Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Intelligence and support for Bush

I thought it might be interesting to look at two different sets of numbers. One is the approval ratings for George Bush for each state. The other set of numbers is the average IQ for residents of the state. Is there a correlation? I will have three columns below. The first is the name of the state then we have the approval rating for Bush and the third column is the average IQ in that state. The states are sorted by their approval rating from highest to lowest.

Idaho 59% 87
Utah 59% 87
Wyoming 53% 89
Mississippi 50% 85
Oklahoma 49% 90
Nebraska 48% 95
Alaska 47% 98
Alabama 46% 90
Louisiana 45% 90
Georgia 45% 92
South Dakota 45% 90
Indiana 45% 94
Texas 44% 92
Montana 43% 90
North Dakota 43% 92
Kansas 43% 96
West Virginia 42% 93
North Carolina 42% 93
Tennessee 42% 94
South Carolina 41% 89
Kentucky 41% 92
Washington 41% 102
New Mexico 40% 92
Arkansas 40% 92
Arizona 40% 94
Colorado 40% 99
Oregon 40% 99
Nevada 39% 99
Virginia 39% 100
Missouri 38% 98
Minnesota 38% 102
Florida 37% 98
Hawaii 37% 106
Ohio 36% 99
Iowa 35% 99
Wisconsin 36% 100
New Hampshire 36% 105
Maine 35% 100
Pennsylvania 34% 101
California 33% 101
Michigan 32% 99
Maryland 32% 105
Connecticut 32% 113
Illinois 31% 104
Massachusetts 31% 111
New Jersey 30% 111
Vermont 29% 102
Delaware 29% 103
New York 27% 109
Rhode Island 26% 107

Of the 10 states with the highest approval rating for Bush the average IQ is a sliver over 90. Of the 10 states with the lowest approval rating for Bush the average IQ was a bit over 106. That’s a difference of 16 IQ points.

Only four states have average IQs below 90 and all four gave Bush approval ratings over 50%. These four states gave Bush his highest ratings and were the four states with the lowest levels of average intelligence.

Only three states have an average IQ over 110 and all of them gave Bush approval ratings in the low 30s.

You can also look at it this way. Of the states with approval ratings over 50% none had an average IQ over 90. Of those with approval ratings over 40%, but below 50%, only one state had an average IQ over 100. That was Washington were the approval rating is not far from slipping below 40%.

There are 23 states where Bush’s approval rating is below is 40% and all of them, but six, have an average IQ over 100. Of the six that are below 100 the lowest average is 98.

Roughly half the states (27) give Bush an approval rating over 40%. Of those 27 only one has an average IQ over 100. Of the 23 states where Bush’s approval rating is below 40% only six have average IQs below 100 and none of them fall under 98.

Draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Watch makers and god

Christians periodically push the old “watchmaker” story as a justification for God. They think William Paley invented the argument but he didn’t.

Cicero was discussing it almost 2,000 years earlier. Cicero argued: “When you see a sundial or a water-clock, you see that it tells the time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence, when it embraces everything, including these artefacts themselves and their artificers?”

William Paley took the idea and ran with it in his book “Natural Theology”. Basically you have an argument for the existence of god from analogy. In the story you stumble on a watch on the ground. From its intricate design and functions you determine that it had a watch maker. Man is intricate and from his design you can see that he must have a watch maker as well, or a deity.

Now others have dismantled this argument fairly well. All one need do is show a non-creative argument for the existence of the watch. Or in this case one need only show that there are plausible means for the watch to come into existence. When we realise that we are discussing man, and we find other plausible reasons for existence, the analogy falls. Charles Darwin had been convinced of the existence of god based on this analogy. But he later wrote: “The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection had been discovered."

I would like to look at this watch maker argument from another perspective. In the analogy there is a watch and thus a watch maker. From that we are to conclude that man has a creator god. Lots of Christians in particular find this persuasive. And for many this is about as rigourous a debate in logic that they have experienced.

But I see a very fatal flaw in this argument. This analogy rests on two assumptions. In the first we have the watch and a watch maker. The watch is a thing of intricate complexity thus requiring a watch maker. To make the analogy the watch is converted into a man and the man who created the watch is converted into a god.

The analogy is actually arguing that this watch maker of the first part becomes the watch in the second part and that he needed a watch maker.

The watch maker of the first part of the analogy himself needs a watch maker to explain his presence. That is what they are trying to do after all: to prove that man was created by some divine watch maker. So their analogy has a human watch maker who must exist due to the complexity of the watch he created. In the analogy the watch maker is then made into a watch himself to argue that the human watch maker had a divine watch maker explaining his existence in the same way the human watch maker explained the existence of the watch.

The watch maker, who becomes the watch, needs a god to explain his existence. Like the watch, man is complex and intricately designed. In fact he is far more intricately made that even Paley assumed. He didn’t know the half of it.

Everyone sees the analogy between the watch in the first half and the human in the second. But they gloss over something. The watch maker in the first half is not the watch maker in the second half he instead becomes the watch. They assume that the watch maker in the first half himself needs to be explained but they refuse to explain the watch maker in the second par.

The logical process looks something like this.

Watch requires human creator.
Human is now seen as watch.
Human thus needs watch maker.

But if the watch maker in the first half is converted to a watch in the second half then why stop there? Why not assume that the watch maker of the second half merely becomes a watch for an additional chain of argumentation? Why does the argument have to end here?

Thus the process would be like this:

Watch requires human creator.
Human is now viewed like the watch.
Human thus needs watch maker #2 (God).
Watch maker #2 is now seen as a grander watch.
He thus needs watch maker #3 as well.

And it goes on and on.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Throw them to the lions? Hardly.

I recently wrote of the high pitched whine that is coming from the Protestant Taliban a.k.a. fundamentalists.

The complaint is that they are being discriminated against. But they sometimes go much further. David Limbaugh, whose claim to fame is his brother is the Right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, has written a book that takes the whine to a fever pitch.

His title indicates far more than discrimination—which when directed against homosexuals is something conservatives love—he titled his book: “Persecution: How Liberals are Waging War Against Christianity.”

Now I sometimes think it important to double check word meanings. It struck me that “persecution” is a very strong word indeed. Far stronger than the claim of discrimination. So I checked the meaning just to make sure I wasn’t off on this. “Persecution: punishment or harassment usually of a severe nature...” That’s pretty strong.

And if you don’t miss the hyperbole in the title the subtitle tells you that liberals are “waging war” on Christianity.

Now what precisely are liberals, secularists, humanists, atheists, etc doing to war this war? Are they lobbing hand grenades at the poor people on their knees in prayer? Are they locking the doors of churches with the congregation inside and burning the church down?

It seems that a big section of Limbaugh’s book complains that Christians are not being granted state subsidies in one form or another to push their beliefs on others against their will. In other words they are being persecuted because the law doesn’t allow them to use funds taken by force from everyone to be used to push their ideas.

Take the prayer in school issue. Schools are government mandated programs. Children are required to be placed there. State laws usually allow the police to arrest parents who are not sending their children to such schools. And they are funded with money taken from everyone whether they like it or not.

He starts his whine complaining about a high school graduation where some students wanted to promote their religion on the entire audience. This graduation is paid for by taxpayers and as such it should not be used to promote private religious beliefs. Some of the born again types insisted on doing this anyway and in the end a judge had to tell them that if they use a taxpayer funded meeting to promote their religion they would be arrested.

The judge told them this applied to all religions equally. No one religion was being singled out. Limbaugh doesn’t care. He still sees this as persecution of Christians. His reasoning is unique but not atypical of conservatives. He wrote: “while the court’s language was nominally directed toward prayers of all religions, in reality it was targeted solely at Christian prayer, because it was the only kind at issue.”

It was the only kind under discussion because no other group was attempting to use the graduation to promote their religious beliefs. Since no one else was trying to hijack a public school graduation for private religious purposes Limbaugh sees that as “targeted solely” at Christians.

That’s bizarre logic. If some other minority tried to do this imagine the whine from the conservatives. Let us say that a group of black students are playing rap music rather loudly in the school cafeteria. The school announces a policy that says no loud music in the cafeteria of any kind. The students then claim the school is waging war on African Americans and is racist. The regulation has nothing to do with race nor does it single out one type of music. But since the only students playing loud music at the time were black then the school must be racist.

Now if that scenario took place the Right would be shrieking about “political correctness” and how the school has the right to regulate disturbing interruptions of the school atmosphere. And they would very quickly and very rightly point out that such a regulation is not racist at all. But when the same type of thing happens and pushy Christians are the one’s being stopped they see this as persecution and war.

Now the public schools are a problem and will always be a problem. Coercive education always creates some conflicts needlessly. And it can be difficult to decide where to draw the lines.

