Monday, July 30, 2012

Dealing with death: How does an atheist cope?

An atheist friend recently experienced the loss of three friends and family members over a short span of time and asked me for advice on how an atheist deals with loss. I suspect that when he was a believer the rituals and dogma provided comfort. But now, without the support structure of an imaginary afterlife, hope for future reuniting, and a “meaning” for the loss he is grasping for a reasoned substitute to ease his pain. 

I don’t think I’ve ever considered this before. I don’t mean dealing with death, I’ve done that, been there. I mean considered how differently freethinkers and theists deal with the grief of loss.

How easy and comforting it must be to imagine ones dead loved one running in a sunlit field in the afterlife – eternally young, physically perfect, ecstatic, and being chased by their equally ecstatic childhood cocker spaniel.  Or surrounded by a few generations of previously deceased relatives who embrace them and welcome them to eternal life and introduce them to their angel friends.  Or dressed in a white robe, glowing with contentment as they spend eternity fawning over their man-god and telling him what a wonderful god he is, like an eternity in Disneyworld, except they have to give Mickey oral everyday, forever.  Wonderful.

Heaven, Paradise, Valhalla, the Happy Hunting Ground, the Underworld, the Land of the Dead, the Spirit World, all have always held out the promise of eternal life as a way to avoid coming to terms with the ultimate new experience, the finality of death.  Nothing in a thinking person’s quiver of reasoned thoughts can compare to, or compete with it.  All we have is reality and for us that is quite enough.

It’s enough for me to know the deceased person loved me and I loved them. Enough to know the pain of illness has subsided. Enough to know their contributions to the world will live behind them and their progeny will carry on.  Enough to know that the cycle of life is unstoppable, inevitable, and is shared by all living things. It’s enough to know that the oblivion of death is no more fearful than the oblivion that was pre-life.  I take comfort in that, we all should.

I had no magic bullet of reason that would spare my atheist friend his burden of grief.  All I could do is tell him that while there would always be a hole, hollowness, in his life that those people once filled, that in time it will shrink. Oh, it’ll always be there, but the depth of grief he is feeling now will gradually be supplanted by wonderful memories of what those people brought to his life, and he to theirs. That is the gift they, we, leave behind.

 Let your sadness run its course. Time is the great healer. The brain is a marvelous thing that way.   I wish theists could appreciate the beauty in the simplicity and reality of that.
[ dedicated to my friend G. David.]

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In the face of tragedy the grotesque face of religion takes center stage

I didn’t want to write this blog. I’ve been avoiding it for days.  The horrific Aurora, Colorado massacre doesn’t need my analysis or post mortem. The media has dissected, poked, prodded, speculated, pontificated and squeezed every conceivable angle out of it. Anything I could add would be just one more disgusted and horrified voice among millions.   

But I am compelled to denounce those who, like flies drawn to feces, crawl out of the dung to  take advantage of horrific events, to promote their belief, raise their profile, and make a living capitalizing on disaster and human failure.  Those who seize upon tragedy in order to up the ante of hate and ignorance in our world or promote their business.  A despicable segment of our citizenry who deserve nothing but universal disgust and condemnation from every person who, regardless of their religious perspective, retains a spark of intellect, honesty, respect for reason and decency .

I’m speaking of Evangelical preachers and Xtian shaman, self appointed spokesman for their imaginary god, purveyors of myth and fable who live at the fringes of reality and dare not miss this opportunity to espouse their fanatical devotion to stupidity, no matter how off the mark, far fetched, hurtful, divisive or mindless it may be.  Examples:  

Jerry Newcombe, an Evangelical leader, didn’t even wait for the smoke to clear before he to affixed blame for the mass murder on America’s loss of the fear of hell, and the removal of prayer from public school and separation of religion from our government  Then, to make sure his point is made,  when one step further and told the victim’s relatives that those who weren’t committed to Christ, weren’t born again, are burning in a terrible place.  I guess the shooter will be going to the good place...he was a Presbyterian in good standing, according to his pastor.  

