The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2004 April

Spellbound

April 30, 2004 | 9 Comments

The God and Goddess have again postponed my big Lotto payday, upping the jackpot forecast by my Magic Chinese Fortune Cookie to the $40 million offered in this Saturday’s drawing. Apparently S/he ignored my numbers Wednesday night to give me the opportunity to stumble across this informative exchange yesterday between “Brightwood” and “Shez” on a Wiccan message board:

From: Brightwood
Subject: Question About Spell Ethics
Newsgroups: alt.religion.wicca.moderated
Date: 2004-04-29 03:20:08 PST

Q. I was wondering if casting spells specifically to win the lottery could have any negative repercussions? I have heard that casting money spells could bring negative results in that the money may come from a[n] unwelcome source or the money may be gotten from people or persons who need it more. I can’t think of any negative outcome from using spells to help win the lottery since the money is coming from a specific place where no one really loses anything.

Any comments, suggestions etc.

Thanks

From: Shez
Subject: Re: Question About Spell Ethics
Newsgroups: alt.religion.wicca.moderated
Date: 2004-04-29 06:30:01 PST

A. If the spell works let us know . . . Money spells usually work by getting money to you from the nearest source, and can cause problems. However if you specify that the source that the money comes from should be safe and unharmed, [i]t helps.

A money spell that brings you money when you really need it and enough to get you through a crisis, from a source that causes no harm to anyone is usually the best bet.

Did such a spell years ago, and every time I really need money, it comes, the tax man decides he owes me, I have over payed on my Electric and they are giving me back

More Prayer

April 30, 2004 | 27 Comments

Would it be rude for atheist to tell a believer that she is praying for him, where she knows that he knows that she is an atheist?

Sheep in Wolfe’s Clothing

April 29, 2004 | 12 Comments

Self-proclaimed public intellectual Alan Wolfe explains in The New Republic why it is that “believers have written the best books on atheism in recent years”:

Non-believers appear to have concluded either that the case against God is so obvious that it does not need to be argued or that the forces in favor of God are so powerful that atheism cannot get a fair hearing. Either way, American atheists seemed to have consigned themselves to those obscure corners of cyberspace where no respectable thinker ventures.

No respectable thinker except Professor Wolfe, although presumably he ventured here solely to confirm that there are no respectable thinkers present.

I’ve written over 600 essays on theology and atheism; has Wolfe written even one? His most recent work, “The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith,” catalogs merely what people believe, without bothering to examine whether any of it makes sense. It’s sociology, not philosophy. Somehow it concludes that Americans are now less intellectually rigorous about their faith and practice it more personally and individualistically, although it’s hard to see how this claim could be evaluated without an examination of the truth of any or all of the religions in question. A similar book could have been written about the varieties of astrological belief, and Wolfe might as well have tracked the devolution of star-worship from the property of royalty to the property of newspaper horoscopes. Astrology at its highest level is still garbage, and its truth doesn’t vary with whether it’s practiced individually or as a part of a mass delusion.

The two “best books on atheism” Wolfe cites — “Without God, Without Creed” (1985) and “At the Origins of Modern Atheism” (1987) — aren’t really “on atheism” at all. They don’t argue “the case against God” that Wolfe presumes has been so disreputably relegated to cyberspace. They are histories, rather than expositions, of unbelief. In contrast, Michael Martin’s “Atheism: A Philosophical Justification” (1990) and “The Impossibility of God” (2003), apart from being more recent, actually argue and prove the case against God. And they’re both in bookstores rather than cyberspace, although Martin does venture here on occasion.

Professor Wolfe himself is allegedly a nonbeliever. What are his reasons? I can see how, as Director of the The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life he might be reluctant to press his case too forcefully, but at some point the difference between truth and falsity becomes almost as important as (apparently) the one between on-line and on paper. Unless, of course, Professor Wolfe has concluded that the case for atheism does not need to be argued or that the forces in favor of God are so powerful that it cannot get a fair hearing.
[Link via Jason Malloy]

Prayer

April 29, 2004 | 47 Comments

Is it rude for a believer to say he or she will pray for an agnostic or atheist friend who is going through a very rough time?

Jewish Conspiracy Succeeds in Censoring Jewish Conspiracy Website

April 28, 2004 | 16 Comments

New York, New York, April 28, 2004
Special to The Raving Atheist

In a victory for Jewish-controlled free speech, The Anti-Defamation League has prevailed upon Google to make technical modifications to its Internet search engine to properly censor anti-Jewish websites.

A controversy arose last month when Google users and the ADL noticed that the #1 search result for the term “Jew” was Jewwatch, a website that tracks alleged Jewish and Zionist conspiracies. Although Google site rankings are automatically determined using computer algorithms that take into account thousands of factors to calculate a page’s relevance — including the longevity of ownership, the way articles are posted to it, the links to and from the site, and the structure of the site itself — the unacceptable result led to immediate and ongoing discussions between ADL’s Internet monitoring team and Google’s technical experts.

“We are extremely pleased that Google has heard our concerns and those of its users about the offensive nature of some search results and the unusually high ranking of peddlers of bigotry and anti-Semitism,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “Google has shown great responsiveness to this issue and a willingness to consider changes to better identify extremist Web sites, so that users can still have the benefit of Google’s unique search technology while being alerted when they are about to enter into a hate zone.”

The proposed modifications changes will not affect, however, the ADL’s own criticism of right-wing Christian conspiracies or its condemnation of the “false” theologies of the Jews for Jesus and the Catholic Church.

The Raving Atheist joined the ADL in praising Google’s quick response to the crisis. “As the #5 Google result for ‘atheist,’ I was concerned that my anti-Jewish-Christian-Muslim-Hindu-Wiccan hate speech was not being sufficiently branded,” he said. “Although I am already listed on my own hate-site blogroll, only those who have already entered my site can see it. I look forward to the day when my URL appears on Google’s search result list red, flashing beacon to all of those disaffected, anti-authoritarian homicidal teenage Pagans who might otherwise not have noticed it.”

Teachers’ Rights

April 27, 2004 | 25 Comments

The National Education Association boasts of a “long-held belief that religious activities have no place in the public schools.” Nevertheless, the teachers union submitted a brief opposing the removal of “God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. This doesn’t represent a “slackening” of its support for church/state separation, says the NEA; for the reasonable observer would see that “brief governmental references to God in our public life are best understood not as affirmation of any religious belief, but as references to beliefs which, as a matter of history, underlie the prime secular values to which the nation is dedicated” (italics in original).

I guess I’ll have to take their word for it that six year olds understand that what the Pledge is actually about is God-as-Metaphor-for-The Historical-Underpinnings-of-Secular-Values rather than that other God. After all, as the brief says, teachers are in a “prime position to assess first hand” what the little ones are thinking. But what does the union think of the California statute which requires its members to lead the kids in the recitation? Well, the NEA has asked the court not to decide whether a teacher can be forced to officiate over the Pledge ceremony, cautioning that “any such requirement would present a serious constitutional question.”

As it turns out, it’s not hypocrisy. No child can be forced to recite the Pledge; the only question in the Newdow case is whether listening to it infringes upon the right to be free from coercive religious proselytization. The teachers just want the same right to remain silent. And given their position on what the Pledge means, the more that shut up, the better.

