Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why Atheists Are Angry (Helping Theists Understand)

This is a bit of a public service, really. Part weblog post, part PSA. It was inspired by a "report" by Miss Raissa (yes, I'm going back to that well again). Specifically she said that 95% of us atheists are angry people. Now, while I find such a label basically useless (almost all humans are "angry" at times, and if you only bring up subjects that make them angry, of course you'll think they're always angry) I view this as an opportunity to educate. Here are a few reasons atheists are angry regarding religion. (note: I know plenty of others have written or blogged or vlogged about this. I hope to try to concentrate on things that others have left mostly untouched or come at the issues from another angle) This is sort of long. You've been warned.

1: Social Ostracism
Less than 24 hours before I started writing this post, I had a 4-way twitter discussion with 3 conservative christians (all of whom were black, interestingly enough). It started as a debate between over whether Adolf Hitler was christian (he was) and shifted to whether or not atheists and christians can be friends. Original_Cindy (who's awesome and should be followed by more folks) said her best friend is atheist, Raissa said christians can't have close friendships without compromising their faith, and the other guy used 2 bible verses (2 Corinthians 6:14 and Proverbs 27:17) to say nonchristians and christians can't be friends at all without disobeying god. For a laugh, look up Proverbs 27:17 with that interpretation in mind.

While we can laugh at this sometimes, it's a serious thing. Young people are punished by their parents for being atheist. Families are torn apart for one member losing faith. I've experienced similar personal strife for my atheism. When I was christian, I was quite active in the church. I even began training to become a youth minister. I was also an early online evangelist. I gained some fame on some older, now-defunct social networking sites like 6degrees.com (or was it .net? Or sixdegrees?) for my rather large christian following, and for witnessing to pagans and atheists. I withdrew a bit from christian activism as I began questioning but I never stopped being active until my faith went on life support. When I finally became atheist, nearly all my close christian friends left me, both online and in real life. Of my close core of a dozen or so real life friends, all but 3 left either permanently or temporarily, and most refuse to speak to me to this day. Of my christian online friends, all but 2 rejected me for my atheism, though it turned out 1 went atheist shortly after I did. My family, thank Crom, had a less severe reaction when I told them 3 years later, though my dad thinks much more lowly of me now and blames me for my 2 brothers leaving the faith (one went atheist before I did, the other is a self-proclaimed non-christian who denies evolution and believes in the christian god). See, before this, I had a much less negative view of religion in general and christianity specifically, but the hate and scorn from former friends I got just for no longer agreeing with them on one point showed me, firsthand, why so many former christians are so bitter. I've overcome most of that pain, but it is truly horrible to be so hated by those you love over such a small thing.

2: Bigotry
Strongly related to the first point, but different enough to warrant another entry. I've already blogged about how right wing politics I'd based on hate and greed. Guess what? The "hate" part is almost wholly the religious right. Who opposes gay marriage the most? I asked Miss Raissa how one can oppose gay marriage without hating gay people, and for secular arguments against gay marriage. Her answer left me unconvinced, and that's because, frankly, there are no secular arguments against gay marriage, and no reasons aside from bigotry to keep/make it illegal in a non-theocratic country. Yet gay people get regularly hated on, bullied to the point of suicide, and groups like NOM and the AFA (fuck those assholes) are outright persecuting gay folks for religious purposes.
Of course, bigotry towards other religions, and atheists, is another reality that religions often foster. We need only to look to Anders Breivik's recent actions to see what that can do, though I can easily point to the furor over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque (not a mosque, not at ground zero) the rancor over atheist billboards and bus campaigns, sharia law, 9/11, the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the Muslim/Hindu tensions in India and Pakistan for other recent examples. And let's not forget Canada's Catholic and Anglican run residential schools, which did their best to end First Nations culture here. The last one shut down in the 1996.
The fact is, religion has supported some of the most heinous cases of bigotry in human history. And I can come to that conclusion without using things like slavery and segregation (and before anyone brings up christians who helped end these practices, the bible was used both in support and opposition of both ideas, and interracial marriage. Don't ignore history.) The fact is that hate has been a huge part of organized religion as far back as we have recorded. And it still goes on, justified by faith. Is that not a good reason for outrage?
Another great example actually comes from miss Raissa herself. I tried my damnedest to be friendly, polite, and nice to her. Then she started the "FreeMabus" hashtag. Mabus, aka Dennis Markuze, was a guy who threatened plenty of atheists. Full story here. And Raissa, knowing the whole story and the escalation and actually showing up at conferences attended by people he threatened, wants the guy freed. So he can kill atheists. And yet she doesn't hate us. I even tried to flatter and befriend her after that, thinking maybe she just needs a nice atheist to show her we're not all evil, but she's too hateful. She can't even accept me as a human being. I'm not hurt by the rejection of a person I'll never meet, I'm hurt that that attitude exists.

3: War
Duh. Moving on.

4: Power
Religion has an insane amount of power, and as we've seen through things like Blue Laws, the anti-abortion lobby, and the creation science advocates, the religious don't seem to think they have enough of it. Perhaps you'd see why that bothers some people...if we don't adhere to your religious beliefs, we shouldn't be forced to adhere to your morality. And just because you don't like the idea of evolution doesn't mean the anti-science ramblings of Ken Hamm or Kent Hovind are right. That stuff directly damages society by misinforming the youth. Evolution is a fact. Period.
Of course, the worst are the anti-birth control activists who advocate abstinence and spread lies about condoms and other forms of birth control. The blood of millions of people who died of preventable sexually transmitted diseases is on their hands.
Is there any reason we should not be angry at these people?

