Friday, November 30, 2007

Teddy Bears and the Somalian Embassy

Some people are out buying teddy bears, calling them Mohammed, and sending them off to the Somalia Embassy.

Actually, this is a good idea. Doing so states that one is willing to stand along side those who simply are not going to tolerate this type of nonsense - particularly the nonsense of demanding for the execution of the culprit.

If it helps to make things easy, here is a site where you can send a bear, which has the address for the Somalia embassy listed on the site.

It is a message that says that one will not be intimidated, and that one is willing to stand up against a bunch of barbarians who advocate the killing of a teacher on such rediculous pretenses.

Golden Compass and the Teddybear Teacher

I would like to point out a difference in degree, but not a difference in kind, between protests launched against a teacher in the Sudan and those launched against the film The Golden Compass in America.

A CNN article on the Sudan case states, "[Leafelets distributed earlier this week by Muslim groups] condemned Gibbons as an "infidel"and accused her of "the pollution of children's mentality by their actions."

At the same time, religious groups in America are charging Pullman, the author of the book series from which The Golden Compass is being taken, of being an atheist and, also, of poisonng children's minds.

The common thread among these religious outbursts - do not permit anybody to say or do anything that criticizes the religion. Those who do so should be punished.

Granted, boycotts are not as bad as executions.

But, like I said, the difference is not a difference in kind. It is only a difference in degree.

Interestingly, we can follow this pattern all the way back to Socrates, whose crimes against the city of Athens for which he was executived were, "Corrupting the youth and worhsipping false gods."

Sudanese Barbarism

An article on calls in Sudan to execute a teacher who allowed her students to name a teddy bear "Mohammed" contains the sentence:

The case put Sudan't government in an embarrassing postion - facing anger of Britain on one side and potential trouble from powerful Islamic hard-liners on the other."

Infact, they are facing some anger.

Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives . . . demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad."

However, the embarrassment should come from refusing to stand up to a bunch of neanderthals who have nothing positive to contribute to civil society. Those who are not willing to defend civilized behavior will not have a civilization to live in.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband summoned the Sudanese ambassador late Thursday to express Britain's disappointment with the verdict.


No, the only expression that is appropriate in this case is one of 'condemnation'. It should be flat-out, uncompromising statement that, "You people are a group of barbarians who have no place in civil society." Because . . . well . . . those people are a bunch of barbarians who have no place in civil society.

"Those people" being anybody who defends punishing this teacher in any way.

There is no morality in a system that thinks that punishment in this case is at all justified.

Consider the fact that if the victim in this case, the teacher, were a Sudanese citizen - somebody whose execution would not create an international incident - somebody the British and American public could easily ignore - her punishment would have likely been far worse - possibly including death.

The message that the Sudenese people is giving is that they would be willing to inflict this punishment - and are making concessions only because foreign powers are involved.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Atheist Denigration Protest Day

I have just stumbled across the fact that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will be hearing oral arguments in the case against 'under God' in the Pledge this Tuesday, as well as against 'In God We Trust' on the currency.

The American Atheists: California is planning a 'rally of unity' at the courthouse that day.

Actually, atheists around the world should participate in a rally of unity on that day.

These two policies exist for one primary reason - because the American government has declared that nothing is more important in America than denigrating and alienating those who do not believe in God. "Under God" exists in the Pledge because the American government wanted to put atheists (those not 'under God') in the same moral category as rebels (not indivisible), tyrants (not with liberty), and the unjust (just with justice for all). "In God We Trust" occurs on the currency because the government wants to make it clear that "We" (as in "We the People") only includes those who trust in God - that those who do not 'trust in God' should never be thought of as "we". Every piece of currency tells the American people that atheists are never worth listening to because "We" trust in God, and "They" do not.

They particularly want to impose this attitude on children - particularly very young children, and including the children of atheists - because they know that the bigotries that a child learns at a young age are not easily unlearned when the child grows up.

In this, they are correct. The very reason that atheists are the least trusted group in America and why more people believe that atheists do not share their values is because our school system teaches no lesson with more vigor and determination than the lesson that atheists are not to be trusted and do not share 'our' American values. It is because this message is built into a pledge that many schools teach every day, and into a national motto that many schools now have hanging on every classroom wall.

