Sunday, December 30, 2012

And this!

And i forgot! Neil Armstong! neil armstrong art


As many of you know I have refocused my time to my artwork as a method to express myself. I welcome you to take a look at my work at: Atheist Arts on Fine Art America atheist art Humanist Arts on Fine Art America humanist art Agnostic Arts on Fine Art America agnostic art Science Arts on Fine Art America science art Carl Sagan carl sagan art Richard Feynman feynman art Albert Einstein albert einstein art Charles Darwin darwin art Skeptic Art skeptic art Thanaks!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Is religion a force of good or evil in the world today: Reflections

I recently had the opportunity to see Michael Shermer debate Dinesh D'Souza on the subject of whether religion was a force of good or evil in the world today. The debate was held at the Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
I thought that this would have been a rather easy debate for Mr. Shermer, as I have seen him speak on this before and he is usually a well versed speaker. What I did not know was that the Grand Canyon University is a Christian College. In fact during the opening announcements they made it very clear that this debate was set up as a training tool to teach the Christian audience and students how to defuse Atheist arguments.
D’Souza went first, and very soon digressed to attacking Mr. Shermers Atheism. He went on to insinuate that atheism was the root cause of all the horrors of the 20th century. This pretty much set the tone for the rest of the debate, with Mr. Shermer defending atheism, and little room to debate the original subject.
Instead of critiquing the debate I wanted to offer my reflections on the subject as almost a third debater.
Just to establish it, I consider myself a new atheist, as defined by Richard Dawkins, Micheal Shermer, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennet, and Sam Harris. I am unapologetic about my non belief and do believe that fundamental religion is the greatest danger to our world today. As in the case of Mr. Shermer, I come from a religious background, raised Catholic, Baptized Baptist, Dabbled in Judaism, Islam, Wicca, and Bahi.
Is religion a force of good or evil in the world today? Wiki defines religion as “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of and the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency, or human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, spiritual, or divine.” and ” The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system, but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviors, including congregations for prayer, priestly hierarchies, holy places, and/or scriptures.”
There are countless examples of the crimes of religion against humanity in the past, the crusades, the pogroms, the hundred years war, I would dare to say that before the rise of the nation state any war was based on religion. As D'Souza points out, the nation states rose, wars began to become more about property and less about ideology. He also pointed out that our societal morality in the western world was based on Christian morals. I also agree with him on this point, but am quick to add that like a city, we build upon the old and revise that which is no longer relevant. This is the process of science.
But what about religion today, how is it benefiting the world? Let’s look at some examples. The recent disaster in Haiti brought about much charity. But mixed in with that were evangelical Christians who instead of distributing food, or water, were handing out bibles. Or the silence in the moderate Islamic communities in regards to wife beating, female mutilation, or terrorism. Even George W. Bush, while President told the French prime minister that he was battling “Mog and Maygog” in Persia, just before launching his war against Iraq. And do I really need to go into the policies of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church?
Mr. D'Souza believes that it is atheism that is the root cause of evil in the world today, not religion. He of course cited the slaughter caused by Marx, Communism, Pol Pot, Castro, and Mao as his example. This of course shows a profound misunderstanding on his part as to what he thinks atheism is. Atheism is just merely a disbelief in a god, or supernatural force at work in our lives. It is not a religion, an ideology, any more than not believing in the tooth fairy is. To compare it to religion is like comparing a car to a banana.
To be fair, there are moderate religions that do much work in charity, and eradicating poverty and suffering in the world. As Mr. Shermer said, Religions do both good and bad. It just seems that they are behind the curve when it comes to updating our collective morality, such as in homosexual rights.
My contention with religion is that the faith required you to believe in a god, deity, saints, savior, can also blind you to the reality of the world. The young earth creationists disregard the mountains of evidence for evolution, because their book tells them it’s incorrect. Islam wholesale ignores science and science education. The pope and his complete ignorance on condoms and conception is not only stupid, but is downright deadly in aids ridden Africa.
It is the faith behind the religion, the driving force behind it, which seems to be the cause of this evil. In religions that no longer take the word of their book or books literally, and their faith is reduced to merely a faith in a deity, it seems that they are relatively benign.
I believe Mr. Shermer lost the opportunity to express this to the Christian audience. Unfortunately it seemed he was kept on the defensive with the half truths and redirected arguments of his opponent.
What I would warn these religions of is the danger of faith, the importance of rational thought and accepting the reality of the world around them.
Perhaps the fight of the new atheist should not be the eradication of religion, as some have perceived it to be, but the education of the religious.
As Carl Sagan put it- “For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sins of the Parents

