Sunday, February 28, 2010

Funny Bible Quote #92

And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.

~ Genesis 17:12, KJV

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Funny Bible Quote #91

And the devil, taking him [Jesus] up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.

If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.

~ Luke 4:5-7, KJV

Friday, February 26, 2010

Funny Bible Quote #90

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.

~ Genesis 11:1, NIV

Thursday, February 25, 2010

“Small” Government

Every little sub-culture uses language in its own way. When a person deeply entrenched in one sub-culture interacts with a person equally ensconced in another, both are liable to use the same words in completely different ways.

Conservatives, Republicans, Libertarians, even plenty of Independents, Moderates, and of course Tea-Partiers talk about “small” government. Sometimes it’s so small they advocate what they believe to be “anarchism.”

As this is not a post about anarchy, I will be brief in my criticism of it. If an advanced civilization could be maintained by spontaneous individualism, without the aid of any centralized governance, it would have occurred. There is no such thing as functional anarchy as described by its proponents, only a temporary power vacuum which will suck up the lives of countless innocents. Those who fantasize about anarchy are as naïve as the hippies at best, or the Bolsheviks at worst, who felt they could reinvent the wheel by rebuilding society from the ground up.

A minarchy is a minimal government. I assume this is what most people mean when they discuss “small” government (unless they are implying we ought to elect little people to represent us). It seems like a good idea. It seems efficient, non-intrusive, and best of all: cheap. Hell, even I’m on board with the idea.

So what is the minimum government? Therein lies the problem: there is no consensus (even within Conservative, Republican, or Libertarian circles, respectively).

There’s a few ways to go about figuring out what a minarchy would look like. One can start either from the positive or the negative. What things do we need government to do, or what things does the government do now that they should stop?

Let’s start with what we need from government. The primary thing is protection. “But Ginx, I have a gun.” That’s swell, but the Chinese have tanks and planes and submarines which can launch missiles from thousands of miles away. Maybe if we were fighting Napoleon and his muskets, we could mount an effective defense with citizen militias. Here in the 21st century, only people like Bill Gates could fund a civilian arsenal worthy of international engagement.

“But Ginx, we spend so much money on our military!” Okay, you have a point. Clearly one of the government’s roles is to protect the nation and its citizenry from without, but not at the expense of development within. What good is it to be able to stop all of America’s enemies from invading if the country itself is a pile of shit?

Anyone who has studied economics should know what an externality is. It is the primary economic concern of a minimal government. There are two kinds of externalities: external costs and external benefits. External costs cause goods to be overproduced while society pays the toll. The classic external costs is pollution. Before you ignore me because you think you have the global warming conspiracy all figured out, realize that pollution goes far beyond the bickering over carbon dioxide. It’s cheaper for a company to dump toxic chemicals into the nearest body of water than to properly dispose of them. Even if you hate wildlife, those chemicals eventually find their way into your water, your food, and even your children. I cannot believe I just resorted to “Think of the children!”

External benefits are the keystone of modern societies. They are the roads you drive on, the sidewalks you buy drugs on, the firemen who put out the blaze in your neighbor’s home so your house doesn’t burn down as well. These are the things your tax dollars pay for that benefit everyone. These are the goods which are for the use of any who need them. This is what is lost when taxes are cut and schools are under-funded and they have to start putting pictures of the food on registers which dispense the change automatically in fast food joints because the workers can’t always read or do math (and you wonder why the order gets messed up half the time…).

Even a “small” government has to do something. I think usually when people say “small” government, they really mean “my taxes are too high.” Except, the US has very low taxes and a deteriorating infrastructure. The taxes can’t go any lower. What people really need is a pay increase, and that has nothing to do with the government. It’s all in the hands of the people at the top, the people who write their own paychecks and bonuses, who giggle at how many zeros they can get away with removing from the company’s operating capital.

“Small” government supporters have no idea what they want, because they’re generally “small” minded, “small” time criminals who are paranoid of cops… probably because they break the law in some capacity on a regular basis… I’d be willing to bet drugs and taxes. You gotta pay your taxes, but I can honestly say drugs should be legalized... and taxed.

There is always the negative approach, which involves protesting the measures you disagree with. This is an effective tactic, and the improvement of legislation means the removal of bad laws just as often as it means the addition of good ones. Paring down the system we have is far simpler than trying to start from scratch.

I think people who obsess about the size of the government are completely missing the point. It’s not the size of the government, it’s how you use it.

Funny Bible Quote #89

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them.

He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you."