God Squad Review LXXXV

April 26, 2004 | 7 Comments

The Squad answers a question from a “frustrated agnostic” who (like all agnostics secretly do), “want[s] to believe in some religion, any religion.” But he needs “more evidence,” preferably “an old-school plague on some evil country” like Iraq. Noting that “[f]aith is a gift of the spirit . . . a habit of the heart,” the Squad explains the big problem with evidence:

Here’s the sad truth about plagues: They’re flashy, but don’t convince anybody of anything.

Think of the ancient Israelites in the Bible who saw all the 10 plagues and the Red Sea unzipped down the middle as they fled Egypt. How did they react?

As soon as they were safely on the other side, they started to complain to Moses about not having enough water or meat. And how about all the people who saw Jesus multiply the loaves and fishes at the Sea of Galilee? Many walked away unconvinced and unchanged.

In fact, Exodus 14:31 indicates that this was the reaction of the Israelites to the parting of the Red Sea:

Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.

It’s true that the Israelites later complained about a lack of food and water. But they never expressed a disbelief in God; they merely said that it would have been better had God let them die in Egypt rather than let them starve in the promised land. Nor is their any passage in the Bible indicating that any person among the “multitudes” Jesus fed left as an atheist. The Pharisees may not have been convinced of Christ’s divinity, but they did not witness the fish-and-loaves trick and Jesus specifically refused to perform any miracles in front of them. In any event, the Pharisees weren’t atheists or frustrated agnostics looking for a sign; they already believed in God and considered Jesus a blasphemer for making his own claim to God-hood.

The real reason the Squad discounts miracles is not because they’re unconvincing, but because they never happen outside of fairy-tale books like the Bible. If the Red Sea swallows up Iraq tomorrow (or I win the New York lottery Wednesday), maybe I’ll start reconsidering.

The Squad also counsels the agnostic to “[l]ook up to the heavens and ask, with Albert Einstein, ‘Could so great a symphony have no conductor?'” I’ve dealt with that flawed analogy here. Why they raise again in connection with a discussion of miracles I can’t imagine. If people aren’t convinced of the existence of God by the occurrence of wildly supernatural event, staring up at the natural universe isn’t going to move them.

* * *

In response to another letter, the Squad addresses what happens when an irresistible force meets an irresistible force. That’s the problem raised by a devout Catholic reader who practices her religion “fully” — her husband has become a born-again Christian who talks to her and their grown children about nothing except the need to be saved. Who wins that kind of death match?

The Squad has no difficulty assigning blame: “Your husband is pulling the family apart.” “[Y]ou can’t be a spiritually healthy family when the husband-father thinks everybody but him is going to hell,” they say, cautioning that “[h]e may not see the damage his position has caused.” But their solution straddles both sides (and the top and bottom) of the fence:

In order for this rift to be healed, either he has to return to his Catholic roots or you and your children must open your hearts and souls to the evangelical path your husband has taken.

* * *

Your husband’s religious wanderlust could be the result of some deeper unhappiness or it could stem from authentic spiritual seeking. Either way, all of you need to talk about this and engage him in loving conversation about his new beliefs and their impact.

* * *

Conversely, you owe it to your husband to be open to his new church and to try to understand what has brought him to this new pathway to God. The goal must be a harmonization of your religious commitments.

If faith is love, then it ought to bring love, and not discord, to your home.

We believe that whatever salvation we will come to know in the next world must be echoed by our love and respect for each other in this world.

Rather than patronizing the husband as the unhappy victim of “wanderlust,” the Squad should have addressed the real question here: which side is right about who goes to hell. If the husband’s evangelical beliefs resulted from “authentic spiritual seeking,” then they’re true and the rest of the family should convert. If Catholicism is true, he should convert. Neither of those faiths teaches that the road to salvation is family harmony, conversion to a false religion, or the creation a harmonized, hybrid religion.

Dying for Religion

April 26, 2004 | 43 Comments

Submitted by Viole:

A member of Al Qaeda recently said that everyone dreams of dying for their religion. Do you think there are any atheists out there who would die for their lack of religion?

Rough Results

April 25, 2004 | 6 Comments

Anticipating it would take more than a mere $35 million to convince me of his existence, God insured that their were no winners of Saturday’s Lotto jackpot so that he could up the ante for next Wednesday’s drawing. It’s clear that I’m not bound by last night’s outcome, insofar as when you Google the fortune cookie picks (“16 17 20 23 26 38″) you find that the only webpage containing the number in sequence is this French study regarding the use of psychotropic drugs on the insane. The numbers appear as page cites for the warning that “[p]lusieurs chercheurs n’ont utilis

Convincing

April 24, 2004 | 15 Comments

Who would be able to pull off their scam more convincingly: 1) an atheist running a Catholic blog, or 2) a Catholic running an atheist blog? Why?

Life Is Like A Roller Coaster

April 23, 2004 | 13 Comments

I may be taking my vows as a Catholic priest by this time next week.

Yesterday a colleague was telling me about her son’s English assignment.

“Life is like a roller coaster . . . .” he had written, but the teacher told him to do it over again because the assignment wasn’t about similes.

“What’s that other thing that’s like a simile?” she asked. “A metaphor?” I guessed.

She agreed, and began rattling off examples of some of the “Life is . . . ” metaphors she and her son had reeled off together the night before. My mind wandered as I listened and my eyes roamed over my desk.

My desk is messy now. So messy that a big flatbed scanner is lost somewhere under all of the papers. But somehow I noticed, buried in all that clutter, a tiny scrap of paper — from a fortune cookie I had eaten probably three months ago. It said:

“Although it feels like a roller coaster now, life will calm down.”

I’m not a superstitious man, but my life has not been calm lately and that evil little piece of paper has lottery numbers on the back of it. There’s a New York Lotto drawing tomorrow and the jackpot’s $35 million. That would calm me down some.

But so would eternal life, so I won’t do this for the money.

If I get one number right, I’ll become a Unitarian. (Wouldn’t have to change anything).
Two, a reform Jew. (I could still keep the blog).
Three, an agnostic. (I could write for the Volokh Conspiracy).
Four, a Protestant. (Back to where I started).
Five, a Baptist. (I’m already crazy anyway).
Six, a Catholic Priest. (If they’ll have me).

Just so this is all verifiable, here are the numbers:

16, 17, 20, 23, 26, 38.

I know God does not like to be tested. But I don’t like to be teased with fortune cookies. And it’s really not a test, since, as I said, I’m not doing it for the money.

More Importantly

April 22, 2004 | 29 Comments

Professor Volokh isn’t “bugged” that those fundamentalist Christians are trying to force their religious opinions on us. What really bugs him are those people who complain that “[t]hose fundamentalist Christians are trying to force their religious opinions on us.” You see, all the fundamentalists are trying to do — just like the gay rights activists and the opponents of rape, murder and theft — is to “turn [their] opinions on moral or pragmatic subjects into law.” They’re just exercising their Constitutionally guaranteed right to participate in the political process. But those who complain about what’s actually being legislated and the premises and reasons upon which the legislation is based are miscreants — they are participating in the immoral and illogical process of, well, complaining.

Now, you’d think that if the proposed fundamentalist legislation was evil, and the reasons for it, crazy, one would almost sorta kinda have a right to complain. But accordingly to Volokh, complaining only commits the even greater sin of pretending there’s a difference between good and bad, sane and insane:

[M]ore importantly, all of our opinions are ultimately based on unproven and unprovable moral premises. For some of us, the moral premises are secular; for others, they’re religious; I don’t see why the former are somehow more acceptable than the latter. And the slogan “separation of church and state” hardly resolves anything here: Churches may have no legal role in our government, but religious believers are just as entitled to vote their views into law as are atheists or agnostics.

