The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2003 April

God and Goddess and the Abortionists

April 30, 2003 | 7 Comments

As I’ve indicated before, the religious left’s position on abortion is meaningless because it ignores the question of the personhood of the fetus, and the religious right’s position is meaningless because “death is no big deal” anyway. The Wiccan position, however, is meaningless because it’s, er, meaningless — if these excerpts from “Ethics of Abortion: A Witch’s Perspective” are representative:

As a Wiccan High Priestess, I asked myself, where should a Witch’s ethics on abortion be grounded?

I wondered, if secret traditions of Witchcraft have kept knowledge of herbal abortifacts alive, would it not follow that it is an ethical duty for some to be prepared to provide abortion as it is an ethical duty to keep coven traditions alive? Perhaps that may be, I told myself, but it is necessary to understand what ethical grounds those traditions are based upon, in order to determine if it is an ethical coven which keeps then alive. As Starhawk says, “The world-view of immanence does carry with it a set of ethical imperatives, though they are based on principles very different from those of patriarchal culture” (Dreaming the Dark; pg 34).

* * *

The key here seems to be, what are the principles which govern this decision? The primary principle would have to be self-responsibility. While Witches recognize the sacredness of a unified life force, Gaia, we hold a higher regard. We recognize the sharing of responsibility that all differentiated life forms take on a Higher Self level. As we assert an ethic of non-interference, we base our ethical judgments on questions which define the boundaries of our personal responsibility in the web of life– the “power-with” perspective.

* * *

In looking at abortion from this perspective, where lies the responsibility for aborting a potentially ensouled body? As we believe a child chooses it’s own birth, might a soul not also choose an abortive experience? If two True Wills cannot come into direct conflict with each other because the universe is a whole, and it is in the True Will of the mother to abort, then does it not logically follow that a soul chose that abortion? Perhaps there is a balancing of fate or karma that a soul needs to experience and so chooses to abort. Perhaps they were an old soul that just needed some final balancing, provided by the abortive experience itself.

* * *

One theory put forth has been that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a result of a body being born without ever having had a soul enter it. After some time, the ectoplasm can no longer support itself and, due to “no explanation,” the body dies. Other theories account for a range of situations, including the belief that autistic children are a result of an unensouled body maintaining physical existence.

* * *

If that is when the ethical-error occurs, I asked myself, then what is the appropriate use of self-defense to prevent that occurrence? It is commonly held that Goddess “spirituality is the recognition of all acting powers and energies: of the physical energies in cosmic bodies, of the life-energies in all living organisms of the psychic and mental energies in women and men” (_Matriarchal Mythology in Former Times and Today_; pg 13). However I would argue that Wiccan spirituality involves more than simply having that recognition. Wicca is an active religion, a religion of doing and being. Even in choosing not to take an action, an action has been taken.

* * *

After speaking with a High Priestess who has counseled women seeking abortions, I learned these suggestions. Try to “communicate with the spirit consciousness,” if there is one present. Some souls choose inappropriately to attempt to incarnate, and when this is discussed a mutual agreement can be reached. As no life force is ever truly destroyed, “it is not the ultimate tragedy” the once-borns make of it, “there can always be another chance” (quotes from unnamed Priestess).

* * *

On a linear timeline, future opportunities exist for the two souls to be together. It’s like asking company to wait for Friday instead of coming on Wednesday; the future holds infinite possibilities. The woman must judge what is best for herself at that point in time, but when a good innerplane communication is reached it is a strong support. Also, divination is in order. If the woman is working with a coven they should assist her with this. Astrological interpretations, dreams, tarot, I Ching, pendulums, hypnosis, runes, there are many bridges between here and the spirit world that are our heritage as Witches.

(link via After Abortion)

Important Update: The Nigerian Scam Meets the Raving Atheist

April 30, 2003 | 20 Comments

Dr. Ntha (see below) this morning responded to my offer forgo $275,000 and become a permanent e-mail Spiritual Advisor to Raving Industries’ theologically-obsessed Board of Directors.

He’s not the sharpest pencil in the box, but I absolutely, positively must say this:

He’s smoooooooooooooooooooooooooth.

Would you like to see his reply?

No problem — I can have it posted in two seconds. On the other hand, I could also wait a week.

So go to my comments section, and BEG ME!

Update to Update: I will privately e-mail Dr. Ntha’s response today to anyone who begs me to in the comment section by 11:00 p.m. tonight. Otherwise, I’ll just publish it next week together with whatever other correspondence ensues.

(NOTE: If you find it hard to beg, just remember this: It’s just like praying, except not as silly — because I actually EXIST and can deliver on my promises.)

The Nigerian Scam Meets the Raving Atheist (Part III)

April 29, 2003 | 32 Comments

Recap: In previous correspondence (see e-mails 1-8, here, and 9-11, here), a Nigerian con artist — motivated by the prospect of a $275,000 payday — has answered a bewildering number of theological inquiries posed to him by the Raving Atheist (who he believes to be the controller of a multi-million dollar Christian publishing house). He’s even selected the shell corporations that are going to transfer him the funds, unaware that the names came from The Raving Atheist’s blogroll. This week, he answers questions posed by the chosen bloggers. And gets a rather rude shock.

Part 12: Is There a Doggy Heaven?

That’s the question Laurence Simon of Amish Tech Support (one of the winners of The Raving Atheist’s Nigerian Scam Blog-Name Shell Corporation Contest) had me ask Dr. Ntha Poor Vicky of Liquid Courage also won, but I did not press her for a question because she was recuperating from a Rottweiler’s attack on her face. However, as a tribute to her plight I asked if there was a doggy hell, too.

Subj: Re: URGENT RESPONSE
Date: 4/23/2003 6:53:33 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: GreerJared
To: akpuntha@xyz.com
CC: Raving Atheist, RavingIndustries

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

Dear Brother Ntha,

I trust you had a joyous Easter. Because of matters postponed for the holiday celebrations, I was unable to respond to your e-mail until today.

I have submitted your choice of corporations to our legal department. I am advised that the incorporation process should be completed by Monday, 28 April 2003, but possibly this Friday if the Registrar does not have a backlog. All three names will be registered, but most likely Tech Support will be the company actually utilized.

As I advised you in our earlier correspondence, the transfer should occur, pending a favorable exchange rate, between 28 April to 2 May 2003. Mr. Ravinga has directed me to wire the funds to a coded accounts in Canton Appenzell Rhode Ext

Rabbi Celebrates Religious, Secular Laws on Passover

April 29, 2003 | 2 Comments

New York, New York , April 29, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

Orthodox rabbi Ezra Zifrani celebrated Passover by observing special dietary restrictions in accordance with his deep respect for Jewish laws known as Hilchos Pesach, according to the New York Post. Passover is celebrated at a Seder with readings from the Haggadah, a special book narrating the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Symbolic foods served at the ceremony include chazeret (lettuce), Karpas (vegetable) and Beitzah (roasted egg).

The rabbi’s observance was announced by his lawyer at a judicial ceremony known as an arraignment. There, the rabbi issued a proclamation known as a plea, declaring that he was not guilty of engaging in the specially proscribed conduct of bribery. The rabbi’s statement fulfilled all of the requirements of the secular law of perjury, in view of his daughter’s earlier act of self-incrimination — a tape-recorded recitation of the words “do we have to bribe the judge with more money?”

Once rabbi Zifrani’s conduct is certified by a conviction, he will make a pilgrimage to a retreat known as a penitentiary. There, he will continue to demonstrate his respect for the moral law by consuming taxpayer-funded meals prepared in accordance with the laws of Kashrut.

Dixie Chicks: We’re More Popular than P’an-Chin-Lien

April 28, 2003 | 9 Comments

Nashville, Tennessee, April 28, 2003
Special to the Raving Atheist

The Dixie Chicks yesterday declared that they were now “more popular than Tzu-ku Shen,” the Chinese god of latrines. The statement echoed John Lennon’s controversial 1966 pronouncement that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus,” a statement which provoked a massive campaign to destroy the group’s albums and paraphenalia. It is not known, however, if any of the Dixie Chicks seven remaining fans are Tzu-ku Shenians, or whether any of them have discarded the group’s CD’s and posters.

Several months ago, the Dixie Chicks were more popular than Vishnu, having sold more than 24 million albums. However, in March group member Natalie Maines announced that she was “ashamed” of President Bush because of the war in Iraq, a statement which made her more popular with Allah but less so with Americans. Plummeting sales soon made the group only as popular as P’an-Chin-Lien — the goddess of prostitutes and brothels — and its popularity reached the toilet-god level this week.

In a related move, Jesus Christ declared that he was more popular than Snoop Dogg, who is 63rd on the Billboard charts with “Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Bo$$.” Jesus is posed to pass Jay-Z, who is 61st on the charts with ‘Blueprint 2.1.” However, his chances of overtaking American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson — who debuted on the charts at No. 1 this week with “Thankful” — were dashed yesterday when Idol judge Simon Cowell announced that Jesus’ peformance was “extraordinary . . . unfortunately, extraordinarily bad.”

Tolerant But Blunt

April 28, 2003 | 26 Comments

If the Raving Atheist fucked Professor Eugene Volokh up the ass and got him pregnant, this is precisely the essay our baby would write.

(via World Wide Rant)

God Squad Review XLI

April 28, 2003 | 10 Comments

What to do about the “bad” parts of scripture is the problem the Squad confronts once again this week. You know — those inconvenient passages advocating genocide, infanticide, slavery, etc. A reader has suggested that we simply “delete” them, “because our enemies will use them to make religion look bad.” What’s the Squad’s advice?

