The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2003 June

The Best of the Brightest

June 30, 2003 | 57 Comments

Wicken.ca is the brightest of the lot in his commentary on Dawkins’ “Brights’ crusade:

What is behind all of this outrage at Richard Dawkins’ “Brights” article? I mean, I can see someone finding the whole idea a bit silly, and perhaps the implied antonyms make it a bit ill-mannered, but those evaluations would hardly warrant the scorn-fest we’re seeing.

* * *

The memo that Dawkins didn’t get is the one that said religious beliefs are off limits for criticism, or at least off limits for the kind of bluntly negative characterizations of opposing views that one is allowed to throw around liberally in the rough-and-tumble fray of any other domain. If a tacit proscription of this kind were being enforced in a different ideological camp, it might be called political correctness.

Whatever it is, I’m not playing along. Belief in religion may have been excusable thousands of years ago as mankind first tried to make sense of the world. In the 21st century, it just betrays a lack of clear thinking. And no one has explained to me why this particular brand of irrationality should get a free pass.

To which I can add little, except that Allah is a syphilitic whoremonger who fucks goats in an outhouse, the Virgin Mary gives blowjobs to Jesus for ten cents a pop, and Ganesh rapes the corpses of stillborn babies.

Note: Smug dismissals of Dawkins’ smugness are all I’ve seen thusfar in my informal survey of Blogospheric reaction to his Brights proposal. Intellectual dishonesty, apparently, has prevented anyone from even attempting a critical refutation of his observation that:

A phrase like “Catholic child” or “Muslim child” should clang furious bells of protest in the mind, just as we flinch when we hear “one man one vote”. Children are too young to know their religious opinions. Just as you can’t vote until you are 18, you should be free to choose your own cosmology and ethics without society’s impertinent presumption that you will automatically inherit your parents’. We’d be aghast to be told of a Leninist child or a neo-conservative child or a Hayekian monetarist child. So isn’t it a kind of child abuse to speak of a Catholic child or a Protestant child? Especially in Northern Ireland and Glasgow where such labels, handed down over generations, have divided neighbourhoods for centuries and can even amount to a death warrant?

Catholic child? Flinch. Protestant child? Squirm. Muslim child? Shudder.

Instead, we’re assured that everyone’s most deeply held beliefs are based upon some rigorous philosophical investigation. Conducted at age two.

God Squad Review XLVII (How Many Gods?)

June 30, 2003 | 9 Comments

Do Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Says the Squad:

Yes! The basic, undeniable fact of all three faiths is that they believe in one God.

* * *

There is some dispute among Jews and Muslims about what to make of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Some might falsely conclude that Christians worship three gods.

* * *

What we are commanded to do to worship this one God differs dramatically from faith to faith. Indeed, it is the variation in the rituals of each faith that most accounts for their differences. The calendars of sacred time with their holidays are different. The way of sanctifying the passage of life differs from faith to faith.

* * *

But the ethical teachings of the Abrahamic faiths are virtually identical. Goodness, compassion, charity and discipline of our passions are taught with love, power and consistency by all three faiths. The differences in the three faiths have to do with how God ought to be served, who God sent to Earth to teach us how to live and what ritual practices should be observed to celebrate the sacred moments and holidays of the religious life.

* * *

There are religions such as Hinduism that believe in many gods, and there are religions such as Buddhism that do not believe in a creator god at all. However, their ethical teachings are remarkably similar to those of the Abrahamic faiths. You might be surprised to know how many religions embrace some version of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

To summarize:

1) There’s either no God (Buddhism), one god (the Abrahamic faiths) or millions of gods (Hinduism). However, it is absolutely false that there are three gods.

2) Assuming there is just one God, he’s the same God, even though his commands regarding worship are “dramatically” different. Think of it this way — if someone told you to drive on the right side of the road, another person told you to drive on the left side, and another told you to drive down the middle, you’d conclude that they were all the same person.

3) While they differ as to rituals, all of the Gods share the same moral views regarding love and compassion (but differ as to abortion, divorce, gay marriage, euthanasia, capital punishment, etc.).

4) As to love, God (or Gods or no God) all believe that we should all love each other equally (but do not fall in love with or marry someone outside your faith).

Hide ‘N Don’t Seek

June 28, 2003 | Comments Off

Mother Teresa suffered from bouts of atheism, apparently triggered by the complete lack of evidence of His existence. She ultimately reconciled her skepticism with her Catholicism by forming “an objective relationship to God shorn of the sensible awareness of God’s presence” — whatever that means. Philosophically speaking, this sort of belief sans proof has been justified as follows:

In the history of Christian theology and spirituality, there have been many accounts of divine darkness, with a host of different implications. It is an ancient doctrine, emphasized by apophatic theologians and mystics, that God dwells in inaccessible light, a light so searingly absolute that it cancels out all images and ideas we may form of Him, veiling the divine glory in a dark “cloud of unknowing.”

Whatever that means.

Madhu “MadMan” Menon reacted to this theory on the MetaFilter “More Addictive than Crack” posting board:

Oh no, head… spinning… blacking… out. If this isn’t a prime example of an ad hoc hypothesis, I don’t know what is.

Ad hoc, indeed; and the theory has been getting ad hockier each century. Originally, the official explanation for God’s invisibility was that he was up on Mount Olympus. He moved to the sky after the mountain climbers came after him, and “outside of the universe” after the invention of telescopes.

The modern trend takes this nonsense even further. The so-called argument from divine hiddenness has attracted a great deal of theological attention over the past decade. Not merely an explanation of why something that supposedly is “everywhere” might be so hard to see, the argument purports to prove God’s existence from his invisibility. So theologians tired of saying that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” now say that “absence of evidence is proof of existence.” If you could see God, he wouldn’t be God, the argument conveniently goes; and we are indignantly cautioned to not even look for fear of insulting the deity.

It’s an interesting twist on the ontological argument, which holds that God exists because existence, by definition, is a necessary attribute of a “perfect” being. The argument from hiddenness, similarly, makes everything that we would normally consider non-existence an essential component of God. God, perfect in every way, must also be perfectly undetectable.

The argument, of course, is perfectly stupid. If you ask me why, I’ll simply say that that being perfect in every way, perfect stupidity must also be one of the argument’s attributes. And if you find that explanation unsatisfactory, you should find the argument from hiddenness equally so. If not, then you’re perfectly stupid.

Note: Warnings not to look for (or to ignore) evidence are a common feature of many con games. My Nigerian scammer cautioned me to disregard advances from other scammers, and to make sure to report them to him.

In one famous recent scam, a pair of con artists defrauded a consortium of banks out of over $300 million, borrowing money for a “research project” by posing as employees of tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris (they gambled away some of the loot in the stock market). To avoid detection, the scammers made their vicitms sign confidentially agreements — in which the banks acknowledged that the project was so “secret” that no one at Philip Morris except the con men knew about it, and in which they agreed to contact only them with any questions about it.

Note: The “God-Must-Exist-Because-There’s-No-Evidence-of-Him” argument could probably be classified as Orwellian; to paraphrase George himself, “Theological language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” See The Cosmic Cheshire Cat for additional examples and links.

Hide ‘N Don’t Seek

June 28, 2003 | 12 Comments

Mother Teresa suffered from bouts of atheism, apparently triggered by the complete lack of evidence of His existence. She ultimately reconciled her skepticism with her Catholicism by forming “an objective relationship to God shorn of the sensible awareness of God’s presence” — whatever that means. Philosophically speaking, this sort of belief sans proof has been justified as follows:

In the history of Christian theology and spirituality, there have been many accounts of divine darkness, with a host of different implications. It is an ancient doctrine, emphasized by apophatic theologians and mystics, that God dwells in inaccessible light, a light so searingly absolute that it cancels out all images and ideas we may form of Him, veiling the divine glory in a dark “cloud of unknowing.”

Whatever that means.

Madhu “MadMan” Menon reacted to this theory on the MetaFilter “More Addictive than Crack” posting board:

Oh no, head… spinning… blacking… out. If this isn’t a prime example of an ad hoc hypothesis, I don’t know what is.

Ad hoc, indeed; and the theory has been getting ad hockier each century. Originally, the official explanation for God’s invisibility was that he was up on Mount Olympus. He moved to the sky after the mountain climbers came after him, and “outside of the universe” after the invention of telescopes.

The modern trend takes this nonsense even further. The so-called argument from divine hiddenness has attracted a great deal of theological attention over the past decade. Not merely an explanation of why something that supposedly is “everywhere” might be so hard to see, the argument purports to prove God’s existence from his invisibility. So theologians tired of saying that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” now say that “absence of evidence is proof of existence.” If you could see God, he wouldn’t be God, the argument conveniently goes; and we are indignantly cautioned to not even look for fear of insulting the deity.

It’s an interesting twist on the ontological argument, which holds that God exists because existence, by definition, is a necessary attribute of a “perfect” being. The argument from hiddenness, similarly, makes everything that we would normally consider non-existence an essential component of God. God, perfect in every way, must also be perfectly undetectable.

The argument, of course, is perfectly stupid. If you ask me why, I’ll simply say that that being perfect in every way, perfect stupidity must also be one of the argument’s attributes. And if you find that explanation unsatisfactory, you should find the argument from hiddenness equally so. If not, then you’re perfectly stupid.

Note: Warnings not to look for (or to ignore) evidence are a common feature of many con games. My Nigerian scammer cautioned me to disregard advances from other scammers, and to make sure to report them to him.

