Brent Rasmussen's picture


OK, one more for John Shore, the folksy, friendly Christian apologist. He doesn't seem to be getting it.

John wrote a post on his blog called "Inquiring Atheists Want to Know: What, Exactly, Was the Sacrifice Jesus Made?. Atheists responded in the comment section. One in particular, "Instrumann", responded quite forcefully, with the correct argument; that is, that atheists are NOT "angry at God". Rather, we do not believe that God exists. So, how can we be angry at an imaginary magical being? What we are angry at is the fact that believers in this magical man in the sky influence the laws that are passed in our society, and sometimes insist that everyone kowtow to their own particular flavor of religious fairy tale.

[Instrumann] I don’t hate god. That’s a ridiculous statement. I don’t believe in any god so how could I hate one? I hate the fact that so many people invest so much of their time and energy believing fairytales and living their lives according to the rules of the fairytales.

I have to share my world with lunatics, simpletons, delusional people and people who are just too lazy to bother questioning what’s been force fed to them since they were kids. I do hate that fact.

John Shore, responding to Instrumann's comment, had this to say:

[John Shore] The harshness of your proclamation does compromise you being taken seriously. It’s too mean. Once you show people such bilious disrespect, you kind of forfeit your own right to be respected. Which is kind of a shame, because (as you know) there is much reasonableness to all you’ve said.

John, he was not showing anyone "bilious disrespect". He wasn't respecting your wacky religious beliefs, and he explained exactly why he does not respect them.

Listen very carefully, John. He is certainly disrespecting your magical thinking, but he is not disrespecting you.

I am the same way. I am kind to people, and I respect them as human beings. But my respect for them as people does not automatically spill over into respect for any strange, weirdo idea that happens to pop into their heads. For example, one of my dearest friends in the world is a believer is astrology. She is one of the few folks outside my own family that I would quite literally do anything for, up to and including giving my own life for hers if it came down to that. However, I will also tell her that I think she's being an idiot when she starts yacking-on about star signs and "readings".

Do I respect her? Absolutely. Do I respect her belief in astrology? Emphatically NO.

The problem is that religious beliefs in our society have traditionally been given a free pass - essentially having an unspoken immunity from criticism. So, when one of us dirty, nasty atheists says something critical about your beliefs, you seem to consistently misinterpret it as a personal attack.

It's just the way you were raised, John. Just the same way that you were raised to believe in magical sky men.

But we won't sit down and shut up any longer. Your fairy tale has too much influence on my life and on the lives of my family for me to keep quiet about it any more.

THAT is what all the comments are about. We are trying to stem what we see as a massively irrational and dangerous tide coming in that threatens us and our families personally. We are doing it by disagreeing with your ideas.

And you know what? Except for a few isolated lobbying groups, we are mostly doing it with words. Blogs, comments, books, and articles. There are no "militant" atheist groups - unless you stretch the meaning of the word "militant" completely out of shape until it ceases to have any real meaning at all.

Respect, in some situations, is given freely - like the respect that I give to every human being by the simple virtue of them being human.

Ideas have to earn my respect. Yours have not.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Depressingly Familiar Bigotry

Ayesha N. Khan, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the AU have filed a lawsuit against the town of Greece, NY for it's unconstitutional practice of offering explicitly sectarian Christian prayers as an official part of their town meetings.

[link] Khan said that of 44 Greece meeting prayers reviewed by her group, only one was offered by a non-Christian. And, she said, the review showed that the vast majority of prayers delivered before meetings since 2004 were explicitly sectarian.

The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that governmental bodies may open their sessions with prayer, but only if the prayer is nonsectarian and does not reference a particular deity or the language and symbols specific to one religion.

The Americans United lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Greece residents Linda Stephens and Susan Galloway, seeks to have the court declare that Greece's current practice violates the Constitution and issue an injunction prohibiting sectarian prayer before the board meetings.

