A few years ago I ran across this site. The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible by Steve Wells is an amazing resource. Steve took the time to go through and annotate the entire bible from a skeptic’s point of view. Ever wish you could instantly find instances of injustice, cruelty/violence, contradictions, misogyny, etc in the “good” book? Well Steve’s tagged every single verse in the entire bible with a searchable tag and commentary. It was not long after finding that site that I e-mailed Steve and asked if there was a physical copy of the book that I could by. At the time there wasn’t, but a few months ago he e-mailed me again to say that one was in the works. Well guess what, I finally got my copy this weekend! Steve even went ahead and signed it too! This thing is amazing! It has quick reference verses of interest in the front and back, along with commentary the whole way through. Man I wish I had this thing in my comparative religion’s class back in college!
Earlier this morning I got into a small facebook argument about conservative Christians and sexuality when one of the people involved said:
“it’s important not to confuse these people with their religion.”
I can provide the full discussion for anyone who wants to make sure I’m not taking this out of context, but the way I understood what he was saying was that an individual (or group of individuals) who claim to be X should not be confused with X when they don’t actually follow X.
For example earlier this week a crazy lady tried to attack a painting saying that it was homosexual and evil for showing two women with their breasts exposed. Now this lady is crazy, there’s no doubt, but she claims her motivation is her religious views. There are plenty of conservative religious people (across all faiths, but primarily Christianity and Islam) who view the human body and any form of sexuality as evil.
When the person in the afore mentioned facebook argument said not to confuse people for their religion, he was saying that although these people claim their views on sexuality are Christian and are rooted in the bible, they’re not, and as such we should not confuse these “Christians” for being “Christians.”
But that just begs the question: What is a person’s religion if not the sum of their personal beliefs?
A group of “Christians” who would ascribe to said crazy lady’s views on the human body would undoubtedly say that they were Christians and that anyone who did not view the body as evil were not “true” Christians. The term Christian is essentially a useless term as it means whatever anyone wants it to mean. (Which royally pisses me off because any attempt at making words useless and thus making it harder to communicate concepts/ideas just reeks of 1984 style new-speak; but I digress)
If group X claims they belong to religion Y, and that their beliefs come from religion Y’s holy book, book Z, but nobody in group X has read or cares to read book Z, then isn’t their religion just whatever group X wants it to be?
Sure, their sexually oppressive version of Christianity might not be what Christianity is to you, but it is their version of Christianity and they’re going to call themselves Christians. Are they wrong? They sure as hell think you are. Who’s right? Well nobody since it’s all “just a matter of faith and interpretation.”
In reality you can’t “confuse people for their religion;” whatever they say their religion is, that’s their religion. The 9/11 hijackers were Muslims, so too are the Muslims who say what the 9/11 hijackers did was despicable and un-Islamic. Abortion clinic bombers and the Westboro Baptist Church are Christians, so too are the liberal, gay-friendly, pro-choice Catholics. They all claim the same meaningless title to describe their radically different faiths. This in turn just inhibits our ability to discuss them and the views they have because the moment you use the term “Christian” to talk about the Westboro Baptist Church, another “Christian” with a different definition will jump up and scream that you’re generalizing and mis-representing the “true” Christians like them. (But I guess for some people muddying the water and making it harder for us to express ideas by requiring extremely specific, legalistic language is a good thing. Personally, whenever someone tries to inhibit the discussion of ideas, that’s a sign that they’re automatically wrong.)
How else are we to discuss these people if not by the meaningless title they choose to call themselves? Should we adopt an ever expanding system of Christian 1, Christian 1a, Christian 1b, etc? That would be impossible to keep track of, and yet again everyone would argue about what classification they get. Perhaps if we copied how we classified various animals by Life-Domain-Kingdom-Phylum-Class-Order-Family-Genus-Species and created a similar system for religious belief? Maybe then we can stop confusing lions for mammals and Christians for Christians.
Have you ever seen some extremely hateful people using religious texts to justify their actions? Have you seen some very loving people using the same religious texts to combat the hateful ones? Well they can’t both be right, right? Well no, actually they’re both correct about what they say their books condone.
Language is dependent on us using the same words to describe the same thing; when everything is open to “interpretation” then anyone can be correct about what a holy books means, even if someone is else is correct about a diametrically opposing view.
So does god hate fags? Yes, yes he does. Does god love everybody (including gays?) Yes, yes he does. It all depends on how to “interperate” the words in the bible. In effect the bible can be used to support whatever view you already have decided upon, and this is why so many people love the bible!