In one famous recent scam, a pair of con artists defrauded a consortium of banks out of over $300 million, borrowing money for a “research project” by posing as employees of tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris (they gambled away some of the loot in the stock market). To avoid detection, the scammers made their vicitms sign confidentially agreements — in which the banks acknowledged that the project was so “secret” that no one at Philip Morris except the con men knew about it, and in which they agreed to contact only them with any questions about it.

Note: The “God-Must-Exist-Because-There’s-No-Evidence-of-Him” argument could probably be classified as Orwellian; to paraphrase George himself, “Theological language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” See The Cosmic Cheshire Cat for additional examples and links.

Nothing at All

June 27, 2003 | 27 Comments

I’m a lawyer-theologian with little respect for either the Constitution or the Bible. Both are merely books expressing the desires, good and bad, of long-dead men. Whether a law is “constitutional” or “unconstitutional” matters to me no more than whether it is “biblical” or “unbiblical.” Both books, until 150 years ago, sanctioned slavery; until last century, oppression of blacks and women; and until yesterday, the imprisonment of gays. What I consider first, and only, is whether a law is moral in the sense that it helps real, living people without causing others unjustified harm, not whether it’s in some book.

The Bible, however, is older than the Constitution and much more specific in its endorsement of ancient, nasty prejudices. Unlike the Constitution it is the source of much hatred, and the notion that it was written by a god rather than men has made it that much more dangerous. Unfortunately, the First Amendment, by making special mention of religious freedom, has been used to privilege and promote the superstition underlying Biblical bigotry. The Constitutional license given to mindless, God-command theology emboldened a judge

Nyah Nyah Nyah Nyah Nyah

June 26, 2003 | 14 Comments

The Supreme Court today struck down Texas’ laws criminalizing homosexual conduct.

Justice Scalia, although dissenting, was a good sport:

Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means.

Justice Thomas, also voting to uphold the law, was nice too:

I write to note that the law before the Court today is uncommonly silly . . . [i]f I were a member of the Texas Legislature, I would vote to repeal it. Punishing someone for expressing his sexual preference through noncommercial consensual conduct with another adult does not appear to be a worthy way to expend valuable law enforcement resources.

In other words, neither Scalia nor Thomas really dislike gays; it’s just that they should be imprisoned for absolutely no reason.

The majority opinion noted that “[t]he condemnation [of homosexuality] has been shaped by religious beliefs.” You’ll be hearing a lot about the ruling from the religious in the coming days, but I’m sure those sort of considerations never entered into the minds of Justices Scalia or Thomas.

So I’ll be a good sport, too:

Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, motherfuckers.


Note: For links to the actual Supreme Court opinion and related information, go here.

Note: The Catholic League is celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision today. Not the gay rights one, the one which declared it unconstitutional to retroactively lengthen the statute of limitations for child molestation. Closing line: “[T]he Catholic Church is not an open cash register that stays in business for an indefinite period of time. It, too, has closing hours.”

Corporate Flip-Flop

June 26, 2003 | 16 Comments

Hindus love their elephant-headed God, Lord Ganesh. According to the American Hindus Against Defamation, he is the “most auspicious form of God” and is the deity they invoke, and seek blessings from, before starting any activity.

On the other hand, Hindus (according to AHAD) feel differently about shoes. They consider them “dirty” and take them off before entering their homes or temples. So you can imagine the Hindu reaction (according to AHAD) to this:

ganeshflops.jpg

Like any self-respecting, self-absorbed religious pressure group, AHAD reacted hysterically, denouncing the product as a “particularly offensive and disgraceful” one which “signifies trampling upon the deity.” They organized a web-based protest against the manufacturer of the flip-flops, American Eagle Outfitters, confronting the company with arguments like this:

We are certain that the reaction of the Christian, Jewish, or Moslem community would have been equally outrageous if their revered symbols were placed on the flip flops. It is most likely due to the fear of the reaction of the Christian, Jewish and Moslem community that the American Eagle Outfitters has chosen to bring out the flip flop with a Hindu religious symbol — Lord Ganesha — while avoiding Christian, Moslem, or Jewish symbols.

Yes, the omnipotent Jesus, Yahweh and Allah are sensitive sorts, so I can see how finding themselves pictured on sandals would upset them in a way that wars, genocide and plagues apparently do not. And although the Virgin Mary makes regular appearances in foggy windows, Mother Teresa was personally distressed to find her face in a cinnamon bun. So American Eagle Outfitters — determined to insult some religious group but fearful of “outrageous” reactions by adherents of the Abramhamic faiths — picked on a helpless little elephant.

How did AEO respond to AHAD’s paranoiac demand for a nationwide recall of the flip-flops and an “unequivocal apology” for this presumably deliberate insult? Complete capitulation, of course:

Pursuant to your request, this letter follows up on the email to you yesterday from our customer service department which confirmed that American Eagle Outfitters will remove from its stores the flip flop shoe that include a likeness of Lord Ganesh (Ganesha).

Our goal at American Eagle Outfitters is to make AE brand merchandise that is fashionable and affordable for our customers in an inclusive and equitable environment. We value diversity and respect the ideal of freedom of expression of all religious and cultural beliefs.

On behalf of American Eagle Outfitters, please accept this letter as our formal apology for our of use of the image resembling Lord Ganesh on this product. Again, this letter confirms that we will remove these flip flop shoes from our stores in order to maintain the good will and our customer relations with the Hindu community.

We appreciate your interest in the AE brand and hope that you will continue to be satisfied customers of American Eagle Outfitters.

Very truly yours,

Neil Bulman, Jr.
Vice President and General Counsel

I can’t be too critical of this Corporate Public Relations 101 response; AEO, after all, is in the business of selling footwear rather than arguing theology. But what’s this nonsense about valuing “diversity and respect for the ideal of freedom of expression of all religious and cultural beliefs”? How does AEO know there isn’t some Hindu sect that celebrates Ganesh by treading on him? And doesn’t freedom of expression include MY right to wear Ganesh-themed sandals, just for the purpose of spiting idiots who believe in elephant-headed Gods?

[link courtesy of Mr. Thorne]

Note: AHAD also successfully bullied SittinPretty into recalling its collection of beautiful toilet seats depicting Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali. In their apology to “the Hindus of the World,” SittinPretty’s owners stated that “[t]he toilet seats were not at all an attempt to insult our beloved Goddess Kali or Lord Ganesha, both of Whom we both feel personally close to.”

Missing the Point

June 25, 2003 | 18 Comments

Some religions encourage vigilantism, as illustrated by this story from Ohio.com:

Man uses strict faith as defense

A woman given a ticket for breast-feeding her daughter while driving on the Ohio Turnpike last month could have gone on her merry way with a slap on the wrist and a $100 fine.

The woman’s husband, however, is trying to make a federal case out of it — literally — by claiming she is not the real defendant.

He said he is.

He made that claim, citing Mosaic law from the Old Testament and writings from the days of the Founding Fathers because of the couple’s “deeply held spiritual beliefs” that the husband is “the sole head of the family” and the only one who can punish the wife for a public act.

He said he would go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to prove his position.

“The situation here,” Barnhill said during an interview last week, “is that, according to our faith, I’m the head of the household. I’m responsible for what she does, and no one can punish her except me.”

The case will not get anywhere near the Supreme Court, of course, the underlying constitutional principles having been settled long ago. In the same way that private, sectarian interests may not employ governmental buildings to endorse their faith through the display of religious symbols, no man may take the law into his own hands to promote his personal religious beliefs. Mr. Barnhill, like so many of his co-religionists, misses the point — that women, so plainly the property of the State, are properly subject to punishment by the public authorities alone.

(link courtesy of Madhu “MadMan” Menon, Defender of Justice, Destroyer of Evil, and Keeper of the Knowledge)

Poll

Who should punish women?

A) Men
B) The State

Atheist Agenda to be Furthered by “Inspired” Blog Recruit

June 24, 2003 | 3 Comments

New York, New York, June 24, 2003
The Raving Atheist

Crediting “the inspirational Raving Atheist” for its existence, a new godless blog has declared its unconditional fealty to the cause of non-belief. The Cosmic Cheshire Cat, a site created by a Florida university junior named Tara, has vowed to dedicate itself primarly to “irreligious rants.” Noting that she had never heard of a blog before discovering The Raving Atheist, Tara stated that she was in “dumbfounded awe” of the site’s “sheer, caustic meanness” toward religion — a phenomenon which she already found “abhorrent” and “[could not] seem to rant about enough.”

Speaking through his parole officer, The Raving Atheist expressed satisfaction that his words had served as Tara’s first exposure to the Blogosphere. “This bodes well for The Agenda,” he said. “Tara’s soul is a roiling cauldron of untamed ideological hatred, well-suited to furthering the mysterious goals of the naturalistic Brights Movement.” TRA stated that he was particularly pleased at how rapidly Tara had become inured to his pro-life, pro-death views. “Apparently, a combination of of blind anti-religious rage and youthful impressionability have placed this otherwise liberal feminist college student into a fugue-like state in which she has convinced herself that I could not possibly mean exactly what I say.”

The Raving Atheist predicted that Tara would be ready for her first and final mission after approximately a month of blogging. “Within a week she will have completely alienated herself from her family, a circumstance accelerated by an argument triggered by a relative’s post-sneeze ‘God bless you,'” he predicted. TRA observed that she had already disengaged herself from traditional societal morality, having posted on Christian nudists camps in her first days of blogging. “By the time she’s reduced herself to posting Jesus-porn links she’ll feel so isolated and despondent that plowing an ammonia-nitrate laden Ryder truck into Planned Parenthood’s headquarters will come as a welcome relief.”

