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Welcome to Dangerous Talk

Dangerous Talk is an atheist/progressive daily blog discussing the three most dangerous topics of polite conversation: Religion, Politics, and Sex. Our goal is to fight back against the Religious Right and push for a more free and rational society.

While this blog is primarily about atheism and our target audience is intended to be atheists, we of course welcome the opinions of religious people (particularly Christians). Dangerous Talk is different than many other atheist blogs in that our emphasis is not as much on news of interest to atheists, but rather on philosophical issues and arguments. As such, feel free to search the categories in the sidebar for past articles which may be of interest.

The host of Dangerous Talk, Staks Rosch, has also appeared as a panelist on Pennsylvania Television’s CN8 on It’s Your Call with Lynn Doyle to argue against Intelligent Design in the classroom.

Skeptic Ink Network!

Dangerous Talk is moving to SkepticInk.com! Don’t worry I am not retiring this site entirely. I will keep DangerousTalk.net up and running because I have years of blog posts here that I love. But for the foreseeable future, I will not be posting new content here. The Daily blog will now be part of the Skeptic Ink Network… with some added content.

Not only will I continue to post the Dangerous Talk daily blog, but my brother, Michael will also be posting content on the new Dangerous Talk page. Every once in a while he has posted a guest post here and he regularly blogs at Skepacabra. He is much more heavily involved in the general skeptic movement than I am. I tend to focus more on the whole “religion being evil” thing. So you can expect some quality content from him too.

I will of course be continuing to post articles as the National Atheism Examiner on Examiner.com and on Huffington Post. The way I view it is this. Examiner tends to be more journalistic/opinions. Those articles are generally aimed at a mixed audience of both theists and atheists.

Huffington Post article tend to be more positive pieces about the greater community of reason. Those articles are focused toward a religiously liberal audience and of course my fellow atheists. So if I do write an article critical of religion there, it will usually be critical of a more liberal view of religion.

Dangerous Talk is my home. It is a place where I am comfortable and write my thoughts in a less formal manner (usually). I also focus my blog posts to an atheist audience almost exclusively. That isn’t to say that I don’t welcome theists, but it is to say that theists aren’t my target audience here.

I hope everyone will follow me at the new Dangerous Talk on Skeptic Ink and while you are there, you should feel free to check out some of the other bloggers too. New bloggers are being added all the time. I am hopeful that Skeptic Ink will become a great place to explore new ideas and to think freely about the issues that matter to us all in a drama free environment.

Thanks,
-Staks

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Missionary Backruptcy

Over the weekend, I friend of mine sent me an article by a Christian missionary to Japan. I love articles like this one because they just throw out a bunch of bullshit and see what sticks. What they don’t realize is that when they do this, they lose any credibility that a reader might have given them. When I read an article by a religious believer, I try to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that they have the best of intentions. But when they do this kind of thing, they lose all credibility. It is just laziness.

First, the author tried to appeal to his experience about how the Japanese view religion. This might be acceptable if we trust that he has represented his experience accurately, if his experiences matched what we know about the region, and if his experiences were similar to other people’s experiences about the region. The first is subjective, but the other two aren’t. Because he fails with the other two, I have to question his representation of his own experience.

As a point of fact, the Japanese don’t “worship the ground.” That is ridiculous. The custom of bowing to their opponent shows that they respect their opponent. It is a matter of honor and sportsmanship, not one of supernatural reverence. The fact that the author couldn’t figure that out really says a lot. Instead of either drawing the obvious conclusion or inquiring further, he jumps to a supernatural worship based on his own projection, “They look like they are praying to the ground. When I pray, I worship. Therefore, they are worshiping the ground. ”

When he talks about his one convert’s “heart being prepared for the gospel” he is basically saying that he comes from a society that has a cultural indoctrination toward Christianity. This is a form of brainwashing. Society is dominated by a particular belief system to the point where it has become an assumed truth in the background of your entire life. Even if you don’t actively believe it, there is a passive belief. So it is much easier to get someone who already passively believes to actively believe. Christians use the same trick in America all the time.

“Without a correct view of God, the gospel seems foolish and unnecessary…” I love that line. Translation: Unless you have been indoctrinated into belief, the gospel seems silly… because it is silly!

Of course, there is the old assertion that without God anything is permissible. This is of course used as evidence for depression and high suicide rates. Because the religious are never depressed or suicidal, lol. This argument amounts to a personal attack on the Japanese people because the author has given no justification for his claim.

This argument quickly leads to the assertion that without a belief in God, people have no value. It is an assertion meant to insinuate that atheists don’t value life. But the fact is that atheists are well aware that this is our only life to live and as such we value our lives and the lives of others very much. Why do Christians value life? They believe everyone lives forever, so who cares if you die in this life?

Finally, the author contradicts his own experience. Earlier in the article he made a point to say that over the course of four years, he only converted one person because the Japanese are resistant to the gospel message because they haven’t been indoctrinated with monotheism. But now he is arguing that the message of the gospel is so great that the Japanese can’t wait to convert. They are converting so easily that they are “flocking to the gospel.” So which is it?

As it turns out, Japan is a first world nation. The people there are well educated and generally not starving for food. They are not in a vulnerable position. It is much easier to convert people who are in a vulnerable position. That’s why churches tend to send the bulk of their missionaries to third world countries where the people are uneducated, sick, and starving for food.

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Hope For The Future

I am someone who has hope for the future of humanity. I believe that human knowledge and technology are progressing at an ever increasing rate. Just a little over a hundred years ago, the Wright Brothers flew for the first time. Now we can fly around the globe with relative ease. It was only 43 years ago that we put a man on the moon and now we are sending robots to Mars. What will we be doing 100 years from now?

