The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2003 July

Men May Believe What They Cannot Prove

July 31, 2003 | 3 Comments

When you’re finished laughing at the silly headline I have a semi-serious point to make:


Food Columnist Suing Spiritual Advice Columnist for More Than $1M

A Naples Daily News food columnist is suing the paper’s spiritual advice columnist for more than $1 million, saying she was manipulated into writing the woman a $95,000 check as a “gift.”

Doris Reynolds, a Naples resident who writes the weekly “Let’s Talk Food” column for the paper, is suing fellow columnist Angela Passidomo Trafford, a Naples resident and spiritual teacher who writes a weekly spiritual advice column. The suit accuses Trafford of constructive fraud, unjust enrichment and civil theft. Trafford denies the allegations.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in Collier County Circuit Court on June 11, Reynolds says she went to Trafford for “spiritual self-healing treatment” from 1999 until May 2003. In an interview Thursday, Reynolds said she first used Trafford as her spiritual adviser in 1996 and has paid her between $2 million and $3 million for the treatments.

* * *

Trafford received payment for services that were never rendered, according to the suit, and Trafford “intentionally misrepresented to Reynolds that she was a messenger of God and Reynolds needed to pay her.”

Ms. Reynolds’ legal battle will be uphill all the way. Claiming to be a messenger of God is a Constitutionally-endorsed scam. In the 1930’s Guy W. Ballard founded the “I Am” religious movement, claiming that he was a divine messenger named “Saint Germain” who had been endowed with supernatural powers to cure uncurable diseases. He sent out mass mailings soliciting funds based on these claims. In reversing the conviction, the Supreme Court held:

[W]e do not agree that the truth or verity of respondents’ religious doctrines or beliefs should have been submitted to the jury.

* * *

Freedom of thought, which includes freedom of religious belief, is basic in a society of free men. . . . It embraces the right to maintain theories of life and of death and of the hereafter which are rank heresy to followers of the orthodox faiths.

Heresy trials are foreign to our Constitution. Men may believe what they cannot prove. They may not be put to the proof of their religious doctrines or beliefs. Religious experiences which are as real as life to some may be incomprehensible to others. Yet the fact that they may be beyond the ken of mortals does not mean that they can be made suspect before the law. Many take their gospel from the New Testament. But it would hardly be supposed that they could be tried before a jury charged with the duty of determining whether those teachings contained false representations.

“Men may believe what they cannot prove.” Touching, isn’t it? Belief in the absence of proof — i.e., ignorance — transformed into a noble virtue, and a legally-protected one at that.

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

NOTE: More on the “I Am” movement:

I Am Religious Activity
The “I Am” Activity, Exposed

JPR to Replace CPR, Top Doc Says

July 30, 2003 | 21 Comments

Washington, D.C., July 30, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

JPR — Jesus Prayer Resuscitation — will replace CPR as the mandated method of first aid in drowning emergencies, the United States Surgeon General announced yesterday. The move was prompted by a scientific study conducted by a Queens, New York medical researcher/court stenographer who successfully used the technique to revive her three-year old toddler following a fall into a swimming pool.

According to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Jasmine Ozomusi resurrected the lifeless, blue-faced body of her daughter, Tatiana, by summoning Christ to the scene of the accident. “I believe in Christ, and everyone says to call on the name of Jesus and you do it with authority and he will be there, and I did it with authority, ” said Jasmine. “Angels brought her back,” she added. “That’s my testimony. I know there’s a God and I know that he delivered.”

The report also concludes that CPR has no value as a life-saving technique. It specifically notes that both Jasmine and her ten year old son, Efosa, pushed on Tatiani’s abdomen repeatedly without effect. And although Jasmine continued to administer CPR — a method she had learned from watching “Baywatch” — her daughter did not respond until she called out for Jesus.

“The experimental data thus demonstrates that CPR was at best a neutral factor in the rescue,” the report observes. “Furthermore, the arm movements associated with CPR most likely interfered with the work of the angels, placing the victim at an increased risk of death,” it states. This conclusion was corroborated by an addendum to the study, which compiled the medical records of drowning victims who died following CPR. “Not a single one of the patient charts reflected that Jesus’ name was invoked in the course of the procedure.”

Baywatch producer and star David Hasselhoff condemned the study for misrepresenting the methodology employed on his syndicated drama. “While the show depicts manual chest pumping and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the sole purpose of that activity is to make boobs jiggle and provoke male fantasies,” he said. “But beneath the roar of the waves, our cast is clearly calling out for the intervention of the Lord Jesus.”

Researchers at the Mayo clinic criticized other aspects of the report. “The study was prompted by Ms. Ozomusi’s entrustment of her daughter’s safety to a ten year old, who, in turn, ran off to play basketball after accepting the three-year old’s representations that she would not enter the pool — even though she was sitting by the ladder with one foot dangling in,” noted Dr. Michael Riordan. “And apart from that serious breach of experimental protocol, other factors lead us to conclude that the report is flawed,” he said. “Specifically, psychiatric evidence indicates that Ms. Ozomusi is an irresponsible, delusional hysteric who spends an inordinate amount of her time babbling at the sky even when she is not neglecting her children.”

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

He’s Really Sorry

July 29, 2003 | 11 Comments

Rev. Grosb

Blogiversary Special (Part 1)

July 28, 2003 | 17 Comments

When I announced my one year Blogiversary last week, prolific commenter Kafkaesqui observed:

The idea there is this universal calendrical cycle which returns us every 365 days (or so) to a metaphysical “same day” is ancient nonsense born out of superstition and other religious nonsense . . . [t]o count out these imaginary events, empowering them with a false ceremonial necessity is walking the far edge of irrationality, and I thought you were better than that, RA. (And just where the hell were you when my blogs hit 1 earlier this year, eh?!)

It is precisely this sort of uncompromisingly honest, anti-sentimental, anti-superstitious, spiteful, rude and jealous attitude that has made The Raving Atheist one of the top 50 most heavily-trafficked blogs in the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem after just one year and one week of existence. Actually, two-thirds of the growth occurred in the last week, due to my use of the popular Kobe + Bryant + Rape + Victim search terms. See? More uncompromising honesty.

In any event, I owe at least one-third of my success to you regular readers who aren’t just trying to find the name of rape accuser Joanna Kerns (No, that’s not the name of Kobe’s accuser, it’s the name of some actress who played a rape victim on a Lifetime movie). So, as promised, here’s the first installment of my teary-eyed retrospective of the past 342 days of atheistic blogging, starting with hastily compiled “Top 20″ (or 10 or 5) lists of my favorite posts in each category (excluding God Squad Reviews, which are pretty much all the same) and ending with a list of all Godidiots ranked by I.Q.

Later this week I’ll present the “best”, “worst” and “most” moments, followed by tributes to fellow bloggers and readers.

TOP TWENTY FAVORITE DAILY RAVES

1. The Beste Theory of Atheism?(related posts here, here and here)
(Debating “proof atheism” versus “belief atheism” with Steven Den Beste)

2. The Mirror/Seriously
(Vicious follow-up attacks on Catholic-turned-atheist-turned-Catholic Godidiot Theist Gal)

3. God and the Objectivists (here, here, here, here and here)
(A discussion of whether Ayn Rand’s followers could permissibly believe in God. Arthur Silber was supposed to debate me on this, but he got too busy)

4. Nigerian Scam E-Mail Correspondence (see e-mails 1-8, here, 9-11, here, 12-21, here, 22-30, here, 31-36, here, 37-54 here, 55-58, here and 59, here)
(I discuss theology, for six weeks, with a Nigerian con artist who is trying to scam me out of $3,000,000)

5. The Right Prayers
(Taking issue with Professor Eugene’s Volokh’s rationale for opposing governmentally sponsored prayer)

6. Miracle or Messiah?
(Regarding who really brainwashed Elizabeth Smart)

7. God The Abortionist(also here and here) (On how religion trivializes the abortion debate)

8. The Eleventh Helmet
(Tribute to the man whose actions, rather than prayers, helped save the Pennsylvania miners)

9. Tears in Heaven)
(More on abortion)

10. Crossing Over
(Do “real” atheists ever convert?)

11. Pettiness
(A critique of religiously-themed cartoons about Columbia shuttle disaster)

12. It’s the Children (Really)
(Regarding religious exemptions which permit child murder)

13. Irrelevant? (follow up here)
(Why a political candidate’s religious beliefs should not be exempt from scrutiny)

14. The Legal Presumption of Atheism
(Questions that those who pretend the state must be “neutral” as between atheism and theism can never answer)

15. God of the Jocks(follow ups here and here)
(Prayer on the playing field and in the press box)

16. Authority
(Examining the undue deference accorded to religious scholars)

17. In God’s Image
(The perils of religious “lookism”)

18. Godless Morality
(Thoughts on the biochemical basis for religious belief)

19. Comic Book Catholicism
(Critiquing the Catholic League’s Demand for a Catholic Superhero)

20. Eruv Error (follow ups here and here)
(Why Orthodox Jews shouldn’t be allowed to tie neighborhoods up in knots)

TOP TEN FAVORITE ATHEIST “NEWS” STORIES
(Headlines Self-Explanatory)

1. Unattached Virgin Bachelor Condemns Loving Human Relationships

2. Interfaith Rape Marred by Bias, Police Say

3. Skakel Withdraws Jesus Analogy in Leniency Bid

4. Holiday Miracle in Laci Peterson Case

5. 6,000 Years of Jewish Oppression Ended with Suspension of Alternate-Side of Street Parking Rules

6. Communicable Diseases to Celebrate Orthodox Easter

7. Wiccan Teen Defends Right to Be Beaten Up for Aggressively Silly and Obviously Made-Up Religion

8. God Eyed in 9/11 Lottery Fix

9. Texas Muslims Protest X-Rated Film Defaming Prophet Muhammad’s XXX-Rated Sex Life

10. Vatican Certifies Mother Teresa’s Coin Slide, Ball & Vase Miracles

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “GODIDIOT” POSTS

1. Eugene Volokh
(Professor of Law, UCLA: For his post about me, Atheism and Tolerance).

2. Godidiot of the Week: The Raving Agnostic, and You
(Highly unpleasant and insulting rhetoric, directed at my enemies generally)

3. Pete “Pathfinder” Davis
(Archpriest of the Wiccan Aquarian Tabernacle Church and Founder, SpiralScouts; provoked by his veiled threat to sue me).

