I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed watching this

Gee, I seem to remember something in the Christian scriptures about not bearing false witness.

Ahh, wait. That’s Old Testament. Never mind it, then.

Focus on the Family, just to be clear, is not a “fringe organization” or representative of an “ignored minority.”  FotF is, by all accounts, the most influential evangelical group in the United States, and untold millions of Christians ate up James Dobson’s bullshit every day on his radio program (including yours truly, once upon a time).

So if you’re thinking of complaining that atheists like me get bent out of shape over mere straw-men or extremists, think again. These people are knowingly spreading misinformation to a huge portion of my countrymen, who don’t even think twice to question it because they’d rather trust a prick with a bible and a psychology degree than make the effort to read actual scientific research.

And what’s worse, these people vote.

First it was “Creation Science,” then it was “Intelligent Design,” and now… “Non-Evolution”

So there’s this legislator in my home state who seems to think that simply stating the opposite of a well-established scientific principle counts as a theory in itself. Despite the fact that his “theory” has no evidential leg to stand on.

We (and by “we” I mean “they,” and by “they,” I mean “ill-informed zealots” which are actually the worst kind of zealot) used to call this “Creation Science,” employing the popular-yet-misguided notion that adding the word “science” makes something scientific (to see why this is complete bullshit, one need look no further than Scientology). Certain irrational citizens of our country thought that it should be taught alongside evolution, which is kinda like saying that Rick Moranis deserves to play in the NBA. No… actually it’s like saying that Lucky the Lucky Charms Leprechaun deserves to play in the NBA.

Long story short, they were wrong, and the courts agreed.

After that, they made yet another attempt to teach religion as science, only this time they called it “Intelligent Design.” Same tired arguments. Same utter lack of evidence. So, naturally, the results in the judicial system didn’t change.

Now they’re back, echoing the same vacuous sentiments, dressed up in yet another pretentious title: non-evolution. With any luck, this story will be the last we hear of it, but if history is any indication, I don’t think it’s likely to stop here. Quite fitting when you think about it… the movement rallying against evolution refusing to evolve itself?

The irony is not lost on me.

The Westboro Baptist Church is Out for Attention Again…

So, this happened

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church announced Thursday plans to picket Saturday’s funeral for Elizabeth Edwards in Raleigh, North Carolina.

And why, you may ask, are they protesting her funeral? Well, here it is, straight from the horse’s mouth (or perhaps “ass’ mouth,” would be more a propos):

(click to embiggen if case you can’t read it, cause I ain’t about to waste time transcribing this abhorrent nonsense)

Riiiight.

Here I was thinking “Godsmack” was a shitty nu-metal band from the late 90s. But apparently, it’s totally a legit religious term for being smoted by WBC’s invisible fairy tale god.

Which, I can’t help but notice, bears a striking resemblance to everyone else’s god.

I do hate lumping the extremists in with the moderates. Honestly, I do. And I have nothing but profound respect for those who fancy themselves followers of Christ and choose not to condemn the recently deceased. But what exactly are the members of Westboro Baptist doing, except reading the bible and following the interpretation that they believe the “Holy Spirit” is revealing to them? Isn’t that what, like, every Christian on Earth does?

Help me out with this one, Christians. How does one go about showing WBC members that they’re wrong, theologically? It’s my view that you can’t. Not without it boiling down to “my interpretation vs. your interpretation.”

Basing one’s morality on an archaic book is a recipe for failure. Basing it instead on the principles of humanism might have some of the same pitfalls, but at least the results are better.

Fox News Says Heaven is Real. Evidence: a Little Boy’s Hallucination.

Most hilarious line: “So many people want to know what you now know…”

Come on, people. Is this how you want our generation to be remembered? In thousands of years, when future generations unearth our culture, do you really want them to say, “Wow! Look at this. These people actually thought that one little boy’s anesthesia-induced hallucinations were valid evidence for an afterlife!”

Seriously, if you would actually recount this story to someone as evidence for an afterlife (in any context other than a joke), I’d like you to wear aluminum foil on your head, so’s we know who you are.

The Short Rebuttal (which any one of the idiots down at Fox News could have done, if they’d taken literally five minutes to do the research):

  1. Experiencing hallucinations while under general anesthesia is a well-known, common phenomena. There’s nothing unusual about seeing things that aren’t there, feeling like you’re “outside your body,” or having intense feelings of euphoria when you’re being put under.
  2. Even ignoring the anesthesia, NDEs and OBEs are also very common phenomena, occasionally triggered when the brain loses oxygen. So what we have are at least two natural, common, well-documented explanations that were completely ignored by Fox News’ crack research team. Figures.
  3. A bronze-age Palestinian Jewish carpenter with blue eyes? Srsly?!
  4. Even if the god this boy saw was big enough to hold the world in the palm of his hand, he’d still be infinitely smaller than the universe itself. So… proportion fail.
  5. Let me get this straight… there was absolutely no way that the kid could have known that at least one of his very religious parents would be praying for him as he was about to be cut open? (See: definition of “naive“)
  6. It’s Fox News.
  7. If this boy had seen Allah and Muhammad while under the influence of general anesthesia (akin to what happened to this woman, for instance), I’m willing to bet my life savings that it would have been dismissed as a meaningless hallucination in no time.

