Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lowest Common Denominator

Dozens Killed As Syrian Forces Storm Restive Cities

Iran Verdict On Detained U.S. Nationals Expected In A Week

The situation in Syria is severe to say the least. As the Arab Spring has unfolded around the middle east and people start standing up for their basic human rights and freedoms against tyrannical regimes, Syria and the Assad "presidency" are cracking down harsher than ever on peaceful protesters. This latest attack on civilians comes just before the muslim holy month of Ramadan, a month of prayer and fasting and submission to god, a month of self-control, of giving to the poor and showing mercy and taking a step back from "worldly activities" to focus on improving yourself. It almost seems as if the Syrian "government" wants to get the harshest crack-downs out of the way before Ramadan, so they can be at peace with what they've done to their people by not committing these heinous acts once Ramadan starts, after the arrival of the new moon. On the other side of the spectrum, we are hearing reports of the Iranians possible release of the last two American hikers held on spying charges. How human of both regimes to use the religious month to accommodate their political maneuvering.

It begs to ask, why can't we be empathetic and generous and self-reflective and charitous throughout the year? Why must one wait until Ramadan starts? Why is charity blessed 700 times more during Ramadan than any other time? Why can't we be on a constant quest of enlightenment, of self-discipline, of empathy, of self-reflection? It seems that setting aside one month for this focus only allows us to get away with less than that the rest of the year. It allows us to justify heinous acts and makes shallow the good deeds done for others if they're done out of necessity for religions' sake than for the sake of just doing a good deed for another human being. Just my take on it. Link below provides some more information on Ramadan. At its core are some very noble tenets and traditions and it seems a very festive time with family and friends. It's actually quite similar to holidays celebrated in the west, like thanksgiving and christmas and hanukkah and yom kippur. This shows that all humans have a sense of these tenets and of tradition and ceremony. These are innate in all of us, not just those who practice one religion or another. We should be mindful of that when we think to attack someone or some group of people who may be different from us. In fact, they are just like us. In almost every way, except faith in one supernatural being over another supernatural being or no faith in a supernatural being at all...

The lowest common denominator of all humans is that we are all here on this earth together.

Ramadan - Wikipedia

Language of Christianity

Do You Speak Christian?

Really interesting look into the language of christianity as spoken by modern christians. Amazing how words like salvation and believe can be used to mean many VERY different things in different contexts. It also talks about how this language gets played out in our politics from Abraham Lincoln to George W Bush. The author goes on to explain how the rapture and being "left behind" is a much more modern concept than they would have us understand.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ancient Lives

Help Scientists Decipher 'Lost' Gospel

Scientists are actually seeking the help of you and me to sift through thousands of pieces of papyrus writings discovered a century ago but have not yet been fully catalogued and translated. They have set up a neat program to help you decipher the greek symbols and take measurements and submit them online to help get a better picture of what all these texts may say. You can be an archaeologist in your desk chair and decipher texts that may not have been read by anyone in 2000 years, pretty cool. Apparently "people power" is still better at this type of work than "computer power". Follow the link below if you wish to contribute to history!

Ancient Lives

In the Name of the Fodder

As usual, Jon Stewart hits the nail on the head. Is it sad when comedians understand politics and religion better than pundits?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
In the Name of the Fodder
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
GOP - Special Victims Unit
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why Do I Need Him?

Faith No More

Some public figures and intellectuals chime in on why they don't believe in "God". I especially liked this quote:

Kenan Malik 
Neurobiologist, writer and broadcaster

"I am an atheist because I see no need for God. Without God, it is said, we cannot explain the creation of the cosmos, anchor our moral values or infuse our lives with meaning and purpose. I disagree.
Invoking God at best highlights what we cannot yet explain about the physical universe, and at worst exploits that ignorance to mystify. Moral values do not come prepackaged from God, but have to be worked out by human beings through a combination of empathy, reasoning and dialogue.
This is true of believers, too: they, after all, have to decide for themselves which values in their holy books they accept and which ones they reject.
And it is not God that gives meaning to our lives, but our relationships with fellow human beings and the goals and obligations that derive from them. God is at best redundant, at worst an obstruction. Why do I need him?"

Young Frankenstein

'It's Alive! It's Alive!' Maybe Right Here On Earth

It's extraordinary to think how close humans are to creating life. Our understanding of RNA, DNA, amino acids and the basic building blocks of life are all coming together in the laboratories of modern day Dr. Frankensteins. I am hopeful that we will one day soon show how life can arise from certain combinations of chemicals, elements and forces to show that abiogenesis is a natural process and is something that can occur commonly in nature and the universe.

