The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2005 September

I Still Don’t Get It

September 30, 2005 | 28 Comments

I hate to beat a dead horse, but apparently I didn’t kill it right. Consider the following propositions:

(1) The Catholic Church has purged all sexually active people from the priesthood. What

Understatement

September 30, 2005 | 13 Comments

At long last, atheistic End of Faith author Sam Harris has come to realize the futility of secularism. In an essay in Free Inquiry, he notes that

Change of Heart

September 29, 2005 | 7 Comments

Jill of Feministe has announced a change of heart and now subscribes to the religion of this apparently anti-abortion blog.

UPDATE: A number of commentors have interpreted this post as literally as Leviticus. Accordingly, a clarification is in order. The blog Liberal Serving is not anti-abortion. Its author does not oppose the abortion of every black baby in America.

Because Religion is False

September 29, 2005 | 23 Comments

How is criticizing and attacking religion any better than being attacked for a lack of faith?

Asked by Jill, in comment to Feministe

Pig

September 29, 2005 | 13 Comments

RA is a sexist pig . . . I have a feeling RA and Dawn Eden are the same person.

Amanda, comments section, Feministe.

Stark Raving Me (Updated)

September 29, 2005 | 86 Comments

Looks like I blew another menage a trois. Jill of Feministe responds to yesterday’s post at her own blog:

Stark Raving Atheist

Looks like someone’s got a little crush on the Feministe ladies [linking to my posts to their blog] . And, apparently, we (or at least I) are/am tools of the religious right (who knew?), intent on making gays and lesbians hate themselves by way of discovering Jesus. You learn something new every day.

I would just keep arguing this out on RA’s site, but I’m tired — and since he doesn’t leave trackbacks here,* I’m bringin’ it home. I probably won’t argue my point much further here, because I think I was pretty clear in the first place, but here’s my take on religion: I consider my own beliefs to be private. I don’t think they’re any better or worse than yours, and I don’t like arguing about them in a public forum, because to me, they’re deeply personal, and between me and my God. If the fact that I believe in God makes me an idiot, fine. I don’t promote my own religion as the best one; I don’t think you’re going to hell if you don’t follow my line of belief. I recognize my religious and spiritual beliefs are often inconsistent. When it comes to the religious beliefs of others, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone and they’re not being pushed onto me, I’m cool with it. I don’t think it’s my place to tell anyone that they’re stupid or wrong for believing what they do; I don’t think hostility towards religion in general is at all productive.

Interestingly, the Raving Atheist also posts on Dawn Eden’s blog — although you wouldn’t even know they were the same person by the tone of the posts. I wonder how Dawn feels about being told her religion is a joke and she’s “retarded” (not my word choice) for believing in God at all?

She also wants to know “[w]hen are you gonna tell Dawn Eden that she’s a self-hating fruitcake whose entire belief system is a crock?”

Alas, unrequited love. With nothing to lose, I might as well be candid this time.

There are, to date, forty-four posts under the category religion, many of them Jill’s. They spell out precisely what she believes God’s nature and will to be. Indeed, she declares a significant tenet of her belief in the very language quoted above: God doesn’t send people who disagree with His (and Jill’s) moral laws to Hell (murderers and rapists rejoice!) So the notion that her views are “personal” and “private” is quite absurd. She argues about them publicly all the time.

And she quite obviously believes her religious beliefs are better than the beliefs of others. Not two days ago labeled fundamentalist creationists as “wingnuts.” Every word she’s ever written about religion argues why people are “stupid or wrong” for believing differently from her, and presumably she does so because she thinks that “hostility towards religion” (or at least some religions) is productive. Indeed, the two posts of hers I critiqued here were devoted to exposing the stupid wrongness of the Catholic Church and other religions in their treatment of non-heterosexuals.

Religion is simply another form of politics. And it’s bad politics, because it’s false and based on principles which, as Jill admits, are “often inconsistent.” And insane. There’s absolutely no sound argument for bestowing immunity to people who dress up their politics in religious garb; to the contrary, the religious component is often precisely what makes their political arguments stupid and wrong and therefore fully deserving of attack. I suppose people’s feelings get hurt when you attack their religion, but so what? People who take their politics seriously cry just as hard.

Jill also believes, despite her protestations, in “pushing” her views on others. I am sure she would support criminalization of the Aztec practice of child sacrifice, much as I support the criminalization of the killing of unborn humans post-conception. She might even support the criminalization of the killing of an eight month old fetus for purely economic reasons, even though that might represent the “pushing” onto others of a certain brand of Protestantism. As I have argued in the comments at Feministe, the purpose of the criminal law and much of the civil law is the “pushing” of beliefs on otherwise unwilling citizens.

I agree with Jill that the “pushing” should not involve “hurting.” Unfortunately, the question of what “hurts” becomes quite confused once religion is introduced into the argument. It doesn’t necessarily “hurt” anyone to be murdered if they are immediately transported to a celestial Disneyland, and it doesn’t “hurt” anyone to murder if, as Jill insists, no one goes to hell. I measure hurt solely by the pain in this life, or by the irreversible deprivation of life itself.

As to Ms. Eden, I have candidly discussed my view of her views. I have criticized her again and again. She’s perfectly aware of my views and has candidly discussed the perils of permitting a creature such as me post on her blog, something that her own readers have advised her against. And in a recent column, she cited to this post of mine in which, referring to my friend Annie Banno, I noted that

I have told her flat out that I believe that religion is superstition. She has perused my blog enough to know that it is often viciously, cruelly and screechingly anti-religious, and that many of my diatribes have been directed at her beloved Catholic Church. She knows that I reject her views on homosexuality and gay rights and that I have condemned people who hold such views in stronger terms that any of you have. And that I will continue to do so.

