Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Quazy Quistian Question # 1

There’s just no nice way to say this. Even if there were, I probably wouldn’t use it, because, truthfully? I was born not only without the “god” gene, but also unencumbered by the “tact” gene.

Religion is dumb. That’s why it’s so much fun for us atheists to think up hard Questions for Christians. But I don’t understand why we spend so much time challenging believers about seemingly serious issues like, say, the Ontological Argument or the Euthyphro Dilemma. I’ve got a collection basket full of inane queries that need answering.

So I’m driving through town this morning, and an attractive woman in a red SUV whooshes past me in the right lane and cuts me off. I was already going a few miles per hour over the speed limit (well, in my book, twenty is “a few”). But this woman was clearly on some kind of mission.

Naturally, I leaned on the horn. I did this before I saw her two bumper stickers. On the left: Rejoice in the Lord. On the right: Honk if you’re not wearing any underwear.

Now, it so happened that I wasn’t wearing any underwear at the time. Sometimes, I’m just too lazy or too tired to dig through my highboy to find something to cover up my lowboys. But why my poor scrambled huevos should have been of any interest to a woman whose sunny side up was at least twenty-five years fresher than mine, was beyond me. Only her mysterious pal in the sky could know. When we were stopped at a red light on the next corner, she leaned her head and arm out the window, turned around to face me, and gave me what I at first thought was the finger. But it wasn’t. It was a thumbs-up.

I’d earned the approval of a beautiful Jesus-jumping stranger going commando just by sharing what she thought was a trivial confidence: Hey, I left my tighty-whities in my bottom drawer at home. And what aren’t you wearing, Sweetheart?

My angry impulse had resulted in a sweet, suggestive, smile — which I, of course, returned. And I wondered, “How embarrassed is she gonna be when the rapture comes and all of us forsaken sinners are left admiring her bare behind as it ascends to heaven?”

Anyway, seeing my response, she pointed toward the back of her car. I thought maybe I had a flat tire, or there was a dead animal in the road between us. I rolled down my window, leaned my head out, and shouted the most intelligent thing I could think of to say under the circumstances: “What? What?”

The woman turned almost completely around toward me, leaned over the back of her seat, placed her palms and fingertips together in the praying position, and looked up at the interior roof of her car. It’s impossible to know for sure what or who was up there, but a miracle happened. The light changed. I don’t know if that’s what she was praying for, but I saw it with my own eyes. When the impatient elderly couple in the Honda behind me let off a couple of feeble annoyed beeps, the woman must have thought the sounds were coming from me again.

As she raced away, the woman stuck another thumbs-up out the window. I half-hoped that she’d flash me at the next stoplight. But I did worry that she’d misinterpret my reponse to think I was trying to tell her “Christ is risen.” In any case, it never came up, because she was well out of sight within a minute.

This little story leads me to my very first series of inane queries: What do the pious think will happen to their clothing when they die? Do they imagine that they’re going to an eternal ectoplasmic nudist camp? Or do they anticipate an everlasting fancy-dress ball? Perhaps they think they’ll all be outfitted in identical choir robes without anything underneath. Sure, wise guys can dismiss this problem: Nobody is stupid enough to think that underwear’s gonna be an issue in the afterlife. But if religious people truly believe that each soul is unique, then any one of them, once dead, oughta be able to recognize others and distinguish between them.

OK, how? What exactly will those spirits be staring at?

I’ll tell you this: the attractive woman in the SUV will never trouble her pretty empty head about the Argument from Design. Where she’s going, design, at least of undergarments, won’t be a concern. There’s no way that she’s putting on a push-up bra any time during her vacation in infinity. The only question she’ll need to answer will be: Is it possible to honk when there are no cars around?

Quazy Quistian Question # 1:
Will souls need clothes in heaven? Explain your response.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Another Triumph for the Atheist Logo

Hold onto your hats (which aren't yarmulkes, I hope). You're about to see something that ought to get Gary Bauer's pious panties in a twist. And James Dobson will certainly not want any families focusing on this. I suppose Michael Medved will have something to say about subliminal messages coming out of Hollywood.

We nonbelievers should be proud of ourselves for spreading a meme through the culture so quickly. Our beloved Atheist "A" is showing up all over the place. The fact that it's yellow in the following pic doesn't diminish its impact at all. Notice how cleverly the godless artists have utilized the red motif in the shirt!

If the "A" isn't sufficient to clue you that the chipmunk's a colleague in not-Christ, you can definitely tell he's an atheist by that smug smirk on his face. After all, that expression is another one of our symbols. Just ask any fundie.

You might also be interested to learn that both chipmunk and human atheists share some of the same natural enemies: weasels and snakes.

Next thing you know, he'll be campaigning to remove "In God We Trust" from all acorns and berries. And watch soon for Alvin's new book, The God Nuttiness: How Religion Poisons Rodents.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Don' Need No Stinkin' Badges

It seems as if every month or so, there's a new atheism symbol. The oldest one I've seen, an "A" inside an atom, looks like an advertising tie-in for a 1940s sci-fi radio serial.

Don't forget kids: If you buy a box of Sugar Jets you can get the exact same decal that Captain Atomic and his Asteroid-Jumpers wear! Ask your mom to iron it onto YOUR shirt today.
The bright red Dawk-A would be great if we wanted people to think we were selling apples.