Rick Warren, **  Evangelical preacher, shaman emeritus to the GOP, and head of the mega Saddle Back Church, blames the massacre on the teaching of evolutionary theory.  It seems children, and this murderer specifically, has been convinced by the study of evolution that they are no better than animals, and thus have opted to “act like animals.”  The fact that no animal species besides humans have ever been documented committing mass killings of their own kind seems to be lost on Reverend Warren.

Fred Phelps, of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, has announced his plans to picket funerals, harass mourners and protest in Aurora to promote his sick contention that the deaths were god’s punishment for the US’s continued acceptance of homosexuals.

Franklin Graham, the successor charlatan to his father Billy Graham’s cash cow ministry, don’s his ministry logo cap and t-shirt  (see above) and travels to Aurora with his team of prayer merchants to pray for the victims and let them know he and “He” is there for them, as though without him the devastated folks would never heal.  Naturally, if his mega business gets promoted by some camera face time, so much the better.

Then some Xtian wood working fanatic builds twelve 3 ½ foot tall 2 x 4 wooden crosses on bases, trucks them into town, and sets  them up - one for each of the deceased. Seems he did the same thing for the Columbine massacre thirteen years ago.  Those victims are still dead.  I imagine the twelve new crosses will have a similar non-effect on the recent victims. I wonder if all the deceased are actually Xtians, or if he gave it a moment’s thought, or if he even cares.

And on it goes.  Instead of promoting unity, kindness, understanding and giving real support to the people affected they and we are treated to  threats of eternal torture; the condemnation of science;  the hate sign waving; the meaningless platitudes, hosannas  and useless prayers; the tortured reasoning and utter lack of it; the erecting of miniature execution devices as monuments to delusion... all rolled out for everyone to marvel at  like some grotesque carnival of de-evolution.  Like a convention of witch doctors chanting their gibberish, brandishing their rattles and totems, vying for a following.   Like a bizarre dance of death cultists.  

The perpetrator of this horror will get his due.  Justice will be served, albeit it will be of little comfort to his victims and their families or the town that will bear this burden forever.  But the perpetrators of religiously inspired hate, divisiveness and delusion, the promoters of useless myth and ignorance who would spew their obsession and seek to capitalize on this tragedy will escape with their skins in tact.  There is no justice in that.

[ ** CORRECTION:  following the publication of this article, a reader advised me that the statement attributed to Rick Warren was a misinterpretation by another atheist blogger.  I apologize for this error and retract it.  Whole story of the error here:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hump’s Annual Non-Religiously Oriented, Short List Rant of Secular Annoyances

Many of you have probably been asking yourselves “Isn’t it almost time for Hump’s Annual Non-Religiously Oriented, Short List Rant of Secular Annoyances?”  If you are among those astute readers, indeed you are correct. It is precisely that time. 

So here, in no particular order are a few of the things that have irked the hell out of me over the past year that have absolutely nothing to do with religion or the religiously afflicted as far as I can ascertain. If some appeared on a prior years’ list it is due to my poor memory and my perpetual disdain for the subject.

1. Magnum Ice cream bar commercial where an attractive actress leaves her car in a sweltering traffic jam, and trots across the hoods of her fellow stalled drivers’ cars to reach the ice cream truck parked a dozen vehicles back. And under the image is this disclaimer:  “DO NOT ATTEMPT.”   (see above)

I struggle to understand exactly the intent here.  Is it to imply that anyone stupid enough to buy their ice cream must be stupid enough to re-enact such a preposterous stunt?  Can they really believe a moron, or psychopath would appear in court with their equally moronic lawyer and use the defense: “But your honor...they didn’t say NOT to destroy the hoods and roofs of a dozen cars!!”  and also believe that without the disclaimer they’d be found liable, at least outside of Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas?  I know this is America, but even THAT would be stretching our nation’s infamous idiocy.  When will corporate America stop telling us they think we’re all idiots. WE KNOW ALREADY!

2. Donald Trump.  As though this needs a more detailed explanation - he has largely abandoned the business world, probably seeing the hand writing on the wall of his fading success there, and opted to become a full time TV clown, wanna be king maker, media whore and professional asshat. 

