Feb 10

So I forgot to post this after I wrote it.  Pretend like you are reading it two weeks ago.

Given the Broncos vs. Patriots playoff football game that just happened, I figured now was the right time for my third installment of ‘Congratulations, You suck!’

You probably think this is about Tim Tebow.  Surprisingly, it kind of isn’t, and here is why.  When it comes to skill, Tim Tebow isn’t as good at football as some other people, but I also never hear him claim that he is.  All I see is him working hard to get better (plus a little jesus-y showboating).

Nope, this installment is about media and belief in a mystical higher power.

Example one:

Congratulations you suck, but because you attribute your partial success to a higher power, you will be the news story.  Do you know the main reason a decent portion of the public hates Tebow?  Because reporters won’t shut the fuck up about him.  If they didn’t bring up the ‘Jesus’ angle all of the time, you would hear his name exactly as often as you hear Colt McCoy’s.  Sure, Tebow is a nice guy, he works hard, is charitable, etc.  Do you know where that would make a great story?  Not on Sportscenter.  Just like people watching Oxygen or the Jesus Channel expect their shows to not have main characters who are good at football but hate women/religion, I expect my sports channels to not have main characters who suck at their sport but are great at Christianity.

Example 2

Congratulations you suck, but I want to believe god helps you, so you are probably awesome. It is pretty easy for me to tangent this into a generic religion argument, but I’ll try and stay more focused.  When the Broncos started winning, my social network feeds turned into angel farts and Jesus kisses for Tebow.  Those people are the reason the reporters behaved like they did — pandering to the audience.  However, when they lost, and badly, it turned into excuses and “Leave Tebow alone, he’s better than you”.  Yep, he is better than me, in a lot of ways — especially ways Christians value, like worshiping god or attributing success to a higher power.  He’s also better than me at football.  But, I’m not in the NFL, I develop software (probably better than him).  Also, you know who he isn’t better than?  Tom Brady.  That game was a classic example of how, no matter how hard you want to believe, quality actions will consistently beat prayers and wishes.  Or in simpler terms “Wish in one hand and shit in the other, see which fills up first.”

So, just to wrap up, here are some facts.  Tim Tebow is a low quality NFL quarterback.  Attributing things to a higher power when they go right, but making excuses when they go wrong is hypocritical.  Thinking a higher power exists that created the whole universe (but also gives a shit about a football game) is annoying.

Apr 6

Seen here [ Hitchens Debate Video ]

Quick note about this synopsis. It may seem like a biased review, and I suppose it is to a certain extent, but my intention was to do the following: Pick out any argument that was particularly interesting (whether particularly good or bad or whatever) to me. In doing this it just so happened that most of the apologists’ arguments were not new or even framed in a new light, and therefore uninteresting. If anyone finds something I skipped to be particularly interesting, feel free to reply.

16:00 – Seven of the faultiest logical arguments you will hear this week

30:15 – Moderator tries to argue that Hitchens’ arguments/philosophies are only applicable to a few people. However, he comes out and says christianity is for the weak and un-intelligent. Even if you assume his argument is correct, still seems like he loses.

37:00 — Hitchens makes a good point (although sidestepping the original question to a degree) about the idea of a compassionate god. And also about the amorality of suffering in this life being ok because it is promised to be rectified in another.

40:00ish — Argument between “believing in god means there will be justice for wrongs in this life” vs. “believing in no god means humanity is responsible for bringing justice, not sitting idly by”.

52:20ish — Hitchens asks a good question about morality. Apologists bring up responses by rewording the question. He says name an action I couldn’t take. They list actions he wouldn’t take.

1:00:00 — Hitchens develops a cold. Then makes a decent point that christianity says “I created you sick and evil, now get right or else go to hell”

1:05:00 — “I’m a Christian and I have a monopoly on morality”. Then an audience member makes a good question. Then the moderator (really are you moderating at this point?) answers for the apologists.

1:08:00 — Hitchens goes off on a tangent for no reason, everyone is confused and silent, answer the question plz.