It has been just under a year since I first started this blog. One of the things that most moved me was the plight of the little children in Africa being mutilated and killed because a christian missionary was branding them as witches.

In that year I have had the courage to come out of the closet if you will in regards to my Atheism. I have become quite active in several secular humanist groups in Arizona, and started Secular Arizona on Facebook and the Rational Protagonists. As I look back I realize that is not my atheism that defines me, no more than the lack of a belief in the tooth fairy can define a child, but rather my dedication to a rational and critical thinking approach to the worlds problems.

One of the earliest classes I took in college was Philosophy and logic. It was there that I started to realize that there was this method, this way to determine the reality of the world.

Here is some of that reality.

A nine year old Nigerian boy has been accused of being a witch by the local minister. He is referring to the book of Exodus 22:18- that states , "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." His father, having been raised as a good Christian and believing in the word of god, decides to force hydrochloric acid down the boys throat in order to drive the demons out. Imagine, for a moment, how terrified that little boy must have been. How that must have felt? How confused, How betrayed by the loving god that he was raised with? One of the two persons he most looked up to in life, his father, was forcibly pouring acid down his throat as an exorcism. Confused, and in agonizing pain, the acid burned away his face and eyes. He was taken to a hospital, barely able to breath on his own. The boy hardly had strength left to whisper the name of the church that had denounced him — Mount Zion Lighthouse. He clung to life, desperately, and in agony for a month, before he died.

A 40 year old Arizona woman, compelled by her belief in the same book, believes in the miracles of god on earth. She regularly attends church gatherings where she feels the power of god heal people around her. She surrounds herself with others that believe in the same thing, the literal word of the bible. And yet when confronted by the reality of what that literal word of her faith did to that little child, she does nothing.
Did it make her feel uncomfortable, knowing that the same loving god allowed this to happen? The same passage in the Nigerian ministers bible can be found in hers. Or is she conflicted, confused as to why an omnipotent, benevolent, loving god would save some people, from rather banal ailments, and not others. Or does she cloak herself in her "faith" believing that god has higher plans? She could argue that they do not belong to the same sect of Christianity that she does, but still will not admit that the fundamental problem, lies not with the people, but with the book.

How easily we rationalize our behavior when it doesn't fit in with our established belief system. How easily we turn a blind eye, when it makes us uncomfortable. We are all guilty of it, we all do it from time to time. When one looks at Christianity, or really any religion critically and rationally, one is quickly inundated by the hypocrisy, the contradiction. Dare I say, the immorality of believing so strongly in your dogma, that you can no longer feel compassion with those who would make you feel uncomfortable?

Both those stories are true. The plight of the Nigerian witch children has not gone away in the past year since I wrote about it, in fact the problem has become much worse. There are now half a dozen churches operation in Africa killing children, and most of those have links to churches here in the United States including Mount Zion Lighthouse, based out of California. How many times do we see this? How many times has faith and willfull ignorance been used to exploit or harm people?

How long do the children have to suffer the sins of the parents?

