The Exodus Of Exodus

I could hardly have been happier when I first read that Exodus International was closing its doors.

They were on a fool’s errand right from the very beginning. What is deeply tragic – so I am pleased to hear a sincere apology from Alan Chambers – is the amount of hurt that they caused over the last 30+ years. Shaming gays and lesbians when prayer alone didn’t “cure” them of their natural attractions. Chambers also admitted that he continued having same-sex attractions over the years.

Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist dealt with this story.

This is an on-going change and something that is making us more civilized as a species. To fight against it is to (try to) drag humanity backward. You are on the losing end of this fight; so come around to reasonableness and be a better human being.


A couple of days ago I finished reading Bart Ehrman’s Forged.

Powerful stuff. When combined with his other books; – Jesus, Interrupted and Misquoting Jesus – you get something much closer to real bible study than what I ever experienced inside a church. This actually is one of the most frustrating things that I face when discussing Christianity with believers – they simply cannot accept that their holy books have been altered over the centuries. The idea is completely alien to them.

Ehrman’s work is not intended to make new atheists or to trash a religion. Simply, he seeks to uncover the truth about Christianity’s history. There is so much that happened during the first few formative centuries and we only have enticing snippets of it today. The belief systems of the various sects – again, modern Christians simply cannot seem to wrap their heads around other, equally valid but now all-but-lost, ways of thinking and worshipping. This stuff is endlessly fascinating to me.

I look forward to reading more of Bart Ehrman’s books.

The Vatican Will Never Condone Gay Marriage

I know that this is hardly surprising news to anyone with a few extra brain cells. It is obviously a reaction not only to President’s Obama’s resounding victory, but also to the four states that helped pull the USA further away from the Dark Ages that the Catholic Church so dearly loves.

Personally, I think that they won’t condone gay marriage because that would take all the illicit fun away from the priests.

My fellow Canadians feel much the same way. Here are some of the comments from that story:

  • “And I will never condone the Vatican.”
  • “The Vatican is irrelevant in the modern world.”
  • “What the Vatican has to say on any issue has not one iota of relevance to me.”

The 35th FFRF Convention

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.

Thoughts On The Chick-fil-A Fiasco

Last week, every time that I began to write about this something new would crop up. The brouhaha seems to have finally calmed down. Of course; any one who knows me already know which side of the argument that I am on.

At first I applauded when the mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco stated that they didn’t want a Chick-fil-A store in their cities. However, I am glad to say that reason returned to my mind. It was wrong to politicize this issue (though it was important for political leaders to speak out as they did, it is preferable to allow the free market to deal with it). I owe a nod to Matthew Paul Turner – a Christian writer – who wrote 5 Reasons Why The Church Failed Yesterday about the failure of the politicization of this issue:

People felt hate and we ignored that. At the end of the day, regardless of whether or not your Christian understanding of scripture harbors hate or not, a large group of people felt hated…

Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people. Oh I know that most Christians will say, “I don’t hate gay people!!”

But did supporting CFA Appreciation Day prove that?

As a humanist, I want the best for everybody. If two people love each other and want to marry, they should have that as a right. Religion has often (always?) been at the forefront of supressing people’s rights. In spite of this, we humans have slowly moved forward and made life better.

There was a time when a group of humans with some genetic differences that gave them larger breasts, wider hips and even a different way of peeing, were regarded as inferior to the rest of the humans. These humans were treated as property for far too long. That slowly changed. There is another group of humans with some genetic differences that gave them darker skin; these humans were also seen as inferior and treated as property for too long.

Those struggles still continue to a certain, sad, extent. Today, we have a group of humans with some genetic differences that give them a predilection toward the same gender. This group is often marginalized and treated as inferior or broken. Yet, in time, they too will win out.

I can hardly wait for that day to arrive.

Books That I Have Recently Read

It is a beautiful day in Texas today, so I am going to sit outside for a bit and keep reading The Believing Brain.

Books that I have recently finished include:

imageGod, No! Signs You Might Already Be An Atheist – Penn Jillette

This was an alright book; at least if you like Penn Jillette. Fortunately, I do. But it is not really a book about atheism.

