Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gift ideas for your favorite militant Christians

I was puzzled by this ad for a camo-with-cross t-shirt. Why a cross on camo?

 until I saw this...

Perfect Christmas gifts for the militant Christians in your life.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Maryland same-sex marriage bill threatens religious liberty--at least according to Catholic bishops

Maryland Catholic bishops are opposing the proposed Maryland same-sex marriage bill because, they claim, it threatens the freedom of Catholics to practice their religion.

So the bill requires Catholic priests to perform same-sex marriages, right? Nope.

So the bill forces Catholics to marry only people of the same sex, right? Nope.

So the bill forces Catholics in heterosexual marriages to get a divorce, right? Nope.

Requires Catholic priests to preach about the rights of same-sex couples to marry? Nope.

Then the bill must close down Catholic churches, right? Nope.

Prevent Catholics from going to mass and participating in their sacraments? No.

Ban the saying of the rosary? No.

Force Catholics to give up saving bits of bones and skin and drops of blood from their saints as a health risk? No.

Oh...the bill keeps the Catholic bishops from insisting that everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, live in accordance with Catholic religious beliefs, is that it? Yes! That's it!

Look, Catholic bishops, allowing same-sex marriages doesn't keep any Catholic from practicing any part of his or her faith. A law recognizing same sex marriage no more threatens Catholic religious liberty than laws allowing the prescribing, selling, and use of birth control do. (Of course, Catholic bishops might indeed believe that the government's permitting the use of birth control does threaten Catholic religious liberty, but the evidence of harm to the religious rights of Catholics is non-existent.)

Do you threaten the religious liberty of Jews and Muslims when you eat pork, or that of Hindus when you eat beef? Do you threaten the religious liberty of Mormons when you drink coffee? Do you threaten the religious liberty of Seventh Day Adventists when you work on a Saturday? Do you threaten the religious liberty of Jehovah's Witnesses by celebrating birthdays or getting a blood transfusion? Do you threaten the religious liberty of Jains when you kill mosquitoes or flies? Well, do you?

Bishops, stick to trying (but increasingly less successfully) to control the behavior of people who voluntarily choose to believe in the stuff you claim God has told you through the straight-from-God-to-the-minds-of-Catholic-authorities psychic pipeline. Keep out of the marriages and bedrooms of the rest of us.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Injured hawk treated with bird accupuncture. It doesn't help. Sadly, hawk is euthanized.

A female red hawk, injured in November 2010 on the Johns Hopkins campus when she flew into a library window, was euthanized when attempts at rehabilitation, including "bird acupuncture," failed, according to The Baltimore Sun.

In The Sun article, Kathy Woods, in charge of the bird's rehabilitation, explained the difference between human and bird acupuncture: "Instead of having you sit there for half an hour holding a bird of prey with needles, they take a vitamin, and draw it up into tiny syringes. They inject that, and that amount of fluid is the pressure."

So vitamins injected into a bird with tiny syringes is bird acupuncture? Who decided that? I guess the ancient Chinese who knew so much more than modern science and medicine. Vitamins, syringes. Those ancient Chinese really were advanced. And I'll grant that the vitamin injection procedure does seem like a better method than holding a hawk with needles in her for half an hour. Yep, wise people those ancient Chinese.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jazz for Jesus

Ad from The Baltimore Sun, August 12, 2011

Ad from The Baltimore Sun, August 19, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

An accurate fortune cookie!

This fortune, which I just got in the cookie that came with my dinner, really does describe me well--which is why I don't believe fortunes that are stuffed in a cookie. Or believe in other woo-ish stuff.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Faith healing: two woos in one!

 Ad from The Baltimore Sun, July 8, 2011

Faith healing: combining health woo with religion! It's a double-woo.

But if god planned for you to have concerns and problems, should you be trying to mess with his plan?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bastion of Sass gets a MEDIA RELEASE

I often wonder about the intelligence of the people who read this blog. I know most of them must be really intelligent, since they're reading this blog. But then, I might be mistaken.
Media Release to Bastion of Sass
(Please note: This is a Media Release, not spam. There is a difference.)

Just published ‘Revelations of a Human Space Navigator’ Second Edition is now available for FREE DOWNLOADS.

The Second Edition explains more precisely:
• Exactly from what everything is physically made of, and why.
• Exactly what gravity is, and why.
• Exactly who and what humans are, and why they behave as they do.
• Why god and gods do not physically exist.
• Why 'time' does not physically exist.
• Why there is homosexuality in humans.
• What 'happiness' actually is and how it can be obtained.
PLUS there is much, much more of what humans never knew – or misunderstood – about themselves and all that physically surrounds them.

These claims may appear to be far-fetched to all those who have not read this book. It may also appear as highly improbable that a mere book can contain information that had never before been assessed by human intelligence.

But here's a puzzle... what is intelligence in the first place? Where does intelligence originate? What does intelligence comprise of?

While current humans and their science may wonder about intelligence, they actually know neither what intelligence represents nor how it is derived. And yet, the source of intelligence – as many other unknowns – is revealed and explained in the book.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Do the dead speak? Uh, no, John they don't. Because dead people are dead.

