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Unbeliever's Land
...The continuing chronicles...
The article:

Study: Trust in science among educated conservatives plunges

The quote:

The growing distrust of science is entirely focused in two groups — conservatives and people who frequently attend church," says the study's author, University of North Carolina postdoctoral fellow Gordon Gauchat.

My thoughts:

There it is: The culture war laid bare.  The fault line that splits our nation.

Liberals and the less religious, vs conservatives and the more religious.

Science vs Faith.

Rational thinking vs "magic thinking".

Facts vs make-believe.

Frankly, this country could use a lot more science and a lot fewer "conservatives and people who frequently attend church"...

[See also: The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science -- and Reality]

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Current Emotional State: cranky cranky

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Andrew Breitbart dead.

You know, I *THOUGHT* the world looked a little brighter this morning...

Current Emotional State: cheerful cheerful

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Remember the old adage, "Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins"?

Well this is really, really simple.

Your right to free exercise of religion ends where MY rights begin.

Believe what you like.  But nobody's forcing you to run (or work in) a restaurant.  If you do, and your religion tells you not to serve black people, then tough.  THEY have rights, too.

Believe what you like.  But nobody's forcing you to run (or work in) a pharmacy.  If you do, and your religion tells you not to provide "morning after pills" to customers with prescriptions, then tough.  THEY have rights, too.

Believe what you like.  If YOU want to pray in school or court, go for it!  QUIETLY.  But don't demand that everyone stop, and join in or be ostracized.  Other people have the right to go about THEIR business, too.

Believe what you like.  But if you run a business above a certain size, you have to offer health insurance.  And health insurance is now required to cover contraception.  You don't have to use it yourself.  But you don't get to impose your beliefs on your employees.  So long as they're not using contraception while on the job (and if they are, you have bigger problems), then what they pay and what they use in their own time is THEIR business.

See how this works?  You have free exercise, but not establishment.  You have rights, but so does everyone else.



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Happy new year.

Not personally feeling all that optimistic these days -- but at least I can say I'm pretty sure Obama will beat Romney in November, and that anyone ELSE the Repubs manage to nominate would be even EASIER to beat.  So there's that.

OK.  I installed a new crossword app on my Droid -- the app is free, no ads, and it downloads free crosswords from multiple sources online daily.  Considering I've never been much for crosswords, it's actually pretty fun.

So I was working on one recently, and the clue was "You may make it walk the dog", and the answer was four letters, of which I'd already filled in two: _O_O

Now of course it's OBVIOUS to YOU guys, but I swear I stared blankly at it FOR-bloody-EVER, thinking "but ROBOT has *FIVE* letters!".

And the punch line?  Right next to this word in the puzzle was a five letter word.  Clue: "Bomb-defusing worker".  ...and I didn't get that one for for at least as long.  (All I could think was, yeesh, sucks to have YOUR job...)


[You see, in *MY* universe, "walk the dog" is something you do with a DOG, and robots live in Asimov stories where violence is almost unheard of...]

Anyway, happy new year...

Current Emotional State: sad sad

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LifeWay Christian Resources is taking "Breast Cancer Awareness Bibles" off their shelves -- because some of the proceeds will go toward saving women's lives.

Southern Baptist, "pro-life" values at work...

Also: prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens finally succumbed to his cancer last night.

Christopher Hitchens

Religion justifies the unjustifiable.  It enables good people to do evil, because it defines "good" so abstractly.  If God wants it, it must be good -- and conveniently, "God" always sounds a lot like you do.

Religion is "a way" -- a way of coping with unpleasantness like death and injustice, by denying them altogether.

Death isn't real; you just go to heaven.  Injustice may happen HERE, but God will all sort it out later.

Hitch didn't need the lies.  He didn't LIKE the idea of dying, but he understood that the universe didn't ask his permission to work as it does.  Reality isn't up for a vote, and even in death, he was strong enough to face the truth.

Goodbye, Hitch.  You were frequently rude and unpleasant, and I didn't always agree with your politics -- but you believed in facing facts, and that trait is far too rare in today's world.

We'll miss you...

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Current Emotional State: annoyed annoyed

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This isn't the problem:
At least six people have died in Britain after being told that they had been healed of HIV, and could stop taking their medication.

