Too Twitterpated

Does anybody else see how Mike Wilson's response in an emergency is lacking? How about helping the others on the plane escape? If you were still so into to the technology and the need to communicate, knowing these might be your last words, wouldn't it be better to instead say "Honey, I love you." or something more meaningful?

Glad he didn't make money on the interviews at CNN and Fox, at least.

Reason's Greetings?

I think the sign posted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation at the Legislative Building in Olympia, Washington crossed the line. The sign projects several offensive claims. It says, "At this season of the winter solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

I have no problem with the contents of this message myself, and believe it to be entirely accurate. The FFRF also have several other signs that I have been in support of, and even others in this holiday season that seem compelling without being overtly offensive, such as "Reason's Greetings".

What I take issue with here is the audacity of this sign posted where the Nativity is displayed. The mission of the FFRF is to keep the state and religion separate. Wonderful! So, in the holiday season there two options: 1) Nix nativity scenes, or 2) allow them as long as you also get to voice every other opinion. Option 2 seems to be the stance from the Washington Governor, which allows for an infinite number of displays.

What FFRF did, however, was not done in a spirit of peace and good will. An atheistic sign in such a spirit could have said "Happy winter's solstice" and had a subscript saying that the sign was sponsored by the FFRF. It could have been slightly more daring with something like "What is the reason for your winter's solstice celebration this season?" It could have even been something with the message "Oh, and remember the atheists this season who have no icons to display."

Instead, it was offensive because it stated in absolute terms that there is no God, no angels, and no reason for sacred hoopla. It was pompous and ignorant -- two characteristics I learned to loathe during the Bush administration. It is elitist to state outright that your opinion is better than anyone else's. The best we can do in claiming that there is no God is to say that there is no evidence, but we can't show that the supernatural is not there, much as they can't show that it is there. It comes down to opinion on both sides. It's hurtful to ridicule someone else's religious and cultural heritage in such a manner.

Dan Barker of FFRF says (from here) "It's not that we are trying to coerce anyone; in a way our sign is a signal of protest," Barker said. "If there can be a Nativity scene saying that we are all going to hell if we don't bow down to Jesus, we should be at the table to share our views....On that Nativity scene, there is this threat of internal violence if we don't submit to that master. Hate speech goes both ways."

With such a statement, Barker admits to using hateful tactics. He counters his hateful interpretation of the Nativity with a hateful poster. C'mon! When has denigrating religious symbols ever been productive?

You can argue that the Nativity is a part of Christianity, and that many Christians believe non-Christians are going to hell, but it's a plastic baby Jesus and posterboard of a manger displayed next to animatronic'ed Santa and Rudolph, next to a Frosty the Snowman balloon. If you want to say that the scene is asking us to bow before Jesus or go to hell, then the scene is also asking us to be sure and leave cookies out for Santa and to believe that Frosty's cap is magic.

Nativity scenes are not asking for non-believers to bow down. They are expressions of religious faith where the believers ask for tolerance from non-believers. Indeed, they have a lot of gall to presume that their expressions simply are tolerated and are in no way offensive. They tend to follow Bart Simpson's thoughts of Christmas -- "Christmas is a time when people of all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ." However, to fight that mentality through condescension and mockery is not going to do us atheists any favors.

Hulk theology

I'm way too removed from the pop culture scene that I only heard yesterday about Nick Hogan's car crash over a year ago and the Hulk family shenanigans surrounding it. In the leaked phone call between the Hulk and Nick while he was in prison, the Hulk says, "Well, I don't know what kind of person John was or what he did to get himself into this situation. I know he was pretty aggressive. He used to yell at people and he used to do stuff. But for some reason, man, God laid some heavy sh*t on that kid, man, I don't know what he was into...."

The Hulk says on Larry King Live that he told his son this to reach out to his son and give him solace -- blaming the victim, instead of having his son take on the guilt of having done something perhaps even worse than actually kill his best friend. Obviously, the worst sh*t that John Graziano was into was hanging with the Hogans.

But let's say regardless of the pressure or motives behind this statement that it exemplifies part of Hulk's theology. Assuming a God, is there any way to prove Hulk wrong? Many Christians would say, "That is not my God." But when theology involves a personal God, and encourages subjective interpretations that can not be discredited or disproved, what happens to absolute truth, which is supposed to come with religion?

As an atheist, I am asked by Christians "on what basis" can I substantiate my morality, ideology, and my will to live. The implication is that we all need God's grace to get it right. The golden rule is obviously too far fetched for me to exhibit on my own without Jesus tugging on my heart or to remember the words of my parents in how to share, or to modify my behavior when a kid said, "Ouch! You're not playing nice!" My basis is my interpretation of how the world operates and how I ought and want to behave given that interpretation. It's an ongoing thing. I study nature and work together with others using language and behavior to devise collective norms and laws. So, yes, it's relative, just like the basis of one's Christianity.