But it isn’t just knowledge, science, and technology that are changing. Morality is changing too. A century and a half ago, we were fighting a war to end slavery. 100 years ago, we were fighting in the streets to allow women the right to vote. 70 years ago, we were fighting against genocide and racial purity. 45 years ago we were marching for civil rights. Within the last 10 to 20 years we are marching for gay rights. Just 5 months ago, we rallied for reason.

Religion is still a dominant force in the world. There is no doubt about that. But it is changing. The world is getting more secular; atheism is on the rise and religiosity is in decline. Religion will never be completely gone, but someday it will be viewed in the same way most people view those who believe in astrology or voodoo.

I don’t think that day is that far off either. When institutions like the Catholic Church protect and defend those who sexual molest children, people begin to have doubts about the moral value of religion. Religion is pretty much the only reason why people are so hateful toward gays and yet support for gays has never been higher. As the gay community gains more and more support, more and more people will start taking a harder look at their religious beliefs.

Today we have the internet. The religions of the world can’t hide any more. All the bad arguments they have made can now be shown for what they are, bad arguments. A quick Google search can now educate religious believers. The need for special holy people who are needed to interpret ancient texts for the believer is vanishing. Religious believers are starting to read their holy books for themselves without the need for middlemen. This of course leads to atheism. I believe that we are close to the tipping point. We may even see religion take a steep decline in our lifetime.

This is important because it will pave the way for a brighter future. The Dark Ages began when Hypatia of Alexandria was brutally killed by Christians in a manner far more horrific that the alleged death of Jesus. Carl Sagan claimed that had this not happened humanity might be a 1000 years more advanced than we are today.

Religion is holding us back. It is robbing us of the future. The more religion fades from prominence the more advanced scientifically, technologically, and morally we become. The future is almost here, but we have to shape it today.

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The Doubt That Shall Not Be Spoken

I discuss religion with a lot of different believers and believe it or not, some of them should actually know better. In fact, I suspect that they kind’a do know better, but are afraid to express their doubts. While some are afraid that their doubt could lead to the eternal torture of their soul, others are afraid of more humanly consequences.

If you are a devout believer and have your doubts, you risk a lot if you express those doubts. In some cases the people have lost their families, their friends, and/or their jobs. Of course there is another risk too. Some people even lose themselves.

One problem with a deeply held religious belief is that the belief is deeply held. It has become an identity and the fear of losing that identity can oftentimes suppress any doubts. Religious believers don’t want to have any doubts about their beliefs and so when the doubts to start to creep in, they suppress them until those doubts are too numerous and too great to suppress any longer.

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Where Will We Be In 1000 Years?

Many religious believers believe that we not only have an immortal soul, but that this soul is our true self. When we die, we live on as our soul. They often ask in a serious manner, “Where will we be in 1000 years?”

Of course the reality is that in 1000 years we will be dead and just as there was no consciousness before we were born, there will almost certainly be no consciousness after we die. But I like to refocus the question on the collective “we.” Where will we (as humanity) be in 1000 years?

The religious never stop predicting the end of the world and it always seems to be going to happen soon. They always think that we are living in the end times. The really scary thing is that many of them hope that we are because the standard Christian interpretation of Revelations is that the world needs to end in order for Jesus to return and give special few Christians “God’s kingdom.”

Oddly enough, I thought they would be much happier in Heaven. Why bother trying to create a kingdom of God on Earth after the whole world is destroyed when you can sit up in Heaven enjoying bliss for all eternity. Something doesn’t make sense here… I suspect a great many things don’t make sense here actually.

But let’s move on to where I hope humanity will be in 1000 years. As an atheist and a humanist, I hope that we have ditched religion and other superstitious beliefs and that human beings have socially evolved past our petty differences, greed, jealousy, hate, etc. I dream of a world similar to Star Trek (which is a mere 200 to 300 years in the future) in which we are exploring strange new worlds far from Earth.

This really is the stark difference between the theists and atheists when it comes to our hopes for the future. Now sure, not all theists think this way, but a most do. And even if a theist shares the atheistic hope for a better future, they should realize that religion is one of the main things holding us back from reaching that goal.

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Mommy Porn and Temptation

I follow a liberal Christian woman on YouTube named MJ and she recently posted a video about a blog post she wrote that got a lot of attention. I didn’t really know she had a blog, but now I do. The post was her criticism of what has been dubbed, “Mommy Porn” (totally not what you’re thinking). MJ is righteously (or self-righteously) outraged at “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Magic Mike,” both marketed toward mommies.

This is one of the many problems I have with the Abrahamic religions. They induce a serious fear of temptation. MJ is terrified that this “Mommy Porn” will tempt her. Tempt her to do what exactly, I don’t know. Here is my response:

The fault lies not with the material necessarily but in ourselves. You feel tempted, why? What are you afraid that you will do if you read or watch this stuff? Some people read/watch porn to get new ideas on how to spice up their sex life with their partner. There is nothing wrong with that.

There is an old Buddhist story of two Monks just out of training. They are walking down a road and see a young woman trying to cross a large puddle without getting wet. One of the Monks offers to carry her across. She accepts the offer, he carries her across, and she goes off. A mile down the road, the other Monk stops and chastises him because it is forbidden to touch a woman. The Monk responses to being chastised with a smile and says, “I put her down, but you are still carrying her.” (Paraphrased from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones)

I can read/watch porn and can put it down afterward, but you are still carrying it with you all the time and the fear of it is consuming you.

Also see my articles: Can Religion Handle Sex? & Pornography: Is It Moral?

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Atheist Meme Tracts

I love the interwebs. Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and Reddit are great for spreading reason to those who are already atheists. Yeah, that’s right; when you post a cool Hitchens quote on you social media the people who see it and ‘like,’ ‘plus,’ and ‘retweet’ it are probably all (or mostly) atheists.

