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Posts from the ‘What’s the Harm?’ Category

26
Apr

The Errand

Once, the manager for the video store I used to work at asked me to run an errand in her car for the store. Being an obedient employee, I said, “sure”, and asked her what kind of car she drove. I had a vague idea, but I just wanted to be sure I remembered right. 

Anyway, I got out to her car, checked the color and model, and it’s the right car. I find that the doors are unlocked. 

“What an idiot.”, I think to myself, “Why the hell do people do that? Hey, I’ll just leave my car unlocked for any fool to wander in!” 

So I jump in the seat, and slide the key into the ignition. But for some reason, it won’t turn. I try twisting it really hard, jiggling it around a bunch, but it’s just not happening. “What the heck is wrong with this stupid thing?”, I think to myself, “It’s almost as if this key wasn’t made for this car.”

So I go back inside and tell her that the key doesn’t work. She looks at me incredulously and then decides I’m an idiot. 

“You just have to jiggle it around a little. Go back and try it again. You’ll get it.” 

“Fine”, I think to myself, and I go back out and sit in the driver’s seat again. Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, this shit isn’t working. Now I’m bored, so I start flipping through her cassette tapes to see what her musical preferences are. I don’t remember what tapes were there, but I remember finding her choices amusing.

Then, for some reason, I decided to turn around and look at the cars parked behind me. I don’t know why I did this. Maybe subconsciously, the wheels in my head were actually turning (I doubt it). So I turn around in the seat and look, and there’s another car that looks exactly like the one I’m sitting in, about thirty feet away. Same model, same year, same fucking color.

“SHIT!”

I get out of the car and start to walk back inside, but before I’m even 5 feet away, I look up, and there’s this horrified but very cautious looking lady staring at me and not moving an inch. She has a little kid with her, and I can tell by the look in her eyes that she thinks I’m going to strangle her and her child right then and there. I realize that she owns the car I’d just been sitting in, and now I’m busted!! She’s now seen me get out of her car and I’m now a criminal. 

I apologized and tried to explain that I was borrowing a friend’s car and had gotten into the wrong one, but like any explanation in a circumstance like that, It came out really stupid-sounding. I’m sure she thought I’d just made it up. Luckily for me, she thought I was going to KILL her and her poor child and chop them up into little bitty pieces (I could tell by the shock and fear in her eyes). So she accepted my half-assed explanation and got the hell out of there (once I started to walk away, of course). 

This above circumstance has got to be one of THE most embarrassing things that’s ever happened to me in my entire life. It’s like, top ten. Hell, probably top five.

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31
Jan

Using Magick To Protect Your Parking Spot

In yesterday’s post, I covered how, in my time as a witch, magick would find it’s way into every single part of my life. I have another example of this from the blog of a currently practicing witch.

This guy was annoyed that people kept taking his parking spot. What to do?? Craft a magical guardian to guard your spot, of course! Here is an excerpt from the spell:

Specific Intent : To prevent other motorists parking their cars in the space immediately in front of my house

Energy/power source – all the energies from vehicles moving up and down the road

Appearance – A big traffic cone – bright orange with white stripes

Magical abilities – you can detect when an approaching driver intends to park in my place. Will expand to a size, bristling with orange spikes, which fully occupies the space, convincing the driver there is inadequate room to park.

Housing – you will be contained in crystal placed nearby

Activation – to be activated whenever my car leaves the parking space

[…]

Now, as I walk outside to unlock my car I say something like “Myspace! deploy!” and visualise him springing from the stone which is in a plantpot in the garden, cunningly hidden by a leaf. As I drive away I visualise its shape filling the space I am vacating.

And does it work? I reckon it does. Okay, there are some drivers in the street who inevitably will not be susceptible to astral traffic cones, but the instances of invasion are certainly fewer.

The reason I bring this up is to counter the claim, made by people who don’t understand my passion, that it doesn’t matter what you believe.

I used to do stuff like this every day. Every little thing that inconvenienced me would have a magical solution crafted for it. I went about my life thinking it was working, and I put a lot of time, energy, and emotion into it.

traffic_conesThink about how trivial this situation is and the depth of delusion involved. Does having an accurate view of your day-to-day life matter? Is that a trivial thing? What kind of life is this for someone to lead, where the majority of their thoughts involve things that aren’t real? It’s not right to avoid challenging people who walk around being deluded like this. I submit to you that the simple act of being deluded is harm.

