Sunday, September 19, 2010

Was Hitler a catholic?

 Everyone agrees that Hitler was baptized catholic. No debate there. Where the friction begins is when everyone starts to hot potato him later in life. Catholics don't want him, atheists don't claim him, pagans shun him, what's a fuhrer to do?

Let's see what the vatican says about people who've been baptized into the catholic church:

7. It remains clear, in any event, that the sacramental bond of belonging to the Body of Christ that is the Church,  conferred by the baptismal character, is an ontological and permanent bond which is not lost  by reason of any act or fact of defection.

This document, which discusses the process by which people can formally defect from the catholic church, clearly states that the church believes that one who has been baptized is always a catholic-no matter how badly they act as a catholic.

So those catholics who have been trying to foist off poor Hitler on the atheists don't know the rules of their own church.

Sorry Benny and Bill Donohue, but he's your problem to deal with.

Good luck with that.

Should we be Sillier than Angrier?

I'm still amazed at how the Comic-Con protest totally removed attention from Fred Phelps and the WBC by reinventing the protest as something fun and silly.

Thusfar, nontheists have tried being angry during the papal visit to the UK (and I must admit that the footdragging with abuse-complicit bishops in Ireland, claiming to be shocked by abuse when he was in charge of the Vatican office tasked with cleaning up abuse for over 5 years, and the everyday sexism, discrimination, triumphalism and guilt inducement that go with catholicism has irked me as well).

Perhaps we should apply the lessons of Comic-Con to catholicism. By angrily protesting the pope and the vatican perhaps we give them a respect and status they no longer deserve-using blowdryers to de-baptize nontheists was a good first start at a different approach, but what if we parodied and created satire of the entire catholic infrastructure?

Imagine satirical "confessions" and Neapolitan wafers instead of Roman ones (loved those when I was a kid)

Imagine Jedi encyclicals and pirate encyclicals and ninja encyclicals (we'll let the vatican continue to be the only distributor of the aptly named papal bull) all providing reasonable thoughts on life-or silly flights of fancy.

The catholic church has spent billions and lied continuously to try to maintain its public image-satire and parody could erode it faster than angry screeds (that's how they are portrayed to the faithful and undecided) ever did. Even the most devout catholics chuckled a bit at the vatican rag when it came out. (and then promptly went to confession for it)

So next time the pope leaves you incredulous, consider a satirical response and see if we don't start to get more traction in the court of public opinion.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

fyi to Christine O'Donnell: No Wanky Made Jesus Cranky

 The anti-masturbation video of Christine O'Donnell has garnered lots of media attention and she has even admitted to some lapses in purity during college. So let's look at someone who followed her prescription for purity perfectly to see how it affected him.

According to O'Donnell, Jesus doesn't like masturbation, so being perfect, he never would have done so while on earth. Let's look at some of the loving things that came out of his mouth:

John 2 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
 Matthew 21 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered.
 Matthew 23 27 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean."
Luke 1426 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his faher and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple."
 Matthew 24 7 "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
9 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other"
 As you can see from this small sample of quotes, the longer Jesus lived the angrier and more frustrated he got. His hands even needed to be restrained at one point. So the wank-free life isn't all Ms.O'Donnell makes it out to be-remember that when people like her ask to be given authority over the military, health care, spending to help the poor, etc.

Do you really want people who are potentially that frustrated and bitter in charge of keeping the rest of us happy, healthy and safe?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Pod People Finally Got Him :(

Body Snatchers actor Kevin McCarthy dies

Conspiracy theorists everywhere are mourning (and speculating) on the death of Kevin McCarthy, the "hero" of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. His highway dash to warn people about the alien menace was referenced in Seinfeld, The Simpsons and Big Bang Theory among others.

It was a great campy movie to watch with friends and he should be recognized for contributing to American pop culture (but not in any way that will get noticed when the actual alien takeover happens). An example of the undying human will to live and an example to all Humanists (who typically follow his example of resisting sleep as long as possible) I hope he was aware of our enjoyment and gratitude while he was alive.

*note to self* rewatch movie with friends on weekend I don't need sleep.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thoughts on "Burn a Koran Day"

No lengthy missives here just a few quick thoughts:

1. It is better for believers to burn books than other believers

2. Book burning is historically typical behaviour for those of the Abrahamic religious persuasion-this isn't a new development, but more typical than the recent period of religious restraint.