Christians hand out tracts to unbelievers and the apathetic in the hopes that they will win converts. Atheists have some tracts too, but they are wordy and boring. We need new tracts that will get people’s attention and hold their interest.

The best part is that it is practically already done. I see great meme pictures on my social media feeds all the time that feature awesome quotes from awesome atheists. Even Mylie Cyrus posted one. So I think I’m going to start making business card sized tracts out of some of these memes. I haven’t worked out the specifics yet, but look for atheist meme tracts of this sort soon on Dangerous Talk.

If you have any that you think are particularly awesome, please let me know. I don’t want ones that say, “Hey look, I’m a famous person and I’m an atheist.” I want them to be hard hitting arguments or counter-arguments. Keep them short, sweet, and blasphemous!

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Potty Training and The Bible

This week, I’m doing a big push to get my three-year-old potty trained. He is of course being difficult and so I went online to find some good guide books. Then it hit me; Christians are always telling me that God wrote the best guild book of all – the Bible.

Of course the Bible doesn’t have a chapter on potty training, but it should. It is after all supposed to be a guide book for life. This hasn’t stopped Christians from trying to find anything and everything that the Bible says which might be applied to the topic, however. So what does the Bible say that could somehow be interpreted as a guide for potty training kids?

Of course there is the passage where God warns not to spareth his rod in Proverbs. Does that mean that I should beat my son until he pees in the potty? Maybe I’m using the wrong potty to train my son on. The book of Deuteronomy says that we are to dig a hole in the ground to shit in. Maybe that will work. I think I’ll just stick with secular advice.

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One Dogma For Another

One of the things I love about the greater community of reason is that we are all different. Not only are we a diverse group of people, but we have diverse opinions and points of view too. While most of us tend to be pretty liberal there are still a somewhat large number of Libertarians and a small spattering of conservatives too. Many of us are opposed to the death penalty but some still support it. If you pick an issue, any issue, you will see that atheists will argue and debate the details of that issue if not the issue itself.

The old expression is that atheists are like herding cats. We tend to be very individualistic thinkers and we tend to focus on any detail in which we might disagree with someone on even if we are basically in agreement on the general idea. We love to argue and debate stuff except those who don’t.

But lately there has been a growing orthodoxy within our community. People who believe that there is only one reasonable opinion to any given issue and if you deviate from that opinion in only a minor detail, then you are a blasphemous heretic. Of course they would never use those words. But their dogmatic view of reason is little different than the dogmatism of religious believers in my opinion.

In one conversation I had with a fellow atheist, he ended his comment with a threat of unfriending me because I defended someone we both disagree with because I thought his criticism of the person in question was invalid. Instead of trying to understand my opinion, I was told that I must be unfriended because I was defending the enemy.

One thing I like about most atheists is our ability to admit that we are wrong sometimes and that we can and do change our positions on various issues. In fact, most atheists have proven this by giving up deeply held religious beliefs. So the way I see it is that if a fellow numberswiki.com

atheist is wrong on something, we should have a conversation about it and one of us might just change our minds if presented with new evidence or a compelling argument. I would never start off a conversation by threatening to ban, block, or unfriend someone if they disagree with me in some minor or even major way. That’s not how reasonable people conduct themselves.

While I would love to see a world without religious dogma; do we really want to replace it with a new dogma? Let’s have the conversations and the discussions without resorting to throwing people in virtual dungeons, name calling, or threats against those with descending opinions. We should be better than that. We are people who value reason over faith. We shouldn’t trade one set of dogmas for another.

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Christians Are Not All The Same

I get into discussions with a lot of religious believers and after a while I tend to hear the same arguments and the same “conversion” stories over and over again. This can often give the appearance that all Christians are the same. But they aren’t.

When I address an audience usually through writing, I use generalized terms. But when I get into one-on-one conversations, I actively try to understand where the person is coming from. I try to see them as individual people. Even though I hear similar stories to their story all the time, I try to treat them like I am hearing it for the first… or at least the second time.

I think nuance is important. I also think it is important to view the person I am discussing religion with as if they are being honest and genuine until evidence to the contrary surfaces. I expect them to have some respect for reasonable discourse and when they don’t, I will point out to them that they do in every other avenue of life.

But there does come a point when reasonable discourse is clearly not happening. Then I have to consider moving forward. But not before I leave them with some stuff to think about. People hate to lose the discussion, but often times if you give them the facts and some more info

space, they will change their position on their own in time.

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Question For Christians

Every once in a while my Christian friend Greg sends me an e-mail. It usually is just one question that someone at his church convinced him would stump an atheist. Greg isn’t looking for a debate or discussion though; he just wants to push his point and be done. The other day, I got this style of e-mail from him. But I thought I would ask him a question this time around also.

There are a lot of great questions that I like you ask religious believers, but I think this one is probably one of my favorites:

“How can you worship any deity that either through his action or inaction allows for the eternal torture of so many human beings? Keep in mind that eternity is an extremely long time… or so I’m told.”

Here, I am moving away from the question of God’s existence in into God’s worship worthiness. For the sake of this question, I’ll give them God’s existence, but how could anyone in good conscience worship a being that allows for the torture of others without the possibility of reprieve or parole? Could a Christian really be happy in Heaven knowing that someone they cared for and loved was being tortured not just for an hour or a day or a year, or even a million years, but forever and ever?

Torture is wrong and eternal torture is just absurdly wrong. Yet this is the best system that a perfect deity could come up with. People can’t learn from their mistakes and be forgiven. No, they can only be forgiven if they learn their lesson within their very short lifetime (compared to eternity) and during that short lifetime they can be forgiven for anything without really being sorry or trying to make any kind of amends for what they did. They are forgiven at the drop of a knee. But when that short window closes, it is torture forever. No forgiveness, no mercy!