5: Frustration
Remember that guy from the first point? At the end of our discussion, he said Proverbs 27:17 wasn't about friendship being beneficial (though the KJV, which he used, specifically said that "friends" sharpen each other). He said "For the record it is refering to the type of rel. you should hold for mutual growth." In other words, friendship. How do you talk with someone like that? Or creationists who are proven flat wrong on some point and yet repeat their defeated argument? These people are plain idiots. It is hard not to be angry at a group that churns out millions of people this stubborn and stupid. It really is.

6: Putting the "Bother" in "God-Botherer"
Why do people hate Juggalos, Bronies, and Twihards? They keep pushing their favourite band/tv show/books on us when we aren't interested. And religious types do the same. I mean, I don't mind it, but many do. Religious people hand out tracts at public centres like malls (I did that a few times with one church I was with). They bother us at our homes and protest things like abortion clinics, books and movies. At best, they're seen as nuisances when they do this, but every so often we get a book burning or attempts (sometimes successful) to censor stuff we like.

So, in other words, we're angry at religion because it often makes the religious act like real assholes, get people killed, spread hate, annoy us, frustrate us, and do their best to make us either obey their god or suffer.

Hopefully this has enlightened you, and hopefully, it's inspired you to work within your religion (yes, christians, christianity is a religion) to to make the world a more peaceful place for people of all walks of life.
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Top 5 Reasons Crom Is Better Than Your God

Yes, the new Conan movie bombed despite actually being good, but Crom laughs at your box office! Crom cares not for your critics with their unfresh tomatoes! Crom is mighty! Mightier, and greater, than your god, no matter what god you worship. Here are the top reasons why:

1: Your god claims to intervene on your behalf, but then does nothing. Crom’s followers waste not their time with idle prayers! Crom is an honest god! He admits he cares not for your prayers, only your valour in combat!

2: Your god demands devotion, time, money, but Crom cares not for your sacrifices or worship! In fact, Crom’s followers know better than to disturb him for small things like sporting events, for his wrath upon disturbance is often great indeed. Crom only cares that you know the Riddle of Steel, and then if you do, he lets you into Valhalla, where you may dine with the greatest of heroes who have ever lived.

3: Your god inspires much music, and almost all of it terrible. Crom has not inspired much, for all who know Crom knows he smites the unworthy, but what has been offered has been glorious gifts to mankind! BEHOLD! Conan the Musical! Basil Poledouris’ soundtrack to Conan the Barbarian! And of course, the music of the only band worthy of the name Crom! Compare that to the music of your god. Crom laughs at your poor hymns! Laughs from his mountain, surrounded by metal of the heaviest kind.

4: When you die, your god judges your whole life and denies you paradise if you fail. Even the followers of the Aquilonian god Mitra, known to modern men as “Christians”, claim they have a simple test of belief in Jesus, but then claim if you don’t follow a myriad of rules, you fail the test. Crom judges all on his mountain, and asks but one question. “What is the Riddle of Steel?” He may also ask you what is best in life, but that would only be for first choice of mead and wenches. And the Riddle of Steel’s answer has been given away in a popular movie, so if you lack the wisdom to figure it out on your own, you can still get in by knowledge of the ancient film of Milius.

5: If you cannot live up to your god’s standards, your god will almost certainly cast you into a realm of great torment, or reincarnate you as a lesser being. Crom only laughs at you and casts you out of Valhalla. Crom is cruel, but even he has limits to the pain he will inflict. Yea, Crom's devils are more merciful than your god! Even the wisest of your wise men cannot defeat this logic!

Bonus for Christians only
: When constructing your ancient holy tome and deciding which gospels to allow in, according to the magical repository of knowledge known as Wikipedia, the foolish bishop Irenaeus of Lyons “declared that the four he espoused [which became canon] were the four "Pillars of the Church": "it is not possible that there can be either more or fewer than four" he stated, presenting as logic the analogy of the four corners of the earth and the four winds (3.11.8)” But Crom laughs at your four winds. Laughs from his mountain.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Long overdue reply

This is a long overdue reply to a reply to one of my blog posts from earlier in the month. James D Jordan, a cool cat who I disagree with…well, everything on, yet still would call a friend, replied to said post of mine. If I saw his reply earlier than a couple of days ago, I sincerely don’t recall, but I apologize (note the image) and I’m replying now. Rebuttal shall be after the “Read More” link.
I won’t quote the whole post, since that would be super long and would eliminate the need to look at his article. Anyway, in response to my point that Jesus can’t sacrifice himself to god, since he is god, he says this:

Jesus was exactly God? Atheists seem to think so. While on a spiritual level, Jesus is also God, the "God can't sacrifice to Himself" theory falls apart under basic scrutiny. Jesus is not only Son of God but Son of Man.

The datum that destroys Ben's theory is that Jesus had a mother, a quite human mother named Mary. Mary was not perfect. I've argued that she clearly sinned at Cana when she asked her son to make wine in lieu of going to Walgreen's. Mary was fully human. And, here's the stone in the "skeptic" shoe: Jesus was fully human, too.