I find the premise that religion offers absolute/universal truth alarming because it never actually delivers it. See here for a fun read. Toward the end of the article, when it addresses evidence of absolute truth, it makes the following claims:

The first evidence for the existence of absolute truth is seen in our conscience. Our conscience tells us that the world should be a “certain way,” that some things are “right” and some are “wrong.”

The second evidence for the existence of absolute truth is seen in science. Science is simply the pursuit of knowledge. It is the study of what we know and the quest to know more. Therefore, all scientific study must by necessity be founded upon the belief that there are objective realities that exist in the world. Without absolutes, what would there be to scientifically study?

The third evidence for the existence of absolute truth / universal truth is the existence of religion. All the religions of the world are an attempt to give meaning and definition to life. They are born out of the fact that mankind desires something more than simply existing.

Points one is an example of relativism.

The first problem with point two is that objective realities may themselves be part of dynamic, random processes. Furthermore, much of science is not proven, but built on theory, which might eventually be shown to be incorrect. The second problem with employing #2, from a theological perspective, is that this does not differ from some forms of deism and materialism.

Point three shows, as with Hulk's theology, that the strivings for finding meaning in various life events is a natural human condition, but because everyone has their own theology, the splinters of various belief indicate that the only absolute is subjectivity.

I hope you find religion

I called my mother a day after the election and this was the beginning of our conversation.

Mom: How are you?

Me: All right. Happy about the election.

Mom: I bet you are. I just hope you find religion.

Me: What do you mean by that?

Mom: Just mark my words.

Me: What?

Mom: Just remember this moment.

Me: Mmmm... Okay, but I still don't know what you mean.

Mom: This election. These wars. This financial crisis. Global warming. This crazy world. I just don't know....

Finally, I understood. The end times. My mother, like many fundamentalists, looks forward to the second coming of Christ, but she's horribly scared of herself, her kids, and her grandchildren living through the apocalyptic horrors that preclude it. In fact, despite the imaginings some outsiders have that fundamentalists have a drive to bring on Armaggedon, there are fundies who believe that we should avoid the end times, delaying the 2nd coming as much as possible to save more souls.

There is a Sodom and Gomorrah feel to it. In that story, God told Abraham that he was going to obliterate the city. Abraham first asked God, "If there are 50 souls that are good, will you avoid destroying it?" God said, "Sure". But then Abraham thought a little more realistically. "What about 45? No wait. Let's say 40.... Mmmm....How about 10?" God agreed to not destroying the city if 10 good people were found. Fact was, it was just Lot and his daughters (and for a moment his wife) who were the only good ones that escaped before God's cleansing. (Of course, "good" is a bit relative as it seems okay for Lot to have offered up his fine virgin daughters to be raped by the town instead of his male angel visitors (Genesis 19), but I digress...)

Point is, like Abraham's affection and concern for Sodom and Gomorrah, so too do a lot of Christians have concern for themselves, their children, and their children's children, and others would-be-saved, and for all of them to avoid living through the perilous end times. Think about the benefits of delaying the 2nd coming. Imagine the social network in heaven of spending a few years with some 14th generational grandchild or having someone come up to you and say, "I'm here in heaven today because you saved Joe and Joe saved Jane and Jane saved Billy...."

Those who are religious desire to make heaven on earth, but they also have the impression that without God's grace, which too many of us will be without, evil will overtake the world. When there is nothing more anybody can do to save souls, this will usher in the 2nd coming. Hopefully those in Christ will be raptured to avoid evil unhindered by God's grace, but there is a sadness to that. It's the melancholy that comes with the recognition that there are no more souls that can be saved -- not even some of our friends and children.

For my mother, while I'm still alive and this world keeps ticking, there is hope that I'll be saved. For whatever reasons, she believes John McCain can keep this ol' world from getting tired before Barack Obama can. Her vote for McCain to avoid fear cast against my vote for Obama in hope. Simple really. We each want a happy life for us and our kids. Nobody wants to see us self destruct. We're just not fully agreed on how we can accomplish this.

Blog plug: Atheist Ethicist

The Atheist Ethicist presents a daily, long-winded, but interesting essay. Alonzo Fyfe, the author, presents compelling arguments and fodder for a number of topics centered around defining atheism, and how atheists can make the world a better place.