~ Exodus 15:25-26, NIV

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Headline Couplets

I usually like to post more than two at a time when I do these, but I could only find two good ones in the last 24 hours, and they were too good to pass up. Each pair is shown in the order in which they appeared:

Nearly 20 percent of U.S. workers underemployed
Wall Street bonuses jumped 17 percent last year

Navy To Lift Ban On Women Serving On Subs
Tests Show Cheney Suffered Mild Heart Attack

Funny Bible Quote #88

In those days Israel had no king.

Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her father's house in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her father's house, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. His father-in-law, the girl's father, prevailed upon him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.

On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the girl's father said to his son-in-law, "Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go." So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the girl's father said, "Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself." And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the girl's father said, "Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!" So the two of them ate together.

Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the girl's father, said, "Now look, it's almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home." But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.

When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, "Come, let's stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night."

His master replied, "No. We won't go into an alien city, whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah." He added, "Come, let's try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places." So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them into his home for the night.

That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the men of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, "Where are you going? Where did you come from?"

He answered, "We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the LORD. No one has taken me into his house. We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, your maidservant, and the young man with us. We don't need anything."

"You are welcome at my house," the old man said. "Let me supply whatever you need. Only don't spend the night in the square." So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.

While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, "Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him."

The owner of the house went outside and said to them, "No, my friends, don't be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don't do this disgraceful thing. Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don't do such a disgraceful thing."

But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, "Get up; let's go." But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. Everyone who saw it said, "Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Think about it! Consider it! Tell us what to do!"

~ Judge 19, NIV

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Life of Hypatia

By Socrates Scholasticus, from his Ecclesiastical History

There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner, which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not unfrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more.

Yet even she fell victim to the political jealousy which at that time prevailed. For as she had frequent interviews with Orestes [governor of Alexandria who opposed the bishop’s exile of Jews, and who was then killed by Christian monks], it was calumniously reported among the Christian populace, that it was she who prevented Orestes from being reconciled to the bishop.

Some of them, therefore, hurried away by a fierce and bigoted zeal, whose ringleader was a reader named Peter, waylaid her returning home, and dragging her from her carriage, they took her to the church called Caesareum, where they completely stripped her, and then murdered her with tiles.* After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burnt them.

This affair brought not the least opprobrium, not only upon Cyril [the bishop, later made a saint], but also upon the whole Alexandrian church. And surely nothing can be farther from the spirit of Christianity than the allowance of massacres, fights, and transactions of that sort. This happened in the month of March during Lent, in the fourth year of Cyril's episcopate, under the tenth consulate of Honorius, and the sixth of Theodosius [415 CE].

* The Greek word is ostrakois, literally "oystershells," but the word was also applied to brick tiles used on the roofs of houses.
For some historians, the death of Hypatia marks the end of Antiquity.

Funny Bible Quote #87

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

~ Matthew 24:35-36, NIV

Monday, February 22, 2010

Response to the Question of Atheist Morality

I felt I had to respond to a post at Atheism Analyzed. The issue is one I blog about frequently, and I will take any opportunity to voice my two cents on the matter.

Below is the comment I left, which nearly suffices for an entire post of its own (as my comments left on the blogs of others so often are... for which I apologize):

This particular atheist is fairly certain of the existence of truth, right, wrong, good, bad, virtue, and evil. Of course, having a clearly defined moral code hasn’t stopped any criminal who was religious. One’s stance on the matter is largely unimportant when it comes to true “morality,” which is little more than a fancy word for decision making.

The most common measure used for comparing the morality of individuals tends to be incarceration rates, which is very flattering for atheism. However, I suspect the fact that atheists tend to have more education and a higher income than the average Christian to be far more important factors than faith (or lack thereof) when it comes to crime.

Your question is flawed, then. It is not “Can an atheist be ‘good’?” The true question is, “Why are atheists good?” This is not to say ALL atheists are good, nor is it to say Christians are not good, or even “as good.” The majority of Christians and atheists are good, and only a few Christians or atheists are truly bad (in this instance, worthy of being locked up).

From a Christian standpoint, an atheist can never be good. In the terms defined by the Christian faith, the first rule has always been predicated on the worship of YHWH. As an atheist, if I were to define “good” as including “must not believe in god,” I would find myself looking down on Christians as morally inferior, even though I have arbitrarily chosen a matter of taste and decided to judge it as a matter of morality.

One final note: you harp on the fact that you find “good” to have no meaning to the atheist because it is “relative.” Yet, I see Christians who argue daily over the meaning of various passages in the Bible, the true nature of God, even the terms by which eternal salvation is attained. Christianity has no more certainty than atheism, it merely encourages believers to act with certainty on whatever their stance might be, misconceptions and all. Add to this the fallacy that a divine presence is guiding them, and if they screw up they can just ask for forgiveness.

