Friday, July 18, 2014

Catholic Church Continues Cover-up

I recently came across this news item regarding a canon lawyer for the Catholic Church who recently resigned her post because of the continued policy of covering up sex abuse cases.  I think it is worth being aware of this both because it shows that religion does not lead morality or even decency and that religions do not change unless forced to do so. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Most Christians Don't Know the Ten Commandments

Here is a link to a recent article by Valerie Tarico in which she points out that most christians don't even know the ten commandments that they all claim are so important.  She also points out that the ten commandments are morally inadequate and offers a much better alternative set of moral imperatives.  Enjoy.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Discrimination Faced by Atheists

Below is an infographic originally published by the American Humanist Association regarding the discrimination faced by atheists.  I think it is quite revealing and a good source of information regarding the reality of the "war on religion" in the U.S.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Is There a War on Religion?

Last month, The Atlantic published an article entitled "The Myth of a 'War on Religion'".  I highly recommend the article.  It is a succinct explication of some of the evidence regarding the continued exalted status of religion in our society and the continued vilification of non-believers.  As the story points out in its conclusion, there really is no such war; statements to the contrary are simply dishonest attempts by the religious right to play the victim.  (Obviously, they do this in order to bring social pressure to bear on those who criticize religion in an effort to shut them up.)

Of course, in my opinion, neither the exalted status of religion nor the vilification of non-believers is deserved.  Both are the result of centuries of repression of the truth, propaganda, brainwashing of children, and the genocidal persecution of non-believers.  All of these things have resulted in a society where the literal and moral insanity of religion is actually exalted over the honesty and integrity of atheism.

Frankly, I wish there were a war on religion.  It is long overdue.  For far too long religion has enjoyed an unquestioned exalted status in our society.  Nothing should be given such privileged treatment--particularly not something which is an important philosophical underpinning for so much of what happens in our society.  Imagine if some other aspect of common political philosophy enjoyed such a long tradition of being sacrosanct.

One doesn't really have to imagine it completely.  One can see the short term effects of such stifling of discussion in the recent history of communist countries where criticism of communist economic theory was not allowed.  Just imagine living in such a place.  Then imagine what the society would be like if the communists had 2,000 years to shape a society.  After 2,000 years of propaganda and brainwashing, even the craziest ideas can become social norms.

This is the case with religion, and this is why I write this blog and support secular organizations.  I think religion is even more immoral and nonsensical than communism. 

I have been an atheist for decades and have fought for secularism almost as long.  If there were a war on religion, I would know about it.  At best, right now, there is a war on theocracy.  A defensive war.  The theocrats have been working behind the scenes in the United States for decades to undermine our free society and turn the U.S. into a theocracy.  If you doubt this, then you need to read Jeff Sharlet's book The Family in which he details his time inside this movement.

I recommend Jeff's book not because it is the only evidence of the war on freedom currently being waged in the U.S. by the religious right but because it is one the most revealing sources--one that gives us a look at the true intentions of the religious right in the U.S.

As a long time secularist, I can see these true intentions even when the religious are able to convince most others with their lies and deceptions.  I know what those intentions are because I have had direct experience both as a member of the religious right (when I was a child) and as an adult non-believer who was subjected to numerous instances of discrimination and persecution.  Jeff's book lets the sceptic listen to what they say in private, which is something many new secularists need to hear to understand the true danger to freedom and democracy that the religious right represents.

I don't think it is too much to say that the religious right in the U.S. is a fascist movement.  It should be resisted at every turn before it is too late--if it isn't already too late.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Special Pleading

One of the most frustrating things about trying to have discussions with religious people is their tendency to insist that skepticism and the rules of logic should be applied to my position but that their position is somehow exempt from the same sort of examination.

This is not just a double standard.  It is extreme intellectual dishonesty.  It is extreme bias.

The term for this type of shifting standard, where the advocate of a position unjustifably claims that his position has to be judged by a different standard or an exception to the rules is "special pleading".

In my experience with the religious the "different standard" continually shifts.  As soon as they realize that a particular standard doesn't support their position, they claim that another one applies.  Furthermore, they do this without justification, which is what makes it special pleading.  There are situations where different standards apply, but only when justified by relevant, demonstrable differences between the things being judged.

The religious will claim that their new standard is justified but usually they will not have an adequate justification for it.  Their arguments for the shift in the standard will suffer from the same fatal flaws as most of their other arguments:  They will be based on unjustified assumptions, circular reasoning or some other logical fallacy.

