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.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Facebook Follies: If God has ever answered...

Today's Facebook Folly:

"If God has ever answered a prayer for you, press like!!!!!!! on ♥."

Because if you prayed for something, and it later happened, there's no other possible explanation except "God did it."

And if God ever didn't answer a prayer, I guess you should "press like" for that too, because God's decision not to answer your prayer is God using his mysterious, unfathomable, and seemingly whimsical God-wisdom to do what He knows is best. In his way, He is answering your prayer, just not the way you'd hoped. But you like that too, right?

Facebook Follies: Praying for Egyptians

Today's Facebook Folly: "I am praying for the anti-government protesters in Egypt."

And if everything goes right for the protesters, "Yay, God answered my prayers!" And if they don't, "God has mysterious plans." 

Doesn't God already know which side He's rooting for?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

PZ takes on woo at University of Maryland School of Medicine

PZ Myers blogged yesterday about a subject that has caused me, if not quite despair, then severe despondency: the medical and health woo being embraced by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and given a veneer of pseudo-plausibility by its Center for Integrative Medicine.

When I go to a doctor, I expect one who is trained in science-based medicine, not the art of woo.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Facebook Follies: The Satan Headache

Today's Facebook Folly:
When you carry the Bible, Satan gets a headache. When you open it, he collapses. When he sees you reading it, he faints. When he sees that you are living what you read, he flees. And when you are about to re-post this message, he will try and discourage you. I just defeated him !!!!
My Facebook friend is so brave and so powerful, defeating a mythical evil character like that! I'm impressed.