There is evidence that evangelical churches in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow are claiming to cure HIV through God.

We sent three undercover reporters into the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) , which is based in Southwark, south London. 

All of them told the pastors that they were HIV positive. All were told that they could be healed.


The healing process involves the pastor shouting, over the person being healed, for the devil to come out of their body, and spraying water in their face.

One of the pastors, Rachel Holmes, told our reporter, Shatila, who is a genuine HIV sufferer, they had a 100% success rate.

"We have many people that contract HIV. All are healed."

She said if symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea persist, it is actually a sign of the virus leaving the body.

"We've had people come back before saying 'Oh I'm not healed. The diarrhoea I had when I had HIV, I've got it again.' I have to stop them and say 'no, please, you are free.'"

SCOAN told our reporters they would be able to discard their medication after their healing and that they would be free to start a family.
The problem is not "sometimes people do evil in the name of religion".

Of course they do.  People do evil in the name of all sorts of things.

The problem is that religion is UNIQUELY SUITED to this kind of evil.  No, worse than that.  Religion actively LEADS TO this kind of evil.

Magic thinking begets magic thinking.  The very act of encouraging belief in magical beings, leads directly to SCOAN.

Name another mechanism by which this could occur.  Name something that ISN'T religion, that would convince a person with HIV that he was cured, could dump his medicine and "start a family".

Name a definition of EVIL that doesn't include this church.

Now remind me of the good religion does again.

Counseling people?  You don't need God for that.  There are lots of secular counselors, highly trained in grief management.

Community organizing & charity?  You don't need God for that, either.

What does religion have over non-religion?  Gods.  (Religion - gods = Philosophy.)

What's the point of "gods"?  Miracles.  (What do we call a god who can't do miracles?  I dunno, but there's plenty of 'em in every mental institution in the country...)

Miracles.  Everybody's looking for them.  Everybody needs them.  Reality says one thing, but religion says something else.

Reality says "sugar rots your teeth"; religion promises Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Folks with HIV need hope, right?  Well, SCOAN's giving it to them.  Boy, howdy.  Lots and lots of hope.

Just like religion always does.  Lots and lots of hope.  Sure, there's a God.  There's a heaven.

"Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus".

And it's so goddamned easy.  Promise the moon.  Wave your problems away.

And as long as we're talking abstract, theoretical stuff -- heaven, hell, "god loves you" and other meaningless feel-good junk -- no harm, no foul, right?

But sometimes religion gets a little too full of itself, and starts trying to apply itself to REALITY.  You know, evolution, astronomy, *AIDS*.

That's when people start dying...

Current Emotional State: pissed off pissed off

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All right, I think I need reminding why I'm supposed to be respectful of Christians and Christianity, again...


Gas station owner = random asshole. I get that.

But those customers?

THOSE are the everyday Christians amaebi keeps defending!  Perfectly innocent, sweet, everyday people, who happen to be just fine telling atheists This Aint Their Country, So Git.  [Hey, blonde bitch at the 0:47 mark.  Yeah.  Fuck you.]

You want respect for these people?

We're coming up on Thanksgiving.  Lots of good Christians going to church this week and next.  Amaebi, why don't you take a show of hands at your next congregation?  Ask them if they think this is One Nation Under God.  And ask them where they think this leaves atheists.

Show me that Christian love and compassion you guys like to pretend you've cornered the market on...

Current Emotional State: pissed off pissed off

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So here we are.  October 21.  The real, no-kidding-this-time, end of the world, according to Harold Camping.

Two and a half weeks after the world failed to end on May 21, Camping had a stroke, and his radio program has been off the air ever since.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.  [If I were religious, I'd think maybe God was trying to say something through Camping AFTER all...]

Even without his show, though, I notice we aren't hearing so much about the Rapture this time around.

Where are the billboards?  Where is the media coverage?

Stroke or no, Camping's still rich off the donations of his True Believers.  Why didn't he throw around tons of money to prepare us for the End of the World THIS time?  Doesn't he love us anymore?

[Greta Christina thinks maybe he's a little embarrassed after last time.  Ya think?]