I vant to share my blood

It is easy to assume that sucking another creature's life's blood is the simplest way to obtain necessary nutrients. Problem is, most creatures don't like their blood being sucked, but moreover, as anyone doing mass spectrometry on serum will tell you, blood is around 95% water. The remaining 5% contains proteins and amino acids, electrolytes, and virtually no fat. The New York Times has this interesting piece on bloodsuckers. Because blood is really a poor diet and mostly water, bats quickly expel it through urination. If they do not feed within 60 hours, they will die. Since they pretty much feed at night, they must feed at least every other night. But what if they don't?

Vampire bats exhibit reciprocal altruism. The successful hunters will share some of their blood with the unsuccessful ones. There seems to be the recognition (at least behaviorally) that bats in need today may be the successful hunters tomorrow, when the successful ones today might become the needy.

For more info, check and

First she was just cute

... but now I'm scared. What an idiot.

The evil twin

I have an identical twin brother. Our parents treated us equally, though I would say he was given more the vibe that he was the business one, and I was the creative one. We went to the same small Christian school from fourth grade through high school, and then the same small Christian liberal arts college where we shared adjoining dorm rooms all four years. He dated one girl all through college and married her the year out. I dated several and then also married the girl I happened to be dating at the time, a year out from college.

During college, I rarely attended church and worship services unless they were required. (We had a quota of worship services we had to fulfill each quarter. I also worked as the church custodian, if being present by cleaning it counts!) My brother attended more services, but not consistently. After college, my wife and I attended church about once every month or two. It was more of a social thing, because I had already by that time turned about 50% agnostic -- I thought God probably existed, but the God of my fundamentalist upbringing was inconsistent with what I could see in the world. I was grappling with trying to figure out just who this God figure was if he wasn't who I'd been raised to see.

Meanwhile, my brother's wife had become the sole teacher in a one-room Christian school, and she played the organ. The church was about 50 people, and with her being the teacher and knowing all the families, they quickly became leaders in the church. My brother even began preaching.

After a year of looking like a momma's boy while working with gangsters in '89-'90, I tried to find myself through the study of music in San Francisco. That then led me into the silicon valley doing music recording software development. Maybe it was that liberal cosmopolitan air, but I became more open to other people and lifestyles during that time. Then my wife and I divorced. No kids. Call it a starter marriage. We both realized we made for great roommates, but that life could probably be more. (And while we were the ultimate ones that made the decision to get married, we recognized the culture we were brought up in that pushes you to use college to find a Christian spouse certainly had an effect on our actions.)

You really can't go through a divorce without coming to terms with who you are and what you need. It was during this time that I used the term "atheist" to describe myself. It felt dirty, embarrassing, and most of all, empty. The decision to turn atheist at this time, socially, was stupid. Divorce feels lonely. It's easy to imagine yourself alone and unlovable forever, so why not turn to God who is love? Why not find a nice church girl to start a family with? After all, what would my options be in an atheist woman? Having not met too many atheist women, I had no idea what I was committing myself to by choosing atheism for myself and also demanding it of some (hopefully) future spouse. I don't think marriages can really work when the religions are different.

And that's one point I want to make. With my divorce, I was not in a marriage that constrained my decision to choose atheism. Certainly my ex-wife, because she operated rather agnostically herself, could have permitted me to pronounce my atheism, but had she been more devout and our relationship more permanent, then I probably would have played along going to church, enjoying Christian friends, and hearing the messages. I would imagine the kids (if they were to have come along) would also have practiced. But because I was unencumbered, I took a rather objective approach to the theology, and even though I wanted to believe, I could not (and still can't) make a theology fit. I am not bitter about my religious upbringing. Certainly I can recognize a lot of petty, ridiculous things from the past, but my parents, friends, teachers, and preachers were all operating with generally good intent. It's just for me, it's speculation that is often contradictory or false and I won't build an ideology and try to coerce my children into believing what I myself doubt. I'm not a good liar.

Of course I was naive about atheist women. I found a pediatrician who is all about helping underserved and uninsured kids who finds me lovable and loving. Shortly after we were married we went to S. America to do some volunteer work. That as well as other travels made me realize the tiny culture I was born into that proclaimed it had received The Truth was ignorant and pompous, a dangerous combination. And it made me see every other religion operating similarly. So, a broad exposure to culture can also be a support to atheism.

My interest in biology also started around my choice to become atheist. Because biology and evolution was the straw that finally deconverted me, it is also where I turn to fill the gap left by the hole that God-belief used to fill. Maybe you want to call it a false God, but evolution has obviously given rise to life, our behaviors, our cognitive capacities, and our emotions. When asking about the meaning of life, why not study life? The more I understand the roots of these things, like good science does, the more questions it raises, but the quest is what it is about. The same dynamic applies to God. The more you dive in, the more questions you have, and the prominent ideas of how the redeemed might spend eternity is that they keep discovering God.