The newest creation, from Atheist Alliance International, is equally ridiculous. Lots of vjack's commenters were reminded of a stray badge from a Star Trek uniform. Others saw a branding iron, or an @ sign.
Stranger: At what?
Atheist: At what, what?
Stranger: I like your at pin. I was asking: at what?
Atheist: That's not an at sign.
Stranger: Is it a branding iron? Are you here in town for some kind of cowboy convention?
Atheist: No. It's an A. For atheist.
Stranger: At atheist?
Atheist: No, just plain atheist.
Stranger: You're gonna brand your cattle as atheists?
Atheist: No. It's what I am. I'm an atheist.
Stranger: Well why didn't you just say so. Sheesh. You people are so secretive.
Now, I don't see why we need a symbol. I'm perfectly capable of using my mouth to tell anyone who asks that I'm an atheist. I'll bet most of my readers are, too. I also don't think we need a secret handshake, a code knock, or a group whistle.

And c'mon, be truthful. If you're the kind of shrinking violet that needs to hide behind a symbol, are you going to be that comfortable answering strangers when they ask you what it means?

But none of my opposition to the symbol silliness stopped me from designing one of my own. I like it because no one seeing it will have any doubts: It says ATHEIST, f'cryinoutloud.

Unfortunately, not being particularly gifted in the artsy way, I'm sorry to say that the image in the center of what was supposed to be a circle is not actually in the center of not actually a circle. And for some mysterious reason, my reds don't match. Also, you might notice that my lines are slightly wobbly.

But my nonbelief is as steady as it ever was. Symbol or not.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'll Be Celebrating with Some Whine

When I hear that a friend has fallen into matrimony, I feel the same sorrow as if I had heard of him lapsing into theism
Algernon Charles Swinburne
There’s no reason why anybody but me and a certain other party should give a shit about this, but I thought I’d share it with my readers.

I’ve been married for a year now. This is my first anniversary.

Over the course of twelve months, I’ve learned a lot about relationships. You have to strive to be attentive, even if you don’t always feel like it. You have to work at keeping yourself interesting, so your bond stays fresh and new. And you have to accept that not every day will be a lovefest.

To be frank, sometimes I’ve found myself feeling slightly bored. On the other hand, I’ve often been stimulated beyond my expectations. I think we enjoy ourselves most when we do weird things together, although it’s still fun to just sit around looking at one another. At least, it’s fun for me. There are days when — honestly? — I’ve been known to just stare and stare and stare for hours, without any stray thoughts entering my head.

I admit that my physical appearance may leave something to be desired, but, fortunately, we do our best to get beyond that. And, I’ll tell you a secret: the action in bed is awkward on the rare occasions when I attempt it, but I don’t really mind.

Hey, wait a minute! You didn’t think I was talking about me and my wife, did you? She and I have been together since people were still riding on dinosaurs.

I’m talking about me and this blog. Two hundred and fifty beautiful days and nights together. (The other hundred and fifteen, I wasn’t so crazy about.) I can't believe it's been a whole year since we said "I don't." And as far as lapsing into theism goes: It's not gonna happen.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Puzzling Atheists #4: Blame Philly

PhillyChief recently complained that I didn’t have enough visuals on my blog, so I’ve decided to accommodate him.

The box below features sixteen images. Some of them may be immediately recognizable, others may not. As a slight help — minuscule, really — if you read from left to right, line by line, the subjects of the pictures are in alphabetical order.

Your job is to pair up these images so that they form the names of seven annoying personalities and one really irksome group of people. Some of the pairings will roll off the tongue easily; others may take a little indulgence on your part.

For example: if there were a picture of a hill somewhere in the grid and a picture of a ton somewhere in the grid (not necessarily next to one another), they could be combined pretty straightforwardly into Hilton. On the other hand, a picture of an oar and a picture of (Oliver Hardy) Ollie could be manipulated in your mouth to form O’Reilly. (I know that one's a stretch, but, hey — them's the rules.) Each illustration should be used once only.

I don’t think anyone will get all eight combos, although Hemant, the Friendly Puzzle Whiz, might. As usual, please don’t post your answers; email me as you find them. Comments will, of course, be appreciated, and you can even feel free to pose questions to one another about interpreting the individual images. I may pitch in with some help if enough people seem really stumped.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dangerous Link: Proceed at Your Own Risk

The link at the bottom of this post will not take you to a Web site specifically of interest to atheists. In fact, atheism isn't even an issue. Be warned, too, that clicking on the link, which will bring up a story from the Phoenix New Times, may subject you to various degrees of data-mining. You could well be included in the government's attempt to find out:

A) which pages visitors access or visit on the Phoenix New Times website;

B) the total number of visitors to the Phoenix New Times website;

C) information obtained from 'cookies,' including, but not limited to, authentication, tracking, and maintaining specific information about users (site preferences, contents of electronic shopping carts, etc.);

D) the Internet Protocol address of anyone that accesses the Phoenix New Times website from January 1, 2004 to the present;

E) the domain name of anyone that has accessed the Phoenix New Times website from January 1, 2004 to the present;

F) the website a user visited prior to coming to the Phoenix New Times website;

G) the date and time of a visit by a user to the Phoenix New Times website;

H) the type of browser used by each visitor (Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Netscape Navigator, Firefox, etc.) to the Phoenix New Times website; and

I) the type of operating system used by each visitor to the Phoenix New Times website.
Now, I must admit that I don't read the New Times and I don't live anywhere near Phoenix. But a friend of mine sent me this article, which alleges such a gross, unconstitutional usurpation of the justice system that I thought I should pass it on. Because we atheists must be vigilant to outrages like this, even when they fall outside our immediate realm of anti-theocratic concern, I just had to get involved.

After the article was published yesterday, its writers, both executives of Village Voice Media (the parent company of New Times), were arrested.