While that might not make sense to the atheist, it is exactly what the Scriptures predicted. God was going to redeem us Himself. Jesus taught exactly this point as well. God was going to give us His Son. (Isaiah 41:12-14, Isaiah 9:6, and in dozens of passages in the OT and the NT)

It doesn’t make sense, period, James. The trinity is a nonsensical idea if taken literally, as you seem to be doing. I understand the idea of different aspects of a being, and in that way (figuratively rather than literally) the trinity makes sense. I am a person, my online activities are an aspect of my identity, but they are not different entities. Imagine I was playing some online game that allowed for transfers of in-game goods between players, and I set up 2 accounts on this game. They’re both “fully electronic” and “fully me”. If I sent a bunch of gold from one account to the next, is this a multi-person transfer? No, it’s me giving something to me. What if “benfromcanada” makes some money then gives it to Ben Dobson? This weblog does make some money, or would had I enough traffic. If “benfromcanada” sends money from PayPal to Ben Dobson’s bank account, is that a multi-person transaction? No, it is not. Being “fully human” and “fully god” at the same time matters not, it’s the same entity controlling the actions of Jesus, it’s the same being.

Of course, if we assumed you were right, that opens up some major issues. Mary had other children. Does Jesus’ bloodline still exist through their descendants? Did Jesus have identity problems, issues reconciling his god side and his human side? What was Jesus' identity?

Now a "skeptic" will protest that God can't give us His Son as a sacrifice. My response is to ask them to show how He CANNOT do such a thing. I'll help them out; His spirit PLUS a 100% human body EQUALS the perfect sacrifice.

No, it’s his spirit PLUS a 100% human body that he’s owned and been in control of for 30-some years. Under Christian thought, spirit/soul controls the body, and the spirit in Jesus is the important part, not the body.

His response to my second point, that Jesus forfeited nothing of value, is to wonder why I quoted verses about Jesus’ body being beaten beyond recognition. Note: I didn’t “quote” any bible verses, I merely cited chapters where Jesus’ resurrection story was told. The reason is that the reflex from christians is to complain about taking things out of context, so if I simply say “this is the chapter where I got this from” and briefly touch on what happens there, I avoid that asinine criticism altogether. The point is, if your body regenerates, then “sacrificing” it means nothing.

Keep in mind, if Jesus is the Son of God, then His sacrifice is of the utmost importance to every person who lived before, during or after that event. The horrors of September 11, 2001 affected only a small percentage of people. Jesus's sacrifice on the cross affected everyone who ever lived.

Maybe you can explain this problem I had even when I was christian. How does Jesus’ crucifixion affect me at all? I did nothing wrong 2000 years ago when he was executed, so how could my sins have in any way been affected by his death?

As for his criticisms of my third point, that human bodies aren’t worth much in the Christian worldview…yes, human bodies are all but worthless in christianity. Why do christians look so forward to the next life if this one is so worthwhile? The soul is what’s worthwhile, and the reasoning behind prohibitions against murder, adultery, etc. is that it taints the soul of the offender.
But then he says this…

Reread all of Ben's comments and then consider the atheist attack in general. Every atheist argument starts with the assumption that the universe was not created by a deity. You can sum up their argument by saying, "There is no God, therefore......"

But I'm going to help out my atheist friend here. Assume that the claim is true and proceed from there. You do that with the Qur'an and you find that the claims of Allah's deity are incoherent. You do that with the Bible and it becomes harder and harder to dismiss.

NO. I do no go in simply assuming anything. In this exercise, as in all of them where I talk about the christian god, I assume he’s real for the sake of the exercise. And NO, the bible is not hard to dismiss. In fact, you have it backwards: the Qur’An is a well written piece of poetic literature that does put forth a somewhat coherent argument. Or at least an argument with fewer textual contradictions than the bible, which has over 400 textual contradictions in its pages.

Your final point puzzles me. Why does it matter that Jesus makes you happy? Does that make him real?
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Monday, August 22, 2011


So a friend on facebook mentioned that right wing Canadians are attacking Jack Layton on the day of his death. I searched on google and found this. I was only mildly surprised to hear about right wingers being so awful...but then I saw who did it.
Christie Blackford of the National Post belittled the public's outpouring of support. In one of our national newspapers. Less than 12 hours after the death of the man. I mean, I can honestly say I hate Stephen Harper, even I would wait at least a few days before saying such a thing.

Even worse, though, was this. Go ahead, read it, it'll only take a second. This classless asshole, editor of the Calgary Sun (the worst newspaper in Canada, bar none) had the NERVE to bring up the bawdy house allegations (never an issue in reality, used as a baseless smear against Layton earlier this year) the day of his fucking death. I'm sorry for the bad language, this person deserves it. And worse. I don't really have anything to say aside from that I hope both these classless bastards deserve to be fired.