If his peculiarly excessive lip manipulations which always seems to be forming the word “ORIFICE” no matter what he is actually saying isn’t enough to want to see him impaled, then the constant Obama “birther” fixation, and his need for the GOP to throw him bones by pretending they take him and his endorsements seriously should be enough to make even an atheist invoke Psalm 109’s imprecatory prayer on his behalf.  It would be a cheap shot to even bother and mention that thing on his head, so I won’t. [it’s ferret cage sweepings]. 

3.  Alec Baldwin’s useless brother Steven has been the target of my wrath in the past for his failed acting career, and his addiction to drugs, alcohol, Xtian fundamentalism and gross stupidity.  But this year Alec himself takes the spotlight.

NO you self absorbed insipid twit... the airline doesn’t have to accommodate your fucking game boy on the runway; and NO you sophomoric man-boy, your video game enthrallment doesn’t take priority over the time and patience of a few hundred of your fellow passengers ...even those low lives in coach and business class who want to go home and see their families unencumbered by your tantrums. Elitist Jerk.

Hey Alec, you get paid a few million a year and thus are subject to public scrutiny. If the pressure of people taking your picture and earning bucks off of your inexplicable and undeserved success is too much to bear to the point where you need to punch them out or break their cameras... at least man up and stop lying about it. Coward.

Oh... and by the way, I don’t care how much of a Liberal you are, or that it was fourteen years ago -  calling for the death of a politician and the execution of their family because you don’t like their politics should have gotten you a few years bunking with “Ben Dover” in a federal prison. Maybe next time.  Maniac.   

4. Ann Curry is finally gone.  But I’m not above kicking her while she’s down.

It took too long.  If NBC had listened to me a year ago, it would have saved them millions in severance pay and their loss of first place in the ratings.  On the positive side, what she lacked in the ability to read a teleprompter Ann made up for in being devoid of talent, insipidly insincere, and permanently addled.  And yes, Matt hated her too.

5. Anthony Weiner, Aka “Tony the Weiner Wagger”, disgraced NY congressman who tweeted pic’s of his manhood to lucky female recipients, got exposed, lied about it; got caught and nailed.

Look, Anthony, once you are caught trolling with your pocket fisherman, don’t go announcing you’re going to make a run for mayor of NYC.  Even your Mom probably laughed at that.  Who are you going for the priest and porn vote?.  What’s that, maybe 15%, 18%  of the population of NYC?  C’mon.  You should be too embarrassed and ashamed to even appear on TV news shows.  You probably don’t realize the only reason you are given those gigs is because your appearance is tantamount to giving people a car wreck to watch.  They are disgusted, but just can’t turn away.

6. Dunkin Donuts.  News flash ... America DOES NOT RUN on your freaking coffee and donuts. America runs on fossil fuels, an underfunded and weak public education system, and a local, state and federal system of lies, graft and self serving obstructionism.

It is the height of undeserved arrogance to suggest that if every one of your hideous third rate coffee dispensing hovels burned to the ground that America would cease to “run.” McDonalds and Burger King maybe...Dunkin Donuts ... not!  Change that slogan and change it now, nobody buys it!

7. Michelle Bachmann, and anyone who even remotely thinks the woman has an IQ and deserves to hold public office. This woman barely qualifies to represent the lowest rung on the ladder of human evolution.

Bachmann’s latest foray into the world of lies, stupidity and misinformation casts aspersions at an aide to Hillary Clinton, implying she has connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Why?  Because she has a Muslim heritage and last name. Never mind she was born here, and has served with distinction for twenty some years in her country’s service, has clearance from every law enforcement agency in the government, and has never once been associated with a Muslim cause.  If unfounded accusations got  Joe McCarthy the spotlight and launched the nation into a few years of manufactured hysteria and witch hunts, maybe Bachmann can get it to work for her too. 

On the down side, the aide in question IS married to Anthony Weiner, so we do have to question her Muslim taste in Jewish perverts.  Bachmann would serve her country best by getting plastered to the grill of a bus traveling down Pennsylvania Avenue at 60 mph.        