So, figure out what you are going to do on December 4th to let it be known that it is time to end this history of making it America's national motto and national pledge to denigrate and alienate atheists.

It is time to put an end to this bigotry - and to quite the practice of making bigotry the first and most important lesson taught in America's schools.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Insulting Religion

Here are a couple of interesting headlines.

A teacher in Sudan is being charged with insulting religion and inciting hatred because she asked her children what to name a teady bear, and accepted their suggestion of Mohammed.

A Turkish prosecutor is looking into prosecuting a publisher for publishing Dawkin's book The God Delusion (for which, we must assume, Dawkins would deserve a worse penalty for writing it).

At this rate, these actions are heading towards a state of making people the world over afraid of saying or doing anything that might offend fundamentalist Muslims.

Where the real 'incite to hatred' exists is in a culture that incites people to hate and to potentially maim a teacher who accepts her students' name for a teddy bear, or to incite violence against the publisher of a book that challenges those who use superstition and nonsense to justify violence againt others.

This way of thinking is simply barbaric. It belongs in the history books, not in 21st century society.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Countering Ben Stein's 'Expelled'

I think it would be a good idea for the principle individuals who participated in the movie Expelled - Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, etc. - to demand that those who produced the film make their entire interviews available to the public. With this, any accusations of dishonesty on the part of the film's producers can be easily verified or falsified. To the degree that it can be demonstrated that they took clips out of context and generally misrepresented the claims of these individuals, to that degree the whole movie can be discredited. This would at least show whether the documentary comes from people who have no qualms against misrepresenting the gruth, where it serves their interests and their views to do so.

Funding Education: Ben Stein's Expelled

PZ Myers has mentioned how Ben Stein's movie "Expelled" (which I wrote about under the clever title, Ben Stein's Expelled) seems to be financially well-backed.

Indeed, it is.

However, one has to remember that this is not a donation. This is an investment. The people backing this movie are people who do not mind profiting by selling razor blades to that subset of the nation that seems driven to slit this country's intellectual wrists.

My question is: Where are the people interested in funding a program to teach people the facts about evolution, and why this movie (and the claims made in it) are nonsense.

It would be a good time to do so. One could simply point out that it is time for some intellectual fair play - a need to 'hear both sides of the controversy'.

However, the first piece of education - the controversy is not over whether intelligent design is a better scientific theory than Darwinism. But whether intelligent design is science at all.

After all, Teaching students that intelligent design is a science is like teaching them that China is in South America. It's simply, flat-out wrong, and people who say otherwise only prove their own ignorance.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Atheists: Outsiders

Though, in a recent post, What Makes Us Moral?, I criticized a Time Magazine article by the same name, the article also contained an underappreciated truth.

The article described how treating others unjustly is made easier by casting those to be treated unjustly as 'outsiders' - as not part of the group.

The main objection to a pledge of allegiance to "one nation under God" or a motto of "in God we trust" is that it casts those who are not 'under God' and those who do not trust in God as outsiders - as non-members. This makes it psychologically easier to treat them as lesser beings, treat them in ways that one would not treat another insider.

These acts deserve to be condemned not as 'unconstitutional' or 'a violation of separation of church and state', but as flatly unjust and immoral. No person who claims to have any appreciation of right and wrong could sanction such a system, and no person who sanctions such a system can make any claim that their side has a better appreciation for and disposition to do that which is right.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Evolutionary Party

Definitely worth sharing.

A short poem.

Cosmic Evolution

The Goldan Compass: Responses to Religious Bullying

It appears that people are finally making some sort of protest against the attempts by religious fundamenalists to bully competing views into silence, which I had written about earlier in the week The Golden Compass and Religious Criticism

Now let’s say for example that the books are wildly atheist (which they aren’t); why shouldn’t they be? As someone else said, this is like going up to someone at a football game who is cheering for another team and saying “Hey, you can’t cheer for them... you have to cheer for my team! Grrr.” And surely that’s not nice... J. Sutherland

On a Catholic school board's decision to pull all copies of Pullman's trilogy from the schools:

After all, if the Catholic Church is so intent on stifling discussion of contrary perspectives that it will prevent access to them within its school systems, is it not denying its students one of the basic elements of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – that is, the right to freedom of thought, to hold or consider other perspectives?Celia Featherby

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Taliban in Pakistan

Actually, yes, I do blame Bush as his administration for the current mess in Pakistan. Pakistan's Taliban at the Gates. If he had focused on finishing the job at hand, dealing with the Taliban and those who were actively seeking to do harm to Americans, instead of getting distracted in the Iraqi side show, we would would have likely been in a better situation than we are in.