4. Benjamim Kepple (follow up here)
(Methodist-turned-Catholic New Hampshire journalist and blogger. And I’m not done with him yet).

5. Nicholas D. Kristof
(For this half-witted defense of evangelicals which declared that “mockery of religious faith is inexcusable”).

GODIDIOTS RANKED BY I.Q.
(Relevant Factors: Apparent intelligence, quality of theological argument, hits per day, irony, tact, spite)

1. Eugene Volokh (260)
2. Jack M. Balkin (223)
3. Benjamin Kepple (209)
4. Chris Burgwald (191)
5. Secularist Critique and Minute Particulars (188)(average)
6. Theist Gal (170)
7. Zombyboy (164)
8. John Gray (160)
9. Amy Welborn (155)
10. Jay Ambrose (152)
11. Andrew Sullivan (150)
12. William F. Buckley and Leon Wieseltier (118) (average)
13. Nicholas D. Kristof (110)
14. Maggie Gallagher (100)
15. William J. Bennett (98)
16. Peter “Pathfinder” Davis (62)
17. Clubbeaux (38)
18. Dean Esmay (14)

Deluded?

July 28, 2003 | 15 Comments

Dr. Rev. Allen Brill Esq. psychoanalyzes me today in The Self-Delusions of a “Deductive Atheist”. I’ll respond at length once I find my prescription for Haldol. For now you can just read part of his diagnosis:

RA’s proofs [of the non-existence of God] are really just a reflection of the conceptual metaphors running around in his head. They are neatly packaged, repeatedly described as derived from something “pure,” and internally consistent, but they are no more useful a description of any “objective reality” than any other individual’s metaphorically-based creation.

* * *

RA’s disproofs of God tell us only about how his own brain works, not about the objective universe outside it. Especially his insistence that he is employing a certain “deductive” approach and not an inductive one open to uncertainty encloses him within the box of his own metaphorical system. He is proud that his arguments cannot be disproved by contrary evidence. That very fact should tip him off that he is talking about his own “faith” and not an objective reality.

RA is obviously a bright guy. He just needs to step back a minute and see that his thought processes are not so different from the rest of us poor, embodied humans.

Caution: The above analysis merely represents conceptual metaphors running around Rev. Brill’s head. To the extent it may be interpreted as contradicting my proofs or any other statement I may have made, please recall that the notion of “contradiction” is itself a mere metaphor. Rev. Brill makes no claim as to the actual truth of the propositions that 1) I am merely “talking about [my] own faith” or 2) that my thought processes “are not so different” from the rest of you poor, embodied humans. Also. to the extent Rev. Brill may appear to be relying upon logic or any sort of analysis depending upon the definitions or meanings of any words I have used, please recall that the deductive approach is an illusion. Finally, please remember that any ideas you may have that 1) I am agreeing or disagreeing with Rev. Brill, 2) that Rev. Brill’s response to this post is accusing me (or not accusing me) of misinterpreting him or missing the point, or 3) that Rev. Brill’s response is asserting (or not asserting) that this post proves his very point, are merely conceptual metaphors running around your head.

God Squad Review XLI (Letter from an Atheist)

July 28, 2003 | 8 Comments

The Squad gets quizzed, gently, by a wavering atheist this week:

Although raised in a Bible-believing church, I’m aware that many religions claim to worship the one true God. Why is any particular religion better or truer than the others?

They all originated with thoughtful people, and all have many followers.

What can you suggest to somebody trying to regain faith? I stopped believing in God several years ago.

I didn’t decide to stop. It just seems more believable to me that man created God because he hoped there was a God and an afterlife.

I have children and try to raise them with a belief that I don’t hold myself. If I talk to them about God, however, I feel the same way I would trying to convince them Santa Claus exists.

I want to believe, but I don’t. Help!

The Squad’s response:

If you spend time asking yourself serious questions like, “Who made all this?” or “What is life all about?”, chances are you will come to some kind of personal belief in a higher power.

The notion that the universe, life, love, courage and joy are the result of some accidental cosmic joke is not only foolish but also just plain wrong. As Einstein said in speculating about the universe, “Could such a great symphony have no conductor?”

Note that the Squad ignores the reader’s question concerning which god is the true god. It’s not easy to make a specific recommendation to someone coming at you from an atheistic perspective. It’s even harder when you’re a Priest/Rabbi team which disagrees over whether Christ-belief is a pre-condition to salvation. But one would think that the answer is important: eternal life is at stake, and one must know whether it’s Jesus, Mecca, or a stack of turtles that one is worshipping.

Avoiding inconvenient particulars also frees the Squad from suggesting a meaningful definition of “God.” It’s merely “some kind of personal belief in a higher power,” presumably the power that “made all this” or gives meaning to life. Whether the power is conscious or unconscious, or, more pertinently, omnipotent and omniscient, is the real question, and not one that the Squad is prepared to address. And their analogy to a symphony is just question-begging; we’ve seen conductors and know from experience that symphonies don’t play themselves.

But there are plenty of phenomena and activities to which we do not automatically ascribe conscious agency, e.g., the laws of nature. Whatever they think of symphonies, few people naturally assume that gravity has a gravitator or physics has a physicist. Whether the universe had a universator, or just always was, is a question of the same species. And wisely, the Squad steers clear of the reader’s own analogy to Santa Claus. For the proof of Santa’s existence would closely resemble their own proof of God: “Who brought all this?” or “Who gives meaning to Christmas?”

In a previous column, the Squad proposed a cure for atheism in teenagers. Part of the answer then was that people who didn’t believe in God have no reason to behave morally, or, for that matter, to live. But now that they’re talking to an adult who has disbelieved in God for years without becoming a serial rapist, they’re strangely silent on that point.

Sticking to the Script (Part 2)

July 27, 2003 | 8 Comments

Speaking of Mel Gibson’s upcoming movie on the Resurrection, Alex Beam of the Boston Globe writes: “Whatever Gibson’s intentions, the film will be perceived as anti-Semitic, because the Christian Bible holds that Jesus was a Jewish prophet rejected and betrayed by his own people.” I concur, as I do with Beam’s expressed skepticism over the Virgin Birth and Jesus’ alleged water-walking. But I’m puzzled by Beam’s explanation of why he is still a church-going Christian:

What these people don’t understand, what Mel Gibson and his ilk don’t understand, is that the literal truth of Jesus’ story isn’t what animates Christian belief. Many of us are awed by the figurative beauty of a story that created a system of values and beliefs that has survived for 2,000 years and has a reasonable possibility of surviving even Italian vamp Monica Bellucci’s depiction of Mary Magdalene in Gibson’s vanity outing.

Very well. The Christian Bible is the figurative story of a Jewish prophet rejected and betrayed by his own people. It’s the figurative story of the Son of God dying for our sins and requiring that we believe that he did so as a condition of getting into heaven. There’s still nothing particularly beautiful in any of that, and I don’t see what “values” can be derived therefrom. If it’s all just a fairy tale, as Beam suggests, there are plenty other stories with less violence, and a much more straightforward message. Why embrace a story which, by your own admission, can’t even be made into a movie without provoking anger and hatred?

Randi Rants

July 26, 2003 | 27 Comments

It’s always distressed me how so many “skeptic” organizations give a free pass to religion, focussing instead on debunking ESP, astrology, and other pseudoscientific phenomena. Ordinary superstition is a worthy target, to be sure, but insofar as only religion has constitutional and other legal protection it’s that much more dangerous. So I was delighted to see a surprisingly in-your-face offering from the King of the Skeptics, James Randi, at the James Randi Education Foundation’s online newsletter. A few excerpts:

Why I Deny Religion, How Silly and Fantastic It Is, and Why I’m a Dedicated and Vociferous Bright

This week’s page will be devoted entirely to religion. I’ve reached the point where I just have to unload on this subject that until now I’ve felt was just outside of the matters that the JREF handles. Since religion shows up as a part of so many arguments in support of other fantastic claims, I want to show you that its embrace is of the same nature as acceptance of astrology, ESP, prophecy, dowsing, and the other myriad of strange beliefs we handle here every day. Previously, I’ve excused myself from involved discussions of this pervasive notion, on grounds that it offers no examinable evidence, as the other supernatural beliefs actually do — though those examinations have always shown negative results. Religious people can’t be argued with logically, because they claim that their beliefs are of such a nature that they cannot be examined, but just “are.”

