Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reason Rally Sum Up

Seth over at Thinking Atheist put together a great video from the Reason Rally in DC last weekend... wish I could have been there!

Hermant Mehta over at Friendly Atheist also has a great summary of the day's events with lots of photos and video clips.

Best quote from the day was by Adam Savage (Mythbusters):

I have concluded through careful, empirical analysis and much thought that somebody is looking out for me. Keeping track of what I think about things, forgiving me when I do less then I ought, giving me strength to shoot for more than I think I am capable of. I believe they know everything that I do and think and they still love me and I’ve concluded after careful consideration that this person keeping score is me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Freedom From Religion Foundation - National TV Ad

Currently airing now... where can I get one of those pennies??? For more info on FFRF, please see the link to the left!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Life of a Booster Rocket

Pretty amazing footage. I always wondered what happened to those boosters after they fell off...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Evolution of the Moon

Awesome digital representation of how we think the moon came to look the way it does now...

We Stopped Dreaming

Thanks to Glenn for sending this video along. Neil at his best, being science's greatest living ambassador.

The Odyssey According to Mark

I stumbled on these videos today and the premise seems intriguing. The videos are based on a book by Dennis MacDonald called "The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark". MacDonald tries to make his case that the gospel of Mark was the first written of the four gospels and its author was influenced heavily by the works of Homer, especially The Odyssey. I haven't read the book, but these videos by TruthSurge claim to expand on the evidence presented by MacDonald. Obviously, books like these would receive a lot of criticism from theologian scholars (here's one review) by calling into question the very truth of the jesus narrative - thus breaking down the entire religion, but many of the points made do have some merit and at least leave you scratching your head if nothing else. The whole series is worth watching if you can spare the time...

Age-Related Mentia

The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today

I watched a fantastic documentary on PBS last night about a landmark court case involving the first amendment and the separation of church and state called "The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today".  Prior to the mid 1940s, religious education was very much a part of public school life. Some instruction was mandatory, others were "voluntary" but still had children feel as outcasts who did not wish to participate - the majority of which was of the protestant persuasion. Then along came Vashti McCollum, who intended to fight the state-sponsored religious education her children were subjected to in public school in Champaign, Illinois. She filed a lawsuit (McCollum vs. Board of Education) and pleaded her case against government endorsed religious education in public schools. She lost the initial trial and the state appeal before bringing it to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1947.

(Vashti McCollum)

In a monumental decision for the time (WWII had just ended, the posturing of the Cold War against communism was just beginning, many also feared the growing influence of catholicism and other "cults" in the country. The country's religious fervor was never higher. We added the motto "In God We Trust" to our currency in 1956 and "Under God" to the pledge of allegiance in 1954.), an 8-1 decision in favor of Mrs. McCollum set the precedent for all of the first amendment and fourteenth amendment Equal Protection Clause cases to follow.

Supreme Justice Black wrote, "The First Amendment rests upon the premise that both religion and government can best work to achieve their lofty aims if each is left free from the other in its respective sphere". This was the first time this amendment was ever tested, and in doing so, the justices relied heavily on the writings of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson to see how the founders intended the amendment to be interpreted.

In 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Church in CT:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Both Jefferson and Madison had plenty to say on the matter. Please see the Intellects section above for links to many of their writings about the separation of church and state. The interesting part of this phrasing is that it really came from a devout protestant, Roger Williams of Rhode Island, back in 1644. In his "The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience", Williams intimates that religion mixed with government tends to corrupt religion (however, the opposite is also true) when he says:

"When they [the Church] have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the Candlestick, etc., and made His Garden a wilderness as it is this day. And that therefore if He will ever please to restore His garden and Paradise again, it must of necessity be walled in peculiarly unto Himself from the world, and all that be saved out of the world are to be transplanted out of the wilderness of the World."

Quite interesting how the foundation of the first amendment is based on the premise that religious belief needed to be protected from government affairs when now it is basically the other way around. Most of the first amendment cases now are in efforts to protect secular indifferent government from the deleterious effects of particular religious influence. And it all started with a brave woman named Vashti McCollum. The PBS documentary is really worth watching. I have tried to find the full version online but have only successfully found the trailer below. Please check with your PBS station or PBS online to find times to view the program.

PBS - The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hillary Clinton: Women in the World Summit

Great speech by Hillary Clinton at the Women in the World Summit this past week in New York City. She makes a ton of excellent points, but seems to ignore the obvious: that so much of the way women are viewed and treated in modern society is rooted in those bronze age Abrahamic religions. These religions perpetuate the ideas that women are to be submissive, subservient and subordinate to men. That women are the cause for "original sin" and are treated more or less as property. It is apart from these dogmas that women are finally being given their long overdue roles in society. They are leaders, they are independent and they should have a say in how our society is shaped. Why don't they see how this is all deeply rooted in our religions? And to finally remove religious restrictions and barbaric traditions, to be released from the shackles that hold us back in so many ways from treating each other properly, humanity as a whole can progress with everyone playing an equal part in how we mold our future.

Watch live streaming video from womenintheworld at

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Christian Terrorism

In the last decade or so, muslim terrorism has been front and center in everyone's mind around the world. Al Qaeda operatives and Taliban fighters among others killing in the name of their god and Islam. Suicide bombers, attacks on innocent civilians and various threats have increased fear all over the globe and tightened security restrictions for "free" societies.  This is a threat to civilization. One idiot with an IED could literally set off World War III, or some regime could get its hands on a nuclear weapon and start a chain of reactions that could escalate into violence all over the world as people align with country and various gods. Islam is well considered the most violent main-stream religion in the world, but many people don't seem to understand that Christianity is, in many respects, just as violent.

