Posts Tagged Religion

My little contribution to Draw Muhammed Day 2.0

In case you’re wondering what this is all about, Hemant Mehta, aka the Friendly Atheist, has a good summary.

We do it because we have a right to free speech, and there are people out there who want to make sure a drawing of Muhammad never sees the light of day.

We do because religious figures don’t automatically deserve special respect and they’re not immune from criticism. Too often, we treat religion and religious beliefs with baby gloves. Drawing Muhammad is one way to show — non-violently — that Islam ought to be susceptible to criticism just like every other belief system.

We do it because people have been threatened and killed by Muslim radicals for their depictions of Muhammad and criticism of Islam — by drawing Muhammad ourselves, we stand in solidarity withthem.

We do it because Muhammad was drawn for centuries before it somehow became “offensive” to some. There was nothing wrong with it then and there’s nothing wrong with it now.

We do it because people are now getting censored — sometimes ridiculously so — out of fear of what the extremists will do. The radicals should not have this kind of control over the right to express ourselves freely.

We do it in support of Molly Norris, who had to change her whole identity after merely suggestingthat we draw Muhammad.

So here’s my tiny contribution to the effort 🙂

Sorry muslims, your prophet is in another castle!

Sorry muslims, your prophet is in another castle!

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I am disrespectful – Repost: Where I Stand

This issue has recently come up again in my life. I feel it’s important to put out there once more where I stand. In short, people deserve respect, not ideas. Your belief in a supernatural being who rules the universe, but can’t be seen, heard, felt or in any way, shape or form empirically shown to exist, does not mean that I can’t question it. Or make fun of it. Or get angry at the actions that people take in the name of said being. And I’m going to do that publicly. For too long, atheists have been forced, sometimes by violent means, to keep quiet.

Guess what? I’m not going to shut up and sit down. If it’s not disrespectful to post messages asking people to pray to your mythological deity or thanking it for some random coincidence, then it’s not disrespectful for me to post messages saying that there are no gods or that I love the amazing diversity of life thanks to the process of evolution. And if you’re going to make even more ridiculous claims about the earth only being 6,000 years old or you try to force your religion into our legal system, I’m going to call you on it and tear into you. Suck it up.

Below the fold is a repost of my original post back in 2008 called Where I Stand.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Happy Blasphemy Day!

As I’ve already mentioned, today is Blasphemy Day. I’m personally celebrating by sitting around in my Jesus/Mohammed underoos (Jesus on the front, getting nailed to my tree and Mohammed on the back, wiping my ass).

My buddies Jason and Dan both express (much better than I) the importance of what, to some, might seem to be a silly and pointless exercise. It may be silly, but it’s far from pointless.

Go read them, I’m too tired to write anymore. I kicked off Blasphemy Day by having hot sex in the wee hours of the morning while shouting (whispering, really; didn’t want to wake the kiddos), “oh god, yes, jesus christ, that feels good…” so I’m a little tired today. If you’re as tired as I am, then just sit back and enjoy this visual:

Help me, Obi-wan, you're our only hope!

Help me, Obi-wan, you're our only hope!

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Blasphemy Day International is almost here!

And so, like a good little lazy blogger, I don’t write anything about it until the day before. Hey, I could have posted on the day after, so cut me some slack! Unfortunately, I have absolutely nothing planned. Hmm, maybe my mere existence can be construed as blasphemy. Nah, cop out. How ’bout I go fart in a church? On purpose. Without saying “excuse me”. Anyway, I’m sure y’all can come up with some creative ideas.

What is Blasphemy Day? Well, according to the founding organization, the Center for Inquiry,

Blasphemy Day International

Blasphemy Day International

Blasphemy Day International is a campaign seeking to establish September 30th as a day to promote free speech and to stand up in a show of solidarity for the freedom to challenge, criticize, and satirize religion without fear of murder, litigation, or reprisal. The event was created as a reaction against those who would seek to take away the right to satirize and criticize a particular set of beliefs that have been given a privileged status over other beliefs.

Blasphemy Day International is a volunteer-coordinated campaign administered by the Center for Inquiry as part of its Campaign for Free Expression. For more information, go to http://www.centerforinquiry.net/campaign_for_free_expression.

I call it good old wholesome family fun. Unless you’re in Ireland. It’s illegal there.

Go ye therefore and blaspheme in all nations, in the name of Thor, Horus and Cthulhu. RAmen.