Simple: “Part of faith is believing that the Scriptures are perfect.” The Squad explains that one must either 1) “justify[] even the most offensive parts of Scripture” or 2) “throw[] out every section that doesn’t conform to what you believe.” Although “[t]he first option makes you lose your mind” second option is even worse: it “makes you lose your faith.” So, they conclude, no matter how deranged the holy text may sound, just read it over and over until your brain has warped itself into agreement:

Our suggestion, and the way we view Scripture, is to read it with the deep conviction that God is trying to speak to us through this or that verse. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it’s very hard.

When we come across a “bad” part, what we most often say is, “I have tried to hear what God may be saying through this text and I can’t hear anything yet.” It’s the “yet” that saves us and the context for our next encounter with the text.

* * *

We’re not so blind as to say that every verse of Scripture is filled with joy, love and hope, but we’re also not so arrogant as to say that an ancient wisdom tradition must justify itself to us.

This varies somewhat from what Squad counseled last December in response to a reader who was upset that the bad parts of the Koran compared non-Muslim to apes and monkeys. They acknowledged that every religion has passages in its sacred Scripture that are “violent, prejudiced, embarrassing or maybe just plain wrong, and suggested that “[t]hey are in there only because God’s infinite wisdom was transcribed by fallible human beings.” But now, it turns out, the translation was perfect — people are just too sane to understand it.

* * *

Atheism gets a subtle slap in the Squad’s answer to a second letter, from some who’s just buried a father and has come to a “very bad conclusion” about him. The reader complains that “dad cared only about himself . . . [h]e never even bought me or my brother a toy when we were kids . . . [h]e never hugged us, either.” The Squad finds the rabbi in the following story to be the most obvious counterpart to a cold, insensitive, neglectful, selfish father:

Once there was a very great rabbi named Elisha ben Abuya who became an apostate who rejected Judaism. All his students deserted him except one, Rabbi Meir, who continued to study with his former teacher even after the rabbi renounced God and Judaism.

Asked why he did not leave his teacher, Rabbi Meir said, “Elisha ben Abuya is a great scholar and teacher. I treat him like a pomegranate now. I squeeze out all the good juice, and I leave the bitter seeds behind.” This may be the way you need to remember your dad; squeeze out the good juice and leave the bitter seeds behind.

All we’ve been told about the Rabbi is that he was a very smart man — smart enough, indeed, to reject God and Judaism. So what “bitter seeds” are they talking about? Tbe Rabbi didn’t hug his students or give them toys?

Communicable Diseases to Celebrate Orthodox Easter

April 26, 2003 | 10 Comments

Toronto, Canada, April 26, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

Communicable diseases in Canada will be able to celebrate the Orthodox Easter without fear of infecting humans, reports the Toronto Star. Despite warnings from the Ontario Health Ministry, priests from the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches will continue to use a common spoon to distribute communion to tens of thousands of Orthodox Christians attending this weekend’s services. The religious leaders insist that God will protect worshippers from transmission of any illnesses

God and the Lesbians

April 25, 2003 | 15 Comments

Professor Eugene Volokh addresses once more the morality of gaiety, concluding that the arguments against lesbianism are even weaker than those against male homosexuality. In particular, he notes that lesbians are less promiscuous and their sex less disease-ridden. So far, so good.

But the pitfalls of his evangelical agnosticism (see here) quickly manifest themselves when the discussion drifts into theological waters. He first notes that the Bible proscribes only male homosexuality, a position from which he retreats once a reader points out some anti-lesbian language from the New Testament. So he then instead concludes:

[P]erhaps this is enough of a theological argument against lesbianism, though note that the condemnation is considerably less than the “abomination” language [regarding male homosexuality] in Leviticus. (It also makes it harder to speak of “Judeo-Christian” morality here, since while the prohibition against male homosexuality is Judeo-Christian, the condemnation of lesbianism seems to be purely Christian, unless I’ve missed still other verses, which is quite possible.) But in any event, I’m still looking for the logical arguments.

The underlined sentence implies that theological arguments are not really logical arguments, a position an agnostic is hardly in a position to embrace. God is morally perfect, God wrote the Bible, the Bible condemns all gay sex, all gay sex is wrong — where’s the logical flaw in that syllogism? Now, certainly, an atheist can attack the first two premises regarding God as illogical (see my disproofs), but an agnostic must either accept the argument as a whole or prove himself an atheist by refuting the offending parts of it. The agnostic must also conclude, if he is true to his indifference, that God likes Jewish lesbians but not Christian ones. He cannot, though, as Professor Volokh does, simply dismiss these conclusions at the end as “illogical” merely because they are also theological, unless he explains why theology itself is absurd. Nor can he dismiss mere “faith” as the basis for a moral position, unless he is prepared to demonstrate why reason is a superior form of cognition.

I suspect, however, that the problem here lies more with the Professor’s “tolerance” than with his agnosticism. In public bathroom stalls one frequently sees graphic graffiti depicting sex among gay men captioned with “fags must die” rhetoric right alongside erotically-presented depictions of lesbians — but Volokh would not for a moment consider introducing these scrawlings, for any purpose, into a discussion over the moral status of homosexuality. And if someone else did, he’d quickly condemn the source, without attempting to first interpret the graffiti or check the other stalls for alternative illustrations.

Yet not once in his whole discussion of the Bible are these same threshold objections to its authority or authenticity raised (or, for that matter, is mention made of its endorsement of stoning, burning, mutilation, blinding, whipping, cannibalism, genocide and infanticide). Instead, the Professor’s argument is all “this-verse-and-that-verse and let’s see if we can reconcile the two.” Does the Professor really believe that there’s a credible difference between some old, gray-bearded fart ruminating over a piece of papyrus and a shitting homophobic punk squatting over a toilet with a magic marker?

The problem, is, again, that “mockery of religious faith is inexcusable” and that even the looniest arguments must be treated with respect (and argued on their own insane terms) if they are framed in God-talk. When I originally blogged about this issue, the Professor objected to my suggestions that he “vastly overestimate[d] the intelligence of religious people” and that “[p]”eople who believe something merely because it is in a book tend to cut philosophical corners.” In response, he stated that he’d “certainly seen plenty of irreligious people cutting philosophical corners, and [he’d] seen no evidence that corner-cutting is any more common among the religious than among the irreligious.” But virtually every religious argument he offers in his latest post caters to the corner-cutting book-citing crowd, whereas the secular ones invoke evidence and logic. And while he couches some of the scriptural arguments in terms resembling logic, none of them depart from the basic Bible-as-Truth premise. For example, he writes:


What about the objection that the Bible favors heterosexual marriage, and that heterosexual marriage, with its possibility of children, is the norm to which people in society should generally aspire? This too seems to me a slim justification for punishing or discriminating against people who aren’t interested in heterosexual marriage — but if this is really the reason, then why aren’t we imprisoning would-be priests and nuns, who are taking themselves away from heterosexual marriage as much as lesbians are?

So what the Professor finds to be a “slim justification” isn’t that the source of the proposition is some crazy screed, but merely that the principle itself should be more narrowly or consistently applied. But once you accept the authority of Bible, you must also accept God’s clearly expressed wishes as to the interpretation and scope of his rules. God has clearly spoken out against homosexuality, and any fallible human argument that gayness is consistent with the purpose of heterosexual marriage must fail in view of His express laws on the subject. Yes, perhaps priests and nuns should too be punished, but that argument again will rise or fall not upon some abstract notion of consistency, but upon whether or not there is a Biblical approval for their celibacy.

Volokh does briefly posit a couple of non-scriptural theological arguments, noting that the lower incidence of AIDS among lesbians and the amenability of women’s bodies to oral sex could be viewed as evidence of God’s approval of female homosexuality. These are offered primarily as reductio ad absurdum arguments. But as such, they are perfectly valid, and if one accepts their God-premise in the first place one would simply restrict executions to male gays. While the Professor cautions that he “doesn’t buy” the notion that the way in which our bodies operate (and presumably, how AIDS operates) is evidence of God’s plan, he offers no guidance, from his agnostic perspective, of why it is not God’s plan, or what God’s plan is.

And even if he did, I suspect he’d be unable to explain why his proposed plan would be any more logical than the lesbian-favoring one. What he’d really like to say, I suspect, is that there’s no God and that people who think some supernatural being is monitoring the activity of our cocks and cunts are homophobic misogynistic creationist monkeys who should be locked up in cages. But he’s too tolerant for that.

Holiday Miracle in Laci Peterson Case

April 24, 2003 | 82 Comments

Modesto, California, April 24, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

God staged a dramatic, heartwarming reunion of Laci Peterson and her unborn son with their family over the Easter holidays, according to Laci’s mother, Sharon Rocha. In a statement released Monday, Rocha stated “I know that God [was] watching over them . . . He sent them back to us on Good Friday.” On that day, Laci’s headless, legless corpse washed ashore on the San Francisco bay, together with the remains of a full-term fetus with its umbilical cord still attached.

God confirmed his role in the miracle. “I tenderly guided those salty, decomposed chunks of meat to shore,” He said. “Originally I considered dumping them onto the Rocha’s doormat, or leaving them to be discovered in their Easter baskets,” God added. “But then I remembered that most parents prefer to have their butchered children returned in evidence bags by anonymous F.B.I. medical technicians.”

God also confirmed that he chose Good Friday for its symbolic value, noting that his own child was murdered on that day. He noted that he later completed the crucifixion/resurrection analogy by bringing the remains to life on Easter morning. “Laci and Connor [the fetus] were positively teeming with parasites in the laboratory vault on Sunday,” He said. “In fact, they almost bubbled up out of their containers, only barely restrained by the small crabs I left clinging to, and devouring, their bloody undersides.”

Why Religious Freedom Is So Important

April 23, 2003 | 11 Comments

From the cover story of today’s New York Daily News:

For the first time in three decades, Iraq’s Shiites were free to mark their holiest festival – free to crawl on bleeding knees, to whip themselves raw and to cut their own heads open with swords.

With Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein no longer able to torment them, millions of Shiite Muslims flooding into the holy city of Karbala eagerly tormented themselves in a remarkable explosion of long pent-up religious fervor.

holyshit.jpg

“This year is particularly important because we’re free to do what we want,” cried Jamella Mousawi, 50, a housewife who walked for five days from Baghdad.

They whipped themselves with chains, sprayed blood from gashed scalps and waved flags – black for mourning and green for Islam.

The Nigerian Scam Meets The Raving Atheist (Part II)

April 23, 2003 | 3 Comments

Recap: In previous correspondence (see e-mails 1 through 8, here), a Nigerian con man, Dr. Akpu Ntha, offered the Raving Atheist approximately $10 million to launder funds allegedly stolen from the national power authority — intending instead to hit TRA for thousands of dollars in up-front transaction fees and expenses. However posing as the controller of the subsidiary of a large Christian publishing house, Raving Industries, TRA extracted a promise for an additional 5% share of the loot. Because Raving Industries also desires spiritually-compatible business partners, Dr. Ntha is badgered with a seemingly interminable series of theological questions.

Tempted by the prospect of an immediate $300,000 advance, Dr. Ntha responds with half-literate ruminations on the divine attributes, the Trinity, Jewish conversion, abortion, homosexual marriage, and capital punishment. In the last e-mail (sent by Raving Industries banking vice president, Ms. Eva Greer-Jared) the Doctor is quizzed about the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin Birth,euthanasia and the baptism of fetuses. Ms. Greer-Jared also requests that Dr. Ntha select the name for a shell corporation to faciliate the $300,000 transfer — names adapted from those on TRA’s blogroll.

Part 9: Distractions

Dr. Ntha is preoccupied with the possibility that some other Nigerian scamster will steal away his business, and asks Ms. Greer-Jared to report any such unscrupulous advances to him. This distraction impairs his theological analysis, to the extent that he offers an unsolicited opinion regarding tranvestitism. He also ignores the instructions to select a shell corporation (blog) name, suggesting a completely unacceptable alternative.

Subj: urgent response
Date: 4/18/2003 2:01:22 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Akpuntha@xyz.com
To: GreerJared@aol.com
CC: RavingIndustries@aol.com
CC: RavingAtheist@aol.com

Dear brother/sister in the Lord.

Greeting in the name of our lord Jesus Christ the most gracious.

I received your mail this morning with the contents well noted and understand did not bother about your delay because I have prayed and fasted before contacting you and dream about all what it has to take to realize our aim, though this transaction is against my religious believe but if I don’t do it, others will do it and they may set me up for the fear of implicating them, but everybody’s mind is at ease since all the people that knows about the money are involve in the transaction.

However the trust we repose on you people cannot be over emphasized and we are looking forward and will do everything humanly possible to make sure that all the concerned parties are happy at the conclusion of this transaction. Meanwhile for the security of all the concerned parties as you know that we are still in active service and we have earned ourselves reputation in our profession and would not like to dent that, I want to notify of our government intentions in protecting the federal coffers.

After the incident of Military Head Of State General Sanni Abacha and cohorts, amount to billion of US dollars and pound our government we inaugurated a financial surveillance unit under state security service (sss). This unit specialize on tracking down the foreign partners who is assisting government official in looting the nations treasury, this unit normally approaches foreigner in many ways including phone and email mostly claiming to be ex or still serving NNPC officials and that they want you to assist them receive a trapped fund or they will claim that they are working in the bank and want you to assist them receive the money as next of kin of a foreigner who died in Nigeria many years ago leaving behind a whooping amount of money in a suspense account.They have many techniques but it is most related to the above mention technique, once you accepted their offer,they will be working hand to hand with interlope in your country until they arrest the person, so whenever you receive such mails or phone call.you have to let me know because anything that effect you negatively min this transaction also does same to me and my collegue,our government primary aim of establishing the unit is to checkmate the looting of the nations coffers and at same time redeem our country image internationally.

Regards to the clarification you need, we accept the traditional trinity of the father, the son and the holy ghost,the meaning of trinity is one all over of the world. Well, fashion bible demands that we dress properly but should not put on a dress that is meant for the opposite sex, immaculate conception and virgin birth is accepted as it is written in bible Matthew chapter 1 verse 23.also euthanasia (mercy killing or terminal ill patients).The bible say thou shall not kill in exodus chapter 20 verse 13 with this I don’t believe in mercy killing as it is not biblical just like the baptism of fetuses you can read this two portion of the bible Matthew chapter28;19 and acts of the apostle chapter 22:16 so it is very hard for me to accept some doctrine that is not biblical,because vigilant/fetuses baptism is church doctrine and not biblical.

Furthermore, the selection of the company will be based on the company’s account that can receive the money without raising an eyebrow, so access the financial capacity of the companies and select one for the transaction. If RAVING INDUSTRIES, you can receive the money we can use it.

Finally, there are some information I want to send to you via fax (like the partnership agreement) so please in your reply send me your private phone and fax and also the details of the company you select for the transaction.

I await you very urgent response.

I wish you all happy Easters.

Yours in Christ

DR AKPU NTHA

Part 10: Flattery

Ms. Greer-Jared praises the doctor’s scholarship to insure that her curiosity about in faith healing and circumcision will be satisfied. Dr. Ntha is also pressed to select a shell corporation from a vastly expanded blog-list. (Note: Once again, the e-mail to the Doctor did not include the hyperlinks).

Subj: Re: urgent response
Date: 4/19/2003 7:26:36 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: GreerJared
To: akpuntha@xyz.com

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

Dear Dr. Ntha,

I again apologize for the delay in responding to your e-mail of yesterday, but it was forwarded to me while I was in transit.

We have not received communications from the SSS or any other party relating to this transaction. Our business is governed by American and Swiss law, so we are not particularly concerned with internal Nigerian politics. We will, of course, advise you if we are so contacted and seek your counsel as to how to proceed.

As I noted to you in my last e-mail, we need for you to select the name of a shell corporate entity through which we shall transfer the facilitation funds to you. For tax reasons we cannot use Raving Industries as the corporate vehicle. Also, it is essential that YOU select the name from the list below. Although we have great trust and faith in you, we do not wish to be placed in a position where one of your partners objects, on religious grounds, to the use of a particular name. Our attorneys have advised us that problems have arisen in the past whereby a party has canceled a transaction due to such cultural sensitivities, even though no offense was intended on our part. Accordingly, even though it may well be that any of these names are acceptable to you and your associates, we humbly request that you do select three (3) names from the following expanded list so that we have maximum flexibility in setting up the transfer:

Monosyllabicalique, Inc.
Kafkaesqui Corp.
Liquid Courage, Inc.
Brain Eminent, Inc.
Worshipping at the Altar, Inc.
Kosh Kolby
Son Thinker Inc.
Itas Ver, Inc.
Malloy Jasonic Inc.
Pundite Vodka
Dawn Neslo Corp.
Fishing Rumble Corp.
Clinched Improvisation, Inc.
Republique Seabrook Corp.
Corsaire Pirate
Jody Nude Writing Inc.
Bob Soure Corp.
Reason Light, Inc.
Tidnpuatsni Corp.
Daley Dit Pun, Corp.
Misanthropyste, Corp.
Sunny Place Corp.
Frankenstinian Enterprises, Inc.
Brooklyn Liminal Corp.
Talking Dog, Inc.
Mister Swill Corp.
Kepple Ben Corp.
Tech Support Amishe, Inc.
On the Third Hand, Inc.
Blogatrice, Corp.
Over Coffee, Inc.
Batfem Inc.
Expression Gene, Inc.
Saiselgy Matt, Inc.

Please advise me of your three (3) choices as soon as possible so that our legal department may process the paperwork.

As I noted in my last e-mail, I will not return to Switzerland until Tuesday, 22 April. At that time I shall decide, in consultation with Mr. Ravinga and others, which contact office shall be used to complete the transaction. At that point we will forward you the telephone, fax and other necessary contact information.

We were well-pleased that you accept the traditional Trinity and a general Biblical approach to theology. We greatly admire your scholarship on such matters. Director Freeman has asked me to further inquire as to your position on faith healing (curing disease through prayer), circumcision, evolution, and inter-faith marriage (marriage between people of different religions). I would greatly appreciate it if you could find the time to respond to me on these matters before my return Tuesday (and please indicate your selections from the above corporate name list as well).

Many thanks for your cooperation in these matters. I look forward to hearing from you shortly. Have joyous Easter. Christ has Risen!

Yours in Christ,

Eva Greer-Jared

Part 11: And the Winners Are . . .

Dr. Ntha selects the three winners of The Raving Atheist’s Nigerian Scam Blog-Name Shell Corporation Contest, and identifies a source of dinner-time discord in Christian/Muslim mixed marriages.

Subj: URGENT RESPONSE
Date: 4/22/2003 10:49:03 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: akpuntha@xyz.com
To: GreerJared@aol.com
CC: RavingAtheist@aol.com

Dear Sister Eva Greer-Jarad

I received your mail this morning with the contents well noted and understood for which my thanks. And I know that God that Started this work with us will surely accomplish if for his glory.

I want you to understand that after a due deliberation we have seleted the following companies for the transaction

(1) Liquid Courage Inc.
(2) Tech Support Amishe, Inc.
(3). Republique Seabrook Corp.

All the concerned individual has collectively accept to use the above companies for the transaction also it is important to inform you that we have agreed with you irrespective of religious believe which we considered primary in this transaction.

