Monday, February 26, 2007

Them Bones, Them Bones, Them Jesus Bones...

I'll have more to share on this later in the week, but as I'm very busy in various aspects of life in general at the moment, I'll just throw this article out there and share any personal thoughts later. I'm sure there are plenty of fundie web sites already decrying the "blasphemy" and "hoax" they feel this must be, but until the evidence is objectively looked at and studied, who knows if this is for real or not?

Regardless, here's one of the most comprehensive stories about this I could find--don't be afraid to share your thoughts!


New scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world's foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah.

The DNA findings, alongside statistical conclusions made about the artifacts -- originally excavated in 1980 -- open a potentially significant chapter in Biblical archaeological history.

A documentary presenting the evidence, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," will premiere on the Discovery Channel on March 4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The documentary comes from executive producer James Cameron and director Simcha Jacobovici.

The Talpiot Tomb
On March 28, 1980, a construction crew developing an apartment complex in Talpiot, Jerusalem, uncovered a tomb, which archaeologists from the Israeli Antiquities Authority excavated shortly thereafter. Archaeologist Shimon Gibson surveyed the site and drew a layout plan. Scholar L.Y. Rahmani later published "A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries" that described 10 ossuaries, or limestone bone boxes, found in the tomb.

Scholars know that from 30 B.C. to 70 A.D., many people in Jerusalem would first wrap bodies in shrouds after death. The bodies were then placed in carved rock tombs, where they decomposed for a year before the bones were placed in an ossuary.

Five of the 10 discovered boxes in the Talpiot tomb were inscribed with names believed to be associated with key figures in the New Testament: Jesus, Mary, Matthew, Joseph and Mary Magdalene. A sixth inscription, written in Aramaic, translates to "Judah Son of Jesus."

"Such tombs are very typical for that region," Aaron Brody, associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion and director of California's Bade Museum told Discovery News.

Ossuary Inscriptions
At least four leading epigraphers have corroborated the ossuary inscriptions for the documentary, according to the Discovery Channel.

Frank Moore Cross, a professor emeritus in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, told Discovery News, "The inscriptions are from the Herodian Period (which occurred from around 1 B.C. to 1 A.D.). The use of limestone ossuaries and the varied script styles are characteristic of that time."

Jodi Magness, associate department chair of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told Discovery News that, based on the New Testament writings, "Jesus likely lived during the first century A.D."

In addition to the "Judah son of Jesus" inscription, which is written in Aramaic on one of the ossuaries, another limestone burial box is labeled in Aramaic with "Jesus Son of Joseph." Another bears the Hebrew inscription "Maria," a Latin version of "Miriam," or, in English, "Mary." Yet another ossuary inscription, written in Hebrew, reads "Matia," the original Hebrew word for "Matthew." Only one of the inscriptions is written in Greek. It reads, "Mariamene e Mara," which can be translated as, "Mary known as the master."

Francois Bovon, professor of the history of religion at Harvard University, told Discovery News, "Mariamene, or Mariamne, probably was the actual name given to Mary Magdalene."

Bovon explained that he and a colleague discovered a fourteenth century copy in Greek of a fourth century text that contains the most complete version of the "Acts of Philip" ever found. Although not included in the Bible, the "Acts of Philip" mentions the apostles and Mariamne, sister of the apostle Philip.

"When Philip is weak, she is strong," Bovon said. "She likely was a great teacher who even inspired her own sect of followers, called Mariamnists, who existed from around the 2nd to the 3rd century."

DNA Analysis
Jacobovici, director, producer and writer of "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," and his team obtained two sets of samples from the ossuaries for DNA and chemical analysis. The first set consisted of bits of matter taken from the "Jesus Son of Joseph" and "Mariamene e Mara" ossuaries. The second set consisted of patina -- a chemical film encrustation on one of the limestone boxes.

The human remains were analyzed by Carney Matheson, a scientist at the Paleo-DNA Laboratory at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada. Mitochondrial DNA examination determined the individual in the Jesus ossuary and the person in the ossuary linked to Mary Magdalene were not related.

Since tombs normally contain either blood relations or spouses, Jacobovici and his team suggest it is possible Jesus and Mary Magdalene were a couple. "Judah," whom they indicate may have been their son, could have been the "lad" described in the Gospel of John as sleeping in Jesus' lap at the Last Supper.

Robert Genna, director of the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory in New York, analyzed both the patina taken from the Talpiot Tomb and chemical residue obtained from the "James" ossuary, which was also found around 1980, but subsequently disappeared and resurfaced in the antiquities market. Although controversy surrounds this burial box, Genna found that the two patinas matched.

"The samples were consistent with each other," Genna told Discovery News.

Upon examining the tomb, the filmmakers determined a space exists that would have fit the "James" ossuary. Given the patina match and this observation, Jacobovici theorizes the lost burial box could, in fact, be the "James" ossuary.

Statistical Data
A possible argument against the Talpiot Tomb being the Jesus Family Tomb is that the collection of names on the ossuary inscriptions could be coincidental.

But Andrey Feuerverger, professor of statistics and mathematics at the University of Toronto, recently conducted a study addressing the probabilities that will soon be published in a leading statistical journal.

Feuerverger multiplied the instances that each name appeared during the tomb's time period with the instances of every other name. He initially found "Jesus Son of Joseph" appeared once out of 190 times, Mariamne appeared once out of 160 times and so on.

To be conservative, he next divided the resulting numbers by 25 percent, a statistical standard, and further divided the results by 1,000 to attempt to account for all tombs -- even those that have not been uncovered -- that could have existed in first century Jerusalem.

The study concludes that the odds are at least 600 to 1 in favor of the Talpiot Tomb being the Jesus Family Tomb. In other words, the conclusion works 599 times out of 600.

Another Tomb?
The researchers discovered a second, as-yet unexplored tomb about 65 1/2 feet from the Talpiot Tomb. During the documentary, they introduced a robotic camera into this second tomb, which captured the first-ever recorded footage of an undisturbed burial cave from Jesus' time. The team speculates that this other tomb could contain the remains of additional family members, or even disciples, though further examination and analysis are needed.

In the meantime, Discovery has set up a special Web site to provide related in-depth information and to allow viewers to come to their own conclusions about the entire matter.

As Academy Award-winner Cameron said in a press release, "It doesn't get bigger than this. We've done our homework; we've made the case; and now it's time for the debate to begin."

For the complete release, go to this site.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Due to Budget Concerns, the Light
at the End of the Tunnel Should Be
Turned Off...

Having done some reading and research over the last few days for various odds and ends, I have come across a question on a couple of web sites that brings to light a disturbing mindset within the fundamentalist community. This question was asked in various forms, but most of them had to do with this supposed little scenario:
If God revealed himself to you, so you had no doubt whatsoever that this was, indeed, god, and he asked you to kill another person, would you do so?

While there were some that said things like "No way!" or "God would never ask that!" (of course, ignoring that their very sky god has asked this of people in the bible), here are some of the more disturbing answers:

"No doubt about it that it'd be a crazy situation to be in, but if God Himself came down and proved his existence and asked that I kill an innocent child- beside the fact that I'd be out of my head and very uncompromising- I'd leave it all in His hands and do what is asked of me."
"God is supposed to be the dude who sees everything in the big picture in a manner we can't. So knowing that, I'd have to comply because for all I know that "innocent child", if not killed, could grow up to be the next mass murderer, terrorist or inventor of a new weapon of mass destruction. I have always believed there is a bigger picture than we'll ever be able to see, no matter how important we think our puny little lives are."
"if I know that the God is THE TRUE GOD... then I would go kill an innocent child. Death is nothing to be afraid of, but disobeying God is."
"id do it. he is my god"
"When I was a child, I learned in Bible school the story of Abraham and his son. I remember asking my Mother, "What would you do if God asked you to kill me". She said, "I would obey God." For two months after that I lived in fear that my Mother was actually going to kill me. I entertained the idea of being adopted by atheists, but in time forgot about it."
"My life is in this order. God. Family. Country. Yes i would sacrifice anything for my God. And all ready have."
"I would because I know that God has a bigger plan that I can ever comprehend."
Scared yet? Of course, we knew fundie nut-balls were capable of this type of atrocious behavior: Andrea Yates, Deanna Laney, and Dena Schlosser simply failed to get the contract in writing before committing their children's lives to an end.

In a recent poll, it was found that:
  1. The 82 percent of adults who believe in God include 86 percent of women and 93 percent of Republicans but only 78 percent of men, 69 percent of those with postgraduate degrees, and 75 percent of political independents.
  2. Seven in ten (70%) believe that Jesus is God or the son of God. This belief is more prevalent among women (75%) than men (64%), among those with less education (77%) than among post graduates (48%) and among Republicans (82%) than Independents (62%).
So is it really a surprise that so many would kill their child if god so told them to? I suppose not.

A 2004 story in the Washington Post reported that:
  1. 61 percent of Americans believe the account of creation in the Bible's book of Genesis is "literally true" rather than a story meant as a "lesson."
  2. 60 percent believe in the story of Noah's ark and a global flood
  3. and 64 percent agree that Moses parted the Red Sea to save fleeing Jews from their Egyptian captors.
So if they think god actually did do these things, following in the footsteps of their deranged religious father Abraham, they'd also be willing to kill their children, in the hopes that, like Abraham, a goat would suddenly appear to take the child's place.

A lesser-known story along the same lines, of course, is that of Jephthah's daughter.

Judges 11:30-39 (King James Version):
And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back. And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man.
Funny god didn't provide a goat that time, eh?

Tom recently made a brief appearance back on-line this past week, in a short post entitled "Reading Rosenblatt in Reading," and in this short post, he said:

God took thousands of years to send Jesus to earth because the fear of what he had created paralyzed him.
And even though I put no stock in sky god, I do put stock in the basic premise: I fear what man created when he invented the concept of religion. And apparently, so should our children...