Well Baltimore area skeptics, if you were planning on losing your mind and going to John Edward's August 20 Baltimore appearance to get a message from a dead person, or remaining a skeptic and just going to watch him hustle the gullible grieving, you're too late, despite the fact that the above ad is still running in The Baltimore Sun. According to his website, his Baltimore "group reading" is already sold out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

House of multi-woo in Catonsville

In Catonsville, you can be advised by a psychic or by the "Crystal & Aura Advisor" or, apparently, shop for a horoscope.

Decisions decisions.

Is one woo better than another? Will each give me the same results?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Not-a-diagnostician David Geier kicked off Maryland Commission on Autism

According to an article in The Baltimore Sun, the proponent of a dangerous and untested treatment for children with autism, David Geier, who was on the Maryland Commission on Autism as a "diagnostician," even though he has no education or training that would qualify him to diagnose anyone with anything, was removed from the Commission by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.

David Geier was recently charged with practicing medicine without a license.

O'Malley's action came after Geier refused to resign despite a statement from Geier though his attorney that he only worked as an "administrator" in the clinics headed by his father, Dr. Mark Geier, whose license to practice medicine was recently suspended by the Maryland Board of Physicians. Neither David Geier nor his attorney explained how an "administrator" was qualified to serve in the capacity of "diagnostician" on the Commission.

The question remains: how did David Geier ever get to be appointed to the Commission as a "diagnostician" in the first place? And why was there was no public outcry from qualified Commission members about his appointment?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Praying for better local government

I had mixed feelings about the article Praying in Public when I saw it on the front page of the May 14 Baltimore Sun.

In the article, The Sun describes the current practice of several Maryland local government bodies of praying during public meetings. And if that weren't bad enough, in several cases, the prayer is sectarian, offered to the Christian God, not a prayer to a non-denominational generic one-size-fits-most(-if-you-ignore-atheists) god.

I was delighted that The Sun recognized there was an issue worthy of front page coverage.

But I was also appalled that the people we trust to run local governments still apparently see nothing inappropriate about beginning government meetings with any type of prayer, let alone one to "Jesus."

Not only is sectarian prayer insensitive to their constituents who practice a non-Christian religion, but also to non-believers. Yes, Salisbury and Carroll County, you have *gasp* atheists living among you! (But heck, who cares about atheists and how they feel about...well...anything? I mean, atheists should just shut up and be grateful that they're allowed to live in Salisbury and Carroll County and stop persecuting Christians by complaining about prayers being offered at their government's meetings, right?)

But my most basic concern is that we have elected officials who believe things for which there is no evidence and ask for help and guidance from a magical, invisible sky-spirit based on ancient Middle-Eastern mythology. And they're damn proud of it. That's worrisome.

I want my government to be led by people who are critical thinkers, who make decisions based on evidence--and who are aware that, even if some prayers offered at public government meetings may be legal under court decisions, they are still always inappropriate. Always.

Not-a-doctor David Geier charged with practicing medicine without a license

Well, finally.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the Maryland Board of Physicians has charged not-a-doctor, not-a-diagnostician David Geier with practicing medicine without a license.

He is the son and business associate of Mark Geier, the physician whose license to practice medicine was recently suspended by the same Maryland board on an emergency basis based on charges that he endangered the lives of children with autism by treating them with dangerous treatments based on junk science, and by diagnosing some children with "precocious puberty," even though the children did not meet the medical criteria for that diagnosis.

Given that at least one of the complaints against David Geier dates back to 2008, what in the world took the Maryland Board of Physicians so long to act? Is this the expedient way Maryland should be acting to protect patients, especially children?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

When is someone who can't diagnose a "diagnostician"?

When is someone who isn't qualified to diagnose autism--or anything else as far as I can tell--a "diagnostician"? And how does that not-qualified-to-diagnose-ician get appointed to the Maryland Commission on Autism as a diagnostician? Especially if that someone promotes dangerous treatments for children with autism, based on junk science? 

One of the side-stories to develop out of The Maryland Board of Physicians suspending the medical license of Dr. Mark Geier is that his son, David Geier, who has a B.A. in biology, and is not a doctor or any other type of professional qualified to diagnose autism, or indeed, any medical condition, is on the Maryland Commission on Autism as its legally required "diagnostician" member.

According to The Baltimore Sun's article about David Geier's position on the Commission, the statute that created the commission did not definite "diagnostician" and the legal definition is "broad." It's not clear from the article who made the claim that the legal definition is "broad," or how broad "broad" legally is, but one can't help but wonder how useful any definition of "diagnostician" is, if it includes someone who is not licensed, nor otherwise qualified, to diagnose anything or anyone.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Maryland State Board of Physicians finally acts against autism non-expert Geier

The Maryland Board of Physicians has finally taken action against Dr. Mark Geier, the Maryland physician who marketed himself as an "autism expert," even though he had no credentials that would qualify him as such, and who treated children with unstudied and potentially dangerous therapies. The Board's order suspended Geier's license to practice medicine in Maryland.

According to an article in today's Baltimore Sun, Geier's lawyer, Joseph A. Schwartz III, is quoted as saying: "If you read the [order], you say, 'Holy God, this is awful.' But if it were so awful, they should have an injured child, and they don't."