Sex

Okay, humans…

It’s one thing to assert the tired old canard that, because science can’t explain something, a god must be used to explain it.

It’s quite another to go on to claim that one particular patriarchal Hebrew sky god is responsible for the phenomenon in question.

And it’s still yet another thing to further assert that this invisible creative force actually gives a shit about where I put my penis.

I’ve yet to hear any theological explanation for this, other than “God said it, so there,” (which is the fastest way to completely lose any intellectual currency you may have). And yet even a cursory glimpse at human history shows a clear pattern. Religion, it seems, is obsessed with with the penis and vagina.

Sex is very simple. And awesome. A natural, zesty enterprise. So why is it that most of the Abrahamic religions seem to react to sex (particularly the homosexual variety) with such contempt?

Granted, the modernized factions have found a way to upgrade the Scriptures to fit with our current “secular” sexual moral constructs. Some branches of Christianity are accepting of homosexuality and extramarital sex. Some are okay with any kind of sex, so long as it’s done within the confines of holy matrimony. But there’s still a good number of religious followers who would contend that sex exists merely for procreation and should only be done inside a heterosexual marriage. No exceptions. And if you’re enjoying it, you’re doing it wrong.

Scratch that. Only if the woman is enjoying it, are you doing it wrong.

And it’s not enough for these people to decide to live that lifestyle of their own accord. It’s absolutely imperative to them that everyone be taught to live that particular lifestyle, and that governing bodies should exalt that world view as superior. Regardless of what biology, statistics, or medical science has to say about it.

That’s one thing that annoys me about some Christians, particularly those that lobby for “abstinence-only” sex ed in public schools.

Thing is, I’m totally a fan of arbitrary promises. An arbitrary promise proves, irrefutably, that we as human beings can make and live by our own rules, and that we can choose to give up any vices we decide to give up, be it of sex, substance, or habit.

So if you want to decide, on your own, to remain celibate until some arbitrary date–say, your wedding night–then fucking go for it.

But that’s exactly what it is. Arbitrary.

There is, in fact, no good reason to make such a random decision.

I’m sure everyone reading is already sagacious enough to be aware of the hard data concerning this issue, so I won’t delve any deeper into it outside of the basics. In short, not only are abstinence-only sex ed programs completely useless in curbing teen sexual activity, but abstinence in practice doesn’t make you any healthier, physically, nor does it make your relationship any healthier (or happier) than that of your premaritally-boning counterparts.

Supporters of abstinence-only sex ed usually pull out the usual slew of supposed advantages of abstinence. The most popular, and usually touted as the “best,” reason is the threat of teen pregnancy. Then comes the risk of STD infection. Both of these risks, however, are drastically lowered to the point of being entirely negligible, if teens are given a good education on the proper use of birth control.

“Oh, but there’s still a chance that condoms could fail and that birth control pills won’t work.” True. A very small chance. So small, that no reasonable person should see any cause for worry. If we’re going to accept this kind of reasoning, then abstinence shouldn’t be considered safe either, since there’s still the very small yet very real chance that you can catch the clap from a toilet seat or that you can be raped.

“Married couples who abstained until marriage feel closer, since they’ve only had each other. Hence, they’re happier.”

Anecdotal. Irrelevant. I could just as easily say that married couples who didn’t wait until marriage were able to find out whether or not they were sexually compatible before they decided to commit to each other, similar to how you don’t buy a car until you’ve taken it for a test drive to see if it gives you the ride you’re looking for. Hence, they’re happier.

Any way you slice it, there’s no good, objective reason to save oneself for marriage. Not to say that everyone should be taught to be promiscuous. In fact I’m saying the opposite.

I’m saying we should be allowed to make our own choices concerning sex, without certain people who claim that their imaginary friends told them that their way is the best way and the only way, and who are somehow exempt from having to provide solid evidence for this claim. If you feel like sexual abstinence is right for you, by all means, indulge yourself. Or… don’t indulge yourself, actually.

But, if I may put it bluntly, my dick is none of your business unless I make it your business (consensually, that is). Nor are anyone else’s private parts, for that matter.

Christine O’Donnell: a Politician Who Doesn’t Know Shit About the Constitution

Ahh, Christine O’Donnell. The next Sarah Palin. I have mixed feelings about her: namely that I kinda want to have sex with her, but I also kinda want to punch her in the face. I believe the term is called “hate-fuck”? If any of you more astute readers could enlighten me, that’d be great.