Cori, a beautiful young woman from South Africa recently commented that not every conservative fundamentalist is as crazy as the ones who make the headlines, and I acknowledge that; most of my family is proof of that fact! But I do fear the overall cloud that has enveloped the world: religious fervor has many of these nut-balls craving the end-times, when Jesus will return to Rapture them to heaven. The fact that they believe this so fervently is almost bound to end in some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy unless the tide is turned...

And if that means some have to live without hope... to turn off the light at the end of the tunnel, and let people's eyes adjust to the reality of what they've created... and perhaps they'll find a new source of light... one that doesn't end in the death or destruction of anyone... and then, perhaps only then, will we begin to hope that these man-made god's who crave such blood will release the minds of the masses...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Some More Fine, Compassionate Christian Leaders...

Ever hear of "Dr. Henry Jordan"? (I think maybe the "doctor" part must be made up, like "Dr." Laura Schlesinger's...). You may remember him from this little indiscretion back in 1997:

A state Board of Education member, talking Tuesday about displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools, had a ready suggestion for groups who might object to it.

"Screw the Buddhists and kill the Muslims," Dr. Henry Jordan said during the board's finance and legislative committee meeting. "And put that in the minutes," he added.

The remarks made Tuesday were expunged from the written minutes, but were recorded on tape. The (Columbia) State obtained the tape under the Freedom of Information Act.

Jordan [...] said Thursday he thought the meeting was over and members were engaged in private conversation.

The tape, however, shows the committee proceeding to other items on the agenda.
Typical fundie. Says "add it to the minutes," then claims he thought the minutes weren't being recorded and had them stricken. Lie much? Oh, that's right, lies are okay as long as they're to advance "god's kingdom," right? The article from 1997 also reports Jordan as saying:

"I was expressing my frustration. We can't teach basic Christianity even from a historical standpoint, but they can teach about Muslims and Buddhists," he said. "They can teach any kind of cult. Buddhism is a cult. So is Islam. I'm getting a little tired of it."
"I did not wish these two religious groups any ill will."
"What I want to do is promote Christianity as the only true religion," he said. "This nation was founded to worship, honor and glorify Jesus Christ, not Mohammed, not Buddha."
This is almost like those games in the Highlights kids magazine: "How many things can you find wrong in this?" I know, we could go on for quite some time about his ignorance as expressed in 1997, couldn't we? Yep, he was a pretty backward thinker back then. But, as most of us are pretty optimistic about these morons, we think they learn over time, right?

Think again.

As recently as last year, when "Dr." Jordan unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor, he made the following statements:

Jordan said in May that science does not support Darwin's theory that man evolved from monkeys.
Of course it doesn't, you dolt! Find one scientific study not fabricated by "Christian scientists" that says we evolved from monkeys. Go on, I'll wait.

He said students should learn "intelligent design" along with evolution.

"I mean you've got to be stupid to believe in evolution, I mean really," he told The Associated Press then.
Then why isn't he against evolution being taught altogether? Why teach "intelligent design" beside it in school if you have to be "that stupid" to believe it? Moron much?

But I digress (for the time being) on this particular moron to bring your attention to a few more who have allowed "Dr." Jordan to join their little bid for the White House. "Dr." Jordan has been tapped by a Republican presidential wanna-be Duncan Hunter--simply more proof that Bush has set the standard so low that anyone thinks they couldn't possibly do any worse.

This presidential wanna-be also added to his team of "Go Jesus!" Horry County Auditor Lois Eargle. Ms. Eargle herself showed her fine compassionate conservative streak when she was involved in the following situation:

The former county GOP chairwoman said an illegal immigrant with three children came to her office this week asking for free legal help for an abused child.

"I told her the best thing for her to do was to get back to Mexico," Eargle said.
Way to be there for the abused children, Eargle! You make your Jesus proud!!

Duncan himself is not known for being, shall we say, the brightest bulb in the pack, calling Jordan:

"a great, conservative Republican leader" who agrees with him on strengthening the border, national defense and protecting jobs from going overseas.
Dodo's of a feather really do flock together, don't they? So forget the education of our children, ignore the abused children, screw Americans who aren't Christians and make sure that we get this Theocracy up and running! Vote Duncan "Dunce" Hunter for president in 2008, and screw the country even more!

That's exactly what Jesus would do, right?

You Wanted Angry...

I hope all of you are as pissed off by this:

... a paraplegic man in a soiled gown sliding along the sidewalk with his hands, clutching a plastic bag with his belongings between his teeth.

Police said the man, who was dragging a broken colostomy bag behind him, was dumped on the sidewalk Thursday in one of the worst parts of the city by the driver of a hospital van. The area is the same location where city officials say hospitals have dumped the homeless before.
And what was the name of the hospital who dumped him? Hollywood Presbyterian. From the hospitals web site:

The hospital is committed to serving local multicultural communities with expert medical and nursing care. With over 500 physicians representing virtually every specialty, CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center is ready to serve your medical needs and those of your loved ones and strives to distinguish itself as a leading health care provider, recognized for providing quality, innovative care in a compassionate manner.
I think something went badly, badly awry, don't you? A hospital spokesperson is quoted as saying:

"These are very serious allegations. Our goal is to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. If we determine a mistake of this magnitude was made, we will respond swiftly and appropriately," Springer said.
I'd say that's a bit of an understatement. How about "We're sorry!" How about an "Oops!" How does one exactly determine the "magnitude of the mistake"? By saying, "Oh, wait! We rented that van, so we aren't entirely responsible..." or "They wrote the wrong thing on his chart--the "they" that don't work here, so we aren't that culpable for the situation..."


Of course, this isn't the first hospital in the area to be dumping their patients; apparently it's been going on for years! And these people are in the business of "caring for others"? WTF?!?!?!?

Of course, the irony is not lost on me that this was a Christian-affiliated hospital... I guess when you're so concerned with money and eternal souls, a man without legs seems almost blase...

Witnesses, all homeless people, began shouting, "Where is his wheelchair? Where is his walker?" Detective Russ Long said Friday. They told officers the driver responded that the man defecated in the van and had to be removed.

"If there is an explanation it just eludes me at this point," Long said.

"He was sliding along on his bottom using his hands. He had a hospital property bag in his mouth, in his teeth, and he was trailing a colostomy bag, which was malfunctioning."

Witnesses told police a van from Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center pulled up to a tiny park in the grimy area near downtown at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, a side door opened and a man, dressed in a green hospital gown and pants, began struggling to get out. The driver looked on.

"His pants fell around his ankles. He fell onto the curb with his legs dangling onto the street," Long said. "He reached down and grabbed his pants, pulled his legs onto the sidewalk. Witnesses said the van would have run over his legs if he hadn't have done that."

The 41-year-old man's name was not released, but he was wearing a bracelet from the hospital, Long said.
But, you know, this needs "investigated." The fact that the van, the hospital ID, and the bag the man had to clench between his teeth were all from the hospital leaves a lot of unanswered questions about where the man could have come from, right?

When we normally talk about the health-care crisis in this country, we focus on the insurance companies, the cost of prescriptions--you know, bureaucratic-type issues. What about real-time care and concern! Doctors take an oath, part of which states:

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
And the hospital itself has this as its mission statement on its web site:

Quality Care with Compassion and Respect.

CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center is a primary care community hospital serving the health care needs of all members of the population within its service area. HPMC strives to distinguish itself as a community health care provider, recognized for providing quality, innovative care in a compassionate manner.
So what happened? What went wrong? Why was a man who can't walk left on the sidewalk in the middle of the night on Skid Row?


The most recent study I could find on patient dumping was from 2001 (PDF format), and the statistics are scary:
  1. Violations were confirmed for 527 hospitals in 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin). These confirmed violations have not appeared in our previous reports.
  2. 72.5% of hospitals violating the Act were not-for-profit hospitals (382 hospitals out of 527). 19.7 % were for-profit hospitals (104 out of 527). The profit status of 41 hospitals (8%) was unknown.
  3. A patient’s insurance status influences hospital compliance with the Act. Some insurers, such as HMOs require pre-authorization for examination or treatment or deny reimbursement when an exam rules out the presence of an emergency condition. Hospitals often must choose between providing services without reimbursement or violating EMTALA.
We spend more money than any other country in the world on medicine and medical procedures--and we can't take care of one paraplegic...

How tragically, utterly sad...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

To the Morons Who Think a Cancer Vaccine Promotes Sex in Teens...

So there's this controversy going on in states all across the country. You've probably heard about it: the HPV vaccine, a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer in women caused by a virus that is transmitted sexually. In fact, 50% of all cases of cervical cancer are caused by this virus. And now there is a vaccine that will prevent 50% of cancer cases.

But there is this shouting--very annoying, ridiculous shouting, if one must be honest--from the right-wing, crying out, "This sends the message that premarital sex is okay!"

I guess they must have cried the same thing when the chicken pox vaccine came out, right? "This promotes the touching of other people! This promotes premarital sex!"

For people who are so against sex, they sure do think about it a lot, don't they?

Let me ask you: Whether or not your teen "plans" on having sex before marriage anyway, what's to say their spouse also stayed "virginal" before marriage? (Odds are not good; of course, odds are that even if you think your teen is still a virgin, they aren't...) So even if your child stay "clean" until marriage, they could still get the virus--and still get cancer, cancer you could have prevented. But you were to worried about your daughters cherry instead of the agonizing, painful cancer that you had the power to prevent. This is like saying mandatory seat-belt wearing encourages reckless driving (and if you have a study that says it does, I'd like to see it).