Update: Misinterpreting my words, Tara has retaliated — in a most unfortunate and personal manner.

As Rev. Mykeru might say, at this blog nothing is more important than people’s feelings. Sad, then, that she saw fit to return my kindness by re-opening an old and painful wound, a long-forgotten memory unsubstantiated by a single sworn witness. And, in the process, to cast doubt upon the sincerity of one of my most deeply-held moral beliefs.

I hope one day that by my gentle example, Tara will recognize that the pursuit of truth cannot come at the expense of basic humanity.

Atheist Agenda to be Furthered by “Inspired” Blog Recruit

June 24, 2003 | 18 Comments

New York, New York, June 24, 2003
The Raving Atheist

Crediting “the inspirational Raving Atheist” for its existence, a new godless blog has declared its unconditional fealty to the cause of non-belief. The Cosmic Cheshire Cat, a site created by a Florida university junior named Tara, has vowed to dedicate itself primarly to “irreligious rants.” Noting that she had never heard of a blog before discovering The Raving Atheist, Tara stated that she was in “dumbfounded awe” of the site’s “sheer, caustic meanness” toward religion — a phenomenon which she already found “abhorrent” and “[could not] seem to rant about enough.”

Speaking through his parole officer, The Raving Atheist expressed satisfaction that his words had served as Tara’s first exposure to the Blogosphere. “This bodes well for The Agenda,” he said. “Tara’s soul is a roiling cauldron of untamed ideological hatred, well-suited to furthering the mysterious goals of the naturalistic Brights Movement.” TRA stated that he was particularly pleased at how rapidly Tara had become inured to his pro-life, pro-death views. “Apparently, a combination of of blind anti-religious rage and youthful impressionability have placed this otherwise liberal feminist college student into a fugue-like state in which she has convinced herself that I could not possibly mean exactly what I say.”

The Raving Atheist predicted that Tara would be ready for her first and final mission after approximately a month of blogging. “Within a week she will have completely alienated herself from her family, a circumstance accelerated by an argument triggered by a relative’s post-sneeze ‘God bless you,'” he predicted. TRA observed that she had already disengaged herself from traditional societal morality, having posted on Christian nudists camps in her first days of blogging. “By the time she’s reduced herself to posting Jesus-porn links she’ll feel so isolated and despondent that plowing an ammonia-nitrate laden Ryder truck into Planned Parenthood’s headquarters will come as a welcome relief.”

Update: Misinterpreting my words, Tara has retaliated — in a most unfortunate and personal manner.

As Rev. Mykeru might say, at this blog nothing is more important than people’s feelings. Sad, then, that she saw fit to return my kindness by re-opening an old and painful wound, a long-forgotten memory unsubstantiated by a single sworn witness. And, in the process, to cast doubt upon the sincerity of one of my most deeply-held moral beliefs.

I hope one day that by my gentle example, Tara will recognize that the pursuit of truth cannot come at the expense of basic humanity.

I LOVE You, Denmark!

June 23, 2003 | 16 Comments

Denmark is the best country in the world. It has the best educational system, the best beer, and it’s Europe’s capital of pornography, prostitution, and live sex shows.

Now will someone please tell me what they’re saying about me here? My Pick the Atheist post about their Atheist-Minister Thorkild Grosboel apparently caught someone’s eye, but the commentary is in Danish. I ran the webpage through a quick and dirty translation program, to no avail

God Squad Review XLVI (Gambling and Capitalism)

June 23, 2003 | 1 Comment

Life’s not a crapshoot, says the Squad this week. Questioned whether God would help one win money at gambling if asked, the Squad responds:

Of all the many mysteries about God, one of the very few things we know with certainty is that God is not sitting at your elbow at the craps table shouting, “Come on 7! Baby needs a new pair of shoes!”

The idea that God, that most exalted and sublime mystery, is a cosmic ATM that you use to get paid off is insulting to faith and spiritually debilitating. If God helps you win at craps, then God is also the one who gave you that traffic ticket or caused that auto accident.

Our faith must be in a God who is with us and loves us always and everywhere – but not in a God who is constantly negotiating favors or offering us bribes for our faith.

We do think God spends a lot of time in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, not as a divine croupier but rather as that still, small voice telling you, “You can’t win at gambling, and you can’t get something for nothing.”

Father Hartman apparently let Rabbi Gellman write this column alone. As Maggie Gallagher recently informed us, for Catholics gambling is not a sin. Indeed, Father Hartman’s employer — The Diocese of Rockville Center — hosts bingo games in the cafeteria of Our Lady of Mercy Parish, from which it also ships seniors down to Atlantic City (see here).

Whatever the case, I’m surprised that the Squad is taking the position that God doesn’t answer prayers for help. In the past, they’ve encouraged readers to pray for many things, including to heal a sick dog and to bring peace to the Middle East. Both of those things involve getting something for nothing, i.e., free veterinary care or free military assistance. And if God is doing what the Squad says he’s doing at the casino, he’s providing free psychological counseling.

The reason the Squad gives for not asking for help — that it would force us to blame god for traffic tickets and accidents

I’m a Prude

June 22, 2003 | 17 Comments

The Raving Atheist is distressed — nay, appalled — at the growing number of gratuitious sexual references in the comments section. Please satisfy any urges not related to the theme of this blog at Jesus Loves Porn.net.

I’m a Prude

June 22, 2003 | 2 Comments

The Raving Atheist is distressed — nay, appalled — at the growing number of gratuitious sexual references in the comments section. Please satisfy any urges not related to the theme of this blog at Jesus Loves Porn.net.

Seriously

June 20, 2003 | 100 Comments

Last Friday I retracted my earlier criticism of Theist Gal’s decision to recovert from Catholicism to atheism. In response, she posted a warning for her friends at the Catholic Phatmass posting board:

Be aware, anyone who visits [The Raving Atheist] today: that supposedly heartfelt apology is apparently just an example of his sarcasm. Pay it no mind.

At her website Theist Gal also replied to my eariler post naming her a “Godidiot”:

Okay, so I was named the Godidiot of the Week. It’s annoying, to be sure. But (a) consider the source and (b) who cares?

I’m not gonna dignify it with a carefully thought-out response. What would be the point?

Okay, the guy thinks I’m an idiot. I should be worried about the opinion of a guy who calls himself “The Raving Atheist”? Yeah, right, I’m losin’ sleep over that one!

In other words, The Raving Atheist is not be be taken seriously. But over the next few days something about my words seemed to trouble her:

You know, I tried to laugh about this and make jokes about it. But frankly, after thinking about it all weekend and seeing the deteriorating level of “jokes” being added to the comments, I’m tired of it.

I don’t call people who disagree with me “idiots”, and I don’t like being called an “idiot” by someone I have never met or had any kind of discussion with on this topic. I wish you nothing but happiness, joy and peace in your life. Bye.

In her defense, there is something jarring about suddenly discovering that one has been publicly called an idiot, and finding that one’s words have been placed under a microscope. It still gets a rise out of me, although my skin grows thicker with each beating. But Theist Gal’s skin was thicker once, in those days when she herself mocked “illiterate Christians” and alluded to God like this:

Who am I to try and take away a frightened kid’s teddy bear when he’s just awakened from a terrible nightmare? If his imaginary friend helps him get back to sleep, more power to him.

So I don’t think that being called a “Godidiot” was really what bothered her about my posts. She’s used to the sort of rhetoric that typifies theist/atheist debates. She knows that Catholics have been called much worse than “idiots”, at my site and elsewhere. And judging from her other comments on the matter, she doesn’t seem to believe that Catholics are required to behave any more politely than atheists in such encounters.

I think what really bothered Theist Gal is that I took her seriously.

Before I wrote my original post about her, I read every word on her website. In an attempt to understand her more fully, to probe her thoughts, I searched the internet for additional evidence of her theological position. I quoted her at length, and provided links to those quotes. I took her at her word, thought about what she wrote, and stated my own conclusion. I found it, yes, idiotic that one could base one’s conversion to Catholicism on nothing more a few kind words and a joke, on the fact that someone “treated [her] as a friend rather than an enemy,” but I supported my conclusion with evidence and reasons.

In other words, I showed respect. I took her seriously. I was provocative, true, and perhaps offensive, but still serious.

Her site does not return the respect. She doesn’t have much respect for an atheist’s intelligence, doesn’t believe that atheists ground their beliefs in evidence and reason. She still believes that jokes are the best way to convert them:

You will have to mount a “sneak attack” to get past their armor — not by a full frontal assault, but by little “sorties”. Humor is the BEST way. Not mean-spirited humor that makes fun of Atheists – that’s just playing into their hands. Just gentle humor, intelligent humor – not even necessarily religious humor. Just get them to laugh with you – just once – and you are halfway home.

And she believes, as she once did of Christians, that atheists are just big babies clinging to teddy bears:

Atheists like to put up a bold front (“I can get along without ‘god’ just fine!”), but deep down inside, so deep that sometimes even they don’t know it, there’s a frightened little child, lost in the dark, looking for a ray of light.

So, naturally, I don’t deserve the dignity of “a carefully thought-out response.”

* * *

Theist Gal was correct that my post last week was sarcasm. Again, she doesn’t bother to explain why she thought so. I suspect it had more to do with being tipped off by some of the comments than an actual analysis of my words, as she said only that it was “apparently” an example of sarcasm. But she would have been hard pressed to explain why it was sarcasm had she attempted to do so, because my words could only be sarcastic if what I said was so obviously false that I couldn’t have possibly meant it. And if it was false, then by extension many of her beliefs are false, because it was those beliefs that the post mirrored.