Last week I was driving home from work here in Columbia, SC and on the other side of the street was the most ridiculous bus. I tried to grab my camera to take a picture, but the light changed and it moved on. I did, however, remember the name and made a note. Luckily there are plenty of pictures online. The bus belonged to the group “Family Radio“, an apocalyptic Christian group eagerly counting down the days till all of humanity, including everyone you love, dies in bloody agony at the coming of their god.
Have you heard the awesome news?!?!?! The world is going to end!!!!1 These people are really fucked up. Though the bus is an improvement over their old one:
Free candy for children only!
Apparently they’ve decided the world is going to end on May 21, 2011, and even though people have been incorrectly deciding this for thousands of years. (But oh no, THIS time we’ve got it right. THIS time he’s coming back. We’re special, everyone else was wrong because of X,Y, & Z) It’s a good thing people like this don’t date much. Can you imagine how long they’d wait on the front porch if you stood them up for prom? Jesus has stood them up for over 2000 years and they still don’t get the hint that he’s just not that into them.
Look, this idiot even painted her brand new car with the date when she gleefully awaits the death of all humanity. You know what, I would gladly join their church and pray with them if they signed over all their money and property to me. Why wouldn’t they? The world’s going to end anyways! They’re going to be swept up with Jesus! What hesitation should they have to sign over all their worldly possessions to me? They ARE sure it’s going to be May 21, 2011, right? They wouldn’t happen to have some doubt and be keeping their things just in case, would they? They shouldn’t because according to the bible in Acts 5:1-11 the apostle Paul kills a couple for doing just that.
I really wonder what all these idiots are going to do on May 22, 2011. Can you imagine? It’s happened to thousands of people before throughout history. It’s going to be extremely awkward. The lady in the picture here is probably going to be huddled around her family and these other wingnuts, hands clasped in prayer, eyes squeezed tight, waiting for the clock to strike 12…tic toc tic toc. When it hits there will be silence. She will have her eyes squeezed shut for a few moments till she carefully opens one and looks around… “Maybe it’ll happen sometime today, not right at midnight?” And so she’ll spend the entire day paralyzed with anticipation, just like the rest of the sheeple. When it comes close to midnight of that day she’ll start sweating bullets. “It has to happen! Why is it taking so long! Why aren’t everyone I hate dead!?!?”
As midnight comes and passes she’ll lie there in bed, staring at the ceiling in shock. “Fuck….fuck fuck fuck!!! I have to go to work in the morning!” (The 21st is on a Monday) She’ll maybe get an hour or two of restless sleep, get up, make some coffee, grab her keys and stumble out to her c…..”Oh FUCK! Now EVERYBODY is going to know I’m an idiot!!! People are going to be pointing and laughing at me where ever I go!” (And you damn well deserve it!) How awkward and embarrassing is that going to be? She’s eventually going to have to take it to a body shop and have it all removed, or paint over the date with the new and revised date in case she’s in denial. This is all assuming they haven’t signed over all their possessions to their leader, which is a very real possibility; and I guarantee you if it doesn’t work out, he’ll be on the first plane to the Caribbean with all their money.
Last Wednesday at noon the republicans took control of the house with the vow to slash domestic funding and decrease the federal deficit. They came in with a strong list of new rules. One of the biggest changes was “Slash as you go” instead of “Pay as you go.” This means that for every dollar in government spending you add, you must slash a dollar somewhere else. They also forbade anything that would add to the deficit.
But these are republicans, rules? principles? You’ve got to be kidding. Cue massive hypocrisy.
The biggest target in republican’s cross-hairs is the weak sauce healthcare reform. Unfortunately for them, the Congressional Budget Office (the non-partisan organization that crunches the numbers for everything the government does or is considering doing) came out and stated that repealing the health care reform would add $143 billion onto the deficit. That’s a mathematical fact provided by an independent accounting organization.
But then again these are conservatives. Reality and facts are what you want them to be.
The new speaker of the house, republican John Boehner simply replied “The CBO is entitled to their opinion.” The republicans tacitly admitted they knew the CBO was right because they then passed one of their first acts: giving themselves and exemption to their rule of “slash as you go” so they could kill healthcare and add $143 billion to the deficit. Bravo…. (Oh, and don’t forget, even when they kill healthcare, the republicans are planning on keeping their free healthcare that they get as US congressmen.)