Should the vaccine be mandatory? I'm not sure--there should be plenty of studies on the dangers, adverse reactions, chances of actually getting the disease to be vaccinated against... There are a lot of considerations. I think parents should have the option of when to vaccinate their kids, but when does this become child endangerment? Much like those sects and cults of the population that believe in prayer but put no stock at all in medicine (like Jehovah's witnesses and blood transfusions), or believe that medicine has no value whatsoever, they are endangering their child! So where's the line to be drawn? I'm not sure...

Regardless, this is a vaccine against CANCER. The big C word. All of us have been affected by the big C, whether ourselves, a friend, a family member--no one's life is entirely free from it. And now there is hope against one of the many forms the big C takes... Let's see, which is the bigger concern...

You can teach your child abstinence until your blue in the face--there's no guarantee they'll stay that way. And if you don't teach your kid about safe sex, you're practically ensuring that they'll either come home pregnant or with a disease when they do have sex... And then where will you be? Are you telling me that not having sex is more important than preventing a disease that could end your child's life? So what if the virus is sexually transmitted--why do you have to tell your child that? Tell them it's a shot to prevent certain types of cancer to her lady-parts--end of discussion! You silly morons think everything revolves around sex, when this isn't about sex at all--it's about preventing cancer. Are you willing to look your child in the face 10 to 20 years down the road, and tell them why they now have cancer? Because you were to concerned about sex to worry about cancer? Really?

Stupid idiots. Fine, let your kids get cancer. Watch them go through surgery, chemo, perhaps death--and then think about how you might have prevented this death by getting your head out of your ass...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The "Special Rights" Fallacy of HR 254...

So the AFA, those wonderful fear-mongers who feel it is their duty to scare the dutiful, doleful masses who worship the sky god into action, have sent out an "Action Alert"--a more appropriate name would be a "Keep Ourselves Special" alert--in the hopes of getting said sheep to email their senators en mass. Here is the email they sent out:

House of Representatives set to vote on 'hate crimes' giving homosexuals special rights

Okay, I'm already pissed. But I'll try to hold the rest of my thoughts...

Contact Your Representative In Opposition to HR 254 Today!

Dear Jason,

The U.S. House of Representatives will soon vote on HR 254, which establishes "hate crime" legislation. HR 254 will create new special rights for homosexuals under the guise of enhancing law enforcement. It would make "sexual orientation" a protected class alongside race, religion and gender.

The only way this bill can be defeated is with a real grassroots uprising by those who care about the future of their children, families and marriages!
Excuse me? Suddenly making it illegal to commit a crime against someone because of their sexual orientation is a threat to marriage and children? Exactly how?

The intent of this law is to force the acceptance and approval of homosexuality on every American, regardless of their religious views. Here is a short summary of HR 254.
So, making sure people get punished for when they beat up someone of "race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability of any person" forces views on Americans? Perhaps, but that "view" is that you can't beat up someone, or deny someone something, simply because of who they are. What does this really boil down to? "Religion" (an alternative lifestyle if I've ever heard of one) can be a "protected class" but "sexual orientation" cannot? Are you kidding me?

For a more in-depth review of where we are headed, click here.
Unless you feel the desperate need for laughing at stupidity, you needn't click there.

Here is a partial list of what homosexual activists are trying to force on every American. While HR 254 will not, in and of itself, accomplish these goals, it will open the door to such regulations. Once the elephant gets its trunk under the tent, the way is open for the elephant to move inside and do whatever he wants.
Note the bold, italic phrase: the bill will not cause these things, but this is what they're afraid "will happen" if suddenly you aren't allowed to beat someone up for being, or perceiving they are, gay:

  1. Preaching that homosexuality is a sin from the pulpit will result in the preacher being charged with "hate speech."
  2. Churches will have their tax-exempt status revoked if they oppose homosexuality.
  3. Homosexual marriage will be legalized and recognized in all states.
  4. Polygamy will be legalized.
  5. Landlords will be forced to rent to homosexuals.
  6. Scouts, and all non-profit organizations, will be required to hire homosexuals as leaders.
  7. Biblical language used to define homosexuality will be considered "hate speech." City officials have already had a billboard removed in Long Island, NY, because it was classified as "hate speech." The billboard read: "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination." (Leviticus 20:13)
  8. Employees will not be allowed to say anything negative about homosexuality in their workplaces.
  9. Classes promoting the homosexual lifestyle will be included in school curricula beginning with the lower grades.
  10. Employers will be forced to hire homosexuals.
  11. Adoption by homosexuals will be legalized in every state.

Now, I could be a real ass here and say I see no issue with any of that happening, but then where are we? Fundies need to understand why these things are either
  1. Not a big deal, or
  2. won't happen anyway.
Let's start with the first issue: Preaching that homosexuality is a sin from the pulpit will result in the preacher being charged with "hate speech."
Not true, and if it were to happen, it would quickly get shot down for two Constitutional reasons, and a lot more reasons dealing in common sense; of course, I shouldn't assume anyone who takes these "Action Alerts" seriously has common sense. "Freedom of Speech" and "Freedom of Religion" both cover big-assed, hate-group leaders from preaching this all they want in their churches, synagogues, mosques, New York street corners--wherever. These two tenants of the Constitution won't be overturned simply because fundies can be punished for beating up a black dude, or a nerdy-looking guy, or a person in a wheelchair. All this bill does is says "You can be punished even more for beating someone up if your sole reason has been because they are _______" (black, Buddhist, disabled, female, gay) And unlike what the Fundies want to believe, it isn't rocket science to find out that, if no money was stolen, the reason they beat you up was because ______, especially if when they were committing this crime against you they said things like "filthy nigger" or "AIDs-ridden faggot" or even "god-loving baptist scum". These would all be hate crimes, and hence, punishment would flow accordingly. Disagreeing isn't hate speech. Fundies can preach all they want about how "immoral" it is, or how much they "hate the sin." But since they seem so convinced the sky is crumbling even as we speak, let's move on to the other fears of the fear-mongers.

Churches will have their tax-exempt status revoked if they oppose homosexuality.
Stupid much? Actually, their tax-exempt status should be revoked, but for entirely different reasons. When the churches of the south all opposed equality for black Americans, did they lose tax-exempt status then? No? Hmm, then I wonder what they're using as their basis of fear? I know, they want to keep their special rights of tax-exempt (among other things). Funny how the people with the special rights are accusing others of reaching for what the fundies already have--it couldn't be because they fear everyone being treated equally, is it?

Homosexual marriage will be legalized and recognized in all states.
And? Oh, that's right--they want to keep straight, god-fearing people special. My bad that I didn't get that at first. Cause I thought they said we, the homosexuals, were the ones asking to be special... when it turns out they just want to stay special. Sorry, dudes, but it's coming and there's nothing you can do to stop it. And I personally don't see how it affects any of them on an individual level. Perhaps they're scared to find the Rapture isn't coming after all? I mean, Massachusetts, Canada, the Netherlands--god didn't wipe them out when they "strayed" from the path of the "special," did he? Is he still recovering from smiting all the evil-doers with the tsunami? Or Hurricane Katrina? Some all-powerful sky god they got there...

Of course, perhaps we gays are just so powerful, there's nothing sky god can do? Are our Penile Death Rays that strong? It's amazing how what I do in my bedroom prevents them from having a successful marriage, isn't it? Either I'm so damn good in bed I rock everybody's world, or they are way too interested in what other people do in their bedrooms (which kind of makes me think most of the fundies are the pervs... I mean, really, who spends this much time thinking about what other people do in the privacy of their own bedrooms?)

Polygamy will be legalized.
While I personally wouldn't want to have more than one spouse, why do they care if someone else does? If they are all consenting adults--what's the big deal? Their King David did it--so did Solomon. In fact, most of their patriarchs practiced this! Oh, but then--wait... No, see, I don't see sky falling here either, but that could be because their special fat-asses are blocking everyone else from seeing equality...

Landlords will be forced to rent to homosexuals.
You mean, you can't force us to be homeless anymore!! Gasp! They are making gays special, aren't they? Dumb asses...

Scouts, and all non-profit organizations, will be required to hire homosexuals as leaders.
Did they learn nothing? Obviously not. If they want to discriminate, they can. They just can't use government money to do so. End of story. As long as they say "only special people can join," they get no money from the government. So if the scouts want to stay a special organization, they can. But just like now, they get no government money for being bigots, pure and simple. Get a clue, you brainless worms...

Biblical language used to define homosexuality will be considered "hate speech." City officials have already had a billboard removed in Long Island, NY, because it was classified as "hate speech." The billboard read: "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination." (Leviticus 20:13)
My first thought is, what was your billboard supposed to accomplish? Drive millions of homosexuals in Pastor Ted Haggards waiting arms? (Eww--nasty visual!!) To show the "compassion of Christ"? Also a no. So, really, it was just to piss people off, wouldn't you say? I think they know that's true, but god forbid they admit it--that would be like admitting sky god had pedophile sex with a 12 year old virgin to get his jollies off under the guise of "saving the world." You know, sky god's and Mary's "special secret."

Secondly, that's something the church that put up the billboard should fight in court--because it does infringe on their constitutional rights to sound like an ass in the name of religion. Don't bitch about it--send out an "Action Alert" or something! Oh, wait, they did--but they missed the point, as they so usually do. Go figure...

Employees will not be allowed to say anything negative about homosexuality in their workplaces.
Are you getting paid to say nasty things about homosexuals in the workplace? No? You must not work for a church, then. I don't say nasty things about Christians at work, even though I would sometimes like to... Why? It's not very professional, but it's also not why you're at work, stupid dillholes. Your paid to do a job, not make the work environment a place of hate-mongering. Would you want me to have the right to bash Christians or Muslims at work? I didn't think so.