That’s not justice. Even our absurdly flawed criminal justice system is better than that. It would be like if someone jaywalked and if he didn’t beg for forgiveness within two minutes, he would be tortured for the rest of his life without the possibility of reprieve or parole. And I’m not even getting into the whole vicarious redemption thing or the blood sacrifice at the volcano… umm scratch that part about the volcano, that’s obviously absurd. This is Christianity we’re talking about after all, not Scientology, lol. Sarcasm, I love it.

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Another Example of Christian Arrogance

Earlier this week, Gore Videl died. For those who don’t know, he was a giant intellectual and a vocal atheist. I wrote about his death on Examiner and some Christian had to chime in on it in the comments section. She writes:

“It’s so sad to me to realize the genius of Gore Vidal yet somehow he had such an ignorance about what is heaven and the hereafter. However it will be God’s grace that will get him into heaven. Wow I bet he is surprised now.”

She is obviously a pretty liberal Christian because she didn’t say that he was being tortured in Hell for all eternity. But still, the arrogance here should be surprising and yet it is so common among religious believers that it really isn’t surprising at all.

Based on no evidence, she is making the claim that she knows the details of the hereafter. Gore Vidal was a very educated individual who liked to learn. Sure it is possible that she does know something about something that he didn’t know, but the fact is that in this case she doesn’t.

All the evidence suggests that when we die, that is it. While it is possible that something else happens, those possibilities are unlikely. Even if something does happen after we die (as unlikely as that would be) it is pretty obvious that Heaven and Hell are almost certainly not what happens. Those are ridiculous stories of bronze-age sheep herders.

Anyone can assert any claim they like, but unless they can back up that claim with actual evidence or at the very least a solid argument; no one should take those claims seriously. But when someone claims that their mere assertions are absolute reality with no evidence at all, we should laugh at them. Such assertions and the dogmatism of certainty that accompanies them is the height of arrogance.

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Fucking Church Bells!

I was out at lunch today and while I was trying to order my food at a chicken restaurant that was not Chick-Fil-A, I heard the most annoying church bells ever. Do these fuckers really need to announce their presence to the world? We all know that 80% of Americans are Christians; do we need the fucking reminder? There are supposed to be noise ordinances for this type of thing except that for some reason, churches are exempt from them.

Church bells are a brainwashing tool. Yeah, you heard me. The idea is to remind everyone that Christians control the country. This is a message to reinforce their dominance and to remind those who don’t generally think about religion of the indoctrination they likely received in their youth.

I want to issue a noise complaint. These church bells are really, really, fucking loud and annoying. I want to make up my own religion and arbitrary pick a time to make a shit load of noise and call it a sacred right.

The worst part is that these churches are on practically every street corner and are competing with each other to see who has the loudest and most annoying bells.

Sorry for the rant. By the way, it was Popeyes. I know I would get a ton of comments asking.

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In Defense of Chick-Fil-A

I have been boycotting Chick-Fil-A since the early 2000s. Back then, I did a radio show on WCUR 91.7FM and I not only devoted a whole show on Chick-Fil-A, but I also talked about it every week for quite a while. I should also add that I love fast food and would probably be one of their customers if they didn’t wear their fundamentalist Christianity on their sleeves. With that said however, today I am going to defend them a little bit.

I hinted on this when I wrote my article on the current controversy with Chick-Fil-A. But today I want to be more straight forward. I 100% support all boycotts of Chick-Fil-A and I 100% endorse same-gender kissing at Chick-Fil-A. That’s great. But I cannot support cities banning Chick-Fil-A from opening their doors to the public. First it was Boston, then Chicago, and now Philadelphia. Sure, it sounds great at first. Chick-Fil-A is a hateful company with a hateful CEO. But they do have a right to be hateful. I would also support the right of a KKK owned fast food establishment to open and do business.

I don’t agree with Chick-Fil-A, but I will fight for their right to be assholes. I would love for them to go out of business, but for me it is all about the means. I want them to go out of business because people stop eating their chicken and they start losing tons of money. I don’t want them to go out of business because the government doesn’t like them.

Religious politicians try to ban stores they don’t like from opening all the time and when they do, I speak out because I don’t believe government has that right. This usually happens in relation to stores that sell sex toys or pornography. It is wrong when the Religious Right does it and it is still wrong when my fellow liberals and progressive do it.

Sure, elected officials can play games with zoning and such, but that doesn’t make it right either. There are important reasons for zoning laws and preventing a company you don’t like from operating is just not one of them. Elected officials can use their bully pulpit to support a boycott, but they can’t and they shouldn’t try to use the law to prevent a business from opening or operating.

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Romney’s VP Pick

Last night, my friend Dusty Smith made a great point on his Facebook status. But before I get into that, I want to talk about what demographic Romney needs to satisfy in order for him to get the support of his base. The fact is that like McCain, Romney needs to pick someone who is religious. Well, there is one candidate for him that is perfect.

Romney famously defended the Citizens United ruling by saying, “Corporations are people, my friend.” Dusty made the point that with this twisted logic Romney should pick a corporation for his running-mate. It makes perfect sense if Romney really wants to advance the idea that corporations are indeed people and what well known corporation could appeal to the religious? Chick-Fil-A of course.

Their slogan could be, “The Chicken Hawk and The Chicken Sandwich.” This could also be an attack on Michelle Obama’s eat healthy campaign. In any case, I took the liberty of making a bumper sticker.

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A Secular Presidential Forum?

Not long ago, I published an article on Examiner about how atheist support for the President has dropped significantly. In the article, I point out what a strong voting bloc atheists are and how our vote really can sway the election.