The most direct way that you can help is by a donation to the Child's Rights and Rehabilitation Network.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Update on that last post. The Arizona Daily Star published an article on 9-17-09 in regards to several comments made by the Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. In it she is quoted as saying that "God has placed me in this powerful position as Arizona's governor". In addition she detailed to the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church, "As with past challenges, tragedies or problems that I've had to confront, I first and foremost relied on my faith to guide me through, for I believe in the power of prayer," she said. "And I firmly believe that God has placed me in this powerful position of Arizona's governor to help guide our state through the difficulty that we are currently facing." "And that has caused me, of course, to be grateful that we are a country of Christianity," she said.
"I don't think under the circumstances that anybody's in the position of living at this turbulent time, these terrible, critical times of our nation, can possibly get through without asking for help and guidance from Jesus Christ and from God," the governor told the ministers.
"For those of us who have lived it and practiced it, we just know that,"

Mandate from god? Guidance from Jesus Christ? The hijackers of 911 had a mandate from god. The Crusaders of the middle ages had a mandate from god. Even Hitler felt he had a mandate from god. Even our beloved President, George W. Bush, who told the French President Jacques Chirac “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East.... The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.... This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.” How much blood must be split as a result from a mandate from god?

Most mainstream Christians believe that we are living in the "end times". These end times they are referring to directly relate to an interpretation of The Book of Revelation. In it it details the end of the world as we know it in a great battle between good and evil, the outcome of which will be a 1000 years of peace with Christ as master. In addition all Christians ascend to heaven and to eternal paradise before this war takes place, leaving the rest of humanity to eternal suffering. Truly, why on earth would you want to not bring about your progress to eternal paradise? According to modern biblical scholars, the end times will start with a nuclear war in the middle east and spread through out the world. In addition, this new form of Christianity, the one you see in the "Family" In Washington D.C. and in the Az Center for Policy, believe that the United States is that Kingdom of Christ.

Lets recap, shall we? These people believe that they have a mandate from god to bring about a nuclear war and make the United States a religions dictatorship? Far fetched?
A recent poll showed that Fully 59% of Americans say they believe the events in Revelation are going to come true. This includes Our Governor Brewer, Ex Presidents Bush, and Senators and Congressmen too numerous to post here.

You know, just before my Grandmother died we got a chance to sit and talk about her life. About how she saw her country ripped away from her, first by the Nazis, then by the Communists. She saw her friends and family hung publicly for treason. Family whisked away in the dead of night, taken to concentrations camps never to be see again. She told me after watching the news one night, "you don't know how quickly it happens, one day you just wake up, and everything, it is gone. Be careful".

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I recently had the opportunity to view the Center for Arizona’s Policy you tube video titled “Standing with Arizona Policy”. For those of you that don’t know, The Center for Arizona Policy is a very powerful Christian lobbying group in Arizona that skirts the rules for 501(c)3 organizations with great skill. They were recently responsible for the passing of House Bill 2564 and Senate Bill 1175, effectively tightening abortion laws. This post is a rebuttal to some of the more, provocative statements in this video.

The video can be found here:

What follows are timestamps and quotes from the above video.

0:25 “Awake and Arise”
Keywords used to link to the organization Awake and Arise. This organization follows the teachings of the “Prophet” Patriot Ezra Taft Benson. Also a reference to “Awake Arizona”, A conference recently held in Mesa by the group “Bridge Builders” Cindy Jacobs who ran the conference, bills herself as ''Prophetess to the nations.'', co-founder of Generals International an organization devoted to training in prayer and spiritual warfare. She has written several book the most popular of which is "Possessing the Gates", on Militant intersession. Vocally anti gay and is quoted name checking Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. “We’re not going to give Satan any rest,” she cried. “We’re not going to give city councils any rest. We’re not going to give legislatures any rest.”

0:39 “ How threatened our religious freedoms is in our nation today and in our state”
Exactly whose religious freedoms are we talking about here? The Constitution and Bill of rights of the United States of America very clearly protects everyone’s religious beliefs. I suspect that what they are talking about here is there “right” to impose their dogmatic religion on the rest of us. I challenge them to show me one example of how their religious “rights” have been infringed upon. Can you say the same for the Islamic population of Arizona?