* * *

[N]aturally people will often find others’ religious arguments unpersuasive — “ban this because God said so” isn’t going to persuade someone who doesn’t believe in God, or who has a different view of God’s will. (Likewise, many devout Christians may find unpersuasive arguments that completely fail to engage devout Christians’ religious beliefs.) But there’s nothing at all illegitimate about people making up their own minds about which laws to enact based on their own unprovable religious moral beliefs, or on their own unprovable secular moral beliefs.

Always beware an argument for extreme moral and intellectual relativism that begins with the words “more importantly.” Nothing can be “more important” in a universe where everything is equally important. If Volokh is right, it’s only in the sense that he’s wrong, in the sense that “yes” means “no” and “true” means “false” and “secular” means “religious” and “God” means “no God.” As Reverend Mykeru might say, nothing is more important than Professor Volokh’s opinion.

I don’t dispute that law is the forcing of opinion upon others, or dispute (yet) that all people have the right to vote. And people who complain that “fundamentalist Christians are trying to force their religious opinions on us” aren’t generally complaining about the coercive nature of law or voting rights either. They’re complaining that the opinions are religious rather than rational, that they promote social policy based in some loony sky-god dogma promulgated by an imaginary self-slaughtered Jew who rewards obedience in Heaven, rather than social policy based on real human needs on Earth. But Volokh (after reciting the truisms about legislating morality and voting rights) declares that there’s no difference between the two.

The seams of his argument crack wide open after this bit of hedging: “[o]f course, it’s perfectly sound to disagree with people’s views on the merits . . . [i]f I don’t agree with the substance of someone’s proposal, whether it’s religious or secular, I’ll certainly criticize the substance.” The notion that ideas have merits subject to criticism is not exactly a relativistic one, and more importantly, it’s frequently impossible to attack the merits or substance of a religious proposal without attacking the merits or substance of the religion. The argument that God will torture children after death if their illness is treated with medicine instead of prayer can’t be met without addressing the merits of that God. Simply asserting that medicine cures and prayer kills is beside the point, unless, in violation of Volokh’s principle, you’re favoring a secular worldly life over a religious afterlife. And that is clearly what Volokh means to do: when he talks about criticizing the “substance” of a propose, he is talking about examining the secular substance (i.e., Earthly consequences) and applying a secular rather than religious standard.

He’s doubtlessly right that secular arguments would fail to engage the religious beliefs of a devout Christian Scientist who views medicine as evil. They would be ineffective, too, against astrologers and numerologists who treated disease with planets and numbers. But the intransigence of the thickheaded is hardly a ground upon which to declare your ideas as unprovable and arbitrary as theirs.

That fact that religious people also do good things doesn’t advance his argument very far either. He claims that many civil rights law “were motivated by religious opinions” and notes that “it’s the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., you might recall” — but the only convincing justification for those laws and MLK’s cause is that a person’s skin color is irrelevant to a person’s character, abilities and rights. That isn’t a particularly “religious opinion.” I don’t know MLK argued that the Crucifixion somehow required enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (or if Jesus even had an opinion on racial discrimination), but I suspect his primary motivation was the secular one of not being imprisoned or lynched because he was black. Perhaps one day it will turn out that he made the decision that blacks weren’t inferior after consulting with an astrologer, but I doubt Volokh would argue that that particular “unprovable” superstitious justification was as good as any other.

And of course Volokh selected the MLK example solely because the particular allegedly “religious” opinion in question was justified by secular considerations. He didn’t use the World Trade Center attack as an example even though it was “motivated by religious opinions,” Osama bin Laden was a Muslim, and all of the participants were rewarded by Allah with 72 virgins in Paradise. Certainly the God’s approval and all those virgins should have qualified it as a good thing, but once again it appears that those factors were somehow outweighed by “unprovable” secular considerations.

Obviously there are many bad non-religious opinions that people seek to have enshrined into law. A person could believe that sugar water cures cancer, or that the section of a scalpel in a particular operation should be made by tossing a coin. But those people get carted off to mental institutions or prisons. There’s no pretense that their mode of thinking is as good as any other or that “there’s nothing at all illegitimate” about their decision-making process.

So there’s nothing at all illegitimate about complaining “that those fundamentalist Christians are trying to force their religious opinions on us.” Those who are “bugged” by the complainers simply have an irrational aversion to attacking religion in any form. But because they find it impossible to defend religion ideas on their merits, they claim that it’s impossible to defend any ideas at all.

Witches

April 21, 2004 | 22 Comments

Dedicated to Leon Wieseltier:

Would Americans be provoked into remembering their reasons for believing in witches, if an atheist challenged the government’s position that the phrase “for Witch it stands” in the Pledge of Allegiance is mere Ceremonial Wiccanism?

One Nation, Under Godidiots

April 21, 2004 | 56 Comments

Atheists are useful fools sent to earth to strengthen religion by forcing believers to take God seriously, is the message of Godidiot Leon Wieseltier’s New Republic essay on the Pledge of Allegiance case. Easily the most clueless piece written to date on the controversy, it reeks of bad law and worse theology. Wieseltier’s legal argument is essentially a variant of the ACLU’s cynical claim that governmental neutrality towards religion is needed to promote religion — although he may, in his own confused way, actually believe it. And Wieseltier’s double-talking theological argument promotes a concept of God every bit as meaningless and sloppy and un-serious as the Ceremonial Pledge-Deity he condemns. Indeed, his God is identical to that mush-god, except for Its apparent aversion to being worshipped by public schoolchildren.

Before wading through Wieseltier’s intellectual sludge it might be helpful to clarify, once again, why I am an atheist and why I oppose the God-Pledge. I DON’T take God seriously, any more than I take leprechauns, unicorns, vampires or ghosts seriously. The point of atheism is NOT not to make believers take their religion seriously, but the opposite — to make them STOP taking it seriously, to expose it as the same worthless, nonsensical shit as astrology, numerology and every other form of dopey superstition. Yes, my arguments AGAINST God are serious ones, but that is not a concession that the contrary arguments have any merit. It’s an absolute denial of their merits. And consequently, I oppose the inclusion of God in the pledge for the same reason I oppose references leprechauns, unicorns, vampires and ghosts — they promote stupid, illogical, unsubstantiated, unscientific and often self-contradictory beliefs.

So I am NOT here, as Wieseltier suggests, to “perform a great quickening service to American belief” or to “provoke it into remembering its reasons” for believing. I am an enemy of religion bent upon destroying it, upon showing that there are no reasons for it, upon making those who follow it feel soiled, stupid and ashamed. If people come away from this site with a better understanding of their religion, it is the same sort of understanding they might have about a disease after consulting a doctor.

Wieseltier, on the other hand, loves religion and wants to see it spread in any form by any means. Consider his expectations in attending the Supreme Court arguments on the Pledge: he “had come to watch a disputation between religion’s enemies [atheist Michael Newdow] and religion’s friends [the government].” The government, you see, is supposed to be religion’s friend — the only question is how to best promote religion. All that disappointed Wieseltier was the state’s strategy: its disingenuous insistence that “God” can mean “no God” for constitutional purposes. “What kind of friendship is it for religion,” he asks, “that insists that the words ‘under God’ have no religious connotation?

