Friday, May 28, 2010

Squid Squad Secret Signal Pin

My cephalopod pin.

OK. It's not a squid, but it's the best I can do for now.

On the web: Jesus Christ News

Yesterday, I received my first tweet about Jesus--a link to Jesus Christ News. I don't know what the intent of the twit that tweeted that link to me was, but after giving the matter as much careful thought as it deserved--none at all, really--I have decided to do what I love to do with such nonsense, and that's to express my actual reaction to it, beginning with, "What a disappointment."

That site could have been soooo awesome: "Wow! Jesus has his own news site!" South Park come to life! (And I'll admit, I might have been impressed if the site either had videos of the real Jesus himself reading the news, or if it were a South Park-type parody of Christian beliefs) but alas... 

Right now, the headline "news" story on the site is: "The Way To Heaven--An Important Message Explaining The Truth About Going To Heaven." That's news? Seems like the same-old, same-old regurgitated silly invisible sky-guy fiction being promoted as non-fiction and sold to gullible readers.

Why I've read more hoppin-ing articles on the Easter Bunny's news site! Santa often has some really jolly, cool news posted too, especially in the down-time between his magical sleigh rides. The Tooth Fairy regularly posts toothy gossip full of truthiness. And you can find pure gold on the Leprechaun's news site on an almost daily basis.  
If you missed out on going to Heaven for any reason, the extremeness of your mistake would be impossible to measure.
Maybe not. Have you thought about using the Invisible Pink Unicorn Scale? I've heard that works pretty well for measuring the extremeness of messing-up and missing out on trips to make-believe places. Never used it myself though, so don't ask me for instructions. 

And in other Jesus Christ News "news":
Feathered Dinosaurs or Flightless Birds?: Click here to listen. On this episode of ID the Future Ridiculous as Usual, Casey Luskin....
 Fixed that for you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In Tweet: Jesus Christ News

Oooo...exciting. Received my first god-related tweet!

Some twit I don't know directed me, along with a number of other Twitter users I also don't know, to

Don't know if I'm supposed to read the Jesus news and repent, or read it and say snarky things about it.

What shall I do? What shall I do? 

I'm going to ponder this weighty decision for a while, then blog about it. Check back to see whether I went for Option #1 or Option #2.

Facebook Follies: Keep God in the Founding Documents of the USA

In the current installment of Facebook Follies, which documents my Facebook encounters with superstition and woo, I present the Facebook "cause": Keep God in the Founding Documents of the United States of America which I was invited by a friend to join.

The founder of this Facebook cause says, "My mission is to bring to the attention of the government that we want to keep this holy name in our country and its founding documents." 

That mission statement puzzled me, since I don't remember any "holy name" in what I consider this country's founding documents. The closest I can recall is the use of the word "Creator" in the Declaration of Independence. And that seems to be pretty vague to be considered a "holy name," being that there have been many gods with many names credited with being creators.

And, doesn't one of our most important founding documents say, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...."? Was that part of the First Amendment to our Constitution repealed, and I failed to notice? And, if it hasn't been repealed, what is "the government" supposed to do--constitutionally--once this cause's mission is brought to its attention?

So I tried to find out more, to learn about these "founding documents" that mention a "holy name" and what "the government" is supposed to do about keeping that "holy name" in them--and in the country.

The "About" section of the cause's description says:  "If we don't ban together, God could be forever removed from the United States of America and we as a whole would risk losing everything our fore-fathers established this country for."

That only confused me more. We're supposed to unite to "ban" something to keep God in America? And if we don't, we will no longer have independence from England, and the United States government our forefathers established will go *poof*? Sounds ominous. And I don't understand why England gets us back. Isn't there a time limit on returns? And do they really want us back, and what happens if they don't?

Too many unanswered questions!

Bottom line: I didn't find the "about" information very helpful in explaining what "holy name" was in what "founding documents" and what "the government" was supposed to do about keeping that holy name in them. And I was still unclear who was going to remove God from America, and what authority they might have to do that. (It's not like he's an undocumented he?) 

The only other clues on the cause's Facebook page were:
  • a close-up photo of a U.S. coin-- hardly a founding document--with "In God We Trust," a motto which can only be constitutional if it's secular and not religious; and,
That called for a trip to the ACLJ website which says:

American Center for Law and Justice is a d/b/a for Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, Inc., a tax-exempt, not-for-profit, religious corporation as defined under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, specifically dedicated to the ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable, God-given rights. 

A further look at the ACLJ site doesn't appear to explain who is going to remove what holy name from the U.S.'s "founding documents," how they'll do it, or what "the government" is supposed to do about it once this brazen act is brought to its attention. The closest match to the Facebook cause's cause was under the "Church/State issues" of concern to the ACLJ: National Motto; Patriotic Signs; Pledge of Allegiance; and Ten Commandments.