As a result of Bush's actions and the thoughtless 'faith-based', anti-intelligence, anti-reason antics of this administration, the Taliban might be able to get ahold of nuclear weapons simply by overthrowing Pakistan.

Where will America get the resources to fight battle in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran and Iraq and in whatever other country where people decide, "America is vulnerable (thanks to Bush). Now is the time to strike."

But rational thinking - thinking based on reason rather than personal desire - was never this administration's strong suit. Indeed, they effectively ran their campaign on the slogan, "Let's put a likable idiot in the White House."

This is what happens when you give likable idiots the authority to make decisions for the world.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Presidential Debates and Executive Power

The Daily Doubter recently informed its readers about the pathetic state of the Presidential debates so far . . . about how uninterested the Press is in asking candidates their position on the separation of powers.

Yet, this issue more than any other will likely determine whether future generations live in liberty or tyranny - the latter being the inevitable result of an executive that can do whatever he or she pleases.

Christian Moral (ir)Responsibility

I am asked whether I think that all Christianity should be blamed for the immorality inherent in the Byzantine empire that I alluded to in my last post.

Of course not. A person is accountable only for those actions he actually endorses. Few people today would endorse the Byzantine culture.

Modern Christians are responsible only for modern immoralities.

No modern Christian is responsible for Inquisition of the 1400s. However, many are responsible for the current iteration of the inquisition against homosexuals - a church-lead project to pursue policies that add misery and suffering to the lives of millions.

I find myself continuously thinking of a letter that several evangelicals sent in protest to one of their members advocating action against global warming.

Those who authored this letter - many prominent Christian leaders - protested that this was taking resources away from their inquisition against homosexuals. The possibility of severe harm to the earth costing untolled misery around the globe was less important to them than the need to continue this 21st century inquisition.

Of course, they said that the issue of global warming was controversial. Yet, they saw controversy only because they wanted to see it.

The argument, in fact was, "If global warming science is correct, we must divert resources away from our inquisition against homosexuals. We do not want to divert resources away from this inquisition. Therefore, global warming science must be controversial."

I do not hold contemporary Christians responsible for historic moral crimes because contemporary Christians do not endorse those historic crimes. However, to the degree that they endorse modern moral crimes, they can be held morally responsible.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Original "Christian Nation"

I have spent the last few evenings listening to a podcast, 12 Byzantine Rilers on the Byzantine Empire - probably the original "Christian Nation".

It is striking how different that nation is from ours today - how different their 'morality' is from ours today.

It is also quite easy to recognize which society is the morally superior society.

It is not, as it turns out, the society in which the doctrines of Christianity were originally decided.

Investing in a Worse World

Several atheist blogs are commenting about a move from Reverend Ken Hutcherson to take over Microsoft to end its alleged contribution to 'gay rights'.

While engaging in ridicule, it is easy to ignore the fact that a preacher such as this can easily go on the air and gather tens of millions of dollars for any hate-filled cause he decides to launch.

This will not be nearly enough to take over Microsoft (though we must remember that a substantial portion of all investors are already hostile to gay rights), it is enough to build a Creationist museum or to launch any of a thousand differen hate- and superstition-promoting projects.

While, at the same time, pro-reason organizations boast that memberships in their organizations are now moving higher in the four-digit and up into the 5-digit numbers, with comparably anemic budgets.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

War Cost Lies from Congress

The [Democratic-led Joint Economic Committee] calculated the average cost of both wars for a family of four would be $20,900 from 2002 to 2008. The cost for a family of four would go up to $46,400 from 2002 to 2017, the committee said.