* * *

But it was the incredible stories I was told, that really made me rear back in disbelief. For examples, they told me, some 2,000 years ago a mid-East virgin was impregnated by a ghost of some sort, and as a result produced a son who could walk on water, raise the dead, turn water into wine, and multiply loaves of bread and fishes. All that was in addition to tossing out demons. He expected and accepted a brutal, sadistic, death — and then he rose from the dead.

There was much, much, more. Adam and Eve, they said, were the original humans, plunked down in a garden to start our species going. But I didn’t understand, and still don’t, that they had only two children, both sons — and one of them killed the other — yet somehow they produced enough people to populate the Earth, without incest, which was a big no-no! Then some prophet or other made the Earth stop turning, an army blew horns until a wall fell down, a guy named Moses made the Red Sea divide in two, and made frogs fall out of the sky….

I needn’t go on. And that’s only a small start on one religion! The Wizard of Oz is more believable. And more fun.

* * *

The credophiles [Godidiots] try to establish a parallel between science and religion. This is a useless pursuit; these ideas are exact opposites of one another. No, as Dawkins also writes, “Although it has many of religion’s virtues, [science] has none of its vices. Science is based upon verifiable evidence.”

We find religion in so much of our history, our philosophy, our everyday lives, and our legal system. Miscegenation was banned based on Biblical rules, slavery was justified by the same book. It’s convenient to have an ancient set of rules to back up odious actions and behavior, especially when it can be argued that a certain amount of “interpretation” — though never outright denial! — is necessary for them to properly be applied to any given situation. In that regard, I reject the tired arguments that try to excuse perfectly obvious errors and blunders of religion by insisting that “it doesn’t really mean that.” It means what it says, and no amount of alibi-ing and explaining will convince me that they didn’t intend the faithful to actually believe that the Universe was created in seven days. Make up your mind: either it’s right, or it’s wrong.

While Randi’s brain is generally in the right place, he appears to be essentially a “belief atheist.” He asserts that “skeptics do not attempt to prove materialism . . . [i]t is simply the best, most logical, reasonable, explanation of the universe.” Apart from the erroneous implication that atheism requires materialism, I think he over-emphasizes the importance of empirical, scientific evidence in the God debate. The most potent arguments against God, I believe, are the philosophical ones directed at the very definition of the deity. Additionally, his essay ultimately degenerates into mushy girlie talk more typical of ex-blogger Tara of Naturalistic Banter, concluding, as he does, that “I also believe in puppy-dogs and a child’s sparkling eyes, in laughter and smiles, in sunflowers and butterflies.”

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

Sticking to the Script

July 25, 2003 | 34 Comments

Reading The Wizard of Oz, I was appalled the book’s distortion of the historical record. It vastly overstates the frequency of tornadoes, and the popularity of hot-air ballooning, in early 20th century Kansas. The movie was an even greater disappointment, suggesting that Dorothy’s entire adventure was a dream — despite the virtual unanimity among scholars regarding the existence of witches and flying monkeys in the Emerald City.

Fortunately, Mel Gibson’s upcoming film about the Resurrection won’t suffer from such flaws. The script of “The Passion” has been scrutinized by an ad hoc group of religious academicians to assure that it contains absolutely no factual errors. After all, when one is recounting the story of how the Jewish Son of God died so that whomsoever believes in Him will have eternal life, nothing is more important than complete and total accuracy.

The panel, affiliated with the Anti-Defamation League and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, released an 18-page report concluding that Gibson’s script is full of historical and theological errors. The document has not been made public, but the ADL and various authors of the report have hinted at its contents. Some of the mistakes are quite jarring. For example, as panel member Paula Fredriksen notes in The New Republic, Greek, not Latin, was more commonly spoken at the time that Jesus rose from the dead to save all of humanity from its sins.

But the primary problem with the script, according to the scholars, is how it takes the simple tale of how the King of the Jews was betrayed and murdered by his own people, and twists that into something anti-Semitic. In this regard, Fredriksen notes that Gibson relied heavily upon the visions of two seventeenth-century nuns rather than the contemporaneous Gospels. Had Gibson read the New Testament, she points out, he’d have realized that only two of its books, Mark and Matthew, implicate the Jews in the persecution and execution of Christ. And, as the Catholic contingent of the panel noted, the non-contemporaneous twentieth century visions of what really happened (as recorded by the Second Vatican Council) require that Mark, Matthew and two millennia of Biblical interpretation be ignored to give an accurate historical record.

The ADL, too, is very concerned that the movie “tell the truth” and not “falsify history.” The Jewish organization is worried that the film will “exploit[] New Testament passages selectively to weave a narrative that does injustice to the gospels — and their message that the Messiah has arrived and the Jewish religion has been superceded. To this end, the ADL cautions that “the final product must rid itself of fictitious non-scriptural elements” and include only non-fictitious scriptural truths (other than those found in Mark and Matthew) regarding He who will preside over all of us on Judgment Day. Preferably, says the ADL, the movie will incite hatred against Italians by “show[ing] the power of the rule of imperial Rome-including its frequent use of crucifixion-in first-century Palestine.”

In other words: both Mel Gibson’s script, and the ecumenical report that criticizes it, are irrational, anti-human garbage that deserve no more of your time and attention that the scriptures upon which they are based

Bible Lesson for Kobe

July 24, 2003 | 5 Comments

The Bible could have spared Kobe Bryant a lot of grief, says Binyamin L. Jolkovsky in today’s New York Post:

Kobe and other high-profile, deep-pocketed targets could learn a thing or two from religion.

Orthodox Jews, for example, practice what are known as the laws of Yichud: Non-relatives of mixed genders are not permitted to be in seclusion for any longer than a few seconds. That means no extended car rides in isolated areas, not entering an empty elevator that will not stop regularly at various floors and definitely no “room service” behind closed doors.

Can’t argue with that logic. If rich, famous, testosterone-fueled professional athletes start complying with Orthodox Jewish law, promiscuity will grind to a halt. And, as New York’s Governor Pataki once said, if Nazi Germany had only enacted hate crime legislation in the 1930’s, “the greatest hate crime of all, the Holocaust, could have been avoided.”

Kobe + Bryant + Rape + Victim

July 23, 2003 | 142 Comments

To all of you hundreds of sick fucks who have come to this site looking for the true name of Kobe Bryant’s accuser: YOU’VE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE — IT’S HERE! This is a very, very nasty ATHEIST website, run by a moral monster who delights in hurting innocent people. You probably landed here because I posted a fake news story on Sunday (here) mocking Kobe for his weepy blather about how he was going to sort out the adultery charges with “his god.” Apparently you thought that a search for Kobe + Bryant + Rape + Victim (or a similar permutation) would satisfy your prurient curiosity. AND IT WILL!

But first, you’re in for a little theological education. I’m pretty sure that your belief in god is just as childish and unsophisticated as Kobe’s. So although I can’t cure you of America’s pathetic sports-and-sex obsession, I can strip you of all your stupid, idiotic, superstitious, baby-talk, religious delusions. Please visit the links below corresponding to the appropriate faith (or just stick your religion’s name into the “Search” box). The name of the woman who is accusing Kobe Bryant of rape is hidden in one of them!!!!!

Catholic (here, here and here)
Jewish (here and here)
Muslim (here and here)
Evangelical Christian (here)
Wiccan (here and here)
Mormon (here)
Buddhist (here)
Hindu (here)
Sikh (here)
Agnostic (here)

If you still can’t get your minds off sports, however, you can go here, here or here for an explanation of why 1) jocks who invoke God on the playing field are imbeciles, and 2) why sportscasters who criticize jocks for invoking God are also imbeciles.

P.S.: If you disagree with anything I say about religion, it’s because you are stupid, lack the slightest background in theology and need to be re-educated. Please sit down, shut up, and read every entry in my entire site so that you can begin to think sensibly about things. Go here first for proof that there is no God, and for an explanation of why all attempts to derive morality from God-belief are futile and potentially harmful.

P.P.S. Did I mention 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?

Parody?

July 22, 2003 | 13 Comments

Since 1612, The Landover Baptist Church has been parodying fundamentalist Christianity. This provoked the wrath of Objective Christian Ministries, which has set up a website devoted to shutting Landover down:

The Internet was created by the United States of America — a Christian nation and should not be used to spread anti-Christian, secular, or non-Christian propaganda and hate speech. This is our Internet, and we should exercise our position as its owners and as the guardians of civilization to stop its misuse.

* * *

For this reason, this website was created to try and stop one of the more vile and dangerous misuses of the Internet: using it to mock Our Lord Jesus Christ, His teachings, and His followers. And one site in particular stands out in need of stoppage: Landover Baptist.