Where is the moral accountability? To this atheist, Christianity appears to be moral credit for the intellectually bankrupt.

Funny Bible Quote #86

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"

"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

~ Mark 10:17-25, NIV

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pick Your Friends Carefully

Who is America’s best friend? Most would argue it is Britain, but I think its Israel. We give more aid to Israel than any other nation. Israel’s political lobby (AIPAC) in the US is the most heavily funded foreign interest group, and some believe it has more influence than most (if not all) domestic lobbyists.

So what are our friends up to? Well, they may have carried out political assassinations on foreign soil. This is pretty bad, and something I would consider worthy of cutting our massive aid to our violent ally, but apparently that isn’t really the worst part.

No, apparently Western powers don’t give a shit about assassinations. Let’s see, what’s the one thing Western nations care about more than anything else… oh right, themselves. Israel not only carried out the assassination, they probably did so using forged British and Irish passports.

So that’s the line? British officials need to talk to Israel… because they falsified British passports? No one cares about the fact that Israel is conducting deadly covert ops, executing people without any due process of law?

Here’s a thought: maybe the UN ought to be charging Israel and its leadership with war crimes for not only this action, but several in the past. A British magistrate has already issued a warrant for the arrest of Tzipi Livni, former foreign minister of Israel. The accusation? War crimes during the 2008-2009 Gaza attacks.

“But a nation has the right to defend itself! Palestinians were firing rockets into Israel…”

Stop right there. Yes, a few dozen rockets were fired over the border into Israel. But let’s analyze the post-war tally, and you tell me if Israel over-reacted:

Israelis killed during rocket attacks: 13
Palestinians killed during the attacks on Gaza: 1387

Israel must believe Palestinians are only 1/100th of a person…

At some point, we need to end this experiment known as Israel. We’ve learned a lot from it, so it wasn’t a total waste. For one thing, we learned you can’t just draw lines on a map in England and expect millions of people in Palestine to be happy with being dislocated from their homes. We have learned that the West has endless patience and tolerance for the violence of allies. Finally, we’ve learned that if you take someone’s home, they get violent.

Who am I kidding, no one learned anything…

Funny Bible Quote #85

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

~ Matthew 6:25, NIV

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Funny Bible Quote #84

You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

~ Matthew 5:38-42, NIV

Friday, February 19, 2010

Joe Stack: A Muddled Act of Rebellion

I first read about Joe Stack torching his home and flying his plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas at Bill Gnade’s Contratimes. You can pretty much follow my understanding of the events through the comments, where I also link to Joe Stack’s suicide note.

I have a soft spot for the diatribes of violent rebels. I read over a hundred pages of stuff written by the Columbine kids. I read everything I could find on Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, even Osama bin Laden. I don’t read these things because I want to know what “made them do it;” I want to know what they thought made them do it.

That’s always how it is. These people are always “driven” to do these things, as if violent outbursts are a foregone conclusion under certain circumstances. Maybe this is true, I don’t know. I live in the same world, notice the same injustices, and yet I am not driven to hurt innocent people. Sure, there’s the occasional day-dream of poisoning the punch at a Republican Convention, but those cocksuckers deserve it…

Perhaps the first step in committing an act of terrorism is to define those who are “guilty” of preventing change, always some group of “others.” The second step, then, is believing that violence is necessary for change. Joe Stack is a terrorist. He states quite clearly on page six of his note that “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer” [emphasis in original].

When I first heard the story, I assumed the guy was a right-wing nut who blamed the government for his woes. After reading his note, I am conflicted. I want to say he is probably a centrist who leans left, but there is nothing to indicate to me that this note was not carefully contrived.

I am reminded of the census worker who was found hanging in a cemetery with the words“FED” written on his stomach. It turned out he had faked his own murder, which was in fact a suicide, in order for life-insurance to pay out.

Why would Joe Stack fake being a lefty communist? Why would he gloss over political issues (mentioning healthcare briefly and railing on Bush… who is universally panned anyway) only to end his letter with a seemingly all-important allusion to Communism [page 6]:

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.
This line that could easily be added to the note, perhaps after several re-readings where he realized he comes off as a crazy conservative. Charles Manson and Timothy McVeigh both staged their crimes with the hopes that it would stir unrest and confusion.

I don’t think there’s any evidence for anything like that regarding Joe Stack…yet. I will say this: he rails against Catholics, which is something right-wing Protestants are wont to do. He talks about “big brother,” and chose to fly his plane into the IRS. That doesn’t sound very left to me.