I particularly like the bit at the end where he qualifies that it just won’t work on some people. When I read this, I want to go back to the past, slap myself on the back of the head, and give myself a copy of the Wikipedia entry on confirmation bias.

Also, to you Christians out there, don’t think you’re excluded from this. This is almost exactly like prayer. It involves the same type of goal, the same mechanism, and the same cognitive bias. Both spells and prayer will never work in a double-blind experiment because it would prevent you from ignoring the times when it doesn’t work.

I feel bad for singling this blogger out. Witches get enough crap from Christians, they sure don’t need it from me. They’re just as wrong as Christians, though, and in the exact same ways. And anyways, it makes me nostalgic.

Image credit: chris_park_uk
30
Jan

About My Involvement In Witchcraft

I used to practice witchcraft. I was more deeply involved in it than anyone you’ve probably ever met, though. You could say I was the “fundamentalist Christian” of witches.

Some witches only wear crystals and cast the occasional spell for good fortune. They’re similar to the type of Christian who doesn’t even really think about God much in their day-to-day life. I didn’t just believe I could cast spells. I read other people’s minds. I saw and talked to spirits. I traveled to the afterlife. I invaded people’s dreams while they slept. I engaged in psychic warfare with other witches. I battled and killed demons on a daily basis.

Or at least, I thought I did. I now know it was all nonsense. At the time, though, I was 100% convinced it was real. I didn’t just believe in spirits. I saw them with my own eyes every day. Trying to tell me ghosts weren’t real would have been like telling me my own mom didn’t exist. I spoke with spirits and they spoke back to me. I would cast spells to compel people to do things, and I witnessed the spells work. People would often refuse to look me in the eyes because they were afraid if they did, I would read their thoughts. When I did read their thoughts and revealed what I had learned, they would admit I was correct. I could look at someone and physically see their aura glowing around them. I could look into their eyes and see their spirit.

This experience permeated my everyday life. I never spoke to anyone without reading their thoughts and checking their spirit type. Even if it was just the guy selling me a candy bar at the convenience store, he would get read. I would look into people’s past lives without their knowledge so I’d know how to better deal with them. I would talk to their spirit guides to try to get more information. The afterlife was my life.

After 6 years of this lifestyle, I took a Biology class in college and finally learned the scientific method. It disturbed me greatly, and I stopped actively practicing magick. My students, whom I’d been training, expressed bewilderment as to why I would turn my back on what I had learned. I couldn’t explain it to them because I didn’t understand it myself. That was in the year 2000. It took me 7 years, from 2000 to 2007, before I was able to completely unwrap myself from the psychosis I had been enthralled in.

The magick in witchcraft operates almost entirely off of visualization. For example, if you want to heal someone, you might imagine a bright white light emanating from the point of injury and growing to encompass the person. Or, if you want to protect yourself, you might imagine a great bubble shield growing and encompassing your house. The more powerfully you imagine it, the stronger the spell will be.

I found that if you stared into someone’s eyes for long enough, their face would morph into a completely different face. In this way, you could visually see who they were in their past lives. Some had been many different people, and their faces would flip past very quickly, with a pace of 2-3 different faces every second. It was a surreal experience.

I didn’t realize at the time how powerful visualization could be. I didn’t know it was possible to convince yourself that you could see people that weren’t there. When I imagined the bright white light or the bubble shields I would create, I thought they were real because I saw them with my own eyes. I didn’t realize I was just imagining it very powerfully.

As I began to slowly lose my faith, I retained my ability for powerful visualization. Sometimes, this did not go well. I wasn’t sure if my experiences were real or not. Since I wasn’t practicing my abilities anymore, I started to lose control of them.

For example, I used to think that if I killed a bug, its spirit would try to haunt me in vengeance for its death. If a bug died by my hand, I would actually see its spirit leave its carcass, grow to over 8 feet tall, and begin terrorizing me. Looking back, this seems completely stupid. But at the time, this was a daily dose of fear for me.

I was beginning to clue in at this point that it was just my imagination. With 6 years of practice, though, I couldn’t just will myself to stop seeing things. Every time I got in my car, there would be 8 foot tall wasps in the backseat ready to kill me. Whenever I got in the shower, there would be giant roaches ready to eat my head. I found myself chanting, “It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real” over and over again in my head.

Eventually, I got control of it and this stopped happening. As I learned about the cognitive flaws that allowed for my experiences, I slowly developed a much stronger worldview.

I later learned that many of my fellow witches, whom I’d lost contact with for years, had also become atheists. Funny how some people grow along the same paths even when they lose contact.