For the most part, ACLJ supports interjecting God--at least the Christian one--in government and keeping him there, and working to ensure that government provides a "Christian perspective." It also supports some other "Christian" causes including "border security" (God's apparent "for" it); "the war on terror" (for); and civilian trials for terrorist suspects (against); and offers its Christian perspective on political and judicial candidates (sometimes for, sometimes against, depending on how pro-Christ and Christian the candidate is.)

I will grant that a few of the causes supported by the ACLJ are unobjectionable, at least from a legal standpoint (but crazy from a rational one) such as support of the right of public school students to form extra-curricular Bible clubs.

But then there's "Christian"-based opposition to gay marriage, and support for banning abortions (i.e.--forced pregnancy continuation laws), abstinence only sex education, and school vouchers.

Not entirely surprisingly, the ACLJ supports teaching creationism in public school science classes as an alternative to evolution--with the understanding that legally, such teaching cannot "promote a religious purpose." So I guess that could/should amount to the teacher saying: "Now there are various crazy-assed creative mythologies which tried to explain how life developed..." and then giving examples from a variety of sources. But here's what evidence actually shows us...."

But the ACLJ's interest in course content goes beyond teaching Creationism as science: 

If your school introduces practices that appear related to the occult, such as visualizing conversations with dead historical figures, chanting a mantra-like slogan, practicing any form of meditation, and so on, then the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment works on your side. The Establishment Clause forbids the state from setting up one religion over and against other religions. Since these practices are religious and state-sponsored, they represent a violation of your rights.

So, apparently, no patriotic school plays about the U.S. founding fathers for Christian students since they'd need to imagine "conversations with dead historical figures"--perhaps talking to other dead historical figures. Eek! And chanting "Warthogs, warthogs, you're the best!" at school football games is arguable out too.

Suffice it to say that, being a godless, bleeding heart liberal, I will not be sending either financial, moral, or spiritual, prayerful support the ACLJ's way.

But I've digressed from the topic which started this post: stopping someone from ripping mention of a holy name, somehow, from the U.S. founding documents; deporting God from our country; and getting the government to do something about it. So back to it. 

Since my visit to the ACLJ web site didn't provide much enlightenment on who was doing what to what, and how, or which government was supposed to do what to what and how, I decided to ask the friend who asked me to join the cause for clarification. Because surely, she wouldn't support a cause she didn't fully understand, right?

I wrote to her: "I need more information before I can support your cause, and I can't find the answers on that cause's Facebook page. So, please, help me out. How many U.S. founding documents are at risk?! Which ones? What do they say about the holy name? Who is going to remove mention of the holy name from these documents and our country, what authority do they have to do that, and how will they do it?!! What government is supposed to do something about this removal, and what is it supposed to do about it?"

That message was sent several days ago, and I still haven't gotten a response. That's disappointing. I truly was anxiously awaiting an answer which I'm sure would have been enlightening for me.

And if you were wondering, surprisingly, she hasn't defriended me--yet. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

In email: "Inspirational" book ad

Among yesterday's emails came Borders' weekly ad promoting a sale on "Inspirational Books You'll Enjoy!"

Don't think so, since I tend to find books that try to inspire me by gushing about the glory, power, and all-around-awesomeness of an invisible, supernatural being who lives in the sky (unless he lives in our hearts or someplace else we can't ever see him if we're not delusional), anything but.

OK. The Dalai Lama's book might be slightly different, since it tries to convince readers to value and respect widely varying, and often wildly incompatible, religious beliefs. But I am not inclined to value or respect any adult's belief in one or more invisible, super-powerful, magical beings who control our lives, read our minds, and even though he/she/they have a mind-boggingly huge and complex universe to run, usually have special concerns about what we earthlings eat and wear, as well as a rather creepy interest in our sex lives and what human is putting which body part where.

I'll admit there's value in knowing what the opposition is saying and thinking, but I can only read so much mind-numbing inanity and insanity in "inspirational" or "spiritual" books. And, if I did decide to read one, I wouldn't buy it new, and contribute towards the profits of the authors and publishers. I'd borrow it from my library, or, if I wanted my own copy to use as a reference on the subject of "silly things people actually believe," buy a used one.

Borders, if you want to "inspire me," offer me a deal on books about critical thinking or the wonders of science and the real, natural world. How about it?

Friday, May 21, 2010

At the library: Falun Dafa brochure

The local library has an area where various non-profit groups leave information about their programs, which I check on just about every visit to see if I find anything of interest, and the last time I did, I found a brochure on Falun Dafa (Falun Gong) among the other materials.

The brochure promotes the Falun Dafa web site, describes the practice as being centered on truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, and improving wellness through exercise, mediation, and character development. Sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, the brochure fails to mention that Falun Dafa is also anti-rationality, anti-science, and anti-medicine, and is based on a belief in magical cosmic energies into which practitioners can tap to develop or enhance supernatural powers and, apparently, achieve immortality.