This is where my brother and I have diverged. He turns to the Bible for everything, and he can find support. His social circle is his church family. He lives in a semi-pastoral setting surrounded by churches and Republican banners. He started a business 15 years ago that employs a lot of Christians and where charitable giving is a mantra (each of his 80 employees gave over $1000 last year to charity). He sold his business this year putting him into the category known as the ultra-rich. From his vantage point, his success in business and his happy social relationships with everyone he is surrounded by, is attributable to Christ, and evidence of the pleasures you get living the Christian lifestyle.

I used to be utterly confused at how my brother and I could be so different. We still laugh at many of the same jokes and approach things in the same way. He's even analytical and logical, but like the presuppositional arguments discussed recently at Cliff's blog, the butterfly effect for me resulted in changing my presuppositions. Alternatively, he's found more validation and has become more fundamentalist than the way we were raised.

You might say there is a twin thing going on where we struggle to be different from each other. Maybe we do. We have the closest thing that anyone can have in playing the "what if" game, wondering what our lives would be had we taken alternative paths. Given the same choice, one of us (usually him) could always evaluate the effects of whichever one of us was first to respond (usually me) before also responding. I think my brother saw my experimentation and thought he'd be better off towing the line. Now as a 41-year old student with a couple of kids who still doesn't know how I'll find a job in this economy when I'm finally finished, and what I'll really be when I grow up, it can be discouraging seeing the success and self-actualization of my identical twin, but then I realize, I'm self-actualized, too. Given particular sets of circumstances, I charted a path to atheism and the opportunity to be a scientist. I love being part of the discovery of what can be objectively known. I largely lived my brother's life for the first half of it, and it can be fulfilling, but boy is it insulating. There's so much more in a life without God.

At the movies

A recent theme from some of my Christian blogging friends, and where I go round with them a bit on their blogs, is the theme of "the meaning of life". The assumption of many Christians is that without God, life is meaningless and would lead to nihilism. To that, I have countered, obviously ineffectively, that many other animals appear to enjoy life and have a fear of death. They seek pleasure, avoid pain, and avoid death. That is, their purpose in life seems to be to plug on for another day, trying to make the most of it, and rearing young to do the same. They don't have an innate sense that all is meaningless, otherwise they would behave less purposefully.

Another counter that I have used is to say that the meaning of life is identical to the atheist as it is for the theist. I say that because the only thing any of us have access to is the material world, whether you want to say a supernatural interfaces with it or not. Therefore, we employ the same resources -- books, conversation, observation, emotions, thoughts, etc. to our definition of life's meaning.

The attempt I want to make here is to say that theists actually spend very little time in devotion to spiritual concerns despite calls to do everything to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). Thoughts are seldom so dramatic as those listed in scriptures to avoid adultery, don't kill, love thy neighbor. Most of our thoughts are around doing our jobs pushing buttons, sorting things, driving here and there, smelling the air, needing to go potty, zapping things in the microwave, tasting home cooking, listening to tunes, reading a newspaper, yearning for an electronic gizmo, learning how to operate a piece of software, getting ready for bed, hoping for a laugh as we watch tv, catching a concert, staying warm, keeping cool, wanting to socialize, feeling flabby and frustrated when we exercise, wondering about our clothes and hair, and losing ourselves completely in another world as we watch a movie. Call it mundane, but all of that stuff is what we have to work with, and do work with, to make life interesting and compelling for us and our youngsters.

If God was the answer to make life meaningful, then to ascribe such a role to the mundane means that all of it is a false proxy, unless Christians at least want to concede that some meaning might be acquired through natural (even "of the flesh") means.

It leads me to my final question: Why do we all love the movies?

Kiddie pool / Jesus the scarecrow

I was sitting on the edge of the kiddie pool watching my daughters (2 and 4.5) splash around when the arm of a father setting his 1 yr. old boy in the water caught my eye. A bright red tattoo covered his upper arm as a band. In the middle, a swastika. Then I noticed the face of Adolf Hitler tattooed on his chest and across his back “Nation of Aryan Brotherhood”. Several people asked the teen lifeguards to kick him out. The kids refused, claiming it was freedom of speech and he wasn’t behaving in any other way that was disruptive. He was just sporting his “white pride”.

While public display of the swastika is not illegal in the U.S., it is a crime in other parts of the world. The Aryan Brotherhood is a prison gang, but the public display of gang symbols also does not seem to be a crime, at least at the national level. Consider, however, that to join the AB, you pretty much have to murder someone. Perhaps the broadcasting of the intimidating messages “I’ve killed someone.” “I’m a racist.” and “I belong to a gang of murderers.” is illegal at the kiddie pool, I don’t know.