Even with respect to abortion, an issue on which we agree, I have made it quite clear that I believe that the religious rationales for opposing the practice are by far weaker than the secular ones.

Ms. Eden has read all this and yet still lets me post on her blog. She defends her views as passionately as I do mine. But neither of us pretends that we’re not discussing religion, or that the truth of our views is somehow irrelevant to the debate. That would be retarded.

*I was under the impression that Moveable Type generates trackbacks automatically (as it has with other sites); I have asked my webmistress to look into the problem.

UPDATE: Jill responds here and elsewhere in the comments to Feministe. She notes, among other things, that religion is “not a particularly large part” of her life, and finds it “confusing as to how I turned into some spokesperson for Christianity here.”

Piny the evangelical agnostic also makes a number of points that he’s of course not insisting are true, and that are naturally open to any number of conflicting interpretations by reasonable people. One of them is that Leviticus is not necessarily anti-gay (although reasonable people could disagree as to the necessity of interpreting it one way or another). He’s also not necessarily disagreeing with me, insofar as my views (as interpreted by reasonable people), are not necessarily atheistic, pro-gay or or pro-life (although reasonable people might disagree as to their ambiguity).

Unified

September 27, 2005 | 47 Comments

Jill of Feministe has graciously responded to my intemperate post of Monday, which criticized her suggestion that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered join the Unity Fellowship Church. With the exception of the few minor quibbles identified below, I believe that we

Generic Atheist Post

September 27, 2005 | 11 Comments

Can you believe how [intelligence-denigrating adjective] people who believe in [name of religion] are? Just look at what [name of religious leader/blogger] said [or did]:

[Fill in objectionable claim or conduct of religious leader/blogger]

What a [expletive] moron! Doesn

Metaphorical

September 26, 2005 | 3 Comments

When Hitler said we should “eliminate the Jewish vermin”, he was talking metaphorically, about the “Jewish vermin” inside us all.

Jason Malloy, comment to Unity post, 2005

Unity

September 26, 2005 | 25 Comments

The Unity Fellowship Church in East New York makes Jill of Feministe “want to start going to church again.” Headed up by a black minister with AIDS, Unity is “a Christian denomination explicitly set up to serve gay, bisexual and transgender members of minority groups.” An assistant minister there teaches a Sunday school course on homosexuality and the Bible.

Which combination of race and sexual orientation would qualify Jill for membership there is unclear, but the real question is why she would recommend the church to anyone. Gays, bisexuals and the transgendered don’t escape Leviticus alive. That Sunday School course couldn’t teach GLBTs anything but self-hatred. Unless, of course, the premise of the class is that the Bible is somehow gay-friendly, which you’d have to be really, really stupid to believe. Is Jill suggesting that GBLTer’s are really, really stupid? Recommending that church is like suggesting Jews join a denomination that uses Mein Kampf as scripture, but which has a Saturday School course explaining why der Fuhrer wasn’t actually anti-Semitic and how all those passages suggesting otherwise have been “misinterpreted.”

The minority group members of that church are going to find their guns particularly empty when battling against the mainstream hetero racial and ethnic denominations. For example, there’s a near-consensus among the black Protestant Churches that homosexuality is an abomination. Their clergy don’t see discrimination against GLBTs as anything close to a civil rights issue. Pastors like the Rev. Gregory G. Groover Sr. know how to read: “As black preachers, we are progressive in our social consciousness, and in our political ideology as an oppressed people we will often be against the status quo, but our first call is to hear the voice of God in our Scriptures, and where an issue clearly contradicts our understanding of Scripture, we have to apply that understanding.” Even the Rev. Al Sharpton knows that his “religion does not support homosexuality” and believes that gays will go to hell. He marches them because “God gave people the right to choose-even to choose sin” and he believes in fighting “for people to have the right to go to hell.”

In a subsequent post, Jill is upset that gays are being weeded out of the Catholic priesthood. She criticizes one supporter of the policy for implying that God’s love is “something they can’t get.” Well, it’s certainly not, if God wants them stoned to death and tortured in hell — rather than wait to be weeded out, they should bolt as fast as they can, or better yet, never join in the first place. Jill doesn’t quote any of the gay seminarians regarding their views on whether women make good Catholic priests, but I guarantee she’d be in for a surprise if she did. No, I’m sure they don’t believe in weeding the girls out . . . but . . .

Later in the post Jill concurs with the suggestion that gays can suppress their sexual urges as well as straight priests, but why is she recommending that sort of self-torment to anyone? Yes, perhaps it’s discriminatory to suggest that lesbians lack the discipline that straights do to wear a head-to-toe burka. But it’s hardly worth joining the Taliban to disprove that slur.

