Category Archives: Religion

Atheist Books and the Overton Window

I have read “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins and “Breaking The Spell” by Daniel Dennett a couple of months ago, could not bear to slog all the way through “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris, and am still waiting to get my copies of “God: the Failed Hypothesis” by Victor Stenger and “Evolving God: A Provocative View on the Origins of Religion” by Barbara J. King. I was going to write a big meta-review of all of them together, perhaps adding in “Darwin’s Cathedral” by David Sloan Wilson as an anti-toxin to the Dawkins/Dennet naive understanding of evolution (and just plain old nastiness towards the idea of demic selection in particular and towards the idea of hierarchy of levels and units of selection in general).
But more I wait, harder it will be to get something original out. Yesterday, Sean Carroll scooped me in my idea to use the concept of Overton Window to explain the usefulness of most (if not all) of these books, particularly the Dawkins book. You should really go and read how Sean put it together and I will, once I get through all the books, try to find a different angle.

Freedom of and/or from Religion

Litbrit (also check the comments on the re-post here) tells it beautifully:

That is why so many of us have spoken out–we don’t want government telling us what we should believe and how we should run our private, personal lives or how we should use our private, personal bodies. Not because we “hate” religion, but because we revere freedom.

And Amanda:

I want to assure you very much that I don’t judge all Christians by the nasty actions of a few. Basically, as I’ve said before, I find it a shame that the word “Christian” gets applied both to true believers and those who just profess to believe because it gives them cover for their hate.

And Chris Clarke:

If there were more like him, I might still be a Catholic, grappling with the conflicts between doctrine and justice. And if there were more like him, the Church would not stand for people like Bill Donahue speaking in its name.
In fact if there were more like Father Cobos, maybe someone would have set Bill Donahue on a more Catholic path back when he was a child.

On Edwards, Bloggers, and Religion

Ah, why do I have to be so busy on a news-filled day (no, not Anna Nicole Smith)? I barely saw the computer today. I’d get home, have about 5 minutes before I have to go out again and so on. NPR did not mention Edwards until 4pm or so (that I heard in the car), so when I first got home I only had time to open e-mail, scan about 50 new messages, home in to the one that had the news, open it, get the links and quickly post without more than a quick skim of the statements by Edwards and others, let alone any time to add commentary (except for what the title implied I felt at the time). And then there were comments I did not have time to respond to. And all the other blogospheric responses I was missing…Ah, well. The family is asleep so I’ll try to catch up now.

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Pope. Who?

Pope. Who?Lance wrote a brilliant post – An alien anthropologist discusses marriage with the Pope – which reminded me of an old (April 24, 2005) post of mine, which, perhaps, stood the test of time after all…

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Teen Sex, ‘Hooking Up’, Gay Marriage, Femiphobia and Bush Victory Are All Interconnected

Teen Sex, 'Hooking Up', Gay Marriage, Femiphobia and Bush Victory Are All InterconnectedContinuing with the last week’s topic (originally posted on March 11, 2005 – click on the spider-clock icon to see the comments, including by Mark O’Connell – who I subsequently met and blogged about, on the original post)

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We Get Mail…

[Pushed to the top of the page due to interesting updates…]
Ah, the perils of growing traffic! I get e-mail. Usually those are nice questions about sleep disorders, or requests for link exchanges. But today I got a christianist. Oy vey!
I hope I never get PZ’s traffic – I guess he gets dozens of those a day! And I don’t even bash religion on my blog every day like he does.
Below the fold is the exchange so far:

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Science Under Attack II – blogospheric response

There are also more responses to the U of California lawsuit described by Sara Robinson the other day.
See what Amanda and PZ Myers have to say about it.
Edit: and Mike

I really needed a cathartic moment today….

Mormon Missionaries knocked on a wrong door earlier today. I think their heads are still spinning…

‘Flock of Dodos’ screenings in Raleigh

*N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences
/Downtown Raleigh/
**Thursday, January 18
“Flock of Dodos” screening with filmmaker, Randy Olson
7:00 p.m. Museum Auditorium
*Filmmaker and Evolutionary Ecologist , Dr. Randy Olson, presents his
new film */Flock of Dodos/*: /*The Evolution / Intelligent Design Circus.*/
“Flock of Dodos” is the first feature-length documentary to present both
sides of the Intelligent Design / Evolution clash and tries to make
sense of the issue by visiting Olson’s home state of Kansas. The film
digs below the surface of the debate by examining the language being
used by both sides of this “circus” and the actual people presenting
each side. By doing so, Olson poses a serious question to the
scientific community as to who really is the “flock of dodos.”
After the screening, Dr. Olson will give a presentation followed by a
Question and Answer session.
The Museum will host additional free screenings of “Flock of Dodos” at
the following times:
Saturday, February 3, 3:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 10, 3:00 p.m.
Monday, February 12, Time is TBA — “Darwin Day”
We are hoping to have a panel of speakers in conjunction with the Darwin
Day screening. If you may be interested in participating on a panel to
further discuss this topic, please let us know.
The Museum is located at the corner of Jones and Salisbury Streets.

Community and Hope as Placebo

Praying Online Helps Cancer Patients, Study Suggests

Breast cancer patients who pray in online support groups can obtain mental health benefits, according to a new study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center of Excellence in Cancer Communications Research that was funded by the National Cancer Institute.
“We know that many cancer patients pray in online support groups to help them cope with their illness. This is the first study we are aware of that examines the psychological effects of this behavior,” says Bret Shaw, an associate scientist in UW-Madison’s College of Engineering and lead author of the study.
The analysis was conducted on message transcripts from 97 breast cancer patients participating in an online support group that was integrated with the Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS) “Living with Breast Cancer” program, a computer-based health education and support system. The patients were recruited from Wisconsin and Michigan.
Surveys were administered before group access, then again four months later. Text messages within the computer-mediated support groups were analyzed using a text analysis program, which measured the percentage of words that were suggestive of religious belief and practice (e.g., pray, worship, faith, holy, God). Writing a higher percentage of these religious words within the online support groups was associated with lower levels of negative emotions and higher levels of self-efficacy and functional well-being, even after controlling for patients’ pre-test levels of religious beliefs.

I’ll try to remember this so, if I need to, I can go online and type somthing about Satan worship, faith healer, birds of pray, holy sh*t, and God damn it!

Do You Want Me To Biggie-Size That Rectal Tube For You, Sir?

Do You Want Me To Biggie-Size That Rectal Tube For You, Sir?If you do not know who Roper is, read this, this and this. A total fundie wingnut in charge of a large teaching hospital! Oy vey! I did not know that fact when I originally wrote this post, but this explains it….(From July 15, 2005)

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Watch the History and Geography of Religion

A cool animation:

“How has the geography of religion evolved over the centuries, and where has it sparked wars? Our map gives us a brief history of the world’s most well-known religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Selected periods of inter-religious bloodshed are also highlighted. Want to see 5,000 years of religion in 90 seconds? Ready, Set, Go!” (under the fold):

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If only people read the Bible the way they read their contracts…

If only people read the Bible the way they read their contracts...So, why do Creationists and other quacks try so hard to sound all ‘scienc-y’? (June 15, 2005)

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Hanukah meme

Somehow I feel that I’ve been tagged by Janet for this meme, because it is public that we celebrate Hannukkah. But we really make it low-key, family-only, and have only been doing it for about a dozen years so far. Actually, this is the first time that we had guests for the first night.
1. Latkes or Sufganiyot?
Latkes. Mrs.Coturnix is a superb Latke-Meister.
2. Multi-colored candles or blue-and-white?
Coturnix Jr. lights the blue-and-white candles, Coturnietta lights the multicolored.
3. Do you place the Hanukiah by the window or away from the window?
In this house, away from the window due to fire hazards. We do have Hannukkah light-decorations in the window, including one shaped like a hanukiah, so we plug them in at night.
4. Favorite Holiday Dish?
Brisket that Mrs.Coturnix fixed this year will be remembered for years to come. I am still salivating at the thought of it.
5. Favorite Holiday Memory?
Well, we do it so low-key, there is no big memory really. It’s not a big event. We make a much bigger deal about Passover.
6. One Hanukiah or more than one?
Two this year as both kids are big enough and interested enough to light each its own.
7. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Only kids get gifts in our house.
8. Favorite Holiday Dessert?
Kugel. The way Mrs. Coturnix makes it.
9. Favorite Holiday Song?
None really. After a few years, the Hannukkah songs sound just as kitchy as Christmas songs. Ocho Kandelikas by Flory Jagoda may be my all-time favourite. ‘Fergilicious’ was this year’s hit, I’m afraid.

Why have a book if you never read it?

Why have a book if you never read it?I know you know this, but it is worth repeating every now and then (May 18, 2005):

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A simple explanation

A simple explanationOf Religion and Morality (December 02, 2005)

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Running out of ideas for a post for the next Skeptic’s Circle?

Or the Carnival of the Godless? You can mine this site for ideas. Ooooh, scientific materialism! Scary! Papa Jeebus, protect me, please, because I am a coward!

Update on M&Ms

While all this was going on I was wondering where Jason Rosenhouse would stand on all of this. He is back from a break and has two posts on the issue here and here.
Update: Chris Rowan wrote an intriguing analysis and a huge thread on the topic is still ongoing on Panda’s Thumb

Where do people find information about evolution?

I am sure glad that others have started parsing the numbers of the new report on ‘The Internet as a Resource for News and Information about Science’.
Duane Smith takes a close look at a couple of tables in the report and concludes that, while relatively few people say they get their information on evolution directly from the Bible and Church, many do so indirectly, by beeing steeped in their comunities’ beliefs transmitted by family, friends and neighbors (as well as local and church-run media). Interesting take (and I agree with him on this). What have you found so far?

Biophilia? Not what E.O.Wilson had in mind!

Love for animals, even the dead ones, can sometimes go too far, dontcha think?

Second Coming?

I admire actors who completely immerse themselves in the characters they play. But nobody has reached the hights of dedication as much as Keisha Castle-Hughes, a 16-year old actress playing Virgin Mary in an upcoming movie – she is pregnant!
Forget the money she’ll earn doing he movie – she can rake in millions if she starts a cult around the divinity of her child. I am just not sure if the conception was immaculate.
Full story: Unwed and pregnant, like Mary

I Like M&Ms

I am still sleepy from all that tryptophan in turkey meat and the Evolution wine, so I don’t think I have the energy to write a big post now – I’ll leave much of my thoughts on the matter for a post-weekend post reviewing Dawkins’ The God Delusion.
But I have to chime in briefly by sending you to the relevant links and copying some of the comments I wrote on those comment threads. Brace yourself for a lot of reading as there are several posts and many comments on each of the posts. Sorry, the links are not neccessarly in order, but you’ll get the gist of the argument anyway.
Ed Brayton starts out here and responds to criticisms here.
Larry Moran fires the first salvo here and responds here.
Pat Hayes pitches in here and here.
John Lynch has three posts on the topic: here, here and here.
Buridan clears up some definitions here.
John Pieret takes his side here and here.
John Wilkins just in with this.
PZ Myers (and a gazillion commenters) responds to the whole brouhaha here.
[Update: Josh Rosenau and Mike Dunford have some thoughts on the issue as well.]
[Update 2: Ed Brayton, John Pieret and John Lynch have added further responses.]
[Update 3: Razib, John and Ed have more…and now Josh again! And a good one from Tyler again. And now also Daniel Rhoads. And also Paul Decelles.]
Whoa! What an internecine war! By now, you know that “M&M” stands for Myers&Moran and my title of this post tells you where I stand.
First, let me copy a little quote from my review of Ken Miller’s talk:

“A few years ago, I was of the mind that something like theistic evolution is a good idea to spread the message that evolution is not evil. I thought that people like Ken Miller are great messengers to soften up the people (step 1) and prepare them for eventual compIete abandonment of the Creator (step 2). And even those who never get to Step 2 are less dangerous than straight-out creationists.
I certainly have no problems with anyone personally believing whatever they want. But I am more and more moving to the opinion that this is not a good strategy. It is just providing the apologia for the believers who have a problem with being perceived as medieval, and allowing them to, then, provide apologia for their more extreme brethren. They – the moderates and the fundies – flock together when the going gets tough and it really counts – the political battles between 15th and 21st centuries.
The moderates are no friends of reason when it counts the most, outside of comfortable chats on panels on campuses. Evolution battle is not a battle of science, it is a battle of mindsets and worldviews: medieval vs. modern. Giving a helping hand to those who give their helping hand to the medieval bigots and authoritarians is not a good strategy. They need to be made uncomfortable – Dawkins-style – and forced to choose and come clear with which side they are on. Otherwise, they’ll play nice with us when it does not matter, and stick their fingers in their ears and sing “la-la-la” when real action is required.”

People who focus narrowly on preventing IDC form entering schools do not see the big picture, i.e., that Creationism Is Just One Symptom Of Conservative Pathology (go read that post now!). Thus, people like Dawkins, Myers (or me) are fighting against the bad politics of the church.
While Lennonnesque Imaginings of a world without religion are cute fantasies, we are a little bit more realistic. We know that religion is here to stay no matter what we do and we know that even organized religion can be and has been harnessed for change for good (as in Civil Rights movement). So, we want to fight against the political (added clarification: conservative) aggressiveness of churches in all spheres – creationism being just one of the prongs of their multi-prong strategy to roll back Enlightement.
While evolutionary biologists and philosophers of science are best suited to counteract creationism (and reproductive and developmental biologists to counteract abstinence-only education, opposition to abortion, stem-cell research and cloning, and psychologists and others should use their knowledge to counteract other prongs of their strategy), we need to all be aware that there is a big picture and that we need to work on it all together.
Part of the battle is to force the mealy-mouthed “moderates” to choose sides. ‘Mealy-mouthed’ moderates are, for instance, “liberal Christians” who believe in evolution and are generally on right side of issues but do not raise any voices against their fundie brethren and, when push comes to shove, side with them (as they are all Christians) against us. [added: this group also includes closet atheists/agnostics too afraid to speak up]
Different targets will respond to different tactics. Dawkins/Harris/Dennett tactic WILL work as one part of the strategy, targeting particular groups, and moreover changing the environment in which the debate is fought (a little bit of niche-construction). Ken Miller and those folks have their roles and can move over other types of people to choose sides.
The M&M approach is only going to push the true fundies away and they are already as far away as can be. The moderates – those who are culturally religious but on the right side on most scientific, moral and social issues – are unlikely to be pushed away by M&M rhetoric, and may even get a validation from it and get pushed in the opposite direction.
Dawkins, Harris and Dennett are changing the landscape of the discourse, forming an environment in which it is possible to talk about atheism and religion on a level field. Without them, we’d be forced to hide our atheism even more than before and allow the fundies to define us as amoral.
In other words, focusing only on preventing creationism from entering schools is missing the forest for the trees. We have managed to win a bunch of court cases, the latest one in Dover. But we have not won in the court of public opinion. And, if the entire religious plan succeeds, the courts of the future will be filled with clones of Priscilla Owen and all our victories against Creationism (and the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer in school, ten commandments in courthouses…) will be reversed.
Thus, in order to win the war, we have to engage the enemy at all fronts, not just the one where we feel like it. Let’s look at some previous success stories.
Women did not gain equality by being quiet and not rocking the boat. African-Amercans did not gain equality by being quiet and not rocking the boat. Gays did not gain equality by being quiet and not rocking the boat.
What those three groups did, and are still doing, is changing the discourse by being darn loud! A hundred years ago, a woman was a man’s property – not any more, and it is deemed extremely vile to suggest so in this day and age. Fifty years ago, stating that Blacks and Whites should be separated because Blacks are stupid and dangerous was a mainstream position – try saying that today and see what happens to you! Ten years ago, saying you are gay invited getting beaten up. See what just a decade of loud agitation has done – some kind of movement towards the right direction (gay marriage of civil unions) in several US states, Canada, Spain, UK, South Africa, now even Israel!
The first, loud pioneers set the stage for the debate and move the goalposts. They often endanger themselves initially, but their example prompts many others to come out of the closet. There are always those who are too afraid to speak out, to rock the boat. They try to talk the enemy out of destroying them instead of exposing the enemy for the brute it is. Being moderate, playing nice, and appeasing the fundies hellbent on destroying you is not a working strategy. Building a large, loud, uncompromising and powerful movement is. Ridiculing the enemy in the public sphere and changing the discourse – what is mainstream and what is not – gradually wins our wars against the anti-Enlightement forces.
If you go to feminist, Black and LGTB blogs, you’ll see that it is easy for them to make fun of latest rantings by white, rich males, like Brooks, Tierney and Derbyshire. But they have particular ire against people of their own who either side with the enemy or allow to be manipulated by the enemy – the antifeminist women, the Blacks who push (as Republican officials, usually) the anti-Black agenda, the Mehlmans and other gays in the GOP who actively work on anti-gay legislation. Why is it suprising that such a thing would not happen in the, much newer and younger, atheist movement?
The silent reverence for religion is something quite American. You need to read this to understand where I come from. In Yugoslavia, in 1941 everyone was officially religious, in 1951 some people were religious but were too afraid to say so because they feared persecution, in 1961, some people were still religious (although getting older), they went to church on Sunday but did not tout their religiosity in fear of ridicule. By the time I was aware of my surroundings in the 1970s and 1980s, only very few people were religious, those were very old and mostly in the countryside and nobody my age believed in God:

“The resurgence of religion in the area in the 1990s is fascinating to me. I do not believe that most of those people are really religious i.e., believe in God. It is purely a political instrument, as well as a way to use easily recognizable signals to differentiate between ethnic groups that are otherwise indistinguishable. Thus Serbs started sporting Orthodox paraphernalia, Croats Catholic stuff, and Bosnians Islamic symbols.”

The Western pundits, steeped in their own culture, quite erroneously labeled the Balkan conflict a “religious war”. It was more a war between the fans of Red Star, Dinamo and Zeljeznicar soccer clubs. And while the decade of wars and economic sanctions, coupled with migrations of the best-educated abroad and the country-folks into cities, made public religiosity by Right-wing extremists OK, the country is still predominantly atheist and secular. See this if you don’t believe.
Here in the USA, we cannot institute a top-down government-sponsored ridicule of religion. The system works differently here. Big societal changes, including changes in how we think about issues, are brought about by large, loud movements. But if atheists form such a movement – and this looks like a great time for a backlash against the fundamentalist overreaching – the discourse will change. Nobody in the next generation will fall for the idiotic notion that atheists are immoral. And, just like the communist government in the old Yugoslavia realized, there is no need for any kind of legislation banning religion and religious activities – public ridicule does the job marvelously on itself.
In this post (another must-read) I wrote:

Thus, we need to see the battle over evolution not as a separate battle, but as a part of a bigger war between Enlightement and Anti-Enlightement. One cannot be won without the other. And while some battles in this war can be and should be fought at the level of national politics, the battle over education, including the battle over evolution, requires us to get at their kids. For that, we need to go local. Winning cases in court works only for the short term – they will come again and again and, with conservative activist judges being appointed left and right, they will start winning soon. Getting elected to school-boards, teaching in schools, teaching the teachers, pushing for non-test-based educational systems, pushing for tests of critical thinking (including evolutionary thinking) in schools as well as for home-schooled children, …those are the ways to fight them long term, thus the only way to win this battle. Winning this battle – the battle over childrearing and education – will be the key for winning the whole war long term. Without new recruits from the new generations of children, the forces of Anti-Enlightement will dwindle in numbers, lose power, and finally die out. As a liberal, I am an optimist, a believer in progress, and cannot see how, in the long term they can win and we can lose. But in the meantime we need to fight to prevent them from incurring too much damage while they still have the power. Explaining evolution over and over again is not the way to do it.

But the project I describe here can only be succesful if the social and political environment allows it. And to change the discourse, to start getting taken seriously, and to change what is mainstream and what is not we need more M&Ms. If reason prevails and fundamentalism looses, then nobody will ever overturn our legal victories against Creationists. If we keep winning anti-IDC cases but ignore the environment in which it all happens, we will soon start loosing in courts as well. It’s fine if Ken Millers of the world want to help out in IDC cases and to move some minds on their lecture circuits, but in the long run, they’ll have to decide are they on the side of reason or on the side of their religion which also includes the most politically active fundies.
Dawkins is correct:

I tell Dawkins what he already knows: He is making life harder for his friends. He barely shrugs. “Well, it’s a cogent point, and I have to face that. My answer is that the big war is not between evolution and creationism, but between naturalism and supernaturalism. The sensible” – and here he pauses to indicate that sensible should be in quotes – “the ‘sensible’ religious people are really on the side of the fundamentalists, because they believe in supernaturalism. That puts me on the other side.”

The ecology of religion

Imagine an ecosystem in which all the players are groups defined by their religion: fundies, liberal believers, apathetics, atheists, etc. Then, use the ecological and evolutionary priniciples, e.g., competitive exclusion, niche-construction, arms-races, parasitism, camouflage, symbiosis, etc. to model the interactions between these entities (“populations”).
Amanda made a first stab at it. Can you do more?
How do Unitarians fit in that environment? Or Humanist Jews? How does the US ecosystem differ from that of other countries (island biogegraphy?)? What are the lessons for atheists from this excercise? How can we do our own niche-construction and modify the environment in a way that makes it more hospitable for us and less hospitable to the fundies? What would be the evolutionary response of the “moderates”?

Abducted by Aliens! Fundie Aliens!

Yikes! This was here in my neighborhood, in Winston-Salem, NC! Poor guy – did he get an education! What does he think about America now?
My Half-Year of Hell With Christian Fundamentalists:

When Polish student Michael Gromek, 19, went to America on a student exchange, he found himself trapped in a host family of Christian fundamentalists. What followed was a six-month hell of dawn church visits and sex education talks as his new family tried to banish the devil from his soul. Here’s his story.

Read the whole thing – it is an incredible story. The family’s whole purpose in taking him in was to recruit him to work on the building of a Baptist Church in Poland! How brazen!
(Thanks to The Science Pundit for the tip)

Salvation Candy

Yikes! I hope nobody gave you this candy last night!
Is that just sand inside? I’d like to see someone do a chemical analysis of “Jesus’ Blood”
From this child-terrorrizing site, via Mr.Sun.

Is Ramadan good for your health?

This week’s Ask a ScienceBlogger question is:

A reader asks: Is severely regulating your diet for a month each year, as Muslims do during Ramadan, good for you?

There is no way I can get out of this one! As far as I know, I am the only one here who actually did research on fasting! Mind you, it’s been about 5 years since I last delved deep into the literature on the effects of fasting and feeding on various body functions, mainly body temperature and circadian rhythms, but I can try to pull something out of my heels now.

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Some truths about religion

Carnival of the Godless #51 is up on The Greenbelt.

They are all nuts!

Great catch by Radical Russ,Thursday night on Scarborough:

O’DONNELL: Is there anyone on this panel who believes that every Jew on earth is going to burn in hell forever if they do not accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior? Do any of us believe that?
HOLT: But you’re attacking Christians. You don’t have a reason to attack Christians!
O’DONNELL: Do you believe that? Do you believe that? Because if you do, you’re a nut!
HOLT: And you’ve used the word “nut” probably a hundred times in the last seven-and-a-half minutes, and I don’t know why.
SCARBOROUGH: And I will just say that I go to church with people that believe that you need to be a Christian and you need to have faith in Jesus Christ to enter the kingdom of heaven. It’s in the Bible. Maybe that’s a radical philosophy for you, Lawrence, but I certainly…
O’DONNELL: No, I think it’s insane, Joe. I don’t think it’s radical. I think to say that most of the people on the face of the earth will burn in hell forever is insane.

Read the whole transcript. Have you ever heard before someone calling the fundies “nuts” on air, repeatedly?

Oh, no, you are not to think for yourself!

Thus, you should not be blogging if you are a good Christian child. Because blogging promotes thinking!
(Hat-tip: Justin in the comments here)

Equal Rights For Idiots!

Except that getting elected for office is not a right and saying that a Creationist is not to be trusted with governing is not bigotry.
(Hat-tip: Lindsay)

God and Torture

These three are best read together, one right after another: Amanda, Dave and Pam.

Devilish Hillary

Pam found the link to this article from LA Times in which Rev.Jerry Falwell compares Hillary Clinton with the Devil:

“I certainly hope that Hillary is the candidate,” Falwell said, according to the recording. “She has $300 million so far. But I hope she’s the candidate. Because nothing will energize my [constituency] like Hillary Clinton.”
Cheers and laughter filled the room as Falwell continued: “If Lucifer ran, he wouldn’t.”
At that moment in the recording, Falwell’s voice is drowned out by hoots of approval. But two in attendance, including a Falwell staff member, confirmed that Falwell said that even Lucifer, the fallen angel synonymous with Satan in Christian theology, would not mobilize his followers as much as the New York senator and former first lady would.
One critic who has been observing the conference said Saturday that Falwell’s words offered a rare glimpse into how religious conservative leaders were planning to inflame opposition to the Democrats with below-the-radar messages that are often more scorching than the ones showing up in public.
“He was calling Hillary Clinton a demonic figure and openly arguing that God is a Republican,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of the advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “It’s hard to know whether people thought he was joking or serious, but once you start using religious imagery and invoking a politician in this way, it’s not funny. A lot of people who listen to him do think that she’s a dark force of evil in America.”

Lukewarm handwaiving afterwards does not mean that he did not really mean it, nor that his followers do not really believe it. Everyone who has read The Wimp Factor and Great Limbaugh Con understands how Hillary got turned into a Devil, something that has been hammered since 1992 and is now so deeply ingrained in the national psyche, that even those of us who personally like Hillary realize that she cannot possibly win. She is a personification of Evil for just too many Americans.
On the other hand, Sara Robinson reports that rural voters, religious fundamentalists aside, are not as squarely in the Republican field as previously believed. Thus, Democratic candidates this November can make serious inroads by addressing issues important to rural voters. And the same goes for presidential candidates two years from now.

Going to church is bad for your health

Holy Smoke: Burning incense, candles pollute air in churches:

Incense and candles release substantial quantities of pollutants that may harm health, a detailed new study of air quality in a Roman Catholic church suggests.
Even brief exposure to contaminated air during a religious service could be harmful to some people, says atmospheric scientist Stephan Weber of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Essen, Germany. A previous study in the Netherlands indicated that the pollutants in smoke from incense and candles may be more toxic than fine-particle pollution from sources such as vehicle engines.

No word about the dangers to one’s mental health, though…
Hat-tip: Radagast

Four Conceptions of God in America

An interesting new study of religiosity in America:
One God, four views:

“Not all Americans see the powerful old man in the sky”


The authors suggest religion may most successfully motivate individuals through what it can offer them in spiritual intimacy and congregational connectivity rather than through demands backed by threats of divine punishment. Believers in an “angry” God tend to reject the idea that church and state are or can be separate, and are more likely to feel that one’s religious faith is exclusively the correct path of righteousness.

Read the whole thing…

Obligatory Readings of the Day – why, why, why?

Why are religious people religious, in two parts: Why do religious wingnuts think the way they do? Part I and Why do religious wingnuts think the way they do? Part II
Why are creationists creationists, in three parts: Why are creationists creationist?, Why are creationists creationist? 2 – conceptual spaces and Why are creationists creationist? 3: compartments and coherence.
Why conservatives take conservative jobs and suck if sucked into liberal professions, in two parts: It takes talent to make good schlock TV and Conservatives in the classroom

Obligatory Reading of the Day – Church Without Religion

Mr.WD: ‘Postmodern’ Christianity — it’s still that old time religion, part 4

Jesus on an MRI image!

The old guy is keeping up with the times, I see, going all high-tech on us.

Who put “Judeo” in “Judeo-Christian”?

Certainly not Jews.

Watertown Baptist Church update

Apparently, there is more to this story than the first news articles revealed. Yes, Mrs. Lambert was fired and the Timothy from the Bible was cited, but only as a stupid cover-up.

It’s still that old time religion

Mr.WD posted the second part of his essay on Postmodern Christianity, focusing this time on the Exodus sermon by Rob Bell.

Godidiots in the news again

Church Fires Teacher for Being Female:

The minister of a church that dismissed a female Sunday School teacher after adopting what it called a literal interpretation of the Bible says a woman can perform any job – outside of the church.
The First Baptist Church dismissed Mary Lambert on Aug. 9 with a letter explaining that the church had adopted an interpretation that prohibits women from teaching men. She had taught there for 54 years.
The letter quoted the first epistle to Timothy: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”
The Rev. Timothy LaBouf, who also serves on the Watertown City Council, issued a statement saying his stance against women teaching men in Sunday school would not affect his decisions as a city leader in Watertown, where all five members of the council are men but the city manager who runs the city’s day-to-day operations is a woman.
“I believe that a woman can perform any job and fulfill any responsibility that she desires to” outside of the church, LaBouf wrote Saturday.
Mayor Jeffrey Graham, however, was bothered by the reasons given Lambert’s dismissal.
“If what’s said in that letter reflects the councilman’s views, those are disturbing remarks in this day and age,” Graham said. “Maybe they wouldn’t have been disturbing 500 years ago, but they are now.”
Lambert has publicly criticized the decision, but the church did not publicly address the matter until Saturday, a day after its board met.
In a statement, the board said other issues were behind Lambert’s dismissal, but it did not say what they were.

Do I really need to comment on this?

Books: “The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity” by Stephen J. Ducat

 FemiphobiaThis is not a real review – I never got to writing it – but it is about a book I mention quite often in my blog posts and think is one of the most insightful about the conservative mindset. Written originally on October 21, 2004:

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Cracks in the Wall, Part III: Escape Ladders

The third part of the series on authoritarian psychology by Sara Robinson is now up on Orcinus. It tackles the strategies for dealing with (and hopefully healing and converting) the victims of authoritarian upbringing who turned out authoritarian themselves. The whole series is a must-read.

It treats spider bites!

Woman Finds ‘God’s Water’ Gurgling in Tree and 33% of AOL readers agree that it is God’s water, with another 28% not sure!

Obligatory Reading of the Day

A three-fer from Echidne:
Divorce — Preparing For Travels in Wingnuttia
Christian Lady Blogging — Part One Of Travels in Wingnuttia
Divorce: Part Two of Travels in Wingnuttia

Are there foxes in atheistholes?

You should really go now and read the “Meet The Enemy” interview with me on a satirical blog called God, Country & Apple Pie. Check out the rest of the far right-wing Christian, anti-science, fascist-theocratic fare there as well.

Opening the can of worms – blogging politics again

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about one of my pet topics – the way the changes in the society are resulting in the change in attitudes towards sex and gender, and the change in the institution of marriage, and how it all relates to politics of the moment.
I’ve been playing it pretty carefully since my move here to SEED scienceblogs, not firing away with my biggest artillery yet. I want to get back there again, gradually, so this is going to be just a summary and an opportunity to get you to read some of my older stuff to see where I stand. It is a also a test balloon to see how the new, expanded readership will respond to my political rants. Hopefully, this will get a lot of comments as well, and not all of them screaming insults at me:

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I Like This Guy

Disowning Conservative Politics Is Costly for Pastor:

Sermons like Mr. Boyd’s are hardly typical in today’s evangelical churches. But the upheaval at Woodland Hills is an example of the internal debates now going on in some evangelical colleges, magazines and churches. A common concern is that the Christian message is being compromised by the tendency to tie evangelical Christianity to the Republican Party and American nationalism, especially through the war in Iraq.

Interesting, even for the usually conservatively-slanted results on AOL online polls:

What do you think of Rev. Boyd’s views on politics and the church?
I agree with them 54%
I disagree with them 37%
I’m not sure 9%
Total Votes: 18,151

War Of The Worlds

War Of The Worlds
This post from September 09, 2004, was my first education about Rapturists:

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Obligatory Readings of the Day

Orcinus: Conserving orcas, and humans too
Shakespeare’s Sister: Off-Limits Humor
Echidne Of The Snakes: Divorce — Preparing For Travels in Wingnuttia