The kind of friendship that knows that the best way to inculcate religion is to force children to pray when they’re young; the kind of friendship that knows that coerced mass indoctrination by the government is an effective way to achieve that objective; the kind of friendship that knows that at the time the children are actually made to say the words “under God,” no teacher will issue a disclaimer that the words might also mean “no God” or anything other than what they obviously do mean. Of course it’s just a trick. Of course the government is trying to promote religion through the Pledge. Of course the argument that “under God” means “no God” is a dishonest and unprincipled and incoherent one. The parents and politicians who are upset about the words “under God” being taken out of the Pledge are upset that God is being taken out of the schools, and they frequently express it in exactly those terms — even if the government lawyers have to disguise what is really meant (in briefs that will never be read or understood by the public) to preserve the status quo.

So the problem is not that the government hates religion and doesn’t take God seriously; it’s that the government loves religion but doesn’t take the Constitutional ban against promoting it seriously. Wieseltier’s problem is that he takes the government’s arguments seriously.

To the extent that Wieseltier is suggesting that government support is bad for religion — and that separation of Church and state is good for it — he’s just being ridiculous. That support may be contrary to the Constitutional prohibition, but it serves religion just fine. If the government awarded $100 million to each and every religious denomination, no strings attached, religion would flourish even more than it already does. Government lawyers might have to tell a few more silly lies to push something like that through, but the end result would be more religion, not less. And the government would still very much be the “friend” of religion, notwithstanding that it fudged the meaning of “God” in front of a handful of judges at a closed-door session of the Supreme Court.

But let’s take Wieseltier seriously for a moment, and see what great strides are to be achieved in theology with government out of the picture. Apparently reason will then lead the way — “[t]here is no greater insult to religion than to expel strictness of thought from it,” he declares, an insult which is presumably removed once we’re no longer forced to believe the state’s argument that “God” means “no god.” So what does “God” mean? What are Wieseltier’s own “strict thoughts” regarding the definition or nature of God, the ones upon which the atheists have forced him to focus? Well, he doesn’t really say. In fact, he has apparently learned nothing from atheists: “[f]rom his comments at the Supreme Court,” Wieseltier asserts, “there was no way to tell how thoughtful Newdow’s arguments against theism are, or even what they are.” Ooops.

Ultimately, the only theory of God we get from Wieseltier is a being whose nature is defined almost solely by Its objection to government-led prayer and similar state-sponsored tributes. Reason has nothing to do with it:

The need of so many American believers to have government endorse their belief is thoroughly abject. How strong, and how wise, is a faith that needs to see God’s name wherever it looks? (His name on
nickels and dimes is rather damaging to His sublimity.)

In other words, it’s all just “faith” in whatever-it-is, in some “sublime” creature whose existence is somehow established by his very sublimity, whose invisibility constitutes such strong evidence of its presence that it’s redundant and insulting to so much as refer to it by name. But keep in mind that Wieseltier’s God only objects to governmentally-endorsed acknowledgments. Wieseltier doesn’t find the practice of prayer in thousands of churches and synagogues and mosques and religious schools and football stadiums and homes to be “thoroughly abject”; God is not that sublime. He actually loves hearing his name

PurpleCar Wreck

April 19, 2004 | 5 Comments

“Atheist” blogger PurpleCar contrasts her relativism with my evangelism, noting, in the process, that god-belief is like an emotion and it’s futile to try to convince anyone one way or the other. It is certainly futile to convince me of that, but more on that later in the week.

God Squad Review LXXXIV (What Jews Believe)

April 19, 2004 | 4 Comments

What do Jews believe? A Squad reader who suspects that the Torah is the teaching of Jewish law wants to know if it comes from the Old Testament. After explaining that the Torah is the first five books of the Bible, the Squad cautions against calling it part of the “Old” Testament because “Jews do not believe the New Testament is God’s word and therefore refer to the Old Testament as the Hebrew Bible or Hebrew Scriptures.” They also note that the order of the Old Testament books in the Christian Bible is different from that in the Hebrew Bible, because the ones containing predictions about Jesus were moved closer to the NT to enhance their prophetic effect. However, “Jews obviously disagree with this interpretation and stick to the ancient system.”

Obviously. Jews have actually thought about the authenticity of each Testament of the Bible, and made the careful, considered conclusion that only the first one could be God’s word. Having done so, The Jews believe that the OT is true and the NT is false. The Jews thus believe in infant sacrifice (Hos. 13:16) , amputation (Deut. 25:12), cannibalism (Jer. 19:9), slavery (Ex. 21:2), whipping (Deut. 25:3), burning (Lev. 21:9), stoning (Lev. 24:14, and genocide (Deut. 7:1-2). So don’t insult them by calling their Testament “Old”!

Lost in Translation

April 17, 2004 | 4 Comments

Countries with crackly-looking languages and prostitutes seem to love me. A while back Denmark picked up my post on their atheist minister, Thorkild Grosboel, and now Holland is talking about “de Razende Athe

Relativism

April 16, 2004 | 19 Comments

Blogger Purple Car may have to be denied full atheistic communion, as I noted yesterday, in view of her stated belief that no one is really rational. Philosopher Vincent McCann outlines the problems with, and some appropriate responses to, that sort of position:

What is relativism? Religious relativism is basically the position that nothing is absolute, including any religious claim to truth. This view is becoming increasingly popular in our day and it takes on a number of different forms. Some of these will be looked at briefly here.

Relativists often say: “If it [i.e. your religion] works for you, then I am happy for you, but it doesn’t mean it is for me.”

* * *

Another very popular statement that relativists claim is: “There is no such thing as truth.”

Response 1: “If you really believe that there is no such thing as truth then the statement “There is no such thing as truth would not be true either.”

Response 2: “If there was no truth the world and the universe in which we live would be in chaos.”

Some things in life are certain. For example, it is true that the world in which we live in hangs in space and is a sphere. It is true that there is night and there is day. It is true that each one of us grows old and dies. There are various laws that exist in our world that are universal, such as: the law of gravity, the laws of physics and thermodynamics, etc. As there are basic laws and truths in our universe it would therefore be logical to assume that there are spiritual truths as well.

When people reject absolutes they tend to drift in and out of varying belief systems like a ship without an anchor in a sea of uncertainty. This is probably the reason why so many who hold to relativism tend to move on to the next spiritual fad that takes their fancy, and then discover that the new thing they found wasn’t ‘it’ after all. All of this can lead to doubt, confusion, and fear. As human beings need certainties in their physical lives they need to have certainties, order, and truth in their spiritual lives as well. Jesus Christ declared that all truth can be found in Him (John 14:6).

Proofs

April 16, 2004 | 15 Comments

Submitted by Chris Michaud:

Does the Bible contain any formal proofs of 1) the existence of God or 2) its own inerrancy?

Out?

April 15, 2004 | 29 Comments

Twelve years of Catholic school, apparently wasted on blogger PurpleCar:

I am “outing” myself in this blog. Most people I know, including my family, still don’t realize that I am atheistic. They perhaps were suspicious when I refused to baptize my child, but I suspect that they still think I am christian, if not catholic. I don’t feel like arguing with or defending myself to people who won’t be fair or accepting (I won’t use the term “rational” because I don’t think that state exists in anyone).

I struggle now to find peers, a live community that shares my concern that religion purports to hold the rights to morality. I intend on raising my offspring with a human sense of what is right and wrong. Yes, some of my beliefs may coincide with major or minor religions. Also, I use christian terms when I swear, I enjoy my irish-heritage superstitions, and I like stories with faeries in them. I can’t/won’t stop doing or teaching these things.