* * *

Landover Baptist claims to be a church. Moreover, they claim to be the only church in America that understands the Bible! In fact, neither is true. Landover Baptist is a fraud. A joke. Their true purpose is not to spread the Gospel of our Lord, but to trick people – especially those who have not received the Word and Salvation or have been programmed by secular culture to distrust Christianity – into believing that Christianity is evil and rejecting it.

For this blasphemous atrocity, the Landover Baptist website must be removed from our Internet.

O.C.M., in turn, inspired H.O.L.B. — Hands Off Landover Baptist! — devoted to “keep[ing] Landover Baptist from being shut down by narrow-minded fundies.”

As I’m sure the H.O.L.B. folks realized, O.C.M. is itself a deliberate parody of intolerant Christianity — the sort of Christianity that calls for prayer to knock off sick Supreme Court Justices so that imprisoning gays can once again be legalized. But it’s a very skillful parody, and one that has, as you can confirm with a quick Google search, fooled a number of bloggers (I’ll spare them the humiliation). For those who aren’t convinced, this over-the-top language from O.C.M. is the dead giveaway:

Vicious Hate Site of the Week

Have you ever seen a web site based totally on hatred? Hatred beyond human reason, hatred beyond compassion, hatred beyond human decency in any form?

I’ve seen many such sites. Web sites run by the Klu [sic] Klux Klan. Web site run by Skinheads and Neo-Nazis. Web sites run by Black Muslims who hate all white people. Web sites run by atheists who hate all religious believers. Web sites run by Christians who hate all non-believers. Web sites by women who think that having a penis makes you evil-by-definition. Web sites run by Jews who believe that any critic of the modern state of Israel is an anti-semite.

Imagine this: a web site showing black people with enormous lips, gigantic feet and hands, sucking on watermelons and fried chickens and dancing a happy tune to jungle drums to a beat set by a whip-holding slavemaster. Sound horrible? I agree. So tell me what’s different between that and the vicious hate-mongering portrayed by the Landover Baptist Church web site. If you can.

Quite seriously, have you ever seen a site run by more hateful and intolerant people? A site run by more prejudiced and ignorant bigots, by people who stereotype and de-humanize with almost no shame or compassion or humanity? Because, quite honestly, I can’t think of one.

They make me want to vomit. They really do.

No . . . wait . . . that’s a quote from self-proclaimed Bright Dean Esmay. And he’s serious.

[O.C.M. link courtesy of Chris of Monosyllabically]

Happy Blogiversary to Me

July 21, 2003 | 37 Comments

You know that standard sitcom plot where she thinks he’s forgotten her birthday or their anniversary, only to walk into a surprise party? I’m sure that’s why all you ungrateful godless bastards have held off on flooding my comment section with tributes today, celebrating the one year anniversary of confrontational, potty-mouthed, anti-religious proof atheism here at TRA. Yes, it’s been 365 days since that fateful Sunday evening when I first posted my Basic Assumptions to provide an easy target for pot-shots by half-witted Godidiots who don’t have the guts to reveal their own much-less-thought-out superstitious suppositions.

For those of you who can’t take a hint, all I’m going for is a Sally Field “you really love me” moment followed by a group hug. Too much to ask? I think not. Do you see a PayPal button anywhere on this site? No. Have I ever asked for anything but a few hits now and then, to help me chart my meteoric rise into the list of the top 200 most heavily-trafficked blogs among those which make their SiteMeter readings public? Of course not.

If it’s too hard to say “thank you,” just leave a sarcastic, half-serious, backhanded compliment to let me know that maybe I shouldn’t just shut this site down tomorrow. And if you do, next Monday I might post a blog retrospective — chock-full of all sorts of “best of” and “worst of” lists, together with tearful acknowledgments of all the other blogs and Prolific Commentors who have inspired me to continue with this unique form of time-wasting self-abasement.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXXOXOXOXOXOX

The Raving Atheist

Sight the Brights

July 21, 2003 | 9 Comments

For those of you who can’t get enough of the meme that’s taking America by storm, Robert McNally is Tracking the Bright Idea at his website. He provides excerpts from blogs posts discussing Brightism, and, for quick reference, specifies whether the writer is a critic or supporter of the movement.

If you see any Bright postings in your corner of the Blogosphere, please report them to Robert. If not, please write one immediately. The object is to keep this thing going longer than the Lambada and the Macarena combined.

God Squad Review XL (Harry Potter)

July 21, 2003 | 4 Comments

Harry Potter makes the cut at the Squad this week. In response to a Catholic kid whose Protestant friends insist that the Rowling series is “evil,” the Squad opines:

Our general view is that anything that gets kids reading instead of watching television or playing video games is a very good and civilizing thing.

However, books about things of the spirit that never once mention Jesus or God flirt with the pagan.

As long as the Harry Potter books’ fantastical world does not spill out beyond the pages into some new pagan children’s cult of witches and wizards, we’re happy to endorse this adventure in reading.

After all, heroism and courage, loyalty and virtue get as much play in the books as the Parselmouths.

Outside of a collection of Bible stories, there’s not much children’s literature that doesn’t “flirt with the pagan” under the Squad’s definition. Almost any book featuring magic, ghosts, or talking animals would qualify. And I can’t imagine that the Squad would be happy if they actually got their wish — if God or Jesus did make appearances in The Wizard of Oz, Peter Cottontail or Stuart Little, they’d likely condemn the stories as sacrilegious.

The Squad’s advice also implicitly condemns Buddhism, which doesn’t mention God or Jesus, but which (in addition to offering eating and breathing advice) is largely about “things of the spirit.” On the other hand, The Squad seems to be acknowledging that positive qualities such as heroism, courage, loyalty and virtue can be taught without specifically invoking the God concept.

Of course, the main reason the Squad is plugging Harry now is to promote the Vatican’s party line on the series, announced earlier this year. It’s also a little dig at the conservative Protestants (remember, the Squad is only Catholic and Jewish) who have fueling bonfires with the books to fight its occult influence.

Kobe Bryant’s God, Wife, to Try Adultery Charges

July 20, 2003 | 9 Comments

Eagle, Colorado, July 20, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

Admitting to “the mistake of adultery,” L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant yesterday announced that the charges of marital infidelity would be prosecuted by personal rather civil authorities. “I have to answer to my wife and my God for my actions that night and I pray that both will forgive me,” Bryant said. The Eagle County Colorado District Attorney’s office, however, will require that Bryant answer to it regarding related charges that he raped a 19 year old hotel concierge.

Legal experts said that it was common for a defendant’s Spouse and His God to assert jurisdiction over misdemeanor sexual misconduct offenses. “A bilateral Wife-Deity tribunal is uniquely qualified to impose punishment in such cases,” said Colorado defense attorney Mark Cargill. “And there is no one more humble than a man answering to His God five minutes after His Wife has cut His Balls off.”

Kobe Bryant’s God refused to comment regarding the basketball player’s guilt or innocence on the felony rape counts. “Like the NBA, my policy to await the outcome of a judicial proceeding before issuing a statement,” he said. “It would be unfair because nobody was in that room at the Lodge and Spa at Cordilerra in Eagle, Colorado except Kobe and that young lady,” he noted. “And, of course, Me.”

Kobe Bryant’s God did, nevertheless, express skepticism regarding His Person’s characterization of the adultery charges. “To call the adultery a

Go To Hell

July 18, 2003 | 11 Comments

“Hideous” is how Eugene Volokh describes the conduct of the New Mexico Catholic priest who delivered a eulogy advising a grieving family that grandpa was going straight to Hell. The Professor opines that “[p]erhaps the priest felt he had a good theological reason for what he was doing . . . [b]ut under common standards of decency, this is just awful, and I think the rest of us are perfectly entitled to judge this man under the standards that we think are right.”

As I’ve discussed before, the Professor believes that one reason governmentally composed prayers are bad is that “the American people are themselves perfectly good judges of what they should pray about and when.” Another reason is that “[t]he standards of sincerity ought to be higher in religion,” a standard which is generally not met when prayers are governmentally sponsored. So I’m surprised that he’s so critical of the priest, who is, after all, a duly annointed representative of his flock presumed to have the expertise to guide them in matters spiritual. And the eulogy, to me, seems to be the ultimate in sincerity; as I noted yesterday, all Father Mansfield did was quote the Scripture directly applicable to the deceased’s fate. What “common standards of decency” could possibly contradict that? Certainly, nothing in Professor Volokh’s agnostic premises would permit the rest of us, as he suggests, “to judge this man under standards that we think are right.” Does he think that every man, regardless of how he badly he has conducted his life, is entitled to be praised and memorialized like an upstanding citizen such as John Gotti?

Ultimately, however, the Professor concludes that the family shouldn’t be allowed to sue because the right to say nasty crazy cruel religious shit is protected under the First Amendment (which no doubt it is). You couldn’t, of course, run into a funeral service waving a sign over the coffin that said something true like “this corpse will rot and be eaten by maggots” without getting taken to the cleaner by lawyers, or, in all likelihood, arrested. But as long as you cloak your description of an even more horrible fate in religious terms, you’re off the hook.