Really? That's the legal standard? Doctors can treat children with untested and potentially dangerous therapies based on junk science, misdiagnose them, experiment upon them, and fail to secure the informed consent from the children's parents, but you can't take emergency action against that doctor until you actually have "an injured child"?

While Schwarz claims Geier is not "an immediate threat to patients," in my opinion, he's been a threat to patients since the day he started treating children with autism with treatment protocols that included Lupon and chelation. Given that Geier began his controversial treatments more than five years ago, and his alleged autism treatments were hardly a secret (also see here), why did it take the Board of Physicians so long to stop Geier?

Since Geier's son, David, who is not a doctor, and claims no medical training, allegedly examined and diagnosed at least one patient according to the Board of Physicians' order against Mark Geier, can we also hope to finally see some action taken against him in the near future?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another voice speaking out against pseudomedicine classes at the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Finally, another voice complaining publicly about the University of Maryland School of Medicine teaching quackery pseudo-medicine through its Center for Integrative Medicine!

In Why Medical Schools Should Not Teach Integrative Medicine, Steven Salzberg, a faculty member at the University of Maryland College Park, writes:

"Academic freedom allows professors to proclaim all sorts of wild ideas, including nonsensical ones, but we don’t have to allow them to teach courses with no basis in reality." You'd think that would be a pretty basic standard for any valid educational institution, especially a high-regarded medical school, but apparently not.

Salzberg points out, frankly, that the CIM's "clinical services" such as qigong, reiki, and reflexology are scientific and medical "nonsense." And he asks about CIM's use of homeopathy through its clinical services, "Why isn’t this malpractice? I haven’t figured that out yet." Why indeed?

Why aren't members of the faculty at the Medical School who believe in science and science-based medicine protesting, often and loudly, the teaching of pseudoscience and alternative-to-real-medicine to future doctors at their school? Why is the school allowed to offer classes that make our future doctors dumber, and put their future patients at risk?

And why aren't doctors who work within the University of Maryland Medical System protesting the CIM's providing clinical services that offer pseudo-medicine as valid equivalents of science-based medicine, thereby confusing, misleading, and eventually harming the public? Isn't there an ethical problem in offering pseudo-medicine to patients as if it were real medicine?

The only class in CIM the medical school should be teaching is "Why Complementary and Integrative Medicine is Utter Nonsense."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In the community: Woo vs Woo Deux

Visit beautiful old Main Street in Ellicott City and you can find restaurants, antiques, unique shops, and woo.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Facebook Follies: What Would Happen If We Didn't Pray

One of my evangelical friends is raving on Facebook about a video promoting the National Day of Prayer on May 5. And not raving how inane it is, but raving how lovely and powerful it is. "It will give you chills!"

The video asks will tell us What Would Happen If We Didn't Pray to God?.

Well, of course, I had to watch that!  Because knowing what would happen if we didn't pray seems to be something I should know for sure. My own thoughts were along the lines of, "Well, if people didn't pray, they'd have more time to do things that were actually effective. And they'd have more money to spend on more practical things than churches dedicated to an invisible magic man." But, being a skeptic, I wanted to see what the evidence showed. Maybe there is something more. And there is!


First of all, I'd never considered that if we didn't pray, people would end up sitting in their church pews doing nothing. And that the minister wouldn't have a blessed thing to do but stand in front of his congregation holding an invisible book and looking befuddled. Well, duh! What's wrong with me that I didn't think of that?! Clearly, we'd still need to build churches to do nothing in.

In addition, if you don't pray, God then has some kind of hissy fit which He demonstrates by sending big masses of dark storm clouds.

And you know this isn't your ordinary storm with big masses of dark storm clouds, because this time, God also provides a soundtrack of melodramatic background music. That's something that you don't get to hear every storm.

I was on the edge of my seat at this point and didn't know how much more of the suspense, ("Oh my, what will happen?!") I could take.

Thank goodness, we're shown the evidence of the power of prayer!

And what happens after you grab your Bible and rush to a church to start praying because you're worried about all those dark clouds, not to mention the epic-battle music?:  A massive thunderstorm develops over the U.S. Capitol and those masses of dark clouds cover the sky over the Golden Gate bridge. Wow! And...a big sunny hole opens up in the clouds over your church.

There's more! If you scrunch up your face and look really seriously sincere when you pray, blue skies and sunshine eventually appear over your church and over Golden Gate.

Then, you get to see swirly snow over a big mountain!!!

But meanwhile, back in Washington, while the clouds have lifted a bit, there are still black clouds and lots of lightning high above the Capitol. Oh, no! Are people ever able to pray away the storm there?

Alas, the video keeps you hanging and ends without showing the Capitol's fate. And, oh dear, the soundtrack doesn't change to nice, peaceful, "all-is-well" music. Uh-oh. That can't be good.

Maybe the video makers are planning a sequel.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Excuses, excuses

When you feel the need to make excuses for your god's behavior, that's a really pathetic god.

