Monday, March 31, 2008

Murder vs. faith-healing (or doing nothing)

The FFRF has a new press release with their perspective of the death of Madeline Kara Neumann from diabetic ketoacidosis while her parents did nothing while praying for her. I fully agree with their strongly-worded press release, and the authors seem to be putting up with the same sort of fractal wrongness that I talked about last week. These parents, their supporters, and frankly the Wisconsin Legislature, are wrong at such a fundamental level that they can't even understand why brights are so saddened and enraged by this.

What's even more appalling is the ambivalent reaction: "Ethicists say case unclear," reports the Wausau Daily Herald. The Herald quoted bioethicist Dr. Norman Fost of the University of Wisconsin Medical school warning that it's important not to be moralistic or pass judgment on parents who think they can heal a child through prayer: "They believe they're helping their child; they love their child, and they believe prayer has an effect."

However deluded the parents may be, the rest of us need not countenance or indulge that dangerous delusion.

Dean Zuleger, the administrator of the Village of Weston, was quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saying, "There is a general sense of grief and sadness. Because I know the family a bit, there is a great deal of concern for their well-being." The parents' well-being?

"Death draws out difficult issues" read a headline in the Journal Sentinel. While Madeline's drawn-out death, involving nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, weight loss and weakness, is very difficult to read about, there is nothing difficult at all about deciding where the blame lies. "The prayer of faith will heal the sick," according to James 5:15. The fault lies in society's laudatory attitude toward a "holy book" which teaches superstition and faith-healing, whose passages are latched onto by bible literalists, and whose obedience to such injunctions has been given a pass in the criminal statutes of many states.

Hattip to Friendly Atheist for the update

Friday, March 28, 2008

Fractal Wrongness - ImageChan

Fractal Wrongness - ImageChan

The NOFX Song "You're Wrong" always make me think about the level of ignorance and/or self-deception involved in a religious worldview. The kind of unfathomable wrongness that leaves me at a loss of where to even begin to explain to some people just how wrong they are. Today, I saw this "de-motivator". On the whole, I think they're overdone, but this one was perfect. I think I'll begin using the phrase "fractal wrongness" in casual conversation and see if I can get it to catch on.

Fractal Wrongness

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

'Police: Girl Dies After Parents Pray for Healing Instead of Seeking Medical Help'

tmbar_Will_the_madness_never_end.gif (GIF Image, 773x832 pixels) - Scaled (84%)

Ha! I haven't seen this one before, but it cracked me up this morning!

tmbar_Will_the_madness_never_end.gif (GIF Image, 773x832 pixels) - Scaled (84%)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Certifying Parents -

Certifying Parents -

Apparently Nebraska isn't the only state grappling with what sorts of regulation is needed for homeschooling. The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece last week responding to a California judge's ruling that requires a teaching credential to teach children, even if they are your own and even if they are homeschooled.

This case is different from the Nebraska one in that Nebraska's issue was raised by the legislature, not the judiciary. Not that it makes a difference to the legions of homeschoolers who have been gnashing their teeth over this infringement of their rights. Or at least if you listen to all the hyperbole. For some reason, any attempt to regulate or quantify results of homeschooled kids is met with large-scale opposition.

As I've mentioned before, I don't believe that there's a "bright-line" between who's right and wrong on these issues. Of course parents should have the right to raise their children as they see fit, barring any sort of abuse. I'm just not sure what ought to count as abuse. Is it young-earth creationism? In any case, this issue is a useful one to tease out whatever particular biases your news source has. For example, the Wall Street Journal opines:

That so many families turn to home schooling is a market solution to a market failure -- namely the dismal performance of the local education monopoly. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the majority of states have low to moderate levels of regulation for home schools, an environment that has allowed the option to flourish, especially in the South and Western U.S. Between 1999 and 2003, the rate of home-schooling increased by 29%.

For some parents, the motive for home schooling is religious; others want to protect their kids from gangs and drugs. But the most-cited reason is to ensure a good education. Home-schooled students are routinely high performers on standardized academic tests, beating their public school peers on average by as much as 30 percentile points, regardless of subject. They perform well on tests like the SAT -- and colleges actively recruit them both for their high scores and the diversity they bring to campus.