And that’s the thing -- none of us knew how to react. Should these kid lifeguards have asked him to leave? Should one of us parents? Should we have called the cops? Would doing any of that just incited unnecessary problems or violence for us and our children there at the pool, or via gang retaliation later? What were we teaching our kids through non-confrontation -- that it’s okay to let hate groups sport their placards without a fuss? That we condone subtle terror as long as it’s proposed harm is undetermined? That we should act cowardly when frustrated or fearful? Or is it that we demonstrate a deeper restraint by admitting that we don’t understand this man’s history -- that maybe he was strongly coerced to join the gang. Maybe he’s trying to get out. Maybe we should just give him the benefit of the doubt, and for the sake of his 1 yr. old son, let them enjoy the afternoon together like us “normal” folks. For better or worse, our response was to simply watch him out of the corner of a raised eyebrow and to try to distance ourselves inconspicuously.

I want to explore the roots, psychology, culture, and memetic evolution of gangs in future posts. What I want to discuss here is subtle terror. How just a little bit of fear and suspicion put us on guard and made us attentive, but also left us confused. In not knowing how to react, we didn’t. It is striking to see how fear, even at this not-so-uncomfortable level to do anything about, implicitly makes it an acceptable level to live with.

Terror is the use of unfathomable as well as realistic fear. I say “unfathomable” in the sense that it is so far from our norm or understanding, that we don’t know how to accurately interpret the message to quantify the danger and how to respond to it appropriately. In this afternoon, I was struck that “unfathomable” fear was not only grandiose displays of things like bombs, but also included the subtle presence of cryptic signs.


Fear is a common message in religion. Christianity’s easiest target is Hell and its prospect of eternal, painful suffering. There are also the messages that life without God is empty, loveless, and unfulfilling. A Christian ponders his relationship with God not only by judging how happy he is in the religion and in that relationship, but he also measures this contentment against how he envisions his life would be without God. He uses the relationship to protect himself from what he assumes is threatening.

When admirable traits are given to a God, it is easy to play into the fears of a life without God. Christianity not only introduces the fear, which can leave us stressed and confused, but then offers a solution -- Jesus is the answer (and thereby maintaining it’s corollary: Without Jesus, there is no answer). Perhaps what is important to consider before accepting Jesus as a solution is to ask, “Is the fear real?”

Ask yourself these questions.

Does morality come from God?

Does love come from God?

Does law come from God?

Does happiness come from God?

Does pain and hate come from the devil, or God?

What good is God?

At the core of Christianity is the belief that we have all sinned, and that without God’s grace, we will be doomed to keep sinning. The immediate threat of sin is that we will not know true love and fulfillment. The long term threat is Hell or at least a life of doom.

But what is sin? Sinning is not the same as acting immorally. Sinning is simply refusing God. The reason sinning and immorality are often confused is that when it is assumed that moral commands come from God and not men, then immorality is the same as refusing God. It is in this way that Christianity promotes the idea that the only way you can act morally is to believe in God, and that immorality shows that you are not part of the redeemed.

To cast love, morals, law, and happiness to God is at a minimum an unknowable proposition. That assumption also means that law, morality, love, and happiness are ultimately not natural. If societal demands for collective cooperation are gifts from God, then Christians are equally comparable to those who demonstrate “white pride”. The assumption of the racist is that they are better than other races because they have been endowed with physical traits and/or culture that is superior. The assumption that love, morals, law, and happiness can only come from God does nothing but lead to bigotry.


Evolution is often cast as predator/prey, dog eat dog. Indeed, like capitalism, independent greed and selfishness can work to promote the common good of a population. And also like capitalism, there is an ironic recognition that cooperation is also mandatory for our (or a population’s) overall fulfillment and success. Cooperation is often overlooked in considerations of evolution, but individuals of a species work together. It is not unreasonable to believe that if ants can work together building colonies, then we humans, with our superior intellect, opposable thumbs, and gift of gab can also work together to construct colonies where we find fulfillment.


From the atheist’s point of view, God, religion, and laws and behavior attributed to God, are man-made constructs. As such, when Christianity presents “Jesus is the answer”, it is important to ask, “To what?” Can it be shown that the questions for which Jesus is the answer are not man-made constructs, which many times are created and play into human fears? No. As such, Christianity apparently offers up its own strawman arguments leaving Jesus, paradoxically, hanging on a cross like a scarecrow.

Evil evolution hypothesis

This blog posits that belief in evolution equates to atheism. The reasons boil down to the simple fact that while some theists may also choose to believe in evolution, nobody has come up with a theology that in any way makes sense. How can a personal God use evolution as a tool when it is apparently so random? How can a loving God use evolution when it promotes competition and bettering ourselves by experiencing and avoiding pain? How did sin enter the world if animals were around before the Garden of Eden, and what purpose does Jesus serve in an evolutionary context? What does it mean to have a spirit if animals were around, living and dying, before sin? These are the topics of some of the blogs I have links to.