Theist Gal has advised me that she doesn’t “really care much for deep sarcasm masquerading as extreme politeness.” Taking her again at her word, I will explain, quite bluntly and quite seriously, exactly what I meant.

No, I wasn’t serious when I expressed contrition about prejudging and misinterpreting that “stranger” June. Having taken the time to carefully consider June’s numerous comments at this site, I am well aware of her views. So I felt perfectly comfortable mocking her mother’s death — as comfortable as I do now in saying that I hope that June herself has been reduced to roadkill by an eighteen-wheeler and that buzzards are feasting on her remains at this very moment by sucking out brain-meat through her eye sockets.

No, I wasn’t serious when I said of Theist Gal that “I did not respect her enough to bother to try to understand her, to investigate her beliefs, to find out who she truly was.” As explained above, I did.

No, I wasn’t serious when I said that “I never even considered that interesting possibility, so obvious to me now, that atheists can be just as “evangelical” and “intolerant” as those they presume to criticize.” I’ve written at least seven posts addressing that very topic (here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

No, I wasn’t serious when I questioned whether “my disbelief [was] any less a matter of faith” than Theist’s Gal’s Catholicism and stated that “[i]t is easy to deny the beliefs of another when you yourself have never properly reflected upon the matter or set forth your own premises and Basic Assumptions.” I have a section called Basic Assumptions in which I set forth my premises, and I reflect on why I believe what I believe in very post I make. It is precisely because I have so carefully defined my position that it is easy to identify and attack. And for the same reason I am frequently labelled as an “evangelical” — by people who’ve never bothered to say what they mean by the word “God” or who say it “doesn’t matter.”

No, I wasn’t serious when I said “[i]nstead of formulating our own moral positions, stating our own convictions clearly and forcefully, we [atheists] attack the beliefs of others.” I don’t attack a theological belief unless it has some moral consequence of which I disapprove, and I have openly stated my position on numerous issues including abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia and gay rights. And even where I agree with a moral belief which is held by other for religious reasons, I explain why it is either unnecessary or potentially harmful to ground the belief in religion.

And I don’t think Theist Gal is serious when she says things like this:

Nah, let’s just leave him [The Raving Atheist] alone. He seems happy, and Theist Gal just wants everybody to be happy. That’s why she has made a point, since her reconversion, of NOT visiting Atheist websites and chat sites, spewing anti-Atheist venom and telling everyone they have to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. A, that’s rude; 2, it doesn’t work; and III, it just reinforces most Atheists’ stereotype of Christians as people who want everyone to agree with them.

Theist Gal doesn’t just want everybody to be happy. She recently condemned, at least impliedly, the “typical Hollywood theology” that says “all religions are basically the same and God doesn’t care what you believe as long as you’re a nice person.” She believes that there is such a thing as truth, and that there are consequences to what one believes. She believes that the Jews are wrong and that the Wiccans are idiots. She won’t give her reasons — and that’s the difference between the two of us, and why I am right and she is wrong — but she does take her religion seriously.

So she’ll be back at this atheist website, despite her protestations, like a alcoholic to a bar. She’ll return again, as she did after the last time she said “bye,” if only to say she’s not returning, if only to say that I’m too serious, if only to pretend that she’s not serious. And even though this time I haven’t called her an idiot, if she reads this post tonight she’ll spend another restless weekend contemplating my words, perhaps wondering if she should again throw her teddy bear away.

Because she takes me seriously.

Mother of God Graces Hospital Window as Caucasian Chemical Stain

June 19, 2003 | 36 Comments

Milton, Massachusetts, June 19, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

Taking quick-witted advantage of a broken window seal and a bottle of Liquid Drano, the Virgin Mary has taken up residence in a pane of glass on the third floor of a Massachusetts hospital.

“I was shopping for little angels in the maternity ward when I saw that dirty window,” said Mary. “Apparently a careless plumber was working on a nearby bathroom, so I naturally leapt at the opportunity to transform myself into a caustic drain opener and fashion my image in the glass.”

More than 25,000 people visited the Milton Hospital near Boston over the weekend as word of the miracle began to spread. “They all know it’s me by the way I look,” said Mary. “And I’m sure they would have said it was me even had I taken on the exact likeness of Oprah Winfrey or [Korean-American comedienne] Margaret Cho instead of appearing as a European Caucasian for the twenty-millionth consecutive time.” The Virgin added that she has always been impressed with the perceptiveness of Boston’s predominantly Irish-Catholic working class population.

The Boston Globe reported that the crowds had made parking for staff and visitors extremely tight. The newspaper said the extra visitors had also made it hard for hospital cleaners to keep the grounds free of rubbish. But the hospital maintains that it does not consider the flood of visitors a “nuisance”.

Hospital spokeswoman Susan Schepici said hospital officials had asked the Roman Catholic Archdiocese Boston for guidance on how to deal with the apparition and the ensuing crowds. But the hospital’s chairman, Richard Ward, was quoted by the Boston Globe newspaper denying that the Church had been asked to deflate interest in the window. “Obviously there has been a significant outpouring of sincere religious belief and I want to be sure the hospital doesn’t do anything sacrilegious or in any way disrespectful to the Virgin Mary,” he told the newspaper.

“I know that a hospital is a place for healing and I would never do anything to distract from that mission,” said the Mother of God. “So I presented myself to Ms. Schepici, five hundred feet tall and burning with the light of a billion suns, and asked if there was any fucking problem. I was so pleased when she said no.”

Schepici confirmed the conversation. “I assured her that she was not being a ‘pane in the glass,’ so to speak,” Schepici joked nervously before mysteriously vaporizing.

Dozens of bouquets have been placed beneath the window, and a large plastic container for money has also been set there. One hospital worker saw a mother bring her son, who uses a wheelchair, to touch the wall with his legs. “I was touched,” said Mary. “I might even lessen the severity of that massive stroke he’ll be suffering tonight.”

A hospital gynecologist certified the miracle yesterday, confirming that the apparition’s ammonia-lye hymen was fully intact.

(link courtesy of Madhu “MadMan” Menon, Defender of Justice, Destroyer of Evil, and Keeper of the Knowledge)

Goodbye, Mary!

June 18, 2003 | 72 Comments

What god they resembled (see below) isn’t clear, but in the fall of 2000 conjoined twins “Jodie” and “Mary” faced a dilemma. They’d both die in three to six months if left together. If surgically separated, however, Jodie would survive — because unlike Mary, she had a functioning heart, lungs and liver.

Their Roman Catholic parents, backed by their Church and its lawyers, declared that it was “God’s will” that both children die. It was a tough case, God or not, and I have absolutely no opinion on the matter. What would you have done?

In God’s Image

June 18, 2003 | 18 Comments

Tell your lover that she looks like a goddess. Just don’t tell her that you mean the snake-haired hag Medusa (if a gorgon can be considered a goddess), who was so hideous that a glimpse of her face turned men into stone.

They took this advice to heart in Kathmandu:

Girl with four eyes, two mouths and two noses born in Nepal

June 10, (UNI) Hundreds of people thronged the house of Sitaram Chaudhary in Saptari district in eastern Nepal to have a glance at the new born girl child with four eyes, two mouths and two noses.

Shamvawati, 24, wife of Chaudhary gave birth to the girl child yesterday, reported an English daily Kantipur.

As news of the birth of such a child spread, people from far and wide rushed to Mr Chaudhary’s house to worship her as an incarnation of Goddess Bhagawati.

”The baby girl is in good health and can see with all her four eyes and sucks milk with both mouths,” said her mother.

Whether the original Bhagawati would be flattered by the comparison I cannot say. I suspect some of the worshippers feel differently than they let on. But even my cruel atheist heart cannot not bring itself to condemn these expressions of sweet, cheerful, positive celebratory optimism in the face of such seemingly tragic circumstances. Would the Elephant Man, John Merrick, have suffered so many indignities throughout his life had he at birth been hailed as the incarnation of Ganesh?

The attitude is certainly a noble one, more to be embraced than mocked. Everything is beautiful, in its own way, and beauty is only skin-deep. Our society places too much emphasis on appearances, and “lookism” is indistinguishable, philosophically, from racism and sexism.

But God-comparisons also often frequently foster racism and sexism. The Mormon Church once taught that “when God made man in his own image and pronounced him very good . . .he made him white” and continued being incredibly racist until June 1978, when it received a revelation to act otherwise. The alleged maleness of God, of course, is still frequently used as a rationale for discrimination against the unpenised.

And the same religious attitudes which compel acceptance of differences frequently lead to a complacency which forbids change. I doubt anything much can be done for Little Bhagawati, but cleft palates and other deformities are easily correctable with modern medical techniques. They shouldn’t be opposed, as they sometimes are, as “against God’s will.”

Perhaps the Elephant Man, too, was beyond help, but calling him Ganesh instead of seeking a treatment or cure for the neurofibromatosis from which he suffered would be irresponsible. The first two lines of one of his favorite poems — “Tis true my form is something odd/But blaming me is blaming God” — may have given him the serenity to accept the things he could not change. But since there is no God, we must also grant ourselves the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

(link courtesy of Madhu “MadMan” Menon, Defender of Justice, Destroyer of Evil, and Keeper of the Knowledge)

Tough New Bill Outlaws “Playing God”

June 17, 2003 | 22 Comments

New York, New York, June 17, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

Governor Pataki and legislative leaders have announced an agreement on a bill to outlaw video voyeurism — saying that the measure is necessary to stop landlords from “playing God.”

