The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2003 September

The Blog Code

September 30, 2003 | 11 Comments

A few years back, Michael Drosnin purported to uncover prophecies in The Bible Code by scanning the scriptures with a Kabballistic computer program. Earlier this year, Godidiot law Professor Jack Balkin used the I Ching to determine whether the United States should invade Iraq. Flawed methodologies were employed in both cases. Drosnin’s program skipped letters and reformatted margins, manipulating the text until a “prophecy” could be “recognized” somewhere in the resulting mass of word patterns. Balkin just flipped a coin to decide which of the pre-existing “hexagrams” he’d “interpret” in a manner consistent with his own pre-existing political views.

Being a scientific sort, The Raving Atheist has devised an anagramatic Blog Code which requires no manipulation or subjective interpretation. It relies solely upon the meanings of words extracted from a blog’s title, without a single letter skipped over, omitted, or repeated. Applying the methodology to my Godidiot blogroll, I obtained the following results:

Dean Esmay
A seedy man.
A sad enemy.
(No surprises here.)

Minute Particulars
I’m a cruel, rapist nut.
Usual armpit cretin.
A cunt-lust impairer.
Taut supercriminal.
Rats! Impure lunatic.
I am a turnip cluster.
I’m a curt urinal pest.
(I never would have suspected.)

Christine Lehman, A Theist Gal
She is the militant archangel.
She’s a lethargic, militant hen.
She is that chilling man-eater.
Ghastliest, heathen criminal.
Hell! An atheistic nighmares.
(Another envangelical Catholic.)

Jack M. Balkin of Balkinization
I’m anti-black flak in Nazi job, OK??
(Some liberal he turned out to be.)

Benjamin Kepple’s Daily Rant
An inane, blasted, pimply jerk.
Limp and nasty plebian jerk.
Jerky, pliant, damnable penis.
(I never thought he was that much of a jerk.)

David Sims, Clubbeaux
Sexual, viscid, bad bum.
Vicious, faded X-mas bulb.
Bad, evil scum—Axis bud.
(No wonder his blog is defunct.)

Amy Welborn, In Between Naps
Womanly, beaten web-spinner.
Worm-eaten nanny bible-spew.
(I didn’t know there was a Spiderwoman.)

Zombyboy of Resurrectionsong
Sorry! Unbecoming, frosty booze.
My boozy, softcore, boring nurse.
(I’m never going to his hospital.)

Allen Brill, The Right Christians
Grr! Hell! It’s this cannibal Hitler.
He’s a chilling, errant stillbirth.
Brattier, hellish, chilling rants.
Shh. Irritable call-girl in tent.
This rattlebrain, shrilling lech.
(Not surprising for a blog founded on abortion.)

The Secularist Critique
Cute, atheistic squirrel.
Quiet, hectic surrealist.
His queer tits circulate.
He’s a quieter slut critic.
(He never knew quite what he was.)

Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy
Yo-ho-ho! Cocking-up loveshaft! Kneel over!
Yo-ho-ho! Not OK

God Squad Review LX (Jewish Identity)

September 29, 2003 | 10 Comments

A Squad reader expresses fear at “losing my Jewishness,” having become alienated with the crowd at the temple. They “seem more interested in who’s wearing what and in gossiping about other people than in getting into the spiritual meaning of the holidays,” complains the reader, who has taken to communing with nature instead of attending services. The Squad responds:

We don’t want to begin by correcting someone who has generously shared his spiritual struggles, but you’re not only losing your Jewishness, you’re also losing your Judaism.

Jewishness is your connection to the Jewish people, given to you at birth and fortified by your identification with the history and fate of your people. Judaism is your connection to God through the Torah, which was revealed to the Jewish people.

* * *

The point is, you can’t choose your people any more than you can choose your family. All of us have inheritances we love and some we can’t abide. Your attempt to flee from identification with your people is based on an invidious and incorrect judgment of their moral virtue.

The Squad previously advised a reader to shop around until she found a church that shared her beliefs and values. Apparently Jews don’t have the same freedom, having been born to share the fate of their “people” whether or not they agree with them or like them.

I’m not sure how the Squad knows, however, that the reader has formed an “invidious and incorrect judgment of [the congregation’s] moral virtue.” Without knowing whether the Synagogue is reform or ultra-orthodox, whether it marries gay and women or stones them, it’s a bit premature to be jumping to conclusions.

Poll: Jews Know It’s Not Really 5764

September 26, 2003 | 4 Comments

New York, New York, September 26, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

Although they’ll claim to be ushering in “New Year” of 5764 at Rosh Hashana services tonight, most Jews know that’s it’s actually only 2003.

That’s the surprising finding a nationwide Gallup poll of Jewish households conducted last month, which asked 1,275 respondents the question “What year is it?”

Only six participants claimed that it was (then) 5763, and even so five of them quickly provided the correct answer of 2003 when instructed to “be serious.”