In 1994, a federal attempt to require certification of parent-teachers went down in flames as hundreds of thousands of calls lit up phone banks on Capitol Hill. The movement has since only grown larger and better organized, now conservatively estimated at well over a million nationwide. But what they can't accomplish legislatively, unions are now trying to achieve by diktat from the courts.

So, to them, homeschooling is both an issue of free markets and inappropriate judicial activism. The homepage for the "Homeschool Legal Defense Association" showcases this perspective:

So clearly to them, it's both a religious and a constitutional issue. Although in the rhetoric about various homeschooling issues, the HSLDA invariable asserts that homeschooling is a "fundamental" right, apparently their website argues that it is a right that requires constitutional protection. I'm terrified what constitutional changes they are seeking, especially if Dr. Dobson is on board. Here's the text of the proposed constitutional amendment:

The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.

Neither the United States nor any state shall infringe upon this right without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.

No treaty nor any source of international law may be employed to supersede, modify, interpret, or apply to the rights guaranteed by this article.

What do you think? It appears to be ambiguous, over-reaching, and completely unneccessary to me.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Psychological problems and religion: the de-conversion process

See, this is what I've been saying. Religion is a cult. It's just a very popular cult, and your family may be part of the cult, and you may be the only person you know that the cult hasn't brainwashed. Valerie Tarico writes on the Huffington Post:

Most religions implant psychological safeguards against apostasy, little emotional bombs of fear, guilt, shame and self-loathing that get triggered by the mere act of questioning. In religious orthodoxy, doubt is the domain of fools. It is the consequence of having hardened your heart like Pharaoh or resenting God's power like Lucifer. Oh ye of little faith!

I know that fear of their reaction is at least a part of my reluctance to identify myself as an atheist to my family. Accountant by Day had a post recently about this very issue, and it turns out that the initial aftermath wasn't as bad as she expected. Anyway, the only way to find out what the fallout will be is to go forward with it. It's the brave thing to do, but it's one of those things where the timing never really seems right. I'm sure that's my psychological reluctance to do so subtly expressing itself, but it doesn't make it any easier.

Even among my professional peers, psychologists, far too few understand the depth of harm that can be done to the psyche by fundamentalist religion -- religion that subsumes the individual self to a cult self. The irony is that few mental health professionals are sympathetic to the claims of moral dogma. The practicing therapist is exposed daily to life's caprice: biochemical malfunctions, developmental vagaries, and rotten life circumstances. In contrast to a religious perspective, psychology seeks to understand material and historical roots of symptoms rather than making moral judgments. So the problem is not that the professional world view aligns with a dogmatic world view. It is just that, in the absence of dramatic evidence to the contrary, we are all taught to think of religion as harmless.

It's time to give up the illusion.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Biblically Correct Tours of Science Museums

Thanks to Dangerous Intersection for the tip on this ABC News Report about a group that offers tours of Denver area places like the zoo or the museum, but do so from a "biblical perspective". Which, of course, means "wrong and utterly mistaken perspective". As far as I can tell, this does little more than poison the well for these student's future education. This is the problem with homeschooling... at some point I believe it becomes child-abuse. I don't know quite where that point is, as I mentioned here, but it's certainly doing them a disservice. Here's a lesson:

"If you want to map out life through time, the fossil record is really great for doing that," he continued. "There's a really nice record of what happened on this planet from the first real life forms we know of about 3.4 billion years ago until today."

Out on the museum floor, Jack and Carter stopped the group in front of a window display that contains samples of sandstone that have ripples created by water and fossils of ancient life. Bill Jack asked his group, "How do they date the fossil? By the layer in which they find it. They date the layer by the fossil and the fossil by the layer," he said. "That's circular reasoning."

In the next moment he stepped past and turned his back to a display on radiometric dating, the method by which scientists determine the age of rocks through the rate of decay of their natural radioactivity.