Reghards to you questions firstly, we are Christians which simply mean (Christ Like) we are following the footsteps of our Lord. So healing is biblical you can find more explanation about this following portions in the bible.
(a) Mathew Chapter 8 verse 5-13, Mathew 4 ver 24, Luke Chapter 4 verse 40, Exodus Chapter 15 verse 26, Mark chapter 11 verse 29, John Chapter 9 verse 1-7Acts 14 Chapter 10, Christ out a lot of miracles/healings and said that believers can as well perform more than his according to the bible their circumcision and evolutuion doctrine of man, circumcision in the bible is refered to unbelievers that is uncircumcision (unbelievers) but for evolution as far as am concern it is not biblical but doctrines. Also Inter-faith marriage is recorded in bible because God ask some people not to marry from some tribe, you can find more explanation in the following portions of the bible Numbers Chapter 12 verse 1, 1 King Chapter 11 verse 1-2, Judges Chapter 14 verse 1-3, So inter-faith marriage is not all that good if the people involve did not agree to practise one religion.

After their marriage, because doctrine of their different religion will disagree their homes as they will be contradict their daily living. For instance before a christian will eat he will pray but muslim is the opposite so the major problem has on the teaching and doctrines of their diffrent religion believes. You can find more explanation about man made doctrine in the following portions of the bible Mathew Chapter 15 verse 8-9, Romans Chapter 10 verse `1-3, Romans Chapter 16 verse 17, Galatians Chapter 1 verse 6-10, 2 John verse 9, you will understand more about doctrines.

Please I want you in your reply to send the private telephone fax and your mobile phone number and address of the company including the bank details where the fund will be lodge.

May the blessing of this period be with you now and always.
Yours in Christ

Dr. Apku Ntha

UPDATE (4/29/03): The saga continues here.

Goo Goo Ga Ga

April 22, 2003 | 19 Comments

Last Thursday Cosair the Rational Pirate gently critiqued this Godidiot, Susan Konig, who was under the apparent impression that her children’s prayers were responsible for the liberation of Iraq. I thought I’d never read anything as offensively simple-minded as that piece — until yesterday, when I came across this Op-Ed by Rose Ann Palmer. She doesn’t even realize that we won, and wants to turn us all into little kneeling babbling babies. My comments are interspersed in boldface:

Chances are you believe in the power of prayer.

Chance of that: 0%. Talking to the sky doesn’t accomplish anything.

Most Americans do.

Most Americans are complete fucking idiots, then.

Why not ask those who govern us to encourage the use of that power?

If you believe you are “governed” by people who you have to ask to encourage you to talk to the sky, you are worse than a slave.

I’m suggesting that our legislators facilitate a daily, voluntary one-minute interdenominational silent noontime prayer break for America.

I’m suggesting that people as stupid as you be rounded up and sent to camps to be re-educated. Voluntarily, of course.

During the break, those who wish to participate would defer non-essential activities to ask God to help us avert terrorism, bring about a peaceful resolution to the war in Iraq and open our hearts to what God wants us to do.

Isn’t everything is “non-essential” compared to talking to God? Maybe brain surgeons should abandon patients with their skulls split open to run off and pray. We could just add a prayer that all the brains heal themselves.

If believers of all denominations, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, prayed briefly, inaudibly without denominational display daily at noontime, the generated prayer would be powerful.

I agree with this to the limited extent that it implies that spoken, denominational prayers are worthless. But so are inaudible, interdenominational ones. Talking to the sky in unison doesn’t accomplish any more than talking to the sky individually.

Those who did not wish to participate could stand still out of respect for the believers, or continue their activities as if nothing were happening, (not participating, but retaining anonymity as nonbelievers).

I don’t respect believers. I would continue my activities as if nothing were happening, because nothing would be happening. But I would not be anonymous, because my non-participation would obviously mark me as an non-believer by the very rules of your incredibly stupid exercise.

Many towns mark noontime with an audible signal. How beautiful it would be if church bells, the shofar and the calls of all the religions sounded at noon to signal America at silent prayer.

That’s a lot of noise for “silent” prayer. And did it ever occur to you, dimwit, that there are five time zones in America? There’s not going to be this one big beautiful moment with all of “America at silent prayer.”

A suggested non-controversial prayer might say, for example: “I ask You (title used for the Deity by individual) to protect us from terrorism, bring about a peaceful resolution of the war in Iraq and show us what you wish us to do to promote peace and justice, in God (or title for the Deity used by individual) we trust. Amen.”

No prayer would be “non-controversial” among the Lutherans (Missouri Synod) because they believe interdenominational prayer to be near-blasphemous. So do a lot of other nut-job religions.

Most Americans say, with the founding fathers, “In God we trust.”

Nobody actually says that. They just read it on the money.

The number of true non-believers in this country is minuscule.

There are about 27 million secular, non-religious people. That’s about seven times the number of Jews and Muslims combined. Your IQ is minuscule.

Most Americans know we are in desperate need of God’s intervention.

Most Americans are still complete fucking idiots, then.

If the prayer were voluntary, interdenominational, silent and non-controversial, Americans would be gratified that common sense had prevailed over arguments about separation of church and state and that we as a nation are asking guidance from the interdenominational God who gave us this beautiful interdenominational America.

::Blowing My Head Off::

Nun Sense

April 21, 2003 | Comments Off

Sister Rose Sheridan was a bit pissed off with the God Squad’s March 22, 2003 column in favor of the war in Iraq. In a letter to Newsday, she wrote:


I read the God Squad column regularly to observe how two related but different traditions can meld. Generally, all comes out well, but “The Starfish Theory Of a Just War” [Act II, March 22] fell short.

The beloved clergymen say that their job “is to state clearly what we know to be true from the texts and traditions,” yet they conclude that war with Iraq is justified to free the Iraqi people.

From what texts and traditions have they extrapolated this conclusion? They render a single text — a literal interpretation of the Exodus event to prove their “truth.” The Christian community has based its moral position primarily on the words and deeds of Jesus Christ.

The Roman Catholic community is also urged to turn for additional guidance on social issues to a compendium of documents generally called Catholic social teachings. Two of the many documents on the issues of war and peace — “Pacem in Terris” (Pope John XXIII, 1963) and “The Challenge of Peace” (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1983) could offer much enlightenment. Yet there was no text in the article that included any of the above.

War with Iraq was deemed morally unjustified by the Vatican, the U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, virtually every mainline Christian denomination and many other religious communities.

Finally, the opening comment, “consult your favorite politician to have your views on the war confirmed,” suggesting that Long Islanders did not reflect on the morality of their decisions, is offensive to all, regardless of their position on war with Iraq.

What exactly, though, is Sister Sheridan’s moral argument here? That essays written by Popes and Bishops between 20 and 40 years ago trump a literal interpretation of the Bible? When the Squad addressed the issue, they identified very specific evils: 1) the suffering of the Iraqi people and 2) Saddam’s threat the rest of the world. Although they quite crazily concluded (based on their reading of Exodus) that only the harm to the Iraqis mattered — and that it somehow “supercede[d] even America’s need to be free from terrorism” — their column offered at least some discussion of the impact of the war decision on actual human lives.

All Sister Sheridan offers is the fact that some religious groups opposed the war. She doesn’t say why they did, or why she agreed with them. And while she’s offended that the suggestion that people “did not reflect on the morality of their decisions,” there’s absolutely no evidence that she’s done any moral reflection herself. She’s simply adopted a position on the ground her Church supports advocates it, consulting her favorite clergyman rather than her favorite politician.

God Squad Review XL

April 21, 2003 | 8 Comments

The Squad promotes a literal belief in Biblical miracles this week in its answer to “J,” a conflicted Christian who, as a scientist, has “trouble believing anyone could rise from the dead.” This has made Easter “conflicted and negative,” because J “just can’t believe its message.” The Raving Atheist just can’t understand the Squad’s answer:

Tommy and I believe strongly in the founding miracles described in each of our faiths. We believe miracles are real. Tommy believes Jesus did indeed rise from the dead on the third day, and Marc believes the Red Sea split and the people went free out of Egypt in the Exodus.

We do not believe these are just cute, fuzzy, stupid superstitions. We do not think they are simply metaphors for some rational and universal truth you do not need faith to find. We believe faith is grounded not just on a set of moral ideals but also on a set of historical miracles.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christianity makes no sense. If the Exodus was just a figment of some biblical editor’s imagination, then Judaism makes no sense.

While this may seem like a severe, fundamentalist question to ask of a rational person like yourself, consider: Can you rationally explain love, courage, beauty or hope?

The actual problem J raised, of course, was that a man rising from the dead conflicts with science and 100% of human experience. In contrast, 100% of humanity has direct experience with the emotions associated with love, courage, beauty and hope. No one disputes that people fall in love, exhibit courage, appreciate beauty, or have hope. Scientists and layman alike can observe these phenomena and form all sort of rational theories about them. For example, it can be observed that nobody falls in love with an electric can opener, or needs courage to scratch his nose. I’m not sure what the Squad means when it asks if J “[c]an rationally explain love,” but I’m sure J could understand that it’s rational to fall in love with a person, and irrational to fall in love with a can opener. It would also be irrational to fall in love with a corpse, unless one were also irrational enough to believe it would rise from the dead.

Even accepting the Squad’s garbled premise that the alleged irrationality of love, etc. somehow establishes the truth of miracles, it’s not clear how that irrationality helps one to differentiate between miracles and “cute, fuzzy, stupid superstitions.” If I asked the Squad whether they believed in unicorns or the Tooth Fairy, they’d probably say no. Would they change their minds if I pointed out their inability to “rationally explain love, courage, beauty or hope”?

Similarly, Squad Rabbi Gellman doesn’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Why doesn’t the Rabbi’s admitted inability to rationally explain love, courage, beauty or hope compel him to believe in the resurrection of Jesus? The Squad does attempt to address this difficulty near the end of their answer, stating that “[t]he fact that only Christians believe this miracle is true simply means the miracle defines and comforts them . . . [p]eople of other faiths are defined and comforted by their own miraculous events.” But saying that a belief comforts or “defines” someone is a far cry from saying that it’s rational or true.

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: NIGERIAN SCAM BLOG-NAME SHELL CORPORATION CONTEST

April 18, 2003 | 7 Comments

As indicated in yesterday’s post, The Raving Atheist is in the midst of financial and theological negotiations with a Nigerian con artist, Dr. Akpu Ntha. He has responded, at length, to my last set of inquiries, a missive I shall publish here on Monday. He neglected, however, to specify which blog name he would like me to incorporate and use to effect the transfer to him of Raving Industries’ imaginary $275,000 transaction fee. I shall supplement the list with additional blog names in my next e-mail and press him to select three (3) of them.

If you would like your blog added to the list of proposed fictitious shell corporation names to be considered by a thuggish, dimwitted and theologically confused Nigerian scamster, please e-mail me the name at ravingatheist@ravingatheist.com or leave it in the comment section of this post. You may alter your blog-name slightly if you wish to avoid violent and bloody retaliation by the Nigerian Mafia. I will accept entries up until 5:00 p.m. EST tomorrow, Saturday, April 19, 2003. The winners will be announced as soon as Dr. Ntha sees fit to respond, probably Monday if he keeps to his usual schedule.

Missing Pregnant Woman’s Mother-in-Law Prays for Murder of Different Pregnant Woman

April 18, 2003 | 7 Comments

Modesto, California, April 18, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

The mother-in-law of Laci Peterson is praying that God murder a different pregnant woman and substitute her body for the headless, legless corpse that washed ashore in San Francisco earlier this week, according to the New York Post. The badly decomposed remains, clad in maternity clothes, were discovered Monday in the same bay where Laci’s husband, Scott Peterson, claimed he was “fishing” on the very day of her disappearance. A full-term fetus, with its umbilical cord still attached, was found in the same area.

Scott’s mother, Jackie Peterson, said Tuesday that she was “praying that it’s not Laci.” But Berkeley police chief Warren Hodges questioned the efficacy of this strategy. “Right now, that body simply is whoever it is,” noted. “If it’s not Laci, then there’s absolutely no need for Mrs. Peterson to pray for divine intervention,” he said. “But if it is, she will have to pray for God to reverse time, kill another lady, rip out her fetus, and throw the remains in the same bay where Laci’s husband, Scott Peterson, claimed he was ‘fishing’ on the very day of her disappearance.”

Hodges nevertheless said that he would join prayers for a miracle. “And we’ll really start praying hard if the DNA from the body matches Laci’s,” he added. “I’ll conduct a new autopsy the very next day to see if there’s been a miraculous change in identity.” Chief Hodges stated, however, that he hoped God would not pick his own pregnant wife, Betsy, to replace Laci. “I will pray that the Lord find it in his heart instead to murder an ugly, unwed pregnant teenage prostitute and throw her remains in the same bay where Laci’s husband, Scott Peterson, claimed he was ‘fishing’ on the very day of her disappearance.”

God has answered prayers similar to those of Mrs. Peterson in the past. “After Richard Ricci raped and murdered Elizabeth Smart last June, I was beseiged with prayers that her body not be found dead,” God said. “So I fixed her up and gave her to Brian David Mitchell, who I knew because we were drafting a manifesto together at the time.” God noted that while he was also touched by the prayers of the family of the substituted little girl, Samantha Runnion, her body was discovered and buried too quicky for him to pull another switch.

Godidiot of the Week: William J. Bennett (Nominated by Zach Brewster-Geisz)

April 16, 2003 | 15 Comments

In Sunday’s Washington Post, former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett offers a laughably half-hearted defense of the following statements that current Secretary of Education Roderick R. Paige made in an interview with the Baptist press:

All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community, where a child is taught to have a strong faith. Where a child is taught that there is a great source of strength greater than themselves.

In language Bennett understandably neglects to quote, Paige also said that “[i]n a religious environment the value system is set . . . [t]hat’s not the case in a public school where there are so many different kids with different kinds of values.” So it’s pretty clear that Paige was advocating the teaching of faith in God, and specifically values derived from the Christian god as opposed to any other.

Bennett’s attempt at spin is rather sad: he notes that Paige “did not say ‘teaching Christian doctrine or theology,’ only the values associated with the Christian community.” And it’s comical how quickly Bennett retreats from even that modified formulation. Soon, he says that the public schools were created to “keep our society together based on common virtues, many of them Christian.” This quickly gives way to the concession that “the best of our ethics originated in religion — in either Judaism, Christianity or both.” By the end of that same paragraph, Bennett is fully aboard the multiculturalist bandwagon he so despises — he declares that the reference to the Creator in the Declaration of Independence is a message for all, “whether they be Jews, Christians, Muslims, pagans or anyone else.” You know, those “different kids with different kinds of values.”

One of the goals of education is clear expression through writing. One shouldn’t say “Christian” if one means to include pagans and “anyone else.” Reading comprehension is another objective: one shouldn’t claim that an author who refers to “Christian” values was writing about the values of “Jew, Christians, Muslims, pagans or anyone else.”

* * *

The Raving Atheist, of course, rejects any notion that “faith” or belief in a “great source of strength greater than [one’s self]” is a proper guide to ethics. Rejecting actual human and scientific experience in favor blind adherence to ancient scriptures dictated by imaginary beings isn’t a reliable guide to anything. Nor is it a consistent one. I’m not aware of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic-Pagan-Anyone-Else consensus that Bennett applauds, or even a consensus within any of those faiths. Indeed, the only “consensus” I’m aware of that would mark a system of ethics as specifically religious is the consensus that one must achieve one’s goals by praying to an egotistical tyrant with a peculiar obsession with dietary and sexual preferences.

Bennett also decries the “dominant secular ideology of today’s public school system” . . . “this very crusading secularism that has served to undermine the consensus about basic principles of virtue that existed in the public schools before the reign of the modernist creed took over.” He seems particularly peeved that “[t]oday it’s called conflict resolution, anger management and school discipline.” Why? Because “[n]ot so long ago it was called loving your enemy, turning the other cheek and respecting your elders.” So his objection isn’t really as to substance — he’s just mad that the secularists describe moral principles in PC language to that doesn’t more closely resemble the phraseology of Jesus.

Actually, if I had to vote on it, I’d say the new language is better than the old. “Loving your enemy?” It’s pretty irrational to use a person’s “enemy” status as reason to love him. In fact, definitionally speaking, one’s “friends” are the people one loves, and one’s “enemies” are the people one hates. Similarly, it’s not good policy to use elderliness as the basis for respect, when respectability will do the job just fine. I probably don’t even have to explain why turning the other cheek is ineffective, and it’s not something that brass-knuckled bullies like Bennett believe in anyway, any more than they believe in loving their enemies.

Finally, Bennett complains that “[t]he new theology and creed has sought to stigmatize the virtues curriculum as well as to eliminate any vestige of religious influence in teaching reliable standards of right and wrong.” But other than the watered-down bromides about love and peace mentioned above, he doesn’t indicate in any meaningful way what standards he’s talking about. It’s a tribute to the new secularist creed that Bennett no longer feels comfortable saying aloud what standards are really on his mind, relating to those gays and women and other undesirables. Or maybe he decided that keeping quiet about it this time around was the Christian thing to do. Whatever the case, it was mighty white of him.

Brown-Nosing God

April 15, 2003 | 3 Comments

Most modern theologians, even the Catholic ones, don’t claim that God can do anything. He can’t do things that are logically impossible or inconceivable, such as making a square circle, or making 1 + 1 = 7, or making something exist and not exist at the same time, or making a rock so big He couldn’t lift it, and then lifting it. Usually the debate centers over whether God can violate or change the laws of nature — turn an acorn into an elephant, or change the speed of light to 10 miles an hour — but those are feats which don’t involve logical contradictions.

So why do the more fundamentalist religions, and, I’ve found, laymen in general, insist that anything means anything in some completely crazy impossible way? I think it stems from a compulsion to “glorify” God. There’s this notion that God would be insulted if one didn’t go to extremes in flattering Him, even though no normal person would feel complimented by the insinuation that she could accomplish illogical objectives. It’s really just brown-nosing, hoping for a pat on the head for saying that God can do something that one is incapable of even articulating. And attempts to criticize this sort of nonsense are generally brushed off with admonitions that “you can’t limit God” or that “God is beyond logic.”

It’s funny what happens, though, when one first brings up the identical questions in a non-theological context. Ask a godidiot “Does 1 + 1 = 7″ or “are circles square,” and he’ll vigorously deny it. Even if you rephrase the questions slightly — for example, could 1 + 1 =7″ or “could a circle also be a square?”

Islam for Dummies

April 14, 2003 | 28 Comments

Last December, the God Squad defended Islam against accusations that it was a “bad religion” governed by a text which advocates the killing of infidels and compares non-Muslims to apes and monkeys. Then, the Squad blamed the scriptural deficiencies on the fallible humans who transcribed the Quran. They further accused those who quoted the bad parts of trying to stir up prejudice and trouble.

I picked up a copy of the Squad’s “Religion for Dummies” a couple of days again (having recently posted about it here). This is how they sugar-coat the Islam’s current stance on the death penalty:

In Islam, capital punishment is allowable for the gravest of crimes:

— Murder

— Committing adultery in public

— Attacking Islam in such a way as to harm it or the people who practice it, if the attacker is a former Muslim.

In the case of murder, the victim’s family gets to choose between retribution and forgiveness, and forgiveness is the preferred option. In the case of adultery, execution is rarely necessary because the act must occur in public and be witnessed by four people. In the case of attacking the religious community, perhaps the gravest crime, the person can be forgiven if he or she repents.

No challenge whatsoever to the notion that adultery and criticizing Islam are the “gravest of crimes,” or that either one is deserving of death. Being stoned for adultery is fine because burden of proof for obtaining a conviction is so extraordinarily high — four people must see you kiss your girlfriend in a restaurant. Murderers get off if they pay off the grieving family, and people who say that an obviously bad religion is bad might escape death if they say they’re sorry.

Or maybe I’m just being intolerant.

God Squad Review XXXIX

April 14, 2003 | Comments Off

The Squad this week gives biblical advice to a grieving pet owner, “E,” whose cat just died from cancer. “E” feels “a little guilty mourning an animal when so many people are suffering greater losses.” To illustrate the importance of loving animals, the Squad notes that “Moses proved himself a good shepherd of people by first being a good shepherd for his father-in-law, Jethro.”

Let’s overlook, for now, that Moses did not keep sheep as pets, and that sheep rarely fared well in the Bible when a burnt offering was called for. Instead, let’s focus on how Moses became a shepherd in the first place. First, he murdered an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew and hid the body in the sand (Exodus 2:11-12). The next day, he scolded two Hebrews for fighting, but got spooked when one of them asked him, “[a]re you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Realizing the murder was discovered and that the Pharaoh is now trying to kill him, he fled to Midian (Exodus 2:14-15).

There, he came to the rescue of the seven daughters of Jethro (the Priest of Midian), who had been chased away from a well by some shepherds while trying to get water for their father’s sheep. As a reward for watering the flock, Jethro gave Moses one of his daughters in marriage (Exodus 16-21). Later, while tending to his father-in-law’s flock, Moses was confronted by God (in the form of a burning bush) and agreed to give up shepherding to help kill and plunder the Egyptians (Exodus 3).

This story hardly supports the Squad’s premise that caring for animals leads to caring for people. The most it shows is that a fugitive murderer can get a concubine and a few more killing gigs if he tends to a flock owned by the right man.

Battleground: Battleground God

April 11, 2003 | 15 Comments

Matthew Yglesias claims he wuz robbed by Battleground God, the online theology quiz which grades you for consistency in your concept of Almighty:

Battleground God (via Brian Weatherson ) accused me of being inconsistent because I said that “Any being which it is right to call God must be free to do anything” and “Any being which it is right to call God must have the power to do anything” were true while “If God exists she could create square circles and make 1 + 1 = 72″ was false. I see what the game is trying to say, but I don’t think there’s any consistency here. The reason God couldn’t make square circles isn’t that this would be some kind of limit on the powers of an otherwise omnipotent God, it’s just that “square circle” doesn’t mean anything. God’s inability to make square circles is like God’s inability to create szlactons, not like my inability to build a refrigerator. It’s not that God lacks the capacity to do it, it’s just that the sentence “God could create a szlacton” doesn’t attribute anything meaningful to God.

Perhaps, then, I shouldn’t have said that “If God exists she could create square circles and make 1 + 1 = 72″ was false, maybe I should have said that the sentence was non-truth-evaluable, but they didn’t give that option. At any rate, I think Russell was probably right when he said “the present king of France is bald” is false, so I think I’ll stick with my original answer. “Square circle” fails to refer, and including a non-referential term in your sentence makes it false.

Yglesias later elaborates on some aspects of the question here. Bradford Delong (half-jokingly, I think) states the above-cited analysis reveals “more holes . . . in Matthew Yglesias’s college education, concluding:

Any God worthy of the name had better be able to create square circles: that is, to alter the fabric of space, time, reality, thought, and truth itself in such a way that there are shapes in which every point on its edge is equidistant from the center (hence circular) and in which its edges make up four straight lines with right angles between them (hence square).

Yglesias is correct. DeLong’s analysis commits the fallacy of using logic to disprove logic; employing the very standard one rejects to prove that the standard itself is wrong. If, in fact, as DeLong suggests, logic is an arbitrary standard and truth is changeable at whim, he has no business making any arguments at all. What basis could he possibly have for saying his analysis is correct and and Yglesias’s is not? If God could reconcile contradictions — create a shape that is a circle and at the same time NOT a circle — then He could certainly make it so that Yglesias and DeLong are simultaneously BOTH right and both wrong, and all at the same time. Plainly, if God knows how to do that, He knows how to do that right now; the solution is in His head this instant and has been for all of eternity. So unless DeLong also has a disproof of that particular solution (which of course God could again simultaneously demolish and vindicate in the same fashion), the most he can say is that his view and Yglesias’s are the same.

The one quibble I have with Yglesias’s is with his statement that “God’s inability to make square circles is like God’s inability to create szlactons.” I think this formulation risks confusing the notions of contradiction with incoherence. I understand fully what a circle is, and I understand fully what a square is; that clear understanding is in fact the only basis I have for asserting that one shape cannot also be the other, and that the term “square circle” involves a contradiction. But “szlacton” is a mere sound; I don’t have any definition for it, any understanding whatsoever of what it means. So I have no basis for saying that it involves a contradiction, in the way I do for the term “square circle.” I can’t know whether a blark qrvank is contradictory unless I know what “blark” and “qrvank” mean; if they mean “round” and “circle,” then a blark qrvank is perfectly consistent. Mathmatically put, A + B = C is incoherent while 1 + 1 = 72 is contradictory.

But I none of this really rises to the level of an objection to what Yglesias’s is saying, because I think it is also reasonable to use the word “incoherent” to describe any contradiction, in the sense that your mind can’t make the conflicting elements “cohere” in any fashion, even if you know the precise definitions of the different concept. In some sense you don’t know what a “square circle” is, but it’s a “not knowing” in a way that makes your head hurt, rather than that “duh” sort of not knowing you get when you look at the word “szlacton.” Trouble only arises when one assumes that the term “contradictory” can be used to describe any incoherence, because nothing can be said, one way or the other, about incoherent statements which are mere sounds unaccompanied by any definition or definitions at all.

In theology, the distinction is important in classifying types of godidiots. On the one hand, you have those who say “you can’t define God,” or “God is beyond logic,” and refuse to give you the slightest idea of what they are talking about. Those people are incoherent. On the other hand, you have those who assert that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. Such a God is self-contradictory, for the reasons set forth here.

Godidiot of the Week: Professor Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy

April 9, 2003 | 21 Comments

This week’s Godidiot, Professor Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy, is a stupid and evil evangelical agnostic fucktard (but not otherwise unintelligent). He wins the award for his essay last Friday, Atheism and Tolerance, which criticizes my allegedly intolerant and contemptuous attitude towards stupid and evil religious jizwads. Our differences are actually more stylistic than substantive, as my views on religion and church/state separation coincide with his, as far as I can tell, in nearly every meaningful respect. But like an earlier Godidiot recipient, Nicholas D. Kristof, Volokh believes that “mockery of religious faith is inexcusable” — not to mention ineffective.

A bit of background is necessary. As one of my friends at the Tri-Llama Chat Board points out, Volokh is careful not to link to my site or mention it by name; consequently his post cannot be read in its proper context. But the Professor’s entire critique rests on a single line wrenched out from the second of two lengthy posts (here and here): my statement that Volokh “vastly overestimates the intelligence of religious people.” His response is devoted to the rather unexceptional observation that there are some very intelligent religious people, and that just because they’re wrong about religion doesn’t mean they’re wrong about everything else.

That much I concede, but it wasn’t remotely what I was talking about. In the first post, I challenged the Professor’s dubious assertions that (1) public policy regarding state-formulated prayers should be based upon what constitutes “good religion,” (2) privately-composed prayers are more sensible or effective or important than governmental-composed prayers, and (3) if the government does formulate prayers, they should be sincere and orthodox. I pointed out that talking to imaginary beings accomplishes nothing, and that the public has convinced over 40 state legislatures to allow prayer as a substitute for medical care for children. In the second post, I urged that contrary to Volokh’s supposition, that religious people who declare homosexuality to be “unnatural” are in fact relying on scripture rather than appealing to “a more objectively defined, uncontroversial authority called “nature.” The full context in which the offending quotation appeared was this:

As I said yesterday, Volokh vastly overestimates the intelligence of religious people. The “god said it, I believe it, that ends it” mentality does not lend itself to the fine distinctions that the Professor suggests. People who believe something merely because it is in a book tend to cut philosophical corners. The “objectively defined, uncontroversial authority” they ultimately appeal to is God, not nature.

So in each case I was mocking the stupidity of a very common religious mentality which manifests itself through belief in prayer and scripture, not generalizing about the IQ and S.A.T. scores of believers. And I maintain that when people complain about atheist “intolerance,” what they’re really offended by is the attack on the stupidity of their religious faith, rather than the suggestion that their intelligence is deficient in other respects. But rather than address the very serious criticisms of their religious idiocy — and the very real harm it often causes to others

Anti-Semitism, Semitism on the Rise in New York City

April 8, 2003 | 12 Comments

New York, New York, April 8, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

New York City is experiencing an increase in both anti-Semitic and Semitic incidents this year, according to reports in yesterday’s New York Post. Statistics released by the Anti-Defamation League reveal that in just one week in January, a synagogue was torched and twenty-five automobiles were spray-painted with swastikas. The report also noted that while the number of anti-Semitic incidents declined between 2001 and 2002, the level of violence of the attacks increased.

A similar increase in Semitism was reported by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, which has responded by establishing a hotline to report overpriced kosher Passover food. Semitic price-gouging has sparked Semitic over-reaction and complaining, resulting in a spiral of inter-Semitic self-victimization and self-hatred. The Department will investigate kosher items that increase in price during the time of Passover even though their ingredients do not change. Although the market forces of supply and demand also drive up the prices of Easter-related items whose ingredients remain the same, New York City Council member Simcha Felder commended the the Department for focusing its efforts on the promotion of Semitic enragement. “Now, the average person can use this easy number, and not have to wait long enough to cool down and forget about the complaint,” she said.

Inter-Semitic food fraud, however, is expected to decline with the New York’s enactment of the Emergency Kosher Law Protection Act of 2003. The decrease will be offset with an increase in Semitism generally, due to the Act’s promotion of Semitic political influence disproportionate to the Jewish population. In particular, the Act will revive the operations of the Kosher Law Enforcement Division, once against establishing Judaism as the only religion with a tax-funded state agency devoted to insuring compliance with its doctrines.

Religion by Dummies

April 7, 2003 | Comments Off

Somehow I missed the book party last August for Religion for Dummies, by the God Squad (see below) Rabbi/Priest team of Marc Gellman and Tom Hartman. Austin Cline of About.com’s Atheism/Agnosticism category gave it three stars (out of five), primarily for its informational value. Here is an excerpt from the review in which he discusses the book’s anti-atheism, pro-religion orientation:


There also isn’t much about atheism — just a mistaken reference to atheism being the denial of the existence of God rather than simply disbelief in gods. Such a lack of coverage is perhaps good, however, because in their regular column, Gellman and Hartman have evinced a strong prejudice against atheism. In August, they wrote to a mother that she should be glad that her son “is only an agnostic and not yet an atheist,” even going so far as to argue that without God, “there would be no reason to do good.” Sadly, they have bought into the common prejudice that atheism and morality don’t mix — a problem I wrote to them and questioned them about, but I never heard back.

In the book Gellman and Hartman explain their goal as an attempt to provide an “honest” accounting of religion, but that honesty suffers from their (understandable) prejudice in favor of religion, arguing that the “true nature” of religion is only good and never really bad. According to Gellman and Hartman, those who commit violence in the name of religion pervert that faith – their definition of “cults” is particularly revealing in how they try to separate out the “bad” and pretend that it isn’t “real” religion:

Cults are not religions at all. They are not ancient, and they are just scams pretending to be a religion. Cults are brainwashing and moneymaking centers run by groups of power-seeking, money-hungry leaders who are merely working to increase their own power and wealth. Cults use the laws in the United States that protect religions as a cover for their corrupt and unspiritual activities.

Aside from the fact that the characteristic “ancient” is quite irrelevant to the definition of “religion,” what they describe could easily apply to many leaders of mainstream religious groups. Not a few people have observed that many Christian televangelists have been more concerned with their own wealth than with the spiritual development of others, but does that mean that Christianity is just a “cult”? The term “cult’ is often used simply to denigrate the religious groups someone doesn’t like, and that appears to be the case here, I’m sorry to say.

They don’t even accept honest criticism of religion, objecting when people cite problematic and violent aspects of religious beliefs. For example, in a recent column they claimed that there are only two reasons for quoting the “bad parts of our traditions” — to use religion as a weapon to hurt others or “because your own hatred and prejudice is so strong that it’s perverted your faith.” The possibility that citing the bad portions of their faith might serve as a useful reminder that religion isn’t always good and that religious people need to take responsibility for all aspects of their traditions doesn’t seem to occur to them.

I, in turn, reviewed both of the columns to which Cline alludes. The review of the “agnostic son” column is here; the one regarding “religion as a weapon” is here.

You’ll note that Cline bemoans their failure to reply to his query regarding why atheism and morality don’t mix. Not surprising — had they admitted that morality doesn’t really need religion, they’d have talked themselves right out of their day jobs.

God Squad Review XXXVIII

April 7, 2003 | 7 Comments

The Squad’s advice this week is for people who have difficulty carrying through on meaningless exercises in self-deprivation. A reader wants to know the best way to keep a “Lenten promise to God,” noting that “[e]very year [he or she] gives[s] up something for Lent, and then a few weeks into the season, [slacks] off and give[s] up.”

Their answer: Set your sights low. “The purpose of Lent is not to be perfect . . . [o]nly Jesus was perfect.” In fact, try to fail, as “God is with you especially when you fail.” And no matter how trivial your objective, God will expend an insanely disproportionate amount of effort helping you achieve it; after all, “[i]f God could become a suffering servant, dying for your sins on the cross, then God will be with you in your going down and in your rising up.”

Finally, don’t forget that ultimately, God doesn’t really give a shit. Whether you’re making a trivial, symbolic sacrifice or trying to overcome “old habits and addictions,” when it’s over, it’s over. “Lent ends with resurrection . . . [it’s] is not just a Christian version of the period when you struggle to keep your New Year’s resolutions.” So if at first you don’t succeed, don’t try, don’t try again.

The “Real” Islamo-Judeo-Christianity

April 5, 2003 | 4 Comments

Private Islamic day schools are teaching “vile anti-Semitic canards,” according to the lead editorial, “Bigotry by the Book,” in Thursday’s New York Daily News. The paper’s investigation revealed that certain Muslim textbooks teach that Jews believe in racial superiority, killed their own prophets, disobeyed God, and are enemies of the faithful. The books also spread “anti-Christian smears,” including the notion that Christians “worship statues” (Holy Bleeding Mary!). Moreover, many Jews and Christians “lead such decadent and immoral lives that lying, alcohol, nudity, pornography, racism, foul language, premarital sex, homosexuality and everything else are accepted in their society, churches and synagogues.” And the books are rife with “triumphalist declarations of Islam’s supremacy.” The editors condemn “corrupting innocent children with teachings against Judaism, Christianity or any other religion” and declare that “perpetuating wretched medieval myths is a moral crime against the children and society.” The News concludes that “[t]he state . . . shouldn’t register schools that are in the business of warping young minds . . . [a]nd it shouldn’t be a partner in bias crimes in the making.”

The investigation did not extend, apparently, into private Catholic or Hebrew schools. What might their fearless reporters might have found there? That the Jews believe that they do have a special covenant with God; that Jesus and Mohammed were false prophets; and that Egyptian babies had to be exterminated because their parents did disobey God? Now, the Catholics agree that the Jews have their own special covenant, but that all other non-Christians burn unless they believe that Jesus died for them (although within Christianity there is still a significant rift regarding whether the Jews meet hellfire as well). The Catholics and Jews also share the “vile anti-Islamic canard” regarding the non-divinity of Mohammed. And speaking of triumphalist declarations religious supremacy, the Vatican has announced that followers of other religions “are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.”

As to the slur regarding Judeo-Catholic decadence, the News has a point: many Catholics and Jews do not accept the sin of homosexuality. The Catholics also believe, with significant support among the orthodox Jews, that gays are “without any social value.”

Of course, none of the teachings in any of the schools represent the “real” Judaism or the “real” Catholicism or the “real Islam.” For example, the News spoke to a professor of Islamic law regarding the textbooks statement — allegedly a quotation from the Koran — that “[y]ou will ever find them [the Jews] deceitful, except for a few of them.” The Koran couldn’t really say that, could it? Of course not! According to the professor “[t]he Koran itself says there are among the Jews those who do good, and they have no reason to fear.” Well, a few of them, anyway.

The “real” Catholicism is also bias-free. In fact, according to the investigative report, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops has an employee who has been “purging anti-Semitism from Catholic curriculums for years.” How it got there in the first place, we’ll never know (perhaps the school custodians put it in at night). The Bible, naturally, doesn’t promote such views. Not the “real” Bible, anyway. No wretched medieval myths there.

Respecting Numbers (Part 2)

April 3, 2003 | 15 Comments

In previous posts (here and here) I suggested that there was not a sufficient empirical basis for the propsed plan by three western states to rename U.S. 666 highway. However, upon re-examining the information provided at Federal Highway Administration’s website, I realized I was wrong. The evidence that the Beast terrorizes that route is as strong as the link between cigarettes and cancer:


USA Today quoted a State trooper who recalled one drunken-driving suspect on U.S. 666 who told him, “Triple 6 is evil. Everyone dies on that highway” (August 4, 1990). The Wall Street Journal titled an article “Beast of a Highway: Does Asphalt Stretch Have Biblical Curse?” (August 3, 1995). Referring to the highway’s dangers, the article quoted a resident who “blames Satan. After all, ‘the highway has the devil’s name.'” It was also the subject of a cartoon in The New Yorker’s issue of February 23/March 2, 1998 (a Corvette-type open top sports car is passing the U.S. 666 sign; the driver and his passenger are depicted as satanic figures).

So “everyone dies.” Hearsay prattle from a drunk, a local yokel who blames the devil, and a cartoon depiction of the culprit. My apologies to the elected officials of Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, who have only the public’s safety at heart.

Socially Destructive Organization Calls Gays Socially Useless

April 3, 2003 | 5 Comments

The Vatican, April 3, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

An organization which promotes hatred, misogyny and psychosis has defined gays as creatures “without any social value” in a 1,000 page glossary released on Monday. The Catholic Church, which teaches that the universe is ruled by an immaterial, invisible but omnipresent and infinite father/son/ghost team, declared that homosexuality is a product of “profoundly disordered minds.” The Church did, however, decry hatred, cautioning that no one should hate the Church itself for its campaign of spreading hatred. Specifically, the Church cautioned against stigmatizing the homophobic as “homophobic.” Vatican spokesman Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger cautioned against defining words with their actual meanings, saying that that would defeat the very purpose of a glossary.

The glossary was issued to celebrate what the Pope has declared as the Month of Self-Parody and Incoherence. In January, the celibate, unattached, loveless Pontiff celebrated irony by denouncing loving relationships between gays. In February, the Pope banned the use of literary devices, substituting them for the seven deadly sins. March marked the beginning of Lent, the season of starvation and self-flagellation. May is slated to be the month of tomfoolery, pettifogging and hullabaloo.

In a related story, the Association of LSD and Cyanide Manufacturers condemned water as inert. Industry spokesman Gary Hodges noted that the liquid was “chemically useless,” having no power to affect or destroy the mind or body. In contrast, Hodges, said, LSD has the power to make you think you’re God, and cyanide adds an extra deadly zing to Kool-Aid.

Godidiot of the Week: The Raving Agnostic, and You

April 2, 2003 | 52 Comments

Allah is a syphilitic whoremonger who fucks goats in an outhouse.

The Virgin Mary gives blowjobs to Jesus for ten cents a pop.

Ganesh rapes the corpses of stillborn babies.

Yes, I’m back.

I didn’t offend anyone just now, did I?

If you were offended, you’re either 1) stupid, or 2) as stupid as this week’s Godidiot, The Raving Agnostic, in which case you’ve lost the right to be offended.

If you were offended, you need to be educated about a few things, stupid, so sit down, shut up, and let me explain why.

The Raving Agnostic believes that it’s plausible that The Beast stalks a public highway because it’s named “U.S. 666.” He thinks it’s equally plausible that The Beast doesn’t stalk that highway. He believes it’s plausible that the attack on the World Trade Center was authorized by a god, and that it’s equally plausible that the attack wasn’t authorized by a god. He believes it’s plausible that a god wants homosexuals to be imprisoned or executed, and that it’s equally plausible that a god doesn’t want homosexuals to be imprisoned or executed. He believes that it’s plausible that the Holocaust was a god’s punishment for Jewish intermarriage, and that it’s equally plausible that the Holocaust wasn’t a god’s punishment for Jewish intermarriage. He declares that people shouldn’t assert that they are certain, one way or the other, about these matters, but also claims that he isn’t certain whether people shouldn’t assert that they’re certain.

In other words, half of The Raving Agnostic’s opinions are stupid, the other half of his beliefs contradict the first half, and he takes no position about which half is more plausible. The Raving Agnostic is stupid — very, very stupid.

You are stupid if you believe in Allah, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, Ganesh or the Beast that stalks U.S. 666. You are stupid if you believe that their existence is as plausible as their non-existence. You are stupid if you believe in the Wizard of Oz. And you have no right to be offended by the comparison to the Wizard of Oz, because what is really offensive is the making of any distinction between those beings. They are all imaginary. You are also stupid if you are offended when I say that Allah and Mary and Jesus and Ganesh fuck goats and dead babies and give blowjobs, because imaginary beings don’t have sex lives for you to be concerned about.

What you should be concerned about is the sex lives of your fellow human beings, some of whom may be imprisoned because stupid people like you think it’s possible that the imaginary Allah and Mary and Jesus and Ganesh care about their sexual orientation. You should care that the Supreme Court may institutionalize that stupidity very soon. You should care that the Governors of three states are going to institutionalize the stupidity of people like you who think it’s possible that The Beast stalks U.S. 666 by changing the highway’s name. You should be embarrassed that the Federal Highway Administration finds it necessary to post a lengthy explanation on its website that the numbering was coincidental rather than part of some Satanic conspiracy.

If you don’t care, then I will make up a god that hates your sexual orientation and put you in prison. If you think that renaming a highway is a trivial matter, then I will put big billboards up on every highway that say “Allah is a syphilitic whoremonger who fucks goats in an outhouse” and “the Virgin Mary gives blowjobs to Jesus for ten cents a pop” and “Ganesh rapes the corpses of stillborn babies.” And I will say that I have a right to because I believe in yet another god who commands that we “have no other gods before us,” and who hates Allah and Mary and Jesus and Ganesh. You will not even have the right to be offended, because you, like The Raving Agnostic, believe that everything is possible and that nothing is real.

Respecting Numbers

April 1, 2003 | 9 Comments

The Raving Agnostic detects a disrespectful note of condescension (and not a little hypocrisy) in the Sunday New York Times’ story on a proposed highway re-naming:


THE DEVIL MADE THEM DO IT: Three states have joined forces to rename U.S. 666 because it is the number of the biblical beast. Officials in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah have filed applications asking that the highway’s name be changed to U.S. 393. The highway crosses the states near the Four Corners region. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has endorsed the name change, and a resolution from State Representative Ray Begaye, Democrat of New Mexico, says many people refuse to travel the road “because of the fear that the devil controls events along 666.”

Implicit in the flip tone of this piece is that there “can’t” be a devil, that the Bible “can’t” be true, that supernatural forces “can’t” work harm through numbers, and, ultimately, that there “can’t” be such a thing as “evil” in the world. The Times obviously dismisses the people who avoid traveling U.S. 666 as superstitious rubes undeserving of accommodation by the very government they support with their taxes. Presumably the paper dispatched a team of investigative reporters to scour the universe and eliminate the possibility of The Beast.

Remarkably, only last December The Times paid tribute to Biblical law in a multi-part series on the Ten Commandments. It declared that those laws “resonate[d] in a season when many take time to carve out sacred space in their lives.” How can it be so certain now that the Good Book’s account of Satan in the book of Revelation is entitled to less respect that the exposition of the Decalogue in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy?

I do not condemn the Times, of course, for one cannot definitively refute its interpretation of scripture, either. But the paper’s snarky certitude regarding the matter is disconcerting, although, naturally, I take no position on whether certainty is appropriate under the circumstances. But I do genuinely regret my own recent dogmatism on the issue regarding the beliefs of those who wish to remove the offending triple-digit “Mark” from telephone and social security numbers, and hope that the Times eventually adopts more inclusive view on the iissue.

Perhaps the Times would not have rushed to judgment had it realized the question may not merely be one of Christian fundamentalist hegemony. As the Associated Press reported, “American Indians in northwestern New Mexico have long supported the change because of the satanic connotations.” Accordingly, the Navaho Nation is being consulted on a new name for the highway.

Those who scoff at numerology ignore the very significant role that numbers play in our world. The slightest numerical error in design may cause bridges to collapse, tunnels to cave in, and buildings to crumble. And no reasonable or certain distinction can be made between the scientific and religious use of numbers. Highway and Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught has noted that U.S. 666’s name “discourages tourism and economic development in the area,” an effect as real as any engineering disaster. The Highway department, which has pledged to devote $7.5 million to design improvements to the route, can hardly disregard that fact in making the commitment of public funds.

The Times might look to its own city if it doubts this fact. Nearly every skyscraper in Manhattan is built without a 13th floor under the time-honored principles of triskaidekaphobia. I do not know if the World Trade Center was an exception to this policy, but if it were, its plight only underscores the force of the doctrine. And if the Towers were indeed constructed without a 13th floor, who knows how many lives were saved by the fact that the flight down the stairs was that much shorter? The difference between 109 and 110 ten stories may not seem significant, but the survivors whose energy would have been exhausted by only a few more steps might have a different perspective. Rick Deem has analyzed how other seemingly minor mathematical factors — the entry angle of the plane that hit the Pentagon

Farewell

April 1, 2003 | 26 Comments

Friends,

As you can see, The Raving Atheist is no more. I am now The Raving Agnostic.

Socrates once said that “the wisest man is the man who knows that he knows nothing.” After some long and painful soul-searching, I have come to realize my error in asserting certainty in the matter of God. As several perceptive readers have recently noted, atheistic fundamentalism is little different than fundamentalist theism. The claim to absolute truth regarding the existence of the ultimate being is nothing but an arrogant and intolerant pretense. A tiny man on a speck of dust has no more right than an ant to declare he has solved the mystery of the origin of the universe, of consciousness, and of love.

The Raving Agnostic will not presume to judge the faiths of others. The goal of this new blog will not be to convert the world to agnosticism, for I acknowledge that like theism and atheism, agnosticism is itself merely one faith among many. I will also recognize and respect the diversity of views among agnostics themselves: those who say God’s very nature is unknowable; those who say God’s existence cannot be proved or disproved upon the available evidence; those who say God probably exists; those who say God probably does not exist; those who say the probability is equal either way. However, I shall remain agnostic even as to which of those positions is correct — albeit recognizing, again, that even my uncertainty in that regard may be unjustified.

My new mission, then, will be to rave against theological (and atheological) certainty. In particular, I will focus upon those who, in formulating their moral, political or legal positions, assert that their belief, disbelief or suspension of belief regarding God is actually true. Additionally, I will address the views of those who, with equal certainty, declare that God belief is merely a matter of faith, reason, and/or both.

The Raving Agnostic’s First Rave: The Naked Truth?

April 1, 2003 | 2 Comments

Should homosexual civil unions be legalized? The Quebec Legislature isn’t sure, but Jody of Naked Writing and Jeff of The Curt Jester and some Catholic Canadian Bishops have apparently read (or disregarded) God’s mind on the issue. The Bishops have emphatically refused to object to legalization, declaring that “[c]ivil law should not be conformed on every point to the morality of one religion.” With equal conviction, they assert that “[t]o not object does not mean to approve or promote.” But Jeff (a former atheist turned Catholic) will have none of it:

I wonder how many people in Nazi Germany played those same semantic games about what was going on then. I can easily imagine them saying the same garbage about why they didn’t say anything. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” — Edmund Burke. I would classify not objecting as the same thing as doing nothing. You will know them by their indifference.

And Jody’s burst of atheistic intolerance is more scathing still:


And the rest of us will know fools who, in the same line, equate civil unions for gay men with the extermination of gay men by the Nazis. How idiotic and asinine can one moralist be, really? Leaving aside the history of the R[oman] C[atholic] C[hurch] and their treatment towards gays and lesbians over the past 1500 (you know, the burnings, the torture and the other imprisonments) in this matter, we’ll just focus in on the fact that Jester, in a vile attempt at being funny, can’t even hear the Clue Phone ringing.

There is no moral evil in allowing gay men and women the same civil protections for their committed relationships as straight men and women get for theirs. If such things offend the “morals” of the Our Morality Was Provided To Us By An Angry Sky God And Makes Absolutely No Sense But Loves Sacrifices of Small Children, Animals and First Born Sons, oh well. I think the rest of the world can survive their being offended.

This is the unfortunate sort of conflict that inevitably results from interjecting, or deliberately disregarding, one’s belief or disbelief in God. Certainly, the Bishops cannot confidently discount the possibility that God (if He exists) wants man’s law to conform to His will in all respects; murder, theft and other purported sins have been so codified universally. Likewise, to presume that God would not equate non-objection with approval disregards substantial authority assigning moral culpability for omissions

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