Dinosaurs of a Feather

'Oldest Bird' Knocked Off Its Perch

A new fossil discovery of a different species of feathered dinosaur has led paleontologists to shift its positioning of Archaeopteryx in the tree of life. Once thought to be the most distant ancestor of birds, the new discovery of Xiaotingia Zhengi, has pushed Archaeopteryx from the main bird line to an offshoot of "bird-like" dinosaurs called deinonychosaurs. Very subtle differences in the wishbone and snout were apparently the deal breakers in this case. What I love about science is that it's an ever-changing, evolving view of our universe and life itself. If new evidence comes comes to light that requires us to rethink things and rearrange how we perceive the order of the cosmos, we are obliged to follow where the facts take us. It is no doubt that birds evolved from some form of dinosaur and that's still and exciting thought. Every time I see a bird, I can't help but think I'm looking at a dinosaur...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Camp Quest

Camp Quest is Atheists' Answer To Bible School

It's nice to see that there are some camps out there that are specifically non-religious, although I would think many camps that don't label themselves as atheist would just avoid the subject altogether, like sports camps, etc. It is nice to see there is a venue for this type of free thought for youngsters. There is a fine line between pushing your beliefs on your children and letting them find their own way. The hard part is not trying to get caught up in the rhetoric of it all, and allowing them to have an open mind and be inquisitive about all things. This is what boosts imagination and helps grow critical thinking and reasoning so they can be productive adults. It is nice to know that parents who send their children away to camp will know that their kids won't be indoctrinated with religious ideas behind their backs.

Camp Quest - Chesapeake Website

Camp Quest History and Mission

Camp Quest Chesapeake is affiliated with Camp Quest, Inc., an independent 501(c)(3) educational non-profit organization based in Columbus, Ohio. Camp Quest is the first residential summer camp in the history of the United States aimed at kids and teens from freethinking families, including parents who identify as Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Brights, non-religious, or whatever other terms might be applied to those who hold a naturalistic worldview.
Camp Quest held its first camp session in 1996 in northern Kentucky with approximately 20 campers. Today we serve hundreds of kids and teens at camps across the United States, and in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.
Official Mission Statement
The purpose of Camp Quest is to provide kids and teens from freethinking families a residential summer camp dedicated to improving the human condition through rational inquiry, critical and creative thinking, the scientific method, self-respect, ethics, competency, democracy, free speech, and the separation of religion and government.
Through our programs we seek to:
  • Build a community for freethinking families
  • Foster curiosity, questioning, and critical thinking
  • Encourage reason and compassion as foundations of an ethical, productive and fulfilling life
  • Raise awareness of positive contributions made by atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic people to our society
  • Promote an open dialogue about metaphysical questions that is marked by challenging each other’s ideas while at the same time treating each other with respect
  • Demonstrate atheism and humanism as positive, family-friendly worldviews

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rubble Cross

Atheist Group Wants To Stop World Trade Center Cross

Atheists are suing to stop the display of what appears to be a "cross" of steel left from the 9-11 disasters that many see as a sign of god. I hate frivolous law suits, but I have to side with the atheists on this one. If you want to display some of the rubble so people can see and remember the carnage, great. But, religious ideology is what got us into this mess and it should either be allowed along with remembrances of the religions of all the people who perished or none at all. It should not be christian over all others, come on. I really like this quote:

"The WTC cross has become a Christian icon," said Dave Silverman, president of the atheist group. "It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn't be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross. It's a truly ridiculous assertion."

The Dude Abides

The Dudeist Bible: Just Take It Easy, Man

WWTDD? What Would The Dude Do? Now this is a question worth finding an answer to. One of the great cult classic movies of all time, The Big Lebowski, finally has become a "religion" of sorts. It's more of a philosophy, an egalitarian way of living to just abide where you are. Dudeism, or the Church of the Latter Day Dude, was founded a few years ago and has recently published its text, "The Abide Guide: Living Like Lebowski". It also has a terrific website with an official periodical, "The Dudespaper". I bug my wife with quotes from the Big Lebowski all the time and I have to say it is my favorite movie of all time so I am quite excited to see other people get into it as well. It's fun to be silly and not take life so seriously all the time.... helps keep you sane

Here is the link to the website:


and the the Book:

The Abide Guide: Living Like Lebowski

Universal Water

Water in Distant Quasar Could Fill Earth's Oceans 100 Trillion Times

It now appears that water is abundant in the universe and existed very early on after the big bang. This is a truly exciting discovery because it means there will be other planets in "goldilocks zones" with liquid water and possibly life. The fact that water is so abundant, means that it must be easy to form and must exist all over the universe.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Boogety Boogety Boogety, Amen!