Left, right, progressive, conservative, whatever he is, Joe Stack’s actions are being criticized across the board. I sympathize with the guy, especially if he truly was the victim of predatory tax laws. Even if he is merely in this situation due to his own actions, I question the validity of a system that would leave a man in the very dangerous position of having nothing to lose. People are often driven to crime in tough times, we just rarely see it because most people aren’t very creative.

The world lost a motivated individual, one willing to die for something they believed in, even if he did not fully understand it, and one who didn’t care who he hurt in the process.

Joe Stack: typical American rebel.

Funny Bible Quote #83

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

~ 1 Corinthians 15:13-19, KJV

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Open Letter to Republicans, Libertarians, and Other Malcontents

Dear Conservatives:

Please consider seceding from the United States. That way, we can fight a war, kill most of you, and move on with our lives. All I hear is talk of rebellion and liberty from you pussies. Your talk is cheap; put up or shut up. Grow a pair, for the sake of America. You can’t possibly be stockpiling weapons only because you have no balls.

Maybe you are all cowards who would never actually do anything... besides cry and moan about it like the whiney little bitches you are. If you’re worried about where America is headed but need a peaceful solution, you could try on for size the answer I kept hearing all throughout the Bush years: if you don’t like it, get the fuck out.

You retards may now go back to tea-bagging each other with your non-existent testicles.


Funny Bible Quote #82

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

~ Galatians 2:16, KJV

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fallen Art

This is a video I originally saw on "The Animation Show" DVD.

Funny Bible Quote #81

And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.

~ Numbers 11:1, KJV

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Funny Bible Quote #80

Son of man, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Call out to every kind of bird and all the wild animals: 'Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you, the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel. There you will eat flesh and drink blood. You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth as if they were rams and lambs, goats and bulls—all of them fattened animals from Bashan. At the sacrifice I am preparing for you, you will eat fat till you are glutted and drink blood till you are drunk. At my table you will eat your fill of horses and riders, mighty men and soldiers of every kind,' declares the Sovereign Lord.

~ Ezekiel 39-17-20, NIV

Monday, February 15, 2010

Funny Bible Quote #79

Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

~ 1 Corinthians 7:27-31, NIV

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Secular Case for Good, Pt. 2

If an atheist talks to a well-read theist about morality for any length of time, one term is bound to come up: moral relativism. This is a belief that morality is “relative” to the individual, and theists relish in equating atheism and moral relativism.

Atheism does not assume moral relativism. On the contrary, plenty of atheists have a very strict sense of right and wrong, good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable. Of course, to the theist, this is moral relativism because the theist is convinced they have found the moral authority, and anyone who questions it is merely justifying their disobedience.

I am not a moral relativist, and in fact I believe many actions have no bearing on morality. What I eat is not a matter of morality, and Christians would side with me. Jews and Muslims might disagree. I believe Jews and Muslims are wrong, not because what one eats is unimportant, but because of the dogmatic nature and moral rectitude implied in their actions.

What a theist is really trying to say when they bring up “moral relativism” is that an atheist is left without any definitive authority on morality. This is fundamentality untrue, because each person is their own definitive authority on morality. Instead, what the theist should point out is: the moral authority of the atheist must be acknowledged as fallible.

This statement is true, and most atheists have no problem stating, “I could be wrong.” This instantly appears to play into the argument for “moral relativism,” because what the theist hears is, “We each have to make up our own interpretation of morality.” If this is the theist’s conclusion, they have misunderstood.

Let me be clear: I believe there is an eternal concept of right and wrong, but that does not mean it is hard-wired into the human brain or written on a stone tablet for all to know. Human beings make a valiant effort to spell out in black and white their interpretation of right and wrong, but it remains as muddled as any wakeful interpretation of a dream.

What of the Christian camp, and their moral certainty? Clearly if God has written a book for us to read, it says in clear, plain language what is expected of human beings. And yet… Christians bicker amongst themselves over the literal versus metaphorical meaning of this passage or that. People of all religions do.

Religion is supposed to provide certainty in a world of doubt, stable tradition in an ever-changing environment. Yet religious scholars hold diametrically opposing views within not only the same religion or sect, but even congregation, while theology evolves over time until it mutates into an unrecognizable amalgamation of secular philosophy.

People want to know for sure, and some tell us that we cannot know anything. I believe we can know some things… I exist (cogito ergo sum), for one thing. You are reading these words at this moment, whenever it is, though I have written them at some point in the past. There are many things we can know, and there is no use in throwing our hands in the air with despair over the things we cannot know. We ought to seek out what we do not know, while trying not to be discouraged by those who spread appealing lies in lieu of actual answers.

