Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Prayer Requests: Desperation of the deluded

I stumbled across a website that encourages Christians to submit their prayer requests. They promise that the faithful will take up their cause and help them petition god for redress. On a whim I Googled “prayer requests” and found thousands of similar sites.

Picking a few of these sites at random I scrolled through the appeals for prayer requests from hundreds of sad and desperate people. Each story, each testimony was more pathetic than the one before it. Here are a few extracts:

  • “Lord, I am asking for a husband.”
  • “Dear Jesus, please make a miracle happen for my whole finances and income really soon ...”
  • “Please pray God will rid me of my doubt, fears, disobedience, and replace them with unwavering faith, courage, and willingness to obey God.”
  • “Please pray that my anxiety and panic will leave me. I suffer greatly when I am alone or travelling and I pray that God will make his presence felt… I also pray for a job closer to home to reduce the panic. I pray it is something I love instead of dreading getting up each morning.”
  • “I am falling back into a dpression [sic] again after losing my mom and husabnd [sic] i have met anew guy but i am unsure if he loves me Please pary [sic] to God he is the right one because my lomliness [sic] is unbearable.”

There are literally thousands of these cries for help on just this one site.

As I read these prayer requests I was met by three conflicting emotions. First, the realist in me caused my initial response to be one of scorn; that people could possibly believe their financial, relationship, and emotional problems will be solved by typing in appeals to an imaginary god on the internet and enlisting the prayers of fellow believers. After all, unless god is senile one prayer request should be sufficient to get its attention and prompt the necessary response. If they have prayed and haven’t gotten relief, why not just accept “No!” for an answer? Why would a quorum, a veritable petition of prayers, be necessary to get this loving and caring and all knowing god to react? Why not conclude the obvious, that there is nothing there listening?

But then the humanist in me replaced that dismissive scorn with genuine sadness and empathy. These are folks who, presumably, were indoctrinated into supernaturalism through no fault of their own. Whether from childhood, or as a result of weak minded susceptibility in later life, they have come to believe that they are but helpless pawns in a chess game of life where the pieces are moved by a great unseen spirit’s hand. That they are merely microscopic cogs in god’s great plan. That their own effort, self-determination, and choices are insufficient to influence their life for the better. That only through divine intervention can their life be salvaged. I sincerely pity these people.

Ultimately, my anti-theism flooded me with anger. Among the prayer sites I perused not one of them encouraged the prayerful to seek professional attention. Not one of them suggested getting psychiatric attention for depression or anxiety which through medications could give them almost certain relief. Not one of them offered secular readings that could give them self help guidance. Not one of them directed them to a marriage counselor, financial consultant, career counselor or grief counselor who could aid them in getting a grasp on their lives and make it a happier existence. .

Instead, by their very existence, these sites promote dependency on supernatural intervention which will never come. They discourage affirmative action and self-determination. They prolong the pain of these desperate deluded folks, some of whom will very likely destroy themselves when secular resources could have been their salvation. They are guilty of benign neglect of the very people they call their brothers and sisters in Christ.

And for every believer who comes back to testify to Jesus’ deliverance from their problem, and thank the site for their type written prayers, there are likely thousands who will quietly slip under the waves of hopelessness and drown in despair dragged down by the weight of religious ignorance -- all while the life jacket of secular reality bobs untouched on the surface.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Atheist Church" a more counter productive and inane concept would be hard to beat

Well, it’s happened again. I was surfing the net and found an atheist site that was taking a poll of its membership asking about whether one would approve of / attend an atheist "church". I was disgusted for a number of reasons.

First, the term "church" is antithetical to atheism. A church is a place of worship, for theists. They might have just as well proffered an atheist synagogue, or mosque, or coven for all the sense it makes.

Secondly, with so many confused theists calling atheism a "religion" and all the atheists working to counter that foolishness by repeating the old canards like “atheism is a religion like baldness is a hair color,” or “like NOT collecting stamps is a hobby," to be talking about an "atheist church" is giving already confused theists ammunition to renew their claim of “atheism = religion.”

Thirdly, exactly what do all atheists have in common to justify a close knit social structure akin to a theist church? Do we all share a "belief system" in common or a common "world view"? I doubt it. You don't know mine, and I don't know yours, and nothing in being atheist defines wider personal convictions or world views.