To all those who have shared my experiences, congratulations on making it out. And… I’m sorry for contributing to your delusions.

Top Image credit: Ryan Karolak

25
Jan

New Rule: You Cannot Have $1 Million For Religious Indoctrination

growinggodIt seems that some of my tax dollars have been going towards indoctrinating children with Christianity. According Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a certain preschool in West Fork, Arkansas called “Growing God’s Kingdom” has received substantial public funds:

[…] Growing God’s Kingdom has received over $1 million in state funds since 2005, including $534,000 for the 2010-2011 school year. The taxpayer dollars came to the school through the Arkansas Better Chance for School Success program (ABC), which provided tuition for 110 of the 168 students at the school this year. The parents of only about 20 students pay full tuition, which is $135-$140 per week.

Some fun facts about this preschool:

  • It is owned by a politician: Arkansas State Representative Justin Harris.
  • The curriculum includes Bible stories and prayer.
  • The staff handbook states that staff members must “share the love of Jesus with these children. Teach them the word of God so that can (sic) instill the word in them and they can spread the word of God to others”.
  • The classroom-area maintenance requirements mandate that the “Bulletin board in the hall needs to be faith based”.
  • The handbook provided to parents states:

“We ask that you not send any items with the following characters:

Pokemon, Digimon, Teletubbies, Harry Potter, Scooby-Doo, Power Puff Girls, or any other characters that may be affiliated with witches, goblins, ghost, or evil content.”

All of this came out in November of last year when the Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a complaint to DHS and the state Education Department.

Well, time has passed, and The Arkansas Department of Human Services has a new policy where they will attempt to police first amendment violations. They sent out a memo this week stating that they’re going to start enforcing it.

Highlights of the new policy:

  • No religious activity during the 7 hour school day.
  • All teaching must be secular.
  • No public funds can be spent on anything that would be used to advocate religion.
  • Annual certification and random inspections will verify that these rules are being followed.

The owner of the day care, State Representative Justin Harris, responded to this new policy on KNWA yesterday:

“The only religious instruction that we have is ten minutes per day. It’s really not even instructions. I would call it just a Bible story or story time.”

[…]

“The only thing that we’re going to concede to doing is teach the Bible story or read the Bible story after hours…We will keep our religious verses on the walls, we will continue to have what we call the Jesus rug on the wall, we’re not going to take anything down.”

Max Brantley from the Arkansas Times already refuted this all the way back in November:

Harris, and various media enablers, seem intent on claiming that — if a Bible class isn’t part of the 7.5 hours of instruction required daily in return for the almost $1 million he receives every year in public money — he can get away with it during the extended hours of the day. The case law doesn’t agree with him. The argument overlooks the embedded public dollars in his building, the light bill, the furniture, the instructional materials and the salaries of the staff teaching Bible. It also overlooks the daylong exposure Harris provides in the form of Bible verses on bulletin boards and other religious exercises done on the taxpayers’ money.

I have to agree. What is the difference between verbal religious instruction and Jesus propaganda plastered all over the walls? Either way, the message gets across to the kids. The FAQ that the state released about their new policy also explicitly states that moving bible study and prayer to before or after school hours isn’t okay:

6. May I extend the ABC day beyond 7 hours to make time
for bible study or prayer during the day?
ABC program standards apply to everything that happens during the 7-hour ABC day, including recess, lunch, and rest, and therefore apply to any religious activities that take place during the day. Even if that was not the case, any religious activity would have to be arranged in a way that could not directly or indirectly pressure a child to participate. A policy allowing a child to opt out of a religious activity does not solve the problem, because a child who decided not to participate in prayer time would be conspicuous (especially if there are no other scheduled events) and would be subject to both adult and peer pressures. “[T]he First Amendment prohibits the government from putting children in this difficult position.”

Of course, commenters on the KNWA Facebook page are crying about their religious freedom being violated. I find it really strange that Christians only seem to care about their religious freedom. They don’t care about the religious freedom of non-Christians.

For example, take these quotes from Justin Harris back in November:

Harris said Thursday that in his view, separation of church and state exists “to protect the people from tyranny, from being forced to believe a certain way and to have a certain religion.”

“That’s where I think the separation comes in. I don’t think the separation eliminates the government from having Christianity part of it,” he said.

Harris said his preschool is not exclusively for Christian children — the children it serves include some from atheist homes, he said — but it is up front with parents about its religious aspects.

You understand that you are going to get exposed to Christianity throughout the day, or just by saying, ‘Hey, you know, Jesus loves you,’” he said.