Hahaha, so great...

Just let It Be

Why Evangelicals Should Stop Evangelizing

The author makes some interesting points here and I'm all for the end of evangelizing and proselytizing completely. The world would be such a happier place if people weren't trying to constantly convert each other through missionaries and wars. I'm all for education so people can realize they are nothing but myths and legends, but I would settle for people just letting others believe what they will and leave it at that. But they just can't, can they? They have to win the hearts and the minds and have them believe their version of the fable. They have to impress their beliefs on everyone else and this is what causes conflict. I do have one major issue though with the author's solution- we need to leave Jesus out of the conversation also. I realize this is near impossible, but it is such a lightning rod for controversy. How can you not evangelize by telling people to follow jesus?

"Instead of trying to figure out who’s “in” and who’s “out,” why don’t we simply invite people to follow Jesus — and let Jesus run his kingdom?"

How is this not proselytizing??? Come on. We need to drop the "follow jesus" routine and just say, hey why don't I treat you the way I want to be treated, and you treat me they way you would like to be treated and we will all get along? 'I see you follow muhammad, that's cool, I follow jesus.' (and vice versa). Now let's enjoy the day. Jesus has his drawbacks, he never once mentions that slavery is wrong. You would think for someone supposedly divine, this would be an issue he would have had a clear stance against, and yet it took man a few thousand years to sort it out on his own (with no help from the scriptures, mind you). Let's drop the Jesus is the only way to heaven and just let it be.

Norway Massacre

Why We Were Attacked in Norway

Purported Manifesto, Video From Norway Terror Suspect Detail War Plan

As the details keep coming in about Friday's massacre, the picture of a deranged man is starting to come into view. As I've iterated in several previous posts, we are at a point in history where one crazy person can take action and kill so many. It appeared this guy definitely had some mental issues, from physical abuse to steroid addiction along with an ignorance and hatred of "others" different from him and a divergence from what he thought were "traditional beliefs". It's striking and a little scary to see similar rhetoric here with ring-wing conservative christians in this country complaining how multiculturalism is ruining society and that everywhere is becoming increasingly islamified and liberal and how we need to return to our roots and get our country "back". It's this type of rhetoric placed in the wrong hands that can have deadly, severe consequences like we saw in Norway over the weekend. One guy who buys into the hateful bigoted rhetoric who feels he was dealt a bad hand in life just takes it too far... took his political/social/religious views to paper (manifesto), copied a few things from Oklahoma City and went to town... 

From CNN article: "In one passage, the document published online last week uses the same wording as the Unabomber's manifesto, but substitutes the phrase "cultural Marxist" where Kaczynski used the word "leftist," and uses the word "Muslims" where Kaczynski used the phrase "black people.""

He figured out who he didn't like, blamed them for his and his country's perceived ills and set out to start a war. I hope this incident will cause Norway to re-dedicate themselves to being the open safe society it has become known for. A place that encourages multiculturalism and acceptance of all men, but a society that isn't dictated by religious dogma, or ethnic bias. I am encouraged by the Prime Minster's speech this weekend and hope that this is just one bad seed who took it too far. I just can't help but be wary of the same hateful speech we see here in the US against multiculturalism, against immigrants, against muslims, against homosexuality, against atheism, against the melting pot that makes this country so great. It's high time we start looking out for one another and treating each other with respect and try to understand the other side before we rush to such harsh, critical judgements of what's "right" and what's "wrong". It's high time we start getting along and figuring out how to co-exist before some lunatic really does start a war. It's time we stop blaming others for things they have nothing to do with. In a world that is getting smaller and more connected by the day, the old days of ethnic/religious purity and conservative social positions are long gone, we have to figure out a way to get along together, and part of that is accepting people for who they are, trying to understand their side of the story, and allow for an open mind and let science and universal truths and common interests drive the public discourse, not ideologies and self-centered ideas.

Europe's Resurgent Far Right Focuses on Immigration, Multiculturalism

Killings in Norway Spotlight Anti-Muslim Thought in U.S.