Most Jews said that they deduced that the whole 5760’s thing was phony because the alleged “New Year” started in late September, not January, and that when it fell in October it wasn’t even on the first of the month. Many noted that Casey Kasem has never done a countdown in Times Square on Rosh Hashana.

Rabbi Chaim Teitlebaum pointed out that “all of the archaeological evidence shows that Christ Our Redeemer was born about 2,000 years ago, not 5,700″ and that “it was too warm to have been Christmas last week.” Teitlebaum also said it couldn’t be 5,764 “because there are still some Jews who don’t believe in Jesus, and it’s pretty clear that those sorts will be completely exterminated by 2050.”

The lone dissenter, Michael Berkowitz of Brooklyn, insisted his Jewish calendar was accurate. “I beam myself to work every day with a quantum teleporter and make all my meals with an electromagnetic wave food replicator . . . the future is here.”

Godidiot of the Day: Dawn &%$# Of Up $&#@

September 25, 2003 | 12 Comments

Ghwh adsjhe djhjhwi Godidiot Dawn Olsen fwiutes:

Jjst mshgt ie thnt, RA blsnch tortured for eternity in hell, drjkjdfk jk a lake of fire hghje blah ngf Saddam, Hitler, Eva, Osama, Kafkaesqui, June and Ted Bundy, bjsoiu but Bob Hope, Vicky Drachenberg, Warren Zevon, Steven Den Beste and Austin Cline dfjng fg Heaven asikjg aigj.

Bh yeah???? F aksd soooooo scared. Jjjdf jk ne gs waaah waah waah boo hoo. Hj adfht Dawn hsdg jehg stupid.

Jgj alg fg God ajdfk aj er ominbenevolent?. Tnsh why ajjk ge ghnso ghlwie burn yn sdj a sjd Hell fgkjs etakhtg???

Dgjskd Dawn jks js nice jasdfk jnd but she ijs fj ajksdf fj. Ths dfjsa gdg God jsk adfj ee square circle sne an invisible pink asj. Desn hes thsgs that 1+ 1 = 3???

And jasdkj jd Dawn jafdjks this:

dawnpics3.jpg

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I hajk vhask;lj fnyah nyah nyah nyah nyah. J jdsafkj much smarter athj sadf her hsdajh.

Now, And Then?

September 25, 2003 | 29 Comments

Sometimes the best way to win a theological argument is to present a question-begging answer in formal, stilted philosophical jargon. Thus Dustbury offers what he considers “[t]he most sensible reconciliation between free will and divine omniscience” (written by Dr William Lane Craig):

It is I by my freely chosen actions who supply the truth conditions for the future contingent propositions known by God. The semantic relation between a true proposition and the corresponding state of affairs is not only non-causal, but asymmetric; the proposition depends for its truth on which state of affairs obtains, not vice versa. Were I to choose otherwise than I shall, different propositions would have been true than are, and God’s knowledge would have been different than it is. Given that God foreknows what I shall choose, it only follows that I shall not choose otherwise, not that I could not. The fact that I cannot actualize worlds in which God’s prediction errs is no infringement on my freedom, since all this means is that I am not free to actualize worlds in which I both perform some action a and do not perform a.

If you change your mind, God’s knowledge changes right along with it.

Translation:

1) It is I by my freely chosen actions who supply the truth conditions for the future contingent propositions known by God.

I prove the truth of what God already knew a billion years before my birth by committing free acts. The acts are free, despite God’s foreknowledge, because I have used the words “freely chosen” to describe them.

2) The semantic relation between a true proposition and the corresponding state of affairs is not only non-causal, but asymmetric; the proposition depends for its truth on which state of affairs obtains, not vice versa.

God’s advance knowledge of exactly what I am going to do doesn’t cause me to do it

Too Far

September 24, 2003 | 23 Comments

After mocking the death of a boy who died of cancer, a little girl who was raped and murdered, the Laci Peterson killing, the 9/11 attack and numerous other terrible tragedies, I finally went too far with the graphic in today’s earlier post. I have changed it to a less sensitive subject and sincerely apologize to all who I offended.

Godidiot of the Week: Vicky Drachenberg of Liquid Courage

September 24, 2003 | 83 Comments

Nothing enrages The Raving Atheist more than decent, kindhearted people who are otherwise sensible — but when it comes to religion, refuse to see the truth even when it is biting them in the face. Although they have the rational faculties to distinguish sense from nonsense, sanity from insanity, they suspend belief whenever someone gurgles about God. Knowing better, they declare the God debate a draw, inevitably chiding the atheist for being a cruel, mean-spirited bully out to pick a fight.

