Saturday, July 18, 2009

News for July 11-17, 2009

Atheist Convention to Take Place:
The Atheist Alliance International will be hosting an Atheist convention on October 2,3, and 4 at the Burbank Airport Marriot and Convention Center. Guest set to appear include, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Eugenie Scott, and many more. Check out the link to see more.

Kiss-in Planned in Utah:
A couple of days ago a male couple kissed briefly on the property of the Salt lake City Temple (Mormon Church) and they were promptly escorted off the premises by security. Tomorrow at noon a whistle will be blown to signal the gathering of people to begin kissing on the LDS property.

Episcopalians Decide to Treat Gays Like Normal People:
Earlier this week the Episcopalian Church voted to allow openly gay men to be ordained as bishops. Now these bishops are looking to create procedures for blessing gay marriages. Thank God.

FFRF at it Again:
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is at it again, filing a lawsuit to prevent "In God We Trust" from being engraved at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington. Best of luck to them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This news could not wait for Friday

One of these is satirical and the other is real. I had a pretty hard time telling the difference. You try.

Bill to Ban Mermaids

NASA Launches First Ever Faith Based Space Program

There simply are no words...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Finished the BIBLE!!

Wow, okay, so I just finished the Holy Bible. That's right, the Old AND New Testament. I began on May 15th at an unknown time and finished this evening/morning, July 15th, 2 AM. Hallelujah!

The experience was at times difficult, often exhausting, and frequently tedious. But all in all I greatly enjoyed the experience. My views of the Bible and characters within have been in some ways reinforced by my readings, but in many more ways my preconceptions were often revealed as misguided and off-the-mark.

Yahweh is a bit of a prick, but in reading the whole of His story I feel like I understand His motives and personality a little bit better. Reading the Old Testament directly into the New Testament rewarded me with a perspective on Jesus that I think I could never have had reading them seperately. The contexts of the time, the hopes, fears, and desires of the Jewish nation are powerfully expressed in the last books of the OT, and the arrival of Jesus, and his subsequent appeal to non-Jews as well, cannot be fully appreciated without proper context.

I'll definitely return to this subject again, and I'll be posting chapter by chapter summaries of each book. Real summaries. Like one or two sentences a chapter. Should be interesting.

All in all, my favorite books were Genesis, Exodus, Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Jonah, Luke, and Revelation.

If you want to read a verse that will blow your mind with the absolutely grotesque and horrifc nature of the image, check out Deuteronomy 28:53-57. The guys who wrote Saw didn't think of anything that messed up.

If you're looking to understand the history that is recorded in the Bible and want to read narratives, read, in order, Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, Matthew, Luke, Acts, and Revelation. That's the meat of the Bible, the history, the story-telling. Everything minus the prophecy, poems, and tedious dictation. Those books were, as a whole, pretty interesting.

Reading the Bible was absolutely amazing, and I liken it akin to viewing the entire Star Wars series from beginning to end. As when Anakin shows up alongside Obi-Wan and Yoday, so was the final "Amen" in Revelations incredibly powerful. I read a story of a people, the supposed human race, rise from the dust to take over the world, fall, rise again, catching themselves in perpetual conflict, and finally fall to the Kingdom of God. It was epic in every sense of the word.

All the same, I can't imagine how anyone thinks that stuff is true.

Great stuff; highly recommended :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Godless Wisdom: Douglas Adams

Here's a classic quote that I think almost everyone has heard or read before. All the same, I feel that it bears repeating:

"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"

- Douglas Adams

What a beautiful statement that really sums up a true appreciation of the world--a scientific viewpoint, if you will. That very sentiment is at the heart of every rational minded person who denies the supernatural and searches for the wonders that are within our world, our existence, as it is.

In many ways, it bothers me to hear the credulous person cast their eyes to the heavens and proclaim, "There has to be more." More?? What more could you desire beyond infinity? The expanse of the universe stretches to the borders of imagination and defies all applied ingenuity for a definitive explanation, and yet some people are searching for greater mysteries!