And what does it say about you?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Win an atheist's soul at the UMBC SSA Soul Auction

Buy an atheist's soul! Here's your chance to try to save an atheist you think atheists are heading towards. 

Attend the "Soul Auction" at Quadmania! and win a chance to take an atheist to church or other area religious event. 

(Or, although I don't know this for sure, if you aren't real keen on going to church yourself, maybe you could negotiate a chance to, say, take an atheist to a bagpipe recital (no offense to bagpipe players but...) or perhaps watch Fox News for an hour with you, or something else equally likely to be a potentially life-changing, albeit, perhaps anxiety-provoking experience for the atheist.)

The UMBC Secular Student Alliance (UMBC SSA) will be auctioning off the souls of officers and members on Saturday, April 16, from 1 PM - 4 PM at the UMBC Quad.

Proceeds from winning bids will be donated to Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres, so even if you feel atheist souls are icky, and not something you'd especially want to own, even for an hour, you'll still be helping a good cause.

An Atheist Walks into a Church—Hemant Mehta comes to UMBC

Hemant Mehta, The Friendly Atheist (as opposed to the baby-eating sort of atheist), spoke on the topic "An Atheist Walks into a Church" at UMBC on Wednesday, April 30, sponsored by the UMBC Secular Student Alliance (UMBC SSA).

Hemant spoke to an audience of about 70, most of whom appeared to be students. While having a mostly-student audience at an event sponsored by a UMBC student organization is a good thing, it's a shame that more people from the community weren't there, both to hear Hemant and to meet a great group of students.

I wish I could report that there was a shockingly obscene inappropriate punchline to the title of the talk. There wasn't. What there was was a lighthearted and entertaining look at Hemant's journey on the way to writing I Sold My Soul on eBay, and what happened as a result of the book's publication.

I hadn't heard the story behind Hemant's book before, and it is both amusing and amazing. Some of it is told on his blog.

The short, oh-my-paper-is-due-tomorrow-so-I-need-to-read-a-summary-because-I-didn't-read-the-book recap is that Hemant, who knew little about any faith except his boyhood's Jainism, decided he wanted to learn more about other faiths, and thought a good way to learn might be by visiting Chicago area churches.

To publicize his Church-going project, he set up an eBay auction in which he promised to attend a church of the winner's choice for one day for each $10 bid.
Jim Henderson, an Evangelical Christian, former minister, and founder of Off the Map, posted the winning bid of $504 (to Hemant's horror, by the way—at 1 day of church for every $10 bid, that meant the winner could require him to go to church every week for almost a year).

Then, The Wall Street Journal picked up on the story and apparently decided an article could draw more readers if the headline read: "On eBay, an Atheist Puts His Own Soul On the Auction Block," rather than, say, "Atheist Offers to Go to Church for an Hour per $10 Bid." Hemant quipped that he didn't do that because he doesn't believe he has a soul. But publicity about his auction did take off, and eventually led to an offer to write a book about his church-going experiences.

What added to the pleasure of the evening was the audience's reaction to some of the highlights of Hemant's talk. It was nice to be with a large group of people who responded appropriately and rationally.

They groaned when Hemant mentioned he was invited to appear on Kirk Cameron's radio show, and he'd agreed to appear—before he checked into what Cameron was doing career-wise after the end of Growing Pains

The audience laughed when Hemant showed the infamous Ray Comfort-Kirk Cameron banana video, and again when Hemant mentioned that I Sold My Soul on eBay won a Christian book contest that was conducted online poll. (If you read PZ Myers' blog Pharyngula, you know what can happen.) 

And they laughed yet again when Hemant showed a photo of a cute baby in a bun, apparently ready to be eaten.

Although I saw some snacking by audience members, nary an actual baby—fresh, roasted, or fried, with or without a bun—was in sight.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Lifestyle & Leisure" woo at Howard Community College

Howard Community College is offering yet more woo! For spring, it lists a wide range of woo in the "Lifestyle & Leisure" category of its catalog, including:
The word Qigong literally means skill or cultivation of vital energy (qi). Traditional Chinese medicine believes that good health is the result of a free-flowing, well-balanced qi (bio-energy) system, while sickness, pain or physical disorders are the result of qi blockage, or unbalanced qi in the body. Qigong practice helps to balance the qi system in the body and break the qi blockages to recover health....
The Chakra System and Auras
Use the basic of this system of energy and find out how to balance these energy spirals. You will also be given techniques to see auras and what the colors of the aura mean.
Interpreting Your Dreams
This course will offer easy guidance into the world of dream interpretation. Dreams are powerful indicators that provide us with insight about our lives. Learn the five basics to unlocking the meaning of your dreams and to receive answers from your higher self.
You Can Hear and See Your Inner Guide
Have you ever wondered what your purpose is? Do you even think about who or what is out there that could guide you to find the right path for you? You have a guide inside of your (sometimes called the higher self). You just need to learn to recognize that guide and pay attention to the message. Using techniques from the facilitator's book, you will be shown how to work with energy and creative visualization in order to unblock your mind.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pet woo for you at Howard Community College

Howard Community College will be offering, as usual, a number of non-credit courses in woo this spring. Among them, woo for pets. No actually, pet woo for you, because I'm pretty sure that your pets don't practice woo. They're too smart for that:
Petspeak: What Your Animals Really Want You To Know
Have you ever wondered what your companion animals are trying to communicate? Have you ever been perplexed by their behavior? Why don't you ask them? In this entertaining and provocative evening, Animal communicator Terri Diener will introduce you to the rich and wonderful world of your pet's thoughts and feelings. Please bring a photograph of your pet to class.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Career woo at Community College of Baltimore County

I've written before about the woo courses being offered as continuing education at both the Community College of Baltimore County and Howard Community College. we go again.

