Monday, December 31, 2007


A while back I decided that I would have a set of New Year's resolutions this year.

In order to progress in what I am trying to accomplish in my writings, I need to branch out some and do a bit more work.

My resolution is to keep track of my progress on several projects on this blog.

(1) To cover at least two relevant news items in this blog that should be of interest to my readers.

(2) To add some detail to the Scrap Wikipedia entry on Desire Utilitarianism each day.

(3) To organize a short story contest on the theme that there is no God and that each of us must depend on our own efforts to survive.

(4) To move into video or at least into audio and present some of my ideas in a podcast.

(5) To finish a couple of books that I have been working on and get them into wider distribution than I have done so far.

I will try to make progress on each of these projects every day and keep track of that progress on this site.

Starting tomorrow morning.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Book Smuggling

I wish that I had enough money that I could afford to blow $1 million on favorite projects.

One of those projects . . .

Now that the Ontario school board has banned the books on which The Golden Compass was based, I would love to hire 3 college students, a beat-up van, and about 100 copies of the books in nice gift sets and produce a video.

The video would involve the three students attempting to smuggle the books into Toronto and, without getting caught by the authorities, giving away the books to children on the streets of Toronto - particularly near church or church-school property.

Yes, I know that the books are not actually illegal. However, the idea that a school board should prevent children from being presented with ideas that the Church does not like should have gone out with the dark ages. It is far better to be presented with different ideas and discussing them, then banning books.

Indeed, the Church seems to be going back to some very old habits - habits that we should only read about in history books - the history of the Dark Ages.

And post that video on YouTube.

Ah, the pleasures of being rich.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Chris Dodd: Standing Up for Freedom

Chris Dodd deserves the gratitude of freedom loving people around the world for standing up against legislation that will grant telecom companies immunity from illegal actions they may have taken under the Bush Administration.

Now, according to an article in the New York Times, the Bush wiretaps were not (as we were told) focused only on defending us from terrorists, but were used on a broad range of issues.

Yet, in the face of repeated lies, we are still giving the government the benefit of the doubt. With morally bankrupt people such as Rove, Cheney, and Gonzales in charge of these powers, and with no oversight, what reason is there to believe that the Bush Administration has not been spying on political rivals as well?

There may well be a reason why the Democratic leadership in Congress seems ineffective against this President.

Ultimately, it does not matter whether the Administration has engaged in this type of abuse. The fact is that they could have. The fact is that, if the Administation has the power to spy on others without any court oversight, that eventually some administration will abuse this power to try to control Congress, manipulate judges, and control the rest of us. Judicial oversight is required for the Administration to be called up short once it starts spying on its political rivals.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

House Resolution 847 Inciting Violence

I came across a post showing a press release from the Council for Secular Humanism denouncing HR 847 - a resolution "Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith".

The press release included the statement:

Just days ago in the midst of the Jewish Festival of Lights, four Jewish men in New York City were attacked on the subway for replying to a group of ten people who wished them a "Merry Christmas" with a similar greeting: "Happy Hanukkah." For this, these men were first insulted, then beaten. It was a Muslim man who came to their physical defense. The actions of the Congress, by passing the resolution and thus expressing preference to the Christian faith over all the others represented by the diverse population of these United States, encourages this sort of behavior.

Sorry, but this is a non-starter.

This is as nonsensical as saying that the God Delusion (or my own Atheist Ethicist blog) is responsible for the Colorado shootings, or the next act of violence against Christians by an atheist that might some day occur).

It's an attempt to spread the blame beyond those who are actually guilty.

No . . . the people responsible for beating those four Jews are the people who beat the four Jews and any who explicitly endorse or cheer that type of violence. Blaming others who are not guilty only shows that "secular humanists" can suffer from the same sorts of moral blindness that some theists also suffer from.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Top 10: Challenge Religion

This is me offering myself a brief pat on the back.

Atheist Ethicist, my "other blog", just showed up in the top 10 of all atheist blogs according to Challenge Religion.

Okay, it's number 10. That's in the top 10.

My the time you read this it will probably drop out again. I have had a fortunate string of posts that have all attraced above average attention:

My post on Romney's speech: "Faith in America".