This got me thinking about Rick Warren’s Faith and Values Forum in 2008. He won’t be doing that again in 2012. While I would love to believe that it has something to do with his evolution Tweet, it probably has more to do with the fact that Obama can out Christian Romney.

In any case, where is our forum? Now that the Secular Coalition for America is expanding and has a Republican Executive Officer, we can make a much stronger case for not only our importance as a voting bloc, but also as being non-partisan. We can give the Democrats the threat of possibly losing our support and we can give the Republicans the dangling carrot that our votes might be up for grabs.

Obviously, most atheists will not vote for Romney, but we can use these various factors to sell the idea of a Secular Values Forum to the two parties. SCA and The National Atheist Party can take the lead here and we can ask Obama and Romney, “How will they represent atheists as President of the United States?”

I should also add that a new Gallup Poll was just released showing that more than 50% of Americans are now ready to vote for an atheist. Personally, I think that poll is crap, but it doesn’t matter. It shows that we are gaining acceptance and that our political power is growing. 30k atheists on the National Mall also sends that message.

Is our community ready to set up such a forum or will we have to wait 4 years? I think now is the time.

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The Color of Motives

I have been reading a few interesting articles lately in which the authors have expressed frustration that the media has been consumed with trying to understand the motives of James Holmes. Their frustration is based on the fact that the media rarely cares about the motives of inner city gun violence. The articles that I read seem to suggest that the media and perhaps the majority of white Americans see black violence as unsurprising, but a white guy killing a bunch of people is so bizarre that it needs to be understood on a deeper level.

I think these articles are largely correct and that is an unfortunate face of racism in modern America. Some of the articles that I read claim that we shouldn’t be interested in the motives of Holmes or anyone else and that we should just focus on the actions. One article wondered why Holmes wasn’t being described as a terrorist. If he were a Muslim, he would of course be described as a terrorist even if his religion had absolutely zero to do with his motivation.

I do think motives are important. I think they are important in all cases. If we can understand why a killer does what he does, we can hopefully prevent some potential killers from becoming killers in the first place. This is part of the reason why schools are now concerned with bullying. It really isn’t that the school is concerned for those being bullied, but rather that those being bullied might get to their last straw and shoot up the place.

In the inner city, the motives generally center on money. People are poor and desperate. As a result, they sell drugs and join gangs. Some people in poor situations turn to drugs and alcohol to feel comfort from their troubles and then of course they are led down a path of violence. This obviously isn’t true for every poor person in the country, but stress over wealth is a big motivator toward violence. This is why we need to address wealth inequality.

With that said, I do think the articles made a great point that the media seems more concerned with white people than they are with black people. Had Holmes been black, the narrative would be completely different. No one would be trying to understand why he did what he did and instead of the Right trying to attack the Left for wanting some kind of gun control, they would be trying to link this incident to Obama since both the killer and the President would have been black.

Just as the media gets into a frenzy when there is a white woman missing or killed, but rarely if ever spends any time of missing black women, this is just another case of unintentional racism. That is to say that I don’t think the media is purposefully saying, “Let’s only talk about white people.” No, just as I had not considered this before reading those articles, I don’t think the media considered it either… and we should have.

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Motivations Of A Mass Murderer

Sometimes I really hate to say, “I told you so.” This is one of those times. I am still seeing atheists posting comments about Aurora, Colorado shooter James Holmes claiming that he was a Christian. On Monday, I warned against this and not some evidence has come out that Holmes was not a Christian and considered himself an agnostic. In other words, he was an atheist.

I told you so, so stop blaming this on Christianity! There are plenty of real atrocities we can blame on religion, but this is not one of them. Holmes posted a profile on AdultFriendFinder and in that profile he listed himself as agnostic. He hasn’t been an active church member for some time now and he has been active in the sciences which any fundamentalist will tell you is a gateway to atheism (because reality is biased toward a lack of belief in gods).

With that said, despite what Rick Warren and others have to say, atheism had nothing to do with this either. No one yet knows what motivated Holmes to become a mass murderer. I am very curious about this, but I am pretty certain religion or lack of religion had nothing to do with it. We just need to wait and see what develops.

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He Could Have Been Batman

I was reading various reports about James Holmes, who shot up a movie theater last week that was playing the new Batman movie. When Holmes was arrested, he allegedly told the police that he was the Joker. But when I was reading about him, I was saddened that he wasn’t Batman.

Holmes spent four months acquiring weapons, body armor, and material used to booby-trap his apartment. He was a PhD student and by all accounts an extremely intelligent person. Obviously something happened to him four months ago that sent him down this path; something that pushed him out of the routines of everyday life.

But instead of being the hero that people need, Holmes dressed as Batman, took on the role of the Joker and started killing people indiscriminately. While I don’t know what his financial situation was, he certainly had the money to purchase all that body armor, weapons, and material for booby-traps and yet he lived in an apartment building. It is unlikely that he was a millionaire and he certainly wasn’t a playboy. Today, you can buy body armor on the internet; so why hasn’t anyone taken on the role of Batman? Surely there is enough tragedy in the world to push someone to forgo the routines of everyday life in order to become something “more than a man,” as they say in Batman Begins.

What really fascinates me with the whole thing is that the world needs a Batman and it could have been Holmes. I really want to know why he chose to be the Joker. I want to know why someone with such promise decided to become the villain in the story instead of the hero.

I of course feel sympathy for all those who have lost a loved one because of James Holmes and I of course feel sympathy for those hurt in the attack. But there are plenty of other people providing that sympathy as well. I don’t see a lot of sympathy toward Holmes and with good reason. But I can’t stop feeling that sympathy anyway. I feel sorry for him. He could have been Batman but he didn’t. He became something else entirely. He became “that wacko who shoot up a movie theater.”