Groucho Marx wasn’t joking when he said he’d “I’d never join a club which would exterminate me as a member.” It’s beyond me why Jill insists that GLBTs should flock to churches embracing Christian texts and traditions. If she believes the crazy myth that salvation is available only to those who accept the resurrection story (presumably the reason she’s not recommending that GLBT’s crash the Hindu or Wiccan religions) she’s in no position to criticize the lesser, subsidiary rules about what behavior disqualifies one from the kingdom of heaven. Everything else is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

God Squad Review CXLII (Getting to Heaven)

September 26, 2005 | 19 Comments

Can you get to Heaven if you were bad when you were younger, but act nice later? A Squad reader wants to know if he

A Prayer from Prayer Tulip (With Updates)

September 24, 2005 | 4 Comments

As I sit here beside my son in this hospital, Lord, I know Your strength is made perfect in our weakness. You said in Your Word that the effectual fervent prayer of a rightous man/woman avails much. I know I, will never be perfect, while on this earth, and I know that when you see me you don’t see my sin, you see The One who died for me, Jesus, and that makes me perfect in Your eyes. Please, Lord show me what you would like me to see/learn through all of these hard days of my son’s sickness. I am holding him not tightly only loosely because he belongs to you. Show yourself strong Lord. You have made many promises and you do not lie. Please spare my son and allow him to use this for your kingdom, and give me strength to endure.

UPDATE

The purpose of these updates is for prayer for Matt’s salvation. I believe that as long as there is breath in someone, that there is always hope. So far prayers have been answered in that Matt has death to think about right now. He has become resistant to Vancomycin AND is running a high fever. The doctor has changed his antibiotics and now he is on 3 different kinds all hours of the day and night. He stays nauseated. His blood cultures are all coming back positive.

As his mom cannot just say, “He has made his choice to reject God”, and just go on about my business. I do not know how anyone could do that, even in the face of his sin. There was hope for Saul, Rehab, Jacob, etc. Do we wrestle with flesh and blood? NO. When I see sin in someone’s life, it’s like watching a drunk on skid row moving slowly in the face of a Mac truck not realizing that he will be killed if he does not get up and get out of the way. Do I tell him the truth? Yes. Do I abandon him? NO. Do I fervently pray for him? YES. And, like David did for his son, I will stay on my face for Matt constantly until there is no breath in him, then and only then will I know that I did all that I could do. One of those things that I do is ask other people to pray. joanie

The Incredible Uncredible

September 24, 2005 | 15 Comments

Following up on my post from yesterday, the Uncredible Hallq makes a credible point about those who “rebel” against certain types of non-religious beliefs:

I don’t know of anyone spending time arguing against leprechauns, but plenty of people do spend their time arguing about other sorts of nonsense that people believe: astrology, alien visitations, psychic powers, homeopathy, etc. By this logic, James Randi must secretly beleive psychic powers exist, and he’s just rebelling against what he knows in his heart.

Rebels Without a God

September 23, 2005 | 165 Comments

My crucifixion was in progress in the comment section of Think Christian. So I decided it was time to pull out some of the nails. After noting it was indeed possible and rational to deny the existence of god, I pointed that they all did exactly the same thing:

[One] problem with your blanket attack on atheism is the fact that you are all yourselves atheists with respect to every god but your own. Unless you

Manner of Speaking

September 22, 2005 | 18 Comments

Jesse Taylor of Pandagon makes a fine point regarding obscenity and political discourse. I have made the same observation repeatedly in connection with the public discussion of faith: that moral obscenities, religiously expressed, receive less condemnation than the truth blasphemously spoken. Thus, the Vatican may, with little media censure, blandly declare that gays are

The Raving (Part 2)

September 22, 2005 | 6 Comments

Next to “give,” the miser Mijae, younger but not wiser, she’d pay
More to sip upon a latte than to the depise’ed poor;
Broke her piggy bank for pennies, didn’t dig too deep for many,
So damn cheap, she begged advice from anyone she could implore
Sadly peeped, “who’ll match my five, relieve me from this awful chore?”
Quoth the Raving, “Grocery Store.”

[Pathetic as she is, I’m not done with her yet.]
[Part 1 here.]

Ephiphany

September 21, 2005 | 104 Comments

Submitted by Hannah:

What would have to happen for you to believe in God?

Rebellion

September 21, 2005 | 5 Comments

I’m just rebelling against one more god than you.

The Raving Atheist, Dancing with Unicorns, 2007

The Raving (Part 1)

September 21, 2005 | 12 Comments

In lieu of limericks, I’ve decided to honor my readers’ generosity during my Hurricane Katrina relief drive with the following poem based on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. I will add to it over next few weeks as I go through the list of contributors. The opening stanzas set the tone for the rest of the poem, so if you gave but would like to opt out please e-mail me. If I don’t know you well enough to fill a stanza, I’ll make something up, but feel free to supply me with details. Like God, I’ll only give you what I think you can handle, but keep in mind that He gave us Katrina.


The Raving

Once upon an evening foggy, toiling at a godless blog, he
Saw a sight so sad he ceased from shrieking at the theist horde.
What, he asked, could be obscener than these scenes of shrill Katrina
Killing every New Orleaner on the seething Southern shore?
Killing them like cute new feti streaming in through PP’s door?
Quoth the Raving, “Nothing more!”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was that first week, September
And I think my website members felt the empathy I bore,
Soon the friendly Brian Flemming, praying that I die, condemning
Cancer cells to rush like lemmings through and through my anal pore,
Offered to send DVDs to them who would un-pain the poor,
Quoth the Raving, “I want more.”

Jennifer, a girl peace-dreaming, came to aid, so sweetly screaming
That my churlish pro-life meme-ing made me one to be abhorred;
Nothing else to her is more fun than a late near-birth abortion
Seeing fetid fetal portions clog the clinic sinks with gore
Babies twisting in contortions as their skin so pink is gored
Quoth the Raving, “She’s a w____!