The citizen's reactions are what concern me the most:

[link] Please understand that the real issue is getting publicity for people and their anti-Christian agenda. I attend Faith Temple Church in Brighton and this is no different from when they didn't want the new expanded Christian based church expanding in THEIR town. I appreciate that the Jewish and atheiest can come together for something! The funny thing is they're both nonbelievers in Christ. I get that, but when people around you are believers and they are in power please respect YOUR place. When I come to Brighton I understand MY place as a Christian male. You need to realize in Greece we don't accept atheism or Judaism as the guiding faith in our town. We have predominately Christian places of worship throughout the town. Respect it or leave it. I am sick of this crap, we aren't Holland or Londonistan or any other place where Christians are made to feel dirty for their religion, this is America! We were founded by a country of white protestant Christian males, and as such are guided by that. I didn't complain all the time I had to spend in SS class learning about the holocaust ad nauseam. I respect what happened and hope it never happens again, BUT I don't call the ACLU and complain my children have to learn it and I am offended or whatever. Find these women and find out what they're real problem is and lets solve it, but it isn't prayer.

In other words, "Sit down, shut up, and get to the back of the bus while your betters run this town, you filthy, second-class, non-Christian scum." And what's the deal with the scary "find these women and find out what their real problem is" threatening comment? Find them and what? Beat them until they acknowledge that Christians are more human then they are? Find them and terrorize their families? What a despicable thing to say.

This is a depressingly familiar refrain from bigoted Christians in our country who have no clue what the Constitution actually says, and who would seem to be arguing for a Christian theocracy in a "might makes right" or "majority rules" sense.

What they don't understand is the fact that our First Amendment concept of the separation of church and state protects them too. Tyranny of the majority should be a real and valid concern for all Americans, not just the minorities - because one day you too could become a minority.

Kudos to the AU for fighting this very important fight to save our civil liberties from the absolute morons who want to strip them away.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

John Shore Takes On The Tough Atheist Questions

John Shore is a Christian writer and apologist whose folksy-language approach to apologetics, and his focus on talking to unbelievers makes him a very likable guy.

In other words, I can see myself hanging out with and having a beer with John. I like reading his stuff, but I still think he's dead wrong. Heh.

There's some interesting conversations going on over at John's blog about the Christian theological concept of Atonement, and whether or not the Christian God is gaming the system that He Himself created - and why exactly? Fun stuff. Check it out and contribute if you get a chance.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Grr, Baby, Grr!

Ah, I see. Being confident, and writing books that disagree with your magical happy-land fantasy world is now considered "ferocious". Thereby it follows that those awful atheists that write books must also be "militant".

I get it now.

[link] As more atheist-centered books and movies make their way to mainstream culture, two best-selling Christian apologists are encouraging churches to better equip their congregation to respond to what they call a more outspoken and "confident" atheism.

"The arguments are not really new but the ferociousness" with which atheists are lobbing their attacks "are coming much stronger," Mark Mittelberg, primary author of Becoming a Contagious Christian, said in a teleconference on Tuesday.

Be sure and catch the new Fox television series "When Atheists Attack!"

Hank Fox's picture

Fractal Wrongness

I'm cross posting this from my HankFox site, mainly because I have one of the visitors here to thank for making me think of it. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but it's not mine. I found it online.

Fractal Wrongness:

The state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. That is, from a distance, a fractally wrong person's worldview is incorrect; and furthermore, if you zoom in on any small part of that person's worldview, that part is just as wrong as the whole worldview.

Debating with a person who is fractally wrong leads to infinite regress, as every refutation you make of that person's opinions will lead to a rejoinder, full of half-truths, leaps of logic, and outright lies, that requires just as much refutation to debunk as the first one. It is as impossible to convince a fractally wrong person of anything as it is to walk around the edge of the Mandelbrot set in finite time.

If you ever get embroiled in a discussion with a fractally wrong person on the Internet — in mailing lists, newsgroups, or website forums — your best bet is to say your piece once and ignore any replies, thus saving yourself time.

Jim Downey's picture

Yo! Believers: here's a challenge for you.

So, here's the challenge: convince me that Christianity isn't just about making a buck.