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for a phone call sometime today, upon which time Angela and I will be heading down to the Title company to sign the papers to refinance our first and second mortgages into one, much lower interest mortgage, saving us $500/month and simultaneously shortening the time remaining on both.  We are very excited.

Though you'd think someone at Chase would have cancelled the whole thing by now.  Why bother?  End of the World, don'tcha know...

Current Emotional State: amused amused

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This is a bad dog:


This is a cob, after a human has eaten all the corn:

Corn cob

One of these things should not be found virtually inhaled in the stomach of the other of these things.

When this stricture is not followed, Bad Things Happen, involving vets, surgery, and four digits worth of bills.

Bad dog.  Bad, bad dog.  :(

Current Emotional State: annoyed annoyed

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Updated the quote on my LJ page for the first time since creating it 5 1/2 years ago.

Original quote:

Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day.  Give a man religion, and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish.

New quote:

I've never seen faith move mountains, but I've seen what it can do to skyscrapers.

It was time for a change... :)

P.S. to Amaebi: Slowly working on a response...

Current Emotional State: amused amused

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Greta Christina articulates my issues with Progressive Christianity, far more politely than I ever could, HERE:


Current Emotional State: cheerful cheerful

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Registering Poor To Vote 'Like Handing Out Burglary Tools To Criminals'

Seriously.  I mean, how can we corporate CEO's use our lobbyists to perpetuate our founding father's ideal of government of, by, and for the rich, when YOU guys keep empowering POOR people to vote and rob us of our bought-and-paid-for politicians?!?!?

Will no one think of the oil companies???  For god's sake, WHO WILL THINK OF THE OIL COMPANIES?!?!?

Current Emotional State: annoyed annoyed

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Marya Hornbacher, author and atheist, on her experiences with Alcoholics Anonymous (as recounted in the Friendly Atheist blog):
People told me their stories — of God, the divine, the power of love, an intelligent creator. Something that made all this. Some origin, some end.

I told them I believed in math. Chaos, I said. Infinity. That sort of thing.

They looked at me in despair.

And not infrequently, they said, “So you think you’re the biggest, most important thing in the universe?”

On the contrary. I think I am among the smallest. Cosmically speaking, I barely exist.
I find this an interesting point.  Christians often accuse atheists of thinking that we are self-important, or thinking we know all the answers — when really it is precisely the opposite.

Christians are the ones who think they are special.  The creator of the entire universe knows them personally!  ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you".) 

They think that if they just pray hard enough, this Creator of the entire universe might just tweak a few bits to give them their desired outcome.  A superbowl victory, perhaps.

As an atheist, I know that I am one out of a trillion lifeforms, on one out of trillion planets, in one out of a trillion galaxies. The universe doesn't care about me, and certainly doesn't arrange itself for my own personal convenience.  If I desire an outcome, it is up to me and my fellow human beings to bring it about.

I certainly don't think that I have all the answers.  There's no ancient magic book, that tells atheists everything that's important, so that we can feel justified in ignoring anything that contradicts us.  It's the Christians who have one of those.

We just have science.  Fellow humans, using reason to puzzle out what's what. The book can't change.  It's either right or wrong, and it's pretty embarrassing when God gets one wrong.

Humans, on the other hand, make mistakes.  And when science gets one wrong, then eventually science will figure it out, and make it right.

Science adapts to reality.  Religion can't.  (See Pope, Copernicus, Heliocentrism.)

Atheists don't have all the answers — but we're pretty sure we're at least using the best tool to get there...

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Current Emotional State: contemplative contemplative

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News update:

Add choking Democratic Supreme Court Justices to the list of IOKIYAR.

See HERE for details.


Current Emotional State: cynical cynical

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Last week was a busy week.  Lemme tell you about it...

It all started weekend-before-last, when Angela's niece spent two six-hour-days with us, helping us tear through our nightmare disaster area of a dirty, cluttered house and turning it back into something livable.

Thank you, Amber!

Of course, we neglected to take into account that this would pretty much break Angela, right when she was supposed to have tickets ready for the next Albany Civic Theater show that Monday.

It took her 2-3 days to recover and start working on the tickets (i.e. sorting, organizing, printing and cutting replacements for the rows that got changed after the tickets were ordered, splitting into packets to deliver to our outlets, etc).