Clearly a school assembly that offers prayers is promoting the idea of a deity and if it offers prayers to Jesus or in his name then it promotes Christian religion in particular. But where does the line get drawn? Does this apply to students who pray before they eat?

Trying to decide where the public ends and the private begins is not an easy process. The net result is that there can be confusion and inconsistent policies. And it means the schools can sometimes overstep the boundaries. Of course once state coercion is removed from the equation this boundary is far more clear and obvious.

Now if schools had large numbers of Muslims wanting to pray to Allah and honor his prophet Mohammed then the Christians were be out of kilter over that. And rightfully so?

Drawing the lines is not easy. But a state funded institution or assembly should not be used for the benefit of private religious beliefs. The best solution is removing the state funding entirely. This is one reason that at private Christian schools you don’t hear anything about lawsuits over forced prayers. The conflict is gone.

But unless and until that happens the line has to be drawn and it can take years before the process is done is such a way that clear and fair demarcations are drawn.

For instance if the school allows students to form clubs on campus then it should allow any clubs. So if a school bans a Christian club I think it has over stepped the boundary. Limbaugh thinks so too. So do most born again types. On the other hand when the school stops a “Gay Straight Alliance” from forming they applaud that.

And this is precisely what is going on in Provo, Utah right now. Students at Provo High School want to form a Gay-Straight Alliance and local conservatives want them stopped. This attempt would violate the Equal Access Act which says that schools can’t discriminate against non-curriculum clubs based on the views they hold.

Obviously this was passed by some raving Left-wing liberal, commie humanist. Not really. It was proposed by Utah’s Mormon conservative Senator, Orrin Hatch. His purpose was to make sure that public schools allowed Christian groups to form on campus and to forbid them from removing them from campus merely due to their viewpoint.

So when it looked necessary to use the law to allow Christians groups on campus the conservatives had no hesitation in using them. Yet at the state level in Utah conservatives passed a law banning school clubs that discuss sexuality. The Provo School District wants to know if the state attorney general will defend that law before the state Supreme Court. So it appears that if he says he would that they would then ban the gay group on that basis. For the time being the club can meet but a faculty adviser must be present to stop any discussion of sex or sexuality outside of marriage. Utah actually has a law attempting to ban the promotion of sex outside marriage! On the other hand if the students discussed gay sex within marriage I’m sure the Right would scream this is promoting gay marriage and undermining the family. Silly twits!

Right-wing nuts formed a “Standard of Liberty Foundation” which is against liberty! And like Limbaugh they exaggerate grossly. They say allowing a gay straigh alliance “involves the entire nation”. Conservatives can be such drama queens! They argue the club must be banned to protect students from “being recruited into homosexuality.”

Standard of Liberty says their purpose is to “fight the radical homosexual movement” and to the “dangers to our way of life posed by other anti-God activist movements”. They are “run by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and there to uphold the traditional family. I wonder how many of them are descended from polygamous

Don’t expect David Limbaugh to write a sequel about this story. Conservatives simply are not advocates of equal liberty for all. They do not believe in using state power to impose their will on others. And in the end they are not hesitant to use violence. After all a law forbidden discussing sex means it is enforced by men with guns called policemen. In no one believes me watch what happens if the group discusses sex and refuses to stop when ordered to do so. Regulating student clubs based on content is fine with Christians as long as they can decide who gets regulated. Hypocrites!

Monday, November 21, 2005

One Baptist I appreciate

Back in university I stumbled across an arcane collection of the works of John Leland. Leland was an interesting fellow who lived from 1754 to 1841. He was a Baptist minister and a staunch Jeffersonian. As a Jeffersonian liberal he opposed the theocrats of his day and demanded total separation of church and state. In 1801 the people of Cheshire, Massachusetts wanted to celebrate the election of Jefferson. To do so they produced a mammoth cheese which they wanted to bestow on the new President.

Leland, in spite of Jefferson’s opposition to the supernatural elements of the Christian religion, was happy to accompany the cheese on it’s journey and present it to the president himself. He referred to Jefferson as “my hero”. Leland knew that Jefferson was despised by the Religious Right of his day because he was not a Christian. He made jest of those who predicted disaster if Jefferson won the presidency. “When Mr. Jefferson was elected president, the pulpits rang with alarms, and the presses groaned with predictions, that the Bibles would all be burned; meeting-houses destroyed; the marriage bonds dissolved, and anarchy, infidelity and licentiousness would fill the land. These clerical warnings and editorial prophecies all failed. Instead thereof, during his administration, the national debt was reduced $40,000,000; the internal taxes taken off; the vast territory of the west was added to the United States, and every man sat quietly under his vine and fig tree, enjoying the freedom of his religion and the attachment of his wife and children.”

Since he is pretty unknown still I thought I’d share some of his words.

"The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever...Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians."

“Let it suffice on this head to say, that it is not possible in the nature of things to establish religion by human laws without perverting the design of civil law and oppressing the people.”

“ If government can answer for individuals at the day of judgement, let men be controlled by it in religious matters; otherwise let men be free.”

‘ Is it the duty of a deist to support that which he believes to be a cheat and imposition? Is it the duty of the Jew to support the religion of Jesus Christ, when he really believes that he was an impostor? Must the papist be forced to pay men for preaching down the supremacy of the pope, whom they are sure is the head of the church? Government has no more to do with the religious opinions of men than it has with the principles of mathematics.”

“. Disdain mean suspicion, but cherish manly jealousy; be always jealous of your liberty, your rights. Nip the first bud of intrusion on your constitution. Be not devoted to men; let measures be your object, and estimate men according to the measures they pursue. Never promote men who seek after a state-established religion; it is spiritual tyranny--the worst of despotism. It is turnpiking the way to heaven by human law, in order to establish ministerial gates to collect toll. It converts religion into a principle of state policy, and the gospel into merchandise. Heaven forbids the bans of marriage between church and state; their embraces therefore, must be unlawful. Guard against those men who make a great noise about religion, in choosing representatives. It is electioneering. If they knew the nature and worth of religion, they would not debauch it to such shameful purposes. If pure religion is the criterion to denominate candidates, those who make a noise about it must be rejected; for their wrangle about it, proves that they are void of it. Let honesty, talents and quick despatch, characterise the men of your choice. Such men will have a sympathy with their constituents, and will be willing to come to the light, that their deeds may be examined. . . .”

‘government is founded on compact. ... every law made by legislators, inconsistent with the compact, modernly called a constitution, is usurping in the legislators, and not binding on the people.”

“... Bible Christians, and Deists, have an equal plea against self-named Christians, who (because they are void of the spirit, and ignorant of the precepts of the gospel) tyranize over the consciences of others, under the specious garb of religion and good order.”

“It was left for the United States of North America, to give the example to the world; to draw the proper line between church and state, religion and politics. ... To say that the government of the United States is perfect, would be arrogant; but I have no hesitancy in saying, that the Constitution has left religion infallibly where it should be left in all government, viz: in the hands of its author, as a matter between God and individuals; leaving an open door for Pagans, Turks, Jews or Christians, to fill any office in the government, without any religious test, to make them hypocrites; securing to every man his right of argument and free debate: not considering religious opinions objects of civil government, or any ways under its control: duly appreciating that Christianity is not a scheme of coercion ...”

“The work of the legislature is to make laws for the security of life, liberty and property, and leave religion to the consciences of individuals .”

“How undeniable the fact, that civil government is not founded on Christianity.”

“Christianity... has suffered more injury by its pretended friends, who have undertaken to regulate it by law, than it has from all its enemies.”

“What leads legislators into this error, is confounding sins and crimes together -- making no difference between moral evil and state rebellion: not considering that a man may be infected with moral evil, and yet be guilty of no crime, punishable by law. If a man worships one God, three Gods, twenty Gods, or no God -- if he pays adoration one day in a week, seven days or no day -- wherein does he injure the life, liberty or property of another? Let any or all these actions be supposed to be religious evils of an enormous size, yet they are not crimes to be punished by laws of state, which extend no further, in justice, than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.”

This quote is particularly interesting I think in that Leland anticipates an argument made later by the great deist libertarian Lysander Spooner in his essay “Vices are Not Crimes.”. Spooner was born in 1808 and also lived in Massachusetts and I’ve wondered if he was familiar with Leland. But Leland made this point in 1794 while Spooner’s famous essay was only penned in 1875.

Leland opposed any religious test for office holders saying such tests only “keep from office the best of men” since villains have no scruples and will happily pretend to be religious in order to gain power. Leland said that office holders needed to be good men and “let him worship one God, twenty Gods, or no God---be he Jew, Turk, Pagan or Infidel, he is eligible to any office in the State.”

Leland’s grave stone reads: “Here lies the body of John Leland, who labored 67 years to promote piety and vindicate the civil and religious rights of all men.”

