Thursday, December 31, 2009

I'll be back!

          I offer my apologies to all of you who have been following this blog. I've been out of town visiting family for a bit and then I was sick for a bit. I'm back now, and I will be posting new topics ASAP. I just got off work and I'm exhausted, but check back...I'll do my best to start posting again tomorrow.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Tree of Knowledge

I love this. Brian Sapient of the Rational Response Squad made this video about a project sponsored by the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, The Tree of Knowledge. I think it's an excellent idea...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

This Kid Has Definitely Earned the Darwin Award!

          I got this from Skeptic Magazine. It's sad, but a definite candidate for the Darwin Award right here. The article can be found here, and I will just post the text below. Talk about an unusual way to go:

Ukraine - A Ukrainian chemistry student who had the bizarre habit of chewing gum after dipping it in citric acid, has been found dead with his jaw blown off.


The student's jaw was believed to be blown off by exploding chewing gum.


Officers found citric acid packets and a similar-looking unidentified substance, believed to be some kind of explosive material, on a table near the 25-year-old's body, Russian news agency Ria Novosti said.


Investigators suspect the student confused the packets and put gum covered with explosive material into his mouth.

Wow...just, wow.......

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Oxymoron Reading Room


          I had to snap a picture of this. I call it the Oxymoron Reading Room. I live three blocks from campus (it's really nice to live so close, that way I rarely have to put gas in my truck), and this is one block from campus. I walk past it every day. You can't see it, but the walls on both sides have book shelves containing all sorts of logical fallacies and pseudoscience that is being presented as real science. I find it quite laughable. Although, I am happy to say that in the last year since I've been here, I don't think that I've ever seen anyone in there, lol, so that's is definitely a good thing.


          And, I also wanted to apologize to any of you who have been following this blog for not posting very often this last week or two. It's the end of the semester, and I've been busy on last minute projects. Next week is also finals, so it will probably still be a bit slow till the middle of next week.
          I do want to thank all those who have been reading and commenting. I'm happy with the amount of visitors who have showed up in the short time since I've been writing. So, thanks to everyone :-)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Crazy Fundamentalists Were Shouting Their Nuttiness on Campus Today


          Well, look at the nutjobs who were in the middle of my University campus the last couple days. These guys looked like Christians from the far nutjobiest end of the Christian spectrum. I had headphones in my ears and was running late for a class, so I didn't have any time to stop. I just snapped a couple pictures as I passed by. But I could hear this guy from a block away, shouting fire and brimstone and hellfire. However, I was glad to see that there were other students there who were telling him how full of shit he was.
          I looked up this guy's website. He calls himself Brother Jed, and he's been doing this for 30 years, preaching on college campuses. It sure is sad, in my opinion, when someone spends so many years telling everyone that they're going to hell and preaching this hateful type of message when there is so much joy in life that they are missing out on. It's just sad that people can be this demented. You can search "Brother Jed" on YouTube and find plenty of his craziness. I do think it is pretty funny that, although you probably can't see it in the picture above, that little blue bumper sticker on the leather bag is a "Palin 2012" sticker. It's fitting, wouldn't you say?

          I must say that a person has to be pretty twisted if they think that we all deserve to be burned and tortured forever in pain because of such trivial things. And, to devote your life to preaching such hatred is an utter waste.
          I don't care if someone believes in something utterly stupid, or even if they waste their life on it, even if I think it's a waste and they're missing out on reality. However, I do take offense when they tell me that they think that I deserve to be burned and tortured forever for not agreeing with them.

Monday, December 7, 2009

D.J. Grothe is the new President of the JREF!


          Just to let you all know, in case you hadn't already heard, D.J. Grothe has just been named the new President of the JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation). P.Z. Myers said that Phil Plait is stepping down to pursue a TV career, and although we're all sad to see him go, I hope it all goes great for him. I have been listening to D.J. Grothe on the podcast Point of Inquiry, (great show, by the way, I highly recommend it) for The Center for inquiry for a long time now, as well as serving as vice president of the organization for like ten years now, and I think that he will do an excellent job at the JREF in his new position.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tis The Season, and Atheists are Jealous of the Holiday

          Yup, it's that time of the year again, time for the war on christmas, and Bill O'Reilly, along with others from FOX News are already spouting their stupidity. That's right, in responding to the wonderful way that so many humanist and atheist organizations have been posting billboards, bus ads, etc.,  in the attempt to simply let many non-believers (who may feel rather alone this time of year if they don't have any other freethinkers to relate to) know that they are not alone, are simply jealous and they "want more presents".



          These people, like FOX and Friends, dictate to the far right population. Most people who eat this up are christians, but are blind to reality and the fact that this holiday season is not theirs. Christianity stole the celebration of the season from other cultures before them. In fact, there have been many different celebrations from all cultures which take place this time of year since long before Christmas, or even Christianity were invented. Most originating with the winter solstice, which is a good reason to celebrate (also a practical reason) because the harvest and the changing of the season were what a population's survival depended on long ago. Apparently, FOX News and their followers don't realize that they don't own the month of December. Roy Zimmermann (gotta love him) made a good song for the season :-)



          And if you don't already know who Roy Zimmerman is, I'll also share with you one of his songs that got me liking his music. It's his song about creationism, "Creation Science 101" (click here to listen)

          And finally, yes, it IS that time of year. So, happy holidays, whatever you do or do not give a shit about, and happy winter solstice, or just happy december, to you all..........