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Colorado Shooter’s Religion

I have been watching this situation pretty carefully. The killer, James Holmes, does not have much of an online presence so it is difficult to learn much about him. A few details have surfaced however and they make his religious affiliation uncertain.

His parents are Christian and he at one point went to church fairly regularly. He also planned to be a counselor at a Jewish Big Brothers and Big Sisters group. This tells us that if he was a religious believer, he wasn’t a fundamentalist.

Holmes was also a very educated science student in neuroscience no less. This leaves me with the feeling that he might not have believed in a god at all. It is very possible that he is an atheist.

Of course, if that is the case, it had nothing to do with his actions. As near as I can tell, he started planning for the attack 4 months ago and really committed to it a month ago. It was at that time that he quit his PhD program. I suspect that something happened at those times to trigger this.

But I think atheists should be prepared to talk about this if it does come out that he was an atheist. Christians are already blaming the attack on atheism even though the reports currently suggest he was a Christian. Just imagine what they will say if it comes out that he didn’t really believe any of that stuff.

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The Goal

I was watching a short-lived British sci-fi show yesterday and there was a conversation between a religious leader and an atheist. The religious leader asked what the atheist is hopeful toward. What does he have to look forward to? The atheist jokingly said, “Dinner.” Obviously, he was joking because if he were really serious, he would have said, “dessert.”

Seriously though, religious believers ask this type of question all the time. If we don’t believe in some perfect eternal paradise, then what is the point of living? Why should we do anything? I explored this line of reasoning in my last Huffington Post article titled, “Life’s a Movie; Enjoy The Show.”

But I do find it interesting that religious believers can’t wait for their eternal paradise and yet they waste time here on Earth with us evil sinners. If they really believed this crap, why bother locking their doors at night or looking both ways when they cross the street. Obviously, they can’t kill themselves because that would be a one way ticket to eternal torture. But they can just live their lives with caution to the wind. God obviously doesn’t punish people for being stupid.

I also find it odd that religious believers haven’t really thought through their goal. What happens after they achieve their goal? Great, they win the game of life and are rewarded with eternal paradise, 72 virgins, or whatever. Then what? After a while that is sure to get pretty boring. I mean how long can you really enjoy paradise? I don’t personally think I could enjoy paradise for a minute knowing that so many people I love and care about will be tortured for all eternity in Hell. Eternity is a pretty long time, after all.

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24 Hours Exactly; You Can’t Explain It

My old Fundamentalist Christian friend Greg just sent me a sermon from a guy who was once an atheist. The sermon managed to throw every ridiculous and poor standard argument in to the 45 minute sermon included the whole “Hitler was an atheist” gag. But there was a new ridiculous argument made. The Rev. Gary Goodes main argument is that there are exactly 24 hours in the day; you can’t explain it.

First, before I get into that Bill O’Reilly styled argument, I want to mention that when Greg send me the sermon, I told him (before listening to it) that the guy probably wasn’t someone who was ever active within the greater community of reason and that he probably didn’t have a great deal of knowledge about the standard religious arguments and their refutations. After listening to the sermon, I stand by that assessment. Although, it is entirely possible that Rev. Goodes does know these thing and is just a con-artist. In any case, check out my article on ex-atheists.

Now, let’s get on to the ridiculous 24 hour thing. It really is amazing that there are exactly 24 hours in the day. Only an all-powerful deity could have made that possible… or of course the people who decided to chop up the day into 24 equal segments. As it so happens, we could divide the day into any number of equal segments and call them hours. We use 24 hours in the day because the Egyptians used a base-12 system rather than our western base-10 system. That’s 12 hours for the day-time and 12 hours for the night-time.

But if we are to use the same logic as Rev. Goodes, why is it that there aren’t exactly 365 days in a year? Why is it that God fucked up causing us to have a leap-day every four years? Hey Reverend, you can’t explain it.

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Who Am ‘I’?

Don’t worry; I am not going to give you an introduction or anything. I’ve been writing this blog for years; if you don’t know who I am by now then I don’t know what to tell you. No, this is a philosophical question and perhaps a neurobiological question. When we refer to ourselves, what do we mean?

Religious believers are under the mistaken belief that we are this invisible eternal soul thingy. But there is no evidence for this soul thingy. Through scientific discovery, we have learned that we are basically our brains. Consciousness is most likely a product of neuro-interactions.

We know that all of our cells are slowly replaced over the years and so we can’t say that our cells are us, because they die and new cells take their place without much notice. Our memories are more mental reconstructions of what our brains deduce must have happened rather than an accurate record of what actually did happen. So to say we are our memories is just another way of saying we are our brains.

We also know that the decisions we make are born out of the complex interplay between our nature and our nurture. Sam Harris talks about how neuroscience can predict our actions before we do them just by watching the brain. So what in our brain is making the decisions? Is there any part of us that we can properly call, “us”?

We don’t have the answers to those questions yet. All we know is that we still talk to each other as if we are somehow the decision makers and in a sense we are, but what part of us are actually making those decisions remains a mystery.

But just because we don’t have the answers doesn’t mean that the answer must be Thetans. Ahh, I got you. You thought I was going to say souls didn’t you? But that wouldn’t prove my point as well as this does. The point is that since science hasn’t discovered the answer yet, every religious believer is going to claim that their mumba jumbo is the real mumbo jumbo. Thetans, souls, magical energy field, or whatever it is that Deepak Chopra is selling aren’t alternative theories; they are made up bullshit based on no valid evidence.

We really don’t know what part of us is the “decider.” All we do know is that we are often not aware of much of the calculations that go into each and every decision “we” make.

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A Drive In the Country

I took a few days off of blog writing. Most of that had to do with the funk I have been in lately. But yesterday it was because I was still in the country and my internet was spotty as was evident by the A-News Podcast I skyped into on Sunday night.