I am in the middle of doing an essay on the ideas of Leland. He was religious but he was also a lover of liberty. Such love of liberty is rare among the “faithful” and when found it should be supported. Unfortunately Leland would today be shunned by the very faith he did so much to promote.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Are fundamentalists just victims?

The fact is that born-againers are not just power hungry theocrats but a whiny bunch as well. They think they are unjustly being discriminated against. They look for such cases to publicize how they are being picked upon by evil secular humanists.

Often they seem to forget that when a gay man or lesbian says they are discriminated against that they have sided with the discriminator arguing that people shouldn’t have to “endorse” lifestyles of which they disapprove. Apparently that right to discriminate doesn’t apply when fundamentalist mental cases are the objects of one’s dislike.

Another form of “discrimination” that they whine about is the inability to use state funding to promote their own religion. Government schools have a captured audience. Mandatory attendance laws hardly make state controlled education a free choice. That many, if not most, parents would still send their kids does not eradicate the fact that students HAVE to be there. It is not voluntary. Neither is funding this state controlled institutions. It takes funds from everyone.

As a coercive state institution it would certainly be rubbing salt into the wounds if it could also ram the mythological fairy tales of religious nutters down throats of the students. It is not discrimination to deny fundamentalists access to state funded institutions when they wish to preach their message to the saner segments of society.

Often they whine about cases where discrimination either doesn’t exist or is actually warranted. Take the case now moving through the courts where a bunch of born-again types whine that state universities in California are discriminating against them.

A group of fundamentalist troglodytes claim, according to the New York Times, that the university system
”discriminates against students from evangelical Christian schools, especially faith-based ones like Calvary Chapel Christian School...” The whine is so high-pitched as to be annoying.

Notice carefully how only the fundies are allegedly the target of the supposed discrimination. Odd that these secular humanist agnostic, atheist, liberal, humanist, worshippers of the Devil, don’t apparently discriminate against other types of Christians. Their only alleged targets are the young martyrs of the American Taliban.

You would think that such minions of the Anti-Christ would be picking on Lutherans and Catholics as well. But apparently not. But then if you check with the fundamentalists they don’t think Catholics are Christians at all and they are very unsure of the Lutherans as well. One of the oddities of God, one among many alas, is that he apparently only revealed his true version of Christianity to a movement that grew out of uneducated, backwood's, hillbillies who were barely literate—if that much. Supposedly God revealed himself in a book written in Greek two millenniums ago in the Middle East. But the modern purveyors of the “gospel truths” are people who can hardly speak English and who aren’t even sure where the country of Greek is located.

The really funny ones are those who insist that only the King James version of the New Testament is inspired by God. Apparently God didn’t want to reveal his Word until 1611 and then picked the gay monarch of England as his vessel. But I digress.

According to these members of the Church of the Eternal Whinge born-again students suffer from “viewpoint discrimination”. They claim this is because universities “have refused to certify several of the school’s courses on literature, history, social students and science that use curriculums and textbooks with a Christian viewpoint.”

Remember this are the same idiots who think Genesis is a biology text!

Now I confess that I am a refugee from a Christian, fundamentalist high school. When I graduated I needed to take a GED test to prove I had the ability to think and had some education. I scored in the top 5% so I did well enough thank you. But it wasn’t because of the rubbish courses at that Baptist high school. It was because I read widely and could think.

What it comes down to is this. Each university sets a requirement for what kinds of courses one needs to have passed before applying for admission. A bunch of Bible-belters sitting around, holding hands, and praying for the second coming is not a class. Bible hermeneutics is not a recognized course. A course on the symbols of the Book of Revelations is not accepted. Genesis masquerading as science is not science no matter how often or loudly they claim it is.

And the courses that are not getting accepted are thinly veiled theology courses meant to teach a blinkered, inaccurate fundamentalist view of the world. Instead of basic history they get “Christianity’s Influence in American History; Christianity and the American Republic; Christianity and Morality in American Literature and biology texts from fundamentalist backwaters like Bob Jones University.

In fact the Bob Jones text didn’t even pretend to be anything but a fundamentalist diatribe. It said: “The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second.” Remember this was supposedly a science book which makes science it's secondary concern!

So the chorus of whingers lament their plight. Their theology courses don’t get to count for credit as science courses. Their religious indoctrination classes don’t count as history courses. And they say that’s not fair. These are the same people who lament the decline of “standards” in America. Now they want any course that they stick together to count equally with real educational courses.

They are calling for the obliteration of all academic standards. If they say theology is science then who are the universities to disagree? A spokeswoman for the universities responded well: “This is not a viewpoint issue for us. Teach whatever you want. We don’t want to be in the position of dictating what is taught. But we do have a right to set standards for admission, and ours are not unreasonable requirements.” Sounds reasonable but then she is no doubt some Devil-worshipping, Jesus-hating secular humanist. Or worse! She could be Catholic. Or, God forbid, she could be, you know, Jewish!

Calvary Chapel Christian Schools is religious. That’s fine but they put their theology before learning. As they say on their web site: “CCCS is first and foremost a Christian school, which seeks to provide our student population with a Biblical world view.” So everything is interpreted through this world view much the way their science text puts science second!

In a Wall Street Journal article on the same law suit one student at this incubator for Christians said he didn’t want to go to a private Christian university because a Christian college wouldn’t challenge him enough. “I want to be in a setting where I can stand up for what I believe in and not back down.” Bizarre actually. You’d think he could that at a Christian school.

I think back to the rubbish I got at a fundie high school. I had history courses that were teaching far Right conspiracy theory. We didn’t have science course since who needed them anyway. And in one course the principle of the school argued for the genetic inferiority of blacks.

Calvary Chapel claims that one of their theology books was rejected for a course (that is rejected only in the sense that the course doesn’t count for admission to university) because it “truthfully explored our nation’s Christian roots.” The US can hardly be said to have Christian roots and even fundamentalists like Gary North admit that.

I went to the high schools web page. They have a section called “What We Believe”. So what does this school believe? I thought I’d find something about the role of education in a student’s life, why understanding the world around them is important or something along that line. But nope! Not a mention about the importance of education or the role of education at all.

We get that they believe the Bible to be “plenary, verbally inspired by God, inerrant in the original writings and the supreme and final authority in faith and life.” We get the trinity doctrine and a litany about who they think Jesus was. They tell us “all men are corrupted in body, mind, and spirit.” And that they believe in a “pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.” That’s the scary Tim LaHaye crap about anti-Christ and plagues and torment. In fact one of their history "texts" is written by Tim LaHaye.

I tried a page they have on “academics” thinking maybe something about the importance of rational thought and education might be found there. Nope! It says they offer “a curriculum rooted in a God-centered view of life” which “holds that God’s World is the standard for all truth.” Their teachers are “qualified Christian faculty” who teach courses “consistent with the Christ-centered teaching received at home and at church.”

I found a section entitled “Philosophy of Education” but it didn’t say much about the education at all. It starts out repeating their theology and said all their goals are based on the Bible and their “primary goal is to assure the salvation of all of our students.” Stupid secularists think the primary goal of a school is to educate. Not at all. The school is “an extension of the church.”

I did find that they don’t “discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin” when it comes to their admissions or other programs. But there is something very odd about their non-discrimination clause. They left out one area complete. They do not make any reference to not discriminating on the basis of religion.

Wow! Does this mean that they do discriminate on the basis of religion? And isn’t that the very thing they are whining about in their law suit? Well to get into the school each student must submit a reference from their pastor. And the form requires the pastor to report on the religious life of the student. It wants to know if the students parents are members of the church and if they active in the church. It asks the pastor to report how often the parents attend church and “Which members of the family are born again Christians?” “Does the applicant participate in any church activities?”

And it checks up on the pastor doing the recommending to make sure he is a fundamentalist. It asks him to verify that he believes in the born again doctrine. I presume if he doesn’t his word is suspect. The recommendation doesn’t ask much about the student except for these church matters. On top of that they give the parents of the student a “statement of faith” outlining their fundamentalist view of things. The parents are asked: “Are you in agreement with our doctrinal statement of faith?” “If not, where do you differ.” The student has to sign it as well!

The university has to set some sort of admission qualification. And when it does it will do so on the basis of academics. But if the church’s web site is any indication their school is not very interested in academics but in theology. Now it is their free choice to do so but does that mean they have a right to demand that universities lower their academic standards to admit students from a school that chose to put other issues ahead of academics. Even they say their number one goal as a school is the “salvation” of their students not their education.

The universities, if anything, have probably allowed too many theology courses to qualify for credit toward admission.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Oh, god please smite the judges

Ayatollah Pat Robertson is crazy enough to deserve his own blog. But for the time being he'll have to reside in a blog that looks at all the crazies like him.