0:47 “”We are trying to protect religious freedom in courts. But also pass legislation that pro actively preserves our rights”

Once again their rights, as all of ours, are already protected in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This is a classic example of the use of buzz words. They are intentionally using phrases like “protect religious freedom” and “preserves our rights “, in order to gain a reaction. Not only is it misleading, but it is false. It was used here to get a knee jerk reaction from fellow Christians.

1:06 “As long as there are differences of opinion we will always have somebody bringing something that is anti family to the legislature”
Differences of opinion lead to anti family? Let’s clarify; differing from their opinion will always lead to anti family laws being passed. Scare tactics.

1:19 “We virtually look at every bill that’s been introduced in the legislature to see if this is going to impact our families, is this going to impact our religious freedom”
Again they are using the phrase “religious freedom” as if Christianity in this country is somehow threatened. And once again I need to point out that their rights are already protected. So if they are not taking about rights what are they talking about? They have demonstrated that they wish to pass legislation that reinforces their dogma, with no regard to any other belief system. They don’t want religious freedom; they want to change the law in this country so that we have no religious freedom, only their religion.

1:54 “What is seen at times in the legislature is the idea that parents don’t know what’s best for their children”

2:38 “We work to make sure that home schools and private schools wont be regulated”
So, no school standards? No standards for homeschooling? No, sure they want standards, their standards. I suspect that this is a result of the science vs. religion debate. The United States ranks 29th out of the 47th most industrialized nations in the world when it comes to science education by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It measures student literacy in science, math, and reading (focusing this year on science) among 15-year-olds, and is an often-cited reference for policymakers sounding the alarm bells about the state of education in the United States and its implications for the ability of Americans to secure jobs in a global economy.

2:43 “Parents have the right to opt their children out of school activities that are offensive to their religious or moral beliefs”
Let’s make no mistake; they are referring to the Evolution/ Creation debate happening in schools right now. Evolution is science, creationism is religion. I have no problem teaching creationism in a religious studies class; please keep it out of science classrooms. You don’t teach astrology in science do you? Do you teach geology in theology? Accepting the world as the evidence shows us, even if conflicts with their scripture are rational and sane.

3:09 Abortion
I won’t go into the ethics’ of abortion here. Instead let’s look at some legislature that this group just had pass in our state government. The House Bill 2564 and Senate Bill 1175, create a 24-hour waiting period to get an abortion, require physicians to perform the procedure, and require that parents provide notarized consent for their minor children to get abortions. All right, but it also states that pharmacists and other health-care professionals can refuse to provide contraception. What? It is a focus of this group to promote abstinence-only education instead of traditional sex education among teens. No less than three studies in the past five years were done to determine the effectiveness of abstinence in teens. All the studies showed that those taking the virginity pledge engaged in intercourse just as often as those who did not take the pledge . Pledge takers also were found to be less frequent users of condoms and other forms of birth control. Therefore, those youngsters who took the virginity pledge were not only just as likely to have intercourse; they ultimately were more likely to take part in sex in an unsafe manner.

5:00 Marriage-“The goal of our opponents- is to so redefine marriage as to marriage means nothing”
Lets see, The United States leads the world in divorce, with 4.95 per 1,000 people divorcing. There is no evidence that gay marriage has any different divorce rates than straight divorces. The law in this country has already reduced the religious concept of marriage to effectively a civil union, protecting the rights of both parties. It has taken it out of the hands of religion. The argument that allowing gay marriage will reduce their concept of marriage to mean nothing is absurd. It already means nothing according to the statistics. Perhaps they need to look at why the divorce rate is so high in a purely straight population.

6:23 “one man married to one woman is absolutely crucial. We see the effects when you don’t have that in society, we see it in the jails every day”

What the hell is this? I’m not sure what they mean here. Perhaps they are trying to say that homosexuality leads to more crime in our societies? There are no very compelling statistics here, but it is fairly clear that this is an inflammatory comment targeting fear.