When later asked why he skipped the display, Jack said simply, "We can't cover everything."

Inside the museum's expansive bone and fossil storage room, Johnson said, "They have no clue about how accurate it is … Now it's plus or minus a tenth of a percent."

How does +/- .1% equate to "no idea how accurate it is"? I guess they haven't covered statistics in their homeschooling yet. Ha, you've got to love the chief curator's response. "Regardless of what the tour guide is saying, some of those kids are going to start thinking for themselves," says Kirk Johnson, chief curator.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Obama Bargain -

The Obama Bargain

Most of the focus in the atheist blogosphere on the issue of Obama's preacher's "hate speech" has been to point out the hypocrisy involved. After all, other preachers have spewed hate for a long time, but nobody calls on candidates that they support to disavow all of those comments.

This may be true, but to me rather than implying that Obama should get a pass here it begs the question, "Why shouldn't any candidate be held responsible for the beliefs/statements of their respective clergymen or women?" If you are going to hear them speak weekly, for decades, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that you agree with most of what they have to say? Let's have all the candidates answer the questions: If you disagree, where have you spoken out against it? What discussions have you had with your clergyperson to inform them of your disagreement(s) with their position? Do you believe that when they speak from the pulpit, they are inspired by god?

All of this can give us some more insight into the kind of person the candidate is. I like Obama. I was blown away by his speech about race. He's a very talented politician. But here's what I don't like about him: he doesn't say anything. He's the candidate of "hope" and "change". What does that mean, specifically, for policies that his administration will pursue? How, specifically, is he different from Hillary? The proof that he's an amazing politician is that he has made it his far in the process without any specifics whatsoever.

I was a Political Science major in college, which is where I learned about "valence issues". Valence issues are issues in which near universal support is on one side of the issue. For example, look at Barack Obama's website, under "Issues":

  • Civil Rights
  • Education
  • Ethics
  • Family
  • Healthcare
These are valence issues. As a candidate, if you are able to say that you are "FOR FAMILY" or "PRO-CIVIL RIGHTS" and are able to avoid any specific proposals, then it's very hard for your opponent to campaign against you.

But this is a double-edged sword. If you campaign as the candidate of "CHANGE" and "HOPE" then you better be able to live up to your own hype. Which is why it was so disheartening to find out that Obama's not any different from the other candidates. He's human, and like everyone, has got some skeletons that he probably wishes he would have gotten rid of a long time ago. He's not some anointed savior from a new generation sent to lead us from ignorance and hate. He's pretty much the same as the others.

But now that we know this, that puts a new spin on Geraldine Ferraro's comments. Racial issues have been firmly placed as one of the top issues facing the Obama campaign. Every time someone mentions something about race, does not automatically make it "racist". And I think what Ferraro was saying was that it is surprising how far the Obama campaign has come, and in such a short time. I don't think anyone can fairly deny that part of the reason for his meteoric rise is the racial component. Really, if someone can explain an alternative to me, I'm all ears. He has comparable experience, his issue positions are very similar to Hillary's, Illinois is not staggeringly more popular than New York. So what's left? Age, race, and rhetoric.

All of this is not to say that he doesn't deserve to be the nominee, if that's what the delegates or the party decides. I just think the whole presidential campaign system would benefit from a little bit more clear thinking. And not just this year!

Monday, March 17, 2008

An Atheist in the Pulpit

Psychology Today has a very interesting article about the de-conversion process, especially among various clergy members they profile. Although it was more about the clergy and their struggles once they begin to doubt religion, I recognized a lot of myself in their comments as well. You can read the full article here: Psychology Today: An Atheist in the Pulpit

As I wrote about here, I was once a pretty fundamentalist Mormon. Frankly, I'm not sure that there are any other kind of Mormon, which is why it's a wonderful thing Mitt Romney is not in the race any more. My de-conversion process was similar to that of many others: I got a taste of the "outside" world, and the cognitive walls that religion forced me to construct came tumbling down. From the Psychology Today article:

"We tend to ignore how much cognitive effort is required to maintain extreme religious beliefs, which have no supporting evidence whatsoever," says the evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson. He likens the process to a cell trying to maintain its osmotic pressure. "You're trying to pump out the mainstream influences all the time. You're trying to maintain this wall, and keep your beliefs inside, and all these other beliefs outside. That's hard work." In some ways, then, at least for fundamentalists, "growing out of it is the easiest thing in the world."
This is why religion is forced to remain so dogmatic-- once they begin to admit that small pieces of their proposed worldview no longer make sense given what we now know about man's place in the universe, the whole structure comes down. That's certainly the way it was for me, once the leaks sprung in the levees, it was too late to save them. Not that I would have it any other way. I felt the same kind of liberation experienced by Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation as profiled in the article:

The confirmation, as Barker interpreted it, came one night in November, as he lay on a burlap cot in a church in a Mexican border town where he'd come to give a guest sermon. As he peered out at a splash of stars, Barker had a sudden profound sensation that had nothing to do with intellect, the kind of deeply felt moment more commonly associated with finding God than losing Him. He was, Barker understood, utterly alone here.

"For my whole life there had been this giant eyeball looking at me, this god, this holy spirit, this church history, and this Bible. And not only everything I did but everything I thought was being judged: Was God pleased? I realized that that wasn't there anymore. It occurred to me, 'I own these thoughts. Nobody knows what I'm thinking right now. There's no fear of hell, no fear of judgment, I don't have to be right or wrong, I can just be me.'" It felt as if charges had been dropped for a crime for which he had been falsely accused. It was exhilarating and frightening all at once. "When you're ready to jump out of an airplane to skydive, you can be terrified but excited at the same time," he says. "There's a point where you go, all right, let's do this."

Those thoughts almost brought tears to my eyes, so close were they to what I went through: "I own these thoughts. Nobody knows what I'm thinking right now....I don't have to be right or wrong (or good or evil based on outdated mores), I can just be me." After a lifetime of being told that there was this Big Brother entity that had access to all my secret thoughts, dreams, and desires, to realize that I was in control of my life was like a breath of air to someone who had been slowly suffocating.

There was not much room for nihilism in my new world view. I passed briefly through the nihilism stage, to emerge on the other side emboldened and exhilarated. Life now had so much to offer, that was previously closed off to me. Like Richard from De-Conversion had experienced:

I myself found that my own meanings eventually expanded, after I finally left the Christian faith. “Saying yes to life” for me meant, initially, the exploration of life, making up for lost time so to speak, from all those years spent as a neurotic fundamentalist. I wanted to taste life in all its forms and in all its experiences — to “suck the marrow from life”, as Thoreau had put it. I developed friendships with non-Christians, I traveled, I explored new foods, I learned about wine (I had never drunk much as a Christian), I started dating (I had never dated much as a Christian, either), I explored ideas I had never allowed myself to consider (like Nietzsche’s!), I learned about other religions, and more. Just going out dancing was one of the highlights of that time of my life.

In short, the main theme, for me, for these many years of my life, was: the world is good, and beautiful, and that is why life is worth living.

And that's where I find myself now. I love the intellectual freedom that I have, and I love the freedom to just enjoy spiritual experiences without trying to read some other kind of meaning into them. I don't have to worry if god is trying to get my attention with some subtle message or "still small voice".

But my dad does. The thought of coming out as an atheist has been on my mind a lot recently. I didn't feel as though it was the right time a week or so ago as my wife and I had dinner with my dad. He had just returned from a brief trip to Utah to spend some time with his father (my grandfather) before he passed away, then attend his funeral. One of the primary reasons for religion to exist is that it provides some kind of comforting answer for the question "What happens when we die." I think my dad needs that comfort right now, and no matter how much it grates on me to hear his religious gyrations, I held my tongue and just tried to let him get out the feelings.

