Is it Santa or God Who Chooses Favorites?

santa vs godIt is interesting that the person who responded to this post understands that children may be upset if Santa brings better gifts to other kids but her alternative is to let them believe that God is actually the one who decided not to give them nice things. I think what she is attempting to convey here, is that she doesn’t approve of teaching children there is a man in a red suit who will bring them presents because it may cause them to be confused later in life. But what she does is point out the fact that some children are more fortunate than others. If God is the source of all things, then she is admitting that he chooses to gift some children, while leaving others heartbroken. She wants to make sure they don’t forget it.

Ark Park Genocide Celebration

Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter has been national news for sometime now. He wrongly accuses “atheists and secularists” of trying to prevent his park from being built. What is really being asked is that he adhere to the law and not try to gain tax incentives for a religious based organization with discriminatory hiring practices. If Ham wants to build a theme park based on genocide, he’s free to do so – but why does he want to? The website describes the park as providing education and entertainment.

The story of Noah is a tragic one. God creates the earth, populates it with humans and animals, which he declares good. Many years pass. He decides that no, in fact, it is not good. It’s all very very bad. Everything must go. Every plant, every land animal, every man, every woman and even every child, except for the small number that were put on the Ark – are killed. God shuts the door to the boat and chaos consumes the globe.

On December 26, 2004 a tsunami hit 14 countries and killing over 200,000 people. A tsunami also hit Japan in 2011. As devastating and horrific as these disasters, one has to assume that a flood intended to kill every living thing on earth would surpass anything we’ve ever seen or could imagine. There would be no survivors to tell their story. There would be no heartwarming tales of parents reuniting with their children or newly married couples finding each other among the crowds. Every story, every devastating moment, would be lost. Every family torn apart. Every elderly couple separated forever. Every infant drowned.

Photos of the 2004 tsunami can be found @ James Robert Fuller Photography. Please be aware these graphic images are not appropriate for children. For video and accounts of the 2004 tsunami, see Tsunami: Caught on Camera which can be found online or on youtube. The documentary does include footage of people drowning, dead children being pulled from the water, and other scenes that you may may upsetting.

The traditionally religious can spin this however they’d like but the central idea of the Noah story is the mass slaughter of an entire planet. This is what Ken Ham would have you believe should be supported by tax incentives in the state of Kentucky. This is what he’d have you believe is the will of a divine creator and something to celebrate. He says this is entertainment. Again, creationists and anyone else is free to believe it to be true, teach it to their kids and build an entire theme park dedicated to the disgusting story. But the rest of us should not let them forget exactly what it is they are promoting. We should not let their visitors forget exactly what it is they are paying to see.

Happy Godless Chanukah

Today marks the first night of Chanukah, which contrary to what some atheists and humanist believe, can be celebrated by non-theists. Just like Christmas, Chanukah has meaning beyond the supernatural miracles and myths. I like the above cartoon because it speaks to what this holiday can be about and it doesn’t necessitate any deities. The light can be any good that humans do – feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, fighting for marriage equality, providing homes for abandoned animals, advocating for the rights of minorities, dispelling myths about the non-religious, defending those whose voices haven’t been heard, supporting our communities and promoting the well being of all people.

In a time when we’re connected to the world 24 hours a day, with stories streaming in about events like that of over 100 children being murdered in Pakistan, we can easily become overwhelmed. There seems little we can do to stop the dark things. Lighting the candles reminds us that we’re not completely powerless. We can still put up a fight. Little lights make a big difference. The light doesn’t have to be god. The light doesn’t have to be any sort of Biblical truths. The light is our work and it’s okay to celebrate it.

 

Are Women Just Jealous?

There is a popular video blogger whose videos I find rather obnoxious. I haven’t made mention of this dislike except to one person whose response was “you’re just jealous.” It is possible that I have some sense of underlying jealousy but when I say that I don’t care for her, I mean that I don’t care for her videos. I’m not affirming a dislike for her as a human being. I’m not claiming that if I met her in person, I’d not want to be her friend. I simply do not care for the way she speaks on video. I don’t agree with her claims.