Here is a theory that allows theists (well, Christians, anyway) to hold theism and evolution: Evolution is the Devil's tool, not God's.

Let us imagine a cosmic battle between Good and Evil (Isa. 14:13,14 and Revelation 12:4), and a wager, that Good could overcome Evil. To this end, Good said to Evil, construct a system of your own design, and I will show that it can be defeated. So Evil thought up evolution -- a means by which ordinary molecules would aggregate and build bigger and more complex bodies. They would eat each other. They would hurt each other. En route they would become sentient, even to the point of recognizing the existence of God, and shortly after such an acknowledgment, they would choose to ignore God -- the definition of sin. (Give somebody free will for long enough and sin's bound to happen eventually). Evolution was Evil's fool-proof plan to demonstrate that molecules could, through natural means, someday transcend their basic chemical interactions and imagine and then discredit God.

Along the way, however, these molecular assemblies of bodies also learned love and Goodness. However, humans continued to show an incapability of avoiding sin. To show that love and Goodness could overcome such inherent evil, God took the form of humanity, experienced a sinless life, and death, the complete human experience. This proved that Evil could be overcome, and now we humans can get that sinless life when we ask for forgiveness and Jesus to live through us.

Can Polkinghorne top this simple theory?

Evolutionists flock to Darwin apparition

From The Onion,

Love the irony

At the end of June, a 22-yr old Guatemalan man drowned in the Sacramento Delta. The original reporting of the story put the bug in people's ear that the man may have died during a baptism. A day later, it was disclosed that he was not part of a baptism. (I've been unable to determine if there was even a baptism taking place at the time. It seems, at least, that where he drowned is close to a site that is popular for baptisms).

What is disheartening is the response from all the atheist blogs that just gobbled up the idea that the man died during a baptism. Once assumed to be true, the story spread like wildfire. We atheists are so quick to criticize theists for believing what they want to hear. But shame on you atheists for being so quick to believe unsubstantiated facts and the rumor mill of your "rational" friends. I have yet to find a blog that ran this story that later acknowledged the truth of the events and the humility to admit the bloggers' naive presumption.

Film review: Marjoe

This movie chronicles the young life of Marjoe Gortner and won best documentary film in 1972, and with good reason. This clip is from the first 6 minutes of the film.

If you YouTube Marjoe, you will find that instead of realizing the sham that a lot of religion is, and how it preys on emotional, congregational antics, there is an overwhelming response to protect it by labeling Marjoe as a false prophet. Curiously, one way to tell a false prophet according to one commentor is to look at children's responses to such "preachers/teachers". Duh! Adults acting this way and anybody leading them like this is weird. If I was a kid, I'd be freaked out! And as an adult watching the film I was freaked out. Speaking in tongues and writhing orgasmically on the floor in public just ain't right whether you're a true prophet or a false one.

The Grandma Factor

A naive take on evolution would predict that many species would operate like the Black Widow -- once you've passed on your genes, you're only real value is your body as food. But consider the Grandma Factor.

Big Foot Hoax

"Legitimate bigfoot researchers have mixed emotions about this whole affair."

Too cute.

But is there a qualitative difference between such "legitimate researchers" and a theologian?

Why not rain dance instead?

Hasn't it been shown that rain dancing is more effective than praying for it?

Check the facts

Found this site to be a wonderful political resource.

One candidate seems to play deception much more than the other. (I'll let you decide). Either way, it makes me queasy seeing how words and images are twisted for political gain. It's also sickening to see politicians' respect for us citizens by trying to dupe us into supporting them and their agenda. And they're right! We Americans are probably gullible enough to take on another unwarranted war.

It's therefore extremely important to vote for the person whose policies you most appreciate because they will use clever means to make them come true. As a look at a candidate's character, look who's lying to you and how they're doing it.

Our thoughts and prayers

The two children from Denver killed in this accident are the niece and nephew of a friend of mine.

My thoughts are definitely with them, and my family is helping support where we can.

For those people praying, what are they really praying for? Support from a God who allowed the tragedy to happen in the first place? Where was God's Hand when it should have been holding up this airplane? What is it about such ridiculous tragedy that many turn to faith for consolation when really, it illustrates that if there is a God, he is unavailable?