Anyway, fast forward to about the 2:37 mark to hear her actually ask, in total seriousness, where in the Constitution it says that church should be kept separate from state.

This can only mean one of three things.

  1. She really doesn’t know that the First Amendment declares that Congress (a governing body into which she is attempting to be elected) “shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
  2. She knows it’s there, but doesn’t understand “separation of church and state” as a shorthand way of expressing this sentiment.
  3. She’s merely quibbling about semantics (since those words literally don’t appear in the Constitution) because she doesn’t think the government should be separate from religion.

Neither of these scenarios make her not an idiot.

I’d totally still do her though.

“Free Will is Some Deep-Ass S#!*”

I remember a few conversations I had with some college friends, back when I was still a Christian, on Calvinism and predestination. For a long time, I actually considered myself a Calvinist.

One usually can’t discuss Calvinism without also talking about destiny and free will, as any Calvinist will tell you. It wasn’t long before one of those present, slightly drunk and high (it’s college), shook his head, sunk in his chair, and said, “Maaann… free will is some deep-ass shit.”

For those who don’t know, Calvinism is a perfectly legitimate theological approach to Christianity (one of many), founded by Jean Calvin in the 16th century. Long story short, most Calvinists believe that free will is merely an illusion; that God has already written the whole of human history from “the beginning to the end,” including who will be in heaven with him (known as “the elect”) and who will be in hell. We may feel like we have a choice in the matter, but God, being all-knowing, would not have been foolish enough to allow random human variables to fuck up his plan.

Think about it as a book. The author creates the characters and determines exactly what will happen to them. If the characters were real, they might think that they’re making their own choices and decisions, but really they’re making the very choice they were created to make.

This was a common analogy among Calvinists. Personally, I used to think of life as more like one of God’s impromptu jokes come alive.

Anyway, my point is, I’m not a Christian anymore. But, surprisingly, I still don’t believe in “free will.” Or at least, not in the way most people mean it.

This topic stems from a question someone asked me on facebook, which went a little something like this:

So marc, do you feel we have free will or we don’t? do you think we choose the paths that we are on, as in when i made a left instead of a right on that last light i ended up hitting a guy on the street that was neither his nor my fault? I want to know who controls these everyday tragedies and sucesses we go through daily. And when one has a burden in their heart who do they cry out to or where do they turn to? Who judges the man who tried to live his whole life as a man(or so he thought) and when he developed in his life further, realized he was a woman with a family and his wife leaves him, he confronts his inner feelings to want to live as a woman. What is the purpose of all of this in life, why aren’t we just robots that learn to live and love eachother without pain and hate or desires and wants that PEOPLE may say is not according to “God’s plan”. Where does all that lie?

It’s a good question. A damn good question.

Here’s the thing. I’m a man of science. And science deals with questions of the knowable or foreseeable truth. Take physics as an example. The universe happens to operate a certain way, and the science of physics represents our attempt to understand the way it operates.

For instance, an object in free fall will accelerate toward the ground at a rate of about 9.81 m/s^2. A lot of experimentation was involved in arriving at this answer. Furthermore, it’s repeatable. We can actually set up an experiment wherein we measure the distance from a ball to the ground and calculate how long it will take to hit the ground when we let it go. And the answer will be dead accurate. Every time.

If we know anything from physics (as well as the rest of science), it’s that if you’re given all the variables, you can always, always, always arrive at the right answer. So, theoretically, if we had knowledge of every single variable and every single premise, constant, and initial condition, we could successfully foresee the future. A math equation can only have one right answer.

The problem is, the number of variables is nothing short of infinite.

When you decide to make a left turn instead of a right, you think you’re doing so of your own accord (if you happen to drive a Honda Accord, that would be an intentional pun). But the reality is that you act according to an infinite number of contributing factors from your past, and everything leading up to the moment you were born as well.

It’s completely random, and yet it’s not. When all the variables are laid out, there’s really only one possible outcome.

So, to answer the question, no, I do not think free will really exists; that is, if we define “free will” as the idea that our choices determine the future. In the grand scheme of things, there’s only one “future” that will occur, and everything we decide to say or do has no effect on it.

For all intents and purposes though, we do have free will. Just because your past experiences, environmental conditions, and historical context are leading you to make one inevitable choice doesn’t make it not a “decision” in any useful sense of the word.

But don’t misunderstand me. Just because I think free will is an illusion doesn’t mean that I somehow believe that there’s an invisible man in space who’s decided how things are going to play out. Number one, because that conclusion doesn’t at all follow from this premise, and number two, because that conclusion makes far less sense than its atheistic alternatives.

2 + 2 = 4, not because someone designed it that way. 2 + 2 = 4 because… well, that’s just the way it is.