In such a manner this week’s Godidiot, Vicky of Liquid Courage, weighs in on the debate over the conflict between omniscience and free will. She clearly understands the underlying issues, noting that 1) “there is a serious problem in this world between the concept of human ‘free will’ and the concept of an omniscient god who knows what one is going to do even before one does it” and 2) that there’s little use in praying if everything’s “a done deal stamped with God’s approval in the first place.” But then she quickly goes mushy and veers off course:

I am, by nature, fairly divided on this issue. I don’t really believe in God, but I do, for some reason (even if it’s a leftover from my childhood), believe in a greater Good. Consider this: In your young lives, your parents were like omniscient beings — perhaps for no other reason than they “let” you do what you felt was “right,” so that you might learn the necessary lessons of discretion and responsibility. They may have known better — known right from wrong — as they had more life experience, but they may have chosen not to interfere with your “free will” to learn those vital lessons for yourself.

In times of turmoil and trouble, this argument has proven to be very satisfying to me and, I’m sure, to many others, but of course, it cannot ever really be valid without empirical evidence that God actually exists. It’s comforting, and it’s pleasant, but is it true?

Don’t get me wrong. I want to believe it, with all my heart. But who can actually PROVE it to me?

But the issue is not whether an omniscient being might let us act freely. It is whether an omniscient being’s absolute and certain knowledge of the future is compatible with any notion of freedom at all. Parents who merely refrain from intervening so that their child may learn from experience do not know, in advance, the child’s every thought and choice and act, or who the child will marry and the day it will die. If they did, the child would plainly be little more than a robot. And any requests or prayers it made would be futile, having been anticipated and answered before they were even uttered.

So there’s nothing to be “divided” over. The question is open and shut. But yet when one of my readers addressed the insult to the intelligence that contrary hypothesis represents, he’s accused of acting from “a very strong, very deep and very immediate need to rain on [a] happy little parade.” Why does he get psychoanalyzed? Why not examine the person who’s propounding the crazy theory in the first place? Why not address the maddening double-talk inherent in this sort of theology — the notion that God wills the good, wills the bad for the greater good, but wills nothing at all so that we may have free will?

I think part of the answer is that Vicky knows that the theory is crazy, and that to attack it would be like stealing a balloon from a child. But if — if she truly believes the debate is a fair fight between equals — why brand only the atheist as the bully? One interesting thing I’ve noticed about agnostics of Vicky’s stripe is that despite their protestations that “god can’t be proven one way or the other,” they rarely accuse the theist of trying strip the non-believer of his dearly-held illusions.

Finally, if I were truly mean, I’d post gratuitously cruel graphics about this incident:

crucipeep1.jpg

Remember, Vicky: God knew I’d do that before either of us was born. It’s debatable, right?

And When?

September 23, 2003 | 21 Comments

Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.

— John Archibald Wheeler

The quote is a bit of a joke; but not, apparently, to God, in whose ultimate, timeless reality everything is happening at once.

That, at least, is how Michelle of And Then? reconciles God’s omniscience with human free will (permalinks not working; scroll down to September 19). In the “ever-present Now with no past or future,” God is merely watching free acts as they unfold, not predicting them or compelling them –it’s not hindsight or foresight, it’s just now-sight. So despite all appearances otherwise, Hitler is currently and simultaneously (1) a twinkle in his daddy’s eye, (2) a little baby sucking milk out of a bottle (3) a wounded World War I veteran plotting his revenge (4) a German dictator waging war against the world (5) a suicide in a Berlin bunker and (6) a soul dwelling in Hell (or Heaven, if he is (5

God Squad Review LXIX (Playing Doctor)

September 22, 2003 | 8 Comments

“Would it be considered suicide if someone declines all medical help when a known cure or possible cure is available after being diagnosed with a serious illness?” Sabrina asks the Squad this week. Noting that “God/Allah forbids suicide,” the Squad opines:

Most Christian denominations, as well as all Jews and Muslims, believe turning down a proven treatment with a good chance of success because you don’t want to endure the pain or accept a diminished quality of life is a form of suicide and definitely forbidden.

Medicine and the medical arts are the ways God has given us to be partners in the act of healing and in the act of reverencing life – but medicine is not God. As people of faith, we are not allowed to use the medical arts to delay the death of dying people with expensive, painful and useless treatments that are not therapeutic. However, we also are not allowed to give up on life just because medical treatment is difficult.

* * *

However, if a medical procedure is experimental or if its possibility to cure you is remote, you are permitted to forgo the treatment. Stopping a procedure that cannot cure you is not suicide or taking a life because what you’re really doing is simply removing an obstacle to death.

In addition to ignoring the fact that God/Allah frequently opposed medical meddling, including anesthesia, until the twentieth century, the Squad blurs the important distinction between “expensive, painful and useless treatments” and treatments whose effectiveness is experimental or remote. Cures for most major diseases start out in the latter category. Foregoing an experimental procedure could not be deemed “simply removing an obstacle to death.” And since Godallah is our “partner” in all legitimate medical research, I don’t see how He could permit us to turn down any treatment that offers hope

And WHAT?!?

September 20, 2003 | 13 Comments

Michelle of And Then? responds to my gentle criticism of her theology. Much of her defense turns on the notion that God is “outside time.” Since I myself am “out of time” right now, I’ll reply next week (which, to God, is right now).