1:12:00-1:20:00ish — Snapdragon! One of the apologists admits that things are caused by evolution. Then after a long discussion they say that without god music, love, poetry, etc. doesn’t have any meaning. What?

1:33:00ish — apologist says the bible is a practical book, not a speculative book and that we should use it as a practical guide to every day life. Then to prove his point he murdered Hitchens for being a heretic and allowed the panel to rape his daughters.

1:37:00 — Hitchens makes a humorous derisive comment about believers in general. That is what I think is entertaining about him, he’ll say whatever in front of whomever.

1:39:00 — Crazy old guy in the audience demands the microphone based on discrimination, raises argument based on scientific knowledge, then admits he doesn’t understand science.  Also, crazy.

1:51:00ish — Hitchens closing. Meh. His very last thought was amusing.

1:56:00 — Last apologist’s closing statement. Lists 10 arguments that he says Hitchens didn’t refute. I agree, he didn’t directly point out the logical fallacies with each of those arguments. However, it is a good list of arguments for christianity that are easily refuted in a 15 minute logical analysis, or 2 minute search of the internet. He then claims atheism is and has been proven false. Cool. “You didn’t prove me wrong to my satisfaction in this one particular sitting therefore you are wrong.” At least one of the apologists stepped up (unfoundedly) to be directly confrontational at the end.

Mar 30

So this past Sunday my wife and I decided to join a church group that was going out to do community service.  I thought it would be fun for two reasons.  One, I like doing service, especially if it is already planned and occurs before I normally wake up so I don’t lose any of my weekend.  Two, being an atheist in a group of active religious people could be informative if not entertaining.  Below are my results.

The Good

Resources

Like I said before, everything was set up for us.  One huge benefit about doing service through any large organization (most of which just happen to be religious in nature) is the resources.  This is a large church (2500 members, approx 5000 attendees) and so they have people either paid or volunteering to schedule all of this.  They brought the buses for transportation, the cleaning supplies (we cleaned a West Dallas elementary school), did all of the coordination (had site leaders, bus leaders, notecards with tasks, organization out the wazzoo), and collective man power.  If you are really trying to make a difference in other people’s lives, getting organized is the way to do it.  1500-2000 volunteers with pooled money/time can usually make a much larger difference than 1500 individuals.

People

As I said before, the numbers were helpful, but here I am meaning the individuals.  The group of people we worked with were all pretty hilarious and I had a great time.  Based on my interactions with people, I would say overall organized religion gets a worse rap than it deserves, at least from me.  While there are plenty of outliers in the fundamentalist part of the curve, and even some of the more main stream have ideas about science/reason/morality that I strongly disagree with, for the most part this experience showed me that it is less about that.  It was mostly people who just wanted to help out and liked doing good things.  There were a few exceptions (you’ll see later), but I never got asked about god, never got asked to participate in prayer, never really even discussed religion.

Service

It is very easy to ignore people less fortunate.  I realize I work hard to be where I am and some people are looking for a hand out, but my elementary school didn’t rely on outside volunteers to clean it.  My high school didn’t have a 70% non-graduation rate.  I didn’t have to scrounge for 30 dollars a year to enter a little league baseball league.  I didn’t live in the 11th poorest area in America.  I didn’t have to wait on a list for a mentor so that I would have a positive role model/parent figure in my life.  These were all things I was told about the area when visiting West Dallas and learning about some of the struggles the people there have.  So it felt very good to do something to try and help out (even if it wasn’t enough).