But healthcare hypocrisy is not the only reason to celebrate! The republicans plan on gutting every protective legislative body they can. The FDA regulates businesses that make sure the food your family eats or the drugs you take aren’t poison? Kill it. The EPA regulates corporations that would dump toxic sludge in your neighborhood rivers? Kill it.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, they are going after protective legislation with a battle ax. The goal is to put us back to the turn of the 20th century, where you were either dirt poor or one of those robber barons, where snake oil salesmen went from town to town bilking people of their money in return for poison, where tainted meat and vegetables made their way easily onto your dinner table, where environmental protection was only a dream. This is the goal.
Speaking of environmental protection, it’s official, there will be no improvement in the fight against global warming; the most dangerous and pressing issue facing us today. If we do nothing we may all die. We may very well push our planet out of the the knife edge thin “Goldilocks zone” where the conditions for life are just right, into a run away greenhouse effect that is currently cooking the planet Venus.
But that won’t happen. You know why? JESUS!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yep, denying reality (be it scientific or what the CBO says the numbers are) is mandatory for membership in the republican club house. A shinning example is John Shimkus. Johhny boy is trying to become the chairman of the committee responsible for oversight on those groups that regulate pollution, toxic waste, and the greenhouse gases that are cooking our planet. But have no fear! Even though all the observable evidence tells us that we are racing for the cliff edge, nothing bad will happen. Jesus won’t let it. God made this earth for us and he wouldn’t make it so we could corrupt it…. (original sin? releasing evil into the world? No? Guess he’s not big on reading his own book, but then again republican and hypocrisy are synonymous)
Yet do you want to know the #1 reason right now is an amazing time to be a conservative? The icing on the cake? The piñata of goodies?
Because Obama is your bitch and no matter how bad your policies fuck up the country and the future of the world, ultimately he is president and there is a “D” by his name. Obama just hired William Daley to be his chief of staff, replacing Rahm Emanuel. (Rahm who said liberals, ie the people who voted for Obama and make up the democratic base, were “fucking retarded.”) If you think Rahm is right wing and pro-establishment, get a load of Daley! Daley’s a right wing corporatist who works for JP Morgan and who wants to kill the consumer protection agency! There is no fucking way Obama is a liberal or has any intention of fighting the status quo! He is the status quo.
So republicans are vicariously living through Obama while pushing through their “kill all government agencies that don’t help the rich get richer” policies that, if they fail or fuck everything up, they can easily lay at the feet of the democrats just in time for the 2012 elections when they can do it all over again for another four years… Goddamn it’s a good time to be conservative!
This is a really basic concept, but it was something that I wrestled with for a while when deconverting from Christianity. The night I became an atheist I laid in bed for several hours pondering hell and eternal damnation. The thought of letting go from the ledge and dismissing the intense warnings and threats of hellfire terrified me. Two realizations comforted me and led me to take the plunge. The first was that I must be able to trust my own reasoning skills. Without them I’m not my own person. The second realization was as follows:
Everything we know about religion and gods, we are told by other people.
Think about it. Who told you about god(s)? Your parents? Your friends? Where did they hear about it? Their pastor/priest/rabbi/imam/shaman? Who told them? Another person. But what about the books? People did. People claiming to talk for god(s). That’s all it ever was; one person claiming to know the mind of a supreme all knowing, all powerful super being that created the entire cosmos. All the books, the art, the music, the buildings, the dogma and doctrine, all of it comes from someone who heard about god(s) from someone else, who in turn heard from another someone.
What about this person? What credibility do they have? These are very serious claims they are making. They purport to know the mind of this supernatural being. Entire societies, gender roles, ways of living, eating, procreating, and dying are structured around the claims made by individuals like these. I say that makes it extremely important to determine if they’re telling the truth. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, so what is their evidence?
“Just trust me…”
Seriously, that’s it. Sometimes they’ll throw in a little incentive like “or you’ll burn in eternal hell-fire!” Sure there are stories of miracles, but these miracles are never documented outside of the story books claiming them, nor are they anything beyond what would impress the local population of that time and location. Water to wine? Multiplying fish and bread? Walking on water? (I’m using christian mythology because that’s what I’m familiar with. There are plenty of other examples from other religions) Those are miracles? Why not something like curing amputated limbs, or transporting people to Alpha Centauri, or dividing by zero? And while you’re at it, just so their can be no confusion or doubt, make sure it’s well documented by a large variety of independent sources. Unfortunately the people who were around when these belief systems were invented didn’t ask for such evidence. They were quick to believe and slow to doubt.