This is true, suggests the Professor, even if the words would otherwise constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress. Interestingly, one of the cases commonly included in law school texts to illustrate that tort parallels, in a number of ways, the facts of the New Mexico case:

Should protection also be given to the hypersensitive or idiosyncratic plaintiff? In one early landmark case protection was allowed. Plaintiff, an eccentric old woman, believed that a pot of gold had been buried in her back yard, and was constantly digging for it. Defendant buried a pot with other contents where she would dig it up. When she did so he caused her to be escorted by a procession in trimuph to the city hall, where she opened the pot under circumstances of extreme public humiliation. She suffered acute mental distress, with resulting serious illness, which apparently further unsettled her reason and contributed to her early death.

[Prosser, Wade, Schwartz, Torts, Cases and Materials, Seventh Edition, p. 67 fn8 (discussiing Nickerson v Hodges, 146 La. 735 (1920)]

In the New Mexico case, the family was similarly expecting the priest to announce that grandpa had hit the jackpot, only to be humiliated with some sobering fire and brimstone rhetoric. I guess the difference is that, unlike the defendant in the Nickerson case, the priest shared the same delusions as his victims. But even if he didn’t, he could probably invoke some defense based upon the doctrine of assumption of risk. You can’t go to a horror movie and then sue the theater for scaring you out of your wits.

Apatheists, Beware

July 17, 2003 | 12 Comments

The dangers of apatheism, from today’s New York Post:

A New Mexico family is suing their local Catholic church over a funeral Mass in which the priest allegedly said their relative was only a middling Catholic and going straight to hell.

Lawyers for the family of Ben Martinez, 80, claim the Rev. Scott Mansfield said at Martinez’s funeral last year that the deceased was “living in sin,” “lukewarm in his faith” and that “the Lord vomited people like Ben out of his mouth to hell.”

Technically, under Revelation 3:16, you don’t actually get vomited out:

So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

And if God were an atheist (which He is, since He doesn’t believe in any power higher than Himself), he’d do the same thing to agnostics.

Zoned Out

July 17, 2003 | 6 Comments

Being religious gives you the right to do whatever the fuck you want, wherever the fuck you want to do it.

That’s the guiding principle behind the the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, as illustrated by an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (paid registration required, so don’t bother). The piece features a dispute provoked by a Hassidic Orthodox Jewish congregation, Etz Chaim, when it demolished a home last month to build an 8,100-square-foot synagogue in the middle of an affluent residential area in Hancock Park in Los Angeles. Although the structure violated the zoning laws applicable to all, by invoking RLUIPA the religious landowners coerced a settlement permitting it to stand and host up to 50 worshippers. Their supporters offered all of the usual whining justifications for this blatant religious favoritism:

“The right to build places of worship shouldn’t be up to the whim of bureaucrats and nimbys,” says Mr. Gaubatz [legal counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty], using the acronym for Not In My Backyard Syndrome. “That’s basically giving them the right to define somebody’s religious activity.”

Members of Etz Chaim say they have fallen prey to a group of small-minded neighbors. “It’s absolutely unconscionable that a couple of Jews can’t get together and pray,” says Chaim Kolodny, a rabbi with the congregation.

“It’s sad that these powerful homeowners have chosen to go after these people who are just trying to worship their God,” [said] attorney Susan Azad.

The last I looked, there was plenty of open sky over Los Angeles. Since all the congregation is going to be doing is talking to the sky, they should do it somewhere else. Nobody is stopping them from doing it in their own homes or over the telephone. The congregation used to pray in “a sprawling Mediterranean-revival mansion” on the outskirts of the neighborhood; if their God could hear them there he can hear them anywhere. But they don’t have the right to assemble en masse in a residential neighborhood, a neighborhood into which others have paid a premium to live with the understanding that they’d be free from such disturbances.

The congregation also complains that many of their members are now elderly and cannot go elsewhere easily because they are forbidden to drive on the Sabbath. Perhaps that’s another issue they should take up with their God, because I can’t see why anyone in the neighborhood would be remotely interested in it. There are probably other elderly people in the area who would love a museum or a senior citizen’s center or a coffee shop nearer to their homes, but none of them would assert a right to build anywhere, in violation of generally applicable zoning laws, just becaue they had a strong desire to do so. And while little children have the right to eat, without others else “defining” or dictating the particulars of that activity, they don’t have the right to build a McDonald’s in the middle of a residential block.

* * *

The Catholic Church, too, frequently litigates to expand or remodel its churches in violation of zoning laws. But as reported by yesterday’s New York Daily News, the Diocese of Bridgeport finds the secular rationales against permitting exemptions very persuasive when it comes to tormenting its own parishioners. So the church is prohibiting the parents of a man killed at Ground Zero from erecting a granite replica of the twin towers on his gravesite, even though the statue would be only 29 inches tall (shorter than the tombstone) and presumbly would bother nobody, being, of course, in the middle of a cemetery. The ban makes absolutely no sense in this context, but, well, rules are rules:

[T]he Diocese of Bridgeport, which manages the cemetery, has refused to allow the tribute, citing longstanding rules that allow for only one monument per plot.

“We do sympathize with their loss,” said Ray Capo, director of cemeteries for the diocese. “But there are other people who lose loved ones as well. This is a policy for everyone.

The cemetery covers about 70 acres and consists of a few thousand plots, according to Capo. “To allow additional monuments would open a Pandora’s box of problems,” he said.

King of the Brights

July 16, 2003 | 28 Comments

Godidiot Dean Esmay has annointed himself the king of the blog Brights. He’s posted another manifesto of his naturalistic principles, and in the comments section of this post at Asymmetrical Information, he claims that he’s “the only blogger willing to openly defend the Bright concept.”

But as I noted last week, Dean’s opposition to superstition and supernaturalism stops short at religion. He still rejects the “anti-religious paranoia that brights like Richard Dawkins appear to have.” And the criticism I engage in here is considered hate speech, a point he makes later in the A.I. comments:

[D]on’t you realize that Raving Atheist is a troll? He doesn’t want to talk, he wants to attack and mock and spread hatred. You are sticking your head into a blender even addressing him. When he came by my site I had to clean up all his troll-droppings and ban him. He got banned from my site for that kind of behavior, and in response, like a petulent child, he called me a racist and a godidiot, and tried sending one of his two or three fans to my site to accuse me of not supporting democracy or freedom of speech, forcing me to ban them too.

You will get nothing meaningful from him but a lot of vicious hatred. The best thing you can do is ignore him. Addressing him with serious argument just gives him what he wants: an excuse to treat you like garbage.

But Dean is making some progress. Apparently taking my suggestion, his manifesto adds faith healer Benny Hinn to the list of the despicable — can Lourdes and the Christian Scientists be far behind? Even more promising is his declaration that “James Randi and Penn & Teller are among my personal heroes.” Just look what the Amazing J.R. has to say about religion:

To make sure that my blasphemy is thoroughly expressed, I hereby state my opinion that the notion of a god is a basic superstition, that there is no evidence for the existence of any god(s), that devils, demons, angels and saints are myths, that there is no life after death, heaven nor hell, that the Pope is a dangerous, bigoted, medieval dinosaur, and that the Holy Ghost is a comic-book character worthy of laughter and derision. I accuse the Christian god of murder by allowing the Holocaust to take place — not to mention the “ethnic cleansing” presently being performed by Christians in our world — and I condemn and vilify this mythical deity for encouraging racial prejudice and commanding the degradation of women.

And look at this description of one of Penn and Teller’s acts:

Their skit involved a nearly naked Teller, dressed as Christ on a cross, and a simulated sex act by a midget dressed as an angel. Penn, clad as a Roman soldier, unveiled the scene by pulling away a “Shroud of Turin” that covered the cross.

Now, even I wouldn’t stoop that . . . okay, maybe I would. But I deny Dean’s accusation that I sent fans over to his site to mock him. I would never do something like that, anymore than I would suggest that someone run over there right now and cut and paste the above-quoted language concerning his favorite brights into the comments section of his manifesto.

Foes Spar at Warts Rights Rally

July 15, 2003 | 38 Comments

Austin, Texas, July 15, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

Thousands of opponents of warts-removal legislation rallied yesterday outside the Texas state capitol building in Austin. Under the proposed new bill, doctors would be required to distribute brochures outlining the medical risks to the removal of the benign growths, and have their patients sign informed consent forms.

“This legislation represents a frontal assault on the people’s cosmetic rights,” said Kay Mitchelman, head of the National Wart Removal Action League. “To remove a wart is a painful and soul-searching decision which should be left to the discretion of the individual patient and the medical experts.”

Mitchelman emphasized that she was not advocating that anyone should actually ever have a wart removed. “Being in favor of retaining the option does not mean being pro-removal,” she noted. “Personally, I am against it and would never do it myself.”

Some religious groups support the legislation, arguing that warts are natural and that the procedure can lead to scarring. The Atheist and Agnostic Anti-Removal League joined in supporting the legislation, but disagreed with the reasoning of its religious allies. “If we’re going to be bodily resurrected, warts and all, in Heaven, this is just a waste of time,” said one atheist representative. “But given the admittedly tragic consequences of the procedure, I believe that full disclosure is essential.”