Specific venue: bible publishing.

My example: Today's NYT article

The Bible as Graphic Novel, With a Samurai Stranger Called Christ

From that article:

Publishers with an eye for evangelism and for markets have long profited by directing Bibles at niche markets: just-married couples, teenage boys, teenage girls, recovering addicts. Often the lure is cosmetic, like a jazzy new cover.

Sales of graphic novels, too, have grown by double digits in recent years. So it makes sense that a convergence is under way, as graphic novels take up stories from the Bible, often in startling ways. In the last year, several major religious and secular publishing houses have announced or released manga religious stories.


The Manga Bible sold 30,000 copies in Great Britain, according to Doubleday. The print run in this country is 15,000, and it sells for $12.95.


Jim Downey's picture

We're a religious nation - just an ignorant one.

So, last night I was listening to NPR, and I heard a long piece they did on Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's religious references in his various speeches. Fine, fine, we all know Huck wants to put the Law of Heaven above the Law of Man, et cetera. Right?

Well, maybe, maybe not.

See, what NPR found out when they started asking people about Huckabee's use of those allusions was that most people just didn't get 'em.

Huh? We're an overwhelmingly religious nation, according to just about any poll or measure you can come up with. Something on the order of 80 - 85% of Americans self-identify as one variety of Christian or another. Yet here's an excerpt from the NPR report, where they have gone out onto the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and talked to people:

We started by recounting this story: In November, as Huckabee surged in the polls, a student at Liberty University asked him what was driving his startling success. Huckabee responded, "It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people."

Brent Rasmussen's picture

I'm Not Gay, I Just Really Love Rainbows!

Feeling a little haggard? (Sorry. That was just inappropriate. *snicker*)

[link] In January 2007, Ted Haggard voluntarily agreed to enter a process of spiritual restoration. He has selected Phoenix First Assembly and Pastor Tommy Barnett as his local church fellowship and is maintaining an accountability relationship there. He has recently requested to end his official relationship with the New Life Church Restoration Team and this has been accepted by them.

New Life Church recognizes the process of restoring Ted Haggard is incomplete and maintains its original stance that he should not return to vocational ministry. However, we wish him and his family only success in the future.

I honestly had no idea he was in Phoenix.

The whole "curing teh gay" thing is complete and utter bullshit. Haggard is, oddly enough, a victim of the entire Judeo-Christian anti-gay sentiment. As a young man it seems to have caused him to reject who and what he was, a gay man. He appears to have to shamefully hidden it from even himself for years, and engaged in dangerous sexual liaisons on the sly - probably rationalizing them in his own screwed-up brain every time as "reaching out to a sinner" or some such.

Sad really.

It hurts his family, which like it or not he is responsible for. I'll also bet the guy is losing his mind at this point after a year of anti-gay "cures", witch doctor's spells, and shamanic chanting. (Or whatever they do. Kill a chicken and read the guts? What?) I actually feel a little bit of pity for the poor guy. I hope he can resolve his personal situation in a healthy fashion, for his wife and kid's sake if for nothing else.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

It Smells Like Ash In Here

The convenience store was busy this morning. It's kind of a "last chance" stop before the commuters heading out to the power plant turn off the highway, so it's busy most mornings. I grabbed a black coffee and a newspaper and stood in line to check out. Eventually the line shortened and I ended up at the counter. I placed my coffee and newspaper down and reached for my wallet when I noticed something odd about the clerk.

"Hey," I gestured with a friendly smile, "you have a little smudge there on your forehead." I snagged a Kleenex from the box thoughtfully provided for customers between the registers and handed it to him.

I looked down at my wallet and dug out my debit card. When I looked up again I was taken aback... The guy was glaring at me!

Nervously I asked him, "is there something wrong?"

I saw him visibly struggle to settle himself down. "That'll be $2.75, Sir."

Then I remember. Today is Ash Wednesday. He's a Catholic, or some other sect that practices this particular ritual. "Ahhh... ," I said, with another smile to take the edge off his anger. "I didn't realize what today was."