All of this is part of why I feel sometimes like an atheist evangelist. We are the ones that really have the good news: you are free to live your life without fear of eternal damnation. You can be a good person because you truly are a good person, not out of fear or seeking for an eternal reward. The world is a beautiful place, made more precious because we realize that every day is a gift; we have but one life to live. The same sense of freedom and exhilaration is available to everyone, if only they will open their eyes.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Fundie Blue-hair Representatives from Oklahoma

I first heard about this hateful speech given by Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern at Atheist Revolution. Since then, I've seen it a couple of other places, and decided to do a little more research on her. Thanks to God is for Suckers! for the tip on the video below.

Her Wikipedia entry is brief, but tells me about all I need to know about this psycho bible-thumper. She's married to a pastor, she "also made headlines for authorizing a bill . . . mandating that students who espouse Young Earth creationism still receive passing grades in Earth science classes", she apparently likes giving hate speeches about the dangers "the gays" pose to society, and somehow in spite of all of this, managed to graduate from college (albeit with a Sociology degree).

Here's the transcript (emphasis mine):

The homosexual agenda is destroying this nation, okay? It’s just a fact. Not everybody’s lifestyle is equal, just like not all religions are. You know, the very fact that I’m talking to you like this here today puts me in jeopardy, okay? And I’m not anti- and I’m not gay bashing, but according to God’s Word, that is not the right kind of lifestyle. It has deadly consequences for those people involved in it. They have more suicides, they’re more discouraged, there’s more illness, their lifespans are shorter, you know, it’s not a lifestyle that is good for this nation.

As a matter of fact, studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it’s the death knell for this country. I honestly think it’s the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat.

Because what’s happening now, they’re going after, in schools, two year olds! Do you know what they’re trying to get into early childhood education? They want to give our young children into the government schools so they can indoctrinate them. I taught school for close to twenty years. And we’re not teaching facts and knowledge anymore folks. We’re teaching indoctrination, okay? And their going after our young children, as young as two years of age to try to teach them that the homosexual lifestyle is an acceptable lifestyle.

You know, gays are infiltrating city councils. Did you know, Eureka Springs, anybody been there, the passion play? Okay, have you heard that the city council of Eureka Springs is now controlled by gays? Okay? There are some others, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Takoma, Maryland; Kennsington, Maryland; in Vermont, Oregon, West Palm Beach, Florida; in a lot of other places in Florida. What’s happening? They are winning elections.

One of the things I deal with in our legislature, I tried to introduce a bill last year that would notify parents, schools had to let parents know what clubs their students were involved in. And the reason I did that bill primarily was this: We have the gay-straight alliance coming into our schools. Kids are getting involved in these groups, their lives are being ruined, their parents don’t know about it. So I introduced a bill, you have to notify all clubs and things.

And one of my colleagues said you know, we don’t have a gay problem in my county, that’s why I voted against that bill. Well you know what? To me that is so dumb. If you got cancer or something in your little toe, do you say, you know, I’m just going to forget about it because the rest of me’s fine. It spreads, okay? And this stuff, it’s deadly and it’s spreading and it will destroy our young people, it will destroy this nation.

Yeah, that's a horrible thing to teach our (two-year-olds?) children in school- tolerance and acceptance. It's much better to teach them that gays are like cancer.

Now, in response to all of the attention her remarks gathered, this crazy bitch says that her remarks were taken out of context and "were directed at wealthy, politically active gays who support gay and lesbian candidates for public office in Oklahoma and other states" according to the Norman Transcript."I have never said hate speech against anybody. I would never do that."

“I was talking about an agenda. I was not talking about individuals," said Kern, the wife of a Baptist minister. "They have the right to choose that lifestyle. They do not have the right to force it down our throat."