It’s the Thought that Stinks

July 14, 2003 | 17 Comments

A touching tribute at Beliefnet.com. My eating and drinking habits are grossly misrepresented, but it’s the thought that . . . counts.

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

God Squad Review XLIX (Parental Favoritism)

July 14, 2003 | 11 Comments

The Squad pretends to consult the Bible this week to answer a question from “B” of East Hampton, whose husband is showing favoritism to the couple’s smart, athletic and good-looking elder son at the expense of a younger son who “can’t seem to do anything right”:

The Bible mentions your problem a lot. Sarah favored Isaac over Ishmael. Isaac favored Esau over Jacob, and Jacob favored Joseph (not the eldest) over all his brothers. It’s both comforting and bracing to see the Bible speak in such direct language about the problems of parental favoritism.

Parental love is supposed to be doled out evenhandedly, but that’s not always what happens. Speak to your husband privately and without acrimony about what you see happening. Encourage him to take just your youngest son out for some special treat or outing.

Note that the Squad doesn’t actually quote the comforting, bracing and direct language from the Bible that is presumably relevant to the issue of favoritism. Nor does the Squad explain how its advice is supported by the Biblical stories to which it alludes. It is true that Sarah favored Isaac, the biological son she bore at age 90, over Ishmael, the son whom her husband Abraham fathered through a servant girl when he was 86. But her solution, after she became angered at how Ishmael mocked Isaac, was not to treat Ishmael better. Instead, with God’s blessing, he is thrown out of the house.

The story of Esau and Jacob doesn’t support the Squad’s conclusion, either. For some reason, Isaac favored the good-for-nothing Esau over the younger but more intelligent and mature Jacob, and intended to give Esau his blessing. He’s tricked out of doing this by his wife Rebekah, who dresses Jacob up in animal skins so that the nearly-blind Isaac will mistake him for the hairier Esau. After the deception is discovered, Jacob is thrown out of the house.

I’ve discussed the story of Joseph here, in response to one of the Squad’s earilier attempts to offer the Bible as a guide to child-rearing. Needless to say, Joseph got thrown out of the house, and, in fact, sold into slavery. So none of the stories the Squad cites remotely supports its premise that the Bible counsels parents to love their children equally. Rather, it supports the conclusion that the solution to favoritism is to throw children out of the house.

Jaws, Part 3

July 11, 2003 | 10 Comments

Lawyers who fall into shark-infested waters are normally spared out of professional courtesy. Different rules apparently apply among internet lawyer-theologians. Chunks of my flesh are bobbing up in down in the bloody waters over at The Right Christians, where ordained Lutheran attorney Rev. Allen H. Brill, Esq.is savaging me (here and here) over my preference for simple secular utilitarianism over scripturally-revealed wisdom.

Whereas my chief target is religious wrongs, Rev. Brill’s focus is upon the Christian right. But I’m sure our mutual love of the law and The Law will overcome any differences we might otherwise have. Indeed, my godless pro-life heart nearly melted when I read what inspired the name of his blog:

We thank the Rev. Al Sharpton for our name. Confronted by an anti-abortion protester at NARAL’s January rally to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, Rev. Sharpton responded, “Young lady, it is time for the Christian right to meet the right Christians.”

NARAL. Celebrating. Abortion. Hmmm. Perhaps not all of the blood in that water is mine. In any event, I guarantee you that in the coming weeks, it won’t be.

Authority

July 11, 2003 | 27 Comments

Scrolling down through an ancient text* I came across these words of wisdom from Jane Galt:

Someone’s been playing another game of “bait the religious” with the modern secularists favorite sport — dragging verses out of Leviticus and Deuteronomy and waving them at Christians or Orthodox jews. Usually this is done for the amusement of similarly minded friends, which is why those who do it are so shocked and embarrassed to find that no, the religions in question didn’t just, for example, take their position on homosexuality because they’re mean, homophobic people (they may be, but that’s neither here nor there; they all have well reasoned scriptural precedents for their positions. Whether or not you happen to agree that scripture is a sound basis for decision making is not relevant.) This particular letter is addressed to Dr. Laura, which just goes to show that whoever wrote it is ignorant as hell, because the last thing you want to do is get into an argument with an Orthodox Jew about the Law. Rabbis who were smarter than you and more fond of arguing spent a hundred years or so debating every possible permutation of every single law in the Torah, and then wrote it all down so that the Orthodox you just picked a fight with can bore you for hours on the subject. It’s called the Talmud, and go read Chaim Potok if you don’t believe the shiksa.

Anyway, the letter’s much funnier after you read John Braue’s response to the questions.

This post employs a tactic commonly used to shield the religious from legitimate criticism. Rather than argue the actual merits of the doctrine in question — in this case the alleged immorality of homosexuality — make a blind appeal to authority. Assure your readers that the dogma is, in fact, based on serious scholarship and sound reasoning. And if challenged on that score, assure them that that somewhere there is a wise and learned Rabbi who could beat them in a debate with both hands tied behind his back. But don’t bother to articulate what the Rabbi would actually say, or explain why the Rabbi is right and the “baiter” is wrong.

This ploy is rarely tolerated in the sphere of ordinary political debate. It’s perfectly respectable to criticize Marxism by quoting questionable passages from Das Kapital, notwithstanding that there is a vast scholarship devoted to that treatise and doubtlessly many professors at Berkeley and elsewhere who could conjure up plausible arguments on Karl’s behalf. And no one would deride the critic as “ignorant as hell” for confronting a professor with direct quotations from the very text upon which the arguments rest.

The closer analogy here, however, is to the vast literature regarding astrology and tarot card reading, and the countless practitioners who could dazzle you with the consequences of Mercury being in retrograde or the selection of the Hierophant card. Like religion, those pseudosciences rely on the blind acceptance of some unseen, undefined supernatural authority. To rely on the movements of planet and pieces of cardboard to make decisions is insane. And in this regard — contrary to Galt’s assumption — it’s perfectly relevant to consider whether “scripture is a sound basis for decision making.” People who do are silly, not profound, and every post hoc argument made in reliance upon the bare authority of scripture is equally silly.

That is why, of course, Galt never actually quotes the language from Leviticus and Deuteronomy or the defenses thereof from the Talmud. It’s not easy, as the letter-writer suggested, to defend the sale of children into slavery or the death penalty for working on the Sabbath. None of Braue’s responses are “well-reasoned”; they’re all merely circular references to the Torah or Talmud which rely upon one’s acceptance of those texts as infallible. And although Braue concludes by contemptuously challenging the writer to “try to find some questions that haven’t been answered in three thousand years,” he never explains how three thousand years of thinking arrived at answers so very stupid.

(*It’s ancient Blogospherically-speaking, anyway; it’s a February 2002 post from Asymmetrical Information, which, way back then, was known as Live from the WTC. I’ve been meaning to blog on it for a while, but since the post itself is responding to a May 2000 letter, I felt no great urgency to do so).

Dean Esmay, Godidiot (Part II)

July 10, 2003 | 15 Comments

The very essence of Godidiotism is to defend a moral position for the sole reason that it is supported by some religious dogma. Dean Esmay’s stance on abortion is a classic example of this:

For years, certain feminist organizations have been upset to note that support for abortion-on-demand as a no-questions-asked absolute civil right is not particularly prevalent among women generally. Worse, the younger women are, the less likely they are to view it that way. This particularly irks feminists who believed that, somehow, all those nasty reactionary pro-life women (who typically make up the majority of the crowds at pro-life rallies, by the way) would die off while the young hip women, freed from the bondage of patriarchal oppression, would see the “real truth.” Unfortunately, it ain’t happening: the younger a woman is, the more likely she is to consider herself pro-life, and bumper-sticker catch-phrases like “a woman’s right to choose” and “women’s health issues” aren’t working the same magic they used to, either in opinion polls or in the voting booth.

The radical pro-choice crowd is shrinking, not growing, and it’s certainly not because evil fundamentalist religious types are taking over the country, or because men are trying to put women “back in the kitchen” — although some anti-Christian and misandrist bigots would like you to believe that.

* * *

I have had the experience of seeing my son Jacob moving around in his mother’s womb, and hearing his heartbeat at the same time.

I deeply, deeply, DEEPLY resent people who tell me I have no right to an opinion on this matter because I “just can’t understand what it’s like,” or who suggest that I’m some sort of frothing fundamentalist fascist simply because I am unwilling to make a religious issue out of “a woman’s right to choose.”

And by the way, for those of you who make “a woman’s right to choose” your formulation for all that is right and just in the world? Thank you so very much for marginalizing the fathers of the world so callously. We all appreciate that. No really, we do. We can’t get pregnant, so what we think is utterly irrelevant, right? We matter not a whit. We’re really, seriously, glad to know you think so little of us. It makes us feel very special.

Don’t be fooled by Dean’s claim that abortion isn’t a religious issue for him. His impassioned defense of the pro-life movement is based on nothing except his concern that its supporters might be “victimized” by anti-Christian bigotry. Abortion is not a moral issue for him at all; his only concern is that Catholics and others who oppose abortion on religious grounds — however specious some their supporting reasoning may be — receive immunity from criticism for expressing their “faith.” That, and nothing else, is the basis of his respect for their position.