Apparently Robertson is really anxious for people to die. We know that he called assassinations on his "Christian" TV show. He has warned the people of Dover, PA that God will not save them if they are trouble because they voted out the creationist school board. It also appears he has been praying for the death of Supreme Court judges.

A Justice is appointed for life and that usually means precisely that: they are in office usually until they die. John Roberts was appointed by the Rev. Bush when Chief Justice Rehnquist died for instance.

Well that Rev. Bush was able to do that got Ayatollah Robertson salivating something fierce. Robertson, on his so-called ministry television show called on Jesus to "Do miracles." The miracles apparently were getting rid of some other justices on the court to make way for Rev. Bush appointees.

Robertson prayed: "Take control, Lord! We ask for additional vacancies on the court, and we ask for additional fine people like John Roberts. Lord, speed this hearing process; may there be no rancor. May the Senate comport itself as it should, and may we see peace, harmony and a rapid confirmation process. Do miracles, Lord. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen."

No doubt the IRS will be breathing down his neck threatening to take away his tax exempt status. That Robertson is blatantly political is ignored however since he is not All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena, CA. They were threatened with losing their tax exempt status because they were anti-Bush. But for the time being calling on Jesus to bump off members of the Supreme Court seems to tax exempt even if Robertson became a millionaire due to his ministry.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Marriage: static or evolving

Early today I was listening to Professor Ralph Raico lecture on “The Epic Struggle for Liberty.” I’ve been enjoying the tapes quite a bit. He made one passing comment that caught my attention.

In Catholic France all children born to Protestants were considered illegitimate. The reason was simple. The tradition of the time was that one Catholic man married one Catholic woman in a Catholic ceremony. Protestant marriages were not recognized by the law and thus illegitimate.

Of course Protestants were not particularly happy with this and no doubt pushed for equal rights. The “family traditionalists” of the day I suspect whined about how Protestants were seeking special privileges and undermining the traditional concept of marriage.

The Religious Right today drones endlessly about the 2,000 year tradition of marriage and how gay people are changing it. Of course marriage has change constantly over those 2,000 years which these fundamentalists would know if they read anything but the Bible.

At one time a woman’s legal identity was fused with that of her husband and she lost her legal identity as the wife and husband “constitute but one person.” At one point the courts ruled that the husband “becomes absolute owner of the goods and chattels of his wife.” A woman was not allowed to enter into a legal contract for herself. Only her husband could do that. Since the man had total responsibility for his wife he was also free to “restrain” her as he saw fit.

This tradition view of marriage was thrown out eventually but it was still the traditional view. Traditionally the husband had the “right” to expect sexual gratification as he wished when he wished. The wife could not refuse and a man could not rape his wife. That traditional perspective changed. So too did the traditional view that spouses could not sue one another and that divorce was not possible or extremely difficult.

Of course we know that at one time many states argued that marriage was one man, one woman (same race) for life. The “for life” is gone so too is the “same race”.

What is traditional of course depends on which culture you want to refer to. Religious folk speak of the “Judaeo-Christian” culture. Presumably that includes the Old Testament where polygamy was accepted. And polygamy was practiced in US territories up until the late 1800s. Of course many Mormon fundamentalists still practice polygamy today. And that is a practice widely funded by welfare payments to the additional wives who are legally seen as “single mothers” thus eligible for state hand outs.

It was in 1958 that Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving married legally in Washington, DC and returned home to Virginia. She was black and he was white and Virginia said such marriages violated the traditional norm. The judge in the case, sounding like the Bible-beaters of today said:

“Almighty god created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows he did not intend for the races to mix.”

The logic is not much different from today. We are to presume that some divine entity made two sexes therefore they were never to marry one another since he made them separate. He also made the races separate and the languages I might add.

The Lovings finally won when the Supreme Court ruled that the law was invalid. It was those nasty activist judges over riding the will of god again.

It appears that marriage has constantly changed and evolved. The fundie who thinks of it as a static institution knows not of what he speaks. But does that really surprise anyone?

US Taliban leader says God will punish Dover, PA.

Previously we noted how the people of Dover, PA voted out of office the school board that imposed the creationist theory of "intelligent design".

Now one of the leading leaders of the Taliban, Pat Robertson, who proves that design is not intelligent every time he opens his mouth, has attacked the voters of Dover.

Robertson who has become a millionaire getting gullible fundamentalists to send money to his so-called ministry told his television audience; "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover, if there is a disaster in your area don't turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. And don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when your problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask his help because he might not be there."

I think I can pretty much guarantee he won't be there. But he was never there. He was never anywhere Pat.

Robertson is the loony who has called for the US government to assassinate people and said that if Orlando, Florida allowed the rainbow flag to be flown to celebrate Gay Day that they risked hurricans, earthquakes or terrorist bombs.

Odd he thinks that god is so vicious as to send an earthquake to punish one city. In the process the divine one manages to hurt huge numbers of innocent people. But then he supposedly thought he had to have a "perfect man" tortured to death in order to forgive sinners. So a god that swats innocents is part and parcel of the fundie Taliban. But as we've noted before the old man in the sky is getting feeble and has bad eyesight. He allegedly swatted New Orleans recently due to the gay presence in the French Quarter. Alas the French Quarter went pretty much unharmed while neighborhoods of poor but pious folk were destroyed and churches collapsed.

It should also be noted that the voters didn't vote out god. They voted out the Republicans. And no matter what the nutters on the Religious Right think the Republican Party is not god and George Bush is no Jesus Christ.

Now I don't think the old man in the sky is there. But if I'm wrong and he is up there welding an angry hammer then I'd have to conclude he hates Republicans. The states that have been hit over and over with disasters have all voted for George Bush, who claims to be working for the old dude. Florida has helped put George in the White House twice and elected his slightly more intelligent brother as governor. It's hit by so many hurricanes I can't keep track. God is a Democrat apparently.

You will have a hard time believing this one

Really, folks. I'm not making it up. I would never have thought of something this absurd.

KSL television in Salt Lake City reports that Tyler Poulson was riding in a truck with his brothers. Poulson, 21, had recently returned from his missionary stint annoying people for the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons).

Poulson was offended that one brother used profanity. Of course profanity for a Mormon doesn't take much. He told his brothers that if they didn't cease using profanity he would get out of the truck. One brother apparently said that was fine with him. Poulson opened the door and leapt out. The truck was, of course moving at the time, at an estimated speed of 35 miles per hour. The Deseret News reports that when medical personnel arrived Poulson had some vital signs but he was pronounced dead on arrivat at Jordan Valley Hospital.

Police say that Poulson's actions have devestated his family especially the brother who thought this religious nutter was kidding when he said he'd get out of the vehicle.

Everyone face Kansas and laugh

Religious nutters on the Kansas State Board of Education took a sledge- hammer to science and have made Kansas school science courses anything but science.

What the Kansas Taliban did was obliterate the definition of science itself.

Previously the definition was: “Science is the human activity seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us.”

The new definition is more convoluted. It says that science is a “systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.”

The phenomena is now natural but the explanation is not. The New York Times quotes Prof. Adrian Melott of the University of Kansas as saying: “The only reason to take out ‘natural explanations’ is if you want to open the door to supernatural explanations.”

The fundamentalist Taliban, of course, wants to do precisely that. Their goal is to grab as much stolen loot in taxes as possible to fund their rabid, Medieval view of the world. The public school system controls billions of dollars stolen from taxpayers and holds millions of children forced to be there by law. Stolen money and a forced audience really appeals to the religious nutters. What a perfect way to push America into becoming the “Christian Republic” it never was.

Science can only deal with the natural. What the Kansas School Board did was smash science and open the door to theology. So where ever you are now turn and face the direction of Kansas and let out a loud laugh. They are now one the major jokes of the Western world.

I understand that their driver’s ed class will give instructions on shoeing horses, that home education classes will include how to operate a loom, and their history text will cover the modern world up until 1600. Next year their plain to introduce blood-letting to the university medical courses. It is still under debate whether or not alchemy classes would be too modern.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The God debate: some late night thoughts

I ought to be asleep right now but I couldn’t resist blogging about a debate I attended this evening between a fundamentalist preacher and George Smith, an old friend and the author of Atheism: The Case Against God. George debated born againer Eric Lounsbery of the Family Christian Fellowship. Lounsbery says he has debated “notable atheists” but the people he mentions are not people I know. That is not to say they aren’t notable to some people but not to me.

Now I thought Lounsbery was incredibly devious. I don’t mean he had good arguments but deceptive arguments and that is not the same thing.

He started out with a list of assertions. This assertions ranged all across the board when it came to their subject matter. Some were historical, some were biological, some were philosophical, etc. But he had a relatively large number. He said he had only 8 but it was more than that because he then made assertions based on his previous assertions. They accumulated quickly and I would guess he made about 25 such assertions in total.