Sally, it was not out of context- it's a fucking tape recording of your voice, going on and on about how much you hate gays. If that's not hate speech, then I don't know what is. I bet if we replaced "Gay" with "Christian" in her speech, she would think it was hate speech. Let's try it:

  • The Christian agenda is destroying this nation...
  • Studies show that no society that has totally embraced Christianity has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it’s the death knell for this country. I honestly think it’s the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat.
  • Because what’s happening now, they’re going after, in schools, two year olds! Do you know what they’re trying to get into early childhood education? They want to give our young children into the government schools so they can indoctrinate them. I taught school for close to twenty years. And we’re not teaching facts and knowledge anymore folks. We’re teaching indoctrination, okay? And their going after our young children, as young as two years of age to try to teach them that the Christian lifestyle is an acceptable lifestyle.
  • Christians are infiltrating city councils. Did you know, Eureka Springs, anybody been there, the passion play? Okay, have you heard that the city council of Eureka Springs is now controlled by Christians?
  • And one of my colleagues said you know, we don’t have a Christian problem in my county, that’s why I voted against that bill. Well you know what? To me that is so dumb. If you got cancer or something in your little toe, do you say, you know, I’m just going to forget about it because the rest of me’s fine. It spreads, okay? And this stuff, it’s deadly and it’s spreading and it will destroy our young people, it will destroy this nation.
There, that's better.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Nobody home...Anomaly

I highly recommend you subscribe to this comic-- very witty for the irreverent-minded. As you can see. :)

Not Home

Sleight of Jesus


The Nature of Evil

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

American Atheists definition of Atheism

I thought that the following definition of atheism was eloquent and covers all of the bases fairly well. It sure doesn't make us out to be the vile, morally degenerate, scheming, anti-American parasites that you always thought we were, right? :)

American Atheists -- Atheism

“Your petitioners are Atheists and they define their beliefs as follows. An Atheist loves his fellow man instead of god. An Atheist believes that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth for all men together to enjoy.

An Atheist believes that he can get no help through prayer but that he must find in himself the inner conviction, and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and enjoy it.

An Atheist believes that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment.

He seeks to know himself and his fellow man rather than to know a god. An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man.

He wants an ethical way of life. He believes that we cannot rely on a god or channel action into prayer nor hope for an end of troubles in a hereafter.

He believes that we are our brother's keepers; and are keepers of our own lives; that we are responsible persons and the job is here and the time is now.”

Apologists Ask Churches to Step Up Response to Militant Atheism |

Apologists Ask Churches to Step Up Response to Militant Atheism |

The headline is not completely true. What's actually happening is that some well-known apologetics have realized that there is now a new lucrative opportunity to sell apologetic "research" in the wake of the new atheist movement.

"The arguments are not really new but the ferociousness" with which atheists are lobbing their attacks "are coming much stronger," Mark Mittelberg, primary author of Becoming a Contagious Christian, said in a teleconference on Tuesday.

The teleconference, hosted by Outreach Training, was for pastors who were interested in updating their churches' apologetics approaches amid an onslaught of pro-atheist books and movies in recent years. Books like Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great have made best-selling lists. Meanwhile, movies like The Da Vinci Code, The Jesus Family Tomb and The Golden Compass have claimed widespread media attention.

These books and movies are not just posing challenges to the basic tenets of the Christian faith, according to Mittelberg, but they are also empowering attacks against Christianity.

Damn right we are! Did you catch that? We're "posing challenges to the basic tenets of the Christian faith".

Lee Strobel, author of the best-selling The Case for Christ, agreed with Mittelberg that many Christians are raised to believe in doctrine but are not adequately taught on why their faith is true or how to support their faith with evidence.

Could it be due to the total lack of "evidence"?

"A lot of Christians assume they are hanging on to a shred of faith – that they are clinging by their fingernails. They don't know that the truth is on our side," noted Mittelberg.

Ok, if the Christians don't even "know that the truth is on our side" then what are all the sermons about??

For churches with more limited resources, Strobel recommended subscribing to a satellite feed that would stream live broadcasts of his seminars straight to the church. His next scheduled one-day live training seminar, "Investigating Faith," will be held on March 8 at Word Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Northville, Mich. Churches will be able to view the presentation in real time through Church Communication Network.

Strobel also asked pastors to consider setting up seeker small groups. While Strobel's small group curriculum won't be available until this Fall, he recommended Garry Poole's Seeker Small Groups as a resource.

Oh, that's what it's all about- subscribing to a satellite feed or purchasing some new group curriculum to spread the apologetic brainwash...err... research. And then this from an older Christian Post article:

Churches are now finding a need to equip Christians with rebuttals and answers that go beyond an acceptance of the authority of Scripture. In response, Christian apologists are filling the void, teaching a language anchored in reason and science.