To be Continued . . .

Voices of Theism: Steve G.

September 20, 2005 | 264 Comments

The Raving Atheist welcomes frequent commenter Steve G. — faithful Catholic, husband, and father of three — as TRA’s first Voice of Theism.

I ask that my readers exercise tolerance when responding. Before commenting, please read the definition of “tolerance” set forth in Dawn Eden’s New York Daily News column regarding this site. Compliance will be strictly enforced.


WHEN I CONSIDERED ATHEISM, it seemed immediately obvious to me that the end result would have to include an admission that indeed there was no overarching purpose to life. I’ve seen this frank admission from many atheists, along with the admission that this is indeed a hard truth. It is described in a recent Question of the Day as the ‘. . . soul-crushing realization that human existence is meaningless . . . .’ In a recent comment discussion, commentator Vernichten described it as

Under Who?

September 19, 2005 | 10 Comments

A brilliant solution to the Pledge problem, from Brian Flemming.

Atheist Blogger Demolished by “Duh, It’s Faith” Comment

September 19, 2005 | 60 Comments

New York, New York, September 19, 2005
Special to The Raving Atheist

The worldview of an atheist blogger crumbled into dust today after a savvy reader posted a compelling justification for religious belief: “duh, it’s faith.”

How did I ever miss that?” cried The Raving Atheist, slapping his forehead in disbelief. “I can’t believe that after more than a thousand posts analyzing and refuting every conceivable theological theory, it never occurred to me that some people might simply believe without any logic or evidence.”

The Raving Atheist said he originally thought he could overcome the commenter’s objection with logic and evidence, but then realized it was just faith. “Plus, the reader described herself as

God Squad Review CXLII

September 19, 2005 | 2 Comments

A nanny who belongs to a Christian denomination that believes “strongly in the devil” has been spooking a nine year old girl with tales of Satan. The parents want this to stop, and turn to the Squad for advice. First, they suggest forcing the nanny to lie:

Have your nanny explain to your daughter, with you present, that she has nothing to fear from the devil. Then tell your nanny privately — and for the last time — that if she does not stop scaring your daughter with religious ideas you do not share, you will have to let her go.

The devil, if the nanny’s right, is a huge threat, and that little girl has to be as careful in dealing with Lucifer as she is in crossing the street, or playing with tigers. And it seems to me that neither the Squad nor the parents are disputing the existence of the devil. The Squad has acknowledged his reality in past columns, once even suggesting that it’s dangerous to put on a devil costume on Halloween. So why they’re now claiming that there’s “nothing to fear” from the most powerful evil force in the universe I can’t fathom. And the parents may not believe as “strongly” as the nanny, but given that they don’t deny the devil’s existence either they should really err on the side of caution.

Note that the Squad doesn’t really object to scaring the daughter — the objection is only to when it’s done with ideas that the parents “don’t share.” They can scare her all they want with their own crazy ideas (just like the nanny is undoubtedly doing with her own kids), perhaps with the notion that Jesus will throw her into a lake of fire if she disbelieves in His martyrdom. Or maybe not:

It’s fine for your nanny to have any beliefs that have meaning for her and to follow her faith, but you must draw the line when it comes to telling your daughter things that fill her nights with terror rather than sweet dreams. Nine is already an impressionable age, so it’s particularly important to put a stop to this immediately.

So now it’s bad to scare kids with anything, regardless of the truth. But if it’s fine for the nanny to be how she is, why shouldn’t the daughter have the same privilege? Maybe having a nightmare filled childhood is what it takes to have a respectable faith like the nanny. On the other hand, maybe truth is the criteria:

Finally, it would be valuable for you to consult your priest, minister, rabbi or other clergyperson and have him or her speak to your daughter to calm her fears. This will balance the religious authority of your nanny with a real religious authority who can establish trust and get that devil out of your child’s mind and heart and dreams.

So apparently “real” religious authorities don’t believe in the devil, or don’t believe he’s a threat. But how about the leader of the denomination to which the nanny belongs?

Daily News Readers Have Highest Religious IQ, Says Study

September 18, 2005 | 24 Comments

September 18, 2005, New York, New York
Special to The Raving Atheist

A recent poll conducted by a team of Nobel Prize Laureates confirms that readers of the New York Daily News are the most discriminating and intelligent in the selection of their religious beliefs.

The survey of nearly 380,000 regular newspaper subscribers concluded that 98% of News readers possess the open-mindedness and curiosity necessary to pursue the true meaning of human existence. In particular, the study found that News readers were significantly more likely to employ the vast resources of the internet to carefully research and balance their views, frequently exploring links to websites that might promote a belief system at odds with their own.

Of special interest to the pollsters was the News readers’ immunity to flattery, a tactic employed by many false or godless religions to seduce adherents. The study found that News subscribers were far more likely to critically scrutinize websites that attempted to pander to their vanity, frequently scouring the entire archives to expose potentially unsavory motives. Such subscribers were found to be especially suspicious of seemingly “faith friendly” sites — often expressing their misgivings in thousands upon thousands of blog comments in such venues over a period of years.

Weird

September 17, 2005 | 20 Comments

From American Atheists:

An Atheist civil rights group today announced that it is pleased that Good Morning America host Bill Weir and the ABC television network will be making an on-air apology this weekend, retracting remarks aired on September 4, 2005.

In a news segment about the devastation in New Orleans, Mr. Weir stated: “There are no atheists in foxholes and hurricane zones.”

