted as 3/5 of a person. Up until the early 1900’s, a majority of voters decided that women did not have the right to vote. There is a reason the founding fathers crafted their new nation as a republic.  The Founders clearly were concerned about allowing the majority to dictate laws injurious to the minority, and set the nation up to prevent that to the extent possible.

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. Guess what the voters in California are doing?


Current status: Irked

Current music: Boadicea by Enya

Alchemy, Astrology, and Other Nutty Ideas

26 10 2008

I wrote a rant recently, wherein I described a flier for some mail-order scam entitled, “Mastering Alchemy”. In a desperate attempt at self-preservation, my brain instinctively shut down and prevented me from seeing much more than that. One of my readers asked that I confront this stupidity in the interest of sacrificing my own mental well-being for the benefit of making others laugh. So be it.

Let it not be said that I failed to take precautions. Fortified by a magnificent buckwheat ale from Belgium, I commenced my research into the subject.

For those of you hazy on the details, here is the Wikipedia entry on Alchemy. Alchemy has the same relation to chemistry that astrology has to astronomy: not a whole lot. Alchemists in the Medieval period in Europe were trying to turn lead into gold, create life from unliving matter, and master the secrets of the universe- primarily through the “Far Side” scientific method (2 scientists standing in front of a chalkboard. Step one is a column of equations, and so is step three. Step two, however, says “then a miracle occurs”).

All of these goals of alchemy were noble enough. We do the same things now with nuclear physics, inorganic chemistry, and particle physics. The primary difference lies in the methodology. Alchemy relied upon communion with mythical creatures, learning the ancient secrets of leprechauns, and not infrequently massive doses of snake oil.

That last is the only connection I can find between historical alchemy and the scam being perpetrated under the name, “Mastering Alchemy”.

It turns out that the flier I saw was just part of a marketing scheme aimed squarely at the further reaches of the aluminum-foil deflector beanie crowd. Casual review of the web site for this garbage (please do not click on this link) elicits a great deal of pain (despite the analgesic effects of beer) from the notion that someone is making money from this lunacy. That means there are enough stupid people in this country to make this scam profitable. That’s enough to drive me to drink.

Here is an actual quote from the web site:

“Alchemy is accomplished by changing the frequency of thought,
altering the harmonics of matter and applying the elements of
Love to create the desired result.

Excuse me for a moment. I feel my gorge rising, and I think I’ll burn this keyboard after writing such drivel.

As scams go, this one is pretty small-time. The only good I can find in the idea of this con being successful is the fact that it is competing directly with some of the other great scams in history. I imagine that the target demographic for this nonsense is the same one eagerly sought out by evangelical christians, scientologists, and Obama supporters.

OK. That last wasn’t fair. Obama supporters have an actual living creature upon which to focus their adoration. Other than that, however, all three groups have a lot in common: They have a profound reluctance to accept contrary opinion, facts, and evidence; they all routinely accept whatever nonsense spills forth from their leaders; and they all tend to form insular micro-societies. I will grant that evangelicals and scientologists tend to go overboard in this regard in comparison to Obama supporters, so perhaps that isn’t a fair comparison either.

To allay fears that I am using this blog to promote McCainiacism, you may rest assured that I will do no such thing. When given a choice between a giant douche and a turd sandwich, I prefer to create my own choices. I refuse to promote or vote for either of the douchebags currently running for office. As I type these words, my wife is at the door telling some Obama campaign workers that we aren’t willing to drink their Kool-Aid.

Back to the so-called alchemists. Here is some more from the website:

  • Simultaneous Time
  • Balancing the Masculine and Feminine Aspects
  • Merging with the Soul
  • Merlin’s Crystal Ball
  • Activating the Higher Dimensional Chakra Systems
  • The Soul’s Purpose: Alignment with the Will of God
  • The Sanctuary of the Pink Diamond within the Heart
  • Creating with the Rays of Creation
  • Integrating Three of the Five Sacred Geometric Platonic Energy Fields
  • Creating a “Personal Power Field ”- an Energy Field of Light
  • Merging the Two Still Points into the Heart
  • Building the “Light Body” with the Blueprint of the Soul
  • Resurrection: Freeing the Soul to Go Home
  • Dissolving the Veils of Forgetfulness and Ignorance

Ugh! I feel dirty for putting that on my screen.

OK. At a casual glance, it seems that this bozo is grabbing bits and pieces of tripe from several different self-improvement scams and marketing it under the “Alchemy” banner. The only people who might fall for this are the same types that fall for any other religion/cult: nutjobs.

Here’s a better advertisement, more in line with “truth in advertising” laws:

Hi there! Are you bored? Angry? Disaffected? Unhappy? Are you the child of a rich white family? Do you believe in UFOs? Do you feel that something is missing from your life?