I'm not going to tell you anything further about the situation. The long report does a fine job of laying out the facts without needing my help. Perhaps, though, it won't even be available by the time you get around to looking at it. If it is, just be aware that you're endangering your privacy if you do choose to click.

I hope you will. I also hope you'll publish the link on your own blog. Here it is:

Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution

[Update - Saturday, Oct. 20, 11:58 a.m. edt: All charges against the Phoenix New Times have been dropped. The threat against your e-privacy, what little you have of it in Bush's America, has been removed for the time being.]

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Auggggh, a Philosophical Question

As I’ve said a number of times on this blog, I’m not really into philosophical questions about the existence or non-existence of a god. To me, they’re a waste of time. The very process of arguing seriously against a silly thesis imbues that thesis with a gravitas it doesn’t deserve.

I also hate quoting from the bible, unless I’m discussing ancient literatures. To ask Jews or Christians to justify random thoughts written in their vast collection of non-wisdom seems, to me, a tacit acceptance that somewhere in their screeds there’s a core of truth. I don’t see it: not in a historical sense, not in a scientific sense, certainly not in a philosophical sense, not in any kind of sense that is sense.

But today, I’m going to ask a philosophical question, and I’m going to base that question on quotes from the bible. To be as ecumenical as I can, I’ll use the King James Version as my source.

OK. On the third day of creation, as related in Genesis 1, the character named God creates the dry land and the seas ... and God saw that it was good (verse 10). Later on that same day, the guy works his magic with grass and herbs and fruit trees ... and God saw that it was good (verse 12). On the fourth day, the master magician cobbles together the sun, moon, and stars, and sticks them where he thinks they’ll work best, just the same way you or I would change a light bulb ... and God saw that it was good (verse 17). Next day, he made himself an aquarium and an aviary, and — you guessed it — he saw that it was good (verse 21). On the sixth day, he invented land animals, patent pending. Can you guess what he saw? ... that it was good (verse 25).

This self-satisfied tinkerer was able to distinguish whether or not something was good, and was clearly pleased with himself to have created good stuff rather than non-good stuff.

Fair enough. Let's concede for the time being that the creations were good. Oh, if it had been up to me, I might have made more Carolina parakeets (now extinct) and fewer mosquitoes (now not), but no one asked. If the god of Genesis thought that his workmanship was good, then, because he's god, he must have been right.

But wait a minute. The concept of “good” must be outside his control, apart from him, a quality he recognizes when he sees it.

So here’s my question for believers: What being conceived the difference between good and bad?

Between You, Me, and the Lamb Post

Spanish Inquisitor has just posted a reminder that the Nonbelieving Literati will begin commenting on our current book, Lamb, starting on November 1. Since I believe that you can never repeat yourself too much when dealing with a herd of cats, I'm restating the info here.

If you care to know a little more about the novel, you can click on the link at left or the one at SI’s blog. (He includes a picture of the cover, in case you don’t want to get this particular Lamb confused with any other books of the same name.) Either link will take you to Amazon’s Web site, where you can read a short description and some unreliable reviews by customers.

SI has gone out of his way to make it clear that you don’t necessarily have to be a nonbeliever to join our group, and I'd like to reiterate that. In fact, if we have enough believers that want to take part, we might even be enticed (you know how we atheists love to succumb to temptation) to form a theistic sub-chapter. As a special added incentive to all those anatheists (yeah, we need that word) who might be thinking about becoming members: you’ll get a link right here at an honest-to-no-goodness, genuine heathen’s blog. What could be better than that, eh?

The list of members, which you can find in the left column, includes the names of blogs the proprietors of which responded to my initial post. I’ve deleted a few names because the blogs seemed to have gone dormant. If I mistakenly dropped you from the roll, or if the son of somebody miraculously brought your site back to life, do ask to be listed again. On the other hand, if you think I’m taking your blog’s name in vain, let me know that you want to be removed. When I say “your wish is my command,” I really mean it – unlike some deities I could name.

So, Lamb it is. I’ve found that smearing the book with some mint jelly makes it much easier to digest.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Awwww ... And It's Not Even Valentine's Day

Well, those of you who read my blog regularly will notice that I’ve given BlogRush the BlogBrush. The two-week experiment is done. As of this moment, I’m no longer a shill for Christians and other superstition-mongers. And — hooray! — I don’t have to say “widget” any more.

Now that the Jesus-jumpers have bounded off my pages, I thought it was high time to throw in a few out-of-the-blue plugs for some folks in the Atheosphere.

I read quite a few atheist blogs. But there are only a few that I keep going back to, again and again and again. The writers of these blogs are people who have come alive in my mind, who, even though I’ve never met them personally, I feel that I know in some way. I’d enjoy inviting them into my home for drinks and dinner. They’re people who, if the theists are correct, I could see hanging out with through an eternity of hell.

The following catalog is definitely not complete. I know I’ll be kicking myself as soon as I publish for leaving out someone I really like. I’ll make it up to them later, I promise. For now, these are the ten bloggers (maybe eleven, as you’ll see), listed in alphabetical order by the names of their blogs, that I’d most want to break open an expensive bottle of wine with. I’m well aware, by the way, that some of them would prefer beer.

A Load of Bright
I really dislike most blogs that spend a lot of time philosophizing. But tobe’s is different. It’s often exhilarating watching him think through a philosophical problem, and sharing his step-by-step process with us readers, inviting us along for the mental ride. Plus he’s a damn good writer, who knows how to turn a phrase just so. I suspect he crafts many of his little essays with great care, and it shows; they stand up well to repeated readings. That's about the most complimentary thing I can think of to say to a fellow writer, and tobe deserves it.