The Falun is a rotating, intelligent mini-universe which is installed in a practioners' abdomen by an instructor, where it rotates--forever--and depending on whether it's turning clockwise or counter-clockwise, either absorb or emit energy.

The brochure shows four basic exercises that involve that magical energy in various ways: opening it in the body, enhancing it, purifying the body with it, and circulating it in the body.

Number 5 in the brochure, which I've included with this post, shows practitioners "Reinforcing Supernatural Powers." Oooh, I want to be able to walk through walls just like David Copperfield did through the Great Wall of China.

Facebook Follies: Sioux Prayer Request for Gulf Oil Spill

One of my Facebook friends posted that she'll be "attending" the "Sioux Prayer Request for Gulf Oil Spill" on Monday, June 21, 2010. That can't be any less effective than BP's oil leak containment box, and undoubtedly will be much less expensive. But if there's expectation that praying's actually going to help, why wait a month?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Eight atheists walked into a bar...

OK. So eight atheists walked into a bar on National Prayer Day, and...with deliberation and great conviction, pointedly did not pray. 

Instead members of The Baltimore Pharyngula Fans Group spent the evening drinking and discussing, often with tremendous snark, and more than a touch of blasphemy, subjects as varied as end of life decisions, the restrictive and repugnant recently enacted Oklahoma abortion law, inane questions people ask us because of our profession, and crimes of moral tuniptude and whether turnips can consent to sex. As usual, there were plenty of good stories exchanged, accompanied by much laughter and the occasional groan.

If you are a Pharyngula fan who lives in the Baltimore area, and haven't made it to one of the group's get-togethers yet, you're missing wonderful evenings of fellowship and fun. 

Facebook Follies: National Day of World Prayer

In my post "Facebook Follies: Praying for a Cancer Cure," I wrote, "One of the downsides to Facebook, in my opinion, is that through some of my friends' Facebook posts, I've started to learn more about their religious and political views, and beliefs in woo, than I knew before."

But recently I've begun to reconsider that position, even if my friends' Facebook updates and comments too often make me truly wonder about my ability to pick friends.

More and more, I've begun to see Facebook as a rather fascinating sociological and psychological resource, giving me hitherto unprecedented access to my Facebook friends' often irrational beliefs, thoughts, and actions, which currently tend to intrigue, bemuse, and frequently amuse me more often than frighten or irritate me.

Today's example: Through Facebook, I've learned that my very religious Catholic friend Jeannie is "attending" the National Day of World Prayer on-line event. (Which, by the way, according to its Facebook page is scheduled to begin on "Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 12:00am" and end on "Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 11:30pm". Is that some kind of special God-day that lasts more than 24-hours? Just askin'.)

(And, am I the only one who is both confounded and concerned by the fact that this "national" prayer day is now being touted as a "world" event?)

I don't get the whole concept of prayer to begin with, why God is supposed to care, what effect it's supposed to have, and how and why it's supposed to work, and the idea of many people praying on a special prayer day only adds to the inanity of the pursuit.

The god Jeannie prays to is the Abrahamic God, Yahweh, the same god probably on the receiving end of most of the prayers being sent today.

Yahweh receives, I'm guessing, on a normal day, millions of individual and small-group prayers. He's routinely inundated with prayers, some praising Him, and others making requests from urgent pleas to spare the life of a dying child, to divine assistance on a math quiz, or holy help picking the winning numbers in the Mega Millions lottery--most of which He chooses to ignore, seemingly at whim, but really, He's just sticking with His incredibly mysterious, frequently incomprehensible-to-humans, eternal Plan.

So: Is God going to actually receive more prayers on National Prayer Day than His daily average? And if so, how does He feel about getting prayers today from infrequent prayers, who, much like thoughtless or indifferent children who only call their father on Fathers Day, only pray one special day a year--or when they need money or bailed out of a jam? Is He glad to finally hear from them, or irritated that it takes a specially designated day to get them to call? And how does His reaction to the prayers of those who pray infrequently compare to those who pray all the time? Are there frequent-prayer benefits? Or does God, like a TV-cable company, give special deals only to new or returning customers?

Does God pay more attention to prayers when lots of people are praising Him or sending Him requests at the same time? Are group prayers more effective because they're louder? Or because God is impressed when He receives a large number of prayers on the same day, much like a Congressman who, on a designated day, receives thousands of constituent calls and emails on pending health care legislation (but then, votes whatever way he had previously decided to anyway)? Or is it just that God prefers to get one big prayer, rather than lots of smaller, individual ones?

Is God more impressed by prayers if they're sent on a day when prayer is declared to be a "national" and/or "world," activity or, most awesomely, is a Facebook event with its own Facebook page and as of today, has over 4,000 Facebook users who "like" it?

And if God has a Plan, can God decide to change it in response to prayers? And if He can and does, wouldn't that have been His Plan all along?

The rational mind reels.