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It’s almost like you were there with me. Almost.

One more about the debate, then I’ll shut up, I promise. No I don’t.

I’d skip to about :48 seconds in. The intro is craptacular. This is just part one. I haven’t watched it yet. I don’t have to see it, Dottie. I *lived* it.

h/t @RelUnrelated for finding this for me.

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The Great Faith Debate Recap

Christopher Hitchens vs. Dinesh D’Souza. Mano y mano. Two men wielding nothing but intellect on the battlefield of reason. Unfortunately, one of them left their intellect at home, probably sitting on the dining room table where they forgot to pick it up before heading out the door. I do that with my wallet sometimes.

I really went into this expecting to hear a good debate. I hadn’t read or seen D’Souza before, but I’d heard the name and assumed that if someone of Hitchens’ stature was debating him, he must be a good christian apologist. They’d both have arguments and counter-arguments and it would be intellectually stimulating. I was hoping that it would make me think; make me consider things from a different view point. I didn’t think that D’Souza would have anything earthshattering that would totally turn me around 180 degrees, but I figured there would be points made that I would have to think about. Even if he were only good rhetorically it would be interesting.

What I wasn’t expecting was a complete lack of depth from D’Souza or so many examples of rather painfully wrong logic that my 6 year old could have countered. I honestly think that I could have done a better job for christian apologetics, and I’m an atheist. I’m not as well-versed in the formal logical fallacies or technical debate terms as I’d like to be, but there were copious examples of severely flawed logic; false analogies, arguments from ignorance, even some flat out factual inaccuracies. Several times I (and the people around me) couldn’t contain the expressions of stunned disbelief at something D’Souza said.

I was live Tweeting the event and was having some technical difficulties at the beginning, so I probably missed some of the details. Hitchens opened with 5 minutes on the question/topic What about God? The one thing that struck me was his comment that, of all the supposed virtues, faith is the most worthless. It doesn’t get us anything, doesn’t further our understanding of anything, it’s basically useless and can be downright dangerous. D’Souza’s rebuttal was based on false premises from the start. He tried to assert that he was debating on the same level as Hitchens, that he would rely on reason rather than scripture. And in order to prove that they were at the same level, he starts in with some nonsense about how religion is just as valid as science because neither know everything. Then he launched into some lame thing about how the jews 2000 years ago had determined that the universe had been created, had a definite beginning, and since science has now validated that, somehow that proves the existence of god. Or something like that. I honestly had a hard time making out exactly how what he was saying logically connected.

Due to my extensive Twitter coverage, I sort of lost track of which topic they were on. Supposedly there was a structure; 5 minutes to speak, two minute rebuttal and a two minute counter rebuttal. I think. It seemed that they went back and forth a few more times than that. I do recall that the moderator (who was really just an MC rather than a moderator) was pretty flexible with letting them have counter-counter-counter rebuttals.

I think the second question/topic was What about Science? D’Souza started this one off by claiming that the universe was so complex, that the signs of intelligence were embedded all throughout it, therefore it had to be created by someone/something. He basically trotted out the standard Intelligent Design stuff. There were many misrepresentations about what science is and does. Basically just a garbled mess.

Apparently D’Souza is from some parallel universe because he started talking about how “New Atheism” had gotten started as a reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Somehow all this loud atheism stuff was in response to islam. He then proceeded to say that, even though those attacks were motivated by islam, there were no other examples of religious violence in the world. Where are the buddhist suicide bombers? he asked. There are no hindu extremists or christians out there killing people, he maintained. Furthermore, he went on to claim that there are no historical examples of such religious violence. At this point, there were a lot of vocal exclamations of disbelief amongst the audience. I, among others, called out, “The Crusades!” when he rhetorically asked what examples of christian violence were there. The damn fool was actually trying to make the claim that only the muslims engage in religious violence. This wasn’t the only slam on muslims during the night.

Hitchens responded that it’s a pretty sad reason to be glad about christianity, because, hey, it’s not al qaeda. He then pointed out concrete examples of buddhist suicide bombers: the kamikaze, in WWII. Not to mention all the other explicit examples of religions hatred and violence. He said that you could replace the word “fascist” with “Roman catholic church” in a history of eastern Europe with out changing any other words and it wouldn’t make a difference. Hitchens continues by saying that love was essentially meaningless when it is demanded of you by religion.