The Bad

Unnecessary Restrictions

Why is it necessary to only do service for someone with the purpose of sharing jesus’ love?  Why can’t I help out of my own love for humanity?  The info sheet about this service event was capped off with the sentence: “Sharing the love of Christ with others through Service”.  This basically sets the priority that some of the individuals had.  First, share the love of Christ.  Second, do service.  As with all parts of religion, I feel this is unnecessary.  I wish ‘church’ as widespread as it is today was able to change its meaning from “a group of people coming together to worship XYZ and help make the world a better place” to “a group of people coming together to help make the world a better place”.  I just don’t see the need to add in an imaginary being as the reason behind it.  The other main unnecessary restriction is a true restriction.  A couple of the people I talked with help run a mentoring program that “pairs caring christian adults with underprivileged kids looking for a mentor”.  I got that tagline verbatim from each one separately, so you know it is important.  They have 500 mentors today, but the waiting list for children wanting a mentor is huge, i.e. they are in dire need of mentors.  Unfortunately I am excluded because I wouldn’t fulfill the ‘christian’ part of caring christian adult.  Why does this matter?  Well to me it doesn’t.  To them it does because one of their main priorities is to convert the child to christianity.  Again, this should be mutually exclusive to helping a child have a better life, and really becomes altogether unnecessary.

The Ugly

The Crazy Curve Ball

So after we got done cleaning our first room (the cafeteria, where I found a pepperoni that easily predates the bible and all the boogers I could handle) instead of getting a second assignment, we ‘lucked’ out and got chosen to pass out fliers.  BAM, curve ball.  At this point in my day everything was going well and I really didn’t want to cause any contention because of my different/lacking beliefs.  However I was not going to stand on a street and pass out fliers telling people how much I loved jesus.  But again, no problems.  The fliers we were passing out were door to door telling people about a little league baseball season that was about to start and about a community picnic event they were hosting.  There wasn’t one mention of religion on either flier (other than the names of the churches sponsoring it).  This league (and aforementioned mentoring program) is run by Mercy Street, which overall seems like a really great organization, except the hang up on christianity as the only way to be good.  And it looks like they are truly making a difference in the area.  My only concern would be if any of the mentoring, sports league, etc. centered around essentially teaching children make believe and to trust faith over reason, which unfortunately I am sure is the case.  Anyway, so I walked around a government subsidized housing area and stuck fliers in doors.  I met one angry lady (my fault, my flier accidentally slipped inside her house, a little too intrusive), one crazy guy (sang TI’s latest song to me for about a block and then kept asking me why the Mexican’s were giving him lube and making him take it), and several friendly people.

The Take Away

I think it was a great experience, and it has spurred me to do more.  I really wish there were more secular/humanist type organizations with the same resources (or maybe I just need to look harder).  I think it would be awesome to participate weekly in making people’s lives better, without thinking the underlying goal was to introduce irrational faith.  I think as atheists or non-believers or just humans, we need to spend more time acting and less time talking.  It is great fun to talk circles around irrational arguments, but unless we are making a difference in the world, what have we accomplished?

Mar 22

If you peruse the internet, or tv, or any other information medium, you have heard recently what the pope said regarding condoms, AIDS, and Africa.  Depending on which source you read, or actually what day you read it, you heard anything from the pope saying “condoms were not the answer in the continent’s fight against HIV” to “You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms, on the contrary, it increases the problem” to “The traditional teaching of the church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids.” (if that source was quoting him from back in 2005).

Now all of these are problematic given the ridiculous influence the pope has over a significant portion of the world’s population.  Any person filling a post that has the power to say “Don’t eat meat on Friday or you will go to hell, wait for it, wait for it, ok now you can.” and people actually listen, needs to choose his words carefully.  But I want to focus mainly on the last one, what he said in 2005, because it is a view that many organizations share about abstinence.

Abstinence has been touted as the only fail-safe, the only 100%, the only proven way to prevent lots of things.

  • Pregnancy
  • HIV
  • STD’s in general
  • Promiscuity
  • Emotional problems
  • Future marital problems.

We could logically look at each one of these, but all stem from a similar problem with the conclusion that we can examine as a whole.

False Conclusions

Conclusion: Abstinence is the only proven way to prevent X 100% of the time.  How did we get here?  What premises did we use?  I’ll take HIV as my example, since that is what started all of this.

Premise 1: HIV is only caused by consensual sexual intercourse
Premise 2: Abstinence means never having consensual sexual intercourse
Conclusion: Abstinence is the only way to prevent the spread of HIV 100% of the time

This looks ok until we inspect it a little closer.  Of our premises, one is false, and one is a hidden premise that we are completely leaving out.  And of our Conclusion, we have to use faulty logic to extend it beyond its actual scope.