If so, please come and join our group. We will give you something to believe in for the low, low price of your dignity, self-respect, and all of the money in your trust fund. If you have no money, we will accept sexual favors and unpaid labor.”

That’s a lot more honest, and has the benefit of being usable by all religions with only minor editing.

Finally, I’m going to let you all in on a secret: Even as I type this, my wife is practicing alchemy in the kitchen. She’s taking flour, fruit, nuts, and sugar and turning them into cake. Last night, she took some meat, vegetables, spices, and water and turned it into a delicious soup.

That’s a religion I can believe in.

Current status: Drunk

Current music: Excalibur by Pain

Why does God need a starship?

12 08 2008

Humans have a series of deeply-ingrained reflexes as a result of our evolution. Most of the standard ethical beliefs (those held by every existing culture) are the result of this physical and cultural evolutionary process. If human mentation was not such a conscious process, these reflexes could convincingly be described as instincts. Most of the time, our conscious control of reflexive behavior is a good thing- it allows us to make (slightly) better decisions when the fight-or-flight reflex kicks in, for example. We can also (most of the time) control our natural primate curiosity under certain conditions.

A good example of nearly-universal human reflex behavior could be called the “Awwwwwwwww” reflex. At some point in our evolutionary background, it became a survival mechanism for humans to enjoy cute and cuddly creatures- even those of different species. Most humans like seeing puppies at play, for example. Note that there are a variety of theories about why this might have been a survival benefit which I won’t get into at the moment. Note also that this is not entirely universal among humans- just nearly so.

One reflexive human behavior which needs no great feat of logic to understand is the almost-atavistic urge to protect children. All successful human societies are based (at their core) on the premise, “Women and children first“. This is because individual humans have been physiologically and culturally indoctrinated to sacrifice themselves to preserve the species. This primal reflex is the basis for all morality. Women and children are any society’s only hope for survival. Morals derive from the instinct to survive. Moral behavior is survival behavior beyond the individual level.

All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly, which can—and must—be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a “perfect society” on any foundation other than “Women and children first!” is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly—and no doubt will keep on trying.- RAH

This is why those who prey upon children are so (justifiably) loathed- they have broken one of the basic compacts upon which society is based: Women and children first! Any creature so damaged as to violate this basic premise cannot be trusted to adhere to any of society’s fundamental principles. They are acting in a way that damages the survival potential of the group.

That brings me to the point of this particular rant. It seems that yet another group of religious wombats have crossed the line into counter-survival activities in the name of their imaginary friend. A christian fringe group called “1 Mind Ministries”, based in Baltimore, apparently starved a 19-month-old boy to death because he refused to say “amen” after dinner one night. According to the group’s imaginary friend, that made the child a demon, who had to be punished by withholding food and water. When the child died, the group’s leader claimed that “God would resurrect him” and kept the body around until it started to stink. At that point, the Leader burned the child’s clothing and the mattress on which the body had been placed, and the carcass was unceremoniously placed in a green suitcase- which was apparently sprayed with deodorant from time to time. Where was the boy’s mother during all of this? She meekly accepted the Word of God and held her son as he died. Nice of her.

A cynic might imagine that the decision to avoid medical care and hide the remains might have been motivated by more than religious fervor- such as the fact that the boy’s grandparents were filing suit to get custody of the child at around the time he died.

These people- all of the supposed “adults” in this religious group- have crossed the line. They have irrevocably broken one of humanity’s most fundamental survival rules in the Name of their Invisible Angry Skyman and his Jewish Zombie Offspring.  Their continued existence is a threat to the safety and well-being of all humans, everywhere. Yes, this sweeping statement specifically includes the boy’s so-called “mother”, despite the grandparents claim that she had been led astray by the “cult”.

Hey, grandma and grandpa! I have a clue for you: anyone who allows their 19-month-old child to be starved to death has not been “led astray”. She had to have been a willing participant in the death of her child. As such, she deserves death.

I doubt anyone with religious beliefs reads anything I write. If you are reading this and happen to be religious, ask yourself why your God or Gods allow this sort of thing to happen. Ask yourself why your priest/pastor/rabbi says or does what he/she does- is it because their imaginary friend told them to do so?
If your God or Gods are supposed to be so much better than mere humans, why does his/their actions so closely resemble the worst in humanity? Why is so much unadulterated Evil committed in the name of your imaginary-friend-of-choice?

For everyone else, ask yourself, “Why do we permit these lunatics to continue with their patently contra-survival behavior?” Every religious text I have ever read is filled with the most despicable acts committed by, for, in the name of, or at the request of some deity or another. When will we- as a species- throw off the yoke of superstitions which demand we act in ways that undermine our civilization? To paraphrase a certain rug-wearing actor in a horrible movie, “Why does God need a starship?