Classes promoting the homosexual lifestyle will be included in school curricula beginning with the lower grades.
Umm, that's been included. It's called "sex education." Abstinence may be the only guarantee that you won't get any nasty diseases, but it also ensures that when most of the teens in the world do have sex, they'll get those nasty diseases you so wanted to prevent. You have a right to keep you kid home that day--get involved, find out what they're teaching when, and leave your children willfully ignorant so that when they do get a job in the real world, they can get fired for not doing their job and instead spent all day preaching against homosexuality in the workplace! It would make your sky god so proud, I'm sure! Much like when he berated the whore at the well, right?

Employers will be forced to hire homosexuals.
You mean, that's on the application you filled out? "Are you a homosexual"? Employers don't care!! At least, the ones who have a lick of common sense and only worry about how their business works. Of course, if spreading the word of the gospel means keeping homosexuals jobless and homeless, then I'd say they're on the right track. That's exactly what Jesus would do!

Adoption by homosexuals will be legalized in every state.
Oh dear! You mean children would have more homes available to receive the love and care that their natural parents couldn't afford to give them? That there would be more homes to cloth, feed, and care for these kids who are overwhelming that state and federal governments? That more kids would be taken off the state welfare system as they've been placed in homes that meat state standards? I mean, it's not like the fundies are taking in all the children, are they? In fact, they want to first prevent women from having control over how many children they have by restricting abortion and not teaching about alternatives to abstinence, then they don't want the government to help when they can't care for these children, but they only want adopt the white ones because they buy into racial stereotypes, and then they get upset when "un"special segments of the population try to do their part to make life a little better for the ones who've been left behind... Look at the stats--it's white fundamentalists that are against sex education. They're the ones who adopt mostly white children--they're the ones who are against government programs for the poor (most likely because welfare checks don't come with a tract preaching the love of Jesus as he fires his gay employees and kicks them out of their homes...) Middle-class Bible-loving America doesn't adopt children of color, children with disabilities, or children who are older as a general rule--go on, I double-dog dare you to find a study from a reputable source that doesn't back me up on this...

Study after study by reputable, independent organizations have shown that kids do just as well with parents of the same or differing gender as long as they have the love, care, and support they need. End of story. Sky still not falling.

But they know all this is true--they just still want to keep their special privileges just for them instead of treating everyone as they should be treated under the law. Just like Jesus would do, right?

But then they continue this idiotic email with the following:

Let me say again: HR 254 will not, in and of itself, accomplish everything the homosexual activist’s desire. But it is the first step is to position their cause where they can achieve all their goals.

If they are successful with HR 254, rest assured they will pursue their next goal and will not stop until they achieve all their goals.
The sad part is, they admit they're pandering, they admit they are simply trying to scare you into action, and people are still buying into it without thinking it through. It boggles my mind....

Sunday, February 18, 2007

God's Total Quality Management Questionnaire

God would like to thank you for your belief and patronage. In order to better serve your needs, He asks that you take a few moments to answer the following questions. Please keep in mind that your responses will be kept completely confidential, and that you need not disclose your name or address unless you prefer a direct response to comments or suggestions.

  1. How Did You Find Out About Your Deity?
    1. __ Newspaper
    2. __ Bible
    3. __ Torah
    4. __ Book of Mormon
    5. __ Divine Inspiration
    6. __ Dead Sea Scrolls
    7. __ Television
    8. __ Tabloid
    9. __ My Mama Told Me
    10. __ Burning Shrubbery
    11. __ Near Life Experience
    12. __ Near Death Experience
    13. __ National Public Radio
    14. __ Other (please specify):

  2. Which Model Deity Did You Acquire?
    1. __ Yahweh
    2. __ Jehovah
    3. __ Father, Son & Holy Ghost (Trinity Pak)
    4. __ Krishna
    5. __ Allah
    6. __ Zeus & entourage (Olympus Pak)
    7. __ Satan
    8. __ Gaia/Earth Mother
    9. __ Odin & entourage (Valhalla Pak)
    10. __ Jesus
    11. __ Mithra
    12. __ God 1.0a (Hairy Thunderer)
    13. __ None of the above, I was taken in by a false god

  3. Did Your God Come To You Undamaged, With All Parts In Good Working Order and With No Obvious Breakage or Missing Attributes?
    1. __ Yes
    2. __ No
    3. IF NO, please indicate the problems you initially encountered here. Check all that apply:
      __ Not eternal
      __ Finite/Does not occupy the entire cosmos
      __ Not omniscient
      __ Not omnipotent
      __ Not infinitely plastic (incapable of being all things to all creations)
      __ Permits sex outside of marriage
      __ Prohibits sex outside of marriage
      __ Makes mistakes (Geraldo Rivera, et al)
      __ Permits bad things to happen to good people
      __ Looks after life other than that on Earth (particularly that galaxy in Virgo full of Jews)
      __ When beseeched, doesn't stay besecheed
      __ Requires one or more of the following:
      1. __ burnt offerings
      2. __ virgin(s)
      3. __ sacrifices
      4. __ foreskins

  4. What Factors Were Relevant In Your Decision to Acquire a Deity? Please check all that apply.
    1. __ Indoctrinated by parents
    2. __ Needed a reason to live
    3. __ Indoctrinated by society
    4. __ Needed focus in whom to despise
    5. __ Imaginary friend grew up
    6. __ Wanted to know Jesus in the Biblical sense
    7. __ Hate to think for myself
    8. __ Wanted to meet girls/boys
    9. __ Fear of death
    10. __ Wanted to piss off parents
    11. __ Fear of life
    12. __ Needed a day away from work
    13. __ Desperate need for certainty
    14. __ Like organ music
    15. __ Need to feel Morally Superior
    16. __ Thought Jerry Falwell was cool
    17. __ Shit was falling out of the sky
    18. __ My shrubbery told me to do it
    19. __ Other: ___________

  5. Are You Currently Using Medication?
    1. __ Yes
    2. __ No

  6. Have You Ever Worshipped a Deity Before? If so, please check false god(s) you were fooled by.
    1. __ Mick Jagger
    2. __ Cthulhu
    3. __ The Almighty Dollar
    4. __ Bill Gates
    5. __ Left Wing Liberalism
    6. __ The Radical Right
    7. __ The Sun
    8. __ Baal
    9. __ Ra
    10. __ The Moon
    11. __ Beelzebub
    12. __ The Designated Hitter Rule
    13. __ The Great Spirit
    14. __ The Great Pumpkin
    15. __ Cindy Crawford
    16. __ A burning shrubbery
    17. __ Elvis
    18. __ Dennis Rodman
    19. __ Tinky Winky
    20. __ Other: _________________

  7. Are You Currently Using Any Other Source of Inspiration Besides God? Check all that apply.
    1. __ Tarot
    2. __ Astrology
    3. __ Lottery
    4. __ Television
    5. __ Fortune cookies
    6. __ Ann Landers
    7. __ Dianetics
    8. __ Palmistry
    9. __ Psychic Friends Network
    10. __ Self-help books
    11. __ Biorhythms
    12. __ Masturbation
    13. __ Alcohol
    14. __ Bill Clinton
    15. __ Hollywood
    16. __ Tea Leaves
    17. __ EST
    18. __ CompuServe
    19. __ Mantras
    20. __ Jimmy Swaggert
    21. __ Crystals
    22. __ Human Sacrifice
    23. __ Pyramids
    24. __ Wandering around the desert
    25. __ Insurance policies
    26. __ Burning shrubbery
    27. __ Tinky Winky
    28. __ Barney Fife
    29. __ Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll
    30. __ Miss Cleo
    31. __ Other: _________________

  8. God Employs a Limited Degree of Divine Intervention to Preserve a Balanced Level of Felt Presence and Blind Faith. Your Preference Is? Check all that apply.
    1. __ More Divine Intervention
    2. __ Current level of Divine Intervention is just right
    3. __ Less Divine Intervention
    4. __ Don't know... what's Divine Intervention?

  9. God Also Attempts to Maintain a Balanced Level of Disasters and Miracles...
    Please rate on a scale of 1-5 his handling of the following (1 unsatisfactory, 5 excellent).
      ___ Flood
      ___ Famine
      ___ Earthquakes
      ___ War
      ___ Pestilence
      ___ Plague
      ___ SPAM
      ___ AOL
      ___ Plague
    2. MIRACLES:
      ___ Rescues
      ___ Spontaneous remissions
      ___ Crying statues
      ___ Stars hovering over jerkwater towns
      ___ Water changing to wine
      ___ Water changing to ice
      ___ Walking on water
      ___ DVD players that set their own clocks
      ___ Saddam Hussein still alive
      ___ Getting any sex whatsoever

  10. Do You Have Any Additional Comments or Suggestions For Improving The Quality of God's Services? (Attach an additional sheet if necessary)
If you are able to complete the questionnaire and return it to one of our conveniently located drop-off boxes at least 30 days before the Rapture, you will be entered in the One Free Miracle of Your Choice drawing (chances of winning are approximately one in 6.023 x 10 to the 23rd power, depending on number of beings entered).

Adapted from "God Wants to Know," © 1993 B.C. Brown

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Night in the Life Of...

I heard a noise. A strange, high-pitched keening noise, like "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE" but at a very low tone and much less assuming of itself than other such noises. Like it lacked self-confidence in its ability to annoy at a louder volume. I wrestle my eyes open, and the giant neon-green numbers on the alarm displayed the time to be approximately 3:34, give or take a few seconds.

I closed my eyes. After all, the noise wasn't that loud, just... annoying.