Jesus Camp Review

I just saw the movie, Jesus Camp. The movie tracks a preacher and a few youngsters out of about a hundred that attend an Evangelical summer camp. It shows kids becoming indoctrinated and some of the tactics used, the kids speaking in tongues, and being emotionally charged. If this was really widespread, I'd be severely alarmed, but the movie presents a Pentecostal fringe of Evangelicalism working to out-radicalize radical Islam. The evangelicals that I know and how I was raised is not quite so extreme. Still, there was certainly some overlap with my evangelical upbringing. For example, I'd long forgotten that pledges of allegiance to the Bible and the Christian flag. There are several discussions about so many parts of the film, now two years old. I want to make one observation.

What is it about extreme fundamentalists that would allow themselves to be filmed like this? I don't think they got paid, and to the outside world, they look like brainwashers and fearmongers to the innocent. What it is, I think, is that they believe themselves so righteous that anybody seeing their lifestyle and tactics would not in any way see anything wrong with what they were doing, and in fact, they believe that outsiders would condone it and want to join forces. When you know your beliefs are unsubstantiated, you have to convince yourself in so many ways that they are correct. It's disconcerting that one way to seek validation is through the coercion of children to also believe your craziness.

Flintstones Chewables

I assume the road to apostasy is nearly opposite as it is for the convert who might have had abrupt, life-changing epiphanies. For the somewhat-soon-to-be unbeliever, “Ah-ha” moments leading to deconversion are more like “Ah-ha” weeks or months starting off with a queasy unease that maybe all is not as it really should be.

I had an unsettling experience 23 summers ago at Music In The Rockies. Contemporary Christian Music was just starting to spread its wings. Amy Grant was unknown outside Christian circles. Jesus Bands like Petra and the Rez band showed that Christians could rock. Phil Keaggy showed that Christians could jam with some talent, and Steve Taylor showed that one could mimic Thomas Dolby and Devo and get played on MTV while speaking out against the Christian establishment demonstrating through such rebel music a deeper, true meaning of the Gospels.

And there I was. I was into all the records. I even read Kerry Livgren’s autobiography of his conversion to Christianity (and tried to convince myself that Kansas was still a decent band without their original singer, Steve Walsh, who left because he couldn’t take the religion that was seeping into the tunes). I built a couple electric guitars and played in a couple high school bands, jamming for Jesus. I interned at the local Christian radio station, KLTT (aka “K-Light. The Light of the Rockies”). I helped out at a bit at Jerry Nelson’s recording studio, Clarion, which makes accompaniment tracks for all those Sunday karaokers. It was my goal to perform, record, and produce Christian music, so at 18, as part of all this foot-wetting, I ensconced myself in the beautiful rockies amidst some thousand or so other would be musical proselytizers for a week of seminars. (Here is my picture with Phil Keaggy and Steve Taylor taken at the seminar).

And therein lies the problem: Music and Proselytizing. Christian rock 'n roll serves one of two purposes: 1) It provides a clean rock 'n roll venue for Christians, and 2) it serves as a device for proselytizing by hooking unsuspecting heathens with a “good beat” and then preaching to them.

Regarding #1, my Christian upbringing taught me that rock 'n roll was evil from several fronts. The rhythms were from African voodoo rituals. The screeching is rebellion against good (i.e. classical) music. The lyrics implore Devil worship, sex, and drugs and the mesmerizing jamming will make you succumb. Of course, it was not enough that the lyrics should explicitly say these things, but should you listen to a record backward, then you could hear the subliminal (or as George Bush would say, “subliminable”) messages being presented. Rock 'n roll was bad shit.

(And hence the attraction. We love to flirt with fire, don’t we?)

However, let’s just write off #1 as nonsense. Regarding voodoo: There is no evidence that Bo Diddley was about doing crazy things with leftovers of chicken bones. Regarding screeching: Yes, it was rebellion against classical music. Is that evil? Regarding the lyrics: Is there any terrible theme not already covered in opera? Regarding the beat: Yes, you may want to dance, but are these dances any more seductive than other dance forms? If so, is it the music or the person gyrating a belly button to blame? Regarding drugs and the Devil: Aren’t these just marketing ploys ironically promulgated by conservative parents enabling a simple avenue for youngster rebellion? Regarding playing albums backward: I can’t even understand half of these lyrics when played forward! How is my subconscious going to get them backward?

So, for all intents and purposes, we can write off the evils of rock 'n roll. Well sorta. Should Christians enjoy such worldly pleasures?

Regarding #2, there was something quite pure about meeting these heathens on their level and speaking to them in their language. How else might they hear the Good News?

This was my naivete going into the seminar. I heard sessions on how to structure a song after such and such a secular performer. I heard how to write lyrics about love without using the pronouns “he/she/his/hers” so that the song could be interpreted at one level as between you and a spouse or at another level as being between you and God. (The "agape" love). I was told to disguise explicit declarations of belief and conviction and employ poetic, generic feelings to obtain a broader market.

