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God Upset at Kentucky Legislators 08 Dec 2008

Posted by Jessa in Humor, Religion.
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In a stunning move, the Almighty Creator of the Universe broke His millennia-old silence to speak out against a piece of Kentucky legislation that appears to require Him to protect their state.

At issue is a 2006 law which states that the state Office of Homeland Security’s initial duty is “stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.”  In addition, the legislation requires the posting of a plaque at the entrance to the state Emergency Operations Center that begins, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”

When asked for comment, God replied, “Well, seeing as I’m omnipotent, I was already protecting them.  But to require me to protect them by legislation?  Who do they think they are?  I created them. They’ve got some nerve thinking they can tell me what to do.”

Ironically, the Almighty supports the actions of the American Atheists in their attempt to remove references to Him from the legislation.  “While I obviously take issue with their belief that I don’t exist,” God stated, ” I appreciate their efforts to take my name off this ridiculous law.

“After all, if a terrorist attack were to happen in Kentucky, I could technically be charged with breaking the law.  I’m too busy with, you know, keeping the universe running – I don’t want to get bogged down in a lawsuit.  Especially in Kentucky.”

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Fleecing the Flock 07 Oct 2008

Posted by Jessa in Money, Religion.
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Time magazine has an interesting take on the “prosperity gospel” and how it may have lured its adherents into becoming victims of the current foreclosure crisis.

Has the so-called Prosperity gospel turned its followers into some of the most willing participants — and hence, victims — of the current financial crisis? That’s what a scholar of the fast-growing brand of Pentecostal Christianity believes. While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California at Riverside, he realized that Prosperity’s central promise — that God will “make a way” for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, dangerous expression during the subprime-lending boom. Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe “God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house.” The results, he says, “were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers.”

The hypothesis is certainly worthy of further investigation.  If you believe that an opportunity that seems too good to be true is the result of divine providence rather than unsavory banking policy, it’s easy to fall into the foreclosure trap.

Southern Baptist Bookstores Pull Magazine Featuring Women Pastors 21 Sep 2008

Posted by Jessa in Politics, Religion.
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From the Christian Post:

Over 100 Christian bookstores run by the Southern Baptist Convention have pulled from their shelves this month’s issue of Gospel Today Magazine, which features a cover story about female pastors.

Customers to Lifeway Christian Bookstores, located mostly in the Bible Belt with a handful of locations along the West Coast, will now have to request to buy the Sept./Oct. issue of Gospel Today Magazine, which have been placed behind the stores’ counters.

The front cover of the latest issue of Gospel Today, an urban publication with a circulation of nearly a quarter of a million, features five smiling female pastors and was titled “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Female Pastors.” In the cover story, the five preachers talk about their roles and responsibilities, struggles and successes.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s second largest Christian denomination, officially opposes females serving as pastors. In 2000, the denomination overwhelmingly adopted a revised statement of faith that said the pastoral role should be restricted to men.

“We have removed the September/October issue of Gospel Today from our shelves because the cover story, featuring female pastors, clearly advocates a position contrary to our denomination’s statement of faith, the Baptist Faith & Message,” Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, told The Christian Post.

The Baptist Faith and Message declares that “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

Teresa Hairston, the magazine’s publisher, could not be reached for comment. But according to reports by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Associated Press, Hairston said she was just reporting on an emerging trend in churches, and not trying to promote women pastors.

“They basically treated it like pornography and put it behind the counter,” said Hairston, according to AP. “Unless a person goes into the store and asks for it, they won’t see it displayed.”

Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also weighed in the topic of women serving in leadership roles in his recent commentary on women and the election.

He rejected misunderstandings that the denomination wants women to be “subservient” to men, citing the SBC’s confession of faith that states woman and man are “equal worth before God.”

But he drew from teachings in the New Testament to support the Southern Baptist position on women pastors. In 1 Timothy 2:12, “the Apostle Paul instructs that ‘a woman is not to usurp authority over the man,'” explained Land.

“Most Southern Baptists have understood this to mean that women are not to be pastors of local churches, since the pastoral office is a position of authority,” he said.

And the kicker:

Although the denomination doesn’t agree with women serving as pastors, said Land, it does not oppose women serving in leadership roles in public service, such as the vice presidency.

Emphasis mine.  So women pastors on the cover of a magazine = bad.  But women serving in the second-highest office in the country = fine.

Pastafarians Scare Off WBC Protesters 21 Sep 2008

Posted by Jessa in Religion.
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It’s good to see that my brethren in my hometown of Little Rock are putting the power of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to good use.  They managed to scare off a group of protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church:

What do you do to make a bunch of soulless nutcases abandon their post at the Convention Center? Send in the pirates!