And my story providing More Perspective on the Pledge have been best sellers.

In addition, the number one post for my site for the fourth month in a row - my post that has exceeded the next five most popular posts combined, Ben Stein's "Expelled" is still drawing a fair number of people every day.

So, I thank my readers for making the blog Number 10.

Yet, the fact remains, I would rather be right than be popular.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Romney's Response to his Faith Speech

On Fox News "Hannity and Colmes", Mitt Romney responded to the criticism that his speech left out non-believers.

COLMES: You said freedom requires religion, religion requires freedom. But aren't there people who are very religious in countries that are not free? And aren't there people who have the freedom to have no religion? So I wonder if it's really true that religion requires freedom and freedom requires religion in every case?

ROMNEY: Well, that was not referring person by person, of course, Alan. That was a — that was a comment I made following the quote from John Adams, where he said this nation and our Constitution could not survive, could not work without morality and religion.

And his point, which I summarized, is that in fact, freedom in this nation, the greatness of this nation does require, in my view, a religious base, a conviction that there is a creator. That doesn't mean every single person has to be religious, but that overall, a recognition of the role of a creator is an important element of our morality and of our society.

And I think that long-term you'll see that this country remains a great nation, as we have a religious foundation.

So, what was his answer?

It's a bit like saying, "Water can be drinkable even if it has a few poisons in it. When I say that we need drinkable water, and drinkable water requires H20, I am not saying that every single molecule in the water has to be an H20 molecule. We can have a little bit of lead, arsenic, and other contaminants. However, for the most part, we have to recognize that these are contaminants, and that we cannot tolerate their existence beyond some basic trace amounts."

This is true of water.

To say that it is true of atheists in the community is still hate-mongering bigotry. It still says that Romney is running as the President who views atheists as poisons and contaminants that can be tolerated, but only in trace amounts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Exploiting Violence for Political Gain

Vjack brings forth an excellent example of Christian morality, in the form of exploiting acts of violence in order to market hate.

It is hard not to draw a line between the hostility that is being fomented in our culture from some in the secular media toward Christians and evangelicals in particular and the acts of violence that took place in Colorado yesterday.

Tony Perkins is advising my (our) neighbors and co-workers that they need to hate and fear me (us) because I am (we are) bringing about the death of innocent Christians through our writings. The requirement, then, is that we shut up and quit writing in the name of realizing a more peaceful society.

Obviously Perkins suffers from a case of moral underdevelopment.

Here's what a moral person would do. He would ask himself, "What would I say if the situation were reversed?" He would ask, "What would I say if somebody who believed in God were to commit some unspeakable violent act, and then some atheist came along and said that all of theism is to blame?"

When he had the answer to this question, then he would know how to react to his own plan of blaming all atheism for the crimes of one individual. He would condemn anybody who would commit such an unjust overgeneralization.

That's what I do. I protest, in unminced words if some atheists were to argue that all of theism is responsible for some theist's terrorist acts.

However, as I said, Perkins is obviously morally underdeveloped - incapable of determining the right thing to do in these types of situations because, wherever he gets his morality, it is a poor and uninstructive source.

Well . . . it is a common characteristic among hate-mongers and bigots that they tend to be found more often on the morally challenged side of the human spectrum.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Atheist Strategy and Tactics

The writers at The Economist, in an article called, Believe It Or Not, wish to give American atheists some strategic advice.

But another failing of the irreligious movement has been its tendency, frequently, to pick the wrong fights. Keeping the Ten Commandments out of an Alabama courthouse is one thing. But attacking a Christmas nativity scene on public property does more harm than good. Such secular crusades allow Christians—after all, the overwhelming majority of the country—to feel under attack, and even to declare that they are on the defensive in a “War on Christmas”. When a liberal federal court in California struck the words “under God” from the pledge of allegiance, religious conservatives rallied. Atheists might be tactically wise to accept the overwhelming majority’s comfort with such “ceremonial deism”.

In some of these cases I agree. However, I believe that the most powerful Christian victories to date have been to put "under God" in the pledge and "In God We Trust" on the money and adopt it as the nation's motto.