A Whore in the Temple of Reason
Sacred slut’s is visually the most stylish blog, bar none, that I've seen. But the content is great, too, full of nice, nasty zingers. She recently wrote a line that still has me laughing two weeks later. In response to the zillions of conflicting interpretations of Christianity, she said: ... when the Son of God comes to Earth to tell all humankind something, it ought to be pretty damned fucking clear what the message is. Pow, right to the point! See why I love reading her blog?

Atheist Revolution
I’ll say it right up front: I read vjack for purely selfish reasons. I don’t think there’s another blogger whose posts I’ve more frequently felt compelled to jump off from, expand upon, disagree with, or otherwise link to than his. If that weren’t reason enough to hang around his site, I’m impressed with how hard the guy works to create a sense of a nonbeliever community. If such a community exists — and I think it does — it’s in no small part due to his efforts. Thanks, vjack.

Deep Thoughts
Let’s get this out of the way: Mojoey sucks at spelling. But, oddly, that’s one of the things I like most about his blog. It always seems as if it’s written lightning fast, in the heat of passion. Fuck spelling. For powerful pissed-off-edness, you can’t beat him. He’s the Avenging non-Angel going after criminal religious leaders; no transgressor escapes his commentary. Of course, Mojoey is also the man responsible for the Atheist Blogroll, no mean feat, for which we all owe him a debt of gratitude. But I’d be devouring his blog under any circumstances. That long parade of fiendish priests and pastors is impossible to resist.

Evolutionary Middleman
I enjoy reading John’s posts so much because he puts on no airs whatsoever; I always feel as if he’s just sitting around, having a conversation that I’m encouraged to join. His words are so natural, never forced, never padded. In the recent past, he joked self-deprecatingly about his writing abilities, but he’s full of shit. Just look at the paragraph up there at the top of his blog; it’s a perfect and succinct preview of what you’ll find below. John is also one of the most fervent supporters around of lifetime learning. Once, when he ran a long string of recommended science books, he ended by saying: I'm not suggesting my reading ideas are the best. If you don't care for science or even any non-fiction, then get a couple of good works of fiction. Just read. Television is ruining us. Revolt by Reading! That would be great stuff if only he weren't such a poor writer, eh?

I don’t have much to say about Babs, only that she’s the funniest blogger in the Atheosphere. On rare occasions when she gets serious and shares a piece of her personal life, she can be tremendously moving, because, wow, can she write. But, as I said, she’s usually merely the funniest blogger in the Atheosphere.

Friendly Atheist
I’ll be honest. Sometimes Hemant is too damn friendly for my grumpy taste. But he’s the clearing-house for everything going on in the atheist world. If you’re not reading his blog, you’re just not getting all the godless news. And anyone who has a skeptical cause that needs championing can count on him all the way. If we atheists ever come up with our own version of “We Are the World,” Hemant’s will be the loudest voice. Oh, and just so you don’t get the wrong idea: sometimes the guy can be pretty sarcastic. I like that in a person.

Spanish Inquisitor
You didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition, did you? Well, actually, if you read my blog, you probably did. I think SI has one of the finest minds in the Atheosphere, and his writing is always entertaining and stimulating. I leave comments, even if they’re just snide one-liners, more often on John’s blog than on any others. That’s because his posts grab you by the lapels (if you’re a guy; if you’re a woman I don’t know what they grab you by) and insist on a response. His is often the first site I check when I hit the Internet running.

Why Don’t You Blog?
I have a confession to make about this blog: I’m not 100% certain that TW and heather are two separate people. If we did have dinner, I wouldn’t know whether to set two places or just one for somebody with a split personality. In any case, WDYB is the site I visit to learn what’s happening in the Brit atheist world. The writing is sharp and witty, whichever one of them/her/him is doing it. I also love that sometimes heather’s topics come surprisingly from way out in left field. (Like the report on the woman who claimed that she could use the power of her mind to make people piss themselves, or the rant about good and bad starchy foods.) I’d love to raise a pint with him/her/them, although I'd have to apologize in advance about the carbohydrates.

You Made Me Say It
In a way, it’s appropriate that PhillyChief’s blog comes last because it’s the newest one on my list. Just a little more than two months ago, I was flattered to get an email from him, telling me that he enjoyed reading my blog, and that if I was interested in taking a quick look, he’d just that day started one of his own. Little did I know that his site would become one of my favorites. Among the things I like most about it is what's stated very clearly in the blog’s title: Philly just has to say it, whatever it happens to be that day. There’s always a sense of urgency there. There are no filler posts, no random musings. He reminds me of Howard Beale in Network: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Of course, Philly writes it; he doesn't yell it out the window. At least I think he doesn't.

If I were able to gather all these characters together at one long areligious table, I’d want to find an extra chair for Sarge. He doesn’t have his own blog, but he comments frequently on mine and on almost every other one that I read regularly. He’s an inveterate story-teller; no matter what the topic, Sarge has a personal yarn to spin. It’s people like Sarge, non-bloggers in a bloggy world, who make us realize that we’re reaching out beyond just the incestuous inter-linking Atheosphere crowd. Pour that guy another glass.

OK, folks, the love-letter is over. Take your candy and flowers and get the hell out of here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Good Advice

Unless I’m ranting about political or legal matters, I try to avoid being serious here because I think my readers prefer being entertained. There’s enough dead-seriousness in the Atheosphere already, and I’d rather not add to it. But today, you’ll have to pardon me, because I’ve got something I need to get off my chest. If I were a Roman Catholic, I’d probably go to confession. But I’m an atheist, so I blog.