Jack Layton was a personal hero of mine. I never met the man, but he inspired me very deeply. I worked for the local New Democrat campaign a few years ago (for candidate Brent Bush for Kootenay-Columbia, who later went independent), and have identified with the party ever since I matured, politically. That coincided with Layton taking the reins of the NDP. The man was a hero of the working class and will be missed. That's about all I can say without getting overly emotional...this is a sad day for Canada. Read more!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Conan the Barbarian Review

I’ve been a huge fan of Conan (the Cimmerian barbarian, not the redheaded comedian and TV show host). I own both the movies, have seen both that I could write this article on OverthinkingIt.com with little research. The first comic I owned as a kid (now lost to the sands of time) was an issue of Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian my mom bought me. The day I found a massive Dark Horse reprinting of several issues of Savage Sword of Conan on clearance for $10 was one of the highlights of 2009 for me. I often whistle the Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom when walking or working, and I often quote the books and movies. I even watched the animated Conan the Adventurer, for Crom’s sake! So, of course, I was looking forward to this new movie ever since I learned of it a year ago. On top of all of this, I learned some very personal and heartbreaking news regarding a very dear friend of mine late Friday afternoon, just over 24 hours before seeing this movie I’d built up for so long. If this movie was bad, I figured, this would end up being the worst weekend ever. So, what do I think of the movie?

For starters, this isn’t a remake of the 1982 Conan the Barbarian…not really. There are some plot similarities. Conan takes on a mighty empire headed by a serpent man priest who wiped out his village vs. Conan takes on a mighty empire headed by a guy that wants to be a god and wiped out his village. Conan is tasked with saving King Osric’s virgin daughter vs. Conan is tasked with saving Tamara, a virgin and the last daughter of Acheron. But aside from those similarities, it’s a different movie with almost all different characters. It’s much more faithful to Robert E. Howard’s character, and the types of adventures he got himself into, save for the slaughtered village origin, which is in line with the old movies but not Howard stories.

As far as casting goes, well, I may be lynched for this, but Jason Momoa is a much better Conan than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Momoa’s Conan was competent, bright, cunning, as well as a skilled warrior. He is equal parts fearsome and honourable. In short, he’s just as Howard wrote him. Arnold’s Conan brought Arnold’s dumb charm with him, but Momoa’s Conan’s charm lies in his savagery. I hope Momoa becomes a megastar because of this movie (though I doubt it due to the low Rotten Tomatoes score). The rest of the cast is hit and miss. Ron Perlman as Coran, Conan’s father, is great, though his acting is at times Narmy. Rose McGowan is creepily sexy and quite the scene stealer as Marique. While Stephen Lang, who plays Marique’s father Khalar Zim, is competent enough, he’s no James Earl Jones. Saïd Taghmaou’s Ela-Shan is all but useless as a character, which is a shame since I found the character interesting. Nonso Anozie is great but underused as Artus. Rachel Nicols is bland and pathetic as Tamara, and the guy who lost his nose to Conan just wasn’t engaging. All in all, the cast was good enough, though aside from McGowan and Momoa, none were what I’d call stellar.

As for the rest…well, the story was kind of by-the-books. A quest for revenge, defending the nearly helpless damsel meant to be a sacrifice, stopping an evil king from obtaining ultimate power…yawn. While I liked the nods to the Howard stories, like Conan’s pirate crew, I didn’t find the script to be exceptional. The effects were great, though one scene was jarring to me: after Marique’s death, the lighting shifted from blue filtered to green, though that might be due to the 3D conversion. I saw it in 2D, so perhaps if I saw it 3D, that might not be an issue. It was well scored except for during Conan and Tamara’s love scene, though this was nothing compared to Basil Poledouris legendary score for the first film. The violence and action was almost non-stop, however, and well-done, yet not gratuitous, so it was easy to ignore most of the film’s flaws. Even the somewhat offensive scene where young Conan killed a few guys who look suspiciously like warriors from my tribe, wasn't too bad, partly because the rest of the casting and race relations of the movie resembled the world I described in my OTI post.

All in all, it was a mostly good movie. Not as good a movie as the 1982 film, but better than any other film or television adaptation of the character. However, if you’re not familiar with Robert E Howard’s work, don’t go in expecting anything aside from a competent and bloody action film. I give it 7 severed noses out of 10.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

On Ron Paul and the Cult of Personality

Not long ago I watched a video by TJ, aka TheAmazingAtheist, aka TheDistressedWatcher, aka thatfatatheist. It’s about something I’ve sort of wanted to talk about for a little while: the apotheosis (deification) of political figures. Here’s the video in question.

Now the first person I thought of when TJ brought this up was former youtube celebrity CapnOAwesome. CapnOAwesome was, alongside TJ and a couple others, one of the first big atheists on YouTube, and had 20,000 subscribers at a time when the biggest channels had about 100,000-200,000. He was a fairly intelligent person (I’d describe him as part Richard Dawking, part Howard Stern) who was in fact the first Ron Paul supporter I encountered. He was a hardcore atheist who regularly bashed creationists, pro-lifers, conspiracy theorists and modern Republicans. And then he wrote a poem in support of Ron Paul, and started posting pro-Paul videos. He also posted some videos about 9/11 conspiracy nuts, and the primary commentary was “I thought you liked Ron Paul!” and through some investigation, I found that Paul himself is a bit of a conspiracy theorist. And a christian fundamentalist, anti-abortion, anti-gay creationist. CapnOAwesome did publicly say that if Paul was a creationist, he’d stop supporting him…yet, the Capn still supported Paul after his creationism came to light. In fact, most people I know who support Ron Paul disagree with him on a large number of important things, yet support him to an unreasonable degree. Go to any internet forum and you’ll see what I mean.

What’s even worse is the messianic qualities given to these people. Ron Paul will apparently end all wars, legalize all drugs, and permanently fix the economy. Now, this isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time, this sort of thing has happened. Barack Obama and Sarah Palin fans make similarly insane claims, or worse (we all remember the Obama supporter who thought she’d never have to pay for gas or for her mortgage again when Obama got elected president). Why do the members of these cults of personality believe that their candidates can change things that the office they are running for doesn't control them?