There have also been a number of instances of Christian terrorism in the last few decades as well. With the Kony2012 documentary going viral in the last few days, this is starting to shed a light on some of these atrocities done in Jesus' name. Joseph Kony is the leader of the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army), a militant christian group based in Uganda, Congo and Sudan in Africa. They are widely known for their violence in raiding villages. They kill the men and women, abduct the young boys and enlist them into the militia, forcing them to kill others (including their own families), and take the young girls as trophies to rape. It is an awful existence for these people and the documentary done by Invisible Children is extremely moving and well worth watching. (Please do not accept this as my support of the non-profit. There are some conflicting reports of how accurate some of the details are in the film and how much a donation is actually put to the cause versus the overhead - which seems considerable. "Only 32 percent of the $8,676,614 Invisible Children spent in their campaign has been used in direct services to the people of Uganda". Please do your own research of Invisible Children before deciding to donate. They also appear to be an evangelical organization, so be wary of their intentions.)

Kony and his group are trying to establish a theocracy based on the ten commandments and various points of christianity blended with some local african religions and mysticism. The people in these countries live in fear for their lives. The children are worried they will be abducted at night and forced into a war they want no part in. It is our responsibility as human citizens to help put an end to the bloodshed and terror caused by this christian group. President Obama did send in some troops in the fall but the point of the film is to generate more awareness so that it can become an item of strategic interest for our government (at this point it is not). Kony is considered a war criminal by international authorities but has evaded capture to this point, but the government of Uganda is also considered to have been involved in various war crimes. The whole thing seems like a big mess and its certainly not as black and white as it would appear from the documentary.

The big story in christian terrorism last year was the attack in Norway in July by Anders Breivik. Claiming to be a modern-day knights templar, Breivik bombed a government building and then opened fire on a youth camp before being apprehended. He was diagnosed as a schizophrenic, but his intentions to kill were based on a christian ideology, a hatred for a perceived increased muslim influence in Europe and his longing for a return to the white/christian heritage he thought the continent should be based on.

Some have also considered Timothy McVeigh's bombing in Oklahoma City a "christian" terrorist act. It appears he was heavily influenced by the events of Waco, and he was certainly a christian. How much that effected the events on that horrific day is debated, but it was certainly a factor of some sort.

Anti-abortion violence is also a form of domestic christian terrorism. People taking their ideologies to the extreme and killing, abducting, bombing in the name of their god and their religion. Local militia groups are also on the rise in the U.S. and have shown some violent tendencies. One could also argue that the influence the catholic church has on sex and birth control is in effect killing millions of people in africa for no reason other than religious dogma. Government positions and laws on homosexuality, especially those in christian african nations, are another example. These people live in fear for their lives just because of who they are, who they can't change. Yes, even governments can be guilty of religious terrorist acts.

These are just a few noteworthy examples in recent times, but this kind of fervor is based in the same mindset of the atrocities of old. From the crusades to the inquisition to the witch and heretic trials. The justification for any of these acts can be found in the pages of your bible. It's in there. And people can interpret them in any way they like, but there are many ways to interpret the scriptures as a code of conduct with which to make the world conform to the teachings or die. The christian apologists of today can try to wiggle their way around the many passages calling for the murder of innocents (including children), slavery, oppression of women and other barbaric practices, but the text is in there and anyone with a screw loose can use them for terror just like muslim terrorists or hindu terrorists or any other.

The common theme, it seems to me, is the unwillingness of people to scrutinize what they actually claim to believe. To verify if the tenants they hold so dear are true, worthy, or admirable. Is the god you claim to worship who you really think he is? Are the accounts true or even plausible, or physically possible or supported by verifiable evidence? Spend time actually reading your holy books to see that these awful words are in there and can be the justification for much of the violence and hatred and terror in our world today. You may choose to ignore those passages that don't suit you, and that is, of course, your prerogative to do so. Just know that by doing so, you are enabling others to commit the most heinous of acts in the name of your same religion and your same "god".

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The King of Kings' Speech


Monday, March 5, 2012

The Most Astounding Fact

Thanks to Bryan for the link! Neil philosophizing...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Friday, March 2, 2012

Forget Jesus, Stars Died So You Could Live

Who would have thought I would be interested in anything Miley Cyrus had to say? But when she quoted Lawrence Krauss the other day (upsetting her christian following) on twitter I was astonished and impressed. Maybe this girl has some sense after all; and maybe, just maybe, some of her followers will pay attention and begin to ask questions instead of plugging their ears and calling her a heretic. Here is the quote she shared, pretty innocent until that last line which ignited the scandal:

It may be offensive to some, but it is in fact how we came to be. We know this now. This is not some crazy idea or hypothesis by one rogue scientist. It has been proven beyond a measurable doubt and is accepted by much of the scientific world. If it goes against your church's teachings, then perhaps your church is wrong on this one. Why is that part of the equation never questioned, considered even? It's always the thing that shakes the church that gets vilified, never the church itself.

Here's a great "fireside" chat between Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins where they hash out some interesting and taboo topics. It's worth the 2 hours, I promise.