Because, you see, Dean Esmay is pro-choice. Radically pro-choice. Despite his rhetoric, he’s “abortion-on-demand as a no-questions-asked absolute civil right” pro-choice. He makes this clear elsewhere in the above-quoted post and accompanying comments, and throughout his blog. And, for some perverse reason, he views his advocacy of the right to rip the beating heart out of his very own child as a sign of principle rather than abject moral depravity.

But because conservative Christians base their opposition to abortion on religious grounds, he must respect that too. What he really likes, though, is the misogynistic, anti-feminist aspect of that religiosity. So he milks it for what it’s worth, all the while reserving his right to rip the beating heart out of his very own child.

Godidiot of the Week: Dean Esmay of Dean’s World (With Update)

July 9, 2003 | 28 Comments

Atheism and rabid secularism start with the presumption that all values are equal and entirely [a] matter of opinion.

* * *

On Mondays I’m an atheist, on Tuesdays through Saturdays I’m a confused agnostic deist, and on Sundays I try to take the day off.

* * *

I’m not an atheist. I am agnostic about God, but not about everything because I believe things like astrology, voodoo, witchcraft, and satanic powers are all nonsense, and I loathe flim-flam artists like John Edward and Uri Geller.

* * *

I’ll come out of the closet and just say it: I am a Bright.

* * *

These quotes neatly sum up the confused workings of the mind of this week’s Godidiot, Dean Esmay of Dean’s World. As his own words demonstrate, he knows nothing about either atheism or religion and even less about himself. But while he may not know what he is, I do. Dean Esmay is a thin-skinned homophobic racist who believes that the best public policy is based either upon insane religious reasons, or no reasons at all.

Dean’s first rule is this: hatred, if religiously inspired, is beyond criticism. It’s not nice, he explained last year, to call conservative Christians to task for their homophobia:

Most of the bashing anymore seems to come from political commentators, Hollywood celebrities, journalists, and gay rights activists who equate saying “we believe that is sinful” to “we want you thrown into Concentration Camps.”

A good point: prison, not concentration camps, was all that conservative Christians required (until two weeks ago) as punishment for gay sinfulness. But, as he more recently explained, those who disagree with them are “titanic jackasses”:

So let me be very clear: if you’re one of my friends who enjoys baiting or mocking Christians, I hope you realize that I think you’re being a titanic jackass when you do that, and that I wish you would stop it.

Then there are the people who suggest that if a Christian believes homosexuality is sinful, he’s an intolerant bigot who contributes to the murder of gay people. Let me just tell you: that belief is not only wrong, it’s hateful and hurtful and deeply ignorant. If you think that, you seriously need to grow up, and to educate yourself. Ditto if you think someone in public office should be forbidden to testify about his faith when asked about it, or when speaking to a group of his fellow believers.

Recently, in Friday’s controversy, some of you mentioned a hateful “preacher” named Fred Phelps, of “God Hates Fags” fame. Mr. Phelps, the last I heard, has a congregation of less than 100 people, and seems to mostly in the business of making himself famous by saying hateful things–aided by a press eager for something inflammatory to publish. If you honestly believe that he is representative of any significant form of Christianity, you’ve got an ugliness in your soul that you ought to clean out.

Being an engine of Love powered by Truth, I tried to gently correct Dean in the comments section:

The Vatican glossary defines gays as being “without any social value.” Unlike Fred Phelps, the Pope has a congregation of approximately one billion people.

I don’t how me telling religious people they’re wrong is any more “baiting” than you telling your racist and homophobic friends that they’re wrong.

It’s perfectly insulting for you to compare my atheism with a bunch of false, superstitious, sky-god babytalk beliefs. It’s like comparing astronomy to astrology. They aren’t remotely on the same plane.

You simply haven’t examined atheism in the way that I have examined theism. You’re the one who’s prejudging things.

You’re the bigot.

Even though I was kind enough not to point out his hypocrisy in declaring John Edward and Uri Geller to be frauds while not condemning the alleged “miracles” of Benn Hinn, Lourdes, and the deceased Mother Teresa, Dean didn’t thank me for this education or respond to my comment. However, after a reader provided a link to a story from the Guardian about the glossary, a co-blogger with whom Dean shares the site had this response:

I’m a bit skeptical of the story and the existance of the “glossary” without more proof than a story. Considering the paper of record can’t it’s crap straight – how do we know the Guardian can? Any other proof besides a news story?

I’m a Catholic and I’ve never heard of this – and I’m pretty well read…

Well, no proof other than the Vatican’s own website. But the point became somewhat academic a few days later when the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ anti-gay sodomy laws. Disguising his love of theocratic mob rule as respect for democracy (I’ve discussed this ruse before), Dean termed the decision “unfortunate”:

The Supreme Court struck down a Texas sodomy law today. I’m glad to see the law gone, but I’m sorry about the decision anyway. Democratic freedoms are still being regularly eroded by the Supreme Court, and this is just another example of it.

In the 1980s, the Supreme Court declared that states have a right to have such laws. That decision was correct, in my view. The Supreme Court is not supposed to be in the business of deciding whether it “likes” or “agrees with” a law. The Justices are not supposed to decide that their commute is too long and rule speed limits unConstitutional. There are all kinds of laws I don’t like, but I’d be horrified if the Supreme Court simply started throwing them out on my behalf.

* * *

I just want to add my voice to those who note that it’s sad when we celebrate democracy being trampled once again by the courts.

So throwing people in jail for scriptural reasons is like enacting a speed limit. Again, in the comments, I patiently explained to Dean the error of his ways:

Alas, gone is the democratic freedom to imprison others for conduct that’s none of your business and doesn’t affect you. I hate to see freedoms like that trampled on. The next thing you know, nobody’s going to be able to imprison ANYONE on a whim — and isn’t imprisoning people on whims what democracy is all about?

After Dean attempted to obsfucate the issue with more poly-sci doubletalk (e.g., the Supreme Court lacks the power to strike down bad laws, whereas it is a proper legislature function to enact them), I tried to drive the point home another way:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

That was a judge in 1959, upholding the Legislature’s democratically enacted miscegnation laws. The Supreme overruled it in 1967. What a terrible blow to democracy — allowing people who love each other to marry.

I’m still having a wee bit of trouble determinng how YOUR rights were “trampled” by the rejection of the sodomy laws — do any of you know what “trampled” means? The person who is thrown in jail is generally the one having his rights trampled.

This logic was apparently too much for Dean. After all, he thought that Bob Jones University

Club Damaged in Failed Suicide Bid

July 8, 2003 | 5 Comments

Forest, Ohio, July 8, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

A social club was nearly destroyed in an electrical fire sparked by a derelict’s attempt to kill himself, according to the BBC News.

Witnesses say that the man, who remains unidentified, entered the building during a raging lightning storm. Despite the obvious hazards, he stood in the middle of a pile of improperly grounded electrical cords and began rambling incoherently into a microphone. Predictably, the man received a severe shock after a metal beam on the top of the structure acted as a lightning rod and conducted the current through his body.

The lightning bolt also started a fire, which burned for three hours and caused approximately $20,000 in damage to the club. The man was not injured, but was taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

Officials from the local fire department classified the incident as an attempted suicide. “He obviously had a death wish, acting with such reckless disregard for his life and the lives of others,” said Fire Chief Doug Hawkin. “And his mental impairment was apparent from the way he was shouting at the sky,” Hawkin said. “He was really asking for it.”

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

God Squad Review XLVIII (Evangelism)

July 7, 2003 | 12 Comments

Evangelism rears its ugly head at the Squad this week. “M”, a Lutheran from Wisconsin, has some relatives who have seen the light:

My older sister and mother recently “found” God through a fundamentalist church. Now my sister and her husband frequently refer to Scripture passages in normal conversation.

They’ve changed the way we celebrate all the holidays. Nothing is the way it used to be or the way we were raised.

There’s no humor or general conversation around daily activities anymore. All conversations involve her church, her interpretation of the Bible and my inability to “properly” interpret Scripture.

I need my family. I don’t enjoy what’s happening and am running out of energy defending my beliefs.

I feel as though I’m losing two dear friends — my sister and my mother.

How do I maintain these relationships while retaining my belief system?

The Squad, while acknowledging that “[t]here’s no doubt that Christians are called on to profess their faith and declare that Jesus is Lord,” favors a different approach: “the best way to witness is through a life of kindness, prayer, service and forgiveness.” They also “suspect the strain is about more than theology . . . [o]ften religious squabbles are merely cover-ups for deeper family feuds and wounds.”

I, too, resent evangelists. Especially ignorant, phony, hypocritical evangelists like “M” and the Squad.

“M” is in no position to whine about defending and retaining her belief system. She didn’t invent Lutheranism. Her mother brainwashed her into it when she was a kid

Capital Punishment

July 6, 2003 | 21 Comments

Michelle of And Then? is conducting a survey: “Should divine pronouns be capitalized?”

The debate, as she indicates, has been raging among readers of Catholic and other Christian magazines. So this time, at least, the lowercasing can’t be construed as an atheistic plot — as The Secularist Critique once suggested (see May 3, 2003 post; permalinks not working).