Well ... I better stop there.  There are three or four other irksome people places or things that deserve my wrath, but I’m already teetering on the brink of a seizure just rehashing these.  Hell, you take it from here.  I’m going to smoke a Valium and swallow a camel. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

I’m ready to become a believer, so why doesn’t their God make it happen?

Each night I let the dogs out around 11:00 pm for their final rest stop before bed. Where I live there is little light pollution and with no moon last night the night sky was magnificent.  I laid down on the grass and watched a satellite, or the international space station, slowly creep across the sky and disappear into the dark space between the spangle of stars.  There is no greater evidence of the majesty and power of nature than the beauty and vastness of the night sky.

We’ve all heard religionists say things like “The proof of God is all around you” or “The Bible is proof of God’s existence.”  These platitudes are proof of only two things: their lack of understanding of what constitutes “proof”, and a weak mind that has succumbed to fable and stopped there.  What’s all around me is the proof of forces both understood and not yet known that resulted in the natural universe.  It is not evidence of a boogie man’s creation accept to those who cannot or will not examine the scientific evidence.   The Bible is no more evidence of a supreme being than the Koran is evidence that Muhammad flew to paradise on a winged horse. 

What would constitute proof of a supreme being to me would be something unmistakably beyond the laws of nature; something supernatural, inexplicable, in your face and observable by everyone so that it would discount simple psychosis and could be mistaken for nothing either natural or faked.
As I lay there looking at the night sky it occurred to me how so very easy it would be for a supreme being - if it existed and if it really gave a fiddler’s damn about whether its creations believed in it or not -  to end the speculation and give everyone a chance to save themselves from the eternal hell it is said to have created for non-believers. Like what? 
Like this...

If one evening, every star in the sky began to move in unison, and converge to form an illuminated three dimensional Latin Cross that filled the entire void, leaving the rest of the sky utterly black, devoid of any stars or planets; with Jesus’ face superimposed upon it, speaking in all languages at once its expectations of us, and for good measure it simultaneously rained human blood across the planet; and this all lasted for 24 hrs so that every person on Earth could view the event for themselves ... I’d buy it.  I’d become the worlds greatest Christian.  Or if it were equally strong evidence of some other god being, I’d be first in line to at least apologize to it for my denial and happily sacrifice to it, grovel at its hooves, or otherwise demonstrate my reverence.. 

How hard can that be?  And what the heck is holding it up? Xtians will say there’s enough proof all around, and the bible should be sufficient so that god doesn’t need to pull any grandiose displays of its existence to satisfy everyone. Or that God doesn’t need to do miracles or magician’s tricks [anymore] to convince those who reject it. But that’s a cop out, self-serving intellectual dishonesty, since believers attribute “miracles” to God all the time, and take it as evidence of its existence and concern for humanity.

No, if a God created men to think, it knew that thinking leads to doubt, and diverse interpretation, and respect for science. If it really loved it’s creations it would end the debate and settle the matter, and permit everyone to live for eternity in paradise as Xtians are promised, by ensuring our thinking minds are satisfied beyond a shadow of a doubt. 

So, Xtians, believers, religionists, supernaturalists -  either have your god give us all the ultimate undeniable miracle that surpasses all human experience, explanation, reason, and laws of the universe or shut the hell up already.  I’m ready anytime it is...preferably at 11:00 pm EST.     

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Jealous of Joseph Smith, L Ron, or the Pope? Well pull that sacred thong from your butt crack because I’m poised to make you famous.

L Ron Hubbard may have been a lying charlatan, but when he said “Why write for a penny a word, when you can make millions with religion?” he was clearly no fool.  His Scientology cult makes millions. 

I was recently asked if I would be interested in coming up with a religion as a money making/tax avoidance scheme.  Unfortunately, having pulled one over on the media with my Eternal Earth-Bound Pets post rapture pet rescue spoof, I’m something less than endeared to them (ok, I’m a pariah to them) which would make getting publicity a tough sell.