I also struggle to find a way that I can meditate/pray, as I do think such pursuits can change my body chemistry for the better.

On the one hand, PC’s rejection of rationality and acceptance of prayer raise serious questions as to whether there will eventually be some backsliding to Jesus — as we witnessed in the case Catholic re-covert A Theist Gal (formerly “Atheist Gal”). On the other hand, PC’s later rhetoric about “a big mommy or daddy in the sky” are solidly atheistic. Maybe she’s a Steven Den Beste-style atheist who, despite claiming that “atheism is a religious belief which is no more susceptible to actual proof than any other religious belief,” clearly knows better. Then again, Theist Gal was calling God a “frightened kid’s teddy bear” just weeks before she flipped. We will have to watch this one very carefully, administering a saliva test now and then.

Whatever the case, I always find it strange that people like PC who have the strength and independence of mind to shuck off years of indoctrination find they have to “defend” themselves to those who likely haven’t given a moment of thought to why they believe as they do. It should really be the other way around. You believe Jesus? You believe in Ganesh? You believe the Wizard of Oz? I’m so disappointed!

The Argument From Authority That Contradicts Me

April 14, 2004 | 38 Comments

Those who won’t be bothered with justifying their religion frequently resort to the argument from authority (discussed here), asserting that there’s some wise Holy Man somewhere who could win the debate on their behalf. But I don’t know how to classify the argument I found on this discussion board. It comes from a college student who’s trying to figure out how to deal with the atheistic lecturer of her “Classical and Christian backgrounds to English Literature” course who’s been trashing the Bible for three weeks. She’s never experienced anything like this, having attended Christian schools from “prep to year 12,” but knows her teacher “has to have a massive change of heart of else he’s gonna be lost for all eternity” for corrupting the youth in violation of Matthew 18:6 (“it would be better for them to have a big stone around their neck and be thrown into the sea”). Since he’s a “nice guy” she wants to confront him, but:

Here’s the reason why I’m holding back. He claims to have read the Bible many times, having studied it in depth for most of his life. So if it comes down to a debate with him, I’m almost certainly going to loose [sic]. Also, anything I say to him has probably been said to him before. I’d be pretty stupid to think I’m the only Christian to have ever taken this subject. If he’s not a Christian by now after all he knows then I really shouldn’t bother. He has no excuse for not believing in God, given his extensive knowledge of the Bible (Not that that’s a reason to not talk to him, because according to Romans 1:20, all men are without excuse, and yet we are still commissioned to reach out to them).

I’ve prayed about it and I still don’t know what to do. But the feeling that I have to do something keeps pressing in my mind. It’s driving me nuts and really upsetting me. I leave each lecture completely emotionally drained.

What’s worse still is that a lot of the stuff he says really makes sense . . .

In other words, the fact he’s much more of an authority on the very book that she say proves him wrong — and that he could beat her in a debate about it and is already starting to convince her — proves that he’s enough of an authority to know better.

One suggestion in the lengthy comment section that follows is to pray harder. The notion that the Holy Spirit will intervene is also popular. The attitude towards the actual arguments against God is “who cares,” with one reader suggesting that debate is futile because it’s the lecturer who’s being irrational:

But one thing that may well be helpful at this point is that you never started a debate. His reasoning for disbelief might be so much simpler than his knowledge for his subject. Perhaps his son was murdered, and he wonders why any type of god would allow that to happen. This may give you even more of a chance to work then if you didn’t start any type of debate.

There’s also a debate over some of the standard arguments listed in my Basic Assumptions, with a character named Ambassador, to his credit, attempting to deconstruct them one by one.

Real Religions

April 14, 2004 | 47 Comments

Submitted by AK:

Should certain types of religions, like Judaism or Islam, be taken more seriously than religions like Wicca, or Voodoo?

Voodoo Analogies

April 13, 2004 | 14 Comments

In the course of explaining why Madonna will no longer perform on Friday nights, the New York Post’s Page Six notes that the singer “was raised as a Catholic but has spent the last several years studying the Kabbalah, which has about as much to do with mainstream Judaism as voodoo has to do with Christianity.”

I fully agree with the underlined analogy, if what they mean can be translated as “clowns have about as much to do with the circus as Peter Pan has to do with Never-Never Land.” But I suspect they’re actually trying to diss Kabbalah by equating it with “voodoo” as used in a pejorative sense, e.g., “voodoo economics.” In other words, Kabbalah and voodoo are just magic-y make-believe superstitions, whereas Judaism and Christianity are the real stuff that all the deep, smart, serious people believe in. Of course, since Judaism and Christianity contradict each other one of them is necessarily a pack of wild crazy lies; but even so, it’s a pack of wild crazy lies that deep, smart serious people believe in.

Or perhaps Page Six is just unaware of the “real” Kabbalah, the kind which, as I explained in an earlier post, is practiced by respectable, upstanding Professors of Thinkology rather than greedy, New Age con artists. If so, they’re probably also unaware of the real voodoo, which has nothing to do with sticking pins through voodoo dolls. And before they embarrass themselves by attacking the Hindus, I hope someone reminds them that the “real” Hinduism has nothing to do with animal-headed deities cavorting about the universe . . .

God Squad Review LXXXIV (Reaction to The Passion)

April 12, 2004 | 10 Comments

“The problem I’m having is that all I can think about is the bloody torture and suffering of Jesus,”reports a Squad reader who recently saw The Passion. Although “[i]t didn’t make me hate Jews at all” and the gore “helped me prepare for Good Friday,” the reader continues, “Christ’s Resurrection was shown only the last 10 seconds of the film, and that wasn’t enough for me to feel uplifted . . . [h]elp me get beyond the blood of Good Friday to the hope and joy of Easter.”

The Squad agrees that “anyone with eyes and an open Christian faith who has seen the film might have trouble this year conjuring up images of the Resurrection powerful enough to stand against the images of Good Friday.” But they suggest that “you don’t try to move away from the blood, but through it to the Resurrection.” Specifically, they advise:

As a Christian, first look closely at the question of why Jesus suffered. He didn’t suffer because he was trapped. He didn’t suffer because he was guilty. He didn’t suffer because he was betrayed. He suffered because it was God’s will and Christ’s freely accepted mission to suffer for the sins of all people over all of time.

* * *

Also, the blood stops flowing with Jesus’ death, and he is cleansed and we are cleansed and you are cleansed through his Resurrection. I scream, you scream, we all scream for . . .

Yes, I made up that very last line but I don’t think the answer suffers any for it.

I’ve outlined my problems with the moral of Christ’s “freely accepted” but nonetheless God-willed and prophesied mission here and here and won’t bore you with another repetition. But I must say that it’s rather sad that an adult has the problem described by the reader. He knows how the whole Jesus fairy tale is supposed to go, but he’s so easily manipulated by a movie that he almost loses his faith because the director has placed a disproportionate emphasis on one element of the plot. Worse yet, he knows exactly what the problem is but lacks the imagination to create a longer Resurrection scene in his mind.

It’s also pretty scary that anyone’s first comment about a movie would be “it didn’t make me hate Jews at all.” Bambi and The Wizard of Oz didn’t make me hate them either (okay, maybe a little bit), but that wasn’t foremost on my mind upon leaving the theater. I guess it’s a good thing; I’m just surprised that more newspaper ads don’t use that line (“Moving,” Stirring,” “Didn’t make me hate Jews at all . . . ).

