Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
So, there's good news, and there's bad news.
Depending on your perspective, you can decide which is which.
On the one hand, I recently heard that it's likely that my SF novel will be published this year. I still have some minor work to do on it before everything is finalized, but the publisher and editor are both very excited about the book. For me, anyway, that's very good news. And with luck, it will be the entry into the publication of several books I am working on (at one stage or another).
On the other hand, the time has come to say goodnight here at UTI.
All things have a natural cycle, a story arc which makes sense. When I first found UTI seven or eight years ago, I was thrilled to discover like-minded rationalists and skeptics who saw the world with something of the same twist that I do. When the opportunity came to join the regular writers here, I was flattered and honored that Brent considered me. I have tried to maintain the same high level of writing and snarky observations on the human condition, sometimes successfully and sometimes less so.
But it is time to move on.
Another victory in the War On Christmas!!!
A secular display celebrating the winter solstice and "freethinkers" such as Albert Einstein and Bill Gates can be placed at the Arkansas Capitol alongside a traditional Christian nativity scene, a federal judge said Monday.
The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers sued last week after Secretary of State Charlie Daniels rejected its proposal, saying it wasn't consistent with the Capitol's other decorations and displays. The group asked for a quick hearing before the winter solstice, which is Dec. 21.
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright granted an injunction Monday allowing the display to go up.
Quick, someone tell Bill O'Reilly! Maybe we'll get his head to actually assplode!
I just do not understand the mindset that some people have.
OK, let me explain. Monday I posted an excerpt about our upcoming "Cylinder Gap" tests to several of the gun forums I frequent, because I thought it would be of interest to some people who hang out at such places. And, for the most part, that proved to be correct.
But one place I got a response from one guy who said "it's already been done". See, he had done these sorts of tests using one brand of revolver which allows you to adjust the cylinder gap, in both a smaller and a larger caliber than the .38/.357 we're testing. And the difference wasn't that big a deal. Oh, he had the data somewhere, but he didn't have it readily available. There was no real reason for us to conduct the tests.
OK, so here's a guy who tested something different than we did (different calibers, and I guess only one barrel length in each). And he never published the data, though he says he'll dig it up. Nor did he document the process he used.
Doesn't sound to me like "it's already been done."
We've all seen or heard some version of this: the accusation that, as atheists, we "hate God." It can come from just about any flavor of believer - Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Mormon. Though I suppose the Scientologists are exempt. Make it into a plural "the Gods" and it would probably apply to Hinduism, and most of the older religions that have since passed from favor over the centuries. I can picture one Roman senator accusing another of bringing the empire down because he wasn't sacrificing enough to the Gods, due to a lack of love and honor. And you might be next on the chopping block on the Pyramid of the Moon for ol' Huitzilopochtli if you weren't sufficiently bloodthirsty. But that's OK, you could star in Mel Gibson's movie, either way.
Anyway, the notion that atheists "hate God" has always struck me as being very insightful. No, no, not into our motivations or beliefs. Into the minds of the believers.
Christopher Hitchens, Archbishop John Onaiyekan, Stephen Fry and Anne Widdencombe, and mix?
It's the "Intelligence Squared" debate, which was held before a live audience in London this past weekend.
It's quite good, actually - and worth watching the whole thing. All four participants do a good job in presenting their position on whether or not the Catholic Church is a "force for good in the world."
What I found was telling was that at the start of the program, a survey was taken of the audience. About 35% said that the Church was a force for good, 55% said that it wasn't, and the rest were undecided. After the debate was over, the numbers were 13% yes, 86% no, with just a handful still undecided.
The Lodi City Council has apparently "found their backbone" and has voted unanimously to allow sectarian prayers before City Council meetings in direct opposition to threats of legal action against the City of Lodi by civil rights groups concerned over the clear violations against the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause.
So, let's look forward in time a few months. Lodi's City Council has been rolling along offering prayers in Jesus' name for a while now. They knew that this meant - in an abstract way of course - that they may at some point have to allow a non-Christian prayer before the start of the meeting. So, a Mormon Bishop is allowed to pray. Then, a Rabbi. Finally, after much deliberation, an Imam offers a prayer to Allah.
People are tense, but things go well, and the sky doesn't split apart, so they try their best to forget it ever happened, while simultaneously patting themselves on the back for their "tolerance".
Then things start to go awry.
A Raëlian Priest, or "Guide" basically forces his way to the front of the meeting, ranting about God knows what. The Master at Arms throws him out, and the City Council members all have a nervous chuckle.
A Wiccan applies to lead the Council in a skyclad ceremony. The Council members look it up and deny the application.
A Pastafarian wants to dress and talk like a pirate while holding a delicious plate of spaghetti. Denied.
A Jedi Knight wants to have everyone close the blast shield and try to "feel the force". Denied.
Suddenly, a rain of lawsuits alleging First Amendment violations descend onto the City. Religious persecution accusations are flying thick. The Council members decide that the very next wacky non-Christian nutball who applies to lead a prayer, they'll approve.
A Church of Satan Magister applies. They swallow, and approve the application.
The day comes, and all nervously await the Magister as he sweeps into the chambers. The lights dim, and with eerily glowing eyes he begins the blasphemous words for a Black Mass:
"Thou, thou who, in my capacity of Priest, I force, weather thou wilt or no, to descend into this host, to incarnate thyself into this bread Jesus, artisan of hoaxes, bandit of homages, robber of affection- hear! O lasting foulness of Bethlehem, we would have thee confess thy impudent cheats, thy inexplicable crimes!. We would drive deeper the nails into thy hands, press down the crown of thorns upon thy brow, and bring blood from the dry wounds.
Cursed Nazarene, abstractor of stupid parities, impotent king, fugitive god! O Infernal Satanic Majesty, condemn him to the pit, evermore to suffer in perpetual anguish. Bring Thy wrath upon him, O Prince of Darkness, King of Filth, Emperor of Putridity, Dark Lord Satan, hear our demands!"
Cue the lightning and fog machines and wolf howl special effects.
People freak the fuck out, cats and dogs start living together, chaos ensues, council members start raping goats right in the chambers, pregnant Christian ladies give birth to deformed monsters.
You know, the usual.
And atheists sit back and laugh. "Look," we'd say with a chuckle, "we fucking warned you morons about this six months ago! Now, grow the fuck up, stop breaking the law, and try following the Constitution. Make the council meetings secular, idiots, and pray in your own fucking church, and this won't happen ever again."
(Maybe not in those exact words... Heh.)
Back in may of 2007 I wrote an open letter to Amber Heard asking her to please consider being the spokesmodel for atheism, due to the general mud-duck nature of all of us smelly, run-of-the-mill internet atheists. (Before anyone gets indignant, I said run-of-the-mill internet atheists like me, not you beautiful, unique atheist snowflakes. Heh.)
Well, our lovely Amber is back in the news this week in a men.style.com feature talking about her acting career, her .357, and her atheism.
You can probably understand why us UTI guys are all fluttery around her. Beautiful girls who like guns and atheism? Up until Amber appeared on the scene, I knew exactly one. My wife, Mrs. Inscrutable. (Hi honey!)
[link] Heard grew up equally headstrong in Austin, Texas, more interested in reading Henry Miller and Ayn Rand than in sitting through Bible study with her Catholic-school classmates. She is now a devout atheist. "I did what I needed to do to be independent," she says after Pistol allows us to settle at a shady picnic table. "I never felt like I was telling the truth when I prayed. When you're growing up and one thing is cool and admired and another is distasteful, where does that put you if you side with the latter? It put me . . . out."
Pretty cool. I wish you the very best in your career, Amber. I know you'll do great!
Yup. No longer do you have to stand by and watch as the religious leaders fleece their flocks. You don't have to shake your head as the poor suckers hand over their hard-earned cash for "prayer rugs".
You, too, can cash in on the gullibility of the religious crazies - and the best thing about it is that you can do so in a completely above-board and honest fashion, maintaining your dignity and identity as an atheist.
By promising to save their pets when the rapture comes:
You've committed your life to Jesus. You know you're saved. But when the Rapture comes what's to become of your loving pets who are left behind? Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind.
We are a group of dedicated animal lovers, and atheists. Each Eternal Earth-Bound Pet representative is a confirmed atheist, and as such will still be here on Earth after you've received your reward. Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus.
So, I'm curious - who here saw the movie Religulous, and what did you think?
I watched it last night (I had added it to my NetFlix queue some time back, it finally surfaced) for the first time. It was better than I feared it might be, since I'm not that big a fan of Bill Maher (he's OK in small doses). I liked that it wasn't all just him pointing and laughing at the absurdity of the different religious beliefs he looked at - rather, he'd let the advocates for those beliefs hang themselves, just prodding and poking enough to elicit a response.
Some of the editing decisions were uneven, and the choice to go with a Fahrenheit 9/11 - style "counterpoint" text during some of the segments seemed just too easy. But then, it was probably better to do that in an effort to communicate to a wider audience.
Gee, this is *so* surprising:
Atheist advertising signs on Des Moines Area Regional Transit buses that created a storm of controversy when they first went up on Aug. 1 have been taken down.
And what did these offensive, despicable, inflammatory advertisements say? Did they mock the absurdity of Zombie Jesus, or point out that the Mormon magical underwear was just silly? Did they cite conflicting verses of the Bible, or run a tally of how many people God killed in the Old Testament? Maybe show chanting kooks at soldier's funerals or members of the Taliban beheading some infidel?
Of course not.
What they did was say this: "Don't believe in God? You are not alone."
And then give the name of the group sponsoring the ads: Iowa Atheist and Free Thinkers. Here's their comment on the whole absurd thing:
In a discussion with a friend today, I got this comment:
At least I'm not one of those youth pastors running around hitting on kids. No kidding - google "Youth Pastor Watch" sometime.
Just a bit ago, out of curiosity, I did.
I don't know whether this was something that Dan Savage started, or just a term/tag that he picked up and has popularized, but most of the hits lead to stuff he's written. Not that it matters, because either way it is a real problem. Sadly, it comes as no real surprise that this is so much a problem that it supports such ongoing attention.
Now, I don't have kids. And in spite of what it may seem from my posting here, I don't really give that much attention to religion (I've found it is better for my blood pressure that way). So it's not like I follow this particular pathology. Maybe you don't either. But can you honestly say that you are in the slightest bit surprised that the situation is what it is?
That's the problem with religion: good in theory, problematic at best in practice. Except even the theory isn't good.
Hat tip to the Doc Dude.
Saw a good item posted by Darksyde over on dKos this morning (which you should go check out), and in reading the comments came across this old Edward Current vid:
I must really be one sick puppy, I laughed so hard . . .
A couple of weeks ago, someone at the Vatican really stuck it to the atheists and their little bus campaign, and the wound still stings. Per Reuters, under the headline "Advertising Drive for Atheism Is Mocked":
“We should almost thank the people who promoted that advertising campaign. It has served God’s cause more than so many of our apologetic arguments,” said the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa . . . "It has demonstrated the poverty of their reasons and has helped stir so many sleeping consciences."
Gah! What a wound is this!
[*Performs melodramatic, gasping death scene*]
But seriously, this is a little bit sad when you consider that even this representative of the HQ of the Catholic Church has to admit that a bus ad about nonbelief does a better job of "serving God's purposes" than his own institution.
I'm guessing so:
Here is a prime example of home homosexuals have no respect for anything that isn’t sugar plummed with anal sin.
A young boy decided to paint a penis on his families home to show his support and love for other men. I want to know why this young man felt the need to violate his parent’s property with such sin and vulgarity. Did he feel like if he embarrassed his family that they would except his choice to be a twiddle rompus worshiper?
I mean, seriously. But it says something - actually, a lot - that it's so damned hard to tell anymore...
Well, it's been a year since I started this series, and I should probably offer a refresher on the idea for new readers. From the original post:
OK, it seems to me that one of the advantages that religion has is in dealing with guilt and absolution. Granted, most religions compound those problems for most people by adding in ridiculous rules and behaviours, but that is neither here nor there for my purposes.
Simply put, we all do things that make us feel a little guilty. And now I'm going to kick off an occasional feature called "Confession Time" which will allow us to 'fess up to a guilty pleasure and receive the absolution of our community. Each "Confession Time" will be devoted to one topic, and the rules are simple: confess to a guilty pleasure you have within that topic, and explain why it makes you feel guilty. And don't worry, I'm not serious about this.
Today's topic: What woo did you do, when you used to do woo?
Roy is a freakin' genius, and so funny. Check it out!
(Tip of the do-rag to Daniel Floren over at Unreasonable Faith!)
... I really, really hope that this site is run by atheists:
Information Age Prayer
Information Age Prayer is a subscription service utilizing a computer with text-to-speech capability to incant your prayers each day. It gives you the satisfaction of knowing that your prayers will always be said even if you wake up late, or forget.
Subscriptions start at $3.95 a month, and there is a discount for volume prayers. No, I am not kidding.
Absolutely brilliant. I love a good scam.
So, saw this over on MetaFilter:
The certificate declares:
I ________ having been subjected to the Rite of Christian Baptism in infancy (before reaching an age of consent), hereby publicly revoke any implications of that Rite and renounce the Church that carried it out. In the name of human reason, I reject all its Creeds and all other such superstition in particular, the perfidious belief that any baby needs to be cleansed by Baptism of alleged ORIGINAL SIN, and the evil power of supposed demons. I wish to be excluded henceforth from enhanced claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics used, for example, for the purpose of securing legislative privilege.”
It's a UK-based group, which explains the final sentence in the document.