Now debates in public might last an hour to two hours at the most. If you throw in enough points it is always impossible to address them all in that period of time. Lounsbery would then point to the points to which he felt no response was given and crow about it. He took that as evidence he won those points since his opponent “didn’t even try to address them.” That is was impossible to do int he allocated time period is ignored. Fundamentalists pick and chose evidence to support conclusions already drawn.

One problem becomes obviousl. False premises or erroneous assertions can often be done in seconds. But it can take far longer than that to explain why the assertion is wrong. So in any debate the fallacious side can have an advantage, when time is a factor, by simply making a large number of fallacious statements. They can do one false assertion every minute. Now if it took ten minutes to explain the error than the false side can in 20 minutes make assertions which would require 200 minutes in rebuttal.

In addition there was another issue at play. One doesn’t need to know what they are talking about to make false assertions. One does have to be knowledgeable in a field to repudiate them especially if the errors are subtle or not necessariloy obvious to the layman. So someone with a very shallow knowledge of numerous fields can make assertions in a dozen different specialties. To make a false statement does not require much knowledge. His opponent, if not a specialist in every one of those fields is thus unable to honestly debate those points. He would not be in a position to point out the errors.

Lounsbery thus had a dishonest advantage there. He could make a false claim about physics to a biologist and the biologist, as a scientist will admit he is not qualified to respond to the assertion. Which doesn’t mean a biologist couldn’t do so. On the other hand a philosopher might be able to pick about the philosophical assertions but a biologist wouldn’t. If you then make assertions across a range of fields you are pretty much guaranteed that no opponent can respond to them all. Once again you use this as proof that your assertions must be true because your opponent did not answer them.

Now what I would like to see is a series of debates. Let Lounsbery make his claims about biology only with a biologist and stick to that field. One whole debate on just one aspect of the issue. Then a week later he can debate the philosopher. I wonder why that kind of limited debate is never proposed. In this case Lounsbery should know that Smith is a philosophy not a specialist on physics.

Smith, like most honest academics, is quite happy to say when a field is outside his sphere. That’s integrity. Lounsbery uses such intergrity against his opponents. For instance Smith said that since he was a philosopher he wanted to concentrate ont hat area since that is what he knows about. In his time Lounsbery made a snide remark about how if he were Smith he’d avoid the science too because the science proves him wrong.

In addition Lounsbery kept referring to his collection of assertions as “evidence”. I think George should have pointed out to him the difference between a string of assertions and actual evidence.

At various points Lounsbery offered a theory as to why something happens in science. Of course his theory repeatedly pointed to one cause—God. Or in has case onlyt he Christian God, more specifically on the Christian God as believed by fundamentalists.

So he would say things like “George Smith has to give a explaination for X.” He would then assume that failure to offer an alternative theory proves the God theory. Here is a clear example of how that is wrong.

Nutter: “Space aliens are flying around the world in space ships and kidnapping people for anal probes.”

Skeptic: “I see no evidence for that.”

Nutter: “We saw lights in the sky last night. Now you must explain what those lights were to prove I am wrong.”

Well the Skeptic does not have to offer an alternative theory. If I am accussed of murder I don’t have to prove that I know who did it. I need only rebut the theory that I did it. A murder may have taken place and I may not know who did it. My lack of an alternative theory of causation is not proof that the Nutters theory is correct. In fact in some cases i don’t even need to rebut. I could be silent or merely point out that the lack of evidence for one theory is not proof for any particular alternative theory.

And Lounsbery was particularly insistent in demanding alternative theories in fields where he knows his opponent is not a specialist. He didn’t do that when it came to philosophy. In fact he pretty much avoided that field preferring to concentrate on fields where he knew any assertion could not be countered from personal knowledge. So Lounsbery wanted answers on evolution from someone who has no training in that field.

A couple of things irked me in particular because I thought they were just mean spiritied. Sure he had on his smiley Jesus face for the public but that smile is very thin indeed. The idea is to appear to be a nice guy and keep the fundamentalist bullshit as far off the burner as possible. But he made one point about atheists I though was particularly vicious.

It is not that atheists are wrong. He thinks they are but that didn’t bother him. He asserted that atheists in fact know that the proof for the fundamentalist Christian God is overwhelming and all around them. Thus he immediately asserts dishonesty on the part of anyone who disagrees with him. I know many atheists who, like myself, had to consider the arguments before becoming an atheist and did not do so lightly. Yet he asserts that I’m lying when I say I was convinced to the contrary. He says the proof is there.

So I asked him what evidence he has that I dismissed the god concept contrary to what I actually thought to be true and to do so without quoting Bible verses which are not proof. I only realized how dishonest his reply was shortly after. He asked me why I first believed in God. Well 99.99% of people “first” believe in some deity because they were taught it as children. Much the same way they believed in Santa. So I honestly answered that question. He went around the block a bit and then argued that it was clear I never rationally believed in God in the first place so I had not in fact considered the evidence.

What’s wrong with that? Well, it assumes that if one didn’t consider those arguments when one first encountered the God idea, which is usually in childhood, then one has never considered them. That’s a fallacy but by the time he got around to that claim I was heading to the back of room having asked my question.

I had a second question for him that I asked which he also found rather uncomfortable. I asked him if he a faithful Catholic, who is a staunch Catholic according to all Catholic teaching is or is not a Christian. Now the fundamentalist assumes that anyone who is not a fundamentalist is not really a Christian. But in a public debate he doesn’t want to tell the audience that he thinks most other Christians are in all practicality just another version of atheists since they believe in false gods. This was a bit difficult for him as a strong Catholic, who is also a friend of mine, had been helping Lounsbery prepare for the debate.

Lounsbery was stuck and was looking for a way to respond. And he actually seemed to have stalled rather badly. He knew his silence and inability to finish a sentence looked bad and said: “I’m trying to figure out how best to respond.”

My reply was, “A simply yes or no will do.”

That’s the problem of course. He really does think that Catholics are not much better than atheists but he’s not keen to lose the support of all the Catholics. He tried to streatch it out with all sorts of qualifiers but when he finished he had basically said that good Catholics are not Christians. So all atheists are dishonest. Catholics are barely better than atheists and maybe worse. He was not particularly found of Mormons either and clearly put them outside the Christian camp.

One area where opponents of the theocratic fundamentalist go wrong is that allow the fundies to build false coalitions. They form special interest groups on an issue in a united front. So they may fight for censorship with Mormons, Catholics and Orthodox Jews. Merely by asking them to be honest about what they think about their partners can splinter these alliances. Surely my Catholic friend felt a bit less happy when he learned that he is not a Christian after all. Mormons might form an allegiance with a Baptist but would they stay in it if the Bapitst told the public what he honestly thought about Mormons. Merely knowing what the fundamentalist believes about his friends and asking pointed question so he can’t avoid telling the truth splinters this alliance. It’s a tact I recommend strongly.

At some point I will watch the DVD of the debate and will have more detailed comments. But I can only speak about things I know something about. So no doubt Lounsbery will ignore what I do respond to and point to anything I neglected taking my neglect as proof he was right. But logic is not his strongpoint.

I’m really late for bed so I won’t proof read this first. If you find typos don’t bitch I’ll try to proof it in the next few days.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Cartoons rile Denmark's Muslims

A Danish editor is challenging the Dark Ages mindset of Islamic lunatics. Yes, I do pick on nutters in other religions too.

The cultural editor of Denmark’s largest newspaper discovered that Danish cartoonists were terrified of Islamic nutters and refusing to illustrate a children’s book on Mohammed. In Islamic teaching it is immoral to depict their alleged prophet.

The editor, Flemming Rose, recruited cartoonists himself and published their work in the newspaper. A Jihad erupted. Ambasadors from 11 Islamic nations, many of who received aid and support from the US, signed a letter demanding the newspaper be “punished”. No doubt those that did so will get increased aid since they are promoting policies near and dear to the WhiteHouse—the irradication of civil liberties. Sorry, I misspeak. I meant to say the irradication of liberty full stop. Bush is no free market advocate either.

Rose said: “Some Muslims are asking for an apology pointing to a lack of respect. They’re not asking for respect; they’re asking for subordination—for us as non-Muslims to follow Muslim taboos in the public domain.”

Of course fundamentalists of all stripes do precisely that! The Christian nutters (you knew I wouldn’t let them off the hook that easily) demand prayer in public institutions and Christian symbols of Christmas (a holiday they stole from pagans) displayed on government property at taxpayer expense. Just watch how they whine about Constitutionalists and other “evil doers” who demand that church and state be separated. I actually favor separating church and state. I think it’s a good beginning. I would also separate education and state, money and state, and ..... oh to hell with it. Separate everything and state.