Happy Easter

April 11, 2004 | 12 Comments

crucipeep1.jpg

Eeeeeeeeeeeak-ster

April 9, 2004 | 31 Comments

Looks like Mel Gibson’s doing local theater now:

A church trying to teach about the crucifixion of Jesus performed an Easter show with actors whipping the Easter bunny and breaking eggs, upsetting several parents and young children.

People who attended Saturday’s performance at Glassport’s memorial stadium quoted performers as saying, “There is no Easter bunny,” and described the show as being a demonstration of how Jesus was crucified.

* * *

Performers broke eggs meant for an Easter egg hunt and also portrayed a drunken man and a self-mutilating woman.

The whipping and mutilation might have been big surprises, but the revelation that there’s no Easter bunny probably didn’t come as much of a shock. Santa is usually the first casualty of childhood skepticism, and by the time Easter rolls around a few months later there’s no need to state the obvious. No big loss, either: the cheapskate rodent never brought enough candy to fill even the bottom of a Halloween bag, and was sadly mistaken if he thought that hard boiled eggs could compete with a mountain of toys.

I do wonder, though, how common it is for loss of a faith in the Easter bunny to lead to disbelief in Santa, rather than the other way around. Statistically, it’s not likely to be more than 25%. A child who believes in Santa on in late December has only about three months to become disillusioned with holiday icons, whereas a bunny-believer has nearly nine months (including a promotion in school grades) to question St. Nick’s existence. Additionally, it’s easier to lose faith in a talking rabbit that a laughing man, although Santa loses some credibility through his association with Rudolph.

I also wonder if there are any Christian purists who ban Santa but permit Peter Cottontail. As I’ve noted before, Eve Tushnet opposes feeding kids the Santa-myth (here and here) because “it unnecessarily complicates Christmas . . . blurs the line between fun storytelling and, well, lying” . . . “makes Christmas about Santa Claus rather than [Christ],” and because “superstition is anti-Christian and magic-y.” While I can see how the similarities between the human, gift-giving Santa and the human, gift-getting Jesus could confuse kids, the differences between a cuddly little rabbit and a serious, whip-shredded man on a cross immediately suggest that they belong to separate realms of reality. So there’s not as much risk that when the bunny falls it will topple Jesus — unless his basket contains of science, everyday experience, the cold, hard face of reality, and formal logic.

Two Little Boys

April 8, 2004 | 30 Comments

Dawn Olsen wants her to be executed for “blaming God for the Devil’s work,” but I think the mother who stoned two of her sons to death at the purported command of God was properly acquitted on insanity grounds. Deanna Laney had a history of delusional, psychotic behavior, apparently caused by some sort of chemical imbalance in her brain. She believed that she and Andrea Yates — the Houston mother who drowned her five children — were chosen by God to witness the imminent end of the world. That’s crazy enough for me.

When a person’s perception of reality is so distorted that she’s seeing and hearing things that just aren’t there, it’s time to stop the moralizing and bring out the straight jacket. Had Laney hallucinated that her children were ferocious, tigers trying to rip her to shreds, or a gang of masked thugs armed with machetes, she would have been perfectly justified in hurling a few stones. Confronted with an even more fearsome spectre — the angry, bellowing, bloodthirsty, omnipotent creator of the universe — I can’t see how she could have acted otherwise. God is the ultimate Big Cat, and his commands are disregarded (or even questioned), at your peril. So in the context of her madness, her defense attorneys posed to the jury a very legitimate question: “Does she follow what she believes to be God’s will or does she turn her back on her God?”

Framing the issue, as Dawn does, as one of good theology versus bad isn’t very helpful. All of it is nuts. To say that Laney should have known that God would never have ordered something like that, or that she should have known that it was actually Satan beguiling her, only buys into the insanity. The prosecutor made the same mistake, suggesting that if Laney truly believed in God’s infallibility she would have carried out His commands without hesitation. I suppose people who live inside a complete fantasy world should try to act a little more consistently, but ultimately it just amounts to rearranging a few chairs on the deck of what is a Titanically deranged mind.

Worst yet, the prosecutor was advocating the worst sort of theology, the sort that prizes blind faith and obedience to the craziest of edicts. As it turns out, this was precisely the theology to which Laney finally succumbed. She believed that “God was commanding that the boys be killed in increasingly violent ways because her resistance signified a lack of faith in Him,” and, like Abraham, she ultimately surrendered her resistance in favor of faith. That her delusions took this shape is not surprising given that she lives in a society which this week is celebrating either God’s ritual murder of Egyptian babies or His premeditated murder of His own son.

Most people do not, of course, take their religion as seriously as Laney, and rightly regard those who claim that God talks to them as out of their minds (unless they’re Pat Robertson or Mel Gibson). But every religion is based on the delusions of some ranting psychotic who claimed to have had direct communication with God, and for some reason following God’s rules when passed down from lunatics in hearsay form is considered more acceptable. The California couple whose little girl died after treating her meningitis with prayer instead of medicine got off with a year of weekends in jail, and over forty states have enacted faith healing exceptions to child abuse statutes.

I am not saying that all insanity is caused by religion, or that all religious people are insane. My point is that religious reasoning can’t be used to just who is and who isn’t, and shouldn’t be used to as an excuse for sane people to act crazy.

Just A Movie

April 7, 2004 | 27 Comments

I recently bemoaned the lack of any truly atheistic professional reviews of The Passion of the Christ. But I overlooked Flick Filosopher MaryAnn Johanson’s thoroughly godless scourging of Mel’s folly (also linked at Rottentomatoes). She flogs the movie harder than the Roman’s flogged Jesus. Noting that “we cannot talk about Mel Gibson’s piece of cinematic insanity as ‘just a movie'” because “[w]e have not, as a culture, come to our senses,” she ignores the palms to nail it right on the head:

I can’t see how any loving parents could let their child see this film . . . but then again, I can’t see how any loving parents could teach their child in the first place that a rabble-rousing hippie had to be nailed to a cross because little Johnny was born full of sin and evil.

The anti-Semitism red herring quickly gets tossed back into the Red Sea as she reels in the real theological big fish:

But I don’t get the anti-Semitism thing for a couple of reasons. First, since when is guilt hereditary? Even if the Jews of A.D. 33 did kill Jesus, how does that make all Jews everywhere guilty? Oh, but I forgot: the Jesus freaks think we all inherited the “guilt” of a woman who ate an apple 6,000 years ago, so never mind. But there’s this, too: Didn’t Jesus have to die, according to his fans? Didn’t someone have to kill him? Shouldn’t these people be thanking whomever killed Jesus? It makes no sense that Christians should punish the very people who supposedly gave them their savior. Wasn’t the whole thing prearranged and preordained by God, anyway? Shouldn’t God be the one who’s blamed or thanked? There’s no reason or logic to it. But I guess once you start talking to an invisible superhero who lives in the sky and can see you all the time — even in the bathroom — reason and logic kinda go out the window.

Most reviews stop when the credits start to roll. But when the lights go, MaryAnn dumps a jumbo bucket of extra-buttered popcorn on top of the audience:

And that’s the worst thing about the circus surrounding this film, and the real reason why it cannot be seen as “just a movie.” The people who in all seriousness buy into this stuff have an influence way out of proportion with the sense they make, which is little, and get a free pass on their fairy stories — I’ve seen not one suggestion anywhere, in all the media’s fawning delirium over this film, that perhaps Jesus never existed or, if he did, was nothing but a crazy guy who roamed the desert, got his brain a little too sunbaked, and merely thought he was God. And there’s been not one scrap of discussion about whether his legacy has been something we could have done without.