3. Those that are attacking and injuring christians to revenge themselves against Terry Jones are exhibit A in the discussion on "What is wrong with religion".

4.Those of the christian persuasion who said they would distribute Qur'ans for every one that Jones burned are lucky that the judeo-christian god doesn't actually exist, him being a jealous god and all. It shows their lack of actual belief in the sacred and how instead it is a business for them, one where they don't want their clients hurt or their cashflow affected.

5. How can a man who captured international media attention with few resources have been suckered in by the schoolyard ruse of "you go first, then I'll do it too."

6. The international media needs to stop CNN'ing everything 24/7 and whipping up people-or it should be held responsible for the consequences that arise from such actions.

That is all-a good night to everyone.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Religious Gaming Part 2

For those who suggested I was harsh in my comments about Priestville, I offer this thought-if they really wanted to tackle the abuse issue head on, they could have kids in the game and logic that those who try to abuse and/or cover up are demoted or booted from the priesthood and those who don't abuse and turn in abusers get rewarded-they could then sell the code to the vatican in the hopes that it would install the same features.

A new essay on Religion Dispatches Will God-Gaming Alter the Bible? also discusses the phenomenon of religious games from an interesting perspective: the limitations that must be placed on them to please believers.

Discussing the game The Bible Online: Heroes, Rachel Wagner points out that like fanfic, Bible games need to be games of the gaps that limit themselves to the pockets of time and events that aren't mentioned and that don't impact the canonical events. After all, we can't have a purple emu named Zeke tearing down the walls of Jericho before Joshua gets there.

Likewise Moses can't open a strip club in Midian and tell the Israelites to bugger off. In either case it's no longer a game about the Bible, because the story is then contradictory to the original. Not mentioned by Wagner, but likely nonetheless, is the fact that believers would in no way want to encourage imagining "alternate" stories that might give the weak in faith the idea that god didn't write all of these events in stone with his pinky.

There is also the problem of conforming to believer's expectations-the wicked shouldn't win by being wicked. Unlike D&D, where multiple alignments and approaches to ethics are possible, each of which fares better or worse depending on the campaign and DM in question. Or in the case of Priestville, what happens if the most holy character at the time of the next papal election is being controlled by a woman-how will catholics deal with that? Trying to implement woo in an online game only highlights just how woo-ish it is.

Finally, Wagner could have also pointed out how these game limitations also speak to the limitations in the religious ideas of "free will" and "intelligent design" two real world example of religious thought stifling and less than thorough reasoning, but lets hope lots of the faithful end up pondering them as they try to pray and play at the same time.

Priestville-More BS than Farmville?

Not content to raise crops and whack mobsters? Facebook now lets you become a catholic priest-virtually at least. Priestville is one of the latest Facebook games and it lets you try out the life of a priest, working your way up the ranks to more prominent churches and higher offices.

Like the actual catholic church in the Middle Ages you can speed your ascent through the ranks by giving money to the games creators in exchange for favors and benefits. Likewise the game is realistic enough that users had identified several problems with the functioning game until a pope was selected.

The game lacks realism as molesting children doesn't seem to be available as an activity for priests and covering-up and transferring abuser priests doesn't appear to win you influence and promotions as it does in the physical church (Cardinal Law for example).

Perhaps the fact that children under 13 aren't supposed to be on Facebook has played a role in these omissions-or it may simply be the typical catholic sanitized view of the church that they like to present.

What's sad is the game will likely reinforce the indoctrination of catholics who play it and it may actually encourage some to enter the priesthood and perpetuate the cycle of falsehood and manipulation.

Those nontheists on Facebook may find it an opportunity to raise discussions of the church and its myths or who knows FSMville may arrive and provide a fun and vibrant alternative.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Response to Hemant Mehta's "Outspoken" post

This began as a comment on Hemant's blog in response to Why Aren't You More Outspoken that grew too large to post there. So I brought it here.

There are a unproven presuppositions treated as facts in the post and those can be the mark of zealots if pushed too hard.You've taken a series of beliefs and made them into a credo, like there's some sort of vetting process to be an atheist.

Of the points that stood out to me, the first one was "who nominated you to draw up the list of essential beliefs?"

Anti-vaccination? bad
Sarah Palin? bad
Creationism? bad
Vegetarianism? meh

I'm sure the folks from PETA would love to explain the errors in your thought process in deciding to leave their cherished belief off the list of "essentials".