One Danish Muslim leader, Raed Hlayhel said. “I will not tolerate this. If this is democracy, we disagree with democracy.” Is this man a Republican??

Now if he disagrees with liberal democracy then why isn’t he living where ever the hell it was that he was born? There are supposedly 200,000 Muslims in Denmark! Denmark! That’s four percent of the population.

Those who oppose Western freedom are entitled to return to whence they came or seek the presidential nomination of the GOP which will shortly have a vacancy and bw looking for someone with precisely that sort of mindset.

Here is what irks me. If a rational person from the West visits an Islamic country (sorry, no rational person would do that). they are expected to abide by Islamic customs. Americans in Saudi Arabia can’t eat pork, read Playboy, etc. Western woman have to cover their heads and can’t drive cars.

The Isamists whines: “If you are in our country you must respect our culture and do as we say.” At the same time they whine: “If we are in your country you must respect our cutlure as well and still do as we say.”

The photo shows “Danish” Muslims demonstrating against the illustrations. A similar demonstration of Europeans in Islamic countries against their Dark Ages view of the world can not be shown since it such demonstrations are illegal. This reminds me of what Christian Reconstructionist Gary North has said. "So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God."

Perhaps we need a fundametalist homeland. We herd fundamentalists of all varieties together someplace—Texas or Alabama seem good locations—and seal the border. Sealed borders is a policy favoured by fundamentalists. Then the sane people of the world can sit back and enjoy the spectacle of them engaging in holy war against each other.

Bush regime goes after church

Something stinks when I have to defend a church under attack from the Bush regime. Yes, we do need a regime change here to protect our liberties. So I guess, according to the warped mindset of the fundamentalist Jihadists who run the regime, that means any nation in the world is now free to “liberate” America.

It appears that George Regas, the head saint at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena did what many such divine leaders do. He preached a sermon that was critical of the Iraq invasion. But he did not do what fundamentalists routine do and endorse one candidate over another.

The jackbooted SS, ooops, I mean the Internal Revenue Service has issued a letter threatening the church over the sermon. They have said that the church was in jeopardy of loosing their tax-exempt status because they allegedly involved themselves in a political campaign.

One representative of the church called the moved by the SS “a direct assault on freedom of speech and freedom of religion.” Perhaps. But what’s new about that? The current regime believes in neither. Bush’s policy is that government has the power to do anything he feels is necessary and since Jesus whispers into his ears on a regular basis he is only doing God’s will anyhow. Obviously this church is dominated by “evil doers” who have to be punished for opposing the crusade. Perhaps some of the politicized thugs in the fundamentalist wing of Christianity will “liberate” the church. Of course in Bushy language that means destroying the actual church and killing a goodly number of the congregation.

Now I happen to think that churches should pay the same taxes as anyone else. But instead of raising tax rates to reach the levels paid by average people I believe they should lower the tax rates for individuals to that of the level of churches. But I don’t think that a sermon that did not endorse any candidate qualifies for this sort of punishment. Nor do I think this church should be singled out when the real lunatics of relgion—the born again psychopaths are routines inflicting their stilted world-view on the rest of us through political campaign after political campaign.

The American Taliban, known as evangelical Christianity, have pushed through measure after measure stripping gay people of equal rights. They routinely engage in politics. We have video tapes of their demented leaders engaging in open politics and admitting they do it. And the SS manages to pick on an Episcopal Church in Pasadena while ignoring the Bush league members around the nation. Selective enforcement of the law to punish opponents of Bush is not acceptable.

Of course I don’t expect the fascists in the Republican Party, as opposed to the socialists in the Democratic Party, to discover the First Amendment and rush to the support of this church. In fact I suspect that the copies of the Constitution owned by Republicans has had the Bill of Rights removed except for a watered down version of the Second Amendment.

His Truth is marching on. Right!

Today’s illustration is a photo of the church in question.

Infant dies from overdose of faith

A tragedy struck four-month-old Caleb Tribble. He was killed by faith.

And now his parents, both devout Christians are defending themselves in court accused of manslaughter. Young Caleb was had blood poisoning form a urinary tract infection.

The father, David, says that the night before he died the child’s eyes rolled back into his head and he couldn’t bend his limbs. The infant had diarrhoea and vomiting. David and his father instead tried to heal the child through prayer.

It would be hard to think that they lacked faith. Certainly they had enough faith to let the child die instead of seeking medical care. But faith doesn’t move mountains nor does it heal sick children. David Tribble claims he has seen his father heal broken bones with faith. And he testified that his father had “removed a spirit of death from Caleb” and the child was assured to get better from that point onward.

The defence for the family says they would have taken the child to a doctor if they had been told he so ill. Of course since they kept the child at home and away from a doctor then who precisely was about to tell them that faith wouldn’t work and that the child was severely ill?

Obviously both parents and the grandfather believe faith was sufficient. The family excluded the very person most likely to inform them of the seriousness of the infection. The ignorance they operated under was self induced.

The shame here is that a small, innocent infant had to die to disprove the healing power of faith. Usually in cases like this the believers try to blame the lack of healing on a lack of faith. But these parents proved they had faith --- faith enough to let a child die instead of seeking medical care because they believe the child could be healed by prayer.

And the Bible seems to support what they did. Remember when Abraham was asked to kill his only son to prove to God that he was willing to obey. Now, in the Bible, God supposedly told Abraham not to do it at the very last second. But Abraham had to prove he willing to let his son die in order to prove his faith to God.

One would think that a Divine Being who knows everything wouldn’t need proof for anything! So today parents read the Bible and some are willing to lay their child on the altar and metaphorically, at least, hold the knife in their hands and be ready to plunge it into the heart of their child. They hope that at the last second God will intervene. But what if he doesn’t?

He didn’t for Caleb.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

TV host takes on religion

Comedian/talk show host Bill Maher has the religious crowd rather upset. Of course that’s not hard to do. People are war with reality can get upset easily.

Now the Jesus platoon tends to think that they can say anything they want about anyone but criticism of them is automatically evil. Watch how quickly they whine about discrimination when someone stands up to them. Meanwhile they demand the right to discriminate against others (which I’m happy to grant them). But they also want to force others to be the same bigots they are. For instance many of the absurd marriage amendments they are pushing forbid private companies from giving benefits to gay couples. Typical hypocritical actions from the Religious Right.

Maher, according to the Miami New Times, said “The Bible is an old book of Jewish fairy tales.” “I’m against what religion is: made-up stories meant to scare people about what happens when you die. It’s a corrupt bureaucracy between man and God that takes advantage of people’s fears, mostly of the unknown, that corrupts people in ways that are unimaginable.”

He also is quoted as saying that “religion stops people from thinking. I think it justifies crazies.” Now that is entirely accurate.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The survival of the smartest.

In Dover, Pennsylvania a school board had voted to include the religious doctrine of “intelligent design” in their science courses. They had been solicited to do so by a Christian advocacy group. The matter went to court and a judge is now in the process of making a decision. But while the judge has yet to make up his mind it appears the voters have.

All eight members of the school board that had voted for the measure were swept out of office in local elections. They were replaced by candidates who ran in opposition to the intelligent design theory.

Out of the 16 candidates running the one who came in last place was Alan Bonsell who was the driving force behind the push for creationism.

Losing candidates were pretending the election had nothing to do with their creationist agenda and instead said it was because the public wanted more spending.

The new board members will wait to see what the judge rules. If he rules against the creationist program they will simply not appeal the decision allowing it stand as legal precedent. If the judge accepts creationism under the label intelligent design they can repeal the policy. Either way it looks like a major set back for this religious agenda.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The methodology of apologetics

I was reading some of Evolutionblog.blogspot.com today. The author there quotes a fundamentalist advocate who pushes the field of apologetics. Apologetics is the field of theology that attempts to justify Christianity. Now part of the problem with apologetics is that it justifies, not the truth per se, but whatever theology the individual in question believes.

So apologetics engaged in by a Catholic would be significantly different from that used by a Baptist or a Pentecostal. The apologetics of a Calvinists would be different from the apologetics of a Lutheran. Of course they all say it comes from the same religion in spite of them all coming to radically different conclusions regarding the “clear teachings” of the Bible.

Now what I found of particular interest is the following quote from a Christian defining apologetics: “Apologetics is the discipline of defending your faith, using logic and reason. It is helping people know what they believe and why they believe it.” This sentence caused the blogger at Evolutionblog to comment: “Personally, I wouldn’t know how to believe something without also knowing why I believe it.”

Amen! What exactly is going on when people “believe something without also knowing why”?

Now, of course this is the nature of faith. Faith is “belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” It is most evident in the motto of many Christians: “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Early church father Tertullian put it in a slightly more sophisticated way: “And the Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd. And He was buried and rose again; the fact is certain because it is impossible.”