It’s too bad that this sort of perfectly sensible critique will never appear in The New York Times, Time, Newsweek. Instead, the reviews either embrace the insanity which has made the The Passion a runaway hit, or exceed that madness by insisting that the only serious issue is whether the movie is “Biblically accurate” and simultaneously faithful to the Messiah-denying Old Testament, the Jesus-affirming Gospels and the Gibson-rejecting Vatican II.

Andrew Sullivan o Viole

April 6, 2004 | 55 Comments

Atheist Jesus Poetry Tributes

April 6, 2004 | 2 Comments

Like the Special Olympics, in the Atheist Jesus Poetry Contest everyone’s a winner just for trying. Indeed, it takes a “special” sort of person to mock a dying man, to remind him in verse that there’s no hope once this sad short life is over. So here, in order of e-mail receipt, are the offerings of the lyrical souls brave enough to pay tribute to the life and impending death of Cass Brown, The Atheist Jesus.

Submitted by JWW@IAW.ON.CA

Though Cass Brown, the “Atheist Jesus”
Is dying, one last chance he seizes
To donate his name
And his minutes of fame
To our blog, so some customers sees us.

So I proclaim, as your “Atheist Pope”
Don’t pray! For there’s, sadly, no hope
For soon “Cancer Giggles”
Will become “Mortis Riggles”
And an AFTERLIFE? Don’t be a dope!

Submitted by J.D. Core, The Gamut

Going Going Gone
An atheist of some renown
was Cancer Giggles creator Cass Brown.
He would suffer and die
And never even try
To rise from the grave like some clown.
He lived dying and none would be saved.
Knowing when your time’s up, you cave.
Decomposing in pieces,
That’s our Atheist Jesus,
Inheriting the earth of the grave.

Submitted by J.D. Core, Phalse Prophet

Death held no fears for the dying Cass Brown
No fires from hell in which he could drown
His blog Cancer Giggles was written to teach us
That God is a lie but not The Atheist Jesus
Who died for my blog on his way out of town.

Submitted by YOSEMITEJONES@HOTMAIL.COM

cancer giggles,
to follow the wiggles,
of the doctor’s bouncing grin.

The atheist god,
human and flawed,
declares the good man dead.

But Atheist Jesus,
You have to please us
what is this puziling frown

I please not one
not even my son;
the one named Cassius Brown

Not I a lord of heaven
not I of the earth
maybe just of simple things
Like common sense and Mirth,

Declaration,
startling as may be,
bears starkly the meaing
of that good and evil tree.

Submitted by Michael Mason

Cass Brown is the Atheist Jesus;
He bears a cross of various diseases
There’s no god, he’s sure
So don’t pray for a cure,
Or right in the groin he’ll knee us.

Submitted by Rose

There once was an atheist jesus
In death who sought only to please us
His name was Cass Brown
His sheets went all brown
When dying, immortal became us

There once was a man named Cass Brown
Whose suffering brought everyone down
He blogged to be Jesus
While cancer was his loss
And giggles his legacy bound

Submitted by Martin J. Burn, The English Atheist

Stoically Frying in Hell

You’d think that having cancer of the colon was sad,
And if it got into your lungs and liver, bad.
But there exists a man, suffering just these diseases,
He’s an atheist, with a website – the ‘atheist jesus’!
Lying on his deathbed with no thought of heaven or hell,
You’ll see him laugh, because cancer giggles in every cell.
Chemotherapy over, no blog to update in his hospital gown,
It’s not god we’re talking about, but the jolly Cass Brown!

Submitted by Jake

Cass Brown goes by “cancergiggles”
No godly belief in him niggles
A worm will be giddy
Living in dead Brown city
As for months through his body it wriggles.

A godless heathen, the sickly Cass Brown
Interred will he be in the virtual ground
He’ll die for my blog
Like that chump who Mel flogged
But the Atheist Jesus’s no clown.

Submitted by Josh Baugher, JBAUGHER@VT.EDU

please say hello to mr. cass brown
his wretched body hasn’t gotten him down
cancer is seeping through everything
time stops soon, maybe we should sing
something about the cancer giggles
lighting up the uneasy silence with oh so pleasant wiggles
a joke or two will do, or some laughter can
then say hello to cass and the atheist jesus man
who has long stood beside us like a good friend
in our journeys until the very end

Submitted by PurpleCar

Cancer giggles
he wriggles
Like a snake

Cass Brown
down
With liver spots

Atheist Jesus
Sees us
Laugh with him
In the face of it

* * *

Cass
Brown down

Crowned
Atheist Jesus

He flees us
Into
Memories and bytes alone

Cancer giggles
He wriggles

Look at my blog

Submitted by FORREST@MIBSOFTWARE.COM

Atheist Jesus Cass Brown
is destined for up and not down,
because look, at the end
he lays down life for a friend
(like Jesus, the crucified crown.)

We can take suffering as just simply pain,
but we can make it sacrifice, renewing like rain.
And if we too learn this mystery
as we pass into history,
know for sure we’ll meet up again.

Submitted by June

Cass Bless America

Oh mine eyes have seen the glory of the dying of Cass Brown
As I wipe a secret tear and drink another Guiness down.
Now we have an Atheist Savior, who has died to set us free.
We don’t need no friggen altars, we don’t need no Holy See!

As we read his CancerGiggles, let us have a Guiness stout.
We’re all dying now or later, that’s what life is all about.
And so he is not forgotten, so he has a little edge ,
To be sure he is remembered, let us put him in the Pledge:

One nation under Cass.

Submitted by Three Dog Blog

If Cass Brown, known as Atheist Jesus
Were to die for our blog, that would please us.
If it won’t cleanse our sins,
Or bring peace at our ends,
We’d give thanks for the page view increases.

* * *

That Cass Brown, known as Atheist Jesus,*
Has cancer does not really please us.
But if godless he passes,
From this world full of asses,
Then his chance for real peace just increases.

*Contest Winner

Gay Men and Lesbians

April 6, 2004 | 51 Comments

Who are more religious — gay men, or lesbians?

And the Winner is . . .

April 5, 2004 | 7 Comments

The winner of the Atheist Jesus Poetry Contest is . . . Three Dog Blog! Cass Brown of Cancergiggles will official die for them, and, in fact, is dying from them as we speak!

In announcing his selection, Cass notes that”[o]n reflection I did actually expect anyone entering such a competition to have a blog spouting vitriol and bitterness against just about everything that moved.” Did 3DB measure up to these negative expectations? Go to Cancergiggles to read Cass’s choice words about the site for which he is giving his very life!

And now, for the deathless (deathful?) winning verse:

That Cass Brown, known as Atheist Jesus,
Has cancer does not really please us.
But if godless he passes,
From this world full of asses,
Then his chance for real peace just increases.

The Raving Atheist vows to die for the remaining contestants, but not so soon. Their submissions will be published tomorrow.

God Squad Review LXXXIII (The Meaning of Passover)

April 5, 2004 | 4 Comments

What is the meaning of “Passover?” An 8-year old Catholic boy, assigned to write about the holiday by his religious education teacher, is “a little confused” and has come to the Squad to find out what it’s “all about.”