These victories, more than anything, contribute to an attitude in which "atheism" is associated with being anti-American, unpatriotic, and an enemy to liberty and justice. It promotes a psychological duality - a belief among Americans that the world is divided into an "us" group that is under God and trusts in God, and a "them" group that does not share these qualities.

Furthermore, this is what makes atheists passive and submissive, accepting the authority of the dominant Christians and, though they may grumble and complain about Christian leadership, are unwilling to do anything to effect change. Having been put in their place through 12 years of public education and "ceremonial deism" telling them of their inferior nature, atheists have learned their place and have learned to quietly occupy it with only the slightest protest.

The first thing - the most important thing - that atheists need to do is to put a stop to the rituals that cause atheists to become so passive and submissive.

The reason that Christians protest moves to remove Under God from the pledge and "In God We Trust" as the motto is precisely because of the benefits that this gives them in creating a group of passive, submissive, subordinate atheists. They like the status quo. And, of course, a group of passive, submissive, subordinate atheists are not likely to make any serious move to change it.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Romeny's Speech on Religion

Today, Mitt Romney is going to give a speech dealing with his Mormon beliefs and the role of religion in government.

I wish to make a prediction - that the crux of Romney's argument will be, "C'mon theists. It's foolish for us to be fighting each other. We need to band together to fight the evil atheists and secularists."

This is the same Mitt Romney who said:

I'm convinced that the nation . . . needs a person of faith to lead the country.

He also said on MSNBC:

“I think I’ve found that people across this country want a person of faith to lead the country, and they don’t particularly care as much about the brand of faith as they do the values the person has. And my values are as American as you can imagine,” he said.

In matters of discrimination, this is no different than saying that the nation needs a man, or a white man in the White House, or tacitly endorsing a standard like, "people across this country want a Arian in the White House and I am an Arian."

In a post I wrote at that time, Mitt Romney: No Atheists in Government I mentioned several ways in which I would like to see people challenge Romney on this statement.

I am curious to see what he will say about atheists being qualified to hold public office in this speech today.

I am just as curious as to what the public reaction will be.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Beyond Belief II: Enlightenment 2.0

Last year, I wrote a series on the presentations at Beyond Belief 2006 - a 2.5 day symposium of mostly atheist writers and thinkers on the relationship between religion and science.

It was a 4.5 month project consisting of 2 posts every weekend, summarized in a post that I called Beyond Belief 2006: Summary.

The video for this year's conference, subtitled, Enlightenment 2.0 have now been posted.

I will, once again, be going through the presentation and writing an essay on each of the presentations, as well as any discussion topics that came up that I find a reason to comment on.

The Release of the Teddy Bear Teacher

The cynic in me is reluctant to be too pleased with the decision on the part of the Somalian government to "pardon" the teacher convicted of insulting Islam by allowing her students to name a teddy bear Mohammed. I do not know what went on behind the scenes. Was this, perhaps, an international 'kidnapping' - the Somalian government abducts a British citizen, and Brittian pays a 'ransom' in the form of some closed-door political deal in order to get her back?

The moral case has not changed. Those who called for the execution, those who argued for and defended the proposition that this teacher should have been punished, are deserving of condemnation and contempt. Those who are merely 'disappointed' in their claims or thought that punishment was an 'overreation' are giving credibility to some increadible moral absurdities.

The article contains this quote:

Her release came after two British Muslim lawmakers, Sayeeda Warsi and Nazir Ahmed -- both members of the House of Lords -- persuaded the Sudanese government that letting Gibbons go free would create international goodwill toward their country.

Create goodwill?

So, perhaps if Sudan were to arrest a few hundred more foreigners, sentence them, and then release them, they would be named humanitarians of the year.

At best, among morally responsible people, the act 'lessens the amount of international illwill that the country deserves', but it should, at least, create no goodwill.

Pardoning the teacher is a more moral option than a stricter sentence or even 'more of the same'. However, it does not change the fact that she should never have been arrested, and the charges under which she was arrested should not exist. The laws are still on the books, they are still a threat to anybody who should dare 'insult Islam', and for this alone Sudan is still worthy of condemnation, not 'international goodwill'.