I believe most people learn what is right and what is wrong from experience, so sometimes it takes doing the wrong thing to learn. Mercy is such an important quality for individuals, and even more so for a society that is itself unsure of what is right and what is wrong. Society practices moral relativism, this is true, but is it the fault of a few atheists… or the Christians who can’t even decide what their book is saying?

There is nothing wrong with moral relativism. In fact, it is a very practical viewpoint, but when theists accuse me of it... I find it to be a case of the toilet calling the refrigerator black.

Funny Bible Quote #78

Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."

Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

~ Matthew 19:8-12, NIV

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Funny Bible Quote #77

And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's [Jesus'] sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

~ Matthew 19:29, KJV

Friday, February 12, 2010

Funny Bible Quote #76

Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."

Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

~ Matthew 8:19-22, NIV

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Secular Case for Good, Pt. 1

This is preliminary brain diarrhea on the subject of the secular argument for morality. If I could just sit down and write a convincing argument that would persuade people of any and every background to be good, I would be ordering my ticket Oslo, Norway to pick up my Nobel Peace prize. Then, I would just have to hope I didn’t instead win a Nobel Prize for Literature, because I’d have a long bus ride from Oslo to Stockholm, Sweden.

So for a topic this monumental, I figured I would suggest my initial thoughts and open them to ridicule so that I may refine/alter/abandon/bolster them as I arbitrarily see fit.

It has been suggested that belief in deities is a prerequisite for morality. Not just any god, usually it’s gotta be the God. If I worshipped Isis, I would still be “wrong” to monotheists because to them, there is only one God (though He seems to have no problem maintaining three distinct religions). To a monotheist, I can never be moral because I break the first rule of monotheism by virtue of my atheism. But let’s assume I find Moses/Jesus/Muhammad.

So from God, all morality spews. It’s very clear that God is a “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of role model. God is not really a role model at all… more of a drill sergeant who claims to have been through the shit and screams things you may not want to hear into your ear while you kneel on your boney knees.

[Intelligent design my ass… if we’re supposed to kneel, why didn’t He put pads there? Why does He give old people arthritis when they’re the ones who cling to religion most? God has a sense of humor, and apparently He’s a fan of Jackass and Punk’d… or for you yuppies and boomers: Candid Camera and America’s Funniest Home Videos.]

But imagine a world without God…

Tomorrow, God’s corpse turns up, buried in the Earth. Does the whole world go crazy? Do we all start injecting meth into our eyelids while throwing flaming babies off of balconies? Is it not only feasible, nay, plausible that the only logical conclusion that can come from the disappearance of the watchful father figure is the monstrous synergy of hedonistic excess and our modern tendency to multitask?

Except… this doesn’t happen. Atheists commit less crimes, not more. Countries with more atheists have lower crime rates. Atheists divorce less often than most main-stream religious faiths. I am afraid to say anything about divorce for fear that my wife will correct me (as she is earning her doctorate with a thesis centered on divorce). Suffice to say, if you want to argue whether atheists divorce less, talk to her… she could literally bury you in research.

I will say this: the divorce rate is NOT 50% as people so often cite. It’s much lower, hovering in the 30’s and 40’s, depending on several criteria. On the other hand, that means over half of marriages end in death… depressing, no?

So I’ve wasted a few minutes of your time without even mentioning why on Earth a person should be good. At best I’ve danced around the mere fact that atheists appear to have no problem being good. I don’t even care to make the point that atheists are “better” in any way. There have been, are, and will be bad people who are atheists, so I am not suggesting that realizing gods are imaginary will magically make you a better person. I would be happy if people simply knew that atheists are not bad people based solely on their atheism. I'm such a dreamer...

So the question is not: “Why be good without gods?” The question truly is, “What has driven people who don’t believe in gods to be good?”

Some atheists will say it is inherent. They will say it is only natural for people to be good and act “logically.” These people usually had a good upbringing in a middle- to upper-class family and were surrounded by good role models their entire childhood.

I believe human beings, in their natural state, are narcissistic crooks with little forethought and even less concern for anything or anyone not closely associated to them. I suggest spending more time around children if one maintains a naïve sense of human nobility. Watch kids mock what is different from them. Watch them take what they want without asking. Watch them lie about something you saw them do with your own eyes. If you only watch, and do not punish them, they will continue doing those things until the day they die.

Learning is about consequences, especially early in life. Touch a hot stove, burn your hand. Eat too much candy, get a tummy ache and lose your teeth later. Take something from someone, and you’ll get in trouble. Morality is initially hashed out in terms we understand, a simple series of consequences. Some occur no matter what (guilt), others only happen when we are caught (punishment).