Do we feel the need for some "spiritual support" (oy!) by a group of like minded "non-believers?" Atheists share in common only one thing, the ONLY thing meant by "atheism": non-belief in God/gods. Period. Not much there around which to form a close knit church-like social structure much less one with rituals, dogma, doctrine, rites or even a secret handshake. Frankly, I wouldn’t even be attracted to a night of bingo with a room full of atheists.

Oh yes, we likely share some basic axiomatic principles, like respect for science, the need for objective evidence to accept something as a fact. Most of us accept evolutionary theory as genuine. Some large percentage of us supports equality for women, a women’s right to control her reproductive processes, and gay rights. But that isn’t atheism. That’s modernity, rationality and 21st century thinking.

The concept of a church which seeks to somehow service my needs (whatever they may be); or the needs of the “atheist community” (whatever that is), simply because we share only non-belief in God/gods, is not only unnecessary but irrational and counterproductive to how Freethinkers are perceived. That's not to say I object to atheist clubs, reading groups, discussion forums, or activist organizations to discuss issues, raise awareness and to ensure atheists’ rights and the separation of church and state are kept sacrosanct. I belong to a number of those and they serve a clear and defined purpose. But the concept of a formalized "church" is down right misguided and oxymoronic and sets back the hard won credibility of the atheist movement 50 years.
Some pathetic atheists say having our own church and going to "services" would make atheists look better, more moral and thus acceptable to believers. My response to that is: Thanks, Uncle Tom ... if I need to try and "pass" I'll let you know.

On the other hand, if by calling every atheist organization a church, mosque, synagogue or coven we all get a major tax break … count me in and call me Reverend.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Probability or Purpose?: How do your religiously infected friends explain this?

Zahra Baker was a 10 year old girl from North Carolina. Her parents divorced, her father had custody. A bone cancer survivor, she had her leg amputated and lost part of her hearing as a side effect, but by all accounts was a happy and well adjusted little girl. Missing for weeks, her prosthetic leg and part of her remains were discovered not far from her home. Her stepmother who admitted writing a fake ransom note is now the primary suspect in her murder, possibly aided by the child’s father.

I heard this report for the first time this morning. I was appalled that so much sorrow, pain, and horror could be condensed into the ten short years of that child’s life.

As a realist I understand it however. Divorce is rampant, with almost 50% of marriages ending in separation. Childhood cancer is a fact of life affecting approximately two out of every ten thousand children in the US each year roughly 0.02% of children. The horrific acts of abuse, violence, and inhumanity against children, while inexplicable to most of us, are an unfortunate reality. The murder of children under the age of 15 years old represents approximately 1,300 / 6% of US murders annually. A child has approximately 0.00014% chance of being murdered.

The odds of any one child experiencing what Zahra Baker went through are beyond my ability to calculate. Sadly, Zahra was the loser in a trifecta of astronomical statistical improbably. But that is exactly what it was

So how do religionists explain this? Can they dismiss this as a horrific statistical reality born of a convergence of random natural occurrences? No…they cannot… not even if they want to. Because according to doctrine their god has a “purpose” for every person. Their loving god, who watches over his creations with unlimited beneficence; a god who answers the prayers of believers, doesn’t play with random statistics. Everything is by it’s design, even Zahra's miserable life and death.

So what will they say if you were to ask them what god’s purpose was for this little girl’s birth, suffering and ultimate death? There aren’t a lot of options from which they can choose. While apologists have written several million words trying to explain away why their god permits these things to happen to innocents, it always boils down to the vapid platitudes that believers have adopted in lieu of thought to avoid coming to grips with reality: “God works in strange and mysterious ways.”, “It’s all part of God’s plan, who are we to understand it?”, “God needed her in heaven.”, “God wanted her to experience the ultimate pain in order to appreciate the ultimate happiness.”, “She’s in a better place.”, and the ever handy “Free will!” whatever the hell that means. Sometimes they will dig really deep and proffer that “God is a good and loving God.”, as though that explains/ excuses it all.

Want to know how deeply your theist friends have swallowed the Kool Aid of unquestioning religious non-think? Want to gauge exactly how encompassing is their self delusion and surrender to vacuous apologetics? Want to witness what complete abandonment of reality sounds like? Ask them to explain Zahra Baker, then stand back and watch the dance of denial.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Price Glory? Hump’s new business venture is every myth’s godsend.

After many years of researching prospects, evaluating market potential, and creating a business plan with almost unlimited possibilities the stage is set and I am now ready to peel back the veil of secrecy from my latest and greatest project.

Move over J. Walter Thompson! You may be the most renown advertising, marketing and public relations firm on the planet for things and beings born of the natural universe, but you missed the boat this time!


November 10, 2010; Langdon, NH, USA

Subject: D. Waterfilled Hump & Sons, Ltd. announces launch of the first and only public relations service to the fading fabled, marginalized mythical & superfluous supernatural. Clients named.

Whether you were once feared as a night stalking blood sucking undead spirit; lauded as a magical pot of gold harboring Irish imp; or worshipped as a malevolent god of vengeance and blood sacrifice; if your star has faded and you’ve lost your following
D. Waterfilled Hump & Sons will restore your reputation to its once shining glory.

“There are a lot of once great supernatural beings who have fallen on hard times.” explains Dromedary Hump, CEO and founder. “Belief in supernatural has waned. These myths just aren’t getting any respect anymore. We’re committed to changing all that.”

In a marketing coup D.W. Hump & Sons have signed some of the greatest names in supernatural myth and fable. “Our first client was Odin. He was in a rather depressed state when he came to us since his name hasn’t been mentioned in any serious way since the 1958 film The Vikings, staring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis.” Hump explains. “We did a story board and threw out some battle axes to see if they’d stick, so to speak. His people loved the ideas.”

The firm isn’t just focusing on restoring pagan gods to prominence; they’ll take on pretty much any myth.

Eldest son J.R. Hump, Executive Vice President of Things That Go Bump in the Night will be exclusively committed to mythical monsters and non-violent fables. “It’s a specialty area. The mythical beings we have under contract are a mixed bag. Some were once feared and respected, but their reputations have succumbed to over exposure.”

No cookie cutter approach here. Each client fable has their marketing campaign uniquely tailored for them. “Dracula is planning a major comeback with our help. We already have him set up with a speech therapist to lose the hokey Eastern European accent. More sex, less creepiness is our approach for this icon of horror.” Says J.R..

J.R. expects to have the Tooth Fairy under contract by the end of the year, and is negotiating with a number of female demons. “Succubus has approached us. She’s really looking for a complete image makeover. We’re thinking name change. Maybe ‘SuckYourBus,’ or ‘Linseed Lowhand,’ it’s up in the air for now.”

“Basically we’ll do whatever we have to do to get the gullible to keep believing in our clients, or if belief is nonexistent, to resurrect their reputation and image.” Says J.C. Hump, CFO and VP of Pagan god Refurbishment and the younger son. “Speaking of ‘resurrecting’, we’ve transformed the old dead, reborn, and almost extinct gods Tammuz, Horus, and Osiris into a boy band ‘The New Holy Trinity’.” J.C. adds. “They open in Las Vegas on the 25th and then go on tour in the Middle East during the Spring Solstice.”

Asked about that faded and somewhat jaded mandarin, Dromedary Hump explains: “Jesus of Nazareth has his own world wide PR team. Unfortunately between their child molesting, hate speechifying, politically untenable positions, and propensity for being money grubbing fakes in His name, they’ve been doing more harm than good.”

But, Mr. Hump has a nose for sniffing out opportunity. “We’ve talked informally. Jesus knows His credibility is practically shot and He’s losing followers by the millions to reason, science and intellect. I assured Him that if push comes to shove we’ll expand ‘The New Holy Trinity’ into a quartet, give Him top billing and call it something like ‘The Dead Man-Gods Four’. I think it’s just a matter of time before He comes around.”

Hump offered some inside details on his approach for the tarnished King of Kings’ image restoration: “We’d dump the mullet; do some reconstructive surgery on His hands and feet; a little nose work; trim the beard; full dental caps; change His symbol from an execution devise to a circumcised penis; quietly stop capitalizing references to him. It’d be a hard sell, but if he can hold a tune old women and young boys will be throwing their underwear at him in no time. Justin Bieber watch out!”

D. Waterfilled Hump & Son’s, Ltd. is a privately held limited liability corporation.
For more information, or to discuss resurrecting your mythical reputation contact:
D. Hump,

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Catholic hierarchy in quandary over US Catholic attrition: Maybe they should ask an atheist

The National Catholic Reporter reports that “… Catholicism is experiencing the largest loss of faithful of any religious denomination in America.”

The reasons for this decline seems to elude the Catholic hierarchy. Could that be the same hierarchy that still believes in demonic possession? Go, figure.

While the Catholic leadership seem to be bamboozled by this and spend their time gnashing their teeth and wringing their hands over the exodus of the faithful; as an atheist I am able to better see the forest fore the trees. Why are they losing membership in America in spite of the influx of Hispanic immigrants who are overwhelmingly Catholic? Let me count the ways:

1. The Church's inane position on contraception: The pope’s claim that condoms contribute to AIDS is proof of blatant denial of reality and scientific truth. Meanwhile uncontrolled birth rates in 3rd world countries are sucking their resources dry, a recipe for global disaster. In thirty years the population of the planet is expected to double. Where will the already scare water necessary for this population explosion's existence come from? Continuing this absurd stance is tantamount to endorsing environmental and social disaster and the wholesale spread of famine and disease.

2. This bizarre fixation with genitalia: Whose penis is going into whom? What rights do women have over their own uterus? The condemnation of masturbation. The insistence on celibacy for priests. Declaring homosexuality to be a crime against god and an individual choice. It’s time to acknowledge that sex is part of life, part of the natural world, and not subject to supernaturalist control or dictates by men who use their penis only for urination … or are suppose to.

3. Institutionalized Hypocrisy: Not a single Nazi was ever excommunicated, yet the church excommunicate’s nuns who support women in the priesthood, or who report priestly misconduct; they threaten excommunication for politicians who support a woman’s right to choose. Is this “God’s justice”? It certainly isn’t Man’s.

Clergy wearing gold threaded dresses trimmed in ermine, and jewel encrusted hats that look like a psychotic went wild with a Bedazzler; gold chalices and solid gold crosses; all while people shell out money to the church they can ill afford to give up. Christ would be spinning in his grave over such finery if he ever existed, for is it not written that he said to his apostles when he sent them out to preach the Word: "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. (Luke 9:3). What’s wrong with this picture could be discerned by a reasonably astute twelve year old.
Meanwhile, as I write this, the Vatican’s bank is being investigated by Italian courts for money laundering. Already, the authorities have seized $30 million of the Vatican bank’s funds.

4. Enabling of Molesting priests: Cover-ups; insufficient action against those who perpetrated it or enabled it. Not a single excommunication for sexual misconduct or Church subterfuge to date. Not one powerful action that would purge those suspected of being perverts, or prevents the ordination of them. Again, as I write this, 10,000 pages of previously secret documents have been discovered that prove the Diocese of San Diego, California intentionally covered up known molestations by priests, and transferred them to other Diocese.

5. Superstitious nonsense: The gross foolishness of transubstantiation; of exorcism; of demonic possession; of bleeding statues and supernaturally empowered relics and bones; of miracles old and new. Only the weakest minds, the hardcore unquestioning, the core of the Church’s mostly aged faithful, still buy it. Educated youth are abandoning these absurdities in droves.

6. The Politicizing and foolishness of "sainthood”: Silly and archaic, it borders on polytheism. Mother Teresa endorsed pain as a glory to god and withheld pain meds from the dying. Is that the behavior of a saint? By whose definition of morality? A patient prays to an obscure dead nun, experiences cancer remission (while on chemo therapy and radiation) and suddenly the dead nun is working miracles and ready to be given goddess like status? Please. It's the 21st century. Only the feeble can still possibly believe this clap trap. Is it any wonder why the average age of the dedicated Catholic non-Hispanic church-goer is 50 years old?*

In short, the primitive dogma of Catholicism has become obsolete in the 20th/21st centuries. It’s time the Church adapt to the scientific age, come to reason. Time to drop the spooky nuttiness. Time to abandon the madness of dictating human’s sexual and reproductive behavior. Time to adjust their focus to more relevant issues of the era, and in meaningful ways, that directly enhance the lives of people in the real world. Catholic hierarchy you’ve been placed on notice; your parishioners are steadily moving toward reality, your best efforts to stem that tide not withstanding.

Of course, all this is wasted on those who have made careers as professional purveyors of superstion and as go betweens to a make believe spirit and the religiously infected. But who cares? Whether they adapt to a more reasoned modernist approach to morality and the real issues of life and human well being, or choose to remain mired in ancient ignorance and irrelevance -- it’s all good. After all, their losses are our gain.