But this time, the woo is worse, because it's not being offered as a course in Wellness or Personal Enrichment so people can be stupid in their personal lives. The latest CCBC continuing ed catalog lists woo in Career Training which may allow people to be stupid in their careers and negatively impact a larger group of people:

The First is listed under "Complementary Medicine":
Reiki for Health Care Professionals-Level 1
Learn the history of the development of Reiki and how Qi (energy) is present in everything around us. You will also learn about how Qi flows through the human body and how Reiki influences this flow and affects disease/wellness. By the end of the session, you will be able to apply your learning to a self-healing.
Oh, joy. "Level 1" woo, so there's apparently higher level woo training for health care professionals. I guess I may need to start asking my health care professionals if they practice science-based medicine or not.

Also being offered under "Professional CEUs":
Qigong for the Massage Therapist
Learn about body opening movements to relax the body and clear an accumulation of tension and how to apply these techniques to a current clinical practice. Topics include the Eight Pieces of Brocade to cleanse the body and circulate energy to improve the health and the body/mind, stimulate healing and increase longevity. This course is pending approval by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). 
So, pending professional CEU's for a course in woo in order to remain certified by a certification board that certifies massage therapists in "all modalities and disciplines" including woo like shiatsu and reflexology.

Certified woo practitioners. With certifications accepted by Maryland and 37 other states and DC accoring to the NCBTMB web site. Aarrgghhh!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tarot reading: You pay what it's worth

More woo email today:

I'm actually starting to look forward to these woo-mails, as I find them amusing blog material.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Praying for better test scores

According to a March 14 article in The Baltimore Sun, "Prayers at city school before tests criticized" by Erica L. Green, the principal of a Baltimore City public school used prayer to help prepare students for standardized testing. Because, you know, students' praying to God for help on tests has been a well-tested (heh) and highly successful strategy. The better you pray, the better the scores. Right?

Here's a copy of the flier that the school distributed:

According to The Sun, "Local officials said they will use the incident as an opportunity to emphasize to school leaders appropriate school-sponsored events." Which is good.

What is not good was the response of Jimmy Gittings, president of the city principals' union. 

According to The Sun, Gittings said:
"The only individuals I hold accountable for these injustices for Ms. Yon [the school principal] are the narrow-minded politicians from some 50 years ago, for removing prayer from our schools. Once prayer was removed from our schools, the respect for our teachers and administrators has been increasingly out of control."
The Sun added:
Gittings, a proponent of prayer in schools, said he fully supported Yon's actions. He said he was aware that it wasn't constitutional, but he still believed in the message.

So the head of Baltimore's principals' union not only believes in the power of prayer, but he also believes in public school-sanctioned prayer, and he doesn't believe in the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution. Nor apparently does he understand why school-sanctioned prayer is unconstitutional, or if he does, he doesn't care. And he thinks school prayer was removed by "narrow-minded politicians." Wonderful. Just the person we should want representing those in charge of educating our children.  

Help Japan, Donate and..., Part 3

More suggestions on ways to help Japan as it would be to "donate and pray":

From Rey Fox:
  • Donate and rearrange the pictures on your wall.
  • Donate and ride your bicycle to the cell phone store.
  • Donate and eat a hard-boiled egg.
  • Donate and recite Marc Antony's soliloquy from Julius Ceasar in Basque.
  • Donate and do fourteen somersaults.
  • Donate and contemplate the sound of one hand clapping.

From SteveV, Death's Haberdasher:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Help Japan, Donate and..., Part 2

Since my post yesterday, listing some of my ideas as to how people could help Japan as effectively as "donating and praying," some others have made suggestions:

From Caine, Fleur du mal:
  • Donate and down a shot. Down a shot for every donation. Drinking game!
  • Donate and make love.
  • Donate and bake chocolate bacon cookies.
  • Donate and hug your pet.
  • Donate and look at a pretty picture of a rainbow.
  • Donate and dress up.
  • Donate and go out on the town.
  • Donate and take deep, cleansing breaths.
  • Donate and cry huge crocodile tears.
  • Donate and rub iodine on your belly.

From Part-Time Insomniac, Death's Zombie Pet Porcupine:
  • Donate and wear silk panties.
  • Donate and ride a unicycle naked.
  • Donate and sing "I Feel Pretty" while hopping on one foot.
  • Donate and twirl a hula-hoop on each arm while gargling.

If you have other good ideas on way to help Japan as effectively as "donating and praying," please consider adding them to the comments. Then, after considering, add them.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Help Japan. Donate and....