Part Cave Man

Neanderthals Had Sex With Humans, DNA Says

In a new finding, 9% of modern humans everywhere besides Africa may be part Neanderthal. It had been previously theorized that after early man left africa that homo sapiens and homo neanderthalenis started to interbreed, but with modern day discoveries and scientific advancement, we are now able to sequence the DNA from people all over the globe and compare it with fossils that are being unearthed to get a more clear picture of where we came from. Very interesting findings that some neanderthals are thought to have had light skin and red hair. I wonder what other features may have been passed on through. Exciting to think about the history of man and just how far we've come in a few thousand years!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Missing Texts

What Didn't Make it Into the Bible?

Some interesting stuff here and well worth the read. It's not surprising why some of these texts were removed because they would have been pretty hard to believe for most people, not to mention a little scandalous!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Where Coyotes Go

Great clip from the always clever, Stephen Colbert....

Information Principles

Quantum Theory Gets Physical

In the quest to find the simplest equations to define and understand the universe, physicists are trying to apply physical properties to the formulations that describe the universe at the microscopic level. In an effort to understand what is happening at that level, these physicists are turning to axioms about the storage and expression of bits of information. In this respect, it appears information may be the simplest and smallest thing in the universe. It's how that information is combined, copied and manifested that allows all that is to be, to be. Very interesting. Maybe that's what "strings" are in string theory. Maybe they are just the simplest form of information expressed by the universe.

If You Refuse to Evolve, Evolution Can Be Troubling

State Board of Education Delves Again Into Science Textbook Debate

Texas is at it again, but this time it appears that the creationists won't win out as they have lost a few precious seats on the board to more moderate republicans. This is better news for science and children's minds. Intelligent Design and Creationism should be taught in a theology class, make it an elective for students to choose but keep mythology out of the science classroom... it doesn't belong. One concern I have is the stipulation that local school districts can, for the first time, elect to break from the recommendations of the state board so more religious communities can choose their own books and keep their children ignorant. It's a hot mess in Texas, and it's dominated by ignorant, bible-toting thugs who wish to pass their beliefs as science. Kids don't even have a chance to succeed in this world when the adults are the ones that need the science lesson...

A Common Reality

As Candidates Run for Office, Some Run From Their Church

It's funny that when you get down to the nitty gritty about what politicians are actually willing to say they believe, they tend to shy away from the beliefs of the church they've attended for years. Great article hear delving into this topic and it's not just Michele Bachmann, its a fair amount of politicians including Barack Obama who had his issues in the last presidential campaign trying to distance himself from his former preacher. While I believe Obama has a much greater appreciation for the religious diversity of the country and lets that appreciation drive his political views towards religion, you tend to find that when hard pressed to say what they themselves believe it seems that's when they realize their church has some extreme views compared with mainstream america. And to get votes from mainstream America, they can't appear to be crazy in this respect.

“If you claim to be religious then you have a public duty to explain yourself,” said Linker, the commentary editor at Newsweek/The Daily Beast. “There is nothing shameful about it. It should be on the table to talk about: What does your church teach? And do you agree with your church?”

I wholeheartedly agree. If you claim to be religious, as a politician, this should be open for scrutiny so the public may gauge your mental state. We have a right to know if we elect a president, the leader of the free world, who has supernatural beliefs that may drastically effect our public discourse and our relationship with other countries around the world. This is a VERY serious issue. If we have someone in office who believes the world is 6000 years old and that jesus is returning to save the believers once all the Jews have returned to the homeland, we would have someone who has no worries for tomorrow, and will not think of long-term consequences for actions. Someone who literally believes in armageddon and that the book of revelation will come true would be more likely, in my opinion, to ratchet up tensions with countries of other religions in the hopes to bring about the end of the world. This is insanity and we have a right to know the beliefs of our elected officials.

That's an extreme example of course (but not out of the realm of possibilities with who we now know are running for president), but their religious beliefs could have an effect on what is taught in our science classrooms, how we treat homosexuals, how we treat women, where we spend our research dollars, how we respect people of different beliefs, long-term infrastructure and space programs and countless other areas. These are all major issues that effect everyone. It is our duty as citizens to be informed on the mental states of these officials so we don't screw up a very good thing, so we can improve upon a very good thing. I really liked President Obama's speech on religion and politics, of separation of church and state, focusing on our common reality to make the most of a pluralistic society... (I think he is a closet non-believer)

Farewell to the Shuttle Program

Space Shuttle Comes to 'Final Stop' After 30 Years

1981-2011, a pretty good run for one of the most amazing vehicles ever designed by man. The shuttle Atlantis made its final landing this morning, bringing a close to the shuttle program and starting a new chapter in human space programs. There have been some tragedies, but an overwhelming amount of critical research and discovery has been made because of this program. Hats off to all those involved and many thanks from a grateful fan!