I gave advice to a friend. The advice, unfortunately, was good. In fact, I think it was very good. But I hate myself for giving that advice.

Throughout my life, I’ve been in the enviable position of never having to censor my nonbelief. Notice that I said “enviable.” I know all too well that some people aren’t free, for one reason or another, to advertise their atheism.

My friend is an atheist. My advice was to keep completely quiet at work about that. I didn’t say, “Don’t go out of your way to publicize the fact that you’re a nonbeliever.” I didn’t say, “Avoid debates”or “Shun conversations about religion.” I just said, basically, “Shut up entirely.”

Now, I’m about the last person in the world to urge someone to keep mum. About anything. But I thought my suggestion was right because revealing an atheistic worldview could seriously jeopardize my friend’s career. I would never advise anyone to stand idly by while religion was being aggressively advocated. But that wasn’t the situation I was told about. It’s just that my friend faces the possibility of being “outed” as an atheist by some folks in the workplace who accidentally stumbled upon the “secret.” If that were to happen, my friend might be faced with some serious out-rage on the part of the people who pay the salaries. So I said, in essence, “Don’t talk about it at all.”

When I thought later about what I’d said, I realized that I would never have voiced a similar opinion to a friend who was worried about being revealed as a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim. No one would dream of taking action against a worker who wears a cross or a star of David.

But as I’ve mentioned, my advice was very good under the circumstances. If you knew all the facts, you, yourself, would have given the exact same counsel. But it’s advice I’ll never give again because it makes me disgusted to concede that we live in a world where merely acknowledging one’s atheism can deprive one of a livelihood.

So, in retrospect, I wish I had said, “Yes, admit proudly that you’re an atheist. Assure your boss you wouldn’t dream of trying to convert anyone at work. Insist that your non-belief doesn’t conflict with your job, doesn’t hurt the people with whom you come into contact, and doesn’t make you any more suspect of propagandizing than your Catholic coworker who gets his or her forehead shmeared on Ash Wednesday. But don’t deny who you are.”

That would have been very bad advice, indeed. But, on reflection, it’s the advice I should have given.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Only 299 to Go

OK, it’s intimidating enough that PZ chugs out about 300 posts a day, while we mere mortals write just one or two every decade. But when he allows his students to add to his output, he's really rubbing our noses in it.

Not to be outdone here at the woefully inadequate No More Hornets, I decided to ask my students to help me out, too. Then I remembered: I have no students because I’m not a teacher. But I was still able to augment my pathetic productivity by soliciting the aid of my friend, Ms. Atkins, who teaches fourth grade. Or, at least she used to before she was fired on some trumped-up charge. Anyway, she was kind enough to ask her class to write short compositions on the theme: “What Atheism Means to Me.” She had each student invent an appropriate Internet name for him- or herself to use on this blog, so they wouldn’t be identifiable. This is their post.

What Athism Mean to Me by louisjones.
My teacher ask me to write about athism and I told my mother and she said my teacher was a bad word and she would report her to the princibal but the princibal would not talk to my mother because my mother complain all the time about the bull bad word they are feeding us in our classes but they do not feed us in our classes they feed us in the lunchroom and I like what they give us except when its meat loaf.

What Athiesm Means by stinks
I go to church every Sunday and when I do I believe in God. He is great. But sometimes when the other kids make fun of me because I stink in sports I don’t think God is so great. Why did He make me stink in sports? I wouldn’t make anybody stink in sports if I was God because people who stink in sports have feelings too. So in church I’m a Christian but when the other kids make fun of me because I stink in sports I’m an athiest.

I Am a Atheist by ihatejesus
I am a athiest but my parents are Christains. When I told them I was a athiest they nearly had a heart attack but they did’nt. I’m glad they did’nt but I’m sorry they did’nt get a little bit of a pain some place on their body because they washed my mouth out with soap and that made me throw up. They did it when I told them I was a athiest. They said I did’nt even know what it means, but I do. It means I hate Jesus, that’s what Billy told me. And I do hate Jesus because I got bad presents last Chrismas. My parents said thats not Jesus’s fault its Santa’s fault but I do’nt believe in Santa because it makes no sense.

Athests are Mean by athestsaremean.
I think athests are mean people. They hate God and they hate Jesus and they hate Mary and they hate Matthew and they hate Mark and they hate Luke and they hate John and they hate Adam and they hate Eve and they hate Noah and they hate everybody else in the Bible too except Satan. I think it’s bad to hate people in the Bible. And they don’t believe in hell!!! That’s why I hate athests!!!! I’m glad I believe in hell because that’s where their going!!!!!

What Atheism Is to Me by ilovesam
I wish I was an atheist because I like the way Sam Harris looks. I saw his picture in a book my dad was reading. He is not handsome but he looks like a nice guy. Sam Harris I mean. My dad is not handsome either but he also looks like a nice guy. My mom says he has big ears and a big nose. Sam Harris that is. My dad has small ears and a big nose. I don’t know why my dad is reading a book by Sam Harris but he curses a lot. My dad I’m talking about. I don’t know if Sam Harris curses. My mom says if I was going to fall for an atheist why didn’t I pick someone nice looking at least like Richard Dawkins? I saw him on TV. He’s old. But it doesn’t matter because I’m not an atheist because I love Jesus. He is not handsome either but he also looks like a nice guy. My mom says he’s a very nice guy, nicer even than my dad who is also a nice guy. I wish he’d cut his hair, though. Jesus I mean.

It’s in the Bible Atheists by sixdays
Atheists don’t beleive that God made the world. I would like to ask them who did? I bet they can’t answer that one! Even a forth grader like me knows the answer to that but atheists are too stupid to know how to look it up in the Bible. I know how to look it up in the Bible because it’s write at the begining. It says God made the world in six days. And then he rested on the seventh day. I don’t know why God needed a rest because he can do everything and it’s not hard for Him. Maybe he just wanted to watch TV. I know there was no TV in those days but I bet God was able to see into the future. I wonder if he saw atheists. Why didn’t he kill them if he saw them? Mom says you can’t question God but I would like to. I would like to know why he made atheists who don’t believe that He made them. And I would also like to know why he made brussel sprouts because I think that was a big mistake.

What Atheist and Agnostic Mean by readthisgrandma
My mother is an atheist but I’m not supposed to tell my grandparents. She doesn’t believe in a god. I’m an atheist like my mother and I’m not supposed to tell my grandparents either. But my grandmother knows because I told her and she cried. She is not an atheist. She believes in a god. She cried because now she thinks her god hates us. I told her it didn’t matter because I don’t believe in a god so let him hate me all he wants. My father is an agnostic. He says he’s not sure. He says that about almost everything.

Aythism by fuc
Theres this aythist girl at school Carmen. And she wont say the plej a legience because God is in it. I told her if God wants to be in the plej a legience that’s his busness not hers. And she called me a name that I can’t write because its bad it starts with F U C. And she called God the same name it starts with F U C. I wish I could tell you what the name is but I cant so youl have to guess at it. And maybe Im a bad person because I minded more that she called me it the name that starts with F U C than she called God it the name that starts with F U C. But God can kill her with lighting from the sky and I cant because your not suppose to hit girls. It ends with K.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

And Just Think: No More Silly Scarlet A's

All the brouhaha about Sam Harris and his call to stop using the word “atheist” to describe ourselves has generated umpteen posts in the Atheosphere. (Now, umpteen plus one.)

Some, like Spanish Inquisitor, have made an analogy between "atheist" and "gay."

... the word [atheist] has the capacity to become a wonderful umbrella term, much like “gay” is used to describe homosexual, lesbian, bi-sexual and even to a certain extent, the transgendered, along with not only a lifestyle and a sexual practice, but a culture. Atheism can include, despite its definitional limitation, a multi-faceted number of differing and complimentary world views and philosophies, if we allow it.

The above is a false analogy. "Atheist" is a common term for a nonbeliever, and always has been. But "gay" was not a common word for "homosexual" until homosexuals started using it to describe themselves. "Gay" used to mean "festive, colorful, merry," as in "don we now our gay apparel." Ever since the 17th century, it has also had a second, underground meaning relating to sexual conduct. Originally, though, "gay" was used to denote promiscuous heterosexuals: a prostitute was a "gay woman;" a brothel was a "gay house;" and a womanizer was a "gay man." Only after World War II, did a slow but concerted effort by the gay community change the standard meaning of that word.

The evolution of the word "gay" gave me an idea. While I'm perfectly happy with "atheist" to describe myself, I'd like to suggest an alternative.


Here's a future conversation I imagine.

Theist: You can't call yourself a reasoner. Anyone who uses reason is a reasoner. Look it up in the dictionary! I'm a reasoner, too.

Reasoner: Do you believe in any gods?

Theist: Yes, of course.

Reasoner: Then you're not a reasoner. We reasoners don't believe in any gods.

Theist: But you can't just change the meaning of a word that way.

Reasoner: Why not?

Theist: Because that's not what "reasoner" means.

Reasoner: Yes it is. A reasoner is a person who doesn't believe in any gods.

Theist: What about all the other people who use reason? The ones who do believe in god?

Reasoner: Well, they may claim they're using reason, and they may even be using reason. But they aren’t reasoners, by definition. You're not a reasoner if you believe in any gods. That’s what “reasoner” means: a person who doesn't believe in any gods. Any reasoner will tell you that.

Theist: You can’t just take over a word like that.

Reasoner: Yes we can. You don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.

Theist: Well, I won’t. I’m still going to call you “atheists.”

Reasoner: That’s fine. Reasoners don’t mind being called “atheists,” although that word is a little old-fashioned, and viewed by some as pejorative. Still, you’re free to call us anything you like. Just understand that the accepted polite term for a person who doesn't believe in any gods is "reasoner."

Theist: I absolutely refuse to call you “reasoners.”

Reasoner: OK. But you should know that when you read a book by a reasoner, or when you see a reasoner being interviewed on TV, or when you hear a reasoner being quoted, that reasoner is a person ...

Theist: Yeah, yeah. A person who doesn't believe in any gods.

Reasoner: Now you're getting it.

So what do you think, fellow reasoners?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Richard Dawkins and the "Jewish Lobby"

Well, Richard Dawkins turns out not to be a god after all, since he said a very stupid thing. (Hey, maybe he is a god). This is what it was, as quoted in The Guardian:

When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told — religious Jews anyway — than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place.
Dawkins, I suspect, will be painted as an anti-Semite, which isn’t necessarily true based on what he said. He is, however, misinformed, and jumps to an erroneous conclusion.

Yes, Dawkins qualifies his statement by saying “as far as many people can see,” but those are just weasel words. He would not have made the claim were he not one of those people. So let’s not let him off the skyhook just because of a phrase he throws into his assertion to give him a retreat position.

Is There a Religious Jewish Lobby in America?
It should be clear that Dawkins’s “American foreign policy” is a reference to U.S. support of Israel, and all the ramifications of that support. And, indeed, there are a number of lobbying groups — most members of which are Jews — that do urge support for Israel. But those groups do not represent all religious Jews. Many of the ultra-orthodox , including the numerous Satmar Hasidim, are anti-Zionists, because they believe that the state of Israel should not have been formed until the arrival of the Messiah. There are also plenty of less fanatic religious Jews who deplore the theocratic flavor of Israel’s government.

One religious group that is gung-ho about American support for Israel is the collective of fundamentalist Christians. Fundies make all kinds of noise about the “Holy Land,” but they’re not really tolerant of religious Jews (or any Jews, for that matter). So Dawkins can’t have it both ways; either religious Jews “monopolise” American foreign policy or they don’t.

Look, the world’s anti-Semites love to spout nonsense about the Jews’ desire for global domination, an idiotic conspiracy theory, rooted in fear of "the other," that has been tossed around for centuries. It took serious hold in America when Henry Ford paid to have The Protocols of the Elders of Zion published in the United States. References to a fictitious, super-powerful “Jewish Lobby” are variations on that theme. But the ultra-rationalist Dawkins ought to know that the book was a propagandistic hoax. Perhaps his hunger for evidence doesn’t extend beyond science.

What Is a Jew?
Not clear. The word “Jew,” as commonly used, has two meanings. One, of course, is “a person who practices Judaism.” People who dislike those "Jews" should be labeled as “Anti-Judaists,” not “Anti-Semites.”

The other meaning is “anyone descended from a distinctive ethnic group called ‘Jews’ who were never fully assimilated, for one reason or another, in any country.” In this sense, a Jew is someone whose mother, father, or both referred to family ancestors as “Jews.” A Jew, therefore, could be an atheist, a Hindu or a Buddhist or a Muslim, a Wiccan or a believer in fairies at the bottom of the garden, or even a practicing fundamentalist Christian. People who dislike these "Jews" should be labeled as “Anti-Semites.” Anti-semitism is about genetics; anti-Judaism isn't.

Is Supporting Israel the Same as Supporting Jews?
Many people believe, erroneously I think, that support for Israel is somehow support for “Jews,” under whichever definition you like. But let’s look closely at Israel. There’s no denying that it often seems to be controlled by ultra-nationalists, and that it’s a quasi-theocratic state. However, there’s another fact that is frequently ignored. Regardless of its location, Israel is a Western nation. The founders of modern Israel were Europeans, who brought their interpretations of Western Civilization to the Middle East. A large part of the anti-Zionist mentality in the area has to do with the hatred of Western ideas. If Israel were a state of mixed religions, or no religion, it would still be loathed by its neighbors. It’s easy to pin on “Jews” the entire phenomenon of Israel’s conflict with the Muslim world. But that’s a tunnel-vision approach. Lots of folks who are highly critical of Israel’s sometimes thuggish policies nevertheless favor the spread of 21st-century knowledge over the retention of 12th-century ignorance. It’s not difficult to find the Israelis’ basic acknowledgement of democracy and rationalism preferable to the region’s glorification of feudalism (our allies) and/or enforced superstition (all others). This preference is certainly not unique to a nonexistent "Jewish Lobby."

The Nightmare Upshot of Dawkins’s Comments
I strongly suspect that Richard Dawkins is not an anti-Semite, although he has apparently bought into the delusion that there's a "Jewish Lobby." But in the next few days, weeks, and months, he will definitely be given that label by a media hungry for sensationalism. Since Dawkins is perceived by many religionists as a major spokesperson for atheism, we nonbelievers may all have to fend off similar charges of bigotry.

I think Dawkins deserves credit for using his high-profile persona to warn the world of the god delusion. But he has hurt the atheist “movement” by his ill-considered statement. By suggesting that atheists emulate the mythological Jewish Lobby, he has given propagandistic fodder to the theistic masses. Those who know that there is no Jewish Lobby will dismiss Dawkins as a fool; and, people being what they are, will then feel free to reject everything he has ever said or written as equally unfounded in reason. On the other hand, those who believe that there is an international Jewish conspiracy for world domination, as manifested in the Jewish Lobby, will be delighted to demonize atheists whose “leader” clearly wishes to set up a similar cabal.

(H/T Atheist Revolution)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What Do You Know: I AM Being Rushed!

A few days ago, I said that I was going to test BlogRush's claims for the existence of traffic heaven. To be fair, I think my experiment needs more time, so I'll keep the widget in place for at least another week or so. But let me report some prelimary findings.

1. There has been no significant increase in my traffic. According to the various analytic programs I use, I've had maybe three or four hits each day that were a result of the BlogRush widget. Two pleasant Christian women, new visitors, left comments on my post, so I did gain a couple of temporary readers from outside the Atheosphere. But I can't tell whether they came to me by actually clicking on the BlogRush display or just found my suggestive title through the usual Google/Yahoo/Technorati/Random Monkey-Typing channels.

2. What I have seen a dramatic increase in, though, is spam. My nomorehornets email address, which is available on this blog by clicking "Email Me" (duh) used to receive a few pieces of junk each day, mostly from friendly women who think I'm in desperate need of some "company." Since joining BlogRush, however, I get mailings, sometimes three or four at once, each from an allegedly different sender. I've received at least thirty of these in the last twenty-four hours. The subject lines read: serious business opportunities or serious investment advice or serious information about your future. The word "serious" is clearly meant to encourage me to click; after all, how could I think that these are frivolous messages? Now, it's possible the ultimate source of these mass mailings is a site other than BlogRush. But I don't think so, and here's why. When my Internet surfing has no relevance to my atheism, I don't use the nomorehornets email address.

3. In all honesty, I must say that some of the blogs appearing on the BlogRush widget don't seem to be Christian, at least judging from their names. The majority of the non-Galilean blogs, again judging only from their names, advocate different manifestations of similar nonsense: Judaism, Islam, and all those faux-Eastern -isms left over from the '60s. On the other hand, I've actually seen a few atheist sites crop up now and then. Unfortunately for BlogRush's claims, I know those sites very well. Most of them are listed on one or more of my blogrolls. I read them regularly, and I think they stop by here regularly, too. So, really, those people are not gaining any hits from me, and I'm not gaining any from them.

4. The BlogRush widget (oh, how I hate that word!) is really ugly. Those of you who read No More Hornets with any attention know how infrequently I use illustrations or photos; I'm not really visually oriented. But I do notice things that smack me unpleasantly in the eye. Like the BlogRush whatchamacallit. Oh, yeah, you do have some illusory control about the look of the thing. You can make it even wider than it is. And you're invited to choose any of thirteen different "flavors," which most of us would call "color combinations" if we weren't being too cutesy-wootsie for words. The flavor I'm displaying, FYI, is licorice. Don't get it in your teeth. Other flavors available are Bubblegum (one word), Chocolate, Watermelon, and Aqua, the last of which — in a lifetime of eating everything in sight — I've never encountered. (Hey, this aqua is delicious!) BlogRush also seems to be under the impression that Ice is a flavor; I wonder who's been peeing in their freezer.

5. Did I neglect to mention that I have a serious business opportunity for you?

Please, if you're a BlogRush displayer, leave your comments. I'll report again soon.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Because Americans have the word “democracy” humming in our heads like a mantra all the time, we tend to see the entire world through majority-rule lenses. The common fly’s-eye view, in which judgments can be made only in multiple, makes us crazy to cast our ballots on everything. This accounts for the success of ridiculous pseudo-entertainments like "American Idle" and "Prancing with the Stars." Our democracy mania is laughable, but it's also dangerous. One of the threats that atheists face is the misconception among the rabble that all areas of human endeavor are subject to a vote.

But they're not.

This one should be obvious. No matter how the public feels, scientific truths are not subject to popular wishes. Yes, the morons in the electorate can vote to forbid any kind of public teaching that doesn’t suit them; they can spread officially sanctioned ignorance from sea to shining sea (that shine may be pollution); they can insist that a belief in the literal truth of Genesis be required for any researchers who want government funding; but they don’t get to cast a ballot on scientific knowledge. The god-crazed masses can lobby against “Darwinism” all they want, but they can’t stop the flu virus from evolving. Even among scientists themselves, there’s an understanding — although tacit at times — that consensus doesn’t necessarily reflect the way things actually are. Hey, maybe medical experts will find out that Hostess Sno-balls are good for you.

OK, it’s a field wide open to interpretation. As Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.” (And the Winstons, too.) But I’m not talking about written history; I’m referring to what actually happened. You can’t call for a show of hands to change events of the past. Godpushers can continue to insist that America was founded as a Christian nation, for example, but it just ain’t so. There’s no historical evidence for that conclusion, and plenty of evidence against it (like, um, the fact that no deities are mentioned in the Constitution, and there’s not even one word of religious propaganda). Again, the majority can affect what’s taught in public schools; they can influence what idiot senators like John McCain have to say; they can forbid certain facts from being uttered. But they can’t hold a referendum to undo what actually happened. Sorry, folks: Elvis died.

Admitted: You can lie with statistics. But you can’t make two plus two equal five, regardless of what We the Innumerate People want. For instance: If the figures overwhelmingly show that abstinence education doesn’t work to stop teenage pregnancies, a voice vote — even led by the loudest, most pious throats in the country — won’t alter the calculations. Those girls are carrying real, countable babies. Get out your abacuses, fundies, you’ve got some adding to do.

The Arts
Hell, art isn’t democratic at all. What we call “art” is, of course, subject to the plastic ballots we carry in our wallets. But there are objective standards, for anyone who cares to apply them. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is objectively better than “Jingle Bells.” Rembrandt’s Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer is objectively better than those poker-playing puppies. Alice in Wonderland is an objectively better kids’ book than any of the Harry Potters. Hamlet is an objectively better play than Cats. And Double Indemnity is the best movie ever made. (Well, maybe that’s not objective.) There are real criteria for determining what is and isn’t art, although critics and aficionados may disagree about what those criteria are. But popularity isn’t one of them. And neither is eligibility for government aid. Most important, no polling-place mandate can determine what art isn’t. Oh, sure, when the hoi polloi’s nays outnumber the yeas, the authorities can step in to ban books from libraries, force museums to remove certain works from display, tell musicians what they may not perform in public. But, as long as there are objective standards — not “community” standards, mind you — art is art. I may not be able to define it, but neither can the guy who can't figure out how to punch a chad.

Democracy Itself
If U.S. citizens were asked to vote for or against democracy, as a principle of government and not just a word, they would probably vote against it. As they did in 2000 and 2004. The Bush administration has never followed the “will of the people.” Not about the Iraq War, not about abortion, not about stem cell research, not about the environment, not about stopping pork-barrel legislation, and not about refraining from out-and-out criminality. Fortunately, in a system like ours — where there are certain basic guarantees that trump the whims of the multitude — it’s not possible for democracy to be democratically rejected. Of course, that doesn’t stop the politicians and the theocrats from trying.

I suspect I’m going to be in the minority on some of the views expressed above. But you know what? This blog is not a democracy, either.