In short, Penn tells stories from his life that occasionally involve atheism. The life he has led and been able to lead is quite different from most people’s experiences. Not to demean the man’s experiences.

The stories are often quite amusing or interesting. One that I especially enjoyed was that of a former orthodox Jew who became an atheist. Jillette and his friends got this his first bacon cheeseburger. Hilarious stuff, along with some maudlin material, but fairly harmless.

imageDrunk With Blood: God’s Killings In The Bible – Steve Wells

This one is interesting but also very tongue-in-cheek. If you have never read the Bible cover-to-cover (honestly, I have not yet), then reading this will likely be quite the eye-opening experience. Steve Wells operates the excellent resource site Skeptics Annotated Bible (plus the Koran and Book Of Mormon).

There are plenty of famous slaughters that G_d allegedly perpetrates (Noah’s flood, Sodom and Gommorah…himself on the cross). Some of the more interesting ones are less well-known.

  • G_d killed 42 kids (with the help of some “Mama Grizzlies”) for making fun of Elijah’s bald head (2 Kings 2:23-24)
  • G_d lets Satan torture Job over a bet (entire book of Job – great Darkmatter2525 video about this)
  • Yay cannibalism! (Isaiah 9:19-20)

The real tongue-in-cheek part of this book is the arbitrary accounting Wells applies to the mass murders when there isn’t a precise number specified in the Bible. He usually applies values like 1000 to phrases like “a great slaughter.” Of course these numbers are not meant to be taken seriously; but surely we need to consider all the deaths committed by G_d or ordered by G_d. After all, this is the most perfect book ever written…

imageThe Heathen’s Guide To World Religions – William Hopper

Not unlike Drunk With Blood, this was a really fun read. It is a very witty and sarcastic examination of the world’s key religions.

How sarcastic does it get? Jesus becomes either “Josh” or “JC.” Even better is this gem in the opening chapter on Islam:

Individual Muslims are usually ok. But there’s a  Borg collective thing that happens in Mosques that you should be aware of. The same guy that shrugs about your questioning his faith in a coffee shop will absolutely lose it on you if you say the exact same thing when other Muslims are around.

The book also covers Hinduism, Buddhism and Vedism. My only minor gripe with it is that Mormonism and some of the major Christian sects (Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.) are all lumped under one big section.

imageThe Good Atheist: Living A Purpose-Filled Life Without God – Dan Barker

I loved Barker’s book Godless. This one wasn’t quite what I expected it to be but it was still a worthwhile and certainly educational read.

Barker begins by excoriating Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life as a promotion of slavery. Warren’s own summary of atheism pretty much shows that:

Without G_d, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.

It doesn’t take much to see the logical problems there. Barker spends the rest of the book briefly summarizing the lives of well-known and obscure non-believers and atheists across the many centuries and over many fields of human endeavours. This book clearly drives home the point that if all of these people’s lives had “no significance or hope” then there simply is no significance or hope to be had in this universe.

Life drives purpose. Not the other way around.

imageThe Missionary Position: Mother Teresa In Theory And Practice – Christopher Hitchens

It didn’t dawn on me until I watched Hitchens gut and flay the world opinion of Mother Teresa, just how prevalent the worship of this woman is. Even today, years after her death, even non-Catholics think she deserves the fast-track to sainthood that the popes have her on. It’s staggering to realize some of the truly awful stuff that she said and did in her lifetime.

What really sickens me is the hypocrisy of The Missionaries Of Charity during her sickness and eventual death. While they neglect the doomed and piteous souls inhabiting the House Of The Dying, their wanna-be saint received some of the very best treatments the modern world could provide.

This book is short and eye-opening. Well worth reading.

Books I Am Currently Reading

During my unexpected five week vacation, I managed to get a lot of reading done and/or started. I sure wish that I could read faster though.

As has been the case for some time; much of that reading concerns science, atheism and religion. It is a topic that I find nearly endlessly fascinating. I’ll write another post soon about the books that I have finished reading recently.


