Monthly Archives: July 2011

What the Smartest People Have to Say About Religion

It’s no surprise that human beings, and their words and thoughts, can be so inspirational. Look out into the night sky and see the awe-inspiring universe. We are an infinitesimal part of it.

Should the Government Fund Religious Discrimination?

For a long time, Christian organizations have been calling on Congress to officially approve faith-based discrimination, and they’re not letting down. The question that Obama received today was why he still has not rescinded the Executive Order that gives funding to religious organizations that discriminate against atheists in hiring and firing. And of course, he spent a couple minutes giving a non-answer.

Why we continue to grant “exceptions” to people of faith surprises me. Either the Law of the Land holds in all cases (and non-discrimination requirements for federal money applies to all organizations), or there isn’t Law at all. But yet the religious continue to think that as long as they have the word “faith” somewhere in their mission statement that they can get away with anything.

The State of Illinois is taking another route. It just passed the civil unions law, and part of that law forbids funding for organizations that discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Of course, it is so common-sense and reasonable that it pisses the religious off. The numerous branches of Catholic Charities decided that it would still continue to discriminate in their adoption policies, and as a result, the state of Illinois has no choice but to sever funding for the organizations. Their foster care and numerous other services are scheduled to shut down.

Luckily, secular charities–run by normal people who do good works for their own sake–are going to pick up the slack. But it is unbelievably sad, as well as incredibly infuriating, that a group of people would only provide services as long as they can discriminate based on some instructions that they think came directly from some supernatural being.

But of course, the Catholic Charities are suing the state. That’s right, they’re suing the state of Illinois because they feel they are being denied the “right” to discriminate based on divine instructions. That, my friend, is the face of religion in a nutshell, whether you like it or not.

All of this brings up a good observation. I’ve never seen so many forces so willing to undermine the universal application of law, the concept of fair treatment and equality, and the spirit of non-discrimination–all of which are so essential to secular democracy.

But of course, all the liberal Christians are rushing to our side, right? Any day now… Any second…

Harry Potter and the Bible

You know there’s a parallel between Harry Potter and the Bible. Too bad all the atheists are crazy for Harry.

By the way, the guy who that says he’ll see Gandhi and Hitler in Hell is completely wrong. Hitler was a Roman Catholic.

The Turing Test for Religion

The Experiment

Can you tell the difference between how Christians and atheists think? A blogger decided to run an online experiment to find out.

Based on the Turing Test for artificial intelligence–a test proposed to see if we can reliably discern the difference between “talking” to a machine or “talking” to a human–the test given online takes a group of Christians and atheists and tells them all to answer some questions as if they were atheists. The atheists just have to answer honestly, and the Christians have to pretend to be atheists as best they can to answer the questions.

The results are not out, and you don’t get to know the answers yet, but I did take the test. To avoid contaminating the results, I suggest you take the test first before reading how I decided to sort the respondents.

My Strategy

I basically gave all the “atheists” the benefit of the doubt and assumed they were atheists if I didn’t notice anything wrong. However, when there were red flags and things didn’t make sense, I was much more inclined to check the “Christian” box.

In short, I looked for any sign of stupidity or unclear, muddled thinking. For example, Person #5 was asked what would make him/her join a particular religion.

To pick a particular religion on God’s terms, God would have to make his wishes known, like melting all the guns on Easter Sunday starting in a big circle from the Saint Peter Basilica. If it started from Canterbury or Salt Lake City, that would be a different message.

A typical Christian response, I think. Instead of looking at the big picture and seeing the universe as it really is, they turn to minute empirical demonstrations called “miracles” to make conclusions about the entirety of existence. I’ve always wondered why religious people always come up with the same old story: “My religion is true because (there is historical evidence) of miracle X,” when there is clearly no reasonable way deduce a whole set of universal claims from a singular demonstration of supposed magic.

Another thing I look for is obsession with particular but irrelevant questions. Things like the “Problem of Evil” or “sin” aren’t usually the topics for discussion, but for some reason, cause so much struggle with Christian intellectuals. This kind of self-guilt floats around in many of the responses.

However, if a deity expected not just belief but worship and devotion, I’d first want a clear and convincing explanation for the existence of evil and suffering, so I could be satisfied in my own onscience that worship was merited and deserved.

Once you accept the idea that sin warps people’s characters, it seems hard to argue that it’s possible for most people to redeem themselves, so either everyone’s off to Hell or no one is.

Additionally, the Christian belief is based on faith and choice, so if the Christian God was true, he never would act in a way that would force this choice upon someone.

All of these are odd responses that seem to be answering stupid questions that don’t really matter. When one looks at religion in the world (and decide if they are true), it is awfully narrow-minded to merely think about topics like Hell and sin. It’s quite hard, however, to make Christians take off their Christian-colored glasses, and it shows.

Thoughts

How well did I do? I don’t know. Maybe people are good at acting and I can’t tell the difference. Maybe atheists are influenced by Christianity, and that screws things up. But I’m confident that there will be some significant results from the population overall. We’ll just have to wait and see.

The Ten Commandments and the American Legal System

More evidence that religion is man-made (and that it shows) is when the most nauseatingly irrelevant mumblings of the ancient past are made to look like the founding documents of civilization. For some reason, the Ten Commandments are not just good guidelines for Christians. The Ten Commandments are apparently so incredibly important that they must be posted everywhere with taxpayer money on publicly funded property.

State Rep. Eric Watson unveiled a resolution urging all counties in Tennessee to post the Ten Commandments as an historical document lest America’s Christian heritage is forgotten…

Watson said the Ten Commandments are the foundation of the American legal system and it is important to remind counties across the state that they have the right to post the Ten Commandments in appropriate ways in county courthouses.

It’s a very peculiar line of thought that I never understood and they never explain. How exactly do the commandments have any relevance to our legal system, or any legal system at all? When has any decent legal system regulated Thoughtcrime or sentenced people for working on the Sabbath, or for coveting your neighbor’s ox/wife? If the Ten Commandments really is the foundational document for American law, then we are doomed.

However, we can take the liberal relativist route and just revise the damn commandments and keep “10” as our lucky number. Hitchens shows us how.

 

Youtube Commercials for Atheism

I came upon these interesting videos on Youtube today.

I like them all, especially the first one. I also like the catch-phrases (e.g. Think Before Religion). But the question is whether we should really try to get videos like the ones above on TV. What do you think?