Amazing view of Atlantis re-entering Earth's atmosphere... taken from the International Space Station:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pluto's 4th Moon Discovered

Scientists Spot Pluto's Fourth Moon

I can't even begin to comprehend how valuable the Hubble Space Telescope has been to humanity over the years. The amazing discoveries and jaw dropping images of the cosmos have been blowing us away for years now and this is just another of those amazing discoveries. Pluto has a fourth moon, which is pretty impressive for a dwarf planet. This goes to show how much we don't know yet about even our own solar system. NASA's New Horizons Probe will be rendezvousing with the plutonian system in 2015 and we will get a much clearer picture of all the players involved. Cool discovery.

Infinite Galaxy

Our Galaxy's Mysterious Twist

Amazing images from the Herschel Space Telescope showing what appears to be a gigantic cloud of dust and gas in the shape of an infinity sign on our own Milky Way Galaxy. It appears to be a little off the galactic center, but it's quite an intriguing formation.

Man Made Gods

Science and Religion: God Didn't Make Man; Man Made Gods

Interesting Op-Ed piece here with some new data on studies of the brain and what parts of the brain are activated to induce a spiritual feeling. Once you are out of the death grips of an organized religion it is so easy to see how all the pieces line up physiologically. It makes sense that these adaptations arose to give us an evolutionary advantage at the time. But what was once an advantage has now turned into one of the great threats to civilization as we know it, as one person with god on the brain can destroy millions. All we can do is continue to study the brain and hope that as more evidence is piled up, people will start to see the light. Unfortunately, people will see what they want to see though, and will try to rationalize anything to make it mesh with their beliefs one way or another, and so this article won't do much except make the non-religious feel a little better about leaving their faith behind.

How did the big bang happen? Did something create all that we know? Is there a "soul" that lives on consciously after we die? These are all questions that may one day be answered by science. We should all be open the answers, whether we like the results or not, because this is our reality. No one should be adamant that they alone know a secret denied to everyone else. And if they claim to know for sure, have them produce an experiment to show it, otherwise it is blind faith and hope, and that gets us nowhere.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pastover and Ramendon

Is Pastafarianism Becoming A Religion?

Really interesting follow-up to the blog entry I made last week about the Austrian Pastafarian getting his official ID with a colander on his head. This article goes much more into depth about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it's origins and how it is now causing government agencies to rethink how they define "religion" when it comes to exemptions and special treatment for belief in the supernatural. It also is redefining the argument about Intelligent Design and what should be taught in the science classroom.

"Bobby Henderson wrote an open letter to the school board, supporting their decision to teach multiple perspectives but insisting that students also be taught a third perspective: The possibility that Earth was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. As Henderson put it:

I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One-third time for Intelligent Design, one-third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one-third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence."

FSM is also a way for non-theists to show theists just where their arguments lie on the reality spectrum. To show how absurd their claims are and backed by no evidence by offering similarly silly explanations for the origins of the universe and life on this planet. On the other side of the coin, the Church of the FSM also gives an avenue for non-theists to congregate and feel part of a community. This is something that the religions have gotten right over time. There is a fundamental need for humans of like minds to meet and share and encourage each other. Humans like ceremony and ritual and pomp and circumstance, we like music and festivals, we like hearing words of inspiration and encouragement to help focus our lives in a more productive way. This has been religion's bread and butter over the millennia but now there are finally some organizations popping up for non-believers to share in that fundamental need to congregate. There are books, music, festivals, debates, conferences and meetings, "religions" like FSM and a vast wealth of information sharing on the internet that are bringing the "new atheists" together like never before. If the non-believers can find a collective voice, the dark corners of the world's religions can finally be exposed and the human race can be enlightened.

Pasta Monster Gets Academic Attention

Open Letter To Kansas School Board by Bobby Henderson, Concerned Citizen

First Views of Vesta

First Views of Vesta From Orbit

The NASA probe Dawn has successfully achieved orbit around one of the larger asteroids in the asteroid belt and apparently is the brightest object in the belt. 

"We are beginning the study of arguably the oldest extant primordial surface in the solar system,"

These photos are so impressive. You can let your mind imagine what the early solar system must have looked like with asteroids like this clumping together and bringing the planets into view, and perhaps delivering the buildings blocks for life on earth... Dawn will orbit for a year and then head off to Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt.