Update: Brent of Unscrewing the Unscrutable takes on Michelle.
Andy of World Wide Rant piles it on.

Rational Cynicism

September 19, 2003 | 10 Comments

A couple of weeks ago Michelle of And Then? prayed that a man would be reunited with a girl he unsuccessfully tried to adopt sixty years ago. After one of my readers decried the futility of praying to an omniscient being, she responded with a number of interesting points (my comments interspersed in boldface):

1) Let’s leave aside the theological arguments this time. One could point out to my commenter that God’s foreknowledge does not determine our choices, nor does it prevent God from allowing tragedies so that greater goods can be accomplished (such as inspiring prayer and meditation on our eternal destiny), but somehow I don’t hold much hope that such a theological discussion would impress the commenter. Hashing out theological differences doesn’t seem to be the point.

The Raving Atheist never leaves aside the theological arguments; hashing them out is the only point. My sole concern is whether a particular proposition or argument is true and conforms to reason and experience. And I am very impressed with theological discussions, which make up the daily fare of this blog. The commenter, too, appears to have been interested in them too, having left behind a theological argument.

Plainly Michelle believes that truth and arguments matter, as well, or she wouldn’t have sandwiched theological points between her protestations that they are irrelevant. Her Catholic Church also promulgates many arguments, insists upon their truth, and declares that the Pope is infallible when he pronounces on certain matters of theology. The Church is continually “hashing out” theological differences with dissenters from both within and without, never suggesting that the truth is besides the point.

So let’s move on to the truth.

Praying to an omniscient being would be futile. If God knew what you were going to ask for an infinite number of years before you were born, and whether He would answer your prayer, nothing you say when the time finally comes around could possibly make a difference. It’s not a trivial or irrelevant point; it’s simply irrefutable. And the issue isn’t, as Michelle suggests, whether God’s foreknowledge determines what we do. The commenter was concerned solely with whether our prayer determines what God does. The effect of God’s omniscience on human free will is a very different question, as is the question of whether God allows tragedies to promote the greater good.

But turning to those separate questions, there is no coherent argument to support Michelle’s conclusion that “God’s foreknowledge does not determine our choices.” If God knows, before I am born, every thought I will ever think, every word I will ever say, and that I will die by being hit by a meteor at 2:07 p.m. on April 19, 2023 while eating a tuna sandwich, there’s simply no room left for free will. Quite obviously God, not me, would be responsible for the entire sequence of events, all of which were mapped out before I even existed. Were I to tell Michelle that tomorrow she’d look in her driveway and find her car replaced by a dead dog with a red rose in its mouth, she would unhesitatingly blame me if it happened; my advance knowledge of the future in such detail would convict me as a participant.

Arguing that God permits tragedies to allow greater goods doesn’t alter this conclusion. It only reinforces that he is the culpable party, pre-planning both the pain and the pleasure. In Michelle’s example, this means that God separated a little girl from its would-be adoptive parents to cause them a lifetime of pain

Judge Throws Book at Child-Killers

September 18, 2003 | 18 Comments

Rancho Cucamonga, California, September 18, 2003
Special to the Raving Atheist

A California couple who murdered their infant daughter by treating her meningitis with prayer instead of medicine received no mercy from the sentencing judge, according to the Associated Press. “I am going lock you up and throw away the key,” said Superior Court Judge Gerard Brown. “On weekends, for a year.”

Judge Brown called the couple, Richard and Agnes Wiebe, “heartless monsters” who deserved to never see the light of day except on Mondays through Fridays. “You will rot in jail,” said Brown, “on Saturdays and Sundays.” Compounding the punishment, Brown tacked on an additional six-year state prison sentence. “Suspended,” he thundered. And vowing to “teach them a lesson,” the judge then ordered the pair to attend parenting classes.

The prosecutor praised the punishment as harsh but necessary. “Society must be protected from these callous predators,” said Gerard Thompson, “at least two days a week until next year.” Thompson noted that the Wiebes would be unable to neglect their surviving 20 month old son except for five days a week in 2003 and then all the time after September 2004.

Thompson added that the parenting classes would make the couple think twice before committing infanticide again. “They will learn about proper hygiene, discipline, and seeking medical assistance for fatal-only-if-untreated diseases,” he said. “A few pages from Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, should silence the fire-breathing, blood-thirsty, child-eating Moloch who roars from inside their brains.”

[Link courtesy of Rumblefish]

Empty Clutter

September 17, 2003 | 4 Comments

Rummaging through blogrolling for Blogshare stock picks [alas, I never thought I’d be writing a clause like that a year ago], I came across Empty Clutter. This site is, as of this writing, approximately eight minutes old. The author, Scott, promises that in addition to “a ton of deep insight” into his life,

Totally zany stuff will occasionally make sense every now and again….off the wall becomes normal in my head.