He apparently doesn’t understand that these two statements contradict each other. When a child goes to a school and has Christianity jammed down their throat, the state is trying to force them to believe in a certain way. If they don’t believe, they are ostracized and told they are going to burn in hell. My own children, who attend public school, have had kids tell them they can’t be friends anymore because my kids don’t go to church. If it’s that bad in public schools, what do you think it would be like in a place called “Growing God’s Kingdom”? But to a typical Christian in Arkansas, it’s all about them. It’s happy fun-fun land where everyone is a Christian.

It’s all well and good for them to say they would accept kids from atheist families, but it rings a bit hollow when their own student handbook bans clothing depicting witches or other “evil things”. This strongly implies that they would not accept children from Wiccan families. What if a child came to school with a pentacle necklace? The school would surely have a problem with that, and that’s forcing people to believe in a certain way.

I wrote an article last month explaining why I find Christianity so offensive. But of course, this isn’t illegal because some people are offended by it. It’s illegal because it violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. I applaud the state in trying to rectify this matter, but I don’t think they’ve gone far enough yet.

Update: It looks like the new policy still has to be approved. So, there’s still time to fix the issue of religious materials on the walls and bible study after hours. This article from NWAOnline clarifies:

The Arkansas Board of Education must approve the proposed rule, then it is subject to a 30-day public comment period. A public hearing will be held during that time, Webb said.

The rule then goes back to the board, then to the Legislative Council rules and regulations subcommittee for review, she said.

Sources:

4
Jan

Anti-Evolution Bills in 2012

oranghand

First, they tried to outright ban evolution from public schools. When that didn’t work, they insisted that creationism was valid science and should be taught alongside evolution. When that failed, they tried to redefine it as Intelligent Design. The courts denied them and said it was still religion.

Determined to figure out where the boundary is and push it, the creationists changed tactics again and tried to pass laws to undermine the credibility of evolution. They don’t actually have to mention religion at all with this strategy. They can just have the teachers say that some parts of science are actually philosophy, haven’t been fully tested, or have flaws.

Every year since Kitzmiller v. Dover, creationists have tried to get these bills passed. Most of them have failed (save for Louisiana), but the creationists just keep trying. Take a look at the list of states that have tried to get anti-evolution laws passed:

  • 2006: Alabama, Oklahoma, Maryland
  • 2007: New Mexico, Missouri
  • 2008: Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, Michigan, South Carolina, Louisiana
  • 2009: Iowa, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico, Alabama, Texas, South Carolina
  • 2010: Missouri, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oklahoma
  • 2011: Tennessee, Florida, Texas

So! Are you guys ready for 2012?! Here are the bills that will be making their way through the legislative system this year.

Indiana Senate Bill 89

The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.

It seems like the guy trying to pass this bill didn’t get the memo on the Academic Freedom strategy. This bill doesn’t even use the “Intelligent Design” pretense. The Indiana politicians are tenacious, though. They already tried and failed to pass bills with the same wording in 2000 and 2001. I guess the idea is to just keep trying until somebody caves.

 

New Hampshire House Bill 1148

Require evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.

This one was introduced by Rep. Jerry Bergevin. Here are some of the things Bergevin had to say about his bill:

“I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It’s a worldview and it’s godless. Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they’ve been pretty criminal domestically and internationally. The Soviet Union, Cuba, the Nazis, China today: they don’t respect human rights.”

“As a general court we should be concerned with criminal ideas like this and how we are teaching it. . . . Columbine, remember that? They were believers in evolution. That’s evidence right there.”

“it changes every six months. What today is evolution is going to be different six months from now.”

 

New Hampshire House Bill 1457

Require science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.

This bill was introduced by Reps. Gary Hopper of Weare and John Burt. Here are some of the things Gary Hopper had to say about his bill:

“[Evolution teaches students that] life just happens. It’s just a byproduct of the universe and they are here by accident.”

“But more and more scientists are coming to the conclusion that it was not even remotely possible that it happened by accident. I want to introduce children to the idea that they have a purpose for being here.”

“I want the problems with the current theories to be presented so that kids understand that science doesn’t really have all the answers. They are just guessing.”

“[Currently, science class] is like having a creative writing class where the students are told what to create. Science is a creative process, not an absolute thing.”