Philly Archbishop to Resign

Philadelphia Archbishop Steps Down Amid Scandal

"We would have assumed," said the grand jury in a report, "by the year 2011, after all the revelations both here and around the world, that the church would not risk its youth by leaving them in the presence of priests subject to substantial evidence of abuse. That is not the case."

It's beyond me with how deep this scandal goes (and it goes all the way to the vatican and the pope, B16) that people aren't leaving the catholic church in mass waves. These pedophilia scandals are just the latest in a long line of abuses of power by these "holy men". I am grateful that the criminal justice system is finally starting to look at these cases seriously and bringing these evil men to justice. How they have been able to get away with policing themselves all these years just goes to show how powerful the church really is. I hope that this is the crack in the foundation that eventually brings down the house. People need to be freed from religious tyranny and adults who molest children are the worst of the worst in my book. There is no sicker crime than that.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Radioactive Decay

Radioactive Decay Fuels Earth's Inner Fires

Wow, interesting findings here that almost half of the earth's heat is generated by radioactive decay as opposed to all of it being from the molten core from the birth of the planet. It is also thought that this radioactive decay heat is responsible for tectonic shifts in the crust while the earth's core heat is retained down in the core.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Collective Human Well-Being

The Bible: History or Myth?

Interesting piece here talking about how people read the bible, as historical fact and edict from god as written or as ancient mythology that can provide some comfort to people who long for existence beyond this life as well as some stories for how to treat others and live a pious life. The author makes many great points detailing how it cannot be possible to interpret the bible literally, there are just too many issues. But once you make that first step into not believing the bible is the literal word of god, the whole christian faith breaks down. It is imperative as a christian to believe that Jesus is the son of god and that his "miracles" indeed happened or there is no point. Either he was divinely begotten to a virgin, crucified and resurrected from the dead or he was not. If he was, then the bible should be read literally and we should grapple with the inconsistencies, contradictions and lack of evidence as it is written. If he was not, then there is no point to the scripture in my point of view. There are just as many sinister, evil passages as there are ones of hope and inspiration. There are plenty of other books that can help people find direction and purpose in their lives without screwing up the world for the rest of us who are happy just being. The people who read the bible literally are the ones preventing the human race from reaching its full potential in this universe. The people who don't take it literally but still call themselves christians are enabling the literalists and giving credence to their point of view by allowing it to still pervade our public discourse and influence politics, education, research and a wide range of social and scientific issues. We need more (secular) humanists in this world. As per Wikipedia, secular humanism is an ideology which espouses reason, ethics and justice whilst specifically rejecting supernatural and religious dogma as a basis of morality and decision making. People who are more concerned with collective human well-being as opposed to people who are only concerned with the well-being of the members of their particular religion over the well-being of others...

Non-Negotiable Social Issues

Giuliani to GOP: Stay Out of Gay Marriage

I basically became an adult in the shadow of New York City while Rudy Giuliani was mayor. I was able to see firsthand how he was able to change the city and make it a much safer place and return it to world prominence economically after a few rough decades. Although a few scandals came out after he left office including the police commissioner, there was a general feel that Giuliani had a major positive effect on the city and obviously he was a strong, steadfast leader during the greatest strife of the city's history- when it was attacked on 9-11. I strongly disagree with him on many many issues, but he seems to have this one right. If the GOP wants to achieve anything politically beyond their base, they need to drop all these social conservative issues. Giuliani knows this from being mayor of one of the most liberal cities in the world. Stick to your fiscal conservative agendas, because you can at least negotiate that. Social issues are at a point where they are non-negotiable. Either people are afforded the same rights or they are not. There is no middle ground here. The seas of change are flowing in this country and each younger generation realizes that homosexuals are just like everyone else and should be treated as such. I think Giuliani realizes this and I think he may see disaster for the future of his party if they continue to dwell on these "lost causes" as people become more open minded and less ignorant about these social issues. Unfortunately for him, his party is now divided into two distinct factions: the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives (read: religious). For the religious right, these are life and death issues. These are issues that affect all of eternity for these people. This is why they put up such a fuss about the passing of marriage equality laws like the recent one in New York and others in the works. From their viewpoint, there is no room for negotiation and that's what will make it tough for the GOP in the next election cycle and in the future. Their only hope at this point is to keep the economy mired in recession long enough for people to vote out Obama. It's quite obvious this is their tact as the party of "no" is preventing anything from happening in congress at this point... It's terribly frustrating.