Yep, the cuckoo Phelps hate group walked the plank this morning after a happy bunch dressed like pirates and holding signs saying “God hates shrimp — Leviticus” and “God hates cotton-polyester blends” stood opposite them at the corner of Markham and Scott streets. The group, made up of Central Arkansas Pastafarians, waved swords and growled “Arrghh!” in a manner that would have made Abbie Hoffman proud.

With cars honking and waving at the pirates and a TV crew giving them all the attention, the Phelps group — with a child in tow, sadly — picked up their “fag” epithets and went away. Pitiful.

May they forever remain touched by his noodly appendage.  RAmen.

Shorter DI: PLEEEEASE BUY OUR DVD! 11 Sep 2008

Posted by Jessa in Non-Science, Religion.
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Ah, the Discovery Institute.  A never-ending source of lulz.

Help Us Get Lawmakers Expelled

Dear friends,

We’re excited to be able to tell you that on October 21st Expelled: No Intelligence Allow, starring Ben Stein, will be released on DVD. In Expelled, Stein brilliantly exposed the widespread persecution of scientists and educators who are pursuing legitimate science that challenges Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Rush Limbaugh called the movie “powerful” and “fabulous” and said Stein’s “interviews with some of the professors who espouse Darwinism are literally shocking.”

“It is surely the best thing ever done on this issue, in any medium,” wrote journalist Tom Bethell in the American Spectator. “At moments it brought tears of joy to my eyes. I have written about this controversy for over 30 years and by the movie’s end I felt that those of us who have insisted that Darwinism is a sorry mess and that life surely was designed are going to prevail.”

Expelled had one of biggest opening weekends ever for a documentary film and is one the top 5 all time most successful political documentaries ever produced. Now that it is coming out on DVD we want it to be even more successful. We want it to be possible for even more people to see this important film.

To accomplish that we need your assistance and have two options for you to consider…

First We would like to widely distribute the DVD to key policy makers, opinion makers and leaders throughout the country. Such distribution takes more money than we have budget for right now. So, we’re looking for donations to help underwrite the cost of sending the DVD to these individuals. Donations of any amount are welcome. The cost of purchasing and distributing one DVD is about $25, so your donation of $100 will help us to send 4 DVDs. We want to send out as many DVDs as possible Click here to donate now .Second If you run a church or school bookstore and would like to stock Expelled we can help you get a special wholesale price, if you pre-order 25 copies or more. By ordering together in quantity we may be able to get the cost per DVD reduced up to 50% off of the retail price. This is a limited one time offer and we estimate the cost of 25 DVDs to be $300, plus shipping. For bulk orders contact us at the e-mail or phone number below.

We have to move quickly to guarantee that the costs don’t go up. The DVD is going into production soon, so orders must be placed and paid for by Wednesday, Sept. 17th. Please contact Janine Dixon at jdixon@discovery.org, (206) 292-0401 x108 to start the order process.

Thank you for your support,

Robert Crowther
Director of Communications
Center for Science Culture

Where to begin?  That the title of the e-mail implies that they want to expel lawmakers?  That they couldn’t even get the name of the film right? That Rush Limbaugh thought the movie was “FAB-u-LOUS”, or the mental image of him being “literally shocked”?

And why so expensive?  $25 per DVD? $12 if bought in bulk?  Even at $12, it’s about $11.99 overpriced.

HT: ERV

Elizabeth Dole Brings the Hate 07 Sep 2008

Posted by Jessa in Non-Religion, Politics, Religion.
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The Senate campaign in North Carolina is really getting weird.

I didn’t have any real issues with Liddy Dole.  Well, other than the fact that she hasn’t really done anything during her Senate tenure.  Now she’s bringing the fear-mongering to a whole new level by attacking her opponent, Kay Hagan, for meeting with (gasp!) nonbelievers.

On September 15th, Kay Hagan is heading to Boston, Massachusetts to attend a fundraiser for her Senate campaign.  What may surprise mainstream North Carolinians is that the fundraiser will be in the home of leading anti religion activists Wendy Kaminer and her lawyer husband Woody Kaplan — who is an advisor to the “Godless Americans Political Action Committee.”

Oh dear!  Anti religion activists?  Not so much.

Kaminer is also an advisory board member (Woody is the chairman) of The Secular Coalition for America which is “the national lobby for atheists, humanists, freethinkers and other nontheistic Americans with the unique mission of protecting their civil rights.” (Secular Coalition For America, Press Release, 1/16/08)

Kaminer’s husband, Woody Kaplan, is also an advisor to the Godless Americans Political Action Committee which sees itself as a counter-force to religious groups in public policy debates.