The Squad at first doesn’t define “Passover,” but states that it celebrates “freedom.” Specifically, the freedom of the Jews enslaved by the Pharaoh in Egypt. But slavery doesn’t sound so bad, given their definition of “Pharaoh”: he’s “kind of like a king or like the principal of your school — except a pharaoh could not assign homework.”

Sounds pretty impotent to me, but the Jews being a scholarly people, I guess they wanted homework. (I hope they weren’t looking for a king or a principal because, contrary to the Squad’s suggestion, they can’t assign homework either). In any event, the Squad explains that God chose Moses to lead them to freedom. And not wanting to interfere with human free will, God passively attempted to convince the pharaoh with “plagues.” But the way the Squad describes them, they sound more like practical jokes: they included “[t]urning water into blood so that when you brushed your teeth, your mouth looked gross”; “[b]ringing gobs of frogs into every place you don’t want to see a frog, like down your pants”; “[g]iving people boils, which also is like really bad zits.” For some reason, though, the Squad doesn’t sugarcoat the final plague:

Killing the firstborn sons of Egypt. When this plague came, the Jewish people put blood on their doors so the angel of death would pass over them. That’s how the holiday got the name Passover.

So that’s what “Passover” means. It’s all about killing, killing children for guilt inherited from their ancestors. Which leads to a discussion of another holiday:

The connections between Passover and Easter are strong because Jesus and his followers were Jews and because, according to the Gospel of Matthew in the Christian Scriptures, the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples before he was crucified was a seder.

Somehow a couple of other “connections” were “passed over”: that the Jews killed Jesus, and that their children must be killed to atone for the inherited guilt! Remember that lesson well, little Catholic boy.

Gays and Straights

April 5, 2004 | 22 Comments

Who are more religious, heterosexuals or homosexuals?

Gender Trouble

April 3, 2004 | 80 Comments

Jason Malloy thinks it’s so obvious that women are more religious than men that my Question of the Day should have simply asked why the ladies are more pious. As I discussed last year, one researcher concluded that the reason is that women are more rational, and have more impulse control, than men. Obviously that presupposes that it’s more rational to be religious than not, a conclusion I reject.

To avoid controversy I will not follow that line of argument to its inevitable conclusion. However, are women really more religious than men? If men just want to sleep late on Sunday and bowl and fix cars and play with power tools, how come every major religious figure (Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, Martin Luther, Joseph Smith, Mel Gibson, JPII, etc.) is some wild-eyed, fire-breathing man? And if women are so into the religion thing, how come so few of them ever become Catholic priests?

Men and Women

April 3, 2004 | 16 Comments

Who are more religious, men or women?

Last Chance

April 2, 2004 | 6 Comments

Less than FOUR HOURS left to submit your entries for the Atheist Jesus Poetry Contest to ravingatheist@ravingatheist.com!

I’ve gotten about fifteen entries so far. If you people can give $300 million to Mel Gibson, who will give you NOTHING in return except hatred and lies, you can certainly give a few dozen words to Cass Brown — who will give you his LIFE for your blog!

Bill to Protect Parents, Children, God from Thinking about Non-Torture-Related Male Kissing

April 2, 2004 | 48 Comments

Atlanta, Georgia, April 2, 2004
Special to The Raving Atheist

To protect the tender sensibilities of parents, children and God, the Georgia House of Representatives yesterday approved a ballot proposal to amend the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

Democratic legislator Randal Mangham said he voted in favor of the bill because he and God felt slightly uncomfortable about exposing children to expressions of male human affection. “I don’t appreciate having to explain to my 9-year-old why two big husky guys are kissing,” Mr. Mangham said. “God discriminates against the act, but he loves the person.”

Rep. Mangham said his concerns were heightened after he and his 9-year-old witnessed two big husky guys flay God alive with barbed whips and hooked leather straps in the movie The Passion of the Christ. “I thought, what if they were kissing him instead — how could I ever explain that to my child?” Mangham’s son is currently in a psychotraumatically-induced coma, which the legislator attributes to a scene in which Jesus’ puckered, severed, airborne lips fly uncomfortably close to the mouth of one of his Roman tormentors. “He was fine until he overheard someone wondering aloud whether the lips had actually touched, and that really got me to thinking,” said Mangham.

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Bill Hembree, said he could imagine nothing more mildly discomforting than having to look into his little girl’s doe eyes and see a tear well up as he explained men kissing. “I love gays as much as God does, so it is with great reluctance that I strip them of their most basic civil rights,” he said. Hembree’s daughter, whose super-ego promptly sloughed off her id after viewing The Passion, is in stable condition at the Atlanta Center for Pediatric Psychiatry.

“I tried to keep her mind on the flesh-shredding, bone-splintering, blood-splattering aspects of God’s love, but she misinterpreted that scene where Judas kisses Jesus,” Hembree explained. “Even though she understood that the betrayal was necessary so the torture could begin, she couldn’t fathom why Judas didn’t simply stab him in the back.” Hembree said his daughter’s fragile mind would be completely destroyed if he had to tell her that sometimes men kiss without nailing each other to wooden planks and having crows devour their eyes.

Rep. Karen Henley expressed similar concerns about her own daughter, Eve White/Eve Black/Jane, whose disassociation during a screening of Gibson’s film last week may somehow be related to same sex kissing. “Although the bill prohibits marriage but not men kissing, married men might kiss too . . . there are some things a parent should never have to explain to a child.” And Rep. John Caldwell, father of Sybil/Victoria/Peggy/Sid/Marcia/Mike/Marjorie, stated that he would sooner discuss condoms with his daughter/daughter/daughter/son/daughter/son/daughter than men kissing. “I could never traumatize her/her/her/him/her/him/her with even the suggestion of such an ungodly spectacle.”
REMINDER: LAST CHANCE! Don’t forget to enter the Atheist Jesus Poetry Contest! (Deadline for entries: TODAY, Friday, April 2, 2004, 11:59 p.m. EST).

National Atheists Day

April 1, 2004 | 4 Comments

To all of you who think it’s unfair that only the Christians have their own federal holiday — today is National Atheists Day! Preacher Grady Scott explains:

Driving around town I often slow down so I can read church signs. Some of them are just plain, just giving schedule of services and name of the preacher. But some of them having wise and witty sayings. On one in town is this sentence, “April 1st -National Atheists Day.”

* * *

The Bible tells us that we should be careful about calling another person a fool (Matthew 5:22). While the text in Matthew seems to deal with being angry with a brother and not a harmless joke like April Fools Day it is true that we should be careful about attributing to another the descriptive term fool.

But what better day could one pick for National Atheists Day than April 1st, April Fools Day? The Bible makes this clear. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1). The Bible says that anyone who denies God is a fool!

* * *

Come to think of it, April 1st might be the perfect day to celebrate “National Atheists Day.” Nothing in life is more foolish than denying the existence of God, since He has left indisputable proof!

If you don’t have time to locate a church sign insulting you, you can go here to get this bumper sticker for only $3.69:

atheistbumper.jpg

But as Preacher Scott notes, the language from Romans 1:18-22 explaining why a person who denies God is a fool actually “refers specifically to the Gentiles of Paul’s day who had departed from God and had worshiped idols instead of the living God.” So just in case, pick up a few of these while you’re at it:

bumperJews.jpg

bumpChristians.jpg

BumperMormons.jpg
REMINDER: Don’t forget to enter the Atheist Jesus Poetry Contest! (Deadline for entries: TOMORROW, Friday, April 2, 2004, 11:59 p.m. EST).

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