Friday, July 30, 2010

Leaving Christianity for the wrong reason

Anne Rice announcement

I've never read an Anne Rice novel and don't know really much about her outside of the context of her vampire books.  This news article is very short and goes into extremely little detail.  My blog entry here is not exactly in response to Anne Rice's rejection of Christianity, but was loosely inspired by it.

If you've read any of my previous blog articles, you will know that I am certainly not a Christian or any flavor of a theist.  However, the reason to leave a faith like Christianity should not be for the reasons listed in the above article.  Human bastardization of your faith is no reason to abandon it.  There are many valid trains of thought that can lead to the abandonment of faith, but human error should not be one of them.

Ms. Rice's reasons stated were because Chrisitianity is "anti-gay ... anti-feminist, and anti-artificial birth control."  This may very well be true under Catholicism and other denominations, but is not inherently true to the faith itself.


It's debatable whether the Bible is anti-gay.  Let's presume that the few places that it appears that way does mean that homosexuality is a sin (which I do not).  So are a billion other things that "normal" heterosexual Christians do all the time.  PEOPLE have made being gay some sort of mortal sin.  There's no evidence that the "sin of homosexuality" is any worse than any normal sort of sin.  Hypothetically, I would certainly put adultery above homosexuality in the severity of a sin, yet where is the outrage against adulterers?

If your problem with Christianity is with the homophobic insanity of many Christians, there are denominations that are much more gay friendly.  There are several that actually embrace it.

Anti-feminist and birth control issues

I believe these are both Catholic problems.  Many other denominations, while not particularly pro-woman, are not anti-woman either.  I think the more Evangelical denominations do preach the "proper gender roles" based on antequated ideas, but these are also human interpretations and manipulations.  I would imagine that Catholics and Evangelicals are also the culprits with regards to the hows and whens of having babies.

Odd bedfellows?

So this seems like an odd place in which I'm standing as an atheist.  However, I don't think it's that odd.  I think that religion and spirituality (or lack thereof) is a journey for most thinking people.

I would not recommend basing your world viewpoint on how some ignorant assholes (as many millions as they may be) twist it.  As Eddie Izzard so eloquently spoke, "Stalin was a mass-murdering fuckhead."  Stalin was also an atheist and gets thrown in our face by Christians all the time.  He does not define atheism any more than homophobic celibates in drag should be able to define Christianity.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Evangelical atheism

I just read an interesting article about "New Atheism" and its "prophets" - among them Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.  I have been listening to many of their lectures and TV appearances in the last week or so on YouTube and have been riveted.  I have not ready any books on atheism, but have been interested many times to read Dawkins' The God Delusion.

In contrast to my interest, the article linked below decries that this New Atheism has "... parallels with religious fundamentalism [that] are obvious and startling" and is an interesting read:
Evangelical atheism

I have used this term myself for years to describe a particularly "aggressive" atheist friend of mine.  The thought process is that it's not enough to simply demand equality and recognition.  The stupidity of theists must be remedied.  They must be converted and society must be freed from their stupidity.

I believe this to an extent, but this is way more extreme than I'm interested.  I ultimately don't care what another person does, but am frustrated by their interest in what I and others do.

With regard to the article, the term "evangelical atheist" is synonymous with how I've used it to describe my friend and how the author describes the New Atheists.  While I agree in premise with the article, there's a fine line here.  For example, I feel like I understand Dawkins' position much more than I do Hitchens.  Hitchens seems much like my friend in that they seem to want more of an atheist jihad - you're either with us or against us.  Dawkins' position seems to be more of a frustration and an attempt to enlighten.  I can almost hear him thinking:

"I'm a world renowned evolutionary biologist!  I've seen all of the evidence that supports not only evolution, but Darwinian evolution.  What is wrong with you people? Ok, Richard, calm down.  They've been indoctrinated.  They can't help it.  Try to explain it as calmly as you can."

Regardless of how calmly he tries to address critics, he, like Hitchens, often comes across as condescending.  However, I don't think Dawkins means to do so.  I think he is trying to be as blunt about his position as possible because it doesn't work any other way.

I think the article brings up a good point with regard to their fundamentalist nature though.  I just don't know how you can't get this riled up to start any sort of movement and not have that sort of zealotry.  It seems like it comes with the territory.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

And, hey, what's up with this Sarah Palin?

I don't get it.  What is the deal with this woman?  More importantly, what is the deal with her supporters?  I really don't get it.

I am not anti-Republican.  I suppose I'm anti-fundamental Christian, but I've been ok with other politicians that are fundamental Christians (only in spite of that fact, but ok nonetheless).

Do I have a problem with women as politicians?  I don't think so, but I suppose it's possible.  Do I have a problem taking beautiful women seriously in politics?  That may be a little more likely (and, yes, I do think Sarah Palin is very attractive), but I still don't think that's it either.

I think it may be the fact that I see her as a complete Sue Average.  There's nothing spectacular about her.  I don't think she's an idiot, like many on the left think.  I also don't think she's all that smart either.

I think the problem is that she's no more than a female version of George W. Bush.  Enough with the 100 IQ politicians that get their intellectual inspiration from Jesus and the Republican base!

... and the Republican base/Tea Party folks ... enough already!  If you would've been pissed about George W. Bush's socialism and out-of-control spending, you might've had me.  Instead you watched for eight years as he was probably as fiscally bad as the worst liberal presidents.  You justified it because he had (R) next to his name and he talked to Jesus a lot.  If you want to put your money where your mouth is, throw both parties out!

Did I mention that I don't get the obsession with Sarah Palin?  You betcha!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Intelligent Design

The Intelligent Design folks are trying so hard to make it into science.