If you wish to respond to Michelle’s survey, please do so in a polite and respectful fashion. Else, you might find yourself IP Banned from this site — as will anybody who refers to The Raving Atheist as “the raving atheist.”

Condemn the Architect

July 6, 2003 | 24 Comments

Today would have been the 140th birthday of Charles Albert Steinle, designer of New York’s Savoy Hotel, Herald Square Hotel and other landmarks. His profession is highly self-reflective and self-critical; the following, as I recall, is the credo of the American Institute of Architects:

Did I show you a house or palace, where there was not one apartment convenient or agreeable; where the windows, doors, fires, passages, stairs, and the whole economy of the building, were the source of noise, confusion, fatigue, darkness, and the extremes of heat and cold; you would certainly blame the contrivance, without any further examination. The architect would in vain display his subtlety, and prove to you, that if this door or that window were altered, greater ills would ensue. What he says may be strictly true: The alteration of one particular, while the other parts of the building remain, may only augment the inconveniences. But still you would assert in general, that, if the architect had had skill and good intentions, he might have formed such a plan of the whole, and might have adjusted the parts in such a manner, as would have remedied all or most of these inconveniences. His ignorance, or even your own ignorance of such a plan, will never convince you of the impossibility of it. If you find any inconveniences and deformities in the building, you will always, without entering into any detail, condemn the architect.

Correction: Through an unfortunate editorial mix-up, I confused the credo of the American Institute of Architects with one of David Hume’s arguments against the existence of God. The AIA Vision Statement is in fact as follows: “Through a culture of innovation, The American Institute of Architects empowers its members and inspires creation of a better built environment.”

And Then

July 5, 2003 | 34 Comments

I asked Michelle of And Then? to write me a eulogy, and she kindly complied.

For months I have been nothing but mean to this woman; my request was motivated by malice. And then I read her tribute, so simple and sincere, and was strangely touched — and I thought, if for only a moment, that I hope one day her wish comes true.

Happy 4th

July 4, 2003 | 1 Comment

My First Freethought 4th of July, by Jennifer Hallman of the Alabama Freethought Association.

The AFA is also holding an atheists v. agnostics softball game tomorrow. Hindu vs Muslim and Catholic vs. Protestant events are also scheduled, elsewhere.

Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner

July 3, 2003 | 20 Comments

“I’m an atheist, and that’s it.

Katharine Hepburn

On the other hand, maybe not:

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NOTE: A number of the cartoons above depict Spencer Tracy awaiting dinner with Miss Hepburn. However, at the time of his death, Mr. Spencer — a Catholic — was still married to his wife of 34 years, Louise Treadwell. If Mr. Spencer fornicates with Miss Hepburn in Heaven, it will be adultery.

Furthermore, the “who” in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was Sidney Poitier, not Miss Hepburn. Apparently the cartoonists realized that the day Mr. Spencer died, June 10, 1967, was two days short of the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down miscegnation laws. However, Miss Hepburn died six days after the Supreme Court legalized homosexual sodomy — so if Mr. Spencer can fornicate with her, he can certainly fornicate with Mr. Poitier.

Comic Book Catholicism

July 3, 2003 | 36 Comments

Is it time for a Catholic superhero? From “Page Six” of yesterday’s New York Post:

The Catholic League thinks so, and the group is mad as hell at Marvel Comics. In recent months, The Thing has been revealed to be a Jew; Captain America has been reborn as a black man; and, as if anyone couldn’t see it coming, the Rawhide Kid’s gone gay. “Blacks, Jews and gays,” says League president William Donohue. “Aren’t these the very groups the Catholic League always says get special treatment? Maybe it’s time we had an affirmative action system for Catholics so we can catch up with everyone else.”

Originally I thought the Post might have misquoted Donohue to make him sound worse than he did. But they did him a favor, declining to quote other language from the same Catholic League press release in which he suggests, not so subtly, that Blacks, Jews and gays aren’t even American:

So sensitive is the company to bigotry that it has reworked Captain America as black. That’s right, this red-blooded American killer of the Nazis is now an African American. Another hero, known as ‘The Thing,’ resurfaces as a Jew. Gays are nicely represented as well—they can now claim the Rawhide Kid, a good-ole American cowboy.

This outburst of bigotry was provoked by what Donohue perceives as Marvel’s own anti-Catholic bigotry:

The July edition of the Marvel Comic series, “The X-Men,” tells the tale of good and evil by using Catholicism as a backdrop to the story. Along the way, many teachings of the Catholic Church are ridiculed. Among them are the Church’s pro-life position and its belief in the Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Christ. At one point, the pope is revealed as the Antichrist; at another, a former Catholic nun who was raped by a priest is cast as the pope.

No doubt I too would be offended by Marvel’s trivialization of the abortion issue. But Donohue demands respect for the Church’s pro-life teaching on the sole ground that it is Catholic. He’s not interested in defending it on a moral basis — content instead to lump it together with several of the Church’s comic books dogmas, and to suggest that an attack on any those beliefs would be bigotry. Bigotry which, as we all know, is as un-American as Blacks, Jews and gays.

God to Employ Emoticons

July 2, 2003 | 41 Comments

Reston, Virginia, July 2, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

Concerned that his plain-text scriptures are being misinterpreted, God announced yesterday that he would start using emoticons to better communicate his moods and meanings. “When I said a man who lieth with a man commits an abomination, I meant “an abomination aoldismay.gif.” Last Friday, white-hot, marble-sized frownys burned through the eye sockets of the six-member Supreme Court majority which struck down Texas’ sodomy laws. Justice Thomas, who voted to uphold hold the law but opined it was “silly,” was blinded in just one eye.

“And let me make a few other things clear,” God said. “First, I do really hate it when little babies die of cancer sad.gif.” Second, I swear I don’t have a strange fetish which makes me look up from the bottom of your toilets while you make poop on my face aolhalo.gif.” Finally, the Jews are really, really my chosen people and I would be oh-so-cross if you exterminated every last one of them aolwink.gif.”

[Concept via Jason Malloy]

Keeper of the Brights

July 1, 2003 | 50 Comments

In heralding the formation of the Brights Movement, Richard Dawkins paid tribute to The Celebrity Atheist List — specifically linking to it to demonstrate that “numerous intellectuals and other famous people are brights.”

The Keeper of the List is Reed Esau. Reed has served at The Raving Atheist as a Special Correspondent on breaking news stories (here, here and here), as the inspiration for various posts, and, of course, as a commenter. Given that time restraints have caused me to inadvertently ignore too many of his e-mails, I am gratified that his contributions to World Atheism have now been so publicly, and deservedly, acknowledged by an internationally famous godless luminary such as Dawkins.

I am both proud and humbled to bask in this reflected glory. One day Reason will govern the planet — with Dawkins as its President, The List as its Legislature, and TRA as the Supreme Judiciary –and together we shall lead the ignorant masses out of the darkness and into the Bright.

Stuperstition

July 1, 2003 | 84 Comments

On Friday the 13th of last month, AOL polled its subscribers about superstition. After asking them what they were most superstitious about (walking under a ladder, knocking on wood, letting a flag touch the ground[?!], breaking a mirror, etc.), it addressed a question to the more hard-headed sorts:

If you are not superstitious, why not?

A. Superstitions are just old wives’ tales.
B. I don’t believe in magic.
C. My religion doesn’t allow me to believe in superstitions.
D. Other

You can guess which choice made me laugh.

Nothing offends religious people more than having their beliefs identified as precisely what they are — superstition. Although religion and superstition both involve the embrace of unsubstantiated supernatural phenomena, for some reason the mere comparison of the two is considered intolerant, not to mention rude and insulting.

So whereas the superstitious may be mocked, the religious must be respected. A rabbit’s foot worn around the neck is foolish but a crucifix is pious; salt over the shoulder is useless but water upon the forehead is salvific. That the Bible and many other religious texts are chock full of numerology and astrology is deemed irrelevant. Indeed, religion, as indicated by the poll above, is even sometimes set up as the very enemy of superstition. But science defeats them both, a fact so embarrassing that I’m sure it compelled AOL’s pollster to make choice D “Other” rather than the more obvious alternative.

Not that religion and superstition can’t be distinguished in trivial respects. But the similarities dwarf the differences, and the differences are qualitatively no different than those between one religion and another. Christ-belief to is supersitious to a Jew but not to a Catholic, whereas witch-belief is superstitions to both but not to Wiccans.

I think that superstition is essentially unacknowledged, unsystematized religion. Superstitious people who wear a lucky color get a promotion or to win at sports are really just praying, except they envision the target of their entreaties to be some kind of unconscious karmic force. Of course, the “force” would need to have a significant understanding of human conduct and desires to land the job or score or a goal, and substantially more power than the person who was wishing for such ends but unable to bring them about himself. The force would, then, necessarily be conscious, and as such more or less a god.

So in response to June (click on hyperlink for her comment containing the poll results), who asked “do you think an atheist who is superstitious is not really an atheist, or is not really superstitious”: Yes.

[Dedicated to June’s dead mother]

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