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Archive for the ‘Atheism’ Category

Finished Another Robert M. Price Book

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Although I do enjoy reading Robert M. Price’s books, they usually take me a long time to get through. He is spectacularly knowledgeable on the subject and explores issues very deeply. I often need to take extended breaks from reading before returning to them.

jidJesus Is Dead was not that different. I did manage to finish it faster than The Incredible Shrinking Son Of Man but that was mainly due to it being a shorter book!

Still, it was an enjoyable read covering a subject that I will certainly be exploring in greater depth in 2016. In short, was Jesus a real man or completely fictional? It is a fascinating question.

In Jesus Is Dead, Price tackles several Christian apologists with a chapter for each one. He takes apart each of their arguments with laser-like precision. Price easily pokes holes in their theories – doubtlessly his former life as an apologist helps.

As one can guess, Price is a mythicist – Jesus is created out of whole-cloth from previous myths and hero tales. My favourite author on the subject of the Bible is Bart Ehrman and I believe he is a historicist – Jesus was a real person whose story has been exaggerated with miracles and such.

Like Price, historian Richard Carrier is a mythicist. I have books by both Ehrman and Carrier on this subject. I’m curious to find out which author presents the best evidence.

Although I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions; I do hope to read a lot more books in 2016. My list grows faster than I can clear it!

Remembering Hitch

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

Four days ago was the fourth anniversay of Christopher Hitchens’ passing. Most atheist Facebook groups were filled with links to his speeches and debates or pictures of glasses filled with Johnnie Walker scotch.

I decided to offer up my own tribute to this incomparable man.

Hitch

In these days of jaw-dropping religious lunacy we need to remember Hitchens all the more. Nobody can replace him; but he has inspired many to take up the battle.

So I Went To Church Today…

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

I just could not bring myself to write about yet another mass-shooting or the sheer, bat-shit lunacy of the Republican candidates. The first is far too depressing and although it is being talked about by better writers than myself, I find it too difficult to hope that anything will change. The second I got totally wrong. I thought a Trump candidacy would be hilarious; how wrong can one be? How much more toxic can this campaign get?

Screeching segue… I went to church today.

Honestly, I cannot remember the last time that I was inside a church – much less intentionally listened to a sermon. The last two times I watched a minister acting in an official capacity were weddings. Both being held outdoors.

New Vision United ChurchFor the past few years when I was visiting Hamilton, I noticed that a Pride flag was hung outside Centenary United Church (sorry for such a poor photo, maybe you can see the flag above the pickup truck). Curious, but not entirely out-of-line with the United Church Of Canada.

Now that I am living downtown, the church is just two blocks away from my condo. There are two churches that are even closer to me (an Anglican and a Presbyterian) but these seem to maintain a more – uhm…traditional – set of appearances.

It turns out that Centenary church merged with St. Giles to form New Vision United.

Although there is clearly a large sanctuary in this building, the congregation meets in the basement. I use the word loosely because entering from Main Street puts the meeting room directly in front you. The (former?) sanctuary requires climbing staircases. My guess is that they meet here to make it easier for elderly and infirm members. Cool. I picked up a bulletin and sat in the back.

Members were friendly and welcoming. Since there is only about 40 of them, a new face is pretty easy to spot. Several people greeted me.

I’m not familiar with the church rituals. Things differed substantially from the church my family attended when I was a kid. There was a Lighting Of Our Candles ceremony. The white candle symbolizing Christ’s light in the world. Sure, whatever. Then there was the rainbow-striped Pride colours candle to symbolize the congregation and all their diversity. Alright, nice touch there.

The opening hymn was Like A River Of Tears. No, not the Eric Clapton song. I tried to find the lyrics to this hymn online, but could only find Clapton’s work. You have to see these lyrics to believe it. What a jumble of mixed metaphors and awkward rhymes! Just terrible stuff.

Reverend Ian’s sermon riffed off of Malachi 3:1-4.

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

I am sorry to say this Reverend, but the sermon was every bit a word salad that Like A River Of Tears was. I really want to say more on this, but the above quote came from Bible Gateway (using New Revised Standard Version) and it is not matching well with what was printed in the church NRSV. The key parts of the pastor’s sermon are missing in the above quote.

This reminds of the half-serious, half-joke question, “Why do you need so many versions of the truth?” But I digress.

He opened discussing the first person grammar of the first verse and the third person grammar of the rest. I found that bit interesting – that is the bible study that fascinates me and why I read Robert Price and Bart Ehrman. Sadly, the rest of the sermon went downhill from there, dropping into repeated but still incoherent thoughts about the meaning of the verses. I couldn’t help but be reminded of this recent Friendly Atheist post.