“Only the omnipresent God is entitled to secretly leer at naked women in their apartment shower stalls, videotaping in his infinite mind every square inch of their silky, shimmering, soap-softened skin,” said Pataki. “But landords convicted of doing so will be required to register on a list of New York’s sex offenders.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also applauded the proposed law. “God alone is privileged to hide invisibly inside the shower head, fantasizing that the co-ed below is man-wiched between two bodybuilding corrections officers and submitting to their every twisted whim.” Assemblywoman Susan Rovello added that if God wished to imagine the college girl simultaneously experiencing the hardness of a man and the softness of another woman, he could, and is likely doing so right now as He thinks of all things at all times.

Opponents of the bill denounced it as unnecessary and short-sighted. “A landlord who views a woman from a fixed, single-angle shot is hardly playing God,” said assemblyman Scott Hargrove. “The landlord could install cameras behind every single shower tile without seeing a fraction of what God does.” Hargrove added that the gaze of God’s compound, spy-cam eyes blankets a women’s body from every direction and distance, and that He experiences them with His other four senses as well. “And when He cunnilingizes them he does so from inside and out so that his tongue meets in the middle and licks itself. Compared to God, a landlord is not even playing doctor.”

Update: An observation by Bertrand Russell that I once quoted in another context seems far more relevant here:

I am sometimes shocked by the blasphemies of those who think themselves pious-for instance, the nuns who never take a bath without wearing a bathrobe all the time. When asked why, since no man can see them, they reply: “Oh, but you forget the good God.” Apparently they conceive of the Deity as a Peeping Tom, whose omnipotence enables Him to see through bathroom walls, but who is foiled by bathrobes. This view strikes me as curious.

The Eleventh Helmet

June 16, 2003 | 54 Comments

A nation rejoiced last year as nine brave and pious men emerged to safety from a flooded mine in Quecreek, Pennsylvania. A miracle. They prayed to God, and He saved them.

They were grateful men, and they gave thanks to the Lord in at a special service shortly after their rescue. On the altar were ten helmets. One helmet representing each of the miners.

And a tenth helmet. For God.

In such a way they shared their simple faith and gratitude with the nation. Their story was aired on television last November in a broadcast hailed as a study of faith, and the movie will be available next week on DVD. The miners were modestly compensated for the time and effort they spent in sharing their terrible ordeal, but the price was small compared with the gift of their inspiration.

There is an ugly temptation, one I confess to having once shared, to mock the spirituality of such men. But I was not down in the mine with them in their time of need. I did not share their fear, their hope, their need for a higher power.

It is an ugliness to be condemned when it rears its face. One man, Bob Long, showed such ugliness. Although he was not down in the bowels of the earth with the miners, although he did not join hands with them in praying to God, he saw fit to exploit their pain. For his outsider’s account of his role in the drama (his use of a high-tech global positioning unit to locate where to drill the shaft was credited with the rescue), he succeeded in extorting the same sum that each of the miner’s had received.

The miners’ families rightfully questioned why he reaped their rewards of their suffering, their prayers. But he was remorseless. He did not apologize. Instead, he sought to rob them of their faith — to steal the credit from God. He taunted them with these words: “You know what, you bastards, I saved your goddamn life and you still don’t acknowledge it.”

Disney, which produced the television drama, graciously declined to expose Mr. Long for his greed, his parasitism. They refused to sully a story of pure faith with such ugliness. They refused to humiliate him for his flaws, for his foolishness — a courtesy frequently not afforded to the religious. And the families of the miners, like good religious people, ultimately forgave him.

Bob Long took off his helmet last Monday.

boblong.jpg

To blow his brains out.

Historical Note: As he notes in the comments, Cosair explored some of the theological aspects of the miners’ rescue at the time of the “miracle.”

I also made a much briefer mention of the incident at the time. I followed up the next day with an allusion to it in the context of a post about other miracles, noting that “God promised that the Pennsylvania miners would also see the power of their miracle reshape their lives, either through alcoholism or protracted litigation amongst themselves and TV producers over the rights to their inspiring story.” As it turned out, they managed to stick together against a common enemy. Those that pray together, prey together.

See also my critiques the next month regarding the commentary of Norah Vincent and the God Squad on the story.

Entertainment Tonight

June 15, 2003 | 10 Comments

Take careful note of which category Arabia.com places this story under.

God Auditioning for Third “Class Act”

June 14, 2003 | 3 Comments

Heaven, June 14, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

God will be holding auditions for a third class act to join Gregory Peck and David Brinkley in Heaven, He announced yesterday.

“Yes, it’s true that we kill in threes — one for me, one for the Son, and one for Holy Ghost,” God said. “But this time only class acts need apply.”

God killed Peck and Brinkley this week because he needed an actor for Heaven’s movie studio, and an anchor for its news division. “I am thinking of filling out the trio with perhaps an actor who has played an anchor, like Albert Brooks from “Broadcast News,” he said “But I don’t really know if he’s considered a ‘class act.’ Plus, he’s a kike and “Defending Your Life” was blasphemous.”

God said that he would continue killing millions of ordinary people in threes each day, but that from now on only class acts would obtain meaningful employment in the afterlife. “When I need a drummer for Heaven’s band, I’m going for the best,” said God. “I forget, did we already croak Buddy Rich?”

God added that he will continue to snatch kids when he needs “another little angel,” but stated that none of them will get band slots. “Do you what kind of talent you get when you throw a schoolbus into the river? And have you ever actually heard Elizabeth Smart play a harp? There was a reason I sent her back.”

According to Jesus, there’s a chance that Brinkley will be returned to earth as well. “He’s not working out quite the way we thought,” he said. “He dismisses what’s actually happening on the convention floor with this “been there, done that” attitude and prattles on instead about how Adlai Stevenson won on the third ballot in ’52 as if anybody cared.” Jesus was also wary of Brinkley’s constant plugs for agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland.

[Contest Announcement: The Raving Atheist is trying to locate published cartoons depicting Gregory Peck and David Brinkley entering or inside Heaven together. Preferably, they will be depicted practicing their chosen professions or some reference thereto will be made. Please submit entries to my comment section or by e-mail by midnight Wednesday, June 18. Prize: I will write and post a theologically-themed poem about the winner or his/her blog (if he/she has one), to the extent I have sufficient information to do so. ]

The Mirror

June 13, 2003 | 200 Comments

In a moment of recklessness last winter I wronged a kind woman, Christine Lehman (a/k/a A Theist Gal), whose only sin was following her heart. Her conversion from atheism to Catholicism, I then suggested, was the product of emotion, based upon insufficient reflection and information. She missed the post at the time, discovering it only this week. But despite my unkindness she responded good-naturedly, and with humor and humility. So too did some of her loyal friends from the Phatmass Phorum, a Catholic posting board.

Even so, my usual thin-skinned atheistic instincts kicked in. I was all set to retaliate, to rub raw the wounds I had earlier opened. But scrolling down the Phorum comments these words of Christine — quoting my own — sparked a revelation:

. . . I was feeling a little sorry for him . . . till I read this entry on his main page

quote:

Saturday, June 7, 2003 – Next week, I will mock the grief of one of my readers, June, who lost her mother long ago from a long and painful disease. In one of my parody news stories, I’ll pretend to quote June as saying she actually believes that her mother is “at peace” and that her “vitality is once more part of this grand universe of ours” — in the same way that that religious people frequently insist that they actually believe that human consciousness survives bodily death.

What really annoys me about this is that if you follow the link to the message June originally sent him, she AGREES with him that there’s no God . . . and he is going to make fun of her ANYWAY!

In case you ever wondered why atheists don’t seem to have a lot of friends . . .

And so I found myself staring into a mirror. I did not like what I saw. The reflection pierced my sad, cold, lonely heart like a laser.

I had accused Christine of converting thoughtlessly, without investigation, upon insufficient information. Yet how had I treated this stranger — this June? On what basis had I judged her? What did I know of her, her life, her personality, her beliefs, her suffering, that entitled me to treat her so callously?

Indeed, my mind and my heart were so closed that I could not even see that she was agreeing with me, that we shared a common bond. And she had presented me with all the information I needed; I did not even have to investigate. But in my willful blindness I could not even see her own words as they stared me in the face.

I made an enemy where I could have made a friend. I permitted my ignorance and intolerance to drive away a potential ally. June is out there somewhere, part of this grand cyberspace of ours (as she herself might have put it), but her vitality will certainly no longer grace this site.

This is, I now see, why atheists don’t seem to have a lot of friends. Certainly not among the religious. Not even among their own kind. They love sarcasm and cruelty and humiliation and self-righteousness, but that is not the kind of love that buys friends.

Yet that was the sort of “love” I showed Christine on that cold January day. I did not grant her the respect she was entitled to as a human being. I did not respect her enough to bother to try to understand her, to investigate her beliefs, to find out who she truly was. I acted upon insufficient information. Upon little more than idle speculation — based on nothing but the space she had placed between the first two letters of the word “atheist” — I declared her to be as shallow and unreflective as I myself was being in making that very judgment.

So, as her friend Paladin D aptly put it, it was hypocrisy. I think he nailed it when he said that “[a] radical Atheist is no different from a radical Christian.” Somehow until I read his words I never even considered that interesting possibility, so obvious to me now, that atheists can be just as “evangelical” and “intolerant” as those they presume to criticize. I attacked Christine for failing to prove her God, but how is my disbelief any less a matter of faith? It is easy to deny the beliefs of another when you yourself have never properly reflected upon the matter or set forth your own premises and Basic Assumptions.