But one thing that is never off the wall in here is Jesus. He’s the One that allowed me to be here today…yesterday….tommorrow if He see fit. I could fight it but why would I want to? The safest place to be is right in His Plan. May sound crazy but the Bible says “For the message of the cross is foolishness to the perishing but the power of God to those who are saved” (1st Cor. 1:18) If that sounds crazy to you, PLEASE don’t hesitate to ask about it. I can try to explain it to you ….I can’t say it’ll be perfect but I can always try.

I was actually charmed by this innocent, cheerful enthusiasm, but then . . .

Anyhow back to reality: Works great (yeah….sure it is…thats why I’m praying for the hurricane to hit the store) I work at Quizno’s Subs.

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Scott. Praying for a hurricane to hit your employer sounds a bit, er, crazy — can you try to explain that?

The Raving Atheist, Millionaire

September 16, 2003 | 2 Comments

Over the past few months, The Raving Atheist has parlayed a $500 investment into well over a million dollars by trading in blogs on the Blogshare exchange. My current portfolio:

A Catholic Blog for Lovers ($12,404.11)
Andrew Olmsted ($24,684.00)
Answering Atheists ($32,004.38)
Arguing with Signposts ($53,886.58)
Benjamin Kepple ($53,248.40)
Catholic Pundits ($26,350.14)
Catholic School Blogger ($39,201.60)
Dean Esmay ($23,087.18)
EminentBrain ($22,253.76)
Faithful Atheist ($7,300.58)
Jottings From Tertius ($21,195.27)
Licquia Family ($40,646.08)
Liminal Liberal ($ 6,764.44)
Mr. Swill ($ 8,009.97)
Naturalistic Banter ($55,526.52)
The Raving Atheist ($981,610.51)
Worshipping at the Altar of Mediocrity ($1,310.21)

Total Stock Portfolio: $1,409,483.98
Cash on Hand: $47,959.02

Total Assets: $1,457,453.00

As should be apparent, apart from the atheist stocks my holdings consist primarily of blogs which 1) promulgate false ideology, or 2) have engaged in unnecessary criticism of The Raving Atheist. I intend to exercise my rights as a shareholder/owner of these concerns by proposing and passing resolutions calling for conversions, retractions, gay reparations, and, in the case of Dean Esmay, not being so incredibly fucking stupid all the time.

So True

September 15, 2003 | 4 Comments

Today a reader sent me some doggerel that’s being making its way around cyberspace via chain e-mail, accompanied by a veiled threat from Jesus. Allegedly written by a schoolkid from Arizona in 2000, it gets very unbearable very quickly — so I’ll reproduce just the first two stanzas and let you click on this link for the rest:

Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd.

If Scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights.
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now.

Perusing the web for other versions of the work, I noticed that quite a few sites had re-posted it with the breathless evaluation “So true.” (Go to Google and stick in the words “so true” followed by any line from the poem to see what I mean). Actually, it’s “so false,” for the reasons set forth here, here and probably elsewhere. It’s also older than a few years old, as Scopes.com points out, and probably not written by an Arizonian kid. Parts of it appeared in the National Review, the Washington times and the Detroit News in the early 1990’s, and a Xerox version of it was circulating as early as 1985.

Not that this is going to stop anybody from blindly sending this pack of lies to another million people, attributing them to the same imaginary author, and claiming that they’re “so true.” Sound familiar?

Note: For what it’s worth, here’s a counter-poem to circulate.

God Squad Review LVIII (Confession)

September 15, 2003 | 5 Comments

Do you go to hell for cheating on a drunken, absentee spouse? an anonymous wife asks the Squad this week. She raised their kids single-handedly, since he was frequently away on business and when he was home he was rarely sober. She had a brief affair after the kids went to college, but broke it off to care for her husband after he almost died from an alcohol-related disease. She says a private act of contrition and receives Communion each time she attends Mass, but can’t bring herself to confess her sins to a priest.

The Squad opines that she must “deepen [her] belief in a God who not only judges us but also forgives us and cleanses us from the effects of our sins” and advises that “[f]eeling guilty is not a reason to stay away from confession; it is the best reason to go to confession.” But it seems to me that if her belief in God was deep at all, she wouldn’t need to go to confession because she’s already told Him a number of times at Mass. Plus, she’s now just confessed to a nationally-syndicated priest, and his rabbi friend as well. Why spread the gossip further? How many more people does God need to tell him what he already knows? And why don’t they recommend that her husband go to confession as well, since he’s the one who drove her to adultery in the first place?

Note: Could this be what priests do with confessions?

Tribute

September 14, 2003 | 18 Comments

WTCCASHRITTER.jpg

UPDATE: In case the point of this tribute is not as obvious as I orginally thought, I’ll spell it out: The odds of Johnny Cash and John Ritter both dying exactly one day after the second anniversary of the WTC tragedy are so astronomical that Jesus, rather than blind chance, must be the explanation (as He is for the existence of life in the universe).