From War costs could total $1.6 trillion by 2009, panel estimates

This is a blatantly dishonest way of calculating costs used, in this case, for its propaganda effect in giving people a dishonest sense of the cost of the war and a dishonest appraisal of those who got us into it.

This 'statistic' is a lie, regardless of one's position on the war. It would be a true statement if the American tax system assigned taxes per head - if every person payed the same dollar amount each year to the government. Then (and only then) would it be honest to divide the total cost among the people equally.

However, some people pay more in taxes than others. Some people pay nothing at all. So their share of this tax burden will be proportionately less.

However, the Democratic leaders of this committee want to lie to you and tell you that this war is making you worse off than it is in fact. They want you (and every other family) to think that you would have been $20,000 wealthier if not for the war. They want to manipulate you into having the reaction that is reasonable to have in response to this $20,000 figure, rather than be honest with you.

I am not saying this as somebody who is fond of the war. My position has always been that, unless and until I get security clearance, I cannot make an honest assessment of the best way to proceed. Since I will not be getting that type of clearance, we need people in power who, when they do have access to that information, will make an honest evaluation based on the available evidence.

The people who produced this report are not interested in making and presenting an honest evaluation. They are interested in using sophistry and deceipt for political purposes.

Of course, the blame does not only rest with the Democratic committee that released this sophist propaganda, but with the news organizations who fail to see (and report) the deception behind these numbers. I would pay good money for a news organization staffed with people who have the intelligence to point out the deception behind claims such as this.

That's not the type of people I want in government.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dishonest Campaigning

The complaints about the Clinton campaign planting questions in their audience is a legitimate complaint. The agents in this case try to generate the illusion that the questions come from the people themselves. The Clinton campaign has been caught 'engineering false beliefs' - in effect, lying for political purposes. From this we can conclude that the campaign is staffed by people who have no particular love of truth or honesty. We can expect them to carry these values into the White House.

If the American public has come upon a newly found hostility to dishonesty, let them at least show it by condemning all who have been dishonest.

Remember when a tape circulated that showed the Bush Administration planting questions among American servicemen in promoting the war in Iraq?

The Bush Administration has perfected the art of managed public appearances - showing up only before audiences guaranteed to be favorable to the President, confining protesters to 'free speech zones' out of sight of the actual event, removing people who wear T-shirts or drive cars with bumper stickers critical of the administration.

And yet we hear little in the way of protest here.

There are two ways to resolve this inconsistency. One is to cut both equivalent amounts of slack. The other is to give both camps equal amount of condemnation.

There must be a footnote somewhere in the Bible that I have never heard of that says that if a person mentions God or Jesus favorably a certain number of times per day, that the moral prohibition against bearing false witness, lying, and other moral crimes simply do not apply. At the same time these people claim that their religion gives them a moral compass that others do not have, they demonstrate how false it is by being unable to perform an honest act, or to condemn others in their click who are blatantly dishonest.

Morality is only required of others - of outsiders.

Of course, nobody is more dangeorus than those who think that morality only applies to others.

Limbaugh's Reckless Claims

Themaiden, in a blog posting I Can't Figure Out Why Anyone Takes This Guy Seriously reported on a hoax that claims to disprove global warming that Rush Limbaugh immediately reported to his audience as true.

Limbaugh has repeatedly shown that he cares nothing about the fate of others - that he is willing to put hundreds of millions of people at risk for the pure pleasure of having a radio show where he can do this. Yet, this guy stays on the air. In fact, he makes himself rich in performing this disservice to humanity.

The problem is not that he does not believe that global warming is man-made. The problem is that he does not care whether the claims he makes are true or false, where false claims put hundreds of millions of people at risk.

Yet, the real moral crime rests with those who feed him and keep him on the air - because they obviously do not care either.

The members of the culture that feeds people like this have no legitiate claim to any type of moral superiority.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rethinking Privacy

Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, says that Americans need to redefine privacy. He wants Americans to give up any claim to a right of anonymity (or keeping information about oneself out of the hands of others), and focus only on secure communications (having others not misuse the information they do have).