Hitler, On Chiropractic Evidence

          Ha ha ha, I thought this video was funny. It's the same old scene from the Hitler movie that I have seen many versions of where people put all sorts of funny subtitles on, but this one is very funny. Also, because the word chiropractic could be replaced with any of the other baseless claims that people apply pseudoscience to, such as homeopathy, naturopathy, faith healing, etc. Anyways, laugh it up :-)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

An Atheist Finds God

          Yeah, you heard me right, an atheist finds god! And, if you're like me, you may already be getting your feathers ruffled. But, hear him out, and wait till he starts presenting his evidence. In fact, I think I will pray to the same god from now on........



Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jesus in a Can

          You think you have everything? I think not. You want a portable savior that you can take anywhere? Well, now you can, with Jesus in a can! And, as if that wasn't enough, now, and for a limited time,you can get 20% more jesus per can!!!!!!


Well, at least we now know how he got on the iron that was in the news the other day...


(personally, I think it looks more like the Mona Lisa, but that's neither here nor there)


Also noteworthy, it appears that the Flying Spaghetti Monster wanted to remind us all of his noodly goodness and how we all have been touched by his noodly appendages in one way or another, and he's made an appearance recently as well......



Apparently the sauce is strong with Tim Morgan, Ramen!!!!!!!

Talked to a Street Monk Today


          I was approached by a street monk today, on my walk home from class. Apparently this guy was from one more popular Hare Krishna movements here in the U. S. Well, I didn't mind hearing what he had to say for a moment because sometimes I find these kooky types somewhat amusing, also he was offering a copy of the Bhagavad Gita (while asking me if I was interested in knowledge, lol) that looked like a decent quality copy, and I've been meaning to get one to add to my collection of holy books. I like to have as many religious texts on my bookshelf as I can find for both novelty purposes, and for reference when some religious person wants to use a particular text in an argument.
          Well, moving on, unfortunately, the guy asked for a donation for the book. I gave him a few dollars, which I don't feel to bad about because it's a decent quality hardcover, and like 870 pages with good color pictures of famous paintings in the center, information on sanskrit pronunciation, glossary, etc. But, what I found very funny, after I got home and flipped through it, was when I noticed that there was a little ribbon bookmarker tucked in the middle. I opened to the marked page and had a bit of a chuckle to the idea that these guys must have marked this place on purpose, being that they were giving these to college kids.
          And the text where the ribbon was placed, which is Text 15 of the Bhagavad Gita, states:
"Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto me."
Ha, ha, ha, and the page explaining this verse goes on to explain that those philosophers, politicians, scientists, educators, administrators, etc., who do not surrender to the lotus feet of the supreme god, are not actually philosophers, scientists, etc., but only pose as such for material gain! Ha, ha, ha, I do find this insult to be quite amusing. It doesn't stop there either, it goes on to explain the "atheistic planmakers" are the ones referred to as miscreants in the verse, and that there are 2 classes of miscreants. 1), the mudhas, are those who are grossly foolish, and 2) the naradhama, or the "lowest of mankind". These naradhama are explained to be "socially and politically developed, but have no religious principals". So, us atheists, skeptics, and otherwise rational thinkers are, according to the Bhagavad Gita, the lowest form of mankind.

          I got a laugh out of this because lots of these older religious ideas, although kooky and silly, have poetic nature in their texts, and also are relics of our evolutionary history as we, as human beings, evolved our morals, values, and knowledge about the world around us. However, it's funny how all theologies, no matter how innocent and seemingly peaceful they look on the surface, all encourage and teach that it is wrong to use your brain and critically examine their doctrines, teachings, and the rest of the world around you. If you do, you would find  that the natural world functions fine by itself, without all these fairy tales. Not only that, but the endless discoveries of the natural sciences reveal a world so many more times more amazing, beautiful, fascinating, and awe inspiring, than anything that primitive man had ever dreamed up with our ancient ideas of golden clad gods and mythical spirits.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Porn is More Powerful Than I thought

          Apparently the Indonesian Communication Minister, Tifatul Sembrig, is claiming that the availability of porn and the like, is responsible  for the natural disasters such as the recent earthquake which killed over 1,000 people and the tsunami of 2004. Wow.
          You should probably make a phone call or two because, if you're like me, you probably have a friend or two that you need to go warn before a tornado drops down right on top of their house!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fundie Friday (On Sunday)

          Sorry everyone, being out of town to see family for turkey day, getting back worried about schoolwork deadlines, and finals coming up, have got me all out of whack, and I forgot to make a Fundie Friday post. Well, here, I'll post a belated Friday Fundie to make up.....

          This one comes from a post on Pharyngula, it's not text taken from a message board, but a photo taken from a church sign in Arkansas. So, it's still an actual statement made publicly by fundamentalists.

          It sounds crazy, but these types of statements are made to religious followers, who eat it up, and we wonder why a believer closes their ears to a logical, rational, reasonable argument.
          It's funny, because I can remember the leader of our church while I was growing up, saying that we should leave much of the hard research in the bible to the Pastor and Elders in the church, who Yahweh has given the proper understanding to interpret the scriptures. Otherwise, he said, you'll "study yourself right out" of the church. Ha Ha Ha, and looking back...it's just so sad :-(

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Reason to Celebrate

          Today (or technically yesterday, considering that it is 2:30am here in Texas) is definitely a reason to celebrate, and a reason to celebrate reason. November 24th 2009 is the 150th aniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On The Origin of Species. I don't have much to say, because it's late and I'm exhausted, but I just thought I'd put that out there. Just to remind everyone how much of modern medicine and biological research and discovery would not be possible if we did not understand The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. So, just remember the value of standing up for truth, like Darwin, Galilelo, and Socrates, who were put through a lot of shit just for standing up for the truth.
          And remember, believing in what makes you happy, rather than what is true, gets us nowhere.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

They are Angry, Simply Because We Say that We Exist

          I was really impressed by this video. Furthermore, if you like it, you should subscribe to Philhellene's youtube account and give him some support. He talks about the recent popularity of atheist billboards, and shows how people with religious people are getting offended and lashing out toward them.
          Just the fact that people are being offended by us and those like us speaking out and simply stating that we exist (and if you are one of us then you are not alone, and there is a community you can relate to) is angering these people, shows just how important that campaigns such as these billboards are.
          And, with that I'll say no more because he says it all so well in this video:



          If you agree, then please show support to organizations who are putting up billboards, organizing atheist communities, and doing things like running atheist outreach programs (like Atheists Helping the Homeless that I talked about in an earlier post) and donate if you can, contact them and help out, or even start your own local atheist community.

Monday, November 23, 2009

They Want Us to Pay For Their Prayers!


        I just read an article that was posted in the Washington Post today, about fundamentalist Christians trying to get prayer forced into the healthcare reform bill, as something that they can force insurance to have to pay for!
          Here is the first couple paragraphs in the article:
The calls come in at all hours: patients reporting broken bones, violent coughs, deep depression. Prue Lewis listens as they explain their symptoms. Then Lewis -- a thin, frail-looking woman from Columbia Heights -- simply says, "I'll go to work right away." She hangs up, organizes her thoughts and begins treating her clients' ailments the best way she knows how: She prays.
          The woo-woo purveyors who are attempting to push this type of worthless faith healing charge $20 - $40 for this crap, and they are trying to get this put into the new healthcare reform bill so that we all will have to pay for it! Furthermoer there are powerful politicians and others who are allied with them, helping to push this into the Senate Bill. It was originally stripped out of the House Bill that was recently passed, and now they are trying to get it put back in before it is passed by the Senate. 
          The article states that "She doesn't see most of the patients she treats. That isn't necessary, she said, for her prayers to be effective.", and they want our tax money to be forced to pay for this? That really bothers me. Not only are they wasting our tax money, and at the same time putting money in the pockets of complete quacks who are taking advantage of people, but calling labeling this as healthcare is risking the lives of people, including children who fall for this sort of nonsence!
          You should click on the link in the text above, or click here, and read the entire article. These Christian "Scientists" (I wince at the use of the word "scientist" to describe these openly ANTI-SCIENCE people) use writings by people like Mary Baker Eddy as key tennets of the type of healthcare that they are advocating. Here is what the article has to say about this:
In her book, Eddy lays out an alternative system of health care, one with prayer practitioners and nursing facilities where attendants bandage and comfort but do not provide drugs or perform procedures as basic as setting bones.

          Today we have antibiotics, vaccines, advanced diagnostic procedures, and advanced treatments that are able to heal more medical problems than ever before,, and our average lifespan is higher than it ever was in the history of our species. Now, these people want to ignore our constitutional seperation of church and state, implement an alternative healthcare program that uses treatments from the dark ages, and pray the broken bones back into place!  And they want to force all of us to have to pay for it, you have got to be freaking kidding me!!!


          If you can contact your local senators, write letters, do what you can to stop government sanctioned prayer, and dangerous anti-healthcare practices. Write letters, do what you can. This worthless crap does not belong in our healthcare bill.

The Kirk Cameron Action Kit!!!!

          If you are like me, and was annoyed by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron's deceptive tactics of coming to your campus to distribute their mutilated copies of On The Origin of Species a day earlier than they had announced, I bet you wish you would have had this:
The Kirk Cameron Action Kit!!!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

This Kid is Awesome: 10 Year Old Student Stands up Against Bigotry

          This kid is awesome! It's so refreshing to see a ten year old child that can use his critical thinking ability to discern something complicated like bigotry and civil rights, and then then to openly make a statement to stand up for freedom, liberty, and justice for all.......



         Also, check out this video of the last episode The Daily Show With Jon Stuart, where Jon offers Will Philips, the ten year old boy, the protection of wrestler Mick Foley...ha ha ha, I'm glad that this boy is getting all this good media support.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gaywatch - Peter Vadala & William Phillips
www.thedailyshow.com

Daily Show
Full Episodes

Political Humor
Health Care Crisis

          And here, Kyra Phillips on CNN had something to say to anyone who wants to bully Will Phillips...


The Earth is Flat! And Other False Beliefs Based on Dogma and Pseudoscience that Stress the Need for Critical Thinking


          I was having a discussion with a couple of friends this morning at a local coffee shop about the prevalence of dogmatic beliefs in our society.  Beliefs that involve the outright denial of logic and rational thinking that takes place when arguing against things like the theory of evolution in the face of the wealth of scientific knowledge that we, as human beings, have gained in out short history of existence on this planet (just a blip on the map, compared to the approximately four and a half billion years since our planet was formed). I find it hard to imagine that a person in this day and age can actually believe in things like the denial of evolution, the embracing of fundamentalist religious ideologies, supernatural existence of things like ghosts and ESP, etc., with not only a complete lack of ANY evidence for these beliefs, but mountains of documented scientific evidence that indicates these things to be so highly unlikely that the probability of there being any truth to these beliefs is virtually nonexistent.
          That being said, I was reminded of something that I overheard in a discussion that two people were having while I was waiting at the plasma center last week. (I am a poor college student at the moment, and I donate plasma every week for some extra gas money) I was sitting there and overheard a 29 year old woman telling her friend how she had just learned that the earth was round! Hearing that, my first reaction was to assume that the woman was not being serious. However, upon a little further listening to her discussion, I am convinced that she was being serious. She even said at one point that she had always thought that the world was flat, and was amazed to learn that it was in fact round.
          I understand that this woman obviously held her beliefs about the world being flat out of ignorance. However, upon hearing things like this, I am constantly reminded of the fact that there are still people in the modern world who either don't understand the facts, or outrightly reject the evidence of reality for their deeply held dogmatic beliefs. This has me constantly being reminded of how important it is to fight against those who continually attempt to push pseudoscience into the school classroom, as well as getting classes in critical thinking into the required core curriculum. It is so sad that there are so many people out there who live their whole lives without ever questioning their own core beliefs, and the fact that there are still people out there who believe that the Sun rotates around the Earth is a testament to this. Here, in this video is a good example. In the video is an Iraqi "Researcher on Astronomy" who is debating with a physicist and arguing that the world is flat, based on Koranic verses:



          This dogmatic belief in the infallibility of the Koran in it's description of the natural world is the faulty premise that he is basing his argument on. This belief that the Koran is infallible is a dogmatic belief that does not stand up to scientific scrutiny when examined, as do the holy books of most religions. This just goes to show how important it is to employ the scientific method, and examine even our most deeply held beliefs, or else the dogma of the past can always lead us down the path of ignorance and halting our moral, ethical, technological, and societal advancement.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fundie Friday

          This quote came from here, at www.fstdt.com, where they have huge collections of quotes from religious people taken from actual internet message boards.
"After holding back and just reading the comments I feel that I must post yet again. Say what you will but homosexuals are not even human. They are diseased, degenerate creatures who mock humans. The goal that they will freely admit to is to erase any trace of decency or humanity from the planet until we are all wallowing in filth and disease like them. If you are religous at all you recognize that this is the work of satan and that they have no souls, just lust for each other. Someone mentioned that it was Lamda who filed the suit, not Nambla. What is the difference, perversion is perversion, and if you don't think that the ACLU won't soon be filing on behalf of pedos then you are the one being foolish. The ACLU exists for purpose only, to destroy America. Hopefully one day there will be a test to determine if the fetus is gay. Then you could abort it since it is not human. Only the then will we wipe this scourge from the world. Until then we will have to do it one at a time."
          T thought Fridays would be a good day to post outlandish comments from religious people. I was going to call it "Funny Fundie Friday", but some of the quotes like this one are just not funny. This one is more sad than anything. Christians claim that their beliefs are all about love and peace, but look at the hatred for another human being that her beliefs have caused her to express, all because that human being was born different than her.......so sad.
           Seeing that the previous quote was quite sad, I'll end this with another quote, located here, that reminds me how Christians can compartmentalize and ignore their rational mind, or any thought at all for that matter...
"That's the beauty of Heaven... we can leave our brains behind"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Atheists Helping the Homeless




          Over the last decade of two, atheist groups composed of individuals who are proud to come out and say that we don't believe in a god or the supernatural. The benefit of all of these best selling books, billboards, and other media grabbing phenomena, is 1) to let all of the unbelievers who feel alone in their disbelief know that they are not alone, and there are many rational thinkers like themselves out there, and 2) to let the general public know that we are a significant part of the population, that we do deserve respect, and that we are not going anywhere.
          The next step, which was also the overarching there of the 2009 Texas Freethought Convention that I attended last weekend, is that we create real communities for atheists and freethinkers  to be a part of, and to lend our support to each other, which is in itself a huge reason that people stay a part of their local church communities. And, we are doing it. Hundreds, if not thousands of atheist communities are emerging throughout the country, not just to get together and talk about religion, or not believing in a god, but to interact, have fun, and create real communities of likeminded individuals. I'm really happy to see that we now have a camp quest here in Texas! I mean, I has really happy to hear that announcement at the Convention.


          This brings us to another area that we, as atheists need to be focussing on. We need to be contributing to our surrounding communities. We need to show the the population at large that atheists are good, compasionate people. Show people how rational, secular morality, without rules passed down from some holy book, creates moral, compassionate, good people. And I'm happy to see that is happening around the country. I'm seeing more atheist groups doing community cleanups, charities, helping the homeless, etc, and openly saying that we are atheists and we care. The logo lo the left above is, and I'm proud to say, is representing a local group here in Austin, Texas called Atheists Helping the Homeless (check out their website). I am happy to say that they are doing wonderful work in helping the homeless in Austin, Texas. It's starting out small, but it is growing, and as atheist organizations, and the general public, learn about it, it will grow and grow. Here is a video talking a little about what they are currently doing:

          I urge anyone who can spare a few dollars to help them out, and if you have the opportunity, emulate this type of thing in your local towns and communities. Most atheists that I know are charitable people, and do care, and help out. But, unlike religious organizations, we don't say that we are atheists when we do it. That's all good, but it is good to start doing things like this, as openly atheist individuals, because of the false belief that is popular that atheists are immoral, and don't care about others.
          So, come on fellow atheists and freethinkers, step up and show that atheists are compassionate people who do care about their communities and other human beings in general. But, mainly do it just to help out your fellow human being. Also, check out the Atheists Helping the Homeless website and donate a few dollars, if you can spare it. The more support they can get, the more they can do to help.

Here is a video of their last giveaway on November 8th:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Minnesota Tea Baggers Get Pwned

          You have got too watch this, it's just too damn funny. I know that most of these tea bagging, fanatical right wing nut jobs are not strong critical thinkers. I know that they latch onto whatever propaganda fits their pre-conceived world view and ignore all rational thought. But damn....this video just shows to what extent it is. This guy that speaks in the video Robert Erickson, and he's speaking at a Minnesota tea party against amnesty. There were over sixty people in the audience from what I understand.
Somehow I don't think that most of them realized that Mr. Erickson was not really on their side...check it out...