Christine’s friend Winchester sagely observed that it is a form of hedonism. We try to spread atheism without examining what matters, without considering the “long term payoffs.” We become mired in the details and the politics and the ethics and the issues of this life without examining the spiritual issues that are so much more important. And even as to the trivial earthly issues we are unreflective. Instead of formulating our own moral positions, stating our own convictions clearly and forcefully, we attack the beliefs of others. But we offer no alternatives to fill the vacuum. We pretend that the empty rhetoric of anti-religion somehow fills the void.

So what is needed, I think, is more reflection. Reading through the Phorum comments, the realization of how badly I had prejudged and misjudged slowly crept upon me. Perhaps they were not so different from me, and perhaps even better, and certainly more reflective. But in my fear, my embarrassment, my defensive atheistic mechanisms were again triggered and I thrashed about looking for an easy escape from my predicament. Only half-hounded by my conscience I considered making a few token gestures of reconciliation, a snide tip of the hat here and there, something to show that I was beginning to understand but not prepared to surrender.

It was the sin of pride. I have resolved to abandon it. I once mocked the Pope for condemning sarcasm but now realize that it is no way to make friends. Honesty and understanding, not manipulation and humiliation, must be embraced.

So I extend a belated hand of friendship to Christine and her Phorum friends. I may have lost my chance with June (even though now I will obviously not carry through on my threat to mock her further) but I will not make the same mistake twice.

Christine Lehman is not a Godidiot. I will not longer permit that dishonor to stain her reputation. Upon his return, I shall direct my webmaster to delete forever that cruel and unfortunate post.

For I have looked into the mirror. Shouldn’t we all?

Tut Tut Tut

June 12, 2003 | 15 Comments

An online, offshore gambling website, Sports 911, found amusement in my Nigerian Scam correspondence series recently and kindly sent some readers my way. But I found the introductory link to the post a bit off-putting:

The Nigerian Scam Meets the Ra[v]ing Atheist (not that we are frequent visitors to the Ra[v]ing Atheist, but this is pretty funny stuff)

Tut tut tut.

Apparently being caught in my corner of the Web — even if you’ve come here from gambling site — is something to be ashamed of. Nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live here. Or even visit frequently. Sort of like being caught coming out of a XXX-rated movie theater.

Tut tut tut.

Well, MY mommy told me to stay away from the racetrack.

Not that I have any great moral objection to gambling. It provides excitement to some and in moderation is a victimless vice. Sometimes daddy loses the house or the college tuition or his fleet of taxis, but any pleasure pursued to excess can be equally harmful.

Tut tut tut.

This is the sort of dish recently served up to Sports 911’s regulars:

06.01.03 (9:11 pm ET) – More twisted porn tales from the world of offshore gambling. Mike Silver of Gamblers Avenue admits to having been with porn star Jesse Jane. Whatever happened to bringing home a nice Catholic girl from the convent? In all fairness to Mike though he was with her before she became a porn star.

05.30.03 (8:03 pm ET) – Perverts run amuck in Curacao. 900 number sex line guys are listening in on the calls of sportsbook operators. They were the one’s who set up the new phone lines on the island and have complete power to listen in.

Tut tut tut.

Sports 911 itself, however, is beyond reproach:

With so many sports wagering companies failing these days, it is quite rewarding knowing that Gambling911 readers have been spared exposure to deadbeat books such as Golliath, Bet247, Score, BetMega and the list goes on and on. Now celebrating over two years on the Net, Gambling911.com sports a near perfect track record when it comes to our endorsement policy. In fact, I am proud to say that NEVER HAS A GAMBLING911.COM ENDORSED COMPANY ever closed shop and stiffed its customers.

While some of the links on my blogroll may now be deadwood, they were all free sites so they weren’t “deadbeats” and never “stiffed” anyone either.

Now, I know why Sports 911 was so entertained by the Nigerian scam series. Gambling is full of “characters” playing all sort of “angles,” and it’s fun to watch the “action.”

So I’m surprised at this holier-than-thou attitude.

Or maybe not.

The gentleman who runs the outfit has a Catholic-sounding name (his first name even begins with “Christ”). Godidiot Maggie Gallagher, in defending Godidiot William Bennett, recently gave the lowdown on Catholics and gambling in her piece ““Is Gambling a Sin”:

[M]any evangelicals view gambling per se as a sin. Catholics simply do not. Which is why I learned to play poker with my Catholic father around the family dinner table. (Great training for college, btw.) Which is why this summer, when I drop by my local parish fair, I expect to play a few hands of blackjack for the glory of God, or at any rate, the pecuniary good of his church.

So, gambling is in and atheism’s a sin.

Jesus was a humble man, a carpenter by trade. If called upon, I don’t think he would have been too proud to be a plumber or a janitor or a garbageman. But somehow I can’t see him as the blackjack dealer at the Tropicana, or that backroom guy who smashes the hands of card counters with a hammer.

Sports 911, you do not discuss the ontological, teleological and cosmological arguments. You talk about trifectas and perfectas and point spreads and porn stars. Do not judge The Raving Atheist!

Tut tut tut tut tut tut!

Lifetime Network Debuts Pro-Life, Pro-Death Atheist Sitcom

June 11, 2003 | 18 Comments

New York, New York, June 11, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

In a move calculated to broaden viewership within its target demographic of young soccer moms, the Lifetime Network yesterday unveiled the latest addition to its line-up, “Everybody Loves Raving.” Scheduled to premiere this summer, ELR is a light comedy about a kind-hearted skeptic who promotes family values and respect for the law.

“Today’s mother is not religious in the traditional sense, but is still somewhat spiritual,” noted Lifetime President Carole Black. “And she’s a juggler who wants nothing more than to relax at the end of a long day,” Black said. “So ELR presents an entertaining blend of gentle, secular, anti-abortion and pro-capital punishment proselytizing to reassure her that she’s safe from those who would murder the born and unborn.” She added that the sitcom is designed to provide an escape from post-9/11 tensions by focusing on hopeful themes such as the extermination of human garbage and the end to the Abortion Holocaust.

ELR dramatizes the exploits of a weblog proprietor named Raving who charms women with an unusual but spiritual-like form of slightly-confrontational militant atheism. “He’s

Motorcycles in Heaven

June 10, 2003 | 84 Comments

Another example of how a belief in Heaven corrupts moral reasoning, from the latest issue of Christianity Today:

[This] brings us to a time-hallowed question: Will there be motorcycles in heaven?

When I was 26, my wife and brother prevailed upon me to give up my black Honda motorbike. They were afraid of motorcycles and couldn’t have peace knowing I was traversing Chicago’s expressways and city streets on one. So I gave it up. And I did so with heaven in mind. I theologized that in the life to come, God would give me a whole stable of motorcycles, racing cars, powerboats, airplanes, and other mechanical pleasures I had forgone in this life because of their danger as well as their cost. And if there weren’t motorcycles in heaven, I reasoned, God would provide something better: perhaps airborne “speeders” as in the Star Wars movies. These juvenile fantasies helped me do the right thing: to give up a good earthly thing for an even better thing to come, as well as to respond sympathetically to the concerns of my family. And I think the glorious biblical visions of the life to come are provided to help us in just this way.

This is a fairly common Christian moral analysis. The author credits his decision to do the “right thing” — give up motorcycling — to a belief in a reward in the afterlife. And he concludes that belief in the afterlife should provide guidance in all of life’s decision.

The only real moral question involved here was whether motorcycling posed an unreasonable risk to the author’s life and, therefore, to the continued happiness of his family. Apparently that risk alone wasn’t sufficient to deter him. Instead — at age 26! — the author needed the additional inducement of the “juvenile fantasy” that he’d be rewarded with motorcycles or better in the afterlife. The premise of the fantasy was that God would deprive him of motorcycles in Heaven if he continued to ride them on earth — whether or not he died in an accident — and would presumably deprive him of seeing his family again as well. But if he deprived himself of motorcycles in this life, he’d be rewarded with that very same vice upon death, along with the continued companionship of his loved ones.

Apart from being completely made-up and making no sense at all, these sort of fantasies completely erase the distinction between good and bad. The question is no longer whether motorcycling is dangerous or otherwise a vice. Instead, the issue becomes one of when God wants you to do it, with absolutely no guidelines for deciding between now or later. The author might well have written this, with no difference in the quality of his argument:

When I was 26, my wife and brother prevailed upon me to give up cocaine. They were afraid of cocaine and couldn’t have peace knowing I was snorting up on Chicago’s streets. So I gave it up. And I did so with heaven in mind. I theologized that in the life to come, God would give me a whole pharmacopoeia of drugs — cocaine, PCP, crack, and other narcotic-induced pleasures I had forgone in this life because of their danger as well as their cost. And if they didn’t have those drugs in heaven, I reasoned, God would provide something better: perhaps heroin or LSD. These juvenile fantasies helped me do the right thing: to give up a good earthly thing for an even better thing to come, as well as to respond sympathetically to the concerns of my family. And I think the glorious biblical visions of the life to come are provided to help us in just this way.

Alternatively, the author might have considered foregoing the pleasures of his family in the hope of getting a better one in Heaven.