No such luck--I thought. Frustrated, I open my eyes again, and this time it was 4:16, give or take. Almost an hour I had slept, but now it seemed to have gained a little umph, grew some balls. So I did what any normal person does--if I'm awake, so is the other person in my bed. I elbow him. And just like the many scenarios played out in every single show that has ever been on television, the conversation started out like this:

Me: Rich... Rich!
Rich: (snort... snort... cough... rolls back over and begins snoring again)
Me: (pushing him with the hand not holding me up) Rich! Are you awake? (Duh!)
Rich: Hmm...? Huh?
Me: You hear that?
Rich: I hear you...
Me: Fine, be a smart ass. Something bad is happening...
Rich: (instantly awake, whispering urgently) What? What's going on? Is there someone in the house?
Me: Not unless they sound like a tea kettle with laryngitis...
Rich: What?
Me: You don't hear that?
After giving me a sardonic look, he yanks the blankets back over his head (how does he sleep like that??) and rolls back over.

I step out of bed. How anyone can sleep through such a quiet racket is beyond me. I follow the sound down the hall in a darkness that can only be described as palpable. I pause. I step out into the dining room, putting the living room to my left, kitchen to my right--which direction is that horrible mating-call of the damned coming from? Hawthorne lifts his head from the couch in the living room and looks at me as if to say, "Are you nuts? I don't have a clock and I know its not time to poop yet!"

The kitchen, definitely. I reach around the edge of the door and flip the light... but no light drenches the area.

This is how horror movies start, right? To be sure, I poke my head around to make sure that what I flipped was indeed a switch and not the antenna of a large monster waiting to gobble me up, with thousands of gleaming, sharp teeth meant to spray blood on the walls while getting to the succulent marrow of my bones--yes, definitely, this is how horror movies start...

I grab the switch tightly between my thumb and forefinger and perform a rapid-fire flipping motion, as if performing the infamous "Grip-and-Flip" motion on the plastic tab will cause the electric current to make the leap from wire to wire and bathe me in fluorescent beauty.


Where did I put that flashlight? I wonder. I step back and bang my foot against the edge of the coal stove hearth.

"Ouch!!" I whisper-shout, more out of surprise than real pain, but I hear Wonderdog leap from his place on the couch and rush to my side, tail wagging uncertainly. "Go find the flashlight, Hawthorne. Go, flashlight!"

His tail wags more fiercely, convinced we are now playing a game. I didn't expect this to work, but in horror movies you never know, do you? I jump slightly when the fire bush bangs against the kitchen window. Apparently the "Siberian Front" still grips the outside world much like I was gripping the light switch just moments ago...

I reach my hands out, turn around, wary of the coal stove making more sudden leaps into my path, and feel my way back to the computer desk in the dining room. I reach for the wall-mounted lamp and press the switch, and a yellow-green glow surrounds the vicinity. Hawthorne, now bored with our game, clicks back to the bedroom, most likely to keep my place on the bed warm as I hunt the Tea Kettle Demon of West Bowmans. Some best friend he is turning out to be.

Within the sickly glow from the old fixture, I pear into the edges where the blackness has made its home. I wonder briefly if the many dead souls of the mice who have died there have come for revenge. I picture them in a picket strike circle on the top of the dishwasher, holding signs like "We're Cheesed!" and "Mice Are People Too!," the lead mouse, a large matronly-looking thing, cheering them on in chants with her mousy-megaphone, creating the keening noise that keeps sleep from coming to my life.

I open and close the drawers of the computer desk, convinced that somewhere in this disaster of an organized drawer there must be a battery-operated light saber, or at least a flashlight of sorts. I find a small key-chain-sized light that reads "Cabela's." Mom's stocking-stuffers to the rescue--who knew the Gay Boys would actually use a gift from a sports warehouse? The ironies of life...

It's beam is tiny but strong. I walk toward the kitchen and shine the light directly on the dishwasher top--no mouse picket. So it is the Tea Kettle Demon of West Bowmans! I wonder if the phone will ring, and a creepy voice will say something to the effect of "It's four-thirty--do you know where your kettle is? BWAHAHAHA!!!"

I creep slowly onto the linoleum, conscious of how many weeks have passed since it was blessed by some soapy water. But I stop suddenly--my slipper-sock is damp--wet--cold. I think, Aha! The Tea Kettle Demon's slime trail! I shine the fragile beam on the floor, seeing the glossy reflection of water. I allow the tendril of light to follow the trail up to the dishwasher, up the side...

Ignoring the icky feeling of my slipper sock, I wander further into the black to where the dishwasher sits in front of the sink. The faucet is still on, with the dishwasher hose leading from it to the insides of the dish-cleaning beast. As I reach for the faucet--

Light! Everywhere! The aliens! They've come back to finish the anal probe!! No--it's the fluorescent. The switch which I had left in the "on" position finally decided to cross the dead-mouse picket line and earn its keep. I pause and let my eyes adjust to this new and wonderful brilliance. I cursory glance reveals no tea kettle monster, but it does reveal a steady, tiny stream of water bursting out from between the faucet and the hose to the appliance. I reach out again and this time manage to turn off the water without a sudden burst of anything untoward.

And just like that, the noise stopped. Silence. I sigh with relief. I unhook the dishwasher and roll it back over beside the frig, walking through the mini-river, creating an ickier feeling between the toes. I exit, plunging the kitchen back into darkness as I flick the switch off.

As I kick the dog off the bed and crawl back under the blankets, Rich peaks his head out from under the covers.

Rich: Well?
Me: Well what?
Rich: What was it?
Me: The Man-Eating Tea Kettle Demon of West Bowmans, of course.
I catch him rolling his eyes just before they disappear back under his lids, which in turn disappear beneath the blankets.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

If You Don't Believe in Flying Pigs, You Have Formed a Religion...

Why Atheism Is Not A Religion...

My mom brought up an interesting misconception about atheism in today's day and age. She said, but is this atheism a religion? the way you preach it i would consider you a fundie in atheism. :) i feel you are trying to say a little bit to hard there is no God.

Which, of course, is one of the greatest misunderstandings of all time. So to set this right, I will delineate what a religion is, what it isn't, and the clear, defining differences in life.
Fist off, I think it needs to be said that I think a portion of the misunderstanding lies in the fact that people who hold faith as such a prominent part of their own lives have a hard time comprehending how people could not have this type of faith not even on the edges of their radar. Much like a blind person has a hard time understanding what color" is, let alone the color blue, a religious person has a hard time imagining a life free from religious belief and dogma.

Another contributing factor may be a statement of great semantic difference: In that, atheists don't "believe" God does not exist. Most atheists simply do not believe God does exist. (and if you think this isn't a key difference, think of all the differing Christian denominations splintered across the U.S. alone due to how they define one simple idea!) We don't believe god doesn't exist--we have no belief in a god! One is positively believing that a thing does not exist (do believe god doesn't exist) and one is simply lacking belief in it's existence. (not believing in the existence) Do you see the distinction? You may not care, but it makes all the difference in the world. If someone asked you if you believe in flying pigs, would you say "I believe there are no flying pigs," or would you say "I don't believe in flying pigs"? Lack of belief and Active belief are two very different creatures.
That said, on to tackling the more applicable aspects of the differing ideologies: Religion (the positive belief in something) and Atheism (the lack of belief in something).

Belief in god(s), Faith:
The most basic thing about religion is the belief in a god(s). Almost no religion on earth lacks this very profound distinction! In fact, not only do they believe in these god(s) of theirs, most of them were founded specifically for certain deities that apparently other religions weren't paying attention to. Since an atheist has no belief in a god, this fact alone should set it apart from a "religious belief."

Religion necessitates the existence of faith; this does not mean that the existence of faith (in whatever form) necessitates the existence of religion. I have "faith" in Rich's love for me--is that a religion? Of course not. I have "faith" in the value of logic--is that a religion? Of course not, that'd be silly. The connection between religion and faith only goes in one direction, not both.

Moreover, fundie's love to equivocate upon the term "faith." Faith has multiple meanings--not all of which are the same. The kind to which I refer in regards to Rich or logic and which one might consider common among atheists is that of a confidence based upon past experience. Moreover, that faith is not limitless--it only goes as far as the evidence warrants. In religion, however, faith means a great deal more--it is essentially a belief without or in spite of evidence.

But I know some of you need the differences spelled out a little better, so let's move on, shall we?

Supernatural Origins of the Moral Code:
Almost every religion the world over claims that morality began with their deity. In fact, one may be right to wonder how anyone from another part of the world managed to survive to adulthood if their deity wasn't presently known there!! If morality were truly a divinely inspired gift to the mere mortal, one would expect an atheist to be a "bad person," or, at the very least, a "not good person." This may be one of the scariest facts for most religious persons to consider. The fact that a person can be a decent, contributing member of society, to share care and love for another individual outside of the religious (thus, proving no gods need apply for a moral person to exist) only shows that much of morality is a function of societal upbringing, societal traditions, norms, and taboos. Most atheists don't preach any sort of "moral code," as most tend to know right from wrong based on their own experiences and upbringing. If morality indeed came from a god, any person who strayed from that god should become a feral creature, murderous, bestial, uncontrollable. But as many of you personally know atheists (whether you realize it or not, as we don't all walk around with the "mark of the beast" on our foreheads), it is scary for a fundamentalist to know that some people don't need fear of eternal punishment, or the bribery of eternal life, to be decent to our fellow human beings--we have self control, compassion, empathy, logic, rational thought, and an ability to see that when freedom is restricted due to a "moral code," it isn't moral at all...