One of the things I do enjoy about the country is that there tend to be a lot of religious believers and I love driving around with my atheist bumper stickered car. I particularly love when there is an Amish horse and buggy behind me.

I know that I shouldn’t get any pleasure from this. For one thing it is basically taking pleasure from offending others or at the very least, “pushing” my beliefs on others. But I’m not really pushing my beliefs on others… at least not in the same way or to the same degree that the religious do. I’m just expressing myself. But I do get pleasure in doing that when I know that those seeing my message are unaccustomed to seeing that message.

I really loved parking in the lot of the Amish grocery store. It was like sticking it to “The Man.” Of course I did buy groceries from the Amish, so I guess they stuck it to me. But I felt good about parking there, so there!

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Don’t Give Your Vote Away!

Last week, I published an article titled, “Atheist support for Obama down significantly.” The article itself did not advocate whether or not atheists should support Obama, just that many atheists are withdrawing their support for Obama. Most people responded to the article by pledging their undying loyalty to the President. I think that is a terrible idea.

People argue that Obama is the lesser of two evils and they got to go with the lesser of two evils, therefore vote Obama. But there is a problem with that logic. The problem is that it incorrectly assumes that what we got is what we will get. The fact of the matter is that neither Obama nor Romney gives a rat’s ass about anything they say and would gladly switch positions on a dime if it meant they could lock up the election. In other words, our candidates are wearing a big “For Sale” sign on their chests and you lot want to tell them that you will throw money at them without having to get anything at all from them in return.

When someone says that they will vote for Obama no matter what, this is what he hears, “Great, I got their vote in the bag, so let me try to court some teabaggers. I know I won’t be able to convince many of them, but I got nothing to lose and I might convince a small number of right wing wackos if I push some right wing policy before Election Day.”

What I am asking people to do is to send a different message to the President. By telling the President that we don’t think he is progressive enough and that we might not support him on Election Day unless he starts paying attention to us, we force him to say to himself, “Shit, I might lose the atheist/progressive vote and I fucking need them to win the election. I better throw them a bone or two before Election Day.” In other words, I am advocating pushing the President more to the left rather than accepting that he is going to continue to pander to the right.

Now, it is true that the President might say, “Nah, they’re bluffing.” That is why I have maintained my strong stance. Maybe I am bluffing and maybe I am not. But I’m betting that I can stare the President down on this one and that he will blink before I do. The problem is that so many of you have already blinked before he even looked in your direction. That isn’t going to work out for you.

So let me make this clear. I don’t really give a flying fuck who you vote for on Election Day, but between now and then it would be in all of our best interest if you used the power of your vote to leverage change. When you go into that voting booth, you can vote for whoever the fuck you want, but until then send Obama the message that he may or may not get your vote and that it really does depend on him.

If Obama really wants your vote, tell him that he has to pay for it and it won’t be cheap!

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Breaking News: Chick-Fil-A Hates Gays

Every few years and now, every few months I see an article being passed around with the breaking news that Chick-Fil-A donated money to an anti-gay group. Then I see the stream of comments from people who are shocked by this. Really? Are these the same people that were shocked by Elton John came out as gay?

I have been boycotting Chick-Fil-A since my radio show back in 2001. While I am glad others are joining the boycott, it amazes me that progressives weren’t doing it already.

Anyone who has ever eaten at Chick-Fil-A and most people who have not eaten there are well aware that the restaurant is closed on Sunday. Even more than their chicken, that is what the place is known for. Why oh why would they be closed on Sunday? Could it be so that they could restock their kitchen? Or maybe they didn’t think it was profitable to be open on Sunday. No, everyone who has ever heard of Chick-Fil-A is well aware of why they are closed on Sunday. It is no secret and the owners put out a big sign on their store every Sunday explaining exactly why they are closed on Sunday.

Shocker, they are a religious chain. In fact, they are so religious that they are willing to lose money by closing their restaurant on Sundays. Now, I’m not saying that all super religious people hate gays (although the Bible has made it clear where God stands on the issue), but I am saying that most highly religious people do hate gays and/or see homosexuality as a sin.

So when you know a business is extremely religious, the first thought that should come to your mind is whether or not they are anti-gay. It is almost assumed that they are unless they specifically say that they aren’t. So how can anyone really still be surprised that Chick-Fil-A is anti-gay?

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School Choice

I live in Pennsylvania and apparently around there, the right wing “think tank” Freedom Works has put up signs all over the place saying, “School Choice is the Right Choice.” Every time I see these signs, my blood boils.

The problem with these signs is that it frames the issue as a choice issue rather than an attempt by the right wing to dumb down the general public. Yeah, that is what this is really all about. Educations vouchers (i.e. school choice) allow parents to take money away from public education and use it to fund religious indoctrination centers they call schools.

Now obviously not all religious schools are about indoctrination. Friends schools are notoriously open minded as my friend ShaunPhilly can attest. Some Catholic schools actually teach stuff too. But the whole idea of public education is that we all recognize that smart people are better for society than dumb people, so we all pay into the system. If you want your kids to go to a private school, then you have to pay the private school.

Let’s say I don’t like the way my local police protects me from crime and I want to hire a bodyguard, can I demand “police choice.” I want the money that I pay into the community police to be a voucher so that I can hire my own private police force. In fact, maybe I want my own private army too. How much of my taxes dollars go toward national defense? I demand military choice!

Not only do education vouchers cut funds to the already underfunded public education system, but then it often gives that money to churches for “religious education.” It double dumbs down kids.