If a man were to assert that he doesn’t care much for Sam Harris, would he be  accused of jealousy? No. But when a woman doesn’t care for the work of another woman, it must be because she’s jealous. It couldn’t be that she simply doesn’t like her style of speech, her type of humor or the content of the her message. It couldn’t be that she feels the speaker is coming across as ignorant therefore finds her work boring or dull. No, she must just think the other woman is smarter, prettier, thinner or more popular and therefore is threatened. This sort of assumption is condescending and serves no purpose. But where does it come from and why is it perpetuated?

You Didn’t Leave Anyone Hanging on a Cross

tripe

 

No. You did not leave anyone hanging on a cross. This is emotional manipulation. It is dangerous because it perpetuates the idea that you are an awful person, so awful that a man had to be tortured for you – and don’t you owe that many everything? Shouldn’t you devote your life to him? Shouldn’t you live for him and him alone? But you aren’t that awful. He wasn’t tortured for you. You don’t owe him anything.

Condemning your own children to hell for an eternity and then deciding to have yourself killed so that if they believe you had yourself killed, so you no longer have to serve up horrific, unimaginable pain for a duration of which no human can possibly imagine is not love. It would be evil. Only the most vile and petulant of beings would create such a reality for his powerless children. To save a few based on a story they could never prove would not negate the fact that you are a monster. If such a god exists, it would be absurd for us to believe we could ever do anything to merit his affection or protection.

Love is not wrath. Love is not suffering. Love is not killing someone else for your own shortcomings. Love is not eternal torment. Love is not manipulation. Love does not make itself a martyr and then coerce you believe you owe it your life. Love is trust and acceptance. Love is gentle guidance. Love is compassion. Love is something given freely without punishment or fear.

 

New Film from the Creators of God’s Not Dead

At first I thought perhaps I was confused but no, the upcoming Do You Believe stars both Mira Sorvino and Cybill Shepherd. These seem like odd roles for the two of them, especially Shepherd who spent a couple years playing a middle aged woman exploring her new found sexual freedom as an out of the closet lesbian on the L Word.

Actors are free to choose whatever roles they like but with Nicholas Cage in Left Behind, Greg Kinnear in Heaven is Real and now these two, I’m wondering if they do this because they can’t find other work or if they are betting on the Christian film industry making them quite a bit of money? Most people are theists in some capacity but these movies aren’t just religious; they are cheeeesy.

It looks like he film also features a hateful atheist doctor (I assume he’s an atheist because he’s taking credit for god’s healing),  a mom angry at god for the loss of her daughter, another mother homeless with her child, black men as criminals, plenty of Christian persecution (the attorney insisting the fireman not proselytize the dying is also probably an atheist) and a strange amount of cross worship.

Edit: Apparently it also stars a former NFL football player for the Seattle Seahawks. I apologize for my football ignorance.

Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line

By Jason Rosenhouse

Among the Creationists was a bit different than I had expected but worth the time. Rosenhouse is a math instructor turned evolution enthusiastic who traveled the country attending creationist and intelligent design conferences. The book includes a number of encounters he had over the years with creationists and ID’s – some positive and some negative. Overall he presents the reader with a picture of a culture where religion takes importance but decent conversations are still possible. He does include an out of place chapter on why he loves being an atheist Jew. I appreciate it because I can identify but if you’re not interested, just skip it. I recommend this book if you want to know more about what motivates creationists to deny science.

Another Holiday Non-Issue

All around the world, various religions and cultures experience threats and discrimination. This time of year, American Christians play the victim card in a pretend war on Christmas. Another story is making the rounds in the news. This one is about swastika chanukah wrapping paper. She panicked? If you look close, you’ll see a swastika because our eyes tend to pick up patterns and we’re sensitive to the symbol of so much pain and hatred. But…it isn’t actually a swastika. It’s just a pattern. I understand not wanting to purchase the paper. I wouldn’t have bought it either, once I noticed the pattern but to go on television and act like it was some serious offense against the Jewish community? No. It isn’t. The yard sign I found in October that said “With Jews We Lose” was an offense to Jewish people. Blue wrapping paper with a squiggle design is not. Let’s not forget there are actual serious problems in the world and this was not one of them.