I don’t think what Mr. Weir said is really a slur on atheists. It’s more a slur on religion. The implication is that when people are scared out of their minds, they believe the kind of things that you have to be out of your mind to believe.

And so the idea behind this monument is misguided. The original clich

Virginia

September 17, 2005 | 1 Comment

They showed you a statue, told you to pray
They built you a temple and locked you away
But they never told you the price that you pay
For things that you might have done . . .

Billy Joel, Only the Good Die Young, 1977

Grow Up

September 16, 2005 | 37 Comments

A friend I’ve known since childhood had a brother who was learning-disabled, but back then, at least, it was not so obvious on the outside. She also had another brother, normal, who resembled the other one, and on occasion would be taunted by kids who did not look closely enough to see the difference.

No such mistake was could be made about most of their unfortunate sibling’s friends, whose handicaps were greater. I visited her house often enough to see the full menagerie; some with Downs, some with Tourette’s, all different enough to be scary and creepy. And to be taunted, because children are human and children are cruel.

Gods, too:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron that in all future generations, his descendants who have physical defects will not qualify to offer food to their God. No one who has a defect may come near to me, whether he is blind or lame, stunted or deformed, or has a broken foot or hand, or has a humped back or is a dwarf, or has a defective eye, or has oozing sores or scabs on his skin, or has damaged testicles. Even though he is a descendant of Aaron, his physical defects disqualify him from presenting offerings to the LORD by fire. Since he has a blemish, he may not offer food to his God.

No second reading is necessary to see that it is a man behind that passage, a creeped-out, revolted, frightened, bearded old man, no better than you or me, no better than a child. Make all the excuses you want: that the restrictions were limited only to certain offerings, or that the Old Law was replaced by the New. For me it is enough that he directed such a slight ever, in any circumstance, against such helpless, harmless, suffering creatures.

After the curtain was pulled away the Wizard of Oz maintained that he was a good man but a bad wizard. Perhaps he was good, or became good, but he was never a wizard. I believe that people can change and grow, but they are never wizards. They pretend to be so, pontificating from behind curtains, but it does not take much to pull them away and see what they are.

So do not tell me that God grew up. I grew up. You grew up. People grow up. But they’re not gods.

Reward

September 15, 2005 | 26 Comments

How should the heroine of the Dawn of a New Day post be rewarded? (Pledge if you wish)

Dawn of a New Day (Updated)

September 15, 2005 | 14 Comments

The Pledge/Prayer, ruled unconstitutional yesterday, will remain so only until the new Roberts court is sworn in, so help them God. But whether anyone ever actually recites it again is up to the children. They’ll still have the right to opt out no matter what. And if enough of them do, the practice will pass into history.

Sound unlikely? Kids are smarter than you think. Forget the Pledge — look at what this young lady did when confronted with a mere moment of silence:

I was outraged at this intrusion of religion into the public sphere, certain that it would soon degenerate into enforced Christian prayer.

One morning soon after the moment of silence was initiated, I came to school early, armed with a stack of photocopied homemade flyers and a roll of Scotch tape. The flyers

Marbles

September 14, 2005 | 176 Comments

Did I ever mention that I am both (1) anti-abortion and (2) an atheist? A number of bloggers have recently have suggested that the combination is as impossible as being a Jew for Jesus. Hookflash even thinks that The Raving Atheist Has Lost His Marbles:

I had a lot of respect for The Raving Atheist until I read this fundy-style drivel, where he exposes a fatally irrational chink in his hitherto sturdy intellectual armor. Turns out RA is one of those frothing-at-the-mouth anti-choice weirdos who can’t wrap his mind around the patent fact that potentiality is not the same as actuality. Either that, or he’s just trying to be fashionably controversial (I’ve noticed this tendency amongst the more loud-mouthed atheists. Each has his own “pet issue,” on which he holds an absurd position just so he can say, “See, I’m a real freethinker!).

Regardless, the abortion issue is really quite simple: Just as an acorn is not the same as the venerable oak it might one day become, so a fetus is not the same as an adult human being. It may be on its way to becoming an actual, full-fledged human being, with self-awareness, a life project, dependencies and dependents, and, above all, a conscious desire to live, but it’s not there yet. The only conceivable reason to oppose abortion would be if there were some sort of hidden attribute (e.g., a soul) that lent value to an otherwise trivial lump of semi-conscious potentiality. Atheism provides no such attribute.

Hopefully, RA will one day come to his senses and realize that his opposition to abortion is just plain untenable, and totally unbecoming of a supposed “freethinker.”

Lauren of Feministe thinks I’m an undercover priest seeking to convert pro-choicers with faux-godlessness:


R/A: You have successfully hijacked a comment thread* so you can spout your smug assertions about abortion that amount to little more than theist arguments in atheist’s clothing, presumably for nothing more than being a “shank” in a feminist’s side. You’ve based them on something so arbitrary as potential, a game that we could trace all the way back to the beginning of time, and one that we’re not specifically interested in considering you’ve done little more than engage in a “woman, what woman?” theme on a feminist site.

I’m taking a cue from your good friend Dawn Eden by saying that if you don’t have anything to add to the original post, your time here is done.**

And my good friend Dawn Eden — who is, er, a Jew who accepts Jesus, once raised the possibility that I was a stealth pro-choicer cruising for converts to atheism.