First of all, let's not kids ourselves. Most supporters of Intelligent Design are Christian Creationists wrapped in a cloak of better logic than the talking snake story (Bill Maher's favorite short summary of the Garden of Eden). If they can get their foot in with Intelligent Design, they're one step closer to prayer in school, Adam on the cover of the science textbook, and Stork Theory to explain where babies come from.

Let's review the definition of science. Science "... uses observation and experimentation to describe and explain natural phenomena."

Spirituality is a supernatural phenomenon. Spirituality is inherently separate from science. That doesn't necessarily mean it's untrue, but how can the supernatural be run through the scientific method? If it could, it would no longer be supernatural.

In complete irony and contrast to all of the above, I'm not opposed to the idea that an intelligence created or guided our evolution. I think it's very possible that an intelligent alien race might have seeded the universe with some sort of generic material/code with the ability to take hold and evolve on planets.

I don't think this is what the Intelligent Design advocates mean though.

... and I don't claim this to be anything scientific other than an improbable hypothesis among an infinite number of possibilities.

Some interesting links:
The Short Proof of Evolution

Responses to Some Common Objections to "The Short Proof of Evolution"

Creationism in the Science Curriculum?

Are we just a drop in time?

If atheism is right, do we cease to exist upon death? What sort of comfort is there in that?

First of all, I don't know that's what happens. I can't deny that life is different from inanimate objects. Maybe there is some "soul" thing that continues on after we die and made us alive in the first place. However, it seems the very likely that we will simply cease to exist ... as unappealing as that may be.

There are a lot of things in life that aren't particularly appealing though. That doesn't mean that it makes them any less true.

Our mortality makes life precious. Our procreation makes us live on. Is that enough? Who knows? I'm happy with my life. I don't feel any "voids in my heart" or the such that most Christians assume an atheist feels. I have a great wife and four fantastic kids.

I certainly don't hold that my "religion" will give any comfort or provide support. It also doesn't answer any of the big questions. I'd love to know the whos, whys, whats, hows, and wheres of existence. I guess I'd like it to be neatly wrapped with a nice bow, but don't think that it is. I hold out hope that as we advance as a civilization, we continue to come closer to this knowledge ... if we don't kill ourselves or the planet before we get there.

Stealing from the Christian worldview?

I've blogged about morality, but someone recently stated that atheists only have morals because they borrowed them from the Christian worldview. I don't agree that morals are divinely inspired, but I don't deny that my specific morals are heavily influced by the Christian worldview.

Most of my Christian friends initially think that my disbelief in God (any deity) means that I reject the teachings or the morals of Christianity. This is simply not true. I don't agree with all Christians teachings (regarding behavior/morals), but I agree for the most part. I run things through my own mind and when a behavior makes moral sense, it makes moral sense.

Most of these behaviors are within a mainly Christian culture. I was taught by my parents, who were taught by their Christian parents. I grew up in Christian communities.

Where I disagree is that a supernatural guy in the sky gives logic to the morals, not the inherent pros/cons of the behavior itself.

Proof of God

I often am told by Christians that they have all the proof they need through the Bible. They know it to be true, so therefore it is up to the atheist to prove it untrue.

This is a complete and utter fallacy. Because a premise cannot be proven false, that premise can't be assumed true.

Christians don't need to prove there is a God though ... unless you're trying to convince me it's true. If you're trying to put prayer in our public schools, you need to prove it. If you want to be taken seriously by those not brought up through the indoctrination, you need to prove it (or at least admit that your belief is based on faith, not proof).

I know most Christians believe there is ample evidence for proof of their religion. However, there's a reason you have to have faith to believe. Chrisianity and religion have a foundation in the supernatural. I need to see some verifiable and repeatable miracles - a suspension of our known science - to believe in the supernatural.

There's little proof of anything related to Christianity other than the existence of historical figures and a book. As much as I believe Julius Caesar existed, I believe Jesus existed (meaning I believe he existed). I just don't believe that he was divine. I know that's sacrilegious to Christians, but it's what I believe.

Imagine what it might take to cause you to disbelieve in Christianity. What would it take to make you a Muslim or a Buddhist? You would have to lose your faith.

I'm flexible, but you'd better show me some proof.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Prohibition, Income Tax, and Women's Suffrage

George Will and 1920

So I stumbled across this article today. I have always enjoyed history (minored in it in college), but I don't consider myself an expert. I do consider myself "literate" however. That being said, I had never considered how close together the Amendments for Income Tax (16th - 1913), Prohibition (18th - 1919), and Women's Suffrage (19th - 1920) were together. I had always considered them separate from each other.

George Will implies that they are somehow tied together in the linked article.

I guess I see what he's saying about Prohibition and Women's Suffrage. He asserts that women, devoutly Christian women, were the main ones strongly behind Prohibition, particularly through the Anti-Saloon League. The fact that women were gaining significant influence in politics via the ballot box brought this issue to the forefront in a way it may never have with a male-only constituency. Women were already getting the right to vote in many states well before the passing of Women's Suffrage. So, I can see how one may have caused the other. Women were able to influence the election of both Houses, putting in a friendly Congress to get both of these Amendments through. The states were similarly affected, allowing the ratification.

Where I disagree with Will is the Income Tax Amendment's correlation. I don't think it was tied to the others, but created an economic situation for Prohibition to work because it was in place already (a mechanism to replace the loss of significant liquor tax revenues).

What I'm now curious about is how this ties together with the Roaring 20's and subsequently into the Depression. I'm also curious about its indirect impact going into the New Deal and our continual rise of socialist tendencies in this country.

It's ironic that, given our current economic situation, we are somewhat considering lifting the criminalization of drugs, but I digress...