My time is dedicated to programs to help the underemployed get more skills and training so that they and their families don't have to live below the poverty line. I don't hear so much about that topic from atheist commentators, but instead of spending all my time arguing how "wrong" you are in not making it "essential", I keep working to change it and find common cause on other issues where possible. Many times what I read will cause me to devote more attention to issues that haven't been on my radar in the past or that haven't gotten as much attention. That's good, and it wouldn't have happened if I'd just been blasted for being "wrong".

The "I must always correct every error" mentality is the mentality of the fundamentalist. Google "separation from error" and baptist for an example of what I mean.

Your work has led to to invest significant amounts of time and caring into certain causes-you are passionate about them and respond that way because you've dealt with lots of opposition.

Your doctor friend OTOH likely isn't being picketed by anti-vaccination protesters and depending on her area of practice may come face to face with a self-selected group of vaccine supporters every day. So she isn't moved to respond in the same way-both are conditioned reflexes.

Likewise, my experiences have caused me to focus on other causes, not because some of the one's you've listed aren't important, but because these were the causes I invested in and they became my passion. That's why I don't think a canon of "essentials" is a good idea-it smacks too much of religion and "orthodoxy".

The next issue that caught my attention is that your approach doesn't jibe with the scientific method nontheists like to talk about. There appears to be no mechanism to consider that your belief may need some tweaking even if it is substantially correct.

There have been problems with vaccines, people did complain and improvements were made. Had some of today's vaccine supporters been around at that point, we'd still be using the unsafe practices because they'd view any questioning of results as a call to go into "defender" mode.

Same with the current atheist line on global warming-instead of acknowledging that some of the recent antics in the UK and the UN could raise legitimate doubts in people trying to make up their minds on the issue, there has been no attempt to engage these people and address their concerns just a louder repetition of the party line. These people, not having their concerns addressed remain on the fence. The scientific community disappointed me on this issue just as the moderate muslims disappointed you regarding "Draw Mo".

Lastly, gay marriage. I believe in the rights of gays to get married, but not in gay marriage. Just as the Prop 8 decision showed that the idea of marriage=children is no longer valid, I don't believe that the idea marriage=sex is appropriate either. We should be past the point where we are holding up sheets stained with blood (or other fluids) to show we really care abut someone. So for me heterosexual marriage's time is done-and by definition so would gay marriage.

Anyone who wants to demonstrate their love and commitment through a legal marriage should be able to do so, even if there is no sex involved or implied between them.

It's a position that takes fire from all sides, and again it's a choice to support improvements (such as the Prop 8 decision) rather than denouncing everything that isn't exactly the way I think it should be. It means things move closer to the ideal I hold out even if there is still a ways to go.

Finally we need to cut people some slack because-our brains have lots of built in irrationality that helped us survive in the past, so it's not be surprised that we still cling to lots of it, and don't always use reason.Not everything in your OP was pure reason and certainly my response isn't either.

We need to recognize that some people are opposed and won't listen to anything else while others are opposed because they haven't heard another view or are still undecided on issues. Ted Olson was a huge inspiration to me in this area with his explanation of the Prop 8 decision. He could have gone into "defender" mode, but instead he calmly and clearly explained the excellent reasons for the decision recognizing that he had a platform that would give him access to lots of people whose minds could be changed.

My apologies for taking so long to say what I said-I'm no Ted Olson, but I hope it provides food for thought.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Masturbation and Practical Atheism

Hands above the table until the end of the post. This is a thought experiment to do with a christian.

1. Find a christian who admits to masturbating or look disbelievingly at one until they admit it.

2. Ask them to imagine "doing it" and then ask what their reaction would be if their mother, father, sister, brother or best friend (whomever they wouldn't want to do it with) walked in. Would they stop?

3. Ask them if they walked into a room where that person was if they would simply start masturbating in that person's presence.

4. Repeat as many times as you want to see the person blush and squirm.

5. Once you are done teasing them, ask them why, as a self-admitted masturbator, they can a) masturbate in front of god (who is omnipresent, omniscient, perfectly holy and worthy of all their obedience and adoration in their understanding) and b) cannot masturbate in front of a finite human being.

What quality does the human being possess that god does not that causes them to stop?

VoilĂ ! Practical Atheism. Let them ponder that for a while instead of trying to convert you.