The leading Reformationist Martin Luther said something similar: “There is on earth among all dangers, no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason, especially if she enters into spiritual matters which concern the soul and God. For it is more possible to teach an ass to read than to blind such a reason and lead it right; for reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed.” And if Luther wasn’t clear enough there he said: “Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense and understanding, and whatever it sees it must put out of sight, and wish to know nothing but the word of God.”

Some argue that faith and reason are the same thing. But as George Smith has noted the mere fact that they use the two terms insinuates that they understand they are different. Faith is an attempt to claim knowledge without reason not because of reason.

For instance if reason is all sufficient then reason can be applied to all things and faith is not needed. But what the faithful tend to do is use reason where they think it supports their beliefs and resort to faith where they find faith insufficient. John Locke noted this: “I find every sect, as far as reason will help them, make use of it gladly: and where it fails them, they cry out, it is matter of faith, and above reason.” Aquinas said it would be “superfluous to receive by faith things that can be known by natural reason.”

Now recently I had an email exchange with a friend in New Zealand about a Christian think tank there called the Maxim Institute. There head researcher was caught using the thoughts and words of others without attribution. It wasn’t that he even argued similar arguments. He took entire sentences and reused them without attribution or even within quote marks. It would be one thing if he put quote marks around the borrowed words or at least mentioned the source even briefly. He did not. He merely repeated what he read elsewhere.

There was another similar incident with them. They were caught citing sources that didn’t exist. In one case they claimed an author, whose name they got wrong, said something which he didn’t say. In fact it turned out his view was quite different from the one attributed to him. It appears that they surfed web sites and used quotes that they liked. They apparently didn’t actually read the source material at all.

This author friend of mine noted that she struggles with everything she writes. But then she tries to understand the issues. She tries to see if the evidence supports her views. She is committed to reason. She doesn’t necessarily know the results of her research.

But the faith driven use reason, or a semblance of reason, in an attempt to justify conclusions that pre-existed. The conclusion is not based on the evidence. The evidence is based on the conclusion. Apologetics starts with conclusions and then looks for justifications. Since this is how Christians defend their faith, which is the most important aspect of their life, they see nothing wrong with using the same methodology for all their beliefs.

They know what are their views on subject after subject. As fundamentalist Christians they have ready set conclusions handed to them by the church. Then when they engage in the process of argumentation they look only for that which confirms their belief and dismiss or ignore all evidence to the contrary.

Consider the problem they have. To them their beliefs come from God. So evidence that seems to contradict God simply can’t be true. They don’t have to weight the evidence to draw a conclusion. The conclusion pre-exists the evidence and the purpose of evidence, in apologetics, is to confirm the conclusion. And this methodology is carried through by believers into field after field.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Just one mistake and it's fallible

Fundamentalist claim that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant word of God. They have no choice. Without that claim their faith falls to pieces. Their problem is not that they contend to be following the will of God not the philosophy of a man. Aristotle could be be wrong about some things but right about others and there is no crisis for those who are admirers of his. The same is true for any philosophy. Philosophy is man thinking and thus susceptible ot error. And an error in a philosophy does not mean one has to turn their back on the other ideas of that philosophy.

But when you are claiming to be dealing with the revealed will of God you can’t have errors. Not one. if the Bible has one error it can have two. If it is wrong on one issue which can be proven then perhaps it is wrong on those things not easily susceptible to truth.

If the Bible can’t get mundane things correct which can be verified then what about the many things which can never be verified? For instance some people think the Bible teaches Jesus was born to a virgin. Others dispute this of course but let’s assume the Bible does teach that for a second. Now can anyone alive verify the virginity of the mother of Jesus? Of course not. So one is required to take that entirely on the basis of faith. And you do so because you think the Bible says that and that the Bible is accurate. But if the Bible is inaccurate on other things that you can prove then what about things you can’t prove like the virgin birth. The Bible can not be the infallible, inerrant word of God if it is fallible and filled with errors. If you can’t believe it about things susceptible to proof then you can’t trust it on those things not susceptible to proof.

Now how does one verify the accuracy of the Bible? Many things are clearly not open to normal rules of evidence. We can not test the claim that Jesus was born of a virgin or that he turned water into wine. Our only evidence for this is that the Bible claims it. We don’t have the wine on hand. We can’t engage in controlled experiments to verify the claims. The supernatural claims of the Bible are not themselves open to verification one way of the other. You either take the Bible as accurate or you don’t.

But if you take it as accurate you can’t have errors in it. It is not reliable then it is not reliable. Now most the religious claims of the Bible are of a supernatural kind. That is they are claims that go contrary to what we know about reality. People don’t die and come to life again. Virgins don’t suddenly become pregnant. People don’t walk on water. We have thousands of years of evidence verifying this. Of course the believers just say that Jesus was the exception because he was God -- another claim not open to evidence.

So one can say that the likelihood of these things being true is very low because we have no verifiable record to back them up. The Christian turns to the Bible to verify these claims. But if the Bible is wrong about simple things then the likelihood of it being wrong on such big claims grows. And there is a way of proving that the Bible is wrong about things which can not be verified.

The way of doing that is to see whether the Bible contradicts itself. If I had a holy book which I said was the inerrant word of God and it was filled with errors you’d dismiss my claims. For instance if it claimed that God made the world in 30 minutes in one place but in another said God did not make the world in 30 minutes then both can’t be true. For my holy book to claim both proves it has at least one error in it. Either the world was made in 30 minutes only or it wasn’t. If my book claims a contradiction then we know that one of the two claims has to be wrong.

Now no one witnessed what is called “the creation”. But if a holy books makes contradictory claims about that incident or process then we know it’s not reliable. So when it makes really big, supernatural claims we are more likely to dismiss them. And the problem for Christians is that the Bible is filled with such contradictions.

For instance we have Bible fanatics pushing for the teaching of creationism lite. But why believe the Bible on creation when it contradicts itself on that very topic. In Genesis chapter one it says that God made the “beasts” of the earth and then he created man. But in chapter two it says he made man first and then made the animals.

In the first creation account after animals were made God created man and woman together. But it doesn’t seem that way in the second account. Not only were the animals created after man but it appears that woman was then created even later. So you had man created and then he was lonely. God, apparently not knowing this wouldn’t work, decided to create animals to keep man company. Well that failed miserably so then, in a separate act of creation God supposedly created woman out of man’s rib.

Didn’t God know this animal thing wouldn’t work? In one chapter he apparently did but in another chapter he apparently didn’t.

Now if the creation account in the Bible contradicts itself then why is it an accurate source for information about the origins of life? Apparently Biblical creationism has some obvious problems to overcome. It gives differing and contradictory accounts. Either man was created before the animals or after them. It can’t be both at the same time.

Or take something like the crucifixion which is a central incident of the Christian faith. After all they say Jesus died for our sins and use bible passages to indicate that is true. But if the Gospels contradict each other about the crucifixion then it is the idea that God had “his only begotten son” tortured viciously to death in order to forgive sins a bit hard to accept?

Matthew described the last words of Christ as “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Luke seems to be working with a different script. He says the last words of Christ were “Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit.” So Matthew had Jesus feeling forsake by God while Luke had Jesus placing himself into the hands of God. But John says that Matthew and Luke were both wrong. Instead he claims the last words of Christ were “It is finished” and “he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” Three differing accounts of the last words of Christ.

Now when Cher did several final concert tours she got severely criticised. After all only the final tour could be the final tour. You can’t have several final tours. Neither can you have numerous “last words”. Either they are the last words or they aren’t. And when you consider there are only four Gospels in the New Testament to end up with three contradictory accounts between the four of them proves a fairly high error rate.

It is possible that one of the Gospels got it right about the last words of Christ. But which one? How would a Christian know which one to believe. If Luke was right and John and Matthew were wrong then you’d have to be skeptical about other claims that Matthew and John made as well. Only one of these Gospels, at the most, could be correct. And it’s possible that all three got it wrong. But at the very least we know that two of them must have been wrong. So is the New Testament a reliable source on the crucifixion? Obviously not.

One Christian group tries to dismiss this problem saying: “This does not show a contradiction any more than two witnesses to an accident at an intersection will come up with two different scenarios of that accident, depending on where they stood. Neither witness would be incorrect, as they describe the event from a different perspective. Luke was not a witness to the event, and so is dependent on those who were there. John was a witness. What they are both relating, however, is that at the end Jesus gave himself up to death.”