There was a communion. More differences from my childhood experiences. I didn’t partake since it is a silly notion to me and I did not want to – profane, I guess – a ritual that is clearly important to these people.

Reverend Ian greeted me afterward and welcomed me to the church. He wasn’t the least bit put-off when I said I was an atheist. In fact, he agreed that living in Texas would do more to turn people into atheists! Bravo sir! He explained that the church is affirming. I have to admit that I like that word to describe inclusiveness.

Since I mentioned that the Pride flag is what brought me into the church, he introduced me to a lesbian member. She was from Indiana but her partner is Canadian. Like myself, she had to leave the USA due to work visa issues. So the two of them settled in Hamilton after finding New Vision United through online searches.

I was also introduced to a bisexual, polyamourous woman who is married to an atheist (former Catholic). In an odd coincidence, this young woman works in 3D animation! Her husband worked on the short-lived Ugly Americans series. Neat!

Will I return? Well, I didn’t get an answer to how this church squares the circle with the LGBTQ community and the vile hatred poured out by the “holy” texts. Shouldn’t they be killing these people as directed in Leviticus? At least 3 Republican candidates appear to think so…

Stay tuned I suppose!

The Josh Duggar Schadenfreude

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Although we should not take pleasures in the misfortunes of another, sometimes it simply cannot be resisted. The Duggar family has done such spectacular damage to basic human rights and dignity that I won’t hide the smile on my face caused by their so-called plight.

The revelations that Josh Duggar – in addition to being a child molester – has also cheated on his wife obviously gave a speed boost to the downward spiral ride for the family.

Duggar epitomy of conservative values

This sniveling worm’s public statement tries to put the blame for his actions on an “addiction” to pornography. There is no such thing as porn or sex addiction according to the DSM-5. This is just another way to shift responsibility instead of being a real man and owning one’s actions.

Friendly Atheist commenter Holytape puts it far better than I though:

Not true, Joshy. Don’t beat your self up like that. Sure you’re a hypocrite. Sure you’re a miserable piece of dog shit with the moral compass, of… well you. Sure you campaigned to make people’s lives miserable for no other reason that your narcissistic desire to control other people’s happiness. But you’re not the biggest hypocrite ever. You’re not that important. Most people don’t know about your work at being an asshole. They only know of your existence because you were the first one out of that clown car they call your mother’s vagina. So people really don’t care enough to make you the biggest hypocrite ever. And don’t worry, by this time next year, everyone will have forgotten your transgressions, because they will have forgotten about you entirely.

It will be wonderful when the world has completely forgotten about this brood of hypocrites. That day cannot come too soon – I only wish that all the other asshole Christians would be forgotten too.

Society would benefit tremendously.

Je Suis Charlie

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Of course I am shocked and repulsed at the vile and cowardly attacks in Paris yesterday. Having a free society obviously includes the freedom to criticize or satirize any idea – including (especially?) religious ideas. Of course, I am not surprised either.

Islamic intolerance of criticism is no longer shocking to us. We expect it.

Indeed, according to the clueless and disgusting Catholic toad Bill Donohue, these attacks are the fault of the cartoonists themselves. There is no level too low that this cretin won’t sink to.

I’ll just leave this image here…

fuck islam

 

While we are at it … fuck Bill Donohue too.

Tim Minchin’s Christmas Song

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

This is a truly beautiful song. Even if I am not able to spend today with my dad, mom or Ruth, I’ll be thinking about them.

Freedom From Religion Foundation Convention – 2014

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

I was in Los Angeles, California last week for the 37th Freedom From Religion Foundation Convention. This is the fourth convention that I have attended and I am looking forward to many more in the future. FFRF is a great organization with a mission statement that all should support – even if one holds religious beliefs.

This year’s speakers were every bit as excellent as I expected.

Paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson spoke about his discovery of the famed fossil Lucy. Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll gave a somewhat tongue-in-cheek talk about death and physics.

Professor Anthony Pinn gave a moving and inspiring talk. Just as inspiring were Christopher Johnson and Scott Clifton. Barbara Mancini’s story was utterly heart-wrenching.

Constitutional lawyer and scholar Erwin Chemerinsky discussed the philosophies of the current Supreme Court makeup and how this influences their (sometimes awful) decisions. Marci Hamilton showed the history of the wretched federal statute RFRA (what drove the horrid Hobby Lobby decision).

Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens talked about their experiences with the Supreme Court and the Greece v. Galloway decision.

The 35th FFRF Convention

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

This post is a week late – things got really crazy at work! Sorry! I’ll also post about the travel hiccups that I had later.

I had a great time at the latest FFRF Convention! This was only the second convention that I have attended but it will definitely not be the last. As a Life Member of FFRF, I’ll be aiming to attend every annual convention from here out.

After registering, we had group bus tours through the Columbia River Gorge. The Pacific Northwest had been experiencing an almost unheard of drought of over 80 days without rain. Unfortunately, this was the day that the drought broke. The rainy weather could not drench my enthusiasm though. This was an informative tour with some spectacular views. The tour made stops at a salmon spawning river, Horsetail Falls, Multnomah Falls and Wahkeena Falls.

My Flickr set of photos of the gorge trip is here.

On Friday evening we were given updates on Jessica Ahlquist’s and Max Nielson’s situations. Their stories have fallen out of the ADD-ridden news media; but they are not yet over by a long-shot. I wish all the best to both of them and look forward to successful conclusions.

A major highlight of this year’s conference was hearing Richard Dawkins acceptance speech of FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes award. It was really two speeches in one. The first half examined the excessive use of metaphor by “sophisticated theologians.” The fundamentalists in America appear to honestly believe the things that they say they do; but the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury (who both believe in the correctness of evolution) often speak about Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden like they were real places. No doubt, their less sophisticated congregations are not picking up on the use of metaphor and are believing this material literally.

Dawkins then deviated into the political, what with the impending Presidential election. He opined that a candidate’s religious views should be put under scrutiny just as much as their economic or social views. Of course, Mitt Romney provides the best example of this. He allegedly believes provably false ideas (Israelites in the Americas!) and racist ideas. If he wants to be the most powerful man in the world, he ought be accountable for these ideas.

Of course, I had Professor Dawkins sign my copy of The God Delusion and I thanked him for throwing me the first life-line toward reason.

During Saturday’s Non-Prayer Breakfast, I was able to speak to Sean Faircloth about his excellent book, Attack Of The Theocrats. No matter what views you have on religion, this book is a must-read.

Saturday was a busy but interesting day. Katherine Stewart discussed how the Good News Club slimes its way into public schools. Rather chilling and something I’m going to watch for in my school district. FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel gave an excellent presentation about debunking the myth that America is a Christian nation.

We heard from “graduates” of The Clergy Project. This is an important initiative; one that I hope sees many more graduates in the future. I suspect that there is a large population of atheist pastors, priests and such that are forced to live a lie.

The convention ended on a high note for me personally. I won one of the raffle drawings for “clean money.” These are American currency bills that were printed before the 1957 law that tainted them with “In God We Trust.” I won a $20 bill printed in 1934 – a thing of beauty!

I hold on to a vision of a world that is not choking under the stranglehold of religion. The human race deserves to rise to fullest potential without being dragged down by a past that it is growing out of.

Heading To Portland, Oregon

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

In a couple of hours, I’ll be flying out to Portland, Oregon to attend the 35th FFRF National Convention.

I loved last year’s convention in Hartford, Connecticut. This year’s will be every bit as wonderful. All the more so if I get a chance to meet Richard Dawkins!

Once I return, I’ll post more about the event.

Disappointed With Australia’s Marriage Equality Vote

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Last Wednesday the Australian government voted against marriage equality. That depressed me since polls show that a majority of Australians support equality.

I suspect that much of my disappointment stems from trying to understand Prime Minister Gillard. I am thrilled that an out atheist is the head of a major country. I was impressed when she cancelled speaking at a Christian group when they made statements equating being gay with the health hazards of smoking. Wow! I wish American politicians had a commitment to reality like that.

Yet, Gillard does not support marriage equality. I don’t understand it.

Of course, atheism does not automatically equate with certain social issues. We are seeing the emergence of so-called Atheism + that tries to tie atheism to these social issues. Once I became an out atheist, I almost immediately began supporting rights and equality for LGBT people. Simply put; I realized that all the arguments to supress the LGBT community was entirely religious – I could not think of a single purely secular reason. Since I rejected religion, I had to reject the idea that fellow human beings could not be permitted to marry those that they loved.

I’d love to chat with Ms. Gillard about that.

In the mean time, several more states in the USA have marriage equality votes pending as part of their participation in the November federal election. I am hoping that more of this country sees the light and removes the pointless barriers that block fellow human beings from happiness.

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