Guilt? Atheists have guilt? Yep, apparently guilt is one of those things, like love, that has nothing to do with God. I’m sure remorse is not universal, but I don’t think it’s necessary in order for one to be a moral person. It just helps one go back and do the right thing (if possible) after one has already done wrong, and it hopefully drives one to not do it again in the future.

Ultimately, doing good is a selfish choice based on a mutually beneficial relationship with others. Being a good person makes you a likeable person, which means people will treat you better. Doing good things in your community improves your community, which benefits you as a member.

Attitudes and actions are contagious, and humans are creatures of habit. Each of us has the potential to make a positive difference that lasts not only in our lifetime, but for generations to come.

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."
~ Native American Proverb

Funny Bible Quote #75

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

~ Matthew 12:32, NIV

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The R Word?

Apparently Rahm Emanuel called political activists who want to run ads against conservative Democrats “fucking retarded” during a closed-door meeting at the White House. None of us would have known, but someone decided to make a big deal out of it… and it’s actually not one of the fucking retards Rahm was talking about.

No, it was a different fucking retard who took offense at the use of what she calls “the R word.” Sarah Palin spoke out against the use of this heinous epithet, which she says is hurtful and a resignation-worthy crime… unless, of course Rush Limbaugh uses the term.

If you think this is a double standard, you would be wrong. You are forgetting one simple fact: just as black people can use the N word, retards can use the R word. Rush is fine. In fact, that gives Rahm a pass as well.

I think the real question is: when did conservatives become whiney bitches?

Funny Bible Quote #74

I [Jesus] tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.

~ Mark 3:28-29, NIV

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Funny Bible Quote #73

The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what kind of wisdom do they have?

Therefore I will give their wives to other men and their fields to new owners. From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.

~ Jeremiah 8:9-10, NIV

Monday, February 8, 2010

Public Bible Study

It has been brought to my attention that the Tennessee state Board of Education has approved a curriculum for teaching the Bible.

At this point, I urge you to read the article in its entirety, and perhaps guess how I feel about the matter:

NASHVILLE, TN - Tennessee's state Board of Education has approved guidelines on how to teach the Bible in public high schools despite concern that the curriculum could be challenged in court.

Legislation approved in 2008 authorized a course for a "nonsectarian, nonreligious academic study of the Bible" in public schools.

State officials said they tried to develop principles that are safe from legal challenge, but some say a state-approved Bible course could violate the separation of church and state.

The course will teach students about the content of the Bible and its historical context. It's an elective, meaning high schools can choose whether to offer it to students as a social studies credit, and students can decide whether to take it.
So, how “should” atheists feel about it?

I think the real question is: should atheists even care? The only argument I can even imagine would be “they could be learning something more useful.” Like what, Shakespeare? Come to think of it, I read all kinds of texts about gods and heros: Beowulf, the Odyssey, the Iliad, the Aeneid, as well as all sorts of Roman, Norse, Chinese, and African mythology.

Then again, I went to a private school that also allowed us to read from the Bible. It didn’t brainwash me or anyone I knew. If anything, it was my peer-pressure on friends that successfully deconverted people. The Bible is just not that powerful.

The article is too short, but there will be some problems with the school board’s plan. My main concern: which translation will be used? Which sect of Christianity will be marginalized? My schools avoided this by choosing scholarly translations (such as the Oxford editions), but I’m curious what Tennessee has decided.

Considering this atheist’s tolerance for legitimizing Bible study as a high school credit, maybe I can use this as an opportunity to leverage an issue dear to my heart: please remove “under God” from the pledge, or better yet just scrap the entire Orwellian practice of having children recite an oath they do not even understand.

So go ahead, teach the Bible in the classrooms. Let students see where some of societies strange prejudices come from. Atheists ought to be encouraging every believer to actually pick up a Bible and read it. Have you read it? It’s bat-shit insane.

This decision also gives creationists what they’ve been having wet-dreams about for decades: a chance to preach Genesis in classrooms. Maybe now they can shut up about teaching theology in science class. They can take their Biblical denial lessons in private, even if it is at tax-payer expense.

[story courtesy of Brittany at Small Dog. Big Stick.]

Funny Bible Quote #72

You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.

~ Deuteronomy 18:21-22, NIV

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Atheist Prophecy #5

The holy shall be trampled by young steeds
The horsemen shall cover the five point spread

Funny Bible Quote #71

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

~ Matthew 24:30-34, NIV

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Funny Bible Quote #70

And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

~ Mark 9:1, KJV

Friday, February 5, 2010

Airport Scanners or Why I Plan to Stop Flying

The full-body airport scanners were invasive when they provided a nude image of the passenger. Now that I find out they use X-Rays to do this, I have to wonder: are we really so stupid that we would sacrifice our health for the illusion of security?