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: Squirrel Songs II by Foamy

The Unbearable Green-ness of Being

22 06 2008

Lo, these many moons ago, the big buzzword was “mega“. This was followed by “turbo” and “laser” and a whole host of others. Now we have a new buzzword: “green“.

You can tell when a buzzword has officially arrived when everyone and his Madison Avenue Marketroid is flogging their product and/or service with the word. And so it is today. Everything is green these days- even when it ain’t.

I have no problem with people wanting to buy cars which get better fuel economy. So long as the pursuit of fuel efficiency does not sacrifice things like safety or functionality, this is simply a logical reaction to the rising cost of fuel. That said, I am continually bemused by the fact that many of these so-called “green” vehicles don’t actually get very good mileage.

Because of various and sundry physical infirmities, I drive a Buick. It’s a large behemoth with all the bells and whistles, and yet I get 23 MPG in town and 33 MPG on the highway. Please compare these figures with the latest so-called “green” vehicles being flogged by the various auto makers. I’ll wait.

A casual perusal of ads on TV reveals a lot of vehicles being declared “green” with advertised fuel efficiency far worse than my 4 year old Buick. Furthermore, many of these “green” vehicles are tiny little plastic boxes which tend to fare poorly in collisions due to the Law of Gross Tonnage- unlike my car, which gets very good ratings from the Insurance Institute.

I am also continually disgusted by the average environmentalist’s complete ignorance of engineering. Those little econoboxes which are the darlings of the environmental movement for their fuel economy are generally less safe than larger vehicles and are manufactured with large quantities of plastic. For those of you who might now be foaming at the mouth in outrage at my words, plastic is made from petroleum. Those little green cars aren’t all that green after all.

I think electric cars are kinda neat. It’s really cool to watch someone get into a car and drive away with only a slight buzz from the motor and the crunch of their tires on pavement. That said, I won’t be buying one anytime soon. I’m an engineer, and I know that the batteries in those vehicles will need to be replaced one day, and the cost of battery replacement will probably exceed the cost of buying a new vehicle. They may be fuel efficient, but are not cost-efficient in the long run.

Here’s what it will take to get a lot more electric vehicles on the roads:

1- They will have to be less expensive than the equivalent gas guzzler- both long and short term.

2- They will need to be capable of recharging quickly and cheaply.

3- They will need to be capable of maintaining highway speeds for more than 200 miles without needing a recharge.

Battery technology is currently not capable of delivering these requirements. Batteries will need to become lighter, less toxic, and cheap.

This constant push by environmentalists to “go green” has a tendency to backfire. Preaching at Americans isn’t very effective- especially when it would cost them money. If you want to get Americans to change, don’t appeal to their love of nature. Don’t try to frighten them into believing the End of the World is Nigh! The best way to get a response from Americans is to appeal to their self-interest.

There are a lot of ways the average person in this country can be more environmentally friendly that do not involve dramatic changes in lifestyle or adherence to unproven science. Keep your car in good repair. Keep your tires properly inflated. Car-pool when possible. Plan your driving to reduce travel time and redundant trips. Buy an electronic thermostat for your home to reduce energy consumption. Once Americans figure out how to get more out of their paycheck, the changes start happening.

The current frenzy of “green” advertising has convinced me that the Environmental Extremists have lost. Once the Marketroids get their hands on a concept, it will quickly and permanently be warped and twisted until every last penny has been wrung from it, after which the concept will be discarded. The religion of Environmentalism will start to fragment into orthodox and reform camps- each of which will be more interested in destroying the other than in the core tenets of their religion.

Maybe then we can start listening to some sane people about the environment. Someone like Bjorn Lomborg. I have to admit that my primary reason for liking Mr. Lomborg is the fact that Environmentalists start screeching and foaming at the mouth whenever his name is mentioned. Then I read some of his work and listened to him talk. I think he makes a lot of sense.

But what do I know? I’m just an engineer.

Current status: Not “Green”

Current music: Asshole Song by Dennis Leary

Let There Be Light …

31 05 2008

As you know (“you” indicating the four or five people who regularly read this tripe), I find a great deal of mirth in shooting at sacred cows. One of my favorite things in life is to heap scorn upon the inexcusably stupid and to mock and belittle those with closed minds and a smug sense of superiority. I am especially fond of demolishing the sense of superiority among those who are profoundly undeserving of that attitude- most of them, in other words.

In general, I find that people who believe themselves to be superior are trying desperately to convince themselves. These are the folks who insist that black is white, up is down, and that the Emperor is fully clothed in the face of all evidence to the contrary because believing otherwise would somehow destroy the cozy little fictional universe they have created for themselves.