 

Sources:

http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/300905/bills-aim-to-roll-back-teaching-evolution?SESS695b2f66b740ef6157c14966165edf8a=google&page=full
http://news.yahoo.com/brings-attacks-evolution-schools-135405815.html

http://ncse.com/news/2011/12/creationist-legislation-indiana-007001

http://ncse.com/creationism/general/chronology-academic-freedom-bills
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_Freedom_bills

22
Dec

What Atheists Are So Afraid Of

There’s a very venomous article up on Catholic Lane about the FFRF’s failure to stop the “Day of Prayer” declared by Arizona’s governor. Here’s what the article had to say about it:

Let’s get this straight. The atheists are suing because they had to turn off the television to avoid the topic of religion or news announcements about the Day of Prayer. They had to alter their conversation to avoid the topic of religion. This made them feel like “outsiders”.

Oh, boo hoo.

No. The FFRF sued because having a Day of Prayer is an endorsement of religion by the government. When our government endorses one religion over another, or even religion over no religion, that is a violation of the first amendment. It paves the way for laws and rulings that remove the rights of non-Christians. It sets a precedent, and we atheists are concerned about what you’ve got in store for us afterwards.

You may find this hard to believe, but we don’t actually care if you have a day of prayer. Yes, we think prayer is stupid, pointless, and offensive. But it’s true that we don’t have a right to not be offended. What we’re opposing here is oppression of atheists.

Mind you, a Day of Prayer isn’t oppressive at all by itself. However, when you’ve God on the money, God in the pledge of allegiance, teachers trying to get creationism taught in schools, monuments to the ten commandments in courthouses, nativity scenes at courthouses, and presidential candidates declaring America a Christian nation, you’re very close to a situation where the United States explicitly endorses Christianity as the official religion of the country. What happens after that? What next?

Let me tell you what the situation is like for atheists right now. I have been part of a local atheist group for several years, so I can vouch that this is the norm, at least in the American south:

  • People are afraid to let anyone know they are atheists because they are afraid they would be fired from their jobs.
  • People are afraid to reveal their atheism for fear that their family members would never speak to them again.
  • Parents are denied custody of children because of their atheism.
  • Atheist groups have to deal with none of their members wanting anyone to know they’re part of the group, for fear of the above consequences. Arguments routinely surface that we should call ourselves something else so it will be easier for the members to hide their atheism.
  • Atheist billboards are routinely vandalized, even when they say things as innocuous as “Atheists can be good people”.

That’s the situation now. After you’ve gotten us officially declared a Christian nation, what then? How will American culture and law progress after that? It’s not about your prayers. Pray all you want! But if the government endorses your religion, that means your beliefs are endorsed by the government and ours aren’t. That sets off a chain reaction that could go anywhere. Anything could happen to my rights after that. If this is a Christian nation, then what rights do the rest of us have?

You whiny, sniveling, little, pusillanimous cowards. You have the audacity to tell us Christians that we are “weak” and that our religion is a “crutch.” You are supposed to be so “courageous”, venturing forth boldly into the existential mystery of being alone, facing with stoicism the nothingness that awaits you at death, priding yourself on your realism and self-reliance. You are a bunch of feeble fakers.

I wouldn’t say about Christians. I have many of them as friends, and they are fine people. I disagree strongly with their religious views, but that’s fine because we are in America, where everyone is free to believe as they wish.

I also wouldn’t say that all atheists are courageous. We are people, just like anyone else. We have a broad spectrum of all different kinds of people in our group. Some are nice, some aren’t so nice. You can’t paint us with a broad brush and say we’re all one kind of people, just like we can’t say the same about you.

Yes, you are outsiders. Go start your own damn country. This one was started by Christians, you puerile dimwits. It is Christians who established and largely Christians who fought and died to maintain the freedoms you enjoy. And Christians are still the majority. Apparently your vaulted belief system doesn’t equip you to handle being in the minority. That’s interesting, isn’t it? After all, this was and is a societal situation valiantly handled by millions and millions of Christians who suffered — and currently suffer — real oppression, violence, torture, economic deprivation, and cruel deaths. But you have to go through turning off the TV once in a while and so your precious puny feelings are hurt. How delicate and frail your mental architecture is!

I don’t mind turning off the TV. But this is my country too, and if I disagree with the morality you are trying to legislate, I will fight against it. What you’re doing with these first amendment violations is trying to provide a justification for all the other things you want to do. Remember abortion? Creationism in schools? The outlaw of gay marriage? We disagree with you on those things, and so we must disagree with your justification for it, too. We’re not stupid. We know and you know that that this is just a stepping stone towards those goals for you.

