Category: Atheism

Friday Quote – Hippocrates

Men think epilepsy divine, merely because they don’t understand it. We will one day understand what causes it, and then cease to call it divine. And so it is with everything in the universe.

Hippocrates, father of western medicine

Presently, we understand that epilepsy is a not a single disease but a group of related neurological disorders. Why? Because medical researchers used the tools of science. They didn’t just relegate the disease to the unknowable workings of the dieties they worshipped at the time.
As science pushes further to explain our reality, the provinces of deific power shrink.

Does this mean religion and science are incompatible? I know that there are plenty of good scientists that are also religious and have no problem reconciling their beliefs with what they know of the physical world. For myself, science has shown that, at the very least, there is no good, solid evidence for the presence of a deity or dieties that control this universe. Can I say there is no god? No, but the evidence says it is at the least unlikely.

Aren’t They Supposed to be Civilized?

A 24-year-old Norwegian woman went to Dubai earlier this year. In March, she went out with some friends and was raped. When she reported the assault, she was arrested for extra-marital sex, drinking alcohol, and perjury.

Now, she’s been convicted and sentenced to 16 months in jail. The only bright spot in this, is that it looks like Dubai police are dragging their feet in actually bringing her into custody as she appeals.

Here’s the part that just pissed me off to no end:

According to the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, UAE law states a rape conviction can only be secured after a confession or as the result of testimony from four adult male witnesses to the crime.

(emphasis mine)

Really, so physical evidence doesn’t count? How about female witnesses? Exactly where is the justice in this?

Before anyone dismisses this as one of those “backward Muslim things,” please remember that it wasn’t that long ago that victims of rape were shamed because of Christian attitudes to sex. Please tell me how either helped the victims receive justice?

Update: She’s been pardoned and free to return to her home.

Quote of the Day – My Nephew

Cthulhu wouldn’t take your sins away. He’d just give you more.

We had one of The Talks with my nephew. Specifically, the one about the fact that his uncles don’t believe in God.

This happened because I was wearing my Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster shirt, and my nephew asked what it meant by “He Boiled For Your Sins.” His mother and I explained parody and I wore the shirt because I didn’t believe in God.

“Then how can you and mama be friends?” That turned into an explanation that people with different beliefs can still be friends. Moreover, it was good to experience different cultures and belief systems in order to find the one that matches what he thought was important. It was during this part when my nephew said the above quote.

More Talks on this subject will have to occur, but at least he is aware that not everyone believes in the same God, or even God at all.

Still, it’s kind of how even in a serious conversation with this eight-year-old, Cthulhu comes up. Granted, part of that is because of FSM. Still….

London Beheading Initial Thoughts

Two thugs attack a British soldier with knives and then behead him. In broad daylight. In London. Then demand to be recorded with the body.
Some thoughts:

1. Young men following the dictates of a fantasy by an illiterate sixth-century desert madman have again committed an atrocity. Please tell me again how believing on a magical sky-daddy has helped.

2. This is not a murder, according to Home Office Guidelines. At least not until the two have been convicted and exhausted all appeals. After all, we wouldn’t want to slander them with the title “murderers” until we’re absolutely sure.

3. The police didn’t arrive for twenty minutes. The bystanders were unable to do little more than talk, which one did. Not only are British subjects disarmed, but they have been conditioned not to get involved or they might be subject to criminal charges. “Not only do I not have a weapon, but I could be locked up for a couple years for putting myself in harm’s way. Nope. Best wait for the bobbies.”

4. No guns involved. Please tell me again how not having a gun would make me safer.

I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts as this story unfolds.

This is why I watch Red Eye

Or at least, the podcast, since, y’know, I don’t have cable tv.

I enjoyed the parent who was upset during all of this that the Christian perspective wasn’t taught in the class. I would kind of thinking living in Texas handles that.

Andy Levy, during the Redeye Halftime segment on 2/27/13, talking about a school that had girls trying on burkhas.

This just made me giggle.

I’m Speaking English, Why Aren’t You Understanding Me?