And that’s my problem. I loathe marketing. If my kids want to rebel against me. They’ll become marketers.

In my week at the seminar, I did not hear anyone talk about becoming a better musician. It was not about the music at all, and that is what was so uninspiring. Music, at it’s peak, is a very personal communication with the performer and the audience.

To be sure, the secular realm is big on hype and marketing. It’s filled with lies, too. Did Johnny Cash really shoot a man just to watch him die? Puh-lease! And why were those middle-class white boys in Seattle in the early 90s so angry about the American dream? C'mon! The secular world now has American Idols and mega mania. Lots of scripted show.

The thing is/was, I expected more honesty from the Christian world. Heck, it worked for Bach! But hit that seek button on your radio and within 2 seconds of scanning a station, you can tell if you’ve landed on a Christian station, even if there is no singing. It’s in the mix. It’s in the timbre. It’s that fakeness that comes blaring through -- the dishonesty of trying to sell something so naively and pretentiously. It’s no wonder that this year two finalists of American Idol will host the competition for best Christian Idol at the Music Seminar in the Rockies.

Not that I went on to become a much better musician, but after my week there, I began to outgrow Flintstones chewables.


I was pleasantly surprised to see this billboard the other day. (The Gold in the bottom corner is the Colorado State capitol building). This blog posting is to help it get beyond 14th Ave and Fox Street in downtown Denver. (Yes. I live in Denver).

Do hippos have morals?

So, what is up in this video? Does the hippo really show evidence of empathy for the impala? Or is he stealing the croc's lunch out of curiosity only to find that he doesn't like impala, remembering he is an herbivore?

If we assume empathy is at play, then this is an extreme version of it. Nature is full of altruistic examples, at least between members of the same species. Between species there are also cases of you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Obviously, this example is different. Why did the hippo attempt to rescue the impala? Do hippos have morals?

Scientists Expelling Science

There is a lot of hoopla right now in the evolution and creation camps over the movie, Expelled. This is a case where Hollywood could make a comparatively low-budget movie and potentially capitalize on the volatile Creation-Evolution controversy. Wikipedia says that the movie had a budget of $3.5 million and Yahoo! movies shows that it has grossed $5.3 million so far. Wikipedia and both cite the many scientific inaccuracies and deceitful nature of the interviews presented in the movie, which are the subject of most of the blog postings. This post is a bit different.

I am an advocate of ID in schools, not as science, but as a religion or philosophy course. Now, as Dr. Francisco Ayala notes, "We don't teach alchemy along with chemistry. We don't teach witchcraft along with medicine. We don't teach astrology with astronomy." Why do I say that ID should be discussed (notice I did not say "taught") in schools? Because it is the culture of most students. (See also Where there's smoke).

To ignore that culture is irresponsible and disrespectful. It makes scientific teaching pompous and preachy. Scientists frequently say that this has nothing to do with religion and that all they are doing is presenting the data. This "just the facts, ma'am" teaching of science is where we are failing to teach students what science is really about.

Science should be presented as what we know and how we know it, and even more crucially, how can we build a hypothesis, test it, and analyze the results accurately. I'm sure this is the objective of every science teacher. But what drives this hypothesis building? Curiosity. How can that be fostered?

In every scientific journal article, there is a Discussion section that repeats the objectives of the study with a summarization of the results. These new conclusions are placed in historical context and offer perspectives, interpretations, implications, and areas for more inquiry. It is in the Discussion section where active readers can agree or disagree with the report, but either way, more questions can be asked. In this way, Science perpetuates Science. Get rid of the Discussion section and you lose the relevance of the study and kill inquiry.

When science becomes just about presenting the facts, it becomes taxonomic. (This type of presentation, ironically, is the science that I was taught in a Christian, young earth creationism classroom where I was presented biology without evolution).

Science should be taught with that Discussion section -- that it has the ability to cure disease, elucidate behavior, explain the stars, and challenge philosophies. Maintaining a fear that ID in a philosophy course will be a toehold for it to creep into the science classroom loses the forest for the trees.

Science Debate 2008

There is a coalition, Science debate 2008, that has tried and tried to get US presidential candidates to discuss their views on science. Obama has declined, Clinton has been non-committal, and McCain non-responsive. Meanwhile, Clinton and Obama will attend "The Compassion Forum", a forum of "wide-ranging and probing discussions of policies related to moral issues." CNN will serve as the exclusive broadcaster of the "presidential-candidate forum on faith, values and other current issues" at Messiah College near Harrisburg, Pa., April 13 at 8 p.m. You can read more here.

Is there not more of a moral responsibility to pursue disease cures, environmental protections, and methods that promote global wellness? Pretty soon, our prayers will be directed at how the amazing science in Asia can rescue us.