I see quite a bit of complaining on Facebook and Twitter about atheists daring to post that they don't think prayer will help Japan. The objections are that by saying "Your prayers aren't helping Japan," atheists are pushing their beliefs on believers, they're insensitive to believers, they're attacking believers, and/or they're proselytizing for atheism.

Surprisingly, not one of the complaining "Pray for Japan" posters/tweeters ever considered that by telling atheists in thousands of posts and tweets, "Pray for Japan," that they were doing exactly what they are accusing atheists of doing. Were any of you "Pray for Japan" posters/tweeters concerned about how I'd feel receiving all those "Pray for Japan" posts and tweets?

And, yeah, saying "Prayer isn't going to help" is so much more mean-spirited than your tweets saying, "God is going to burn you for eternity in hell." (Ooo, your mythology really scares me. [That's sarcasm.] The fact that a rational, thinking person believes in mythology and acts accordingly, now that scares me. [That's not sarcasm.]

How is stating that I think prayer isn't going to help Japan attacking you or persecuting you?

I've also heard some whining comments asking "What's wrong with donating and praying?" If it makes you feel better than donating alone, have at it. Because the praying is ultimately all about you and how it makes you feel, not Japan.

But you could also:
  • Donate and dance naked in the moonlight, or
  • Donate and wear socks that don't match, or
  • Donate and read Green Eggs and Ham to your pet, or
  • Donate and rub a lucky rabbit's foot, or
  • Donate and consult with Punxsutawney Phil, or
  • Donate and sacrifice sausages to Offler, or
  • Donate and talk to the pixies in your garden, or
  • Donate and toss pennies in a wishing well, or
  • Donate and tweet how awful atheists are, or...any number of things that won't help Japan more than donating alone would.
Next, you'll be posting and tweeting how awful I am for ridiculing you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Help Japan, don't pray

I heard the first news report of the Japanese quake shortly after it happened around 1 AM EST today.

I knew what would follow that report, and it was exactly what, in fact, followed: On Facebook, lots of posts saying, "Pray for Japan!" and on Twitter, tweet after tweet, "#PrayforJapan."

I want to ask my friends who sent those, why would I pray? Why would you pray?

Every one of you who encouraged me to "pray for Japan" believes in a God who is all-knowing and all-powerful.

So, your God knew before the beginning of time that the earthquake and resulting tsunami would occur and unleash devastation and massive suffering. If you deny that, then your God isn't all-knowing, is he?

And since he is all-powerful, he could have stopped it. He could have planned a scenario other than the disaster that unfolded earlier today. If you deny that, then your God isn't all-powerful now, is he?

But your God either caused the earthquake and tsunami, or at best, simply let it happen. Your God, by his action and/or inaction, is ultimately responsible for the disaster. That makes your God a sadist. An abuser. A cruel, immoral monster. And this is the God you pray to? This is the God you're always describing as "loving"? (Perhaps you and/or your God have a definition of "loving" that is completely incomprehensible to me.)

And what is it you hope to accomplish by praying?

Doesn't your God already know people are suffering? Doesn't your God also already know that your hearts have been touched and saddened by the tragedy? Why do you have to tell him in prayer?

Does he like to hear his "special creation" beg for his help before he'll provide it?

Or does he, like an abusive parent, just prefer to hear you beg for mercy, "Please, stop!"?

Or are your prayers in thanks for your God's not killing more people or causing more suffering? Are you actually saying, "Thank you for not hurting more people or not hurting them worse than you already have"? or "Thank you for sparing me and those that I love"? or perhaps, "Please don't hurt me like you hurt the people in Japan"?

And when you pray for Japan, you'd like your God to do what? Help? Why would your God help now? If your God hadn't wanted the suffering and devastation to occur, he wouldn't have allowed it to happen in the first place.

Which brings up back to: if God has always had a plan, can you change it by praying? Isn't the course of history already set? What good do your prayers do?

Those of you praying for miracles, let me know when one occurs. And, no, anything that can be explained by science, or math, or as sheer random coincidence is not a miracle. Unexpectedly finding survivors isn't a miracle. Finding one house still standing, while all the neighboring homes were destroyed, is not a miracle. Someone finding their beloved pet still alive, or their wedding photos in the rubble, is not a miracle.

You know what might be a miracle? If, after you prayed, your God reversed all the damage in Japan. Brought all the dead (human, other animals, and plants) back to life. Healed all the injured. Repaired all the damage done to the environment. Replaced all the buildings and fixed all the other objects that were ruined or damaged. Do you think he will? Do you think he can't? Or isn't your God powerful enough to do big, noticeable, meaningful miracles?

Yes, I understand your sense of helplessness in the wake of such a horrific disaster. Totally. And I understand that you take comfort in prayer. But using prayer to make you feel like you're doing something to help, and your being comforted by prayer, doesn't do a darn practical thing to help those in Japan.

At first, not one of the early Facebook posts or tweets from you "Pray for Japan" posters mentioned doing anything but praying. Some of you still haven't.

Only the atheists who I follow on Twitter, or who are my Facebook friends, immediately suggested doing something that might actually help the people of Japan—making a donation to disaster relief organizations—providing evidence, once, again, of atheist immorality, inability to be compassionate, and shocking lack of ethics.