God Squad Review XLV

June 9, 2003 | 12 Comments

It’s great to have a direct hotline to God. This week, the Squad consults their heavenly connection to alleviate the fears of a Florida man who showed up at work wearing a surgical mask because he feared that a coughing colleague had SARS:

Unless your co-worker just got back from China or another hotbed of severe acute respiratory syndrome, there’s no reason to panic or don a mask. Your chances of being crushed by a water cooler at work are greater than contracting the SARS virus.

Our advice is to trust in God, say your prayers and leave masks of all kinds at home.

Face the world with a smile and hope.

The Squad doesn’t reveal where it got its information regarding the probability of infection or the location of the SARS hotbeds, but I’m sure it’s all in the Bible. Where else to turn when a plague strikes? And even if Florida does becomes a hotbed, I’m sure God will protect the faithful there just like He is in Toronto.

Anything is Permitted

June 9, 2003 | 38 Comments

Infidels are generally persona non grata in Saudi Arabia. But the country sometimes tolerates them. Knowing that most non-believers subscribe to Dostoevsky’s alleged dictum that “[i]f God does not exist, everything is permitted,” the Muslim state has hired one to perform a job it can’t find anybody else to do:

RIYADH (Reuters) – The leading executioner in Saudi Arabia, which implements strict Islamic sharia law, has no compunction about beheading convicts because he is an atheist.

“I sleep very well,” Arab News daily quoted executioner Mohammed Saad al-Beshi as saying Thursday in a rare interview that offered an insight into a job that is much-criticized in the West and by human rights groups.

“It doesn’t matter to me: two, four, 10. Because there is no god, it doesn’t matter how many people I execute.”

Beshi’s job is of prime importance in a kingdom that executes rapists, murderers, drug and alcohol smugglers, usually by beheading, and amputates the limbs of robbers.

So far this year, Saudi Arabia has executed at least seven people. At least 45 people were put to death in 2002, 75 people in 2001 and 121 people in 2000.

Arab News said the 42-year-old Saudi national started work in 1998 in the Red Sea city of Jeddah and would not reveal how much he gets paid or how many people he has executed so far.

Beshi is also proud of his sword, a gift from the government that he keeps razor sharp and cleans regularly from the blood stains. For amputations, he uses a special knife.

“People are amazed at how fast it can separate the head from the body,” the father of seven boasted. “Sometimes they (his children) help me clean my sword.”

Beshi is also entrusted with training executioners and has already started with his 22-year-old son. Asked if he thinks people are afraid of him, Beshi said: “No one is afraid of me. I have lots of relatives and many friends and I live a normal life. There are no drawbacks to my social life.”

Although I’m a pro-death penalty atheist, I certainly wouldn’t apply capital punishment as liberally as the Saudis do. I’d save it for cases of highly premeditated or aggravated murder, and would abolish the limb amputations altogether. I don’t know what kind of atheist Mr. al-Beshi is, but he’s seemed to have lost any sense of proportion. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Saudis are just calling him an infidel to give that term a worse connotation than it already has.

[link and concept courtesy of Reed Esau of the Celebrity Atheists List]

I’ll Be Sorry

June 7, 2003 | 35 Comments

Cruelty is cruelty, whatever the reason and whomever the source.

Next week, I will mock the grief of one of my readers, June, who lost her mother long ago from a long and painful disease. In one of my parody news stories, I’ll pretend to quote June as saying she actually believes that her mother is ” at peace” and that her “vitality is once more part of this grand universe of ours” — in the same way that that religious people frequently insist that they actually believe that human consciousness survives bodily death.

June — the grieving daughter I will pretend to quote — will read that post during the week.

She’ll probably leave a comment like this giving me exactly what I’ll deserve:

RA, stop being an idiot.

Considering what she’ll have the right to say, possibly much less than I’ll deserve. I’ll write her back privately and make some lame jokes to ease the minor annoyance I so gratuitously inflicted.

Of course the purpose of the post will be not to annoy, but to illustrate the folly of pretending that being “at peace” or being “once more part of this grand universe of ours” is in the slightest way different from being stone cold dead. It’s not really an important point because whether we call corpses “peaceful” or “dead,” we atheists know what the true nature of the situation is.

This is true of June, who knows full well that calling a dead person “at peace” doesn’t really present “a possible alternate viewpoint regarding the afterlife.” But not even this matters. Even when atheists make meaningless distinctions that they actually think are significant, it’s somewhat mean-spirited to call them to task when they’re talking about their own mothers.

I recently wrote a post mocking the death of Laci Peterson, again for a “higher purpose.” Part of my justification was that there wasn’t the “slightest chance” Laci’s parents would see it. I’m still sure they won’t, given how saturated the internet otherwise is with coverage of the story. But when I write the post about June’s mother — at a time when I know that June is actively reading and commenting on my site — I’ll be pretty certain that she’ll see it. The deliberateness of my conduct will only make an apology that much more necessary.

So:

I’ll be sorry.

Tears in Heaven

June 6, 2003 | 35 Comments

I’ve noted repeatedly that the religious left (and many atheists) trivializes the abortion issue by denying the personhood of the fetus, and that the religious right trivializes it by denying the finality of death. The abortion subplot in the funeral home-based drama Six Feet Under exposes some of the problems with both approaches. Catholic pro-life blogger Amy Welborn of In Between Naps [no permalink; scroll down to sixth June 3, 2003 post] was offended by this passage in Boston Globe reviewer Matthew Gilbert’s critique of the season finale:

Claire’s journey to heaven with her father was particularly awkward. It offered a poignant moment, as she sees her troubled former boyfriend, Gabe, finally at peace, but it also raised a gnawing question. Claire encounters her baby in heaven, supposedly the child she gave up a few weeks back in an abortion-clinic sequence that had horrific cattle-call overtones. By presenting Claire’s ”choice” as a baby, was Ball [Alan Ball, Six Feet Under’s creator and director] trying to make a big statement about fetuses and the morality of abortion? Or was he showing Claire resolve her own guilt, as the ghost of Lisa agreed to care for the ghost of Claire’s boy? It was a distracting issue.

Welborn places the words “gave up” in boldface as if to emphasize her distaste for the euphemism. But although she implies that Gilbert is pro-choice (and his tone provides ample evidence of that), I think she also recognizes that he is seriously conflicted on the issue. After all, if the clinic sequence involved women at having moles removed at a dermatologist he wouldn’t perceive it has as having “horrific cattle-call overtones.” Plainly he’s disturbed (or at least “distracted”) at some level about the nature of what’s being “removed” at abortion clinics.

But both Gilbert and Welborn both strangely ignore the important context of the final scene: heaven. If the director was making a “big statement” about abortion, he was making at least as big a statement about theology. Viewed literally, he was declaring that there is an afterlife, and that people (including fetuses) simply continue on with their lives up there. Of course, Gilbert doesn’t take it literally; he obviously views the use of heaven as merely a metaphor for Claire’s subconscious or guilt. If he did take it literally, he’d point out that abortion is harmless because the babies just grow up somewhere else.

Welborn, I assume, does take heaven literally. So I’m surprised that she avoids the issue so completely. She really shouldn’t be concerned if abortion simply results in adoption, albeit by a ghost in a different realm. Now, I realize that Welborn probably recognized that the use of heaven was intended metaphorically, and that is why she didn’t address the issue. But if it was so intended, she might have at least objected to this trivialization of her religion: Why use a metaphor for something that is so very real?

I’m wondering if any reviewer did take the scene competely at face value. It would be interesting to see the reaction to a review by a religious pro-choice writer who found the scene heartening insofar as it embraced the credo of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice: “[i]f honoring your Truth means choosing abortion, you may want to say goodbye to the pregnancy and send the spirit of that life on its way with love.”

[Welborn link via Emily of After Abortion]

Pick the Atheist

June 5, 2003 | 19 Comments

It’s time to play “pick the atheist.” The odds are in your favor. Three of the somber, pipe-smoking men pictured below are the atheist existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre; the fourth is a Lutheran minister.

pickatheist.jpg

Hard to tell them apart? Harder than you think! Because even the minister, Rev. Thorkild Grosboel of Denmark, has declared that “there is no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection.” So no matter who you picked, you won!

As I noted on Tuesday, Rev. Grosboel was suspended for the “confusion” caused by his comments. His statement was, indeed, hopelessly ambiguous. So try reading it again, slowly: “THERE IS NO HEAVENLY GOD, THERE IS NO ETERNAL LIFE, THERE IS NO RESURRECTION.” Still confused?

Maybe I can clarify matters a bit. You see, that statement is merely Rev. Grosboel’s belief. Thus, he is what is known as a “belief Lutheran.” However, the Bishop who suspended him belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church; being evangelical, she is what is known as a “proof Lutheran.” The difference between proof Lutheranism and belief Lutheranism turns on the distinction between induction and deduction; see here for a full explanation.

The Nigerian Scam Versus the Raving Atheist: The Moral of the Story

June 5, 2003 | 5 Comments

In addition to finding it boring, some readers questioned the relevancy of my Nigerian Scam e-mail correspondence series to the theme of this blog.

I don’t know how many people have ever attempted to write about atheism on a daily basis, or understand the perverse sort of discipline it takes to restrict one’s focus to such an inherently limited subject matter. Most people find theology to be intrinsically dull. To perpetually come up with ways to attack it in an interesting manner is not an easy task. Sometimes I envy general interest bloggers who are not burdened with such self-imposed blinders. On the other hand, I’m flattered that anyone reads my site closely enough to recognize when I’ve committed a breach of atheistic integrity.