But there's another interesting aspect of this type of hero worship, and that's how quickly reality sets in when they are elected. How many of Obama's rabid supporters have abandoned him when they realized he couldn't make candy rain down from the sky? I noticed a similar lack of enthusiasm from some of the more fervent Conservatives up here when Stephen Harper led them to government. Reality hits these people hard when their chosen leaders can't deliver, and that leads to political apathy. I'm aware that the more extreme supporters of a candidate aren't the only ones affected by this, but I also believe that they're just a more visible version of something much more common: an overestimation of what politicians are able to do. And when elected politicians can't do what they promised, not because they lied on the campaign trail but because they promised the impossible, that undermines confidence in the democratic system. That results in lower voter turnout, which is an opportunity for radical groups like the Tea Party. That in itself might reverse the tide of voter apathy but by then, the damage is largely done.

Really, what we need to do is have more realistic expectations of our politicians. That's not an unreasonable proposition, is it? Read more!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Poetry Wednesday: The Breakup Sonnet

I love to say “I love you” very much
Though I want to beat you when I say it.
It pains you to hear this stated as such
That our hearts, when paired up, just do not fit.

In truth, ’twas not always like it is now
At first, I meant it when I said “I love you, dear”.
Whenever true love dies one must ask how,
And this question cannot be solved, I fear.

But fear not! for not all is lost, my friend
Our situation isn’t all that sad
Though my life with you is quite near its end
Through others we’ll find the love we once had.

So, my love, although our time is now through,
One more kiss, before I bid thee adieu. Read more!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Continuing the dialogue with Miss Raissa

So a couple of days ago, I answered a question infamous twitter personality Miss Raissa posed, and asked a few of my own. And then, she replied. Now, a few people on twitter were actually shocked because, according to them, she doesn't address criticism from us liberals and atheists all that often. In light of that, I felt pretty special. How do I feel about the answers? My reaction after the jump.
Raissa, do you actually care about dialogue with people with opposing viewpoints, or are you just trying to preach? You clearly didn't put a lot of effort into the answers.

The first question was a multiple part question, asking you how you'd feel if Buddhism, with its Narakas, and Islam, with Jahhanom, were true. I also asked how you'd take it if there was a heaven that was run by gods that valued skepticism and, as such, only let us atheists and agnostics in. You said you couldn't speak for other religions, but then quickly added that your religion is true because Jesus sacrificed himself for you (no he didn't sacrifice anything) and no other god did that. Actually, the Egyptian gods Osiris and Horus died to protect us from Set, and ALL the Norse gods died protecting us from various monsters, trolls and giants led by Loki. Both the Egyptian and Norse gods have followers today, so you can't say that they're not true because no one believes them anymore. You go on to (rightly) point out that not all religions can be true...but there doesn't have to be one god. There could just as easily be no gods at all, or a god or gods that aren't worshiped by any religion ever created.

Then, when you get to my query regarding whether atheists and agnostics would go to heaven while everyone else went to hell, you simply said "there’s just no way that’s going to happen." Why? What reason do you have to believe my swiftly-constructed hypothetical situation isn't true? Face facts: There is no proof that your god is real, Raissa. There's none that any god or goddess is real. Even you must admit this. Believing in something you can't prove to be real necessitates that you subvert rationality at some level and either ignore or internally discredit all evidence to the contrary. So what makes you think that this life isn't a test that you're set to fail? What makes you think that god, or "the gods", didn't simply make everything, randomize our personalities and decide that only those with enough credulity to reject unprovable religions would get to chill with them in paradise after death? Do you have a satisfactory answer that isn't simply a more polite version of "nu-uh"?

For the second question, I asked how you could oppose gay marriage while not claiming to hate gay people, even though denying them a right everyone else has makes them second class citizens. Your answer was "Homosexuals are not second class citizens and have never been treated as such." Sure, there was other stuff around that, but you're missing something very important. Aside from the fact that it's simply wrong (here in Canada, gay sex was punishable by prison sentence until 1969) the fact is, marriage has always been a right in Canada, since Confederation in 1867. Denying one group any right makes them second class citizens by definition. Now, no one's forcing you to accept the "homosexual lifestyle" any more than they're forcing you to accept that another religion is true. What people don't like is that not only do you disagree, you want their lifestyle to be illegal to some degree. If someone said "I don't want to allow black people to marry outside their race" would you think they hate black people? Of course you would, and you'd almost certainly be right. So why can't we apply the same logic here? If you don't hate gay people, you should have no issue with them having the same rights, under the law, as we heterosexuals have.

The last question was about secular arguments against gay marriage was, essentially, an argument against gay sex. You made claims about AIDS that we've heard before, and that anal sex is bad for you, and homosexual men have shorter lives than heterosexuals. I won't argue that. I also won't argue against you "gay sex is unnatural" point since a) someone in your comments section already defeated that point and b) we're communicating via an unnatural means, so clearly you don't actually care about what's natural or not. What I will argue is that outlawing gay marriage does nothing to hinder the risks inherent in unprotected homosexual sex. Now, outlawing gay sex might, but that's a draconian measure that no one would want to enact, presumably not even you. However, there's some evidence that, if we follow your logic, is much more damning than anything you've said.