The notion that atheism compels a pro-choice position, and that all opposition to abortion is “religious,” is untenable. Were the issue confined to the morality of an elective eighth-month abortion or infanticide, few people would argue that an atheist was required to support such practices or that only the religious could oppose them. The potentiality/actuality question is not a religious one but simply a reframing of the question of when life begins. Lauren’s own Bible — the text of the decision in Roe v Wade — found that question central and, while pretending not to answer it, fixed the state’s interest in the fetus as protectable human life at approximately six months. Liberal-to-moderate Protestants, Jews and others may concur, but that hardly makes the conclusion a religious one.

Tha potentiality/actuality debate arises in other contexts without any suggestion that it must be resolved along atheistic/theistic lines. The execution of juvenile offenders is but one example. Those opposed might argue that a 17 year-old is only “potentially” an adult and should be spared. Those in favor might argue that 17 is “actual” adulthood and death is in order. Abolitionists might argue that the distinction is illusory or that the value of human life in every case overwhelms it. Overtly religious (or non-religious) arguments of course can be made — and are made, on both sides on the issue — but insofar as the potentiality/actuality dispute is concerned I don’t know what it would mean to say that an advocate was employing “theist arguments in atheist’s clothing.”

It is fairly easy, however, to tell when a theistic argument is being raised. For the uninitiated, look for the word “God” and some explanation of why abortion is consistent or inconsistent with His Plan, together with a description of the rewards or punishments for the practice in the afterlife. Once you enter that fantasyland, abandon all hope of a sensible discussion on either side of the issue. The first thing obliterated is the distinction between life and death. Religious pro-lifers will never be able to satisfactorily explain why abortion is bad if an innocent fetus goes to heaven, or if not, why God sends the unborn to hell. Nor will they be able to explain why God slaughtered Egyptian infants on the ground that they were first-born rather than holding the line at conception. Likewise, religious pro-choicers will never be able to explain why it matters what happens to the mother if death in childbirth is merely a one-way ticket to a cosmic Disneyland.

Other theistic arguments involve notions of collective guilt, such as the imputation of Ms. Eden’s beliefs to me. Were I inclined to employ such arguments, I might note that Lauren’s own co-blogger Jill has said that she “happen[s] to believe in God” and has “great respect for religion and its place in the world.” Perhaps one day she will elaborate on her conception of God and His vast relevance to the abortion debate — does she embrace the erudite analysis of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Freedom or the theology of Planned Parenthood’s non-cynically appointed in-house chaplain?*** But right now it might be fair to ask whether Jill’s presence makes Feministe merely a theistic pro-choice sheep in atheist’s clothing, or whether her comments regarding potentiality on my post at Dawn’s blog were disguised theism. Or maybe she’s just a “shank” in the side of feministic atheism. (To her credit, Jill admires “atheist posterboy” Richard Dawkins — if she’s interested, there’s some fascinating commentary by him and at least one pro-life atheist on this DVD).

* Read the comment thread for yourself. I posted a perfectly on-topic comment addressing the contention in Lauren’s original post that “you can’t legislate morality.” Lauren responded to that comment without objecting to its content. The “hijacking” occurred after one of Lauren’s regular commenters asked me point blank for my “justification for forced childbirth, and it was that same commenter who (like Hooklflash) later raised the “potentiality” issue that Lauren finds so theistic. Several other commenters began posing direct questions to me, and it seemed rude not to answer. If Lauren wished to stop the hijacking, she should have asked the questioners to stay on topic rather than suggest that I was responsible for the diversion by merely accommodating their wishes to discuss a particular “theme.”

To her credit, Lauren has since continued permitting me to comment (but I’m still banned by Pandagon and the NARAL-fronted BushvChoice (see history of the latter banning here).

** Dawn Eden has posted a set of posting protocols to keep comments polite and on-topic. Some readers have complained that she enforces them, and bans people, arbitrarily.

*** Religious guest posts are always welcome at TRA.

WHO Started it?

September 12, 2005 | 50 Comments

A touching lesson in tolerance for us all:

Your most recent reply to me was thoughtful and caused me to see you in a different light than the one I saw you in before.

I have no doubt that you are a good person and that you are doing everything you can to be a good neighbor and good friend to others, and to be a good American overall.

But here is what the problem between you and me is: In your writings to the Christians here on the network, you come off like an obnoxious, self-righteous, sanctimonious, know-it-all jerk, quite frankly.

I am certain that no one here holds it against you for not believing in “our god” — but when you make attempts to show those of us who believe that God exists that we are misguided, ignorant or unenlightened — or that we follow a double standard, that is not nice … it is not nice at all.

If you want to be an atheist, that’s cool with me. Just do not put down others — in some form or fashion — for having beliefs that differ from your own.

And if you look back in this reply section to determine what ignited the raging debate between you and the Christians, you will find that you are the one who started the conflict.

Message to TRA reader Tenspace, from Col. Julius Hannon — author of All Homosexuals are Filled with Shame and Self-Hatred.

How

September 12, 2005 | 89 Comments

What’s the best way to distract oneself from the soul-crushing realization that human existence is meaningless and one’s entire life has been wasted?

I’m a Liberal

September 11, 2005 | 21 Comments

I went to proselytize my life-affirming philosophy over at the Conservative Life forums on Friday, and have just received my official classification:

Subj: You have been added to this usergroup
Date: 9/11/2005 2:32:42 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: admin@conservativelife.com
To: ravingatheist@aol.com
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Congratulations,

You have been added to the “Liberals” group on Conservative Life.
This action was done by the group moderator or the site administrator, contact them for more information.