During his rebuttal to the rebuttal (I’d kinda lost track as to who’s turn it really was), D’Souza said that any suicide bombings, any war, they weren’t because of religion. No, the leaders and the people involved just happened to be religious. He actually said that religion had nothing to do with the Israelis and the Palestinians, it was just about land.

The level of stupid just kept rising with every sentence D’Souza spoke. As they got into the third topic, about science and religion, he drug out the old trope that because science has been wrong about things in the past, there’s no reason to assume that they’re right about anything they’re telling us now about the nature of the universe. Some more crap about Ptolemy and Newton and orbits and therefore god. I guess. I couldn’t follow his point.  Intelligent design made a comeback, something about Shakespeare writing Hamlet, therefore god. Because the universe is just like a book, but bigger. Since someone made a book, god made the universe. QED, bitches! (Not quite)

There was some other stuff in there, none of it was sticking to the wall. The next section of the debate was for each of them to ask the other a question. Hitchens went first by asking D’Souza, since your god is so good and you’re so confident in your particular god, which would you rather I (Hitchens) be: an atheist or a muslim. After a couple of hems and haws, D’Souza came out with, “I feel much safer debating you as an atheist.” Anyone else pick up on the muslim bashing going on here?

Now it was D’Souza’s turn. He asked Hitchens, have you ever had any doubts in your atheism and, if so, what caused those doubts. Hitchens went off on a tangent about Pascal’s Wager and how pathetic it really is. It’s basically saying that your god is too stupid to know the difference between real and fake belief. Getting back to the question (sort of) Hitchens says that if, when he dies, he finds out he’s wrong and he’s standing there before god, and god wants to know why he didn’t believe, he’ll tell him, you didn’t give me enough information to form that belief. And that anyone can make an honest mistake and that he was damn proud of this particular one.

This is getting long, so I’ll try to sum up. D’Souza claimed that the crusades weren’t really done in the name of christianity, because the leaders weren’t true christians. Yes, he actually used the No True Scottsman fallacy. He then tried to equate Marxism with atheism by quoting that line from Marx about religion being the opiate of the masses. Hitchens responded beautifully with the actual full quote from that book, and the context totally doesn’t bear out the interpretation that D’Souza was trying to claim. I’ll have to dig up the actual quote because I don’t remember the details. But it was a fantastic smackdown.

Here comes the part where my brain asploded. They were each asked some questions submitted via the internets. D’Souza was asked why, if god could heal as so many christians claim, he has never healed an amputee. The amazingly insensitive and completely assholic response? Well, they’re alive, aren’t they? Isn’t it better for them to be alive than dead? Besides, it’s all really about the spiritual healing. If there is any physical healing happening, it is as a tool of the spiritual healing.

This spew of offensive shit is what finally did me in. I found myself sitting there with my mouth open, totally snarkless. The good news was that was the end of the debate.

All-in-all, I was extremely disappointed with D’Souza’s performance. Hitchens was brilliant, and wickedly funny, but he didn’t even have to try. D’Souza made it way too easy.

Whew! Big post. Sorry for my long-windedness. Check out my stream on Twitter for the play by play action: @CyberLizard. Now that I’ve gotten the overview out of the way while it was still fresh in my mind, I can concentrate on my post about the experience itself. I got to meet the Orlando Atheists & Freethinkers group for the first time (which was cool) and there were many conversations to be had. And I even drank a beer! Well, Strongbow Cider, actually, but close enough. I’ll fill y’all in tomorrow.

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The Great Faith Debate: Final Update!

If you are planning on attending this along with members of Orlando Atheists & Freethinkers, here’s the final word on what’s going down. I hope I can find my way around UCF. It looks nothing like it did when I went there.

FINAL Update!

PARKING

Parking will fill up QUICKLY. Please come early. Those joining us for the 5:00 dinner will have the least stressful experience of all attendees. 🙂
Parking is FREE in Garage F and Garage D; however, we will be competing with students for parking. Parking in all other garages/lots is charged – you can find the yellow kiosks that take cash or credit in every garage/lot.

MEETING Areas

There is NO reserved seating for our group; however, we are going to attempt to reserve some seats together on the second level. Please look for the RED balloons. The doors to the event open at 6:00PM; you will be able to enter at 6PM and find our section.