Check this Fast Facts pdf file from the USA's Centre for Disease Control (CDC). There's a chart at the bottom of the first page that tracks new HIV or AIDS cases from 2006 to 2010. White men who had sex with men (or "MSM", which includes any men who had sex with another man, whether they be bi or homosexual) accounted for 13,230 of these new cases, the single largest group of new HIV/AIDS cases. Black MSM were next with 10,130. Directly following them were black heterosexual women (7,340) then hispanic MSM (5,360) black heterosexual men (3,290) and white heterosexual women (2,310), then black intravenous drug users and hispanic heterosexual women. Since white heterosexual men made up less than 2% of new cases, they weren't counted. Now, if we were to add these groups up as "white people who got HIV/AIDS via sex" and "black people who got HIV/AIDS via sex" they'd add up to 15,540 (white) against 20,760 (black). Bear in mind that this is not counting black intravenous drug users, who make up another 3,480 cases (2,010 male, 1,470 female). Now, the demographics of the USA state that white people make up about 72.4% of the population while black people make up 12.6%, and yet new black HIV/AIDS cases in the same country outnumber new white HIV/AIDS cases by 5,220, about 1/3 of the total new white infections, and make up a majority of the total of new cases since 2006. In other words, your logic, if accepted and applied to interracial marriage, would be enough to overturn Loving v Virginia. Hell, it might even be enough to outlaw ALL African-American marriage, if we were dumb enough to accept this as an adequate argument. In other words, the HIV/AIDS argument against gay marriage should not be used by anyone, especially black people.

I don't think you're a bad person, Raissa. I don't agree with you on...well, I don't know there's anything we do agree on, other than that air is good and food is yummy. But you really need to rethink your views on homosexuality. It's OK for your religion to not bless same sex couplings, but to thoroughly denounce them and wish that they were illegal? That's a strong indication of hate, and that is something I don't tolerate.

If you want to try to answer my questions more adequately, I'm all for it. I'm most interested in your answers to the first question, since there is no way to oppose gay marriage without hating them, or misunderstanding the fact that they're not being denied a right, and there is no good secular argument against gay marriage.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Answering Miss Raissa's Question (And Asking A Few Of My Own)

There's a lovely lady who has gotten the atheist twittersphere all a-twitter (sorry). Her name is Raïssa Nkuba or Miss Raissa, and she's known for her anti-gay, "pro-life" and very christian tweets. She posed a question to us non-believers, and I intend to answer it. After the jump, of course.

At first glance, this is nothing more than Pascal's Wager. However, I'll answer it exactly like she asked it, because I'm nice that way.
Unbelievers do you ever wonder what will happen if hell is real? Doesn’t it ever concern you?

Well, no, I don't really wonder what will happen if hell is real. I generally concern myself with more pressing issues. As for whether "hell" concerns me...that depends. Which version of hell are we talking about? Some christians believe hell is "eternal separation from god". If that's what it is, well...I don't like the "eternal" part, but I'm separated from god now, and I'm fine with it.
Other christians believe the Lake of Fire is just for demons, and we humans just cease to exist if we don't go to heaven. That would almost be preferable to heaven, really. An eternity of anything would be torturous after a long enough time, even if heaven is an unending acid trip combined with unending orgasms and none of the drawbacks of either of those things.
As for the Lake of Fire hell...well, sure, that would suck. But again, I don't feel like the evidence supports the existence of any afterlife at all, hell or otherwise. It would be like asking me "what if Megatron was real?" The consequences of that would be horrendous.

She also asks us this:

By believing in God what exactly are you losing?

Well...for one, I'd be giving up a lot of my time, and energy, and some of my money to your religion. So there's that. I'm sure I'd also lose the respect of some of my atheist friends. And I'd have to give at least some of my ability to think rationally and logically.

Anyway, I said I'd ask you some questions, so here they are.

1: What if YOU are wrong? There are numerous other religions out there, some with horrendous consequences if true. So what if, say, Islam, which has Jahannam for christians, is true? Or Buddhism, where there's Naraka? Or what if the gods value skepticism? Perhaps the gods devised this world as a test, with no evidence of any god. Those skeptical enough to be atheistic or agnostic go to heaven, and the rest of you go to hell. What if that was the truth? We'll just ask about those three. What if you're wrong about Islam, Buddhism, or that third hypothetical possibility?

2: Raïssa, you said you don't hate gay people, and that you don't support gay marriage. I asked you on twitter, you said you'd blog on it, and so I'll ask again here, formally. See, when some people have a right (and marriage is a right here in Canada, where we both live) and others don't, it makes those who don't have that right (as in, gay people) "second class citizens" by definition. So, with that in mind, how can you oppose gay marriage without hating gay people?

3: Do you have a secular argument against gay marriage? That is, an argument that Canada should re-outlaw gay marriage that does not involve religion at all.

Looking forward to your response!

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why "Cool" Premises Can Be Dangerous

Let me ask you something, dear reader. Look at the following premise:

"After zombies take over the Earth, vampires must protect the last surviving humans so they can live off their blood."

Sounds pretty sweet, eh? Would you read a story based on this premise? Or watch a movie or TV series based on it?