False Premises

Premise 1 is false.  HIV can spread different ways other than consensual sexual intercourse, such as blood transfusions or using an infected needle.  And especially in the area where the pope was discussing, non-consensual sex is a large contributor.  Looking at the other items on my list they also suffer from false premises.

Promiscuity — To make this work we would have to start with the premise that having sex always leads to promiscuity.  We cannot assume that all people who have sex are promiscuous.  The premise that sex always leads to promiscuity is false.

Emotional Problems, Future marital problems — Similarly to promiscuity, any correlation between emotional or marital problems and sex are just that, correlation not causation.

Pregnancy — The premise that pregnancy is only caused by sexual intercourse is false because it can be caused by several other things including IVF, and god planting a jesus in your belly.  I know that is nit-picking, I just wanted to make a jesus joke.  Let’s move on to hidden premises.

Hidden Premises

The hidden premise is the bigger issue.  We are leaving out the premise/assumption that everyone is able to maintain the practice of abstinence.  Now, in coming to a useful conclusion, we should analyze the world as it really exists.  Abstinence is not a practice that is easy for everyone, especially those in the statistically ‘at risk’ category for contracting HIV through sex, to maintain.  So let us rewrite our syllogism:

Premise 1: HIV is sometimes caused by consensual sexual intercourse
Premise 2: Abstinence means never having consensual sexual intercourse
Premise 3: People trying to practice abstinence still have sexual intercourse with a rate of 26-86% (i.e. greater than 0)
Conclusion: In the real world, abstinence does not prevent HIV 100% of the time

Even if we limit our discussion so we only conclude ‘someone able to absolutely practice abstinence reduces their chance of contracting HIV 100%’ then all we have really concluded is that one ideal example of a person won’t get HIV.  If we look at a real population, and assume a failure rate of say 40% for people practicing abstinence, we get this conclusion:

Abstinence: 60% of the time it works every time (for preventing HIV transmitted through sex).

False Logic

And even with either of those conclusions, we never address the point about abstinence being the ‘only’ way to prevent X 100% of the time.  Just because we reach a conclusion about one method, we cannot immediately rule out all others.  Taking pregnancy as my example, I could just as easily, and wrongly, say ‘Anal sex is the only way to prevent pregnancy 100%’.  Following the same ad-hoc reasoning as before, I could safely say ‘someone absolutely practicing anal sex reduces their chance of becoming pregnant 100%’,  which proves that under the same premises, neither anal sex or abstinence are the only way to prevent pregnancy 100% of the time.

Actual Conclusion

So what is my point with all of this?  Obviously I’m not trying to say abstinence is worthless.  I’m just trying to say that when making conclusions, especially people with attached authority (media, pope, president, scientist), you should validate them logically as things exist in the real world.  Where is the real help to humanity in spouting false conclusions that only further your agenda?  If you are in a position of authority, you have an obligation by those who put you there to not espouse something as truth unless it is a truth in our world as it exists.  As a person of authority, people will actually take your conclusions as premises to build their own conclusions on. There is no help in basing things on conclusions for a Utopian world.  And hey, sometimes you can just say “I don’t know”.

Dec 28

The title of this is a little misleading. I’m not ranting about Christmas (or at least don’t plan to as of now, who knows where the post will lead), I am just ranting and it happens to be Christmas time.

First, I just read an article in the NY Times that talks about text messages and their high prices. It basically says the providers are price gouging and should be ashamed of themselves/sued. Seriously? “Hi, I provide a service that cost a shit-ton to build the infrastructure for, including hardware and spectrum rights. I just figured out a stupid add on that teenagers love that costs me literally nothing, but I can charge 20 cents for.” “Umm, excuse me sir, that is wrong, if it is cheap for you and you charge me for it, that is unfair.” If you are addicted enough to text messaging that you will pay 20 cents per message, or 5 bucks for 200 or 15 bucks for unlimited or whatever it is, good for AT&T for convincing you to pay for something that email/twitter/facebook/IM does for free if you have a data plan. By the way, I pay 5 bucks a month for 200 text messages (of which I use 9), so AT&T got me too. Next time someone figures out a way to provide goods or services at a profit and you complain about it, slap yourself for being retarded. It is called capitalism and it works (usually).