You are a pitiful joke. Trembling over the mere mention of God. Running like babies to court because of your brittle feelings. “Oh, but judge, but judge, I saw a cross and I just can’t stand it.” “I heard someone say ‘Merry Christmas’ and it hurt my feelings.” “I just can’t sleep knowing there is a manger scene at the courthouse.” “The sight of the Ten Commandments makes me wet my pants.” Now we see how inadequate and feeble you really are. Rage, therapists say, is the flip side of helplessness. And so we see your rage against religion in the public square for what it is: a product of your own insubstantial internal resources. Go look at yourself in the mirror if you can bear the pathetic, contemptible sight of yourself. Our merest martyr shows you to be a wimp – fourteen-year-old Kizito of Uganda singing hymns while being burned alive. But you, you anemic, lily-livered worms – you quail at pushing the off button on the remote! Hah

I don’t care about my feelings being hurt. Why would I? I insult your beliefs on nearly a daily basis. I believe strongly in open criticism, and I gladly take my verbal beatings when they’re given to me. It is you who cannot take it. It is you who rages at the very mention of criticism. That is why you are trying to make this a Christian nation. Because although we are still a minority, nonbelievers are growing in number very quickly, and it pisses you off.

22
Dec

What it means to be an American

This is an excerpt from the book Religious Intolerance in America.

Despite having won a recent Supreme
Court case, Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940), that protected their evangelistic
endeavors, they were detained by police in West Jefferson, Ohio, for distributing
literature and for preaching their gospel on street corners. According
to the affidavit of Jehovah’s Witness J. E. Lowe, “When reminded that the
Supreme Court had ruled in our favor, [Officer] Wolfe replied ‘We don’t care
for the Supreme Court and the Constitution don’t apply here.’ ” Lowe’s affidavit
describes the ensuing events and the accuracy of Wolfe’s statement
rings eerily true.

The book quotes the affidavit from the victim, which I’ve also included here:

On March 21 three car-loads of Witnesses returned to West Jefferson.
Officer Wolfe was seen going in and out of different places where
men generally hang out in small towns. Then the town siren blew. A
crowd of men gathered in front of the barber shop immediately began
pushing the Witnesses and striking them. The five male members tried
vainly to protect themselves and their wives and children, but were so
greatly outnumbered that it was impossible. In their viciousness they
hit women members and knocked them down, one of them unconscious,
and blacked their eyes. They were reminded that they were
fighting against Christians and taking the law into their own hands.

They replied “That’s exactly what we’re doing — taking the law into
our hands.”

 
They started on us again. The Witnesses’ faces were already bloody.
Someone hit me with a blunt instrument. Everything went black.
While in this condition, they continued to strike my head and face
cutting another gash in the top of my head. At the same time they had
dragged three of the Witnesses out on the highway and were pounding,
beating and kicking them. Such shouts as “Kill them,” “Tar and
feather them,” “Make them salute the flag,” came from all directions.
And, all this time, Officer Wolfe sat in the barber shop and watched.

Finally this gory indescribably vicious assault ceased. The Witnesses
locked arms and started to walk toward their car at the far
end of town. One tall young, blond fellow procured a huge American
flag, held it high over our heads and marched with us. The same
noble flag-bearer had only a few minutes ago twisted the arms of a
young girl Witness behind her back until she thought they would
break. The mobsters were at our heels singing “My country tis of thee
sweet land of liberty,” and shouting, “make them salute the flag.”1

This happened in 1942, which is not that long ago. Think it can’t happen again?

These comments are from this year.

xians

11
Dec

God isn’t a very good communicator.

A couple days ago, this news story came across my feed:

A sad day for the Duggar family.  Michelle Duggar has miscarried in the second trimester of pregnancy for her 20th child.
According to People magazine, Michelle Duggar was at a routine check-up to find out the sex of her child, but the doctor could not find a heartbeat.

It’s an incredibly sad story; a tragedy that no sane person would wish on anyone. It also brings to light some interesting questions, though, such as: What would motivate someone to try to have 20 children? The answer: Religion. Once again, religion is causing people to make poor decisions.

More interestingly, most of the comments on the KNWA Facebook page were totally bizarre and make me feel like an alien in this part of the country.

God is telling her to STOP!

Well, maybe god is sending them a message – to STOP having any more kids !!

Maybe this is a sign for them. It is very sad but with what happened last birth and now, maybe God is sending them a message.