7:00 “The truth Project” -“To help us think more critically”

Focus on the Family has launched "The Truth Project," a curriculum designed to reintroduce Christians to a biblical worldview of science, law, and other fields of knowledge. Even other Christian groups have attacked the Truth Project as a mis use of scripture. If anything the, last chapter, on science, shows such a lack of BASIC understanding of science that it is hard not to laugh out loud at some of their assumptions. The largest hole in their approach is that all they say is evolution is wrong. Not so much why creation is right. Not to mention, they never give scientific proof for their reasons.

7:48 “In all these areas and many others we see a great conflict between good and evil and if Christians do not rally to support and encourage those who are trying to bring an influence for good in civil government they leave a vacuum and the influence that is contrary to the standards scripture, and contrary to the purposes of God in the world, and contrary to the advancement of the gospel, that influence is going to become stronger and stronger.”
Ah there it is the truth. To them this is a war between good and evil. Let’s take a look at some of their goals as stated in this last bit.

They wish to conform government to the “standards of the scriptures”. I’m sorry but do we really need a law that puts those of us to death that works on the Sabbath? (Exodus 35:2) Or perhaps destroy everyone in Iraq? (Deuteronomy 7:1-2) or reinstitute slavery? (Ephesians 2:18). The Old Testament clearly gives a mandate for these and other atrocities. They have stated repeatedly that they believe in the bible as the “infallible” word of god.

They want to conform the government to the purposes of God. Who’s god again? And who exactly speaks for God? The Prophetess Cindy Jacobs? The same woman who held a prayer vigil at the stature of the bull on Wall Street to bring her wealth?

Advance the gospel in Government. Again, to what end?

In this video one can find endorsements from Az Representatives Kirk Adams and Steve Yarbrough, State senator Linda Grey, US Congressman Trent Franks, and US Senator Jon Kyl.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights of these United States are very clear about this.
Thomas Jefferson wrote “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
And John Adams wrote and codified into law within the Treaty of Tripoly "The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

I am deeply offended and disgusted by this not just from an intellectual viewpoint but from a moral one as well. It seems to me that this was designed as a scare tactic directed toward Christian moderates. Not only is it rife with inaccuracies, it is filled with sensational buzzwords and is intentionally misleading. This is the worse form of propaganda, trying to manipulate through fear.

If you will, remove the religion from the argument for a moment. Pretend that they are purely a secular organization trying to change policy. What are we left with? One could argue, a radical group that wants to dismantle the Constitution and replace it with their form of a fascist state. Why would that be tolerated in our society? It would not, and yet moderate Christians do almost nothing to prevent this insanity.

This isn’t an argument over the existence of god or even of religion; this is one group trying to impose their dogma on the rest of society with no regard for any other belief system or reality. I have to question whether society would be so tolerant if this was a secular group, or I dare say an Islamic one?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Call to Arms

Every civilization comes to an end. The great empires of the past, the Romans, the Greeks, the Incas, the Aztecs, the Han dynasty, Egypt, are all now effectively extinct. Even in recent times we have seen the collapse of great civilizations, the USSR comes to mind. We have this prejudice that our society is somehow immune from this, that we could never come to an end.

If you were to poll people in the United States what they thought was the largest threat to our civilization was I suspect you would receive answers like, global warming, the economy, war, capitalism, socialism. All are valid answers, but what if I told you that right now there is a majority of people that believe that they have a mandate from god to bring about the end times and the destruction of the world, all derived from a book written in the Iron Age? Crazy?

‘Oh, you’re talking about the religious right, well they don’t really have any real power do they?’

No more power than 9 people had on September 11, 2001.