And she was just about finished on Wednesday... when we suddenly noticed that *ALL* of the tickets were wrong -- the dates had changed, and as often happens, nobody had notified Angela (aka Box Office Queen).

So *ALL* of the tickets for the entire run of the show had to be reprinted, cut, sorted, split into packets, and delivered -- and we were ALREADY very late!

So I stayed home Thursday, spent all day (and night) frantically helping Angela fix everything, and got the tickets delivered Friday morning.  Just in time for us to pack our bags and race to Portland, for our planned 3-day-weekend, centered around a performance of Les Miserables.


Upon arriving in Portland (late Friday evening), we checked in at the Heathman Hotel and had dinner at the hotel restaurant.  The meal was lovely, the hotel staff extra-friendly, and the room... well, is there a word for "ritzy but tiny"?  Really, I've stayed in motels with bigger rooms.  But apart from SPACE, everything was quite nice.

(The total-afterthought lift, that gets Angelas in wheelchairs up the otherwise-mandatory five steps into the lobby, was quite... amusing.)

The show the next day was awesome as ever, though Much Has Changed...

Our biggest problem was the very first scene.  It has been completely replaced -- instead of Jean Valjean and the prisoners in a prison yard, breaking rocks and digging holes, now they're galley slaves, rowing a huge boat?  "Look down, look down, you're standing in your grave" just doesn't pack the same punch while they're ROWING.

I really don't know what they were thinking, but changing such an iconic opening scene so severely was NOT a smart move...

We also missed the full-stage-turntable and incredible transforming city/barricade set pieces.  Don't get me wrong, the new set pieces are incredible -- it's stunning how much they can move on and off the stage, and so quickly -- and the projected still/moving pictures on the backdrop was quite impressive.

But not being able to rotate and see both sides of the barricade was a big limitation.  It definitely lessened the power of some scenes...

All told, though, Angela and I thoroughly enjoyed the show.  As always.  :)

Then we thought we'd try the "famous" Morton's Steakhouse across the street from the theater.  (They're very proud of the fact that politicians and movie stars "always" stop there when in town.)

We did, in fact, *TRY* Morton's.  But the lack of prior reservations, combined with their less-amusing-than-Heathman lift that utterly would NOT accomodate Angela's wheelchair, meant that our attempt was short-lived.

Heading back to the Heathman, we spotted Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, and tried that more successfully.  It was, in fact, STUNNING.  The best steak either of us had ever eaten.  Even if it WAS more expensive than any meal I've ever paid for (with the possible exception of the restaurant at the top of the Seattle Space Needle).

After checking out of the hotel on Sunday, we "tried" the Portland Zoo in the same sense that we "tried" Morton's.  We actually found a parking spot after fifteen minutes, but after seeing the crowds and feeling the heat (and talking to a couple of people LEAVING the zoo), we decided that Some Other Time would be best.

On the way out of Portland, with the help of Angela on her Droid AND the car's built-in GPS, and after a great deal of confusion and driving in circles, we finally managed to locate the Old Spaghetti Factory.

This is not a restaurant for people who get lost easily.  As a matter of fact, I think this is the Least Conveniently Located Restaurant anywhere in Portland.

But the restaurant was beautiful, with a gorgeous view of the river, the food was yummy, and the two of us could have had four full meals there for what we paid at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.  (What is the deal with that name, anyway?  Are there so many "Chris Steakhouse" chains, that this one had to distinguish further?)

So after a long weekend, a great show, and THREE elegant meals, we finally returned home to a clean house.

And we were less miserable.  :)

So that was our week.  How was yours?

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Current Emotional State: mellow mellow

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Rick, if you're out there and bored, I have an idea for a political comic that my exhaustive 1-minute google image search suggests hasn't been done:

Primary frame: John Boehner, with a gun pointed to his own head, "Blazing Saddles"-style, screaming "Give me what I want or the nigger gets it!", while sheriff Obama just stares, puzzled, with little "American people" around his feet.

The smaller, followup secondary frame is, of course, Obama caving in, pushing the American people at Boehner, begging him to take anything they have...

On second thought, maybe it isn't that funny.