Our minds are capable of perceiving the world and reacting to it in a way that, as far as we know, no other type of being is, or has ever, been able to, and yet we have no cohesive understanding of how it works. We can't comprehend how we communicate within ourselves and others are postulating that we communicate with others using nothing but our minds.

For these people, and many others, the mind is seperate from ourselves (despite any evidence to the contrary) and will exist beyond our decaying bodies. For those who believe, this is a comfort. A perpetual existence where there is no driving force, no chance for risk, no reason for being. And if you believe in God--well, don't get me started on that.

Death is the one true factor in existence that makes all things truly powerful. Knowing that Death's scythe catches the glint of every dawn's rising sun drives one to achieve immortality. How do some do it? By wasting their lives in supplication working through telepathy for an ethereal post-corporeal being. Others are doing it through music and marble, film and fiction, research and risk. Who are the true immortals? The latter. Those whose works have existed and will exist well beyond themselves; indeed, the memory of them may never die.

If man defeats supposed fate and perpetuates humanity beyond the cessation of our universe then what should ever be there to cause the last recording of Mozart to cease mid-symphony?

If man defeats the natural death of the flesh, how much more poignant will be the destruction of one person? A child at fifty, how great could have been their life? A sage, at a thousand, how terrible the loss of their myriad experience? What new art might be formed by the hands and minds of practitioners honed through the ages? What discoveries made by intellects so experienced?

There is, of course, a place to wonder about telekinesis and astral projection, about gods and nymphs, devils and wizards, fairies and leprechauns. But it is in books, movies, songs, theatre, and our imagination. Let us relegate fancy to its place and reality to the present. There is no more than what we have. There is life as we know it, and wanting something beyond that doesn't make it true--it only distracts from our reality. We are losing our minds and, indeed, our souls to "fairies at the bottom." We must reclaim our lives and learn to pry ourselves off the flowerbed to stand and appreciate the vast garden of our existence that is before us.

Friday, July 10, 2009

News for the First Week of July!

NYC Atheists Bus Campaign:
It seems that the local atheist organization, NYC Atheists I joining the bandwagon with D.C., London, and others, and comissioning an ad campaign for the MTA's buses. Two dozen buses across NYC will have the message, "You don't have to believe in God to be a moral or ethical person," plastered across their sides.

Atheist Billboard in Idaho:
You know what goes great with potatoes? Butter, sour cream, chives...oh! And atheism!

The sign in Moscow, Idaho, along Highway 95 and Sweet Avenue reads, "Want a better world? Prayer not required."

Atheist Billboards in Florida:
Yay for atheist activism! We're finally standing up and really getting our message out there. A sign in Florida reads, "Being a good person doesn't require God. Don't believe in God? You're NOT alone!"

I have to admit, seeing a "Don't believe in God, You're not alone," sign in New Jersey a few years back was one of the things that really made me feel good, helped me feel less lonely about my lack of belief, and was one of many little pushes that got me moving towards my involvement with atheist activism.

I love these signs and I hope they keep putting more out!

Pharmacists Forced to Supply Pharmaceuticals:
Gasp! In Washington State a federal appeals court has ruled that pharmacies must dispense Plan B pills regardless of personally held religious beliefs. Supposedly, this could have wide ranging effects over the whole of the Western United States.

If you ask me, provide the pills or get a new profession.

Free Speech Outlawed in Ireland:
Blasphemy has been outlawed in Ireland! This idea has been rolling around in the UN for a while, but it has become reality in Ireland where any speech that is blasphemous and results in causing an outrage has been deemed illegal and punishable by a 25,000 Euro fine. This covers not only published statements and broadcast statements, but mere utterances as well! It gets worse. Your blasphemous materials, lets say a copy of "The God Delusion," may also be confiscated--by force.

For the full text of the legislation as well as some interesting consequences, check out this post.