Sure, they “tested” it. On children? Infants? Pregnant women? The workers who will sit near it all day? Let me share with you the recipe for public health nightmare:

1 part rushed product
1 part widespread use

That’s it. That’s all it takes. It’s so easy even a car with Down’s Syndrome like the Toyota Prius can do it.

Body scanners aren’t necessary. It will not stop terrorism. It is another prop in the theatre of security that airports are forced to put on daily in order to help us believe we are safe. As long as our foreign policy decisions piss people off, people in other countries will hate us. Of course, there’s far more deaths involving Americans killing Americans, but for some reason it’s more terrifying to be killed by a foreigner.

If you’re a terrorist, here’s what you do: get someone a job as a baggage handler and have him throw a bunch of bombs on a bunch of planes on July 4th. Or, use plastic box cutters to take the plane. It doesn’t take a genius to circumvent our “security.” Next, they’ll probably shove the bomb up their ass, and everyone will have to be given a full body cavity search before boarding.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see this kind of invasion of privacy was being directed at real issues, like politicians and their integrity? I’m curious what it is they all have up their ass. I might actually watch C-SPAN for that: Congressional colonoscopies.

Funny Bible Quote #69

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example [stone her to death], was minded to put her away privily [divorce].

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel [Isaiah 7:14], which being interpreted is, God with us.

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus [meaning: God saves].

~ Matthew 1:18-25, KJV

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Me, Myself, and I

I had read this, commented on it, and forgotten about it. Forever In Hell jogged my memory, and it got me thinking…

I am, in fact, made up of three parts.

I have long felt this, even before reading Freudian psychology. So, I began to think about me, myself, and I.

The earliest version must be me, developed in childhood. “Me me me, gimme gimme gimme.” That’s me, plain and simple. [Me says he’s a Libtertarian, but he always votes Republican.]

Then came myself, sometime around the “age of reason,” when one begins to not only ask questions, but to seek more than the first answer given. For me, this was all the way back in high school (I can’t recall when because I was too high and drunk). This is the public persona the average person meeting me will be exposed to: a bumbling fool who thinks he can smile and joke his way out of any situation.

I will have nothing to do me. I cannot even be said to be a part of myself. I is an ideal. A single capital letter is used to denote I, looking like a pedestal on which a statue (perhaps of a god) is placed to be admired. I can only be expressed when myself successfully anticipates and executes the actions of I. I cannot be blamed for anything, for I cannot be said to do anything but provide advice prior to a decision and guilt after a poor choice.

Frankly, I could do without me, but I would not be surprised if myself takes pity on me. In all actuality, we’re all just too entertained by me to leave him behind.

Funny Bible Quote #68

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

~ Matthew 10:21-23, NIV

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Atheist Integrity

Atheism has no integrity. Atheism is not even a coherent group or idea capable of possessing such a quality. In fact, atheism to me is not so much a defensible stance as it is the reality which has never been successfully challenged. One need not build a wall around atheism when not a single stone of truth has been hurled by theism. However, sometimes atheists would have you believe atheism is all about integrity, and that atheists are better people.

The premise: Atheism makes one a more law-abiding citizen.

The facts: There are proportionately less atheists in jail.

The flaws: Correlation does not equal causation.

It is true, there aren’t a lot of atheists in prison, and yet we make up about 10-20% of the population. As discussed in the comments of a previous post, these are statistics of criminals in jail. To my knowledge, there is no data regarding the actual statistics of a criminal’s religion at the time of conviction. Even if there is, it is irrelevant for several reasons.

Atheists are an unusual demographic. They tend to be more affluent. They are more likely to have a college degree. In short, they’re not likely to be convicted of a crime. I choose my words carefully, because I know full well that they are not less likely to commit crimes, they’re just more likely to get away with it scot-free. Why? The affluent hire better lawyers, have a more professional courtroom presence (see also: white), and/or just have the money to soundproof their basement and get away with anything.

Then there is the small matter of whether law-abiding is the measure by which we judge a person’s morality. I for one think many criminals have done nothing morally wrong, perhaps because I feel many laws are unjust. There are many legal actions taken by individuals which are much worse than using drugs or prostitution. I think our Puritanism should go the way of the Puritans. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…

Atheism has no integrity, but atheists with integrity already know this.

Funny Bible Quote #67

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away."

~ Matthew 21:1-3, NIV

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Obama and Israel

If you want to see Obama really squirm after a tough question, check this out...

I had happened to see this when I sat down to eat lunch the day after the State of the Union. I turned on the TV and began eating. I almost changed the channel, but Obama’s speech was wrapping up and he said he would take questions. He took off his jacket and called on a young woman who apparently had a huge crowd all making noise and pointing to her. This is where the video picks up.

At some point in the middle of asking her question, I literally put my fork down, stood up, and put my hands on my head in disbelief and excitement. I screamed, “Yes!” even though I was home by myself. If my brain had been in that woman’s head, I would have asked a nearly identical question. I am eternally grateful to her for confronting him on this.

Obama stutters and stalls for 25 seconds before seemingly remembering what he’s supposed to say. He launches into a stock answer…

- the region has been in turmoil for “centuries” (false)
- Israel is a strong ally (friends don’t call friends murderers?)
- Israel is a democracy (true, but irrelevant)
- Obama vows to help keep them “secure”

I am glad Obama does finally get around to pointing out that Palestinians are “hopeless,” though I think he reveals how mentally distant he is from the question when he mentions Palestinians should, in fact, be given the opportunity to “find jobs.” Well, we know what Obama prepped himself to talk about…

I’d like to fantasize a moment and write what I want to hear a US president say:

“We condemn Israeli terrorism in all its forms, both wanton acts of violence at the hands of the sanctioned military and by civilian invaders (a.k.a. “settlers”) occupying and expanding upon land that has already been designated as Palestinian (even after Israeli wars of expansion increased the original allotment).

“We will cease all aid to Israel, and impose sanctions that are appropriate for a rogue nation with nuclear and chemical weapons. We will use the billions saved to improve schools, so that tomorrow’s children are not woefully ignorant of the past.

“We will provide asylum to all Israelis, as they will soon find they are not welcome anywhere.”

America has given over $2 billion per year to Israel since the 80’s. AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) is one of the most powerful and wealthiest lobby groups in Washington. Taking them all in as citizens will not have any effect on our government; Jewish interests could not possibly be any more over-represented.

This is no coincidence, and any moron who is presented the facts can connect these dots. The Muslim world has figured it out, and it’s one of the main recruiting issues for Muslims who rally against the US. Muslims don’t hate us for our freedoms, they just hate having their freedoms encroached.

The single most important foreign policy decision this country could ever make would be to cease the funding of Israel and all governments that are hostile towards their neighbors, both now and in the future.

Aiding in the atrocities of others (when we aren’t busy committing our own, of course) is a recurring theme throughout this nation’s history. I hope I am not alive to experience what happens when we get a taste of our own medicine [My money is on China or India, but Brazil wouldn't surprise me.]

Funny Bible Quote #66

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'"

~ Mark 11:1-3, NIV

Monday, February 1, 2010

Orphans, Laws, and Mercy

By now, most have heard about the Baptists who were arrested with a bus full of Haitian kids crossing into the Dominican Republic. The Prime Minister of Haiti is claiming the they “know what they were doing was wrong” and that “It is clear now that some of the children have live parents.”

Honestly, I don’t think these missionaries knew what they were doing was wrong. In fact, I’m almost positive these people were too stupid to realize that what they were doing was illegal, and that they surely believed it was even a righteous and praiseworthy deed. Unfortunately for the world, a mountain of best intentions does not hold as much weight as a handful of atrocious results.

In fact, this is one of the reasons we need laws. Laws are meant to standardize how we handle various situations. Laws are meant to allow us to treat all situations the same, regardless of emotional distortion. It is good to have laws, because without them we would have millions of people trying to act in their own “good” way. “I bet my neighbor would just love it if I cut down this tree between our lawns...” Yeah, what could go wrong?

In times of disaster, anarchy is a temporary reality. Many people continue to do good during these trying times, but they often do bad things in the name of good (or simple survival), without even realizing the injustice. Without the oversight of a stable society enforcing rules, this happens more often than it should.

What’s worse, some people use disaster to capitalize off of others. Looting is rampant, and some even seek to profit from those reaching out to help the victims by running charity scams. These are the kinds of people who should face the full force of justice.

The Baptist “human traffickers” were wrong, but it pales in comparison to the real criminals who seek to lead children to a life of slavery or forced prostitution. The rules are there to stop both the ignorant and the monstrous among us. However, mercy ought to be shown for the former.

I am glad the bus was stopped and the children can be properly documented. Hopefully some of them do find their families, and I wish each and every one of the true orphans could be adopted out through legal channels to a loving home. Finally, I trust that leniency will be shown on the naïve fools who thought that “doing God’s work” supersedes the laws of man.

Funny Bible Quote #65

After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.

On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: "O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon."

So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

~ Joshua 10:9-13, NIV
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