Current Emotional State: depressed depressed

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In brightest day, in blackest night,
One movie should escape your sight.
Let those who see a show tonight,
Beware the power: Green Lantern's blight!

Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.

Current Emotional State: nerdy nerdy

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Gee, I wish I could be surprised by this...

False May 21, 2011 Doomsday prophet Harold Camping
"deserts" devastated followers, church offers solace

May 21, 2011 11:00 PM EDT

Doomsday prophet Harold Camping, who predicted that the End of the World would come on May 21, 2011, has gone missing ever since it became increasingly clear that his predictions is going to fail, even as local churches willingly stepped in to provide counseling and help to Camping's devastated followers.

Camping, the head of the Family Radio, had predicted that the selected number of people on earth, approximately 200 million, would Rapture to heaven on May 21, 2011 while those left behind would witness the destruction of the earth which would come about on October 21, 2011.

He has based his predictions on Bible verses, namely Genesis 7:4 ("Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth") and 2 Peter 3:8 (“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”), and concluded that May 21, 2011 is 7000 years after the Great Flood (4990 B.C.), concluding that it indeed is the Doomsday.

4990 + 2011 – 1 = 7000 (the subtraction of "1" is necessary because year 1 B.C. is followed by 1 A.D., skipping year 0).

Because Camping was certain "without any shadow of a doubt it (Doomsday) is going to happen," many of his followers sold their possessions and quit their jobs.

Adrienne Martinez, a follower of Camping, and her husband have reportedly quit their jobs and spent the last penny in their bank account towards a rented house in Orlando. "We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won’t have anything left," said Adrienne.

Now that Camping's prediction is proven to be a complete failure, attention has been shifted to his devastated followers. Previously when Doomsday prophecies have failed, some misled followers have turned violent, even leading up to murders and committing suicides.

In order to prevent this, church groups are actively providing counseling and advice for the damaged souls. [...]

You know what would have been awesome?  If these fucking churches hadn't PROMOTED THIS SHIT and COST THEIR FOLLOWERS THEIR ENTIRE LIFE SAVINGS, and in SOME CASES, THEIR LIVES, IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!

And now they've done it again.  I guess we'll just have to wait and see how many lives have been ruined THIS time...

There is only one acceptable suicide in this situation.  And I don't expect Camping to have the decency to figure it out...

Current Emotional State: infuriated infuriated

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Here is the difference between science and religion.

The end of the world is nigh; May 21, to be precise. That’s the date when Harold Camping, a preacher from Oakland, California, is confidently predicting the Second Coming of the Lord. At about 6pm, he reckons 2 per cent of the world’s population will be immediately “raptured” to Heaven; the rest of us will get sent straight to the Other Place.
He says the world will end on May 21, because that will be 722,500 days from April 1, AD33, which he believes was the day of the Crucifixion. The figure of 722,500 is important because you get it by multiplying three holy numbers (5, 10 and 17) together twice. “When I found this out, I tell you, it blew my mind,” he said.

When a scientist talks about "the end of the world", he's referring to the damage humankind is doing to the planet's ecosystem.  Pumping greenhouse gasses into the air, melting the icecaps, raising the sea levels, that sort of thing.  He can point to hurricane seasons growing longer and more destructive.  He can point to global temperature readings.  He uses actual knowable things to make predictions, words them cautiously, and then nods sadly as the predictions slowly come true.

When a christian talks about "the end of the world", he means he selectively drew random shit from a 2000-year-old book, played around with a calculator until he came up with something soon enough in the future to be marketable, proclaimed it as absolutely certain, then hyped the hell out of it so as to increase his personal fame (and with it, wealth).  When the prediction fails (as it must; as all religious predictions do), he's not even slightly embarrassed.  He just shrugs, says "oopsie", and goes back to counting his money.

Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.

So fuck it.

Corvallis Secular Society will have an End of World party tomorrow (which happens to be our regular monthly meeting day).

We'll be sorely disappointed if we're not FINALLY rid of the Christians by 6pm, as promised.

But somehow, we won't be surprised...

Current Emotional State: amused amused

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OK, seriously.

What sick and twisted mind decided to release Portal 2 on a TUESDAY?


Current Emotional State: sleepy sleepy

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