He rang up my purchase, swiped my card, and I punched in my PIN.

"How," he asked with a supercilious sneer barely under control, "can anyone not realize it's Ash Wednesday?"

"Well, I'm an atheist, um," I peered at his name tag, "'David'. I don't usually keep tabs on every religion's quaint little rituals."

Then the minimum wage, pimply convenience store clerk, who happened to be participating in a stone age public religious ritual, with freakin' palm frond ashes that were rubbed onto his forehead by a magical shaman, has the gall to look at me like I was the crazy one.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Andy Rooney Ruthlessly Persecutes Christian Evangelist

I understand it was horrible. Andy Rooney's fangs speared from his demonic slash of a mouth, ripping the Christian flesh off of poor, poor evangelist Tony Didlo's throat, spilling his blood in the street like a fountain. Then Andy Rooney howled like a wolf and started rooting around in Didlo's guts while he cried for mercy from the curmudgeonly old atheist. Random atheists on the street - you know, because there's so many of us - cheered as Rooney smeared blood all over his face and swung a loop of intestine around and around, smacking the whimpering, dying Christian witness repeatedly in the face.

Then he went to the Super Bowl and enjoyed the game, leaving the evangelist dead in the streets of Phoenix, like us atheists always do when we come across defenseless Christians.

[Baptist Press] PHOENIX (BP)--As thousands of people thronged Phoenix for the Super Bowl, a small contingent of Christians spread out across the metropolitan area to share their faith in Christ.

One of them had a chance to talk with Andy Rooney, the commentator whose curmudgeonly complaints wrap up the weekly "60 Minutes" program on CBS.

"I was standing on a corner and turned around and there was this little old man walking across the street," said Tony Didlo, a member of Grace Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Des Moines, Iowa. "I knew right away it was Andy Rooney."

Didlo held out a Gospel tract and asked Rooney if he had received one yet.

"Yeah, I've got one of those," Rooney replied, according to Didlo's account of the Jan. 31 encounter.

"Sir, do you believe in God?" Didlo asked.

"No, I'm an atheist," Rooney said. "I think it's sad you people believe in that stuff."

Didlo tried to pursue the conversation, asking if the existence of creation didn't imply a creator, but Rooney's cameraman stepped in between them and said, "We've got to go."

"He wouldn't let me go any further with it," Didlo said. "I was surprised he thinks people are totally off their rockers for believing in God."

RickU's picture

Message to America: Mock all you like – Cruise is you

I've heard and seen much mockery focused on the Tom Cruise Scientology video over the past couple of days. (I apologize if that link no longer works, but the video has been on and off the net and that's the best link I can find at the time of this article.) The truth is, while I believe that atheists (especially agnostic atheists), in general, have a leg to stand on in this case, I don't think the rest of the godders, or innumerable other groups, do. Let's look at a few things that Cruise says.

Tom Cruise: ...I think it’s a privilege to call yourself a Scientologist, and it’s something that you have to earn because a Scientologist does... has the ability to create new and better realities and improve conditions. Being a Scientologist, you look at someone and know absolutely that you can help them.

"But that’s what drives me... I know that we have an opportunity to really help... effectively change people’s lives and I am dedicated to that. I am absolutely, uncompromisingly dedicated to that.

Replace the words “Scientologist” with the words Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Nazi, Feminist, Vegan, vegetarian, socialist, communist, capitalist, geek, Sikh, or even self help guru and you'll see what I mean. This statement, minus the maniacal laughter, could have come from any of the groups I listed and a whole lot more. Let's move on to the next set; shall we?
more below the fold

Jim Downey's picture

Just too damned funny.

Do you remember hearing about those companies which would take mainstream Hollywood movies, cut out all the bad language, sexual references, nudity, et cetera, and then marketed the edited movies to religious folks? They claimed that they had the right to do this under the guise of an 'educational loophole' in the copyright law.

Did you then catch last month how one such company in Utah had finally been called to task by the people who own those copyrights, and forced to stop? Good news, right?

It gets even better. Via a link posted in this thread over at PZ's place, news that the owner of that company in Utah was recently arrested for paying a couple of 14 year old girls for sex. From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The Irrational Human

Hello All,

This is my review of Vox Day's new book called "The Irrational Atheist". I'd like to make some things perfectly clear before I proceed with this review. I am still, and barring some pretty convincing evidence that I find personally credible, will most likely always be an atheist. What I mean by "atheist", as I have written volumes about in the past, is someone in whom god-belief of any kind is absent.

I have lately (within the last few years) come to the conclusion that the entire social and political "atheist movement" is a big, fat exercise in futility. Atheists are not, in any way, shape, or form, a "group" in the same sense that Methodists, Shriners, or Republicans are a group. The atheists who blog and organize activist marches and identify themselves as part of this "atheist movement" group are lying to themselves. There is no "atheist group". Rather, a movement has emerged and become politically active lately that has co-opted the perfectly reasonable descriptive word "atheist" and has twisted its meaning into something that I do not agree with, endorse, or really even recognize any longer. Ellen Johnson telling all of us atheists to "Vote your atheism first..." was the last straw for me. I mean, what in the heck does that even mean? I am not a member of your little club, Ellen.

I have my own opinions, political views, and values. I have my own, personal rationale for being a person in whom god-belief is absent (an atheist). I recognize no "atheist leaders" or spokesmen, and I endorse no one who claims to speak for me, or insinuates that they speak for me in any way.

I speak for myself, and myself alone.

I find it troubling that one of the recent trends in the "atheist blogger" community is to label someone who does not seem to toe the party line as an "appeaser" or as a "concern troll". It's complete crap. I didn't sign a fucking "atheist loyalty oath", and my lack of belief in a god isn't dependent on kowtowing to the self-anointed leaders of this misguided abortion of a political movement, whether or not they exist. If after this review someone uses the "no true Scotsman" fallacy on me in this fashion, they can go fuck themselves. With a jagged stick. Sideways. The political and social issues that concern me - personal liberty, civil liberties, honesty, personal responsibility, fiscal responsibility, freedom, justice, the American Way, all of that, don't require my allegiance to some new political movement. I was concerned with those things before I started calling myself an atheist, and I still am today. Atheism has nothing at all to do with any of that stuff. (See my first paragraph above.) Nether does "theism" for that matter.

I evaluate the books I read, the beliefs I come across, and the philosophies I examine fully, and with an eye towards the facts. I have a highly-sensitive bullshit meter, honed through 20-plus years of discussion, research, study, debate, and arguments with theists (that is, folks in which god-belief of any kind is present.) So, when you read the review below, keep in mind that I was really, really trying hard to find something that I could latch onto and argue intelligently and forcefully against. I was positive that it had to be there. I had my BS meter cranked up to 11 as I read through the book twice in an attempt to sniff out something that I could use - and the damned thing only went off a couple of times, and only when Day was explicitly talking about God and/or Jesus and his personal belief in the Christian mythology.

Shit. Double shit.

Ah, well. I am ethically and morally bound to review TIA honestly, and that is what I will do - regardless of how much it hurts me to do so. Heh. ;)

So, hang on to your hats and join me below the fold.

Jim Downey's picture

Genesis 38:9-10

And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

Gen.JC Christian, patriot, is on the job for Mike Huckabee:

The Mike Huckabee Center for the Liberation and Housing of Spermatazoan-Americans Opens

January 20, 2008 is a day that will live forever in the hearts of Americans, for it is the day the Mile Huckabee Center for the Liberation and Housing of Spermatazoan-Americans opened it's doors for the first time in the Pini Region of Second Life,

Dirk Diggler's picture

It's All Greek to Me

Can someone please explain to me why Christians quote the bible as if it is an argument ending trump card?

This past Sunday I was out taking my dog for a walk in my complex. I know most of the friendly people with dogs because I've lived here for a year. My dog loves to socialize so she heads directly for anyone else with a dog. Of course, I could stop her, but I enjoy meeting new people as well. To make a long story short, Samantha and I ran into a new guy about my age(37) who was walking his dog.