Although one should know the term "special pleading" and what it means, it won't usually be helpful to use it in a discussion with a religious person.  Instead, once you recognize that the argument is based on special pleading, demand that the religious person justify the use of the claimed exception to the usual rules of logic.

Most often this type of dishonest argumentation is combined with circular reasoning, such as where the religious person claims that the rules of logic don't exist because god's alleged traits make him an exception to those rules.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Top 15 Quotes by Famous Atheists

I recently found this list on listverse.  I thought it worth passing along:

1. Creationists make it sound like a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night — Isaac Asimov

2. I don’t believe in God. My god is patriotism. Teach a man to be a good citizen and you have solved the problem of life. — Andrew Carnegie

3. All thinking men are atheists. — Ernest Hemingway

4. Lighthouses are more helpful then churches. — Benjamin Franklin

5. Faith means not wanting to know what is true. — Friedrich Nietzsche

6. The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. — George Bernard Shaw

7. Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile. — Kurt Vonnegut

8. I believe in God, only I spell it Nature. — Frank Lloyd Wright

9. Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. — Denis Diderot

10. A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows. — Samuel Clemens

11. The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life. — Sigmund Freud

12. Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. — Edward Gibbon

13. The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church. — Ferdinand Magellan

14. Not only is there no god, but try getting a plumber on weekends. — Woody Allen

15. It’s an incredible con job when you think about it, to believe something now in exchange for something after death. Even corporations with their reward systems don’t try to make it posthumous. — Gloria Steinem

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Religion Is for Psychopaths

I recently came across an article about a professor of neurology at U.C. Irvine named James Fallon.  There have been a number of articles about him and his work recently, so you may be familiar with this story.

Prof. Fallon was participating in a study comparing the brains of normal people with those of confirmed psychopaths.  The study found certain traits that the brains of the psychopaths all seem to have in common.

As part of the study, he scanned his own brain and discovered that he had the same traits in his brain as the psychopaths.  He also happened to have several murderers in his family tree.  He now presents this discovery as an example of how biology is not destiny.  Having a loving family prevented him from becoming yet another murderer in the family tree. 

The most intriguing part of the article to me is where he discusses the misdeeds of his youth, because having a good family wasn't really enough to make him a good person.  That didn't happen until he left religion, saw his behavior for what it really was, and took responsibility for it.

Here is his description of that thought process:
Since I’m a lapsed Catholic, I started thinking of psychopathic behavior in terms of the seven deadly sins. Those sins, to me, are just psychopathic traits and tendencies with different names — I kept sinning, and I kept doing it over and over and over. And using the term “sin” is one example of how we’ve all mollified psychopathic behaviors: if it’s a sin, well then that’s okay, because everyone sins and then you go to church on Sunday and you make it better. But it’s not actually okay.
I’d say that around 10 or 15 percent of us are pretty borderline as far as psychopathy goes, but we all let those behaviors slip and we protect each other — we say “oh, it’s okay, he does that all the time,” or “oh, that’s just how she is.” It’s a Stockholm Syndrome epidemic. What I’d tell you to do is strip away the bullshit terms and excuses surrounding your behavior, and ask yourself what you’re actually doing and how it affects other people. For me, simple linguistics were what it took to change my behavior. Instead of saying, “Oh, that’s a sin and I gotta go to church,” it’s a matter of saying “Oh wow, I just did something really psychopathic, and I gotta figure out how to stop it.”
In other words, he was a classic hypocrite who simply used religion to feel good about himself when he didn't deserve to do so.  Once he stopped using religion as a guide for his thinking he made the leap to being a good, responsible person.  And, he offers this as advice for those afraid that they, too, may be psychopathic.  Clearly, he recognizes that religion is just an excuse for bad behavior--a salve for psychopaths.

In addition, he makes a very legitimate point about the way in which the rest of society treats the psychopathic in our midst.  We try to make excuses for them, especially when they are a member of our "tribe".  We do this out of fear.

This behavior helps us understand why there is a taboo in our society with regard to criticizing religion.  It exists for the same reason:  fear of the deranged.  Fortunately, we have reached a point in human history where an increasingly large number of people have begun to realize that we should be more afraid of keeping silent in the face of the insanity that is religion.  We can only hope it isn't too late.