And if the Church wants to keep the younger generation, Christian leaders should start stressing evidence and proof, as one 17-year-old suggested.

"We've grown up in a place and a time where everything can be proven," Emily Koll, a member of Calvary Church, told the local newspaper. "And then, all of a sudden, with God, you have to take a leap of faith. We're not used to that. It's outside our comfort zone."
Maybe it's outside your comfort zone for a reason? There's a reason why everything else in your life can be proven, with the sole exception of religion!
"[I]f people look at science, they will find faith and they will find reason; the two cannot be incompatible and they have one author, namely God," said Midland theologian Norbert Dickman, who was scheduled to present what the Christian response should be to the rise of the atheist voice at an Illinois church on Tuesday.
Then why the relentless advance of science and retreat of religion? Why the religious opposition to scientific research and education of the youth with generally accepted scientific theories? Elsewhere, Dumbass D'Zousa points out to all the Christians who have never realized this before that
"[Christians] are going to meet arguments that cannot be settled simply by 'the Bible says this, the Bible says that' because the other person will promptly reply that they don't accept the authority of the Bible," D'Souza noted.
Huh, no shit?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Religion and surveys

Atheist Revolution recently reposted a press release from the Center for Inquiry on the findings of a new survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. One must always employ caution when reading interpretations of survey results.

Interpretations of survey results can vary widely, and pundits of all stripes have been jumping all over this survey. The Wall Street Journal opines that the survey shows

Half of Americans who grew up without any religious affiliation adopted one in adulthood. Clearly Americans are still convinced there is a such a thing as religious truth -- and it's worth their time to search for it. Sorry, Mr. Hitchens.
And atheists tend to report the results in a manner similar to that of the Center for Inquiry:
The most detailed estimates to date of Americans’ religious affiliations reports that a significant portion of U.S. citizens claim “none of the above,” placing the unaffiliated second only to Roman Catholics in number. Monday’s release of the 35,000-respondent U.S. Religious Landscape Survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that 16.1 percent of Americans have no particular religion at all, while 23.9 percent identify themselves as Catholic. The next largest “belief group” is Evangelical Baptist at 10.8 percent. All other denominational groupings show in the single digits or less.

The study also shows the number of Americans who identify as atheist or agnostic has risen from 3.2 percent to 4 percent, while a “remarkably high” 44 percent have rejected the religion placed on them in childhood.

But who is right? First- the spin from the Center for Inquiry would have us believe that 16.1% of the American public are atheist. But that's not quite what the results really say.
Only 1.6% of respondents identified themselves as atheist- the rest don't care enough to put too much thought into it. Although religion isn't terribly important in their lives, that's not the same as claiming them for our side (much as I would like to).

Similarly, the Wall Street Journal is off-base when they infer that Americans are searching for religious truth, and eventually settle into a denomination that suits them like a comfortable pair of pajamas. Perhaps the fact that so many Americans have switched denominations or entire religions is due more to a latent dissatisfaction with religion as a whole? The paucity of intelligent discourse from the pulpit could be a factor? The inevitable conflicts between science and religion are encouraging more people to consider the evidence? Priests can no longer maintain their flocks with trite assurances that blind faith is virtuous, especially when the churches have taken up untenable positions against homosexuality, stem cell research, and progress in general.

The scariest part of the Op-Ed from the WSJ is this:
The Pew survey confirms what scholars have been saying for years about the winners and losers in this religious economy: Religions that demand the most of people are growing the fastest. The mainline Protestant churches -- with their less exclusionary views of salvation, looser rules for sexual conduct and sermons about social justice -- have lost membership, especially since the early 1990s. The more traditional evangelical churches keep growing.
In other words, it's not the more moderate, progressive churches that are growing in numbers, it is the more radical, fundamentalist churches. So perhaps my interpretation above is bollocks also and people are desperately searching for someone to tell them how to live their lives. Which is the saddest interpretation of all.

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