That being said, I maintain that the Nigerian Scam series raised some very significant religious issues. A few thoughts:

1) One the surface, the correspondence was a dialogue between two atheists. I am an atheist, although Dr. Ntha believed I was a devout Christian. And while Dr. Ntha represented himself to be a devout Catholic, it’s hard to reconcile such piety with his declared intent to defraud one’s own country by stealing the proceeds of an inflated public works project, or with his concealed intent to rip off what he believed to be a Christian publishing house.

2) On the other hand, it’s entirely plausible to me that Dr. Ntha was some sort of believing Catholic. He seemed peculiarly wed to Biblical authority, and genuinely offended by some of the questions which called into doubt God’s existence. In many instances he may have been playing to what he perceived to be my own religious prejudices, but my overall impression was that of a man with distinct theological views. He reminded me somewhat of the mobster who is fully capable of beating a rival to death with a baseball bat, yet crosses himself at the sight of a statute of the Virgin Mary. I don’t think he was someone who cared or thought all that much about religion, but I don’t think he actively disbelieved in it either.

3) Nevertheless, Dr. Ntha clearly recognized the gullibility that religion can foster. He thought he was dealing with an easily-manipulated, over-trusting, empty-headed group of fools. He fully believed that the board of Raving Industries was so stupid that it would send millions of dollars to complete strangers without the slightest investigation of their credentials. And he thought he could immunize himself from suspicion by clothing his language in the same gentle religious jargon with which he was addressed in every e-mail. Indeed, he thought that by quoting a few bible verses, he could convince the company that he was a legitimate businessman — while another con artist attempting to pull the exact same scam was a fraud.

4) Dr. Ntha also recognized that in the context of religion, almost anything goes. Despite the fact that he was involved in what he believed to be serious business negotiations, he saw nothing amiss about be called upon to answer preposterous questions regarding doggy heaven, masturbation, circumcision, faith healing and incest.

The Nigerian Scam Meets The Raving Atheist (The Final E-Mail)

June 5, 2003 | 11 Comments

Recap: In previous correspondence (see e-mails 1-8, here, 9-11, here, 12-21, here, 22-30, here, 31-36, here, 37-54 here and 55-58, here), a Nigerian con artist — motivated by the promise of a $275,000 payday — responded to countless theological questions posed to him by an atheist posing as the controller of a multi-million dollar Christian publishing house called Raving Industries. He became hysterical after being led to believe that his intended victim had sent all the money intended to him to another scammer, and in a fit of pique, rejected an offer of $1.3 million to write Jesus poetry.

Last week I advised Dr. Ntha that his business relationship with Raving Industries was over. However, insofar as he had earlier committed to serve as the company’s permanent Spiritual Advisor, I asked him series of questions concerning whether God, Jesus and Mary talk to each other, meet, or know what each other is thinking.

Part 59: The End

Dr. Ntha answers my questions. However, he pesters me for a phone number, presumably intending to smooze me into a new deal. I decided to ignore his request, and he hasn’t written back since.

Subj: PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR PHONE NUMBER WHILE REPLYING
Date: 5/29/2003 1:17:10 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: akpuntha@xyz.com
To: GreerJared@aol.com
CC: RavingAtheist@aol.com, RavingIndustries@aol.com, RevSwill@aol.com, DennisonLeigh@aol.com

Dear Rev. Swill,

Greetings to you, my follow worker in our Lords vineyard. I pray that God will strengthen you for more zeal to work for him.

It is with great pleasure for me to mail you this day as I have tried a number of times trying to reach you but couldn’t get through but I have find out the reason, I got your e mail address wrongly (revswil@aol)instead) instead of double ll

Regards to your questions, according to the biblical explanation, God is greater of Divinity, therefore your questions is a mystery also as spirits they know what each other is thinking, they talk to each other, The bible said all people in heaven are together singing praises to the Almighty always.

Finally while replying this mail, Please for our Lords sake include your phone for our further dealings.

I await your very urgent response.

Remain dwelling in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yours in Christ,
Brother Ntha.

Decorative Pork

June 4, 2003 | 17 Comments

Islamic dietary laws prohibit only the consumption of pork and pig products. Merely looking at a pig, or a picture of one, is not forbidden. And so, as I noted in an earlier post, even the Muslim Council of Britain condemned as “bizarre” the decision of an English headmistress’s to ban from the classroom all books about pigs, including Babe and The Three Little Pigs, for fear that they would offend Muslim pupils.

A closer question arises where prepared pork products are physically employed for decorative purposes. As reported in this story, the London Muslim community has expressed disapproval of the use of a bacon as an ornamental garnish even in circumstances where it is very clearly not intended for consumption. However, the grandmother mentioned in the story, Habiba Mohammed, did not eat the topping or even “touch” in any traditional sense of the word. Nor did she object in any way to the manner of its use. And even the non-Muslim personnel involved in the arrangement of the display refrained from consuming the bacon.

American Muslim constituencies, as I’ve noted, have recently sought to obtain legislative enforcement of their dietary preferences through the enactment of strict Halal laws. These laws would impose legal burdens not only upon Muslims in circumstances such as Ms. Mohammed’s — but also upon non-religious personnel involved in food preparation which is unconnected with any Islamic ritual. It is this very sort of over-sensitivity to religious sentiment which could subject this country to the unfortunate orthodoxy currently overwhelming the British.

[Note: Actual reading of the news story hyperlinked in the second paragraph is recommended for full appreciation of legal issues raised in this post; if that page loads too slowly I’ve also reproduced it here.]

Update, 7:50 p.m.: STILL WAITING FOR SOMEONE TO NOTICE THAT THE LINKED STORY INVOLVES THE DESECRATION OF THE CORPSE OF A MUSLIM GRANDMOTHER BY WRAPPING IT IN BACON

He’s Sorry

June 3, 2003 | 8 Comments

Ah, those evangelical Lutherans:

Danish Minister Suspended for Remarks
Associated Press

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – A Lutheran minister was suspended Tuesday for saying that God doesn’t exist and there is no eternal life.

Thorkild Grosboel, pastor of Taarbaek, a town of 51,000 just north of Copenhagen, said in a recent interview that “there is no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection.”

The statements have mystified church leaders in the Scandinavian country of 5.3 million, where about 85 percent of the population belongs to the state Evangelical Lutheran Church, yet just 5 percent attend church services regularly.

Bishop Lise-Lotte Rebel of the Helsingoer diocese, which includes Taarbaek, said Grosboel’s comments “caused confusion” within the church.

“There should be no doubt that priests have committed themselves to act within the church’s confession of faith,” she said.

After meeting with Grosboel on Tuesday, the bishop demanded he retract his comments and apologize.

Now, there are some things you apologize for and others you don’t. What, exactly, do they expect Rev. Grosboel to say? Do they want him to simply turn around the next day and say “I’m sorry — there IS a heavenly God, there IS an eternal life, there IS a resurrection”?

Sincerity, I always thought, was an integral part of any apology. Perhaps something like this is going on right now in Copenhagen:

Rev. Grosbeol: I’m sorry.
Bishop Lise-Lotte Rebel: No, say it like you mean it.
Rev. Grosbeol: I’m sorry.
Bishop Lise-Lotte Rebel: No, say it like you mean it.
Rev. Grosbeol: I’m sorry.
Bishop Lise-Lotte Rebel: No, say it like you mean it . . .

[Repeat 10 billion times . . .]

I’m Sorry

June 2, 2003 | 28 Comments

Cruelty is cruelty, whatever the reason and whomever the source.

Last year I mocked the death of a ten year old boy named Adam who died from acute lymphocytic leukemia. In one of my parody news stories, I pretended to quote his mother as celebrating the “miracle” of that rare and unexpected cancer, much in the same way that religious people often celebrate the “miracle” of an equally rare and unexpected cure.

The aunt of that little dead ten year old boy — the sister of the grieving mother I pretended to quote — read that post over the weekend.

She left a comment giving me exactly what I deserved:

Total misquote of my sister’s statement. If you knew and trusted in God you would have understood what she said and meant. Adam is at peace now and walking with God. Will you be ready to see Him face to face?

Considering what she could have said, possibly much less than I deserved. I’ve written her back privately and said what little I could to ease the pain I so gratuitously inflicted.

Of course the purpose of the post was not to hurt, but to illustrate the folly of attributing any event to “God’s will.” It’s an important point because sometimes, as in the case of faith healing, people put their trust in prayer rather than in medicine.

This was not true of the parents of Adam, who actively sought medical help for their son and are suing to determine whether the cancer was caused by a local fuel pipeline. But not even this matters. I would have felt the same had the relatives of any child, regardless of the circumstances of the death, believed me to be mocking their grief.

I recently wrote a post mocking the death of Laci Peterson, again for a “higher purpose.” Part of my justification was that there wasn’t the “slightest chance” Laci’s parents would see it. I’m still sure they won’t, given how saturated the internet is otherwise with coverage of the story. But when I wrote the post about Adam — at a time when my site was receiving perhaps ten hits a day — I was equally certain no one related to the story would read it. Nevertheless, over the weekend the aunt of that dead ten year old boy, the sister of the grieving mother I pretended to quote, read it.

Religious people say cruel things too: the Pope believes gays are “without any social value”; Jerry Falwell blamed them for the 9/11 attacks; and you can go here if you want to here the murdered, tortured Matthew Shepard screaming in Hell. And whereas those people really mean it, I don’t.

Of course, I’m just pointing my finger at others to show that they’re just as bad, to make myself look slightly better. It’s not a very good argument. Even if it makes me look better it doesn’t make me good.

So:

I’m sorry.

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