I know that all of the help that will aid Japan will come from humans. Humans who care. Humans who risk their lives. Humans who give their time and their money. Humans who will find the survivors and dig them out. Humans who will shelter those without homes, who will feed those who can no longer feed themselves. Humans who will give medical care to the injured. Humans who will bury the dead and mourn them. Humans who will provide comfort and support to the suffering. Humans who, using science and technology, will rebuild and repair the damage as much as possible.

Your God won't have a damn thing to do with any of it.

If you actually want to really help Japan, here are some places you can make a donation:

And if you can't donate, please encourage others to do so and pass on those links.

Monday, March 7, 2011

#Marryland: I support marriage equality

It seems to me as though the argument of many of the opponents of the Maryland Marriage Equality bill boils down to: "My god doesn't like it."

I am baffled that your god seems so obsessed with who is doing what, with what body parts, and with whom--especially since he was in charge of designing all those body parts in the first place, right?

Certainly, if your god had wanted to limit human sexual activity to only male-female vaginal intercourse--and then only among married people--he had the power to make that happen. Surely he knew how to design sexual attraction and sex organs (you know, the "naughty bits" you--and he--are so concerned about) so humans would never be attracted to someone of the same sex, and would bond to their single mate for life.

And look at all the wonderful variations in sex organs and mating he managed to design for the other critters he made! A veritable plethora of options! Clearly, he wasn't particularly attached to one design. Some of those other animals' sex organs are designed so sexual activity can occur in one way and one way only. I can't understand, then, why your god chose the human design that he did, so that there are so many creative ways to put all our body parts to such delightful use.

Oh, I see! He created humans in his own likeness. That explains it. So, does your god have a penis or a vagina? Or maybe both? Clitoris or not? Testicles? And, if so, what does he use them for?

And he explained the proper use of sex organs in his special book--the one book that condoned slavery, rape, and infanticide. Well, I can see why that settles the whole same-sex marriage debate.

Yes, I am baffled by so much of what your god does--or doesn't do.

Which is one of the reasons why he's your god, not mine.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Facebook Follies:

Today's Facebook Folly: Apparently if you don't post this as your Facebook status, Jesus will be miffed and pretend he doesn't know you, and won't introduce you to his father, who apparently has no idea who you are until Jesus introduces you, and you won't be invited into heaven unless Jesus introduces you properly.
I believe in Jesus Christ and have accepted Him as my personal Saviour. One facebooker has challenged all believers to put this on their wall...In the Bible it says, if you deny me in front of your peers, I will deny you in front of my Father at the Gates of Heaven. Amen! This is simple. If you love God and you are not afraid to show it, repost this.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Woo for military veterans

Picked up from a table with resource information for military veterans:

If we're offering support to veterans, shouldn't it be something supported by evidence to show that it works?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Email spam: Dream Horoscope

My latest weird woo-spam:

I can't be positive of what will happen, although I can take a good guess, but one thing I know won't happen, either today or tomorrow, is that I'll pay $10 for a 10 minute astrology reading, which the website that sent me the ad should have already known since they can forecast the future, right? Weird that they would still send me this useless email. Well, useless for them, but not entirely useless for me, because I got something silly to blog about. Did they foresee that?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The skeptical exorcist

Article in The Baltimore Sun, January 10, 2011:

From the article:
"The exorcist has to be the ultimate skeptic," says the Rev. Gary Thomas, the exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose, Calif., who attended the Baltimore event."
Thomas and others emphasize the extreme rarity of real cases of demonic possession. Of the 100 people he has counseled since he completed training in Rome five years ago, he said he performed a full exorcism for only five.

Skepticism: I think you're doing it wrong.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Free will: The Parable of Two Fathers

One of my most religious friends, an evangelical Christian, and I have been having a discussion about the reason there is evil and tragedy in the world, and it's becoming apparent that my friend is becoming increasingly anxious and uncomfortable talking to me about her beliefs, even though she was eager to share her "good news" about Jesus and the Gospel with me when we started.

Maybe her discomfort is because she's beginning to worry that by continuing to talk to an evil atheist like me, she'll put her own salvation in jeopardy.

But perhaps her unease is because she's never had to really think before about the contradictions in, and implications of, the Christian apologetics she regurgitates. All of her religious discussions and Bible study are with people who believe exactly as she does, so never challenge her by saying, "Wait. What?!"

Since my friend apparently no longer wishes to discuss her religious beliefs, but I have things I want to say on the subject, I'll write what I'd have said to her here (I know my friend is unlikely to read this blog for many reasons, but writing about this makes me feel better. And, heck, venting is one of the main reasons I started this blog):

Your argument that humans making bad choices when exercising "free will" is the cause of evil, suffering, and tragedy in the world makes no sense to me if God is, as you claim, omniscient, almighty, inerrant, and loving.

How does "free will" account for natural disasters and diseases? If you're going to tell me it all is because of The Fall and the original sin, I ask, what kind of moral being punishes not only wrong doers, but their descendants--forever? And punish them by making them--and their children--suffer agonizing pain and excruciating deaths? 