MSNBC: Intelligence Deputy to America: Rethink Privacy

The issue focuses on reports that the government has set up stations around the country that store every electronic communication - voice, email, web site access - on super computers that the government can then use to sniff out evidence of wrongdoing.

The problem comes when one asked, "What is wrongdoing?"

Humans have not changed. Political leaders tend to arrogantly presume that anybody who says anything that they do not like is guilty of 'wrongdoig'. Nixon went to his grave thinking that he did nothing wrong, that the wrongdoing was done by those who dared to challenge his authority.

Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove apparently think the same way.

Somewhere in this country there is a political tyrant just waiting to get his hands on the ability to sniff through a stack of emails and phone calls, culling those who would dare contest his reign.

Of course, he will convince himself that this is all for the public good.

When Hitler went into his bunker in Berlin to kill himself, one of the last things he said was, "The German people do not deserve me."

Because these arrogant tyrants cannot conceive of themselves as doing something wrong, it is a huge mistake to trust them to conceive of certain uses of this information as wrong. There is no limit to the barbaric acts that a would-be tyrant can conceive of as being "necessary for national security."

Look at the rhetoric this administration put forth.

"If you are not with us, then you are against us."

"You are either with us, or you are with the terrorist."

The term 'traitor' was launched at anybody and everybody who dared to question what the Administration was doing.

This is exactly the rhetoric that some future American Fuhrer will use to sniff through these emails and phone conversations for sign of 'subversives' who can then be rounded up, thrown in jail, held without charges and tried on secret evidence, tortured for information on what other 'subversives' are doing, merely because the President (and the President alone - with no checks and balances) has declared them "a threat to national security."

Who can then challenge such a person. As soon as they send an email or make a phone call to protest the actions of the Aerican Fuhrer, then they too will end up in one of these 'detention centers' for 'special interrogation'.

Americans had better think again about giving one branch of government alone, and the goons that the person who holds that branch might surround himself with, unlimited access to all of one's communications, with no oversight - no checks or balances. Giving a group that kind of power is quite literally the same as selling our children or grandchildren into slavery.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Oil Supplies

I saw in the news today that there was a huge oil discovery off of the coast of Brazil. Oil Discovery Rocks Brazil

Estimates are about 5 to 8 billion barrels.

So, our energy problems are over, right?

Well, I looked up how much oil we use in this world each day.

About 80 million barrels.

So, we'll burn through the equivalent of this huge find between now and the middle of next February.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

China's Bible Ban

I have argued that there is a moral dimension in holding false beliefs. Where there is no evidence for a belief, or even when there is easily accessible evidence against it, we can ask, "Why did the agent embrace that belief?" Chances are, he embraced it because embracing it fulfilled a desire of his. We can then evaluate the desire to determine if it is a good desire or a bad desire.

Of course, we immediately have the fact that the agent did not have a particularly strong desire for truth. A lover of truth simply does not embrace unsupported or easily disproved claims.

The falsehood in this case is:

The Catholic News Agency published a report in November citing the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport and Spanish daily La Razon as saying that Bibles were on a list of "prohibited objects" in the Olympic village.

The official news from China:

"The Chinese government has never ever issued such a rule, nor any such statement," Liu said. "China's religious affairs authorities and the Beijing Olympic organizing committee have not - and could not - issue a rule banning the Bible in the Olympic village."

So, why do so many people embrace this fiction?

Because of hate. They want to hate atheists and, rather than base their hatred on any facts of the matter (because the facts do not support the hatred they want to embrace), they embrace lies and sophestry.

Because they want to love undeserved pity. Like the mother who poisons her child so that she can receive the sympathy of her friends and family, some theists lie about their victimization to solicit the sympathy of the general public.

These are not the qualities of a virtuous person.

Neither the disrespect for truth, nor the love of hate, nor lying to others as a way to solicit sympathy are qualities that we can ever expect to find in a truly virtuous person.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Dishonestly: The Anthony Flew Story

I have commented in a recent post on the Atheist Ethicist blog about how a theist reported love of honesty fails to materialize as any type of support of those who are honest or condemnation of those who are dishonest.

We find another example in their exploitation of the failing mind of a former atheist, Anthony Flew.