Addressing Bad Behavior

Recently I posted  a bit of a complaint about a few comments left on a survey I had shared with the public. I’d like to make it clear why I felt the need to discuss the issue. Atheists are not well liked. The public seems to think its okay to treat us as inferior. There are a myriad of untrue claims made about our perceived negative traits. This isn’t our fault but it is the reality.

We absolutely must hold ourselves to a high standard. Occasionally, some people may need a gentle reminder, especially very young atheists who are trying to assert themselves as autonomous adults with their own beliefs and perspectives. I think we should attempt to maintain a level of respect and decency when dealing with religious people. This isn’t to say that satire and humor are always out of place. It can be a useful tool and it is just plain amusing. But when addressing other human beings directly, we should give consideration to how we express ourselves.

I am for the most part, a closeted unbeliever. What I communicate via the internet is the extent of what I get to share on a number of topics and that may play a role is why I take it so seriously. I’m also still getting used to the title, as I’ve only been a non-theist for a couple of years. I have however, been in a relationship with another atheist for 13 years and have always been sensitive to how he would be perceived if people knew about his disbelief. I am extremely disturbed by comments I’ve seen that appear to dehumanize other human beings simply because they do not hold to a particular belief. And for this reason, I feel the words we choose to communicate are important.

Its okay to give creationist park tax incentives because you don’t have to visit.

Just two days after Answers in Genesis revealed their new billboard campaign, the state of Kentucky announced they will not be giving the ark park an incentive that would allow them to keep 25% of their sales tax over 10 years.

Ken Ham has yet to make a statement. I expect he’ll do so today. I’m sure he will accuse atheists of persecuting Christians. In fact, this setback should provide him with at least a year’s worth of persecution complex materials which will please him to no end. So, the state wins, the law wins and even Ken Ham wins. The billboards will go up as planned.

If interested, you can listen to an interview from Wednesday afternoon with an attorney from Freedom Guard. Fast forward to 37:00 for this topic. The host, Scott Sloan, argues that if you visit the park, you understand what you’re paying for and therefore, it is okay if your money contributes to the tax dollars the park would get to keep. If you don’t like it, don’t go. Because…free speech. Both Sloan and the guest, Mike Johnson, ignore the legal issue. Johnson blames the uproar on “radical atheist types who want to silence and censor the expression of people they disagree with.” He then goes on to say the atheist community has misrepresented the Ark Park the billboards serve to drive the public to the website where they can learn the truth.

They do address the fact that the Ark Park will hire only Christians. Johnson points out that other religious organization do the same and says it is a freedom of religion issue. He doesn’t address the tax incentives for said organizations. Sloan then goes on to say that picking fights on religion at this time of the year, going up against baby Jesus (in reference to nativity scenes on public property) makes atheists look like jerks.

The Theory of Everything

There are hundreds, if not thousands of reviews so another is fairly unnecessary. I will say that it made me cry. I’m not talking about a little tear escaping from the corner of my eye. I mean the kind of crying where you try to stifle the sobs but they squeak out against your will as you look around hoping everyone else is so engrossed in the movie they won’t notice. The acting is being labeled Oscar worthy – and it is indeed. It’s amazing, actually.

Stephen and Jane’s marriage was not a perfect love story but love stories are never perfect. And sure, they made it all seem less ugly, less brutal and less painful then what would have been the reality. But it does portray a widely admired and respected man and it is a film. If you want to know more, you can read Travelling to Infinity and My Brief History, both of which are on my upcoming reading list. If it isn’t playing at a theater anywhere near your home, I did notice Netflix has it available to save to your queue.

How should we talk about science?

There is more than one approach to educating the public on science and evolution. Some feel it is best to encourage them to give up religion so that it no longer impedes their acceptance of reality. Others, like Bill Nye, take a less confrontational approach. Both probably have their proper place but I can’t help to think that the latter, in the long run, may do more to accomplish the goal. The National Center for Science Education appears to operate on that assumption as well. I am glad to hear them mention that facts alone will not sway those who are committed to a creationist or intelligence design perspective.

Speaking of the NSCE, if you’d like to read an overview of the history of creationist legal battles in public schools, I highly recommend Eugenie Scott’s Evolution vs Creationism: An Introduction. It also includes common objections to evolution and solid evidence for why they are false.