But this justification for the conflicting accounts makes it sound like the Gospels are nothing more than various men writing fallible, very human accounts of what happened. But if this were the case and the men are fallible witnesses they could also be inventive witnesses or lying witnesses. This justification removes Divine Inspiration from the writing of the Bible. Now it is true that two fallible human witnesses may give two varying and conflicting accounts. That’s one reason you look for physical evidence in such cases. But two contradictory accounts can’t both be true. In fact we know that if they conflict one is definitely erroneous. And that doesn’t mean the first account is accurate either. They both can be wrong. But when you claim something is God’s Word that is a very different kind of claim.

I know how fallible eye witness accounts can be. People get them wrong all the time. But that is not the claim that Christians need to make about the Gospels. If the Gospels are merely the fallible writings of men then they are not the infallible word of God. Pick one or the other but I don’t think you can have it both ways.

What about the resurrection? That’s critical to Christian claims. Again we have four Gospels and again we have contradictory stories. Supposedly some believers of Christ came along and discovered that his tomb was empty. Who were they?

Matthew said it was “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.” Fair enough. We have two women who discover the empty tomb. Mark says it wasn’t quite that way at all. Yes, Mary Magdalene and Mary were there but so was Salome. It wasn’t two women who discovered the empty tomb it was three. John’s account said it was only Mary Magdalene by herself. One Gospel says the empty tomb was discovered by one woman, another Gospel says two women, another Gospel says three women.

So either one woman, two women or maybe three women allegedly discovered the empty tomb. Of course it could still be none of the above. We do know that at least two of the Gospels have to be wrong. But let’s overlook that for now. What did the woman/women discover when arriving on the scene?

Matthew tells us that the two women came upon an “angel of the Lord” who told them that Jesus was not there. He also tells us the angel was outside the tomb sitting on the stone that had blocked the entrance. Mark has a slightly different version. He descries “a young man... clothed in a long white garment” instead except he’s sitting inside the tomb not outside on the stone. Luke says there were “two men” who stood by the women “in shining garments.” John said that inside the tomb there were “two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain."

Four Gospels and four different accounts. Now you can’t have one man there and two men there at the same time. So not only do we have a muddle of who discovered the empty tomb but not one Gospel corresponds with another on what they discovered when they got there. Either the angels/men were inside the tomb or outside the tomb. It’s one or the other. Either the man/angel was sitting on the stone outside or the slab inside. There was either one man/’angel or there were two men/angels. And again we can’t escape the possibility that not one of these accounts is factual. We know that at least three of them are false.

And how long was Jesus in the grave? Matthew says it was three days and three nights. But that’s not possible. Just take what you already know and see if that works. The church says Jesus was crucified on Good Friday in the afternoon. It also says he resurrected on Easter Sunday. Try to get three day AND three nights out of that time period.

We can be as generous as possible and still not come up with three days and three nights. Lets assume Jesus died in the afternoon before sunset and that the was very quickly placed in the tomb. And lets assume that the short time in the tomb before sunset counts as one full day. Then we have him there Friday night so that’s one night. All day Saturday would be our second day and Saturday night would be our second night. So far so good but here is where it gets sticky. That morning when the women/woman got there Jesus was already gone. Now if we assume that he “rose from the dead” before sunrise we end up with him being in the grave only two days and two nights. If we assume he rose from the dead after sunrise, and if we count that short period of time as a full day, we get our third day but we are still short on our third night.

You can’t get three days and three nights out the Gospel narrative no matter how generous you are. Matthew said that Jesus was in the grave for three days and three nights yet that can’t be true if Christ was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.

Nor do the Gospels give a consistent account of the actual time that the woman/women went to the tomb. Matthew said it was “at dawn”. That’s rather nebulous and I’ll grant that “at dawn” could mean just before dawn or just after dawn. Mark says it was “just after sunrise”. So if you take Matthew to mean after sunrise then that corresponds with the Gospel of Mark. Luke was very nonspecific saying it “very early in the morning.” So I’ll grant a match there. But when we come to John we have a problem. John says it was early “white it was still dark”. Ooops. Two are nebulous and can either mean just before or shortly after sunrise. But one Gospel says after sunrise and the other says while still dark which is before sunrise.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Sanity in New Zealand

While the US seems gripped by religious fanaticism the tiny country of New Zealand is certainly in contrast.

The new parliament there was sworn in today. Instead of trying to outdo each other with absurd oaths to mythological beings the Kiwi parliament was filled with individuals who did not make any religious affirmation.

About 40 percent of the MPs took an affirmation instead of a religious oath. But what is more important is who they were. Included in this batch of non-theological MPs included the Prime Minister and head of the Labour Party, Helen Clark. Don Brash, the leader of the Opposition and the conservative National Party also affirmed. Both Brash and Clark have said they not Christians or believers in a personal God.

Rodney Hide is the leader of the libertarian ACT Party and he also took an affirmation as did the leader of the Green Party, the leader of the Maori Party did the same.

Only three party leaders took a religious oath. They included Jim Anderton of the extreme left Progressive Party, Peter Dunne of the tiny religious United Future Party and Winston Peters, who leads an authoritarian/anti-immigrant party, New Zealand First. Between them they lead less than 10% of the parliament.

Jesus Saves

Religious Right wants activist judges.

What have we heard repeatedly from the religious fanatics on the Right? Over and over they whine and bitch about “activist judges” and how the courts were being used to change the culture in violation of their antiquated theological nonsense.

At this time there is a trial going on where a judge is being asked to approve the teaching of creationism lite in the guise of “intelligent design”. How and why did this trial come about?

It seems that a religious right-wing group The Thomas More Law Center “visited school boards around the country searching for one willing to challenge evolution by teaching intelligent design, and to face a risky, high-profile trial,” according to the November 4 issue of the New York Times.

This Right-wing outfit normally attacks legalized abortion and equal rights for gay people—standard fare for the Jesus platoon.

The president of the Thomas More Center, according to the Times, solicited the case because his group believes that it is their role to use the courts “to change the culture.” Now the theocrats on the Right have argued that evil “political correctness” is an attempt to change the culture and that changing culture is wrong. But of course the hypocrites themselves are not shy of doing the very thing they whine about.

After all Georgie “Jesus speaks to me” Bush has repeatedly attacked “activist judges” except, of course, for the activist judges who ruled in favor and made him president.

Now the spirit-filled advocates of the rule of God argue that intelligent design is not really theology. Yet the Thomas More Center that is fighting this case in favor of creationism lite say that their purpose is “to protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square.”

In other words they are parasites who want to dip into taxpayer pockets to promote their religion.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Nazi Twins in Tears

There has been some publicity of late of the bimbo Nazi sister singing duo that goes by the name Prussian Blue. This barely pubescent children have been brought up as racist admirers of Adolph Hitler. They appear at various racist conclaves to sing their message of hate.

It appears to this commentator, who does not pretend to be unbiased, that no one has so far even commented on the name they have taken for their duo. Prussian Blue is no accident. It’s not even meant to be cute. These Cute Klux Klanners are called Prussian Blue for a reason. Could it be that they took the name Prussian Blue for very vicious reasons? You see when you take cyanide gas and add it to a chamber full of Jews the cyanide mixes with iron found in the bricks and mortar and the result is the creation of ferric-ferro-cyanide which is apparent because the compound has a unique color known as Prussian blue.

The name, I suggest, is meant to glorify this. And when we hear the songs this duo sings it is no surprise. Here are some lyrics: “Aryan man awake, How much more will you take, turn that fear to hate. Aryan man awake.”

The due and their Nazi supporters were thrilled when they got national publicity. They entertained the notion that this publicity would propel them into stardom and that millions would embrace their racism. The Nazi National Vanguard said the publicity would create “an entire genre of pro-White music.”

But people reacted negatively and now the girls, according to their attorney “were in tears” and worried this was going to “follow them for the rest of their lives.”

Of course they are still running their official web site and taking orders for their music. Their site links to various Nazi groups. What is particularly amazing is that they aren’t even very talented. They don’t sing well and if you don’t believe me take a listen for yourself here:


But the people who buy their CDs don’t do so because they have talent. They do so because they push hate. Here are lyrics from their song “Victory Day”

Soon will come a great war,
a bloody but bold day.
And after that purging our people will be free,
and sing up in the bright skies,
a sun for all to see

You are my brother and in war we proudly sing.
Our Cause shall never tire.
Our gift to you we bring:
A holy creed of Racial purpose,
A mighty Race to defend.

They may be traumatized at having their Hitler-loving, racist message rejected but they are still trying to make a buck out of it. They are still selling their wares over the internet to Nazi faithful.

NOTE: I just discovered that my suspicions about the anti-Jewish origin of their name is correct. In an interview they did that appears on the Nazi National Vanguard web site they are asked about the significance of their name: The response is: “Part of our heritage is Prussian German. Also our eyes are blue, and Prussian Blue is just a really pretty color. There is also the discussion of the lack of "Prussian Blue" coloring (Zyklon B residue) in the so-called gas chambers in the concentration camps.”


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