Every so often, I have the realization that my normal vernacular isn’t always shared by the majority of the populace. Sometimes, it’s because of the subcultures that I run in (What do you mean you’ve never heard of Cthulhu?). Sometimes, it’s technical jargon that I’ve learned to take for granted (Why are you going to all those websites when you could use an RSS Reader? What do you mean, what’s RSS?). And sometimes, it’s because of my circle of friends proclivity to use, as one of them so eloquently puts it, “five-dollar words.” The real humor comes when I am completely unaware that the word I am using is not in common usage. It gets worse when I can’t comprehend how a person doesn’t understand the word I’m using, mostly because I have no poker face.

An example of this was when I was working as a manager at Mickey D’s. One of the other managers and I had, to put it politely, a personality clash. To be blunt, I thought she was an idiot. Then this occurred, which really kind of soured the relationship.

Her: Derek, you tied your tie too short.

Me (with my normal sarcasm): Please don’t preach to me about your archaic fashion ideas.

Her (very annoyed): Why do you always use those big words?

Me (confused): Which word?

Her: Archaic.

Me: You couldn’t figure it out from the context?

Her: You don’t have to be so condescending to me. I have a degree in education.

Me: And you’ve never even heard of the term “archaic”?

Her: Where would I have come across that word?

Me (in an overly smug tone): Thank you for demonstrating why we in the business school have stereotypes about those of you in the education school.

For the record, I made that last comment just to piss her off. It was one of my few joys during that period of that job. Granted, she’s not a representative sample of the population. This was the same woman who got a degree in elementary education before realizing she didn’t like working with elementary-age children, and then went to work at Mickey D’s because it was the only job she felt she could get.

Why do I bring up this particular anecdote (other than it amuses the hell out of me)? Because I, as a writer and occasional presenter, have to remember that my audience isn’t exactly like me. I like using terms that are as precise as possible, but aren’t in common usage. This is a particularly difficult issue when talking to another person about skeptical, atheist, or even gun rights issues. A good example of this is XKCD’s Up Goer 5 comic. This is explaining the Saturn 5 program using the 1,000 most common words in the English language. It’s a little bit of taking the issue to the extreme, but it does remind me to try and moderate my speech to my audience. It doesn’t mean I can’t occasionally throw in a technical or subculture term (or even a “five-dollar word”). It just means I have to make sure that if I do, the meaning can be extrapolated from the context. Or at least provide some hyperlinks so the reader can easily look it up.

New Year, New Traditions

For this holiday season, we decided to start a new tradition. My brother and I are atheists, but my niece and nephew and their parents aren’t. At this point in their lives, it would be hard to explain fully to the kids why my brother and I don’t celebrate Christmas. So, the compromise was the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Holiday, which we celebrate on New Year’s Day. This also simplifies logistics and allows for the introduction of pirates.

All in all, it went pretty well, although there was a distinct lack of pirating. To make up for this, my niece and nephew went about creating omens of a possible “evil overlord” future for the two of them. My brother was resting on the couch. The children came in and tried to lift him off the couch. When informed that such a feat was impossible for them without the use of machinery, they then tried to roll my brother off the couch and onto the floor.

Brother: Why would you do such a thing?

Nephew (with niece giggling in agreement: So we can listen to your pain.

Friday Quote – Christopher Hitchens

I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves.

Christopher Hitchens, writer, commenter, and renown atheist and skeptic

I am surrounded in my daily life by some very devout Christians. If they want to believe in an all-powerful deity and beg for his intercession in their lives, so be it. I think they’re wrong and foolish and missing out on the true grandeur of the natural world, but they are competent adults. Generally, my relationship with them is more important than my activism. That is, until one starts to preach to me. If they are not dissuaded by my stating that I’m an atheist and don’t want to broach the topic, well then the battle is joined. I will feel no compunction about attempting to shatter their illusions.

I’m less restrained with people who I don’t need to keep a strong relationship. These would include street proselytizers, salespeople pushing junk, and loud-mouthed fellow customers in line. (This may have happened on occasion.)

H/t to the Brother for finding the quote for me