Friday, July 15, 2011

We Are Star Dust

Cosmic Dust, Detected in Colossal Quantities

It's so cool to think about how we actually came about. Every atom in our bodies was forged in the furnace of massive stars that went supernova. Every element ever discovered in the universe was created by the heat and pressure of nuclear fusion in the cores of those stars. How grand that life could have arisen, fragile as it is, from such chaos and such unforgiving conditions! I think of how elegant the universe is, how beautiful, and I am comforted to know that i am a part of all of it. The stuff that composes my body is the same stuff composing the stars and galaxies I see when I look out into the universe on a clear night. What an amazing story of life... from the big bang to humans venturing off to understand other alien worlds! This is far more spectacular than any ancient text could have come up with, no matter how creative the authors may have been. We should learn to treasure the time that we have to exist and appreciate all there is to behold in this amazing place. We all have common ancestry to all living things, to the earth, to our solar system, to the universe. We are all one, made of the same stuff. We should be grateful for all that we have and can experience and not get caught up in the little things that divide us...

In the words of the great Neil Degrasse Tyson, "We are literally star dust."

...and this is what star dust "sounds" like...

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Austrian Driver Allowed 'Pastafarian' Headgear Photo

Haha, in some light-hearted (for some) news, an Austrian guy has been granted a drivers license with him wearing a spaghetti strainer on his head, claiming he is a practicing 'Pastafarian'. This is an ode the The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, an atheist group in the US that pokes fun at religious dogmas... Well done, Niko Alm, and cheers for creativity!

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Website

*photo from The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster website

The Ledge

Director Steps Out on a Ledge With Atheist Film

Interesting to see a movie coming out with atheism as a main theme. I will hold my judgments until I have seen it, but from the reviews it could be a positive as far as mainstreaming atheist/non-theist positions to gain more acceptance. Might be hard to do in such a religious country, as we can see such a backlash of hatred spewing from these marriage equality opponents. They are the same ones we are just trying to coexist with. The atheist community and the LGBT community are very similar in many respects in their fight for equality and tolerance. Both involve a "coming out" of sorts to family and friends that can lead to rifts and disapproval and both are discriminated against by a pompous christian majority who tries to influence secular government legislation with religious bias and who is blind to their own bigotry by confusing it with 'righteousness'. I can see right away a major issue with the atheist and the married christian woman and know this is something they will harp on, but it could be an interesting film...

SpaceX Looks to Mars

SpaceX Chief Sets His Sights on Mars

Very exciting news in the space exploration business. Just because the shuttle missions are ending, does not mean an end to space travel and exploration, especially for humans. SpaceX going to Mars would be an extremely worthwhile mission. Great Q and A with the founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, in this article. He thinks if all goes well, we might be able to send humans to Mars in the next 10-20 years! Nothing ever goes as quickly as planned, but this is far quicker than it seemed we could get there with NASA. The Dragon Capsule has already orbited earth successfully and will be docking with the international space station before too long. I get totally excited when I see people with this kind of money doing amazing things to progress human civilization. This is what I would do if I were a billionaire also.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Charlatans in Charge

India's 'Godmen' Face Questions About Wealth

Very interesting insight into the Hindu guru's who very strikingly seem to resemble the Jerry Falwells, Rick Warrens and Billy Grahams of the Christian sect here in the U.S. Why is it that these religious charlatans always seem to be the ones with all the money as well???  Pushing god can be a VERY profitable business and these guys are laughing all the way to the bank as these poor souls cough up their hard-earned money in exchange for salvation in an after-life that these preachers don't know any more about than they do. Very sad...

Here's a clip of Sai Baba doing his 'miracles'...

kinda reminds me of this kind of stuff you see with evangelicals...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dark Energy Confirmed

Astronomers Probe Matter in Early Universe

Cool article confirming the existence of dark energy through gravitational lensing of early light and radiation from near after the big bang. Pretty exciting, but still leaves us wondering what the heck it actually is and where it comes from and why it does what it does. What is this mysterious force that's pushing the universe apart at faster and faster rates?

It Gets Way Better

Wow, what a testimony of his life... very moving and inspirational. It does get better when you leave your faith behind and embrace the real truth, it gets way better

Friday, July 8, 2011

The New 10 Commandments

New Martian Rover Curiosity

Test Roving NASA's Curiosity on Earth

NASA's next mars rover is scheduled to launch near the end of the year, landing on Mars sometime next summer. It is bridled with all sorts of cool new technologies and tools to examine a new area of the martian surface. Everyone is up in arms with the shuttle program coming to and end today, but there is still plenty of cool scientific space exploration happening!