I'd wager that the majority of those reading this would be interested in that book. That's actually sort of a problem. Allow me a moment of your time to explain... See, nerd culture (if we can call it such) goes crazy over "cool premises", especially if there's an element of Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot, or Cool vs Awesome. It makes sense, on some level. After all, two things that are cool, when combined, should be doubly-cool. And, when done right, a story that involves multiple "cool" ideas combined can be great. Cowboy Bebop is about cowboy bounty-hunters in space, and it's awesome. The first few Marvel Zombies stories (superhero zombies) was hilarious and very worth the money. I could probably go on, but really, there aren't that many more worthwhile examples, other than Star Wars (Space Western with samurai wizard monks, pirates, and robots) the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and probably Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, or at least I'm told.

The problem is that far too many of these types of projects rely far too heavily on their concept, almost as if the concept alone makes something worthwhile. It almost seems like this attitude makes the writers lazier, unwilling to put forth the effort to make the work worthwhile. Films like Van Helsing, the Underworld series, Sucker Punch, Aliens Vs Predators, Snakes on a Plane, and the second, third and fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movies are examples of this. So is the new movie Cowboys and Aliens, which is a boring, by-the-books Western movie that is predictable as all hell. No one would see this bland piece of crap if it didn't have aliens as a stand in for Bandits or Injuns, and if it didn't star the new James Bond and Indiana Solo. That's part of what got me thinking about this. The other is the concept I started this thing with.

Vampires defending humans against zombies for the mutual benefit of all parties (except the zombies, of course) is the concept behind the webcomic Last Blood by Bobby Crosby (writer) and Owen Gieni (artist). It is apparently going to be made into a movie (the fact that they found a director just a couple of weeks ago is the reason I'm going ahead with a review of a 4 year old comic). If it does make it to the big screen, I hope to Crom they drastically stray from the source material.

Now, don't get me wrong, the source material isn't completely worthless. It is deeply, deeply flawed, however. The flaws come primarily from the fact that Bobby Crosby clearly doesn't care about telling a good story. He cares about showing that this concept is "cool", and explaining how awesome it is. Whole conversations are simply exposition, which might be OK once in a while in a long narrative, but the entirety of Volume 1 is 113 pages, and the sheer amount of exposition used is staggering for that short a space. And it's quite necessary, because B. Crosby isn't a very good writer, but he's come up with some interesting and ingenious ideas aside from the brilliant premise. Specifically, the relationship between vampires and zombies. See, in this world, a vampire that doesn't drink blood for 65 years becomes a "schaemiac", meaning that they lose some vampiric powers but become, essentially, a harder-to-kill intelligent zombie that controls every zombie they make.

Wait, did I call that ingenious? I meant to call it "stupid as hell". I mean, the idea of zombies being controlled by some outside force is actually pretty scary. Making that force a vampire could work. Making it a zombie-vampire thing and making the actual infection happen this way is goddamned idiotic. But, it's a fast, lazy way to advance the plot while reinforcing the "clever" twist of the First Vampire, who coincidentally is the great-grandfather of one of the human characters. Oh, and there's another schaemiac, who's the great-grandfather of one of the other human characters. Isn't that a strange coincidence? It's almost contrived, I'd say.

Nearly every aspect of the writing aside from the initial concept is done amateurishly. The characters are either moderately likeable Mary Sues like Matheson and April, or boring one-dimensional characters like the former pro-wrestling vampire named *sigh* Rage. The work itself feels rushed, like the story should have taken a few more chapters to be fully realized. Oh, and you know what the cure for vampirism is? VODKA. (To be 100% fair, I looked around and found one of Bobby Crosby's many, many insane rants at his critics where he said that the cure was just in vodka bottles because the most brilliant doctor ever vampire Addison Payne had a lot of them, but there is nothing in the comic that I found that suggested this.) I honestly feel dumb for buying and reading the comic (I got it off the Comixology iPhone app after mostly liking the free first issue, not knowing I could have read the whole stupid thing online legally and for free.) There are a few points where he does get it right, like the actually-well-done first issue and the old man shooting hoops with decapitated zombie heads, but part of me thinks that someone else wrote those scenes for him. Perhaps Bobby's big brother Chris?

And yet this comic has a following, and may end up being made into an actual movie by the same company that made the Ring, the Butterfly Effect and A History of Violence. Why? Because it's such a cool concept that, if it's made, nerds will flock to it in cinemas, even if critics hate it. This will have a dedicated fanbase, like Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus or Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter.

So, nerds, don't you think it's time we developed a bit of discernment?
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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fictional Bad Guys (Who Are Less Evil Than God)

Here's a fun little challenge to my fellow atheists. inspired by this two part video: Find fictional characters that are considered bad, or at least morally ambiguous, who are more virtuous than the christian god. See, it's actually fairly easy to find fictional heroes that are more moral than the christian god (Superman, Spider-Man, Cornelius from Planet of the Apes, Sherlock Holmes, Kenzo Tenma from Monster, etc.) but it might be interesting and elucidating to find villains and especially nasty anti-heroes that are less evil than the christian god. The reason I think this would be interesting and enlightening is that these types of characters are supposed to be evil (they're written that way)or at least they're supposed to have a morality that is troubling to most people. Meanwhile, the god that over 2 billion people worship as the perfect ideal of goodness, well...acts worse than many cartoon villains. This is designed in part to illustrate this point, and in part to just have some fun as theologically-challenged nerds.

So, here are the rules of this challenge:

1: Characters must be either a villain or an anti-hero. If they're an anti-hero, they have to be either Type IV or Type V, or a Villain Protagonist, to count.

2: You must make a case that this character's actions and possibly their motivations are evil. This should not be hard.

3: You must make a case that the christian god, Yahweh, is more evil than that character. Bible verses illustrating your point are recommended. This also should not be hard.

I'll get the ball rolling with 3 examples of my own.

The Punisher (aka Frank Castle)
Why He's Evil:
His whole gimmick is that he is a merciless killer. He kills criminals without remorse, and regularly tortures small time crooks for information. He's essentially a serial killer with good publicity.
Why He Isn't As Evil As Yahweh: Frank only kills bad people, and shows real remorse when he accidentally kills a good police officer (like in the movie Punisher: War Zone) or a civilian. Meanwhile, god took Jephtah's daughter as a sacrifice because Jephtah made a stupid promise (Judges 11:30-40), killed all the firstborn sons of Egypt, including babies (Exodus 12:29-30), and wiped out all of humanity, including babies and small children (Noah's Flood, Genesis 6-9). Also, Frank doesn't do anything to anyone after they die, while Yahweh lets Satan torment them forever.

Conan of Cimmeria (aka Conan the Barbarian)
Why He's Evil:
He's been a pirate, thief, mercenary, and assassin. He's killed countless people with sword, axe, and bare hands. His motives are selfish, and he lives for the kill.
Why He's Not As Evil As Yahweh: Well, for one, he opposes slavery, while Yahweh openly condones it. In fact, outside the movies, Conan has never been a slave, so his reasons for opposing slavery are rather altruistic. As he says in the new trailer for his upcoming movie, "no man should live in chains." Conan treats women well, brags that he's never had to force a woman to have sex with him, and looks down on those who do rape. Based on Numbers 31:15-18, Yahweh disagrees.
Also, Conan's wrath ends at death, Yahweh's is eternal.

Light Yagami (aka Kira) from Death Note
Why He's Evil: After discovering a book that allows him to kill people by writing their names in said book, Light decides to rid the world of evil-doers by killing them all...and making himself the god of this new world.
Why He's Not As Evil As Yahweh: At first glance, they're very similar. Both are megalomaniacs who believe themselves above all others, both judge people, both are Light and Yahweh are bona fide psychopaths, as are any who would act like they do. However, Light is slightly better than Yahweh. All but a handful of Light's murders are mostly painless and swift (heart attacks), whereas Yahweh is willing to drown people during the Great Flood (which is a painful and long experience), have bears maul kids (II Kings 2:23-24) , and burn most of the world and subject the survivors to a thousand years of "tribulation" (the book of Revelation). And of course, Light Yagami only kills people, he certainly doesn't create a lake of fire with which to burn people for an eternity.

So, what are some of your bad guys who are less evil than Yahweh?
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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Something Christians Can't Grasp About The Crucifixion

Christians regularly proclaim that Jesus' Crucifixion is the greatest act of kindness ever, a divine act of supreme sacrifice that redeems all of humanity. Much like just about every other aspect of christianity, this idea goes unexamined. Well, that's what I'm here for!

The big issue, aside from the troublesome human sacrifice issue (rather beautifully demolished by Sam Harris at the end of this video here), is that it wasn't actually a sacrifice. You see, sacrifice (n.), when defined by thefreedictionary.com, is one of the following:
a. The act of offering something to a deity in propitiation or homage, especially the ritual slaughter of an animal or a person.
b. A victim offered in this way.
a. Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.
b. Something so forfeited.
a. Relinquishment of something at less than its presumed value.
b. Something so relinquished.
c. A loss so sustained.

Under which definition can Jesus' actions be accurately defined as a sacrifice? Let's go through each of these 3 definitions.

1: Jesus was the god to which the sacrifice was being made. As such, if we are to believe Jesus was sacrificed, or was the sacrifice, we're saying either that Jesus was given to himself which is a contradiction of terms, or that he, a god, was killed to appease the only god in existence, another contradiction of terms.

2: Jesus did not forfeit anything of value. Jesus' human form was even less worthwhile than a regular human form, because, as seen in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21, and other passages, Jesus was able to resume human form shortly after his death. We have only one life, meaning our bodies are quite valuable, Jesus can raise himself as much as he wants, and when he's tired of it, he can go back to ruling heaven. It's akin to you or I playing Achievement Unlocked. You can't die no matter how often you die in that game, so one elephant life isn't worth anything. Jesus essentially traded up. He left his flawed human form to be permanently in heaven with the rest of the trinity.

3: Human bodies are all but worthless in christianity, and the salvation of all people is the single greatest thing ever. Destroying a human body for the salvation of all other humans doesn't really count as getting rid of something for less than what it's worth.

So christians, how exactly does the crucifixion a great sacrifice?
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Poetry Wednesday: In The Beginning

Note: I actually wrote this as a christian who was angry at god.


I will make you feel,
You will like it.
I will feed you pain constantly,
You will be unable to stop it.
I will call it “Life”,
You will yearn for it at freedom’s door.

I will give you free will,
You will give it away.
I will call this “Love”,
You will like it.
It will be painfully obvious that it is a burden,
You won’t care.

I will give you the world,
You will destroy it.
You may call it progress,
I call it idiocy.

I will give you beauty,
You will perverse it
And make it wrong.
I will send you all to hell,
You won’t know what hit you.

You will foolishly try and overcome my power,
But I will have the last laugh

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