Religious "Feelings":
One of the most purportedly "intangible proofs" of the divine comes from "feelings" such as "awe," "adoration," "love," "guilt," and "mystery." In fact, most institutions of religions and cults openly encourage such feelings, mainly when it comes to rituals such as prayer, worship, singing, or any other tradition or ritual deemed "sacred or "holy." Of course, being human and being capable of emotions and feelings, this type of "awe" and "wonder" happens to everyone at different places and times in all of our lives, whether we attribute them to a divine or not. There is no such thing as a "religious feeling" as opposed to a "secular feeling." Since feelings cannot be measured or quantified, to say one knows "love that knows no bounds" while another "has no idea the feeling" they are having when "inspired" by what must be the "supernatural," one is simply engaging in idiocy, for no one can ever know what another feels or doesn't feel. And although people can force and manipulate feelings to an extent, both in themselves and others, who's to say what's "divine" and what's simply mind control? Of course, atheism in and of itself neither encourages nor poo-poos another's feelings, but may question the logic or rational behind such.

Sacred Physical Elements:
Distinguishing among what is "worldly" and what is "spiritual" among the world is also a key tenant of religious doctrine. This could be considered Jerusalem, where a weeping statue is located, where Jesus may have healed Peter's ear--places that hold a "special meaning" for an otherworldly event--something to help the mortal transcend this plane and onto another, more spiritual plane where one could be closer to their god. Atheists hold no such place on earth as "sacred," "profane," or otherwise spiritual. While an atheist may hold a personal place as "sacred" for them, it in no way is meant as a place from which to gain guidance, wishes, prayers, thanksgiving, or otherwise communicate with a deity; it is simply theirs to cherish for whatever it may mean to them in a personal way...

Sacred Rituals and Traditions:
When people hold something to be sacred (say, communion), there are certain rituals, certain prayers, and certain requirements that must be met or done. Atheism has no "golden calf," as it were, or "must believe" or "must do" ritual or requirement. In fact, if anyone could locate the Big Book of Atheist Rituals, be sure to let me know. Lacking a structure for practices, beliefs, dogmas, or prayers, it would be hard pressed for the religious individual to find anything remotely associated with religion in an atheist's world view...

Communication, whether from worshipper to divine, or the divine to worshipper, is another key tenant of faith and religion for which there is no suitable substitute in atheism. Atheists don't try to communicate with a divine, don't actively seek out ways of speaking with such, and certainly don't go around telling others which divine said what, when, and why. While an atheist may take part in rituals (such as yoga) for purely aesthetic reasons (yoga as part of an exercise regimen), they attribute none of the divine elements traditionally held with such practices...

One’s Life Based on a Religious Worldview:
Religion could never be characterized as a random and isolated conglomeration of unrelated rituals and belief. Religion constructs an entire lens through which the world at large must be seen through, and life must be adjusted, controlled, and held to this lens through which the world is viewed, whether it be in daily ritual (a call to prayer at meal times), weekly (Sunday services), or in certain holidays or even extracurricular hobbies (such as seeing certain types of shows or movies). Certain things must be done (such as a confession or baptism), certain things must be shunned (drinking or extramarital sex), and certain standards of living must be met and built upon. Ideology and the outward practice of such is central to any religious organization and its members. An atheist, on the other hand, indeed atheism in general, holds no set of standards, no prerequisites, no rituals or prayers or meeting places for which one must subscribe to be an atheist. And while an individual atheist may take part in differing types of groups which hold to a certain ideology (like an atheist who is also a member of the Green party), it is usually not pertaining to, or a part of, their unbelief in a deity.

Socializing in Regards to the Above:
Most religions depend upon social gatherings, or social networks, through which their rituals, traditions, and practices are a central factor. While a few may encourage nonsocialization (such as a monastery or hermitage of some kind), most rely on their social networks for the forwarding of their ideology, the strengthening of such, and the continuation of their traditions and beliefs. Atheists have no such organization in which certain traditions are done, certain weekly practices are performed... Atheists, as stated above, may be a part of a group with an ideology, but it is usually in no way affiliated with their unbelief as a factor, as opposed to a religion in which their belief and practice is the unifying factor. And even when an atheist is bound together to others of like mindedness in unbelief, none of the other qualifying factors in a religious scenario play a part, such as rituals, sacred places, prayers, or traditions.

Atheism & Religion:
While each individual church, synagogue, mosque, and other religious body places a differing amount of importance on each of the above, they all have them in common, and none of the above factors and beliefs alone a religion makes--it is the unique combination of all of these factors, or at least most of them, that a cult and a religion make (depending on how well you've marketed your beliefs). If atheism even had two or three of the factors above, one may be led to the conclusion that it is "religiously minded," or at least an metaphorical one, but as atheism neither subscribes to, practices any, or encourages any type of active belief in anything divine or supernatural, it is not a religion in any form.

The fact of the matter if that atheism hold none of the characteristics of a religion as important, or even a blip on the radar. Atheism itself could play a part in a certain type of religion, depending on how it was incorporated into a belief or ideology that held most or all of the above criterion, but atheism in and of itself is not a religion, or even remotely religious in its world view. Atheism and religion are two very distinct and separate categories: atheism is the absence of one particular belief while religion is a complex web of traditions and beliefs.

So why do people always say things like "Atheism's just another religion," or "Atheism's just another form of faith"? Of course, most times these types of things are said, it is while arguing against an atheist. In this country where the idea of religion an the bible itself are more worshipped than any deity, it may be an attempt to somehow get the government to stop "promoting secularism," or stop "promoting atheism" when Christianity itself is limited in various aspects of public life. In fact, getting persons of faith to simply believe that atheism itself is a religion of sorts could give them the ammo needed to stop the government from "promoting an establishment of religion," or some other such nonsense. I mean, if atheism is viewed as a "faith," then we can all be called hypocrites and ignored while prayer is once again led by every public school teacher and then ten commandments become the basis for our laws.

Since the claim that atheism is a religion is based upon a misunderstanding of many concepts, the discussion always proceeds from false premises. This isn't just an issue for the atheist--it's an issue for the plurality of religious organizations within our borders. As stated earlier, when our country holds the idea of religion more strongly than the deities themselves, and secularism is then turned on it's head into "just another religion," separation of church and state take on a whole new meaning. The history of religious violence is skewed to give "mainstream" religion a better light as the "religious atheists" are blamed--indeed, many a religious war has been misconstrued as "not really religious because they weren't real Christians acting that way and thus the atheists have thrust upon them the sins of the faithful. If religion can now be defined as anything that vaguely represents an idea held by even the most remote portion of the population, despite a lack of practices, rituals, traditions, and the sacred, religion is at the edge of a very dangerous precipice...

Of course, it goes without saying that if my atheism is a "religion" to your deity, than your "atheism" about Mohammad is also a religion. If my not believing in your god constitutes faith and belief inasmuch as it seems religious to you, then by your very own standards of defining what is religious means if you profess an unbelief in Mohammad as a prophet, that is a religious belief on your part. Do you see the issue? Not having belief is no where even in the same ballpark as having a belief in something. Do you think an unbelief in the tooth fairy, or an unbelief in flying pigs as the basis for your life philosophy? No? Neither does an unbelief in sky god...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Reality of Atheism...

Twice now in the past week, I've read where two different fundies claimed that "Atheists don't truly exist." One of these was made by Roy, who simply left a link on my Proof of Faith post, and the other was by a person named Bethanne over on Memoirs of an Ex-Christian. Since Bethanne's argument was just so.... silly is the only word that really comes to mind, we're going to take on Ray's article (the last of the three at this link) to show why their straw man arguments are not only purely ... again, silly, but one more way in which the fundamentalist tries to change reality to fit some preconceived notion without a basis in reality.
Ray's article doesn't even pretend to argue from a rational point of view in the opening text of his article entitled "Why the Atheist Doesn't Exist." He states:

There can be no such things as an atheist. This is why: Let's imagine that you are a professing atheist. Here are two questions for you to answer: First, do you know the combined weight of all the sand on all the beaches of Hawaii? We can safely assume that you don't. This brings us to the second question: Do you know how many hairs are on the back of a fully-grown male Tibetan yak? Probably not. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that there are some things that you don't know. It is important to ask these questions because there are some people who think they know everything.
Fundie say what? So, because one doesn't have two random facts of knowledge about sand and yak male-pattern baldness, Ray assumes that a person couldn't possibly question the existence of a god! Since knowing sand weight and yak hair totals in no way relates to philosophy in any way, one could also ask the same of any professing theist and claim that, since they don't now the answers to these questions, there's no way they could have a knowledge about a god at all! No one I know claims to know everything--whether atheist or otherwise. In fact, if anyone would like to claim the title of know-it-all, please contact Ray so he can make an argument about why you don't! What's really--really--silly is that Ray seems to think he's made some kind of point about knowledge when all he did was admit that people don't know everything (this is where we say "Thank you Captain Obvious!") It is not an argument for or against atheism, it is an argument against people who claim to have all the answers. And as far as I know, the only people who claim they have The Answers have been Deep Thought and right-wing nuts who claim you need Jesus (which is also not an answer...)

Ray continues on his "you don't know everything" tirade against "atheism" with some more straw:

Let's say that you know an incredible one percent of all the knowledge in the universe. To know 100 percent, you would have to know everything. There wouldn't be a rock in the universe that you would not be intimately familiar with, or a grain of sand that you would not be aware of. You would know everything that has happened in history, from that which is common knowledge to the minor details of the secret love life of Napoleon's great-grandmother's black cat's fleas. You would know every hair of every head, and every thought of every heart. All history would be laid out before you, because you would be omniscient (all-knowing).
Wait, was that...? Yes, it was. A scarecrow going naked fast!