          In case you didn't catch it all, I put the transcript of the actual speech here, below the fold. After you watch the video, just click the "read more" link below to see what he said, ha ha ha

Monday, November 16, 2009

Oh no! We're attacking Christians again!!!


          They just put up another one of those evil atheist billboards in San Deigo!

Watch this CNN report about it, we're attacking the christians, lol

Ray Comfort Anounces that he's Proud to be called an Ignorant Fool



          We all remember Ray Comfort, a.k.a. the bannaman (if not then click here for a clip of his banana argument) for silly shenanigans running around with his sidekick, Kirk Cameron spouting off horribly laughable arguments for the existence of god. And then, well...for a while now he's been making news since he announced his plans to distribute almost 200,000 copies of The Origin of Species with his own 50 page anti science, history denialist introduction. He had originally announced to give away 50,000 copies, but now it's up to 194,000. (here is an episode of The Atheist Experience where they discuss it a bit)
When outspoken atheist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins called Ray Comfort "an ignorant fool," Mr. Comfort put that "glowing endorsement" on the cover of his latest book.
"To be called that by Richard Dawkins is a badge of honor," Mr. Comfort said in an interview this week.

          I mean, you just can't make this stuff up! Creationists like Ray Comfort who spout utter nonsense to people, denying scientific evidence, denying history, and denying reason and rationality, just don't seem to care about the truth at all, if it doesn't fit their pre-concieved dogma, then they just make shit up to yell from the street corners in the hopes of attracting enough people whom which to trick into supporting their lies because they don't know enough of the facts to see through the Creationist propaganda.

          This type of stupidity and ignorance being preached on our campuses can be extremely annoying, however there are things that many of us can do to fight this type of spreading of mis-information. For example, as  this article states:
The Secular Student Alliance, based in Columbus, is encouraging its affiliates nationwide "to schedule protests" and "host speakers" to discredit Mr. Comfort and Mr. Cameron.
"We believe the best way to respond to misinformation is with a positive, educational campaign," August Brunsman, SSA's executive director, said in a statement.
          Also, here is a link to the Secular Student Alliance's page discussing how to help. I myself am in the process of getting our local group affiliated with the SSA, so that we can be more active in areas like this, as well as in other areas of the community and the academic world. The site should have information as to where to find out if they will be coming to a campus near you. So, I urge you to be active, and do what you can. If you don't have a group nearby, then you should think about starting one yourself. Look to groups like the Atheist Alliance International, the Secular Student Alliance, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, amongst others, for information, assistance, and affiliation to help grow your local freethought community.
          Finally, It sure makes me laugh to see Comfort announcing that he is proud to be called a fool...let him keep opening his mouth, but let us speak out as well to show how much of a fool he and others like him really are.


          And, by the way, February 12th of this year would have been Charles darwin's 200th birthday, and the 24th of this month is the 150th anniversary of On The Origin of Species. So, remember this month to keep in mind how much of modern medicine and biology would not have even been possible without the understanding evolution and Charles Darwin's wonderful theory of evolution by natural selection, which has illustrated to us all how beautiful and amazing life really is.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More on the Texas Freethought Convention

          Continuing on with the rest of the speakers at the 2009 Texas Freethought Convention......

          After more socializing, Stuart Bechman, the President of the Atheist Alliance International (AAI), spoke about building freethought communities. He started out by outlining the mission of AAI as to help local atheist and freethought organizations to grow and thrive. These types of growing atheist communities have already been a phenomenon that has been gaining speed, making large strides over the last 20 years or so.
          Bechman went on to make it clear that one of the biggest walls that we face is that most people don't know what kinds of people atheists really are, and we need to concentrate on becoming more noticed and visible as a community and a part of out society,or...as Matt Dillahunty had stated in a brief introduction to Bechman, that we need to get the word out that we are not baby killing monsters! The AAI, Bechman said, is focusing on being a face for atheism and focusing on doing this from the grassroots. In fact, the AAI is actually actively working around the globe to have an international effect in showing the face of atheism and humanism.
          The Out Campaign, originating from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, is an example of our campaign, as atheists, to be as visible as we can and be out there. And campaings like The Out Campaign or the atheist billboard campaign (like the ones put up around the country by the CoR) are not just to say "hey, look at me, I'm an atheist", and start trouble. No, these types of campaigns are to get more visible, and get the word out that we are a large community of normal, decent people that deserve our place in society, that we have a voice, and we are here to stay.
          Bechman states that AAI looks at atheism based on such aspects as moral values, compassion, and living a valid life of integrity. He stressed the fact that we've had no strong history of secularism in this country and we, as atheists, are used to being inundated. However, the truth is that atheism is a world view based on knowledge and rationalism. Furthermore, freethought is about saying, "I think that there is a more moral way (to raise kids, family, etc.)", and we can't rely on the supernatural...it's all up to us. And finally, we are here to let society know that we are here, that we should and we deserve to be respected, and that our views should be respected.
          Bechman continues by bringing to mention that, although many don't realize it,  the United States military is actually the largest exporter of religion to the rest of the world. Proselytizing our soldiers and sending them out to proselytize to the rest of the world is a huge enterprise in the US military. US military chaplains,  for example, used to be expected to cater to all faiths, not just their own. This changed however, when the Regan administration passed legislation, unnoticed by many, which ended this. Now, decades later, the US military is the largest purveyor of christianity in the world. Soldiers are given coins with bible verses on the back of them and bibles all to be passed out where they are at, and a huge piece of the military budget actually is spent on this.
          In closing, the talk turns to these "faith based initiatives", put in place by Bush, and continued by Obama, which upon a closer look, reveal some disturbing aspects. This year AAI applied for a grant to help with AIDS/HIV medicine and treatment in Uganda, and was astonished to find that amongst the quidelines were requirements to:

  • NOT talk about condoms!
  • DO talk about male circumcision
  • Get permission slips from the top 5 religious groups in Uganda
  • To show how we will be encouraging local citizens to look to their local religious leaders for medical advice!
          These are amongst the reasons why we need be a part of this movement, be open, get out there. Nothing will be done without us getting out there and letting officials know that we are out there, we are organized, and we have political power. Atheists all need to speak out and become role models in our communities.
          Bechman then took questions before closing. In all, his talk was inspiring, and the type of message that needs to get out to atheists and freethinkers everywhere. Get in tough with organizations like the AAI and others, organize freethinker communities, and not only get our presence known, but do something to show that we are part of the community.



          We took a dinner break, after which Dan Barker, President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), who is also a wonderful musician, played some songs, the first of which I really liked and was called Beware of Dogma (his CDs can be purchased through the FFRF website). He played a few songs, all of which I enjoyed, and went on to tell his story of his history of de-conversion after spending decades as an evangelist minister. I got distracted and didn't take many notes on Barker's speach, and I wouldn't want to misquote him, but I found a youtube clip of him telling part of this story here, and this page, which tells a bit about his story and has links to his books which tell his story in more detail.



Here is a clip from the Convention, with Dan Barker playing Beware of Dogma
I love it, fits perfectly with the title of my blog :-)



          After his talk, Dan Barker took questions and closed, and they set up the stage for a panel question and answer session with all four speakers plus Clare Wuellner, from the Center For Inquiry and all, in turn gave their answers for several final questions before the close and the end of the convention.

Back from the Texas Freethought Convention with Keynote Speaker Victor Stenger




       Well, it's Sunday morning, and I'm happy to say that I attended the 2009 Texas Freethought Convention in San-Antonio yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was a good turnout, about 200 people, A good panel of speakers, an open bar (free booze...*yay*, even though I didn't drink), and plenty of time in between presentations to schmooze with presidents, co-presidents, and representatives of some of the largest atheist and freethought community organization and activist organizations in the country, including  as well as atheist celebrities such as the keynote address by author Victor Stenger, Matt Dillahunty (and other Atheist Experience Co-Hosts and crew).


          The first speaker was Kathleen Johnson, Vise President of American Atheists, as well as the Vice President and Military Director for American Atheists, and the Founder of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF). She was in the military for 23 years and was even an MP. Now she works for the military running an evidence room and doing crime scene technician work (collect ing evidence, etc.). She has been working on the scene of the recent Fort Hood tragedy, and the first part of her speech was explaining what happened, though not much can be said for sure yet because investigations are still in progress, and highlighting the heroic actions of the officers that brought the situation to an end and the emergency medics who saved many lives. She also talked about the religious discrimination in the military as well as what she and the MAAF have been doing as far as advocating for adherence to the military's equal opportunity regulation, and how the military has a strong history of oppression against anyone who is not an evangelical christian. She also talked about how much the military proselytizes, which is actually illegal.
          I was distracted, therefore I only had limited notes to the details of Kathleen Johnson's speech, but she gave a very good speech, then took questions from the audience about various aspects of her military experience as a woman, MP, atheist, and activist.

           The keynote speaker was Victor Stenger, author of many books including God: The Failed Hypotheses, Quantum Gods, and his newest book,  The New Atheism.
          He started his talk mentioning kids preaching and proselytizing in school as an example, and talked about how we, as atheists really have no objection to this proselytizing when it is confined to church and religious institutions. We do however, object to it when it is pushed in our face, when it comes to school, and when it causes death. He spoke briefly of the beginnings of the movement now termed the "new atheism", which jump-started with the publications from the five most popular authors of the movement, Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Harris, and himself over the last ten or 15 years.
,           Stenger pointed out how, even in the population of atheists, there are even many prominent atheists who disagree with this "new atheist" movement, in terms of it's attitude and methods, as well as some prominent scientists. The discenters tend to disagree with our openly disagreeing with and confronting of religious beliefs.
          He pointed out that what the new atheists are advocating is for everyone to stop giving special treatment to religion (as it has been treated as an off limits subject, beyond questioning with science and reason). However, Stenger points out, we are in a time in our society where religion and religious leaders are looked to for answers to difficult decisions, even by the top officials in our government. Faith is given this high value of wisdom to be looked to, whereas faith is really belief in the absence of evidence,
and a mind who holds this type of reasoning highly should not be looked to for huge decisions.
          Moving on to Stengers discussion of his new book, The New Atheism, he mentioned how a common argument from believers is that "a lack of evidence is not evidence of absence". However, Stenger states that in his book God: The Failed Hypotheses focused on showing how a lack of evidence is actually absence! His book showed how the universe looks just like it should if it was not designed according to all the evidence we have from the sciences, astronomy, physics, biology, neuroscience, etc.
          Stenger went on to state that "if faith is belief without evidence, then science is belief with evidence", which uses rationality to examine what is what. What is rationality? It is making observations, analyzing the data, looking for evidence, etc.
          Stenger mentioned the claims from theists and the NAS that science cannot look at the supernatural. He argues however, that Science can however, look for the observable effects that would pertain to claims of what these supernatural things do. He then covered many of the common claims such  as the argument from design, the argument that material things cannot produce immaterial things (such as thoughts), the argument based on the anthropic principle, and the cosmological argument, all of which fall apart under the observation of the scientific evidence concerning these claims. (if you want to know what these arguments entail, they can be found here, at ironchariots.org). The evidence plainly presents a strong argument that the laws of nature, as well as all of observable nature came from natural means. Also, the only reason that these arguments are still used is because the proponents of these arguments know that most of their audience does not have the technical knowledge to see through the arguments.
          Stenger closed stating how physics shows us that something is really more natural than nothing, because nothing is highly unstable. He then took audience questions about these topics. All in all, stengers talk was engaging, informative, and inspiring, to keep on fighting for rationality, science, and living in reality, instead of a fairytale. I had the opportunity to meet Stenger personality, he is a really nice guy, and wonderful to talk to. I'm also happy to say that he signed my old copy of God: The Failed Hypotheses, and took a photograph with me, which I'll post later.


