Sunday, April 22, 2012

Excellent Quotation

This quotation from Sam Harris' "The End of Faith" has been seen and used by many but it is still a good one to have handy for use with a religious person who insists that religion is a, if not "the", source of morality:

“The men who committed the atrocities of September 11 were certainly not "cowards," as they were repeatedly described in the Western media, nor were they lunatics in any ordinary sense. They were men of faith—perfect faith, as it turns out—and this, it must finally be acknowledged, is a terrible thing to be.” ― Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason."

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Many of the things that believers say to non-believers amount to little more than euphemisms for "shut up".  Often they will tell us this quite directly.  It is rare (but not unknown) for them to be completely direct.  Usually, however, they will preface their bullying with statements that it is our right to believe there is no god but that we shouldn't say it.  One possible response is to say some version of the following:

If I don't have the right to say it, then I really don't have the right to believe it.  "Rights" are only an issue when determining how others treat you and that only happens after they know you have different beliefs.

If needed to make the point clear, you can add:

What people think, but never say, is unknown to others and thus there is no question of "rights".

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Birth Control and Faith Healing

Like so many other sane people, I sincerely hoped never to hear of Rick Santorum again after he lost his re-election bid to the Senate.  I was very disturbed that someone so obviously insane could ever have been elected to the Senate at all, and his defeat confirmed my belief in the soundness of Democracy.

Yet, here we are again.  He's not only back in the public eye in a big way, he is actually running a relatively successful campaign for President of the United States.  He may never be President, he may never even be on the republican ticket, but he has won a surprising number of republican state primaries.  One can argue that this is only because the republican base doesn't trust the conservative bona fides of the frontrunner, Mitt Romney, but it is disturbing nonetheless.

Santorum's views on many matters are so far outside the mainstream that it is disturbing that a significant number of people would vote for him under any circumstances.

One of the more disturbing view he holds was recently brought to light by his comments on birth control.  A few months ago, when he was still considered a lunatic fringe candidate, he stated in an interview

"It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."  See Time Magazine's coverage here.

What I noticed immediately was that this reasoning is equally applicable to the use of antibiotics and I wondered if Mr. Santorum ever gave his children or himself antibiotics when ill.  Would he be willing to stand by and let one of them die as god's will rather than use modern technology because it is "counter to the way things are supposed to be"?

By the same token I realized that this reasoning applies to modern medicine in general.  It is, in effect, the sort of reasoning one hears from those who believe in faith healing.  This conclusion is further reinforced by Mr. Santorum's view that the "decision" of whether or not a new life is begun by a sexual act is "god's" and not man's.

If you think, perhaps, that he doesn't really see things this way, just consider his comment concerning women who become pregnant as a result of rape:
"The right approach is to accept this ... gift of human life, and accept what god has given you." 
In other words, every pregnancy is god's decision, god's gift.

I am sure that if you point this out to Mr. Santorum or those like him you will hear an argument based on the distinction between preserving life and ending it.  In other words, they think it is permissible for man to intervene to preserve what could be considered life but not for any other purpose.  Unfortunately for those who think this way, however, the reasoning applies equally to all such situations.  If the decision is god's, then mankind should not be interfering.

The problem, of course, is that this position is a purely religious one (no matter how hard they try to dress it up as something else).  As such, it is the right of the individuals involved to decide for themselves how to proceed.  It is not up to Mr. Santorum, the Government, or anyone else to determine matters as personal as birth control and religious belief.  And, those who don't see this don't respect the right of others to have their own opinions or private lives.