One of the hardest things to wrap your mind around is how just so many people could be so wrong, and yet so sure they’re right. This was another thing I struggled with. “Look around you! Look how Christianity is everywhere! Look how many people believe! It can’t possibly be based on a lie! It’s unthinkable that it could all be wrong! Surely its ubiquity must attest to some level of truth?”
People who are surrounded by Islam think the same thing. So do the people who are surrounded by Buddhism, Toaism, Judaism, animism, voodoo, etc. The people who were surrounded by the worship of Thor felt the same way. As did those who grew up in ancient Egypt with Ra. Your location, your cultural preferences, they are not the world. For ever million believers who think like you, there are just as many equally fervent believers of another faith. They make the same justifications and rationalizations that you do, but they change the name of the god(s).
The problem is that the system reinforces it’self. One person starts a rumor, then more people spread it, and then more until it spreads exponentially. Eventually everybody in a location knows the rumor and it becomes common knowledge, common truth. Children are then raised in a society saturated in the rumor and it’s taken as a given, a natural existence. The more people who believe in the rumor, the more the individual believer feels secure in their belief.
No matter how many people believe something, no matter how many books are written, buildings built, and songs sung, it all goes back to that one individual, god’s middleman.
“Just trust me…”
The good Christian congressman from the proud state of Texas, Dan Flynn, has introduced a bill aiming to place “the” 10 Commandments in public schools. Let’s cut the bullshit and drop the pretensions people. We all know this is an attempt to erect a monument to the Christian religion on public school property. There is no sense trying to cover it up by saying “Oh, but “the” 10 Commandments are the basis for all of Western law! It’s just honoring the importance that they played in forming our legal system!”
First of all, “the” 10 Commandments was given to Jews in the Middle East, not twinkling blue eyed Englishmen. Pagan Rome and their legal code, which was spread all over the West for a thousand years, had a hell of a lot more influence in our modern “Western” legal system.
Secondly, which 10 Commandments? That’s right, in case you haven’t read the bible (which is likely since very few who claim to believe in it have actually done so) there are two sets of 10 Commandments and they say different things.
(Click to enlarge)
The funny thing is that the first set of stone tables, the ones most people imagine of when they think “the” 10 Commandments, was smashed by Moses. God made a second set and changed the Commandments around after the first were destroyed. (But nobody remembers this or brings it up because it’s not convenient for their agenda, or they’re just plain ignorant)
So, ignoring this inconvenient fact, lets look at what exactly the laws are in “the” 10 Commandments.
- I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.
- You Shall not make for yourself a graven image. You shall not bow down to them or serve them.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
- Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
Ok, the first 4 of “the” 10 Commandments are explicit religious commands about the nature of this particular god and how you are to serve him. Now please kindly tell me what this has to do with the US Constitution, the 1st amendment separating church and state, and which of our thousands of secular laws are based on these 4 religious commands pertaining to this one particular religion? (Here’s a hint: nothing.)
5. Honor your father and your mother.
Simple enough, listen to your parents. We don’t have any laws about this, except if you are under the age of 18, so again this is largly irrelevant to our legal system.
6. You shall not kill.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet.
Finally, something sort of related to our laws, but here’s the catch: these are universal concepts. I often hear Christians say “The 10 Commandments are the basis for morality!” to which I respond “Murder, stealing, and perjury were wrong before they were ever written down in stone.” Those are really the only three commandments that have any bearing on our legal system, 6,8, and 9. Three! Three out of ten! Adultery is not a crime in our legal system. (And thank goodness because it’s human nature to cheat (unfortunately) and in the countries that do have it as a crime, they often stone the women to death and let the men go)
As for #10, I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that our good congressman Dan Flynn, being a republican, is a big fan of free market capitalism. Capitalism, the economy, everything would fall apart if people did not covet other people’s possessions. Do you want to destroy capitalism Mr. republican congressman? Didn’t think so.
So now that we’ve established that 40% of this document is comprised of religious edicts, 10% on how to treat your parents, 10% on sexual conduct, 10% on destroying capitalism, and only 30% on concepts that are universal in morality, does this religious document (if it ever existed at all since we don’t have the originals and there are no mentions of it outside of the myth that mentions it) belong in public schools or on public property as a monument to one particular faith? No. If you’re going to erect a monument to one faith on government property, then you must erect a monument to all faiths on government property. To not do so would be to favor one religion over another, and the constitution (which I’m sure Mr. Flynn claims to adore, just like so many other conservatives) strictly forbids such action in the very first line of the very first amendment.
WARNING: If you are more offended by the marking up of a book than by the contents and commandments of genocide, rape, and torture contained within, proceed no further.
A few days ago I happened upon a wonderful gem: a rubber BULLSHIT stamp. Once I discovered said stamp I quickly went out, bought a red ink pad, and began testing it out. I decided to test it out by applying it to some of the texts most deserving of it’s seal off approval. (Click pics to enlarge)
Later that evening I hit upon another idea to illustrate the bloody nature of the bible and the koran, but unfortunately I didn’t have any professional fake blood. (I missed my chance to stock up on Halloween) I tried to cook up my own, but unfortunately it ended up looking a more like jam than blood. I guess I’ll have to get some professional fake stuff and do it over again. In the mean time, here is how they came out: (again, click to enlarge)
Lastly, just a prototype of something I thought up last night, religion as “Just a bandage.”
I feel it is important to preemptively conclude with a note about respect for religion and books some believe to be holy. No beliefs deserve automatic respect, no matter how intensely a believer values them. I personally find the edicts, theologies, stances on women, homosexuals, slavery, etc contained within these books to be abhorrent. I am exercising my free speech by branding these books as bullshit. Furthermore, I will not be burning these books. While I see no problem marking up my copies of these books, burning them historically implies that I wish to burn the people associated with these books. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I do respect the rights of those individuals to believe in these books, even if I find the books to be repulsive. When I am finished with these books I will bury them and plant flowers on top so something beautiful can grow from the ugliness contained within.
The other day I saw a really funny quote that made me think:
“To most Christians, the bible is like a software license. Nobody actually reads it, they just scroll through it and hit ‘I agree’.”
While I agree that the majority of religious people in this country don’t actually give their faith much critical thought, I think this type of behavior extends beyond just religion. “Software license behavior” seems to affect every walk of life. Liberal, conservative, Christian, Muslim, and even atheists. You see this type of behavior even in areas outside of religion and politics. How often do people just flip through cell phone contracts, or medical papers, any type of form with content that requires critical analysis, and simply sign without reading?
I feel like it’s endemic to our life style. “I’m in a hurry, I just want to get in and out, I don’t have time to sit down and read all this crap. If it’s bad I’m sure I would have heard about it; I don’t want to make the effort to think.” It’s laziness pure and simple. We’re too focused on the here and now to worry much about the future. We tell ourselves we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, and that gives us the comforting delusion that we needn’t worry. Meanwhile, the average credit card in America is $15,788.
It has consequences! Yeah the cell phone salesman, the car dealer, or the medical secretary might get impatient if you take the time to read through the paperwork before you sign, but look what’s at stake! Is not making them frustrated worth all the harsh consequences you’ll have to deal with down the road? Of course not, so tell them to suck it up. But I’ve digressed from my original reason for posting this.
So given this software license laziness in our culture, I’m really surprised that when it comes to things that matter, big picture things like politics and religion; people will go out of their way to defend a position they were too lazy to even study in the first place! (Now again, this is a human thing so it affects everybody, but it has been my experience that this type of behavior tends to disproportional affect conservative religious types)
The bible and the constitution are perfect examples. Both are seen as sacred documents, and both are idolized by the conservative movement in this country. The funny thing is, it appears the conservative movement, despite worshiping these two texts, has never bothered to actually read them.
There is a little saying within the atheist community: “The bible is the greatest tool for making atheists.” Religious groups love to gloss over the bible and cherry pick the parts that best fit their agenda. There are hundreds of disgusting and disturbing passages in the bible that you’ll never hear in church, or hear a politician spouting. (Google them) If someone actually took the time to read the bible cover to cover, they’d see that the “good book” is anything but good.
Lately there have been a rash of conservative candidates around the country attacking the separation of church and state. They cite the constitution and claim that the concept is absent. Obviously many of them haven’t even read the document. Christine O’Donnell, the lovely theocrat from Delaware, apparently had no idea what the first amendment contained. ”Where in the constitution is the phrase ‘separation of church and state’?” How about this? Where in the bible is the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus?” Apparently the Texas school board, while rewriting history books to fit their conservative christian agenda, was furious that the first amendment lessons completely ignored gun rights! The damn liberal conspiracy erased gun rights from the first amendment. Psst! Hey stupid, read the second amendment! These people get all fired up over facts they have completely wrong because they didn’t bother to read the facts in the first place. Furthermore, this ignorance is seen as a virtue! The less you know, the less you’re corrupted by that reality and its liberal bias.
I weep for humanity…