Cool Slideshow of the Rover

cool time-lapse of the preparation for the last shuttle flight, Atlantis that launched today

Koran Curious

'Koran Curious' (A Guide for Infidels and Believers)

This looks like a very interesting read. A pretty ballsy book by CJ Werleman, who also writes the 'Rationalists's Blog' (link to the left of the screen). He has posted a few sample pages of the book and they are very intriguing. I recommend you check them out!

Deep-Seeded Roots

A Former Jerry Falwell Minion Discusses Child Indoctrination

This is something I will grapple with when I have children as well. What to teach them without going overboard, allowing them to critically think for themselves and problem solve to root out solid, rational solutions of their own. Religious indoctrination discourages critical thinking and dissent. If you disagree or question, that is the devil speaking. I feel for the children who have been sheltered in a religious bubble, knowing nothing of the real world they live in, the realities, the differing thoughts on wide varieties of subjects. I fear for them because eventually they will be exposed to the good and the bad of the real world and unfortunately are not prepared for it. In many ways they can be over trusting of others and can be taken advantage of easily, but they also can have developed such deep-seeded one-sided beliefs that they cannot properly co-habitate with people of differing values and opinions. You see this happening right now with the evangelicals and marriage equality as well as with women's rights and abortion. You see this with the muslim extremists as well, they cannot accept someone has a different faith from them and move on, they have to be enemies. If we don't start respecting others in a meaningful way, there will be very serious consequences, and it starts with how we teach our children...


Thirst for Fairness May Have Helped Us Survive

Cool article talking about how our egalitarian tendencies for fairness helped us become as successful as we have been as a species. Interesting timing with the "class warfare" going on right now on capital hill with tax breaks for wealthy and cuts in social welfare programs... I consider myself a humanist at heart. While I have a desire to be successful and earn enough to provide for my family and allow for some indulgences to enjoy life, I have no desire to be what most people consider to be "wealthy". I believe in fairness and sharing and finding ways to encourage those who don't have the means to be able to rise up and achieve despite not having the resources on their own. That's why these government programs are so important. The opportunity is just not there for some people, and it's in the interest of the "tribe" to see that as many of it succeed as possible to better us all. While we do need leaders and entrepreneurs to be the "tribe elders", we need to keep them in check so they don't become too wealthy and too powerful that we lose sight of the fundamental goal: long-term human well-being and survival on this fragile planet.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

Common Sense - by Thomas Paine, Feb 14, 1776

"O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind." - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Today is a day to reflect on those braves souls who dared stand up against the tyranny of oppressive government. It was a tremendous series of escalating events and feelings that led the colonies to declare independence from Mother England and set up the first government elected by the people. The United States are the beacon for all of mankind that human freedom and dignity are inalienable rights of all men and women. While there are some who still wish to impress their values on the rest of the nation, I am so grateful to live in such a free society compared with the rest of the world. I think of the current Arab Spring and their revolutions against their corrupt monarchies and dictatorships. The common theme is people long to be free. This is common sense. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. This is what we all require to live free. The freedom to speak your mind, the freedom from religious oppression, the freedom to elect your own government, the freedom to be able to improve your situation, and the recognition that your neighbors have those same freedoms are all things I will be thinking about today as we celebrate 235 years since our nation's independence.

Happy Independence Day!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

In the Service of the "Truth"

Miracle Claimed for WWII Era Pope

The pressure is on to sanctify Pope Pius XII. This is the same guy who was complicit with the Nazi regime during WWII and whose church preached anti-semitism until 1962. This lady claims to have been cured of cancer by praying to Pius, but also having undergone intensive chemotherapy to treat it. How is this a miracle? I can understand she is ecstatic to be alive and no doubt feels her prayers may have helped, but this is insanity. No one person has the ability to alter the fundamental laws of the universe. No one has ever had this ability. Do the odds favor that a miracle has occurred or that this person has been mistaken? She should be praising the doctors for healing her! And the technological advancements in cancer treatment for healing her! Stupid catholic church, this type of meddling may have worked before scientific literacy, but in the 21st century it will be pretty hard to prove a "miracle", and to Pius the XII of all people you want to sanctify? Come on

Please enjoy this great discussion on the glory of the catholic church by christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry...