Saturday, January 29, 2011

Deicide is Dead: Long Live “Faithicide”

Deicide –noun
1. a person who kills a
2.the act of killing a god.

I’ve occasionally pondered the word deicide. It’s a peculiar concept. Killing something that doesn’t exist isn’t a new idea, but from what I can tell it’s the only act of fictional character killing that has its own definition.

You never hear anyone accuse Dr. Abraham van Helsing, the protagonist of
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, of committing “Vampire-icide,” nor is the word in the dictionary. Besides, how powerful can a god be if it is can be killed by its own creations? There is nothing in scripture that indicates god is susceptible to kryptonite or the like..

No. The word makes zero sense. It should be dropped from the English lexicon, just like Webster’s did back in 1949 by deleting some words that were two-hundred years old and out of common usage. In its place I recommend “faithicide”- which connotes the erosion of theism by the advancement of science, reason, discovery, and intelligent discourse. It’s not a new word. It has been used informally for a few years. But it’s time has come for formal recognition and common usage.

We are all complicit in “faithicide.”
  • Every time Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennette, Price, Ray, Ehrman, et al publish one of their books, faith is being killed.

  • Every time a freethinking organization posts an atheist display next to a Christmas display; or each time a bus rolls by with an anti-religion / pro free thought message on it’s side, faith is being destroyed.
  • Each time a secular watchdog organization challenges religious intrusions into our lives, faith is executed.

  • Each time an atheist blog is posted, a debate initiated, or a religionist letter to the editor is rebutted by a freethinker, faith is assassinated.
  • With each new scientific discovery faith is extinguished.

The erosion of theism in the modern world isn't happening by itself. It was cajoled, convinced, pushed, shoved and forced kicking and screaming into its continuing insignificance in the industrialized (read: educated) world. Faith’s impotence as a means to an end, as a moral standard, as an explanation for the natural world has been exposed.

“Faithicide” deserves its place in our language and in our dictionaries. Definition: Killing Religion with Reason One Superstition at a Time.

Inevitably our practice of “faithicide” will succeed. There won’t be any final deathblow; faith’s ultimate demise will come slowly ... a death of a thousand cuts of reason. When that happens all that will remain to be done is to kick dirt over the unholy grave of religiosity and that will be when Webster can expunge “faithicide" from its pages.

Monday, January 24, 2011

“This country was founded on Christian Ideals and Values!” Such as ...??

We’ve heard that phrase posited by right wing Xtian politicians and their faithful religious supporters for years. But exactly what does it mean? Likely not what they think.

While the first immigrants to this continent were in fact Xtian, suggesting that the Pilgrims' et al belief system was the basis for the "foundation" of what would later become our nation would be like saying that the 13th century invasion of the Mongol hordes into Europe resulted in Poland being founded on "Mongolian ideals." Or that Scandinavian countries were founded on Viking pagan ideals.

Anyone who insists this country is founded on the Ten Commandments hasn't read the Ten Commandments (any of the multiple Biblical versions of them), or hasn’t compared them to our Constitution. Anyone who says that this country was founded on "Christian Values" (whatever they are) just needs to explain what "values" this country has that are defined in the Xtian bible that is unique to Xtianity and which have been codified in our laws.

Perhaps they will offer burning witches as a Xtian value. Certainly the Bible endorses that, and certainly thousands of colonists were killed as witches by Xtians. If so then absolutely that particular Xtian value was embraced in the 17th century by Xtians of this continent.

If enslavement and genocide of indigenous peoples is a Xtian ideal, then yes it too was widely practiced here.

If anti-Semitism and intolerance of other sects and religions, is a Xtian value, then indeed that value was embraced in the 17th century and forward by our early Xtian residents.

If trying to force people to honor the Xtian god by imposing blasphemy laws that fine, imprison or kill for their violation, then yes, that particular Xtian ideal was observed here as well.

Xtians may well stake their claim to those ideals and values. They are welcome to them. But nothing in our Constitution or in the Common Law (derived from pre-Xtian Anglo Saxon common law) speaks to Xtian "values" or infers any Xtian dogma, doctrine, or rituals. Freedom of speech is NOT a Xtian value. Nor is freedom of religion, nor the right to vote, nor granting private ownership of firearms, nor determining who is qualified to hold office, nor is the abolition of slavery, nor is the concept of equality. Jesus never spoke on these issues or endorsed them. And they sure weren't universally practiced in Christian Europe.

This country was a unique and bold experiment. It was founded upon rational thought, democratic principles, and our Founding Fathers’ explicit intent to avoid the “Christian ideals and values” that are the very antithesis of rationality and which enslaved Europe for nine-hundred years. For any person to say otherwise exposes them as deluded, an undereducated buffoon, a lying history revisionist or all of the above.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Surrendering the High Ground: The Pitfall of Religious Debate

Religionist : “Everybody has a chance to go to heaven , if they ask Jesus to forgive their sin.”
Atheist: "Jesus forgiving your sins means nothing if the person you sinned against doesn't forgive you."

I witnessed this exchange between religionist and atheist recently. I imagine that to many of us it reads like reasonable discourse and debate between two people with opposing perceptions of reality. But that’s because we have been raised in a culture where the dominant religion’s words of the absurd have become accepted and common place. In fact the atheist has already surrendered the debate high ground by accepting the challenge on the religionist’s terms.

In his effort to inject reason to counter a basic proselytizing platitude, the freethinker inadvertently validated the legitimacy of the Xtian’s proposal. He did so four times.
First, by granting the Xtian’s premise of the existence of an imaginary Man-god; second, by imbuing that imaginary being with the ability to grant forgiveness; third, by allowing the reference to gaining entry into a fictional place of afterlife to be established as a valid concern; and fourth by accepting the concept of “sin” as a meaningful term in secular parlance where any forgiveness is needed.

Jesus forgiving your sins means every bit as much to the thinking as Jean Val jean, Sherlock Holmes, or Baal forgiving one’s sins. Thus, seeking such forgiveness is absurd at face. So why propose that the fictional god figure’s forgiveness “... means nothing IF...” ? It means nothing, period!

That we may use the word sin in normal discourse to mean an ethical lapse is indicative of our evolving language. But religionists see the word very differently. "Sin" is a man made convention predicated on committing transgressions that violate a supernatural being's prohibitions or edicts causing him/her/it displeasure. Thus, since the very concept of sin is fallacious it negates any need for forgiveness from anything or anyone.

Unless this atheist has concerns about entry to paradise after death; or is worried about offending an imaginary supernatural being’s sensibilities; or he accepts that not keeping the Sabbath holy is a “sin” necessitating a spirit’s forgiveness (any of which by the definition of atheist make no sense) ... his tack is ill conceived. The proper strategy would be to reject the theist’s premise; explain that by virtue of one’s reasoned thinking the proposal is as meaningless; and point them to greener pastures like Scientologists or Muslims.

When evangelicals propose salvation to an atheist they are doing so out of the belief that atheists are simply being stubborn. They have already rejected the fact of our non-belief, considering it simply a defect that proselytizing and testimony can repair. That’s hardly the time to take their bait.
Twenty-six hundred years ago Sun Tzu taught that one doesn’t intentionally allow their opponent to draw one into battle where the enemy has the terrain that is most advantageous to their strategy … no matter how primitive their weapons, or weak their minds.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

When atheist Reason succumbs to hysteria we become like Them

The hideous mass killings and attempted assassination of a congresswoman in
Tucson, Arizona last week has created hysteria and knee jerk reactionary response from people from whom I would have least expected it. Perhaps my disappointment is my own fault as I tend to credit freethinkers with using the same reasoned approach to all issues and events, more credit than we apparently deserve.

Over the course of the past few days I received numerous invitations to join causes and pages on Facebook entitled “Prosecute Palin for Incitement to Murder” and “Remove Palin from Facebook.” Curious, I visited those pages and read some outlandishly speculative comments that were proffered as fact; comments so filled with rhetorical hyperbole, so incendiary and worst of all so unsubstantiated that had the people positing them been religionists I’d simply have shaken my head and said: “Typical.”

But these were largely freethinkers, atheists—people who dismiss the supernatural because they demand objective evidence; honor fact not conjecture; and hold rational thought in high regard, or so I thought.

“The shooter is a Teabagger!”; “This was all part of a well conceived Right Wing plan!” ; “Palin knew this was going to happen!”; “She broke the law and is guilty of conspiracy to murder!”; “We should change the laws for high profile people to hold them accountable for words that kill!”; “She went beyond free speech, like yelling Fire in a crowded theater!” When questioned as to the foundational evidence for these statements no substantiations were offered. The pyre was already stacked, the match struck, all they needed was the witch to be delivered to them.

I suggested examination of Brandenburg vs Ohio and Watts vs The United States to better understand the criteria for incitement to murder. Palin’s gun related rhetoric which appeals to her base and is part of her persona, and the crosshair target imagery do not even vaguely approach that criteria. The critical element being that direct intent to cause harm has to be proven and that mere hyperbole, humor, or offensive methods of stating political opposition are protected under the Constitution. I implored them not to confuse legal accountability, with the unethical/insensitive political discourse we all rightly and roundly condemn.

This wasn’t received well.

Never mind that my expressed disdain for the far right in general and Palin in specific are well documented. That I condemned her hate filled and inflammatory speech as ill advised and bad for the nation was not enough. My call for rational thinking was largely ignored, worse, it was taken as evidence of my right wing leanings and proof that I am a Palinist. I was summarily “unfriended” by at least one Facebook “friend.”

In the midst of all this I received this email from an atheist organization in the Southwestern US:

“The WBC [ Westboro Baptist Church] has added another irony as a right-wing extremist took the lifes [sic] of 6 people wounding 14 more (including Gabby Gifford) will be given hero status by this sick group. If you're in the area please do go to these funerals and help the blockade that will keep the evil of the right-wing out.”

I emailed the group’s organizer, commended her efforts to blunt Fred Phelps’ despicable plan, and asked for her evidence of the shooter’s “right-wing extremist” credentials. She replied she had none, but it was obvious. I explained that the right is claiming he was a far leftist, also without evidence. When I suggested that her inventive labeling of this maniac -- who could as well be far left, Independent, anarchist, or simply apolitical but deranged -- could damage her and her organization’s credibility she said this:

“Of course they're saying he's not one of them. That's how they twist things. Why does associating him with the right threaten my credibility? The right associating him with the left only strengthens theirs”. ...” I think that [picketing Fred Phelps’ demonstration] is a legitimate project for atheists who claim they are also humanists. If my credibility is hurt in the process of getting some action, so be it.”

Let me paraphrase her comment:
“... let truth and fact be damned; if they can posit conjecture as fact so can we; the means justifies the end; and besides what harm would it do, if I told a good strong lie for the sake of the cause? A lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be wrong.”

If that last phrase sounds vaguely familiar to you, kudos. You probably read the chapter in The Atheist Camel Chronicles that discusses the Church’s endorsement of lying for the faith. Here’s the actual quote:
"What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church ... a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them." - Martin Luther, in a letter in Max Lenz, ed., Briefwechsel Landgraf Phillips des Grossm├╝thigen von Hessen mit Bucer, vol. I.)

The lesson here is that the rationality that permits atheists’ rejection of myth doesn’t always translate into clear and measured thinking when facing broader real world applications. Under emotional duress hysteria displaces reason and the ensuing justification for abandonment of truth and fact reads as despicably as it does from a religionist’s pen. Lesson learned.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bye Bye Black Bird … Hellloooo Jesus!

Over the past week bird and fish kills have been reported in Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Sweden, and Australia among a few other places. Thousands of black birds falling from the sky battered and beaten, fish and crabs washing up on coast lines and river banks have got scientists baffled. But not the super religious, no siree. The supernaturally befuddled have it all figured out-- it’s a sign of the End Times, Jesus is coming!

You knew it would come to this. I would have been disappointed if it hadn’t. But when I heard reports of these natural kill events on the news I had assumed that the usual suspects would be crawling out of their Bentleys and McMansions to proclaim that these are the prophesized early signs that the End Times were imminent (“...oh, and by the way, send in your $20.00 prayer offering and receive your sacred washcloth before it’s too late”.) I guess they've cried wolf so many times, and have said so many moronic things that they decided to sit this one out.

Instead the lead is being taken by amateur fundie prophets of doom who are working themselves into a frenzy quoting biblical verse and offering careful analysis, explanations, advice and warnings. These quotes from a blog site are typical of the hysteria.

Justin said: “This could be a message from god that he is coming back soon. Or it could be the forces of the antichrist in Washington controlling our leaders, which are causing these things as well. The antichrist will give great signs and wonders on the earth and the heaven. hence UFO's, Dead Birds, Dead Fish, Weird Weather Patterns, Strange earthquakes, etc. The antichrist is here, and will reveal himself shortly, ...”

Ed said: “Fast and pray, fast and pray, then fast some more, then pray and fast and pray. Pray some more, then fast and pray... New world order is thinning out the bird pop so there will be less to feed on them when Jesus commands them to attack.”

Certainly these are entirely plausible explanations -- if you are Xtian, insane and Republican. Meanwhile verses from Revelations and Zachariah about birds and fish being killed off as a prelude to end times are being thrown around faster than Hello Kitty underpants at a Justin Bieber concert.

Scientists are still investigating the possible causes and haven't the answers yet. This is in and of itself further proof to these purveyors of ignorance that Jesus’ return is just around the corner. After all, if scientists don’t know the cause the default answer obviously has to be supernatural.

And in case that isn't convincing enough they are quick to point to the wars, the diseases, the earthquakes and tornadoes that we read about every day ... all of them prophesized in the bible as the precursors to the End of Days. Pointing out the fact that there has never been a time in history when we didn’t experience wars, disease, earthquakes and tornados doesn’t make much of an impression on them. I tried that once and was quickly put in my place with the ever popular and highly refined retort common to theists: “How do you know?”

I’m going to be increasing the rates at Eternal Earth-Bound Pets in a few weeks. I’m expecting a big surge in clients for post rapture pet rescue. With the May 21 rapture prediction and all these dead birds and fish adding fuel to the fundie fire, there’s money to be made, and they won’t need it where they're going. Just ask em.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

NostradamHump’s Religiously Oriented Predictions for 2011

As an atheist and a skeptic I don’t put any stock in fortune telling or prophesying the future. I’ll leave that to the weak of mind, gullible and religious. I am however gifted with the not so unique talent of predicting the acts of the religiously infected community whose behavior is as predictable as a Youth Minister’s arousal at a preteen church camping trip.

So, here are NostradamHump’s top ten religiously oriented predictions for the coming year. Remember, you heard it here first!:

  1. Pat Robertson will make another inane connection between a natural disaster and God’s wrath. Within a week he’ll die of a massive stroke brought about by his being exposed as the illegitimate son of philosopher and atheist Bertrand Russell and direct descendant of Judas Iscariot.

  2. The pope will make another insensitive and wholly (and holy) stupid remark about condoms, Muslims, and the acceptability of pedophilia. He’ll follow that up by issuing a Papal Writ that declares priestly erections a mortal sin ... thereby claiming he has resolved the child molestation problem among his shaman. In an unrelated edict, he also changes the Vatican’s age of consent from twelve to eight years old.

  3. The Texas School Board will outlaw the teaching of Evolution. During the subsequent book burning of all science texts two board members will catch fire and burn to a crisp. The remaining members will declare it “Part of God’s plan.”

  4. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church will picket the funeral of a Medal of Honor recipient. Twenty openly gay active service combat veterans beat him to a pulp, cover him in BBQ sauce, and slow roast him over an open fire taking 2nd prize in the Kansas State Pig Roast BBQ Cook-Off.

  5. Creationists and religious fanatics Ray "Banana Boy" Comfort and Kirk Cameron will be discovered in a motel room committing unspeakable acts with various fruits and vegetables. Claiming the pineapple Ray shoved up Kirk’s ass is a perfect fit, Ray declares it further proof of God’s existence. Kirk will be speechless, but evidently moved to tears of devotion will nod in agreement.

  6. On April 6th, the day they commemorate the establishment of the Mormon Church, LDS President Thomas S. Monson will receive a revelation from God. Effective that day Mormon women will switch from wearing the traditional sacred but frumpy under garment to wearing the Sacred Thong of Moroni. He also declares Utah a slave state.

  7. Labeling them an affront to Allah, Islam will issue a fatwa against Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Leon Sphinx and Larry Holmes after learning that each had disrespected "Muhammed" by kicking his ass in a boxing match. In an unrelated incident, Islam declares jihad on ebay after a hummus coated pita with the image of Muhammed is offered for sale ... and no one buys it. In another inexplicable action, Islam will launch a jihad against all African Americans, when an imam in Georgia over hears a man at his favorite waffle house ask his waiter to "Get me some mo ham, Ed."
  8. In March archeologists working a dig in Israel discover crucified remains in a bone box inscribed: “Jesus of Nazareth - Son of Joseph and Mary, Brother of James, Donkey Thief, Killer of Fig Trees, Trouble Maker, all around Smart Ass.” After carbon dating confirms authenticity, Easter is officially cancelled.

  9. After five months of non-stop prayer, an Evangelical church in Mississippi will announce it has successfully regenerated an amputee’s limb. When investigating scientists explain that the amputee in question is a star fish and they can do that all by themselves, the faithful will insist it still counts.

  10. With the uneventful passing of the May 21, 2011 Rapture prophesy, thousands of disappointed fundamentalist Christians converge on Evangelical charlatan Harold Camping’s radio station. In a last minute bid to save his reputation and life Camping will swear he said some Christians will have a “rupture” on May 21st … not “Rapture.” The crowd buys it, disburse peacefully, and head to Walmart creating a run on hernia trusses.

There you have it. I wouldn’t say you can bank on these predictions, but if Shakespeare was right, and “past is prologue,” I’d say these are better than even money bets.

Wishing all my friends and readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011.