You can view your groups information here:

http://boards.conservativelife.com/groupcp.php?g=398


Thanks, Conservative Life Admin

Hopefully this new credential will get me unbanned from posting comments at Pandagon.

Katrina Relief Update

September 11, 2005 | 1 Comment

Contributions to Katrina relief through TRA reached $1,000 on Wednesday with a second gift from Ende to the Red Cross. Ofir Eyal subsequently made a generous gift to that charity. Including contributions made to charities other than those I originally suggested, the total now stands at $1,425.

Your generosity placed TRA in a tie for 78th — out of 1,875 — on the Truth Laid Bear Weblog Leader list (the rank would be 44th if all gifts were logged on the contributions page. As it stands, we tied with ex-atheist The Curt Jester.

The Truth Laid Bear Katrina relief drive has raised over $1.3 million to date. Dawn Eden spotlights the effort in her New York Daily News Blog on! column today.

Chat Away

September 9, 2005 | 11 Comments

Various forum-dwellers have made a chat room for all ravingatheist.com members. It is in irc. The network is irc.dynamix.com and the channel is #ravingatheists.

You can use this link to join if you have irc: irc://dynamix.com:6667/ravingatheists.

See this post in the forums for more info.

Peace, Love and Understanding

September 9, 2005 | 62 Comments

Are All Homosexuals Are Filled With Shame and Self-Hatred? Col. Julius Hannon at the Conservative Life forums has a definite opinion about this. But he’s pro-life, so I’ve started my own thread over there suggesting that he dump God, embrace gay marriage and focus on pro-life issues.

The replies indicate some initial resistance, but I can sense they’re coming over to my side.

[Link via Jill of Feministe]

Katrina Accused of Hijacking Hurricanism

September 7, 2005 | 11 Comments

Washington, D.C., September 7, 2005
Special to The Raving Atheist

Lauding hurricanes as “a weather of peace,” the American Meteorological Society condemned tropical storm Katrina as an extremist who has hijacked whirlwindery for her own purposes.

“Mainstream hurricanes spend their lives quietly offshore among the waves, dissipating at sea,” said AMS President Roger Anderson. “But Katrina has perverted her 160 mile-an-hour winds into an instrument of harm.” Anderson added that Katrina belonged to a radical category of storm that was not representative of the majority of hurricanes.

Katrina disagreed, stating that death and destruction are the natural consequences of her supernatural 13,000 megaton strength making actual contact with humans. “A mild breeze is not a “hurricane,” she said. “Those who take that word literally know the dangers I pose.”

Katrina Relief Special Offer — MOVIE DIRECTOR Autograph Edition

September 6, 2005 | 10 Comments

MOVIE DIRECTOR Brian Flemming has generously offered to donate five The God Who Wasn’t There DVDs and five TGWWT movie posters to those who participate in my hurricane Katrina relief efforts by making verified contributions to Catholic Charities, the American Red Cross, or the Salvation Army. Donations to MOVIE DIRECTOR Flemming’s charity of choice, The Center for Inquiry (all proceeds to Americares) will also qualify. Mr. Flemming, who is a MOVIE DIRECTOR, will also place his autograph on the selected merchandise.

The minimum donation for the DVD will be $50; for the poster, $30. I’ll credit those who have already donated through TRA with 10% of their original gift (e.g., if you gave $50, you get the DVD for a new donation of $45). Because supplies are limited and Ayn Rand wouldn’t like it if you ended up contributing without furthering your self-interest, please record your intent to make a donation in the comments section in advance so we can keep track of how many prizes have been claimed. Make sure to indicate whether you want the DVD or the poster. You’ll have 24 hours from then to e-mail me the proof of your contribution before I remove your comment and let others reserve the items. With your proof, please indicate (1) your name and address, and (2) whether you want the items signed, and if so, to whom the autograph from MOVIE DIRECTOR Brian Flemming should be directed.

Please remember that Brian Flemming is a goddamned MOVIE DIRECTOR who has been featured in Newsweek and is currently MOVIE-DIRECTING The Beast. He is also a CO-PLAYWRIGHT whose critically-acclaimed non-Biblical-bestiality-and-incest-themed musical Batboy is slated to be directed by the great John Landis and released in 2007.

If that’s not enough to motivate you, imagine this: It’s 2012 and Mr. Flemming, finally wise to where the money is, is accepting an Academy Award for Touched by An Angel Part 2: Biblical Incest and Bestiality. He thinks he’s destroyed all remnants of his godless past, even having purchased TRA’s domain and destroyed the archives. Atheism is dead in America and Special Presenter (and U.S. President) Mel Gibson is about to hand over the Oscar — but . . .

The rest is up to you. Please give.


[Contribution Update: The total stands at a minimum of $925 to date. TRA Forum-dweller Godlessheathen and his delightful wife gave to the Red Cross. Dawn the Fort Lauderdale Massage Therapist contributed to Catholic Charities. Special mention to Will who gave $100 in TRA’s name to the North Shore Animal League and the Humane Society. Frequent commenter TrixieKatt also gave generously, to the Best Friends Animal Society. Please feel free to log your contribution at The Truth Laid Bear; if all the donations are recorded, we can beat out traitorous atheist-turned-Catholic The Curt Jester on the Weblog Lead Board list.]

Baptism

September 6, 2005 | 23 Comments

Should atheist or non-Christian parents be permitted to sue a person who baptizes their infant without permission? (see relevant God Squad column for backqround).

