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Posts Tagged with ÔReligionŐ


Bill Maher & the Evangelical Left

May 29th, 2013 by

This article originally appeared at the Progressive.

New Rule: Maher must blow the Baby Jesus if he’s going to keep preaching Democratic magic

It’s absolutely horrific. Although the single, “I wanna bang you,” is debatably the most convincing argument for nuclear holocaust to date, I’m not referring to the release of Paris Hilton’s second album. Vastly more terrifying than the Auto-tuned caterwauling of a vapid hotel heiress is the degree to which political affiliation and base tribalism warps our very perception of reality.

For instance, a recent study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrated that self-identified conservatives were far less likely to purchase energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs if a sticker on the package read: “Protect the environment.” And, in the real world, Obama-era liberals have repeatedly supported policies they once reviled only because the sticker on the box read: “Hope and Change.” (more…)

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How Louis C.K. ruined Louis C.K. for me

April 6th, 2013 by

“Atheists are arrogant,” says half-bright comedian

louis.ck

C.K. does his impression of Rick Santorum

Life in Buffalo is a relentless shit-show. Unless you’re excited by awful sports teams, there’s not a lot of quality entertainment around, so on the rare occasion a comedy genius rolls through town you go. You just go. And for two hours you get to forget you live in Buffalo. Sadly, not very long into his set, Louis C.K. did a bit that left me acutely aware of where I was, how much I overpaid for my ticket, and why our species is so utterly fucked. (more…)

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Atheism’s Class Problem

November 16th, 2012 by

Beyond godlessness, the fight for social justice

The religious reflex of the real world can, in any case, only then finally vanish, when the practical relations of every-day life offer to man none but perfectly  intelligible and reasonable relations with regard to his fellowmen and to Nature. 
~ Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I

In early October, I received an email from author Richard Carrier. He heard that I was writing an article—this one, as it turns out—lamenting the general neglect of class issues among atheist writers. Among other things, Carrier wanted me to know about the new movement—which, actually, I had been watching since its inception—called “Atheism Plus” (a.k.a. “Atheism +” or “A+”). It is, he wrote, an entire movement “dedicated to including … problems of poverty, income inequality … and other issues of social justice.” (Note: there is no breach of confidence here—on his blog Carrier has promoted A+ and elaborated at considerable length on what he takes to be the core concerns of the movement.) At about the same time, Adam Lee, writing in Salon on 06 October, averred that one of the aims of A+ is to “call for equality of opportunity and economic fairness.”

(more…)

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Open Letter to Torture Apologist Sam Harris

August 10th, 2012 by

Harris, seen here, working on his next book

Dear Torture Apologist Sam Harris,

You rarely cease to amaze. For a man who coldly advocates the brutal physical and psychological torture of others, you demonstrate a remarkable level of cowardice when confronted with the slightest written criticism. As if fully incapable of sensing irony, you describe my critique of your pro-torture stance as “poisonous,” and ramble on for over 2,200 words, hiding behind this disingenuous excuse and that, about why you don’t have the time to effectively respond to such “attacks.” Impressive. (more…)

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Kino: The Winged Beatle

May 23rd, 2012 by

These two guys don’t look alike at all!!1

Constellations never made any sense to me. The stars are just randomly plotted around the night sky and it always seemed arbitrary to me to say that certain stars make up one constellation while others are separate. And all the shapes they were mean to represent were never apparent to me, even when other people tried to point them out and connect the dots.

The Winged Beatle reminded me of how I can be astrologically challenged in that sense. It’s a documentary which promotes the conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney died in a car accident in 1966 and has now been replaced by a doppelganger. This is “proved” by a series of unrelated anomalies and “clues” mostly hidden in Beatles music and the album artwork.

The reason I say this is like astrology is that the film avoids making any definitive conclusion like the plague. Like the astrologers, the filmmakers behind this leave it to their audience to connect most of the dots. This must be satisfying to the believers since it allows for a sense of interactivity with the movie.

This is demonstrated early on when the film gets close to making some kind of claim about The Beatles trying to establish themselves at the helm of a new religion. At first I had trouble figuring out of the filmmakers were complaining about this or just “exposing” a fun new facet to this band they loved, probably because I apparently live in some kind of atheist bubble and sometimes have trouble telling what’s offensive to religious people.

After poking around a few reviews and the comment sections that followed, it looks like those who buy into this stuff aren’t very happy about it. These people are so backwards that they’re still into this idea that normal rock music is part of Satan’s evil plan. They haven’t even caught up with the ignorant hicks who think punk, metal, and hip hop are Satanic plots to get kids to cast spells on their parents.

The details aren’t quite clear, but the basic gist of what they say happened is this: Paul McCartney died in a car accident. Instead of cashing in on the tragedy the way pretty much every other band that lost a member too early would, the Beatles hushed it up. They replaced Paul with someone else. Probably Billy Shears. The band would publicly deny this any time it came up during interviews or other public appearances, but would also leave maddeningly incomplete “hints.” According to those behind TWB, The Beatles were basically trolling their fans.

I think most of the “evidence” presented in the film can be lumped into two categories, and I’m going to illustrate the categories by using two examples. First would be some supposed backwards messages in the music, especially a bit in Strawberry Fields Forever which is supposed to be John Lennon saying “I buried Paul.” The Official Story from the Beatles is that he was actually saying “cranberry sauce.” Of course when this excerpt is played in the movie, the audience is primed with a caption suggesting that Lennon was saying that he buried McCartney.

This, along with another instance where someone close to the band said that Paul “isn’t the same guy” – a seemingly obvious reference to a sudden change in McCartney’s character – I think falls under the category of deception on the part of those spreading the idea that Paul is dead. Either they’ve fooled themselves or they’re consciously fooling others. And they do it by cherry-picking and misrepresenting evidence so that it fits with their theory.

The other category of evidence presented in TWB involves when I think the Beatles were trolling their more gullible fans as part of a marketing gimmick. I don’t have evidence to support this but what this interpretation has over the alternative (i.e. that McCartney really is dead) is that it involves less scheming and intense secrecy.

So let’s say you’re in a rock band and some people mistakenly believe your bassist died. This adds intrigue to your group and intrigue means money. So you feed into that by, say, using some death imagery in some of your album artwork. Like the flowers arranged in the shape of a bass at the lower left-hand corner of the Sgt. Pepper album cover, which is supposed to represent a grave.

Lots of bands have done this kind of thing since the sixties and it’s gotten to the point where it can all be very blatant and over-the-top. One of my favorite bands growing up was called the Mephiskapheles, whose debut album was called God Bless Satan. Lots of punk and heavy metal bands embraced Satanic and death imagery back in the 80s. Fans appreciated it when their favorite bands directly confronted the religious right’s hysteria over the supposedly degrading culture in that way.

To be sure, I’m not saying I have some secret memo from the Beatles manager where he pitched these ideas to the band. But this is just a simpler explanation for the data points TWB brings up that aren’t intentionally deceptive. So if you take out all the evidence TWB brings up that is deceitful and misrepresentative, and then you take out everything that would be better explained by simple opportunism on the band’s part, you’re left with, well, nothing at all.

But really what’s most frustrating about this stuff is in how so many questions are left unanswered. Why would the band give away this secret? What’s the point of that? The only thing close to an explanation is that Alesteir Crowley wrote a couple of sentences about how he liked backwards writing and backwards speech in one of his books once.

The Winged Beatle doesn’t deal with any of the obvious follow-up questions. It only focuses on pattern recognition, and we as a species are very susceptible to false positives when it comes to perceiving patterns where none exist. We’ve been doing it for a long time. Back when we lived outside and slept under the stars, we invented constellations. Now that we live indoors and fall asleep watching TV, we make nonsensical patterns with our pop culture.

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God's PR Squad Lies Again! Alex Jones! Stoned Angels Ordering Pizza!

May 18th, 2012 by

STOP THE PRESSES: Alex Jones is being stupid again, you guys! He has exposed the secret atheist agenda, and can you guess what it is? You get one guess. If your guess was a mishmash of Jonesian buzzwords like “New World Order,” “conspiracy,” “Luciferian,” and “occult,” then you win!

Alex Jones does this “research,” OK? He doesn’t ever cite any sources because usually his research involves just making shit up. But according to his research, everyone funding atheist groups are secretly occultist Luciferians, like pretty much everyone else who doesn’t believe everything published on InfoWars.

See, these rich occultists try to turn everyone into other occultists, somehow in some invisible way. Probably with magic. Anyway, it usually doesn’t work, so they just try to “make everyone atheist.” Because that’s so much easier given how trust-worthy and well-accepted atheists are in American society.

As usual, this is all part of some plot to advance the cause of eugenics. There’s a pretty despicable trick he plays with that word. Most of us think of eugenics and associate it with pseudoscience, racism, and the Holocaust. But that’s not what he’s really referring to. He really means abortion, and by abortion, I mean laws making abortion legal. But to Jones, legalizing abortion and Auschwitz are all the same thing because he has no morals and no sense of proportion at all.

Jones started out as an anti-abortion conservative radio guy. He quickly “discovered” the New World Order and found his niche there, but he’s held onto this weird fetish for the government forcing unwanted pregnancies throughout his career, for FREEDOM.

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Angels rush in for the lunch special.

A pizza shop owner Bob Usner found an angel on his surveillance video. Admittedly I’m pretty bad with aesthetics overall but it took me a few minutes of staring at this picture to see the “angel.” And I’m still not 100% sure I’m seeing the same one as the pizza shop owner.

But if we’re perceiving the same thing here, the angel is doing a what Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter 2 refer to as the Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku spinning kick towards the left side of the frame. The right side of the vague blur is one of the angel’s wings and the left side of the blur would be the other. The slightly less blurred black space in between the two is supposed to be the head, which would be facing left, blocking the full view of the wing on the angel’s right side with its silhouette.

I found this story via r/skeptic and some of the commenters there seemed to think it was probably a pigeon. I guess I can see that in the same unconvincing way I can see the angel. But since there are around 400 million pigeons in the world (most of them live at the University at Buffalo’s North Campus or with Mike Tyson in Brooklyn) and there are exactly zero cases of actual angel appearances, it’s a lot more likely this is a pigeon.

To most of our audience that goes without saying. But look at how easily a true believer like Usner can warp the probability of supernatural events based on past experiences:

“When asked if there could another explanation for the image, maybe a spider web or a lens flare, Usner said the camera has never captured anything like this.”

So there’s no way it can be a spider web because his camera never captured ANYTHING LIKE THAT before. Does that mean that his camera regularly picks up pictures of spirits and ghosts and demons? Is that why he could identify this blur as his dead father in angel form? And is this some kind of special camera? Maybe it’s a demonic surveillance camera straight from the pit of hell! Let’s burn it!

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Rick Perry, seen here, beating the heat

Remember last year when there was a drought in Texas and its Governor Rick Perry was all like, “Hey dudes! Maybe if we wave our hands around and mumble to ourselves, it’ll start raining!” It was a combination of The Secret and a rain dance.

So they prayed and prayed, but forgot to fill out the proper paperwork. So their Prophet Mohammed God set large portions of the state on fire.

But now in an Orwellian re-writing of history, Christian activist Rick Scarborough and science fiction alternative history author David Barton are claiming that prayer actually stopped the wildfires. It would be easier to make a case for the opposite, although that would still involve claiming that prayer is magical.

But because it eventually rained at some point in the future – who’da thunk it, right? – Scarborough calls it a “fresh illustration of how God honors prayer.” To which Barton responded:

“Yeah, that’s one of those many things that historians will looks back upon and say ‘look at the correlation.’”

See, this is how miracle stories can start. We’re seeing it happen right in front of our eyes. This is why you can’t take ancient historical accounts with lots of mythical elements seriously. The people who are interested in spreading this kind of nonsense will just flat out lie. And they’ll do it boldly and without any shame at all.

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Republican Race Wars! Muslims Invade Asia! Antivaccine Airlines! Breatharianism!

April 27th, 2012 by

His misspelled sign burned in the fire before the photo was taken.

A group of religious fundamentalists were protesting the expansion of a mosque in their area. They said it was being built on land that was sacred to them and they did not approve. They said they would destroy it unless the construction site were moved. When they found that a worship site of yet another religion was already in the area, they then demanded that that site be moved as well. (more…)

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BEASTcast 28: Sanal Edamaruku

April 15th, 2012 by

Sanal Edamaruku is the founder-president of Rationalist International and our first repeat BEASTcast guest. We talk about how he recently debunked a Catholic miracle claim in Mumbai and the blasphemy charges against him that ensued. You can donate to the Sanal Edamaruku Defence Fund and support free expression in India here. Music is by Pigface and is used with permission. You can subscribe to the BEASTcast here or rate and/or leave a review in iTunes.

n.b. Contrary to what I said introducing him, Sanal Edamaruku has not been arrested for blasphemy. There are charges against him, but as of the time I’m writing this those charges have not yet resulted in an arrest.  (more…)

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