Bear in mind that one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, Thomas Edison, said, "We do not know a millionth of one percent about anything." Let me repeat: Let's say that you have an incredible one percent of all the knowledge in the universe. Would it be possible, in the ninety-nine percent of the knowledge that you haven't yet come across, that there might be ample evidence to prove the existence of God? If you are reasonable, you will be forced to admit that it is possible. Somewhere, in the knowledge you haven't yet discovered, there could be enough evidence to prove that God does exist.
So where is this proof? Of course, with proof, there's no need for faith, and without faith, god would die, wouldn't he. But besides that "point" Ray tried to make, he still hasn't explained why yak's male-pattern baldness is somehow related to knowing whether or not god exists. He simply restates that a person doesn't know everything (again stating something quite obvious) and then tries to throw some weight behind his obvious statement of fact by quoting Thomas Edison--like we should be impressed somehow that he can use a search engine. Of course, somehow stating that because we don't know everything there may be proof of god also isn't an argument--it simply points out a possibility that god may exist, which any atheist, knowing they don't know all, would readily admit to the possibility of such without putting any stock in the probability.

But then Ray actually starts to make an argument:

Let's look at the same thought from another angle. If I were to make an absolute statement such as, "There is no gold in China," what is needed for that statement to be proven true? I need absolute or total knowledge. I need to have information that there is no gold in any rock, in any river, in the ground, in any store, in any ring, or in any mouth (gold filling) in China. If there is one speck of gold in China, then my statement is false and I have no basis for it. I need absolute knowledge before I can make an absolute statement of that nature. Conversely, for me to say, "There is gold in China," I don't need to have all knowledge. I just need to have seen a speck of gold in the country, and the statement is then true.
Listen, I didn't say it was a grand and awe-inspiring argument, I just said he starts to make one... Let's stay with him and see where he's going, shall we?

To say categorically, "There is no God," is to make an absolute statement. For the statement to be true, I must know for certain that there is no God in the entire universe. No human being has all knowledge. Therefore, none of us is able to truthfully make this assertion.
So, where is this "speck of gold" that allows you to unilaterally claim that there is indeed a god? What's that? You have "faith"? Well, that's not a speck of gold. In fact, since you just stated the obvious as no one knows everything, and that you need to have seen a speck of gold to claim that he does exist, where is the "speck of gold" that landed you squarely in the "god does exist" column? What is the observed, mensurable proof that you are in possession of to say that there is a god? Because without that observed "speck of gold," you're claiming to have knowledge where none exists. Perhaps your title should have been called "Why We Can Never Be Sure that God Exists." But then Ray continues to dig his hole deeper:

If you insist upon disbelief in God, what you must say is, "Having the limited knowledge I have at present, I believe that there is no God." Owing to a lack of knowledge on your part, you don't know if God exists. So, in the strict sense of the word, you cannot be an atheist. The only true qualifier for the title is the One who has absolute knowledge, and why on earth would God want to deny His own existence?

The professing atheist is what is commonly known as an "agnostic" - one who claims he "doesn't know" if God exists. It is interesting to note that the Latin equivalent for the Greek word is "ignoramus." The Bible tells us that this ignorance is "willful" (Psalm 10:4). It's not that a person can't find God, but that he won't. It has been rightly said that the "atheist" can't find God for the same reason a thief can't find a policeman. He knows that if he admits that there is a God, he is admitting that he is ultimately responsible to Him. This is not a pleasant thought for some.
Yes, knowing what I know, I believe there is no god. Just as knowing what you know--without a speck of "god gold" to be found in the universe--you believe there is a god. I am open to the possibility of pigs flying, but realize the probability of such will never happen--does that qualify me as an avid hog-nostic?

But do you notice what happened in there? Suddenly there's a god who knows all--where did he come from? What "nugget of gold" did Roy throw in there so we would know there is a god--and then, to know that god knows all?

Not only does he have no basis for his unilateral belief--no speck of gold in China, as it were--it has no bearing being in this context. What Ray is trying to say that atheists are really just agnostics. The difference, dear reader, is in what they profess to believe: Agnostics believe there is a deity, but believe there's no way of knowing or interacting with this deity, and while he may not exist, aren't willing to commit one way or the other. Atheists think there's no deity at all--but if you provide some type of evidence, some "nugget of gold," perhaps, we'll hear you out and see what this gold actually represents, if anything. I dare say, an Agnostic would also like to see your nugget to see if the deity that the Agnostic thinks must be there is an interactive deity. Until then, we're back where we started: With no gold.

But then he throws in the "Latin" of the "Greek" word for agnostic is ignoramus: But the bible verse he posts isn't about "not knowing"; it's about not seeking out god, which is totally different. If I don't seek out leprechauns, does that make me ignoramus? No, only prudent. Also, Psalm was in Hebrew--not Greek, so I have no idea which Greek word he's referring to. Perhaps he had his English bible re-translated from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to English? And despite all that, the verse still isn't about agnostics--it's about people who aren't "seeking" god, not not believing in god, or questioning his existence--or even demanding a proof that he may exist!! In fact, it seems to me to be pointed squarely at pastors (or other religious leaders) who profess a belief in YHWH but don't seek knowledge about him!! In which case, the only people who are ignoramus's are the ones who believe YHWH exists, but don't bother with him! It's amazing how many rational arguments can be made against Ray's silly one, but he kept on writing, so we will keep on as well:

It is said that Mussolini (the Italian dictator), once stood on a pinnacle and cried, "God, if you are there, strike me dead!" When God didn't immediately bow to his dictates, Mussolini then concluded that there was no God. However, his prayer was answered some time later.
And then Ray tries to point out that everyone dies as a gold nugget--I think none of you need me to point out how stupid this is, right?

So what do we have left here? We have
  1. No one knows everything
  2. Everyone dies
What seems to be missing is a point about atheists not existing--I mean, that was the title of the argument, wasn't it? It may sadden Roy to know that, until he finds a nugget, a speck, hell, even a dust particle of gold pertaining to the divine, he has about as much reason to believe in god as we have to believe in talking unicorns. Is it possible they exist? Yes. Is it probable? No.

That is, unless Ray has a photo he'd like to share with the class? No? Hmm... Well, when you get that speck of gold which would lead you to believe there is a god, let us know. Cause without it, you're in the same boat as the rest of us... Well, except, you have your imaginary friend...

Unless you're willing to admit that you are just an agnostic with a belief-in-god complex--using your logic, Ray, you don't have a leg to stand on--or a nugget of gold to cash in on...

The onus is on you, Ray, to show us that nugget.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Thoughts of 2007

I get so many forwards I either fundamentally disagree with or just think are plain stupid, that it's a real treat--I say a real treat to get one that made me laugh. Granted, it may not make you laugh, but that's your problem. Here's the forward...

#10 Life is sexually transmitted.

#9 Good health is merely the slowest rate at which one can die

#8 Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny. If you see him without an erection, make him a sandwich.

#7 Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to use the internet and they won't bother you for weeks.

#6 Some people are like a slinky... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs. (my favorite!!!!!)

#5 Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital dying of nothing

#4 All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

#3 Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars, and a substantial tax cut saves you thirty cents???

#2 In the 60's, people took LSD to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.


We know exactly where one cow with mad-cow-disease is located among the millions and millions of cows in America, but we haven't a clue as to where thousands of Illegal immigrants and Terrorists are located.

Maybe we should put the Department of Agriculture in charge of immigration. (Hooray for Dept. of Ag!!)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

It's Everywhere...

Creeping through the molding of every window. Whisking through the cracks around the doors. Wafting down from the attic...

It's a "Siberian Front." I'm assuming they got tired of calling every single cold front an "Arctic Front," must have lost it's mass appeal to the sheep of the weather channel...

I'm so fuckin' sick of winter. I hate winter. Who in the world ever decided that people should inhabit places on earth that get this cold? It was 2 degrees last night... TWO FUCKIN' DEGREES!!!! I'd probably be warmer in freakin' Alaska right now!! The jolly frickin' dweeb on the local news station said with abominable joy, "And with the windchill, it feels like -15!!" Shut the hell up, you smiling son-of-a-bitch. The coal stove is roaring, we have wood burning in the fireplace, and the house refuses to get above 60 degrees. I have blankets over every window, stuffed under every door.

Just 20 short days ago, it was in the 60s. "El Nino" had set up shop in the Pacific and for weeks, we had mild, gorgeous temperatures that made me worry my spring bloomers would die when the frost finally came...

But then the frost came... He brought a few friends, apparently Russian, in some sort of snowflake exchange program...

I so need to move to Hawaii. Or the Caribbean somewhere. We (Rich & I, our friends) have discussed buying a communal house in Arizona or New Mexico, land of the hot, even though the current map shows it is also in light blues and purples...

Perhaps Ecuador? Brazil?

I am so looking forward to spring. I stare at my flower catalogs, the bright colors, the dandy colors waving in the nonexistent breeze in their two-dimensional universe. Daffodils, tulips, sunflowers, roses... I imagine what I will order and where I will plant them. Which colors and textures would compliment each other so well, how through the seasons a new flower would grow up to replace one once it is past its blooming season...

And then the wind whips by. The attic doors shudder. The giant behemoth of a fire bush bangs against the kitchen window. The blankets around the windows flutter, and I am reminded of the miserable "Siberian Front" that has invaded my temperate zone...

I want to blame the communists, but that's so 1980s (much like Bush's current propaganda shtick to convince us we're somehow winning a "war on terror"...), I want to blame Canada if only because of the catchy South Park song... I want to blame the rain, and remember when we all thought Milli Vanilli were all that and a bag...

Fuckin' winter...

At least I'll appreciate spring all the more...

Sunday, February 4, 2007

A "Proof" of Faith?

