Jim Downey's picture

Let us all now praise the Power of The Lord!

I'm sure you all remember this case:

Wis. man testifies he expected God to heal child

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) -- A central Wisconsin man charged with killing his daughter by praying instead of taking her to a doctor read from the Bible while testifying Thursday that he couldn't seek medical help without disobeying God.

"I can't do that because Biblically, I cannot find that is the way people are healed," Dale Neumann told the jury. "If I go to the doctor, I am putting the doctor before God. I am not believing what he said he would do."

So, either the bible is wrong, God lied, or He doesn't exist.

But your daughter is still dead.

From the same article:

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The Fragile Soap Bubble Of Faith

Duane Blake is a Bishop in the Upland, CA 1st Ward of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). He wrote a letter to the editor of the Bay Area's Contra-Costa Times, bemoaning the awful atheists trying to force all of the peaceful, persecuted Christians in America to "the religion of atheism" - by "removing God" from our government buildings, and from our society.

Notwithstanding the ludicrous notion that the absence of the word "GOD" equal "atheism" (Author's note: it doesn't. -Brent), and granting for the sake of argument the religionists assertions about this invisible god-thing, how the heck are us evil atheists supposed to "remove" a supposedly supreme magical being from anything - let alone an entire society? That doesn't make any sense even if we suspend our disbelief enough to look at it from their point of view! Preposterous!

The good Bishop says:

[link] In the great effort by many to remove God from our society they are, by default, forcing us into their belief system as an atheistic society.

There is just so much wrong here. I'll have to break it down into smaller chunks.

In the great effort by many to remove God from our society...

Where exactly is this "great effort" Bishop? Who are the "many" that you refer to? Yes, there are a few court cases a year where the Freedom From Religion Foundation, or the ACLU will sue a small city government, or a state government to stop what they believe to be gross violations of the United States constitution - specifically in reference to the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

But, "great effort"? "Many"? Please. You outnumber us nearly 9 to 1. Some of us try and address the worst civil rights and Constitutional violations in courts across the country. Yes, those cases get a lot of press because Christians are shocked - shocked I tell you! - that those uppity atheists would have the unmitigated gall to call them out for their bigotry and their dangerously theocratic, unconstitutional actions.

You also mention "removing God". This begs the question; which "God" are you referring to? Yours? Why does your particular flavor of magical man in the sky get such a prominent place on our buildings, our money, our Pledge of Allegiance, and in the speeches given by our politicians - despite the very clear concept of the separation of church and state being outlined in the First Amendment, then bolstered with 230 years of SCOTUS opinion and precedent?

...they are, by default, forcing us into their belief system as an atheistic society.

How does NOT engraving your deity's name on every new piece of masonry on government buildings at the taxpayers expense (many of whom are NOT CHRISTIAN) equal "forcing" citizens into "the religion of atheism"? How does NOT seeing "GOD" plastered all over everything strip you of your beliefs? Are your beliefs so weak that they must be constantly nurtured, and lovingly protected from criticism and - uh, absence on government buildings lest they dissapear in an instant like a soap bubble?

Goodness! What frail, delicate flowers you religious folks are! Your beliefs, so easily swept away by the cruel notion of government neutrality.

You know, the one outlined by our Constitution? The First Amendment? Heard of it before?

And just so you know, I could devote an entire post to that one stupidly willful misconception that religious folks LOVE to make. There is no excuse for an intelligent, grown adult human being to make a mistake of this nature. The phrase "religion of atheism" is something only an idiot, a religious conservative with a political axe to grind with atheists, or a very young child would say. Which are you Bishop? Let me guess.

Jim Downey's picture

Religion at work.


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Late-term abortion doctor George Tiller, a prominent advocate for abortion rights wounded by a protester more than a decade ago, was shot and killed Sunday at a church in Wichita where he was serving as an usher and his wife was in the choir, his attorney said.

Tiller was shot during morning services at Reformation Lutheran Church, attorney Dan Monnat said. Police said a manhunt was under way for the shooter, who fled in a car registered to a Kansas City suburb nearly 200 miles away.

National anti-abortion groups had long focused on Tiller, whose Women's Health Care Services clinic is one of just three in the nation where abortions are performed after the 21st week of pregnancy.

Someone has been arrested. Who wants to bet that they did it "in the name of Jesus!"? To "save the little babies!"? To "stop the holocaust!"?

Paul Fidalgo's picture

Oh Noes! Pwned by the Pope's Preacher!

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.

RickU's picture

Just a quickie

I just want to point you folks to a new newsweek article. I read it and was a little blown away by the middle ground that the article takes.

*** edited to add. I think this is a good article and positive press for non-theists.

You can see it here.

RickU's picture

Bible verses that bug me part 3! The bear incident

Here's another in an ongoing series! Robert Heinlein first made me aware of this verse in his book Stranger in a Stranger Land. Here's the verse: 2 Kings 2:23-25.

2:23 He went up from there to Bethel. As he was traveling up the road, some young boys came out of the city and made fun of him, saying, “Go on up, baldy! Go on up, baldy!” 24 When he turned around and saw them, he called God’s judgment down on them. Two female bears came out of the woods and ripped forty-two of the boys to pieces. 25 From there he traveled to Mount Carmel and then back to Samaria.


So...yeah. This has to be a tough verse for Christians. Frankly, this has to be a tough verse for Jews too. It's a little redundant but let me recap.

1. Kids make fun of bald guy (who happens to be a prophet of "God")
2. Kids get killed by bears sent by "God".

Fun! (more below the fold)

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The Religion Of Tallness

Paul Flesher is the Director of the Religious Studies Program at the University of Wyoming. He also writes a twice-a-month column called "Religion Today" that he solicits comments for on his heavily-comment-moderated blog, also called "Religion Today".

His last column was called "The Religion Of Atheism", and it was a jumbled mess. First, he made up his own definition of the word "religion":

[Paul Flesher] Definition: A religion is a group of people who join together because they share a belief about the nature of god or gods, in order to encourage each other in that belief.

Then, after the six people who commented on it handed him his own ass, he wrote a new column called "Organized Religion and Everyone Else" in which he backpedals a bit - apparently astonished that the six previous commenters had the temerity, the unmitigated gall to correct his awful definition of religion.

So, he changed it to now read:

[Paul Flesher] "[A] group of people who share a belief about the nature of the existing god(s)."


Here is how I responded:

(Continued after the fold...)

RickU's picture

The dead walk among us

I'm not going to reference an article today. Today I'm going to give an example of where theists go wrong. We have a small discussion group at work. One of the topics given today was something in the news that I hadn't read and still haven't read. The topic discussed memories from being reincarnated. One of my coworkers brought up the topic after having read something online. The coworker gave the headline which was something along the lines of, "Study shows evidence of former life memories gives credence to past life experiences!" (w/ a reference to reincarnation which I can't recall at this point, sorry)

Keep in mind, I haven't read either the article or the study. My coworker brings up this article and immediately afterward another coworker exclaims, "And you say you don't believe in God."

My immediate reply afterward was, "What? Why would you bring God into this?"

The coworker was incredulous. He wondered why an atheist would reference an article which gave the idea that reincarnation was possible.

RickU's picture

Bible verses that bug me part 2! Jesus and the fig tree

Here are 2 different passages regarding a fig tree in the Bible.

Matthew 21:18-22

18 Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 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.

20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked.

21 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."


Mark 11:12-14

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.

(full entry below the fold)

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The Strawman Cometh

Sam Eldridge, a good-old boy blogger for the McCook Daily Gazette of McCook, Nebraska, ably demonstrates many of the strawman misconceptions held by Joe Sixpacks all across this nation.

[link] I don't believe in atheists. There is no credible scientific evidence that any atheist actually exist. I know there are people out there who claim that they do not believe in God, but the evidence says differently. They are really anti-God.

It is like the old 10cc song, "I'm Not In Love." Their constant denials only prove that deep down inside them, they know that God exist. You think that today's so called atheists are the first to shake their fists in the face of a Holy God? Hardly.

Look at the feeble arguments these alleged atheists come up with to explain life and Creation, I mean really, the Big Bang and Darwinism? Even ole Darwin himself admitted his goofy "theory" had gaping holes in it. I can almost hear Darwin saying, "you guys really believed this stuff?"

These folks tells their kids that their Grandpa was a monkey, and they are suppose to be the enlightened ones? Ha! You have to laugh.

You'll have to follow the link and read the whole thing. It is mind-numbingly idiotic.

I used to get all fired up and attempt to correct misconceptions like this, but I have come to the inescapable conclusion that this is akin to trying to bail out an sinking aircraft carrier with a teaspoon.

You know what? Most Americans are comfortably ignorant. They don't fucking care about the truth, or about being corrected in their misconceptions. They would rather guffaw, point and laugh and the "libruls", and get their holy dander up over the nasty, baby-eating, puppy-grinding atheists. In the minds of nearly all of middle Christian America, atheists are the new bogeymen - stalking across the landscape, demanding that all references to God (which we really believe in, but hate), anywhere are banned because they offend us. We diabolically FORCE good, God-fearing Christians to accept the satanic humanist secular Constitution - and there is nothing - NOTHING I tell you! - that they can do about it.

Because after all, they are only the poor, persecuted, helpless majority. Obviously atheists are in charge of everything important in this country. The schools, the state and federal legislatures. All politicians are atheists. All sports figures are atheists. Policemen and soldiers? Atheists.

These anti-God people know, INSIDE, Who is real and who is not real.

They should just give up now before we get really mad and start throwing lightning bolts around or something. *sigh*

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Redefining The Divine

Robert V. Thompson, the Chicago Examiner "Spirituality Examiner", is sympathetic to the "New Atheist" movement, specifically the Bus campaign in England. Frankly it is refreshing to have someone who claims to be sympathetic to atheists. But then he throws out the old canard about how he doesn't believe in the God we don't believe in either:

[link] I am grateful for the atheist bus campaign because the world sorely needs a larger and deeper conversation about what we mean when we speak of God. When my atheist friends tell me they don’t believe in God I ask them what they mean by the word 'God'. They usually say they don’t believe in a separate supreme being with a large ego.

Neither do I.

He then goes on to redefine this "god" thing into - well - anything. I mean, literally anything at all:

(Continued after the fold...)

Paul Fidalgo's picture

Obama is Religious, Therefore Atheists Are Probably Wrong

Law professor Paul Campos op-eds in the Rocky Mountain News on the subject of the very real dilemma for progressive atheists: reconciling support for Barack Obama's politics with his overt religiousness.

Campos has apparently come across some folks bandying about the possible insincerity of Obama's religious professions, and it seems to be bothering Campos:

Since it's obviously absurd to claim that people like Obama lack the necessary intelligence to grasp these truths that are so self-evident to the fundamentalist atheist, our fundamentalist friend is left with a couple of options.

First, he can claim that the otherwise intelligent person has been, as it were, brainwashed by his upbringing, his education, his psychological quirks (this latter explanation is especially popular among those who see religious belief as a form of unconscious wish-fulfillment) or some other ideological factor that remains impervious to what fundamentalist atheists likes to call "reason."

[. . .]

The alternative is to assume that obviously intelligent people who profess religious belief are lying. This belief is reflected in the assertion, repeated several times in the responses to my blog post, that surveys showing atheists to be a small minority of the population are inaccurate, because lots of people who are "really" atheists - like, apparently, Barack Obama - lie about it.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Quod Erat Demonstratum

Crazy Morning Radio DJ™ Ichabod Caine - the radio guy who received the stolen atheist sign in Washington state - attempts to defend against it's statement that religion "...hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

However, all he manages to do is demonstrate his own hardened heart, and enslaved mind.

[link] "What struck me ... (about the sign) is that Christianity somehow 'hardens hearts and enslaves minds.' Really? I don't remember, 25 years ago, when I accepted the Lord, that it hardened my heart and it didn't enslave me," Caine said. "And so I thought, how could negative speech like that be allowed?"

Wow. In that one short paragraph, he actually managed to shoot himself in foot, while it was in his mouth. Impressive.

It's funny, Ichabod my main man, but I don't remember the part in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that says, "Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech - except if it's negative speech as defined by a Crazy Morning Radio DJ™."

Brent Rasmussen's picture

'Teh Wittwarthion' And The Other Prof. Myers

Dave Myers, Whitworth University trustee and author of the new anti-atheist book called "A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists" claims:

[Professor David Myers] "My book aims to bridge the skeptical/believer dichotomy and to suggest how faith can be reasonable, science-affirming, healthy, hopeful and humane,"

First of all, the copy editor at The Whitworthian should be fired for this headline:

[link] Trustee's new book counters aethism

That's just sad. Even the URL spells it that way. The writer of the article managed to spell the word "atheism" correctly. What the heck happened to the headline? Pathetic.

Now, I do indeed agree with Myers that religion can be science-affirming, hopeful and humane. No, no - I know. Calm down. Think about it. The Catholic faith has pretty-much always been "science-affirming". And most religions make at least a nod towards being hopeful and humane. They are completely irrational at times, and tend to encourage their believers to live in a fear-wracked, magical, supernatural fairy-land world of gods, demons, ghosts, and monsters - but they can be science-affirming, hopeful and humane. No doubt about it.

However, what faith can never be, by it's very nature, is "reasonable". It is most emphatically not "reasonable". That's why it's called "faith".

"Healthy" depends on the faith, I suppose. Faithful snake-handling isn't very healthy in my opinion, nor is the faith that drives someone to explode a bomb in a crowded marketplace, or fly a plane into a building.

What are your thoughts about Prof. Myers new book? Should he be commended for "reaching across the aisle," as it were, and should it's strengths be praised? Or is it something that should be torn to shreds and ridiculed? Maybe a gentle combination of the two?

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The Childish Theology Of J.L. Hinman

I left a comment on J.L. Hinman's blog Metacrock a few days ago complementing him on his predictable use of The Courtier's Reply when responding to an atheist. I then went on about my life and promptly forgot all about it.

Well, I stumbled back onto his blog today and noticed that he replied to my comment.

Three times. In a row. Each time becoming more incoherent than the last.


The original post that I replied to is here. My original reply is a few comments down.

My latest reply to his nonsense is below the fold.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

And So Begins The End Of The WORLD!

The desecration has begun...

...and ended, apparently.

That wasn't very noteworthy at all. Watch out for suicide Frackincrackerterians, PZ!

Jim Downey's picture

"Kirk v. Picard"

In a discussion of this news item over on MeFi, a brilliant metaphor about doctrinal differences between Christian sects popped up that I had to share. Here's the comment:

“Some Christians will find it shocking — a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology — while others will be comforted by the idea of it being a traditional part of Judaism,”

Christians are well aware of their heritage. Why do you think Pat Robertson has been such a strong supporter of Israel?

Much of the text, a vision of the apocalypse transmitted by the angel Gabriel, draws on the Old Testament, especially the prophets Daniel, Zechariah and Haggai

Kind of like Joseph Smith, only better.

This is like having a serious discussion about Kirk vs. Picard.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

I Don't Believe You

The canard below is popping up more and more these days. I know you have all heard it before - probably so many times that you are getting sick of it.

As am I.

It usually goes something like this:

"I believe in God, but I'm not a real religious person. However, it strikes me that the atheists are every bit as strident and absolutist in their views as the fundamentalists! Both sides are faith positions! It takes just as much faith to not believe as it does to believe!"

Blah blah blah.

I see this same thought repeated over and over again every day in blog posts, comments, forum messages, emails, news articles, television programs, and in everyday conversation. I also hear this same "argument" being used by self-identified "agnostics" - those ignorant folks who seem to think that agnosticism is some sort of middle way between atheism and theism that is somehow more morally courageous than those disgusting extremist radicals on both sides of the spectrum. The theological equivalent to a political moderate. (Here's a tip, moron - it's not. If you're an agnostic, then you're still either a theist or an atheist - in addition to being an agnostic. The terms are not fucking replacements for one another.)

The problem that I see is that the atheists, secularists, and scientists that I know don't actually hold the absolutist, "fundamentalist" views that they are accused of holding by those who throw this canard out there all the time. They don't talk like fire and brimstone preachers, and they never, ever claim to be 100% certain that a god doesn't exist.

In other words, the whole damned argument is a big dishonest game of "I know you are, but what am I?" on the part of the folks on the creationist/theist side of the issue. It must be extremely frustrating. So, the theists and creationists are forced to create some sort of faux position for their perceived opponents to hold. They look around and grab onto the worst examples from their own camp - the evangelical fundamentalist wackjobs - then create a whole-cloth strawman "fundamentalist atheist" in their own fevered imaginations - and argue against that instead.

I sympathize, actually. It's tough to argue against someone who simply says "I don't believe you." I mean, what do you say to that? All your arguments boil down to either, "yes you do, darn it!" Or, all too often, "you have to - or my imaginary superfriend will punish you after you die!"

Even the two most commonly-pointed-out examples of this mythical "fundamentalist atheist" - Dr. Richard Dawkins and Dr. PZ Myers - don't come across like this when you really sit down and read through their stuff, or spend a few minutes in conversation with them, or listen to them speak. At their absolute worst, they are "snarky". That is to say, mildy sarcastic. It's all very academic. For a comparison, read anything at all by any of the best-selling conservative authors (you know who I'm talking about - don't pretend that you don't,) then compare their vitriolic screeds against "liberals" with PZ's mockery of creationists on his blog.

Not that this will convince anyone of anything. The atheists, scientists, and secularists already know this - and the theists, creationists, and ignorant masses don't fucking care. All they see and hear is the sound bite. Perception - however far off the mark it is, and in this case it is way off - becomes reality.

And there are just so many of them...

So, is there any hope? I think so, but I think it is going to take a whole lot longer than we'd like for it to take.

Just keep plugging along, saying "I don't believe you." This is all that's really necessary, when you get right down to it.

Jim Downey's picture

It's phlogiston!

PZ's got a good post up wherein he discusses yet another critique of his Courtier's Reply (also see the Wiki entry). If you're not familiar with the term, look at those links, but basically it is saying that there is an assumption that only those well-versed in Theology have the subtle understanding necessary to question the existence of God - and that someone like PZ, or Richard Dawkins, or any of the rest of us uppity atheists are just plain too ignorant to be listened to. PZ, et al, say that's nonsense - first you come up with some evidence for God, then you can debate the finer points of the theological implications.

RickU's picture

A question for True Believers (tm)

I'm going to focus on Christianity here for a minute. The answer to why American atheists tend to focus on Christianity should be clear. Most of us were raise with a Christian background and it's in our faces every day.

This post has to do with how things played out after the "flood". This post isn't about the silliness (or evilness) of the flood itself rather on how things played out sociologically after the flood. The Bible makes it clear why there are so many languages in the world with the story of the Tower of Babel. God gets ticked because humans are trying to see heaven with their technological wonder so he afflicts them with language differences(another silly story in my opinion). As a side note, if the big G was so angry about the tower why the hell wouldn't God have nixed the space program where we actually reached the "heavens"?

Back to the real point of this post though. It's a sociological fact that most folks take up their parents religion. The great majority just follow along with what their parents believe(d). After the flood, the world was then populated by Noah's family. While the Bible explains the many languages, I don't recall in my reading any account that explains the abundance of religions that came after Noah's time. Even given that not all of Noah and his family's offspring would necessarily follow exactly what Noah knew to be true (because of his personal relationship with the Sky Daddy)it doesn't really explain how so many disparate religions came in to being after the flood.

Another point to consider is that there are still, in modern times, many isolated enclaves of humanity. You'd think we would find a few groups that still followed the god that Noah knew personally.

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