Pointing out that the Emperor is not, in fact, wearing any clothes is the duty of everyone whose brain cells are not obliged to make long-distance calls to communicate. Inexcusably stupid statements demand to be called out for what they are, and those making such statements should be verbally destroyed in public to (hopefully) teach them to engage their brains before removing the brakes on their mouths in the future.

Unfortunately, this only works with actual facts. As an engineer, I like facts. Facts are backed up by actual evidence and reproducible results. In other words, empirical data and objective evidence. These are the tools of rational thinking and the scientific method.

These are not the tools of faith and religion. There are a great many people on this planet who profess a belief in one deity or another who are fine people- good to their families, generous to the poor, and generally good citizens in every sense of the word. In spite of their mania, these people are generally not bad sorts to have around, invite over for a barbecue, lift a few glasses with, or date.

Sadly, a small but vocal minority of these people are wingnuts and whackjobs of the first water. When it comes to closed minds and undeserved senses of superiority, these people have it in spades. Since actual evidence for the existence of their Angry Invisible Skyman is not available, they refuse to believe that evidence to the contrary has any meaning. The scientific method demands proof and reproducible results before stating facts. These people of faith cannot produce proof, evidence, or reproducible results for any of their beliefs, so the scientific method must go. This sort of blinkered, philistine pig-ignorance leads to atrocities in the name of Angry Invisible Skyman.

Whenever possible, religious zealots try to enact their stupidities into law. This often leads to serious problems (pogroms, Inquisitions, Crusades, rebellions, massacres, etc), and always leads to manifold stupidities.

In a great many television shows, for example, the word god is bleeped out. Even when combined into goddamn, god gets deleted while damn is left alone. It is censored on almost every network. WTF? The god fetishists claim that it is wrong to take god’s name in vain. Last time I looked, the name of the deity christians, jews, and muslims worship is not god. It’s either Jehovah, Yahweh, El, or Allah (depending on which flavor of Angry Invisible Skyman you’re into). God is simply a title. Why not censor president, chairman, officer, or mayor, if you’re going to censor titles? Quite aside from the stupidity of forcing everyone within range of the television broadcasts to comply with one religion’s beliefs, this is just wrong on its face- even going by the god fetishists’ own rules.

A similar bit of stupidity has cropped up regarding images of the muslim prophet, Mohammed. Even according to the muslim sacred texts, Mohammed is not to be worshipped. But the fact that a couple of Danish cartoonists drew pictures of this historical figure sparked riots, death threats, and a great deal of general unpleasantness. Again, aside from the asinine attempt to make everyone comply with one religion’s beliefs, this isn’t even one of those beliefs. Ditto for a Wikipedia entry showing contemporary drawings- by muslim artists, no less- of Mohammed.

This sort of thing is stupid. I have a low tolerance for stupidity, but when someone wants to force me to practice their stupidity, I start looking around for a weapon. When someone screams that I must say, “Peace be upon him” after naming Mohammed, I promptly invite them to eat a bowl of dicks. If they persist, I like to throw pork at them and show them the bottoms of my shoes. When people shriek that I cannot speak the name of a certain zombie jew, I take a great deal of pleasure informing them that the man’s name was not Jesus, it was most likely Yehoshua or Joshua ben Yosef. I also enjoy reminding them that christ is another title- in this case Greek. This sort of thing gets the religious dumb-asses all spun up- every time.

Another persistently annoying batch of idiots are those who insist that the bible is the literal word of their god. Really? I’m pretty sure that English didn’t evolve as a language until the Middle Ages, and I’m absolutely certain that the authors of the original documents did not write in English. The original semitic languages did not have written characters for vowel sounds. The vowel sounds were inferred from context- thus YEHOSHUA would actually have been written as YHSH (actually HSHY, since the semitic languages are and were written from right to left). So if a Greek translator (for example) were trying to transcribe the original documents (more likely copies of copies of the originals), he would have to guess at the meaning unless he had the assistance of a native speaker who could also read. Since those people were generally the religious classes, this sort of help was unlikely to be forthcoming. Even assuming that the translator could speak as well as the natives and had no personal agenda to follow, the mere act of translation involves a great deal of approximation. I use this argument whenever some god-fetishist refuses to go away and insists on trying to “convert” me. It happens more often than you’d think.

Mind you, I don’t go out of my way (most of the time), to say and do these things. I rarely have to seek out the religiously stupid- they take the time and trouble to find me. If they continue to pester me after I’ve told them to go away, then I have no problem with abusing them to the greatest extent possible. Pointing out the ignorance and stupidity of the willfully ignorant and stupid is not impolite or cruel, it is a necessity. It is also a survival mechanism for our civilization. Allowing outspoken stupidity to go unchallenged is to be complicit in its ascendancy. I, for one, will not be a party to the destruction of our civilization and society at the hands of the religious barbarians in our midst.

Current status: Disgruntled

Current music: Pachelbel’s Canon in D