God Squad Review CXLI (Involuntary/Conditional Baptism)

September 6, 2005 | 14 Comments

Having someone’s eternal life in your hands is an awesome responsibility. A nurse who works in a hospital asks the Squad if it’s okay to go ahead and baptize a baby that looks like it might not live, and wants to know how to go about it. The Squad has all the contingencies covered:

If a child is in danger of dying and no priest or deacon is available, anyone, even a non-Christian, may perform a baptism. If you know the family would want this, you would pour water over the forehead and say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

If you were uncertain of the family’s desire, you would say, “On condition that you would want to be baptized, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” If the child survives, the family might want to take the child to church to receive the full liturgical rites.

Certainly it’s possible for a non-Christian to pour water on a baby, but I’d think that if the nurse were a Flying Spaghetti Monsterist she’d prefer to boil it in Ragu. Mere water doesn’t get you a stripper factory and a beer volcano. However, a sensible FSMer might forgo the sauce if the infant were dying of a gaping wound to the forehead.

Unfortunately, His Noodly Appendage isn’t fooled by the sort of conditional prayers suggested by the Squad. The FSM is perfectly convinced of his own existence, and doesn’t flit in and out of being depending on the desires of the family or the child. He’s certainly not going to let some dead baby say “yeah, I believed in you all along and you gotta let me in because that baptism was just

So Far, So Good (Updated)

September 3, 2005 | 10 Comments

A preliminary word of thanks to those who have contributed to the charities I suggested in Thursday’s post. Including my contributions, the confirmed donations are just $41 short of $666!!! Actually, we might already be there because a couple of the donors merely indicated that they had given more than $10, without specifying the exact amount. Here’s the honor roll to date, with my occasional comments:

NOTE: The donors listed below may also record their contributions at the Truth Laid Bear Contributions Logging Page.

Graeme Anfinson of Holding North Dakota’s Breath Until it Turns Blue gave to the Salvation Army.

Jim Causey, a compassionate atheist, gave to the Red Cross.

Ian Fyall, a godless, heartless bastard, also the Red Cross.

David the Monday Morning Atheist (a/k/a “Tenspace” in the TRA forums), to the Red Cross.

Jennifer of Dream of Peace’s Blog and this Daily Kos Blog gave to the Salvation Army. She’s one of my most treasured commenters. Look at how she talks about me:

Just more chick hate. Same shit different day.

Some childhood trauma has lead RA to a life of women hating.

Conservative atheist Blue Lobster scuttled over to his wallet and pulled out some bucks for the Salvation Army.

Ende gave 23.93 Euros ($30) to the Red Cross.

Rufus made extremely generous gifts to the Red Cross and the Humane Society of the United States.

Obituary Cartoon Contest Winner R. Wood emptied his pockets for the Red Cross.


I’ve erected the above atheism-proof wall to protect gracious Catholic Charities donor Dawn Eden of The Dawn Patrol from potential contamination. If anything ever makes fire-breathing Christianity cool, it’ll be her crispy blog. You can read about her Almost Famous-style career here and enjoy her Blog On! column in the New York Daily News here. And today’s her birthday!

I’ll churn out the magnets and limericks in a week or two. Please be patient; art (and lame doggerel) takes time.

UPDATE: Four more gifts to the Red Cross have brought the total to over $885:

The always enthusiastic Stephen Collings.

The insignificant other of TRA Columbia Shuttle Contest winner Leigh-Anne of Over Coffee.*

Shirley Setterbo of Atheist Exposed. I found this post particularly touching; if only the screws had been so nice at the joint I was in.

Mijae and her grocery store.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Poking around my bookmarks I noticed that Gina Smith, a “pretty non-religious person,” has given to Catholic Charities. Not on my recommendation, but because she saw that they’re setting up facilities to house and feed and clothe 300 families for 9 months in her hometown of San Franscisco.

* Also known as Phil Dennison of November Musings.

Show Them We’re Better Than They Are

September 1, 2005 | 90 Comments

Please give to Catholic Charities, the American Red Cross, or the Salvation Army.

The Raving Atheist has given $20 or $25 to each one, shamed into it by the appeals of various Christian blogs — even though feeling no more than a detached sense of moral obligation and fully recognizing that the deaths of 250,000 tsunami victims plus Jerry Orbach last winter was comparatively worse than the situation in New Orleans.

In the spirit of naked opportunism and egoistic self-promotion, I will send a TRA refrigerator magnet and post a limerick on my site incorporating the name/pseudonym of anyone who donates $10 or more to any of those charities. If donating to Catholic Charities, verify your donation by sending me (at ravingatheist-at-aol.com) the name of the person who sends the computer-generated thank you e-mail after upon processing the gift; if to the Red Cross, the Order Id. or approval code; if to the Salvation Army, the donation id.

Your donation will help establish atheistic superiority by demonstrating we’re not too proud to help religious folks wade through a looter-ravaged cesspool of human corpses. Perhaps by our example, they’ll realize that soliciting verifiable contributions is better than generalized pleas to give, diluted by useless, time-wasting prayers to an invisible-sky dolt that apparently couldn’t figure out we liked the weather as it was. If you’re hesitant to give to the Catholics, recall that your dog’s head is full of crazy ideas too, but that doesn’t stop him from helpfully fetching the Frisbee. Also, if you put my name in the donations “Comment” box you can revel in the thought that it will be festering in their computer system for years to come.

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