That darn Secular Coalition for America – wanting to protect civil rights for all Americans, even the ones of nonbelievers.  How dare they do something as un-American as try to uphold the principles of the Constitution!

“Kay Hagan is trying to run a campaign in North Carolina that casts her as a moderate but the money that’s paying for it is coming from the left-wing fringe of political thought,” said Dole Campaign Communications Director Dan McLagan.  “You can tell a lot about a person by their friends and these are friends most North Carolinians would not be comfortable having over for dinner.”

….

“Kay Hagan does not represent the values of this state; she is a Trojan Horse for a long list of wacky left-wing outside groups bent on policies that would horrify most North Carolinians if they knew about it,” McLagan said.  “This latest revelation of support from anti-religion activists will not sit well with the 90% of state residents who identify with a specific religious faith.”

Emphasis mine.

I’m going to assume, for the sake of charity, that Mr. McLagan is just tragically ignorant rather than a raving bigot.  So for clarification:  nontheists are united only by their lack of belief in a personal god.  Any other label you try to attach to us won’t work, because we’re an extremely diverse bunch.  I’ve met atheists of all political leanings (yes, including Republican).  I know of at least one nonbeliever working for Dole’s campaign as a volunteer.  To paint us all as “wacky left-wing” just reveals the depth of Mr. McLagan’s epic misunderstanding of nontheists.

I shouldn’t have to remind Senator Dole that her duty is to represent the interests of all North Carolinians, not just the ones with which she agrees on matters of religion.  Her press release just convinces me that she is unwilling to fulfill that duty.

And that’s why I’m voting for Kay Hagan.

UPDATE: I see that someone from the domain “senate.gov” has visited the site.  Welcome, Dole staffers!

The Evolution Vs. Creationism Debate 01 Sep 2008

Posted by Jessa in Religion, Science.
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2 comments

In cartoon form.

Evolution:

Creationism:

Want to guess how it ends? Click to find out. (Link removed because the site no longer exists.  Sorry!)

Atheism Leads To Civil War? 24 Aug 2008

Posted by Jessa in Non-Religion, Religion.
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7 comments

WTF?

Crazy Billboard

Logic – You’re Doing It Wrong.

Know Your Logical Fallacies 20 Jul 2008

Posted by Jessa in Religion, Science.
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28 comments

Today’s lesson: post hoc ergo propter hoc

Post hoc ergo propter hoc (translation: “after this, therefore because of this”), often shortened to just “post hoc“, is an attempt to apply a cause and effect relationship to two events that happen in temporal succession.  This fallacy is generally expressed as:

X happened, then Y happened.
Therefore, X caused Y (or Y was caused by X)

Here’s a example, straight from my inbox:

DID YOU KNOW THESE FACTS?
I SURE DIDNT TILL NOW
Death is certain but the Bible speaks about untimely death!
Make a personal reflection about this…..
Very interesting, read until the end…..

It is written in the Bible (Galatians 6:7):
‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sow,that shall he also reap.

Here are some men and women who mocked God :

John Lennon (Singer):
Some years before, during his interview with an American Magazine, he said: ‘Christianity will end, it will disappear. I do not have to argue about that. I am certain. Jesus was ok, but his subjects were too simple, today we are more famous than Him’ (1966).

Lennon, after saying that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ, was shot six times.

Tancredo Neves (President of Brazil ):
During the Presidential campaign, he said if he got 500,000 votes from his party, not even God would remove him from Presidency.

Sure he got the votes, but he got sick a day before being made President, then he died.

Cazuza (Bi-sexual Brazilian composer, singer and poet):
During A show in Canecio ( Rio de Janeiro ),while smoking his cigarette, he puffed out some smoke into the air and said:’God, that’s for you.’

He died at the age of 32 of LUNG CANCER in a horrible manner.

The man who built the Titanic
After the construction of Titanic, a reporter asked him how safe the Titanic would be. With an ironic tone he said: ‘Not even God can sink it’

The result: I think you all know what happened to the Titanic

Marilyn Monroe (Actress)
She was visited by Billy Graham during a presentation of a show. He said the Spirit of God had sent him to preach to her. After hearing what the Preacher had to say, she said: ‘I don’t need your Jesus’.

A week later, she was found dead in her apartment

Bon Scott (Singer)
The ex-vocalist of the AC/DC. On one of his 1979 songs he sang: ‘Don’t stop me; I’m going down all the way, down the highway to hell’.