Second item: Capitalism doesn’t work. Oh my god, I totally contradicted myself there, quick someone point it out. Actually, no one will point it out because only 4 people read this, and they are all too lazy to comment. Plus I just pointed it out. <Inner Rant>Why do I blog? Seriously 4 people read this and I’m sure I’ll bitch about all of these things to each one of them in due time anyway. It must be my delusions of grandeur. <End Inner Rant> So here is the thing about capitalism, she’s a fickle bitch. Economics 101 talks about supply and demand and self correction, and that is all well and good but that is only part of the story. The more important part, and the part that doesn’t “work” is speculation. What do I mean by speculation? No I don’t think you are too dumb to know the definition, I think I am, so I’m telling you what I think the definition is. When I say speculation I am really talking about any leveraging of money based on future expectations. Stocks, Options, Hedges, Futures, Loans, etc. Anytime your economy is based on future expectations, you will have large swings in prosperity/recession. The only way to keep moderate swings is to continually innovate (i.e. produce the same goods/services for less) which is improbable, and have no corruption (yeah right, this is the human race we are talking about), or to have regulations. The free market will correct itself, but only after rising so high that it comes crashing down (see today’s economy). I could have framed this argument way better, and it probably would have actually made more sense, but that would have taken too long. Just believe me, I made a 5 on my economics AP test.

Next, Christmas. Yep, worked it in, the title fits after all. I got in to a twiscussion (i just made that up and it means “discussion over twitter”, the least effective way to converse in depth) with one of my friends over an article saying scientists are pooping their panties over “Ice Age 3 Dinosaurs in Action” (I forget the actual title). They say “excuse me, it is scientifically inaccurate to show Dinosaurs coming AFTER mammoths in the earth’s history, and I won’t stand for it”. The person writing the article is witty enough to point out that said scientists didn’t complain about the scientific inaccuracy that the mammoth and the dinosaurs can SPEAK IN ENGLISH TO EACH OTHER. That is all well and good, but let’s take it one step further. Fiction doesn’t have to be scientifically correct. That is why it is called Fiction. There is a difference between show #1 — fiction that is portraying reality, like “hi, I’m a made up doctor character in the ER, here are some doctor words that should be correct” and show #2 — complete fiction like “hi, I’m a cartoon rabbit that speaks to a retarded hunter, so clearly I am not based in reality, I can shoot him in the face with a shotgun and it will only burn his hat and then I can sprint away leaving dust bubbles”. If you are a doctor and you watch show #1, you can be mad if the character says “I need 500g of pvc bilaterally injected into this smaschmorta stat” because that means they didn’t take the time to research that shit. However, unless you are an illustrated long-eared animal that leaves dust bubbles when you run, you need to STFU about realism while watching show #2.

Sorry, now really about Christmas. Christmas is the second kind of fiction in my opinion. It is a story not based in reality, so it doesn’t have to strictly be realistic. Before you get indignant and say “Jesus is real, you are sorely mistaken and will probably go to hell”, 2 things.

  1. This still definitely applies to the Santa Claus story part of Christmas, so think of it in that manner.
  2. I also believe it applies to the ‘virgin-born, resurrected, flies with angels’ Jesus story as well. If you don’t, just focus on point #1.

Because it is a fictional story, I see no problem in telling it to kids for a fun time. Poops and giggles if you will. But as soon as the kid is old enough/smart enough to question the story and say “that doesn’t seem real”, don’t lie to him. Encourage him to question seemingly made up things, because while fiction is fun, lying and telling them fiction is reality is unfair. Children look up to adults for direction, especially authority figures like parents, it is our nature as humans, and they take their word as truth. So make sure your word actually is the truth and encourage further learning. If you are concerned he’ll ruin the story for other kids, tell him not to, he’s the kid, you are the parent. And if he does, oh well, what’s the harm in making another kid smarter.