This post is an outgrowth of these prior posts:
  1. Feb. 27, 2006: Imagination Vs. Reality
  2. Apr. 8, 2006: Once Upon a Time
  3. Aug. 30, 2006: This I Believe...
  4. Sept. 6, 2006: And Knowing is Half the Battle

Did you know that in at least four states, as an atheist, it is illegal to run for political office? It's quite true, actually, although I doubt these laws are enforced actively. It's hard to see how an atheist could run for a political office and win in a country that seems so "pro" sky god. But recently, atheism has "come out of the closet," so to speak, in that, since the great and mule-headed Shrubya came into office, and even more so since the 9/11 attacks, it seems that more people are comfortable with being known and described as a "nonbeliever" in light of the fact that Muslims are considered a greater threat to mainstream and conservative Christianity. I dare say, a lot more Christians today are more comfortable with the "gay neighbors" or the "atheist neighbors" than any Muslims who might be moving into or currently living in any neighborhood, wouldn't you agree?

But while atheism is on the rise and making it's way into the mainstream of the United States (although for how long or how strong a movement it becomes remains to be seen), there are many misconceptions about what an atheist is, as in, most people in the United States define an atheist simply as one who does not believe god exists. And while there may very well be people who simply stop there and say, "Yes, I'm an atheist," most atheists are atheists for one very simple and important fact: there is no incontrovertible, scientific proof that such a being as a god exists. Atheism is based on the kind of faith that says, "Well, every morning I've put my key in the ignition and my car has started; therefore it is rational to believe that any time the proper key is inserted into the proper ignition, it will cause a car to start." Of course, there are times when the car does not start, but an atheist would then entertain other such rational notions, such as "The battery might be dead"; or "I may be out of gas." Both are logical, rational conclusions, also taken on faith from past experience whether of their own or another individuals, of what may cause a key to not start a car.

Faith as practiced in religious circles is quite a different matter; in fact, much of the "proof" of their expressions of faith comes from either hindsight, emotional feelings, or tradition. And while many people of faith can use rational reasoning when it comes to their cars and why they may or may not start, something seems to happen to the laws of logic and reason when it enters into what can be categorized as a "super natural" or "unexplainable" realm. The question is: Why can one reasonably deduce, using standard scientific methods, why their car won't start, but not deduce a logical rational explanation for, say, a sudden recovery from illness?

Allow me some time to explain: Aunt Claire get sick--really sick. Loved ones begin to pray for healing, speedy recovery, wisdom for the doctors, or any of another host of acceptable religious methods for dealing and coping with the terrible illness of a loved one. If Aunt Clarie recovers, a sudden and immediate send-up of praise for miraculous intervention ensues; if Aunt Claire dies, the religious console themselves with axioms such as "It was god's will" or "God called her home," or a hundred other "comfort" quotes. One wonders (okay, I wonder) why they don't simply say to themselves (if Aunt Claire recovers) "The doctor knew what he/she was doing and used his expertise and knowledge to heal Aunt Claire." Or, if Aunt Claire were to perish, simply say "The disease must have been too strong for her body to handle, even though the doctors probably did their best." Why is this supernatural intervention, or even supernatural non-intervention, considered as an important factor?

Of course, some Christians, when their car won't start, stop and pray, and then try the ignition again. Some atheists stop, take a deep breath, and then try the key again; in both instances, the car has an equal chance of either actually starting this time, or not starting this time (depending on what the issue could be that would prevent your key from doing what it was designed to do). Even if the Christian didn't send up a prayer, or the atheist did suddenly find him/herself doing a "prayer" of some type (quite atypical for both), the car still has that 50/50 chance of either starting or not: the outcome is in no way changed by the actions not involved in inserting or turning the key. In fact, the outcome may not even change with actions involving the inserting and turning of the key, but again it is not due to the prayer or non-prayer--there is a reasonable, mechanical explanation as to why the car won't start. It may be a pain in the ass and not what either person was expecting to happen, as most of the time faith in the key has proven to be very reliable; but rational deduction of the issue tells people that the fault doesn't lie with the key, the faith of the key-turner, or whether god is or isn't deciding to intervene in your monotonous pre-work activities--the fault lies somewhere outside of these factors somewhere within the inner working of the automobile.

But when Aunt Claire lives or dies, while some credit will be attributed to the human individuals involved and the actions taken to save Aunt Claire from death, most people of faith will look to the sky and say a prayer of thanks or a prayer of sorrow--even though, if one were to look at the "sick" car, no one could reasonably say that a deity intervened in either a good or bad way.

Faith is usually defined as "belief without proof." As in, you don't need "proof" of god because the divine allows certain people to "feel" the proof, or "experience" something which encourages or backs up a previously held notion, in this case, a divine. But faith can also be defined as the confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing, such as with the key and the car example. One relies on either "truth" and "trustworthiness" (the key/car), or they rely on "feeling" or "emotion" in which one "just knows" because of the divine. After all, proof is the antithesis of faith. We never have proof that our key will start the car in the morning, only a reasonable deduction based on the trust built between one and their vehicle. Just as people of faith never have proof of their god, only a reasonable expectation that what they feel should be true and "will" be true--without the benefit of a key.

All arguments for sky god are philosophical in nature. In that, at no point in time has god ever consistently or methodically involved himself in the affairs of mankind. So it must be based on "perhaps" and "maybes," a reading into what might have been divine intervention, or what could have been a sign. And, much like prophecy of any type, religiously inspired or not, we can allow ourselves to read into things that happened that we don't understand and attribute it to a divine. We can say to ourselves, "Since I don't have a reasonable explanation for what happened, it must have been divine," or even "I can find no reasonable, logical explanation for what has occurred even after consulting with _______ (friends, family, experts in this area), therefore it must have been divine." Sometimes, in fact, when science or the laws of the universe have provided an explanation or reasonable course of action, there are those who still read into the occurrence the intervention of the super natural, and hence, preconceived notions are strengthened emotionally for the individual who had previously existing doubts in the scientific method. (This last could be construed as having less faith in the reasonably deduced to the benefit of the irrationally deduced.)

People discuss these things at great length (much like I do!!) in an attempt to understand the human condition. Since god has no set-in-stone standard for when he will or won't do something (assuming he is there to intervene at will), no "key" can be turned in which trust can be built between certain actions and expected results. In fact, since god seemingly intervenes randomly among millions of individuals, there could not even reasonably be assumed to be a certain key, or certain expected results. It pretty much adds up to a "trial and error" type of scenario except that, even with repeated experiments with set rules and standards and a concise formula followed to a T, with sky god you never can know whether it will be a "yes" or "no" at any given time, the very antithesis of the scientific model used to find out facts, truths, and theories, in which case one can only conclude one of two things: Either
  1. God doesn't exist, or
  2. God does not follow his own universal, natural laws.
The atheist realizes that when we look into matters we cannot explain, and attempt to explain them, or find out the "why" as such, we find a natural law at work, or some other reasonable, logical solution to the issue at hand; the religious simply latch onto the first and proclaim such as either an answer to prayer or a miracle.

Of course, if god did set up a standard by which, given certain parameters and certain formulas, god did perform such-and-such every single time against reasonable and logical means (such as, every time there was a wedding and the wine had run out, if one simply bought a bottle of Evian and sprinkled it with holy water, it would turn into wine) there would be no need for unproven faith, and therefore, god would have been proven to exist as water doesn't turn into wine unless certain fermentation processes and the squashing of fruit and leaves is made to happen.

And while one could attempt to argue that the reason we have gravity (as an example of a universal, natural law) is because of divine intervention, logic and deduction says we have gravity because the earth spins at such-and-such a speed around the sun, which in turn has gravity because of such-and-such this, and such-and-such that. (Not being a universe/gravity physicist, I couldn't even begin to explain the ins and outs of it all, but I have faith that scientists who have been studying the phenomenon known as gravity for hundreds of years kind of know what they are talking about--that is, they have found a key, and when that key is turned, they almost always get the expected results, and therefore are reasonably certain as to why gravity is what it is and does what it does.) It is a universal law which applies to all things that spin, and is not random in results in experiment after experiment. Unlike, say, prayer for your car to start after having unsuccessfully started the engine after repeated attempts at turning the key; prayer or non prayer leads to the same conclusion if your battery is dead, or if you are out of gas--prayer has never led to spontaneous battery recharging, or a suddenly-full gas tank in test after test of bible college students in West Virginia... If prayer always led to a suddenly-full gas tank, one could reasonably assume a sky god, as there is no logical reason for gas to suddenly appear in a gas tank as it goes against universally known laws of pumping liquids of any type into containers or vehicles of any type.

Much of the "proof" of god is only in those who already believe that he exists; they "feel" it in their "hearts," or in "answered prayer." Again, going against reasonable, logical deduction, or lacking faith that these methods could result in a satisfactory answer, their "feelings" and "emotions" become a "proof" that cannot be proven, therefore seemingly "impenetrable" by the godless or faithless. This "faith" which isn't really anything at all except a whim of emotion and hindsight becomes a wall against reason and logic in all things pertaining to the supernatural, the divine, or anything yet to be reasonable explained by science (or in spite of reasonable explanation by science).

In essence, if one simply can't believe that a stove could cook food by electricity and heat, one simply has to claim "faith" in the divine as an explanation (which means no explanation need apply) for why their soup is now hot. Or, if one lacks an understanding of tectonic shift, one only needs a "divine explanation" for why the volcano erupted and killed thousands of people who lived in peace at its base for hundreds of years...

Of course, with this non-explanatory faith comes non-explanatory "reasoning" that sky god has his reasons, which is really just a cop out for "we don't know." And what is another word for "we don't know" besides blind faith? Agnosticism. Agnosticism allows for the possibility of a divine, with the premise that one could never understand or reasonably expect to understand such a divine, and the possibility is equally as great that there is no divine anyway. If you take out the last "possibility," you have yourselves a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, or any other deity-believing individual. They don't know why, they don't know how, and most of the time they don't want to, or claim they couldn't, understand if they tried. They have "faith."

What's really a shame is that most of the time, they don't realize they aren't holding a key, but they think the car is running just fine...