I want to make a new sign that says, “Vouchers Steal Children’s Education.” The right wing is very good at taking their legislative bullshit to the people and getting them to put pressure on liberal politicians. Then the liberal politicians cave in to right wing demands. We have to do more of this and start putting the pressure on them for a change. Go make your own signs on this issue or others and put them out there. If Democrats aren’t going to do it, we have to do it ourselves. Time to fight back!

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Patriotism

Yesterday was Independence Day and I have some mixed feelings about that. For most of my life, this was my second favorite holiday. But as I have gotten older, I have gained a little more perspective and perhaps become a little bit more jaded.

Independence Day just seems like a way to beat our chests as Americans rather than think about the ideals of this nation’s more prominent founders. It seems like this type of patriotism has become a religion all its own and the religious believers of American Exceptionalism seem to be exceptional at one thing – claiming how exceptional they are. Oh, that and being completely brainwashed by politicians.

I’ve lost my faith in this religion. I don’t see Democratic politicians as the answer either. It just seems like the system is rigged. The government for the people and by the people has become a government that no longer cares about the people at all. He who has the gold makes the rules.

I no longer know if the Democrats are just in on the game or if they are just ridiculously stupid, but if something doesn’t change soon then it might be time for another revolution or something. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to advocate for violence here. That type of revolution was so last century. Now we have the internets.

Getting back to the point, I used to always read the Declaration of Independence on this holiday and watch the film adaptation of the musical 1776. I used to be proud to be American because it meant that I was part of something great. I was part of a nation that had lofty ideals of freedom, individualism, secularism, diversity, and liberty and justice for all. But thinking about it now, that was kind of naïve.

So now, when I hear calls for patriotism or the aggrandizing of America, I stop and pause. What is it that we are really celebrating? I no longer think that it is the ideals that I once thought embodied America. I’m not even sure America ever really embodied those ideas. I think it is more likely that I was brainwashed into think we did to help foster a faith in nationalism.

I still do believe in those ideals and I still want America to embody those ideals, but I just don’t see it with our current crop of politicians or any politicians we are likely to see in the foreseeable future. Something has to change. People have to change. We the people have to change.

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Stood Up By God

Over the weekend, I had a pretty long conversation with an old friend of mine who up until recently was a Christian. In fact in the ten or so years that I have known him, this was the first conversation we had together in which we were both atheists and he is still having difficulty with the transition.

I asked him about what it was that finally led him t realize that there probably was no God and how he felt after coming to that realization. To be fair, he is very well studied in the Bible and Christianity and I had known for a while that he was having doubts. I even predicted that he would lose his faith and come over to the side of reason. Just as an aside, why aren’t CNN, NPR, MSNBC, and The Religious News Service covering my friend’s de-conversion? “Yale seminary graduate leaves Christianity and becomes an atheist.”

In any case, the final straw for him was sort of a variation of my Ontological Argument for Disproving God. If God really does exist, then God should know what evidence to present to him, be able to present that evidence to him, and would actually do so out of a desire for fellowship with him. Christians have often told me that if I sincerely prayed for God to reveal himself, God would. In the case of my friend (and myself) God didn’t.

My friend relayed an interesting story to me that came from a recovering drug addict that he was counseling. I will paraphrase the story. The addict told him about something that happened to the addict’s sister. The sister was a high school student and a bit of a geek. She was picked on a lot by more popular people and guys were just not into her. Anyway, she started having a conversation with someone online. After several communications, things really started getting romantic and between her and this guy. He seemed to really like her. This went on for quite a while and they finally set up a place and time to meet in person. But when she got there, he never showed up.

As it turns out however, the guy wasn’t real. Two of her female classmates made him up and were carrying on this online romance as a prank. She felt betrayed. While she enjoyed herself a great deal when she believed the guy was real, learning the truth has soured that enjoyment.

This is how my friend feels about God. He had wonderful time as a Christian and Christianity brought him a great deal of comfort and enjoyment, but now that he knows the truth, all that has been soured to him. While he understands that he was never lied to by people who deliberately tried to deceive him, he still feels anger and betrayal similar to that of the high school girl who was the victim of that prank. God stood him up.

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Presupposition Apologetics

A few people on FreethoughtBlogs (AronRa & PZ) are talking about Presupposition Apologetics. As it so happens, this subject interests me greatly because I think it is the best argument religious believers have. What I mean by that is that it is by far the most convincing and the hardest for most atheists to refute. That being the case, I’m going to refute it pretty easily so that you can do the same when some religious apologist tries to use it on you.

So what is presupposition apologetics? The claim is that Christians view everything through the lens of the Bible. They presuppose the truth of the Bible and thus believe that the Bible is true because it says it is true. This is obviously circular reasoning. But here is the rub. They claim that we are using circular reasoning too.

They claim that atheists presuppose the truth of logic and reason and thus we use logic and reason to prove that logic and reason are true. That sounds pretty circular and it seems like atheists are in the same boat as Christians and therefore circular reasoning isn’t a problem and ought to be perfectly acceptable, right?

Now I have already written about this on Examiner and while I think I addressed the issue pretty well there, I think I could be clearer. I think I can address the issue in three very short sentences that would knock this argument aside. You can quote me on this; here we go:

“We observe that logic and reason work. We don’t presuppose them. We deduce them.”

Yeah, it is pretty much that simple. Logic and reason are tools we use to understand the world around us. We use those tools because they work. We know they work because we observe that they accurately predict the future. When someone makes a prediction using reason, logic, and the scientific method and that prediction fails, we change the theory until the theory does actually predict the future and can be repeated.

I should add that if reason and logic didn’t work, then we would never have invented the wheel. We would have observed that sometimes a wheel rolls and for no apparent reason sometimes it doesn’t. Everything we do would have randomly different outcomes and we wouldn’t have computers, houses, automobiles, books, or fire.

Stephen Hawking put it best when he said:

“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”

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