          If you are interested in reading Victor Stenger's new book, you can find it on amazon.com, or probably at your local bookstore. There were also two other wonderful speakers at the convention, which I will write about in a later post because I have somewhere to be right now and I'm running out of time....my local group, Bryan/College Station Atheist and Freethinkers group is meeting this morning. Also, I should mention that if anyone is in the area and interested in hanging out with likeminded people, email me, or leave a message. We'd love to see you there..........
          
         





Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tweeting from the 2009 Texas Freethought Convention Tomorrow

          Well, I had a couple things to talk about today, like the fact that our country will soon have it's very first all christian prison. Which on the one hand brings up all sorts of church/state separation questions (though it will be a private business), and also something about how they plan on focusing on work crews which they will not be paying the workers the standard wage that is the rule for most prisons, but the bare  minimum wage, which will probably start pouring large amounts of money from cheap labor into the hands and greedy pockets of nutjob fundamentalist types. (reminds me of the warden on the movie: Shawshank Redemption").

Well, I did have a lot more to say about that and a couple other news items, but I worked late and I have to get up early in the morning to head out to San-Antonio for the 2009 Texas Freethought Convention, which I am increasingly looking forward to. And I do plan on tweeting about it the whole time I am there, so you should follow me (EscapeFromDogma) on twitter, there is also a link in the sidebar to my twitter feed.

Well, that being said, I will leave you with this lovely little venn diagram, enjoy:


        
          Gotta love ZOmbie Jesus :-)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Public School District Censors Atheist Websites

          The FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation) has responded to taxpayers from Indianapolis after the Indianapolis public school system has enacted a policy to censor atheist related web content. The FFRF said:
"This policy does not prohibit or even mention religious views such as Christianity. A website like FFRF.org, which educates on freethought and nontheism, would, however, be blocked under this policy. This promotes religion over nonreligion, which is forbidden under the Establishment Clause.
In her letter, Foundation Staff Attorney Rebecca Kratz pointed out that, in addition to the illegality of the policy, it discriminates against the 15% of the population that is nonreligious, the fastest growing segment of the American population"
           This type of discrimination in out taxpayer funded education system is the type of thing that we all need to stand up against. It aggravates me to no end that in the place that our children are supposed to be learning how to think critically enough to be able to think for themselves as they get older is doing everything that they can to cut them off from any views that disagree with their own views.

           The sad thing is that my state of Texas isn't much better with the battle that we have been having over the history deniers trying to push their pseudoscience creationism into the science curriculum and textbooks, but the FFRF is asking for as many people as possible to send letters to the school board urging them to end this discrimination, check this webpage if you want to help.

      

Atheist Billboards and More Examples of Religious Morality

          I know that we've all become familiar with the atheist billboards and bus ads that have been going up over the last year. And one thing I have been happy to see is that these billboards have all been respectful, most of them not insulting theists, but simply letting non-believers know that there are many more out there who feel like them. Most of these saying something like "Don't Believe in God? You Are Not Alone", or "There's Probably No God, So Stop Worrying and Get on With Your Life", or "Not Religious? You're not Alone".
      
          I wholeheartedly support these billboards because not only are they letting non-believers who may feel isolated, "stuck in the closet", and totally alone about their atheism, that there are groups of like minded people nearby and that they are certainly not alone. These billboards are also getting the message out to the general public that we are atheists, we are living among you, and that we are decent, normal people.

          Well, the funny thing is that, although I see billboards about God all the time (some of which are even threatening hellfire to non-believers), but everywhere that these billboards have went up there has been huge amounts of controversy, complaints, vandalism, and threats from religious individuals against these billboards.



                                    

          The picture above is of one such billboard that was put up in downtown Cincinatti recently. Nonetheless the billboard had to be taken down within a couple days after the owner of the building began receiving violent threats, and told the billboard company that it had to be removed.

          Fortunately the billboard has been relocated to a place along the highway heading towards the suburbs that is owned by the billboard company, not a private building owner. Now all the intolerant, hateful bigots who want to complain can complain to their hearts content.






          Shawn Jeffers, from the Cincinnati Coalition of Reason (the group who sponsored the sign) had this to say:
"Everything that has happened shows just how vital our message is," Jeffers said. "It proves our point, that bigotry against people who don't believe in a god is still very real in America. Only when we atheists, agnostics and humanists come together and go public about our views will people have a chance to learn that we too are part of the community and deserve respect."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Christian's Views of His Morality Without God

          Wow, I must say that even though I know that not EVERY Christian would answer this question the way the caller in this video does, but it both amazes and saddens me when I hear a person claiming moral superiority over me. This is a video is a clip from last Sunday's Atheist Experience:



          Even sadder, this is not the first time I have heard a christian say this sort of thing, and I find it very sad. First off, the judeo-christian especially seem to constantly drill into everyone's head that they can't think or reason successfully for themselves without some dogma to consult and blindly follow. I find it hard to see how people can hear others saying that they would kill their children if Yahweh told them too, and call this type of dogmatic faith moral and rational.