Daniel Radcliff is an Atheist:
Score one for the team! Catholics have Braveheart, Scientologists have Ethan Hunt, but we atheists now have freakin' Harry Potter!

Radcliff was quoted as saying, "I'm an atheist, but I'm very relaxed about it. I don't preach my atheism, but I have a huge amount of respect for people like Richard Dawkins who do. Anything he does on television, I will watch."

Take that, muggles!

Pope is an Idiot:
Oh, wait, that's not news. Never mind. Well, I do have an article here about the supposed bones of St. Paul being exhumed and tested by Vatican scientists. Basically, they took the bones out of a sarcophagus that hasn't been touched since before we had, oh I dunno, documentation, dated them to the first or second century, and have yet to report on whether or not there are signs of trauma from Paul's reported beheading. But, based strictly on the dating, the Pope is saying that they have conclusive evidence that these are the bones of St. Paul.

Now that I think of it, my heading for this news item was pretty spot-on.

Chores Instead of Rape in Afghanistan:

A while back I reported on the fact that Afghanis essentially made marital rape legal. Well, that has been reversed and now its illegal, as long as women do the house work. Um...yay, I guess?

Shroud of Turin May Have Been Fabricated by Da Vinci:

MAY have. The gist of it is this: the facial features and dimensions seem to match up with those of Da Vinci from drawings and the Shroud first appears in the general time around the life of Da Vinci. But really, the shroud first turns up long before Da Vinci was even born, and even if it had been created during his lifetime its a stretch to say he was its creator when the only thing you're going on are a handful of drawings of one man. Sorry, but I'm having a hard time being convinced that Da Vinci was the ONLY person able to do this, which is the only reasonable reason to posit such an idea. Why Da Vinci? The shape of the features match? There's a lot of people that have been over this planet, and I'm sure many others fit the bill. In my opinion, I think it's just a bunch of Dan Brown infused excitement rolling off the Angels and Demons movie and the ucoming sequel novel. Check the article out and judge for yourself.

Game Show to Convert Atheists:
There's a game show being put on in Turkey when a bunch of religious leaders try to convert atheists to any one of their religions. The winner gets a free vactions to the holy land of their chosen religion. I can't describe any more. I'm typing with one hand because the other one is clasped to my head in bemused exasperation.


Hello, all! I'm not sure who was reading this blog or who will be, but as is clearly evident by the time stamps on these posts I've been gone for about two months now. The radio show went on hiatus until September and I went out to California for my summer job and didn't have any time to keep up with the world of religion and atheism, much less the blog or podcast!

But things have slowed down a little bit. I'm home for about two weeks, then I'm off to Pennsylvania to work an archaeology dig, and then I'm out to Texas to work some more, however, things have slowed down enough that I think I can keep up with the blog again.

At the least, I will be bringing you the week's best news in religion, spirituality, and atheism every Friday.

Also, I've spent the first half of the summer reading the Bible cover to cover (I've got about a hundred pages left [out of two thousand!]) and I would like to bring some of my thoughts to the table about the text. You know, share some favorite passages, explore some interesting points, and review some changed or reinforced preconceptions.

I also have a notebook half filled with pages about my adventure through the Koran last summer. I hope to bring you some of those gems as well.

My summer reading list will continue without mercy following the Bible and I will be reading a history on the birth of the Church, a book on the social constructs of Palestine in the time of Christ, a Bart Ehrman book (if you haven't read on of his works, I strongly encourage you to) on the now extinct sects of Christianity, Daniel C. Dennet's book "Breaking the Spell," Bulfinch's Mythology, a complete review of world history complements of Wikipedia, and a book on the history of the English language. That last one has nothing to do with Religion, but it should be interesting.


That's a lot now that I look at it.

Oh, and I'm attempting to learn Latin. We'll see how that goes.

Anywho, I'll be posting a review of this past week's news shortly, just to get in the swing of things.