Dear Atheists – You were Wrong

This semester I did a project that involved a survey asking the public if they agreed with ten common objections to evolution. The purpose of the project was to see if those who reject evolution would report moral/theological obstacles more salient than scientific obstacles. The literature shows that more than any other factor, religion plays the largest role in the denial of evolution as a fact. Because of the nature of this project, it required that I use statements that are often given as excuses to deny science.

On my survey I left room for comments in order to give participants the opportunity to further share their views. Those from the creationist side were mild. Many were religious but polite. Atheists on the other hand were rude, condescending and full of assumptions about the author. This was not my first glimpse of this behavior. But here is the deal – it’s research. The researcher has to ask all of the questions regardless of what he/she knows about the subject or possible participants. It is not the researchers job to cater to your feelings. So was the case with my project. I wanted to get a clearer understanding of how people feel about evolution in terms of morals, theology and the meaning of life. What does this have to do with me being ignorant of biology? Nothing at all.

I’m disappointed in those who were quick to make assumptions rather than consider the fact that were ignorant of the details. Atheists often pride themselves on being rational and logical. Making assumptions about something when you don’t know the background or facts is neither rational or logical. Criticism of the survey was fine; encouraged actually, but I expected better behavior than what I observe below.

The person/s who created this test haven’t a clue of what evolution is. No god needed…

Whomever wrote the questions in this survey is an idiot…

These questions are bad and you should feel bad for writing them. Listen Ray Comfort, or whoever the hell you are, there are a multitude of things wrong with these questions. Take a entry level college biology course. Read a 9th grade biology text book. These alone can refute nearly everything you’ve asked. Ass.

Survey seems to of been written by a monkey…appear to be written by someone scared of it [evolution]…

Go back to school

Stop being a retarded biased religitard

What idiot wrote this survey?

Anyone who takes a high school biology class should have enough education to realize these questions are dumb.

Read a book or two.

I’m not a creationist. I’d like to think I’m not a moron. I enjoy reading. I’ve taken two classes on evolution in the past year. I bear no resemblance to Ray Comfort except that we both have dark hair and like bananas. The assumptions were wrong. Also, trying to determine what the researcher is measuring screws with the results. It isn’t necessary. Participate or move on to something else. Don’t try to create some narrative in your mind based on information to which you are not aware.This interferes with your ability to answer correctly and for the researcher to collect accurate information. And for goodness sake, even if you do disagree with the format of the questions – don’t be such a jerk about it.

———————————————————————————————-

Theory of Evolution Questionnaire.

Q1: Consent Form 

Q2: Age:

Q3: Evaluate the following statement and choose the best answer that reflects your belief.

  • All forms of life were created in more or less their present form by God or supreme beings.
  • Other forms of life have evolved but humans were created by God or supreme beings.
  • All forms of life have evolved but this process was set in motion or guided by God or supreme beings.
  • All forms of life evolved without the guidance or intervention of a god or supreme beings.

Q4: Religious Affiliation:

For the next set of questions, participants chose from these options – True, False or I don’t know.

Q5: If man is the result of evolution through natural processes, then life has no purpose or meaning.

Q6: Evolution seeks to make God unnecessary.

Q7: Accepting evolution makes it more difficult to believe in some kind of afterlife.

Q8: Accepting evolution makes it easier to justify selfishness or bad behavior in order to get ahead in life.

Q9: Accepting evolution makes it easier to justify racism and sexism.

Q10: Evolution is just a “theory” in that it is based on speculation.

Q11: Evolution cannot be observed or tested.

Q12: Evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics

Q13: There are no transitional fossils.

Q14: Microevolution occurs in nature but macroevolution is impossible.

Q15: If you have anything you would like to share, please feel free to comment on this topic.

(Blank box for comments provided)

Giant Squid and Their 3 Hearts

Giant Squid

Guerra, A., Gonzalez, A., Pscual, S., & Dawe, E., G., (2011). The giant squid Architeuthis: An emblematic invertebrate that can represent concern for the conservation of marine biodiversity. Biological Conservation, 144 (7), 1989 – 1997.

Inside Natures Giants.PBS.org

Monsters of the Sea. Rutgers University: School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

Smithsonian Ocean Portal. Giant Squid