Didn't your all powerful, all knowing God know before He created Adam and Eve that they would disobey Him? Didn't they do exactly what He designed them to do? Or is God an incompetent designer? What kind of moral being would design a creature knowing in advance that they would fail a test He designed, then punish those flawed creatures for doing exactly what He'd planned for them to do? No moral being would do that, only a sadistic monster.

Think of the example that started our conversation about free will, that of the child who almost died because of a neglectful mother. What kind of moral being who has the power to prevent suffering, allows a child to suffer because his mother exercised her "free will" wrongly? Is that just? When one of your sons does something wrong, do you harm your grandchild to punish your son or show your son "the error of his ways?" No, you don't, because you are more moral than your God is.

If God designed you, and knew from the beginning of time everything that you would ever do, knew every choice you would make before He made you, how can you have "free will"? Could you, exercising your "free will," make a choice different from the one God already planned for you before you were born? RosaRubicondior wrote cogently about this very issue in a recent blog post, On Omniscience and Freewill. If your answer is "yes," your God isn't all powerful. If your answer is "no," then you don't have free will, do you? God has already determined what action you will take, and there's nothing you can do about it. 

You are fond of parables, so I'll tell you one now:  

Once there were two fathers, alike in every way except for the way they instructed their child on what the child was supposed to do. One father, was very authoritarian, and when he wanted his child to do something, would never give his child an option to obey or not. He would simply say, for example, "I want you to put your toys in the toy box."

In contrast the other father was more permissive. He also wanted his child to put his toys put in the toy box, but because he loved his child so much and wanted his child to have the freedom to make good choices, the second father said to his child, "You can put your toys in the toy box--or not. Your choice." And then, when the child choose not to put the toys in the toy box, the father tortured his child for eternity. 

Which is the more moral father? Are you able to decide, or has your sense or what's moral and what is not been so corrupted by your religious beliefs that you cannot even see that the second father--the one that acts like you believe your God does--is an immoral monster.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Facebook Follies: Looking for another 4,999,999 people to join me

Today's Facebook Folly:
"Let's see if there are 5 million people on FB who believe in God! Press Like if you do! on ♥."
...because if there are, that will prove that there are 5 million people on Facebook who believe in God and like to click on Facebook links. I know, awesome, right?
I'll bet God reads Facebook and will be very very impressed with your effort.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Groupon: Vegan diet woo

Recently, I got this offer from Groupon:

While not a vegan, I am interested in wholesome nutritional foods, so I read on. And learned the deal was for woo--online group woo:  
For $49, today’s side deal gets you an online 28-day vegan challenge detox program with Nutrition Northwest Co. (a $249 value). Certified nutritionist Angela Pifer specializes in customized nutrition programs and group detoxification programs. This online group detox, available to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection, is designed to cleanse the body of harmful toxins through a four-step program. Over the detox period, clients strive to identify unhealthy toxins in their bodies, remove them, restore nutrients, and begin healing. Upon enrollment, clients will have access to the Rejuvenate online community, a copy of the Rejuvenate manual and recipe book, weekly teleconferences to monitor your success, and free downloads of audio meditations and Pilates videos. Clients are encouraged to participate in the Rejuvenate Seven Day Pre-cleanse Program, which will prepare you for the detoxification and increase your chances of success.
Sorry, Groupon, not jumping on this "deal."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why I'm an atheist

My religious family and friends cannot comprehend how I can be an atheist. I, on the other hand, cannot understand how they can be theists and believe things that not only aren't supported by evidence, but also are often contrary to evidence--and irrational, and sometimes unjust and inhumane too.

Earlier today, I posted this comment on the Pharyngula thread, "Why are you an atheist?" I thought I'd re-post it here. The full story of my transformation from questioning, doubting Catholic school girl to confirmed atheist is longer and more complex than what I wrote in this comment, but it's an accurate summary of why I do not believe in God.

I am an atheist because I'm a skeptic and rationalist. I am not a skeptic and rationalist because I'm an atheist.

Even as a young girl in Catholic school, I was one of those troublesome kids who would actually think about what I was being taught in religion class, ask questions, then say, "But...but..." Because so much of what I was being taught didn't make logical sense to me. And did the adults have evidence that any of it was true? They never had satisfactory answers to my questions. I began to suspect that the adults were just making stuff up.

My inability to accept what I was being taught wasn't helped by the fact that I was well-read, especially for a child growing up in the circumstances I did. I just couldn't mesh what I knew was reality with what the church was claiming.

And, so many Catholic beliefs and practices assailed my innate sense of fairness, justice, and compassion.

For a long time I tried, really really tried, to believe, but I just couldn't make the leap of faith. That time in my life was very depressing and stressful.

Finally, when I was 18, in a single stunning blast of insight, I realized that religion was just rules and rituals made up by fallible men to try to control what other people did, and that there was no evidence that God, who allegedly beamed these rules down from wherever, even existed. So I simply stopped trying to believe the unbelievable. That was it. I've never looked back or felt more at peace.

After the day I stopped trying to believe, I described myself to people as a non-believer, or simply said I didn't belong to a church. I didn't realize I was an "
atheist" until I started reading Pharyngula.