On the 19th of February 1980, Bon Scott was found dead, he had been choked by his own vomit.

Campinas (IN 2005)
In Campinas , Brazil a group of friends, drunk, went to pick up a friend….. The mother accompanied her to the car and was so worried about the drunkenness of her friends and she said to the daughter holding her hand, who was already seated in the car: ‘My Daughter, Go With God And May He Protect You.’ She responded: ‘Only If He (God) Travels In The Trunk, Cause Inside Here…..It’s Already Full ‘

Hours later, news came by that they had been involved in a fatal accident, everyone had died, the car could not be recognized what type of car it had been, but surprisingly, the trunk was intact. The police said there was no way the trunk could have remained intact. To their surprise, inside the trunk was a crate of eggs, none was broken

Christine Hewitt (Jamaican Journalist and entertainer)
said the Bible (Word of God) was the worst book ever written.

In June 2006 she was found burnt beyond recognition in her motor vehicle.

Many more important people have forgotten that there is no other name that was given so much authority as the name of Jesus.

Many have died, but only Jesus died and rose again, and he is still alive.

——SNIP——–

See the fallacy?  These people mocked God (X happened), then they died untimely deaths (Y happened).  Therefore, they died untimely deaths because they mocked God (Y was caused by X).

Although the fallacy is pretty easy to spot in this example, sometimes it’s more difficult to see.   A good first step to try to determine if you’ve encountered a post hoc argument is to turn the argument around to see if it holds true.  In this case, the reverse would be:

“You can prevent dying an untimely death by not mocking God.”

Clearly, this doesn’t make sense.  Plenty of people who have died untimely deaths did not mock God.  The connection between the two events has not been established, so it’s a post hoc argument.

It is important to note that not all links between earlier and later events fall into the post hoc fallacy category.  Many scientific hypotheses start out as post hoc ideas.  But the causal relationships outlined in a hypothesis are then supported (or disproven) by evidence from properly-conducted experiments.  If it hasn’t been confirmed by evidence, proceed with skepticism.

The Great Cracker Conflagration of 2008 12 Jul 2008

Posted by Jessa in Religion.
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Regular readers of this blog (hi to all four of you) probably already know about this – PZ Myers has found himself in a bit of an internet uproar over a communion wafer.

A condensed timeline:

  • A student at the University of Central Florida takes a consecrated communion wafer home with him.  Much outrage ensues, including accusing said student of a “hate crime” and “kidnapping”, and e-mailed death threats.
  • PZ writes about it, and includes a call for people to send him wafers to desecrate.
  • Bill Donohue (of Catholic League fame) gets wind of it, and acts typically by issuing a press release calling for people to write to the University of Minnesota president to demand that PZ gets fired.
  • PZ responds and fights back.
  • Meanwhile, he’s getting his own batch of hate mail, some with death threats.
  • The Catholic League issues another press release calling for extra security for Catholics at the upcoming Republican Convention in Minneapolis, despite the fact that Morris is 150 miles away from Minneapolis and PZ has not threatened anyone.

Whew. What drama.

I’m somewhat undecided about PZ’s pledge to desecrate a cracker.  On one hand, I think it’s a fairly juvenile stunt.  On the other hand, actions like his can open up a dialog (if somewhat heated) about important issues.  Some of the most important insights I’ve had in my life have come from getting offended and then examining why I was offended.

But what I did find interesting was the thread that ran among the comments from those supporting the Catholic outrage.  Most of them either implicitly or explicitly included the idea that an individual has a right to have their beliefs respected.  Um, no.  Your right to hold a belief should be respected, but the belief itself has no right to be respected.  The idea of respecting beliefs sounds like a good one at first blush, but it’s totally unworkable.  There are some sincerely held but genuinely silly beliefs out there.  Anyone who has spent any time on the internet can come up with at least 5 examples off the top of their head.  By the rationale of the “respect beliefs” argument, we must respect the belief that aliens built the Great Pyramids.  Or that the moon landing was a hoax.  Or that the US government was behind 9/11.  There are people out there that believe these things just as deeply as Catholics believe that a priest can, with appropriate hand gestures and incantations, turn a wafer into the Body of Christ.  See how respecting all beliefs just won’t work?

But the “respect beliefs” commenters don’t really believe that all beliefs should be respected.  A great number of them are calling for PZ to desecrate a Koran instead.  So apparently they have no problems with disrespecting the beliefs of Muslims.  I guess “respect beliefs” really means “respect the beliefs with which I agree”.

Mmmm…I love the smell of hypocrisy.