Instead, I’ve been musing about writing a book on how to start one’s own cult / religion.  Something with a title along the lines of  “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Starting a Religion” or maybe “Sheep to be Sheared: The Prospective  Shepherd’s Handbook on Starting your Own Cult.”

In stead of the obligatory camel (or sheep) the cover would be graced with pictures of the world’s greatest religio-frauds and cult inventors:  St. Paul (Christianity), Joseph Smith (Mormonism), L Ron of course, Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science), and “Judge” J.F. Rutherford (Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he was never an actual judge).  Probably best to avoid the not so successful dooms day cultists like Jim Jones (of Guiana massacre fame), David Koresh (Branch Davidians, Waco Texas death cult), or Marshall Applewhite (Heaven’s Gate suicide cult.)  Not exactly folks who evoke confidence in cult building success.

Chapters will include pointers on how to develop “fabulous” hats and outfits for your cult priesthood they’ll be proud to wear; recruiting the hierarchy and establishing pay scales; screening out prospective congregants with IQs over 100;  finding the right graphic designer to develop your holy symbol; and lots of other meaty down to earth and heaven sent advice to get one’s cult up, running, avoiding running a foul of the law, devising doctrine and rituals, and picking the right financial organizations to handle the cash flow.   .
But most unique will be a series of pop-up 3D cutouts shaped like wheels of fortune. One will have spaces for the prospective cult leader to fill in random nouns, like “spider,” “Fig Newton,”  “sphincter muscle,” or “Lawn Fertilizer with Grub Control.”

Another will have room to write in proper names picked randomly from any literature written prior to the 20th  century such as “Shelley,” “Moll,” “Ebenezer,” “Moby,” or    “Chingachgook.”    The third pop-up wheel is for places, the more off the beaten path or exotic the better: “Alpha Centauri,”  “Plain of Jars,” “Easter Island, ”Machu Picchu,”  or “Cleveland.”

All the soon to be cult leader has to do is spin those wheels and whatever comes up become the iconic person, place and thing upon which one’s divinely inspired gift to mankind is predicated..  

The Mormons have their “Golden Tablets”, given to Joe Smith by the angel “Moroni.” 
The Scientologists have their “thetans” and “Xenu” the ruler of the Galactic Confederation. But the self made modern day Pop-Pope Cultist who reads my book will never have to worry that his “sacred sphincter,” provided and blessed by “The Spirit Bearer Gulliver from Saturn’s moon Titan” is going to be ripped off or take a back seat to anyone’s religious idiocy.

I could go on describing other features and how tos like:

- How to write sacred text in code so only You and your most trusted priests and priestesses will be able to decipher them with the help of the Holy Slide Decoder (Hint: use Pig Latin, and a cheap slide rule from the Dollar Store.) 

- Conducting animal sacrifices for the squeamish that still fill your deity’s nostrils with delight.

- Hijacking followers from local Catholic churches that have been shut down

- Tasty sacraments that substitute as divine body parts (Hint-  pigs in a blanket are always a crowd pleaser), and those to avoid (Hint- prune juice is ill advised).

-  How to establish holy holidays for fun, profit, and sexual gratification.   

but I’d better stop here lest I give away the best parts.

As an added incentive the first one-thousand book purchasers will receive a holy relic in a sealed test tube suitable for any ark or encasement; removed from “the living corpse” of the man/woman/animal/plant -God of your making it will be guaranteed to awe and inspire your faithful followers. It may be just a Cheetos dipped in wood stain but the faithful are famously awed and inspired. 

Hell, I’m inspired right now. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

How big is the Catholic priest child molester problem? Try this on for size.

Monsignor William Lynn of the Philadelphia Archdiocese was convicted recently of child endangerment for covering up and/or reassigning thirty-seven (37) known or suspected child molester priests.

It is the first trial and conviction of a US Catholic Church official for their role in a cover up of this cult’s monumental disgrace. It will not be the last. He is facing 3 ½ to 7 years in prison for his role. He will be sentenced in August.  Here’s the whole story:

Msr. Bill’s attention to detailed record keeping provides us, for the first time, with an insight to the scope and breadth of the perversion that infests the Catholic Church; the perversion that Catholic apologists keep insisting is a minuscule percentage of their brethren. 