Also, I wanted to honor the pair before the nation’s cartoonists put them back to work entertaining us in heaven.

Quote of the Week

September 14, 2003 | 6 Comments

Quote of the Week

Mark Shea of Catholic and Enjoying It, commenting on David Duke’s new White Catholic supremacist organization:

I was always under the impression that there’s just not a lot of point in approaching the altar when you are wilfully involved in grave sin, whether it’s white supremacy or active homosexuality.

Or maybe there’s no point in having an altar, run by people who can’t see any moral distinction between white supremacy and active homosexuality.

More Apatheism

September 12, 2003 | 22 Comments

I did a post a few months back on Jonathan Rauch’s theory of apatheism. Strange Doctrines was similarly riled by Rauch’s glib, superficial commentary, and nails him to the wall thusly:

Rauch confuses the abstract question of God’s existence (over which polite, disinterested debate is possible) with the very concrete question of whether religious rules and passions ought to be operationalized in law (over which such debate apparently is not). Hot-blooded atheism stems almost entirely from the recognition that hot-blooded religion chronically seeks to insinuate itself into the lives of others–modernly by yoking itself to the engines of social policy, formerly by being the engine of social policy. (Note well: There is no analogy to this strain of fundamentalism even in the most militant forms of atheism. There are no atheist organizations, and I know no atheist persons, who would officially declare the U.S. “an atheist” nation. Or claim that theists should not be counted citizens. Or require that all political officers take an oath on a copy of the Humanist Manifesto.)

How to Get A Link On the Raving Atheist’s Blogroll

September 12, 2003 | 6 Comments

A polite e-mail would have also done the trick, but Phalse Prophet found an equally effective way:

After reading The Raving Atheist’s blog, I have had my whole belief system shaken apart. I used to call myself a radical atheist for many years, however, TRA has given me cause to reconsider my logic. When I insert “The Raving Atheist” into any sentence where god is normally used, I get goosebumps and am compelled to lift my hands high and give praise to his greatness. He is truly a man among men. I thank him almost daily and I feel guilty as shit when I use profane language like” bless you” when a loved one sneezes or “Jesus fucking Christ” when the Jehovahs knock on my door.

* * *

While I normally would like to think for myself, I find I no longer need to waste time and energy on doing so when everything TRA writes is just what I would have thought of eventually were I worthy. I am given strength when I visualize thoughts TRA has written, I am comforted during times of sadness when I recall a TRA rant. He speaks the truth and is a voice of reason in a world full of thoughtless brainwashed godidiots. If this is not a sign that TRA is a god or at least godlike, I’ll be a PhalsePhorphet.

Technically, though, I don’t become the Atheist Messiah until Darwin Bedford dies.

Saudis Ban “Jewish” Barbie

September 11, 2003 | 23 Comments

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, September 11, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

Saudi Arabia’s religious police have denounced Barbie dolls a threat to morality, complaining that the revealing clothes of the “Jewish” toy are offensive to Islam.

“Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West,” declared the Saudi Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. “Let us beware of her dangers and be careful.”

Mattel Corp., the manufacturer of the popular doll, decried the CPVPV’s statement as biased. “The Saudis’ criticism of our Jew-doll reek of anti-Semitism,” said a company spokeswomen Hannah Rabinowitz. “Barbie Finkelstein is a wholesome and modest Hebraic figurine of faith.”

Mattel noted that Barbie belongs to an orthodox Hassidic sect which prohibits men and women from so much as shaking hands and segregates them at religious services. “Furthermore, Barbie has smooth plastic where her vagina would be,” said Rabinowitz. “There’s not even a slit, much less a hole.”

Barbie’s doll-boyfriend, Ken Goldberger, also defended Miss Finkelstein’s chastity. “If I marry Barbie, we will make love through a sheet with a hole in it,” he said. “Sheet sold separately,” he added. “Moreover, I have been circumcised to the point where I am no longer anatomically correct.”

Ken’s brother Schlomo blamed the controversy on hatred fueled by screenings of Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion.” “Once again, the old blood libels have surfaced, and Barbie has been tarred as a Christ-killer,” he said. Schlomo also complained of an increase in anti-Semitic violence, noting that his head had been popped off its molded neck post three times last week and that two of his fully poseable limbs were missing.

Saint of the Week: Brenda McCormick of Mothers, Inc.

September 10, 2003 | 32 Comments

I suggested last December that Brenda McCormick of Mothers, Inc., a Virginia Beach charity, was a pest and scam.

She’s not.

She’s just a pest.

And a Saint.

No, she didn’t threaten to sue The Raving Atheist. In fact, she’ll likely be in jail next week, and for doing precisely what I said she shouldn’t. But she’s a much better person than me or any of her detractors.