How to find us:

5:00 – Dinner at Knightro’s (near Garage F, across from Tailgater’s)
6:00 – enter the Arena & look for the RED balloon OR
6:15 – meetup in front of the Box Office (RED balloon)
7:00 – debate begins
9:00 – (after debate) Tailgater’s Smokehouse (Near Garage F, across from Knightro’s)

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What debate?

After my posts pimping The Great Faith Debate, several people have wanted to know, “what is there to debate?” and “why should we debate this, it should be a personal issue”. Things like that. Good questions.

In a perfect world, where religion was in its appropriate place (which is right around the same place as knitting and masturbation: it’s something a lot of people do, it makes them feel good and they don’t go around trying to get everyone else to do it too*) then there wouldn’t be a “debate”. It would be just another philosophical topic to burn some extra intellectual energy on.

But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where religionists are forcing their views into our government. We live in a world where those who promote religion are trying to invade our science classrooms. We live in a world where children are being killed and mutilated in the name of religion and it’s attendant superstitions. We live in a world where prominent politicians joyfully align themselves with those who would participate in such activities.  We live in a world where a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body is being violently attacked in the name of religion. We live in a world where those who don’t believe in the predominant religion are relegated to second-class citizens and a president even says that they should not even be considered citizens.

So this debate takes on greater meaning. It extends beyond existential musings and thought exercises and enters the real world with real world consequences. It is an attempt to bring rationality and acceptance of differing views to the forefront. This has become a human rights issue, as a percentage of the population of the world are being discriminated against, and in some cases physically attacked, simply for not accepting the premise of a supreme being or beings. A debate like this is one form of promoting the acceptance of non-believers. And if it makes people think and consider their own positions and those of others, that can’t be anything but a good thing, right?

* Credit for this awesome analogy goes to PZ Myers

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The Great Faith Debate

Orlando Atheists & Freethinkers

Orlando Atheists & Freethinkers

On Thursday, September 17th at 7:00 PM at the UCF Arena, an event is taking place that is being billed as The Great Faith Debate. Christopher Hitchens will be debating Dinesh D’Souza on the value of religion, the existence of God, and the effects of religion on society. Tickets (free!) are were available here. Unfortunately, general admission seems to be sold out. Do not despair, for the Orlando Atheists & Freethinkers reserved a block of tickets and they still have a good number left. Here are the details.

I will definitely be there. It should be interesting and (hopefully) entertaining to see one of the Four Horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse speak in person. I’ll have a full report after the event. I’ll probably be twittering it as well, so be sure and follow @CyberLizard.

Here’s how the website TheGreatFaithDebate.com pumps up the participants:

Christopher Hitchens, an atheist and anti-theist, is well-known for his critique of religion, which he says is “immoral”, “mythical”, and “man-made”. He is well known for his work as a journalist and for his authorship of the controversial book “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”.

Dinesh D’Souza is the author of several bestsellers, including “What’s So Great About Christianity” and “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11”. He uses intellectual reasoning to promote conservative values and defends traditional religious culture from a social and historical standpoint.

Both speakers are well-versed in current cultural events, and are extremely adept at addressing the challenging issues that face today’s society. Hitchens is witty, humorous, and a little daring. D’Souza is animated, polite, and occasionally mischievous.

Come expecting some surprising twists in the conversation as the two tackle the topic of religion and atheism from scientific, historical, and social perspectives.

If you’re a local, or even semi-local, come check it out! And come say “hi” to me.

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I am uncivil. In other news, the sun rises in the east

I am engaged in a discussion over at Attempts of Rational Behavior where an asshat theist commented in a condescending and arrogant manner that the blog owner should get to know god the way he knows god before condemning religion. This was in response to a piece about the significance of 9/11 and how it influenced her emotional journey away from religion. I chimed in and, in my usual charming way, managed to offend the commenter, who called me “violent, unreasonable, uncivil, and inappropriate”. Go read the comments for the whole story. It’s a fun ride. He ends up by suggesting that I am going to strap explosives to myself and blow up a cathedral.

But that isn’t what I want to talk about. The exchange mentioned above led to an interesting conversation IRL (yes, I do actually speak to people in real life. Just not to you). This person I was speaking with was someone who knows me well and had a completely different take on what the asshat was saying. She felt that the commenter had some valid points and that I came across as extremely rude and offensive. Which kinda was my intent, but be that as it may, it upset her to think that people would read my comments and, not knowing anything else about me, think I was basically a giant asshole.

I made a valiant effort to explain the source of my anger and my loss of patience with the condescending treatment of atheists by theists. Unfortunately, I tend towards incoherent babble when trying to speak extemporaneously, and so I didn’t convey my points very well. So I’m going to babble about them here, hopefully more coherently.

My first point was that I interpreted the comments as being extremely condescending and arrogant and that I felt he was basically telling the blogger that they were doing it wrong, that she should just get to know god. As an atheist, we hear this crap all the time. One of the most basic techniques of the theists is to tell the non-believer that they just didn’t have enough faith, or that they didn’t really want jebus to come into their hearts, or that they went to the wrong church or listened to the wrong preacher on TV. Anything to turn the problem around and make it the atheists fault for not believing, rather than face the fact that they’ve provided absolutely no evidence to support their belief or to convince others to believe. This particular commenter couched this with all kinds of philosophical crap and intellectual-sounding lines, but the bottom line was that the lack of belief was the bloggers’ own fault. I get tired of that shit, and am going to smack it down whenever I run into it, probably quite uncivilly. ‘Cause that’s the way I roll, bitches.

My second point was that, in the real-life discussion, I felt that my right to anger was being questioned. I have lived my entire life unwittingly experiencing the benefits of privilege. I am a white upper-middle class male who, for most of his upbringing, identified as a WASP. Coming out as an atheist has introduced me to a whole world of discrimination and being treated as a second-class citizen that I’ve never directly experienced before. I am beginning to have a deeper understanding of what it is like to be part of a marginalized community. And I now realise that one necessary voice from those marginalized communities is the “angry” voice. Greta Christina expresses this much better than I can:

Because anger has driven every major movement for social change in this country, and probably in the world. The labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the modern feminist movement, the gay rights movement, the anti-war movement in the Sixties, the anti-war movement today, you name it… all of them have had, as a major driving force, a tremendous amount of anger. Anger over injustice, anger over mistreatment and brutality, anger over helplessness.

She goes on to explain why telling the marginalized not to be angry is effectively participating in the marginalization of that group:

So when you tell an atheist (or for that matter, a woman or a queer or a person of color or whatever) not to be so angry, you are, in essence, telling us to disempower ourselves. You’re telling us to lay down one of the single most powerful tools we have at our disposal. You’re telling us to lay down a tool that no social change movement has ever been able to do without. You’re telling us to be polite and diplomatic, when history shows that polite diplomacy in a social change movement works far, far better when it’s coupled with passionate anger. In a battle between David and Goliath, you’re telling David to put down his slingshot and just… I don’t know. Gnaw Goliath on the ankles or something.

My efforts to explain the similarities of the atheist movement with other communities wasn’t an attempt to portray myself as a martyr. Rather it was an effort to highlight the fact that atheists are a marginalized community and that it takes a certain amount of effort and energy to overcome the inertia of centuries and bring the issue to the forefront of public consciousness so that something can be done about it. Expressing our anger is a valuable tool in accomplishing that.

In addition, my verbal sparring partner also suggested that, by expressing anger the way I do, I was not helping the cause, that I was just reinforcing the true believer’s ideas about atheists. PZ Myers took on this trope a little while ago. In response to the opposition to the comparisons between the atheist movement and the feminist movement:

Try reading the literature of the feminist pioneers. They weren’t just rude, they were howling at injustice, they were breaking deep social mores, and they were abused, despised, and imprisoned for it — and they still are. Jebus. You think all women had to do to get recognition of their basic rights was to be polite? You think they got the right to vote by asking nicely? That soft voices and meekness are the answers?

I take it back. I should be embarrassed for us atheists. When I look at the history of feminism, I see a ferocity and a record of sacrifice that puts us tame godless people to shame. Maybe we need to get more outraged and outrageous.

I wholeheartedly agree. Twisted Sister had it right when they sang, “We’re not gonna take it!” It may be uncomfortable, it may be rude, it may even be aggressive, but it has to be out there. Otherwise we let them continue the status quo and keep us marginalized.

Here is some further reading by some bloggers who are much more coherent than I:

We aim to misbehave

Atheists and Anger

Atheists and Anger: A reply to the hurricane

Atheism and the “Shut up, that’s why!” Arguments

Why do atheists have to talk about atheism?

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