Think about this:  There are eight-hundred priests in the Philadelphia archdiocese.  Msr. Bill’s list of thirty-seven represents 4.6% of the total.  But the likelihood that he was aware of every priest child molester in his realm is slim to none, after all, they don’t confess it to him, nor do they carry a sign.  It would be relatively safe to postulate that he knew of only 1/3rd to 1/5th  of the total number of molesters.  If it was the conservative 33% then the true total would equate to one-hundred eleven (111) child molester priests - 13.9% of the Philly priest population. 

There are approximately 41,000 Catholic priests in the US.  Assuming there isn’t anything special about the Philadelphia holy water supply or priest enlistment criteria, we can assume that 13.9% of all US priests are similarly inclined toward pedophilia.  That equates to 5,700 perv priests running rampant nation wide.

Gene G. Abel is an expert in child molestation.  In his 2001 The Stop Child Molestation Book  he states that pedophiles who molest male children average 10.2 victims each (twice the rate of those who molest girls).  Thus, the number of American children that were likely molested by today’s priests is 58,000!!  And of course the real number is much higher, since this doesn’t account for priests who retired or died decades ago. If they were included the number of victims would increase exponentially.

The estimated number of pedophiles in the US is 5% of the population.
Source:    Seto MC.(2009) Pedophilia. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 5:391-407.
If we ignore the small percent of child molesting women, and remove the  female population from the calculation, male pedophiles would be roughly 10% of the population. If my conservative Philly estimate is anywhere close to on target this implies that Catholic priests are 39% more likely to be child molesters than the US male population as a whole.

And this is just the tip of the outrage.  There are 409,000 Catholic priests world wide. This could mean as many as 57,000 child molesting priests / over 570,000 child victims internationally just from the existing batch of Catholic clergy. 

Of course this isn’t a scientific analysis.  It is a postulation based on Msr. William Lynn’s records upon which he was convicted; a reasonable assumption of yet to be identified Philadelphia priestly perpetrators; and known statistics of child molester behavior and activity. But one thing is certain - the implications are staggering in terms of victims’ childhoods and adult lives being ruined by these “Men of God” who rape in the name of their God, and with a blind eye, or even a wink and a nod, from the Church hierarchy.

If only a small portion of my extrapolation is accurate, it would still be an epidemic of abuse of monumental proportion by a clique of damnable cloaked and gold encrusted shaman who use their position of trust, their elevated status as the agent of their man-god,  to prey upon innocent children who have already been abused by involuntary indoctrination into religion, fear of God’s retribution, and superstition.
And yet Catholic apologists continue to deny.  

One in particular Divine Word Radio   continues to insist it’s a very sad but virtually miniscule issue. I've seen it all:  it’s sometimes the victims own fault having seduced the good priest; or the accusers are out for money and that the Vatican is itself being raped by their invented allegations; or the curse of growing homosexuality in the secular world is at fault. [they equate homosexuality to child molestation, never mind the facts].  Besides, they tell us, the Vatican took steps years ago to clean house and set everything right. It’s a non-issue, blown way out of proportion.  The man called Divine World Radio makes a living defending the indefensible and pretending it's all OK, posting his excuses and deceptions incessantly on USA's religion section on behalf of the Church.. This buffoon and liar is as much a part of the Catholic Church's despicable behavior/problem as are the perv priests themselves, Msr. Bill Lynn's ilk, and the old fool who pulls the strings in the Vatican. 

If ever there was justification for the Xtian tradition of burning at the stake the prime candidates would be the enablers, perpetrators and apologists for this hypocritical cult of sexual repression and child abuse.  I'd gladly pay for the gasoline and strike the first match.

Better yet, sue  them into oblivion; hit them in their most sensitive part ... their treasury.  That  may be the key to the  beginning of the end for this accursed fraternity of deceivers and perverts.