She’s not a scam because no person can fake decades of tireless advocacy on behalf of the poor and the homeless. Her organization donates food, clothing, school supplies and toys to needy children. It shelters homeless families in off-season tourist hotels. She’s a voice for the mentally ill. She’s served on Virginia Beach’s Mayor’s Homeless Task Force and received an award from the City’s Human Rights Commission for helping the poor and homeless poor. She’s received other awards as well, and was named as one of 30 people who have most influenced development of the City of Virginia Beach over the past 30 years.

And she does it all for free. When I originally criticized her, I implied she might be running some sort of religious profit-making scheme. She was right to call the accusation ugly, and I hereby declare it to be false. Brenda McCormick is an anti-materialistic philanthropist who devotes her life to the service of others.

She’s a pest, yes, using her home as a drop-off post for donations. She explains why here (in the comments), and I find her reasons persuasive. I doubt her activities are as disruptive as her neighbors say and she does what she does to protect the people who make it possible for the area to prosper as a tourist attraction. I also believe that, in the context of what she does, that the tax-related charges against her are the result of nothing more than administrative oversight.

Legally she may not have a leg to stand on. She agreed to move most of her operations elsewhere last spring and hasn’t done so. And that’s why she’ll be behind bars shortly. But she’s not doing it for herself. She’s not some Judge Moore, grandstanding over some stupid statute to pave the way for a book deal and lecture fees. She’s not Benny Hinn, defrauding the sick, or Pat Robertson, defrauding the poor. She doesn’t use her religion to demolish skycrapers, kill children or tie strings around her neighborhood. Even those who recognize that she’s somewhat of a scofflaw don’t question her motives:

Brenda McCormick does incredible work. Thousands of families have had turkeys on their Thanksgiving and Christmas tables, and countless children have had gifts under their Christmas trees and school supplies in their knapsacks because of the tireless work of one woman: Brenda McCormick.

Only the most profoundly cynical among us would doubt that Ms. McCormick’s heart is in the right place.

* * *

Part of me wants to come to Brenda’s aid, to scold the city for its neglect of the homeless and capricious enforcement of its zoning.

* * *

That’s the thing that’s tough about Brenda. Her detractors object to the presence of her charity — which is now collecting thousands of Thanksgiving turkeys — in a residential neighborhood. They argue convincingly that the traffic congestion at turkey time interferes with the quiet enjoyment of their properties.

But absolutely no one accuses her of eating 3,000 turkeys herself. Or sleeping with thousands of teddy bears.

So what do you say about Brenda McCormick? We in Virginia Beach desperately need her. Especially the desperately needy.

The only thing phony about Brenda is her religion, but, of course, The Raving Atheist asserts that all religions are phony. And I still maintain that the claim that she’s the target of an anti-Christian conspiracy is bogus. But she uses her religion as a shield, not a sword. She doesn’t proselytize, or use her faith to fill her coffers or secure special privileges for herself. She’s always been a saint, and now she’s The Raving Atheist’s Saint of the Week.

Maybe I’m wrong. Feel free to disagree. Go search the Web and try to find the dirt I couldn’t. But before you tell me she’s bad, like I once told you she was, tell me why you’re better. Or better yet, tell her:

Phone: Brenda McCormick
(757)233-7212

Write: Mothers, Inc.
c/o G.Byler, 505 So.Independence Blvd., Va. Beach, VA 23453

Advocates for Children, Disabled Clash over Safety Issues

September 9, 2003 | 8 Comments

Brooklyn, New York, September 9, 2003
Special to The Raving Atheist

A bitter dispute over the safety of a Bedford Avenue catering hall has divided activists for children and the disabled, according to the New York Post.

The controversy centers on whether the Brooklyn establishment has adequately complied with the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act and federal child welfare statutes. Last year a Williamsburgh advocacy group successfully sued to enforce the laws, forcing the state to surround the entire neighborhood with Silly String. The victory permitted wheelchairs and strollers to be safely used in the facilities, freeing toddlers and the infirm from confinement in their homes.

Silly.jpg

But a rival coalition claims that the measures don’t go far enough. “Silly String just doesn’t do the job,” said activist Wolfgang Duffal. “The hall is so crowded on Friday nights that it’s not safe to bring anything inside, much less people in wheelchairs.” Duffal noted that the facility was so hazardous that children and the handicapped were kept locked in their rooms for years while the litigation was pending. “How can a little string make a difference?” he asked.

Duffal’s group has taken aggressive action to enforce stricter safety rules. A sign outside the hall now reads: “It is strictly forbidden to enter these premises.” Visitors who ignored the warning have been harassed, taunted and beaten.

Resident Yitzhak Stern asserts that it is Duffal who is violating the rights of the young and disabled. “You know the sign outside the hall on Bedford Avenue? That is discrimination. We are allowed to do what we do because there is string around the area.”