By most recent statistics Christianity comprises a full 76% of the population of the United States. The fastest growing population among Christians in the past 7 years is what is referred to evangelical or fundamental Christians. It is the Mandate of this group to claim the United States as the “arm” or “sword” of god. They have infiltrated the military to such a degree now that they are handing out New Testament bibles in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and bullying non Christian cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. This of course is expressly forbidden in the military, but leaders, appointed by the ultra religious ex President Bush, turn a blind eye. In addition the “Faith Biased Initiative” started by Bush is still funding these groups even though we now have a regime change in the white house. This is the power of the religious right. In addition moderate Christians are extraordinarily reluctant denounce this movement.

Sound familiar? It should. Islam was accused of the same thing after 9-11.

So what’s the harm? Recent polls show 44% of Americans are confident that Jesus will return to Earth sometime in the next 50 years. What possible motivation do they or politicians that represent them have to improve our world? In fact, they like the Jews and the Muslims, want to bring about the end times, in order to facilitate their ascension to their version of heaven.

Why is it inconceivable to us that these groups won’t “grease the wheels” so to speak to further their agenda? In fact there is a great deal of evidence to show that they are in fact doing so, and at the highest level of power. In 2002, 2003, and 2004 President Bush regularly consulted with the Evangelical Christian right on Middle East policy. Think about the absurdity of that for a moment.

Religion is toxic to the world and to morality. Do we credit religion for the advances in morality in the past 500 years on subjects such as women’s rights, slavery or basic human rights? No, in fact religion has consistently drug its feet on these subjects. A recent example of this would be the Vatican edict to ban condom use in Aids ridden Africa, even though the cost of life and suffering will be enormous. No, I would argue that it was the rise of critical thought and science that improved our morality. It showed us that we are all human beings. That the outdated concept of race is false, and no people are better than others. That we are one world of trillions in an unbelievably vast universe. If anything, religion eventually bowed from pressure from the people to change their morality.

There are still over 8,000 active nuclear weapons in the world today. Each one with enough destructive force to destroy a population center the size of Los Angeles. And there are an equal number of chemical, biological or radiological weapons in existence. We have the capacity, right now, to destroy every human being on the planet, several times over.

I am not foolish enough not to recognize that every generation feels as compelled to act of what they perceive a threat to their existence. In fact the early Christian church thought jesus was returning in their life times as well. The difference is that this is the first time in human history that the people that want to bring about the end of the world have not only the power but the means to do it. You do not need to have your world view challenged at all in order to graduate from any university.

I am angry that we live in a society in which the truth cannot be spoken without offending 90% of the population. The truth is, there is no good reason to believe that the Bible, the Koran, or any other book that was dictated by a "god" in the Iron Age has any relevance upon us today. In fact the evidence shows just the opposite. We do not derive our morality from religion. The end result of belief in these systems is not only corrosive to us as a society but if gone unchecked will destroy humanity.

Make no mistake, our civilization can and will come to an end. We live in a time of unparalleled reason and unparalleled ignorance. We now have a choice. Fight back against this, as Richard Dawkins outlined in his “call to arms”. Or return to a time of superstition, ruled by fear, and quite possibly the end of our civilization.

In the next several months I shall be posting video, tools, and create a new website dedicated to helping those who wish to fight back against this in a non violent and legal way. Stay tuned……….

1 *All data within this blog comes from the 2001- 2008 study, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), by Barry A. Kosmin, Egon Mayer, and Ariela Keysar at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. ARIS 2001-2008 makes data available for the continental U.S. and DC. If you need additional data (such as state by state information on religions) please refer to the study located at
2 *All numbers are estimates from the Natural Resources Defense Council, published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, unless other references are given. If differences between active and total stockpile are known, they are given as two figures separated by a forward slash. If no specifics are known, only one figure is given. Stockpile number may not contain all intact warheads if a substantial amount of warheads are scheduled for but have not yet gone through dismantlement; not all "active" warheads are deployed at any given time. When a range of weapons is given (e.g., 0–10), it generally indicates that the estimate is being made on the amount of fissile material that has likely been produced, and the amount of fissile material needed per warhead depends on estimates of a country's proficiency at nuclear weapon design.