          This is one of the types of examples why I am of the opinion that positive promotion of faith based beliefs, especially when it changes your whole lifestyle and how you view the world around you, is a harmful thing. Anytime you have people conditioned to just accept things without rational evidence and reasoning it can lead to people being conditioned to abandon their morality completely when the dogma gets in the way.
"If God kills, lies, cheats, discriminates, and otherwise behaves in a manner that puts the mafia to shame, that's okay, he's God. He can do whatever he wants. Anyone who adheres to this philosophy has had his sense of morality, decency, justice and humanness warped beyond recognition by the very book that is supposed to be preaching the opposite. "                 -Dennis McKinsey 

Video Debate: Is the Catholic Church a Force for Good in the World?

          In case you haven't seen it already, there was a debate between sponsored by Intelligence2 between Christopher Hitchens & Stephen Fry v.s. Archbishop John Onaiyekan and Anne Widdecombe MP (two representatives of the Catholic Church). They were debating over the question of whether or not the Catholic Church was a force for good in the world. The video below is part one of  five videos (the rest should play automatically).


.


          I am happy to announce that they took a poll before and after the debate asking people weather they were "for", "against", or "don't know"concerning the motion, and I must say that the difference before and after were quite large. I'll let you watch the video yourself to see it, but I will say that I really enjoyed it, and I recommend that you all watch it, at least for entertainment purposes. I promise, you will definitely enjoy it.

Texas Freethought Convention



        I'm happy to say that I'm looking forward to the second annual Texas Freethought Convention in San-Antonio Texas this Saturday, November 14th! If you are in Texas, and if you have the time and the means to go, I would certainly recommend it (for more information, click the image above to go to their website). They will have all sorts of activities including lectures, social events, live music, food, fun stuff for kids, and plenty of conversation with other freethinkers and other like minded people. I'm really happy to see these kinds of events happening here in Texas, and I hope to meet many new friends this weekend.
        There should be a fine selection of speakers at the convention, including Dr. Victor Stenger, author of "God: the Failed Hypothesis""Quantum Gods"and his new book, "The New Atheism". By the way, The Infidel Guy did a show last week, interviewing Dr. Stenger about his new book, and the controversial subject of "the new atheism" (click here to listen to an audio streaming version of that show). I can't wait to see if I can get him to sign my copy of "God: The Failed Hypotheses". I really enjoyed that book. Also at the convention, other lectures will include the president of Atheist Alliance International, the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the vice president of American Atheists, among others including representatives of the Center for Inquiry.
        For those who can't come, but would like to, I'll definitely take pictures, and notes for posts about the topics discussed. I'd love to do some livebloging  during the event, but my laptop is down at the moment. However, if I get the opportunity, I may give it a shot.
        I haven't had the opportunity to attend a convention of this kind before, and I'm looking forward to it. Also, I hope to see some of you there.......

The Blogroll

Escape From Dogma has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blogging From a Sea of Red

My name is Shamar. I'm a 28 year old psychology major, and I live in the middle of Texas, or as some like to say "in the middle of a sea of red". The reason that I mention where I live is because I am an atheist, a freethinker, and a huge fan of the outspoken science and skepticism community, all of which is a bit of a minority here in Texas. There are however, a few concentrated bastions of liberalism here in texas, such as Austin, and small areas in some of the larger cities like Houston. For example, Austin is the home of the ACA (Atheist Community of Austin), who hosts the increasingly popular call-in cable t.v. show (and podcast) The Atheist Experience. If you haven't already seen it, you should check it out, it's quite educational as well. You can also find clips of the show uploaded by fans all over youtube. However, I don't live in Austin or Houston, and throughout most of this state are huge amounts of conservatives and fundamentalists, and these are the types of people who make our laws, run our towns, our schools, etc.
For an example of this religious dogma that effects us all, is one memorable mark of shame on my state. First off, last month (around the beginning of October) a man named Khristian Oliver was sentenced to death after the jury consulted the bible while deliberating to decide his fate. Here is an account of what had happened:
At a hearing in June 1999, four of the jurors recalled that several Bibles had been present and highlighted passages had been passed around.

One juror had read aloud from the Bible to a group of fellow jurors, including the passage, "And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death".

Now, first off, allow me to say that I will agree that this man apparently did a horrible thing, and there doesn't seem to be any question over whether or not he committed the crime. However, it seems unthinkable that in our modern judicial system a jury would be allowed to use the dogmatic rules of some old bronze age religious text to decide the fate of someone convicted in the court of law.
Moving on to the present, I am saddened to say that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the decision, and Khristian Oliver was killed last week. I must say that, no matter how I feel about the fact that this man was guilty, it scares me when the state allows a jury to pick and choose dogmatic rules from such an archaic book that contains many immoral rules as well. Rules that allow you to stone disrespectful children to death, condones slavery, sexism, and many other types of immoral decisions that do not belong in our society today.

That was one example of the type of thing that reminds atheists and freethinkers like myself how much faith, religion, and dogma, effects our lives in this state, and in many places across America. This is why atheists like myself, and other members of the science and skeptical community are speaking out more and more against dogma, woo (a term coined by The Amazing James Randi, and has become quite popular in the skeptical community to describe pseudoscience and any ideas pushed on us that are not based on real evidence), and other forms of faith-based pseudoscience. We do however, have a way to see through the dogma, and see reality, by applying the rules of logic and the scientific method. These tools, powered by skeptical thinking and a bulk of modern scientific knowledge, are our keys to escaping from dogma.