Stop having kids that’s your sign

What I find amazing about this viewpoint is that it wasn’t just one person’s opinion. Several different people proposed that God actually sends messages to people by killing their children. Why would someone worship a God that does this? I don’t get how people can say that God killed a child to send a message in one breath, and then say they’re praying to that God in the next. Don’t they realize they’re worshipping a monster?

Even if God didn’t deliberately kill the child, he still allowed it to happen through his own inaction. He’s omnipotent, after all! If God exists, he could have stopped this and he didn’t. That’s pretty despicable in my view.

But of course, the reason this viewpoint is so popular is that any unusual thing that happens automatically gets credited to God. That’s how people build their imaginary towers of evidence in their minds. When you’re living a fantasy, everything that happens to you gets woven into that imaginary world. Found a penny on the ground? Praise God! Won a free Coke? What a blessing! If you’ve got a favorite answer, it’s all too easy to weave it in as an explanation to everything.

From the same Facebook thread, we have the stock answer in this fantasy to the “God is Evil” accusation:

So sad but we must rejoice even in the darkest of times because God has a plan for everything… Prayers to her and her family.

Oh really? God has a plan, eh? We’re just too stupid to know what it is. What plan would justify letting a child die? The guy’s supposed to be all-powerful! Is this really the best he can do? And why would you keep praying to a being that obviously can’t (or won’t) stop bad things from happening? He doesn’t seem that powerful if he can’t prevent child death.

Then, we have the people that want me to shut up.

if you don’t understand then let it be. You have your own beliefs and they have theirs. Its ok if you don’t understand why they put their faith in a god that takes and gives all the same, i can’t explain it because i don’t believe in it either. But its no reason to go and bash someone elses religion. I respect and understand your opinion, but is this really the right place to make it known? The family just lost a child, no matter your beliefs that’s something no one should suffer through, try to show a little compassion please?

That is a horrible sad thing, the lost of any child and all these uncompanionate people need to keep their mouth shut. God uses all things and works them for the good to those who love him. This baby was created by God as all Babies are and it doesn’t matter how many you have they are all important and loved by God.

I have two things to say: 1) If you have never lost a child, you need to shut your hole; 2) Quit wasting so much time gossiping about a couple that love each other and happen to be fertile. If you don’t like them, don’t read about them or watch their show.

Yes, yes this is absolutely the right time and place to discuss religion. Here, we have an excellent example of religion guiding people towards making stupid decisions. Why is it that whenever there’s a tragedy brought on by religion, people try to say that it’s not the “right time and place” to criticize it? I find that awful convenient. Funny how the praise towards God flows fast and furious in those same stories. Religion loves to swoop in and prey on the weak in times of tragedy. Try to question it, though, and WHOAH, you’re an asshole. It’s quite the double-standard.

I’m sure people would love to hear me question religion when it doesn’t matter, when it’s not hurting people. Then they can pull the “What do you care? It’s not hurting anybody!” card. Frankly, I find this shut up mentality to be chilling. Open, honest discussion is needed, especially on subjects that guide people’s life decisions.

When they’re not telling me to shut up, they’re comparing me to mass-murdering communists:

Of course the ones with the most blood on their hands have been atheists. Communist governments have killed more people than any type of government ever in the history of mankind. They also did it in the shortest amount of time.

Here, we have someone from my own community echoing the popular sentiment that I am morally bereft and likely to commit mass-murder. The guy doesn’t even know me, so he has nothing to stand on except his own prejudice and bigotry. This isn’t an isolated incident, either. I have been told many times that I can’t have any morals because I’m an atheist. I think if people would just get to know me, they’d find that this isn’t the case. In the meantime, this is just one other method believers use to silence criticism.

 

 

9
Aug

Rationalizing Original Sin

t-rex1

There are a number of problems with the Adam & Eve story in Genesis. In the story, Adam & Eve eat the fruit from the tree and that kicks off the fall of man. Because they sinned, all their descendants(the entire human race) inherit a sort of corrupted humanity. Without further action, all humans would be damned to hell because of the sins of Adam & Eve. But with Jesus’ sacrifice, the sins are all wiped away and people can be cleansed of their original sin.

So, say you take this story literally. According to our current genetic evidence, there’s no point in human history where our population ever got lower than 10,000 people. We evolved together as a population from an early form of ape. So that’s a problem. You can’t take the story literally and accept the scientific evidence at the same time. This was actually talked about briefly on NPR this morning. I recommend it:

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/09/138957812/evangelicals-question-the-existence-of-adam-and-eve

There are a number of other problems from a science perspective, too. God creates light before he creates the sun, birds and whales before reptiles and insects, and flowering plants before any animals. That’s not the order science tells us things happened.

Not to mention, Science tells us there were many animals who lived only during different periods in our Earth’s history. The biblical account has all animals being created at one time. That’s totally different from the evolutionary account. Were there dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden? If so, why don’t we see human fossils in the same rock layers with dinosaur fossils?

Ok, fine, why not just take the Genesis account figuratively? It’s just a nice story to read. One problem: What about original sin? If Adam & Eve was just a story, then why did Jesus sacrifice himself? We wouldn’t have original sin without them. Did he die for nothing? Do we then not need to be saved? As you can see, taking this story figuratively totally messes up one of the core foundations of Christianity.

Another point: Why did God have to send Jesus to Earth to cleanse man’s sin? He’s all-powerful, couldn’t he have just forgiven us? It doesn’t make sense. And how can one man take on the responsibility for another’s mistake? If I murder someone, can my friend go to jail for me? I wouldn’t exactly consider that justice.

In fact, I think the entire idea of getting saved from original sin undermines personal responsibility. I think people should own up to their own problems. You know the classic problem. Murderers and child molesters get into heaven because they were saved before they died, but really good people are in hell because they weren’t saved. Not exactly what I’d call justice. It doesn’t even make sense as a moral system.

(Image taken from The Thinking Atheist)

1
Aug

If you don’t indoctrinate your kids, we’ll do it for you.

Note: This story is personal. I probably shouldn’t be sharing it. I am sharing it, however, because many other people will have had this sort of experience. I think it’s important that they know they are not alone.

                                               

Last week, my two daughters (5 and 7 years old), went to their grandmother’s house for the week. My wife’s mother lives in Blueball, Arkansas (yes, that’s really a place), and it’s about a 2 1/2 hour drive from where we live. After my wife arrived in Blueball to drop off the kids, her mom said that there was a possibility the kids might be going to Vacation Bible School. My wife voiced her reservations. Once my wife drove the 2 1/2 hours back home, her mom called her on the phone and that possibility morphed into absolute certainty. The kids would be definitely spending the entire week at Vacation Bible School.

Now, my wife’s family knows that she’s an atheist. Or rather, to quote her mom, “She thinks she’s an atheist”. But we’ve never asked the relatives not to bring the kids to church. It’s free babysitting we’re dealing with here, after all. Who are we to argue with that? And besides, a little culture won’t hurt them. You can’t shield kids from religion forever. Maybe a little dose of it will fire up their critical thinking skills? But really, the biggest reason we never forbid this from happening is because we didn’t expect the rule would be followed. If we ordered them not to be exposed to church, we feared the relatives would just take them to church more often. Their eternal souls are on the line, after all. What’s a little white lie when eternal torture is at stake?

My point is, no rules were broken here. Still, though, her mom had to have known the kids would never have arrived at her house had she told my wife about Vacation Bible School before she left for that long drive. These things aren’t just dreamed up at the last minute. They have to be planned. So, it’s fair to say that she knew it was going to happen for sure way before hand. She chose not to mention it until afterwards.

The next day, the 7 year old called my wife on the phone. She was crying. She had been told a story at Vacation Bible School that terrified her. According to my daughter, the story goes like this: There was a magician in a town. Two men came to the town and were trying to talk about God. The magician tried to keep the two men from talking about God. Really bad things happened to the magician. My daughter refused to say what the “really bad things” were. After much crying and reassuring, my wife got her mom on the phone and there was a bit of back and forth yelling. Three hours later, grandma called back, and some half-hearted apologies were made.

We turned to our local atheist group for support. And supportive they were! There are around 70 comments on the facebook thread. One well-read individual in our group found the story the kids were taught: Acts 13:4-12.

4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”

Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

This story wouldn’t make me cry. Then again, who knows how the person in charge of educating our kids interpreted this story? However he did it, our oldest child felt personally attacked by people she trusted. She was terrified that something bad might happen to her. She became paranoid and wondered if God had cursed her for not believing in him.

Our friend from the group also found online what we believe to be the lesson plan the church organizers were going by. My wife was able to prep our oldest child by phone what the next lesson would be, thereby lessening the impact. The day after that, my wife drove down there and brought them home early.

Now, we’re left to pick up the pieces. We’ve decided to begin showing our oldest daughter some bible stories before bedtime. We’ll also be including myths from other cultures as well. We’ll try to make it fun and interesting. And hopefully we can teach her that she can be a good person regardless of what she believes.