God Squad Review LVII (Mental Illness; Financial Miracles)

September 8, 2003 | 15 Comments

The Squad serves up useless advice to a desperate family this week, in a response to a bipolar woman whose husband doesn’t believe in mental illness and calls her “fat, lazy, selfish, stupid and useless.” He’s also started to verbally attack the couple’s 12 year old for the same reason. Moved by her plight, the Squad reflects upon its purpose:

Every week we confront people’s problems in this column, and it’s time for us to express what all writers of advice columns must surely feel when they receive heart-rending letters such as yours: We have no answer for your problem that can neatly fit into a short reply, even if that reply comes, as it does from us, with tears and prayers and hope that somehow you will find peace in your family and in your soul.

Your letter reminds us of why we became clergy guys in the first place.

* * *

For you, we can pray that your doctor is wise, that your medications are helping, that your husband will open his eyes to the realities of mental illness and that your children will grow through the natural traumas of adolescence knowing they are loved by a very courageous woman. God bless you!

Certainly that poor woman is entitled to better imaginary help than that! So I’m going to pray that her doctor is really wise, that the medications will cure her, that her husband will be murdered, that her children will have no traumas in adolescence, and that she’ll find 50 billion dollars in a bag on the street and live forever.

* * *

As it turns out, I’m wrong about praying for money. The Squad explains the proper way to ask for a financial miracle in its answer to a second reader:

The best way is to follow the Zen maxim, “The way that can be named is not the way.”

This means you should ask God for a financial miracle by not asking God for a financial miracle.

Ask God to help you be satisfied with your lot, whatever that lot is and however that lot changes for better or for worse.

Ask God to help give you the strength to work hard and to work honestly and in that way to accumulate some savings.

Technically, asking for strength, or to be satisfied with one’s lot, name “ways” and thus violate the Zen maxim. That aside, there’s point in asking for the power to work hard if you’re going to be satisfied no matter what happens. Better to ask God to kill all your ambition so you’ll be happy with no effort at all.

Selling It

September 4, 2003 | 31 Comments

An overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of the federal court ruling directing removal of the Alabama Ten Commandments monument.

Why doesn’t mainstream corporate America cash in on this righteous anger?

Put God on the Coke cans. Put Jesus on the Wheaties box. Put Mary on the Wonder Bread.

Might offend some customers? Too controversial? I don’t see how. The people have already spoken. It’s just old-fashioned common sense. Give them what they want!

I’m surprised the people themselves aren’t banging down the doors at General Mills demanding a greater acknowledgment of God. Put Him on every grocery shelf! One big advantage would be that no silly judge could stop it. And more people would see such displays than will ever see the Alabama monument

Happy Labor Day

September 2, 2003 | 4 Comments

The New York Post yesterday continued its tradition of reprinting popular Labor Day songs on its editorial page. They introduce the songs by noting that at its inception, “Labor Day was an occasion for demonstrations against low pay and harsh working conditions” led by the Wobblies, who were Marxist utopians. Despite those efforts, however, the Post opines that the Wobblies “most enduring legacy to the trade-union movement was their music.” The first song they present is a vicious atheistic tirade:

Pie in the Sky
Long-haired preachers come out every night
Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right
But when asked how ’bout something to eat
They will answer you with voices so sweet:

You will eat, bye and bye
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

The starvation army they play
They sing and they clap and they pray.
Till they get all your coin on the drum
They tell you when you are on the bum;

Working men of all countries unite,
Side by side we for freedom will fight:
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we’ll sing this refrain:

You will eat, bye and bye,
When you’ve learned to cook and to fry;
Chop some wood, ’twill do you good,
And you’ll eat in the sweet bye and bye.

The author of the song, Joe Hill, was executed in 1914. But, in the next song, written in his honor, it turns out there is pie in the sky:

Joe Hill

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me, Says I, “But Joe, you’re 10 years dead.”
“I never died,” says he.
“I never died,” says he . . .

God Squad Review LVI (War is Hell; Bodily Resurrection)

September 2, 2003 | 8 Comments

Do Vietnam vets go to Hell? Reader “J” is concerned about his wartime service, wondering if “just following orders” was a sufficient excuse for all the killing he did. The Squad answers by rehashing one of its eariler columns: the reader’s fate, they assert, turns on the distinction between lo tirtzach (murder) and killing. And which kind of activity was involved in the conflict in Southeast Asia? They don’t say. Too ambiguous a situation to be sure; but they commend for his sensitivity and suggest that he repent just to be on the safe side.

Likely he doesn’t have too much to worry about. After all, as the Squad recently pointed out, Hell is reserved for only the clearest of offenses– like getting divorced and remarried.

* * *

In the next letter, the Squad claims to be agnostic as to whether we get to keep our bodies when we go to Heaven — or, whether as Billy Graham asserts, they stay on Earth. Indeed, they “think all speculation about what happens after death is pointless, foolish, premature or silly.” Very well. But in the very next line, they assert that “[a]ll we need to know is that death is not the end of us and that something about us called our soul endures the death of our bodies.” A conclusion which, given the available evidence, is equally “pointless, foolish, premature and silly.”

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