I made sure it was okay for us to approach and he gave permission. His dog was very friendly and happy to meet us. The guy seemed nice at first also. After a bit of small talk he explained to me that he had just gotten out of church and was feeling "full of the Lord" as he put it. I said, "oh that's nice" and tried changing subjects by asking if he was excited about the Giants game that afternoon. The guy completely ignored my question and asked me what church I went to.

Jim Downey's picture

Go to church, go to jail.

In one of the most clear-cut examples of how organized religion is all about obedience & control, the Wall Street Journal explores the rise of "shunning" in conservative Protestant churches. From the article:

On a quiet Sunday morning in June, as worshippers settled into the pews at Allen Baptist Church in southwestern Michigan, Pastor Jason Burrick grabbed his cellphone and dialed 911. When a dispatcher answered, the preacher said a former congregant was in the sanctuary. "And we need to, um, have her out A.S.A.P."

Half an hour later, 71-year-old Karolyn Caskey, a church member for nearly 50 years who had taught Sunday school and regularly donated 10% of her pension, was led out by a state trooper and a county sheriff's officer. One held her purse and Bible. The other put her in handcuffs.

Caskey's offense? Wanting the pastor to follow the by-laws of the church:

RickU's picture

The Golden Compass

Although I'm late to this game, I didn't feel like I could contribute to the argument without having seen the movie or read the book. I bought the trilogy recently, finished the first and have started into the second book.

Minor non plot spoilers ahead

As has been said other places, the people objecting to this movie have completely missed the boat. In Pullman's fantasy world there are multiple dimensions and, as is clearly explained in the books, no god. There is a being that calls itself god but it was simply the first self aware being. It's all there in print. The first being didn't create the universes and thus is not god. Their objections about "killing God" are not only silly, but entirely baseless.

Reading comprehension people. It works.

Jim Downey's picture

Um, there's more than one part to the First Amendment.

DENVER - Carrying a family Bible, a state representative-elect (Douglas Bruce) kicked a photographer who took a picture of him during a statehouse prayer — then was sworn into office.


When Rocky Mountain News photographer Javier Manzano took his photo during the traditional morning prayer, Bruce, who was standing, brought the sole of his shoe down hard on the photographer's bent knee.

Don't do that again," Bruce told him.

Later, Bruce refused to apologize.

"I think that's the most offensive thing I've seen a photographer do in 21 years," he said. "If people are going to cause a disruption during a public prayer, they should be called for it. He owes an apology to the House and the public."

Oy. Hey, Representative Bruce, you know that there is more than one part to the US Constitution's First Amendment, right? Just in case you've happened to forget, here's the full text:

Amendment I

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Dawn Sherman Is Fighting For Your Civil Rights

Dawn Sherman, the 14 year old student in Buffalo Grove High School in Illinois who is fighting a mandatory moment of silence law, is getting hammered by the incredibly intolerant, misinformed, "persecuted" Christians who are willing to throw away their civil rights because they happen to be in the majority at this moment.

Stop by the comment area over there and show Dawn some support.

Jim Downey's picture

ABA Asked to Examine Accreditation of Pat Robertson's Law School

An attorney friend sent me this juicy item:

ABA Asked to Examine Accreditation of Pat Robertson's Law School

On Friday, a Houston civil rights lawyer sent a complaint letter to the American Bar Association asking the group to examine the accreditation of Pat Robertson's Regent University School of Law after the school allegedly violated his client's free speech rights.


"As a Christian and as a Lutheran, Mr. Key has religious convictions that religious leaders be held to high standards and that it is permissible to criticize any wrongful behavior," the complaint letter states. "When Mr. Key refused to conform to Regent's religious and political views, he was suspended and ultimately removed from law school."

"What they're doing is they are creating a bunch of lawyers who don't believe in free speech," says Kallinen, who wants the ABA to revoke the law school's accreditation.

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