Next, parenthetical thoughts. I overuse those mofo’s. Almost every sentence I write has a parenthetical aside written in to it (man this is annoying) and man that is annoying to read. I’m sorry that I do it, I just have so many brilliant thoughts in my stream of writing that I have to try and cram them all in. I’ll try to do it with more literariness in the future.

Finally, damn I forgot my last one. I had a really good one that I was saving for the last, but I completely blanked on it now. Oh well, consider yourself unlucky. Here is a quick and topical substitute. Memory. My memory sucks balls. The other day I forgot my zip code and couldn’t pump gas with my credit card because it required it. Gay. Then, a while back, I forgot how old I was, I was off by 2 years. Yeah, 2 years. Apparently the last time my brain decided to remember my age was 2 years ago. Also, I will say I’m going to do something right as I’m starting to do it, then forget. Or someone will tell me to do something and I will forget to do it within 10 seconds. Example: Wife:”Hey, don’t forget to turn off the light as you come to bed.” Me<walking towards the bedroom from the kitchen, about 15 feet from light switch>: “Ok, will do.” Wife<10 seconds later>: “Damn it, you are in bed and the light is on.” Me<sucking at life>: “Man I suck at life.” So if anyone has any ideas on how I can turn back on my brain memory function, please leave a comment.

Sep 27
Jesus cures the sick
icon1 meezy | icon2 religion | icon4 09 27th, 2008| icon33 Comments »

My wife Janet has been sick/in the hospital with a pretty serious, and as yet unknown, illness since 2 Wednesday’s ago. In order to streamline the update process, I wanted to throw up a quick blog where I could post her status. At first I just added a page on my current blog called Janet’s Status. I did this because I already have wordpress installed, and it was just config changes. Then I got to thinking about it and decided because most of the people wanting her status were religious, I should create a new blog so that they wouldn’t wander on to my blog and see my posts that were derisive toward religion.

Let me repeat that. Because I was afraid to make a page showing Janet’s recovery status anywhere near my religious opinions, I spent an extra effort setting up a new domain name, new wordpress installation and new database. Now granted, that stuff took maybe 20 minutes so it’s not like I moved a mountain, but still I am a little disappointed in myself for giving deference once again to religion. If I had posted anti-nascar or anti-baseball (check) then I wouldn’t have had any problem if someone stumbled on my opinions.

That being said, most of the comments (greater than 90%) referenced god/jesus/religion in one form or another. It still surprises me how much religion comes to the forefront during times of crisis. I knew most of our friends/familly considered themselves christian, but I was still amazed how the focus of most comments was praying, etc.

Apparently Jesus hated Janet for a week and a half and, only after enough praying, was convinced to finally stop punishing her. Everyone prays for Jesus to heal, but no one acknowledges the fact that if Jesus exists and controls illness, then he is just a flat out asshole for making her so incredibly sick for over a week.

Don’t get me wrong, Janet and I both very much appreciated everyone’s comments and nice, encouraging words. We have a large and supporting network of friends, family, family friends, and friend’s families. So many people offered to help any way they could/we needed. Fortunately things went smoothly enough that I didn’t have to take too many people up on that offer. It was just a snap back to reality in seeing so many references to religion.

I don’t think I really have a point here, just wanted to voice my surprise at the pervasiveness of religion. I guess I had been living in my own atheistic world, and having religion affront me so blatantly was unexpected and almost offensive. I guess I just found the point I thought I didn’t have – now that I have rambled on so much – so here it is:

I went out of my way to hide my atheistic religious views so as not to accidentally offend people, and those exact people were very quick to voice their christian religious opinions without a second thought. Why the double standard? I guess that it usually the way it is with majority/minority opinions. It’s ok to voice your opinion as long as it is in the majority.

Feel free to comment and let me know if you would have handled it any differently.