The Believing Brain – Michael Shermer

I am nearly finished reading this and I have loved every page of it. Shermer theorizes that our brains are “belief engines,” thanks to our evolution; we believe something and afterwards find ways to rationalize that belief. We seek patterns and apply agency to those patterns.

He examines not only religious belief but UFOs, conspiracy theories and political beliefs too. The book cites and describes many studies done by psychologists and neurologists that support the author’s thesis.

Although the subject may appear to be dry or erudite, this book is still quite easy to read and understand. It is one of the best I have read. Very highly recommended!


The Magic Of Reality – Richard Dawkins

This newest book by Professor Dawkins is aimed at younger children but it is still a thoroughly enjoyable read. It provides an excellent overview of the sciences – math, physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy. Along with the science, it also tells many of the various myths stories that surround the topic.

Of course, I already know about evolution, genes, rainbows and such; I don’t need to learn where these things come from. Yet, the writing and the beautiful illustrations by Dave McKean makes reading this book a great experience.

This should be required reading in schools!


Evolution: How We And All Living Things Came To Be – Daniel Loxton

This book is aimed at an even younger audience than The Magic Of Reality.

It is an excellent introduction to evolution and the story behind speciation. I suspect that it is probably also a useful guide for adults who have had their minds marinated in religious dogma and thus fail to grasp just what evolution is.

For me, Dawkins’ The God Delusion and The Greatest Show On Earth gave me that understanding. But I also want to support this author and encourage him to write more books like this one.

This is a great book to know about should you need help with explaining evolution to a young child.

Cheers To Mayor Bloomberg!

My extend my praise and admiration for New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg!

Amid strong opposition from the Religious Right lobbyist groups, His Honour is insisting on keeping the upcoming September 11 Memorial non-religious. All religion is divisive and exclusive; it is precisely those properties that led to the sadness and destruction of that terrible day.

Not all victims were Christian. Surely many were atheists, agnostic, pagan or otherwise non-religious. Those beliefs and non-beliefs are certainly reflected in their family and friends who mourning their loss.

Be strong Mayor Bloomberg. Let’s make this memorial event include everybody.

Now Rick Perry’s Run For POTUS Makes Terrifying Sense…

I had a sneaky feeling that there was more to Rick Perry’s illegal (sadly, uncharged) endorsement of The Response prayer rally. His announcement about running for President didn’t surprise me in the slightest. I had no idea that it could get much worse…

I just read Michelle Goldberg’s article A Christian Plot for Domination.

Terrifying stuff if even a quarter of it is true.

To be fair, I also read a dissenting piece by A. Larry Ross. I considered what he had to say but I think that it comes up short; this is especially true with respect to his points about the separation of church and state and the cherry-picking of scriptures.

The United States is facing a crisis with its political situation. I am relieved to not be a citizen here – but I am stuck living here for the time being.

Mark Morford Hits Another Homerun

Once again, San Francisco Chronicle columnist has written another supremely wonderful piece that is truly a joy to read.

That’s right, the Vatican is hiring! Don’t laugh. Business is solid (2000 years and counting! In Roman numerals! Spitefully!), the pay is barely reasonable and the benefits… well, there are no benefits. Except for the misery and oppression. Hey, it beats Facebook! Well, not really. It beats the GOP! Then again, so does a root canal in 1882.

Wonderful stuff!

Just Say No To Polygamy

I am quite happy to see that the religious nutcase (yes, yes, they all are…) Warren Jeffs is being sent to prison for life. Of course, I have absolutely no fear about the “whirlwind of judgement” that his imaginary Sky Daddy is going to release.

There seems to be a parallel between the newer religions requiring to be even stranger than older ones. Just about the only thing weirder than Mormonism is Scientology. Yet today, there are two Republican candidates for President who believe that g_d lives on another planet and one day they will too.

The stupidity of Mormonism invaded my own family decades ago.

It always astonishes me that intelligent fellow humans fall for the obvious ruse that all religions are. One day, we might be free of these shackles and rise to our full height.